(Edith Piaf, my inspiration for "J'ai Faim, Toujours" along with incidents from the following anecdote)
“I’m wondering if you’d join me for dinner tonight? That is, if you’re available.”
Success! My hunger for food and English speaking conversation was about to be sated in the form of a perfectly nice, dull, bland, not particularly attractive young man who I zeroed in on at a left bank café. He was minding his own business, having an afternoon Left-Bank moment at a café, and this brash Yank on bank holiday from London interrupts.
“Pardon me, but I am alone and so wanting to meet other English speakers.” Not an original line, but really, anything else would have been insincere. I couldn’t comment on his outfit or what he ordered because it was all so nondescript. But he was kindhearted to invite me to eat and I was hungry so I readily accepted. I dressed up nice, but not too nice. . . I wasn’t about to lead him on, but took pride in my appearance, as is my wont.
We dined at a nice place that wasn’t too pricey -- and I think the man was on a business tab. We had little in common, and as skilled a conversationalist as I am now, I was still learning back then. I probably listened a lot and drifted. . . I ordered dishes from the menu that weren’t calorific or expensive (what a waste! Quel dommage!). It was remarkable that we had so little in common, really.
“Oh? What do you do?” I’d read in a Tom Wolfe book that women are presumed wonderful as long as they verbally “suck up” to men and ask stuff like, “Are you rilly a senator? Are you rilly a CFO?” and I was floundering in foreign waters, all around me.
He brightened and said, “I’m the manager of an auto parts fabricator and we gross sales upwards of 15 million pounds.” He continued, “You see, I make the customer/supplier relationship work -- and help keep the workers from striking. We receive sizable orders for our products and have to keep a 30-day turnaround but the customers generally give us a net-90. . .” he shook his head, cutting a rare bouef steak with his smooth hands.
He might as well have been speaking French for all I knew about that business.
Anyway, the best thing about that meal was the guilt that I felt. . . I didn’t have any way to repay him for the meal, did NOT want to kiss him or do anything else, and my sense of honor and payback is so keen I hurt. We parted ways and that was that.
A few years later, that experience -- along with listening to massive doses of beautiful vintage Edith Piaf recordings -- led me to write a song about a starving waif in the streets of Paris, wailing, “J’ai Faim, Toujours/Toujours J’ai Faim: I’m hungry always!”
It’s one of my biggest hit songs yet. Thank you, Monsieur Anglais! Merci beaucoup!