Je dis ça, je dis rien is a French idiom that translates literally as, “I say that, I say nothing.” Its nearest English counterpart is the comparatively flip “just sayin,’” which is as close to a raison d’etre as I can presently muster for this column.
You see, the problem with being a humorist during unfunny times is that the joke is inevitably on me. Fortunately, self-satire is a forté of mine. Perhaps it’s a defense mechanism developed from bearing a weird name or a career spent pissing in the wind from the bloodshot eye of a storm of mixed metaphors. Or, I’m just regardant mon nombril.
This much we know—I made a pledge to avoid writing about Bay Area Bastille Day celebrations because A) encouraging people to gather during a pandemic is irresponsible and B) Francophiles.
To avoid both, and the possibility of accidentally writing about them, I decided to flee the area and hide outside the jurisdiction of my beat. San Francisco seemed safe. Traffic at the Robin Williams Tunnel was at a standstill. Why the Marin side of the tunnel’s triumphant arches aren’t festooned with Mork-inspired rainbow suspenders and half-moon button is an opportunity missed. I didn’t, however, miss the opportunity to exit, which is why I was soon strolling Sausalito’s Caledonia Street.
I took a socially-distanced seat outside the nearest café, which turned out to be called Fast Food Français. The name sounds like an oxymoron. Does gourmand France even have fast food? I suppose if Tarantino is to be believed, there is such a thing as a “Royale with Cheese,” ergo there must be a Gallic McDonald’s.
I ordered a glass of Mourvedre. And yes, it’s difficult to sip wine through an N95 mask but, to misquote Jeff Goldblum, “wine finds a way.” I ordered French fries. They came wrapped in a fake French newspaper. I began to write for this real newspaper in English: How to Celebrate Bastille Day. Pro-tip—sing.
There’s probably a Bastille anthem but neither of us knows it, so just crank the U2 but sing “Bastille Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.” Or, whenever you encounter a gaggle of un-masked Trump supporters, re-enact the scene in Casablanca when the French refugees sing “La Marseillaise” over their German occupants croaking “Die Wacht am Rhein.” Then switch to the Beatles’ “All You Need Is Love” if they figure out the political subtext. Or, don’t.