Screaming in Paris by Brian Lageose
“Once upon a time, an extremely dysfunctional family decided that it would be a splendid idea to take a trip to Paris. In past adventures, this family has been unsuccessful in simply visiting their local grocery store without potential incarceration, so the prospect of descending upon another country should have sounded alarm bells. It did not.”
So begins this book about international travel with a particularly dysfunctional entourage consisting of eight related or nearly-related people: Brian’s mother and two sisters; one brother-in-law; one close friend; and Brian’s partner and said partner’s sister. Five women.Three men. And to add just a bit to the scale-of-difficulty, one of his sisters is confined to wheelchair. “Unwieldy” seems a bit of an understatement. Furthermore, because this is his actual family, and to keep lawsuits and restraining orders to a minimum, he gave them all French pseudonyms. Yeah, it’s that kind of tell-all.
First you need to know that Brian blogs over at Bonnywood Manor and that he was put in charge of this tour because he’d been to Paris before and spoke a little high school French. He could also read a map and tell time. What’s that old adage? “In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.” Brian took the job seriously, perhaps a little too seriously. Whether he liked it or not (many times not) the gang looked to him for guidance. Or a decision. So, he’s the one looking at maps and schedules while trying to keep folks safe, together, and moving along.
Brian puts readers into each uncomfortable situation with great skill. He crowds us into to cramped restaurants and cajoles us into eating unfamiliar foods. Intestines? Sure. Why not?! He gives us an up close and personal view of the sights (and smells!) of our fellow humans. We get quite drunk.
Of course, the challenges created the opportunities for humor: An evil concierge who gives them inaccurate directions resulting in an epic journey through much of France in a rented van as they set off to visit a castle in a nearby city. Certain people (you know who you are, Tatum) dawdling and pawing through every souvenir shop. Walking. Standing outside numerous restaurants trying to get eight people to agree on where to eat. Riding the crowded Metro with unfamiliar crotches and backsides pressed against faces and other crotches. Walking uphill. Making transfers on the Metro. Dawdling. Walking. Waiting in line for tours of churches. Walking. Dawdling. Climbing the Eiffel Tower with not one, but two acrophobics. And did I mention the walking and dawdling?
Two things that they could always agree on were the hotel’s divine breakfast buffet and drinking beer on the hotel’s patio. Food and drink are consistent themes, with inherent humorous or embarrassing side effects. And hey, as bad as it gets, guess what? They’re still in Paris!
Brian’s genuine love and affection for his family shines through the humor, though. In spite of his rants, he writes…
“It had been a hell of a week, being responsible for getting these people everywhere they needed to be, and making sure that nobody got lost or was arrested or ate things they shouldn’t.”
In conclusion, if you like your travelogues funny, with dose of sarcasm and snark (think David Sedaris’s Me Talk Pretty One Day or J. Maarten Troost’s The Sex Lives of Cannibals) you might enjoy this little tome as well. Or perhaps you’re planning a trip to Paris. Or maybe you simply want to affirm your belief that all families are just a little crazy. In that case, spending a vicarious week in Paris with Brian’s family will show you just how right you are. As a bonus, you’ll probably come away grateful for your own family’s special brand of crazy.
While he does go on (and on), the only thing that truly bothered me was the lack of photographic evidence.
Brian also reminded me that in the most aggravating and embarrassing of situations, with the most aggravating and embarrassing of people–one’s own family–it’s best not to follow our own possibly criminal instincts. We should take a breath and see the humor. And if we’re going to write about them, for godsake, change their names.