Mwen konnen sèlman kreyòl  liv

With our friend and colleague Stephen Arnold in Guadeloupe at the 1993 African Lit Association. The occasion was the presentation of the Fonlon-Nichols Award to the Cameroonian – Ivoirien novelist and playwright Werewere Liking.

I had composed a short statement in the best Guadeloupean Kreyol I could muster.  I mustered well enough to have been sorely embarrassed when, afterwards, Guadeloupeans began speaking at me in it.

Regrèt, mwen konnen sèlman kreyòl  liv, I had to say in my pitiful Haitian-inflected Kreyol:

Sorry, All I know is book creole. 

Like the Pages of Old Book in which Flowers Had Been Pressed-Dried

Notes Ex-cellar 1


 Now that I’ve finally gotten around to it, I realize that the my own anticipation of writing up the Loyau anecdote,  or rather the one on the 1921 Vouvray, may have spoiled its effect.

The 1921 Vouvray became available in the early 80s because Loyau literally stumbled on it.

 I’m not sure how much of a Gauliste  he was. I never learned tp parse out the nuances of rightwing post-WW2 political affiliations in France, which themselves go back. But I know know that when the Nazis arrived in the Loire valley the first thing they sought out was stocks of f ine wine (a point which made me think twice about them). Loyau’s grandfather, at least, was anti-Nazi and built a hidden annex in their warren of cellars which he then walled off and made look like it was just … a wall.

The old guy passed during the war and everyone forgot until the late 70s what he had done. When the annex was finally discovered, they couldn’t be sure which wines were which until they also finally discovered the coded instructions Grandpa had left.

 One day René was working there and stubbed his toe on a pile of wooden cases which he was able to identify and re-label as 21 Vouvray. He let Kermit market several cases of it. It was something cheap, like $100 a bottle.

 It was early on in my stage with Kermit, who used the occasion to teach me to make cold calls to a known list of aficionados, one of whom was an Iranian brain surgeon in LA. 

When I called his number, I got his secretary, who told me he was not available. But after I told her he could get his hands on a allotment of three bottles (the normal limit), she said she would call into the operating room and slet him know. And that I should hold the line.

A minute or two later Agha Khan came on the phone himself, having left surgery to talk to me. He tried to beg two or three allotments but to no avail. I had my instructions. Poor guy had to make do with three bottles.

It was a bargain. In 1982, sixty years later, this semi-sweet Vouvray had digested most of its sweetness, had plenty of balance and fruit and a bouquet reminescent of an old manuscript into which flowers had been press-dried. It was a delight.

Melissa Darby

Here are a few links to book reviews and lectures I have given about Drake and his movements on the NW Coast, the Plate of Brass Hoax, the Dare Stone Hoax, and much more:

 Smithsonian review of Thunder Go North, the Hunt for Sir Francis Drake’s Fair & Good Bay:

The Oregon Historical Society Bookstore:

 The Oregon Historical Society History Pub Lecture:

 Berkeley, University of California Lecture:

 Sausalito Yacht Club Lecture:


Gossamer So Sheer 2

In the war of 1914, Germany drafted a secret note proposing an alliance against the United States, offering in return the restitution of what could hardly be called the Mexican Alsace-Lorraine, the states of Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, California, Utah and Nevada. In a moment of abstraction, Dr Albrecht, a member of the German Embassy, left the dispatch case with the draft in a carriage of the Third Avenue Elevated Railway of New York City. The contents were published in the N. Y. World. Mexico remained neutral.)

Sybille Bedford, A Visit to Don Otavio.