It’s Like Deja Vu All Over Again

Santa Rosa, California, United States
October 21, 2015

I think Yogi Berra said it best.

Hmmm, maybe it was John Fogerty? It might have been Bruce Springsteen. No, I’m pretty sure it was Yogi.

“It’s like deja vu all over again.”

Yes, Rob (aka “Row-bare”) is going back to Paris. All over again.

A year has passed and, tragically, a French woman has been lost. This is her. Her name is Evelyne Whitman.

Tutor Extraordinaire


If you should see her, please notify the Sebastopol Police immediately. Her family is worried.

Evelyne is an amazing woman. A renaissance woman actually. In her youth, as a Pan Am flight attendant, she helped Marines home from Viet Nam. When injured on the job and her soulless employer turned its cold back on her she sued the bastards and ripped a legal aperture in their corporate derriere, She is a woman who speaks three languages, probably more. A woman who breathes life into the poetry of Hugo, Rimbaud, and Verlaine and fear into studdering middle age American students of French poetry. A woman who has taught herself to paint, to play classical guitar, to install hardwood floors. A woman who can’t translate “C’est impossible”, not because she doesn’t know the language, but because she doesn’t know the concept.

That is until Evelyne, a native French speaker and part time French tutor, stepped into the man hole cover, the black hole, the portal to despair otherwise known as the language acquisition center of the Jackson brain.

She hasn’t been seen since.

When, or if, Evelyne should reappear, she would tell you, right after uttering the words, “that damn man will drive me insane”, that the term “deja vu” is of course a French phrase. Translated literally ( a linguistic practice Evelyne would also tell you is fraught with peril), the phrase “deja vu” means “already seen.”

It is, according to the always reliable Wikipedia, an “anomaly of memory” in which one has a distinct impression that an experience is being recalled. It is not to be confused with several other brain misfires, all of which, not coincidentally, have French labels.

For example, take your “jamais vu.” Your “jamais vu’ (from French, meaning “never seen”) is when you see a word, person or place you have encountered many times before, but have the impression of seeing it for the first time.

That’s similar, but not the same as your “presque vu.” Your “presque vu” (from the French for “almost seen”) is when you sense you are on the brink of an epiphany. You know, the old “its on the tip of my tongue” sensation. That’s “presque vu.” (Maybe not a good analogy when speaking of the French and tongues)

None of which should be confused with your “deja entendu. ” Your “deja entendu” (from the French for “already heard”) is when your are certain you have heard something before, but you’re not real certain you didn’t imagine it.

Anyway, back to Yogi.

Yogi was right. I’m going back to Paris and “It’s like deja vu all over again.”

But this time, it’s not. This time, I know my “jamais”, my “presques”, hell, I even know my “entendus.” Well, kinda. I’ve spent almost a year studying this damn language and I may not know much, but I know my “vu’s”

“Jamais vu’s?” Up my wazoo. To borrow from Haley Joel Osment. . . who incidentally, if you have a chance to Google Image him, is not looking too good these days . . . “I see dead French words” . . . These are those French words I know I drilled on for four years in high school, but I could swear I’ve never seen before.

“Presque vu’s?” Pleeeeeeease………I mean ………”s’il vouuuuuuuuuus plait” I’ve had more damn epiphanies teetering on the tip of my Franco challenged tongue in the past year than . . . than . . .well, . . . hell, I don’t know, but its been a lot. Let’s listen in on a typical French lesson with Evelyne at Coffee Katz in Sebastopol:

Evelyne:               Come on; you know that word, Rob.
Rob:                      I know I know it.

Long pause.

Evelyne:                Rob????.
Rob:                      Just a sec.

Long pause.

Evelyne:                Rob??????
Rob:                       I know that word, Evelyne, I KNOW that word……it’s right . .  right . . .
just a sec . . . I’ve got it……”d’accord”, right?

Evelyne:                Non.

Rob:                       Shit.

Need I say more?

And “deja entendus?” Really?? Don’t get me started. I’ve heard it before. I think. . .

So, yes, I am going back to Paris all over again.

I know. I know. I’ve seen it before. I’ve heard it before. I’m not sure if what I saw and heard was real or imagined. I don’t care. All I know for certain is that, try as I might, I will not find the words, English or French, to do it justice.

It is, after all, Paris.

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