Lunch at Le Chalet des Iles

Twenty Questions with Gigi

One of my favorite games to play, if you’re asking, is Twenty Questions. The way we play, though, is you have to guess the restaurant in a picture The Johnny Book team has taken. If you’re also asking, one of my favorite people to play Twenty Questions with is Gigi, from the 1958 MGM smash hit musical success of the same name, and that lined up a string of Oscars like the notes of its unforgettable songs.

If you think, however, that Gigi is pretty good at singing and dancing, try playing her at Twenty Questions. I always have to bring my varsity game with her. That slight-of-hand devil is just as good at Twenty Questions as she is at cards with Gaston, her filthy rich kajillionaire love interest in the film. Don’t ask me if they ever got married. Never cared to ask and she never cared to tell. Anyway, this morning I thought, since we were meeting at Le Chalet des Iles, what better way to throw her off the scent, to beat her at Twenty Questions once and for all, than by showing her a picture of a plate of ice cream at the very restaurant we were going to be meeting at today. She’d never think to guess the very restaurant we were in! The concept is like what Pippin the Hobbit explained to Treebeard: “The closer we are to danger, the farther we are from harm.”

Gigi did not rise from the table when I arrived. Maybe it was that she thinks she’s better than everyone now with her carriagesetter lifestyle, always on the arm of her dandy little Gaston from French aristocratic soirée to French aristocratic soirée. It could also be, and perhaps this is more likely, that I was at the Musée Marmottan Monet, which is just a few minutes walk from here in the 16th, but where I couldn’t believe I had the painting Impressions, Sunrise all to myself. I mean it’s the very painting that started the artistic term Impressionism. Anyway, I lost all track of time, and now I’m late.

Gigi extended her hand so that I might kiss the fingers of her white glove. “Won’t you sit down?”

“Waiter!” I called. “Champagne for Mademoiselle.” I turned to her. “Oh, Gigi. We’re in Paris, in a park, dining on the flowered shores of a lake and drinking Champagne from an ice bucket just like in the movies. Can you beat it anywhere in the world?”

“I’m not Mademoiselle anymore, Johnny. How many times must I tell you that? I’m married now. You must call me Madam, or else Gigi, like you used to.”

“Then, Gigi, here is your photo for our game. It is a close up of ice cream. For ice cream, my dear Gigi, is a thing of beauty, like a work of art. And like a work of art, it is created by artists.”

“Oh, Johnny! How am I supposed to guess from just this photograph? You are a wicked, wicked man.”

“I think, Madam Gigi, I have finally stumped you. And then it is you who must design the rest of the evening for us.”

“That isn’t very high stakes. Your evenings aren’t that good. I’d rather play you for ice cream.”

“It’s the same thing. My evenings are just as sweet, only they are better for you.”

“You just say that because you make evenings for a living.”

“If I lose, then, what would you really like? Silk stockings?”

“Oh, no! Silk stockings make my legs itch. What I would really like is to row boat once again on Lac Inferieur!”

“Alright. If I lose, I will take you row boating around this very island of this very restaurant.”

“Then my first question is…is this ice cream in Paris?”

“Quite right, Gigi. How’d you know?”

“Because you’re you and I’m me. My second question is…is there a museum within walking distance that is an old, uncrowded mansion showcasing one of your favorite artists and where you really do get to spend quality time with the artists you’ve been reading about all your life.”

“You cheated!”

“I’ll take that as a yes. Then for my third question: Do you get from that museum to the ice cream in this photograph by way of a quick jaunt through the woodland grounds of the Park Bois de Boulogne, where Vincente Minnelli filmed the opening scene of the movie because Bois de Boulogne was a favorite stroll for the most elegant Parisians of Belle Époque Paris?”

“You thief!”

“My fourth question must be… do you come suddenly to the enchanted shores of this Lac Inferieur, where a fairy tale ferry boat waits to drift you lazily to the very Island of Le Chalet des Iles, upon which we now sit?”

“It is, Gigi. Therefore, you win again.”

“Therefore, you lose, Johnny.”

“Very well, then. We row on Lac Inferieur.”

“Do you really remember the last time we rowed here together in Bois?”

“Ah, yes, I remember it well,” I said. “We met at two.”

“We met at three.”

“I was on time.”

“No, Johnny, that was me.”

“Ah, yes, I remember it well,” I said. “Those heavy rowboat paddles.”

“I did all the rowing.”

“You were sweating,” I said.

“I was glowing.”

“Ah, yes,” I said. “I remember it well. Those brilliant ducks.”

“They were swans.”

“There was no Eiffel Tower view.”

“It was better than the Eiffel Tower lawns.”

“Ah, yes,” I said. “I remember it well. You wore a gown of gold.”

“I was all in blue.”

“Am I getting old, Gigi?”

“Yes.”

“Excuse me?”

“Oh, I mean, no, not you. How strong you were, Johnny, even though I did all the rowing. A prince of love in every way.”

“Ah, yes,” I said. “I remember it well.”