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out last week as I was on a classic sailing boat battling 65 mph winds–called
the Mistral–somewhere off Corsica. The Mistral lasts from three to six,
possibly even nine days, and legend has it that if one murders his wife on the
ninth day, judges turn a blind eye to the vile deed. But before any of you travel
to the South of France hoping to get rid of the old lady, don’t. It’s
an old wive’s tale, and
political correctness being what it is nowadays, even in the land of cheese
they’ll throw the book at you. The only foolproof way to murder one’s
wife without punishment is to be black, an ex-sports star, and for the wife
to be white, preferably blonde.
to Corsica. It is the last lovely and unspoiled place left on the overcrowded
and overbuilt Mediterranean coast. The birthplace of Napoleon is fragrant with
pine and thyme, its maquis-covered cliffs rising from azure and clear seas.
The Corsicans are tough and easily take umbrage. The reason I love them is because
of their propensity to blow things up. No sooner do the modern equivalent of
the Mongol hordes arrive on the island and propose to develop parts of it than
bang go their offices, their cars, at times even the hordes. Ever since
the 60s greedy developers have been trying to drag the Corsicans into the modern
world of tourism, starting of course with glass buildings and glitzy hotels.
Boom is the answer. If only the Hamptons had more Corsicans than Irish, Jews
and Poles, the now ghastly Hollywood East would be a dream.
first millennium Corsica was under constant attack by those nice guys the Moors
and their cousins the Saracens. The papacy became the great protector against
infidel invasion, with Rome eventually conceding the island to Pisa, and then
to Genoa. The Genoese solidified their claim from 1284 until well into the 18th
century, when revolutionary aspirations gripped the people and a popular uprising
ensued. The excuse was somewhat the same as our American brothers used 40 years
later against the British: taxation.
not drench the island in blood, as was the custom of the day; instead it settled
for enticing the enlightened and mainland-educated elite to join in a sort of
collective assembly. This was in 1735. (Had the Brits followed the Genoese method,
one thing is for sure: Americans would today have a better sense of humor, along
with very bad teeth.) Collective assemblies sound good, but are as effective
as the Belgian army. An obscure baron of Westphalia, Theodore of Neuhoff, saw
the opportunity to become royal and landed on the island promising to help the
Corsicans throw out the Genoese. He was pronounced king on the spot, coined
money in his image and had new leaders elected. He also did the smart thing,
calling for Jews to come to Corsica to develop the island.
some of you may have guessed, this did not go down well with the powers that
were. The Genoese, however flabbergasted, smelled real change and struck back
with a vengeance. For 10 years the Corsicans resisted against the coastal garrisons
of Genoa, until the sneaky French encouraged the revolutionaries to ally themselves
with their king. I don’t know what exactly happened to poor Theo, but I’m
guessing he assumed his original title of baron and remained happy to be less
than a footnote in the island’s history.
Paoli, after the perfidious French hand back the island to Genoa. Paoli is Corsica’s
George Washington, except that he lost. Not only did he install universal suffrage,
he even gave the vote to…women. Needless to say, this innovative push for
human rights pissed off every one of the haves. The Genoese were so alarmed
at this radical democracy that they sold the place back to the Frogs in the
Treaty of Versailles in 1768. (The great Napo was born the very next year, ergo
his claim to be French.) The French came down like the proverbial ton of bricks,
and after some bloody battles Paoli took off for England and Corsica became
a French province.
14, 1789, however, the ghastliest of catastrophes struck France: The starving
(they refused to eat cake) peasants stormed the Bastille and eventually overthrew
and murdered the royal family. The peasants then demanded that Paoli return
to Corsica, which he did, until the bloodthirsty Jacobin mob turned against
him. (He was a true democrat, they were smelly Stalinists.) Paoli then turns
to England, which was ever anxious to thwart the French rabble. Enter an obscure
Corsican-born French general by the name of Bonaparte, and Corsica eventually
becomes French forever after.
is la petite histoire of the island, keeping in mind that Europe’s
history is one long account of hatreds and brutality, death and destruction.
about death, we almost lost Charlie Glass in the process. Glass, as some of
you may remember, was kidnapped in Lebanon by Islamofascists, who, typically,
picked up one of the few American tv reporters who was and is on the side of
the Palestinians. Although tied, he eventually escaped while his captors were
asleep. This time he was not so lucky. Speaking over a mobile telephone–yes,
I purchased one because the classic boat I was on had no modern conveniences,
in fact no conveniences whatsoever–I warned him to drive to Calvi and
wait for us there as we were about to hit a Mutiny on the Bounty storm.
"I’ve never been sick on a boat in my life," bragged Charlie.
What he failed to mention is he’d never been on a boat before. It took
him exactly 80 seconds to start puking his guts out; thankfully he had the presence
of mind to do it downwind.
not the only one. Five out of nine, including two female members of the crew,
were down in no time, including my daughter and her boyfriend. Glass was the
worst, remaining a horrible green for something like five hours, moaning softly
as he periodically hung his head over the side and blasted away. Although I
am one of his closest friends and constantly worry about him–he has the
horrible habit of being poor but never asking anyone for help–I found his
condition extremely funny and roared with laughter throughout. So much so, in
fact, my young son, crewing on board and enjoying the ride tremendously, asked
me to stop. But then he started to eat an ice cream cone in front of Charlie,
prompting the latter to beg for him to stop between heaves.
we reached St.-Tropez everything was hunky-dory, except for those foul-smelling
gin palaces of the nouveaux riche and extremely vulgar that line the harbor
and pollute the beaches. The most disgusting of all is Le Grand Bleu, owned
by a grotesque American dotcom billionaire called McCaw. Space prohibits me
from listing all the fat shits on super-yachts, as the stinkpots are known among
us purists, except to say that if the revolution ever comes, please check with
me first. I’ve got a list three miles long, starting with McCaw, Pigozzi,
Steiner… Robespierre, where are you now that we really need you?
And he was
By the time