Feb 9, 2006

"I see you have brought a mannequin (model)," noted the Quebecois bloke in the sauna earlier, as we shot pictures for the Ice Princess piece. He vaguely resembled Viggo Mortensen as Aragorn, so I was steadily ignoring him. Attractive men make me nervous. I dated one prettier – and I do mean prettier – than me once and can't be bothered to repeat the experience.

The Inappropriate Beau – however handsome – makes me laugh, which is far more important. Soft enough to let me ramble, he's sharp enough to be fun, funny and frighteningly wise. I can't imagine anyone I'd rather keep company with, despite the ubiquitous Mariner's baseball cap.

"Are you ever going to shuck that damn thing in public?" I asked, just before we bumbled across that line between best friends and sweethearts for the second time.

"Probably not, but I might get a different hat," he replied.

Then I realized I didn't especially care, despite my Euro-instilled snobbery against billed caps. Because I'd rather walk down a street in Rome – or anywhere in the world for that matter – with IB, baseball hat and all.

The flash car still takes some tolerance, however. But more on that – and his lovely ginger goatee – another time.

Back to the spa, where I desperately tried to explain the difference between a mannequin and écrivain, as I believe the French might dub an author. Except I was babbling "scrittrice" in Italian, which doesn't go far in the province of Quebec, Romance language or no.

Why did it bother me so? I've modeled in the past, after all. Not much, but some ... Still, dollydom bruised my ego. I'm 30 now – a woman, a writer, not some wan face and frame to project fantasies upon.


"You clean up well," a colleague comments at the Chateau Frontenac, Quebec's grand hotel. "Oui, je suis mannequin!" I bullshit.

Amid a frenzy of paparazzi – assembled for some minister – we check our coats, then endure a five-course meal. The food is, of course, sublime. But such long dinners are a misery with strangers, flashing me back to state occasions at the American Academy in Rome, where I lived for two years amid a flux of celebrities, ambassadors and poet laureates, plus embittered minor artists and scholars.

The Frontenac, however, contains some notable history behind its swags and towers. The lavish hotel, high above Cap Diamant, housed the planning of D-Day: the Quebec Conference between U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Canadian Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King in 1943.

Legend claims a busboy gathered a scrap of paper that contained the invasion plans off the floor. Agents fed it to a pig, preserving the secrecy of the Normandy landings.

Much as I adore this tale, relayed in dramatic French-accented English, it can't be quickly corroborated anywhere.

But what do I know? Je suis mannequin...

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