Zerky at St. Tropez

Map of France

April 9, 1967.

Dear Zerky,

We are thankful for our little heater. After a long cold drive through Germany, Austria and Italy, we finally reached the Mediterranean Coast at Genoa, in Italy. From there we headed southwards following the Mediterranean all the way to the French border. Then it was down the Cote d’Azur all the way into France and to St. Tropez. We are now in a deserted campground right across the bay from St. Tropez, where we are now camped for the second night. The French town of St. Tropez is part of the French Riviera, a kind of ritzy vacation land where the Parisians gather each August to spend their month-long vacations jammed together on a gigantic beach. I never wanted to come here in the first place, but your mother, it turns out, is very fond of St. Tropez, having come here along with all the other Parisians when she used to live in Paris before I knew her.

Today when we were shopping, JoAnne told me she needed to buy some new clothes to wear in France. When I reminded her that we don’t have much room in the car for a new wardrobe, she cut me off abruptly by assuring me that her new clothes were not going to take up much room. So we bought her a pair of tight bright red pants and an even tighter yellow sweater, and finally an “itsie bitsie, teenie weenie,” non-polka dot bikini. When I questioned her as to the wisdom of this purchase, she explained to me that she had simply “assumed” I would want her to wear something on the beach. She tells me she plans to do a lot of “beaching it” in Southern Spain where the weather is warmer. I tried to explain to her that Spain is a very conservative country, and that the people there don’t much go for that French look. Whereupon she told me I should be thankful that she is going to wear anything at all on the beach. She also told me that while she had been living in Paris she had spent several weeks one summer on a beach near here that is famous for being the largest nude beach in the world. She’d had a job selling fruit to nudists. She also told me how much she had enjoyed that summer, walking around on the beach in her suntan and her cute little basket of fruit. I am still not sure how this happened, Zerky, but it appears that your father has married a nudist.

Tonight we are camped on the side of a hill overlooking St. Tropez. It is much warmer here than it was in Germany but is still cold. No matter, our little stove is humming away and everything is perfect. Just now, we finished a wonderful meal consisting of a fresh baguette, a Camembert cheese and a bottle of Rose d’Anjou. With our own private woods, our own private sea and the incomparable French food, we are now living smack dab in the lap of luxury. And then to top it all off, I just opened a bottle of cognac which we also bought in St. Tropez. Your mother insisted it be Remy Martin.

Now we have turned on the car’s new FM radio and, strong and clear from a transmitter right across the bay, comes my favorite opera, The Magic Flute, by a certain Mr. Mozart. So now we are thinking about renaming you Mr. Wolfgang Zerky Mozart.

Tomorrow we hope to show you some wild horses in the Camargue, the Rhone River delta. Along with its wild horses there are gypsies living there too. When I was a little boy, people used to tell me to stay away from gypsies because they steal little children. But you need not worry, Zerky, your mother and I will hold onto you tight. And then we will go up and over the Pyrenees and down into Spain.

—Excerpted From Letters to Zerky


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