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Doug Fitch: A User's Manual

The art of oeuvrism

Things One Might Have Reason to Call Doug Fitch, Together with a Few of Those Reasons

Furniture Designer: He designs objects you can sit on, eat at, pour water from.

Architect: He has designed buildings that are now occupied.

Interior Designer: He designs the interiors of buildings you can live and/or work and/or play in.

Actor: He acts in performances he creates that are produced in theaters.

Filmmaker: He produced and directed a short film.

Performance Artist: In case you don’t want to call him an actor, because he can also be called a writer and director and because his performances also take place in galleries and at corporate public relations events. And because he calls himself a performer. He has even suggested that the things he designs are surrogate performers.

Chef: He studied at La Varenne, an école de cuisine in Paris.

Video Artist: His most recent video is entitled “Stop Motion Hamlet.”

Design Consultant to the Filipino Government:

He advised on the development of the Filipino gifts and housewares industry.

Puppeteer: He began designing puppets in first grade, designed and built maybe a hundred puppets for a Peter Sellars production of Wagner’s Ring cycle in Denver, and his family ran a puppet theater. (Also Muppeteer: he once animated the right hand of a Frank Oz character in a Muppet movie.)

Group Problem Solving Meeting Brainstormer:

He has been referred to as “the resident expert on nothing in particular” for Synectics.

Theater Set Designer: For Seattle Rep’s production of Pericles, as well as for all his own productions.

Œuvriste: The word he prefers since it suggests that he simply makes the work he makes.There Are No Failures, just Unexpected Results

 

There are No Failures, just Unexpected Results

As the door opens, Jim Ross, a musician and conductor, is playing the piano, playing music Doug Fitch has written for the birthday of a client: Josh Bell, world-renowned violinist. Bell, presented with the music a few days earlier, couldn’t quite understand it; Jim has offered to fix a few notes so that it reads more musically. Doug is preparing breakfast, so I look over my notes.

“You were right about the F the first time, but you got too clever and added the sharp,” says Jim, projecting his voice to be heard over the din of kitchen food-prep. He hits a dissonant chord. “Was that what you meant? The G?”

From the kitchen: “Yup.”

Jim continues, stopping occasionally to edit the sheet music. I realize that I am listening to a piece of music composed for a musician by his interior designer.

Doug pokes his head in the doorway, grinning. Cocking his head: “Are those my chords?”

Once breakfast is ready Doug pours coffee. He apologizes for the weakness; the coffeemaker was broken so he had to make it cowboy style. “It’s one of your few failures,” I say, and Doug says, “There are no failures; just unexpected results.” Then he concedes that the coffee is awful and refuses to drink any more of it.

Interviewing Doug Fitch

We’re discussing how as people mature, they grow into their bodies and into their personalities. I draw a connection:

“Your role as a designer is to help people grow into their lives.”

“That sounds great. Write it down.”

“So my role as interviewer is to put words in your mouth and then write them down.”

“Exactly.”

 

Talking Chairs

When Fitch worked on an office for his father (a senior VP for research & development for the SC Johnson Company headquartered near Frank Lloyd Wright’s famous office building in Racine, Wisconsin), one of his tasks was to make chairs. Chairs were his specialty, having been the avenue through which Fitch originally entered the design universe when at Harvard in the late 1970s. For his thesis in the Visual and Environmental Studies Department Fitch created fifteen chairs: a chair that was a giant pillow into which you zipped yourself, a chair that supported each limb individually, suspended from the ceiling, a chair for lying on your stomach and reading, with a hole to put your face through and a built-in light, amongst others. A profoundly humanistic gesture, given the rectilinear history of Modernist chair design (Alvar Aalto and Mies van der Rohe) and the human tendency—noted by Elaine Scarry in The Body in Pain—to use chairs as a locus of torture and execution. Fitch’s vision of the world, although eccentric, treats the human being generously: “Chairs are sculptures of exactly what the human body is not—they are the space solidified around a person in the moment of being seated,” Fitch once wrote. Chairs are sculptures that become furniture when (indeed, because) you sit on them.

So when he approached the chair component of the office design he thought he knew from chairs. He discovered he did not. He had decided to make four chairs out of one massive block of foam, much as he had worked at Harvard. There were no drawings; he would work from instinct, “finding” the chairs in the foam. As he worked he found he was making more and more chairs: four, six, eleven … He realized that for this number of chairs to work together, they would have to be sufficiently different while being also broadly similar. (This was not a problem at Harvard, with just two or three chairs to a room; each functioned as a separate entity, its form derived solely from its relation to the human body.) Now, the chairs needed to converse with one another, needed to share a syntax and stylistic vocabulary while maintaining adequately distinct points of view. This was an epiphany: there was a “language of form,” and by recognizing and speaking it, you can “create more meaning” and find meaning where none heretofore existed.

Setbacks

After his first two projects received critical approbation—the design for his father’s office was featured in Interior Design and The Boston Globe wrote favorably about his house (designed with Ross Miller) for art dealer Meredyth Moses—Fitch worked for three years on two major commissions: a huge stone house on a thousand acres in the Catskills overlooking a 250-foot waterfall for a Hungarian pharmaceutical millionaire; and what Doug describes as a “Cubist colonial farmhouse” in Lincoln, Massachusetts. Then the putative Cubist dwellers go bankrupt. And the millionaire suddenly dies. What’s an architect to do?

 

Creative Group Problem Solving by Synectics

Synectics began as a spin-off of the Arthur D. Little Invention Design group. According to the corporate Web site, “the people in the group noticed that on some days they invented well and not so well on others.” In examining the group’s creative process and in observing thousands of meetings (live and videotaped) they established “how teams perform when they are at their most effective in innovating and sharing commitment to their ideas.” Although they do not characterize their approach as an invention in the conventional sense, they feel their “achievement has been to turn these observations into methods that replicate the techniques used spontaneously by high-performing inventors and entrepreneurs.” In the words of their founder, George Prince, they “take an accident and turn it into a process.” The company’s clients include the County Meath Gaelic football team, the City of Boston, the British supermarket chain Sainsbury’s, and Barclays. A fellow Harvard graduate (the aforementioned Ross Miller) had worked for Synectics and recommended Fitch to the company. Fitch has worked for them on a freelance basis as a brainstormer in “creative group problem solving.”

Two Projects on which Doug Fitch Worked as a Professional Brainstormer

Client: An oil multinational in Houston, Texas.

The Project: Create exhibition design for the Story of Oil, as seen through the eyes of the multinational (or rather,  how the oil multinational would wish it seen by the American Public), for the Houston Museum of Natural Science. Fitch is not there to design it; he’s there to make connections between the geologists, academics, lawyers, exhibit designers, chemical engineers and oil-rig designers. When a member of the group questions Fitch’s presence, a Synectics facilitator responds that it is rather difficult to explain, but once they get going with the meeting it’ll be abundantly clear.

Outcome: Meeting successful. Fitch creates a series of drawings that become the basis not only of a successful fund-raising campaign, but also of an entire new wing of the museum.

Client: A candy manufacturer in Marysville, Ohio.

The Project: Develop single-bite shapes (in contradistinction to two-bite shapes) for “Project Beacon” Round Three testing.

Session I: Review shapes liked by consumers, discuss visuals and “mouth-feel” aspects and discover broad similarities that the client can use for directional ideas.

Session II: Fitch produces fourteen concepts for group review/ discussion and stimuli.

Session III: Group utilizes playdough to mold shapes. Twenty-two selected.

Session IV: Group visit to Ralph’s Grocery Store to seek/ discover interesting shapes for food and/or food packaging. Fitch illustrates found shapes and invents new ones.

Outcome: Top-priority qualities for actual candy and its packaging established and ranked. Current status of project? “Corporations often forget that good ideas almost always first manifest themselves in the form of a hunch. Hunches are personal and always emerge slightly subversively. The word suggests something about to be revealed. In labeling one’s notion a hunch, one has confessed a willingness to share it—in spite of the potential danger of being shamed by others. One has and reveals a hunch in spite of what others think.”

 

My Own Personal Doug Fitch Story

I worked with Fitch as an undergraduate at Harvard in 1991. Later the following year, I bumped into him in Harvard Square. At the time I was working on my thesis (I was a concentrator in the Government department) while also preparing for an upcoming series of site-specific performances. Doug and I chatted for a short while, I complaining about having to work on these wildly incompatible projects. I excused myself, explaining that I “had to go do things related to my concentration.”

“Why don’t you concentrate on things related to what you’re doing” was his response. Shortly thereafter I abandoned my thesis.

Taking an Excursion to the World of Frogs

In 1997, Synectics posed Doug Fitch as a problem rather than utilizing him as a problem-solver. They were training Pennzoil employees to become their own problem-solving facilitators and, as a training exercise, invited Doug to present a dilemma to two executives. Doug decided that the problem they should address is the one at the very core of this essay: how could they reconcile the disparate strands of Doug’s diurnal and nocturnal activities? Fitch explains the process:

One of the things you can do in a connection-making meeting is take people on an “excursion.” You create a parallel universe. Let’s say you’re trying to design a blade for a circular saw that will cut through wood but won’t take your fingers off. Rather than approach the problem directly, you take an excursion. Let’s take an excursion to the world of … frogs. Start naming anything that comes to mind: frog’s legs, lily pads, lotus leaves, tadpoles, ponds, those rings that they make when they jump into the water, banks, slime, eggs. You generate these lists that have a certain kind of complete quality to them, that of a whole world. You take any of those words that might intrigue you—the word “intrigue” is very important—and then you say, “How is this like a circular saw blade that won’t cut your fingers off?” So someone might think of tadpoles and you notice that he starts off without legs then he suddenly grows them, so maybe the blade doesn’t have any blades until it needs them and then it shoots them out when it senses something hard as opposed to something soft. So you’re up and running again. You go on an excursion when you’re bored or stuck. What’s amazing is that when you remove the ego from a group of people, wherever it is seated, then suddenly there’s an enormous and fearless positive energy that starts automatically problem-solving because it’s fun. It’s as simple as that. When you’ve nothing to lose, people start to participate.

The Pennzoil employees arrived at an image of a multi-armed Hindu deity.

Catch Me, I’m Falling

Upon being selected as one of the five nominees for the 2000 Alpert Award in the visual arts, Doug tried to synthesize what he does in a statement for the awards committee:

A consistent theme in all my work is an apparent need to merge the pragmatic with the absurd. Pragmatic concerns anchor us to the real world, while absurdity keeps us from taking that world for granted. For me, that merging manifests itself at the boundary between design and art. Art offers us new ways to imagine the lives we are living. Design offers us ways to live the lives we imagine.

Absurdity is there to push you off a cliff, pragmatism catches you while you’re falling. Yes, on the one hand, it’s childish, like a game a parent would play with a child, but on the other, it’s what we do when we fall in love: you jump off a cliff, and your lover catches you falling.

The winner was the Arab-American video artist Shirin Neshat.

Language Proliferates (Third Person Singular)

From an article Fitch wrote for Metropolis magazine, May 1997:

With every emerging new material comes an opportunity to evolve new forms. By investigating the properties inherent in and unique to a chosen material, you begin to consider it as a potential medium of expression and develop a language specific to it. Tubular steel begat the Breuer chairs, just as Pesce’s Feltri chairs came from combining felt and resin. One way to design things is to interpret the function of a chosen object through a new language of form. New material, new language, ergo, new object … Now what about carbon fiber, Nidacore, milky Lexan, mussel shells in gelatin, or rubberized boar’s hair?

The Seventh Orphic Feast

The Seventh Orphic Feast begins at a gallery in Tribeca at which 150 participants, having each paid $300 and selected a painting made out of pasta, file out of the gallery led by a twenty-foot-long noodle. Following the noodle, Mimi Oka and Doug Fitch lead the would-be bacchants through the cobblestoned side streets, across Varick Street just south of where cars enter and exit the Holland Tunnel, and into a ground-floor loft still under construction. Here they are greeted by Orpheus and Eurydice, two marionettes made out of sundry meats and vegetables (some organic, some inorganic) by Fitch’s brother Chris. A waiter takes each diner’s painting to the kitchen, where it is cooked under the supervision of well-known New York chef Daniel Boulud.

Orphic Open Studio (Working Title)

I attend the Orphic Open Studio at Mimi Oka’s apartment. Doug designed the Studio for and with Mimi, and it bears his zany imprint (although zany is not the right word, nor is wacky or whimsical, because the space vibrates in a fashion that is decidedly more dangerous). You do not bring in Doug to design your house if you obsess about little children banging their heads against corners and putting their eyes out. He creates surplus corners the way capitalists create surplus value.1 For example, a sideboard made of drawers runs the length of the narrow loft. It seems to have been arranged by grabbing fifty mismatched drawers from a furniture graveyard and stacking them three or four high, in blatant disregard for such niceties of cabinetmaking as having one piece be flush with another. Somehow the drawers all open and close smoothly.

In the corner are several sculpted still lifes: an upended clay turtle; a claw hammer; a trussed turkey; a clay lemon alongside a real lemon—or a plastic lemon that looks like a real lemon; a cantaloupe; a saltshaker (no pepper); moldy bread that is real bread except it’s not moldy but rather was baked and then dyed to look moldy; a globe perched on the back of a rabbi, reminiscent of some creation myth; a clay fax machine; and Edenic mannequin hands proffering apples to unsuspecting males.

Food is being served and I await with an admixture of excitement and panic. Guests were instructed to bring hammers and some managed to remember. A clay turkey is placed on a table and a guest is invited to break it open. Inside, baked peanuts. A clay loaf of bread arrives; the blow of a hammer reveals actual bread.

 

A Lesson Learned from Doug Fitch

Like a good woman, you don’t appreciate an object until it’s gone.

Why Do All of This?

“You find a context within which something is being taken for granted. That’s reason enough to do anything.”

I Mean, Really, Why Do All of This? Cherchez la Poire!

“I’ve a dream for you. I was in this room, which was a bedroom, a large bedroom, with no ceiling on it, it just looked out over the open cosmos, in fact I’m not even sure it was connected to the planet but there I was in my bedroom and … It was a large bed and I was on the edge of it and I was watching television and of course there wasn’t really anything on television … of any interest. And I know that Lou Bakanowsky, my professor, and his wife who I’d never met are coming over to get me to come to, go to, to take me out to some important occasion that I should be very respectful of, and I know that I am not getting ready to go and instead I am watching television that I am not even interested in but I feel compelled to continue to watch television in spite of the fact that I know I should be preparing by putting on the right clothes. So I, I cannot move. And suddenly there’s a knock on my door. And I do this little thing, which I always do, which is to say: Oh hi, come on in, yes, absolutely, yes, just make yourself at, you know, just be, try to be overly, overtly charming, I suppose, and I, so, just a second, it’ll be just a second, I’ll be right, ready, and I run into the closet, there was this closet there and I closed the door behind me and there wasn’t any light in the closet and I put on the clothes which I think I’m supposed to be wearing and then I open the door and I notice I put on the wrong clothes and I am wearing some orange bellbottomed pants and some pink-flowered shirt, some silly thing, and I can’t do it, I can’t go out there with this and now I’m fumbling around and you get the right stuff on and it’s obviously taking longer than it should have and I go out and they’re both standing there now, facing me, and I say something like ‘OK, ready!’ and they go, ‘I’m sorry it’s too late.’ And I’m going ‘Oh no, no.’ And they say, ‘It’s too late and now you have to find the pear in the field.’ And I look out the window and there’s this huge field and I’m going ‘Oh what a beautiful image … the pear in the field. It looks impossible.’ And then they leave. (laughs.) So I’ve been looking for the pear in the field ever since. (laughs.)”

Fitch in the South Seas

Fitch’s brother Chris loves orchids. So much so that he went to the Philippines in 1984 on a “flower-watching” trip. While there he fell in love with and married Evangeline, a Filipina. Three years later, in January 1987, Chris and Evangeline invited Doug to come meet her family and Doug went. He spent four weeks there, an experience Fitch, fascinated by the absence of the “capitalist culture of insecurity,” characterizes as a “month-long epiphany.”

Shortly after Fitch’s return from the Philippines, he was working in his studio in the Allston area of Boston when a furniture importer from the Philippines, purely by chance, wandered in, looking for a space in which to photograph furniture. Fitch exclaimed that he himself was a furniture designer and that he had just spent a month in the Philippines and could he see what stuff the man (Brad Opperman) was importing. Opperman returned several days later with materials samples, charts, catalogs, photographs of the pieces in homes. “I hated the stuff,” Doug told me later. “Lots of ostentatious urns with artificial marbleized surfaces. However, through Brad’s enthusiasm I saw it not as hideous stuff, but rather as only a range of possible products made by amazing techniques and processes.”

Brad’s import operation, South Seas International (a vaguely colonial-sounding name evocative of the East India Company), had been buying from a Filipino company, Woodstone Shell Novelties. Woodstone had developed a system for surfacing objects with an amalgam of shell and marble chips mixed with industrial polymer resins, which, when ground and polished, revealed a luminous terrazzo-like surface. Doug found a way to prepare fine particles of any color desired and to blend them into a variety of textures. He and Brad agreed to join forces and left several months later for the Philippines.

The factory was located in Minglanilla, a little town on the island of Cebu. Workers were quite young, and all of them poor (one, barely eighteen, had just quit fishing professionally after a line-caught swordfish, trying to escape, leapt over the boat, stabbing his friend in the heart). By the time Fitch first arrived on the island, they had one month to come up with a product for the International Contemporary Furniture Fair (ICFF), at which Brad had secured a booth. Twelve people worked night and day for the final week to make a table out of wood, fiberglass, polyurethane foam, steel, polyester resin, 625 different colors and four totally different legs. Atop the table were, for no clear reason Fitch can articulate, bowls full of eggs. Resin eggs.

The table eventually sold for a tidy sum of money. Doug was given shows at Neotu, the top furniture design gallery in New York and Paris, at WunderHaus in Munich and at IDEE in Tokyo. However, for his and Brad’s new company Ooloo (Doug coined the name “because it looked like a picture of a word”), the imperative was to make eggs. Hundreds of thousands of eggs. Spermlike quantities of eggs, retailing for $20-$40 each. Even Neotu, accustomed to selling very expensive designer objects, ordered hundreds of eggs. They smelt money. Doug also designed candlesticks, pitchers, “Jooloory,” each object expressing the functional, semifunctional and dysfunctional qualities of the aforedescribed table. Every museum store in the country bought from Ooloo: MoMA, the Guggenheim, the Met; the candlesticks and pitchers were dancing out of Barneys as if Lewis Carroll had imagined them and Walt Disney had animated them.

Also on the strength of Ooloo’s showing at the ICFF, Doug was commissioned to design three coffee tables (christened the Tres Marias as all three of the sisters who owned Woodstone were named Maria). A great deal of work went into designing these tables as this commission (for one hundred tables of each design) was seen as a way to develop efficient production processes for a factory that up until now had made everything up as it went along.

However, what appeared to be an opportunity to get Ooloo on the path to commercial success proved to be anything but. The commissioning company reneged on its commitment and failed to pay even for the prototypes. The designs were so beautiful, however, that when a buyer for a German furniture store visited the Woodstone factory he was astonished to see what the company was now capable of doing. When he asked the three Marias if he could take the pattern designs from the Tres Marias tables and apply them to other objects, they gaily assented. About three months later, all Fitch’s designs were being reproduced in the form of keychains and wine stoppers. Not only were Fitch’s designs being used without payment of royalties (the Philippines’ intellectual property laws, such as they are, being of no use to him), the company had suspended work on Ooloo products in order to meet the more immediately profitable orders the German company was suddenly placing. “We were instantly behind. And we never caught up. That was it. It was over … Of course it took ten years for us to really acknowledge it and completely fall apart.”

In the summer of 1999, South Seas International closed down after ten years in business. Given all the difficulties of running a small operation from two sides of the globe, the astonishing thing is that it lasted so long. “Brad was so tenacious. I’ve never seen anybody like that,” said Doug. “Now he’s got a job as a computer programmer—making money, starting a family. He seems very happy.” 

The Second Orphic Feast: La Baguette Énorme
Sorde l’Abbaye, French Pyrenees, August 29, 1998

You are invited to help Mimi Oka, Doug Fitch and the people of Sorde L’Abbaye consume a forty-five-foot baguette—the Baguette Énorme en Gala—with all manner of comestibles and other accoutrements for dining baked right inside. Just bring a knife, a wineglass, molars and an appetite.

Selected Ingredients:

530 lbs dough
Seven-foot shark (pregrilled)
Turbot (one)
Chickens (many)
Salmon (one)
Trout (several)
Entire catch of the village fishing competition
Duck breasts and sausages (countless)
Whole pineapples
Stuffed red peppers
Roast pork
Berries
Chocolate
Ewe’s milk cheese
Black cherry jam
Plates
Napkins
Cutlery
Souvenirs
A wooden rowing boat
Tins of foie gras
One hundred French francs 

“The most beautiful moment wasn’t in the baking, or even in the eating, but when the village came together to lift up that baguette and start the parade” —Michel Pommiers, resident of Sorde l’Abbaye, the day after the Baguette Énorme en Gala

Île Flottante
Quotes from the raw documentary footage of the making and consummation of Île Flottante, a project by Doug Fitch & Mimi Oka, as spoken by the makers and consumers:

“I’m very much looking forward to the eel event. Seeing this live animal right at your very table, it seems sort of like an ancient idea, in a way, but with the nonsensical aspects of this apparatus, the eel-evator going up and down an ancient bridge so that a chef wearing a toque can be preparing it. I’m also looking forward to seeing this little île flottante [a verdant oval isle about twenty feet in circumference] filled with île flottante [the dessert] after you’ve eaten eel flottant [floating eel], floating down the river on your île flottante [a floating donut-shaped table, thirty feet in diameter].”

“Surprisingly there aren’t millions of things running through my mind right now so I’m kinda worried about that.”

“The problem is that none of us have actually built a floating table for twenty-five people without any central support … We thought we were solving the problem by going to a flotation engineer and a rafting expert. But we have issues.”

“I’m not a lie-around-on-the-beach kind of person. I’d much rather build something complex and interesting if I’m going to be on a beach.”

“I don’t even ask the question ‘Is it art or is it not art?’ I just … I don’t need to ask that question, and I don’t need to answer it either.”

“I’d rather be doing that than be stuck in a kitchen, I’ve spent enough years in the kitchen. Besides, I know how to use a hammer drill.”

“I was just thinking of something, Mimi. We should do this but we should also get one eel on a fishing pole, ’cause it would look so beautiful. With a hook poking through its mouth. Seeing this thing dancing up there. Poor sacrificed eel. Who here’s a fisherman?”

“This is for the eel-tempered eel.”

“It just doesn’t get any better. I’m standing in the rain in the south of France, putting on a jacket and tie over a wet suit to sit at a floating table in the middle of a river to dine on eels suspended in the middle of it. It’s the cheapest insane fun you can have.”

“The big picture is a series of visual puns.”

“There are engineering problems …

primarily the floating table, and the eel-evator, and the floating island, and the fact that the duck is being served using the eel-evator. Basically we’re serving twenty-four people out of canoes which is not something you can practice.”

“I wasn’t going to get in the water because of a heel spur and a fear of dying.”

“As soon as the customer arrives and sits aboard, I just unwrap the plates and wipe them down—we had a little storm earlier—a little garnish, chopped chives on the bowl, chilled soup on the pitcher, that goes on the boat, they help themselves. As soon as that goes the second course is the frog legs. I’m going to be in between, doing the garnish here, cabbage, running up to my kitchen on the bridge, sauté the frogs’ legs, bring them back down, fifteen, twenty minutes total, that goes. I take Michel, my assistant, to the bridge. We clean up the eels as soon as they send it to me, chop them up, sear the eel, sear the foie gras, send them back down. Clean up the area, we do the duck. Sear the ducks, sear the foie gras, put them in a little squash. Send it back down in the basket. That’s clear? I clean up the station up there, I come back down. Do the île flottante. When that goes, I put them on the île, they go. Then it’s up to Mimi and Doug to decide how we get the island down.”

“It’s Julia Child meets Esther Williams.”

“I’ve never liked eel, and the sight of live eel has not really changed that opinion.”

“The thing I like about having the frogs’ legs in the eggshell come after the bouillabaisse is that the bouillabaisse has frogs’ eggs in it.”

“When Mimi called, I said ‘no’ twice, but I couldn’t three times … I’m freaking out.”

“My two chief concerns are getting my cigarettes out to the table and keeping them dry. My second concern is urination. It’s obviously possible to urinate in the water, but with the wet suit I’m afraid it’ll puddle and stay there.”

“Don’t step with your full weight on it!”

“The other thing that’s troubling me is that I asked Doug how we were going to get out of the water and he didn’t seem to know.”

“They want to keep the île flottante.

The mayor! As a kind of souvenir!”

“The chocolate dessert? It was like two orgasms having sex.”

“Vive la France avec des verres du vin!”

“We have to hang together as a cohesive whole to get the table to float. I mean if someone like Ashbell sits at the table, the rest of us have to balance his presence. His presence or anyone’s presence makes a huge difference in its ability to float. I really like that because of the active contribution each person is making in a physical sense …”

“Nothing’s gonna fall off, right?”

“Je m’appelle Olivier et chez moi je n’ai pas de table dans l’eau.”

“Let’s get on land and regroup.”

“What is île flottante?” “It is poached egg whites floating on crème anglaise.”