The nuclear negotiations with Iran are happening in Montreux , Switzerland . Oh , Montreux ! I know Montreux .
In 1990 I was wandering around Europe . My friend Willie Nininger was living in Montreux , and I planned to visit him .
I was in the little town of Humleboek , Denmark , staying for a day or two with my friend Ivan’s mother , Greta . ( I know I’m spelling her name wrong ; but for now she’s Greta . She won’t mind . ) She had a little apartment not too far from the Louisiana Museum there , a classy art museum . Nothing in Humleboek is too far from the Louisiana . Greta met me at the train depot . I remember her standing there holding her bicycle , offering to let me ride the bike back to her place .
At her apartment Greta said that she might have one German beer in the back . Would I like it ? Oh , not if it’s your last beer , I said . But she went to get it anyway and insisted that I drink it . And , when I finished it , she said that maybe she had one more German beer back . Would I care for it ? And so on .
I tried to call Willie in Montreux , but I could reach only the wife of his manager . She told me in pidgin French-glish that Willie was in Spain with her husband . No idea when they would return , I gathered . There was a significant communication gap Cool Hand Luke : What we have heah , is a faileah , to communicate .
When I got off the phone I told Greta that I’d take the train to Montreux and that I’d find Willie . I had no contact info besides the phone number I’d called . ” You’ll never find him , ” Greta said . ” I’ve been to Montreux , ” she said . ” There are twenty-five thousand people there , and those’re just the Frenchmen , ” she said . I told her I’d go anyway , and I’d find him .
“Silly American ! ” , she said .
So I took a train there and looked for a place to stay . I found a pension I could afford . The German -speaking landlady kept looking over my shoulder with a suspicious look on her mug . ” How many ? ” she kept demanding . It was the extent of her English , I think . I looked around behind me , too . Did she see anyone else there ? Just one , I told her ; just one . She reluctantly rented me the room , still watching behind me . Just in case , I guess.
When I’d stowed my stuff I went out to find Willie . Found the main drag . Looked for music joints . Ten or fifteen minutes along on my quest there in front of me was The Western Bar . Willie was playing country music at that time . He used to wear a cowboy hat in Switzerland and everything . The Western Bar had to be the place . When I walked in I saw a publicity photo of Willie posted behind the bar . Bingo ! I talked to a bartender — some English ; some sign language . Willie WAS playing there until a week or so ago , he told me . BUT —- he’s still around . He comes in for a beer around 10 p.m.
I was about an hour early . I ordered a beer and nursed it until 10 p.m. It cost an arm and a leg and so I sipped it slowly . My friend Willie never came into the place by about 11:30 , so I left a note for him with the bartender and I went back to my pension to sleep . Yeah , discouraged . Silly American .
Sometime in the early morning , 3 o’clock ? , I heard my name being called . After I realized that I wasn’t in the middle of a dream I knew that Willie was outside in the hallway calling my name because I had forgotten to put the room number on my note . I let him into the room and we talked for an hour or so . Did I want to go over to The Western Bar and get a drink ? At this hour ? Sure . And we went .
We’d taken about two steps outside my room at that early morning hour when the landlady suddenly appeared . She yelled at us in German . About two people in the room . Had to be . Without knowing any German I knew pretty much word-for-word what she was saying : Caught you ! I knew there were more than just one person !
Willie told her off , beautifully , as far as I could tell , in German , and we went off to get a drink at the bar . We left the poor landlady alone in the drab lonely hallway with her anger and her righteousness.
I sent Greta a photo of Willie and me together in Montreux . We were holding a half-empty bottle of vodka while standing on a snowy street . We were wearing parkas and stupid grins on our faces . I wrote ” I found him ” on the bottom of the picture . I can hear another friend of mine , Bill , saying : It’s better to be lucky than to know what you’re doing .
I’m pretty sure the nuclear talks are not taking place at The Western Bar . Probably they’d want a more neutral setting . Wherever it is , though , I wish them luck .