Last week, around midnight, I lay in bed as I often do at that hour, listening to one of my favorite podcasts, RadioLab (ok, ok, yes, it's in English; and I should be listening to a French podcast, so guillotine me.) By way of introduction to their subject, a singer/musician named Juana Molina, the host mentioned that she had a gig coming up at Le Poisson Rouge in the East Village. Despite my near slumber, my eyes flicked open.
Of course! Poisson Rouge.
But the Poisson Rouge I'm most acquainted with these days isn't a venue for hot bands. Instead, it's a free French/English bilingual website, filled with cheeky games for pre-school children, and replete with enough wink-winks to adults to keep 'em coming back for more. The imagery is charming, the content educational, the videos infective, and the music is catchy. They channel anime, have folksy or rocky riffs on popular English and French children's songs that can be downloaded as MP3s (I highly recommend their cover of Une Souris Verte). They leverage pop art from Mondrian to Warhol and in fact their content is not merely bilingual: an alphabet section contains vocabulary in French, Spanish, Greek, and both UK and US English, and Poisson Rouge will give your kid a head-start in Chinese, too. There are no instructions, just click and discover, and its regularly updated to keep it fresh and relevant.
On April 1st, Camille said to me, "I want to do some Poisson Rouge." (I like her choice of verb: "do some.") As she was in the middle of a nasty bout of chicken pox, I quickly indulged her, only to click on the site and find a black screen with red lettering, the same palette used by all those best selling true-crime paperbacks, saying effectively, "Sorry folks, parks closed," and "Our apologies, Poisson Rouge can no longer be maintained."
Remember Gene Wilder in Stir Crazy? "Whaaa, whaa, whaa?!" I was shocked! How do I explain "website maintenance" to a 3.5 year old, and how do I tell my pock-marked petite that Poisson Rouge is no more? I stammered. I stuttered. I contemplated a quick toggle over to SesameStreet.org, the whole while that their mea culpa was up on the screen.
About 30 seconds into it, I hear giggling. And it was coming from the computer! The black screen went away and Poisson Rouge was back as usual, indeed it had never gone away. A-ha! April Fool's! Some things really do translate.
I get the impression that the peeps behind Poisson Rouge are a bunch of creative, bilingual types who sincerely get a kick out of playing goofy jokes. But for many they caused a near panic, and even before I knew it was a joke (in those mere 30 seconds before the giggling started), I assuaged my guilt knowing I had already donated to the site. Yet still I asked myself, accusingly, "What more could I have done?"
Days later, they 'fessed up to their little joke, and sent a big merci by sharing many of the comments they received from Anglo and Franco friends alike. They promised that they were here to stay. Hope so.