It was one of those strong afternoon winds you only get in the Santa Barbara bay. Humid, heavy, cold and yet also warm under the sun.
We could barely enjoy our mojitos so distracting was the loud ‘cling-cling-cling-cling’ of the loose ropes holding the American flag. When asked if she could do something about it, the waitress laughed at François and said "Sir you can't fight the wind!"
This was a disappointing statement to him. He made that face he always made when someone lacked ingenuity: eyes upward, lips pursed, thumbs knocking on the table. He brushed her comment off with a silly smile and a tilt of the head.
Once everyone else had left, annoyed by the terrible noise, he got up and started to play with the ropes. Thirty seconds later the ‘cling’ had stopped. He turned back to me and raised his eyebrows in pride, smiling. But he knew what he had just done. He walked back to the table. The waitress thanked him, impressed. He asked for the check and quietly said to me: “This thing won’t hold. Let’s get out of here!” We left silently, chuckling into our scarves.
As we kept walking on the pier, we wondered if we would be banned from one of our favourite hang outs, the Moby Dick restaurant. He said: “Do you realise we have been coming here for almost 20 years?”
Moments later, we were heading back to the truck, we walked in front of the restaurant and François asked me to discreetly check if the flag was still there. It was not. We escaped, laughing as we left the pier.
That was our last stop at the restaurant we had very early breakfast at for over 18 years, after every midnight departure from Vegas.
François always fought the wind, even if flags got swept away in the process.
I haven't seen him since the end of May.