Note: As some of you know, when I was living in Paris earlier this year, I expected to write all of the time and report back my adventures wandering the streets of Paris. Unfortunately, the day after I arrived in Paris, my computer crashed, erasing all of my writing, the films I’ve directed, all of my music and every pictures I have ever taken. Quite a sad moment. However, as of this weekend, I finally repaired my computer. This was the first of many blogs I was writing to report back state side.
I present to you, The Lost Paris Journal.
The Bartender Knows: Paris Edition
A Drunk American In Paris Pt. 1
That’s right, ladies and gentlemen, I am in one of the most beautiful cities in all of the world.
I have no idea how to talk to anyone. It has taken me three days to properly order a café sitting on the famous Parisian patios that are strewn across this fair city. Now when you take away a bartender’s talk, the bread and butter of our fair profession, you become a retarded mute, gesturing like a monkey at pastries in the window and pointing at items on the menu.
I am frightened, which is funny for a man like me who generally can’t keep his mouth shut up.
I am totally fearless State side. But out here, I slink around the French avenues like an underfed cat born off Grand Street, jumpy when approached, whispering purrs of god awful French to people. I know two words: Merci and S’il vous plait. Oh, and pardon, that is what you say when you bump into people wasted.
I went crazy the other night round 4am totally sober and decided to run out into the streets. It’s freezing cold and the rain was coming down like God spitting ice cubes on the streets. I take one wrong turn and I’m lost. My American compass is cracked right down the middle. The streets are dead empty, curved, not like the New York City grid system. An hour later I’m freaking out by some castle somewhere. It’s early morning and there’s police out arresting some poor criminal. There’s me, wandering up in a dark hood, asking “Ou se trouve le Seine?” (Where is the river Seine?) and them looking at me like I was planning on diving into the dark churning waters. They directed me the right way, not that I understood anything they said. With luck, I found a landmark statue of Diderot I recognized off the Saint-Germain-des-Pres that led me back to my flat.
I walk the streets alone during the day, muttering poorly pronounced French to myself, incurring strange looks from the locals. I sit, looking at cafes, wishing I could joke with the waitresses, charm them, make friends. Instead, I found a lovely little market where I bought enough Jamon and baguettes to fatten me up for week.
And the cheese, it’s all about the cheese. I think if a man could OD on Morbier, it would happen right here in my borrowed flat off the Rue de Palissy.
“Cause of death, Monsieur?” the police officer asks the doctor.
“Fat bastard ate Morbier to death. Poor American. Looks like a bearded Pillsbury Dough Boy and smells of a vagrants armpit.”
And let me say this folks. The French are fucking awesome. Super polite. They just hate Americans when they roll in speaking English right off. They want you to fuck up their language. There’s a point of pride in seeing you fail. But you tried. It makes them feel good. Like a rite of passage, blood in and blood out, gang shit.
Except the only thing getting butchered is the way you speak French.
Here are some fun facts about drinking in Paris:
YOU WILL NOT BE BUYING WHISKEY!
Unless you are rich, my friends, you will not be buying whiskey at the local pubs and cafes. One small ounce shot will run you about 10 Euro, that’s $11.25 in dollars, and it will be their shitty version of well whiskey, some strange monstrosity called Major Henri. I had to try it. It tasted like turpentine, same color and hue and everything. This is no doubt why Americans go crazy out here. Henry Miller was probably so drunk off this paint thinner he decided to write the book to end all books (Tropic of Cancer) and thought he could get away with it. Whiskey makes even the meekest of men arrogant as all hell, and this gasoline that poses for whiskey is making me believe I can write the next Great American Novel in less than four weeks (already started it bitches, though can’t read a fucking lick of my penmanship, damn you Absinthe!).
WINE IS THE CHEAP WHORE OF PARIS!
Oh my god. I am not a wine drinker. In fact, back in Brooklyn when I did go on wine binges all I got was shit from my degenerate friends about what I pussy I was. Well, you are what you eat, and there’s plenty of gash to drink around here. I found a place where you can buy a bottle of very decent red for 1.20 Euro, that’s like 2 bucks back in the States. Genius. I bought like 10 for the flat, been here three days already, and gone through four bottles. Morning, noon, night, wine, wine, wine, wine!
I found a place called Le Chameleon where glasses of Cote du Rhone are 3 Euro, not bad for traveling about prices. The bartender is pretty cool. I don’t think bartenders here in Paris have the same prestige as we do in the States. They seem relatively busy and not that concerned about you. After all, unlike America, the actually get a wage and do not rely on tips for survival. I explained to the bartendress at Le Chameleon that I too, was a bartender, reading out of my translation book. She nodded and pointed to my empty glass: “Encore?” I nod.
I suppose flashing my wine key around here would be superfluous. They would probably shrug, show me theirs, and be off. So fuck you Jake Tomsky, you were right. I would not get special privileges because I share the working class profession. All I get is the bored nod and an “Au revoir, Monsieur,” when I leave the place, red stained lips and all. I can’t blame them. How long has Paris been around?
I am not the first poor writer wandering these streets, nor will I be the last.
OLD DRUNK PARISIAN MEN HANGING OUT OF WINDOWS ARE AMAZING!
My friends arrived Christmas Eve from Brooklyn; one of the Whiskey Twins, we’ll call her Catherine here for privacy sake, and my mustached mustard jar thieving buddy Michael, Catherine’s amore, met me last night for some celebratory drinks. We found ourselves at this place called Aux Trois Mailletz, a classic French Bistro, all with a very busty Algerian bartender, frantic waiters running back and forth, a skeletal female pianist rattling off French versions of Christmas music, and a singer, sans microphone, roaming the bistro singing at the top of her lungs.
I kept saying to myself: “This is totally like a French bistro from the movies”. That’s American for you. You see so much on TV that when you see the real thing, you are not surprised. Talk about Simulacrum. A copy of a copy of a copy.
Then we met a strange man named Julian in pink shoes, a sparkling red scarf, in a black sports coat, with long hair and a typical French hooked nose, smiling, kissing Catherine’s hand in a pervy way, excited to meet Americans. He tells us where he will be singing Christmas night (which we no doubt will go, fuck it). He told me he will bring me French beautiful woman as long as I do the same if he goes to New York. I say, sure, sure, and he writes down the cub he’s singing at (Le Chat Noir, not kidding).
The Whiskey Twin, Michael the Mustached Mustard Jar Thief, and I leave, searching for cheap drinks and the wine has gone right to our heads. Suddenly, we see a church, and a slew of people gathered outside.
“It’s Midnight Mass for Christmas,” Michael exclaims, “We have to go in!” I resist, feeling quite drunk, but the Catholic in me wins. We go into the 12th Century church and it’s full of a hundred people. The choir is singing as we find a place to lean against the back pillars.
And it is beautiful. I forget about everything
We find some place called the “Student Bar” where shots of Absinthe are like 5 Euro and college girls get molested in the dark recessed mist filled dance floor in the basement. It is empty and we are loudly discussing art in English. This is trouble, this cheap Absinthe, for Mustached Mustard Jar Thief and I love this shit. We have way too many. Soon we are drunk outside Hemingway’s Doorway, laughing arm in arm down the cobblestone Rue de Mouffetard. Suddenly, we hear loud music coming from a couple flights up and there’s this old man with a beret on holding a glass of red wine, leaning out of his plant filled balcony.
Drunk, The Whiskey Twin Catherine yells up in French about what kind of party is going on (she’s the only one who can speak French, therefore, get us into adventures).
We are invited up, half expecting the place to be wild, judging from the volume of the music and the dancing excitement of the old Frenchman on the balcony.
There’s no one in the flat, except a sleeping fat woman under some thin sheets. Suddenly it feels real awkward. The old man is jovial raising his glass of wine. We smile. He pours us glass after glass,. We just keep dancing along with this old man, he seems pleased by this. The old lady mutters in her sleep as the Frenchman blares Jerry Lee Lewis even louder.
I wonder what else I might get into here in this strange city…