Because I'm an Idiot
Because my mother's digital camera was in my suitcase, there are no photographs from my trip. I could have gotten a camera, one of those cheapy things, but I figured I lost everything for a reason. I was supposed to enjoy the ephemeral nature of the trip. Besides the big things, like Sacre Coeur, I kind of figured other better photographers than myself had already captured the beauty.
So I was sitting with Henri in the cafe, he is chatting with friends and after a while I thought "Alright, this is cool being a 'real Parisian' but I have things I have to see." I tell Henri that I will call him at six, that I need to go rest and so forth and I head off towards my hotel.
And I had every intention of actually going to the hotel, but then I suddenly walked right by it and continued up and up and up until I reached Sacre Coeur. My first full day in Paris I, the little disabled girl, climbed Monmartre.It is hard to believe that the church was completed in 1919. I gave 2 euros to light a candle to St Michael. I have thought of him as my patron saint after Vampire Hunter D (long story-don't ask). The shrine to St Michael also has a mosaic and a statue of Joan of Arc. When I return to Sacre Coeur, I will take a picture of the shrine ( It turns out there are no photographs of the shrine or the statue available online. Bastards.)
Outside the church, there are artists who try to do portraits and caricatures of tourists. If you absolutely need a lover, these men are more than willing. I suspect they receive some sort of stipend from the tourist board to seduce female tourists and therefore keep the tourist trade booming and the economy from crashing entirely. The artists come from all over. There was a Brazilian named Ricardo ( very cute-tan, shaggy hair), a Morrocan named Marco, a Russian, a couple of Spainiards, and of course some Frenchmen. They chase after you speaking one language after the other, trying to find the one you will respond to. Marco pursues me and quickly abandons the idea of doing my portrait for a fee, changes his mind and offers me a drink. Having not yet had a glass of red wine, I agree to a drink and he takes me to a cafe on top of monmartre where all of the artists come and take his cigarettes, they chat with me, he introduces me to all of them, the occasional artist's girlfriend. He knows five languages. It is hard to feel educated sitting next to someone who speaks five languages, until you realize his definition of "speaks" is fairly loose.
If you are desperate for someone who speaks English, the artists are your best bet. They love to talk up women, and since talking and hawking is a big part of their trade, they are quite skilled at it. We sat and wine. When Marco went to get me a second glass, I realized the name of the cafe we had gone to was Murphy's Irish Bar. Oonly I could fly to Paris, climb monmartre and still end up with a crazy artist in an Irish bar. There are, apparently, some constants to the universe.
After two glasses of wine, he offers to take me to his place in order to examine his art work more closely. Of course, Henri is somewhere awaiting my call. He will be disappointed. He is the first of many men I will abandon all over Paris.
As Marco and I walk, it begins to rain. Actually it begins to pour. Marco puts his jacket over me. By the time we get to his place, his shirt is plastered to him, even I am sogging. Once there, I realize my sweater, one of the few pieces of clothing I actually had, is gone. Somewhere in the mad dash in the rain it was left behind. I have lost so much, it barely even registers.
His place is very La Vie Boheme. No iron work or chandeliers or even rooms. A tiny little dingy apartment with no toilet or shower, just a sink. Strangely he DOES have a DVD player and stacks of cds and dvds. Odd priorities. He slips on some old jazz and strips off his shirt.
It should be romantic, the rain, the artist's pad, the jazz.
Unfortunately Marco's pad smelled like cat piss. The absence of any cat made the smell even more disturbing. In addition, he had a bottle of the only foul wine I actually had in Paris. It was the type of stuff that makes Boones seem tasty. But really, Marco ended up being a cinq minute homme. Not even quinze, cinq at which point, he fell completely asleep. Utterly bored in the cat piss interior ( he was not even a good artist, surprise suprise), I tell Marco I have to go.
In Paris, people find it as impossible to believe as Americans that I am traveling alone. With Marco, I invent an invisible travel companion. I begin to lie simply because it is easier, because so many people want me to have some travel companion. I tell him that she will be worried if I don't return to the hotel. He seems somewhat unconvinced, but he promises to meet me at monmartre the following evening at nine and he will take me to dinner.
I escape to the street. On the way home I find a chic little boutique. I buy two sweaters and a skirt and continue home. Walking towards my hotel in nothing but my wet jeans and black tank top, silently congratulating myself on how well I can already navigate around Paris, I end up walking directly through Place Pigalle, which is essentially the Paris version of the old 42nd street.
It is packed with peep shows, and triple XXX video parlors
, there are bars advertising "climatisé", which sounds raunchy, but is really just air conditioning. ( It is odd to me that a place where the main attraction is to get clients hot and bothered, uses cool air as a major draw.)
I realize, once I am already in the midst of parisian porn central, that the only way out is to keep walking through. To go back, I would have to not only walk through the same porn lined streets, but it would take more time. So I just keep my head down and walk quickly. Some of the "escorts" sitting inside at the bars wearing only lingerie look up as I pass. Once they register my gender, they return to their conversation.
I manage to pick up a bra and panties on the way back to my hotel. In a little lingerie store, a plump woman fits me for a bra. If you get lingerie in Paris, real lingerie, and not the vinyl crap that they sell at place Pigalle, it will fit you better than anything you have ever bought before. if Richard Feynman had been hired by NASA to design me a bra, it couldn't be a better bra. I get matching panties in a comfortable mess material.
I realize that I am doing pretty well. I have some clothes and at least a change of underthings. I have toothpaste and toothbrush. I think there are kids who have spent entire summers in europe with less than this. I can handle it for a week. I go back to the hotel and take a bath. I change into my new clothes.
Henri has called and left a message. I ignore it and head to the Tiger restaurant. I have no idea what they serve, but my basic theory is who could possibly fuck up Paris?
more to come...
Bad Bunni posted at 9/09/2004 01:38:00 PM
Reversal of Fortune
So my Frenchman, we shall give him the name Henri (and no, it is not his real name), we sit, we smoke, we have our kir. With my job and with my training, dexterity with language comes easily. Yet I could, in French, barely put together a sentence, and following even the simplest of statements required effort and patience and a lot of repetition. Every time I wanted to say something, I had to think first if I could say it and even if I could say it, was it worth the investment of time and effort. And the answer to those two questions was often no.
So Henri asks me if I am hungry and if I want dinner. So I say yes thinking that we are going to a restaurant. Ah yes, I didn't bother to ask you see because it was just too much effort. So I follow him down some streets until we come to an apartment building door.
And here is where a normal person would have said "No."
But I am not a normal person. I've come this far, and strangely, I have great faith in my instincts.
I follow him inside the very dark foyer, through the door to the inside courtyard. I follow him the very cramped creaking spiral staircase. He opens the door....
...to the largest most sparkling new bathroom. It is larger than the kitchen in my apartment. It has a bath and shower, separate. It is huge. I start to laugh. He laughs with me.
He begins to show me around the apartment. The bathroom, the kitchen, the study, the "salon" complete with grand piano, a bedroom with a four poster bed iron work on the ceiling AND a chandelier, a dining room with a chandelier, and another smaller bedroom. All of the rooms had the floor to ceiling windows with shudders.
My very stunned New York ass sat on the couch while Henri got us another round of kir and some crackers. He turned on the TV for me ( not that I could understand anything) while he fetched refreshments from the kitchen.
I was expecting him to tear my clothes off. But, instead, he brought me pictures, photographs of his home in Normandy, his brother, his parents, his friends. And I had a moment of realizing despite my basic inability to communicate with him verbally Henri actually liked me; it was not just French lust.
I, on the other hand, had conquest on the mind.
Eventually, having run out of pictures and our vocabulary being too limited to converse for very long, he began to kiss me. And then he led me into the bedroom with the iron work and the chandelier. I sat on the bed. It was a scene right out of the Money Pit, the bed creaked and the mattress sank practically to the floor. I started laughing again, but not for very long. I found myself stripped on that bed, staring at the iron work roses in the corner, going "What am I doing?"
Caffeinatrix had told me before I went to Paris "Fuck the first attractive guy. It's like an impulse buy. You need that initial rush, that surge of accomplishment, and then become selective." Henri was quite a stroke of impulsive luck. We did not fuck on that bed. No, I've been around long enough to know. It did not have the rush towards quick satisfaction, the purely bestial instinctive quality. It was a long and drawn out, almost torturous, process of pushing each other to the limits of delayed gratification.
The mattress very early on was taken off of the frame and put on the floor so as not to break the springs. Up until this point I thought that sex was a thing that would be best without language. That a lack of language would make it more pure. But Henri kept talking to me. And there was frustration on my part that often I only understood part of what he was saying. Although there was also the suspicion that the only reason I liked him so much was because I couldn't understand most of what he was saying.
What I did understand was when he told me that he loved my body, my taste, my breasts, the feel of my mouth. And many times that he night he told me he loved me, something I dismissed as an in the moment profession, although later I would reconsider. He told me that I made love well. I have now receive the official Parisian "quality piece of ass" approval.
A Brief Confession
I have never had sex in a foreign country. I have come close. I showered with a guy in Edinburgh once. I passionately kissed a guy in Mexico. But I didn't go all the way until France.
It was something out of a movie. We made love for a few hours and then we would stop and have kir. I would look out the window at the street. I would hear conversation from the street come up and wonder if those people heard me, crying out earlier, with such clarity. There were the mopeds and the signature siren of "les flics" (the cops). We would smoke. He had three packs of marlboroughs on the coffee table. The French smoke like it is a second job. Then we would make love again.
My first night Paris I didn't go back to my hotel room. I fell asleep with Henri curled around me the windows open with the night air cooling us.
In the morning, he took me again. The same long gentle process. Finally we had coffee in the kitchen the Parisian way: in bowls with milk. I had two bowls of coffee. He wanted me again. Eventually I shower.
Henri, contrary to much of what I had heard, was not only clean, but he smelled wonderful. Considering what I discovered about the lack of decent, or even vaguely effective deodorant in Paris, this is quite an accomplishment. The lack of cleanliness in most Parisians is most likely because apartments often do not HAVE a shower. It is a shower for the floor, often a single shower for that floor of the apartment building. Henri having the luxury of a privately owned shower and bath took advantage of it.
We leave the apartment go to a cafe where we stand at the bar and smoke and drink, of all things, fermented cider from Normandy. I realize that I have somehow found the Parisian version of Rohr's.
more to come...
Bad Bunni posted at 9/08/2004 01:12:00 PM
The Wrong Box
I manage to get to my hotel, only to find that because the hotel is "concerned about the safety of the floor in your room" (and I don't mean like we are concerned about the nation security safety, I mean like we are concerned about it's ability to hold human weight) I have been transferred to another hotel. Just when I thought I was going to get a hot bath. Hot and sweaty and disgusting as I am, the hotel has called me a cab to transfer me. The good thing is the other hotel is in a better neighborhood. On the way to the hotel, the cab driver hits on me.
When I arrive at my hotel, I am given the option of a smoking room. Yes, I am asked "Smoking or not smoking." I take the smoking room, just because I can. I go up and unpack, which takes all of thirty seconds. I take a long bath. The hotel has supplied me with soap and shampoo. I picked up toothpaste and toothbrush on the way through Gare Du Nord. Now all I need is more panties and some deoderant.
But before I can do that, I sleep. I sink under the covers of my cushy hotel room with the windows open, the sounds of Paris blowing through the window and go to sleep.
A Little Ooooo-La-La
I wake up at six in need of food among other things. I decide to wander the neighborhood. I walk around Rue Des Martyrs and Rue Notre Dame de Lorette. I eventually find an ATM. I don't find deoderant, but by six thirty I decide the next cafe I see, I am going get food. I've been putting it off, I admit to myself later, because I am afraid of trying to order.
As I walk down the street, a frenchman ( they keep them there you know) says, "You're very cute" in french. Having been warned by all the guidebooks and all my friends that the french are VERY polite, I say thank you. At which point he does a u-turn and begins to follow me down the street. He asks me how things are going, and I respond by asking him if he speaks english.
Not a word of it.
And then he asks me if I want a drink. I haven't eaten since ten in the morning, I have no luggage, I don't even have another pair of panties, I'm totally jet lagged. Do I want a drink? No.
I absolutely need one.
So we go to a bistro and he orders us kir. He gives me, of all things, a marlboro red, which I think I have justly earned. We exchange short sentences. How old are you, what do you for a living, where are you from. He is a florist from Normandy. He is, despite all that I have heard about the french being short, six feet tall. He is not incredibly attractive, but he has large blue eyes and an endearing smile.
And then he proceeds to tell me his life story. He talks to me for fifteen minutes straight with great emotion. I understand about two sentences: he lives with his brother, who is on vacation-and he himself is on vacation until sept 12.
more to come...
Bad Bunni posted at 9/07/2004 10:22:00 AM
Ah yes your dear little bunni has returned and she has many many stories. So many stories that I am going to have to pace myself telling them all. So let's get started, shall we?
The All American Send Off
The night before I leave my friends all take me out for drinks. Everything is set. I've managed to put everything into one carry on bag: my black cocktail dress, my favorite green bebe skirt, all of my make up, my purple gap lounge wear/pjs, my mother's digital camera. I don't have to be up until eleven or so. My friends take me to a favorite Irish bar for early evening bloody marys. The bouncer, a former Dallas cowboy, tells me stories about Paris ( some cafe where everyone is an aspiring model, an art gallery by the Louvre where the owner was a big fan) while he flirts with me. We end up ordering wings to be delivered. We sit at the bar with Miller Lite, atomic wings, and a former professional football player. I stumble home at about eleven o clock ( we started at six) happily drunken thinking that it was a perfect send off from the US.
Because If You Must Fuck Up
I have often joked that the Jews should be the best travelers in the world, because we've been kicked out of every fucking country. You want a group that knows how to get their shit and go, we are that group. It's even in Exodus, what would become a paradigmatic event in Jewish history.
I say we SHOULD be, because I have terribly travel anxiety. I'm not sure what I am afraid of, but somehow I get terrified that something awful will happen. My luggage will get lost, my passport will be stolen, I'll end up stranded naked and stripped of my American citizen ship in the middle of place vendome. You know the usual stuff.
So the car comes to pick me up and I psyching myself up. Nothing is going to go wrong. It's going to be smooth. I'm going to be at the airport early. I'll check in. I'll sleep on the plane, and in only a few short hours, I'll be in Paris.
I go to check in at Delta. Let me tell you, the foster children of Satan all work for Delta. (I would give credit to the person who invented the phrase "foster children of Satan" here, but she would rather remain anonymous.) If you are given the choice between donating organs while you are still conscious and flying Delta, I would at least the time to ask which organs would be harvested.
I get through the huge long line sweating fenced in by those ropes. I feel like a cow being herded slowly into the slaughter house. By the time I reach the front, I am hot and sweaty, my hair is frizzed, I no longer look like a sleek world traveler.
I check in, get my boarding pass, and tell them my one bag is a carry on bag. The woman directs me around the corner where one of the security officers takes the bag to examine it for contraband. (One of my favorite displays in Delta is the small glassed in case that says "Did you bring any of these items?" It features, among other things, a full size chainsaw.) And then he puts it on the conveyor belt for checked luggage. I try to get his attention, but by the time I do, the bag is gone. I then spend the next two hours before I get on the plane trying to get my bag back. No one seems to want to help, the guy who chucked the bag is only concerned with it "not being his fault". One person, Mohammed Khan, goes out of his way to help me find the bag. He calls down to baggage claim. They say they have it. I go down there, they have no idea what I'm talking about. They send me back up. Finally, I have accepted the bag is not going to go to Paris. My phone number is on it, so I figure it will get back to me eventually. I go to gate and wait to get on the plane. In the waiting area I see that a young priest and teenage girl with a large stuffed bunny will be boarding the plane. I think "everything is going to be fine."
You are not the jeans you wear
On the plane, I don't sleep. In my bag were the keys to my apartment, my French phrase books, my guide, not to mention my underwear and deodorant. Luckily I have memorized the address and metro route to my hotel. On the plane, I try to tell myself that this is a good thing. A Freudian would say that the act was symbolic. I left behind my old identity. I left behind David's list of the cafes I have to go to ( an overwhelming ten pages of cafes written in indecipherable scrawl), I've lost the Upside Down Ruskie's guide to Paris. My copy of "Twenty Years After" which the UDR insisted I read before I left. I will be arriving in Paris with a passport, 140 dollars in American cash, 2 credit cards, a cd player, 8 cds, a copy of Adam Gopnik's "Paris to the Moon", a marked map of Paris, and four years of high school French I took over a decade ago. I write in my journal. "If I make it in Paris, if I find a lover, if I enjoy myself, it will all be because of me."
A Digression About Atlantis
On the flight to Amsterdam ( I was changing planes), there was a special on, yes, you guessed it, Atlantis. According to the History Channel, Plato was the first to write about Atlantis. Many believe that he invented it to be an allegory.
In Amsterdam, I need to transfer planes. I have fifty minutes. On the plane, I think "I'm sure that they wouldn't put me on opposite ends of the airport." Right, right because that would just be too cruel.
Needless to say not only do I have to make it to the opposite end of the airport, but I have to go through passport control AND security again. About two gates away from my plane, I lose my shoe. I don't bother to tie it, I just pick it up and run for the gate.
The people at Air France see me huffing and puffing. The flight has to take off in two minutes, but instead of rushing me on, they insist I breathe and calm down. They seem more disturbed by my rushing than delaying the plane. This is the first cue I have to have different things will be in Paris.
How much French I actually no is completely dispelled when I get into the airport. I can not even understand the ticket kiosks for the metro and have to wait in line to deal with an English speaking ticket seller. I finally get on the RER and immediately an accordion player gets on and starts playing. All of us in the car look at each other and smile. It is a moment without language.
I ride through the French countryside and discover that figuring out the metro quite simple.
Skip to the Good Part
OK, my wrist is getting tired and I want to enjoy the day. I know what you are all wondering, "So Bunni, how long did it take?" Well let me say this, the UDR once told me that if you had two eyes and cunt in Paris you could get laid, this is not completely accurate. If you were blind in both eyes, and your cunt was soldered shut in a freak glue gun accident, and your mouth only worked occasionally or you had a particularly wide aural canal, you could still get laid in Paris.
I leave you with the answer and you awaiting the details: 12 hours. I landed in France at 10:10. I was in Paris by 12:30. By ten o'clock that night, I had a lover. Before I had deodorant, or another pair of panties, or even a glass of red wine.
More to come tomorrow....
Bad Bunni posted at 9/06/2004 09:37:00 AM