Paris Diaries: Auld Lang Syne
I managed to struggle out of the bedroom in time for dinner. While I thought that the sleep was restorative, the moment I sat down at the table I realized how much of an illusion that was. I felt immediately dizzy and wanted to go back and lie down, but I knew I had struggle through dinner. It was New Year's Eve. The whole reason I had flown here was to celebrate the beginning of a new year with someone I cared about.

Well, that's not entirely true. The reason I flew here was to avoid yet another depressing dateless New Year's Eve watching everyone else kiss-feeling that the entire world felt love except for me. So to say that I traveled here because I loved the Sauvage is a lie. I traveled here to have a good time. And now I was going to.

Even if it killed me.

While I didn't remember the Sauvage's cooking being so poor the last time, this time I could barely palate the food. He didn't really prepare anything as much as open a can and pour butter or cheese (or in some cases both) over it. The Sauvage had a tin of pate, "breton pate" he proudly announced and put it on the table. While I normally love pate, when pate is simply emptied from a tin onto a plate complete with congealed fat it looks suspiciously like Fancy Feast. The Sauvage put some on my plate, and I managed to eat some without thinking too much about what it looked like. He ate huge datty chucks of it. Watching him eat it made me sick. I choked down my meal and like last time he kept heaping more food on my plate before it was even done.

After dinner, we sat watching Sarkozy on TV as he announced that Paris would be smoke free after midnight 2007. No smoking in cafes or restaurants after midnight he proclaimed, or so the Sauvage told me as I stared out at the night sky. How I loved sitting in Parisian cafes smoking and writing in my journal feeling very Colette or Simone de Beauvoir depending on the nature of what it was I was writing. "Is there no safe place to smoke anymore?" I thought as I stared at the night sky. *

The French, as I observed on my first trip, smoke like it's a second profession. In this respect they are much like all the Russians I've met. It almost constitutes a food group for them. And considering that these are the same group of people who rioted when Ubu Roi walked on stage and proclaimed "Merde!" I thought this might well mark a second Reign of Terror or at the very least une semaine sanglate ( a bloody week). I was, briefly, happy to be on the outskirts of Paris lest violence breakout. "Let them storm the Hotel de Ville" I thought, "I want to be a safe distance from it."

I began to think that the only place to enjoy a smoke anymore is NJ and that's just all kinds of wrong. It did, however, I thought, consistute a fairly sizable incitement to boosting the tourist trade-smoker tourism. Come to NJ, you can smoke...AND DIE HERE FOR ALL WE CARE. (In fact, dying is the one way to get of NJ without having to pay a toll.)1

After the Sarkozy, the Sauvage turned on a French comic whose name I have forgotten. The comedian's toilet humor was completely intelligible despite the language issue. At one point, he pulled a couple from the audience and had them go behind a curtain at which a most obscene shadow play took place featuring predictable visual jokes about schlong size and sex. It was the type of performance that made "There's Something About Mary" look like "Waiting for Godot." I lost interest quickly and ended up sitting on the edge of the couch reading In Ruins: A Journey Through History, Art, and Literature. The Sauvage would occassionally look questioningly at me, but I kept on reading intentionally avoiding his gaze until he turned back to the TV.

Language, or the absense, can only protect someone for so long. I could project a noble character onto the Sauvage only for so long-and now, even with my best efforts, I found myself beginning to dislike him and furthermore look down on him. Guffawing at this predictable puerile drivel, I knew that there was a lot more separating us than a common language. And regardless of country or nationality, I know where that emotion leads in a relationship.

The comedy show blissfully ends, and now we are watching other Parisians on TV wait breathelessly for the New Year by the Eiffel Tower. It's not so different than the programs on TV in New York, live celebrity performances, the cameras sweeping the crowds, people dressed in bright colored fright wigs, novelty glasses, mis matching bright clothes, teenagers dancing, people drinking, smiling, kissing, hollering and waving at the camera for their 15 seconds of fame. "Would I feel this way if I was there celebrating with these Parisians?" I wondered. "If the Sauvage's car was working and he took me there himself, would I love him again? If we were sitting by that glittering Tower with thousands (or at least hundreds) of other people, would I still feel so sad, so empty? Would I have loved him longer? Better? Would I be happier? Is the death of this love really the result of his car trouble?" I pondered these questions and others.

I walked out onto the balcony alone and listened to the Parisians whoop and grind their noise makers as I reflected how these minor events may have entirely blown yet another love affair. The sounds filled the night for a good thirty minutes. There would be a brief break in the caccophany and then a whistle or a shout and like a lone dog howling the other revellers would quickly join in.

In NY, the same situation would make me sad, listening to those other parties.I wondered if this latest failed love affair was my fault? Am I solitary person by nature? Am I like an autistic who longs to be hugged, but can not stand the sensation when it happens? Do I chase love, only to find I can't stand it?

I stood out on the balcony until I was freezing, until I was shaking, until I couldn't take it anymore, until the distant sounds of celebration finally died.

* While I am not a regular smoker, I am rather attached to smoking under certain circumstances-writing in Parisian cafes and when I go to Jazz clubs. In this case I agree with Jeff Cesario, "It's not a Jazz club unless when you ask the bartender for the no smoking section, his response is 'You better lay down on the floor.'"

1 I have since been informed that even the Garden State has outlawed smoking, which means we might all have to travel to St Petersburg to be able to enjoy a good ciggie now and then indoors.

In reference to the NJ death toll joke, my father is buried in NJ. That was a family joke "Leave it to a Jew to find the one way to get out of NJ without paying the toll."

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