A Piece of Sacré Coeur Will Be With Me Forever...NO, REALLY. New Year's Day 2008
Paris is an interesting place. Most of the time, people are fairly calm here and there isn't much eye contact in the street. Lately, people have been getting friendlier, some too friendly, some just plain intrusive, but on the whole I'm warming up a little.
The apartment hunting business is a bit of a joke, but we're coming up with alternatives and thanks to facebook in large part, we have had plenty of offers from friends to house us through til February in the event that we don't uncover an apartment this month. There's Nacer at the internet cafe who has offered to put us up at his own house if we don't find a solution. There is the store guy downstairs that is searching for us and told us to think of him as our father while we're here (if you need anything, anything at all, just ask "Je suis comme ton papa, ok?"), there is Pascal, Catherine's friend and the caretaker of my current apartment, also ironically known as HOUSE OF ONLY PORN. Seems as though Pascal's son doesn't have much in the way of belongings. Everything he owned fit in one small duffel bag, of course, he couldn't possibly try to hide his freaky MANGA porn, but c'est la vie. God, I wish we could just stay here. Creeps me out even more finding out Allain works with children but really gets off on animations. Really creeps me out, actually.
But, in any event, it's nice to be here. New Years Eve was a spectacular mess in a lot of ways but one I won't forget for a while. Spending the day looking for a single feather because I had this feeling like I needed a feather in my hair to make it through the night, like it would dress me up just enough for Paris, stupid, really. The city was filled with tourists it seemed, maybe because I was shopping in areas I usually avoid, I don't know, but I was swimming through crowds looking for treasure for four hours. At one point, I found a feather hairpiece in a window but everyone in the store refused to help me and pretended they didn't understand what I was saying. Frustrating to say the least but in the last shop, a wedding store, minutes before closing time, I found my feathers for only 15 euros and made my way home to shower and get pretty which for me means too much makeup, deodorant and on a good day, a leg shave. No time for shaving my legs today...
We had pre-drinks CHEZ RYLEY and enjoyed the company of some Australian girls Ryley knows through a friend. It was entertaining. We ate chips and hommous and talked about how hard it is to get an apartment for quite a while: about getting screwed and finding help and about the consensus that things just always work themselves out here, somehow, everyone finds a home...but there is a that horror story about friends of friends who had to spend a couple nights sleeping on the street and well, I'm roughing it but I dunno, man.
Around ten, we finally made it to the restaurant and dined in this cute little cafe where the old waiter brought us free champagne and we smoked and ate Confit de Canard and Dauphinoise potatoes and got loaded. I decided to start with 2 Rocheforts which was already enough to put me over the edge, then we downed at least 3 bottles of champagne. I could barely see I was so wasted; but good wasted...well, for a while anyway.
After dinner we decided to climb Sacre Coeur to find Mike Quinn: myself, Ryley and Brietta that is, my worldly companions of the evening. Ryley from BC, Brietta from Australia and her friend Karen from Berlitz. We were quite the foursome. Jumping on cars in the street, dancing and singing La Vie En Rose with our cheap champagne and I even got my crotch grabbed. Ew.
I was warned by a woman here the day before yesterday to beware of French men on New Years. Boy, was she bang on. We were harassed and attacked and I found myself literally shooing them away, plutot for Ryley's sake, they were attaching to her and I felt like her defender, like they might take her home and make a meal of her if I let them. I don't know how she does it. Discovering beauty really can be just as much of a pain as a pleasure. The men are aggressive here, really aggressive and even though they seem friendly at first glance, like all men (SORRY GUYS!) they want one thing only. And after a couple beers, they are determined to have it whether you want it or not which I find extremely disturbing and a bit hard to take.
After finding Mike and getting my New Years hug from a familiar friend, we ventured out into the streets. Protecting Ryley from some guy who wouldn't let go, in a drunken stupor, I fell over and we both crashed to the ground. Skidding on a cobblestone road, I got a piece of la rue stuck in my elbow and man, do I have a nice shiner today. The streets were fun, apart from my arm and so we decided to once again get on the metro to find a party. We weren't sure which one yet, there were several, all of which, I should have avoided because I was far too wasted to go anywhere. But we went anyhow. When the metro stopped and it was time to transfer, I saw the line three and I said goodnight to everyone and decided I would go home and relax. Maybe smoke a joint and think about my life for a while.
But fuck. I've neglected to notice the two guards at the front of the entrance. "C'est fermé". WHAT??? I was told the metro was going all night. Not so. And I have no idea where I am or how to get home. I barely have a home. FUCK. On top of that, my cell phone is out of time. I am fucked, seriously fucked and too drunk to even see the map. So I walked. I walked for several hours in a circle, realized it and recognized a couple random Paris things I knew I had seem before. At some point, I found my way home, stripped off my clothes and slept with feathers in my hair and Sacre Coeur in my arm. I am happy to be alive this morning, laughing a little, hurting a little but ready for a new year in any event. Ready for a new year here.
All in all, I'd say this has been a good experience til now. It's hard to live here and I need a little challenge in my life to remind me that there is something out there to long for. I've been feeling a little lost for a while now and somehow, in this strange French country, these oddities make me feel at home. My ears are at attention and I am paying attention to things I too often neglect. The sound of pigeons at my windowsill, the way speech here is subtly different from English, the accents and the strength some words have over others, the simplicity of the French and the complexity of Parisians. It's nice to know I am not the only one who feels lost and there is comfort in the complications of life here. Everyone is struggling to afford to live. A cup of coffee made with only a paper towl, a strainer and a bowl can somehow feel as good as winning a marathon. It's the little successes that count a lot. Getting through to the barmaid at your cafe or making friends with someone on the subway. There's something beautiful and unpretentious about it. No one is incredibly shocked at the suggestion that you might share a studio with three friends. C'est la vie et ce n'est pas toujours des roses. :)
The only Paris I am really not fond of so far is the BOURGEOIS Paris. There are some serious spenders. They look like the happy people in the street but there is something really souless about it. They are wearing Prada and Dolce and Michael Kors and even their hair products cost more than my rent. It makes me sad to see them, parading around with their stuff. Oddly, I feel nothing that even resembles jealousy towards them but rather a strong sense of disbelief and distance. I have nothing to say to them and even if they gave me the opportunity to speak, they would just say I was 'marron' and not in a good way, in the sense that 'isn't she cute, that stupid poor Canadian'. Fuck you. That is SO not what Paris is about. It's about wasting a whole day reading a good book at Chat Noir or roaming the streets for hours because you don't know the way, nor do you particularly care because inevitably at some point, you will cross a metro stop, which will normally be open, or bien, someone who doesn't ignore you in the street when you try to ask for directions or help and you will find your way home, chez-toi, because the word home doesn't quite exist here. They have very few words for permanence here in Paris, which is unsettling but kind of nice. It's all about temporality and I am happy being a little lost.
HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYBODY. I hope you all find yourselves, wherever you are in the world and I hope you will be very very happy.
Posted by Julie Jolicoeur at 1:57 PM