Friday turned out to be lots of fun, after an inauspicious start. When I first arrived in Paris the rental agent told me that the washer/drier needed to be repaired, and that I would have to wait for the repairman on Friday morning, starting at 8 am. If I had rented for a week I think I would have been quite annoyed to be asked to give up half a day for the agent’s convenience. But since I’m here a month, and I enjoy “playing house,” I said ok. Also, I needed to catch up on my blog, to satisfy your insatiable curiosity!
As the hours passed with no repairman I became increasingly impatient. I sent an irritated text to the rental agent at noon, and was quite annoyed when she said she didn’t have a phone number for the repair company. Who’s responsible here? The guy finally arrived after 1 pm, just as I was leaving, so I had to wait for the repair as well. He was very efficient, but to rub salt in the wound the rental agent had made no arrangement for payment so I had to give him cash, which fortunately I had on hand. I was somewhat mollified when the agent said she would bring by a bottle of wine along with my reimbursement, but the experience was still suboptimal.
My next project was much more rewarding. Jared W. and I had wanted to see an avant garde drum group called Fills Monkey during his stay. When I went on line to book, however, all performances were sold out until December. At first I took “no” for an answer, but the venue was nearby so I decided to stop by the box office and see whether anything could be done. The door was locked, and nobody responded when I knocked. But as I was leaving two young men came out. They had no idea about tickets but they said to go downstairs and ask there. I stumbled down into the main theater where people were setting up for the evening’s performance. They didn’t know either, but one of them led me through dimly-lit subterranean corridors to a tiny room in which two cheerful young women were sitting at computers. One spoke some English but the other almost none. Pas de probleme ! I asked them to speak slowly and clearly in French and that worked fine. At first they could find just one seat, but of course I needed two. Possibly because they thought me a tiny bit charming, they eventually found the very last two seats (I suspect by reducing the number of comps) and gave me a lovely receipt, with their official stamp, in lieu of actual tickets.
Next I took a walk over to one of my favorite tourist-less spots, the Gaîté lyrique. It’s a neighborhood cultural center which specializes in computers: videos, games, art, etc. It was a great place to pick up brochures about all the cultural stuff happening this month, and do an hour of reading for my book club. Along the way I noticed a beautiful plant-wall at the top of my street, new this spring.
Friday evening I met up with Jacques, my first Parisian friend. We had a warm and intimate conversation, as always, although we had to agree to disagree about our very different political views. After an apéro and a walk we enjoyed a good meal at a Japanese restaurant in the Marais.
I was a bit disappointed when the owner didn’t respond to “good evening” in Japanese — he’s Chinese and had to look up even a common phrase like that on a translation app!
After Jacques and I parted I noticed that I had received several texts, including an invitation from Joël for a drink at the nearby L’Open Café, which was illuminated with gay rainbow colors.
One thing led to another and we ended up bar-hopping: Cud was completely empty shortly after midnight, though we were given to understand that people start arriving around 2. Le Duplex, however, was busy and friendly.
I got a late start on Saturday, but nevertheless chalked up 8-1/2 miles of strolling, including several open studios in the Marais and near Bastille. I did some reading at Le Marine, an ok café along the Canal Saint-Martin, where I was amused to see these guerrilla artists at work. Dinner Saturday evening was a home-cooked meal by my friend Darko, who is French but has lived for many years with his American partner just a few blocks from me in Cambridge. He is in Paris for several weeks, mostly for work. The other guests were two of his French friends, only one of whom spoke English.
The food was delicious and the company was charming, but as expected I was completely lost when the conversation got going. Occasionally Darko would explain in simple French what they were talking about, and a few times I interjected with a ham-handed comment or question. But for the most part I sat back and enjoyed the music of the language and the amusing facial expressions. It would have been a fascinating conversation to follow, since both of Darko’s friends are published authors, and one has just won a prestigious prize! After dinner Darko and I took “la quatre” (the number 4 métro line) down to the Marais for a nightcap at — you guessed it — L’Open Café. After an evening of French I’m afraid I steered our conversation back to English.
In the spirit of full disclosure I have to mention a dumb error I made at the start of the dinner. The apartment was at number 38 on a street in the 18ème arrondisement. Using the map application on my iPhone I quickly found 39, but there was no 38! This turned out to be an error I had made twice before in Paris and had vowed never to make again: adjacent odd and even numbers are not necessarily correlated, and in this case were more than a block away. I could try to blame the app but really it was my own stupid fault. Is the fourth time the charm?
Mot du jour: «tirelire». During my conversation with Jacques I started to explain what I thought was the peculiar American institution of the “piggy bank.” He interrupted to say that this is well known in France, and indeed throughout the world. Not only does he know about piggy banks, he has a very large (and heavy!) tirelire in which he deposits all his 2 euro coins. It’s almost full, and his plan — far from breaking it open and going on a shopping spree — is to buy and start filling up a second one. Who knew?
Bonus mot du jour: «la quatre». Darko explained that Parisians say “the [number]” to refer to métro lines, not «la quatrième» (“the fourth”), as I had hazarded. Then I got the gender wrong trying to show off to Lisa, referring to «le cinq». At first she had no idea what I was talking about, but then she explained that it had to be «la». I stumped her for a moment, however, when I asked whether «cinq» was feminine. At first she said yes, but when I asked about the other numbers she finally realized that it had to be «la» because «ligne», which is feminine, is implied when you say «la cinq». Mon dieu !