C'est la vida loca
Having had spent the better part of the past week reading about gas and oil strikes, lightning blasting young children at parties and soccer matches, I was headed to the city of lights- la Ville Lumière.
Paris is one of those cities (I imagine). For some a hyped up city of love. For some a teeming metropolis, overcrowded and dirty. For Parisians it’s the center of the Universe. For me, I guess it was a bit of everything.
After weighing the pros and cons of every combination of trains, stops, and transit times, Walt and I decided to meet at the Antony station with assurances that neither of us wanted to blindly locate the other at Gare du Nord. It was overcast and torrents of water shot through the street gutters after impossibly unending days of rain in Paris. The Louvre had closed to relocate lower lever paintings to safety as the rising Seine continued to threaten the city. But for the time being, the rain held off. (Although it remained incredibly gray and dreary, sorry folks, not a photo post).
The tiny flat where we dropped off my bag was like a little woodsy cabin in between two buildings, requiring entry through a small wrought iron bridge accessible by a door in the wall of the spiral staircase. Inside is an entirely wood paneled (floor, wall, ceiling) room with a little staircase to the crawling room only loft. Here I was introduced the 3 Bs- Baguette, Butter, Brie. A problematic discovery of deliciousness to be sure, and after a few quick spreads we set out to meet the rest of the Paris party.
Colleen, Maureen, Jared, and Sarah or Something
After climbing up the stairs to the Montmarte terrace (oof) we caught a view of the Eifel and cut by the Dali museum to the little café away from the crowds. Here we found Walt’s mum (Colleen), and his ukulele enthusiast Aunt from Alaska, Maureen. A long, red haired young man, boasting a thin, long, beard was also at the table. We greeted warmly all around and ordered a couple of whiskies. Shortly after, a young woman rushed to the table – I don’t remember what errand she had been on- but she began apologizing profusely for taking so long. You see, she had run into some Germans that had offered to share their hash with her. It was good stuff. She introduced herself as Sarah (or something, I can't really remember) and almost as soon as she sat a steaming bowl of soup was placed in front of her. Remarkable timing.
The young couple were some friends of Ukulele Maureen’s from Alaska. They also played Ukulele. Sarah or something kept pausing the conversation to offer her bowl of French onion soup to anyone who might be interested in warming their hands.
A couple of whiskies later, lofty promises were made to meet in the same plaza area for a 9 am rendezvous at the Dali museum with the Alaskan duo.
The giant neon windmill of the Moulin Rouge called us like beacon in the night as we wandered down the gaudy dancing lights on Clichy, looking up flashing, flipping skirts and kicking legs. We may have found ourselves in Parisian strip joint, nursing our 20 euro drinks and watching lackluster dancers perform (occasionally) for an audience of about 5 in the dark velvet room. Naturally, having found an appetite, we located a chicken joint and consumed our fried tenders in the back of the cab- bound to meet my former coworker on the other side of the canal.
Walking down the dark canal street, littered with French teens perching boomboxes and six packs, we approached a strange door manned with a tall African bouncer.
‘No Room” he said, looking at us. Probably for the best, given the eccentric crowd passing in and out. Ingrid and Mo met us outside. Somehow we ended up walking with a large group leaving for a big after party. Somehow lifelong friendships were forged, but then as each of us looked at the time, they were broken and we left to find a last beer.
Highlights: Mo made a friend in the bathroom and Walt ordered a ‘Jacques Danielles’.
So about that 9 am date with Dalí, Jared, and Sarah or something...
We made it. Kind of. My eyes were pulled tight in my skull from dehydration, and a nagging cough had returned. But overall better than expected. Wheezing up the stairs, we fortuitously bumped into Jared and Sarah or something, all decided it would be best to reconvene at 10. Walt and I headed for coffee.
After paying for the morning cafe I returned to find Walt deep in a one-sided conversation with a comically French wino. A floppy brown beret rested cockeyed over his twirled gray mustache and red face. I didn’t understand most of what he was saying, but he had such conviction, and seemed like a good natured fellow (for being drunk at 9:45 am and all). He may have been telling us about Dalí- he may have known him. We said we were to head to the museum just across the cobbled courtyard.
Ah! He said. Dalí was a workaholic- Me. Me I’m an alcoholic!
And with that he waved us on and sat with his bottle of Bordeaux.
- Find a naughty post card to send back to Walt’s bar
- Visit Notre Dame
- See LCD Soundsystem
Figuring the best bet for finding a breast bedazzled post card would be the sexy stretch on Clichy, we headed down. I also spotted an orange juice vendor and was very compelled to get a sample and compare to the Spanish fresh squeezed. It wasn't bad.
Most of the post card stands we passed had typical fare- the Eiffel tower, Notre Dame, baguettes, bridges. Basic. Boring. Breastless.
As we got closer to the waving arms of Moulin Rouge, I noticed a sex store tucked away and figured if anyone has some dirty postcards, its these guys. Amidst the copulating keychain figures and nude bobble heads, a glorious rack (pun intended) of postcards awaited. I nursed my fresh squeezed juice and picked out a card for myself as Walt made his purchase.
I Love Green was the name of the festival. I think it meant green as in sustainability and whatnot, not weed, but as with most music festivals, that can be tricky to differentiate. Hot Chip and LCD Soundsystem were headlining. We were shooting to make those two sets, but a postcard hunt, detour through Notre Dame ¹ and a ridiculously convoluted path to a train through a deserted shopping center left us behind schedule.
The walk from the train station to the park was longer than it looked on that map- and felt, incredibly long. My feet were catching up to me and my boots were becoming Chinese torture devices. Perseverance. We cut through the park, looking for any signs of a festival but saw none. Eventually we came across a couple also looking for the concert. They quickly outpaced my blistery burdened gait and it was back to just us. While there were no signs posted for the festival- we were very thoroughly informed about the upcoming DJ Shadow album coming out. Unfortunately this information was useless.
As we walked over a spray painted DJ shadow street ad, I let out a whine “I just. I just want a hotdog”
“We’re going to a ‘Green’ festival. I don’t think yer gonna get a hotdog”
My heart dropped at the wisdom in those words.
“I just want a beer” He said, with slightly more optimism.
We walked on. Suddenly we were among people, and barricades and signs for parking. We kept with the crowd, and suddenly my nose belayed an unmistakable scent. Hot dogs. Or something. A sausage in a baguette. A street grill was going strong and I floated on wings anew to it. More contented and blood sugar restored, we braved the remaining DJ Shadow signs until we came to the trampled, muddy entrance. There was no line, and despite high hopes, the unopened beer just purchased was confiscated.
The field was like a barnyard. Days and days of endless rain had created a slop, 1- 4 inches deep if you didn’t mind your step. Hot Chip was over and we braced ourselves in front of the LCD Soundsystem staged as dilated pupils with wellies and crop tops filled in around us.
Our shoes proved to be thoroughly ruined. I’m still knocking dried up bits of Parisian mud out of them. The set was great though. It sounded fantastic and my feet stopped hurting while the giant disco ball shone dropped crystals of light in my eyes. At the very end the drizzle started to come in, but it only seemed to amplify.
Satisfied, we pushed out along with the crowd, feeling more like a barnyard animal than ever before. At last outside of the barricades and making our way back to the train station, my aching feet returned with a vengeance. And I became a raging whiner. Doing my best to keep up, we found a closer metro stop, but at this point- close to 2 am, the last train was literally pulling out of the station. Defeated, ragged. We sat at the bus stop, and watched as full bus after full bus did not stop. The crowd from the show also began to flow down the sidewalks, facing the same challenge, so we rose and began to follow. To where- we weren’t sure, but closer to Paris than we were.
Frustrated and waiting at yet another bus stop, we overheard a couple discussing the transportation situation in English. Latching on with thinly veiled, rasping desperation, I blurted “Allofthebussesarefullandthetrainsaren’trunning. WannasplitacabtoParis?”
Turns out, their final destination was only two blocks from ours, so naturally, a foursome was born. Also, as it turns out, all of the cabs were pre-reserved or full. So we continued walking. And walking. There was one cab I saw, the driver leaning against his car, watching the crowd. I smiled, waved at him. To which he nodded and waved back. Salvation! I ran to the car and put my hand on the door- at which point he stopped me.
‘No- I’m on break’
In the midst of desperate pedestrians at rush hour, this cab was on break. Great.
Eventually, the realization of UBER Paris saved us, just barely, on a cell phone’s last dying breath. But it was enough. And soon, after a prolonged discussion on the global differences of KFC I’m not entirely sure I understood, we were home. A fleeting few hours of precious sleep.
And if it's crowded, all the better
Because we know we're gonna be up late
But if you're worried about the weather
Then you picked the wrong place to stay
That's how it starts