Sunday, June 6, 2010

God Bless the French Bars.

Joseph and I decided to go out and celebrate our first real night in Paris. So at about 10 pm he strolled by my gated garden and picked me up to head to Marais (the 4th district) to check out the Gay Bars and general bar scene. I normally walk swiftly. Even in 4 inch stiletto heels. But Joseph? ...walks at the speed of light. Mind you, we are walking in perfect day light at 10:15 pm trying to find the metro. Going up and down on the uneven curbs, all cobblestone pavements. So I kept up and soldiered on through the cobblestone until we found the metro at about 10:30. We found a seat and waited until we got to Chatelet, a major hub for other metro stations. Because I live in a smaller part of Paris I have to connect to a lot of different metros to get across the river. So we got to Chatelet in the middle of a conversation about our host-families and jumped on the next metro. Stepping out of the metro station and into the twilight, we realized the sun was finally setting around 10:45 pm. But the bright lights of the clubs and cafes had long since been illuminated when the dinner and happy hours begun around 8 pm.

Stopping at a little cafe to catch up about our summer adventures, we sat at a small table outside and ordered a bottle of Vin Rose and a couple of waters. The conversation sped up, diving into current and past relationships, family situations, and plans for next year. I think the ladies next to us were a little mortified with how much the two of us were talking. There wasn't a moment of silence and when the bottle was about half way gone there was no stopping us. Joseph ordered an espresso to wake him up a little, after arriving Friday afternoon he was still a little jet-lagged. Then we walked back down the main road to see what kinds of clubs were opening. It was so nice to be able to make eye contact with all the men in tight tank tops and beautifully crafted leather shoes and not worry about being hit on or made to feel uncomfortable by comments.

We found our first club and realized there was no cover charge to get in (which is unlike anything I've ever seen in the US) and we stepped inside to find blue lights streaking over a small dance floor and a glowing bar to the right which had a lovely oiled up man dancing on top of it wearing a silver motorcycle helmet and no shirt. Ecstatic about not having to pay a cover, Joseph ordered us each a glass of champagne to toast the beginning of our adventures in Paris. "A la votre!" we yelled as our glasses clinked and we took a sip. Ah, sweet champagne in Paris.

We danced for a few minutes to get a feel for if this was a popular club and we noticed a lot of lesbians and a few older men. One in particular was doing some kind of Tai Chi while dancing so I said what the hell and when Joseph excused himself for a cigarette, I started to dance with the man too. He grabbed my face, kissed both cheeks lightly and said, "Tu es tres belle ma jolie, et si j'aime les femmes tu peux etre ma preferee." Then he held my hands and said "Merci pour la danse." And shook them. So weird. Yet, kind of cute at the same time. We decided the club was a success and moved on to the next one.

The first club we saw on the street had a lot of people standing outside so thinking it was a line to get in we decided to stand in it to get some fresh air. What we realized after was it was just people enjoying their drinks outside. So we stepped inside, and noticed there were maybe five people. I looked up at the ceiling and saw fishing nets and life rings and a lot of beach equipment that oddly resembled Boardwalk in Miami. Not quite the setting I expected after seeing a very chic orange siding outside with a crisp font centering the club's name, Le Cox. (How inventive.) Still confused as to why there was no one inside, we headed to the bar to order another champagne. Then we realized. No champagne. And the bar tenders were not cute. C'etait incroyable! So instead we opted for the classiest of all American drinks, the Red Bull-Vodka. We stepped back outside and by this point we have four dialects being used between us. (1) French, (2) English, (3) French with an American accent and (4) English with a French accent. There was no particular reason for the dialects, but we used them pretty freely and interchangeably.

All of the sudden our ears perked up like a lost puppy in the woods and we both said, "I hear American!" We found a group of guys speaking English and decided to see where they were from. One, who is in Paris for business, is from D.C. and the other was from Chicago (Sox fan, so I said we could be friends.) And then the Chicago man had a British friend visiting and that British man had a British friend too. So we made small talk, asking about school, careers, vacation plans, etc. Then the conversation took a different turn. One that involved a certain horrible policy called "Don't Ask, Don't Tell". I know it's a sensitive topic but to hear first stand stories of men whose partners and boyfriends have been discharged from the military and had their entire life affected really hit me hard. I've never agreed with the policy, I think it's insanely cruel and I pray for the day when Obama has finally done away with it. Which I feel will be soon. It was a pleasant conversation nonetheless, to hear a different perspective. But after we finished our drinks we said Tchao and looked for the next place.

We ordered another round of champagne at a swankier club that had electric light blue lights streaming throughout the bar and the table areas. The house music was of course all the same, fun and upbeat with repetitive lyrics that inevitably stayed in my head the whole night. I went downstairs to find the bathroom and was mortified by what I saw so we made a quick U-Turn to head back upstairs when a blonde-haired, probably blue eyed boy approached us. A boy I had first noticed when we entered the club but Joseph had missed seeing. He joined us for a drink and we found out his name is Mikko, he's from Finland and attends the University of England but has been studying in France for a year. I let him and Joseph talk for a while about their interests and plans for the future, all the while listening closely to see if this would be a winner for Joseph. So far he seemed like a very nice guy. We decided to leave the club to walk for a bit and realized the metro was closed down and wouldn't open again until 5:30 am. But that meant the bars were closing soon too. Luckily, Mikko had the chance to do his night-life homework for the past 8 months and took us to a club that stayed open all night. Too bad this one didn't allow females in the club. So coming to my defense, Joseph and Mikko cursed the bouncer for being discriminative and we marched further on to another place.

Here I found the most straight men I had seen all night. Another round of champagne and a few Lady GaGa songs later, I found myself standing next to a windowed room where a man in a firefighter's outfit was taking a shower and brushing his teeth. I thought these things only happened in movies? I stepped outside into the "fresh" air of Paris to catch my breath and talk to the bouncer. We talked about Miami and Italy a little bit. Then a man came up to me and asked about my tattoos. Ten minutes later I was in a deep and extremely "important" conversation about Fate and at this point my French was parfait and any nerves I usually have about speaking were fading far into the distance. The man asked where I was from and I said America, and he didn't believe it. He said, "Non c'est impossibe, tu parles bien francais." Coming from a Frenchman that is one of the best compliments I have received. Then we talked about tattoos and piercings in general, a very strange conversation but alarmingly entertaining at the time when Joseph and Mikko found me and said they were ready to leave and would pay for the cab ride back. So at about 4:30 am I made my way back to Madame Dru's, took my stilettos off to walk up the twisted staircase and managed to unlock the door in complete darkness. I don't suppose the French like interior lighting much, so I used the indiglo light on my watch to find the keyhole. Very peculiar, these French are.

I put my aching, blistered feet up and read a few emails, enjoyed a bowl of cold spinach pasta and drifted off to sleep. This morning it burned to shower, the wounds on my feet still tender to the touch. God Bless the French Women and their ability to walk 4 miles in heels without blistering. I'll get back to that point soon enough, track and field had me out of practice from wearing running shoes all the time. I met the rest of the group today over drinks at a cafe. There is a wide variety of students and I talked with one girl from Doylestown, PA a lot this afternoon. I think she and I will have a lot of fun together too, especially because she is living in the 6th district, very close to me.

I gave Madame Dru her Saint Louis gifts tonight over a piece of quiche and salade verte. They came from a very nice shop at Chesterfield Mall, where much of the materials used are recycled and the artists are local. She thought the bookmark was beautiful but maybe too heavy to use in a book, or too fragile. So she decided to put it on her wall of memories as the time she shared with "Her Lauren" Bon! I am now officially on Madame Dru's Wall of Utter Awesomeness!!! And she loved the tea light candle holder, she thought it looked like a Lily flower and when she put a candle inside it glowed so nicely on the tabletop. You could see little bits of the flame flicking with the breeze entering the kitchen window.

The Sweet Briar gang made plans to meet tonight in front of the Louvre to walk around and get to know each other a little bit. I don't think it will turn out to be as eventful of an evening as last night with Joseph, but then again one can only hope for such a thing when you're in a city as fabulous as Paree.