Category Archives: France

La vie en rose.

One mullet, two mullets, three mullets, four.

Five mullets in three weeks. And not your trailer park mullet where your mom shaved the top of your head and left a line straight across the back where the long hair begins, no no, this is a Parisian mullet.

Its unisex, 3 out of 5 were women. So cute with overall short haircuts, shortest at the crown of the head, and then with wispy bits around the edges, especially in the back, making me want to grin foolishly and say stupid things to impress them.

I kick myself thinking that it looks COOL to me. Come on, I grew up in rural Maine. I’ve had my mullet tetnus, I SHOULD be immune.

Paris Saint Germain Vs. l’Olympique de Marseille

Fabrice FiorèseEach team calls the other their meilleur ennemi, and their fans shout obsenities that are only common when you have heard them all your life. Football families and clubs reserve huge swaths of seats at the ends of the stadium and are known to be so rowdy, lighting fireworks, chanting, jumping, and swearing, that they are contained inside 12 foot metal walls with spikes at the top, incongruously painted pleasant shades of red or yellow.

At the game of the season tensions were especially high as it was the first time the enemys met since Fabrice Fiorèse, a PSG attacker, had betrayed his team. He moved to OM from PSG on the last day of trading after swearing he was sticking around. This left Paris with no time to replace him after having met his contract demands and thus expecting he would stay. When asked to explain his decision he said, “Paris is a prison.”

They already hated each other, Marseille having a well deserved reputation for cheating, and Paris being accused of being supported by public funds, so it was no surprise when the Marseille fans were forced to collect their tickets 50 kilometers from Paris on a bus, were brought to the stadium through seperate entrances, and kept in a cage. I’m not making this up! They can’t come and go as they like and are forced to stay in the stadium until all the Paris fans have dispersed. When they finally leave, again by bus, and aren’t released until they’ve traveled back the fifty kilometers and are seen as no longer dangerous, or at least not nearby.

Fiorez accepting his OM jerseyEvery time he touched the ball the entire stadium shouted, “Fiorèse, Fiorèse, fuck you in the ass!” Police in riot gear protected him from organized groups of fans throwing things at him as he made beautiful corner kicks.

I would have wondered if these fans were really French, they don’t act like any French I know, and yet they proved it again and again. Who else would wear a matching turquoise velour sweatsuit, or a warm-up suit reminicint of the globe trotters in blue satin with white piping only several sizes too small? As the US suffers from a bigger is better complex so french men suffer from a tighter is better dilusion.

A PSG player received a red card with 70 minutes still to play for tackeling Fiorèse with the obvious intention to take him out and yet Paris, playing one man down for most of the game, won for the eighth time in a row. Each time they scored I felt the thick concrete under my feet jump up and down as if it were made of 2 X 4′s on the flat. Unnerving really.

I thought of football as something of a posh sport, at home the fans are people with international connections, who are interested in what happens in Europe, and drink wine. Not so.

Bed Bugs

Red Bed Bug on an aqua background  that looks as scary as they feel.One of our neighbors moved out rather uneventfully a few months after his wife left him and his apartment had begun to stink through the floor of cigarettes. A few times a little drunk in the elevator with strange women and poof he was gone.

Hugo was convinced it was mosquitos. One doctor was convinced it was allergies. Another said it looked like crawling bugs because the welts were in lines, something we would later learn is called “breakfast, lunch, and dinner.” I wish I had believed him, but for a doctor he talked too much about porn, and didn’t charge me. Maybe I’m still too American to understand healthcare that isn’t about raking in the cash.

Several months later I was crying all the time, I itched so badly and my back looked like I had been beaten with one of Mason’s late night creations. Hugo wasn’t going to take action, he was still playing the mosquito bite card, until I started talking about moving away. Let the bugs have the place, I reasoned (lets give me the benefit of the doubt and just say I was being reasonable), clearly we are outnumbered. Finally, another neighbor happened to mention that the man who moved out might possibly have had an issue with bugs.

That’s when we called A.B.A.C. Nettoyage, who sent their insect technician. No man exists who is more delighted with his work. He grins vaguely and wears no protective equipment. He says he works so quickly he stays ahead of the fumes, meanwhile the air was choking even outside the apartment.

It didn’t work the first time. No, I’m not kidding. We had to have him back. After the first spraying we just pissed them off. They took their vengance on my back.

Bed Bug Bites

Fête de la Musique

Bird of the fete de la musiqueWe went to la Fête de la Musique tonight. I have never seen Paris so exuberant. It was lovely. As nothing is ever done by halves in France, neither was this night. Over 300 bands played literally on every street corner. We arrived at Metro Palais Royale Musee du Louvre around seven, and saw a few musicians playing a bluesy kind of jazz geared towards dancing families with children. A search for tea in a cafe brought us cokes inside the Jardin du Palais Royal, which was just beginning to fill with people. We found a striped concrete “chair” and waited. In a few minutes we discovered surprisingly lovely acoustics. I won’t be able to classify the music, the first song was mainly guitar, drums, and one of those plastic children’s toys that, when spun around, makes a screeching noise. The fourteen member band had the right combination of very melodic moments and more abstract solos. The abstract bits grew less solo and we moved on, walking vaguely in search of an Indian restaurant.

We found one, just before we found a Peruvian band, in an archway near Place Jardin du Bellay, playing salsa music. Around the corner, rock music might have been nice had it not been so loud and offered somewhere to stand apart from the middle of the street. It wasn’t that late, so the cars hadn’t given up. All this was competing with a house party, which had ended up on the balcony, belting out classic French songs on a Karaoke machine, without an ounce of professionalism but plenty of fun. There was so much smiling and so little inhibition, people danced happily to music of inconsistent quality. In France, expressing such strong sentiment is rare and almost never done falsely, because, the stronger your statement the more likely someone will contradict you.

Heavy metal blared and punks moshed (if that’s what they still call it), within a block of hippies, smoking to reggae, in one direction, and in the other, rowdy pub crawlers, blocking a street, singing bawdy old French songs, accompanied by a complete horn section. On more than one occasion bands played within 30 meters of each other with everyone in between dancing to both. The drum section of a marching band had people following them from block to block and found an excellent blend when they arrived in front of a Marais bar, filled with very pretty boys, blaring house music, and spraying foam from a second story window. People bought Moroccan sausage from venders who had set up in the middle of the street. The smoke and fire, from their makeshift grills, made the fireman nervous but heightened the carnival atmosphere.

On this crazy night, the music was not nearly as special as the atmosphere, normally reserved, French don’t show enjoyment of anything. Something has to be REALLY good to make an impression. But perhaps this is the night to be easily impressed, to show exuberance, to allow oneself to visibly enjoy. Maybe they use it all up a few nights a year so they can return to an ordinary cynical state that makes them so damn stylish.

Like fireworks being shot from the middle of a crowd to celebrate the New Year, it was completely disorganized; roads not clearly blocked off but not functioning, police only in the center of town, no extra trash bins and rubbish piling up after the first hour never mind the 12th, beer bottles in quantities that made walking impossible. Waiting in line at the grocery store in Paris can cause riots, yet Parisians deal nonchalantly with utter disorder. People didn’t get upset, when two bands were competing, because they set up across the street from one another. They didn’t seem to notice. Some sort of extra refined taste in chaos.

A tight, yet very loud, punk band, near the Jardin du Luxembourg, had somehow had lost its fans to the much less interesting heavy metal band head banging to detract from their Michael Bolton hair. A question of placement I suppose, though that seemed fairly flexible. Finally we saw two mellow guys playing, not stairway to heaven but that other one, and we decided we were too old to stay up all night and began to make our way home. As an American, I’m used to people being overly-enthusiastic, especially about things of questionable quality. Yet Parisians managed to surprise me again. . . always complicated, often contradictory, and delightfully unpredictable.

(The bird at the top of the entry was created by André François for the festival)