Monday, October 26, 2009

Memorable Experiences: Paris, October 2009

1. Repeatedly being called after by small children in parks, "Maman! Maman!" And then the nanny, usually a dark-skinned woman, saying to them, "No, Madame is not your mother." But getting to see a lot of cute, well-dressed children in strollers as a result.
2. Dinner at Chartier: being fawned over by waiters. Being sat for dinner with a nice banker who looked like José Ferrer, also dining alone that evening. Having people ask to photograph us, telling the waiters they were sure we were "movie people." They just couldn't figure out who. Waiter: "Madame, I am sorry. They are sure you are movie star."
3. Same dinner at Chartier. Two-hour conversation in French with banker, who was born in Marseilles. I ask him if my French is okay. He says, "You're not Racine, but your French is just fine for around the house. It's like what you speak with your family." Then he asks me if I am married, I say I have been, but am not currently. He asks if I have a lover. I say, "Not since January." He says, "What a terrible waste!" We discuss the philosophical question, "What is Love, anyway?" at great length. We agree it exists for one's parents, siblings and children, but are not so sure anything else isn't really ultimately about sex. Then he asks if I am interested in staying in Paris and becoming his mistress. I laughingly tell him I have a life and career to return to in Texas. He assures me that should I ever be interested in a change of careers, being the mistress of a banker in Paris would be an option open to me. If not his, because I don't find him attractive, then any number of his colleagues in the banking industry who are in the market for a mistress. And then I, too, could be a beneficiary of the cunning little shopping bags I see carried by men in overcoats walking away from Rue Faubourg St. Honoré and Place Vendôme in the late afternoons.
4. Same dinner. We have been trying to figure out what language the young women seated next to us are speaking. We finally decide it's Dutch. My table-mate inquires, and we're right. One of the young woman says, "And you are Parisians." He replies, "I am a Parisian, she is a Texan." The young woman says, "But she cannot be an American! We have overheard you speaking French together for an hour and everyone knows Americans only speak English!"
5. Finally meeting Claude, my flickr photographer friend, in real life and getting on fabulously with her. Photographing Passy cemetery with her. Being invited for tea at her place afterward. Feeling as if I already knew her well through her photographs which I've followed for over a year now. And now she's off to India!
6. The Fellini exhibition at Jeu de Paume. We shall not speak of how I managed to get in before the show opened. But no photography allowed.
7. The Vionnet exhibition at Musée de Beaux Arts. But no photography allowed. Had to draw.
8. The conversation with Saïd I relate in the post below.
9. The unexpected three-day sales announced just as I arrived in town. Getting three blouses at Anne Fontaine for the price of one in Austin.
10. Hermès. We shall not speak of it much, except to say how very nicely I was treated by everyone. And that I did buy the scarf I have dreamed of an entire lifetime, after having a dozen tried on me by the nice saleslady, and conducted the entire transaction in French. I can't tell you how many times I've rehearsed the exchange in advance in my own head! I have zero buyer's remorse. On the contrary, I feel as if I've just been given a Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud.
11. Being asked for directions in Le Marais by a little old lady with a shopping cart.
12. Being asked where one could buy tights by a young woman in Mouffetard.
13. Buying a pendulum in an occult store in the Latin Quarter. Heading directly to Notre-Dame, concealing it in a handkerchief, then dunking it in the holy water fount, while making sure no priests were watching me. Pendulum should have plenty of mojo now.
14. English boys choir concert at Notre-Dame: unexpected pleasure.
15. Making a joke in French, and having everyone within earshot laugh. Buying stockings at a small stocking boutique in the 1eme arrondissement. Handed pen, it won't work. Clerk takes it back from me and hands me another, saying, "It's pretty, but it doesn't work." And I say, "Just like me." Everyone laughed.
16. Buying the new Benjamin Biolay cd La Superbe the day it came out in France. And for half the price it would have cost me to have it special ordered or to download it in the U.S. And it IS superb!
17. The Les Halles market early on Sunday morning.
18. Finding myself accidentally in the middle of a feminist demonstration at L'Opèra Garnier late one afternoon, traffic snarled up for hours and a crazy scene.
19. Having a Suze late one afternoon at Brasserie Lipp. Being told by my waiter that they were going to hire me to sit in the window because once I was sitting there, people started to read the menu carte outside and come in, rather than going to Cafe Flore or Les Deux Magots across the street. Getting a tour of the restaurant from my waiter and going on an adventure to find the really lovely toilette downstairs. All wood and brass and black and white tile floor. Really a handsome place! And the Alsatian sausages cooking smelled marvelous!
20. Just throwing myself out there and speaking French unapologetically and non-stop. People were incredibly nice and friendly to me. Many great conversations, including one with one of my Rive Droit cafè waiters about the photographer Doisneau and rockabilly music in Austin. And one with two nice young shop girls about what boys in Texas look like (they imagine Clint Eastwood and fringed suede jackets!) as I purchase a garter belt. It is a mystery to me why a bra costs 100 Euros, panties cost 60 Euros, but a garter belt costs 12 Euros in Paris. No, wait. Maybe it's not a mystery to me after all.

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