Happy New Year and such!
I spent the last week in Paris, which is why I haven't updated my blog. I should get some pictures up sometime soon, but my friend Rachael has them all on her camera, and that is in Rouen. Someday, perhaps, I will put up the video of us slugging back Champagne in the shadow of the Arc de Triomphe on New Year's. Here's some details about what I did.
Sheng and Lisa, friends from Ames, were in Paris for the week as well, so we split a hotel room. Most of what we did was go to museums and such, like the Louvre and the George Pompidou center. The Louvre was overwhelming, really. So much art it makes your brain hurt. I believe we spent about seven hours there, and by the end we were dragging ourselves through it. The history of human artistic and technological achievement all in one place is a difficult thing to comprehend, but the Louvre is fantastic nonetheless.
The Pompidou center, a huge warehouse full of more contemporary art, was great as well. They had an exposition on Dada, and there were pieces as well as journals and writings from Man Ray, Marcel Duchamp, Tristan Tzara, and every single other dadaist. It was really inspiring to see so much creativity and cleverness from a time when, sadly, a lot of oppression and hatred was manifesting itself through war and propaganda. I got a lot of ideas about where I want my own art as a writer to go from this exhibit, and it's the intellectual highlight of Paris for the week. It made me think a lot about Mike, who recently attended a Dada party in a very sexy pink costume. Check out his blog to learn more.
We ate really good falafel in the Jewish quarter, twice, at this place called L'as du Fallaffel. I also introduced Lisa and Sheng to French wine and baguettes and croissants, which they wholeheartedly enjoyed.
Lisa left Friday to go home, and Sheng, though he stayed in Paris, went to a different hostel for the next few days. He's there until the 4th, when he flies home. So, on Friday, my friend Rachael came down. We went to an Indian restaraunt that was in this covered alleway called Passage Brady that had lots of Indian restaurants and grocery stores and clothes shops. It was delicious, and afterwards we went to a little Indian food store where we bought incense and soap and other such things. I never thought Nag Champa soap could be so wonderful...
That night we went out drinking with Mirja, the German assistant at my school, and her boyfriend who was visiting from Cologne, Philip. There was a crazy guy at the bar that the owner was trying to kick out, so he pretended to close the place down with everyone still in it at about 11pm. At 12, the crazy guy came back and shouted a lot, while all of the other drunk people in the bar tried to calm him down. We ended up leaving because the place was closing, and the bar owner (who was tanked, by the way) attempted his best to kick out the guy and everyone else once again, for real this time.
Saturday Rachael and I started by picking a metro stop we hadn't been to before and just going there, seeing where the day took us. We walked around, found a bookstore full of Chinese and Japanese literature, and a street that was full of outdoor food vendors and fresh fruit. Afterward, we went to Chinatown and looked around, bought some teacups and ate lunch at a so-so Chinese restaurant.
That night we decided to go to the Champs Elysees and see the craziness. Beforehand, we met up with Anne and Meg and briefly hung out near the Bastille monument. It was all craziness. We tried to buy some Champagne at one store, but a bottle was 26 euros, so we booked it for somewhere else. The store had put some tables in a barracade around the door, and had a huge doberman behind them. That way, you could only enter into a small area of the store with no merchandise and ask them for what you wanted. It was like they were preparing for war...
We finally found some Champagne at another place and then headed to the Champs Elysees. The metro was free all night, so everybody in Paris was on our train. I could feel the vibrations from the guys chest in front of me when he talked, we were so packed in. A group of teenage boys was in our car, jumping up and down, screaming, and pushing people off that wanted to get off. It was crazy/scary at the same time.
Once at the Champs Elysees, we went to find Sheng in front of some store by the Arc. We eventually found him, a few minutes after midnight. Note: there is no countdown in France, nor is there some huge ball dropping. As usual, Americans tend to overdo stuff. Mostly it was just hundreds of thousands of people drinking in the street and lighting off fireworks. After awhile we found some guys selling champagne on the street out of a shopping cart, and I bought a bottle. Sheng, Rachael and I stood around and drank it, watching the perpetual traffic jam around the Arc de Triomphe. People were dancing on cars and in the street. Eventually, some guy heard us talking in English and struck up a conversation with us. His name was Tibere, and he was from Guadaloupe. He wanted to practice his English, so he hung out with us and we bought another bottle of champagne, passing the bottle around and getting increasingly drunk.
After two hours of being on the Champs Elysees, Rachael called another assistant from Mexico that was in town, he came and found us and we all went out to some bars at another metro stop. The metro was again packed, and we started talking to an English guy with blond spiky hair that had a few wounds on his face. Apparently, somebody flicked a cigarette in his face and he tried to beat them up. All he had to say about that was, “There were two of them…”
I had to pee really, really bad, so Sheng said he’d stand guard while I went behind this little shack that was on the street. I peed, and when I came out some security guard was talking to Sheng, asking him in French if I was going to the bathroom back there. Sheng, not understanding French, just played dumb, saying “I dunno. I’ve just been standing here,” and the guy let us go. If I ever have to pee anywhere on the street again, I want Sheng watching my back.
The bars were too expensive, so we ended up going home after trying a couple of them. I think Rachael and I got back to our hotel about 4:30 in the morning.
I think I will forever remember my New Year’s in Paris. I got to know some old friends a lot better, and make a few new ones. How I think about art and culture were bolstered by the literature I discovered (Aldous Huxley, again, with Eyeless in Gaza) the hundreds of works of art I saw. I hope Poland in February is just as fun.