Friday, 20 July 2012

TWELFTH WEEK - Fireworks and drinks

Last night we went to a barbarge (it looks so much better without a space).  An old barge gently rocking on the Seine, its upper deck covered in a dense jungle of potted plants and dayglo garden furniture.  Bees hummed softly amongst the flowers and jets criss-crossed the crystal sky with slowly fading vapour trails.  One beer and your head swam because the boat rocked just enough to confuse the balance.  Below decks a cavernous blue room, another potted jungle, a tiny bar manned by a diminutive old French hep chick.  She was shrivelled and ancient, but you got the feeling she threw cobblestones in the 60s, and clicked her fingers at poets in turtlenecks.  She slowly poured beers, moving the glass in time to the waves;  in the portholes behind the bar, the grey-green Seine rocking back and forth.
Later, kebabs near the Place de le Bastille.  It wasn’t too late and we weren’t too drunk but we ended up sitting in the gutter watching the throng make its way from bar to bar. We were a row of Aussies, silhouetted by the bright lights of the laundromat behind us , neon glinting in oil and garlic sauce.
Earlier in the week was Bastille day – and M.s birthday -  which was another boozy, fun night.   We made our  way to a little gallery in Montmartre to see a friend’s friend’s exhibition.  Standing on the hill (Oh, so good to be on a hill!), the tiny white space filled with a jazz band (who actually played the ‘Brazil’ song!) we drank (German-made) Parisian beer and met some cool people.  One particularly cool guy took us under his wing for the evening.  He sported a Dali-esque moustache and perhaps the first Hawaiian shirt we’ve seen in three months.  He spoke almost flawless English, which he assured us he’d learnt mostly from watching far too much TV.
We all went to the Sacre Coeur to watch the fireworks, the grassy slopes covered in a sea of writhing people.  Pushing, shoving, yelling, smiling.  The stench of piss strong on the step stairways.  The fireworks were far away but still impressive – the multi-coloured glow lighting up the eyes of everyone.
On to dinner. A typical South-Western (France) style, all enormous salads and hearty casseroles.  We drank a bit too much, I dropped an empty and fragile bottle an inch away from the sandalled foot of some tanned Parisian.  Eric!  But no harm done.  Drunken revellers enraptured by our new friend’s pointed moustache, quizzing him in amusing depth about his grooming methods. A fun night.
The metro home, even at three am packed so tight we could sleep without fear of falling over.  And even at three am and so busy, all people drunk but none of the menace that accompanies three am after a public holiday in Melbourne.
I had a hell of a time trying to find a birthday gift for M.  But it was fun too, going from store to store;  becoming increasingly certain of the unfortunate fact that fluorescent is the new black this season.  And the new beige.  And the new – look, just wear fluorescent, okay!  Molly Ringwald’s floral leggings are also big, but then, they’ve been so for a while now, right? Cute little woollen Chanel jackets with outside seems and metal studs – ah, corporate punk.
Earlier in the week, drinks at the local bar with Issame.  When you know Issame, Paris becomes a village.  It’s amazing, he knows everyone.  Drinking.  An older man walks up, his forearms a mess of angry fresh burns.  He is old friends with Issame and dropping a fry pan on his arms is nothing compared to what he once endured as some sort of ex-mercenary/soldier.   It could all be braggadocio but he’s a hard, well-pickled old man with faded tattoos.
A large old woman approaches, moving like a glacier.  Issame runs over, kisses on the cheek, leads her to the terrace, buys her a beer.  She has no front teeth and the patterns on her burgundy dressing gown are wearing off. On her gnarled feet a pair of little golden Ottoman slippers.
She has a dog that eventually arrives as well, a similarly venerable specimen – a cute little black terrier whose eyebrows have turned a frosty white and whose bowed legs shake slightly with every step.
Isn't she lovely
We all sit on the terrace with drinks and cigarettes in hand, the sky dripping slightly, and we laugh about things that we only half understand.  We watch the passerby and there’re lots of ‘hellos’ because they all know each other and it’s inconceivable that you’d have to fight for space to look at fireworks, because Paris is a village.

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