You might want to meet people here, make new friends, especially once you’ve had your first taste of coffee shop conversations. Watching this beautiful, manicured, tailored and educated citizenship as it parades past you on Montorgeuil, as you debate the future of the modern world and human freedoms, you’ll fall in love, but then you’ll see what happens when the curtain is raised for Act II. When people here finally break down their social barriers, they show how repressed they have been. They pick at each other until the other explodes and then point the finger at them for having lost control. Nothing new so far, you may say and how does it affect me? They’re mainly just young, deprived and angry at those who have more. I’m not surprised at the young age at which they are already overwhelmed by this shroud of self-control, you say, and cite Japan to back your argument. I’ve seen the youngest of citizens here liberally apply salt to verbal wounds that they themselves have freshly torn, and it doesn’t molest me much. In my humble opinion, it is the super-protection offered to private lives that has created this. Oh well! Can we move on?
Second, that old chestnut, it’s a nice place to visit but I wouldn’t want to live there. That may be true, but these people don’t know how to live so closely to each other. The only peace that can be found is in avoiding people at all cost, including and above all significant others, lest you want to fall into that fifty percent. If you didn’t go to school or university with them, then forget about the circle of trust. These relationships form the backbone to group counselling sessions for all the woes that the city has brought since leaving the sheltered stables of academia. In fact, they also say, if you can live here, you can live anywhere (but the bastards say that about pretty much everywhere). Life here is more difficult, and for a Parisian they live with the demon tattoo, the thought that they are stuck here, that going anywhere else would inevitably lead to suffering a great loss of face. It’s a tight spot, and guess what, claustrophobia’s a motherfucker… and, well, you have to feel sorry for them don’t you?
You would, only, now you’ve gotten to know them a little better you hit obstacle número tres. It’s enough to cause not only the fire curtain to come crashing down, but also the outbreak of the kind of widespread panic that leads to trample victims. The language barrier. Although you say, it’s not a barrier as I am fluent in the language of love and diplo. And yes, diplomacy is what they pat themselves on the back for. Is this the best word I can find to describe their refusal to understand, their amorphous attitudes towards non-francophones. You’ll probably have been expecting it and have been exposed to it for years before you get here, but what still shocks is the addictive nature of it. As a non-native your integration can be judged on no higher level than your ability to manipulate the language. First and second generation immigrants already pontificate when you get it wrong, and the full-blooded Frenchman will look to his (empty) sides for support, shocked by the fact that you don’t understand what he is saying. Of course, I attribute some of this to sophistry more than language, but I think that Mr. Twain said it best when he said he’d never had a harder time making people understand their own language.
Like me, he must have walked on his own, keeping his mouth closed and watching what happens at two a.m. as the cafés at Pont d’Alma close up for the night, stumbling out of the Crazy Horse, heading around to some brothel-turned-boite to carry on drinking for several more hours. He only comes to the right bank every once in a while, and when he does he can’t stay in one place too long, he’d get angry and start throwing glasses and tipping up the tables when the waiter refused to answer his questions. He even got kicked out of a v.i.p. incontournable before he’d even get served a drink. Once he’d done that he’d have headed back over the Champs and worked his way into some sweatbox and danced a way the rest of the night, losing control. He wouldn’t want to lose control on the left bank, that’s for sure, don’t piss on the front doorstep, all those people he’d have to deal with during the day. Not that there’s no opportunity, a good number of bars staying open until late, plus a handful of megaclubs, where no one would ever remember his name, let alone even notice him throwing away his sanity. But there’s something sacred about it, something that makes him just feel at home, chilled out and relaxed and not wanting to take a bottle and disfigure some rich prick’s teenage son.
He’d have been thrown out of the club and wander down Washington, where some prick has parked his yellow Ferrari, not just any old car either, a thick black strip down the centre, joining license plates with Arabic letters. He’d take out his cock and start pissing all over it, screaming about how the fuckers bring them over for a weekend on the town by air freight, and people complain about us eating strawberries out of season. The same would go when a drop top Rolls Royce cruises by bearing the same alphabet, ‘who’s your daddy, sale gosse, who’s your daddy?’
But then Paris never forgave. The may have moved on, stopped duelling, eventually, but I have to walk through these streets at night and watch doormen pilfer the pockets of those so fortunate to have had a skinful in some sinful den of flesh. I don’t blame them of course, who buys a bottle of hard liquor to be finished in one night? They had it coming to them, they tried to touch a girl, started smoking, looked smaller and defenceless.
They’re all getting taken for a ride. It’s way easier when they’re this tanked up. Tow their car away, block the traffic for half the night doing so. Head back out onto the Avenue and you’ll see the flics taking liberties left, right and centre. I want to go back to London, goddamnit, at least they have kebab shops in decent numbers, here all you get when you leave a club is some fucker sticking their hand in your pocket or teasing the watch off your wrist as you lie inebriated on Pont Alexandre III. But that’s what it takes I suppose, you want to lose control, you have to head over to the right bank with all these rich dirty kids, with nothing better to do than stick their hands up the miniskirts of dirty whores.
The Horse is the only reason I come to this side of the river, and when I go there, I tend to leave a little charged up, and from then on in it’s all down hill. Didn’t get into a fight there though, although I think I had my honour offended on several occasions. But I know these old Frenchies get more upset at my hat than I do at their refusal to let me taint their language.