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March 31, 2006

Just one little story.

i. The students rioted while I worked on my advanced degree
I carred no placards. I didn't knit once. There was no time for yarn shopping, or internet cafes, or sticking it to the man and getting hosed with water and beaten back by police in riot gear. I did, however, try my darndest to earn a phD in drunkenology here:

paris-biere-academy.jpg


ii. Anyone else craving fried chicken?

I took this sign to be only a harbinger of what the Sepulveda Recreation Area will look like in about six months. I feel my exposure to the French air has upped my resistance level to all forms of avian flu. Merci beaucoup!

paris-birdflu.jpg


iii. They reserve the hottest room in hell for catty wenches.

paris-eiffel2.jpg

It's Sunday night, and Jennifer and I are seated on a bench below the glowing hulk of the Eiffel Tower. We're resting after a long day, and chatting and fending off about 300 trinket vendors who can be a little on the pushy side.

A young couple (Americans, we overheard them telling people later, they're from Baltimore) dressed oddly enough in prom formalwear, walk out onto the blacktop. He gets down on one knee and presents her with a ring, she swoons, the crowd is clapping. I clap, too, getting misty eyed. Jen looks at me sideways, "He's proposing to her in a parking lot." (I wonder if she's thinking: Oh Lord, do not let her start bawling over a marriage proposal at the Eiffel Tower, oh the drama.)

I sigh, caught up in the moment. I clap, tearing up, and then I turn to Jen and say, "I give it a year and a half."

We laugh hysterically. We are in Paris, and the warmest room in hell awaits us. One day.

iv. Improving Franco-American foreign relations

paris-perelachaise.jpg

If you get lost in a big, strange cemetary on the outskirts of Paris and all your friends are separated from each other and you have no cell phones and no way of getting in touch, I highly suggest you find the cutest gendarme of all and channel your finest Blanche Dubois. I myself have always relied on the kindness of strangers. This particular stranger spoke no English, and I spoke no French, but we had no problems communicating if you know what I mean. And I think you do.

"I so sorry no speak English," he said.
"Oh, I'm sorry I non parle Frances." (really, I do mangle the language something foul.)

We laughed.

"You no speak English, I no speak French," I said. Oh man, was he cute. "We're perfect!" I told him.

He agreed. "Yes! Oiu, perfect!"

It's possible that my petit gendarme had the IQ of Beavis, but he spoke fluent French, and to me he was magnifique. He could have been talking about his playstation the whole time, I don't know. Because it was French, and so pretty! Together perfect!

I like the gendarme. They are muy cute.


v. Just one leetle story.
paris-frenchbread.jpg

It was Saturday night in Paris and it was raining, and Jennifer wasn't feeling well, so she stayed in the hotel while Amber and Shannon and I headed off to dinner ... at 10:30 p.m. (j'adore le French nightowls!) By 11 p.m. we had found a dark, tiny fondue restaurant in the Latin Quarter that looked like a lively and inviting house of cheese.

We had a big dinner, steak fondue (you cook strips of meat in hot oil) and cheese fondue ("keep stirring the pot!" we were reprimanded often) and there was wine and crusty bread and chocolate fondue for dessert, all of it delicious.

We left the restaurant around 2 a.m. and walked back to the hotel. It was raining and we were on a teensy cobblestone road so we walked single-file to accomodate our umbrellas, with Shannon leading the parade, Amber behind her, and me pulling up the peace train at the end.

It was dark and late, but it's Paris, and it's a tourist area. The street was empty when a group of about seven men approached us. They were drunk, and they were a little too old to be harassing tourist girls. One of the men ducked under the umbrella with me and one tried to chat up Amber. The most aggressive of the group was still carrying a beer can in his hand, and he approached Shannon and began saying some really inappropriate things to her. Mean things. It all happened so fast, their tone changed -- it was late after all, and they were very drunk -- and Shannon started walking faster. A major intersection was just a head, a large street with more foot traffic.

We walked faster.

They kept pace.

The one under the umbrella with me was annoying but harmless. The aggressive one was trouble, though, he was about six feet tall, walking almost side-by-side with Shannon, and she was scared and tensed up, and he reached out...

... and without even knowing I had done it, in one split-second, I closed my umbrella, shoved the annoying one away from me, closed the gap between me and the agressive one, and I proceeded to whack him upside the head with every single ounce of repressed anger and rage and disgust and moral outrage I carry around in my five-foot-almost-four self, and I'm just saying ya'll. That is a lot of repressed anger. I am Southern. Recently divorced and wronged. I HAVE HAD ENOUGH OF YA'LLS BULLSHIT AND I HAVE AN UMBRELLA.

"Leave her alone!"

HUGE LOUD THUD OVER THE BACK OF THE HEAD.

As I stood in indignant rage in the middle of a Parisian street like Mary Poppins gone wrong -- umbrella at the ready -- the one formerly known as "the aggressive one" cowered over in the street, staggered and clutched his head. His six friends turned and immediately RAN IN THE OPPOSITE DIRECTION, leaving him to fend for himself with three crazy American broads.

He slumped over, holding his head, the half-empty beer can rolled down the street.

"You... you shut up!" he whined at me. He whimpered. Amber and Shannon laughed at him.

But something about seeing this big, drunk bully cowered over and holding his head and yet still he wouldn't shut up ... it made me INSANE. With umbrella outstretched, I chased after him IN THE STREETS OF PARIS as I shouted possibly the classiest words ever said by a woman abroad, "I'm from Los Angeles, motherf***er! I'll bust your ass!!"

And he ran as fast and far as he could, and the Mary Poppins Gang was born that night in a cobblestone picture-perfect street in Paris, and I can probably kiss goodbye any future gainful employment at the Los Angeles Visitors' Bureau.

But the fondue was really, really good.

Posted by laurie at March 31, 2006 10:17 AM