First off, fan mail! Just kidding. A friend obliged to read this blog writes: “When you said that you were going to give Clarence a blog, I thought that meant that you would be writing from his point of view.” Dearest reader, I thought about it, but let’s be honest. Clarence isn’t an especially verbal kid. He would certainly be flagged by Head Start if I let him out of the closet long enough to attend school. He communicates mainly by pointing, grunting, and having tantrums. So think of Clarence in Paris as a view into what makes Clarence happy, but with the addition of useful details about logistical issues (cost, walking, waiting, making reservations) that Clarence is loathe to consider.
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Yesterday afternoon I went to see Julia Kristeva (swoon!) speak at the Museé du quai Branly, “where cultures speak to one another” and “indigenous” (read: places that were colonized by France at some point or another) art is exhibited in dark, vertiginous rooms that make you worry you are about to walk face-first into a sheet of glass. It’s a fancy space, likely made rich by the obscene number of tourists that come through after getting tired of waiting in line at the Eiffel Tower next door. One thing that they do at Branly that I’m pretty amped about is L’Université Populaire, a series of conferences and talks organized by Catherine Clément (somewhat smaller swoon!) about postcolonialism, psychoanalysis, and contemporary politics. The talk gave a general overview of Kristeva’s life and work and was well-handled for a general audience (think Inside the Actor’s Studio for rockstar academics). Kristeva was everything I had hoped she would be – exceedingly poised, articulate, and possessing of a sartorial sense that made her the ultimate antidote to Eileen Fisher-clad American female academics (or maybe that’s Hélène Cixous, who wanders around in a full-length fur). The only downside was that I had carried my dog-eared copy of Pouvoirs de l’horreur across town in hopes to have it signed. I nearly chickened out at the end of the talk, but my friends pushed me to the front of the auditorium where I stood, sweat-drenched and nervously muttering “Would you please sign my book?” in French over and over again so that I wouldn’t be dumbstruck when she got to me. Let’s just say that it was hardly 1964 and this was hardly Beatlemania. There were only three twitterpated fans up there, all of us waiting politely with well-worn copies of her books. But a diamond-clad hand fluttered and she was gone, and her assistant informed us that there would be no autographs today as Madame Kristeva was tired. It was terribly disappointing. I don’t want to say anything more about it than that. Except I do think I handled it with a bit more grace than the guy who loudly threw his copy of Les samouraïs (really?) down on the floor in exasperation. Manners count.
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Last night I attended an extremely well-executed dinner party at the apartment of H and S, a couple who have been blessed with a disproportionate amount of good looks, culinary talent, and storytelling savvy between them. They are the kind of couple that would inspire rabid envy if they weren’t so damn nice. They made tacos de lengua complete with pico de gallo and guacamole, no small feat in a country where Mexican ingredients are sold in the same part of the grocery store as peanut butter, that is, the section for homesick expats. Also, can we say bonus points for cooking tongue at home? I didn’t snap any pictures of the two enormous tongues nestled in the pot together, but lemme tell you, what a sight for sore eyes! It was nice to know that I wasn’t the only person carrying the persistent dull ache for Mexican food and these kids miraculously hit the spot.
Afterwards we hit a heaving neighborhood bar with a huge hole in the front window that someone had driven through a few nights prior. My kind of place, you might say. Incidentally, I’ve decided that heaving, which my British friend uses instead of packed, is a far superior adjective. Let’s make that happen in America, shall we? Anyway, H was the target of one of the most amusing pick-up attempts in recent memory, cribbed directly from the Vh1 series The Pick-Up Artist (she knew about the show because her friend wrote a dissertation on reality television, I knew about the show because I’m a pop culture bottom-feeder). Broseph approached our group, sporting a too-tight button down, bad cologne, and full-fledged braces. As H remarked, “No Invisalign in France, I guess?” Broseph claimed he was taking a survey of the bar patrons for a “friend” (“Is it cheating if somebody makes out with someone who isn’t their boyfriend?”). He acted as though he was in a rush to talk to the next group of people (yet lingered for fifteen minutes). He paid a lot of attention to me (I was regrettably the not-as-hot friend of the target in this scenario). He looked at H and casually tossed out “You’re beautiful, too bad you’re not my type.” H and I confronted him about the schtick he was trying to pull (schtick was a word officially lost in translation) and walked away to another part of the bar. Amusingly, however, we then witnessed Broseph continue to woo our male friends, who are so starved for locally-grown masculine contact that they ended up spending a big chunk of the evening fraternizing with Broseph and his bad pickup lines. So while cribbing from The Pick-Up Artist may not get you the hot blonde American chick at the bar, it very well might garner you some of her Y-chromosome friends. Lesson learned?