So, as a preface to all of this, my day began rather tepidly, with the intention to run an errand at the Louvre, hang around a bit, and then maybe see if there was some techno going on somewhere. Instead, the errand turned out to be moot, I wandered over half of the rive droite, and I ended up getting home very very late that night or very very early the next day, depending on how you see it.
I deliberately slept in today, letting myself enjoy the kind of sloth I hadn't had during the week. I wanted to do laundry, but I had no change, so I headed off to the nearby boulangerie to buy some bread. My boulangerie was closed, so I headed to Franprix (a very low-priced grocery store) and, despairing, got one of their crappy baguettes and some butter. Mind you, these baguettes would've been quite nice by Chicago or Toronto standards, but they're crap compared to the magic that you get at a boulangerie. On the way back to my place, I discovered that another boulangerie was indeed open; I had forgotten that nearby boulangeries often coordinate so that each can take breaks and holidays without depriving the locals of their daily bread. With a pain au chocolat in my hand, and enough change for laundry in my pocket, I headed home.
After a satisfying but not inspiring serving of buttered baguette, I took care of my laundry and did a bit of research online for soirées techno in Paris. I discovered this amazing website called Flyerweb, which scans all of the flyers it finds (or most, it seems) into an image database which is then browsable by date. Very useful; why don't we have something like this for Chicago or Toronto? I guess forum discussion boards do a similar thing, but not as slick. Either way, there was a minimal techno night going on tonight, which was the 5th anniversary of a recurring themed night called Minimal Dancin. The line-up looked good (see below) and the location was Nouveau Casino, which I had been meaning to check out.
Having made plans for the night, I set off to the Louvre to get a education pass for the Louvre. I didn't realize this, but if you're a teacher and/or student in particular areas of study, you get a pass that gives you unlimited acess to the Louvre and a jump-the-line privilege. The U of C Centre in Paris made up a special ID card that would fulfill the requirements of the membership offices at the Louvre. I headed over there, expecting a long line, a bit of confusion, some questions about the validity of the card or my position as a professor (long story) and at least some arguing/bargaining. Instead, I came in, sat down and explained my situation with a bit of the "oh gosh, I'm not sure what to do here" act, and the woman was like "Oh, this ID card will do fine. You don't even need to get a special pass with us. Just show the security guard that pass and you're in." Sweet! I wasn't going in today, but I needed to have it in place by monday for some activities with the Centre folks.
Still somewhat suspicious that I had escaped so easily, I wandered down rue Rivoli along the arcades to find this anglophone bookstore I remember from last year. A friend had suggested that I buy The Food Lover's Guide to Paris, but when I got to the store and asked, the woman at the counter let loose with this long rant about how it was out of print, it's been out of print for years, it will remain out of print, there is no way to find it anywhere in Paris, everybody keeps coming into her store to ask for it, etc. At this point, I realized that there was no going anywhere with this conversation, so I said "Ah, bien compris," and left.
From here, I managed to walk across a huge swath of downtown Paris. I rambled along rue Saint-Honoré through some of the really expensive boutiques, and picked up some chocolates from Michel Cluziel's chocolate shop. Delicious, but I've had better both here and in Chicago and Toronto. I walked past Les Halles, down rue Ste. Croix de la Bretonnerie (gay district), down rue des Rosiers (Jewish district), stopped for a coffee on rue Turenne near Place des Vosges, and then through Carla's and my old stomping grounds at Filles de Calvaire before getting on the métro at Place de la République. If you have a Paris map, you can see why I consider this a fair hike.
However, my walk through downtown Paris was also punctuated by something else, something very important and exciting....SPACE INVADERS! I found this guy leading into a side street going north from rue de Rivoli, one block west of the Louvre's carrousel exit. This next guy I found as I was walking south on rue de la Vieille Temple, between rue Ste. Croix de la Bretonnerie and rue de Roi de Sicile. At first I was sad, because he looked rather beat up:But then I took a few steps back...Yay! I don't know when this other one was put up, but it was obviously well after the first, based on the lack of wear.
I caught this Q-Bert mosaic on the rue des Francs Bourgeois on the way to rue Turenne:Isn't he adorable? This one is obviously made from pretty decent-quality glass tiles, and recent enough that it doesn't look crummy.
Later on, while I was looking for a record store which seems to have since moved or closed, I came across this guy:Isn't he cute?! And someone's even put their tag around him. I love how his eyes are shifted to one side.
So, enough about the daytime. I got home from all of this, killed some time on the web, did a bit of reading, and made myself a hurried dinner around 10pm. I was low on most things, and didn't feel like being creative, so I just boiled some spaghetti, melted some butter over it, and ground a bit of pepper. That was dinner. I hopped in the shower, and then headed out for the party, hoping that I wouldn't be too early. I realized that the event didn't start until midnight (most club events don't start until 11pm or midnight, and then run to 5 or 6 in the morning), but I was still used to the Toronto / Chicago timescale, so I arrived to the club by midnight, rather than 1 or 2am, when there would've been more of a crowd. I tried to delay things by walking past the club to the next major street, then turn around and head back, but that only bought me 10 or 15 minutes at best. When I got back, the doors weren't even open, so I struck up a conversation with two girls standing out front. (Since I didn't get permission to blog about them, I'm going to refer to them by initials and avoid identifying details.) E and S were sisters, and they had also worried about getting there too early, but they came straight over from a late dinner, so they didn't really have anywhere else to go.<\p>
We stood outside for a few more minutes until the door finally opened. A tall bouncer came out and prepared to send people in. He talked quietly to two men closest to the doors—notably, not very fashionably/expensively dressed and both with Maghrebi features (i.e. North African)—and they eventually nodded and left without comment. I really wish I could've heard what they were saying but they conversation was held a bit too quietly and the combined accents of the West African bouncer and the Maghrebin men outpaced my French skills. A moment later, the same bouncer asked E "How many are in your party?" She said, "Two....and this one," pointing to me. "So, then, three?" "Yeah, sure."
Although it happened in an instant, I'm pretty sure that E had saved me from an hour of waiting outside or at least the price of a bribe to the bouncer. It seemed like this club was running on a "New York Bouncer" system, where girls always get in, pretty girls go first, groups of guys have to wait or bribe the bouncer, and certain men (presumably, "dangerous" or "undesireable" types) have no hope of getting in. I guess my time in Paris will give me a better idea of how consistent this practice is at this establishment, and how pervasive it is across the city.
0h00-1h00: Duplex 100
When we got in, the place was emtpy, but there was at least some music playing, so we walked around the bar a bit, and remarked on the attractiveness of the dj (Duplex 100). The music was definitely minimal, rather mid-tempo, and occasionally leaning towards click-house. I went to the bar and ordered a rum & coke, but got two instead of one (no, it wasn't free), so I gave my second to E, since she and S helped my way into the club. We watched as people started filing into the bar, lining up against the walls or against the bar, reluctant take to the center of the floor. Although we got a good laugh out of it, we certainly weren't any better. At some point, Duplex 100 dropped a particularly bassy track and 4 or 5 people broke from the crowd and started nonchalantly grooving near the front of the room. S, who had been eager to dance, took this as a cue and left us to dance. After I finished my drink, I joined her.
Laurent le Costumier (LLC) came on with a more upbeat and more emphatically tech-house set (although still shy of the clicky high-end work I expect from micro house), which got S and I dancing more enthusiastically. She liked the way I danced, especially my body-wave, which is modeled on but not the quite the same as the breakdancing move. As a sort of finishing move for other patterns, I hold my fists near my chest, elbows out, and push my chest and shoulders forward; since my lower back stretches out in the effort, I can roll back my shoulders and the rest of my torso snaps back into place in descending order, creating a wave effect. Although I'm relatively articulate about it now, you can imagine the trouble I had explaining this in French when S demanded a lesson. Instead, we settled for a few basic questions ("Do you start at the top or the bottom?") and a lot of imitation. After a few minutes, E joined us in dancing. Towards the end of the LLC's set, I told E and S I was going to the front of the room, where there was a stage on which I could put my sidebag while I was dancing (and also to get close the DJ and see the action).
02h00-3h30: Jon Tejada (live set)
Although I started this set at the front-right of the room, I slowly moved left along the edge of the stage as people alternately took and relinquished space around me. As I progressed down the stage, I was amused to recognize many of the "usual suspects" from my Toronto/Chicago days. There was one of two guys (who almost seemed to take turns) pressed to the front, yelling barely coherent words of (possible) encouragement to the DJ and whistling so loudly that the people around them cringed. When not yelling, he would dance vigorously and jostle the people around him. There was another guy, dressed rather smartly and rather certain of it, trying to catch the gaze of a certain very pretty girl next to him. His particular mating dance involved some very wide swaying, driven from his hips, which resulted, ironically, in him spending more time rubbing up against me than the object of his desire. I'm sure I could write a whole paper about that situtation. John Tejada was great; I had some memory of his earlier work that was very trance-y and very not my thing, but he has obviously changed in the intervening years since I last checked him out. He did a live laptop set, which tended to alternate between soft, atmospheric chord patterns laid over delicate beats, and grinding acid-house basslines supported by pounding bass kicks.
Sometime during this set, I made it to the leftmost corner of the stage. Shortly after getting there, a girl appears to my left and places her rather stuffed Manhattan Cartage sidebag next to mine on the stage. She makes eye contact with me (which tends to carry more potential significance in Europe in general, I find), leans in with a grin and eyebrows that are raised in some sort of question, and then she bursts out laughing. This would become A's main mode of operation as the night progressed. A was very outgoing, affectionate by French standards (she would touch my shoulder or arm when talking to me), loved the way I danced, and found me "trop drôle" (too funny). I wondered if she might be on E that night, but she never offered that information, I wasn't sure how to prudently ask the question. We chatted a bit about the DJ, about other events we've been to, and I told her that I had recently arrived to Paris from Chicago. She asked me how I had learned to speak French so well (a generous assessment on her part); when I told her about my 3-month exchange program in high school she seemed unconvinced, but when I mentioned that I was Canadian, everything seemed to make sense to her. When she later introduced me to N and L, she made a point of mentioning that I was Canadian, which was usually met with a sort of pleasant surprise that reminded me of how different my time in Paris might be if I was American. I encountered the same thing 10 years ago when I did my exchange to Le Mans, France: my friends were careful to point out that they didn't "hate" Americans in the way that Americans think they do, but they still had a different and largely positive set of expectations for Canadians.
As P'toile (Claudia Marquardt) started up a set of minimal techno that seemed like a softer, less relentless version of a Magda set, A introduced me to N and L; N was tall and slim, with short-cropped hair, while L was mid-sized and slim, with something approaching a mop-top (In France, what would be called "skinny" by American standards seems to be default body shape for men). Both were chatty and friendly, and both were also surprisingly affectionate—they would both put their arms around my waist or shoulders when they talked to me, and N in particular would press his face against mine when talking into my ear. After some chit-chat about what I was doing in Paris and what we thought of the evening so far, N asked me if I knew where to find any "prode." It took me a few tries before I figured out what he meant: "prode" is short for "produit," which translates as "product", but also happens to sound a lot like "drogues" in French ("drugs"). I laughed and told him that I've only been here for a week, so there's no way I would have that kind of knowledge, and so he set out on his own quest for party supplements. L stuck around and chatted with me, eager to tell me what he thought about some of the elctronic artists coming out of Canada. As it turns out, L works in music (I think audio tech?) and he also makes electronic music on the side. DING! My fieldwork-alarm went off and I made a mental note to follow up on L if I get a chance.
4h30-6h00: Aril Brikha (live set)
N comes back, triumphant in his quest. N and L take turns disappearing to the bathroom. Every few minutes, a bouncer walks by and commands us to pick up our bags from the stage. As soon as he passes, we put them back down. Brikha's set sounds great, although not as hard as I've heard him before; perhaps it has something to do with the minimal theme tonight, even though hard / throbbing minimal techno is certainly possible. A short girl with a drink tries to reach around me to put her drink on the stage. I don't see hear and nearly knock her glass. I excuse myself, hoping that next time she'll say "pardon" or touch my shoulder before she stretches across my space with a glass full of liquid. After three times, the inevitable happens. Thankfully, it's all across the stage and not on me. I shift my bag out of the way (as well as her jacket), and she makes an exasperated gesture, glares at me, and then turns to complain to her friend nearby. A minute later, her friend—who also had a drink on the stage—pointedly grabs my shoulder and says in my ear "Excuse me. I don't want to spill my glass." ("J'ai pas envie de faire reverser mon verre," which is a bit more accusatory in the Frensh, I think). As she pulls away with her drink, I notice that both her and her friends jackets have become wet with spilled alcohol as it moves across the stage. I move my bag, but leave their jackets without comment.
A eventually needs to leave, so she makes her goodbyes to me, N and L. While I'm dancing, a guy that I had seen running drinks to the DJs on the stage comes up to me, holding 3 glasses in his hands. He motions to the third glass with his head, and I grab it, pointing to N and L over my shoulder with a questioning glance. "No, it's for you." "Oh." "It's just water." "Oh, cool. Thanks!" I'm more than a bit puzzled, but the guy disappears without further comment. For the record, it was indeed just water. At around 5h45, I finally decide to leave, hoping that the métro would be running again. I shake hands with N and L, planting a kiss on each cheek in the manner suggesting good male friends. Although they were affectionate enough to put their arms around me and get very close to me during the evening, at the moment of farewell there were no hugs; hugging was even too sexualized for this friendly (and probably drug-enhanced) situation, and the platonic embrace doesn't seem to work in France.
It's almost 6am, and I stumble back to the métro and ride it home, exhausted. I leave the station at Porte des Lilas and find my boulangerie is already open. Great! I get a chausson poire-chocolat, a baguette, and I head back home. The sun comes up as I get ready for bed. Thankfully, my room has light-sealing blinds.