On tour with my band in a van that badly needs a shower. A quick dip in the Mediterranean merits an Italian heist and two days of misery trying to replace our stolen passports. Finally over the border and on our way to Paris. Confidently I try to check into our hotel as the attendant glares. “Oh just speak English!” My French a failure. I retire to the bar and surrender once more.
Le Chat Noir, Bellingham, WA 1990’s
Drinks all carefully in a row, smoke billows as discerning Frenchmen hang from the walls and observe with disdain.
Charmed by my colleague, the conversation, so engrossed with our host and those that surround.
Le Chat Noir the venue of choice for Friday night’s conversation of music and literature. Radiohead, Nick Cave and a book by Camus I’ve been carrying around but have yet to read, as the bay looms charmingly through the mist.
French toasts resound and echo through the halls in my brain and remain two decades gone.
Paris, France 2017
Years later in Paris, what sector are we in? Arrondissement I’m told by the man, much friendlier than decades before, not far from Gare de Nord with Sacre Couer looming large over Paris for over a hundred years. Representing a loving and sympathetic Christ. The marble facade with gargoyles facing north, south, east and west to keep an eye on gay Paris. She watches back attentively, longingly, baguette eaten with fromage on the Left Bank, red wine straight from the bottle near Jeu de Paume. The manicured gardens near the Louvre where revelers run, still over amped from viewing a thousand years and a thousand classics in an hour, including the lady with the coy smile.
The sidewalk cafe around the corner from our hotel is inviting and I’m amazed by the hustle and bustle of le monde. Hundreds of people on the move, not quite a race but something nearing that pace. Urgent and resurgent bikes as beasts of burden, carrying staggering loads and children’s scooters repurposed to shuttle adults down the street and away to some urgent repose. All on a Tuesday night in Paris. The attendant where we lay our heads at night is quite nice until I ask for ice, a similar memory from a previous journey returns. Apparently cold is not important when you have “panache.”