Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Bastille Day

It's the people that you meet...

I'm still awed and amazed by this city sometimes. It happens by chance... an intersection of time, place, and people. It happens often, actually.

Last night I ended up at a Bastille Day celebration in Montmartre where I met JoJo from China who was flirting with her gorgeous German colleague--they work for a Swedish company--and Ingrid from Sweden but living in the northeastern US somewhere but I forget where, and her sons Daniel and Niels--ages 13 and 8--who like the Arc de Triomphe best, so far. Georges, the sometimes driver of Le Petit Train de Montmartre--the tram-like train that winds and whirs around that mountain--his Portuguese wife and their handsome young son. (I am old ;) Anna from Michigan. Florence from Paris--he's pretty sure she's Algerian. Yes, he came. It took some convincing but he ended up venturing out with me and my gal pal Theresa--from the LBC. Hehe.

All this after an afternoon spent lunching at Le Relais Gascon and girl-talking at Theresa's "Lola Studio" with Paris rooftops and blue sky out her window. We even had Ellen Fujioka for those precious hours! But when she left us, early evening, Theresa and I went for rum and fromage off the rue Lepic before deciding how our Bastille Day evening would be spent, all the while spending it. Her rental agent had invited her to a party further up the hill... at her 7th floor apartment over looking the whole of the city.

And do you know? I didn't take one picture. Sorry! It happens, especially when so many others are taking pictures. There was a guy with a ponytail and a super professional video camera who finished the evening by playing and singing "Halleluja" on the white upright piano in the mirrored dining area. This was after the fireworks so he had our full attention and got a flattering applause when he finished, which made me feel kinda bad for the guy who had been playing for most of the night--a less sexy character who didn't sing. We stood by the nuts on the clear glass table. A toddler with white blond locks of curls hit his head at least twice near the graciously angled corner. I didn't say anything to either one of them then. What do you say at moments like that?

Speaking of fireworks, the Eiffel Tower--clearly visible from the four french-doored terraces--stood ready to the south. JoJo and Theresa took those pictures where you hold it in the palm of your hand, and the sun went down to the west in its customary blazing glory, Monday morning passing in California. Once the fireworks began, the sky looked more like sea than air, high clouds like foam in moonlight. A cool breeze carried the smoke quickly and predictably to the northeast as everything always blows. I thought of the dust and paper casings from some 15,000 explosions--most ending up in the Seine, Johnny Hallyday--the French Bruce Springsteen--crooning to the million-or-so people trampling the grass that rests all year across the Champ de Mars, so that as I stood at that threshold--so close to the clouds with that plastic flute of Veuve Clicquot--I felt lucky. Even the piano player stopped... soft voices, the occasional ooh or ah--especially when the Tour sparkled with all her usual panache--and the delayed sound of light being made, flames thrown and burned brightly out.

When it was over, we clapped and clung to the few distant and lingering displays outside the city. George and his wife seemed to know which outlying cities these might be. I was happy just to be able to point out to Daniel and Niels the Arc de Triomphe rising like a stage in-the-round and lit-up above the darkening rooftops. Inside, though we tried to regain our earlier conversations, other guests had arrived and the champagne had stopped flowing. Guests took turns at the piano. Daniel and Niels sat next to Ingrid on one of the white leather sofas while she exchanged phone numbers with Anna. Others gathered around the generous remains of nuts, chips, sliced sausage, olives, cherries, and at the center--a gorgeous tray of middle-eastern pastries which went quickly, marking the last movements of the evening.

The table base of giant glass blocks was lined with books, stacks and rows of them, red hardbacks with script and impressionistic painting on the covers wrapped in plastic. One sat open on the table, an illustrated account of one woman's love affair with that mountain and its people... Paris Montmartre avec amour written by the hostess, Theresa's rental agent, Eva Leandre. The images--Cezanne-like studies of the locals--had been framed to cover the two walls not windowed or mirrored in that well-lit space. The artist, an old friend of Ms. Leandre's, Jean-Marc Gueroux was also in attendance. As we said our goodbyes and gave out cheek kisses, Ms. Leandre said I should stop by any time.

We got home after midnight and I finally walked the Filou at around 2. Two guys drove up and asked the way to the Marais ;) An Asian woman was dragged by the arm in halfhearted protest into the Hotel Chatelet by a uniformed officer. A couple argues by their car. Filou grumbled and growled at a group of young drunk guys trotting up his tree-lined avenue, their arms around each other's shoulders. The night seemed darker than usual despite the large half-moon at Saint Jacques' back. Maybe I still had fireworks in my eyes.

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