After a somewhat hefty night of celebration, I decided to let myself sleep in “Berlin-style,” which means until noon (from now on, anytime you wake up at noon or later, you’re doin’ it Berlin-style). Then, I got out of bed and got to work.
You see (and you probably noticed if you check this blog regularly or have an RSS feed), I hadn’t blogged anything past last Saturday during this week, mostly thanks to the frantic schedule I was keeping. Today, with the afternoon entirely open and a rather busy week coming down the pipe, I decided now was the time to get caught up. Since I cant seem to catch the WiFi network that my neighbors have been using (I plan to get an external WiFi adapter sometime soon to fix that), this actually worked out pretty well. Without the internet to amuse and distract me, I managed to get about 6 days’ worth of blogging done in 5 hours, which is pretty good.
After that, I needed to post this shit on the web. Well, Paris has free WiFi in most of its parks, so off I went to Les Halles, which isn’t too far from where I’m living right now. I wandered around until I saw a sign with the familiar purple-ish shapes that indicate a free WiFi spot. I set myself down and opened up my laptop…and nothing. I took a closer look at the sign and saw a map with a layout of the gardens, showing two transmitters with circular transmission ranges. One was located at the Berger gate, which is close to where I am, so I headed over there and opened my laptop. Nothing. I moved to a bench nearby…my computer detected the network but couldn’t get on. I moved across the pathway to another bench…nothing. I walked directly over to where the Berger gate was and sat nearly underneath it…nothing.
Losing patience, I found another sign with the broadcast zones and looked for the other transmitter. It was located on the other side of the park, near the Louis Aragon walkway. I tried to get a good idea of precisely where the center of that circle was, and then headed over and sat my self on a pair of benches that should’ve been directly above or beside the WiFi radio. From there, I was FINALLY able to get logged on.
Then, the login script for the free WiFi kept on throwing errors that pissed off Firefox and made it constantly disconnect. I opened up Safari and it worked fine. Yes, for once Safari was more robust than Firefox. Go figure.
Anyway, I was FINALLY connected to the net, and so I set about posting all of the last 6 days of blog posts in a row. So now you can read about my frantic search for an apartment! It’s a thrilling read, I tell ya. There was also an explosion of email waiting for me, so I took care of responding to most of it, and made a note to myself to come back here tomorrow afternoon and finish some of this business.
I thought about just walking down to the huge FNAC in the Les Halles shopping mall, but it was already 20h00 and I was pretty sure the shops closed around then. I headed down into the mall and, indeed, it was all closed. To my surprise, though, the multiplex cinema and all the little coffee joints around it were really hopping. And even though the stores had just closed, there were still a lot of people wandering around the halls of the mall. This is a radical change from a decade ago when I came here as an exchange student, and even a change from when I was here two years ago. Ever since the city demolished the old, traditional covered market and created this underground shopping mall, this place has been a wasteland of closed storefronts and late-night muggings (made possible by the fact that the mall has to stay open late for access to the métro-RER station beneath it). Also, thanks to the fact that three of the 5 RER lines pass through the Les Halles station, this mall has been a favorite hang-out of young banlieusards (“suburbanites,” although the connotation is more “ghetto trash” than “wealthy middle-class”). Anyway, the banlieusards are still there, but there were generally more people milling about and there was a greater mix of people in the crowds. I don’t know what the place looks like at 2am on a Tuesday, but this is still an improvement.
So, upon finding FNAC closed, I headed down into the bowels of the métro station and caught the 11 line (my old, dirty, overheated line!) to Belleville, where I got a filling yet healthy bowl of Pho at my favorite Vietnamese restaurant, Tin Tin. I put so many hot peppers into my soup, I was sniffling like a coke addict by the time I paid my bill. From there, it was back home to rest up a bit in preparation for a night out. Apparently, Fantômette was going to some sort of event at the Trabendo, and I had no earthly idea where that was, but thank goodness that my friends are only an SMS-message away.
The Three-Step Plan
1: Le Pinup [LINK]
Around midnight, I got a message from Fantômette, saying that she was meeting some folks at Le Pinup before continuing on with their night. Well, since that bar is only 15 minutes’ walk from where I am right now, I decided to head out.
On the way over, I discovered that rue Saint-Denis is the major stroll for the city’s prostitutes. You can’t walk 5 meters without passing a woman with a face older than her body, and a body underdressed for the cold weather. What was odder was that there were lots of men standing on street corners or in doorways, looking bored yet available. I would’ve presumed that they were hustlers, except that they were…um…not in possession of the typical sex-trade body type. In other words, these were mostly middle-aged dumpy guys dressed in unexceptional clothing—in other words, more likely johns than hustlers. So it was odd that they were standing around looking as if they were waiting while the hookers were also standing around looking as if they were waiting. They could’ve been pimps, I suppose, but they DEFINITELY didn’t look like pimps. Usually, pimps do a good job of maintaining a personal appearance that demarcates them clearly from potential clients.
Anyway, I finally made it to Le Pinup and caught up with Fantô, her girlfriend and a cluster of her friends and buddies. Unlike when we were in Berlin, Fantômette here was in her “networking” mode, playing the role of DJ and promoter. Although I know that that sort of activity can be exhausting at times, I certainly benefited from it by being introduced to pretty much everybody that passed within 2 meters of her. Yay! Luis makes new friends.
We had some drinks, including a house special drink involving white wine, vodka and violet syrup called the “Purple Pinup.” The tiny bar was packed, even with almost 50% of the attendees standing outside smoking. We pushed our way downstairs to the converted cellar (recently renovated with new flooring that has taken away the mossy stench I experienced last time I had been here) to check out the DJ that was spinning. I have no earthly idea who this guy was, but he was sorta OK. He mixed together a somewhat noisier, more electro-influenced version of minimal house, which was sometimes pleasant and sometimes annoyingly ear-piercing, but never fantastic nor horrible.
By around 0h30 or so, we decided to move over to another bar in the Marais, called Yono, to see a friend and his partner spin. After taking ages to say goodbye to everyone (again, Fantômette in networking mode), we finally made our way by foot over to the Marais.
We eventually made it over to Yono and Fantômette immediately saw a group of girls that she knew. As it turns out, some of them had been out the night before at On Cherche Encore, so I got to be “social” too and chat with the lovely ladies. We eventually went inside, got some drinks from the super-friendly head bartender (who, of course, knew Fantô and greeted her with a big kiss and a hug) and went downstairs to say hi to the DJ duo, Bfck.
They were spinning a thoroughly electro set, with lots of “classic” tracks from the electro-clash wave of the early 2000s. Although it’s no longer a style that I particularly follow or enjoy, the set gave me a warm glow of nostalgia for my years in Toronto, when electroclash was the hottest thing since anything.
It was getting close to 2h00, and if we wanted to get all the way to Trabendo (which was in the Parc de la Villette near Porte de Pantin), we would need to catch the last métro or pay a LOT of money for a taxi. So we started making our way out of the bar and found ourselves in front of the entryway, talking to the same girls we had seen on the way in. We chatted some more and some more, while Fantômette’s girlfriend and I tried our best to humor a profoundly drunk guy who insisted that he lived in the apartment above the bar.
Finally, we got moving. It was already past 2h00 and there was no chance of catching the métro, but the girls we had been chatting with were also heading to the Trabendo and one of them had a car. So we headed over to where her car was parked and piled in. There was about one too many people in the car, which meant we were at risk of being stopped and getting a nice big fine for piling up like that.
In response to these concerns, one of the girls in the car said cheerily, “It’s OK! We’re all invisible, anyway. Isn’t that right, girls?” This joke only made sense because all of the women I was traveling with were queer. An ongoing complaint in both the politics and history of queer women is that they are treated as if invisible. Alas, I doubt a police officer would get the joke…you’re only invisible until you’re inconvenient, eh?
We drove over to the apartment of the woman who was driving (her apartment was close to the Trabendo), parked her car and sat in her apartment for a while and had a drink. At some point, someone checked their watch and pointed out that it was already 3h30. Considering that clubs in Paris close at 6h00 precisely, we only had 2.5 hours left for fun. So off we went to Trabendo. We decided to go by foot, which we later came to regret, as it was a lot further away than we had thought.
We got to Trabendo just before 4h00, after a seemingly endless walk. They were still charging full price for admission, so we grudgingly handed over 12€ for less than half of the night’s entertainment. As we were standing in the vestibule, one of the girls in our group leaned over to me and said, “This doesn’t sound like minimal techno, here.” Indeed, the sound coming out of the main room seemed more like a pounding progressive or trance set. Hmm.
Once we got inside, I immediately saw the playlist and pointed it out to the girls. Apparently, the headliner Philip Kieran had been on since 3h00 and would continue to 5h00. Really? This? We had all been under the impression that Philip Kieran produced some pretty fine minimal techno, but this was like an unholy alliance of Justice-style “neo rave” and crap Hi-NRG Euro-Techno progressive house. Maybe our reactions were more severe because of our high hopes going in, but I really found this horrid.
So I found myself doing something I’ve almost never done during a night out: stand against a railing outside of the dancefloor and exchange looks and gestures of disgust with other disappointed attendees. I was completely, utterly uninspired to throw myself into the crowd and dance, such was disappointment with the music. No doubt, part of our sour mood was the fact that we had just paid 12€ and walked halfway across Paris for this.
Anyway, by about 4h30 or so we realized that this was just not worth the aesthetic agony and we decided to move. Half of our crew decided to roll over to Le Rex to catch Jennifer Cardini, while the rest of us made our way home (including me). We caught a night bus from Porte de Pantin to Gare de l’Est, and from there I walked home and those heading to Le Rex hailed a taxi.
Overall, the night was sort of a cruel contrast to my previous weekend in Berlin. Of course, I know that there are great nights to be had in Paris and there is some great music to be found, but tonight was not it. I had a good time hanging out with Fantô and her friends and getting to know new people, but the musical side of the night was unexceptional at best, horrifying at worst. And, also, the fact that the night ended at 5h00, when things would just be getting into swing in Berlin, was not lost on anyone. Ah well, next Friday there’ll be an evening organized by Fantômette, called Happy People Only, so I’ve got something to look forward to.