vendredi, mai 11, 2007


Off to Nantes! I'll be spending the weekend with a friend in Nantes, so this blog will be quiet for a few days. When I get back, I'll back-blog the past couple of days (Eurovision!!) and so on.

jeudi, mai 10, 2007

Paris, I'm Disappointed in You...

...really, can do better than this. I'm trying really hard to forgive you, but missing the semi-finals of the Eurovision 2007 Song Contest in Helsinki was just too much to bear.

DJ and I set out at around 20h00 toward the Marais, planning to get some falafels at L'As du Falafel, and then walk over to one of the bars in the area to find some place that would be airing the glorious, campy, ersatz-nationalistic awfulness that is Eurovision. As we cheerfully munched on our Falafels, we wandered our way around the gay neighborhood, along rue Ste. Croix de la Bretonnerie, down rue des Archives, and back along rue Rivoli. Despite the fact that this was clearly the queerest and camp-est thing on TV that night, none of the bars were showing it. We wandered past St. Stolly's, but their TV wasn't on.

We headed over to Klein Holland, which happened to have Fashion TV on. If they were airing Fashion TV in a bar that usually plays football games, clearly they were planning to show Eurovision, we thought. I went and asked the bartender if they were going to play Eurovision, and she looked a bit confused and said, "When's that on?" "It's starting right now." "One moment."

We took a seat and waited, and eventually the owner--a youngish man with a ponytail and a cheap suit--came over to ask us what channel the show was on. While we were trying to remember the channel, the owner said, "Well, what kind of match is it? Football? Rugby?" I laughed and said, "No, it's Eurovision. You know, the song competition?" I'm not entirely sure he understood what Eurovision was, but he immediately got nervous: "Oh, I don't know. Music? I mean, if we put on a game, it's OK, but I don't know about music." Clearly, he was not comfortable with putting on something as queer and kitschy as Eurovision, but he was also eager to shunt the decision onto his "public"--although he certainly made no effort to poll them; "Ultimately, I can't put on something that will displease my public."

Now, I've been in Paris long enough to know how to do the passive-agressive shrug-n-shunt, so I shrugged, made the characteristic face, and said, "Well, as you like it. [C'est comme vous voulez.] The decision is yours; we'll stay if you put it on, and we'll move on if you don't. This is your decision." He tried the "my public" gesture a few more times, and I just kept on tossing it back into his lap until he finally gave up and said, "Sorry, I'm not going to play it." At that point, I gave one final "Je m'en fous" shrug, and we headed out the door.

From there, the night spiralled outwards and downwards. We canvassed the rest of the Marais with a fine-toothed comb. DJ had heard of a group of people getting together to watch the Eurovision semi-finals at a bar in a florist's shop (yes) in Bastille, so we headed over there. We walked all the many, many sidestreets of Bastille until we finally found the bar...which was devoid of any television or Eurovision. From there, we stalked around the rue Mouffetard and Contrescarpe area, eventually making our way all the way over to Jussieu. From there, we took the subway to Odéon and wandered around the St. Germain area. Nothing.

Having mostly given up the ghost, we headed over to the Moose (the Canadian bar). We thought there might be an outside chance of Eurovision on one of the screens, but more importantly, we could drown our sorrows in poutine and beer. We got in at around 23h00 and headed to the back for a seat. After grabbing a table (surprisingly easily), we waited for the girl working the tables to come over to us and take our order. She never came.

At one point, we managed to corner the bartender and ask if the kitchen was still open, and despite the fact that both of us were very certain that there was a late-night menu, the woman shrugged and said no. We waited almost 30 more minutes to at least order a beer, but the girl never even made eye contact with us. When she started to clean cutlery at the table next to us, we decided she was deliberately avoiding us.

Without having ever ordered a drink during the 45-60 minutes we were in there, we got up and headed out. DJ led me to one of his favourite döner kebab joints (more of a Gyros sandwich this time) and we drowned our sorrows in street meat. The hot sauce at this place was excellent and ass-kicking (which is rare here), so I'll have to go back there sometime soon and get a better look at the name of the place. Either way, fantastic grub.

We finally wandered our way up to the Seine and over to the other Canadian bar, The Great Canadian Bar (really, that's the name of the bar). The bar itself was nothing special (although neither is the Moose--it just serves poutine), but they were selling beer and showing the Sabres-Senators game, so we were OK with that. We also spent a fair bit of time providing snarky commentary to a hilarious mating-dance between a group of over-the-hill anglo guys trying to pick up a bunch of barely-legal American girls. DJ pointed out that nearly every one of our bar/pub outings turns into "DJ and Luis make snarky remarks about other people's quests for casual sex." Nothing wrong with that, really...

On the other hand, DJ found out later in the evening that the pile of drunken frat boys and their sloppy slutty gal-pals sitting next to us were from his alma mater. DJ was torn between running over and bonding with them, and crawling under the table in embarrassment. It was funny.

Oh, and there was also this rather large girl who decided that the appropriate dress for a woman her size was a set of low slung jeans and camisole top that were both so tight that she looked like an overstuffed sausage. Nothing like backfat and underarm-boobs to get me all hot and bothered.

mardi, mai 08, 2007

Day of Resting/Writing

Today is going to make for a really, really boring post. I slept in, then rolled out of bed and started blogging on days 2-4 of my Berlin trip. With that taken care of, I made dinner (those "party" posts take a long time, you know) and then surfed the web for a bit. Now I'm heading to bed. Tomorrow will be more exciting, I promise.

lundi, mai 07, 2007

BerlinPartei Day 4: Getting Home and Halupki

So, last night, I got back to the hotel and into bed by about 5h30. Thankfully, it was too early in the morning this time for that group of loud children to be playing in the yard. However, my body hadn't fallen asleep before 10am for the last four days, so it was very uninterested in going to sleep. I finally slipped into a deep, replenishing sleep around 8h00...

...and at 10h30 there was a loud knock on my door. I open my door to see a squat German woman, glaring at me and saying "Check Out?" I gave her a confused look and said (in my broken German) "But I thought check out was at twelve?" "No, check out ends at eleven. You have 30 minutes." "Oh."

Well, great. With that, I hauled my body into gear and started getting myself ready. Miraculously, I was showered, clothed and packed in under 30 minutes. At 10h55, I headed out the door and off toward the airport. In the end, I suppose it was for the best that I was booted out early, because I had forgotten how long the train to the airport can be. After taking about 20 minutes to get to the Friedrichstraße station on the U-Bahn, I had to wait another 15 minutes for a train that was heading to Schoenfeld airport. The train ride itself was almost 40 minutes long, so by the time I got off the train and walked over to the airport and found the check-in for EasyJet, it was already past 12h30 and time to check in.

The waiting for the flight and the flight itself was pretty uneventful, although finding my way back from Orly airport by public transport was a bit of a feat. It wasn't particularly gruelling or complicated, it was just that the signs in the airport were less than helpful, so I walked the length of the terminal a couple of times before I realized that the OrlyVal train connects to the nearest RER station, Anthony. Meh.

I got home and decompressed for a bit, unpacking my crap and starting to reply to the large stack of emails I had waiting for me (although I certainly haven't gotten to all them yet!). Shortly afterwards, I got an email DJ inviting me to come down to his room for halupki later that night. Yay!! DJ had been tempting me with his mom's cabbage rolls since he got here, and this would also mean that I didn't have to go grocery shopping and make dinner.

After a long and delicious dinner (complete with campari apéritifs and bourbon digestifs), DJ showed me the wonders of the TV comedy It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia (available on iTunes, apparently) and then I sauntered off to my room for some well-deserved sleep. Oh, and DJ sent me home with a few more of those delicious I don't have to think about lunch tomorrow, either!

dimanche, mai 06, 2007

BerlinPartei Day 3: Elections and (other) Gay Stuff

So, after taking my somewhat fitful siesta from noon to 18h00, I got out of bed and started getting ready to go out again. D. and S. had invited me to join them at this French restaurant called La Cocotte (the dutch oven) to watch the French elections.

I got there just before 20h00, wandered in, and eventually found my friends. By the time I sat down, Sarkozy had already been announced the winner of the presidential election (over Ségolène Royal), so the mood in the restaurant was less than cheerful. We got our kir royales (the restaurant was offering free kir with your meal from 18h00-22h00) and chatted about politics for a bit. We were also joined by a friend of D. and S., who is currently studying in Berlin. We talked politics, reminisced about the night before, chatted about my PhD project as well as that of D. and S.'s friend, and tried lift our spirits with some wry jokes about Sarkozy. There's no space in this blog post to explain why a lot of French people are nervous / distraught about the election results, but you can look in pretty much any newspaper or politico-blog for the coverage.

Our meal was lovely, and by far the best thing I ate in Berlin (no surprise, considering I was constantly eating at food stands). I had an oeuf cocotte as an appetizer, which was two eggs in a miniature dutch oven, poached with a bit of black truffle. It was delicious and rich, but not too large. For my main dish I got the coq au vin, which was several pieces of a rooster, cooked slowly in a dutch oven with vegetables and a lot of wine. Again, delicious.

GMF at Café Moskau

[Photos taken from the Room Division design-house website.]

By midnight, we started getting ready for the next party: GMF at Café Moskau (click on "oeffnen" at the top of the page to load a ton of fantastic pictures as well as a history of the building). GMF is this interesting tranny-themed queer night that happens every Sunday. According to the boyfriend of the promoter, the night started out as a T-dance (a gay dance event, usually on Sundays, starts early and ends early-ish so that you can work on Monday), with a recurring theme of transvestite / transgender / transsexual DJs. Now, the event is more a club night (i.e., it starts around midnight and runs all night), with a ground-floor room that has a tranny DJ spinning pop / retro / diva tracks, and a basement level filled with more intense house or techno (more like a gay circuit club). The crowd was mostly gay and trans, with some straight girls and a few straight guys (lesbians, however, I saw more of at Berghain).

Thanks to D.'s connections, we got in for free and got a few drink tickets. We moved back and forth between the basement, the main floor, and the patio, taking in the fantastic socialist-futurist design of the whole place. Despite the fact that the music downstairs was generally closer to what we usually like to listen to, D. preferred hanging out upstairs with the tranny DJ, where she found the crowd to be more fun. Several times during the night, she would lean over to me and say, "You see, this crowd is clearly having fun. This is what Panorama and Berghain used to be like when I was here." D. had lived in Berlin for a year a while ago (which is how she had all these connections), and although we all had fun at Berghain the night before, she insisted that the crowd had shifted. By her estimation, the crowd had become less friendly and festive. People at Berghain and Panorama Bar still partied hard and stayed up all night, but they weren't necessarily having fun and being social.

What brought these observations on was that D., on her way back from getting a drink, passed two gay guys, one of whom touched her cheek and told her she was "so niedlich" ("so cute"). That sort of casual, friendly touching and sociality between strangers was something that she missed at Berghain last night. Indeed, the impression I got was that the primary way that she was evaluating the crowds at these various events was by how strangers interacted with each other.

And speaking of touch and intimacy, I noticed some differences in how men touch each other at clubs here in comparison to Paris. Whereas in Paris, I noticed pretty frequently groups of otherwise straight men engaging in forms of homoerotic play that seemed like the male-male version of Girls Gone Wild™, straight men here in Berlin generally didn't engage in any erotic way. Certainly, there was a lot of hugging (which doesn't have the sexual charge it does in France) and arm-slinging, but the only ass-grabbing, grinding, kissing or fondling I saw between men was between gay men who weren't just pretending to be sexually interested. That much being said, I also saw a lot less uninvited touching between men and women. It wasn't that there weren't men and women getting hot and heavy, but rather that the very forward girl-chasing / touching that you see in a lot of Paris clubs was harder to find here in Berlin.

Anyway, I hung out with S. and D. until 4h00 and then started heading back to my hotel. It was a rather long walk back to Alexanderplatz, and the trains were slow in coming, so I didn't get to sleep until about 5h30...