samedi, octobre 18, 2008

Dishes, Cafés and Clubs

After a very long day and an even longer night (augmented with wine and pisco), I woke up rather late today and felt groggy. I slept in, watched a bit of TV, surfed the net, and then finally took a serious look at the pile of dishes and leftovers in my fridge. I made a dent in the mango salsa and the ceviche, and then got to the work of cleaning dishes and relegating leftovers to various containers. I realized that I had forgotten to put out my “simple” salsa last night, so I had about 1L of salsa that I needed to eat in the coming days. That isn’t so much of a problem, except that bags of tortilla chips here run about 2.50€ per bag. Seriously. I think I’ll just use crackers or maybe potato chips.

Anyway, that was that. I spent most of the evening taking care of these domestic issues and then making a first attempt at blogging last night’s events. Most of my crew from last night was going to meet at Le Léopard Café and then maybe move onto the Rex club to see Mathias Tanzmann. I was feeling a bit too tired to go out clubbing (boy, was I wrong), but at least I could go to the café and catch up with everyone. Also, a friend that I had made in Berlin was possibly going to join us, so I was motivated to go out at least a little bit.

Le Léopard

I hopped on a Vélib bike and made my way down to the Léopard café (this time without getting lost) and grabbed a pint. I was the only one there when I arrived, but after a few minutes the rest of the crew started materializing. We chatted about last night’s debauchery (“That pisco kicked my ass!”) and Fantômette’s sterling set (“She kicked my ass!”) and our sorry state this morning (“Ow, my ass!”).

A couple of pints later, Fantô and her girlfriend asked me if I was following them to the Rex. Feeling a bit sluggish, I said, “Meh, I dunno. I’m kinda tired and I spent so much money on last night’s food, I don’t think I can pay 14€ to in turn buy 10€ drinks.” Immediately, a handful of my friends piped up, offering their place on one of the guestlists or inviting me to be their “plus one.” (In the world of guestlists, you’re usually added as “Luis +1,” which means you’re can bring a companion.) Aww, shucks.

Well, I couldn’t turn down that sort of offer, especially considering that my friend from Berlin still hadn’t caught up with us. I wasn’t sure that she would make it to the Rex, but maybe…

Mathias Tanzmann @ Le Rex

We got to Le Rex pretty early, since our guestlist entries were all going to expire around 1h30. We arrived at 1h00, thinking that we were in good shape, but emerged from the subway station to find a massive, massive guest line. In fact, it was longer than the cash line. We all quietly cursed as we realized that there was a good chance of us being kept in line until the expiration of our guest list spots.

We got in line—me, Fantô, her girlfriend and an Australian couple we were hosting—and grumbled and debated whether we would pay full price to get in. I certainly wouldn’t.

A few minutes later, Fantô saw some people she knew a bit further up in line, so wandered over, said hello, and tried to seamlessly merge into the line. We still had a ways to go to get into the club, but we had probably shaved 15 minutes off of our wait. As we waited, a girl near the front of the line leaned over the stanchion and vomited on the pavement. Good luck getting into the club now, sister. Eww, you had spaghetti for dinner. Ugh, now everything smells like bile.

Then, a miracle. Fantô’s girlfriend pointed out a figure exiting from the doors of the Rex’s offices. It was Molly, one of the two DJs I had hung out with on the Rex’s float at the Techno Parade about a month ago. She’s also the person in charge of bookings at the club, so if there was anyone who could help us out, it would be her.

I called her name and she came over to exchange kisses with me. Thankfully, I didn’t even have to ask her for anything; she immediately said, “How many of you are there? Five? OK, one second.” She said a few words to the bouncer at the front, and the five of us were waved through (walking gingerly around that girl’s vomit). The doorperson (a.k.a. Mr. Peevish Listmaster) seemed to recognize me, shook my hand and asked me how I was doing, and then waved all five of us past the ticket booth without even asking who’s list we were on. This was quite different from the welcome I got the first few times I went to Le Rex back in 2006-07.

As lovely as it was to get ushered past the line, the really nice moment of the night came just a few seconds later. As we passed the ticket booth and started to head down the stairs, I got a call from my Franco-Berliner friend; she had caught up with us, and she was standing in from of the club. The lineup was still huge outside, so she was hoping I might be able to get her in. I walked back up the stairs and saw that the doorman had disappeared somewhere. I approached the bouncer and mustered something that I hoped was a mixture of friendly and respectful French:

“Excuse me, I’m sorry to bother you. I have a friend who just arrived as we were going inside and I was wondering if she could come in with us. It’s not a question of guestlists or anything—she’ll pay full price at the booth—but I feel bad leaving her to wait in line while we’re inside.” I was ready to keep on talking, but he simply said, “Where is she?” I pointed her out, and he waved her in without comment. We thanked him profusely and headed in.

I suppose that I partially benefited from having traded kisses with a Rex employee just a few minutes before right in front of him, but the bouncer certainly didn’t have to say yes to me. He could’ve said that she needed to wait in line with everyone else and nobody would’ve faulted him for it.

Anyway, it seemed like the fates were determined for me to have a night out, despite my own fatigue.

The night itself was actually pretty uneventful after that (but not at all unpleasant). The opening DJ was D’Julz, whose selection was sounded more like a DJ set from the mid-90s than anything recent. It sounded too much like the sort of progressive house I was studiously avoiding in 1999.

Mathias Tanzmann came on at around 3h00 and put on a rather mixed set. The first 30 minutes of his set I found really disappointing: thumpy hard-house and noisy trance that made me think I was watching DJ Tiësto or Paul Oakenfold rather than a minimal techno DJ from Berlin. Things took a turn for the better for the next hour, though, as he shifted to a heavy-handed “minimal” techno sound. The set was still, overall, more coarse and noisy than I would’ve liked, but I definitely enjoyed myself.

The last half hour of his set was again pretty disappointing. By then, it was 5h00 and we were ready to head home. We sat down and waited until 5h30 so that my friend could catch the first métro of the morning, and then we headed out and made our separate ways home. I walked a few blocks and grabbed a Vélib bike to make my way home.

vendredi, octobre 17, 2008

Peruvian Food Orgy and Happy People Only

Yow! It’s been several days without a blog post. I’m actually going to just forget about catching up for the majority of this week, since it was pretty unexciting: at work, I struggled with a student’s laptop that was infested with a bunch of worms; in teaching, I had another set of pleasant English classes; at home, I was getting ready to hold my first Peruvian Food Orgy in Paris.

Today was the day for the aforementioned Peruvian foodfest, so most of today’s news are related to that and to the evening of debauchery that followed. This was my first time holding this type of event in France, so the pressure was on to prove to my Frenchy friends that I was as capable in making Peruvian grub as I had said. I’m not working in the same sort of apartment I have back in Chicago (to say the least), so I had to scale back my plans. I made about 10 dishes instead of the usual 20. On the upside, this meant that I had less stuff to worry about during the week. Back in Chicago, I started some of the marinades and salsas on Tuesday or Wednesday in preparation for the Friday meal. Here, I did my shopping on Tuesday morning and Wednesday evening, the salsas and marinades Thursday night, and the majority of the cooking throughout today.

I got up relatively early (considering that I wasn’t working today) and headed over to my neighborhood open-air market to get some last-minute items. I wanted super-fresh fish for the ceviche, so I got it this morning. It was ridiculously expensive, but not entirely surprising for good fresh swordfish (25€ / kg). I got some mangos as well, since the ones I had bought on Tuesday were so overripe that they had become discolored and odd-tasting. I got a bit more herbs and spices as needed, and a few more hot peppers.

As soon as I got home, I got to work on the ceviche, the mango salsa, and “step 2” of my aji de gallina (i.e., pulling the meat from the hen’s carcass and shredding it, draining and reserving the stock). I then took a break to run to the nearest supermarket to get some supplies (including surprisingly expensive paper plates and cups) and then headed back home for the final stretch.

From there on in, it was total cooking madness. I made the rice and the BBQ pork for the fried rice, I made a batch of quinoa, I set up the tables and the serving platters, and then I started finishing the main dishes.

As I started cutting the vegetables for the final sauce of aji de gallina, I heard a knock at the door. One of my friends had volunteered to come a bit early and help me prepare, so I let her in and put her to work immediately. I made her stick the anticuchos on the skewers as I finished cutting the vegetables for the aji. A second friend showed up, opened a bottle of wine, and we started to finish the aji de gallina. By the time I had finished the whole thing, blended and thickened the sauce to a paste, and then added back the shredded chicken, my apartment was about half-full. I had invited about 18 people to my place, and my small studio was handling it surprisingly well.

As the last wave of people arrived, I worked on the fried rice (which stuck too much to the bottom of the pan) and eventually got everything onto the table. Once I had had a moment to eat some of my food and explain the dishes to the various guests, I headed back into the kitchen and deep-fried the yucca (a.k.a. cassava, manioc) and handed it around the party. Finally! Done cooking. Now, dishes.

The original plan for the party was that I did all the cooking and my guests brought drinks. Not only did my friends all bring drinks, they decided to bring a full bottle of wine per person, rather than per group/couple. This meant that we had about 17 bottles of wine to go through. So, by the time I had finished cooking and started drinking, we were all a bit tipsy.

And then two of my friends brought pisco (Peruvian, not Chilean!) and the fixings to make pisco sour. Yay! They made a huge batch, using the whole bottle, and started handing out cups of it to the whole party. I don’t think they realized that pisco is a bit stronger than whiskey, so when they gave out large cups full of the stuff, they were essentially distributing two drinks in one. About 20 minutes later, everyone was pretty drunk. In the midst of it all, one of my friends decided to start doing my dishes, which was both hilarious and much appreciated.

By about midnight, it was time for us to start moving. Tonight was also the last night for Fantômette’s “Happy People Only” series and we all needed to be there before 1h30. Realizing how hard it would be to move such a large group of people, we started getting ready to leave right away. The story of us getting to La Scène Bastille is a bit hazy in my memory, but I recall it being pretty hilarious.

Happy People Only closing party @ La Scène Bastille

We got to La Scène Bastille at about 1h15 and made our way into the club. After dropping off my stuff at the coat check, I headed in, bought a drink, and made the rounds to greet any friends that I hadn’t seen at my dinner party. There was a pair of guys spinning called AidAke (a.k.a. the Luberjaks), but they were just finishing their set as I arrived, so I can’t say much about their set.

1h30-3h00: Fantômette

Fantô really rose to the occasion with a fantastic set (after all, it was the last installment of a series that she had been organizing for a couple of years). The importance of tonight’s event prompted me to compare her performance to her work at some of the earliest Happy People Only occasions, and so much has changed. Her mixing technique is now flawless to the point of being “invisible” and effortless. She manages to align tracks in such a way that major changes in texture occur simultaneously in both tracks being mixed; in other words, she extends the “rule of multiples of 4” from the tracks themselves to the mix between them. Her selection of tracks is solid—not just in the aesthetic sense of choosing good minimal-house tracks, but also in the narrative sense of sequencing tracks in a way that avoids clashes of texture and style.

The crowd, many of whom know Fantômette personally or have come to know her as the resident of this recurring night, showed their appreciation as well. People cheered and pumped their fists every time she brought the bass back, and the applause at the end of her set was long and strong. As a friend of mine said tonight: she’s a “pro” now. There’s no doubt that she is well beyond the realm of “local amateur” or anything like that.

3h00-4h30: Siskid

I don’t think I’ve seen Siskid perform before, but I’ve heard good things about him. His set was very good, although he preferred pounding, aggressive techno rather than finely wrought minimal. I still definitely enjoyed his set for the intensity and overall impact, but it felt a bit coarse. I’m still a pop-and-click-minimal boy at heart, so I’m never 100% excited when I hear these full-throated “minimal” sets. It’s sort of like the equivalent of the “big-room techno” genre within the domain of “minimal” music.

At some point during his set, a female friend of mine started fooling around with a male acquaintance that I had just met that night. He would feel her up and try to kiss her, and she would sometimes oblige, and sometimes push him away playfully. After a while, another friend of mine—male and very much queer—came over to them and started talking to the couple. He was very good friends with the girl, but he spoke intensely with the guy for a few minutes.

I don’t know who made the proposition, but suddenly the two boys started making out. My female friend looked over at the two of them, then turned to the rest of us with an expression that said, “These boys are insane,” and kept on dancing. When they started kissing again, I leaned over to her and made a joke, along the lines of, “Watch out! If they start slipping tongue, it’s over.” She replied, “Apparently, the point of this is to make me jealous.” We shrugged and continued dancing and exchanging amused glances. Eventually, the necking finished and my gay friend, rather drunk, moved on to acting ridiculous with another set of friends. In short order, the “straight” guy went back to caressing and kissing my female friend.

I thought that this was a really fascinating convergence of trust, desire, humor and sensuality. As my own experiences with French guys [LINK] confirms, there can often be a lot of flexibility around sexuality and sensuality within the frame of “a night out,” especially when it’s been enabled / enhanced by intoxicants. There’s a certain practice of “coming undone” that makes these sorts of scenes non-dramatic and non-shattering. There was no drama about the boyfriend turning gay or the friend flirting with his friend’s object of desire (although maybe there was some tension below the surface) but rather a shock-absorbent layer of laughter and absurdity. It’s just a party, after all…

4h30-6h00: Newborn

This is the same duo that spun at the last Happy People Only as Nathan H and his friend, GuiGui. They managed to spin a set that was technically quite solid, although I wasn’t always thrilled about their track selection. They tended to lean more towards classic “electro” styles and even progressive-house sounds, which didn’t really excite me. Nonetheless, some of the tracks they selected were great, and the overall feel of the set was quite engaging.

I wasn’t able to catch the whole set, though, as I started feeling tired around 5h30 and decided to head home. I had been up since relatively early, slaving over a hot stove, so I was feeling pretty exhausted. I made my rounds of saying goodbye, then left with a Frenchy friend of mine (from my Berlin Summer), and eventually found a Vélib station and biked home.