I had a lovely evening at Shakespeare & Co., but alas, my camera died as I arrived. So I will have to wait until next week’s meeting to provide photographic proof.
It was great to get out and actually talk to people. I found this club on Craigslist, and the idea is that a bunch of people get together every week and discuss a different topic. There’s a reading in both French and English and an hour devoted to talking about each.
This week, the topic was the weather. This because the organizer said people kept joking about only talking about the weather and she thought — fine. We’ll make it official.
But there’s only so much to say about the weather, and after a young American research chemist arrived, the talk switched quickly over to the election. I learned how to say “weapons” in French. And the trend of everyone in the world thinking Sarah Palin is an idiot seems to continue.
It was great to just chatter away in French and not worry about what people thought, or to have to stop for grammatical pointers. The organizers are very welcoming, and they’re French, so it’s kind of fun to be able to translate some words for them, or teach them how to pronounce them.
Also, the bookstore is very cool. I was a little reluctant to go, because I have such a great picture in my mind of the place after reading “Time Was Soft There,” and my guidebook says it has since become an expensive tourist trap. While that may be true, it was pretty great to see the sloping shelves teeming with books that seem about to topple over, and the “lending library” on the second floor where you’re welcome to browse and to stay, but not to buy.
I’m excited to go back next week, and I’m totally going early to check out exactly what books I need to read in this lending library before I head back home.
And to end, a little Paris vignette. Before heading to the French club, I hopped what turned out to be an incredibly busy metro line. With the wisdom of just a few weeks here, I managed to fold myself into the corner of one of the cars. It’s the best place for the ride, since you can brace yourself with your body against two solid walls, and the crush of people isn’t quite as overwhelming as it could be.
I ended up nestled in the crook of the arm of a Parisian businessman who spent most of the trip either proofing emails on his Blackberry, or talking on it. (Sample quote, in French, “Frankly, I think it’s just odious that he’s doing that.”) We were smushed together about as closely as possible, but managed to do that big-city thing where we pretend the other people are trees, and we’re just in a happy crowded forest rather than crammed three-deep into each others’ personal space.
Anyway, eventually it came to my stop, and the car was so densely packed I couldn’t move. At first, the man looked down at me and said good-bye as I feebly started trying to push my way through, saying “Pardon, pardon,” in my loudest voice. That in itself was pretty interesting, since people don’t usually bid farewell strangers, but I guess it only makes sense since I’d spent the last 20 minutes cradled in his arm.
Then, he noticed the fact I wasn’t so much advancing as walking on spot. He reached out, nudged a few people aside, and bellowed “PARDON” in this voice that rang through the car.
Everyone moved. I walked out of that car without having to touch a soul.
So, that’s my day of great Parisian conversation and a little Parisian kindness.