Sunday, March 6, 2016

Another Week In Not Surfing

1. I watch the Eddie in London and get that rush of excitement that comes with tuning into a live surfing match over the internet. I am a sucker for streaming surf contests. It hits a pleasure center buried deep in my brain I couldn't have figured was there. I can watch for hours. But unlike, say, NFL games on Sunday, I have no interest of "having it on" in the background just to soak in the sounds to set a festive mood. Maybe it's just the WSL guys though. The commentators who talked over the Da Hui Shootout a month or two back were cracking me up.


 2. What did someone say? Underwear can be worn five ways? Outside out frontwards, outside out backwards, inside out frontwards, inside out backwards and the way you've forgotten you've already worn it?

3. My shower has two bottles on a ledge: “Shampoing” and “Apr├Ęs Shampoing.”


4.  At 40+ years of age, perhaps you should not find yourself at an underground techno party off the Champs Elysees at three in the morning. But maybe you should, and this is where I find myself pulled along by my Dutch crew after wrapping our shoot. The bouncer tries to expel me from the bottle service section, an area that sounds posh but in fact suffers from the same sloshingly slick floor, flailing arms and friendly-strange hugs as the rest of the place. He is massive, far over six foot and weighs likely 250 pounds. When he yanks my arm, I move. To my startled protestation, he lowers his eyes to me, then to the Dutch, then to me again. Smiling faintly, he lets go of my shoulder, winks and moves off, like an enormous octopus drifting through seaweed.

5. I turn the corner at the Gar du Nord fiddling with my camera, not paying attention. From the immediate distance I hear, then see, the angry African approaching just in time to duck my contraption and keep him from snatching it out of my hands. As I shift my shoulder into his chest we are in a sort of bro hug as my friends pull him away. His spittle on my shoulder, he screams about not filming, and something entirely unintelligible. We point to the soccer ball, point to the camera and back. He doesn’t care. We don’t care. Fifty feet on we start filming again.

6. The odd, burping series of mumbles and laconic gestures that become my standard French Interpersonal Communication Method starts slowly as Brain One reaches back into Brain Two, scrounging around with a naked hand in a knife drawer, looking for those early French lessons my parents inexplicably gifted me. It must have been an experimental era of proactive parenting that somehow didn’t stick. They would rarely engage in that sort of overt forethought again, my subsequent way found unfettered in the easy, sheltered nook they’d carved. But I've always treasured that abortive attempt at teaching me something useful. Between that and the concurrently laborious piano lessons, I have an enduring ear for the language. Or at least an enduring ability to contextualize three words in a basic sentence of eight or more and nod or shake my head appropriately. Last night the couscous, mergez sausage, mint tea and baklava at Chez Omar just happened to be the perfect thing to agree to.

7. I’m not sure how many times I’ve been to Paris. Five? Six? Usually for at least a week, but that is not enough. Men of a certain age and sensibility wear capes in Paris. Not superhero capes, but classic, heavy, weather ready capes over their smart trousers, relaxed blazers and Mr. Rogers cardigans. Paris has more bookstores and movie theaters than anywhere else I’ve been. I’ve heard Buenos Aires has more bookstores per capita than any city in the world, but Paris must surely be second. The amount of bookstores dedicated to photography alone must outnumber the regular bookstores in any other vulgar, plebeian city.

8. There is an intellectual brutishness to a certain sort of bougie Frenchman. It is as if they, as a species, have borrowed from their father’s father’s father, moving that generation’s aesthetic heroism so far into the future, assuming the official mantle of “Overly Concerned But Over It.” A slack jawed, guttural consto-critique, pointing and opining and chewing food throughout. The air of indignancy is rote learned. The hair, to greater or lesser degree, bouffant, carries before them their impatience. But the true wonder of this sort of Frenchman is their eyes. Slightly drooping and pleading, asking to be noticed. He is, after all, the spiritual descendant of Descartes, Voltaire, Foucault, Sartre. Genet! Their harried pantomime is the primary weapon in their battle for relevance. Flapping lips, wiggling fingers and rolling pupils. One such Frenchie keeps me company a table over, having dinner with his disinterested partner. He is a one man score. A droning click track to my meal and an enjoyable sideshow I am grateful for.

9. After two weeks of shooting and traveling, we are spent. Johnny and I have friends to call, but we opt to have the easy night without heavy conversation and simply walk the city. There is a famous dance bar we know of, and standing in line a small group of hilarious looking Parisian youth saunter by. Johnny and I trade the knowing look that comes from working together on a tight production and step out to follow the cadre to wherever they end. We keep a safe distance, going five or nine blocks before they disappear into a hole in the wall. When we approach, the gorille gives us the look up and down and says the party is winding down. We laugh and say ok and head back to our original line which has grown twice as long. We wait, shuffling slowly and talking about Situationism. When we get to the door, the gorille looks us up and down and informs us we can’t enter without female companions. We have a good laugh with this gorille and head home in relief for a happy sleep.

10. I have Euros left over, looking for a gift when a t-shirt in a fashionable shop catches my eye through the window. As I hold it up I ask the shop keeper the gender. He ruins the destination but I buy it anyway. He asks where I’m from and I tell him. “You know, we have a shop there too. In Soho.” “Yes, but it’s more fun to buy things when I’m not in New York.”

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