Thursday, August 30, 2007



I've started a new feature at Gridskipper to track the local music finery.

Being slightly compulsive, I also added video links for all the upcoming bands and built a radio player to let you listen to everything.

Go and have a look, hey?

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Paris: City of Naked

Dear friends,
Please excuse me for being late last night for margaritas at La Perla. Something happened while I was riding my bike along the canal.

I was watching him lift his penis so that friends could remove the bits of floating trash that had adhered to his testicles and I got a little dizzy - had a mild stroke, perhaps - and after that had to ride my bike slowly.

In any case, sorry.

Your pal,

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The Swing Set

I have just returned from a vacation in the Loire and will soon tell you all about it.

But first, and more importantly, I must tell you about the Sex Clubs.

, you see, offers a bonus each month for the correspondant who draws the most readers. Being competitive by nature and poor by tax bill, I am going for the throat and compiling a list of clubs échangistes.

This endeavor means that I've been rolling around for hours in the webworld of the swinger. And let me tell you, it is...hysterical.

This post shall not knock or otherwise comment on the practice of having sex with strangers. What I would like to share is this collection of absurdity that I discovered during the course of my research.

Five Reasons Why Sex Clubs Are Hilarious

1) Soundtracks!
Le Quai 17 website provides a continuous stream of music, presumably the sort of sounds one might encounter at the club. I tuned into "Radio Libertine" and laughed to the point of tears when I heard 4 Non Blondes bleating out the chorus of "What's Up." This was followed by (what else?) "Boys Don't Cry."

Don't get me wrong, I'm really quite fond of both these songs. But I could not be expected, while balancing in heels at some quai-side swapmeet, to keep a straight face while Linda sang about her great big hill of hope.

2) Message Boards!
The very same cyber-wizards at le Quai 17 have also introduced the message board, allowing users to publicly register for soirées and chat with eachother in advance. In this way, "cplbi3446" (at left) and "Michelx74" can break the ice a bit before meeting at Thursday's Gang Bang Buffet.

and speaking of...

3) Buffets!
Nearly all the clubs offer a buffet or some other form of pre-game dinner. I'm trying hard to imagine (and help me out here if you know) what on earth is the etiquette for warm-up supping? Does a lady retain her skirt while tossing back her plate of moules? Does she chit-chat with the man in the mask about the delicious moelleux? I think Buñuel may have made a film about this...

4) Special Nights!
This city's love for theme-parties knows no bounds. In the most remote backrooms and cuddle corners, one can still find people dressed for "Carnival." Le Nautilus, for example, recently hosted a "Las Vegas-style Casino Night" complete with blackjack, poker, and prizes. Au Pluriel will soon be celebrating its anniversary with "surprises, gifts, and onion soup." I might mistake this for the local Rotary Club if I didn't know about the Saint-André cross in their basement.

5) Mind-Blowing Translation!
There is so much to choose from, but here's my favorite from Le Nautilus:
This club is appreciated by loose couples which appreciate to meet themselves in a felted frame, wish to make more ample knowledge with new couples which share certain art of living and to make the "holiday."
I will leave you now to reflect upon your readiness for the felted frame. This video from Stereo Total, to say nothing of Radio Libertine, should aid in your considerations...

Update: the article is now up (here) at Gridskipper. Needless to say, the onion soup is not mentioned...

Friday, August 10, 2007

Making Love to Zach Condon

No more marching down the boulevard and singing along with the iPod - my love for the band Beirut has finally found an appropriate outlet.

The Blogothèque asked me to write a text in English to accompany the release of their latest video. Taken from the magical Soirée à Emporter, it features two amazing songs and one Go-Go dancing blogger.

Below is the video and my text from the Blogothèque. Many other delights, including the other eight videos from this concert, are available on their site.

When Zach Condon introduces his last song, denial rings throughout the Flèche d’Or. "But after," he continues, "I will play with Kocani Orkestar. It’s a dream for me."

This news about a Balkan band elicits very little reaction from the crowd. Most of those crammed into the venue, not to mention the hundreds who are waiting on the sidewalk, have arrived to see Beirut. The announcement of their last song seems to signal the end of a very special soirée.

The opening tump-thumps of "Sunday Smile" see the crowd start to turn around, swaying and beaming with pleasure of discovery. Zach’s attention is initially focused on the job of filling his microphone. When he raises his head for the chorus, looks around and sees what’s happening, a manic grin threatens to wipe out his ability for words.

He is 22 years old, this kid. He has spent the summer in Paris, mere steps away from the stage that now holds him with his musical heroes. Their brass envelops him and sends this unreleased song into the sky. His new neighbors are all around, waving their arms and asking for more.

How did he get here ?

It was only a few weeks ago that Chryde broke the news in a Paris café. Upon learning that the Blogothèque was bringing Kocani to come and play with him, Zach was stunned into silence. He lit a cigarette. He said "thank you." He then retreated into the fear that comes with getting what you want.

That initial astonishment infuses this song with Kocani Orkestar. "Sunday Smile" is taut with anxiety and joy. It is bursting with Zach’s gratitude for the beauty of this moment. By the end of the song he is nearly bowing down before his guests from Macedonia.

When the call for "Siki Siki Baba" is sounded, Zach raises himself up and promptly jumps into the fray. "Watching me listen to this song," he wrote last year for Said the Gramophone, "is like watching a hyperactive four-year-old without his Ritalin. Pure excitement." Watching him not only listen but play along to this song is doubly exciting.

The crowd that only an hour ago was held spellbound by delicate sounds is now erupting, their energy in each chorus threatening to break out the windows of this former train station. Zach gushes along with the rest of them, waving his arms like some deranged conductor. His eyes are often closed or fixed upon the distant ceiling as if the sight of this swell is just a little too much. When he opens them and looks around, he can barely contain his laughter.

We are so thoroughly whipped into musical fervor that the end of the song is not an option. The crowd continues to bleat out its ecstasy in chorus after unscripted chorus. Our consolation, when the last note falls, is that this song is only the beginning of our night with Kocani Orkestar.

Let’s hope this is also only the beginning of these Soirées à Emporter.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Men Like to Hunt: the Cachet of Hidden Kitchen

A brief mention in a post three weeks ago that I had been to Hidden Kitchen garnered ten or so hungry emails:

How was it?
Can you get me in?
Oh my oh my oh my god! (etc.)
The panty-throwing reaction prompted me to write about it for Gridskipper. Not only about the food (here), but also the chefs' favorite places to shop around the city (here).

There were more undies in my in-box this morning, and a whole pile of them waiting on the electronic doorstep of Hidden Kitchen.

And every wet knicker reminds me of one of the cardinal rules of dating: RUN AWAY.

When I moved out of my marriage bed and into a shared apartment, my roommate Kate had a bookshelf stacked with (plenty of high-quality literature and some) classic dating tomes. And so I spent those first nights, when I wasn't hyper-ventilating, turning the pages of He's Just Not That Into You.

This of course brought on more hyper-ventilating.

Surely, I thought to myself, I have more to offer than "not answering the phone."

"Utter rubbish," declared Catherine, who read the book as soon as I'd finished it. Along with Kate, we decided that while some girls might need gimmicks - hiding themselves and cultivating mystery - we were interesting enough to be exempt from the rules.

Months later I sat across from a man who told me "Men like to hunt."

He then advised me to be "more like a gazelle."

I stopped inviting him to free concerts after that.

Who among you will wager on whether he's booked at Hidden Kitchen?

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Biking Bliss in the Fôret de Sevran

I have been an active biker for over a year.

By "active," I of course mean occassional, and only in near-perfect sunny conditions.

Such biking activity has rarely, however, extended outside of the city. Only once last year did I bike out of bounds, on a lovely trip near the Royaumont Abbey. Last Sunday I tried again - a rematch country ride to the Fôret de Sevran.
The morning started with a trip to the market. A loaf of bread, fixings for a green bean salad, some drippy Reine Claudes and a nice Brie de Meaux - we bought everything we needed for a little country picnic.
Setting out from the Parc de la Villette, we followed the Canal de l'Ourcq (the northern extension of the Canal Saint-Martin) in the direction of Meaux.
For the first five minutes, the view was post-industrial. The falling-down Grands Moulins de Pantin towered before us and we breezed past buildings with broken windows and graffiti.

Emerging from a massive SNCF repair complex, we found ourselves in the middle of a Bobigny block-party. Balloons, each one with a message attached, filled the air above our heads. I smiled at them memory of doing the same twenty years ago in Kansas.

Next up along our route we spied some rough necks letting off jet ski steam. All bike traffic stopped to watch them as they skidded across the stank and murky waters.

Thirty minutes into the ride, the view became more picturesque. Wooden fences replaced grafitti-covered walls and flowers bloomed from suburban patios.
Time flew and soon enough the view had become fully forested. The heat of the day was held at bay by the canopy of trees. Light filtered between the branches to cast a serene glow on all who were picnicking (or reading, sleeping, drinking, entangling in various states of undress...).
We found a shaded spot within the Fôret de Sevran. We dropped like sacks after the sixty-minute ride and spread ourselves out for a sigh. A nap in the grass followed a leisurely lunch and then we found the buvette and a revitalizing beer.

Our party turned back around 4pm to attend to some pétanque around the Bassin de la Villette. The return trip took just over an hour, with some delay from weary legs and the of number joyriding Vélib'ers.

This trip was part of my training for an upcoming cycling holiday. I have been persuaded to pedal through the countryside between the châteaux de la Loire. Considering the number of very good vineyards along the way, it is certain to be a fiasco.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Woo Tube (p. 3)

I started this blog about a year ago.

The intention, as I described in my first post, was to tell stories about France to people back home.

But most of these friends were not internet fiends. And they were swiftly outnumbered by strangers on my site.

Just one month into this electronic endeavor, some website listed me as one of its favorite blogs. This brought the Brits and a bunch of other unknowns to my door.

And they started leaving comments. It was weird.

"Who are these people?" I would shout across the room to where my husband was sitting with his own laptop. He would roll his eyes, rightly so, and then return to Googling himself.

Our courtship long ago had been conducted over the wires. Eight years and another continent later, we were still susceptible to those screen-based shivers.

Only not so much from eachother.

However odd the sensation, it didn't take long for me to adapt to writing for the invisible. It didn't matter that my readers had no faces and were prone to over-punctuation.

What mattered was that they loved me, insofar as that could be deduced from comments like " :-) " and "woo!!"

I found myself rushing to check the computer like I'd done back in the old days. They weren't romantic, these exchanges, but they held the same thrill of discovery.

Not all of these readers remained strangers. My first friends of blog origin were two Canadians who introduced themselves at a concert. They recognized me as "Le Meg," much to the amusement of my visiting friends. They later posted about the night as bloggers (I now know) are prone to do.

I began to spend more time online and outside the apartment. Things weren't going well at home, and this new universe (which had expanded into writing for Expatica and Parisist) was wonderfully distracting.

Eventually it became large enough to climb into.

It's odd to look back upon one year of blogging and think about everything that's happened. My marriage ended, I stayed in Paris and decided (after a brief pause) to stick with the blog.
To all of you who I've met in some way or other through this site...

...and to all you unlinkables, invisibles and old dears - it's been lovely to have you around in this year of new beginnings.

Friday, August 03, 2007

My Secret Garden(s)

Need a quiet spot away from the horde for feeling up your summer fling?

I just posted an article on Gridskipper about some of my favorite hidden terraces.

You can read about them here, and tell me in the comments what I've forgotten.