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A blog for that outspoken and aggressive member of the Buffy Bulletin Board.
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   Sunday, October 10, 2004

Gay Paree.

Paris is like an old whore. If you didn't fuck her in her prime, you've got no sentimental feelings to mask the fact that now she looks decrepit and smells of piss.

I've just returned from a weekend in Paris, with some friends and my brother and his S.O. I've been to Paris quite a few times before, but generally, I was immersing myself in the "cultural" aspects of it before. Wine tasting, the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, Sacre Couer, and so on. Given my life long love and devotion to La Pucelle de la Lorraine, it's no surprise that I'd have a soft spot for certain Parisian areas.

But this weekend just gone was the first time I had cause to see a more mundane side of the city. The day to day living. Not, I hasten to add, a seedy underbelly side. This is just the "not-tourist" areas I'm talking about.

A friend of mine, M, who lived in Paris for 7 years and has a French wife, is in love with the city. He simply cannot see its faults. He is well known for giving people a tour of his beloved city which includes his neighbour's (Johnny Depp's) place.

It's a stereotype that the French smell bad. But you know what? Stereotypes don't become stereotypes if there isn't a tiny bit of truth to them. Like the Irish alchoholism, English arrogance, American obesity or Germans lack of humour. Each country has it's stereotypes that it would be hard pressed to argue against. They're not universal, obviously, but they do come to mind when you see an affirming example.

So it was, that I found myself in a French shower the other morning. A shower without a door, so which ever half of the body was under the lukewarm water, the other part was exposed to the cool air of the bathroom. Not pleasant.

Since you would have to be born and raised in France to stand a chance of surviving driving in France, I was taking taxis' everywhere. Or at least, that was the plan. But picture the scene.... A taxi rank, with about 20 people queueing and taxi's come up to the rank (about 1 every 10 minutes) and talk to the guy or girl at the top of the queue, and then debate about whether or not they will take the fare. Or worse, empty cabs, just driving past with the fare sign lit, and not pulling up to the rank.

It's a good thing for them that they don't need tips to survive. They'd all be dead in a week. Actually, the tip is called "Pourboire", which means "For Drink", so at least they're honest.

So with the taxi's not really a likely candidate for transport, I was left to walking or public transport. I figured I'd be healthy, and walk. But nothing could have prepared me for the sights. Not in a first world country anyway. Within 100 yards of the hotel, I saw a man who was staring in shop windows. And while he stood, a pool of water was forming under his shoe, and running down the path. Then he'd walk on a bit, and stop, and it happened again. He was pissing in his pants, and no doubt thinking he was being quite sly about it. Not 20 minutes after that, I see a woman squatting down and taking a piss. This is at 12:30pm, on bright sunday morning, on Boulevard Housemann, one of the most well known and supposedly swankiest streets in Paris.

So now I feel like my eyes are finally opening, and I start to look (really really look) at the places around me. The buildings are old, and in a state of bad repair. Paint jobs that look like they haven't been touched up since the war. And the litter.. my god, there was filth everywhere.

The least said about the "small exclusive" club M took us too, the better.

At the end of the weekend, we're driving back to DeGaulle airport, or Lille or somewhere, and traffic is crawling along so I can see that there is a small barrier/walkway next to the road. And every 10 feet or so, there are hundreds and hundreds of ciggarette buts. It's like...pile of cigs, gap, pile of cigs, gap... and so on.

I point this out to the driver, wondering at the pattern, and who would be stupid enough to walk along a motorway with French drivers so close by. He tells me that hookers ply their trade here. I was so glad to be leaving the city behind me. Now after thinking about it in writing this, I feel like I need a shower of my own. Yuch.

Wow. Don't think I'll plan a Paris trip anytime soon. If I want that kind of feeling, I'll just go to a NYC subway.
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