Paris has many appellations – City of Love, City of Light, Most Touristed City in the World, the list goes on… I, however, am of the opinion that there is another, less-recognized characteristic of this city: If you are going to meet anyone anywhere, it is in Paris.
When I say ‘meet,’ I mean nearly every definition possible, from ‘make a new friend,’ to ‘randomly run into someone,’ to ‘arrange to meet someone.’ Let’s start with the first of these. Sure it is arguable that you meet new people everywhere, of which I won’t deny the truth, however I think there is especially something about Paris that makes people more amenable to just talking to random people who knows where. Example: the other night, Rachel and I are at a café/bar waiting for Selene, and this young guy sits down at the table next to us, whatever, but then he turns to us and asks if we’re familiar with the café and what’s good here, because he’s never been there before. I had just gotten the cheapest wine on the menu, so I wasn’t much help, but the three of us ended up having a long conversation about Rachel’s ‘strawberry colada’ and the idea of the ‘girly drink.’ This of course eventually turned into a conversation about Paris and school and us being Americans (which he found hilarious for some reason…?) and how he used to go to the Lycée Henri IV (I think) and then his friend arrived and conversation continued and it was all very nice, and then Selene arrived and we headed out. I don’t even know his name, but we made a new friend for the evening.
Example 2: We headed outside to the place at Place de la Contrescarpe, to just hang out without paying, and immediately these two French guys – kids, really, they were 16 – approach us because we’re speaking English. They’ve just met this American guy – grew up in Paris, but turns out he lives in Santa Cruz – who’s our age, and we have some very strange conversations with all of them. Very bizarre, very absurd, but I assure you, the encounters this night were just a few among those of the many nights in Paris. Or days, even. Everywhere you go, anytime, people happily approach one another, whether it be simply to ask directions, or to make friends. It’s funny that way.
Scenario 2: Running into people. Seriously, how many people have you talked to who say, “You’ll never guess who I ran into in Paris”? Because I hear it all the time. I have for years. I even have my own stories. And the most recent one I heard was a girl I knew in elementary/middle school with whose family I was supposed to meet up with but then they couldn’t reach me, whatever, but she emailed me to apologize, and told me that she’d run into another girl from elementary school at Sacre Coeur on New Year’s Eve. Absolutely crazy. Yeah sure they were both in Paris, but do you have any idea how many people are in Paris, especially on New Year’s Eve?? And then there are my friends Matt and Kevin: last spring break, Matt was in Paris for one day, and Kevin was here with his family for 5, and they ran into each other by the Eiffel Tower. Life is crazy.
Scenario 3: Arranging to meet someone. Okay, less literally applicable to my life, but really, who doesn’t want to arrange to meet in Paris? It’s like a dream. And it reflects my current focus on Casablanca. “We’ll always have Paris.” Yes, they met here, and you can always meet up with someone in Paris, no matter the history, or anything. There is always Paris.
As for the rest of life, just been kind of bumming around Paris the last week or so. Hanging with those who’ve been around, exploring, walking, etc. All the new people arrived yesterday, and we “met” them today, or rather, were presented to them. It was just a few of us at their little welcome thingy. They seem scared of us, honestly. I confess to being a little afraid of them, but that’s just me and new people, and they all look the same! I’m sure it will get better as it goes. For now, I’m happy that I have friends already, because I’d hate to have to go through the whole thing again.
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Food. Stories. Recipes. Moments. Being alive. Freedom. “I tell about myself…and how I ate on a lasting hillside, or drank red wine in a room now blown to bits, and it happens without my willing it that I am telling too about the people with me then, and their other deeper needs for love and happiness.” –M.F.K. Fisher