Friday, January 23, 2009

The Law Of Averages

I went to Paris this week hoping to accomplish two things: watch the Inauguration around some other Americans, and find a skirt.

If you remember, I've been on this skirtquest for at least a year. So I was skeptical that I'd be able to find anything, even with the sales on.

The Inauguration part seemed easy. There are lots of Americans in Paris, even in January, plus the French seemed to be interested in keeping tabs on the swearing in of President Obama.

But the idea of standing around some sports bar watching on a giant screen seemed wrong. I saw that they'd be showing it at the American Library so I went for that.

At the last minute a friend invited me over to watch on TV with him and his mother but by then I'd whipped myself into a rare patriotic frenzy and was hellbent on the library.

tour eiffel

I emerged from the train station, looked up and the Eiffel Tower caught me completely off guard. It was so beautiful silhoutted there at the end of a deserted street, I knew I'd made the right choice. Stopped off at a bakery and got a pear almond tart. I wolfed it down on the street so I wouldn't be distracted by hunger.

The library was very homey and a little shabby and I felt like I was back in Brooklyn or Nashville or Cleveland, not at one of the big fancy libraries but an outpost. Perfectly unglamorous. The place was pretty full, everyone focused on a screen in the corner of the main room. There were all kinds of people, a lot of them obviously stopping off on their way home from work. American, French, English. Aretha came on the screen in her hat. "You go girl," someone had to say. A little bit of whooping and cheering.


And then the screen went blank. Murmuring, rustling. "The wireless cut out!"

Not to worry. Everyone started shouting suggestions. "Find a TV!"

Precious minutes went by. A lot of people left in search of a bar. The librarian wheeled out a big old TV. Then they couldn't find anywhere to plug it in. Someone found an extension cord and stretched it across a bookshelf. But when the TV came on there was still no picture. "Where's the remote?"

let's see if this old thing works

Scuffling, more of an exodus, everyone was getting desperate by now. A camera crew came in, initially to film people watching the historic moment but now getting everyone's reaction to missing it.

I got distracted for a little while in the biography section. I was reading about Julia Child's first trip to Paris, back in 1950, when I heard shouts. "We've got a radio!"

So, we had wireless, the old-fashioned kind. Too bad the French translator pretty much obscured and banalized everything Obama said. I got to read it all in the Herald Tribune next day, on the train back home. A brand new skirt in the Bon Marché bag next to me.


the sandwich life said...

HA! I had to make do with radio as well (although without translation) as I think every computer on campus was trying to stream it and there's only so much bandwidth....I kind of liked hearing it though and saving the images for later....

softinthehead said...

But you won't forget the occasion will you haha!! BTW I seem to remember you recommending a favourite Paris hotel in a previous post, but couldn't find it, if you did, can you pop over and let me know. Much thanks :)

Rosie said...

It was a bit of a tearjerking moment watching it live on snowy british tv in Brittany.
The historic event was somewhat overshadowed by the fact that Mrs President was wearing the same green leather gloves that I got as a Christmas present. At last I am in tune with the Zeitgeist...
I hope your new skirt has similarly defined the moment...

Ted Barron said...

Vive le Wireless!

Non Je Ne Regrette Rien said...

were you reading "J Child's My Life In France?" I really enjoyed that book.

hope to hear a description of THE skirt...

amy said...

TSL, Funny how images can distract, as Ted said, Vive le Wireless! (but minus the overenthusiastic male translator)

ms. soft, I'm not sure which hotel it was - but the one I just went back to for the 2nd time I would recommend. It is Hotel Studia on Blvd St Germain - definitely unglamorous but cheap, clean and with some 50's charm still intact. I mean you can get a room for under 50 euros (but that's without shower, for that Henry Miller or George Orwell feeling..there is even a bidet) I think for just under 70 you can get with shower etc. But there is no TV. Don't bother with their 5 euro breakfast because one of the best bakeries in Paris, the Kayser, is right around the corner.

Another decent cheap one we've tried, and it is very popular so you really have to book ahead is Jeanne D'Arc in the Marais. lovely neighborhood and less frenetic but I think Studia could work better for being right in the middle of things.

Rosie I'll have to check out those gloves on youtube.

That's the title, thanks Kim. I must get a copy!

PS I promise a skirt description but prepare to be disappointed - it is the simplest one imaginable (which is probably why it was so hard to find, since they tend to overembellish clothes around here...)

kjfalk said...

So your attempt to watch the inauguration was also a bit of a clusterf***? It's like you were in the nation's capital! (You heard about the Purple Tunnel of Doom?)

We tried to watch at a cafe; had to flee for home due to workers jackhammering the sidewalk directly outside. Then the Onion came out with this:

Non Je Ne Regrette Rien said...

wow, talk about a blast from the past. My very first visit to France, to Paris, to le Marais ... I stayed at the Jeanne d'Arc. It is where I learned to flex my traveller's muscles and insist upon a room without peeling wallpaper AND the tub I had reserved. I was promptly moved and had a lovely stay. The proprietors were so typically French (or what I imagined in all my many years of longing for that trip to Paris) ... rather sarcastic and sardonic and clipped ... but ultimately just fine. It is a very hard spot to get into, as is the Hotel de Place des Vosges, very similar ... in fact with even more antiquity, less space but beaucoup de charme and low prices. Also in my favorite little neighborhood near the metro St. Paul.

but I digress! I started to comment yes! what is it with all of the embellishments on clothes that (at least I think) seem to target women over 30 ... lots of swooshes and geegaws and uneven hemlines and balloon-ing cuffs and hems and sparkly stuff? Lots of extra zippers and cords and confusing layers which are hard to don?

/rant. smile.

travelling, but not in love said...

Ha ha, at least you got your skirt! And I searched for a french TV channel that subtitled rather than spoke over the speech but no, no hay possible.

Why do they think we'd rather hear a dumbass translator making holy hash of the words rather than hear the voice itself?

amy said...

kj, I think after the shame and isolation of the last eight years we all needed a little bit of a pride orgy, for one day any way.

Yes Kim, it's those dipping hems and ruching etc that make me very depressed when I look at clothes around here...

oh the Place des Vosges is one of the loveliest spots in Paris,now I'll need to look into that hotel too.

tbnil it makes me wonder how many French films I've really seen, because now that I can understand the language better, this whole translation/subtitle business is exposed for being generally pretty slapdash. We watched Play Misty For Me dubbed in French with some friends the other night (the subtitles weren't working) and it was hilarious how not like Clint the voice sounded...even with him speaking French they should've done better!

Michele said...

Oh Amy... I have an idea, we can trade lives. That way you could've watched my working TV, complete with Obama's actual (non-translated words) and I could be breathing in Parisian air, looking up at the Eiffel Tower and buying a skirt at Bon Marche (I don't know how to make the accent mark).

Anyway, I think it's a great idea and a perfect trade. What do you think?

I'm a so serious it hurts.

Michele said...

Damn, I can't write one post without a typo. No I wasn't trying to type with an Italian accent when I wrote:
"I'm a so serious it hurts."

I just type badly.