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Wednesday, April 02, 2003

Art and Booze

(not necessarily in that order)

After getting to bed at four in the morning we got a fairly early start today with the main goal being the Pompidou Center. We had coffee at the trés chic Café Beaubourg. We sat inside as the sun wasn’t high enough yet to warm the terrace. The restrooms (downstairs as in all French cafes) are so modern and chic that I wasn’t quite sure I was peeing in the right spot or if I was defiling some sort of bas-relief sculpture. There weren’t any witnesses so I zipped up and got the hell out of there as quickly as possible.

Ten Euros gets you into all of the exhibits at the Pompidou. It’s worth that much just for the wonderful view of Paris you get when you take the outside escalators all the way up. The café on the top floor terrace is one of the loveliest spots you could imagine for a meal or a drink.

As with most art museums I feel a sort of sadness for my favorite pieces. It’s like seeing animals at the zoo that you want to set free. One hilarious canvas by Eric Fischi depicted one fat naked guy mowing the lawn with an electric mower as another fat naked guy sat on a blanket in front of a car parked on the grass. The title of this piece, Strange place to Park, cracked me up and gave me an overriding urge to become an art thief so I could steal this work and hang it up in a bowling alley or a gun club where it belongs.


Wine is more of a way of life than a beverage. This is no longer true just for France and the rest of Europe but increasingly so for the United States. Washington State makes wonderful wines and it is hard for me to imagine having a meal without a glass or two. As I was opening a bottle the other day I thought to myself, “Is there a more pleasing sound that is as universally recognized as the popping of a cork?” The sounds of orgasms vary wildly (A poor word choice or a good word choice?) from person to person. I love the sound of a wine bottle opening. I want to record that sound and use it as my morning alarm. I want a 21 cork-pop salute at my funeral.

I have heard that pleasant sound plenty of times on this trip. I go from café to café like Tarzan swinging through the forest from one vine to another. Back in the old days when I lived in Greece we used to call bar-hopping “hit and run.” We would play this game where we would have only one drink in a bar and then head to another. I guess I have been playing that game my whole life. I love to go from place to place and just sit and talk or watch people. This is especially true when I travel and doubly true in Paris.

We found a hip little place this evening on the Rue Bonne Nouvelle called De La Ville Café. I probably wouldn’t want to try the food but for a 3.50E beer or glass of wine De La Ville Café is a great spot. Sort of hip and funky and a welcome change from the typical Parisian café—not that I would ever complain about the typical Parisian café.

I made every effort to research restaurants so that I could eat in some of the better places in Paris but for the most part laziness, lack of time, and necessity have conspired against these well-made plans. I haven’t been at all disappointed by the places we have picked out at random. A crèpe with Nutella and banana at a street stand was enough to tame a pretty wicked, severely under-rested beast this morning on the way to the Pompidou. She even shared a couple bites with me.

Food is always an issue when you are traveling. Eating takes on an even greater importance in my life while I’m traveling than in my usual day-to-day, eat-all-day existence. There are choices to make, things to eat, and other things you just have to leave in the pastry shop window. I’m constantly seeing things that I’d love to eat but I just got through eating.

After having a big plate of pasta for lunch yesterday at Little Italy--a truly French place despite the name--in the Montorgueil Quartier, I had to have one of these olive bread things that are sort of like pretzels. I bought this three doors down from the restaurant in which I had just stuffed my big fat pie hole.

The same goes for drinking. I can’t seem to stop often enough for coffee or alcohol. The thing is, no matter how many pit stops I make for booze I can’t even begin to get a buzz. The pace is too slow in French cafes to get loaded. You order one beer and you may as well get your waiter’s address and send him a postcard when you get home because you probably won’t see him for some time. Right now I am sitting in this café on Rue Sebastopol because I needed some change. I ordered a coffee and turned on my computer because I can’t get the guy to actually take my Euro note for the check to get the coins I need for the metro. I guess I’ll just have to sit back and enjoy it. Imagine that!

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