Following in accordance with W. Somerset Maugham’s admonition that ”the writer cannot afford to wait for experience to come to him; he must go out in search of it,” I have lamentably fallen behind in recording my experiences here in Paris, and unfortunately for the willing reader, I have thus deprived him of perhaps the more interesting anecdotes. In fact, upon review, it seems that I have altogether neglected to mention any of the dear friends and characters I have met since arriving in France, and I hope to introduce them in a fitting manner forthwith.
I think that in attempting to tell the truth of my experiences, I’ve found it’s quite often easier to write about myself in a vacuum, where no one may perchance to recognize themselves in a sketch. This timidity on my part is unwarranted, however, as I aim to paint them accurately, and doing so requires only the most colorful and flattering strokes. My log lapses, then, may better be ascribed to the old Tallulah Bankhead saying that “it’s the good girls who keep diaries; the bad girls never have the time!” …though I don’t wish to suggest any deviant behavior, only sociability!
And so, if I am to keep my promise, here is a recent event that led to a new acquaintance, of a particularly Parisian sort:
Last Thursday evening I had plans to meet my friend Mathieu at Curio Parlor where he would be guest DJing in the bar below. Briefly, Curio Parlor is a speakeasy-style artisanal cocktail bar on the Left Bank, named for its cabinet of curiosities-style décor of taxidermy and eccentric relics. Inspired by the cocktail scene in New York, it is a rarity in Paris where most bars featuring a cocktail menu serve only Long Island Iced Teas, Cosmopolitans and Mojitos, the current rage. I actually met Mathieu there a couple months ago while sipping a speciality of the downstairs bar: a Japanese whisky drink called “The Last Word.”
As an aside, the circumstances of our meeting were thus: It was a Tuesday evening around 9 o’clock, which is early by most standards, but nearly noon by Paris nightlife timetables where people sometimes stay out ’til 5 or 6am. It was my first visit to Curio Parlor, and I was anxious to sample its wares and then return home by 10. I had worn a silk blouse and black wool skirt, and as it was particularly snowy that evening, I approached from the Boulevard Saint-Germain wearing a dark cape, which seemed to elicit admiration from the man keeping the door. (It is a speakeasy, afterall, though I’m not sure he is in the habit of turning anyone away). Entering through the velvet curtain that shrouded the door, I found the place mostly hushed and quickly descended the steep spiraling staircase to the bar below. I crossed the small space and, standing at the bar, asked the smartly-dressed bartender for something with whiskey, trusting his instincts. Happily, he spoke a bit of English and recommended a cocktail with Japanese whiskey, which turned out to be the bar’s trademark spirit. I felt immediately welcomed, and my feeling was reinforced when the barman declared that the bar was my “new, second home.” My neighbor at the bar, noticing my solitude and rather shocking display of foreign-ness, commented on my daring and chatted with me about all sorts of things I no longer remember, but which tended toward the biographical. I say I was ‘shockingly’ foreign because, besides the fact that I was speaking English, I would never be mistaken for a Parisienne since they are known never to go out alone and certainly not to drink whiskey. (Even less so than a typical American girl, I suppose). Also, strangely, I have found few who wear any detectable lipstick, and that night I happened to be wearing a dark shade of Black Cherry, to dramatic effect.
Anyway, as I finished my drink, which was rather good, my new old friend invited me to join him the next day at the grand opening of a wine bar that was designed by the famous architect Rem Koolhaas and an off-shoot of one of the best restaurants in Paris, Le Chateaubriand. As I left, he escorted me through the snow to the Metro station and bade me farewell. The next day I investigated the existence of this so-called new wine bar, and finding his story perfectly legitimate and rather intriguing, I met him at Le Dauphin with the young cognoscenti of Paris’ 11th arrondissement. He seemed to know everyone there, and introduced me to all his friends. And that is my friend Mathieu.
So, back at Curio Parlor this past Thursday, I found Mathieu upstairs and upon precariously descending the staircase together, he introduced me to his friend Francis, a sometime French actor, I believe, who was at the turntables. Francis was a very jovial and charming older man, and kissed my hand when he took it. Mathieu and I sat at a table and were soon joined by Mathieu’s friend Jean Michel and his hometown friend who was in Paris on business. (She was quite lovely and kind, but I cannot remember her name!)
Besides the décor and drink list, I’m particularly fond of the Curio Parlor and its sister establishment the Experimental Cocktail Club because they play some of my favorite music, with The Black Keys in particularly high rotation. Of last week, I remember distinctly some of Francis’ eclectic musical choices, which included ’60s French pop singer Françoise Hardy’s “Tous Les Garçons et Les Filles” and Bill Haley’s “Rock Around the Clock”. Later, when Mathieu stepped in for Francis and played a few tracks, he started with “Home” from Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros, an indie band from Los Angeles who I have seen live a few times. It seems that in the Curio Parlor I have found the Parisian chimera composed of my favorite Los Angeles haunts.
Getting to the point, my exciting personage of the evening! As soon as Jean Michel learned of my affinity for art, he became rather talkative and explained to me that he was a painter. He showed me some of his work on his iPhone and I was completely taken by his portraits. Now that I’ve come to it, I find I have little else to write, so I will just post a detail of one of his pieces and illuminate a great French talent! Visit his website for more.
…I might add that we later left Curio Parlor for Montana, where again Bill Haley sounded, and I joined the gathered fashionistas on the dance floor, only to discover to my dismay that my purse had been stolen, along with J-M’s leather jacket. No real harm done, though lesson learned: the well-heeled are sticky-fingered!
N.B. In case, at times, I have sounded a tad antique, chalk it up to my recent memoir readings of Victorian luminaries Edith Wharton and Isadora Duncan, both Americans who had their own Parisian adventures.
A few months back I had the pleasure of attending Expo West, and scouted out all the coolest, tastiest, healthiest foods. Rather than doing a long list of products and companies here , I am going to start sharing my discoveries in a sort of anecdotal form, with my reviews, and in some cases, giveaways. more