Monday, November 16, 2015

Naked Night

I didn't have a very eventful weekend. I didn't go out, not even to the grocery store. Mostly I spent my time painting the house and napping. I also couldn't avoid watching the news accounts about the horrible murders in Paris. Barbaric events like those in Paris have happened in many other places. Beirut, just the day before. 43 killed, 239 injured. But I've never been to Beirut, and it was just another horror story of carnage in the Middle East to me. Paris, however, I have been to. It is a beautiful city full of history, and I thoroughly enjoyed our trip there. I was able to identify with the places where the murders were committed. Those restaurants would have been exactly the type of places where Mark and I would have eaten. They were very close to the hotel we had stayed in. Just like New York in 2001, where Mark and I had just been in the World Trade Center a couple of months before those murders, I could relate to what happened in Paris. So here is a reprint of a story I wrote six years ago about our trip to Paris. It isn't a romantic view of the city, just a factual one. In fact, it is because we were treated like I would expect to be treated in any big city that I fell in love with the place. I like city life.

While paging through the photo album of our trip to Paris a few years ago, I wondered what the hell is wrong with some Americans? Why do so many of us speak ill of the French? Why the name calling? Why the freedom fries? The truth is that we are a lot like the French. We should appreciate that both they and we are nationalistic, patriotic, and think our shit doesn't stink. In some other ways the French are different from us. For instance most Parisians speak two or more languages, with the second one usually being English. That, I think, is so that they can make fun of Americans like Mark and me in a language that we would understand. It did happen that they mocked us on more than one occasion. There were some Parisians, however, who were very nice and treated us well, but that might have been because we were paying to stay at their hotel. 
While we were in Paris we visited an area known as Les Halles. We should have known something was up when the cab driver refused to drop us off in front of the club we were going to. He stopped at a corner and pointed, telling us in French to walk "deux rues". After strolling past prostitutes, drug dealers, and all sorts of sketchy types, we finally found the little club we were looking for. We entered the front door and were stopped by the door man, who then pointed us toward what looked like a coat check room. The man at the coat check room told us that there would be a cover charge as he handed us two black, plastic garbage bags. I stood there with the bags in my hand and asked him, "What are these for?"  "Oh, gentlemen, tonight is naked night! Thee bags are for your clothes." Mark and I looked at each other, knowing what the answer would be, "No Thanks, not for us.", and I handed the bags back to him. Just to be sure though, I reached over and pulled the little black curtain aside, to see if maybe it might be interesting. What I saw has been permanently burned into my memory. There sat two, old, wrinkle-assed men, stark naked on bar stools, casually having a conversation, smoking cigarettes, and sipping their drinks. Bar stools, old man butts, and cigarettes. I grabbed Mark and ran.

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