Paris Nights (part 1)

17 September 2023

a story from a night in Paris in August 2023

Max said his friend had invited us out for dinner on Friday night. We were late, I can’t remember why now, maybe Max had come back late from another “date”. Either way, we went up to 11th Arrondissement, about a half hour late, to a wine bar restaurant type thing. I can’t remember the food much now, I’m sure there’s photos somewhere but the things I do remember was having the hardest time figuring out what to get. Menus were in French, which isn’t a problem with our modern digital translation technology, but we’re an indecisive bunch. Everyone was a little afraid to pick something bad, I put in a few suggestions, Max put in a few, Dayana ended up choosing the finals because, well, she knows French, because, well, she’s French. We started each with a glass of wine, which quickly progressed to a bottle. The food was good, but I enjoyed the company and alcohol much more.

After dinner, we slid out of the restaurant to find more drinks. Max found one, up the street, a cocktail place, his kinda vibe. So we rolled through, had another drink. The whole walk over, I was trying to finish duolingo. It was already 11:30pm and I wasn’t going to lose my streak. I wonder if they thought I was crazy, for sticking my phone up to my ear every few seconds while trying to keep a conversation going.

We talked over drinks more. About differences between our home countries, our experiences in Taiwan (we’d all lived in Taiwan before), and talking to strangers. I told my stories about talking to randoms at bars in Taipei and Tokyo so Dayana dared me to talk to someone that night. I was at least 4 drinks in, which is a lot for me, and there was an Asian guy with a blond girl at the next table so I started yelling at them “Excusez-moi!, Excusez-moi!, parlez-vous Anglais?” except “Anglais” came out more like “Ingles”. I only know a little Spanish, no French skills to speak of. I kept tripping up, like when I went to buy French cigarettes. The brand is called Gitanes so I kept saying “ji-tan-es” and the old Chinese guy behind the counter couldn’t understand me for shit, he kept saying “Marlboro?” until I pulled up the image on my phone and he was like “Ooooo Gitanes”.

Anyways, the Asian guy ended up being a FBJ - French born Japanese and the girl was from Sweden. They were a couple, and lived in London. They were just in Paris for the weekend and were at the bar with the guy’s coworkers. We talked about basic unmemorable things, like “where do you work?” and “where are you from?” and “how did you meet?”, nothing of much substance but that’s just what happens when you’re trying to have a group conversation with strangers that just aren’t as drunk as you are. Well, for that matter, Max and Dayana weren’t as drunk as I was either.

After asking for more bar reccs, of which we got none, we set off down the street to find another place to drink. On our search, I saw a sign I actually recognized: “Le Chat Noir”, “The Black Cat”. Just what I retained from my four days of French duolingo before giving up because the pronunciation was too hard. That place ended up being kinda weird so I took us to a divey looking place down the street. I like dive bars, Max and Dayana didn’t seem to like the vibe that much, but we just needed a place to have cheap drinks. We didn’t stay long but Dayana talked to a guy about his dog (which was under the table), proving that, indeed, she could talk to strangers at a bar.

I wanted to keep drinking, because I love drinking when I’m drunk. So we walked a little more down. There’s a ton of bars in 11th but a lot of them were closed. France likes to shut down in August because everyone goes on vacation for a month. Finally, we found a spot for our last drink. Wrapping up, I needed to hydrate so I staggered my way over to the bar. I asked for “trois eau” and upon hearing my barely decipherable accent, a Frenchman asked me where I was from.

”California, San Francisco” I said.

”Ahhhh welcome to Paris, you know in Paris we don’t drink water, we drink beer” before he took a long gulp out of his cup.

I laughed, he seemed drunker than me. I’ve heard French people aren’t too friendly with strangers, but the contrary is, everyone is friendly if they’re drunk enough.