Nearly Homeless On Christmas

photo, smoking accordion player, mister natural Having a smoke between natural pals.

Not a Mouse was Stirring

by Ric Erickson

Paris:– Tuesday, 25. December:–  Uncle Den–Den said he was out last night and everything was closed in Montparnasse, even Le Select. So he went home and they had some seasonal tidbits along with two bottles of wine and some vodka. That's all there was to it – a good time on Christmas Eve with everything closed.

We decided to try again tonight, and he suggested Le Select because it's only closed one day a year. He got a smoking doll from one of his daughters and he wanted to show it off. Meeting at Dimitri's seemed to fill this bill.

It's just around the corner in the famous rue Cels. I got past the door code and found Dimitri's door open so I just walked in. Dimitri, talking on the phone, was startled, hadn't heard. In the midst of preparing some sort of dinner, in the midst of his cluttered kitchen, books heaped on chairs.

photo, mickey, le select's cat, on guard Mickey guarding Le Select.

Then Uncle arrived and showed us the smoking doll, a fat accordion grinder with an extra violin and a pipe. In another box some charcoal cones. Unscrew the fat man and put the cone inside and light it, put it back together and smoke was already coming out his 'o' mouth. Just what everybody needs in time for cigarettes to be banned from all cafes and bars on January 1st.

Dimitri found a glass and poured some wine, found an Al Jolson record and put it on. Song about how greedy the bankers were, in, oh, about 1932. Not bad sounding for an old record. More smoke came out of the accordion player.

Then, with Dimitri saying he might see us later, we went off to Le Select. We went down Gaîté to Edgar and then down Delambre to Vavin, all part of Uncle's shortest way. Inside there weren't too many revelers. It was more like the well–off homeless plus a couple of family tables there for an abbreviated feast.

Our table was just inside from the terrace. A banquette for Uncle and a chair for me. The waiter was like they are there, business–like without being snooty. A drinking cafe like Le Select with a bar cat named Mickey isn't snooty.

photo, my steak, at le select Ed's Christmas dinner.

We both had some unknown cut of steak. Served with roasted chunks of potato, some sauce and a miniature tomato lounging on a lonely lettuce leaf. It didn't look much better than it sounded but it tasted fine. Appearances can be deceiving. Size doesn't count.

Uncle said he was abandoning the theatre, said he might take up movies. But actually he said he is writing more and better. It's taken him, he said, four years to get through some indirection but now he feels like it is going right. He said he was thinking of making a remake of The Connection, and mentioned the musicians that could be in it. Sonny and Markus. Older guys but still playing.

Starting with vodka, Uncle switched to wine. The waiter brought a bottle to the table and poured it there. We didn't have dessert or cafe, we didn't hurry and we didn't linger. A few more had come in while we were there. It was quiet – either there's no music or it wasn't turned on. Across the street La Coupole looked particularly gaudy and sparkly, but the boulevard itself was nearly empty of traffic.

When we left we retraced our route. Most of the sex shops on Gaîté were open and they reminded Uncle to tell me about The Green Door again. It started to rain, little cold drops. All the theatres were closed so there was nobody around. We were ready to part at Froidevaux and Maine when Uncle remembered his smoking man, in his saddlebag as he called it, left behind on the banquette in Le Select.

photo, la coupole, christmas night La Coupole's Christmas glory.

It was damp, cold and raining lightly but we both went back. At Edgar I suggested that we take my shortcut, straight down rue Montparnasse to the boulevard. He grumbled the whole way. In Le Select they had his bag right at the bar. He took out the smoking accordionist to show them why it was worth walking back. A guy on a bar stool said he'd seen a carved smoking Indian like it, but Uncle's was much finer.

Then Uncle treated me to a métro ride for the three stops up to Denfert and we walked up a dark and deserted Daguerre. The lights were on in the Bistro 48 and there were some folks inside, behind the steamed windows. Uncle said that Milly is serving food these days. For the partly homeless on Christmas, it's not a bad idea.

A bientôt à Paris
signature, regards, ric

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