Block Party Season

photo, block party, repas du quartier, place michel audiard The block party on Friday evening.

More Paris Freebies

by Ric Erickson

Paris:– Friday, 6. June:–  Uncle and I had our treff in front of his place to go to the neighborhood dinner this evening. The last treff we had, two days ago, was at the corner of the avenue, a third of a block away, and we followed a very roundabout path to the Godet d'Or café – which is where the blockparty was supposed to be. I don't mind wandering around, but when I know where we are going I would just as soon not spend time being lost, which is Uncle's default method.

Outside his door the first thing he said was that Dimitri had gone to the renovated café Rendez Vous and was incensed that they charged him four euros for a wine. He said the whole place was changed, from being a neighborhood brasserie into a cocktail theme bar for the iPod folks. So the first thing we did was to switch off–course to check it out.

On the way we passed the local cinema. A promoter was going in there and it and the hotel next door were to be re–urbanized. A bunch of Denfert locals protested the disappearance of our little art house, built in 1930, and the arrondissement's mayor stepped in and convinced the Hôtel de Ville to save it. This was not like the costly and complicated salvation of the Belière jazz club that ruined it.

photo, terrace of new cafe rendez vous The all new café Rendez–Vous.

A few steps further on the Rendez Vous seemed to have psychedelic colors. New awnings, tables and chairs outside, white and red, cocktails! A métro stop corner café with cocktails? Inside, dark, lots of tables with sofa–like seating, the bar against a wall and one of the old guys from the former Rendez Vous was behind it. Making cocktails? A new hostess – wearing jeans! – to seat us. We passed on it. Out the avenue door and the outside menu told us, salads and cheese things.

No more tartare, no more steak–frites, no more garlic. The Rendez Vous was a full–time decent–enough last–resort place to eat. Where will Nigel now have his arrival hamburger with a fried egg on top? The Indiana across the avenue is the same type of place, in keeping with the McDo's a few doors away. There's still a good brasserie down at Alésia though, next to a multi cinema. A bit further to walk is no problem unless Uncle is leading the way.

In June it is a custom to have block parties in France because of the approaching holidays. Maybe folks think there won't be any food on vacation. These fêtes are catered by the neighbors and often have home–made dishes and usually some beer and wine to drink, a maybe a bit of music. Everybody is supposed to bring something useful. Also in June, on the Fridays of the Repas du Quartier, rain often threatens. Same thing for the Fête de la Musique on June 21. Plus, on Friday, the temperature was a bit fresh at 17 degrees.

photo, accordionist, patrick quichaud Patrick Quichaud from Paris Accordéon.

We crossed the avenue to the side where we are not, strictly speaking, neighbors. We were also on the direct route so it wasn't long before we heard music and rounding a corner spied a bunch of folks standing in the middle of the small, round, place Michel Audiard, gathered around some trestle tables loaded with bread, bottles and a healthy–looking ham.

This is a place like a mini Etoile with a low–rise hump of cobbles in the center. It's a rule in France that cars go around these things counter–clockwise. Some drivers, seeing all the folks, simply thought to hell with it and skipped sharp to the left – especially the pizza scooter jockeys going back to the Pizza Hut. There is another a rule in France that says you shouldn't run over people drinking in the street.

I went into the Godet d'Or and got my orange juice, making a downpayment on using the toilet later. Music outside came from Paris Accordéon squeeze artist Patrick Quichaud. Between the quiche and the music you could have almost thought that you were alive and well in a postcard with a darkening gray sky overhead.

Standing off to one side there was a citizen who had apparently been celebrating in advance. For talking to himself, he was braced by five armed flics but nothing untoward happened until a bun wagon turned left illegally and picked him up. He must have been the token drunk because the cops disappeared along with him.

photo, three guitars and one bongo The hit of the evening, les guitaristas.

A fellow with an apple tarte was sharing it out and I decided to have some when he told me he made it himself. Some of the folks danced. The rest ate and drank, got slices of ham and pieces of pie, introduced each other, smoked some cigarettes, juggled plastic plates, cups, forks. Situation normal in France. Even Dimitri showed up, hungry after a working hard day.

I checked out the four spokes leading into the round place and when I returned there were four young boys sitting in the center, three playing with guitars and one with a small bongo. They weren't shy and they were good enough to pay to hear. They must have had something to do with the café because the owner plays guitar too, but Uncle said no.

He was comfortably installed, giving folks his take on the geopolitical situation in America. This, in a neighborhood that was unlikely to have voted for Sarkozy. You know, the same kind of place that buys a cinema away from an evil property promoter so we can all see movies in VO for half price. Even more so because there is less of the bourgeois housing around in this neighborhood, beside our own neighborhood with all its sushi dives.

photo, block party, repas du quartier, place michel audiard The place Michel Audiard on Friday.

I had to go and leave Uncle there. It was getting late and cooler and he can sit around all night outside without help. Later when he gives me the update, I bet he'll tell me that he finished off in an apartment with Miles Davis on the hifi, talking to a lady doctor of economics from the Ukraine. That's what usually happens to him. Or it'll have been an Irish fandango dancer on her way to Tripoli. I'm never there for the good stuff.

Except on Sunday. He said I should go over to his place and meet some people from Detroit. One of them will be the original Gypsy from the Broadway production. I know, I know, it was a thousand years ago. That's what it is like here – everything we love is from the past. The distant, far distant, richer past.

A bientôt à Paris
signature, regards, ric

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