Thursday, May 19, 2011

Paris II.

145. The RER heading towards Paris center suddenly stops between two stations. An announcement is made, naturally, in French. There is, or rather, there was an abandoned package at the upcoming station, K. translates for all of us non-French speakers. Just to be on the safe side, without examining it, the police has blown up the package. Now we wait for them to clean up the exploded mess before the train can continue. We start talking about bombs, guns and threats. I ask about all the guards at Paris Nord who carry their rifles in ready position, patrolling the train station. Someone mentions France's heavy involvement in Libya as a possible reason for the extra cautiousness. I point out that the guards had already been there early January, before the Arab Spring really began. This discussion reminds K. of an encounter. 
"Once, in Israel," he tells us, "I was sitting on the bus. A beautiful girl got on, and then sat down in front of me. I was very happy, you know. As I thought to myself, yes!, she put down on her lap a gun, its barrel facing towards me. She didn't want my money or anything, and she was very casual about the gun, as if she was carrying a purse or maybe a book with her. It became a rather uncomfortable bus trip. I didn't think it would be a good idea to say hi..."

146. Answering, involuntarily, more questions for someone else's presentation than for my own. Those PhD years, with or without a formal defense at the end, were useful for something after all.

147."In Japan, it is 13," I commented, as part of our discussion on the legal age of consent for sexual activities. "And in Vietnam?" V. asked. "18, I guess?" "What about in Thailand? Four!" then, turning to his beautiful wife, V. complained, "Why don't you stop me from making these horrible jokes?" We all laughed, because the joke was horrible, and because after over an hour of laughing, everything seemed funny, politically correct or not. I thought of teasing him by pointing out, that at least the joke was better than his impromptu composition and performance of a New York-inspired rap song. But, the little musical act was actually good, just like their home-cooked dinner, which had started quite late, partially due to my awesome ability to estimate distance and time. 

"It probably takes half an hour," I had concluded, after superficially glancing at the Paris map, given to me by one of the Spanish fellow drinkers at Le Rive Gauche. The French guy was not convinced, but he did agree that it would be a nice walk along the Seine. By the time I entered the secret code to let myself into the apartment, it was an hour later. "Coke or water?" I chose water, and looking at the empty dining table, I wondered how hungry I would be by the end of the evening, after having only a pina colada as some sort of dinner.  But, then came the delicious salmon and leek, and, after lengthy conversations on why Carla Bruni chose to be pregnant just before the election (several conspiracy theories were speculated), and on DSK (even more conspiracy theories, as if we all had been all there in the hotel room), then also came the yummy, freshly-baked apple pie.

By the time dinner was finished, V. offered to drive me home because it might not be very safe to walk from the RER station to my hotel at that time. As we were driving, it seemed odd to me that, past midnight, Paris streets were still full of cars. "Where are they all going?" I asked V. "I don't know. They are Parisians, crazy and going out at all sorts of hours," replied the Parisian. More likely, these people were heading back home after a night out, when, if lucky, they were with people that made them laugh at nothing and everything.

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