I don’t know where to begin except to say it is such a shame I don’t have the time to write and record and relive myself one day all that has happened already since I have been here the way I was able to last summer here in Paris. There Just Isn’t the Time. Pas de tout pas de tout pas de tout. But. I guess it’s like they say about people who are always talking about sex : if they were getting it, they wouldn’t be talking about it. I had so much free time last summer and was able to chronicle every beautiful but small detail. This summer there is So Much More to write about but it just isn’t going to happen in a written retell.
Of course when I return I won’t shut up about Every Small Detail. But. Still. Will I remember all this when I am ninety if I don’t write it down?
I landed July first at seven-thirty in the morning and reported to work Four Short Hours later for my first shift as a fill-in waitress for the regular waiter, Didier, who is on vacation for the first three weeks of July, at La Chope d’Enghien. An eight hour shift after a trans-continental flight. “Only you, Christina,” my friends said. And they are right. And I love it!
La Chope is a small, neighbourhood restaurant where all the local business people come to lunch. They order right away, they don’t make changes to the menu, they say merci always and smile, and they are very sweet and kind to the Canadian waitress who has a big smile but a gap in culture that makes her say “Pardon?” when they order a panaché or un Monaco or un Diablo and has no idea what they are talking about.
The reason I know about this tout à fait resto français is beacause last summer I lived directly across from the street from it during the seven weeks I was here in beautiful Paris. I would come early in the mornings and sit and write for hours over a noisette or two and as many Gauloises Blondes or more. It was calm and peaceful with just a bit of va et vient. So when I returned for two weeks over winter, I came by and asked if they would give me a job; not at all for the money but for the wonderfully unique experience and opportunity to work in a restaurant in Paris and be able to speak French all day. To my surprise, the co-owner, Christophe, simply replied, “Oui.”
And so here I am.
Trial by fire, as They say. I was afraid that my level of French would not suffice but it did easily. Here’s what I was NOT prepared for. I had come in the mornings when it wasn’t busy. At lunch? IT’S BUSY. And all the tables on the terrasse? No numbers! You just write “T” for terrasse and hope for the best.
After only a week and a half of working with the two owners: Christophe, who hired me, and Anthony, the other owner; Gérard le chef; Slah, the sous-chef; and the very memorable clientele whose regularities and quirks I have already come to know, cater to, and find to be movie-like endearing; I am smitten.
And without meaning to be non-self-aware or unduly cocky, I think they are with me, too.
In fact, they have already asked me to come back for two more weeks in August to fill in as bartender while Anthony goes on vacation. Like a homemade dinner you serve, the very best compliment is when a guest asks for more.
And so they have.
And I am so very, very happy that they are happy with me. Nothing else matters for me at this point in time but to not disappoint these two nice French men who have taken a big chance on hiring a Canadian girl who speaks assez bien Français and whom says she has a lot of experience waitressing (and does!) and with no other credentials have put their trust in me.
I don’t run, I don’t go out at night. I prepare, I work, I recover. C’est tout.
I hadn’t even come up here to Montmarte, to the piano bar where I came toute seule last winter, called La Pétaudière, where the pianist played Gymnopaedie I by Erik Satie and I died.
Day ten, or, night ten, rather, I have finally come. I looked and I looked but I couldn’t find the restaurant. I thought it had been renovated, changed, nouvelle direction, peut-être? But I held out in my platform shoes and mangled leg (will explain later), up and down the cobblestone HILLS of Montmarte, and finally, I found it.
And finally I have found a small chance to write.
Shareen sent me a Facebook message: When are you going to write a blog already!?!? Just the kick in the pants I needed. So nice to write in English, too; to be able to be fleshy and detailed and accurate and flowing. I swear, I truly wonder what impression I give in my broken French to les clients et à tous chez La Chope. Oh well. I’m there to learn, not to impress.
So here I am at La Pétaudière. It’s the same pianist. As well, I have ordered the same dish, pas très Français de tout of les pâtes aux fruits de mer, and same demi de vin rouge as last time I was here. And. My God. He has just started playing Gymnopaedie I! I was going to request it, but…I wonder if he will remember me from last winter when I came here (he did!) with this same shitty but beloved little laptop and I wrote and he played this same, subtly soul-crushing song.
He is playing it up-tempo and he has just made it a mix with The Doors’ C’mon Baby Light My Fire. I mean, I get it. The whole Jim Morrison thing and the Cimetière du Père-Lachaise thing. But. Ugh. Well.
Well it’s all good, I suppose, because guess what? It’s time to go. The restaurant is closing and this post is becoming verbose, even though I haven’t even yet mentioned the motorcycle accident I was in on Monday (my leg is disgusting but the paramedics were cute!) or being arrested on Tuesday (tout est possible!) or the morning I was running along La Seine and realized I had grabbed the wrong keys and was locked out of my little apartment in the fifth tout près de la Notre Dame and had to call le serrurier (150 € later…) or…
But it will all have to be told another time, I suppose.
À toute à l’heure, my pretties.