Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Welcome to Chinatown/ Des Petites Conneries

At long, long last we have discovered the good Chinese food, and it's a mere 10 minute walk down the hill! Housemade dumplings and buns of many varieties, at least a couple dozen soups, squid sauteed with celery, baby eels with ginger and garlic... real goddamn Chinese food, not the sickly porc sauce caramel and floppy mystery nêms languishing in hundreds of traiteur windows all across the city. We had fresh, juicy little herb and pork potstickers, ma po tofu as mushy as it should be, and a pretty tasty dish of pork with scallions, pickled mustard greens and sticks of firm tofu. We were crammed between two anglophone expats and a Chinese couple; when we were leaving I realized two Italians were at the end of the table. It almost felt like we could have been back in San Francisco.

I was recently able to entertain a long-held and ridiculous fantasy. It would seem as though being at a decent level of profiency in French has made me into kind of an asshole at times... in Paris I rarely want other anglophones to know that I'm one of them. I don't know why this is, exactly. So when Giuseppe and I somehow ended up in the bar of a hostel at Jaurès two nights ago, it's only natural that my aversion to speaking English was all the more amplified by the almost exclusively American and British student clientele. Which, don't get me wrong, is the crowd to be expected in such a place. Cajoled into begging a cigarette for him, Beppe pointed me to a table nearby, who I in a moment discovered were indeed British. So I asked for the cigarette, to which the first guy tried valiantly to remember how to say "sorry I don't speak French." At this point I was faced with the decision to either be an asshole and allow to the charade to continue, or drop it, thereby dashing my fantasy. Although the couple glasses of wine in me would have surely led to the same decision, it was made for me when the girl at the table (being the quickest on the draw of the three) immediately realized what I wanted and excitedly interrupted her boyfriend with "cigarette! She wants a cigarette!" Let me point out to those who may not know: yes, cigarette is a French word. An unopened pack was produced with a flourish, almost triumphantly. Instead of opening it, I started to pack it, recalling hazily the ritual of being a regular smoker some time ago. I was met with slightly panicked immediate protest-- "No, no, is ok, is ok!" Further melodramatic gesturing bade me to abandon this activity, along with a very loud and well-anunciated apology from the girl, explaining "yes, I always do that too, and he gets annoyed." We shared a sympathizing glance. The boyfriend tried to redeem himself by offering me a light, the word for which came out as a strange cousin to "fuego," which is of course Spanish. "Feu?" I offered, the girl quickly chiming in again with "yes, 'feu' that's it! Feu!" Mission accomplished at last, I went back to our table with the guilty little cigarette.

Yes friends, I, too, can be a jerk with the worst of them. Aw, but come on, it's all in good fun isn't it?

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