Sunday, 16 March 2008

Contradictions and conspiracies

Didn’t make it to rue Cler this rainy Sunday, got held up at the ACP working the Palm Sunday crowd, and checking out my Meetic contact actually attending church!!! How did that happen? I suspect a conspiracy.

The date with George on Thursday night at Tribeca was, after a nervous start, really fun. Partially because it was with someone from my g-g-generation for a change, no need to feel embarrassed referring to culture from the 70s. Partially because George is actually quite attractive, intelligent, friendly, fun, curious, lively, and HAS A MOTORCYCLE.

So here’s the way it works. You make a date for an early drink so that if it doesn’t work out you excuse yourself and escape. If it is worth spending more time, you agree to dine together. I was very pleased when George suggested we stay for dinner at Tribeca, and at 22h30, I wondered aloud, “So what happens next?” He laughed and said Meetic doesn’t provide an etiquette guide, and he didn’t know either since the other two dates he’d been on didn’t have a what-next (2 points for my side!). So we improvised and I climbed on to his motorcycle for a spin through the city lights, YES, can it get any better?

It did. Saturday night we feted the Ides of March and dined at the Italian restaurant on rue Grenelle, chatting until we got kicked out at closing time. And the next morning there he was in church. The thing is, Meetic is generally known as the Meet Market, as in everyone goes there for casual bonking. Yet my female co-explorer in this Internet romance scene has received a sincere email from someone wanting to shoot up some serious religion together.

You know what I think? It's a conspiracy of Meetic missionaries. Fundamentalist males are delving into the devil’s shopping cart and sneaking away a few souls to personally deliver to the promised land – not the PL the women are expecting. In a way it would be like a fisherman dropping a hook into a pet shop aquarium, gotcha!

Well, if it is a plot, I like the bait, will let the contradictions work themselves out while my new friend and I plan a two-wheel getaway. Vroom.

Sunday, 9 March 2008

Voting for adventure

Voting day and all is calm on rue Cler – doesn’t help that it is grey and rainy. So I broke habit this morning and ordered a bright orange juice and settled down to wait for colleague Sue’s arrival.

Happy to see that both the young bookstore guy and the news vendor are back in their usual places, she’s crying “N’oubliez pas votre journal, l’Express et là!” Two infants in strollers pull up to a front-row table, and the itinerant Peruvian pipes band shows up, except with only one flautiste and a CD, takes him a bit of screeching and scratching to get warmed up before the harmonies turn breathy and smooth. Tough way to make a living.

Next to me a young guy in a beret offers Laura the waitress a packet of photos as he leaves. She shows them to me, turns out he is an adventure photographer, they are all breathtaking mountain shots – Everest, Ararat, Kilimanjaro, Mont Blanc – from the “International Year of Mountains”, 2002. Never thought much about how that kind of remote wilderness shot gets taken, to need both artistic and athletic skills. Oh, and courage.

Meanwhile, it’s a bit nervous thinking about calling a Meetic contact this afternoon – note of advice for singles: is aridesque and Meetic thankfully doesn’t seem to be the sex-driven site it’s known for, although it’s early days yet. But of the three people I’ve exchanged emails with, two are exceptionally interesting and sympa guys, not a bad ratio!

So with a nod to those who live a little on the edge, wherever that personal edge may be, I buy some luminous yellow jonquils from the young guy standing out in the rain next to Tribeca, and come home with both colour and a bit of borrowed courage, to make that phone call. A suivre...

Sunday, 2 March 2008

Seasonal signals

Damp, breezy, fresh, the first Sunday in March feels like winter is reluctantly ceding its seasonal lodgings in the city. Rue Cler is empty-ish partially because of the also-cyclical vacances scolaires, so I easily slip into a ringside seat on Tribeca’s terrace and watch while volunteers hand out more of the same political pamphlets and argue about the municipal elections next week. As changing temperatures have made me unusually lethargic, I thought of simply writing about the spectacle of online dating. My tentative steps on Meetic and the last few days have been curious, giggly, a mix of feeling humble and nervous, while technology isolates us all in a weird voyeurism…

Instead, I get distracted when the Tribeca blackboard-menu topples BOOMing onto the street, a pigeon flies out from somewhere under the canvas overhang, a lanky resident of the market street at rue Daguerre walks past, an ACP-er shows up to chat about the fitness workshop last week. Meanwhile, a couple of French women greet me as they sit down at the neighbouring table and a friendly dad orders hot chocolates for his two young boys seated next to them.

Murmurs are overheard that Rachida Dati will also be making an appearance today, as signs are placed across the street, “La greffe DATI ne prend pas dans le 7ème” – grafting Dati onto the 7th arrondissement won’t take. Brochures add the phrase “le 7ème LIBRE”, whose pitch seems a bit over-stated coming as it does while I’ve been reading up on the Roman republic and Julius Caesar’s assassination.

Ah, and down the street I can see a small crowd in black, must be the justice minister herself, as a couple of unmistakeable security guards have posted themselves in front of the Café du Mars next door. Suddenly there is loud chanting, “Panafieu au boulot, un toit pour les séropos” and “Panafieu – elle s’en fou!” and a handful of young guys in political t-shirts, notably “ActUp”, push by, almost too quickly to read their signs calling for AIDS funding.

As Dati’s group sloooowly approaches and the street gets increasingly crowded, a shrill trilling of bicycle bells announces another political campaign as five velibs manage to roll through, each attached to a gaggle of bright pink balloons that broadcast “Laurence Girard and Bertrand Delanoë”.

And now amid cameras flashing and popping arrives the glamorous Rachida Dati and her entourage, again evoking images of Roman politicians and their obligatory following of clients. Tribeca’s owner comes out to greet her, and – it can’t be accidental! - she spots the two adorable boys at the next table and hey-presto it’s an instant photo op. She holds back from actually kissing them, but they delightedly get hugs as the customers all smile, and the press eats it up. Then she drifts inside, a blonde also holding a bouquet follows, first greeting my neighbour, shaking hands with us all. I shake back, everything quiets down as the journalists hover and wait for her exit, and I find out that I’ve just shaken the hand of Francoise de Panafieu.