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Dodging Dog Shit In The City of Light

Dodging Dog Shit In The City of Light

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The 15 Great Dog Pisses of Paris, Brett Whiteley.

 

Above: Brett Whiteley’s visualization of my perception of Paris.

 

Ladies, hurl your stilettos at me now.  I hated Paris.  It was a completely underwhelming experience.  Although I’ve never been ‘in love’ with Paris, I was still let down by the French capital.  Let me give you some reasons as to why you will think I’m mad:

 

1.  The streets are literally covered in dog shit:  before actually going to Paris, I remembered seeing a Sex And The City episode where Carrie Bradshaw was wandering through an idyllic Paris cityscape and stepped in some dog’s waste. I thought to myself, that’s seriously gross.  However, in my naivety, I thought that this was an exaggeration for a comedy/drama (dramedy? crama?). You know, let’s see a ridiculously over dressed New Yorker fumble about in France.  Streets in the Marais can’t be that disgusting, right? Hell yes they can!  They were filthy.  It was like wandering through a poo-filled Bosnian minefield.  You couldn’t appreciate the beautiful 19th Century architecture that Haussman inspired, because the ‘City of Light’ has devolved to the ‘City of Shit’.  Seriously, the entire time I was there I had my eyes glued to the ground.  I’ve been on bush walks where I spent less time watching my steps.  I paid something criminal like $400 for these bloody walking shoes that could withstand the conditions on the surface of Mars, so I’d be damned if they’d be covered in the droppings of some pampered French pooch.

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Above: Carrie Bradshaw washes away the ‘dog poop’ from her expensive shoes.  Unlike Carrie Bradshaw, I’ve never worn stilettos and an American businessman didn’t come to rescue me from a bad time in Paris.

 

2. The Metro can be frightening:  Ok, I’ll admit it. I live a pretty sedate life.  I don’t take many risks, except for supporting teams like the Roosters and the Boston Celtics.  Adventure holidays have no appeal.  Why would I want to pay thousands of dollars climb across some rickety rope bridge and carry my own backpack?  If I want adventure, I’ll play Final Fantasy 10 (for the 6th time {please, don’t judge me}).  Keeping these factors in mind, I found the Metro frightening.  Firstly, nobody paid for tickets.  Parisians just jumped the inactive turnstiles.  Look, I’m a fan of liberté, but that’s a joke.  Secondly, some of the buskers were really aggressive.  I tried to take a photo of an African Frenchmen who was butchering some 12-Bar and he took (serious) umbrage.  I offered him a Euro and then he started screaming at us in some form of Frenglish, “d’argent! Not enough! More!”.  I curtly replied with a phrase in French that I won’t repeat in writing (thank you, HSC French), as we left the carriage.  Ok, so that incident was kind of my fault.  Anyway, this kind of stuff didn’t happen in other European cities, such as beautiful, slightly banal Berlin.

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Above: A photo of a ‘busker’.  If you’re as insane as the man in the photo, you will give him money as way of appreciating the ‘music’ he has created.

 

3.  Paris NYE Mega Let-Down:

 

When my partner and I planned a winter trip through Western Europe, we figured that NYE in Paris would be the go.  We’d had a lovely Christmas in Kent with some family friends and Paris would be the perfect setting for one of the most momentous nights of the year.  Again, we were wrong.  In the evenings, in Paris, the Eiffel Tower is lit by hundreds (if not thousands) of flashing lights, every hour.  The first time you see those flashing lights, your heart skips a beat.  Even for a grump like me, I was struck by how beautiful that scene was against the dark cityscape below.  Logically, you’d think that this would be the place to be for the dawning of a new year (in this case it was 2011).  I envisaged fireworks coming from each leg of the famous tower, with more conventional fireworks glittering behind.  What did we get? Flashing lights.  The exact same flashing lights that we watched at the turn of the previous three hours while we were waiting on the bank of the Seine.  Fortunately, I wasn’t the only bystander that felt like he’d been jipped, young people with strong French accents out were crying out ‘F#ck you, Zarcozy!!’ Now that I come to think of it, why were they swearing at the former French President in English?

 

Behind us (and the thousand or so other people on the river bank) were contingent of Parisian Policemen that were wearing riot gear that made them look like blue and black Ninja Turtles.  I tried to take a photo of one of these continental super heroes, but I was given a typically French response; a roll of the super-soldier’s eyes, a graceful shake of his head, his gloved left hand held in stop/halt fashion while his right kept hold of his assault rifle.  Between the French Super Police and me was a mob of heavily inebriated Spaniards.  Like everyone else, these Spaniards were extremely underwhelmed with the ‘festivities’ and vented their frustration by jumping on some parked cars and screaming indiscriminate phrase in ‘Dranish’ (Spanish spoken by drunks).  The gendarmerie responded in an instinctive fashion, belting these drunk Western Europeans with night sticks.  Nothing brings in the ‘New Year’ like police brutality. Needless to say, we got out of there as quickly as we could.    Just when we thought we were out of the woods we were accosted by a French speaking Indian man who jumped out from the bushes and asked if we had cigarettes to share with him.  Once again, my HSC French came in handy with a quick ‘je ne fume pas’ (Translation: I don’t smoke) and the bizarre little man retreated to his shrubbery.

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Above:  Some policemen in Paris are trying to work out who most resembles Action Man: The Greatest Hero Of Them All.

 

So, these are just a few of the reasons why I didn’t like Paris.  Yeah, it’s beautiful, but it’s too chaotic for my liking.  Despite having written about a thousand words about how much I couldn’t stand the place, I can see myself going back there.  I’m the only man in my household – resistance against the allure of Paris is futile.   Everyone I meet disagrees with me when I talk about Paris.  They keep saying ‘Charlie, you’re an arsehole!’  They’re probably right.  Next time I go to Paris, I’m not taking the Metro, looking at the Eiffel Tower or walking the streets.  I’ll probably sit in an Australian themed bar on the Left Bank that is filled with lurid depictions of boxing kangaroos and images of Paul Hogan grinning at a room packed full of ex-pat drunks, and I’ll all do is whinge about how I cannot abide dirty footpaths.

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The Support Act

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Above:  In a previous life, I played a number of gigs in front of less people than those depicted here.

Being a father is kind of strange.  Assuming you’re not the primary carer, you’re heavily involved in the process of raising your kids, but you’re the support-act rather than the main attraction.  You follow orders (as best you can) and step into new realms of cleaning-up and cooking that your partner may have covered pre-BCE (Before Child Era).

The worst part is when the support act has to substitute for the headliner, while my partner needs to get out of the apartment.  My baby can sense my fear and inadequacy, because she always screams like a black metal frontman when I’m in charge.

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Above: Dani Filth, the frontman of Cradle Of Filth, the world’s most famous (or infamous) black metal band.  My daughter’s crying/screaming is a lot scarier than this guy.

I try to do what I can, offer a bottle (of milk), go for a walk, sing Tool covers to her (her favourite is H, sans curse words) but she knows that I’m not the boss.  Don’t get me wrong, our daughter is a really well behaved baby, but whenever I’ve got the baby in my hands, she’s a loud baby.  I suppose it’s one of those things that parents and kids have to go through or maybe my daughter can sense that I’m somewhat apprehensive, secretly dreading the wailing and the tears.

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Above: A photo of me trying to tackle the challenges of parenthood in the modern world.  Well, I guess beer isn’t that modern, but Baby Bjorn’s and Sennheiser  can’t be more than a hundred years old (I’m more than happy to accept ‘gifts’ from Baby Bjorn, but I would much prefer a new set of speakers from Sennheiser).

When I see my partner caring for our daughter, I’m filled with admiration.  She’s like Luke Skywalker when he turns off the targeting computer during the raid on the Death Star trench; she knows exactly what to do, as if she can channel ‘the Force’.  In comparison, I’m like that idiot in the Y-Wing who keeps repeating ‘Stay on target!’ in a strange, robotic fashion.  I have a vague idea as to what is going on, but I’m no Jedi.  Being the co-pilot, like Chewbacca to Han, I’m happy to pitch in where needed, growl occasionally, walk around with a crossbow that shoots lasers and be the best co-pilot/support act father I can be.

 

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Above: My partner, Carla (right) and myself.  Raising children, smuggling spice and trying to save the galaxy.

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Worth a trip ‘down south’.

TV is the new novel.  Rarely do people talk about their favourite novels.  I like to read, but I’d watch TV out of preference.  I often sit and have lunch with a friend from work and chat about our fave TV shows, most of which emanate from the creative wellsprings of HBO.  These conversations about the TV dramas that have caught our attention are something that I look forward to, yet another part of me acknowledges the fact that I should be reading (for pleasure) more.  I do get chances to read here and there, but I seem to fall into the trap of watching quality TV shows.  Speaking of quality, the writing in some of the better shows is so good that I can understand why more astute viewers are drifting away from the bookshelf.  There’s still trashy TV out there, plenty of it.  But these HBO et al gems seem to be providing a form of escapism that keeps your mind ticking over and leaving you salivating for the next episode to drop.  In between new episodes, I re-watched the True Detective ‘next episode’ trailers numerous times so that I could get some insight into the events that would unfold.

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Above:  Matthew McConaughey as the mesmerising Rust Cohle.

The focus of our lunchtime conversations is Nic Pizzolatto’s True Detective.  Unless you’ve been living under a rock or do not have access to the Internet (then, how are you reading this?  It must be a glitch in The Matrix!!), then you’ve probably heard something about the hottest show on TV.  No surprise, this show is another heavy hitter from the HBO stables and it is very much worth the journey (and time investment).

Admittedly, when I watched the trailers on Foxtel, I was skeptical.  When big-name stars are chucked into TV shows, I was suspect that the writing is poor and the celebrities are there to compensate.  Thankfully, I couldn’t have been more wrong.  The show is fantastic.  It’s engaging, dark and original.  I won’t give you an in-depth run-down of the series (which has recently finished its first season), but it’s definitely worth the eight-hour time investment.

The only criticism that has arisen in our TV-themed lunchtime chats is the slightly pretentious edge in the dialogue.  For a taste, see below:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7rfm3Iz92xA

To be honest, I actually love the dialogue in this show.  Yeah, it can get a bit cerebral, but it’s a refreshing change from the stock-standard cops and robbers shows that appear on multiple networks, every night.  In True Detective, there are plenty of interrogations, but they transcend the generic shouting matches in the interview room fare.  I like the fact that TV is becoming more of a medium where directors and writers are trying to stretch the boundaries as far they can.

In short, watch this show.  It will bore into the recesses of your sub-conscious, and I bet you’ll love it.  For example, I had some True Detective-themed nightmares after one of the episodes, but I don’t regret watching it for a second.