Across the street, a baker glances through the window as he closes his shop for an afternoon siesta. I’m drinking a coffee in a little cafe across the street, hunched over my laptop, writing. A dog across the way stares at me, curiously. Can he tell I’m from out of town?
Last night was my first night in Paris. Derek and I went out exploring the city, looking for drinks and adventure. We found ourselves in a cool, artsy little bar down a side street in Montmarte. My hair was long and wild, I was wearing a thrifted blazer with a white linen shirt. Derek was wearing a threadbare Led Zeppelin shirt that dated back to the early 90’s. We did not fit in amongst the well groomed bourgeois-bohemians (bobo’s) of Montmartre.
Entering a little bistro that looked busy, I walked up to the first pretty girl I saw, and said with a smile on my face “Pardon, je crois que je n’ai pas deja me presenter”, which roughly translates to “Pardon, I don’t think I have introduced myself yet”. I put my hand lightly and reassuringly on her shoulder. In English, I’m the talkative guy, but in French I have to be the quiet, direct, laconic guy. It’s hard to be clever in a second language.
“My name is Chris, and this is my friend Derek. He doesn’t speak French” I said to her in French. She smiles.
“Meme chose” Derek said. This was the only phrase Derek knew in French, and it means “Same thing”. He would use it to order whatever I was eating at restaurants. At this time, I noticed a bunch of well groomed Parisian guys looking at us from across the bar. I couldn’t tell if they were sneering, or if they just looked like that all the time.
“My name is Amelie.” She pulled a friend from the crowd “And this is Celeste”.
“So, what is the special event tonight? Is it an art show or something?”
“Yes, we just finished our semester at l’Ecole des Beaux-Arts. We had an exam today, and now we’re celebrating. Where are you from, you speak French too well to be an American.”
“I am Canadian, from Montreal”
“Do all Canadians speak French like you?”
“Where I come from, most speak it much better”
At this point, Celeste had noticed Derek’s shirt. “I love Led Zeppelin!” she exclaimed.
“Meme chose”, said Derek with a smile, and put his arm around her.
“I like you girls, you seem like fun” I said to them. “Lets sit outside, it’s too hot in here”. The girls and I stepped outside, onto the street, while Derek ordered a bottle of wine from the bar. Derek came out a minute later with a wine bottle and some glasses.
“What wine did you get?” I asked him
“I don’t know, I just pointed at someone drinking wine and said “Meme chose”.”
The wine was cheap and bitter, but we sat on the curb of the narrow street outside the bar, the street curved up the side of the hill and a cool breeze came down from above refreshing us and cutting the heat of the evening. Somehow Celeste was on Derek’s lap and giggling, despite the fact that there was absolutely no way that they were even having a conversation. I was leaning back with my legs outstretched sitting next to Amelie, and we talked about the places we would like to visit if we were rich and carefree, the writers we should read.
I told her about Montreal and Canada, and how it’s really terribly cold in the winter but nobody cares because we’re all so used to it and the only people who complain are the new French immigrants who dress too fashionable for the weather and like to complain about everything anyways. And Vancouver, where when the wind blows southerly from the mountains the whole city smells like pine and cedar, and where I know a hidden beach just a short trip from downtown where you can bring your friends and build a campfire and spend the evening playing guitars and drinking and the cops will never bust you as long as you’re not too rowdy.
And then we kissed.
Eventually, me and Amelie and Derek and Celeste left the little bar and walked up the narrow street up the side of the mountain, our footsteps on the cobblestone streets echoing off the old stone buildings as the girls laughed and played hard to get. On the other side of the hill we sat at the top of a broad flight of stone stairs which headed back down to the city below.
At this moment, I was overcome with an overwhelming sense of joy and gratitude. Here I was, in the most beautiful city in the world, with a beautiful woman that I had just met that day, speaking a language that I hardly spoke a year ago, best friend at my side, and all of this for a middle class awkward kid from small town Canada.
What a difference a few years make.
You could say that this was a bit of luck, but I always have a plan. I started learning French a long time ago, and started taking it more seriously when I moved to Montreal last year. For a long time, it was essentially useless to me, an intellectual diversion I undertook to sharpen my mind, and later to adjust to the new city I was living in. But, as with all education, it has gradually become more and more useful to me. And while the trouble of learning French is temporary, the benefits from it will last my entire life.
Pickup was the same thing; something I did to amuse myself and for the obvious, intrinsic benefits, but I never took it too seriously. It was only when I was invited to the first Love Systems Superconference (then the Mystery Method), did I actually realize that I could earn a living teaching men what I had learned.
None of these were really part of my life plan, in fact I’ve done quite well for myself despite never really having much in the way of a life plan. Sometimes, when you’re seeking too hard, when you’re looking for something, you miss the things that are there right beneath your nose. But when you open your mind, stop striving so hard, and leave yourself open to experience, you wind up finding something you never expected.
That’s how I found myself there, in Paris, looking down onto the city.
“You know man, I would have never thought this pickup stuff would wind up sending me all the way to Paris, living a lifestyle like this” I said.
“Meme chose” Derek replied.
I posted some photos from our trip to europe earlier.