September 9, 2012

I began my morning with a brioche chocolat et orange because I AM GOING TO EAT MY WAY THROUGH THIS CITY.

The people in the boulangerie were really nice. In fact, all of the people I have met in Paris are nice. I think French people get a bad rap for being snooty, when it’s just that rudeness breeds rudeness, no matter where in the world you are. So if you walk into a shop and just start speaking English to the shop-keeper — assuming that she speaks English and believing that she should speak English — well, then, that person might not be nice to you. But you started it.

I had tickets today for a play, so I walked from Marion’s to the Théâtre de Paris to see something called L’Etudiante et Monsieur Henri. Finding myself with extra time, I looked at my map to see what was nearby. Trinity Church was only a few blocks away, and I guessed it would be open to visitors and at least worth a look. And so I wandered down the street found the church steps, and sure enough, it was open and really lovely. You know, I’m a big fan of Martin Luther. In pre-Reformation churches, the congregation would have been completely visually separated from the high altar and all of the clergy by something called a “rood screen.” The people would sit behind this high barrier and would only be able to hear the service. They wouldn’t be able to understand it, though, as the whole thing (all three hours of it), would be delivered in Latin. The common people did not have any access to God — the clergy served as intermediaries for them. It was therefore natural for so many Catholics to leave the Catholic Church in droves and become Protestants when this became an option. Post-Reformation, the Catholic church majorly back-peddled — disassembling the rood screens, providing prayer in the local language, shortening services — but by that time, membership in the Catholic Church had dropped significantly. The Reformation gave religious access to the people, allowing it to become a personal affair, a direct conversation between the people and their higher power. Go Martin Luther. I’m still not a fan of organized religion, at least not for myself, but I am certainly in favor of existential equal rights.

So anyway, the play. It was great, though I didn’t understand a word of it. I was able to follow the story in a general sense, though… so much of our communication is readable through body language. And it was all a great exercise in delivery and timing — without the distraction of words, I was really able to focus on the anatomy of the comedy. I even laughed out loud a few times — though I didn’t know what was going on, the delivery and the timing were sometimes just so perfect. I found myself laughing along with the crowd sometimes, too, which made me think of that Radiolab episode about the social aspect of laughter.

After the show, I sat outside a coffee shop (l’Starbucks) to write in my notebook and take advantage of the wifi for a bit. And then I was off (after a quick crepe detour) to see the Musée de l’Érotisme, which chronicles the history of erotica from ancient times through today. And all I can say is: ooh la la.

I am now sitting at a brasserie and eating dinner as I write. It’s 10pm, but Europeans eat so much later than Americans. Every so often I look up and remember I AM IN FRANCE. SITTING AT A BRASSERIE. WRITING. IN FRANCE. And it’s awesome.

I am heading over to see the show at the Moulin Rouge in a bit. But now: café.

* * * * *

Yes, the show at the Moulin Rouge was touristy. Yes, they pack you in like a can of sardines. Yes, it was stupidly expensive. But the show was glitzy and glamorous, and was more-or-less historical (many of the acts were similar to acts people would have seen in the early 1900s). The interior of the theatre is perfect — lush velvets everywhere, striped fabric billowing on the ceilings, cramped, little lights on every table — I really did feel like I had stepped back in time. And the show was fun and at times amazing (like when the girl jumped into the giant tank of water to swim with snakes). Over-the-top and cheesy, but still fun. And, wow, I saw a lot of boobies.

Tomorrow: the Opera House and the Louvre!

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