Paris - hash and wine

text: Nikita Gudaev

photos by Hamad al Htailah

I am overwhelmed as I enter the train. My high is fading; out of my dreamy haze, back to reality. Straight ahead, my life: Zurich. Behind me: A week, flowing downstream; misty from wine, hash, art.

I can not recall the last time I felt so relaxed. No euphoria, no drama, not even the robbing bothers me. I was just perfectly happy and stable. In Paris, watching the world roll past me, as I stuff myself with boudin, easy wine; making me hungry for more. The train to Paris is sparsely boarded. In the department next to me is a boy with a LV logo bag, LV logo shoes, satchel and cap. I decided not to talk with him. The ride is four hours long. Once the train stops on a bridge. They have technical difficulties. The conductor tells us, we shouldn’t try to go out; so I don’t. In Paris I take a Taxi to Faris’ apartment. I am very happy to see him. I hope my sincere smile was enough. I really missed him. Every time I see him, it’s easy. No time has passed, but we’re smarter and stronger. His AirBnb is an old garage, big enough for a Peugeot 205. We share a tiny yard with a Bangladeshi couple and smoking office clerks. Above us are families we’ll bother for the next few days. I am surprised to see two girls in front of his door. An Austrian called Lisa and Parisian Lou. Fun, interesting and sexy. I could fall in love with Lou; and maybe I did a little. They both slept at his place. First thing: smoke up and drink a beer.

Why is it, that people buy a tiger, and are surprised, when it tries to rip your head off? Because we are blinded by beauty. The stripes, it’s why the yankees win. The last two times I was in Paris, I got jumped. Thank you Paris. Some suggested, it is because I look muggable. I say, it’s because Faris wore a 40’000 Dollar watch. I wasn’t scared. I really just didn’t want to fight. The two robbers didn’t either. They didn’t have a knife. It was probably their first gig. Just two bored kids, trying to make a quick buck. The neighborhood was watching. We asked them for help: they didn’t. They just complained, told us to shut up. The police didn’t pick up the phone. We couldn’t

enter our home, so the robbers wouldn’t see our code for the door. Eventually an old couple came out and helped. This is Paris. The reality of the frenchman: Cowards. They are ignorant - in the worst way possible. Faris was furious. He was jumping around, throwing punches and kicking the air; ready for war. I was still the same, unbothered. Hard to tell who’s the psycho. An attempted robbery is a good story. Faris told it everybody. People listened, actually interested. Back in Zurich, I also tried to tell the story: It always missed. But they listened when brought up boudin noir.

I am hungry. I am in Paris. How hard can it be? Apparently, harder than you might think. Sunday, the day I arrived, nearly everything was closed. Impatiently I walked nearly an hour through the streets, until I had to resort to kebab. It was awful. For dinner we had to Pizza Hut. (We were scared. We couldn’t go out. Two robbers might wait outside). This „Pizza“ is still clogging up my left foot. Also during the week it is impossible to find a convenient take away. Even the French told me „just go to a supermarket“. Between Lunch time and dinner, French do not eat. Apparently they don’t snack. No wonder they’re so skinny. Luckily I found a greek who fed me delicious squid. Otherwise it was wonderful. Paris is the place to eat. Parisians care about food and wine. Cigarettes, sex, wine, food; in this order. Everybody smokes. It is a cliché. Paris is cliché. What once was Paris, is gone. A mirage. It, too, was swallowed by commerce. It is the peoples imagination that keeps the old Paris alive. The old smoking, drinking Paris: is a lie, the whole city. I think you call it romance. Otherwise you couldn’t have those lovely bistros. „La Cremerie“ in Saint Germain was once one of my best dinner experiences. Back then we were six people and everybody drank their own bottle. I was still smoking. It wasn’t really about the food. It was about the smoking breaks. This time it was about the food. Faris and I only ordered three glasses - mind the hash. We didn’t get stupidly drunk. Maybe we should’ve. The food wasn’t as good as I remembered. „Les Arlots“ serves classic French cuisine: sausage with mashed potatoes, veal head and natural wine. It is simple. It is good. It is what I desire.

The next step was to get simpler, and if you want simple, „Robert and Louis“ are here for you. Boudin is here for you. A 1.5 kg cote de beuf is here for you. And wine; she is here for you too. Eat it, drink it, be loved. For me, as a swissman, Paris is cheap. Hell, the whole world is cheap for me. Except London. F*ck London. Poor in Zurich: rich everywhere else. But as a student I have my limits. I am „Zurich-broke“. Even if you’re broke, there is lovely food waiting for you and „Bouillon“ is where to go. It is amazingly cheap and delicious. Even the wine. They must be selling stray cats and rats - delicious rats. But I wouldn’t recommend it for dinner. It’s too fast. Even if it is, I will come back. Paris: come for the food.

The difference between a Parisian woman and any other is: only Parisians can rock a pony. „I’d like to have a threesome with two guys I barely know who are friends,“ Lou tells Faris and me: two guys she just met who are friends; an intriguing conversation. We ignore her desire to fuck us and enter the church. I do not believe in god, but I do respect him - just in case. We sit down and try to pray. It cracks us up. We don’t want to be impolite, so we leave. The moment Lou steps through the door, the bong - Faris gave her as a present - falls out and breaks. It must be a coincidence. On the church steps we roll another J. This isn’t disrespectful. There is a reason hippies look the way they do. Actually, all people surrounding us were smoking weed. It is then: ok.

When Miles Davis returned from Paris, he fell into a depression and got hooked on dope. When I left Paris, I too was hit by this wave. The Paris blues. Miles Davis returned to America, from a city which praised him as a genius. No one called me a genius. And I’m no black man returning to America. I return from a place where I was loved, to a city, where people are used to me. More so, Zurich is not a city, but a town. People know each other and see each other and everybody wants to be liked. We have no „big brother“: we have our neighbors, family and friends. This exaggerated politeness kills the peoples spirit.

They do it for their own sake. It’s politeness with no empathy. But it’s a safe town. I didn’t get jumped - yet. We - Paris and I - had a wonderful time and now I have to leave. She’s not far but she won’t text, not call. It’s a loving memory; nothing more. At home I roll up and drink some wine. The next day again. On the forth day I’m back. Accepting reality as it is. Just to get shot down by a woman a week later. Back on the Blues.