Navigating the Night


The 10th and 11th have come back to life… Now how do you find that party? (And more importantly, how do you get back out?)

Step 1: Invitation to Bon Voyage party from one of my favorite people, can’t miss it!

Step 2: Reread invitation…

          Address: 1 passage S….6th floor right, no elevator, door code 1, door code 2…

          Time: 8 pm

          What to bring: “Anything to mix Marguaritas ! (Cointreau, tequilla, pulco) or   anything else you want to get your fun on 😉 +  Any soul food !”

Step 3: Look up itinerary and map on Paris metro website: Line 5 direct to Metro Oberkampf!!!! Only 6 stations, could walk, if it’s not pouring…Then 2 blocks south, 2 blocks east, first left…

Step 4: But seriously, what to bring? I love margaritas, but don’t want to get blasted (I mean tipsy) and then have to get home alone on the Metro…. And what about food? Chips, baguette, quiche, pâté? Hard to transport… Cupcakes?  A lot of work and hard to transport… What do I like people to bring to my parties? Imagine I’m a guest at my own party… Suddenly riddled with guilt that I ask people to bring a bottle and something for the buffet… thinking about the creative gourmet food people schlep to my place….

Step 5: Mind is a blank… Decide to brainstorm with my male counterpart (whom I’m not inviting to the party because he doesn’t know anyone there and anyway I want to go by myself). My hero! Not only does he offer extra bottle of Mum he’s storing in the cellar, but he brings it upstairs and puts it in the fridge to chill! And then, on a shopping trip for something else, he picks up 2 bags of Tyrell’s gourmet veggie chips, lightly salted… for a party I haven’t invited him to… (Truly, I am unworthy!)…

Step 6: Don’t wan’t to get there early, but don’t want to arrive when everyone is blasted (I don’t mean tipsy)…

Step 7: ETD 8:00 pm, will arrive fashionably late-ish at 8:30. Pack Mum (bottle not person) in cooler pack, stow in back pack, put chips in separate bag so will not be reduced to powder in transit…

Step 8: Pouring, decide not to walk…Head to Metro, get on train, get off at Oberkampf, first time back since November. Cafés pretty full, no one sitting outside because of wet weather, but everywhere, clusters of 20-30 somethings on the sidewalk, talking, drinking, smoking, toasting. Very festive. Signs and streetlights reflecting on the shiny pavement. Glad to be here…2 blocks south, 2 blocks east, looking for Passage S. DSC02578Small blue sign on left side of street above covered archway. Cross, peer at sign, yes! Passage S! Great!

Step 9: Now… find Number 1… Should be one of first buildings because I am walking north on right bank and as everyone knows, Paris Street Numbers Are Even On One Side and Odd on the Other, Increasing As You Move Away From The Seine …

Step 10: No doors on right…Look at first building on left … What?

86 BIS? 

(Twilight Zone theme starts playing in my head… Did I read the map wrong? Is this street the exception that makes the rule about street numbers?  Am I at the wrong end? Plus, it’s a recent building, there’s definitely an elevator, can’t be the right building…)

Step 11: Venture a little farther? Next building on left looks like a restaurant converted into a residence? Iron grating around a small yard obscured with bamboo fencing… Hmmmm…..Padlock on gate… but it is NUMBER 1. But no entrance anywhere!  😦DSC02576

Step 12: Walk a little farther… Yes, next building with Porte Cochère (coach door) is ALSO NUMBER 1…DSC02577Juggle umbrella and bags, find phone, take pix for evidence, this is so bizarre…But, vintage building, probably no elevator, might be the place, key pad by door, try code 1, YES! We are in! Tunnel towards courtyard, another door on right, key pad, try code 2… YES! There are stairs! Here we go, up 6 flights (7 US-style)… As promised, party going on at end of hall on 6th floor (7th US-style). Knock, door opens, go in…

Step 13: THE PARTY. Warm welcome, laughs, hugs, champagne, congratulations, conversations…Connecting with my friend and meeting her friends. Lovely. Good thing I came as I am, we’re so packed together, can’t see anything but faces. My big  Mexican silver “guitar” earrings are perfect ice breaker. Time flies because I’m having fun. Yelled conversations, deafening music, lots of champagne, a few chips, getting up early tomorrow, maybe time to mosey. Goodbyes, exchanges of cell phone numbers and emails, find coat, find door, go out…

Step 14: Start down 6 flights (7 US-style)… LIGHT GOES OUT BETWEEN FLOORS!!! Almost as much fun as being in “Turkish” toilet with no light (see post from December)… In that situation, you risk INCURABLE SUPER GERMS AND RUINED SHOES… In this one you risk BROKEN NECK. Grab bannister and decide whether to go up or down to closest landing.

Step 15: Somewhere there on the wall should be a tiny flickering bulb in semi-transparent plastic switch. FIND. PRESS. DSC02574(Speck at bottom left of picture!) This is a French institution called “LA MINUTERIE” = the light timer.(Find phone, take photo!)

Step 16: Lights come back on! Life saved! Am on 3rd floor (4th US-style)! Now have a few precious minutes before pitch blackness descends on treacherous spiral staircase. Champagne not helpful. Tequila would hqve been catastrophic. Didn’t have this problem on way up. Maybe more people on stairs then?

Step 17: Safely back on ground floor. Ha ha! Another French institution: Door/light switch! At least  this one is clearly marked and very close to exit. (Find phone, take photo to warn US friends and laugh with expat friends !)DSC02575

Step whatever: Press “door” switch at bottom of stairs. Inside door open! Press “door” switch in tunnel near “coach door.” Street door open!

Step whatever continued: First right, 2 blocks west, 2 blocks north. Rain, but clusters of people, milling, having fun. Signs and street lights reflecting on shiny pavement. Metro Oberkampf! The neighborhood is alive, well, and partying… I’m happy all the way home…

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