Saturday, February 05, 2005

Une soirée? Please. Let's have a party.

On my second day in Marseille I met Victor, one of my roommates. Probably the second thing he said to me was, "‹So, we're planning on having a little party this weekend, do you mind?›" Since Eitan had confided in me that he spent his first several weekends friendless, bored, and alone, I was ecstatic at the thought of a party. "Of course!" I blurted back, only to remember that I needed to say it in French. So then I put little angle braces around it like this: "‹Of course!›" and he understood.

The reason for the party was that one of Alessandro's (another roommate) co-workers at the Italian Chamber of Commerce in Marseille was leaving to return to Italy in a week or two, and needed a going-away fête. Friday evening I came home from work to find Alessandro busily baking small chickens and some kind of pasta dish, having already prepared something resembling tuna salad and several bowls full of olives. I, of course, was completely confused. Where I come from, I explained, serving food at a party is something we do so the cops don't shut us down. Upon learning that I do, indeed, like Italian food, Alessandro implored me to cook some American food sometime (I think he was just being polite). Since I honestly have no idea what that would entail and am pretty sure I couldn't cook it, I asked him what he had in mind. "‹Well, what do you eat for that big American holiday, the one with all the fireworks?›" "‹Oh, my friends and I just grill frozen hamburgers and drink beer.›" He was a little disappointed, and we awkwardly stopped talking about American food.

I was also slightly confused by the lack of hard alcohol in plastic bottles, and the complete lack of beer. Alessandro told me, "‹You should run to the store to buy something to drink for yourself like coke or beer, because otherwise you'll be stuck with wine!›" I tried to convince him that I actually like wine, but we're working through some kind of ridiculously stupid and entertaining communication medium, because his French isn't all that great either. He proceeded to remind me several times to run to the store before it closed, because I wouldn't like being stuck with only wine. I gave up, went to the store, bought some huge Alsacian bottle of beer and yet another bottle of wine, and got myself locked out of our building.

Oh, as an aside, wine is stupid cheap here. I mean, you can certainly spend 15 euros on a nice bottle of wine, but you can also do what I did and buy reputable-looking stuff for 3 euros. Granted, that's like $500 or something, but since everyone here gets paid almost as much in euros as we get paid in dollars, it's cheap for them. I mean, 3 euros is cheaper than an instant dinner. Stupid cheap.

Anyways, each of the four of us also comically brought home several baguettes, leading to plenty of jokes spoken way too quickly for me to understand, lots of laughter, and a baguette that's hard as a baseball bat sitting on my desk this morning. I guess no one wanted it. Everyone also brought a couple bottles of wine, though Alessandro provided Italian wine that came in re-used two-liter water bottles. It really couldn't have possibly been sketchier unless it was in a big red gas canister. Later during the evening, during a conversation about wine which I kind of half-followed, I got a couple laughs by pantomiming reading information about the vintage from the bottle of Evian. I'm pretty sure they either thought I was honestly that dumb, or were laughing at the American trying to make a joke in French.

I'd been a little unsure what to expect from this party, because throughout the week Victor, Alessandro, and Stéphane (the third roommate) had been exchanging laughs about inviting "beaucoup de filles!" or "lots of girls." A few too many laughs. And it would really have cemented my bid for a sitcom if, come Friday night, it had turned out to be some huge gay party. Awesome. However, evidently I was just missing some jokes, or girls are funny, because there were indeed "beaucoup de filles." In fact, not a single other guy showed up at our apartment; just a shitload of women. And when Alessandro went to bed around midnight with a sick stomach, that left Victor, Stéphane, and a thrillingly mute American to entertain "les filles." I fixed the problem by breaking out the camera just in time for the rum punch to show up. If there's one thing drunk people like, it's cameras. The results found their way onto

Having an American at a party is kind of like a neat little party trick that impels all sorts of amusing conversation. For example, the French girls wanted to know what Americans thought of said French girls, in general. Before I could stammer something pleasant and flattering, Stéphane interjected: "‹Everywhere, they asked me, 'Do the girls have huge tufts of hair under their arms?' Absolutely everywhere!›" The girls then pronounced that American girls only said things like that because they were all fat, and therefore jealous. Throughout this whole train wreck of a conversation, I was unable to contradict anyone, because I don't really know the right words to do that, and certainly can't do it without taking a couple of minutes to compose a speech in my head. Stéphane also told me about puppet shows they have in France about international politics (I know, go figure) where American is represented by George W. Bush in a cowboy hat and Sylvester Stallone, who represents the run-of-the-mill American. It really makes sense that they'd pick a guy who both 1) has a speech impediment and 2) is Rambo to portray Bush's closest friend, advisor, and confidante. Actually, I'm going to stop talking about politics before I even start.

Oh, and I woke up today at noon with an immense red-wine hangover. But if that's a French party, I suppose I can live with it.


Jeff said...

I go to tnight, all I see is pictures of IKEA. No drunken shenanigans. Someone is trying to rip me off.

Ian Spivey said...

Merde! My 'net connection bailed while uploading the party pics. I thought it was just sketchy, but it turns out one of my roommates is downloading season 3 of 24, or at least was all of last night. I'm fixing the dearth of pictures right now.

Brad said...

Two words, one hyphen and a mark of exclamation my friend:

Steve Austin said...

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