A month ago, I went to a little dive bar near my apartment in Paris with my friend Amy. We were just choosing that night’s restaurant using the “wandering around” method. It didn’t look like much, but the music duo sounded charming, so we decided to go in for dinner. Our instincts were good. The music was great, thanks to original compositions of Regis Vogelene. (I still cannot believe he’s not a huge star here; what is wrong with you, Parisians?) The food, though, was not stellar by any means.
I started following Regis on Facebook at his invitation, and he posted that he would be back at the same place last night. I’d love to hear him again before I leave Paris, and it’s nearby, so I decide to drop in for a drink. No more dinners there. The owner is very nice and rather handsome, but he’s not the best cook. He also thinks his English is good, but it’s unintelligible. In fact, last time, he told me to stop trying to speak French because he spoke English (as if my beginner French were offending him, almost!). But my French wound up being far better than his English.
This time, sans Amy, I get there around 9pm (21H in France), which I figure will be about right for the second set. Just like last time, the place isn’t full. Not really sure how he stays in business. Other than the owner, there are only two guys in there, a burly Slav guy with a big mustache and his nearly mute sidekick. And they are old friends of the owner. Even Regis is not there. Evidently he got there at 8pm, saw nobody was there, so he split. At least as best I can tell from the owner’s awesome English. (Not that I expect him to speak English, it’s just that he bragged about it previously.) At this point, I can’t tell if Regis is on a break or running late or what. I decide to leave, BUT …
The owner and the other guys beg me so much to stay that I finally relent. Like, literally, they beg me boisterously for about 15 minutes. The sweaty drunk Yugoslav guy at the bar buys me a drink without my realizing it. I say I want vodka and soda, and the owner asks me what color! Confused, I say blanc, I guess, and he starts to pour me some white wine because, as you’ll recall, his English is awesome, meh! After much tortured French on my part, he finally pours me a shot, asks if I want water or ice (evidently no mixers at this bar, either), then tosses a shot of orange juice in. Okayyyyy. Don’t think I’ve had a screwdriver since I was 15.
The Slav guy keeps winking at me. A weird creepy wink, full of lust, beer, and unmet expectations. His eyes appear to be hollow and spinning. His shirt is unbuttoned nearly down to his stomach. He keeps touching my arm conspiratorially and telling me that American women are beautiful. I make sure not to give him any encouragement. I’m not worried; he seems rather harmless, and he’s drunk enough that I could easily take him down with one punch. Thank you, 6 years of martial arts training.
Even though both my French and their English is comical, the Slav and the owner continue trying to have complicated discussions with me. I gather that they like Bill Clinton and John Kennedy, and that Clinton scored some points with the Slav by drinking with Boris Yeltsin. The owner jokes with me, telling me he has a house in the country that is 500 square meters, HUGE by French standards. It isn’t true. The sloppy Slav keeps hitting on me; he’s sweating a lot and getting drunker. He also smokes.
I start plotting my escape, since at this point, I gather that Regis will not be showing up or coming back. Then the owner’s cousin shows up. He seems sophisticated and intelligent, is relatively attractive, and he speaks very good English. I warn him that admitting it was probably not good, because he’ll wind up playing translator. He seems bored with the four of us.
I’m getting a little brain dead from all the attempted translating and conversing. Not the heavenly musical night I’d expected. It is definitely time to go. I ask, “how much for the drink,” and learn that it was bought by my Slav admirer. So I wait until he returns from his smoke break, thank him for the drink, dodge their many more solicitations to stay, and head out.
Prior to making a break for it, the cousin has stepped outside. He asks me if I live nearby, how long I’m here for and if I’m alone. Then he asks me for my phone number, too! Sheesh! I decline, and he seems surprised. Had we been in America, I might have said yes to a date with the cousin, but based on the line of questioning, I’m pretty sure he’s just after a quick hookup. Prior to this, we hadn’t spoken at all while I was at the bar, other than being introduced. I think American girls don’t have the best reputation here, ha!
I then head home the five blocks to the apartment, and start laughing as soon as I get about a block away from the bar. I’ll always say no to the drunk Slavic guy with his shirt unbuttoned and a lecherous wink. But I didn’t see the cousin coming.
That makes three guys hitting on me so far at this bar with hardly anyone in there (last time another guy). And, I swear, if tonight’s two weren’t already hitting on me, the other two would have. I am not being conceited at all about this, just honest. French men are a trip. If you are alone and even passably attractive, expect some attempts. Okay, well, a lot of attempts. And phone numbers; men give you their phone numbers here. I think they just go with a lottery theory, i.e., the more hits, the better their odds.
Lesson learned: If you go to a dive bar to hear the band, never enter unless you hear the piano playing.
Here’s the Facebook page of Regis Vogelene. His albums are available on iTunes. I bought Le Mains d’Orlac, love it, and recommend it highly. All lyrics are in French.