Gay Paree! Or, How Even PARIS is “Coming Out” These Days!

Executive Director of PhillyGayCalendar

When visiting the Yucatan, “The land of the Mayans” last summer I was interested in learning about the Mayan predicted “end of the world” on 12/21/12. It was explained to me that the date was chosen as a point of reference only and that the “end” was actually a beginning and has been occurring for a very long time. This “end” is in reference to a particular gravitational pull shift that will affect all of the “energy” on our Planet Earth. This includes people, their thinking/attitudes as well as weather patterns etc. Changing gravitational pulls will continue to change the way people experiencing “the human condition” on the planet Earth. Philosophy and reaction will continue to change. The good news is that those who think with a more positive pattern will accelerate. Those with a more negative point of view will as well. Happily our happy little orb has more positive thinkers than negative ones and since I am not here to make any political statements; suffice to say that the current movement of many gay issues is phenomenal n’est-ce-pas?

Moving on then …

Let’s go to PARIS!
This gravitational change has been going on all over the our plant and in Paris this change has been felt very strongly for years! Sections like Montmartre and Montparnasse are no longer considered the true “Gayborhoods” they once were. There was a time when the world’s greatest and most creative artists, writers, the most influential of thinkers and philosophers sipped their Espresso in cafes, cruising each other at the same time. The Paris of the 20’s was really just one big “mind-fuck”, very hidden/discreet, but make no mistake about it, lust/desire/attraction works the same for genius-genitalia as it does for average blokes like most of us! I’ve had a few genius-types and I can tell you this is true. (i.e. “Did this dud really write that book/record that enchanting record”?) Never judge a book by its cover or resume. But I digress!

Much changed for Paris since the first openly Gay Mayor, Bertrand Delanoe was elected in 2001. The gravitational pull was already shifting! In 2013 Monsieur Delanoe is still mayor having been reelected by a very comfortable margin. He is also a Socialist. This says a great deal both good and bad but that is for a different column! Just know he is gay, respected and brilliant!

“Entrer” LE MARAIS! Now the main Gayborhood area in the magnificent City of Lights! Believe it or not, this development has been only since the 1980’s and the gay presence in LE MARAIS is growing more day by day. It is also becoming tres expensive as well! My first visit to Le Marais was probably in about 1990 and I can tell you it was a revelation to me as were many things 23 years ago. I suppose one can only appreciate the changes in the acceptance in our culture if one has been around for a while. On a more recent visit to Paris I hung out at a bar called “The Bears Den” which is rather like Philly’s “Bike Stop” while “Open Café” was good for happy hour but I could never figure out why they didn’t call it “Open Bar” (lost in translation?) My last visit found me much of the time at “Café Cox” (seriously!) It’s a wonderful tavern for the slightly more mature and l’homme who admire them. In France as in Europe on the whole, maturity and a few facial lines are an attraction, not a deterrent! Europe and Asia have a whole different outlook on maturity. With many Greek guys the older the better! C’est si Bon!

Le Marais is in the 4th Arrondissement of Paris and like Philadelphia the city is one huge “whole” divided into many villages but instead of names like Rittenhouse, Port Richmond or Olde City, Paris is divided by numbered sections called Arrondissements. Suffice to say that the 4th (Hotel-de-Ville Metro stop) is close to most places you want to be and see. I.e. Location, location, location! The main museums like the Louvre (Mona Lisa, Winged Victory, Venus de Milo) and Musee d’Orsay (Whistler’s Mother) are walk able as is Notre Dame and the fascinating Ile de la Cite where Paris actually began in 52 BC! Quite a while ago, N’est-ce pas?

An interesting thing about gay male and female Parisians is that they tend to be even more rude that their “straight” counterparts. I just try to remember that rude is just a perception and as a typical guy from Philly, I don’t find them that rude really. If you plan to visit, get a hold of an old Alain Delon/Jean Paul Belmondo film and study their “looks” and gestures, don’t say much, and you will be a Bonne Tres Gai Parisian. I don’t really speak French but can fake my way around the city with a few well-accented phrases. I recall one evening in a café along The Seine (which BTW rhymes with HEN) a friend and I were having a wonderful dinner and had already broken past the French/Parisian “American hating” Bull-Shit with our waiter/server that many times begins an evening in Paris if you don’t speak fluent French. It simply requires some patience, a good sense of humor, confidence and the mind-set that you are a guest in their country and not the other way around. Additionally you must appreciate that the French culture is completely different than ours and Vive la differance! Good steady eye contact is key and, never forget, respect begets respect and nothing gains more respect than greeting their scowl with a huge smile! They want you to feel inferior. The French seem to dislike everyone, including themselves. Not only Americans. I have found that in Europe Germans are generally at the top of everyone’s unfavored list! Not mine, as I am fascinated by all cultures although I must admit I wanted to punch out an Austrian once and did suggest that his attitude showed me that the Nazi Party began in that part of the world for a reason. (He looked just like that little-shit, blonde, Nazi kid from “The Sound of Music”) But, once again, I digress! My companion and I were into our second bottle of an exquisite vin rouge (the French don’t export their better wine and prices are outstanding as is the fact that it is not necessary for as many sulfates and preservatives to be added to those to be exported) the result is a much less expensive, tastier buzz and a smaller danger of “gueule de bois” or hangover the next day! BONUS! Anyway, into the cafe saunter two male couples from the US. They were typically over-dressed and had over-the-top attitudes to match. The one fellow who fancied himself French fluent was having a hell of a time communicating with his server. An interesting thing about Parisian “waiters” is that they don’t considerer themselves “waiters” at all but as professionals and silently (sometimes arrogantly) demand to be treated as such. They prefer to be addressed as Monsieur and when the guys from Long Island called him “Garcon”, (OMG!) Marco and I settled in for quite a “floor show”! Suddenly, the server who was having trouble understanding Jersey Guy’s French was stricken deaf! A Parisian waiter will never interrupt you, ask you if you are enjoying your meal, or even bring you your check until summoned. Dining in Paris is simply different than Philly and understanding that resulted in that my table had an outstanding time, a sensational dinner with fine beverages and felt a part of Paris (which they do pronounce PA-REE) The Jersey-Guys spent way too much time getting ready for their dinners (cafes are supposed to be casual) and spent a ton more money on food that they did not like (they did nothing but bitch) and drank crappy wine and, their poor attitudes were met head on. Marco and I were still joking around with our new “friends” at the Café when the “Jersey Shore Four” huffed out! I think that was when we were going into the kitchen to have a drink with the chef. * Side note: Never forget that in France it is “all about the Chef” while in Italy it is “all about the food”. I really like Italy but Paris won my heart many years ago and she just will not return it! Great French food is art and Italian cuisine is from the heart. Love on a plate. On the whole I feel blessed to be an American.

Never forget that Gay Parisian men think they are “The Kings of Cool” (I could get the guillotine for saying that!) In a bar, on the street, where ever cruising normally happens it is done the French way which is always the “right” way. An open American “interest” can be seen as needy and cheap. In le Marais one needs to be indirect and cool. I have always felt that on the open playing field being true to oneself is what is most important. I never take Parisian “rudeness” personally and as an American I don’t flirt entirely by their rules. Gay guys in Paris (as well as in many other countries) tend to travel (and stick) in groups. Since I many times travel alone I do things my own way and they work out much better that way. I have heard “recuperateur” more than once in Paris. I believe the secret to success in Paris is not to be un-American but rather to be who you are while being respectful to the French and celebrate the difference. The Parisians particularly are very romantic, touchy-feely and say a lot with their eyes. They actually say “oh-la-la” too, so try not to laugh! Many countries think that we Americans smile and laugh way too much which they find annoying. I tone down my usual effervescence as well as my fashion choices. Now is the time for jeans and street shoes. Choose to wear colors like: black, grey, navy and always stay understated, muted, stylish and good quality clothing. It will be noticed. Unless you are really going for a run, leave your sneakers at home along with the A&F-wear and crazy “look-at-me” colors.

Before le Marais became popular, I used to hang out in Montparnasse which was chic, intellectual and had great jazz clubs. Montmartre another section frequented by the more artistic types were the “hoods” before the “coming out” of le Marais. Still flourishing on Rue Montparnasse is Brasserie La Coupole. Jean Cocteau, Marc Chagall, Brando, Belmondo, Josephine Baker and moi happily hung-out there. Just not at the same time or in the same decade. A Brasserie is different from a Bistro and still different from a Café and not the same as a Restaurant. Then there are Wine-Bars and Salon de Tea. See why Parisians are so crabby? It’s very complicated! Additionally, there is the Michelin Star issue. Many Americans are not aware of this system that French Chefs will kill and die for. Simply put, any restaurant with a Michelin star is superb. Two stars, sublime, three? OMG! Three stars (very rare) will have you Cumming in your pants by dessert. I don’t believe four has yet happened, nor has five. Personally, I will gladly settle for just one star so should you hear any establishment anywhere in Europe has a Michelin Star be prepared for some serious grub with some serious Euros billed. And also? Service compris is usually attached to your check meaning that the tip is included. That is for the “house” with a small percentage to the staff. A couple of Euros left on the table is very much appreciated. I sometimes will leave a U.S. $10.00 bill in a decent establishment and will get a huge smile in return. Paris and Le Marais are like any city with plenty of great places to dine. Frankly I’m the kind of “been there done that” kind of guy who is really all about the company anyway. And, in Paris! Oh la-la! Every meal is an event! Every plate memorable.

The Paris Metro is efficient, cheap, and pretty much gets you anywhere quickly and as safely as in any large city. Walking is my favorite mode and from Le Marais you can walk to quite a lot. Like Philadelphia, Paris is huge but what you really want to see is in a more compact area except for the Eiffel Tower way over on the Left Bank as it was originally built for a World’s Fair. Notre Dame, Louvre and most important museums and attractions are on the Right. The “hitch” is that Le Marais has gotten tres expensive in the last ten years. So should you be able to afford it tres bon! If not, there are many wonderful sections of Paris to make your own memories in. My first trip to Paris some years ago saw me in Montmartre and I will never forget it, the views, smells, anything. It was mid July and near Bastille Day. It was very chilly, the sun didn’t set until ten O’ Clock and for the first time I experienced the phenomenon when you see things you have only dreamed of and your knees buckle and you almost fall on your ass! What an indescribable feeling! Paris does that to one and a lot more. While it is true that Philadelphia is the only city I would want to live in, Paris is an enchanting, magical fairy tale (no pun intended)

THE BOTTOM LINE: There is no other city in the world quite like Paris but Paris is like dessert. I would not want to live there as I love our Philadelphia and it is home. Paris is chiffon and lace and butter. Paris is April’s White Chestnut blossoms, passionate kisses and being spent and sweetly satisfied but, never feeling entirely at ease. Paris is standing in morning’s warm summer breeze at doors from floor to ceiling, gazing at slow moving water-craft on the murky Seine, the phallic Tour Eiffel proudly penetrating the blue-gray Paris sky. You are sipping piping hot café noir and turn to see your lover stirring in bed. Oh-la-la!!! That’s rather bewitching once in a while!

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