Champagne in Paris: How It Became Evident That I Am a Character in a Movie
You know what? I am a fictional character, and I have incontrovertible proof. Have I told you the champagne story? No? Okay, sit down and I will unfurl this tale of truth. That’s a fancy way of saying this is a true story. This is one story of about a hundred and sixty three, but in a way it’s the story that proves everything.
I had been in France for all of three hours. I’d fallen asleep on the train from Chuck The Gallbladder and we were looking around Paris. I was there with my girlfriend at the time, since it’s France, we’ll call her Lezette. It sounds better than to say I was visiting a girl name Holly, which makes it sound like I was dating Angela from “Who’s The Boss” a contention she would agree with, but I would argue.
Now, in Paris there is an Obelisk. There was a giant Ferris Wheel, in front of The Louvre and in front of the Ferris Wheel there is still and obelisk. I only mention the Ferris Wheel that stood in the Place de la Concorde because I was given a choice. We could see the Ferris Wheel, or we could see the obelisk. This is important. I had an illusion of choice. If you are caught up in the story, you believe that I could have either gone to the obelisk or the ferris wheel. Not true, because I am not a real person, I am the main character in a movie. I have no agency, I have no free will, the writer and the director decided that I had to go to the obelisk.
Wait, I must set the scene, that’s important too. October in Paris is like May in Michigan. It’s warm, but it also rains and everything weather wise has that sort of constant changing aspect that brings a touch of magic to whatever you’re doing. The ground is wet from the rain, but it’s warm and inviting and there is going to be an adventure if you just go out and find it. It was night, I can’t remember how late, but late enough that the sun was gone. Not so late that the city was deserted. I’ve been to Boston, New York, LA, Cleveland… nothing shuts down like Paris does. After Midnight it’s like walking around a Film Noir where you know stuffs happening somewhere, but the streets are deserted.
So anyway, it was probably around ten at night, still warm and inviting and still fun to be had. Now, for reasons that aren’t always clear to outsiders I was being silly. I didn’t just walk, I stopped across the road saying “Gobalisk, goblalisk, gobalisk.” If you repeat the word “Obelisk” quite quickly, it sort of sounds like that and if I think something sounds sort of like something I push it and make it sound like that. This is both sort of childish and something that Lezette found deeply attractive at the time. She’d grown up in a world where people acted with dignity, a world where people wanted the approval of others, a word where people did not stomp and bounce their head and repeat the word “Gobalisk” over and over. She lived in a world where people behaved themselves, and did the things adults are supposed to do. In short, she had never seen someone who so utterly and completely failed at the single most important life-task of all, giving a shit.
Now, while I am completely distracted by my goofiness, a Frenchwoman approaches me with a bottle of champagne and a paper cup. Yeah, I’m talking a Dixie Cup here. She then approaches and speaks the sort of gibberish you get in France, probably a local dialect of some variety. Anyone know what the hell The French are supposed to speak? No, of course not, they’re just making up sounds! We’re just all so intimidated by the French being all French that we don’t call them on their bullshit.
Lezette makes a hand wave, because she never actually did ANYTHING in her life before I came along. I however, did everything until that moment in my mid-thirties, but that’s another story. This was Ocotober of 2001 and I did everything. So this woman is standing with her Dixie cup and her bottle and Lezette is trying to wave her off and if speaking apologetically in the local gibberish and I interject because that’s what you do when you are fictional. I spoke up, and I asked a question, and I caused a problem.
“Hold on, what’s she saying?” I asked, and it was that moment that the whole fake language thing dropped. See, French people can all speak English, most of them can do so better than those raised with the language.
“Oh,” She said smiling and it was that moment that I got a good look at this woman under the unflattering sodium lights. “Tonight is my hen party and my friends say I have to give a stranger champagne.” She then paused for a moment and added. “For luck!”
Her friends waved to me as I looked over at them and I smiled. I’m pretty sure Lezette was having the internal conflict equivalent of a conniption fit. This is not the sort of situation she had ever been in, or envisioned she might be in. A complete stranger, probably a lunatic, offering a cup of what simply had to be poison, so they could distract us before stabbing us to death. Our bodies would wash up on the shores of Lower Mongolia, which for those of you paying attention is a landlocked country. In her head though, we were dead the moment she talked to us.
“Okay.” I agreed “If it’s for luck.”
I took a big gulp, and the French woman and I stand cheek to cheek, she with a crystal flute and I with my Dixie cup while her friends photograph us. I wish her luck, she refills my Dixie cup, and we part ways. I stick my arm through Lezettes and we walk towards The Fountain of River Commerce and Navigation and she sort of looks at me and the conversation begins…
“I have lived in Paris for two years, and you’ve been here for roughly two hours.”
“Yeah. You want some of this?”
“Is it any good? I know nothing about champagne.”
“How the hell do you do that?”
“Limited experience with it I suppose.”
“I have never had someone offer me champagne. she just walked up to you and gave you champagne.”
“You would have refused to have anything to do with that situation.”
“No one has ever even offered.”
“It makes me feel like the sidekick in a movie.”
“It’s my world. You’re just living in it.”
“These things don’t really happen in real life, you’re a character in a movie. You can’t really exist. You have to be a fictional character.”
This wasn’t the last conversation I would have about this subject. It wasn’t the last I would have with her, or with other people. There is the fact that people have trouble telling the difference between me telling a true story like this, and a tale of complete balderdash. Someone actually said to me recently “If anyone I know has traveled back in time and shot Hitler six times, it was probably you.” which tells you exactly the sort of thing I’m up against.
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