Sunday, October 14, 2007
VELIBBING AND VEDYING IN PARIS
Ok so can whoever had the brilliant idea to install a series of DEATH TRAPS all over the city of Paris where one can simply swipe one’s credit card and become the proud owner of a DEATH MACHINE please stand up? Yeah you over there with the beret and the little dog. Merci beau-f***ing-coup. Bertrand Delanoë (Mayor of Paris), are you trying to kill me?
July 15 –the day after Bastille Day, the symbol of the end of monarchy and beginning of freedom in Gaul. It’s also the first day that thousands of bicycles became available in Paris at hundreds of self-service docking stations installed around the city. They call them “vélibs.” I looked it up in the dictionary, here’s what I got:
Vélib (vay-leeb) n. 1. A vehicle with two wheels and a seat that is moved by pushing pedals with the feet and steered by handlebars at the front wheel and available throughout the city of Paris for residents and tourists to partake in such an amenity for a small sum. A mélange of the words “vélo” which means “bike” in French and “Liberté” which means freedom. Get it? Bike. Freedom. Freedom on a bike. Oh those Français are so clever aren’t they?! 2. THE MOST ANNOYING, DANGEROUS AND ALL-AROUND RIDICULOUS CREATION TO ARRIVE IN FRANCE SINCE JERRY LEWIS.
Yes, the new 24/7 “wheels of freedom” are apparently all the rage in the French capital. Tourists can see the city without paying for a tour bus or exhausting themselves from walking all day. Financially-challenged party animals can have that last beer before the metro closes and still avoid paying for a taxi to get home. Parisians can avoid the hot, crowded metro on the way to work every morning. And what better way to burn off those croque monsieurs and croissants than sweating it off with a long bike ride around town?
Yes, to many, the velibs are just as veliberatingly velibicious as they sound. However, with 15,000 bikes all over the city, the new bikes are more velibirritating than they are velibeffective. While walking the streets of Paris, I now not only have to avoid wreckless drivers of motor vehicles, “motos” (scooters) swerving in and out of traffic, buses and crowds of Japanese tourists rushing at warp speed towards the entrance of Louis Vuitton, but now I have to get out of the way for the wackos on wheels coming at me at full speed on the velibs. In Amsterdam, bikers are kings. In the fight for right of way, the biker always trumps the pedestrian. But that’s how its always been so the rules are respected and we read about very few “death by bicycle” stories coming out of Holland, am I correct? The streets of Paris, however, have now become a war-stricken battle of all forms of transportation as bikers try not to get run over by buses who are forced to swerve out of the way for sneaky swervy motos trying to avoid the speeding cars who are trying not to kill amateur bikers. And what about us poor pedestrians? I swear I come very close to being a victim of velibassassination at least five times a day. The scene: the all-pedestrian rue de Buci, filled with tourists eating oysters, hipster chic French kids smoking cigarettes at the bar du marché and way too many pigeons. Sunday afternoon: the day G-d decided to rest and so did everyone in France. I’m walking to café Flore (because what else does one do on a Sunday in Paris on a sunny day in October?) when all of a sudden three bikers come barreling through the crowd, forcing everyone in their paths to rush to the side to get out of their way. It was mayhem I tell you – Amorino ice cream cones flew in the air, babies wailed tears of fear and I flung myself into the air to save a dear old French lady from falling to her death. (no that last part totally didn’t happen, but it sounded pretty impressive, didn’t it?) Then, this morning, as I stood on the corner innocently waited for the bus to come - freshly showered, all dressed and dirt-free mind you - a lady on a velib rode right by me, splashing muddy water all over me! Who do these bikers think they are? They’re not even wearing helmets, and that’s another story entirely. The crazy kids on their scooters at least are forced to protect whatever brains they may or may not have with helmets by law. The bikers however? Pas du tout. Plus, if you’re in a car or on a scooter, you need a license which means that at least you’ve had some sort of training or had to pass a test in order to use said mode of transportation. However, anyone with a credit card and a pulse can use the bikes. Actually, I take that back – simply anyone with a credit card – pulse optional. If Lance Armstrong feels the need to pummel through a crowded street in Paris, ride in the bike lane or cut off a Smart Car, then Go Lance! But for all of you amateur bikers threatening MY life simply because you’re on a new exercise campaign or don’t want to pay for a new metropass, STAY OUTTA MY WAY!
Resto of the day: BioBoa
Tofu. Veggie burgers. Green tea cake. No, you haven’t crossed the French border. From the same people who brought you foie gras, buttery croissants and cream of pretty much everything comes a café serving organic AND delicious food (yes, the two are not mutually exclusive contrary to popular belief.) Located just a stone’s throw away from Opéra (but please don’t throw any stones from Opera, its dangerous enough over here what with the bikes situation thank you), BioBoa offers American-style sandwiches, salads and drinks “to-go” or a series of hot “plats du jour” to eat in the chic, simplistic surroundings. Some of my favorites include the tofu stir-fry, the cheeseburger (yes, a decent cheeseburger in Paris – sacré bleu! The bun itself earns its own accolade), the goat cheese and grilled vegetable panini and the “detox” soup which certainly lives up to its name. For dessert, the “Green tea cake” – not a tea cake that’s green, well it is green but it’s also made out of green tea – is delectable (not to mention good for you!) as is the fromage blanc with honey and meusli and the fresh mango. BioBoa also has free wireless internet and, despite the minimalist décor and mostly fashionable clientele of the “ladies who lunch” variety, the staff are friendly and accommodating.
Quote of the day: “Venice when it’s not the film festival is like seeing someone naked you don’t want to see naked.” –a colleague, on how the Italian town is much less sexy in its birthday suit.
Movie of the day: Rush Hour 3
I cried at the end of “Rush Hour 3.” No really, I swear. There were tears in my eyes. “France and America – if we work together, anything is possible.” Awwww. So true! Chris Tucker, who knew we had so much in common? It’s like we’re twins! You like France, I like France. You make $25 million per movie, I make about $25 per story. Your ancestry was traced back to the Mbundu ethnic group of Angola, mine was traced back to the Yiddish ethnic group of Warsaw. You were in a Tupac music video, I just hung out with Kanye West last weekend. It’s uncanny – really. Anyway, I must admit I expected a disaster of a film and was pleasantly surprised by what is in fact a very funny, action-packed romp through Paris. Sure, the film plays upon the cliché postcard of Paris – the Eiffel Tower, the Champs Elysées, the Hotel Plaza Athenee – but it’s funny, simple humor that works. Yvan Attal is perfectly cast as the initially America-bashing turned USA-loving cab driver. The scene where he sings the national anthem is absolutely hysterical. Of course the movie is far from Oscar-worthy, but Ratner certainly knows how to please a crowd. I’m not usually a huge fan of the action genre, but the fight scenes on top of the Eiffel tower were particularly impressive. Noémie Lenoir is fantastic as the dangerous femme fatale and Julie Depardieu makes a fun quirky cameo (although the verisimilitude factor went way down when she and Attal had an argument in ENGLISH – what was THAT all about?) The humor is very typically American – the scene where the bilingual nun is forced to translate between the Americans and an angry Asian French guy is wonderfully done. (Not to mention that apparently I’m not the only bilingual nun in Paris!) – but let’s be honest, I definitely heard a few chuckles here and there from French critics in the press screening. The film bows in Gaul next Wednesday, Oct. 17 (also the birthday of my father Steven Leffler – shout out to papa who will turn 60 on the big day. Allez Steve!)
French actor of the day: Louis Garrel
Not only is Louis a formidable thesp and Adonis-like hunk of fine French "boeuf," but he's also a) intellectual and b) benevolent as I discovered today. Not only did Garrel quench his literary thirst at the Ecume des Pages bookstore, but afterwards, the generous Gaulois stopped to give a homeless man on the street some money. Oui oui, les filles, he's not only absolutely gorgeous (offscreen and on), but Louis Garrel is also a thinker and a giver (and I can think of plenty of things he can give me ;)*
*such as a nickel, a quarter, fine conversation... get your minds out of la gutter!
Photo of the Day: “Jesus Walks” … right into the PLAYBOY launch party
Me and my man Kanye at the VIP Room. Holla!