Saturday, July 06, 2013

My Arabic is my Credit (deux); The Paris Shuffle

Under Parisian Banyans.

On a beautiful bright and blue Parisian morning, I went wandering to the Champs D’Elysees.  I headed down Ave Henri Martin, and over to Avenue Victor Hugo.  While walking down Ave Les Miserables, I passed a Casino.  Not of the roulette variety, but rather the French supermarket. 

How to travel like Paul Rockower, lesson 1: limit your time eating out.  Try to limit it to once, or at most twice a day.  Make the supermarket your best travel friend, and enjoy the local delicacies therein.

I have never seen such an extensive wine collection (or cheese) at a grocery store before, and other thoughts on grocery shopping in Paris.

Yet I could hardly find chilled white wine. All that I could locate was some fruity variety. So when life hands you fruity wine, make white sangria with vin peche. Très Boone’s Farm. I bought the cheapest paper cups, which happened to be pink. #Pinksplosion, according to Mademoiselle Shelby

A Black Parisian with cute Afro puffs and dimples bade me try her cherries.  Luscious red cherries with the perfect sweetness and firmness.  French word of the day: cerises.  I bought them by the handful.  I continued my fruit shopping, picking out a pear as well as two prune rouge (plums).  I am studying French by way of the fruit weighing machine.

I got to the meat and cured food counter.  The fellow behind the counter looked to be North African, so I spoke to him in Arabic.  He was Algerian.  My Arabic is much better than my French.  Its always a surprise when an American speaks Arabic, especially in France.  Especially in Barbary dialect. 

He weighed out aubergine marinating in oil. 

How about those olives?

Try those, they are helwa (sweet/tasty).

Stuffed with soft white cheese and swimming in oil, they were.  Some marinating hearts of alchofas.

Shukran, b’zef. B’slama, with a smile in my best Barbary.

A pointy baguette and a cut of fresh brie, and I was ready for my picnic.

I made my way over the register and as it was being rung up, I noticed there were only two containers priced on the tag he printed for the veggies.  I smiled big when I realized what he did.  Bismillah¸praise God.  And I thanked Him for this gift from man.

I continued down the pomp block, past fancy matrons reflected in fancy windows, until I got to the grand Champs D’Elysees.  I found a bench under a banyan for shade and I started getting my picnic ready.

While I was sitting there, two women sat on my bench.  They started chatting in Spanish, so I began to parle. 

We thought you were French, they said in Castellano.  From Argentina, so got to chatting over my once-home.  My environs there, Constitucion caused them to remark: que asco! (How horrible/gross).  They could scarcely believe it. 

And I spoke of Avenida Corrientes, the Broadway of Buenos Aires, where I spent mucho tiempo staying with Martina.. 

And I spoke to them of Patagonia, which they did not know.  Imaginatelo en vivo, as the subte proclaimed.

They could scarcely believe the hours I spent on the bus to get from Buenos Aires to Tierra del Fuego and back.

They were sisters.  One lived in London with her husband from Mauritius.  The other lived in Buenos Aires.  They were visiting together in Paris.

We were hablabing.  Then suddenly, a fellow walking past stopped in front of us.  Approximately five feet from us was a gold ring.

His eyes widened as he picked it up.  He held the gold ring to his chest as he pointed up to the heavens.  He crossed himself, and came over to us to show us his precious.

In shock, we exclaimed merci, gracias and benedictions to God for his luck.  Un regalo de Dios.  He walked away, looking back from the corner with a smile and crossed himself again.

After he left, we exclaimed awe at his fortune.  Un benedicion de Dios.  How did we, with six eyes, not see it in front of our faces.  What luck for him.  A lesson to always pay attention to that which is under your nose.

But three minutes later, he returned.  He tried to give the ring to one of the ladies.  He said this precious did not fit his finger, and that we should all share the bounty.  He showed me the ring to show the markings.  She said no, it was his.  But he kept trying to give it to her.  And my nose started to smell bullshit and I understood what was at play.  I told him that it was his, and his precious, and the Argentine did so again in French.  This went back and forth for a few minutes.  And then he gave up, and asked for some of my wine.  At that point I smiled.

Of course, a cup to toast your benediction I said, and I gave him a little glass of the cheap wine.  He asked for more, and I just kinda cocked my head and looked him in the eye and said, merci.  He walked away, circling the

After he walked away, I chatted with the senoras about the hustle he was trying to pull.  One of the ladies remembered her husband had a similar experience in his visit the previous year. 

We spoke of the anger of the abuse of emotions.  We were sincerely pleased for him, only to see him try to take advantage of our sentiments.  I told them of a similar hustle in Calcutta that Minseon and Idodged.  Con artists play games with your emotions to grift.  Mala karma, we agreed. 

Gifts of gold and gifts of God through man, as I told them of my grocery experience.  Saint Paul gave a sermon on the difference between gifts of gold, which are sure to fade, and gifts of God through man.

And we all agreed it was a good wake-up call. 

We saw the fellow walk past once more,behind us but far enough that I could keep my eyes on him.  We saw him connect with another woman and watched the grifters walk off.  Together, I realized they were gitanes (gypsy or Roma).  I recognized the characteristics from my time in Romania, and from the Roma in Espana. 

We chatted a while longer, as I offered my Argentine friends some of my picnic.  They declined.  We bade farewell over besos y abrazos, and I sat enjoying my picnic with the Eiffel Tower in the distance.

Epilogue:

Maybe 25 minutes later, a different pair of men passed by my bench.  I saw one bend over, drop a ring and pick it up.  He offered a crocodile smile to me. I looked him dead in the eye and pointed two fingers at my eyes and then at him.  He turned and sped on.

Someone tried it a third time, and I told him to back off.  Fuck off? No, back off I said.  He said he was from Kosovo.  Kosovo is a hustle too.  The Prime Minister of Kosovo was caught up in an organ trafficking scam.  I gave him the same two fingers to the eyes, but he kept bothering me.  He sat down next to me, I told him to go away. 

Give me some of your wine. 

Sure, I said you can have a cup.

Is it good?

I laughed and said: no, it is terrible.

He tooka big swig. He then pursed his lips.

I told you.

He got up and finally began to walk away.  He left the cup and spit it out as he walked away.  I knocked over the remainder and spit on the ground.

One last gitana tried the trick from afar, and I just looked her dead in the eye and laughed at her.  It was time to leave.


PS: I walked my way down Hausmann Boulevard past Aux Printemps.  I was taking a picture of a beautiful building, and I glimpsed a swarthy gypsy woman holding up a gold ring to some pasty tourists.  I whistled at them, and gave her a nasty look.  But they handed her 5 euros and walked off with the ring.  They gypsy woman glared at me.

I walked away and watch the rest of the grift unfolded. A white woman approached the couple and pointed to the ring in her hand and said it was hers.  They handed it over.  When they got to me, I told them of the hustle.  They laughed.  They were from Slovenia, and the woman who lost the ring said she was from Kosovo so they wanted to help a fellow former Yugoslov.  They laughed when I explained and explained the aforementioned story.

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