mardi, novembre 01, 2005

The Falling Timbers of Paris

Last night was Halloween. We went down rue Monsieur le Prince, looking for something exotic. Decided on the Moroccan place. It was good, damn good, if not quite as great as Le Loubane (?) the Lebanese place over by the end of rue Monge in the Fifth.

Not a lot of costumes to be seen tonight--but a few, most a little half-hearted. A night club just down the street was attracting patrons, and sometimes colorful characters would stroll past on their way to the party. One dude eating in the other dining room had an intense make-up job for the night, and when he walked out we all gasped at first, so convincing was his outfit of shredded clothing and convincing, bloody abrasions (an imitation scooter accident?). A group of five or so people came in and were shown to a table one over from us. They seemed to be enjoying themselves, trying to find their seats, taking off their coats, arranging themselves, and joking with the maitr d'. Then something odd happened.

In Paris, nearly every restaurant you go to that isn't a straight-up brasserie is in a room with exposed wooden beams; exposed beams, exposed wooden rafters, half-exposed, wooded posts built into the wall, and of course some rustic pillars distributed throughout the floorspace. There may be wall board between the wooden beams and boards, and it will be painted white; if stone is the other material, it is left bare. That's just the way they do it. It doesn't look English Tudor so much as Old Mill rustic.

They had the same decor here, a sort of unmolested Parisian intérieur rustique, plushed-out here and there with little Moroccan additions. The central pillars supported beams that were in turn riding wooden posts inset into the wall.

As the two girls at the next table lowered themselves into their seats, one caught a bit of her sweater on the wall-post behind her. As she descended, this post suddenly came loose and fell over on top of her.

As it fell, everyone was so stunned they both leapt up and froze. The pilar halted, halfway down, stopped by electrical wiring stapled to it. The girls, sitting next to each other, had both screamed a quick scream of utter shock, and covered themselves.

But even as it fell, something was wrong. Something was wrong in the speed and the trajectory and the way it came loose and then, in the way it stopped. Now it was sort of dangling there, its weight no trouble for a simple electrical wire to support.

And then we all saw it. The inside. On this night of costumes and tricks-or-treats, this supposed pilar was just a piece of plastic playing dress up. It was fake. The surface looked convincing, but it was just a phony prop, placed (inexpertly) to give the room more "ambience." And now it was flopping around like the 2 pound (if that!) plastic faker is was. It was, in fact, a plastic, hollow, mold-injected plastic, mass produced, not at all unlike the stuff used to make the old Halloween masks of yore, the stiff ones, not the latex, pull-on, rubber masks--the cheap ones, with a rubber-band to attach them to yr mug, and two eye holes (and a mouth hole, if you were lucky). The edges of the "pilar" gave way with that same stiff crackle and "thop!" that you'd hear when manhandling your Spiderman mask, circa 1975.

The waiter helped them get the impostor post back up on the wall, and we all had a good laugh at our fright, and its ridiculous cause.

Who says the French aren't into Halloween?