PARIS, France—“Just get to the river, turn right, and find us” were the only instructions Sean and I received from Arthur as we walked through the 12th Parisian arrondissement in search of the Seine.
We met Arthur last Monday on the Pont des Arts, a bridge where crowds of French students descend every night to chill together with a bottle of wine. That night we had a mission, the aspiration of any student abroad: to make local friends. It started off as sort of a joke, until we realized that we had brought red wine, but no bottle opener and asked for help.
“Un tire-bouchon s’il vous plait?” A hip-looking French redhead in a plaid shirt and artsy hat opened the bottle for us, and we started talking to him and his friends, a group of architecture students at the University of Paris. As a thank you, we shared our wine, and they shared theirs. And then their vodka, and then their apple juice, and even the absinthe they imported from Spain. When it was ten passed midnight, we decided to go back to catch the last metro. We exchanged numbers with Arthur and his friends and said good-bye.
A week later, we were on our way to meet up with him again. We expected another quiet night of drinking on a bridge. What we got was a wild underground electro music rave on a raft. We came at 11 pm to find that this party has been hopping since 2 pm with no end in sight. Being there was like watching Luis Buñuel’s Un Chien Andalou for the first time – absurd, surreal, shocking, and fun.
A faithful account of the ensuing events follows. It can also be used as a model for being bohemian for the reference of anyone who is not feeling sufficiently hipster:
2 p.m.–indefinitely: Arthur and friends make Sunday their big party night, as it is the least practical one. Friday and Saturday have become too mainstream.
11:35 p.m.: We are ridiculed for not understanding the difference between house and electro. Apparently, the distinction is key to understanding the life of a French hipster. We are even more criticized for liking Lady Gaga. (Leedi Gaaga? Heads shake with disapproval).
11:55 p.m.: Arthur illicitly sneaks a bottle of red wine onto the raft. Looks of respect all around.
11:58 p.m., 12:06 a.m., 12:14 a.m. and every 8 minutes for the next six hours: Arthur makes his own cigarette and smokes it.
11:59 p.m.: We start imitating the spontaneous dancing style we see, made up of wild but smooth gestures best described by the word “whatever.”
12:30 a.m.: The music gets turned off. There is kind of a riot.
12:50 a.m.: After raucous protests, people resign themselves to the fact that the first party is over. Everyone is on their cell planning their own underground after-party.
1:02 a.m.: On a Paris nightbus. Arthur is sharing the wine with neighbors.
1:48 a.m.: On another bus. Arthur refuses to share any more alcohol. Sean and I start to realize we are leaving Paris, and don’t know where we’re going.
2:06 a.m.: We arrive to the banlieue, the place outside Paris where the rent is cheaper, sometimes called the ghetto. I get nervous. Sean is feeling great.