By Jasper Lipton
Photos by Eric Hanson
Brought to you in part by Travalet
When I arrived in Paris, after spending a lot of time drinking Disaronno in business class thanks to the combined machinations of Travelet’s ticket magic and my desire to prove my girlfriend’s claim that “they’ll only give you three drinks” false, the first thing I did was turn on the TV in the hotel room and watch an NHK program about make-up rooms that Japanese women can rent by the hour.
They seem very lovely. You get a space to unwind, relax, get out of your house, and do whatever you want: prepare for an interview, maybe. Or a date! Or just, you know, study. Or you can steel yourself for the unrelenting nightmare that is real life.
So while I was taking a very traditional piss in an unlit Parisian back-alley at 3AM with a pounding headache, aching feet, and a case of WORLD-ENDING FURY, the most prominent thought in my mind was “I wish they had those make-up rooms here, because that way I could have just sat alone in the dark for five hours instead of doing this.”
The night had effectively started some interminable number of hours earlier, when we ate dinner at Les Papilles, a place that Fok was really, really excited about. It was good! It was. I don’t totally remember what we ate - pumpkin soup, which was nice; beef bourguignon, which was nicer; then there was a thing with a prune and some blue cheese and the only reason I’m remembering this is because it turns out that Kyle, an honorary team member for the night, told us he was allergic to prunes just before the prune arrived.
Steph was there too; as was Eric, of course - and myself, in addition to the looming figures of Fok and his wife, Jen; and since neither of them live in the same state as I do I can tell you without fear of repercussion that their complaint that “the pumpkin soup needed pepper” was crass and base; the kind of complaint one makes when one finds the need to complain about something, anything.
So. The whole team, in Paris! We’d been looking at clothes all day, probably, although I don’t remember what exactly they were so I’ll tell you about them later.
This picture has nothing to do with anything, but I think it gives a visual impression of how I felt the entire time I was in Paris.
Regardless, we went looking for a drink. And because there always is one, no matter where you are, we shortly found ourselves at an Irish pub. Eric and I ordered Guinness, and everyone else got whiskey, which is weird to me. So the two of us, photographer and scribe, were leaning at the bar like you do, talking about beer and England, like you do, when Kyle starts making noises about walking across the river and going to the party that’s being put on by Capsule.
Okay, we think; great! The open bar is closed by now; it’ll be quiet, maybe. Some of us think that, at least - and I’m not going to outright blame Kyle, but everything that followed was definitely his fault. But, to be fair, his point that he has a “ideological aversion to paying a white Australian guy with dreadlocks to give me Guinness in Paris” is definitely taken and noted.
So yeah. We trek over to the right bank, and keep trekking (Eric has already decided to go home and sleep) - Fok scoots, because that’s what he ******* does - until we get to a street which I can only describe as “Jasper’s personal Hell.”
First of all, the street is suddenly busy. It is full of people. People I hate on instinct.
I don’t use that word lightly - hate. I do hate them; not in a personal visceral way, but in an utterly more terrifying manner; the way you might look at a slide of a virus destroying a healthy cell, or watch a youtube video of a camel spider. The street fills me with a sense of grave - and chilling - portent.
Second, there is a line. Of people. Waiting at the door to go to the party.
“**** this,” I say, once having seen the line; but no, we queue like proper beasties and stand there breathing in the cigarette smoke of two dozen people, none of whom can be much older than 15 - except for the ones who are at least 75; and frankly I haven’t a ******* clue what either group is doing standing there.
Okay, I didn’t really want to get into this, but we have to talk about the Gate-Keeper; a man with a round, moonish face and a flouncing flop of bronzed hair and a name that, I assume, was something like “Thorvold.”
Thorvold may have been wearing a fur cape, the same color as his hair. And he was wearing an expression that made it look as though he’d just been very politely rejected for a spot in a L’Oreal commercial.
No one’s really paying attention to the door except me, because I am already furious that this is happening, and I’m watching Thorvold and his Fashion Army turn people away at the entrance to the Capsule-Sanctum. He is really enjoying himself, too - I imagine it is a great deal of fun to be given some modicum of power, no matter how mean. I don’t blame him, not really; I think that it’s human nature to jump at any chance you may have to elevate yourself above those around you; even if it means donning a fur cape and prancing around like a ninny. Would I do the same? Maybe. But also not, because if you asked me to be the door-man for your fashion party I would probably have left the room before you finished asking.
Do I sound bitter? I’m a little bitter. Really, when Kyle asked if we wanted to leave the dreadlocked comfort of the Irish pub, walk half an hour, and try to go to a FASHION PARTY, my answer should have been “Are you out of your ******* mind?”
But here we are. What doesn’t kill you, they say. Except it might not make you any stronger, and just drive you to homicide instead.
It is there, standing in an endless line for a party I do not want to attend, watching the hours tick ever upwards and thinking very hard about waking up at 7 AM, that I begin to feel the first spasms of existential nausea.
Everyone around us looks the same. Loose, black coats. Black beanies. White sneakers. The shadows in the Parisian alleyway grow longer and the world tilts, until even the people not wearing identical outfits blend into one horrible, throbbing mass of on-trend dishevelment, and I stare up into the sky to keep from screaming except it’s cloudy and there are no stars and I have to bite my knuckles to keep the bile down. The pod people are real, and they have been reading a lot of ****** fashion blogs.
Long story short: we wait for ever. Eventually, Thorvold asks us how many people we are. Somehow I’m the team leader at this point, which is a farce. My answer is five, which is not a number he likes.
“The thing is,” he minces, “I only have ten spots and I’m waiting for Vogue.”
Then he sort of just stops and stands there, lips flapping and hair bouncing, and looks at me-slash-us.
There it is. The stark reality is that we are not cool enough. Somehow, this comes as a relief. I need to pee; I ask him how and where, he tells us that “The bar is cooler,” and then nods once, as though convincing himself. And then we walk past the line to the true believers; the ones who cling to hope in the face of prancing, foppish despair, their dead cigarettes and deader eyes following us as we circle halfway up the block so that I can relieve my abused bladder, and I imagine that they smirk, believing deep in the crumbling shells that once were beating hearts that they are different, better; they are certain that Thorvold will hug them with limp arms and a limper smile, grant them one of the mythical “Ten Spots For Vogue” and that there, within, their lives will be given meaning once more.
More power to them. I say that anyone with the willpower - human or otherwise - to wait in that line longer than we did deserves to get in.
Who’s to blame for this?
All of us. We’re all complicit. There are no innocents, and this is a ******* war.
Let’s move on.
We leave Thorvold and the coat-people to their own sycophantic devices, and we wander across the street. Steph, in one of the straight-up ******* sickest maneuvers I’ve ever seen, somehow manages to flag a cab as we’re crossing, get into it without stopping, and disappear. All I can do is raise a desperate hand in her wake and whisper take me with you.
Anyway, then we turn the corner, walk away from the restless, moaning hordes, and discover Niyi (@Tirailleur1 ) and Isaac Larose squatting on the sidewalk. There is surprise on both sides.
Niyi, who I think might always be freezing - scratch that, the first time I met him in Brooklyn it was July or August or something and he was wearing a suit and doing fine - has somewhere between one and five scarves (adire-dyed, of course) wrapped around his neck, and tells me that he has a cold. He also told me he drank green tea for the first time that day, and that he might do so again on the morrow, because he thinks it’s making him feel better.
Meanwhile Isaac and Kyle have fusion-transformed into some kind of adorable fashion tomogatchi, and Fok is talking to someone about sneakers. I have no idea what I was doing at this point, but Isaac seems both amused and unsurprised that Thorvold sent us packing. He suggests, instead, that we get a drink (just one), after which point he will attend the Capsule party, and I assume it’s universally understood that, essentially, there is no Capsule party without Isaac LaRose, because have you ever even seen this kid?
Case in point. Isaac is in the middle. Florence Proulx is on the left, and our very own @Tirailleur1 is on the right. Photo by @EFV
We tell him we want beer. So he takes us across the street, through a curtain, and into the most brightly-lit lesbian bar I’ve ever seen. Like, dazzling. Inside there are some tables and chairs and stuff, and a pool table, which is occupied by a woman in leather hot pants and a leather halter top despite the fact that it’s not particularly warm outside.
They have beer, but like everywhere else it’s stupid expensive. But it’s beer! Woo. Plus, I like these people. They’re friendly. They have mullets and wear flannel shirts - the ones not in hot pants, at least - and they have no patience for our ****. I wonder what they, and the bartender in particular, would say about the scene just across the street.
“Finish your goddamn beer because the bar’s closing,” the patron tells us several times. I, of course, have to pee, and then I begin the long walk home with Fok and Jen.
Kyle and Isaac went back across the street to the party, of course, and I think they had a pretty great time.
“Let’s just walk it,” Fok said, because he has a ******* scooter. Some kind of pride or indoctrination kept me from hailing my own cab, and so I walked with them, walked for ******* hours, back across the city with neither Fok nor Jen believing my directions; my bladder once again wailing, desperately looking for an alleyway. Finally I found one, and it was cathartic: let go of your hatred, a great man once said, and as I doused the urine-soaked, cobbled streets of Paris with even more urine, I felt myself deflate, return to my center, begin to become whole once more - until we got back to the hotel at 4AM and I remembered that mine was the only room without a coffee machine and that we had to be up at seven.