As everyone in the Northern hemisphere may have come to realize, it is summertime (although summer now comes with the occasional hail storm for some reason scientists couldn’t possibly have an explanation for). In Paris, summertime (especially the middle of August) means it’s usually me, the Starbucks baristas and a few homeless guys kicking it while hordes of tourists (well, less since the city appears to be on the brink of a new left or right wing revolution, we still don’t know) flood said Starbucks and the baristas are left with me as their sole French speaking patron. For some reason, that may or may not be connected to the aforementioned social unrest we are witnessing, homeless people tend not to go to Starbucks all that much.
Yesterday was the calmest of all those summer days: August 15th, assumption day, I assume (alright, I know it is, I just wanted to make that awfully clever play on words, although I’m not actually clear on its religious implications: the only religious celebration I ever celebrated was Christmas, and only because candy was involved). Because August 15th is a day off in France, the few non-homeless Parisians left roaming the city tend to take that opportunity for a last chance bank holiday that virtually no one could possibly notice because receptionists, assistants and security alike are all gone. Rule of thumb: if someone in Paris answers your call today, they may be homeless.
Which got me a little freaked out, I must confess: upon noticing my fiancée’s very real addiction to ice cream, I kindly agreed to share the burden — and got worse off than her in a matter of days (and that was 2 years ago). In other words, if I don’t have my evening ice cream on an August summer night, I will start shaking, therefore making me blend in ever so slightly among the homeless around. And there is a great artisanal ice cream parlour not far from our house, where the pear sorbet is just ridiculously good, as well as any other flavour they offer (although I will admit I’m biased, and by that I mean addicted). And we’d last been went there on Tuesday and had a blast (to be clear, the only reason we were not back on Wednesday was because Tarantino’s latest movie got released over here, so I agreed to break my rule and go for popcorn instead).
But yesterday was a bit of a long shot: after all, homeless people don’t consume much more ice cream than they do Americanos, so why even bother open up shop on the off chance tourists will have seen your name on Google Maps and wanted to find out once and for all if France does gelato better than the Italians who invented it? And my worst fears were confirmed as we arrived next to the shop’s front window: the lights were on… but the door was shut and there was no one to be seen. Like, nowhere in any direction you looked at: the Parisian desert, they call it (or should call it).
Then, right when we were about to walk back and catch another Tarantino showing with the accompanying popcorn (you do what you have to do), a guy suddenly showed up from the nearest bridge (this is taking place next to the Saint-Martin canal, for those bothering to keep track) on an electrical scooter and stopped right in front of us. I recognized him (as an addict does): he was one of the guys from the parlour (i.e. my most regular dealer). We were — possibly — saved.
Me: Hey! Happy to see you here, man!
Guy: Well, thanks! Did you wait for long?
Me: Truth be told, we just got here, but we would have been pretty sad to leave without an ice cream cone in hand…
Guy: Yeah, sorry about that, I took a bit of a long break seeing as there didn’t seem to be that many customers around today…
Me: Well, there were 2…
Me: And they’re ready to make up for any lost business, so bring on the biggest ice cream cone you have!
Fiancée: Didn’t you just say you were taking advantage of all the restaurants being closed to diet a little ahead of the wedding?
Me: I was talking about the cat.
I’m just saying, the cat could lose a few. And fur don’t count.