Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Club Tabac

Despite Paris' supposed crackdown on smoking in public places, everywhere I turn, people seem to be lighting up in open defiance of the city ordinance - and no one else seems to give a damn, either.

It makes me wish I were still a huffing, puffing, smoking machine.

Well, almost.

I remember the last time I was here - well well before the 2007 smoking ban - I only brought two reams of Marlboros. I say "only" because you must remember, I was an inveterate chain-smoker who was just on the second leg of a month-long European tour.

Now, I, like my Parisian smoking brethren, would light up anytime and anywhere in the city, breathing in the free air of smoking liberte sans frontieres. Strolling down the boulevards with a stick in my mouth, I soon found myself making so many "friends." It was as easy as offering a stranger a cigarette, or being asked for one. Of course, as I would discover later, mes amis didn't like me so much for my dashing good looks and charming personality as much as they did my cigarettes. The math, as I would find out later on in Venice when I finally exhausted my two reams, came out to P300.00 per pack. At P300.00 a ream back home in the Third World, that was a helluva mark-up. And no, the shops weren't selling by the stick, either.

No wonder I had so many "friends."

At any rate, the Eiffel Tower keychain from which my car and house keys have dangled for the past seven years has a rather sentimental - and smoking-related - story behind it. I had just abandoned the guided tour bus - and the rest of the scheduled itinerary - at the Trocadero station and was making a gleeful run for the Eiffel Tower, beckoning from a distance. Catching my breath at a souvenir kiosk halfway to the monument, I naturally lit a cigarette. The Moroccan proprietor of the souvenir stand I just happened to pause at smiled at me and gestured at my pack of Marlboro Reds.

Fluent in the international language of "bumming," I naturally not only gave him a stick, but lit it up for him as well. It was his gesture of appreciation that took me by surprise. Fishing out a small Eiffel Tower keychain from his wares, he offered it to me. I shook my head, not intending to buy any sidewalk souvenirs, but in broken, French-accented English, he said "Non, non. A gift. For you."

I grinned and accepted the little offering - upon which he held my face in his hands and planted two kisses on both my cheeks.

In public.

In broad daylight.

In front of hundreds of tourists and locals.

Mon Dieu! Scandale!


No one even batted an eyelash.

My first lesson in French nonchalance.


  1. French (language) is sooo bi!

  2. ah, the french shall always be engaging to me. :)

  3. @ Puzzie : Mais oui, John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt! ;)

    @ Spiral Prince : They're an...interesting people. They can certainly be rude and brusque, but also surprisingly pleasant.

    @ engel : You'll love it.

  4. the french french-kiss without care. as does everybody in france.

    let's smoke to that. (i just hated the fact that charles de gaulle never really installed smoking rooms, except outside the airport gates.)

  5. @ Kiks : Well, Bashir wasn't exactly French-kissing me, but oui, PDAs were to be seen all over town - quite apropos for such a romantic city.

    As for CDG - bah! I've always found it strange that the French don't upgrade their airport as a matter of national pride. Then again, it could be that French arrogance that says "Zees ees our eiirport and you have no choize in zee matter, oui?"

    Again, it's a good thing I don't smoke these days.

  6. lol @ your thickly accented sentence above. my friends are going in the fall, but i'm too destitute to tag along :(

  7. @rudeboy: a really nice post, monsieur..

    i got tongue-tied, though, coz of this.. hahaha! :P --- "Zees ees our eiirport and you have no choize in zee matter, oui?"

    French 101.. :)

  8. Gawd, Rudeboy, you got their construction and even syntax right. Nakakatakot.

    what if you were still smoking? it would have been thicker (and i mean, almost french-saliva-thick.)

  9. @ Sean : Oh, that's too bad. I know Europe is fuckin' expensive, but as I always tell people, travel is worth every single penny.

    And fall is a great time anywhere in the Western hemisphere. I'm sure you can go at some other point in th near future.

    @ Nate : Hehehe I love doing that Pepe Le Pew impression.

    @ Kiks : I should've titled this post "Ceci n'est-pas une pipe; c'est une cigarette." instead.