On my first trip to France, I fell in love with Paris. It just felt like home for some reason.
Mostly this was thanks to Taro’s girlfriend at the time. Her father was some Spaniard nouveau rich hombre dude who hit the lottery. All other aspects of her life were offbeat, as well. I think she was a gypsy, and I mean that in a “spinning dervish nomadic salt of the earth” type of way. She and Taro had met on his 2-year journey across Australasiurope (easier to show on a map than describe it with words), and he had spent 6 months with her living on the streets of Paris with interesting people.
I met some of them after spending a few days in Bordeax with friends (and my dad!). Nighttime arrival to the cold, foggy streets of Paris was kind of a shock after the hot afternoons sampling sparkling wines in St. Emilion. We got lost a while but eventually found the squatters camp where Taro’s friends were sleeping. Every last one of them were icons of Parisian street culture. Nose rings, tattoos, passable English, and real friendly to friends of friends. We spent a few nights partying out with them. They had these wild ghetto parties, where the commotion would start in a single apartment room then spread to surrounding rooms and eventually the whole apartment complex. Only still images of those nights flash through my mind when I try to recall everything that happened. Egg-sized balls of nepalese choco shaped into miniature Incan gods. Karaoke speakers pushing the voice of would-be Solaars so hard the cones cracked, then disintegrated. Olive drab cots covered with yellowing futons that leaked cottony entrails onto a beer-damped carpet. And a guy who looked Laotian.
The next day, in one of those strange coincidences that utterly convince you that everything is somehow connected, Taro brings up a new business idea. Apparently he had not not seen the futon I described above, but had noticed other futons that his friends used and proposed that we start a futon cleaning business. To this day I have no idea if he was serious or not, but I ran with the idea in a flurry of verbal diarrhea: Funto cleaning? I have zero knowledge of the subject! Oh, you want to bring an somebody who has experience here? Why not just airlift an old man and his entire shop from the riverside in Kyoto and set him up in front of the Arc?
For some reason, this idea never got past the early discussion stage.
Before we came back to Nippon, there was another futon coincidence. We were at the street markets watching these African guys cook bright red sausages over oil drum fires. These are the goat sausages called marguez that sometimes have hair in them; they are the ultimate ghetto food and melikeslikeslikes. Stuffed in baguettes ala kebab, these were second in yumminess only to roast duck on that trip. I walked through the market and browsed while stuffing my face, pink grease streaming down my chin – ah, the joy of unashamed public gluttony! We passed through stalls offering cheap clothes, toys, junk. It was refreshing to see cheap clothes and oily plastic products from somewhere other than Asia for a change. We saw clothes made in Senegal, and a teacup made in Luxembourg (!). Then we came upon the drums.
There were several adjacent stalls selling hand-made djembes, ashikos, and other hand drums. It was a sea of drumming wonderfulness. These were the real deal, hand-carved from wood with rough metal fittings or (depending on price) intricate hand-tied webbing for holding on the goat skin heads. I could not help but taste the spicy sausage stuck in my teeth and wonder if I could buy a whole animal bit by bit… After all, there were those leaf spring knives with goat horn grips at the earlier stalls.
To make a long story short, I bought a shitload of djembes. As in, too many to carry home. Far too many. Taro’s girlfriend offered to send them to me if I would send her some disposable hand warmers and a futon from Japan in exchange. I asked why she needed a futon. Apparently her sister’s had gotten funky and stank to high hell no matter how many times it was hand-washed, because the filling started to mildew before it could completely dry…
Does anybody know if there’s a futon cleaning shop in Paris now?