The neighborhood where I most often stay in Paris is a wonderful little area near Les Halles called Montorgueil. My friend Dominique lives there, and I've really fallen in love with the whole area -- it's become my home base in the middle of Paris. It's primarily pedestrian, utterly convenient due to being smack in the middle of the city, and basically a tiny little city in microcosm itself, with great grocery stores and jewelry shops and markets.
(Here. Watch this.)
One of my favorite bars in Paris is there on the corner of rue Montorgueil and rue Marie Stuart. It's called Au Compas d'Or, and it's not one of my favorites because it's anything earth-shattering or unusual as bars go. Just the opposite, in fact. It's a classic Parisian neighborhood bar with some tables scattered around the outside of it and warm, friendly young people working there. It's a great hangout. A terrific place to kill some time, or meet up with someone before you go to dinner. The kind of place that by the time I've been there for a week, the waiter knows me and chats with me and brings me the wine I've been drinking without asking me what I'd like. I love it there.
So my last trip to Paris, I went straight to the Compas d'Or from Gare du Nord, where I'd arrived on the Eurostar, to have a glass (ou deux) and relax and wait for Dominique to come home from work. It was shockingly cold in Paris (I believe I have mentioned that once or twice now), but they had little heaters over the outside tables and there were a lot of smokers inside, so I scooted my massive suitcase (a.k.a. The Beast) as close to the building as I could and settled in.
Not long after my verre du vin arrived, so did a motorcycle, roaring up rue Marie Stuart and coming to a stop about 10 feet from me. It was one of those shiny red & black Japanese motorcycles that my friends & I call a "crotch rocket," the kind where the rider is crouched on top of the thing like a jockey on a racehorse. And off the motorcycle got... a man.
Raf Simons F/W 2007
At least, I was pretty sure he was a man. He moved like a man, but I couldn't see him well enough to tell for sure, because he was bundled up like crazy. (Again, it was coooooooold in Paris.) He was wearing biker leathers -- not the "Easy Rider, " fringed-vest, Hell's Angels kind of leathers, but the high-tech, form-fitting motocross kind, with channel quilting on the knees & elbows. Black. All black, with a little red here & there. The windscreen was down on his helmet and so his face was unavailable, and every inch of him was covered in protective gear.
Raf Simons F/W 2007
The first thing he took off were his gloves. Or rather, one pair of gloves, because underneath the heavy padded gloves he had on some thinner glove liners. After he stowed the gloves away in some compartment that magically appeared on the back of the bike, he fished his cell phone out of a pocket somewhere (Mind you, I'm right there, so I couldn't exactly stare at him. I had to take furtive peeps over my copy of "No Country for Old Men.") and began texting and reading messages. This went on for a while, and I became impatient. Dangit, what was going on underneath that helmet?
Finally, he removed the helmet and stowed it somewhere. Which didn't help any, because he was wearing a knitted black balaclava underneath it.
Suddenly, and for the first time in my life, burlesque made sense to me.
This guy was the Gypsy Rose Lee of motopunks. I was completely in a lather to see who he was & what he looked like, and he was taking his good sweet time about showing me.
Dior Homme F/W 2008
Eventually (because there was a lot more texting), the glove liners came off, revealing several silver rings on some decidedly masculine hands, and some tattoos creeping down onto the hand from underneath his sleeves. There was really about five more minutes of fussing & fidgeting with bits & pieces of his gear until finally the balaclava came off and revealed him. Probably mid-thirties, ashy dark blond hair cut very short and kind of spiky, narrow dark eyes, a pierced eyebrow, and the grin of a kid who was usually in trouble with the teacher. He had that classic French effortless punk thing, there was real style and absolutely no posing in the way he wore his jewelry (I think one of the rings was a wedding ring) and his ink. He wasn't gorgeous, but he was cool. Very, very cool.
Nothing much passed between us besides the sort of non-committal wow-it's-cold, really-glad-these heaters-are-on thing any strangers would exchange in the circumstances, but that was fine. I went back to my book, a little smile on my face, confident that once again Paris was going to take care of me and send me little treats and experiences and thrills I never seem to have anywhere else.
Roberto Cavalli F/W 2006
The Biker Boy look has never really been my thing, but something tells me I'm going to be a little more open to it from here on in...
Potos: about.com, ladauphine.com, men.style.com