Monday, October 3, 2022

A very strange version of the Paris night

PARIS – It happens every night, and yet it feels so strange every time.

Across the city, as the evening clock portion of the pandemic restrictions approaches at 9 p.m., chairs and tables arrive at pubs and cafes that usually stay open until small hours are piled up.

Parisians usually hung out lazily on long summer nights. The sidewalks become quiet. The city slammed shut as fast as a window.

At Roland Garros, where the French Open holds one match every night for the first time, ominous announcements come through the speakers starting around 20:30.

“The gates will close in 15 minutes,” says a pre-recorded voice in French and then English. The stands that sell champagne, pancakes and chocolate au pains are starting to pack up. A warning of ten minutes follows, then a five minute one, and finally, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, the gates are now locked. ‘

“It’s very frustrating,” said Benoit Jaubert, a Parisian who comes to the tournament every year with his wife, Anne, about the curfew and forced exit as he hurried to the exit on Saturday.

Usually they stay on the field until the evening arrives and the matches end. This year, even though Roger Federer was about to take the court, the Jauberts were on their way out. “We have to hold the late games and then have a party,” he said.

The pandemic started making cities in ghost towns almost a year and a half ago. There is something strange about seeing this nocturnal routine in the so-called City of Light. This is a place known for its 3-hour jazz sets, where the Lost Generation fought all night over the meaning of life in smoky bars on the left bank.

For the handful of Americans doing business here (if it could be an instant sports writing to cover this elegant tournament), it felt like it was drifting back a month or two in time. We have left a country that begin to leave behind masks and pandemic restrictions.

To call it a night at 21:00 is about the most anti-Paris incident, especially this time of year, when dusk only comes after 22:00 and the last thing anyone wants to do when the sun goes down, is to go home.

However, the evening clock is no joke. If you somehow forget to eat and do not have much in the fridge at home, you have no luck. There are no steak fries on the late night. All the kitchens, groceries and ice cream houses were, of course, closed.

Listen to Thibaud Pre. He runs a gourmet pizza collaboration on the Canal Saint-Martin in the northeastern part of the city. This is where the young people hang out. Think of the northern neighborhoods of Brooklyn, such as Williamsburg or Bushwick, or the eastern part of London.

Friday night, just before 8pm, the cool kids and older adults who wanted to be like them drank at the edge of the canals and in Acqua e Farina, the pizza place of Pre, and all the other pubs and restaurants in the neighborhood.

An hour later they were mostly away, scurrying home or rushing to the Metro, where security officers could start just after 9pm to ask for the pass to go to the evening clock.

As he stacked the tables and collected payments from the few customers who lingered until the last minute, Pre said on a typical late spring Friday at 9pm that there would be 50 people waiting at a table. He would keep the restaurant open until 2 a.m. and bring in about five times as much money as now. Without generous government assistance, his business would most likely not have survived.

He said that after so many months, his clients got used to the routine, showed up earlier and filled their stomachs until the prescriptions said they could no longer stay, and then turned into citizens of one of the places like Switzerland, where the sidewalks are long before they have to.

“We do not know how long this will go on,” Pre said.

It’s so long, and so strange, that Pre does not want to make money with the current plan to push back the evening clock on June 9 for two hours, which by Parisian standards seems more civilized, but only slightly.

In July, the evening clock can disappear completely, and the sidewalks along the Seine can be alive all night again, although the nightclubs are supposed to stay closed.

One day maybe, maybe even against the next French Open, if the amazing night owl of French tennis, Yannick Noah, has any say in the matter, the 3am jazz sets and the real Paris might just return.

Nation World News Desk
Nation World News Deskhttps://nationworldnews.com
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