All this is to say that, I wouldn't wanna come back here as a visitor but I could totally LIVE here. Just as I could in Berlin or Tokyo.
Down by the metro station, I stumble onto a sizeable farmers market. Clothing, produce, meat product, lots of seafood. Super crowded. Again, THIS is my kind of hood. I keep waking against the current like a salmon on the egg-laying journey, pick up a small bite called brick, essentially a handmade hot pocket with potato, cheese, onions and some meat inside, fresh off the hot plate. I also grab a quesadilla-like cousin of brick (the name of which escapes me) that has shrimp inside, another delight. Both runs you about 2 euros each, can't be beat.
A sweaty excursion continues into the 9th (nearby Moulin Rouge), a row of independent music stores where Danimal and I failed to catch them open a day before. Soon I learn that they all close their storefront at 2pm for lunch. One merchant; "We're French. We like to take lunch. LONG lunch." 👏 The same guy also tells me that almost everyone on the street knows each other and likes to lunch together, keeping all the store hours in line. An attitude like this might be keeping retails in this part of the world healthy; music retails in Europe in general seem much healthier than US, so do their stock. Along with behemoths like Gibson, Fender and Roland etc, smaller European boutique brands like Waldorf, Doepfer, Duesenberg etc have a decent presence, which might be a change in a few years, but I'm crossing fingers.
Regarding their English skill; it's true that they understand but do not speak back, but I doubt that it always comes from their arrogance. There seems to be this resentment that their mother tongue is not the international language anymore, but also the lack of needs for English skill is playing a big part; speaking from my own experience, comprehension comes much easier than communication. They understand your tourist needs perfectly, but you're at their mercy to get what you need, and it's not their loss if you don't understand what they tell you in reply. There are thousands of others they can take money from, those who try to understand French much harder than French try English, or any language for that matter.
None of these conversations and encounters would've happened had I not come down for Laundry by myself. Sam also told me that the park nearby, Buttes Chaumont which is within minutes walk from me is def worth a visit, so I go next morning. Built in Napoleon III era on the land where they used to hang bodies of executed criminals then horse carcasses and a depository for sewage, it now is filled with green hills, waterfalls and an Italian-themed temple that towers over the 19th arrondissement.
So I come around a corner just about to get home, and I hear crowd chatters and possibly some stringed instruments coming through from a gorgeous garden;
For the rest of the evening I basically walk around Paris rather aimlessly and see the streets of Paris filled with music of every kind; a mediocre Pixies cover band set up in front of Saint-Jacques Tower, some Reggae coming through the spealkers that is violating the ears of every passer-by, a local Kenny G (only in a Jheri-Curls-sporting sense) doing some French sing-along at a packed cafe with a local Vinnie Colaiuta mixing up a few few odd time signature fills, a guitar duo in front of a tiny wine bar hidden in an alley way later joined by a female singer on All of Me, an African drum circle providing groove to a handful of volunteering dancers led by a pre-teen girl...you get the picture. It is chaotic, overwhelming and fun as hell. There is (seemingly) no elitist condescension of any screening process or audition, just direct communication between performers and their audience. As a working musician I always hold a certain standard to what I do and what I deem to be "good," but on the flip side I cherish the sense of liberation to let all of that go and just fucking enjoy whatever. Because at the end of the day, that's what you oughta be doing if you plan to do this for life. Bill Withers taught me that.
With the knowledge that this could continue till next morning (they offer special Metro pass valid 5 pm~6am) and that I'll be Zurich-bound, I decide to head back to Belleville and check this one place out; a run-down cafe with on the corner that I had took notice of earlier in during the day. I just had the feeling. A place this grungy should not stand on this street for however long if it didn't have much to offer. This is past-midnight and my dear readers, I was right. Crowd is pouring out of the joint into the street, clapping and dancing to a self-looping guitarist and a drummer awkwardly jamming to a pre-recorded beat. There are other places open but THIS is the joint of the hood. I KNEW IT. I walk in and grab a beer, they tell me it's almost the last call which is a surprise, especially with the size of the crowd they've got going. Soon I realize the band is finishing up, while people are asking for more. I'm content, proving that my instinct did not betray me, and proceed to down my 1664. Then they come.
Am I not welcome here? Who cares.