Monday, April 18, 2005

Swank Launch Party

Guest author Nicolas of Metro Stories fame

Last spring, I wrote reviews for Time Out Paris, the small, English-language section that appeared in the back of Pariscope. The publication has since gone under, which is a feat in itself, since the magazine largely exploited unpaid interns, like yours truly, anxious to see their names in print. After a few short months, I was fired after the stressed-out editor came back from lunch to find me absent because of a migraine. She told me on the phone, “This just isn’t working out.” I swallowed my pride and wrote her a long and apologetic email, asking for another go, to which I received no reply.

In March, her name appeared once again in my inbox. I was cordially invited to the launch of a new magazine, headed up by my ex-editor. I figured it was probably a mistake, that she’d not realized I was still on the mailing list. But hey, open bar and a chance to do a little networking? Yes, please. I accepted, and asked to bring my security blanket and partner in crime, Nicolas.

As we stood in line to get in, Emily whispered in discrete Southern Belle fashion, “I bet she left me off the list. I bet I’m not even really invited.” She was Emily’s former boss at Time Out. Her prediction proved true: the tall and scruffy Future Fired Intern fumbled with the guest list but failed to locate us. Emily casually dropped the party organizer’s first name to indicate our insider status, and off we went, up the dramatic marble staircase, all severe 1930s Deco angles and neo-Grecian proportions.

It became rapidly apparent, however, that we were anything but insiders. Emily was Fired Intern; I was Tagalong.

Insiders walk quickly and with a purpose. They see colleagues and friends, smile, and give the customary check kisses. They compliment new skirts and blazers. They mention the last swank get-together.

As soon as we hit Grand Party Central, my flight-or-fight instincts pushed me toward flight. After all, what was my claim to fame? I was the Fired Intern. I currently teach English for a living. My most-recently published article was about my experience with Internet dating.

Taking matters into my own hands, I steered us toward the open bar and surveyed the scene. The Asymmetrical Neckline Brigade was out in force—that requisite starlet cluster that forms a mobile galaxy of retro eighties chic, as necessary to a Paris opening as potted palms are to a Hyatt lobby. Chest-collapsing jewelry and white vinyl boots abounded. The situation was grim.

Our goals: look cool, network, plug our blog, and get Emily to say hi to her former boss.

Three cocktails later, things were looking up. People were arriving in droves. We conversed with a contemporary music sound engineer from Amsterdam. I was enjoying being surrounded by cute French creative types.

I am a lightweight, I admit it. My friends like to say that they’ve never seen me finish a glass of wine at dinner. There’s a good reason for this. After one glass of wine, I’m tipsy. After a cocktail, I’m drunk. Note that Nicolas said that we had three cocktails.

Still uncomfortable but at least happy about it, I saw a work colleague from across the room. Excellent, I thought, an official ‘in’, even if it was the lame, work variety. I walked over, smiled, gave the cheek kisses, and oozed I-belong-here.

Soon, though, I was asked, “So how do you know Jennifer?” I responded that we worked together at Wall Street. Jennifer’s face grew momentarily panicky, then transformed into hatred. Oops. How was I supposed to know that she’d been lying about her day job? She quickly left the conversation huddle, but thanks to my fourth cocktail, I didn’t mind. We now had people to talk to.

We auto-promoted ourselves from Fired Intern and Tagalong to “freelance writer/soon-to-be journalist” and “freelance-conference-interpreter/writer”. Flush with confidence, traversing the crowd, we said bonsoir to a passing freakish, frizzy-haired Brit. Conversation with him failed to take off, however, as Emily spotted a dreamboat wearing a yellow Ethiopia tracksuit and we veered off to the left.

Seconds later we realized that this had been a fatal miscalculation, as the Brit was trailed by cameras and what looked like a real live model (blonde, giggling, anxiously casting around for her next bit of blow).

We watched from a safe distance. How could I have been led astray by such a beautiful, yet tragically-dressed Ethiopian track star? I had ruined our future fame forever by passing up the Brit’s easy smile.

We slouched together against the railing, eyeing Brit man and the cameras, planning a new approach. We were now drunk enough to begin speaking in punctuation marks.

N: Slash, girl gots to clear out. We need to be on camera.
E: Lessons learned, colon, always talk to old people. They’re important. Slash, Track Suit just checked me out.
N: Parentheses, we should have brought business cards, close parentheses.
E: Do we even have business cards?
N: Response colon no.
E: New paragraph, the secret to becoming a wannabe model in Paris is to wear dramatic knitwear and get a euro-mullet.
N: Comma, wear leg warmers, comma, shift weight constantly from one foot to the other, comma, twirl end of mullet with finger. Wash, rinse, repeat.
E: Slash, go go go! Move in! Model on the move!

We went on the offensive and accosted Frizzy Brit, who turned out to be some sort of comedy show producer. We not-so-casually mentioned our blog’s write-up in Le Parisien, pretended to understand his jokes, and ten minutes later realized that his business cards were printed on Xerox paper.

My attention soon shifted to a man wearing a blue Mao suit, covered with several military-looking pins. He talked to no one, hands behind back, pacing back and forth. I half-expected a Red Detachment of Women to spring out from behind a pillar.

Emily was getting antsy but I issued a unilateral declaration that she was not allowed to leave the premises without at least trying to say hi to her former boss, who was clad in some kind of flowing asymmetrical thing which made her look like a lopsided butterfly.

I had imagined the conversation. There were two versions, the one where I spewed some sort of indignant Fired Intern credo, and the one where I humbly thanked her for a lovely evening and wished her good luck with the new project.

Seeing Ex-Boss alone and unguarded in a corner, I thrust Emily forward. We dodged the clumps of franco-british metrosexuals, clouds of smoke, and giggling models and made it over to the bar where Lopsided Butterfly was between congratulation sessions.

I retired to nurse my fruity cocktail whilst Emily engaged the enemy in preliminary conversational maneuvers. These came to a quick close as Lopsided Butterfly decided, “We’ll keep this brief.” Right. A quick handshake, final free cocktail down the hatch and we were ready to bail.

So much for networking, so much for business cards, and so much for our plans to each cart home a cute, scruffy Frenchman. I realized, as we stumbled down the staircase and drifted across the Palais Tokyo lobby, that our main problem was that we just didn’t speak the same language as the tribe we had just spent two hours observing (read: making drunken bitchy comments).

Open parentheses, and speaking with punctuation, close parentheses.

We didn’t understand that “freelance” means “unemployed”, that “aspiring” means “loser” and that “blog” also means “loser”. We needed to develop a new vocabulary, one that would bewitch and excite the moneyed and powerful. One that would make giggly models and Frizzy Brits swoon. Put that on your to-do list, Emily, right after “clean The Dish”; I’ll put it on mine right under “pull it together.”


At 11:44 AM, Anonymous nathan said...

Nico, Emily, Please let me quote your last part (Nico's vocabulary thought) on my blog !

At 2:28 PM, Blogger Sam said...

you shall become famous


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