Monday, July 14, 2008

Bastille Day Pt. I: Playing With Fire

My wife had a French fireman's sausage in her mouth tonight, while I scoped out some hoochied-out hotties.

Ok, ok, ok... umm, that sounds bad. It was a dark brown merguez, which she enjoyed with gusto as I got tipsy with the firefighters and their admirers.

No, she wasn't granting a favor to a north African firefighter, and there was no infidelity involved. We were at the local fire station gorging on 2€ sausage sandwiches and 2€ beers, while the gals were all dolled up trying to get the attention of the men in uniform.

Huh!? Here's the deal. Every year for Bastille Day (or as it's called here, la Fête Nationale, since it definitely lasts for more than a day), many of the local firefighting battalions in Paris put on a huge party. Some do it on the 13th, some do it on the 14th (which is Bastille Day proper), and some - like our neighborhood company - do it on both.

So we decided to hit up the 5th fire battalion's garrison a few blocks from our place to see what's up. For a voluntary donation (or none at all if you're cheap or broke), you get to go to a massive fire station and party with a bunch of men in uniform. I know that sounds supremely gay, but it's a good time.

Like everywhere else in the world, Paris firefighters are good-looking, muscular hunks of beefcake. I know that - again - sounds supremely gay (not that there's anything wrong with it), but I'm getting at something here. If you're a single girl, there is no better place to meet good-looking, muscular hunks of beefcake. With French accents. If you're a single guy, there is no better place to meet the girls that love them. And there are lots of them. And there are only so many pompiers to go around. So eventually, once the beer and champagne have stopped flowing, there will be some hooking up. So if you're single and in Paris around Bastille Day, now you know where to go.

And that concludes the "International Playboy" portion of this piece.

Our neighborhood's pompiers hosted their party in the massive courtyard (actually, two courtyards) of the firehouse at Place Jules Renard, with bars set up at the perimeter of each, a stage for live music in the larger one, and a stage with a DJ in the second. And it was just mad... in a good way.

As what seemed to be the only Americans there, Alannah and I couldn't help but notice the massive differences between an event like this here, and one back in the States. We seemed to start every other sentence with, "If this were in America..."

  • the age range of the attendees would've been about 24-35

  • the video screens would've been festooned with waving American flags and sooty faces and "FDNY" tributes with the word "hero" splashed on for good measure every 96 frames

  • the alcohol would have cost three times as much

  • drinking of said alcohol would have been cordoned off to barricaded areas, only enterable with wristbands

  • champagne would most certainly not have been served in glass bottles

Instead, we were treated to what felt like a true community celebration, attended by people ranging from 8 months to 85 years of age. But that didn't stop them from showing video clips of a realistic day in the life of a firefighter. From cooking tons of food (again, another universal firehouse thing, which translated well into the barbecue stand where we got our merguez), to daily workouts, to the bloody and sometimes downright gory imagery of pulling people out of fires and wrecks. Sanitized for general audiences, this was not. And neither are the firefighters. They may be partying in uniform, but they're still partying - having drinks, dancing on the bar, and all the while being incredibly cordial, polite hosts.

It was hard for us to believe that a massive, free party in a major city could be so... civilized. To be sure, it's far from a sober affair. Beers are only 2€50, champagne is 5€, the music is pumping, and by midnight, the place is jam packed. Despite all the bottles of champagne going around, none of them are being broken over people's heads. The fact that you can even buy glass bottles of champagne was astounding to us, escapees from Litigious Society.

So we whooped it up with the local firefighters, watched a couple of bands, checked out the sardinesque (my made-up expression for seriously packed) DJ area, and drank champagne.

Oh, and there were midnight fireworks, of course. Curiously set to the theme from Blade Runner. WTF?

The bal des pompiers parties go 'til about 5am, but we called it a night and walked home by 1. We don't want to spend our first Bastille Day nursing wicked hangovers. That'll have to wait until the 15th.

Oh, and for the record - the lady firefighters are hotties, too.


  1. Thank you for *not* posting photos of hunks in firemen uniform and "taking care" of your gay readers. I'll complain to UCLA and BBB. I mean, what gives?

    PS. Grats on visa, and hope your darling gets one soon, too.

    PPS. Remember, if it's a male in uniform, POST IT.

  2. Hahaha.. I knew that'd draw a response from ya ;) The wife got a picture with several of them. Once she has it up, I'll shoot you a link. Don't worry, I won't tell Pete ;)

  3. dude where did my last comment go?! anyways 2 euro 50 for beer?! when i went to the bal de sapeur pompiers on 14 juillet 2002 they were 50 centimes!! what a difference 6 years makes, eh?

    we only found the fete nationale because we found a nice french guy named Abdel who was wandering the Seine looking for tall guys to hang out with his french model friends. i love paris.

  4. Friggin' inflation... 2€50 is great when comparing it to the usual 5-7€ at bars.

    Of course, now that I'm paying the equivalent of $40/person to have a fairly average dinner, my sense of scale is all screwed up.