Thursday, January 1, 2009

New Year's Eve

My Internet connection is running at a breakneck 5% of normal speed, so I suppose I should take advantage of it before it goes back to 0.8% of normal speed. That's why I'm in such a euphoric mood.

Last night was New Year's Eve. In Paris, lots of restaurants and night clubs set up special “reveillons,” or New Year's parties, and add either one or two zeroes to the normal price of admission. Some people get all dressed up and go to these to engage in small talk and consume drugs, primarily ethanol, into the wee hours of the morning.

Additionally, it is traditional on the Champs-Élysées avenue for large crowds to gather around midnight to bring in the new year with a heavy dose of ethanol. Holidays in general in France are primarily pretexts to consuming ethyl alcohol in large quantities, but New Year's Eve is particularly notorious for this.

It is also the tradition to explode cigar-sized firecrackers in the streets, and see how many people one can make partially deaf in the process. The real fun-loving kids put the firecrackers in glass bottles, so that they can blind people as well as make them deaf. And it's extra amusing in the Métro, where people can't run away and the hard surfaces of the corridors conduct the ear-damaging noise for long distances. I haven't heard any firecrackers this year, though. Maybe someone outlawed it, or maybe I'm just in a lucky part of town.

Needless to say, I don't go out on New Year's Eve. I went out earlier to buy groceries to tide me over the holiday, but then I returned home and locked the doors, as usual. I leave the drugs, noise, expense, and crowds to others. I know a lot of other people in Paris who also do this, so I'm hardly alone.

I noticed the presence of regular city police, riot police, and gendarmes (kind of like highway patrol) in the city while getting my groceries. In recent years, scum from the suburbs has taken to riding into the city on public transportation on special occasions and weekends to conduct gang fights right in the city itself (particularly on the Champs and in a few other locations), and of course New Year's Eve is a special pilgrimage for them. The police maintain a conspicuous presence to help discourage the angry young males from manifesting their stupidity, especially after these latter individuals have consumed a few liters of beverages laced with ethanol, one of their staple foods. This, too, I prefer to avoid.

The flip side is that January 1 is usually very quiet. The angry young males and other revelers are still in ethanol-induced GCS 3 comas at least until noon, and nobody is working, so everything is peaceful. Even as I write this, at 4:00 AM local time, things are very quiet (I live in a neighborhood with lots of retirees, diplomats, and other “good people,” meaning middle bourgeoisie). That's probably why my Internet connection improved slightly: all the movie pirates have stopped their downloads temporarily.

This is the ninth day of unpaid “vacation” I've wasted because of a malfunctioning Internet connection.

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