Chez Fernand

May 9, 2002

When I came in, there were two men playing dominoes. I sat down at a nice, square, brown wooden table next to the window and a cold radiator, and one of the men got up to take my order and serve me my espresso and then went back to his game. There is some kind of Middle Eastern folk music playing here, a cd or something that sounds like Cat Stevens singing in a language I don't understand, one of the songs replete with a backup children's singing choir. A young man sitting at a table behind me tries to get my attention and then asks me for something in French (to borrow my pen, perhaps?), but I don't understand him and say stupidly "je ne sais pas" and he rolls his eyes and I mumble "je parle pas français" and go back to my writing.

His friends go in and out of the place, apparently no one has anything to do -- in the back room it sounds like people are playing pool. One of the domino players taps his dominoes together, making a sound like a rattlesnake with a short rattle. Everyone seems to know each other, and I feel like an intruder into this neighborhood bar. They will never see me again, but they're probably wondering if I've moved to the neighborhood and if I'll be here writing tomorrow. Well, probably not, actually, they probably think I'm a tourist because I don't speak French, and who would live here and not know French? I wonder.

The coffee came with two packets of sugar cubes; on the side of the cup it says "La maison du Bon Café," which is not the name of this place. The ashtray is clear glass, smallish, with no advertising on it whatsoever. The chairs are wooden with no cushions.

There is a man sitting at the table outside my window, smoking a cigarette. His two little boys come and go, to where I don't know, though one showed up with french fries at one point. A bus goes by waving a French flag sticking out of it's upper front right corner. Sometimes a domino falls off the table and clatters as it bounces a few times before coming to rest and is picked up. The music is quieter now, or else drowned out by the voices of all the men sitting at the bar on wooden stools.

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Chez Fernand

Metro: Eglise de Pantin

 

Price of an expresso: 1.00 euro

Sugar: 2 packets of sugar cubes

 

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