A nice Shabbat Gift in Levallois
Friday Night 13 Chesvan 5770
This night I had dinner at Café Louis, a Melbourne kind of café, doting couples out on a date, a casual engineered atmosphere.
Pave Saumon was nothing special but the café atmosphere made up for it . Also it was more than reasonable for 13 Euros.
Walking along Rue Voltaire, I stopped in front of ORIENT, a chain fast food Oriental Restaurant ( in France, Oriental denotes Maghreb). Earlier in the day I had a cup of The a la Menthe. I entered and said in my best French, do you have The a la Menthe to take aay? The young man behind the counter said, sorry we have finished our Mint Tea. He looked at his friend, slightly older than him, looks to the corner where the empty tea pot stood… I can brew you a cup of tea if you like..
Normally this is not the kind of response one gets in France.. Sorry, no more tea, said politely, come back tomorrow, we will have some.. A little later, I saw the young man leaving the shop, as he had to go to the corner fruit shop to get lemons.. usually run by fellow maghrebians..
I thought to myself, today is my lucky day to come across such nice maghrebians!
You speak English, asked my host, Yes, English and Spanish. He then looks at his older colleague and say.. he speaks English..
In that universal language, badly constructed pidgin English of this world, for which I am thankful, they wanted to know where I was from, whether I was a tourist in France, whether I work in France?
The thin man was from Morocco, the older one from Algeria.. at the sound of Alger, my ears perked up, my recently acquired taste in Chaabi music… a different kind of romance.
(Also, Argelia was the first country Cuban volunteer doctors went to help, I have a copy of the picture of Che with ben Bella)..that is another story.. by the way Cuban medical assistance continues to this very day..
I like Chaabi music and on my ipod I have a video of El Gusto Orchestra of Alger, playing a lovely piece of music.. They came over from behind the counter and enjoyed the video.. the algerien goes back and brings his ipod and lets me listen to his collection of chaabi music..
That is how I learned about the great El Hachemi Guerouabi. Another young man, joins us, he offers his phone to me and there is Moroccan Chaabi playing in it.. Daoudi was the name of the artist..
That one hour was one of the nicest human interactions I have had in this city of Lights and Love.. a very cubanesque feeling..
Earlier that day I had met a Psychologist, who was lamenting the fact that in Paris, like in many European cities, it is easier to find professional help, rare to find genuine social interactions..
Once I become proficient in the language of Voltaire, I will seek out people of Algerien and Morocain origin living in France—both jews and moslem. I am attracted to their culture.. an amnesia of a forgotten el andalus perhaps?
There is some rigidity in this society , that does not allow free mixing in a social sense, especially towards the people of maghrebian ancestry…
What a lovely Shabbat Gift!