Paris Fashion Week: Day 1

I’m sometimes reminded that in order for a day to be authentically considered “the longest day ever,” it has to either involve a breakup or intercontinental travel. When one ends and the other begins within the same 24 hours, you’re left with a very distinct "longest day ever,” one that blends sunlight and nighttime into a whirlwind blur of surreality.

Without getting into too many details, apparently my biggest problem is that I’m, “too unpredictable,” aka, “a ticking time bomb,” and that because of this, "we’re through.”

Well, if I am unstable, know that I’m a product of my environment.

By the time I got to the airport, I had only finished half of the pint of whiskey. I knew I couldn’t bring the bottle with me–I would have to dispose of the rest one way or another. My first inclination was taking a single shot in the bathroom and leaving the rest on the back of a toilet, but better sense swept over me and I pounded the rest of the bottle right then and there. Punk rock. I threw the empty bottle away and stood in a TSA checkpoint line for 45 minutes, glad I had no reason to get arrested but somewhat annoyed that I didn’t have any more whiskey to get me through the line.

Nothing makes me want to drink more than TSA checkpoints.

We boarded the plane and I sent some girl one last text message before suddenly finding myself halfway over the Atlantic Ocean, watching Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid on mute while listening to Richard Hell’s Blank Generation. The girls I was with, one married and one engaged, didn’t know what I was going through relationship wise, unintentionally rubbing salt in my wounds by questions about how my now-ex-girlfriend was doing and so on.

“She’s just swell,” I told them, “fucking swell.”

Being reasonable girls with reasonable forethought, they both decided to make a concerted effort to sleep, but I already knew that it would be impossible for me—I was lost in an exhausting thought world. I was at a point where I was too tired to sleep, and I’d been there for three straight days. Add too much alcohol to the mix and airline attendants who were more than happy to bring me additional bottles of wine at no extra cost, and you could see why I was destined to watch the sunrise, again.

Scandinavian Air highlights the difference between socialist and capitalist countries. While I was leafing through my feta salad and drinking my second bottle of white wine, I couldn’t help but think of the stale cookies I was given last time I rode on Southwest Airlines, the Arctic Circle of the skies.

The flight went without incident, dropping us into Copenhagen at the crack of dawn. It’s a relatively small airport, one where we used a retractable staircase to get out of the plane. Needless to say, I didn’t miss the chance to skate around on the tarmac, zipping around drunkenly as the Danes looked on. We then stood through another security checkpoint before being allowed to walk through the high-end shopping mall that is the Copenhagen airport, finally boarding our connecting flight to Paris.

When we finally landed in Paris, we caught a cab straight to the hotel, a Best Western named the Hotel Mercedes. The girls knew I hadn’t slept in days, so they suggested I try to take an hour nap while they walked to L’arc de triomphe, our neighborhood home base landmark. When they got back and woke me up, I felt like Napoleon’s marching band had just paraded over me one at a time, last of all being an incredibly obese tuba player who was really, really reaching for a low note.

I wanted to stay in bed forever it felt a little too solitary, and plus we had things to do. The first order of duty was getting to Sonia Rykiel’s Fall/Winter 2012 show. We took the train to the Louvre and headed over to the Jardin des Tuileries, a park speckled with random sculptures and merry-go-rides. Squared trees lined the garden in rows while Roman statues looked on as waves of people in black flowed through. An ancient Egyptian obelisk stood erect in nearby place de la Concorde. For whatever reason, that made me conscious of where we actually were.

There’s something about the way the orange lights look against the gray skies in Paris. There’s a warmth to the lighting that you can’t find anywhere else, a special glow that’s all its own. The girls were enchanted, repeating, “I can’t believe we’re in Paris right now,” over and over again until I started not being able to believe it either. How did I get there? When I woke up hung over on Tuesday morning, I didn’t expect a phone call asking if I could leave for Paris in 48 hours.

‘I can’t believe I’m in Paris right how,’ I thought to myself.

We joked around taking photos in the plaza as an array of competitive photographers began to line up for the show. Our tickets had been mailed to one of our contacts in Paris earlier in the week, but we hadn’t had a chance to meet up yet, forcing us to wait out on the peripheral. For a second, the situation looked dire.

Then, out of nowhere, an anonymous friend of a friend pulled a single string and walked us in, seconds before a herd of salivating photographers had a chance to rush to the riser. We marked off our spot and laughed as everyone else jockeyed for position around us.

The riser was like Europe itself, a wide mix of languages being spoken by people of every ethnicity, all of whom were at war with each other. The EU of photographers and videographers either joked around or called each other stupid in English, trailing off into what could only have been a slur-ridden tirade in their mother tongue. Such is the air of professional European sophistication during Paris Fashion Week.

I noticed the French videographer next to me kept her memory cards in old jewelry boxes. How elegant. I listened to how serious French women seemed to be, even when they were smiling, like the nonchalant humor took an incredible amount of maintenance.

‘I’ll have to investigate that further,’ I noted in my moleskin, making sure to circle it.

Everywhere we looked, we saw familiar faces, even if we’d never seen them before. Amanda noticed a young fashionable Leo Tolstoy, and I saw a guy who looked like he worked at Dun-Well Doughnuts in Bushwick, causing us to have a debate on whether old-time curly mustaches were cool or not. We came to no consensus.

“There are so many attractive people in Paris,” claimed one of my spoken-for companions.

“Like who?” I asked her meekly.

“Like that security guard over there,” she said, pointing at a guy in a suit with a red tie.

I looked over. I agreed that he was, in fact, very attractive. Then I turned my attention to the crowd. People of every style sat along the packed tiered bleachers. Wild hairdos, glittering accessories, ridiculous outfits and incredibly beautiful garments flashed amongst the chatter. An Italian guy in a white leather suit sat down between a petite Japanese girl in designer high tops and an old fat man in a t-shirt, fanning himself with a newspaper like he was Charles Bukowski on a hell of a losing streak. A flurry of flashes occasionally blinded me as the paparazzi unloaded on celebrities and fashion icons.

“That one’s pretty good looking too,” she added, pointing at another virile security guard.

There did seem to be an inexplicably large number of handsome security guards in the room. I silently mused about how I was now the only single person on the team, and how I had no interest in masculine security guards, attractive or otherwise.

Suddenly, the lights dimmed, and with a bright burst the show began. Rhythmic fashion music pumped through the house, and the riser went all business. I watched as the room turned all their attention towards the girls and outfits parading in front of us. I just stood there trying to guess how old the models were.

Then just like that, it was over, and everyone headed for the exits. I needed vino, stat, but my more temperate companions apparently valued food more than booze, so we went out to eat with Hayley’s old friend Kelly Miller and her boyfriend Sebastian. They were both cool people, and thankfully they didn’t mind if I indulged in a glass of red with the meal.

By the end of dinner, we were all exhausted. Jet lag had become our new time zone. Even though (or perhaps because?) it was our only Friday night in France, we decided it was in our best interest to head back to the hotel and catch some ZZZs. Before I could fall asleep however, I felt I had better skate the streets of Paris for at least a few minutes. I threw on my leather jacket, grabbed my new Proenza Schouler skateboard, courtesy of Milk Studios and Shut skateboards, and hit the pavement, instantly feeling more at home than I now could in Bushwick. On that note, I went back to the hotel, laid down, and desperately tried to fall asleep.

Mike Abu

Photos by Amanda Hakan

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