Smoke fills the air and music pounds through the graffitied walls. Bodies pulsate with the beat, moving together, arms in the air, feet off the ground. The blue light illuminates strange faces and I see desire in their eyes. Desire for human contact, a good conversation, or a dance partner, and perhaps later, a temporary lover. I have a beer in one hand and spliff in the other, filling my lungs with the familiar sweet smoke of mind- altering goodness. The taste of tobacco twisted with weed lingers heavily on my tongue and my beer, that has now gone warm, barely wets my palate.

It’s “underground”, a squat, an illegal party thrown in ever increasing empty or abandoned buildings. It’s the “vanilla” opium den of modern day rebels in modern day Paris. Floor after floor abound with a young and beautiful crowd, clothed in dark colors and an air of “I don’t give a shit”. It’s a peculiar collaboration of hipsters, French frat boys, and artist with cigarettes nestled consistently between their lips; a carefully crafted mysteriousness lingers, that’s somehow earnest and obvious, unpretentious, but equally filled with the “in the know” crowd.

Perhaps it’s just their French-ness that strikes me as I wander past the dark rooms where they lounge languidly lost in conversation and a haze of cigarette smoke. The smoke stings my eyes while red and blue low lights create trance like auras- do I really see what I see? Is it a fantasy? Or perhaps my own weed induced dream? What is this I’ve stumbled upon and how did I get here? What awaits me around the next corner? I pretend I’m Alice in Wonderland, having fallen down the rabbit hole into a new world, and I’m reminded, that I have indeed fallen into a new world. This is not my homeland, nor my hometown San Francisco party scene. I am an outsider, an observer.

Muffled conversations lilt off the walls and I’m struck by the sanity of it all, no one puking in the corners, no used needles to be stepped on, and no white lines of cocaine snorted avidly into the bloodstream. No one’s offering me Molly or Meth, or pushing the party to near fatal limits with amphetamined fervor. There are no Burning Man aficionados, no feathered freaks, or half naked partiers (not that I have anything against BM aficionados, feathered freaks, or half- naked partying) but rather there’s a sustainability surrounding it all; joints are passed ordinarily and beers are sipped slowly while the beats are inhaled and bodies stirred. This really isn’t San Francisco and there’s a sense I could party like this every weekend without taking decades off my life or needing five different livers to get me through the month. God bless Paris.

The dark corners beckon to be me, soliciting me to use them in tantalizing ways while the dance floor flourishes with lively passionate dancers, the DJ’s drinking the only hard liquor in the building. I find myself drunkenly groped by an over- eager inebriated man who stumbles in his large body and smiles too big. I guess some things never change, no matter the country. But here it’s simply about being apart of the movement, the desire to connect, and give “the man” the big middle finger. It’s a statement to their culture, their desire of liberte and fraternite.

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