If you're at all like me the reason you took French in high school was because the teacher was a hot little number with a sexy voice named Miss Powell. Watching Miss Powell scribble cute little verbs on the black board was pretty special to me and my buddies. Easily one of the most incredible sights at Michigan's Flint Central High School in 1969.
And, if you're at all like me, the reason you can't speak a word of useful French twenty-five years later is because you spent your entire high school career making a fool of yourself trying to impress Miss Powell. I remember quite clearly the time I asked her to go to bed with me, politely mind you (s'il-vous-plait) and in proper French, in front of the whole class. I spent that afternoon, one of many, in the principle's office. If he'd had a dart board on his wall I'd have been a pro by the time I turned eighteen.
It's not that I learned absolutely nothing in high school French. I just didn't absorb much of the stuff you need to actually function in a real life French city. I can say my name ("Je m'appelle Dartoid") but I can't say "diddle for middle" -- though I imagine if I thought about it a bit I could come up with a phrase that closely resembled "diddle Miss Powell." Other extremely important phrases like "Where's the toilet?" and "I'll have another beer" were either never taught to me or where lost amidst my fascination for cute little verbs years and years ago.
Getting from DeGaulle Airport to Le Tango du Chat (6 rue Ste-Severin), the one and only darts pub listed in Darts Player magazine, is like taking a trip through history. You'll pass the Arc de Triomphe (which commemorates the victories of the Revolution and of Napoleon), the Eiffel Tower (which up close resembles what a child might construct with a giant erector set), Notre Dame Cathedral and the Sorbonne. Unfortunately, "getting there" was the only enjoyable part of this first leg of my search for a darts bar in Paris.
Le Tango du Chat has a very nice wooden darts cabinet but when I arrived it was missing a board. My attempts to find out if there might be one set aside in a back room somewhere were met with disdain. I suppose it's possible the bartender just didn't want to go to bed with me ("Voulez-vous coucher avec moi, si'l-vous-plait?") but that's just about all the French I know, thank you very much Miss Powell. So much for Le Tango du Chat.
So I headed off to do a little bit of what one is supposed to do in the "City of Lights", this center of so much that is chic in the western world. I had a miserable, overpriced lunch at a little restaurant on the Champs Elysees. I stopped by the Louvre to confirm for a friend that Whistler's portrait of his mother indeed uglier than the "Mona Lisa". I checked outsome famous graves -- Voltaire's and Rousseau's at the Pantheon and Napoleon's at the gilt-domed Hotel des Invalides military museum.
Eventually I found my way to a raggedly little bar near the Seine and the Ile de la Cite called the Le Cloitre (19 rue Ste-Jacques). Hung just to left inside the door is a battered up electronic board. I threw a few sloppy games with some guy from Italy and then, fed up, spent the next hour trying to hail a cab back to my hotel. What a city.
They say that one needs a good four days to take in the full sophistication of Paris -- it's shops, it's chefs, it's history and romance. Perhaps they're right. But when it comes to darts, at least in my brief experience, Paris offers even less than I got from Miss Powell.
C'est la vie!
From the Field,