My name is Rebecca Schiffman. This summer I spent a month in Paris. In the third week, my Zagat.com subscription was due to expire and I wrote down the names of all the restaurants I still wanted to try. The first was Le Petit Marché. One night, after seeing The Simpsons Movie (in English) at The Forum des Halles, I walked over to Rue de Béarn and found a well-lit, very small and very packed restaurant. The host saw me and yelled pityingly “Vous êtes toute seule!” and seated me at a small two-person table practically connected to the next table where a young couple sat. The host said to them “She’s alone. She’s American.”
While trying to decipher the menu and assess what I could afford, I interrupted the couple to ask if the restaurant accepted credit cards (yes) and from there they began enthusiastically recommending certain dishes. They had eaten there several times in the past few weeks. We got into a long conversation that lasted through their aperitifs and I was very pleased to meet these friendly and intelligent strangers.
I didn’t mention that I had come to Paris with my boyfriend (it was a very serious relationship) and that after the first week, a very tense and depressing week, we broke up and parted ways. This day I was in an open and eerie mood, still feeling high from The Simpsons.
Eventually I learned the couple’s names: Brad (Listi) and Kari. They told me about their wedding plans and about Brad’s book and Kari showing LeBron James around New York. I probably told them that I’m from New York, 25, still living with my parents, went to Cooper Union, have a painting studio, am a singer-songwriter, and write a zine about The Upper East Side, where I live, called The U.E.S. Journal.
Brad and Kari also told me about The Nervous Breakdown and at one point I jokingly said (I was nervous it would be imposing and awkward) that maybe I would submit something. To my relief they both responded enthusiastically. The plan was for me to check out the website and e-mail the contact there with links to my work. A few weeks later, back in The United States, we began the process of setting me up to write for this very website.
That was one memorable evening from my summer which still reaches out into the present. Going backwards, I want to describe the strange sensations I experienced in the hours before meeting Brad and Kari.
I am one of those people for whom The Simpsons is a very important part of life. ‘Nough said. I had pretty much given up hope that a movie would ever be released and I was delightfully surprised when I saw the first trailer on the Internet. When the movie came out I had heard it wasn’t incredible- not as good as good as the South Park movie, etc… I was determined to like it, though.
The Simpsons has gotten me through some very tough times. During my first serious breakup I would lie half asleep watching the DVDs all day (only seasons one and two had been released), sometimes playing one episode three times in a row (Bart Gets Hit by a Car). I could just listen with my eyes closed and remember which noises referred to which sight gags. Alternatively, I could mute the tv and watch, remembering the dialog. I would drift in and out of dreams where I was Homer, Marge, and Bart, and I started confusing my ex-boyfriend’s name with the name, Homer, when speaking to friends on the phone.
So now, in Paris, after another breakup, I was trying to be good to myself and have a good time. Naturally, I took myself to see The Simpsons Movie. It took me 30 minutes to find the theater because I was not familiar with The Forum des Halles and didn’t know that it was an underground mall. The theater was one of the nicest I have visited- a huge screen, comfortable seats, and the rows going back at such a steep incline that it was nearly impossible for someone’s head or hair to block your view.
I thoroughly enjoyed the movie. I won’t attempt to review it. I barely judge The Simpsons these days. I accept it as a reality, a part of life that cannot be questioned. I am happy it still exists, like a beloved relative.
I found the movie strangely dark. Much of the movie has to do with living in a dome. If you stay through the entire credits there is a little scene with Mr. Burns and Smithers, and after the Green Day song finishes a very dramatic version of the Spider Pig song begins, maybe similar to a James Bond theme, with voices in the background warning “Look out!”.
Leaving the theater with that song in my mind, I followed everyone up an escalator that emerged onto street level in the middle of a park. It was dark out, there were no tall buildings close by, the sky was a single matte cloud grey, and I had the feeling of coming out from underground to find myself in a dome. I tried to trick my eyes into seeing the sky as if I were in a planetarium. A few blocks into my journey to Le Petit Marché I passed a sign for a restaurant which read “Dome du Marais”.
It was one of those nights when the world around you seems made just for you. I noticed objects left and right, patterns in the pavement, store names, people’s expressions. Everything was an omen, but a good omen, and I felt that wherever I walked I would continue to find signs that made sense in the story of my life—like a foreshadowing, as if I lived in the world of a well-constructed novel. Then I arrived at the restaurant.