Boulevard St. Michel
Tiffany chewed a piece of steak slowly at the indoor café. She was the only customer with a properly encased acoustic guitar next to her seat. When she was in junior high school, she had learned to play the instrument. Good ole' fashioned, traditional acoustic guitar. Among family members and companions back home in New York, it was no secret that she actually thought of herself as a 1960's Greenwich Village songster stuck in a later decade. She even dressed the part, with a frilly white peasant blouse and a modest brown prairie skirt. Her auburn hair was waist-long and virtually without modern style. Unusual for a woman living in Paris, she felt no temptation to engage herself in "le shopping" for the latest styles of clothing. American as apple pie, she had earned the qualification to live there thanks to a music scholarship with the University of Paris along with a little extra financial help from a wealthy aunt back home. The extra money was, of course, for survival until it would be time for her to obtain a work visa. Her ultimate fantasy was to become a famous folksinger in the beautiful concert halls all over France, singing both in English and in the French that she had learned in school. She'd never say no to the idea of singing in French any more than she would say no to the idea of speaking the language to and alongside with her beau Didier, a generally sweet-natured local fellow who bore a stunning resemblance to the 1980's rock star John Cougar Mellencamp. Both of them 23 years old, Tiffany and Didier had first met at the indoor café located not far from the movie theatre where he was working. She had made an attempt to book a folk singing gig for herself on her first night upon her arrival in the great city. She was so excited to be in Paris, after finishing a cup of coffee she had basically sung and played her guitar at the place without permission, something a French girl in her right mind would never do. This entranced him. As with some of the American guys who won the hearts of French women she knew of, the American-ness factor played a part in what attracted him to her. It wasn't just because she had the face worthy of a beauty pageant, and with a fairly nice ultra-feminine voice for singing. It was suspected among nearly everyone who knew them that he had been saving himself for an American girlfriend all along.
Over dinner that evening after his work at "le cinéma" and her internship at the university teaching a songwriting workshop en français, both of them were enjoying the finest Beaujolais wine she had ever tasted. She felt right at home in such an artistically influenced part of Paris. She kept thinking to herself that she would even be willing to sing children's songs from time to time if called upon to do so. However, she was mostly aiming to go through the professional intercultural motions of sort of a female version of the young Paul Simon, except in France, not England.
Didier, wearing a simple blue sweater and jeans, and feeling under the spell of Tiffany's way of affection toward him, felt himself becoming fascinated with her folk music by proxy. It happened like a magical occurrence, as if unexpected, like a cough. Originally, he was in love with her, not the music she played. They had enjoyed many a romantic night listening to her play her guitar at his apartment, and, of course, for practice to become the best folksinger she could be. For those times, he was only accepting the music as just something she likes. Just another item to go along with what she's about. Now the music had seeped into what he found so appealing about her. He was so taken with the feeling, he had come up with a crazy idea. It was not because of the wine. He granted her the courtesy of expressing it in English, and just as she always preferred, keeping his Parisian accent intact.
"Tiffany, chérie, I just thought of something. Let's go to my theater and go inside the auditorium. You can play guitar and sing something in front of the movie screen as the guests are about to stand up out of their chairs when the movie is over." He was amazed that he managed to remember the English word "screen".
"It will be a cute surprise for them, non?"
Tiffany looked at him with a smile and laughed, wondering if anyone has ever done that in the States and gotten away with it.
"You will ask your boss first, okay?"
Didier somehow knew she would request this from him, to be cautious. This, to him, was so American of her!
He agreed and they strolled down the Boulevard St. Michel arm-in-arm with her guitar that she had already had with her from the songwriting workshop time. They walked into the staff entrance of the theater. In French, he asked his boss in the theatre office and his boss said it was okay, especially since Didier had been a good, dependable worker, deserving of a small favor, and Tiffany would only do it there that night only anyway and not anymore. Delighted, Didier and Tiffany kissed each other passionately and headed for the back hallway to the clean-up crew's area. Tiffany rehearsed a brief warm-up with her guitar. They could hear the sounds of the movie ending from the above walls, hoping no one could hear the secret musical warm-up as the ending credits of the movie were fading out. It would sound weird and spoil the surprise. The clean-up crew had been asked to wait in the restroom, or the "lavatoire", as it is called in France. They would be told to come out when the overhead projector above is turned off for the night.
The screen went blank and Tiffany, guitar in hand, boldly walked out in front of it, with Didier standing at the door of the clean-up crew's area, almost out of sight of the audience, who were about to walk out but were stopped in their tracks. It was indeed a surprise for them. But the people of the movie audience wouldn't be the only ones getting a surprise. No sooner than Tiffany had finished the famous Peter, Paul & Mary folk hit "If I Had A Hammer" had an unexpected figure emerged from the entranceway of the auditorium when the song was over and the people had walked out. With a rather scruffy head of brown hair, and a form-fitting black leather jacket over a polka dot shirt, a lanky thin-framed young man approached them. Added to the figure was a metal harmonica rack held around his neck and an acoustic guitar strapped in front of his torso. Tiffany felt a shock wave shoot through her at an instant.
"Didier! That guy looks just like the young Bob Dylan!"
She was obviously much too startled to say it to him in French, even though she knew how. She was glad he understood English so well. Her mouth gaped open. In an almost comical imitation of her, Didier's mouth gaped open too.
Tiffany was right. The young man walking up to them replicated the precise physical appearance of the legendary Bob Dylan as he looked in the year 1965.
The young man's facial features were a fair approximation of likeness, with hook nose and piercing eyes. A noticeable difference, however, was the shape of his mouth.
In Paris, no less!
Wasn't he just another guy who came to watch a movie? The guy then spoke.
"I was gonna do exactly what you just did. Play my guitar and sing as a surprise in front of people who came here to see a movie. Wow! Quelle coincidence, huh? Heh heh!"
The young man shook hands with them and introduced himself as an American named Monty who had come to Paris with goals of helping to revive or at most enhance French people's appreciation of the real Bob Dylan. He was not a tourist. He said he had traveled to other parts of Europe on vacations but decided that France was his favorite foreign country to live in long term, even if it meant giving up his regular job that had something to do with ice cream. In case they were wondering, he told them he was taking full advantage of his "carte de séjour"– the "three-month stay" card needed for the right to stay in France for that length of time before having to return to the States.
"It's a fun thing to go along with exploring Paris, and besides, it's quite a means of practicing my French when I'm not singing Dylan songs in English at parties and wedding receptions. And I dare anyone to try to translate some of his best-known lyrics into French. You see, in the States, especially in New Hampshire, where I'm from, it's not easy. I always thought Paris, and hopefully this section of Paris would be open to that sort of thing. Ya know, quirky, artsy people getting attention and being outrageous yet harmless to the public. And yeah, I know I wouldn't necessarily have got permission to do it here, but part of the adventure would be to see what I as an American could get away with in a way that doesn't hurt anything or anybody. I've always wondered how the French would react to this kooky American imitating a famous person, hopefully for a few dollars or so. That's what motivated me to come to Paris. And then coming from the hallway here I heard your guitar music, and saw you do this, and I'm thinkin', man, maybe it wouldn't be so embarrassing after all if I saw another American just get up and sing in front of people unexpectedly."
Tiffany felt a warmth come over her, like she had just made someone they just met feel better about what he came to Paris for. And she had Didier to thank, for encouraging her to do it. It was fabulous timing that it just happened to be at that very night when someone like Monty would come along.
So that Monty could understand what she had to say, Tiffany turned to her French sweetheart and thanked him in English for coming up with the idea to do this bold thing with her beloved folk music.
"You should also thank my boss for saying yes to allowing me to allow you to do it", Didier added to her kind words. As the theatre staff walked out to go home, Tiffany thanked Didier's boss with a graceful "merci" and explained to him in French that letting Didier show off her live music in the auditorium brightened yet another young man's night, all without knowing it ahead of time.
Tiffany and Didier had made a fascinating new friend, and they were ready to help each other with trying to achieve their dream of bringing a slice of the American folk music movement of the 60's to Parisian life. They would hang out with each other and enjoy holidays singing their music together for fun and sometimes for money in public, such as at a festival or two. Bringing their guitars, they might explore other parts of France and even travel together for their visits back to the States. Most importantly, Monty promised to show up at Tiffany and Didier's wedding as a unique part of the entertainment, free of charge. Monty's "Bob Dylan Impersonator" business card was always handy, and was gladly kept in Tiffany's jewelry box for years to come.