CHEMO CHAIR STORIES 2. The Paris Attack
I did vintages in Bordeaux in 2015 and 2016. That’s what aspiring winemakers do. They go to another country to make wine, drink beer and have a ball, and then they tell you they were a winemaker in France so you think they are better than they really are. I actually did learn a huge amount over there. It was an incredible experience and the first one I got to do with my wife which was très romantic.
After work finished in 2015 I went to visit my younger brother Sammy D in Paris. He was studying at a physical theatre school called Jacques le Coq. Average name for a school I know, but I’m heaps immature.
I was there for nearly a week. The night of the 13th of November we were meant to be going for a night out with all of Sam’s school mates, but we decided to go and visit one of his best friends who was living on the other side of Paris, before joining the other crew. We took the train and I remember Sammy and I having a real-life sliding doors moment. We ran and both grabbed a train door and pulled it open so we could squeeze in. I still think about what may have happened if we missed that train. Rossi, Sam’s mate, lived in a flat opposite a hospital and between two bars. His fave bar was Le Carillon, but we tried the other one this night because it was called The Dude and was Big Lebowski themed. Classic.
Paris was buzzing, such an epic place with a serious energy about it. I love that city. The bar was so packed we had to take it in turns to battle through to the bar for beers and then shimmy back and drink them on the street out the front. We had a few there and then decided it was time to head across town to meet Sam’s friends. It was only a 20 minute walk and being Aussie bogans we had to go past Le Supermarché for some roadies. Us Dugmores have tiny bladders so we went into Rossi’s apartment for a toilet stop and to have a tour of where he lived. I suppose we might have been in there for 15-20 minutes.
We took off down the street heading down towards the other bar which was only about 300 metres down the road. As we walked, three police cars sped past. One of them stopped a bit further on from us and started putting up tape across to block the street. Rossi could speak fluent French and he said they were saying there has been a shooting. The cops were a bit frantic and we weren’t allowed to continue walking that way. We turned back to find a different route and as we walked away four people pushing an ambulance bed on wheels came flying up behind us. There was a woman in the bed wearing just a shirt and undies, who was covered in blood. They raced past us and went down the ramp into the hospital. She had been shot what looked like a lot of times and was not moving. We couldn’t tell if she was dead or not.
We decided to go back to the apartment and wait for a bit. We turned the TV on and finished off our beers as the news started rolling in. Terrorists had attacked Paris. Six different locations with bombs and assault rifles. 130 people were killed all up and 15 of them died at Le Carillon and the restaurant opposite it, Le Petit Cambodge.
Yaan, Sam’s friend, his brother and a friend of theirs were at Le Petit Cambodge for dinner. They wanted to sit outside but luckily could only get a table inside. Yaan was shot in the hand and one of them copped a bullet to the arse. Yaan’s brother held a person in his arms as they died.
Some other friends joined us at Rossi’s and we all hung out watching the news and saw a few more people wheeled into the hospital. We messaged family and friends at home to let them know we were safe.
At 4am Sammy and I decided to walk home. Probably a bad idea looking back on it but a little adrenaline kept us going. We went down to the hospital to see if Yaan was there and then took off. The walk took us a bit under an hour through the heart of Paris and we didn’t see a soul for the whole walk. It was surreal. Kind of romantic for my brother and I if so many people hadn’t have just been killed. They hadn’t caught the terrorists yet and our plan was to lay down and hide between the gutter and a parked car if we saw any headlights. Also (looking back) a bad idea. There were a lot of sirens going in the distance and they continued until I left Paris.
I’ll never forget that walk. It was wild and I’m glad I was with my brother, if you read my last Chemo Chair Story you’d know how aggressive the little guy can be. We went to Le Carillon a few days later to see the damage and lay some flowers for the people who lost their lives.
I don’t know what I learnt from all this. The terrorists succeeded in their quest to instil fear in us all, I guess. We were so close to it all but still so far away and so helpless. Such a cowardly act that makes you wonder about these people’s beliefs and about their upbringings. The world is a tough joint to get your head around and you can waste 98% of your life thinking about the 2% of things you’ll never know. Why did these guys do this? Why did I get cancer? Are the burgers really better at Hungry Jacks? Fuck, I don’t know, I’m never touching that shit ever again.
What I do know is that I’m happy we got that train, I’m happy ‘roadies’ are an Aussie tradition and, even though I’ve pissed my pants a little bit while stuck in traffic, I’m glad we Dugmores have small bladders. Just my bowel I’m upset with but I won’t hold a grudge.