jeudi 3 avril 2008

Sunday Dinner with Jim Haynes

A few weeks ago we went to a Sunday dinner at Jim Haynes' studio in the 14th arrondissement. For the uninitiated, Haynes is one of those rare people who lived and loved in the 60s and 70s and who did not afterwards buy a station wagon and a ranch home in the 'burbs. Instead, he spent his time doing more important things, like meeting beautiful lovers while globe-trotting, creating a World Passport issued by a World Government that a friend used to get out prison in Bangkok, and writing his manifesto, Workers of the World, Unite and Stop Working: A Reply to Marxism.

Every Sunday, Haynes hosts dinner for 50 – 80 people, not necessarily his closest friends, making sure that all the guests feel included and are having a good time meeting others. The concept is simple: call or email for a reservation and arrive promptly at 8 pm. Please do not bring wine or flowers, although a donation of 25 euros is requested (more is okay too, but so is less).

The night we went, Diego and I met an Irish journalist, a couple of American expats living in Spain but traveling through France, long-term British expats, a couple of writers (including an erotica writer from Miami and a Finnish writer attending the book fair), a few students, and some native Parisians.

In DC, Diego and I often attended events where we did not know the other guests, but these events were typically full of lawyer-lobbyist-politico-diplomats. In contrast, at Haynes' dinner and in Paris generally, we meet lots of people who don't spend the evening dropping names that are supposed to sound impressive, who don't ask about your job when they first meet you, and who like to talk about ideas and experiences unrelated to their careers.

Now that we've been here a while, I find it jarring to meet other Americans and have them ask me the quintessential cocktail question, "So, what do you do?" It's a question that really will only elicit an uninspired response on my part, and is often followed by unimaginative barbs about my profession. My all-time favorite is "But you seem too nice to be a lawyer!" As if being nice is necessarily a good thing! Besides, if we get a paper cut, do we not bleed too? I think from now on, I'll start using answering that question with "Nothing too dodgy," a response Diego used when he first moved back to the US.

At any rate, I've totally digressed from the point of this post. Basically, if you are looking for an interesting adventure next Sunday night in Paris and don't want to have to answer typical networking cocktail questions, give Jim Haynes a call.

4 commentaires:

Bacon Heather a dit…

It's funny you wrote this because I've spent the last week wondering what I'm going to tell people I do for a living after I leave my job next month. During the last 11 years of living and working in DC, I've had a tidy little answer to that quintessential DC question. But you are right - outside of DC, it's a question I rarely get asked, at least not in the first 5 minutes of meeting someone. So I probably don't really need an answer to the question once I leave DC, but as a standby maybe I'll come up with my own version of "nothing too dodgy." I like that!

Diego a dit…

Another good answer is: "depends: what do you need me to do?" ;-)

I don't think it's so much of a general US thing as it is a specifically DC thing: very careerist place.

I think it's very liberating to live as a foreigner, in part because you don't fit into any rung of the local tribal hierarchy, so you have no appearances to keep up. Besides, as a foreigner you can always get away with all sorts of things the locals can't, just play dumb, that's an act the locals will always believe!

Angela a dit…

The best response I've ever gotten to asking that question is, "work-release program." Neither I nor my friend had a decent comeback to that.

makietdiego a dit…

Angela: Work-release program...That's a great one! When he first moved to DC, Diego got the most interesting feedback when he would give a one-word answer: "nothing." He had one co-worker of mine tell him, "ah, yes, I have an aunt who is independently wealthy."

Heather, you can tell people you are a writer, which I imagine will lead people to ask about what you write, and which, should increase your word-of-mouth popularity :)

It's been almost a year since we left DC, and I must say, it now shocks me to get the question in the first 5 minutes of meeting someone. But this really only happens at expat events.