Ten Franc Piece


When I first got back to Paris there was a 24 hour a day party going on at Bob-a-loo-bop's place, because his wife was in the hospital having a baby. Bob's one of the craziest guys you'll ever meet, and the all night bashes in his living room were some of the wildest I've ever seen. Paris is one of those places that brings out the madness in people.

One of my first nights there, me and the bodhran player, Barry, got into a drinking contest. We had bought a case of those little bottles of Jupiler beer, and after everybody else had passed out, I bragged to Barry that I could out drink him any day of the year. He took me up on the bet, and whoever could drink up his twelve bottles first without puking would be the winner. Now, it's not the wisest thing in the world to try to outdrink an Irishman, but I'd just come back from Erin's Green Isle and I was well in practice.

We were downing those little bottles right and left, and when we were getting towards the last couple or three all the foam and bubbles inside my stomach went shooting halfway across Bob's living room. Barry starts jumping up and down saying "I won, I won!" But I explained to him that it wasn't puke, it was just foam. And began drinking the next bottle. Needless to say, jumping up and down isn't the best thing to do when you've got ten or eleven bottles of beer in your belly, so it wasn't long before Barry suddenly jumped up and ran into the bathroom.

When he came back, I was just finishing my 12th bottle, and I asked him "Did you throw up?" Well, he had to admit that he had because I could hear him in there retching. I said to him "Well, I guess that means that I won, eh?" and grabbed his last bottle of Jupiler. He tried to take it away from me, but I had to pull rank on him. "Barry, my boy, if you can't hold your liquor, I'm afraid you can't have anymore - Besides: 'Winner's Rights'". I was feeling sick too. But I managed to hold it all down, and quietly sip away at bottle #24 while Barry slowly lost consiousness.

The next morning, I felt wonderful. I suppose it was because I was still plastered. One thing though, I was dying of thirst, but as the Irish say "If you've been drinking all night and you wake up thirsty, it just goes to show that you didn't drink enough the night before."

And when we weren't guzzling beer and rolling around the floor at Bob's, we were over at Al's place. Now Al was an old black American who ran a place called the "Dew Drop Inn", and he had a piano downstairs and we used to go down there and work on our Jazz numbers. Al claimed to have known everybody who was anybody, and was the epitome of your beat philosopher. The raps we had about music and life sure seemed to sum up what it was all about. And if it didn't, it was only because we were from a different generation.

Just before I'd arrived, the guys had been "discovered" and recorded by a French producer and the record was due out any day. On the album were Mark and his brother, the fiddlers from Carrick Fergus - Those two had been playing together since they were babies and Man! could they do some duos. Barry the Belfast Butcher was on Bodhran, Bob-a-loo-bop on the bass and flutes, and of course, Weasel on vocals and banjo (the boys dubbed him "The Devil" for this recording).

This singer could really get a crowd going with that flying Irish folk, and he looked just like this 13th century wizard from this British kid's show "Cat Weasel". With his long thick hair like a lion's mane and his moustache twirled at the ends, with a pointy van dyke beard, he was a walking heirloom. And dressed in black with his tall thin frame and wild countenance he did resemble some theatrical incarnation of the lord of darkness. Anyway, I wasn't there when they recorded it so I can't say what made them call him "Le Diable".

They were discovered while playing in the street near Opera, but we were still playing the streets and, as always, in the gray Paris Metro. Imagine, there were six of us, three playing one side of the tunnel and the other three playing the other side. It was absurd, plus you don't usually make beans down there anyhow. We knew we weren't going to get more than a couple of beers apiece from the take, but we didn't care - we were playing for fun.

An fun it was! The whole atmosphere was contagious, we were having such a great time that it lit up the whole area with a glow of good will (no, it wasn't xmas). People who usually walk around full of anxiety were loosening up and digging it. Yes, it is possible to brighten up even the jaded eyes in the catacombs of the Parisian Transit tunnels - but don't count on making any bread while you're doing it, because it's strictly volunteer work.

In the Metro, the people come in waves. Normally, you don't bother playing in between the waves. Well, the wave was up and we were riding the crest when Quarantine rounded the corner and started boogying down. We finished off the tune, the people were clapping, and we were feeling all right. Then the little blonde girl invites us all back to her place for dinner, everybody else begged off, but I figured she was cute enough and said OK.

It didn't take me long to figure out that she was nuts. When I arrived, she broke out a bottle of wine, and when I said that I don't normally drink wine, she turned around and went "What! You don't dwink wine? I went to the stowe to get a nice bottuw and now you won't dwink with me. Awe you cwazy?" "Look I didn't say I wasn't going to dwink it. I just said that I don't normally, OK?" If you have your first argument even before you take off your coat, you can sort of figure you've got fireworks on your hands.

During the dinner, I found out that she was studying at the Beaux-Arts, and yes she showed me her etchings. Finally we made our way up to the loft, and then she didn't want to take her clothes off. I got her down to her undies and bra, and then she started to put up a fight every time I tried to take one or the other off.

In the end I got exasperated and got up to put my clothes back on and leave. And when she saw that I was about to go, she looked at me in an evil kind of way and said "If you want me, you gotta take me."

Oh, now I get it! She had some kind of rape fantasy. OK, lady, if that's how you want it. So I came at her slow like at first, and we started wrestling. Sometimes I would let her get the upper hand for a bit, but then I would have to take control. I figured I 'd play her game for a while, and it was fun wrestling around, but it was soon time to play the game that my throbbing knob needed. She started fighting like a wildcat, and biting me too. I thought to myself "The shit I have to go through to get my end away". In fact she was pretty good in bed, she knew lots of fancy tricks, and she could do the hundred mile an hour hump like a racehorse.

Afterwards she said that she was going to get an apartment with another girl from the Art school, and I could live there and help pay the rent, and so we made a rendez-vous to meet in a couple of days.

footnote 2005:
I had often regretted not saving one of the LPs or cassettes of the album "Ten Franc Piece" by Weasel's group "Dalriada". But I actually found the CD on the internet! It has been re-issued under the name "Farewell to Ireland" Traditional Music of Ireland "The Dalriada Brothers" (apparently there is another group using the name "Dalriada").

Michael Pearson (banjo and voice)
Philip and Mark Crickard (fiddles)
Bob Drewry (guitar and flutes - composer of the tune "Ten Franc Piece")
Barry Skeffington (bodhran)

Update 2013:
About five years ago, Barry sent me a copy of the original LP. Then, last year, Mike came out to L.A. and signed it. How cool is that?


copyright 2005 Jeff Brent

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