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THE STORY OF CHEZ CASTEL

I grew up in the Sixth arrondissement. Before it became a showcase for luxury brands, it was a good neighborhood. I still love it and love walking around it, reminiscing about the good times.

From the age of fourteen, when I was in the ninth grade, I started to get restless, and all my friends with older brothers told me about their first nights out clubbing. I was very curious about them at first, then jealous after a while. I wanted to defy the rules and get to know the night life world.
Patricia Blanchet

So they all went to Castel's, the Left Bank mecca, sometimes with their parents in tow. Mine never went out, or to restaurants at most, and were back at around ten to catch the end of Le Grand Echiquier or the nightly news program on France 3. I didn't have an older sister, but I did have a younger one, my cousins lived in the Drome and, above all, I had permission to go out until 7.30 p.m. max, which had the effect of ending the conversation. This open-hearted proposal had the immediate effect of sending me straight to my room, solitary confinement option. After that, I was watched even more closely, and every outing, even in the afternoon, seemed suspicious to my father, who had clearly understood that I had shed my skin and that my childhood skin lay at his feet. Yet for the next few months, I couldn't move an ear or a toe, and no matter how many stories I invented, I was barricaded in, sensing my adolescent quivering. And always the girls from school taunting me about their evenings spent in that club, staying up late partying, drinking and smoking, they told me. Then one day, my hard-working parents, who worked every day of the week including weekends, answered the call for a martial arts tournament in the Var near Cogolin. It was a gathering of the world's greatest fighting specialists over the age of forty. The special feature of these confrontations was that they took place face-to-face in pairs. For years, my parents had been training each other in kung-fu, jiu-jitsu and other disciplines. When I woke up in the morning, or in the middle of the night, it wasn't unusual to find their bedroom ransacked, their bed broken, their wardrobe ripped open. Our neighbors thought we were having a fight and often sent for the police, who could only observe that it was always my mother who gave my father a severe beating. But it was always by the book, in the hope of progressing and, above all, of taking part in this great meeting that was finally coming to France after having criss-crossed every city in the world. Both had trained hard to be able to measure themselves against other couples and shine in the octagon that was finally opening its arms to them.
Patricia Blanchet

It was a stroke of luck to let me and my little sister stay at home for an entire weekend, taking care of ourselves. But that wasn't knowing my father, who of course always had my nightlife desires in mind. So he looked around to see who he could stick me with, in a disciplinary cell atmosphere. He thought of everything, even entrusting me to people he didn't know, as long as they were strict. But it was Easter weekend, and no one, absolutely no one, was available. Nobody except my mother's sister. They had been brought up separately after my grandparents' divorce. They saw little of each other, and liked each other just as much. So she appeared, not as the right solution, but also the only one. So, after taking us to her house, firmly explaining that we couldn't go out after nine o'clock, that we couldn't receive calls from boys, that the only TV program we could watch was Countdown, that we couldn't wear skirts or dresses if we were going out, my parents placed a kiss on our foreheads and took their BX to the south and the fight. We'd only seen this aunt a few times during past Christmases and birthdays, to which she was sometimes invited by mistake. So we didn't know her at all, and the first few moments in her home were extremely boring, foreshadowing a horrific weekend. But after sizing us up, she put us at ease. She confessed that she was shy and afraid we'd be as uptight as our parents. After that, she put us at ease and turned up the music. We danced, drank lots of Orangina and made up for the time we'd wasted never finding each other. I thought she was austere, or crazy, or both, depending on what my parents said, but in fact she was full of life and doubts, which made her extremely endearing. Besides, we were only fifteen years apart. But she behaved a bit like me and talked only about boys, clothes, going out and partying. And that's when I decided to give her the final blow by mentioning Castel to her, as if it was nothing. She knew it, of course, but she never went there. She didn't like the place, nor the atmosphere, dripping with pretentiousness.
Patricia Blanchet

It didn't start out well, but I gave her my lemur eyes, swollen with tears as I clasped both hands together and begged her to take me there, as I'd been dreaming of it. Tonight was the chance of a lifetime to go. It wouldn't happen again until I found a husband to get me out of my parents' house. She was annoyed because she'd promised my mother she'd keep us on a short leash. Then she remembered her own adolescence and quickly opted for intergenerational mutual aid. She left my little sister with a friend who had a string of children, and one more wouldn't change the family's happy chaos. And off we went to my aunt's house, changing, getting ready, putting on make-up. She wasn't in the habit of hanging out at Castel, so she called her intermittent friends, her slightly bourgeois friends too, to find out who would be getting in that evening to dance. But no one answered, or everyone was off with their families in the country for the Easter weekend. So she poured herself a couple of shots of vodka and rolled herself a joint. I was very tempted to give in, to ask her for a taste, but I held back and didn't want to spoil my first Parisian evening. We arrived a little after midnight. I was full of sleep and not very dexterous in the high heels my aunt had lent me. When I arrived at Castel's front door, I was a little disappointed. I was expecting something more grandiose and flamboyant. But there was no one in front of the Club, so we had no problem getting in, despite my fifteen years. They were only too happy to welcome people. Once inside, it was the same story: there were no more customers. A few tables were occupied by old guys who insisted we join them and get drunk on champagne at their expense. But we'd rather kill ourselves swallowing the hot air from the hand dryers than share a single second with these louts. So at last I was at Castel's, but the place looked nothing like I'd imagined it to be, and more like a Costa Brava nightclub. So, after dancing a few steps, we realized that nothing much interesting was going to happen that evening, and at 1.30 in the morning, we decided to head home. Just then, about thirty people, not much older than me, appeared on the scene. Drunken boys and girls, certainly drugged to the teeth, entered, screaming and throwing themselves on the floor as if they were in their own bedroom. This immediately gave the moment a whole new color. Suddenly, we didn't want to leave, we wanted to infiltrate this gang of lunatics to make my experience complete. My aunt vaguely knew one of them, and this had the effect of catapulting us into the middle of the group, all too happy to welcome two new recruits. This gang had a name, and it was called the Caca's Club. The Cunty but Adorable Cretins Association. I quickly found them stupid, and it took me longer to find them adorable, even though most of them were nice, not mean and very gruff. The president of this club was called Frédéric and he had a very angular physique, a bit like a geometry problem, and his chin stuck out like the tip of a santiag (the chin from which I'll draw inspiration for the Angel's shape). I couldn't understand a word he was saying, except that he liked me a lot and dreamed of kissing me on the neck and back. This was out of the question, as he was as attractive as a pizza with tripe. But he insisted, telling me about literature, that he was a copywriter in a big advertising agency, that he'd already had a few novels published that had done well. He clung to me throughout the evening. I was flattered and found him more interesting than my high school classmates, but I had no desire to exchange even a handshake or a quick fist bump.
Patricia Blanchet

At half past three in the morning, this same Frédéric rang the bell for the end of recess and invited everyone to gather at his apartment, just a few meters away, facing the Luxembourg Gardens. Everyone agreed, especially my aunt, who was in very good hands, hands she didnt't want to get out of. When we got there, we discovered a breathtaking apartment overlooking the central alley of the Garden. Everything was flowing, champagne, margaritas and other nose-watering goodies. But always, I stayed away from anything that might have intoxicated me. By five o'clock in the morning, no one could stand upright and everyone was slumped on a sofa, a chair, a bed or a wall. My aunt had gone off to one of the rooms in the vast apartment with her beau, her Edouard, caring little for my fate. Only one person, apart from me, stayed awake until dawn. It was dear Frédéric, who had certainly had to work like a mule to hold my leg so valiantly. He went on and on about literature (because he knew I liked it), the celebrity press and the advertising agency for which he was the figurehead. Then, suddenly, he turned darker, more melancholy, evoking his brother Charles. His older brother, whom he found more handsome, more intelligent, more brilliant. He confessed to a certain jealousy that often made him uncomfortable at first, then plunged him into an abyss of pain and inferiority complex. So he threw himself openly into writing first, and then into excessive debauchery in an attempt to heal his wounds. And so he moved forward, hoping to leave a few grams of sadness with each step he took into the past. He snuggled into my arms and cried and cried and cried until the sun came up. And like a vampire, at the first ray of light, he collapsed head first, planting his slightly pointed nose in the mattress of his waterbed. This instantly punctured the mattress, and the water it was filled with spilled all over the room. But this didn't wake him up. I got up, grabbed my things and went to see if I could get back to my aunt, who was fast asleep. And as I closed the heavy front door, I retraced my steps to leave Frédéric a short note advising him, when he was ready, to perhaps write a novel about his tormenting sibling relationship.
Patricia Blanchet

On Sunday evening, a little after 7/7 aired, so just before eight o'clock, my parents came back to pick us up. My dad had cracked all his ribs, crushed his cheekbones and Mom was missing two of her incisors, but they'd won the over-forty-five pairs MMA tournament and that made up for all the pain. They were so delighted with their weekend that they didn't even ask how ours went, or what I thought of my first and last trip to Castel.
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