I’ve known Jim Haynes “forever.” That means “since the beginning of my time in Paris,” like many newcomers to Paris who wanted to network and meet new people. They’ve heard about his Sunday night dinners and signed up for the experience. Every Sunday evening, for the last 40+ years, Jim has hosted strangers in the living room of his atelier-style apartment, served up a very respectable meal, and provided the mingling platform for 50 to 70 people…Sunday after Sunday, year after year.
I’ve always thought he might be the most famous American living in Paris. He’s certainly the friendliest. I first wrote about him in Parler Paris as long ago as October 1, 2004. That was a special day for me. Not only was it my daughter’s 19th birthday, but it was the first day of my new life as a “blog writer,” independent from the publisher I had worked for the previous three years. At the time, the word “blog” didn’t exist; just “newsletter.” I wanted the first one out of the new box to be special, and featuring Jim made it that.
Jim, in spite of battling various illnesses, has kept up the status quo and is still hosting the dinners, even if hanging out in a wheelchair while his cronies take over the heavy lifting. His apartment in the 14th arrondissement fills to the brim with his guests while they balance their plates of food with drink and conversation. In the summer months, when the weather is agreeable, his guests can mingle in the courtyard, which has been accepted by his gracious neighbors and can allow him to double his turn-out.
My relationship with Jim is hardly about the dinners. In fact, I can’t remember if this is how we met, but a few years ago, he and a small group of other friends started up a Bourré card game around the big table in his kitchen/all-purpose living room. I was invited because of my Louisiana roots, as has Jim (from Lafayette), one of our other players, and the card game itself, a.k.a. “Booray” or “Boo-Ray.” Named after the town in the Loir-et-Cher known for its dance and music, “Bourré” “is a trick-taking gambling card game primarily played in the Acadiana region of Louisiana in the United States of America.” (Wikipedia.org) That’s Cajun country…and now played in Paris, France. (I bet this is the only game going in all of Paris!)
Dinner is cooked up on the big stove by one of Jim’s illustrious chefs, Mary Bartlett, and the rest of us contribute to it. We pig out quickly enough to get the show on the road by about 8 p.m. while Jim sits at the head of the table and barks at us to stop our chitter-chatter so that we can get down to business — the “business” of dealing the cards. Fifty centimes is the bet per hand, unless in the course of the play, you don’t get a “trick.” That’s when you “Bourré!” and you have to feed the pot with whatever amount of money was in it at the time. It can get very expensive if you’re not careful!
Terms of the game include “trump” (as in “trump card,” but we all try not to use it too often), “pee-pee” which refers to when you are forced to play a card of the same suit as the trump card, but it’s lower in value, so basically you lose the trick. One thing for sure, we’re always laughing, arguing or crying, depending on whether we’re taking trips, trumping, booraying or pee-peeing!
In the course of researching the game, I discovered that not only do Cajuns indulge, but so does the NBA. It’s become an underground card game popular with the pro-athlete set. The story goes that ex-NBAer Gilbert Arenas pulled a gun on his then–Washington Wizards teammate in the locker room in 2009 because Arenas owed an inordinate amount of money after Bourré losses. I suppose they play for much higher stakes than we do.
Jim’s a risk-taker and loses more often than not. I try to be more conservative, but I lose a lot, too. If I win, I Uber home from Jim’s which is across town. Otherwise, I cut my losses and take the Métro home – a good 45-minute ride. My daughter played with us once this past year and totally outmaneuvered us all, even on her first time playing. (She may not be invited back…I jest.)
Here’s a good description of the game.
In the beginning of 2014, Jim spoke at our Après-Midi coffee gathering and recounted his tapestry of a life, starting with a tale of synchronistic events from his childhood and onward that led him into lucky situations (although there is no question that his own “chutzpah” and what we interpreted as an immensely generous spirit had much to do with creating his luck).
Yes, I’d have to agree – Jim is audacious as the term “chutzpah” implies, having had a formidable life – the kind good memoirs are made of – from Louisiana to Venezuela to Atlanta to Edinburgh to London and on to Paris. His accomplishments are many, including as proprietor of a successful paperback bookstore, having published several books, producer of hundreds of theater productions, professorships and of course, the Sunday dinners “chez Jim” in Paris, for which he is most well known by American tourists and Paris residents.
Jim’s been written about by such illustrious journals as the New York Times and the Guardian, is listed in Lonely Planet as a great thing to do in Paris and is discussed in Trip Advisor’s and Fodor’s online forums. National Public Radio (NPR) broadcast an interview with him, he has been written about in airline magazines and just about every blogger talking about Paris…including me. And to top it all off, he was the focus of a commercial for After Eight chocolates!
And now, Jim is the subject of a feature-length documentary – “Meeting Jim” – a journey back to his lifetime as “an extraordinary 83-year-old man who grabbed with heart and soul the spirit of the 60s and continued to carry it throughout his life. This journey becomes also a physical one when he takes a train from the city of Paris, where he lives, to London and Edinburgh, the cities where he left his unique mark. A journey that will not only bring out his past and memories, but also his carefully preserved collection of human interconnections.”
You can watch the trailer on YouTube.
And join Jim in Edinburgh for the World Premiere of the film at the Edinburgh International Film Festival in June.
Tickets for June 23rd HERE.
Tickets for June 24th HERE.
A la prochaine…
Adrian Leeds Group
P.S. Planning a trip to Paris this summer? Now’s the time to find your apartment and live like a local. Contact our Bookings Manager, Patty, and find your perfect home away from home now!