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The street smelled like smoke, but not very strong. Then, the courtyard was smoky making my throat hurt. I looked around and saw no flames. A gentleman was opening his window to the courtyard, so I took the opportunity to ask him if he smelled the smoke, too. He had, but paid no attention to it and closed his window. My stairwell was smoky, too. I could hardly breath. I ventured up with trepidation. My apartment was fine, but that’s when I had to make a decision.
Down the stairs I went, back to the courtyard and back out to the street to see if there was a fire nearby. Nothing. Because I couldn’t remember the number to call the fire department — an idiotic thing considering it’s just two digits — I had to Google the number for the “pompiers” on my iPhone — 18. (I should remember it, don’t you think?)
They answered promptly. I had to spell my name 10 times before they understood it. “El, double E, dai, es.” “El, double E, dai, es.” “Non, ESS à la fin, pas EF.” (Oy!) “Comme la ville en Angleterre! Comme le foot.” (Everyone knows the Leeds England football team and so I have to use that and it works!)
Within a few moments, a big red firetruck pulled up rue de Saintonge and out of it came a dozen firemen in their silver helmets, carrying hoses, entering the courtyard. Shades of December 5, 2014 washed all over me. That’s when the machine shop on the ground level of our building caught on fire and my apartment was up in smoke. (Read about in a past Nouvellettre®.)
The firemen scurried up the stairwells, rang buzzers, knocked on doors, inspected apartments. Everyone came out to their windows to see what was going on. Then I spotted a roaring fire in the fireplace of my neighbor’s big apartment on the other side of the courtyard. Could that have caused the smoke?
Several cute young fireman came up my stairwell. I pointed out the fireplace across the courtyard to them as the possible cause of the smoke.
“Oui, c’est possible,” one said.
“Le feu est énorme!” I said.
Then, I apologized for having called them — “We had a fire here over a year ago and now I am frightened of fire,” I said in my bad, broken French.
He remembered it — he had been there, and he smiled at me big, then mocked me in an adoring way — imitating what I had said in French with my terribly strong American accent that will never escape me.
“Better to call than not,” he reassured me.
While trembling in my boots, it wasn’t all for the possibility of a fire. The French pompiers are known to be “smoking hot” — and they are, which made it more of a pleasure than not to see them coming up the stairwell toward me. The Local ran an article almost exactly one year after my real encounter with fire, titled “French firefighters: Why are they so smoking hot?“) with photos by Fred Goudon.
Goudon is the photographer who shot the photos for the annual calendar — which was given to me as a gift by the friend who was with me during the fire of 2014. The calendar is a charity-raising affair for the Pompier Sans Frontières organization. It hangs in my kitchen to whet my appetite. If you don’t believe me, have a look at the making of the calendar on Youtube. (Every respectful woman and gay man ought to have one, don’t you think?)
The article claims these guys with hoses are hotter than most because they are ridiculously good looking and have sculpted bodies…but Goudon added that it’s the ‘mythical powers’ they have over the public as heroes. Add to that they’re French, and that injects the romanticist idea to the equation.
Is it in our heads or is it true? According to a spokesperson at Pompiers Sans Frontières, the recruits are not chosen for their bodies, but I don’t believe her! It’s true that the French pompiers have a particular reputation over firefighters from other countries. Even though calendars showing off their finest — nude and baring their brawn — would make one think they are up to the French snuff, there is still that “caché” that makes these guys the hottest in the industry.
I love the line in the article, “Could it be their balls?” Ha! The author is talking about the annual “Bals des Pompiers” held on the 13th and 14th of July, when the fire stations open to the public for an unforgettable Bastille Day party. I do my best not to miss them and this year, my daughter is flying in on the 13th just in time to attend them!
Can you blame her?
A la prochaine…
The Adrian Leeds Group
(by Erica Simone)
P.S. Poet and instructor, Cecilia Woloch, will be holding an ‘intimate’ workshop for writers June 6th through 10th, focused on short form works: poems, flash-fiction, flash-memoir, and on exploring the intersections between genres to create hybrid works, plus on “quilting together” shorter pieces of writing to create longer-form works such as poetry manuscripts, novels, memoir, etc. There will be discussion, generative exercises, time to write and give/receive feedback, “light critique” of new drafts, with closer critique available via one-on-one. The group will meet 3 to 4 hours/day and will include a half-hour one-on-one session with Cecilia. Anyone who has ever taken her workshops will confirm that she’s an amazing and inspiring teacher! Email her ASAP if you are interested, as the registration is extremely limited: Cecilia Woloch, [email protected]