While I’m walking in the Marais, a gay neighborhood in the heart of Paris, I see a bald guy who looks very familiar to me, then immediately I’m drawn to another man admiring a pair of leather pants in the window of a leather shop. I sense this feeling of familiarity, then the man turns around and yells to the bald guy in the most familiar voice of the past decade, "Hey, let’s try these pants on!" He laughs, and I find myself standing in front of the 42nd president of the United States, Bill Clinton.
I had always dreamed about someday meeting an American president, but giggling in front of a gay boy shop was not the way I pictured it happening. Who but Clinton would have such grace? After my initial shock, I must say I was impressed. Here was the 42nd president, a man of such legacy and power and scandal, and he was just like anyone else, enjoying himself on vacation. He was wearing a leather jacket, jeans, and clean white tennis shoes. The bald guy was James Carville, Clinton’s one-time campaign advisor. They were in town for the French Open, and Clinton was giving a million-dollar speech somewhere in Paris. Soon I realized that the other people on the street were Secret Service men. They were keeping their distance, so the street still felt intimate.
Naturally, I wanted to make a connection with someone, to point and say: "Hey, that’s Bill Clinton," but the only people around were Secret Service dudes. I was so excited that I considered elbowing one of them and saying "Hey, isn’t this something?
President Clinton walking around in the Marais!", but of course he was a Secret Service dude, and he didn’t look like he was in the mood to high five with me. In fact he was as cold as ice, busy doing his Secret Serviceman job.
Clinton appeared approachable, so of course I made the move and went up to him and shook his hand. I said something like, "Hi. I’m from Chicago, and I want to thank you for all your great work." I got the Clinton smile, eye contact, and nod. I wanted to talk his ears off, asking questions and passing on pet suggestions, like world peace and subways with aromatherapy. But it was his "day off" so I let him be the tourist.
Still, I had this incredible urge to call someone, so I darted into a phone booth and called my American friend Kathia, who lives in Paris. Luckily, Clinton stopped in the card shop in front of the telephone so I still had full view. I called my friend and told her, "Clinton is buying postcards in the Marais! I can see him from here!!" Right then I realized: No wonder Clinton got caught. Here was I, a person who detests the media smut and rumors, noting Clinton’s whereabouts like a reporter for The National Enquirer.
It started to rain, and out of nowhere a car appeared, and Clinton jumped in, disappearing into the streets. I was left with that rock-star aftershock feeling, thinking: He is one cool dude. Our 42nd president.
Now I’m back home. I just received an e-mail from another American friend in Paris. She said a friend of hers just called and saw Clinton buying underwear at a women’s lingerie shop.
For Hillary? We won’t go there.
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