FTX (French Toast & Hugs) Paris Invitation – FTX #20
Sunday May 15th, 2016
Behind Club “Glazart”
7-15 Avenue De La Porte De La Villette, 75019 Paris
Starting At 8am
September 11th, 2015
I get an email from an old friend, Scott.
Subject line: “Bonjour!”
Inside was a short but cryptic note asking if I wanted to serve French Toast….
The first time I found myself walking around Paris was in 2011. I was lucky enough to be working in London and took the train to Paris to visit my friend Alex for the weekend. She showed me around all the sites a first timer would probably go see: the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, pastry shops!
I remember standing in front of Notre Dame Cathedral and wondering if I would ever get to do an FTX (French Toast & Hugs) event here. What were the chances a small town guy from New Jersey would be here in Paris once let alone twice?
But in 2013 I was back. I was fortunate enough again to be working on an international show and one of the places we shot was in Paris! We were here for only about a week which was a far cry less than the four months it usually takes me to prepare an FTX. And so I just enjoyed the city and was on my way. Never once thinking I would be back here again.
Even as a small boy I never was one to expect more from life than what I’ve already received. I figured you enjoy what you have as much as you can and that’s pretty much that.
But life has a way of challenging us.
I feel what it challenges most is our hearts.
Since FTX Motor City took place in Detroit on September 14th of 2014 I’ve lost seven people close to me.
With each loss I tried my best to deal with it but another and then another and then another would happen. It is now at the point where I don’t really know what to do as I am so backlogged with grief.
And so when Scott wrote me about French Toast in France my immediate reaction was joy.
Joy not only to do French Toast in the country of its namesake (it is called pain perdu here which translates to “lost bred”, something I have been this past year and a half). But also joy for the opportunity to give again. It may sound like it should be the opposite but in truth when I am given the opportunity to do an FTX I am grateful because they fill me so much. They are four months of work and planning but in those few hours we hand strangers unconditional love I can’t imagine a person receiving more than me.
It is a healing time.
I left for Paris on December 26th, 2015 and said goodbye to my lovely wife Brandy and our two older pups Greta & Teen.
Shortly after being here Teen passed away as old age took its toll.
His passing has hollowed me out like an old tree in the woods.
I found myself unable to push forward to my goal of FTX Paris.
The weather was cold with rain and snow and wind.
The city was crowded and loud and there was nothing I wanted to do more than hide in my apartment.
Time passed and my friends Julien, Sophie, and Scott’s passion towards this FTX kept me moving forward.
I would walk early Sunday mornings trying to find the perfect place to do it but could never find more than a handful of people out. I have never in the previous 19 events had so much trouble in finding a location.
How can you give a gift when there is no one to receive it?
Because of recent attacks the city’s police force walks around in body armor and carry automatic weapons. There is a feeling of fear here that the locals told me grew and fed off of the November Bataclan attack.
Where would I go to find people and if I did what were the chances I wouldn’t be shut down by the police? I felt like giving up.
But it was Sophie who found the key.
I find there is much to be proud of in the French people.
They are kind and caring to strangers, on the metro they give up their seats to the old or mothers.
They are affectionate in the way they show you they love you with the gentle pats on the arm or the greeting kiss on your cheeks.
They took in refugees when many countries would not.
There are a few grass root organizations who feed the many refugees and homeless people here in Paris. I write many people but if you were to walk the streets of Paris you would only find one or two at any given place. I believe that’s because the police don’t allow them to congregate. Instead they are scattered and only are found in large numbers when they walk to the pre-planned places they know will have free meals.
Early on we tried to contact these organizations to ask if they had any recommendations of where we could do FTX Paris but never heard back.
Sophie found a website that listed a place that handed out lunches on Saturdays and Sundays and on March 20th she, Scott, & I made our way there.
Far from the beautiful parks of Paris we found ourselves in the 19th district in front of a graffiti covered former bus stop and now music club “Glazart”. Mere footsteps from the local police station.
Behind the club we saw a line of mostly men standing in front of what looks like two large shipping containers stacked one on top of the other. Sophie bravely went up to the door and asked who was in charge. Without question we were let in to find a clean and well used cafeteria being set up for that day’s lunch.
People were bustling around and we were asked to wait. A few minutes later an older man wearing a well used brown leather jacket came up to us. He had those clear piercing Clint Eastwood eyes but with an easy smile to accompany them. I have always been a fan of World War 2 movies and to me he felt like the French Resistance fighters James Coburn meets at the end of the film “The Great Escape”.
His name is Jean-Francois and this was the moment everything changed for me.
Jean-Francois is one of a few people who run l’Un Est l’Autre which translates to “the one is the other”. A belief I strongly hold to.
In minutes, without knowing us, without knowing what FTX really was or even my legal name as I was introduced to him as Toast he offered to let us do our FTX with them!!!!
He offered to open his cafeteria early on the day we do it so people can choose to eat inside or out.
He offered to have Fodil, the man who buys their supplies, to drive me to pick up FTX fixings at a discount restaurateur supply store that you can only get into with their card.
He put us under the blanket of their organization so that there was zero possibility of being shut down by the police.
And best of all, the people will come to us as close to 600 do each Saturday and Sunday when they get their lunch from l’Un Est l’Autre.
The one is the other.
That’s damn right.
It is with great happiness that I invite you to our 20th French Toast & Hugs event:
FTX Paris (Pain Perdu Et Câlins)!!!!
I know many of you won’t be able to make it but that shouldn’t stop you from being a part of it.
We will have live updates on the day on our facebook page so sign up and check in on May 15th. We plan to start at 8am Paris time.
FTX is free but if you would like to support the good people and good works of l’Un Est l’Autre please click the link below.
Please know l’Un Est l’Autre never asked for me to do this (and don’t even know that I am) but it feels right. Just like finding their place did that Sunday in March.
(When they ask for country on the donation page the United States is “Etats-Unis” and the United Kingdom is “Royaume-Uni”.)
It’s a funny thing. Every FTX had the location of where we were going to do it as the artwork because to me the location was always the heart of the event.
Every event except this one.
After meeting Jean-Francois and his team I realized that to me they were the heart of FTX Paris. They were the location I was looking for all along.
French Toast And Hugs Website
French Toast And Hugs Facebook
l’Un Est l’Autre Donation Page