Bummed Out In August
Paris - Saturday, August 18 - Some people have told me they like Paris when it is foggy and damp, when it is cool and rainy. They say they like to see it in subdued colors, mostly gray, without highlights or defined shadows. I suppose they are trying to say that Paris isn't the Riviera. It hasn't any right to be warm and sunny, smell like hot southern flowers and it's okay if all the women are dressed head-to-foot, like for funerals.
And I say all that is a crock of merde. I don't understand why, if I want to go out and sit on café terraces until one in the morning, I should have to wear a hat, scarf, gloves, sweater, winter coat, wool socks and waterproof shoes. I can do that in the winter, and last winter was so mild that it was hardly necessary so I don't understand why this August is the pits and I am supposed to accept it.
It's like Sarkozy, our new president. He was supposed to go away and be silent for a month. It's what presidents do. They go off some place in the provinces and put in appearances at local marchés, glad-hand the peasantry, cut a few ribbons and kind of act like French semi-royalty.
But what does this new one do? First he gets the legislature to sit in July and pass all of his campaign promises into law. Even the half of the French who voted for him didn't expect that. It was pitiful. TV-news showed the Assembly National with a dozen UMPs in it, enough for a quorum I guess, with two token Socialists as the opposition. The place was so empty they didn't bother turning on all the lights.
Then as soon as that was out of the way he turns up in some snooty resort for billionaires in New England, claiming to all the French reporters that he flew there in some Delta jet and paid with his own Visa card. For some reason the French press has decided that he needs as much attention as Paris Hilton, so we had Nicolas fighting with the paparazzi, harassing the sea-going photographers - outside the boundary where they were told to be - jogging for the cameras. Please! We don't want a president who jogs.
Then Paris Match or Gala or both of them went bonkers because Cecilia skipped the lunch with Laura Bush, the entire Bush clan, and the old president. It was why her husband was there! He needed to show Cecilia he could get a lunch with Bush. She said, I imagine, you got the invite. Proves you can do it but I have nothing to prove by going. A bientôt!
Then the embarrassment. Sarko shows up for lunch wearing his insurance company white shirt with no tie and a regulation French-blue blazer and baggy jeans. Nobody wears baggy jeans anymore except a few kids a couple of years out-of-date. I mean, why not just in his jogging outfit? It looked like a formal jogging outfit - approved for FBI use - he even has a matching iPod. Trying to be popular.
But before that the formerly Jewish cardinal of Paris died, and our maximum leader managed to shoehorn in a round trip to Notre Dame, between harassing the hapless photographers and the Bush lunch. Huff-puff, hiya George, I just hadda little funeral to take care of or the voters woulda never forgiven me. Saying this, wearing his designer shades, like a short Hollywood heavy too busy to bother with resort duds.
Now he's back here, calling meetings left and right. Impossible for the stupid country to get through August without him. Merde! Used to be third-string sub-deputies had to handle it. Have we had 15,000 old folks die of heat? Nah, some poor folks got flooded, that's all. The damn rain.
Meanwhile, rain or no rain some folks are really riding some of the bikes the city has parked all over the place. Everywhere you go there are these bike ranks full of bikes to rent. The average one takes away three car parking slots, and they are building more all over. Parisians are going to return from holidays and have no place to park. I mean, they never have any place to park - the city makes a fortune out of it.
What the city did, they said to two companies, if you want the street advertising contract for Paris, offer us 10,000 brand new bicycles and their parking places, and a fully automated rental structure, plus drive-back and repair facilities - on a barge! - cards, databases, the whole shebang a-to-z, and JCDecaux lost, er, I mean, won. They had it before and they meant to keep it. Now they will have the inside track on selling the bikes to other cities.
You can't just go out and buy 10,000 sturdy, theft-proof, computer-controlled bikes with baskets, brakes and lights. You have to have them custom-made and JCDecaux got some factory in Hungry to do it. They probably own it.
Meanwhile, there are people who gave up on the weather and decided to have their mouths rebuilt this summer. Just like people in the US getting their bodies rebuilt in Mexico or Paraguay, French folks are flocking to Budapest to get new teeth. There are package deals - flight, hotel, five implants and six crowns, for a lousy 7,000 euros, including wine and goulash. Ten days and they come back with glitter faces.
It makes a nice contrast. Other folks, who went to the stinkingly overpriced Riviera, are actually coming back looking filthy brown. Then they smile and they've got these dingy teeth. Everyone smokes down there. And these fish-white people have blinding white teeth. I don't know which is more sickening. All that paprika goulash or all that pissy rosé.
It's all so depressing. I was walking up Daguerre today - today being another one hardly fit for Paris-Plage - and when I was opposite the accordion place I thought I saw the beginning of yet another bike park. There was a big pile of sand in the street in front of Agnes Varda's DVD shop. Yeah, I thought, right at the top of Daguerre, it's downhill all the way to the Monoprix. Cool.
Up close though I saw that the sand covered the whole street, about half a metre deep. Then I saw the pro video camera and the white reflector screen in front of Varda's other place. Grips, if that is what they were, were taking down the scene. What was it? A bit of stray Paris-Plage in the 14th? Were some of those people movie stars? Beach on Daguerre?
Well, it hardly matters now. Paris-Plage finishes tomorrow. City hall has played this one cool, telling Le Parisien over two weeks ago that they are not counting attendance this year. With three main sites, they said, too hard to count. This, I am sure, caused the rain.
This means that the sum total of the entire summer was Grace's vernissage on Abbesses in Montmartre. She had four artists, or five counting Matt Rose, and a photographer, and she had an invite for Wednesday and another for Saturday. All these folks turned up, mostly living here, and they ate the pistachios and drank the wine, and said how many decades they have been living in Paris. I didn't really wonder why I had never seen any of them before.
On the Saturday Matt conned me into riding back to Montparnasse on the back of his scooter. It was a warm night and he had a spare helmet and I had two cameras, one heavy, and the other light, and I got some interesting photos of jiggly lights in the dark. It reminded me of Marianne Faithful's Lucy Jordan in a convertible on the Champs-Elysées with the wind in her hair. How many of Matt's girlfriends have worn that helmet before me?
Ah, merde, who cares? The forgettable summer of 2007.