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Saturday, September 20, 2008 - Nothing for 3 or 4

Our Man in Paris, Ric Erickson, editor of MetropoleParis, on some aspects of Paris that are completely normal, and some that are not, on a September afternoon there.

Nothing for 3 or 4

Rue des Rennes, September 20, 2008

Paris, Saturday, September 20 - The sun was shining real hard. It didn't carry much heat because of the northeast wind, a wind that has been whistling around here for weeks, probably because it's September and nobody has turned on the heat yet - nobody except anybody with access to a thermostat and a lot of credit with Gaz de France. The rest of us have mufflers and the well-off have mittens. So the shining sun was welcome. Hell, it always is.

Belatedly I have learned that I have made a couple of technical errors today. This weekend, including Saturday, is the annual open doors thing for our patrimony. Had I kept myself informed I could have gone to Sarkozy's place - the Elysée Palace - and stood in line with about 5000 other Parisians out for a freebie, in order to see close-up the state antique the president lives in with his sweetie, Carla. It looked great on the TV-news, all that gilding.

The other major annual event today that completely escaped my knowledge base, the cupboard where I keep vitally important items, was this year's Techno Parade. Was I surprised to see it on tonight's TV-news? The whole 20 second video of it? Twenty thousand raving kids, mostly, dancing through Paris all afternoon, and it was only worth 20 seconds. The guy who caused it all, Jack Lang, was even there, eating the 10th birthday cake. Only the 10th anniversary? I think it must be more like 20 years. Maybe I'll look it up.

Listen, frankly, I think I got off pretty well without any techno noise today. We had the Olympics and radio FIP had to play Chinese pop music before, during and after it. It went on for months. Plus, our geographical and political situation requires that FIP play a lot of hit parade stuff from North Africa. Have you ever heard hip hop in Arabic?

So tonight I turned on my wide bigscreen TV with the hope of seeing part two of the Cro-Magnon story, partly because I fell asleep during part one last week. But I had forgotten that Arte-TV was having the final night of its European playwright contest to find out who is number one. I have been seeing bits of this over the last two weeks. I saw Ibsen, Sartre and maybe I saw Moliere, and Beckett of course, but I missed Brecht. I guess that was movie night here. The night Uncle saw Pulp Fiction for the first time and me for the tenth and last.

When I quit the European playwright contest an hour ago. Moliere was leading with Shakespeare in second place, and then the moderator told the Germans to get off their butts and vote for Shakespeare. He moved ahead of Moliere just before I shut it down. I checked the Website and saw that Shakespeare won. It was kind of the European version of American Idol. I had high hopes for Sophocles but I don't know if he even made the top ten.

After all these hits and misses you probably think I had a lost Saturday, that I should have stayed in bed where it was warm. I thought so too but I got the upper hand over inertia and went for a walk down the rue de Rennes, mostly on the sunny side of the street. I thought you might care to see some aspects of Paris that are completely normal, without Techno Parades or visits to see the gilding chez les Sarkozy.

The rue de Rennes has always been a long, straight street, beginning near the Deux Magots café at Saint-Germain and sweeping uphill to Montparnasse, right up to the C&A there. In the old days there wasn't a lot of activity - just some odd little shops for items like guns, custom shirts and driving schools. These days those are gone because the frock shops have moved in with the phone joints, and the game dens, watches, shoes, bags, frilly underwear, high tone this and that, FNAC and banks of course, a few - very few - cafés, an occasional bakery and one cinema, the red one that shows coco films from the former USSR.

In the past you could walk in the middle of the sidewalk from Placide to Sulpice with your eyes closed, so little was happening. Now it's like a brawl to get past the place that sells kitchen knick-knacks. Pretty young things, talking dirty on their phones, hurtle out of shoe boutiques totally carefree. Young moms are driving those twins pousettes, and some of them even seat triplets. Did I mention we have a baby boom here? They're out shopping for those little booties that cost more than they would gilded.

L'Horizon, Rue des Rennes, September 20, 2008

It is starting to seem as if Paris is finally safe for the bourgeois because everybody who isn't, is a budding wanna-be. There was a time, not so long ago, that smokers and other antisocials could hang in dim bars and wile away the hours puffing like magic dragons, having a few tiny glasses of wine and discussing the fate of the planet or their favorite European playwrights. Only students do that now.

So I admired folks' recent tans and their hairdos, and quite a number of legs in sheer dark stockings descending from tailored shorts. The closer you get to Saint-Germain the sleeker it gets. So neat, so tidy, so rich, so accessorized with those super supple soft sacks. Even the granite paving stones seemed with it. No cruddy concrete please.

"… quite a number of legs in sheer dark stockings descending from tailored shorts" - Rue des Rennes, September 20, 2008

The usual crowd of well-dressed people - people, not folks - were installed on the terraces surrounding the Deux Magots. More leather jackets like silk, scarves, bags, watches like hubcaps, glitter bracelets. You can't actually see this because the place is set up with sort of barricades, parasols, frizzy bushes, behind which the custom lurks in near-dark.

"The usual crowd of well-dressed people - people, not folks - were installed on the terraces surrounding the Deux Magots."

The Flore isn't quite the same, even if it seems to be the Deux Magots' Siberia. I imagine the hustlers were parked in the Flore while the rich divorcees were at the Deux Magots and the twain was the waiters, but it was always one-way, and the first stop was Lipp across the boulevard, for a little souper to get acquainted.

Meanwhile the sidewalk on the boulevard has always been used by folks to get from one place to another and it's not their fault these establishments are there. These are the shoddily shod, the grubbily garbed, the unshaved and low in tone, ambling on their rounds, slogging through the mobs, hoping the Poodles aren't vicious.

Across the way, between the church and the metro entry, just to the west of the snack kiosque, Les Josettes Noirs were playing their horns - trombones, trumpets, tubas and French horns, with drums and tambourine - while dressed in electric red white-polka-dotted dresses with red shoes, drawing crowds of the aimless with the cameras and phones, providing fresh melodies for those holding up the church and musical ambiance for the diners at the kiosque.

Les Josettes Noirs

Usually they're dressed in rags. Street musicians, music students, are not supposed to look as if they've come straight from a rehearsal in Hollywood. Reality is getting more like TV every day.

~ Ric

Text and Photos Copyright © 2008 - Ric Erickson, MetropoleParis

[Nothing for 3 or 4]

All text and photos, unless otherwise noted, Copyright © 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 - Alan M. Pavlik