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Saturday, August 23, 2008 - The Wanderers

Our Man in Paris, Ric Erickson, editor of MetropoleParis, spends an August afternoon wandering in and around the Buci district.  Your Man in Hollywood, the editor of Just Above Sunset Photography, has spent many an afternoon wandering there too. Sigh.

The Wanderers

Paris, Saturday, August 23 - It was a long time ago but Uncle still swears by sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll although, to hear him tell it, he already had more than his fair share in its home, in San Francisco. I guess what he really likes is New York and this means New York in the sixties, the New York that was depicted in movies made in the sixties. Martin Scorsese is his hero. That's what New York was.

There are some days when he isn't sitting in the dark at the Cinémathèque seeing some classic Italian comedy. Uncle is catholic. He will watch any Serbian film festival, scrounge through filthy DVD bins for obscure Marx Brothers movies, pay anyone three euros for a classic Abbot & Costello - such as Abbot & Costello In the Grips of Marxism. He said that one wasn't their best, but, hey, three euros!

This week, instead of prowling around in the dark getting some shots of those boring neons with the cocktails glasses and palm trees, I accompanied Uncle on an excursion to his secret used DVD shop. We treffed outside my building and went down to catch the metro or the bus on the avenue. It was sunny, after yesterday's day of rain, so we decided on the bus and one was coming.

It was the 63. We wanted the 38. Several civilian buses passed. Time went by too. A quiet Saturday afternoon, not everybody back from vacations yet. When the 38 arrived it was full and we squeezed on. It was a bus full of amateurs who wouldn't move to the back. We had a party pressed up against the windshield. Thirty more got on at the next stop. The good part was that it wasn't as warm as the last time I rode it and said, never again.

We got off, some 40 of us, on the boulevard Saint-Michel in the middle of the Quartier Latin. This was just down the boulevard from the Sorbonne but there are parts of the university all around, and it means the necessary travel agencies and tent suppliers, and book stores of course. Students, being students, need records and DVDs too, so there are shops for new and used, and that's where we were going - to a used DVD shop about a block from where Alan used to get his pipes and that filthy pipe tobacco he loves.

DVD Shop - Paris, Quartier Latin

It's a tiny shop. I immediately found a treasure in a bin outside. I didn't go to movies for 30 years and I still don't, so I can pick a DVD blindfolded that I haven't already seen. If I do it like that it's better that I pick three euro ones, but all the ones in this place were about six euros. At least they didn't seem as 'B' grade as at Disc-King on Daguerre.

Uncle skipped all the Abbot & Costello and Marx Brothers DVDs. He did not waste time looking for Mae West and other hotcha flicks. He went right inside and found the rare pearl he went there for - The Wanderers, a 1979 film by Philip Kaufman about street gangs in the Bronx in the '60s. It was supposed to be all about sex, booze and fighting. No doubt it has rock 'n' roll in it too because our home town police chiefs said that was what caused all the other.

We went across the street for a drink in a handy café. One of the good things about Paris is having good cafés right across the street where you need them although Uncle said the one we were in was a rare pearl in the Quartier. A lot of cafés have been turned into Starbucks. As if we needed more coffee.

L'Atlas Buci, Paris

In fact we had two shots. Two euros fifty with a fair tip. Uncle wondered what it would be like to have dinner with Cheney and Bush. I had no idea. My lack of imagination staggers me sometimes. Do they ever have dinner together? Does Bush flick peas at Cheney? Do they both drink Coke or does Bush drink fake beer? Or do they get sandwiches from an automat? Cheney wonders where the road named after him will be. Rumsfeld had one named after him in Arizona, because he lives in New Mexico where he has his bodyguard drive his armored SUV to art gallery openings to score free wine and cheese.

Listen, I didn't bring up Bush and Cheney. Besides getting his DVDs, Uncle was on a mission, so we went that way because he wanted to show me a new Starbucks that wasn't full to the ceiling fans. I knew the one he meant. It's on Saint-Andre-des-Arts and I pass it every week. Plus, I noticed by my own self that it's seldom full. Serves it right. It's in what used to be an interesting clothing shop, one of the rare ones that had hats. If it keeps up you won't be able to buy a hat to save your life here.

We looked in all the windows at the empty tables and chairs. How thrilling! Then went around some of the narrow streets there and found Buci News. This was in just about the oldest part of Paris but off the quay and off Saint-Andre it's quiet, tidy, renovated and very private. Folks live there, behind the doors, above the interior courtyards, within 300-year old walls, under their ritzy roof tiles, all as happy as Larry. Not for them the the endless mobs tramping along Saint-Andre, a little road laid out by Romans before somebody brutally bashed through the boulevard Saint-Germain.

Buci News, Paris

The door, the gate, Uncle entered, looked like it was built by the Romans. Romanesque I guess it's called. None of that tacky Haussmannian brick-a-brack manufactured plaster fake grape shit. A plain wall, leaning away from the street, and a plain, stout door. Uncle's mission was to read - perhaps the paper he bought in Buci? - to an elderly friend who translated Beckett.

I left him there and went to find the comics shop he said was in Saint-Andre to the left. Replaced, I guess, by a Lebanese fastfood joint. It didn't get better so I reversed and followed Saint-Andre back to Buci. This is one of these little islands in Paris where the cafés have expanded their terraces so far that the street lost its cars, and pretty soon you can hardly walk because it fills up with tourists come to look at Parisians sitting around outside doing nothing but drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes, and keeping their eyes on their shiny new scooters.

Café Dela Marche - Paris

And that, friends, was another Saturday wasted with aimless wandering, interrupted by silly speculation and impossible dreaming of the past - such as Brooklyn in the '60s. Sorry, I meant the Bronx. Some place that hardly ever was, unlike this place which is full time in the distant past.

 ~ Ric

Mini Cooper Hotrod - Paris, Saturday, August 23, 2008

Text and Photos Copyright © 2008 - Ric Erickson, MetropoleParis

[The Wanderers]

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