Sunday, July 06, 2008
Paris, ooooh la la et plus
It's hard not to write about the sensual pleasures of Paris, especially after a day of walking and talking, eating leisurely, people watching, viewing luscious art and reconnecting more deeply with an old friend. But (you knew there was a "but" there, didn't you?) the more disturbing aspects of everyday life seem to creep into the midst of a splendid Sunday. We were taking Sam for his first walk on the Champ d'Elyssee and witnessed a car accident in the center of a traffic circle. That in itself was not alarming, but what was, was seeing a screaming woman being wrestled down by the gendarmes (the police) onto the hood of her car, and watching many of the spectators in the crowds out on this sunny day, laughing at the "spectacle" of it all. We didn't really understand what had happened, but I overheard someone say in French that the woman had slapped someone (either the man who was involved in the accident or the policeman) and there were at least 5 men wrestling her into submission. We were all shook up by this incident for quite a long time, and spent a while explaining different ways to interpret the strange reaction of the crowd, and the possible reasons for the woman's rage, to Sam.
Later as we continued walking on a narrow stretch of sidewalk (there are barriers up everywhere for the coming Bastille Day celebrations) near the Obalisque, a disheveled man passed me and lightly kicked me, saying something derogatory and abusive. I did not hear what he said, but Sam did and did not want to repeat it. Bob did not know what had happened until we were long past the spot, and so what ensued was a discussion about violence, retaliation, protective behavior, etc.
In the midst of all this, we saw amorous couples kissing on every other park bench, and fashioned screen plays for heady French films about some of the glamorous couples we saw sitting in cafes. It must be in the water.
Soon after we met Karen in the Tuilleries Gardens near the Louvre and learned more about French architectural history (from Karen). Bob and Sam went on the ferris wheel and Karen and I sat in the Gardens and shared stories from the past year or so.
Yesterday evening we met Karen in her neighborhood near the Belleville metro stop and enjoyed the incredible diversity of people's from all over the world who filled the metro. I noticed how much intermarriage has occurred between ethnicities and the extraordinary rainbow of beauty here that is not visible in other cities I've been to or lived in. Diana Johnstone joined us for dinner (she's an insightful political writer) and she said that sociologists have said that the intermarriage rates in Paris are higher here than anywhere else in the world.
Posted by still sprouting at 8:59 AM