Saturday, July 19, 2008

I love Paris in the springtime

I was ready to be disappointed. The last time I was in Paris, I was twenty-one years old. I lived here when I was nine. But with age comes disillusion and cold, mature assessment. Paris would not - could not - wow me again.

Boy, was I wrong.

It starts the minute we leave the train station. I spy La Rotonde and the Café de Flore out the cab windows. It's all I can do to keep from squealing. Simone de Beauvoir and Sartre used to hang out here. We step out onto the narrow street and that old Paris smell - diesel exhaust and chocolate and a soft breath from somewhere above the buildings - spirals into my brain and sets the fireworks going.

We drag our bags behind us (the cab was unable to pull directly up to the hotel door) to our little hotel on the corner of the Rue d'Odessa. We learn later that this is where the finalists for "Nouvelle Star," the French version of "American Idol" are staying, but we would never have known: the place is small and sleepy. The desk clerks appear to be identical twins; one wears dark glasses. The elevator can only hold Mr. Billy with the bags, so I take the scenic route up the curling staircase.
Staircase at the Hotel Odessa
I lean out the window of our tiny room. To my right is Montparnasse tower, and directly below are sidewalk cafés.

"Let's go out and walk around," I say to Mr. Billy. I feel like I'm nine years old again, or twenty-one. I bounce on my toes. "Let's go see Paris."

And so we do.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

You gotta get in where you fit in

To get to the main branch of the library from my doctor's office, I walk through the Tenderloin.

Past the legit theaters on Geary ('Tis a Pity She's a Whore, A Chorus Line, a one-man show about Shakespeare), then left on Hyde. It's morning still. A man walking toward me has a vivid bruise over his right eye, staining eyelid, brow, and all the way up to the top of his bald head. His toothless cheeks suck in against his gums.

Someone whistles behind me. I don't turn. They whistle again, and a skinny white guy at the next corner turns to grin past me. He raises a chin. A voice from behind me asks how his night went. The man across the street chuckles. The light changes, and I cross toward him, seeing the net of scars across his cheek and jaw. His hair stands out in tufts.

"You find your pot, huh?" the voice behind me calls.

He nods vaguely, grinning, and waves them off, crossing against the light. He heads toward the mini-park, a tiny green space tucked in among the buildings.

Ahead of me is a woman with bright blond hair hanging to her shoulders. She wears shining burgundy lycra tights under a tiny black miniskirt. A blue and green scarf is tied around one ankle, and she wobbles slightly in her green heels. I look for her face as we pass storefront windows, but all I can see are her big Jackie-O sunglasses.

At the library, volunteers are unloading books onto tables out front: "Linux for Dummies" and "Europe on $5 a Day." Passers-by gaze at the books, and the volunteers work silently.

On the front door is a notice - the library is closed until noon. It's a long time until noon.

I walk toward the Muni stop, disappointed. A man sitting on the library's low stone wall catches my eye. He looks big and healthy, and he smiles widely at me. He wears a knit cap with bright orange flames that stand out against his blue-black skin. It looks like a graphic representation of his thoughts.

"You gotta get in where you fit in," he says to me. "If you don't, that's it!"

I smile back at him and nod. The sun shines out from behind a cloud, and I head for my train.

Friday, July 04, 2008

4th of July

Note: Digby just happened to link to one of my favorite songs, so I'm copying her today....