Cultural Crossing Only on the Striped Lines
Monday, March 5, 2007
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Dear Parler Paris Reader,
We landed at Charles de Gaulle early Thursday morning. The line at passport control snaked quickly, quietly and orderly. The luggage arrived immediately and a taxi awaited us to whisk us home. In spite of delayed traffic due to an accident on the Autoroute, not a single car horn was heard. That was re-entry to Paris and the reverse culture shock from having just experienced maddening chaos prior to boarding the Air France flight at Indira Gandhi Airport in New Delhi.
Re-acclimation to life in Paris was a quick and easy transition over the first weekend back.
The “Improfessionals” English language improvisational theater troupe kept us all laughing (in spite of my jet lag) at Au Café de Paris on rue Oberkampf in the 11th as they directed and enacted stories in various genres, while the audience became the jury and voted for the award winning director of the evening. I was hoping for a “Bollywood” film, and one audience member was campaigning for “Swedish Porn,” but instead they chose a genre less controversial, like “Musical Comedy.” (For their upcoming shows, visit http://www.improfessionals.com)
Speaking French again at the Parler Parlor French-English Conversation Group on Saturday morning was a welcome pleasure as author (“Adventures of a Continental Drifter”) and journalist Elliott Hester kept me in stitches with his first impressions as a new resident of the City of Light. You’re going to love his blog at http://travelblogs.latimes.com/paris/ and keep an eye out for future articles in the L.A. Times. (Don’t forget to reserve soon for the group’s 9th Anniversary Party on March 17th. Scroll down or visit http://www.parlerparlor.com for more details.)
The beautiful full moon Saturday night (that later during the early morning was lunar eclipsed!) shown brightly over the terrace where a photo exhibition was held sponsored by Mizani Technologie Professionnelle Loréal, products for Afro and frizzy hair care, in their spacious studio on rue Moret, just around the corner from Au Café de Paris. Our client and friend, Leon Saperstein, had a few of his best fashion photos on display, while trendy young Parisians mingled and networked. The people watching was sublime.
A friend told me she spotted a “streaker” on avenue Montaigne on Sunday morning. Perhaps a result of the full moon…often blamed for wild happenings and strange behavior among people and animals. So, it wasn’t too strange that Sunday afternoon costumed dancers were on rue des Rosiers (4th) who greeted us and the others on the now pedestrian street with little b
ags of candy, pennies and “Hamantashen” — triangular shaped cookies with a filling in the middle symbolizing the hat worn by Haman, the evil character in the Purim story. Like the medieval festival of fools, Purim is celebrated by excesses of food and drink, masquerades, and making fun of everything. It began the evening before and continued through Sunday, enlivening the Marais even more than usual and while Purim is a carnival of silliness and joy, it actually recalls a rather dramatic story found in the Book of Esther, called a “Megillah.” There’s a Jewish expression, a “big megillah” which means a long, sometimes drawn-out or long-winded story (like this one!)…which comes from this Biblical story of Esther.
In the stack of mail from our 2-week absence was this month’s “A Paris” magazine, a publication the city hall distributes free of charge. I laughed out loud when I saw the back cover ad — a photo of a crosswalk and a man walking alongside it, but not on it. The caption: “Tous les jours, on traverse en dehors des clous. Et un jour, on y reste.” In other words, “Everyday we go outside the lines and someday, we will just stay there.” Then passing the Hôtel de Ville on a long walk from Le Marais to the Petit Palais, crossing through Le Louvre, the Jardin des Tuileries and Place de la Concorde, to visit the “Peintres de la lumière, Sargent et Sorolla” exhibition (until May 13, 2007), I spotted posters lining rue de Rivoli mirroring the same sentiment and caught a walker doing exactly that!…jay-walking just as we always anarchistically do here in Paris (but NEVER in Los Angeles!).
The city is obviously trying to convince pedestrians to respect the traffic rules, and I suppose will also try to convince drivers to respect the pedestrians in an effort to save lives. Imagine my culture shock having just come from such anarchy and chaos, where in India there are no crosswalks, no traffic lanes, hardly any traffic lights, much less curbs or sidewalks to really speak of!
While strolling casually from one end of the city to the other, in the bright sunlight of a lazyish Sunday afternoon, with hordes of Parisians and tourists taking in the same beautiful scenery and relishing in the first signs of Spring, I came to realize fully not only why Paris had become such an addictive “drug” for me, but how really special life here is and why it would be so difficult to give up…even if it meant crossing only on the striped lines. (I wonder if the “streaker” stayed within the lines, too?)
A la prochaine…
P.P.S. Mark your calendar for joining us at Parler Paris Après Midi on March 13th. See /parlerparis/apresmidi.html for more information.
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Come for a drink and to meet and chat with other readers in Paris:
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Come out and celebrate the 9th Anniversary of the
Cultural Crossing Only on the Striped Lines
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