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Cynicism in the City of Light

It’s just a mood I’m in — cynical and jaded after a long, cold, wet and very gray winter. It’s the deprivation of vitamin D which leads to an early death, not to mention depression (scientifically proven) and cynicism, which manifests itself as a result of frustration, disillusionment, and distrust.

So, it’s mid February and there’s been no let-up of the winter blues. This is what you get from the lack of sun: a jaded, cynical point of view that will only last until the first signs of Spring. Or, at least, let’s hope so. But, may I ‘vent’ a little just to lighten the load?

Bursting with New Boutiques

I headed for the Mk2 at Place de la Bastille to see the new Sherlock Holmes movie when I couldn’t help but notice the number of new, hip shops? Boulevard Beaumarchais is very quickly getting a face-lift going from ‘basically boring’ to “branché.” The new shops are ‘concept’ stores — the kind with minimalist inventory and high prices that attract people who think that it’s ‘cool.’ “Merci” has already been on the scene since March of last year and now there are at least another half-dozen like it.

Don’t worry, they won’t be around long. I give it two to three years before the difficulty and expense of doing business in France gets the best of them…unless their owners have very deep pockets. I am forever amazed that these kinds of retail establishments open their doors at all, spending small fortunes to renovate, decorate, stock (not with much), employ, pay rents, pay taxes, advertise and exist for even as long as two years. The city is forever churning businesses, except those that have a heavy cash trade with which they can creatively report their earnings to the French “Fisc” (equivalent to our IRS) — such as cafés and restaurants. (Notice how the ones that have the most longevity are cash only!)

A Drag fo

r the Dragon

It was freezing cold, except for during a few intervals of sunshine that warmed the air. The annual Chinese New Year Parade Sunday afternoon was heavily promoted and therefore the anxious crowds were quite ready to watch the parade pass before them. Forty-five minutes they waited patiently along the curb on rue du Temple, so patiently that several took up reading a publication handed to them in free distribution to pass the time. Even the balloon vendor got bored and moved on.

Then a rather disorganized and sparse representation of the Chinese community in Paris began to work its way up the narrow Marais street. Several colorful cloth dragons wound their way through the crowd, animated by a line-up of costumed men pumping the dragon’s supporting poles up and down. It struck me funny — the movement seeming like such a natural motion. (Blame Valentine’s Day for such thoughts!)

The cold got the best of us and unlike any previous year I had been at the parade, it had lost its charm, likely because of the bitter cold, so we headed into the corner café and watched the remainder of the parade from a warm, cozy spot over a frothy hot chocolate. We felt privileged to have this perfect vantage point.

Flatening Stanley

My daughter’s first ‘nanny’ in Paris was the daughter of a close French friend from Los Angeles who came to live with us our first year here. Before long she went home, got married and had three kids of her own. The next thing I know, she’s sending “Flat Stanley” in the mail (based on a book by Jeff Brown), a kid who gets flattened by a bulletin board that falls on him in his sleep. Stanley wants to travel, but air fare is too expensive (he’s got that right!) and so his family folds him up and mails him to one adventure after another.

Flat Stanley came to Paris to visit Auntie Adrian and partake of all that Paris has to offer. So far, Stanley has had dessert at Le Loir Dans La Theière (3, rue des Rosiers, 4th) and escorted the Chinese New Year Parade Officials up rue du Temple. It’s akin to being a tour guide to a Pet Rock. Oh, what we jaded Parisians won’t do for our special friends!




A la prochaine…

Adrian Leeds
Editor, Parler Paris

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P.S. On a serious and not-so-jaded note, do visit the Elliott Erwitt “Personal Best” exhibit at the Maison Européenne de la Photographie, on until April 4th, and well worth a special trip. Visit for more information.


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