Flattened Out and Strewn Everywhere All Over Paris
FLAT OUT COOL CHRISTMAS
What do I know? I’ve never had a Christmas tree in my house (my mother thought it totally sacrilegious) and wouldn’t have a clue about how to buy or decorate one, but it still came as a big surprise when I saw FLAT trees for sale at a pop-up Christmas tree merchant on the corner of rues Vieille du Temple and Quatre-Fils in the Marais. It was a first for me.
How clever for small apartments! I almost wanted to buy one for myself, although I knew my mother would be turning over in her grave if I did. My daughter isn’t as guilt-ridden as her mother and has installed a tree in her New York apartment on occasion (decorated with whatever she could find handy), but like most who live in small spaces, find it tough to fit in a real one with a broad expanse. What I learned is that not only are there totally flat trees like these, but half-wall trees, much like my “demi-lune” parasol on the balcony at Le Matisse, my apartment in Nice.
So, the question I ask you is: Does it make a difference to the meaning of the tradition if the tree isn’t real or flattened like this? No one seems to know why having a Christmas tree is a tradition, anyway. It’s just DONE without thinking why. There’s all sorts of speculation, but it seems that the first person to have brought a tree into a house, in the way we know it today, may have been Martin Luther, the 16th-century German preacher. The story goes: “One night before Christmas, he was walking through the forest and looked up to see the stars shining through the tree branches. It was so beautiful, that he went home and told his children that it reminded him of Jesus, who left the stars of heaven to come to earth at Christmas.”
Nonetheless, I am sure a fresh tree smells yummy and when decorated is quite pretty and festive, hence the true fun and spirit of the tradition. You must think I am a total alien for being so clueless about Christmas trees, but I’ll bet you don’t know as much about lighting Chanukah candles as I do! (Or maybe you know a whole lot more!) But, that’s where I shine. I scored an 18th-or 19th-century eastern European Chanukiah (candelabra) in the “Shuk Hapishpishim” (flea market) in Tel Aviv in 1980 that gets my Chanukah candle-lighting business every year. Candles can be purchased in several of the markets in and around rue des Rosiers — the multi-colored ones that burn fast and drip lots of wax. (You have to sing your songs and say your prayers over the candles before they melt before your very eyes.) Chanukah starts this coming December 12th, right after our Après Midi gathering, so perhaps we who attend should all light the candles together!?
FREEDOM TO RIDE
What’s with the new bikes strewn all over the sidewalks? Offensively ugly green GoBee bikes are everywhere and anywhere. The city is already torn up all over town making way for new bike paths and at the same time, this new fleet of bikes has hit the streets: Gobee Bikes. I’ve tripped over a few already and while it’s not as bad as stepping in dog doodie, it’s a kind of littering (n’est-ce pas?) and quite frankly, very unpleasant to have to maneuver around them on the narrow Marais sidewalks. Fortunately, I’m not wielding a baby stroller! That could turn into a disaster!
Here’s how it works: you download the app, find a bike anywhere you can, scan a QR code to unlock it, ride your heart out, park it in what they say is a “responsibly designated spot” (meaning anywhere), lock it up and then you pay 50 centimes for every 30 minutes.
It’s competition to the city’s Vélib system, with it being free the first 30 minutes, but you can literally drop one off anywhere and trust me, they do. So get ready Parisians, bikes are about to take over our lives and we could end up like Amsterdam with no room for us pedestrians! Help!
A la prochaine…
Adrian Leeds Group
(by Theo Robinson (2004))
P.S. Be sure not to miss next Tuesday’s Après Midi gathering, December 12th from 3 to 5 p.m., when Joanne and David Burke, authors, film writers/director-producer-editors, show their documentary “PARIS NOIR, African Americans in the City of Light.”