dimanche, novembre 06, 2005

Oh, It's a Riot!

Cars have been burnt in the 16th Arrondissement. That's northeast of here, beyond the river, but not far from the BHV (which we visit) and that byzantine city hall structure, the Hôtel de Ville (which we avoid). At least, this is what I have read on the NY Times website. Here I have heard very little. Last night I scanned all the TV channels we have, and only CNN and BBC were devoting noticeable time to the story. Perhaps I just missed the extended coverage on the French channels, but all I could find were variety shows and one channel showing NC-17 level sex. Dear Wife was in the room, so I gave her an astonished and then disapproving look, and changed the channel.

No, I don't really believe there are riots. We hear no sirens, see no rushing fire brigades, observe no columns of smoke in the distance, nor helicopters hovering overhead. There are no "Eye in the Sky" searchlights blasting into our room at 3AM, no incessant drone of chopper blades endlessly circling.

It is nothing like living in downtown San Diego.

The cafés are full, Paul still has a line of scarf-wearing folk waiting to buy baguettes, and the streets remain crowded with pedestrians both shabby and chic. At the Musée Rodin today the grounds were swarming with people, many with their children, all taking advantage of a beautifully crisp, clear day, and the free admission on this, the first Sunday of the month. The Metros (lines 10 and 13, Odéon to Duroc to Varenne) were running, and although they were not as crowded as usual, many of the seats were still filled. The passengers didn't look particularly alarmed, and most people reading the paper were immersed in the sports section. One man next to me was reading a very plain looking novel (so many books seem to be published over here that in their haste they make due with plain white covers adorned only by title and author--a curiously antique look for a softcover): the title was the memorable "Naufrages de Batavia". What this means, I have no idea (but I thought of Dear Pal Pete, Muckdog Supporter)(and now Dear Wife tells me "naufrage" means shipwreck, God bless her). As he read, this middle-aged French fellow betrayed no sign of worry, nor any obvious doubts about the government's inability to quell the unrest ("Quel quell?"); the fact that 1,300 cars had been destroyed last night didn’t seem to upset him, nor did the fact that over 3,300 cars and buses had perished so far in more than a week of violence; indeed, even as I watched him methodically turn each page of his book, the ten day duration of this French Suburban version of Detroit’s “Hell Night” was a worry invisible to me. He didn’t even look concerned that the riots had now breached the line of decorum that separates city and suburb! Or that these riots were now occurring in almost every major French city, and that they would surely continue tonight. He only seemed interested in naufrages and Batavia.

So Paris continues being Paris. I fail to detect any concern in the carriage or communications of those around me, so I myself will forego worry.

What the hell do I know--I don't even speak French.