dimanche, décembre 04, 2005


It's time I stop being sick and get this Blog back in action. I propose we commence with some shots from today.

The Xmas Faire is ON! Twenty or so small wooden boothes have been installed in the place in front of the eglise St-Germain-des-Prés. It looks like a village of elf cabañas.

They have boothes huddled on either side of rue Bonaparte, some crowded around the Zadkine (or is it Laurens?) sculpture right in front of the Louis Vuitton, and backing up to the café Les Deux Magots. What must the Paris literrati think of such a messy, low-rent yuletide scene? (The pitiable, consumptive figure loitering in the foreground of the picture is unknown to me--they have a lot of panhandlers in these parts).

Perhaps he was hoping for some candy. Be sure to CLICK ON THESE PICTURES for a better view. Attracting a lot of attention was this booth, one of the first in a long train attempting to escape the village on the place by squeaking out along the Boulevard flank of the church St. Germain-des-Prés (creating a sort of Banlieue de Noël). Most of these Boulevard break-aways were just as unpopular with the passing crowds as those shacks staking their claim in the village proper, but this booth was an exception. Lots of candy. Lots of action. Our intrepid photo team of Chino & Chino caught candy on the hook, slowly stretching itself to sticky equilibrium. Inexcusably, our photo team failed to capture the actual confectioner's aerial feat of kneading said candy into pliant smelt, an act wherein flaccid cartwheels of candy cud were swung around his head like a pizza maker spinning dough. Xmas pageantry, Paris style. The masses responded with purchases and admiration. Our camera team could only struggle to find the camera.

We walked on, not buying anything, me feeling pangs of guilt for every customerless booth (it just ain't Christmas if everyone's not making their numbers). Funnily, the silent Asian man who carves the vegetable sculptures (did I write about him before?) had possibly the biggest crowd in the village gathered around him. There he sat, on the sidewalk, a little band of rutabega roosters and carrot koi before him, his black sweatshirt hood drawn tight around his head, which gave his face the circular perimeter of a Japanesse Noh mask. He remained as ever, heedless of everyone around him, truly intent in his work, bowing reflexively each time a coin was dropped, never looking up.

Eventually we came to the front door at Paul--Paul, our favorite boulangerie/eatery. Happily, they were open (it was Sunday, afterall), as we'd been planning for at least a day to sit down here and order some omelettes and cocoa. But at the threshold Dear Wife hesitated and asked how did I feel about Chinese food? So we ate Chinese, crossing the street to visit the little traiteur (I have no idea what that means). The Dim Sum style raviolis were sensational, the chicken only so-so. The so-so-ness made us miss our little traiteur-in-the-wall next to the Grand Action Cinema Les Ecoles.

All the main stores were closed today, (Sunday, man, Dimanche), so we found a little grocery that wasn't and bought some bottled water, and while doing so we enjoyed an easy stroll in the blue glow of a winter's early evening. I hadn't been outside at night for a week. Mercifully, it wasn't so cold. And the walk was definitely worth the small risk of relapse. The city was beginning to show a nice Christmas mood in all sorts of places. We saw some funny muppet-like sculptures on the awning of one kids' store. They really look like they're gonna jump on those cars!

Even the banks are getting in the mood. I would imagine a French bank to be quite a stuffy place, but apparently not so. We are Societé Générale people, but BNP is finding a way to my heart with efforts like this:

They have wrapped their entire St. Germain-des-Prés bank branch in this fantasy flower design. The genesis is unknown, but the imagery is meant to invoke fairies, in particular a type known as WEEZBEES(?), or having to do with WEEZBEE somehow. For the past few weeks, the bank's street-side vitrines had been showcasing some enigmatic scenes involving bland, CGI fairies with french text promising more to come. And then this appears.

First of all, what bank has shadowboxes at street-level? Architecturally, they belong at a large jeweller's, or a toy shop. And if a bank should have windows tailor-made for advertising to passing pedestrians, why showcase Weezbees? Whither the prudent practice of placing placards to trumpet CD rates, home mortgages, free checking and the like? Instead we have this massive fiberglass confection, jiggered up like a less luxe version of a Main Street window at Disneyland, USA or Euro. A big forest and elves? It looks like a tie-in for FernGully III: Return to Paribas.

Is this just authentic whimsy, or incredibly maladroit marketing?

That is what I like about living in a completely foreign place, I don't have to know the answer to that. There's no way I can know. I am allowed to appreciate gestures like these apolitically, with nothing beyond the scent of bondo and lacquer to distract me from the charm of such public poesies. Vive BNP!

It was beautifully blue and crepuscular when we returned home. This is the view of the Xmas Faire from the corner of our block, taken before we turned right, and headed for home, a few doors down and 96 steps up, (and those 96 Steps were not so easy after spending a week in bed).

A good first day back out.

P.S. After being laid up for so long, and so soon after our disorienting trip to London (menus in English? cars on what side of the road?), I was totally discombobulated returning to Paris city life, as estranged from my surroundings as if I had walked out into Istanbul. I couldn't decide which way to look when crossing the street, or what to say when confronted by another person. Even the Metro seemed totally wrong, all the routes I'd used before impossible to remember and the spacious cars not right, either. And then that damn BNP Fairy Forest thing just did me in....