“Jardin des Tuileries”. Oil on cardboard. 7″x5″
In Paris, like in any big city, there are plenty of interesting people to watch and admire (or sometimes to judge). Looking at well-dressed, stylish citizens is a pleasure and gives me inspiration. Yesterday, for instance, on a boulevard, I met a tall, handsome Frenchman, elegantly dressed. He was coming towards me and had a baby on his front. The man was blind, or almost blind, but he was striding confidently, moving his cane with a bright little ball on it’s tip from side to side in front of him. Both he and his baby had a stylish sunglasses on. This couple impressed me so much, I almost stopped to stare after. I was used to seeing blind people during my Moscow past, poorly dressed, probing the road with diffidence or leaning on somebody’s arm. They often looked helpless, which doesn’t come as a surprise in Russia, not the most comfortable country for the people with disabilities. But not here. This couple impressed me the same way a delicate french woman, also blind, impressed me once in one of the Parisian dépôt-ventes – consignment stores selling designer labels. She was standing next to me beside the shelf full of shoes and methodically feeling her way through every pair. Then she chose one and asked the saleswomen what color it was. Later, she was feeling the clothes on the racks the same way, stroking the fabrics with her delicate dainty hand, touching the buttons and clasps. I could not take my eyes from her. And why was I so surprised? Why a blind woman cannot go shopping and be stylish?
A carriage of Parisian metro, 9th line. Enters one of the numerous Parisian beggars, who are never french and who carry accordions or other instruments, play terribly and without much effort, a few passages full of false notes and then, brazen-faced, go begging for money. With the first notes of a violin I prepared to roll my eyes, but the musician – a small man with a big nose – start playing skillfully, passionately and emotionally, sprinkling his playing with phrases: “How is your day, madam? Monsieur, Bon appetite!” It looked like he is here often and recognizes faces of some passengers. Surprised, I found myself reaching for change.
He finished playing and walked around the carriage, addressing passengers and joking with them.
-Merci monsieur, Vous êtes un grand patron, Vous êtes très riche!
-Non, je ne suis pas riche! ( Monsieur becomes very red)
-Dans votre cœur, monsieur, dans votre cœur!
I am in Cafe “Cannibal” on Rue Jean-Pierre Timbaud, sipping rosè, waiting for friends. A few doors away from Cannibal – a bar called “Assasin”. An interesting street.
One of my favorite places for lunch in Paris is Higuma – a Japanese restaurant famous for its very good ramen. And my preferred position there – at the bar, from where I like to watch four Chinese cooks working in the open kitchen.
Their movements are quick and precise. With fingers, pink and scrubbed, they take cut-up vegetables, prawns and pork from plastic containers and fling it into the woks with sizzling oil. They shake them, twirl them, toss them in the air, sending momentary flames up the ceiling. One of the cooks is in charge of gyoza – Japanese dumplings. He takes seven at a time and with fast and precise movement places them in the metal steamer and later moves them into the grilling machine. Another cook, next to a gigantic pot, doles the ramen’s ingredients into bowls on the counter and skillfully pours the broth on top, four bowls at a time, not a drop spilled. Fascinating!
Another day I entered a vintage store – dark treasure cave on one of the narrow streets of Saint-Germain-des-Pres. Inside, in the depth, among plush vintage dresses, gloves, hats, boas and artificial pearls – the propriétaire, an old madam with a face full of deep wrinkles and bright red lipstick. In a hoarse voice of a chain smoker, she was talking on the phone, gesticulating in the air with the lighted cigarette and all of this – inside the premises!
She had so much style. And she didn’t give a damn what others thought of her. I want to be her when I grow up.
Coming down one of the streets leading off Montmartre, we heard “O sole mio”, strong and clear in the evening air sang by a beautiful operatic tenor. After a quick look around we found the source – a laundromat. A man put on a wash and, walking among revolving drums, indulges himself in a little bit if a singing. As you do. I love you, Paris!