The 7-11 Run

 He entered and exited my field of vision – the 27X27 inch square of one of my living room windows – all in a matter of seconds, really.  I’d pulled a chair over to the window to enjoy the post-downpour breeze on this late summer afternoon and was unknowingly well-positioned for the show.  Walking up Georgia Avenue past the red and burgundy – Washington Redskins themed – front window of Charlie’s restaurant, he was largely unremarkable, except of course, the striking disparity between his appearance and his behavior.  I heard him before I saw him,” Awwwawwwahh, Aaahuu, Aaahhuu!”  First the low, urgent murmur, then progressively louder with unintelligible self-talk mixed in.  To be fair, I was sitting in my second floor window across the street from the guy, with a light flow of Georgia Avenue traffic humming below, a lawnmower running in the not-to-far distance, as well as my being literally face to face with the insistent singing of the birds and insects in the tree just outside of my window, so I suppose his words could have been intelligible to someone else.  Point is, when I first spotted him, the murmur was still low and I did not connect the man to the noise right away, simply because of his markedly normal appearance.  I was looking at a middle-aged white man of average height and weight.  He was dressed in well-fitting, belted khaki shorts, a white t-shirt, white sneakers and a blue baseball cap.  Finishing off his painfully average outfit was as fresh, clean backpack.  And then it all seemed to happen at the same moment;  I noticed he walked with his knees a bit too bent, giving his gait a conspicuous, off-balance bounce, his limbs did not seem completely under his control, and, wait, the increasingly louder grunting and talking were coming from him!  Instantaneously, I was transported to the year 2008 on that chilly, late summer day in Paris when I witnessed a scene that would later become a blog entry entitled, Homeless Turf War.   For sure it was the same unintelligible grunt and hard, bouncy walk accompanied by limbs flying in every direction, but this guy was definitely not homeless.

A moment earlier I had noticed a young black man standing outside of Charlie’s.  I never saw him move but somewhere between the onset of my  friend’s noisy ascent and the upping of the dramatic behavior, the guy had rolled.  And then I spotted him.  No doubt uninterested in yet another crazy person walking up Georgia Avenue,  he’d gone into the restaurant and started his work hanging decorative lights in the front window, just narrowly missing the festivities.

Barely passed Charlie’s, my friend’s noises and bouncing were joined by a powerful – what I can only call – head tossing.  He was tossing his head up and down, side to side and slowly added his arms to the mix.  One jerking, backwards head-toss too many, and off popped the blue cap, revealing his very average, thinning, white hair.  One of his already swinging arms attempted unsuccessfully to catch the cap on its descent, and as it hit the ground, he hit a fevered pitch.  Bending wildly at the waist – knees locked, he scooped up his hat and plopped it lopsidedly down on top of his now-standing, untamed strands.  His noises became the loudest yet,  Ahhuuuah, AAaawwaa, Awaahhhuuu!  Since he had to make a 180 degree turn to retrieve his fallen hat, I guess he decided, “Why stop there?”, and started a series of 360 degree turns, arms flailing wildly about.  The talking now continued, still completely unintelligible to me, however there was a definite tone of anger and frustration at this point.  He continued this way, walking up the Avenue, hurling his arms, his head and his incomprehensible, angry words.  And then he was out of my field of vision.  Not having a television or being a big mainstream movie watcher, I tend to notice that things like this affect me a bit more than other people.  So, I was still sitting in the same spot, taking in the experience.  Asking myself, the how’s and why’s to a seemingly normal individual behaving in a manner obviously completely out of his control; He seems to need medication.  Where is his family/doctor?  How did he get dressed like that?  What’s he so angry about?   And before I could wrangle up any answers, there he came again.  I looked up to find my friend entering my square of vision from the left this time, heading down Georgia Avenue.   The angry self-talk was in full swing, as were the dramatically moving arms and head, only now he had what appeared to be a 16 ounce plastic bottle of soda in his left hand.  Mission complete.  Just your average Saturday afternoon 7-11 run, I guess.

Homeless Turfwar

PUTE! PUTE! The words spat out with such intense force and ferocity.  Nosey by nature, I perked up to see where they were they coming from and to try and lay eyes on their intended recipient.  I didn’t have to wait long to discover the author of the unpleasantries – I saw him from a distance, walking purposefully up the street in my direction. It was a homeless man whom we will heretofore refer to as “The Boss”.  Pink faced and dressed in all black, he was fairly unremarkable except for the beach hat. Cream colored with stripes of tan, brown, orange and red and flipped up on all sides, it solidified the character for me. I watched him walk down the opposite side of the street until he was out of sight, then reappeared a few seconds later on my side, busily hurling his incomprehensible insults at an unseen victim.

I popped the collar on my H&M jean jacket and wrapped it tightly around my neck. It was getting REALLY cold. From my perch in front of the Monoprix market on one of those little cylinder shaped concrete phallic symbols , I stretched my nosey neck to try and figure out this riddle.  

click to sleuth with me

In the belly of a SLAVESHIP called Paris Metropolitain

OMG, it’s freakin’ HOT here. Well….some days. It’s just that when there IS actual SUNSHINE and heat (instead of constant rain), you notice that there ISN’T much air conditioning in the city. Kinda strange for the number ONE tourist destination in the WORLD (trust me, it speaks to the culture). This lack of AC can prove especially problematic while taking public transportation. The train comes pulling in to the stop and as the doors open you feel that thick, sauna-like air rush out to greet you in the WORST way. The real irony of this moment is that you THOUGHT you were already hot waiting on the platform. Every cell in your body screams, “No, don’t do it!”, but you have somewhere to be, so you do. Immediately any hair not perfectly restrained sticks to your face. The sweat that has saturated your bra rolls down your stomach. You smell the STANK of armpits and general B.O. but you can’t really be certain it’s not you so you concentrate instead on breathing in and out…which can also be a problem. click to continue if you dare

The City had me at Bonjour

You hear about the magic of Paris all the time but apart from the very first time you lay eyes on the sparkling Eiffel Tower or stand at the bottom of the Champs Elysee, looking all the way up the tree-lined avenue to the ancient and magnificent, Arc de Triumph – sometimes it’s hard to see. What you see is a bustling; concrete jungle of people – all colors and kinds – not unlike most large, urban cities the world over. Not so magical.  But last night, after years of long, immersing visits to this city, I stumbled onto the magic. It happens when the sun sets over the river Seine in August. Walk along the river and every block there’s some different attraction; a magician, break dancers, a glowing Bateau Parisian passing, a musical ensemble surrounded by people vibrating to its rhythm, or an improvised picnic on the grass flanking the river. The quai of the river is softened by strategically illuminated, bridges and monuments, as ancient as they are picturesque. Sparkling light emanates from the Eiffel Tower down yonder, and, in the glow that envelopes you, the brightly lit boats that pass in the night are almost eerie. The whole quartier is drenched in the softest, warmest light that reflects off of the river in its own picture-perfect way. There are lovers, families and groups of friends.  On such a night, there is none of the hustle and bustle – no one’s in a hurry. A small group of friends huddle around a tiny, round table at a late night cafe, absorbed in their chatter – wholly unaware of their role in the perfection of this night. People pass on their mopeds and bicycles, no doubt on their way to meet a lover or a destiny, just the way you always pictured Paris on a summer’s eve.

Le Tour de France Chez Louis Vuitton

Having read online that you should be on the Avenue Champs Elysee by 10:00am to get a good view of the Tour de France, I arrived to meet my friend at 11:00am – 10:00am French time. We figured the cyclists would probably be around any minute but in the meantime, “Why not amuse ourselves in Louis Vuitton?” This is THE Louis Vuitton, you get me – the mother ship – THE flagship LV store for the whole world sitting here on the famed Avenue Champs Elysee in glamorous Pariiii. Ok – sorry. So I attempted to take some pics to show you guys what “SPLENDOR” looks like in person but one of the –hundreds, i’m sure – of beautiful, perfect security guard clones informed me that I may absolutely NOT take photos in the store – “C’est interdit!” I’m not kidding – there were definitely more of them than us…. which that was probably the point. And they traveled in two’s, which would have been creepy if they all weren’t so beautiful. I didn’t see an ugly one in the bunch – oh – I just lied. click to meet the UGLY one

L’Afrique a Paris

It’s suprising how far you can get on a Carte Orange these days. Sure to have boarded the metro at the Porte d’Orleans station in Paris, France, I found it bizarre to get off at the Chateau Rouge stop and find myself smack in the middle of a bustling open air market in Anycity, West Africa. Aware of the history between France and many African nations and in Paris staying with friends who happen to be of African descent, I sort of get destructive after-effects of colonization. And, YES, of course I KNOW there are “African” areas of town and have EATEN in most of them but still, this experience was somewhat unique. I don’t know if it was an especially busy market day or the fact that I was fighting a bit of a fever, but everything going on around me seemed amplified. click to join me in West Africa

KUNG FU on the quai…

So I’m down at Chatelet on the quai(sidewalk that stretches the longeur of the river Seine) to meet with Sebastien – the supplier I’m working with. We do our little business and as I’m leaving, walking the opposite way down the quai, I see Mr. Man. Yea, I saw him coming from the end of the sidewalk…just swaying – shirt off, lookin sweaty and nappy. He wasn’t African, per se, which is what you usually think when you refer to black in Paris. He was most likely from one of the other colonies in the French Caribean – Guadeloupe or Martinique – probably. They look more like Americans than Africans.
It’s another beautiful summer day in Paris, the sun is shining and tourists are everywhere – crowding out the sidewalks. We continue walking towards each other and when he gets right up on me, the NEGRO reaches out his hand click to meet KUNG FU GLOBAL GIRL