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Man in a beret.

January 11, 2016

French priest 2

January 11, 2016

Yesterday I did manage to work out at the YMCA.   Because she had gone earlier, P. told me she saw that firefighters were there to do physical exercise with civilians while the firefighters wore their fire fighting gear.  I assumed that meant special boots, pants, coats, hats.

Thinking it was to raise money I tucked a $20 into a pocket of my exercise pants and headed over there.  Worse luck!  They had gone by the time I arrived.  I ended up pedaling an exercise bike, listening to a woman’s basketball game with a broken headphone.  I used the springy headgear to hold the broken earpiece to my ear.  Southern Florida trailed University of Connecticut by 15 when I went back home.

That evening Becky took P. and me to a restaurant as a gift.  Not quite, because the restaurant was closed.  Instead we took Becky to Walker’s Grill and, over drinks, she told us all about her life.

I thought I was going to work this morning but lucky for me, while eating cereal, I glanced at my datebook.  No work today.  So I went to the basement and looked through old photographs.  I’ve been taking pictures most of my life, since the fifth grade.  Then I found a rather recent photo.

A blurry photograph of an older man wearing a sweater and beret took me back four years.  In Paris.  End of January, when P. and I had our 40th wedding anniversary.  I remember the triumphant feeling I had when I snapped his picture.  Then I remember the lousy feeling I had when I found no pocket money when they passed the collection plate.  I’ve gotten ahead of myself.

This was our third trip to Paris and man!  I thought I knew my way around.  My daughter and I had even taken a night French language class a few years before and I knew how to tell the sad fate of our calico cat.

Weather was freezing cold that mid-January, early in the morning when our huge AirFrance plane touched down.  Doesn’t take nearly as long to get into France as it does to leave, so we were soon on a train bound for mid-Paris.  P. and I sat near the back of one of the cars when someone tried to sell us something or other.  I simply gave whatever it was back.  I took a photo of the inside of the car.

Paris Metro.jpeg

A couple minutes later, just before the train left the station, a man entered behind me, fell against me in a shower of coins, then sprinted out the door with the graffiti that looks like it said “scpve.”  On each half of the door.

“What the hell was that guy doing?” I asked.

“He threw money at you,” P. answered.  When we arrived at the Gare du Nord in Paris at the 10th arrondissement, we collected our luggage, but not the bag with the laptop.  It had disappeared.  Amazing how one’s day can change from light-hearted confidence to paranoid gloom.  We couldn’t get into the hotel for hours, so we walked through the maze of Parisian streets.

Back to the story about the priest with the Beret.  We had a few days to kick around Paris before our anniversary supper, so we visited as many art museums as we could.  At one point during the week I woke in the night, afraid that my identity had been stolen.  P. assured me that I was the same person I had been, so I went back to sleep.

The evening of that first day in Paris, to stay awake, we hiked around our neighborhood, freezing cold.  We stopped at an ancient church near our hotel, black with the dust and dirt of centuries.  Some young people exited.  One small fellow told P. and me in English about a talent show that would take place in a couple days at the church.

Well, we went back to the church, found seats at the back of a makeshift theater, and all kinds of people performed, including an old man, the one wearing the beret.  He came in carrying a suitcase and an umbrella, reciting a poem– in French, of course — into a microphone.  Despite all of my evening French lessons, I understood nothing, but the audience came erupted now and again with laughter.  Well, his verses rhymed.  He looked a bit distressed, but I think that was part of his act.

The other acts were as you might guess:  guitar and singer, small groups reciting, three men brought in dishes, dishpans, soap and towels and washed a load of dishes.  One of the men was never satisfied with the work of the others and they had to rewash and rinse.  That was good for maybe 10 minutes or so.  We had no place to go, so we enjoyed ourselves.

Something about the January cold, the late night, the melancholy feeling left over from being victimized by a thief, and the contrast of the good will of the crowd toward the home-grown performers made us feel pretty good.

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