L'Etrangère à Paris

 Back to Paris.

Unpacking again. I'm always unpacking, it seems. Nesting and re-nesting. There's less stuff every time I do it and I wonder where it's all gone to.

It's Sunday so that means Bastille Market. Men yelling, old women budding-in, young farmers in charge. I love it. I want to see my Egg Guy and my Shallot Guy and my Hummous Guy and of course my Italian guy. I've missed the fresh mozzarella and confit tomatoes and artichokes. I fill my bag quickly now, not like before. I buy two bunches of tulips for 10 euros instead of 2 for 14 what most of the florists are charging today. I don't feel like a tourist at all here. I feel like I know my way around. Paris was always the place to come to get lost. Now, here I am: giving the taxi driver directions and talking back in French to anyone who tries to mess with me.

Yesterday there was wine and music in the streets. A bottle Coteaux du Lyonnais with two glasses, half drunk at the sardine-can-Sunday place I adore most in Paris.   If you're smart, you rush to the bar, try to score a spot leaning on the aluminum to get a good look at the menu and most importantly the bartender's attention.

Surrounded by old French men - with gold-rimmed glasses and wool hats drinking varieties of whites and reds, washing down their charcuterie and aged cheeses - we chat about this and that and guard our spots from the throngs of folks desperate to sit or at least lean. The rest of Paris, it seems is waiting outside eating oysters off window ledges and garbage cans, anywhere they can get a spot, trying to breathe the air outside a little and they can: the Aligre Market is quiet today, everyone is at the Bastille.  There's a kid's park just at the corner.  Only in Paris...

We took our wine to the park and smoked cigarettes and watched children in Argyle sweaters play while a young man jumped rope and an old man did Thai-Chi. Mostly, we were just shooting the shit and waiting on the rain. It was a nice afternoon. But it didn't end there. There was frip shopping but it felt so much more leisurely than before too knowing which places were open and closed on Sundays. I know which stores I want to see and I know which roads to avoid all-together. And, sometimes on a Sunday, if you're really lucky, you'll get a free concert in this walkway or that, ours with an old lady with flowers in her hat jancing a jig while the singer, an old man chimed along with a perfect English accent and a band full of horns to back them both up I want to fill their guitar case full of all my euros but I've barely got any to spare. Anyway, I have a rule when it comes to musicians: I'll give them a coin if they play one of three songs.  Most do and you can't please everybody all the time. 
When the bottle's done and our bladders are full, we push through the stampede to get to the washroom.  You need to take the back exit, go outside. Yes, that hole in the floor out in the courtyard with the closet door, that's it.  Men are putting down their glasses and zipping up their flies and girls are doing everything they can not to pee on their shoes.  There is something charming about the toilets here - maybe because it's a challenge - like the first time you finally figure out what 'chasse-d'eau' means and why there is a warning about it above the basin.  This time, I know enough to dive out of there as quickly as possible to avoid the involuntary shower.  I carry toilet paper just in case and I know that I will find no soap.  No towels.  Just a bunch of happy Parisians getting back to their meat-spreads and cheese trays.

I felt comfortable at the bar later on too. Comfortable enough to drink my supper and push my way to the toilets. I should have had lunch or something but the day's gone and I'm full on vintage clothes and macarons from Carrette, on coffee and wandering through cobblestone streets and empty churches. The first drink goes down easy. The second and third and fourth do too with laughter and tears and good conversation in a couple different languages.

By eleven, I'm drunkenly reversing my path, knowing that this is to become my usual commute: Gentilly Bus to RER.  RER to Chatelet. Chatelet to the 1, careful not to bump into anyone on the crowded rolling walkways of shoppers and students. The 1 to St. Paul. St. Paul to Place Des Vosges by foote. I'm becoming conscious of how the days are going to play out. Who I'll see and what I'll do. What's important now. The quiet of having no television and a computer that barely works. Books. And of course the piano. I think my neighbours hate me already. Every time I play there's a knock on the door and I just don't answer. I can play if I want to. All I've ever wanted while I was here was a piano. From the very start, it was the thing I missed the most.

I'll have to find a new place come June or July – they're rennovating the whole place and moving everyone to the 13th. I wonder where I'll be then. But for now, I'm here and I've got a fridge full of groceries and my kitchen smells like basil and thyme and coffee. It's grey out there so I'm staying in today to hang my laundry dry and make a savoury Tarte Julie with all the goodies I got from my favourite guys at the market. I have an oven for the first time since I've been in Paris so the sky is the limit. Well, that and eleven hours of straight drinking with old friends in old places...

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