A Sunny Sunday

Square Saint Lambert

6 May 2018

I sat next to a woman just as she sighed with satisfaction and closed her book: Avant que les Ombres s’Effacent. Louis-Philippe Dalembert. Before the Shadows Fade turns out to be the story of a Polish Jew who flees Nazism to Haiti, of all places. Turns out Haiti had passed a law in 1939 guaranteeing asylum for the persecuted, and citizenship to all who asked. I keep getting drawn back into this story, first with the surprise of discovering the similar policies of Mexico, and now Haiti, two countries who saved many thousands of Jews turned away by the United States.

My parents adored Franklin Roosevelt—so much so that as a kid I thought he must be Jewish—but FDR bowed to the isolationists and anti-Semites in clamping down on European immigration. US visa offices were closed and all applications had to be approved by the State Department in Washington. People like Hiram Bingham and Varian Fry did their best, but their efforts were severely hampered by their own government.

I don’t know how much the American public knew at the time. I can only assume my parents were misinformed.

Square Saint Lambert

But, hey. It’s a beautiful day in Paris and this piece was supposed to be just an impressionistic summer observation of an ex-pat with a camera.

Reading woman left and was replaced on the bench by a young boy wearing glasses and reading Harry Potter et la Coupe de Feu. That’s more like it.

There’s a man juggling on the green—not very well—and the green is crowded. Balls are landing all over but the sun worshipers are happy and cheer him along. There are lots of kids on wheels and lots more kids with balls and when the two intersect, a few tears flow, but dads are there to brush them off and get them back on the bikes. Seems like a lot of dads watching kids, which would make me wonder about the divorce rate if I weren’t so intent on a sunny day.

Beach towels, football jerseys, books, and selfies. Young women in bikinis, sunglasses, and straw hats, winter pallor slick with oil. The young are all on the green, the rest of us seek benches in the shade.

Let’s close this with an unusual war memorial. I just can’t help it. If anyone can tell me who the three gentlemen on the left are, and what the inscriptions “T.O.E.” and “A.F.N.” stand for, I’d appreciate it.

War Memorial at the Mairie of the 15th.

Merci beaucoup.

©2018 Ron Scherl

Bastille Day

The weekend celebration actually kicked off Friday night with a tour of the outdoor art exhibit throughout town, followed by a paella dinner at the kiosque. I had every intention of covering this event for my loyal readers but there was serious competition, a very good group was playing at the café. Three women playing guitar and various percussion instruments and singing beautifully took a wonderful musical world tour: Brazil, Cuba, Mexico, Africa, Spain, the US and France. It was a great show so I opted for the music and merguez over the paintings and paella.

Bastille Day 2012 ©2012 Ron Scherl

Bastille Day ceremonies began about 10 AM when people gathered in the Place de la Mairie. Flags were flying, the mayor wore his sash and the veterans their medals. Not many left now and the ones that are served in Algeria. Since official France does not consider that war to have been a war, the medals were awarded for service in the “maintenance of order.”

Bastille Day 2012 ©2012 Ron Scherl

The firefighters and their teenage trainees led the march from the Mairie through town to the war memorial, which is in the cemetery. There, flowers were placed, the mayor made a short speech and asked for a moment of silence for those who sacrificed for France. Then we marched back up to the Mairie for a short ceremony honoring the living veterans who were present at which point the mayor invited everyone to join him at the café for a drink. That’s France in a nutshell: patriotism, recognition and a pastis.

Bastille Day: The Mayor ©2012 Ron Scherl

I felt it was my duty as a legal resident to see this through so I joined the group at the café and received cheers and nods of approval when I ordered a glass of Maury. This was not your usual café crowd. For one thing, it’s probably the first time since I went to shoot bingo at the club for the elderly, that I wasn’t the oldest person in the room; and also, the place was not quite up to the standards of some of the first-time patrons. The tables weren’t properly cleaned, the glasses didn’t sparkle and the Schweppes was lemonade. When the Maury was served, several people were sure it wasn’t the real deal, so the glass was passed to Pierrette, the president of the Cave Cooperative, who pronounced it real Maury Blanc. That still didn’t satisfy, so the glass went to Paul, the former president who agreed with Pierrette. With the wine suitably blessed, another round was ordered. Still not everyone was happy and the lemonade went to water the tree.

The evening brought fireworks, a rock band and more eating and drinking for a distinctly younger crowd outdoors at the kiosque. It’s getting hard to keep up.

Bastille Day 2012 ©2012 Ron Scherl