Those Parisians

The other day i said something to a friend about my penchant for poetic waxing, and he rejoined, “Dude, when do you start?”  OK, here’s a try.

A good friend has been museuming in Paris and has written about his adventures in dealing with the Parisians, which prompts me to tell my favorite Paris tales.

In the mid-sixties i was stationed in the Army in Germany and was fortunate to be sent on TDY to France on several occasions, a couple of them to Paris.  I just loved France because at that point my French was moderately capable so i could get along just fine.

Still, there were some encounters, the most traumatic of which being my stalling a US Military sedan (an enormous, olive-drab 1963 Plymouth) in the Place de la Concorde during the morning rush hour….blocking two lanes.  Horns were honked, curses were hurled, but after five long minutes i finally got the damn thing restarted and slunk off back to Germany.  Somehow it did not seem entirely a coincidence that De Gaulle withdrew France from NATO a year or so later and thus solved the problem of all those US Military vehicles blocking traffic.

A more amusing incident occurred when i was off duty in Paris and was headed into the Louvre when a man accosted me, flung open his overcoat to reveal rows of photos, and said, “Feelthy peectures?”  I burst into laughter at the stereotype.  He was not amused.

The most entertaining incident (and one that got the universal reaction from Frenchmen to whom i told it later, “That’s just like the Parisians”) occurred another time when i was off duty in Paris and had stopped at a sidewalk vendor for a delicious Croque Monsieur.  As i consumed it, a man approached the stamp vending machine next to my bench, inserted his coins, and then proceeded to howl in rage and hammer at the machine.  He eventually huffed off without stamps.

Shortly thereafter, a well dressed woman approached the machine and dug into her purse. I warned her, “Madame! Le machine ne marche pas.”

Without missing a beat, she turned to me as said,  “La machine”….and then, “Merci beaucoup, monsieur.”  Ahhh, yes, first correct the grammar and then say thanks.

And i still loved Paris, and i’ll never be able to forget that a machine is feminine in France.

Since it’s springtime and i don’t have a photo of the marronniers on the Champs-Élysées, here’s a photo of the spectacular inflorescence on a little agave at the Ruth Bancroft Garden.  I never cease to marvel at the variety of agave inflorescences.

Agave inflorescence at the Ruth Bancroft Gardens

And a closeup

Agave inflorescence at the Ruth Bancroft Gardens

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