France Insider/Paul Ben-Itzak

May 16, 2009

Peut-etre c’est moi

I’ve been trying to figure out if Paris would work better for me the second time around. I know that it won’t be enough to re-visit old haunts whose charm the first time around was a solitary kind of charm. The Seine, the Canal St. Martin, the garden of the Palais Royal, Montmartre — they evoke something for me but it’s that magic, the magic of place and of history, that ultimately wasn’t enough for me… alone. So could things be different socially?

Is it the Parisians, or is it me?

Of course it’s always both, I know that. So let me re-phrase the quandary: Are there things that I could do differently which might lead to a different outcome?

I don’t think I could change that some Parisians, anyway, despite that they have the opposite impression of themselves, find it very easy to let serious friendships go. However, I do think, perhaps, that I could change things in myself that would widen the options — that would make me less closed to people.

Tonight I raced down the rue Belleville, past the stairs where Piaf was born, to get to a site-specific, or rather site-roving dance performance, part of the Belleville Open Studios, taking place at the Place Frehel, named after the singer who was Piaf before there was Piaf. Shortly before the performance, a guy about my age asked if he could take a morsel of the bench. When the show was over, he asked me where I was from. He smiled openly when I said I was American. When he asked me how long I’d been here, I answered six years in Paris, then two years in the southwest. “Where in the Southwest?” he asked, smiling more broadly. “The Dordogne.” “I’m from Brive.” “I live in Les Eyzies.” He laughed when I said it was a bit too tranquil. We could have had lots more to talk about, but I excused myself to go ask about the music details, a mostly futile errand. “I don’t know what Leonard Cohen song, we didn’t write it down when we recorded it,” said the apparent husband- of-artist who was running the sound. Aren’t you American? And you’re asking me the title?” “He’s Canadian!” I pleaded.

My point is I could have talked with the guy from Brive a bit longer — there was no rush. But I have this tendency to think the women aren’t interested and the guys are interested because they’re gay. (Of course, sometimes, they actually are gay, like my former electrician to whom I paid a visit today; when I was leaving Paris two years ago, he showed up uninvited at my apartment to ask me if I liked boys.)

So what’s in me is: I’m more closed than I think I am. This I can change.


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