Tag Archives: Paris

Albert’s Arc

John was trying to communicate but just couldn’t get anyone to assist him. “Excuse eh mwa,” he said to a man who ignored him and continued through the Jardin de Petit Palais.
A tall thin man passing by overheard his struggles and approached.
“Bonjour, madame, monsieur,” he said in a thick French accent. He spoke in his native tongue to the man who nodded and walked away.
“Well, it’s nice to know not all Frenchmen are rude,” John said to the stranger. “I’m John, this is my wife, Mabel. Won’t you join us?” The man adjusted his glasses and sat down with them on a park bench.
“I’m Albert. First time in Paris?”
This time Mabel spoke. “Bon-joor, Al-bear,” she exaggerated his French name, trying her best. “Yes, it’s our first time. And we love it. Dja adoor,” she said with a smile. He smiled back, appreciative of her attempt.
“Don’t judge Paris on this man. Not all Parisians are like him. Where are you from?”
“New York City,” John said with pride.
“Ah, yes, ze big pomme…er…apple, yes? I’ve been zere once. I loved it. Very fast. What have you zeen zo far in Paris?”
“We climbed that tower of yours. It’s no Empire State, that’s for sure,” John responded.
“But beautiful and very romantic,” added Mabel. She adjusted her jacket and fixed her white hat.
“Ah, been to ze famous Parisian stores, hmm?” Albert asked her, regarding her hat. She giggled and blushed a bit. “It is very…you – as you Americans say. Where are you headed now?”
John pulled out a small travel guide and flipped to a specific page. “The Arch De Triumph.”
“Say it like ze Noah’s Ark. Ark.”
“Aha! The Arc de Triumph. Got it. Thanks, Al-bert,” he said, forgetting not to say the final t of his name. “Er…Al-bear.” Albert nodded in appreciation.
“I am heading that way, would you like me to show you?”
Mabel giggled again. “Oh, yes, please do join us! Is it okay Johnny? Imagine being shown around by a true-blue Frenchman!” John nodded and they were off.
The café was just three short blocks from the arc, so they barely had time to chat before they came upon the street they had to cross to get there. “Be careful crossing here, it is a very busy street and Parisians don’t always stop.” He laughed as Mabel looked nervous. “I kid, I kid. Come.”
As they approached, another man in some sort of uniform saw them approaching the building and headed for them. He spoke French to Albert, who responded quickly as if the two were great friends.
“Zis is my friend, Francoise, and he has agreed to let us go up to the top. Would you like zis?”
“Oh yes! Of course we would!” Mabel said. Francoise led them to a door and unlocked it with a smile.
“Bon journee!” he said to them after shaking Albert’s hand.
After many stone steps, they made it to the roof. Mabel ran to the stone wall that surrounded the top and pulled out her camera to take a shot of the Eiffel Tower.

“Look at this view!” she said with a gasp. “John! Look at Paris from up here! This is better than from the tower!” She snapped a few shots while John and Albert watched.
“We really appreciate this, Al-bear,” he said. “Mabel sure loves it up here.” She ran from side to side snapping shots and advancing the film in her camera as the two men watched on.
Albert walked to the wall facing the tower and sat. “You can see all of the arrondisements, from here. I am from the 4th, which is just zere,” he said, pointing. “And I work in the 11th, as a professor, that way,” he pointed again. “I’ve fallen in love in each of ze arrondisements except the 12th. No luck there, yet.” Mabel sighed and leaned into John, taking his hand. He was startled just the smallest bit because he wasn’t aware she was there listening.
“You’ve fallen in love that many times?”
“Oui. How many times pour vous?”
“Just the once…John!”
Albert sighed. “Perhaps I should be in ze twelfth.”
Mabel smiled. “Oh yes! That’s probably where she is! Waiting for you!”
Albert leaned back and let the sun warm his face. “I have a…friend there. Geraldine. She is lovely. I adore her. But…she is just a friend. She does not see me zees way.”
“Nonsense! You’ve got a stable profession, you’re good looking, what else could a woman want?”
He stood and placed his hands in his pockets, looking over the city in the direction of the twelfth.
“You should ask her on a date. Why not? She’d be crazy not to fall for you lickety-split, I tell you. Tell him!” she said, nudging her husband. He just stood looking toward the tower, pretending not to hear.
Albert’s eyes looked distant as he continued to stare into the twelfth arrondisement. “Perhaps,” he whispered.

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Meeting God (if There is One)

I walked into the abandoned building on a routine assignment for photography class and halted, my chucks pushing a small pile of old candy wrappers and beer cans. I’d never seen anything like this place. Perhaps once, when I was in Notre Dame Cathedral when someone had left a window open and the sun shone through it in just the right way. But this was different.

That day in Paris, even though I didn’t believe in God, I couldn’t help but feel like He was trying to send me some sort of message. But that was in a church and it was nowhere near as beautiful as this antiquated, unused building that witnessed the ravages of time and disuse.

Yes, I was surrounded by garbage, an overflowing dumpster and all kinds of junk. The building was collapsing, and I hadn’t been charged a certain number of Euros or queued in an hour-long line to get in. The bright light wasn’t pouring in through a stained glass window that was in itself a work of art; here it spilled in via the surrendered ceiling in an abandoned building that probably should have been condemned years ago.

Part of the roof hung down by a girder. A breeze made it swing slightly and a creaking sound emitted from it, echoing off the emptiness. Rain had rusted the metal bars on the windows and the reddish-brown color spilled down the whitewashed walls of the what was probably an old warehouse. This was no Notre Dame, and yet it was more beautiful to me than anything I had ever witnessed before.

I snapped off a few shots and looked at the camera’s screen. The rays of sun bounced off the dusty air to create the illusion of substance. The light, so bright, washed out the image just a bit and created that feeling I had in my gut that, if there was a God, He was right there with me. Even the trash looked beautiful as it was washed with the bright illumination of our planet’s lightgiver.

I snapped off a few more shots and then the room dimmed a bit as a cluster of clouds must have passed overhead. My sigh reverberated through the room, hiding the creaking of the dangling ceiling, and as I walked out the echoed shuffling of my chucks followed.

Top photograph by Manon, whose blog can be found here.

Notre Dame photograph by me.

The Photogophobic Photographer


He was uncomfortable in front of the camera, which was probably a major factor behind becoming a photographer in the first place. His shyness always clamped his mouth shut whenever someone told him to “say cheese.” For that reason, he hadn’t been captured on film in years. Besides that time he was fiddling with a camera that had a stuck shutter and he accidentally took one of himself, which he burned immediately upon developing the rest of the roll in his small water closet-turned-darkroom.

And now he was dating a fellow photographer. For the first time.

He always found himself with artists or models. Confident women who not only wanted to pose for him, demanded it. And, of course, as per his demeanor, he always complied. Whether he wanted to or not.

His timidity led to a cabinet full of photographs of all kinds of women. Most he’d never seen again, but some he’d come to recognize on the big screen in theaters, in advertisements and posters, even in the press. He sometimes wondered if they remembered him taking the photographs, many of which were nudes. Although taking off her clothing was never his idea. The more confidence a woman had, the sooner she would ask him to take nudes. And his work, well, it spoke for itself. Numerous shows in some of the biggest galleries in London, full page photographs in famous magazines, he had become rather well known for his work.

But now, this girl, all she wanted was a photograph of him. He didn’t know how to avoid it much longer. She adored him from the start; he could see it in her eyes after five minutes of conversation in which he’d probably said a total of fifteen words.

The two of them were loading film before heading out into Paris, ready to photograph La Ville-Lumière, the city of lights, on their first visit to the beautiful and historical city. They were dressed to kill, her in a beautiful black dress and the beret she bought along the Seine that morning, him in a button-down shirt and his favorite brown tie with little green and orange designs. He sat on the uncomfortable hotel room couch with ugly floral print and pulled back the heavy curtain to let in more light.

Something was wrong with his Pentax and the shutter was sticking (again) so he fiddled with it as she loaded film into her Anscoflex II. She giggled and curiosity got the better of him as he looked up and heard the click.

She smiled. “I knew I’d get you eventually. Quite a candid I just captured.” She flashed him her winning smile.

He didn’t know what to say. He wasn’t angry. And after a while, he had to admit he was anxious to see how it turned out.

Paris Seen in Four Days

“Oh my..” she said from the back of the cluttered vintage store. He tried to see her over stacks of antiquated books but could only see her jet black hair, forehead and bright blue eyes as they widened in excitement.

“What did you find?”

“The perfect travel guide.” Her hand reached over the stacks with a small pamphlet-sized booklet that was probably once a deep red but had, over the decades, faded into a pinkish color. He took the small book carefully and looked at the cover.

“Paris Seen in Four Days” he read aloud. “How old is this?”

“I was too excited to look!” she whispered. Now it was her turn to see his brownish eyes widen.

“Wow the map in here is beautiful. I would feel horrible traipsing around Paris with such a work of art.”

She sighed. “I agree. But it’s so magnificent, we could use it to see the city the way people did back then. Is there a year?”

He paused and with care turned the first few pages. “I don’t see any. But it’s probably almost a hundred years, give or take. How old is the metro?”

“The first was in 1900, but the majority of construction would have been in 1920,” she said with an immediateness that made him smile at her obsession.

“Well then it’s not quite one hundred years old then, it has a metro map.”

She suddenly went from a pair of eyes over the books to just the top of her head, he assumed she’d been standing on her toes.

“I think it would be so magical to roam the streets and metro with something like this rather than a modern travel guide.”

“I dunno…what if half this stuff is gone? Or streets changed names?”

“Meet me around the bookcase,” she said as her head bobbed and disappeared around the corner. He followed her instructions. Her eyes still shone bright when they met up.

“Please?” she said with multiple blinks.

“How can I resist?” he asked her as she did a little cheer and then hugged him.

 

A Moment After a Long Day

They sat on a bench, people watching, blocks from the hotel, exhausted from the steps at Sacre Coeur.  It had been a long, beautiful day in Paris, culminating to this moment, when he glanced to the left and noticed the Eiffel Tower. His first view of it at night.  He nudged her, pointed, and she smiled and sighed a sound of pure contentment.  He snapped a photograph, trying to capture the feeling of that moment forever.

He was in Paris.

Catacombs, Paris

The ceiling was barely an inch above his head.  And he was not a tall guy.

He was claustrophobic but did not want his companions to know.  The tight spaces, small entrances, and close, stone walls were closing in, as they say.

Small corridors carved into the rock led to larger rooms, crypts, but the sigh of relief from the enclosed halls was short lived.

Bones lined the walls, sculls scraping at his elbows at times, millions of shadows cast upon the minute crevices similar to what was under his own skin and muscles.  A creepy wind blew softly, hitting the back of his neck, forcing a shudder down his spine and into his soul.

Bones piled tightly, centuries ago, stacks of human remains surrounding him, reminiscent of a horror movie.

A moment, capturing the scene, the essence, the death and decay of centuries, and then on to the next small, cramped passage, onwards and downwards to more crypts, more bones, more darkness, more chills.

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Metro, Chapitre Un

Photograph of the Metro I took in Paris.

“Be ready to push your way out if you have to.”

“Okay.”

“And watch me.  I’ll watch you.  We don’t want to get robbed.”

“Check.”

“We get off in two stops.”

“Two.”

“Then we take the green line towards Porte de la Chapelle.”

“Okay.”

“You look beautiful.”

“Merci.”