horz line

Howling Sirens

photo, place vendome

The Place Vendome on Saturday, just before sunset.

All Fronts Quiet

Paris:– Monday, 12. December 2005:– Last Week I could tell it was the first Wednesday in the month and it was noon because the air raid sirens were howling. Twelve months a year, and next spring will make 30 years, which adds up to 720 times – because they hoot them twice to make sure. In my next life I will live through the Blitz to get it over with quickly.

Then radio France–Info polluted my breakfast air with updates to old news. It told me that Nicolas Sarkozy, France's short minister of civic troubles, had canceled a trip to Guadaloupe and Martinique.

Another bulletin, somewhat related, said that France's spooks of the interior had composed a confidential report that concluded the urban riots that Sarkozy set off were not caused by nefarious troublemakers, organized bad guys, the CIA, or religious fanatics trying to start aphoto, cafe, breakfast, palais royal holy war. The kids were insulted by Sarkozy, although the report did not say so – Sarkozy is not a foreign terrorist group after all – they simply rioted for three weeks on their own steam until it ran out.

Breakfast, day and night, at Palais–Royal.

Then there was another report which I probably garbled on account of eating too loudly, about the CIA flights that landed at Bourget and some other airfield, flights from Iceland and Oslo – both unnotorious Islamic terrorist hotbeds. France denies these happened or it does not, but wants to ask the CIA a couple of questions.

After breakfast I felt much better. So much so that it occurred to me that nobody wants to read about our exceptional riots or read one more word about Sarkozy, and it was all old news anyway.

Naw! Instead I decided to take myself out and trot down to Sèvres–Babylon to the Bon Marché, the Left Bank's only department store, and capture its Christmas lights. On the way, after stopping in Montparnasse to watch them smooth the ice on the rink for the fast kids on blades, it occurred to me that the Bon Marché's lights are never lit when I go there.

They weren't for the past two years, and both times it was really cold. Wednesday it was not, so I kept on my guided path. And for those of little faith, let me say that perseverance pays off – with just enough skylight to mix with the store's lights, and enough sunset to give the camera problems.

With that little chore in the digital film can I took up my customary position in front of the TV forphoto, heart, shoes, red Wednesday night's news, first on France–3, and who did I see immediately, but Sarkozy. Looking in the camera lens so sincerely, with so much white below his ball–bearing eyeballs that they looked like gull's eggs with black yolks.

A heart for red shoes.

He said he was not going to Guadaloupe and Martinique and it has noting to do with the stink he caused by saying Napoléon is wonderful – last week on the anniversary of Austerlitz, but also the anniversary of Napoléon reintroducing slavery – "Which 'official' history does France want to have?" he asked the news viewers.

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