Paris, March 2014
I’ve always been drawn to elderly people, as subjects and as human beings. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s a certain respect for all that they’ve lived through or maybe it’s the way I was raised. Aside from Milan, Paris has the classiest population of elderly people I’ve ever encountered. It has nothing to do with money, but rather an attitude- a certain grace and dignity that doesn’t diminish with age. It’s a drastically different mentality from that of the States, particularly in fast paced cities such as New York where past a certain age it’s virtually impossible to keep up with a generally dismissive and self serving population. How easily we forget what we have facing us just several steps down the road.
Cinema is a huge part of the social culture in France. Membership cards to various theaters are common, allowing unlimited access to films monthly. I had such a card myself, and I spent many nights alone in a darkened theatre taking in every type of movie from the hilarious to the obscene in order to improve my French. Needless to say I developed a new appreciation for American films (yep I said it).
I profited from this membership especially in the first several months, while I was a new expat with a less than bumping social agenda. Admittedly, I’d start off more than a few nights feeling bummed and wandering the city until ultimately settling into a movie theatre, haphazardly choosing whichever French film I hadn’t already hit up. The two hour ritual of sitting alone in a dark room and slumping into the velvet cushions as I’d let my overstimulated mind go numb was equally as important as the film itself. I miss these nights sometimes. The overpowering anonymity of being truly alone in a foreign country, facing a foreign culture, taking in spoken words in a language not quite my own, as lovely foreign images pass before me.
I pass this vendor every week on my way to the lab where I develop my film. I’ve never seen him make an actual sale and I gather he maintains his stall purely for the pleasure of having it. Over the past couple months I’ve summoned the courage to take a photo of him every time I pass by and he’s come to recognize me, or at least I think so. While he doesn’t seem exactly thrilled to be photographed every time I see him, he hasn’t objected yet.
This is one of many relics of Paris that attributes to its particular charm, but over time can lend to a sensation of being trapped in a time warp with no end. Viewed through the eyes of a California born New Yorker with contemporary preferences, this rings especially true. Yet as cliché has it, there is no other modern city that rivals Paris’ beauty. These details will forever remain imprinted on my heart.