Friday, 25 September 2015

I could drink a case of you darling/ I would still be on my feet

Paris is a filthy place. People living in a constant state of cramping: apartments are tiny, the metro is packed and the streets overflow with people, so even if this is big city living it should rather be called small space surviving. For now I live in a small studio on the 7th floor, which consists of two rooms. The one contains the bed and a small table, whereas the other has a shower, a sink and two stove plates. All you need, basically. Oh, the toilet is outside on the corridor and is shared between the 4(?) studios on this floor. The building sits between sex shops and small supermarkets near Pigalle in the 10th arrondissement. When I stand on a chair and look out of one of the windows I can spot the Eiffel tower in the distance. There is constant noise, even though I am at the back of the building: in my room itself the fridge makes alarm-like sounds whilst the electricity metre is an eternally spinning circular silver thing that sounds like an eternally spinning circular silver thing. Then there is the school next door whose electronic bell rings at strange intervals and the kids playing basketball on the court in the road behind the house. This cacophony is expanded by occasional squeals of a siren, hearing my neighbours through the walls and on weekends the music from the clubs in the area combine into an audible mess in the ever colder turning air.

First there was sound, and then there were the masses of people. MASSES of people. Endless streams of humans everywhere, always moving somewhere in haste. In a city of millions, the individual disappears. It is like an amoeba, swallowing up everyone into anonymity. Paris is a bit of a depressing city in this regard. All of living on top of one another and yet no one and nothing matters, all replaceable, all just cogs in a machine.

And yet there have been moments where the myth that is this city presented itself. On a bad day, as I was leaving the metro, a man on roller skates with ballerina lacing whizzed past. Another time, an Algerian man helped a woman from the French Antilles with her suitcases and after 6 metro stations they exchanged business cards. Another intern keeps buying a begging woman food for lunch. On Wednesday I walked to the Seine, met a friend for a McFlurry, and walked back. Yesterday we went to a food market and had rolled ice cream (ok, I like any type of ice cream, rolled, flurried, scooped...). Tomorrow there is the Anish Kapoor exhibit in Versailles. On Sunday the city is partially car-free. Last weekend the journées du patrimoine (cultural heritage days?) enabled anyone with an ID to get into the Élysée Palace (and other no-go ministeries and museums and and and) and check out the president's office (more on the 6.5 hours of queuing I'd like to get back in another post).

So despite a waft of urine on occasion hitting your nostrils, despite the millions of others trying to eek out a living here, despite excessively high costs and tiny spaces, well, despite all the negativity, I'd gobble it all up again, come back for seconds and even thirds. I'd drink a case of this place because nowhere else is misery this closely accompanied by magic.

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