Monday, February 19, 2018

The Eye of the Beholder

I so enjoy shopping La Motte-Picquet market. It spans the length of the elevated Metro stop and sits comfortably between the 7th and 15th arrondissements.  The aromas of the market range from fresh-baked baguettes to roses, from fresh fish on ice to Italian leather. The stalls are colorful with wares such as shoes and French cheeses.

A man in his 60s -- I will call him Monsieur -- has owned a jewelry stand at the market for as long as I have been visiting. Monsieur likes to sing old American show tunes from Broadway. This was a cold morning and his breath was visible as he sang "Chicago, Chicago....." emphasizing the CHI. I asked him to sing me a French song and he gave me a sour face. "Non," he said, "I love America!" He proceeded to take out his phone to show me his pictures of his visit to New York many years ago. Oh, how he loves New York. Oh, how he loves Manhattan, Broadway, Times Square. I have seen these pictures many times. I roll my eyes and say, "But you are in Paris, the City of Light!" He shakes his head and moves his hand, side to side, as if saying, "Meh."

Then, he makes me wait patiently as he swipes through his phone to show me yet another reason he loves New York City. Oh, yes, he loves the food, the music, the culture, the people -- but he most wanted me to see one thing. He wanted me to experience watching the video of the grandeur, the creme de la creme of New York, the masterpiece of architecture, the amazing feat of man over nature, that beacon of towering creativity. He searched his phone, putting his hand up, urging me to wait.

He smiled as he found it: a video of the Empire State Building. He looked at me and said, "Have you ever seen anything more beautiful?" The video he took starts at the bottom and pans all the way to the top and lingers there for several moments, Monsieur clearly having been stunned by the sight of the imposing edifice. I looked at him, my mouth open in shock. He thought I was shocked by the beauty of the ESB. I said, "But Paris -- the Eiffel Tower!" He shook his head and just waved his hand from side to side as if the say, "Meh."

a bientot,


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