Ride the World in Style

Ride the World in Style
Kawasaki W650

Welcome to my nightmare

Oh moi je ne suis qu'un bouffon Messires !
Un acrobate verbal pour mieux vous faire rire,
Jongleur grammatical et n'étant pas bien né,
Je mendie les regards et fais des pieds de nez.
N'ayant que peu de foi en la nature humaine,
Je traque les fissures de ses allures mondaines.
Je dis les vérités que l'on déteste entendre
Et attire la haine quand je voudrais du tendre.
Mais mon vocabulaire est une bien piètre épée
Et je vous laisse Messieurs l'honneur de batailler.

samedi 30 janvier 2010

Christmas in Paris

- Christmas in Paris -

I had forgotten how cold winter really is in France. I don't return there
very often but I usually choose summertime. I'll try to remember next time,
maybe I would enjoy more than a couple of days wandering in snowy Paris. I'm
no particular fan of French TV but having to watch it in bed for eight days
in a row because of fever and flu wasn't exactly what I had in mind when I
accepted to take my daughters along to my parents to celebrate a three
generations Xmas reunion.

Family gatherings ! I guess there're some in every country. Well in France,
apart from weddings and funerals, there's Xmas. That's when the whole family
let the frog legs run away and devour dozens of live oysters instead. All
the gooses of France are by then liverless and everyone's ready for next day
traditional "crise de foie" due to large excesses of calories. Don't ask me,
it's tradition ! Some make you burn entire hills, some others make you paint
your neighbours and friends in sharp colours and some command that you stuff
yourself sick with diverse bunch of tortured life forms... I'm no
vegetarian and I can't argue with such quality of wine but still...

I didn't get sick from food. When you're trapped between two generations at
the dinner table, you tend to skip dessert and check if it's really cold
outside. That's where I got sick but before any throat ache and running
noses, I got homesick because of the cold. 25 years I hadn't breathed such a
freezing dry air, it just made me jump back in time !
I had never mellowed out like that
about my homeplace but believe me, once it starts, everything's an excuse
for more ! A customer pushes the door of a bar as you walk pass and the
smell of coffee is enough to make you sleepwalk three "stations de métro"
dreaming about the days you were playing pinball and smoking your first
"Gauloise". I was getting homesick at home ! People looked weird at me as I
stood a long time in front of a rusted mopped like the one I had at sixteen.
I took a picture of it, you wanna see ?!

Naturally, when you start having these feelings, you begin wondering if you
shouldn't, somehow, plan to come back. Parents are getting old, kids should
study at Paris university, oysters are much cheaper, sandwiches are much
longer, all sorts of excuses. Then you start looking around thinking, hey,
what if I was living in that building ? There's noone in the street and it's
3:30 in the afternoon, we're ten minutes away from Montmartre, wouldn't that
be a cool flat to rent ? How much they rent flats in here anyway ? Bah,
can't be worst
than Hong Kong can it ? There's more room space and look at these balconies

Behind the windshield of a police car parked along the sidewalk, there's a
dirty wet teddy bear with a red knot around his neck. Just to see his
reaction, I say "Merry Xmas" to the guard at the entrance of the police
station. He looks at me suspiciously and surprised. He says nothing, just to
be safe. On the window of the
neighbouring bar, the waitress has laboriously tried to draw a christmas
tree, or perhaps it was a client.. at closing time. A few steps away,
there's a tent in the middle of the path and there's a drunk guy in it.
There's another one snoring in a sleeping bag on the bench.

I reach a small square that smells like Paris all over it, there's an old
style Merry-go-round with spinning wooden horses and firemen trucks that
need a good repainting and the trailer next to it adds to the flavor of the
air as the owner is presently frying some "merguez" despite the absence of
any customers. He must have sense me coming, I'm starved for "merguez",
doesn't matter how many oysters I had for lunch ! As I approach the "bar", I
notice a group of homeless looking guys standing near the trailer, smoking
and drinking beer. They're wearing thick layers of clothes probably given by
some charity but they still look frozen cold. I order my merguez and watch
the merry-go-round. A young couple stands in front of it while their
post-toddler daughter sits on a side-car, a big grin on her baby face. She
must have learned her first steps only a few weeks ago. The trailer man
watches her too as he waits for the merguez to be ready. I feel safe about
it, they won't be burned for that man respects traditions too. Hooked to the
top of the merry-go-round, there's another little teddy bear with a red knot
tied around his neck that hangs to a tiny rope. What is it with teddy bears
today ? How come that wasn't mentioned in my horoscope this morning ?
Perhaps something like: now is a good time for trading honey or today you
will meet an old bed companion as it is being hanged by the neck ? Anyway
the other end of the rope is now wrapped around the index finger of the
merguez chef who lets the teddy slide down as the toddler spins by.
Encouraged by the excitment of her parents, she tries to get up and catch
the teddy. But it shakes and her legs are still fragile so she falls back on
her sit, a bit scared. I take a look at her folks, they're smiling but they
look a bit embarrassed... oh come on, she's only a baby, can't expect her to
join "Le Cirque du Soleil" yet !

The toddler teaser is now busy spreading butter on my slice of baguette so I
turn to the other side and take a look at the square behind. The homeless
guys are still standing there, their unshaved beards makes them look even
more greyish and pale, they're not saying much, not watching anyone, they
just stand there, in a circle, maybe it makes them feel warmer to hold a
place somewhere, even just in that circle. I can't tell how old any of them
are but there's obviously no Christmas in them nor for them, they're like on
standby, on hold, they're stuck in a virtual waiting hall, a sort of urban
twilight zone, holding their breath forever.

Say ! Here comes Santa Claus ! He looks so good, so sharp, so clean in
comparaison ! A true social contrast on his own ! His beard, immaculate and
fake, brightens his face and the golden frame of his pair of glasses. His
red costume is obviously new and his boots, made of real leather, would be
such a splendid present for a biker like me... This Santa is as fat as the
real one, not much younger, he's tanned and healthy, a perfect replica of
the image popular tradition holds of the old man, a bourgeois Santa, that
is, who's easely recognisable colours, for some reason, match perfectly with
some widespread soda...
Santa was obviously attracted by the merry-go-round. He probably felt
garantied to meet little children there with whom to play his act. He's so
into it, he hurries just in case another colleague would get there first, he
just rushes pass the group of homeless men without noticing any of them.
They don't either.
Santa's face brightens up even more, he smiles, here's a little girl under
her a woolen hood and matching scarf, holding the hand of her blond permed
mom, the perfect match for such a good looking "Père Noël". "Joyeux Noël !"
he says, "Ho ho ho!". The play's on...

My merguez sandwich is finally ready. "Sorry Monsieur, I had you waiting..."
No worries, I'm not in a hurry, it's just a "gourmandise". I pay the man and
turn back. Santa is still acting cute while the little girl and her mom are
playing good polite girls. The homeless guys are still emptying their
bottles, their cigarettes, their day, their terms of life.
I'm about to leave and continue my walk when I spot some odd movements
coming towards the square. Another homeless looking guy is trying to cross
the street. He's probably trying to join his mates but he's in a much worst
shape. He must have been hit by a car or had some sort of accident, perhaps
he's got polio when he was a kid, anyway, it looks like he's in a great pain
just trying to walk, swinging his whole body from right to left, using only
the side of his right foot and a cane. Despite many layers of dirty clothes,
he looks incredibly skinny and ill. His lips hold a cigarette but his cheeks
are so hollow that the smoke gets trapped in his beard before flying away
free. His cheekbones are redish due to the cold but his eyes are in fire.
They stopped me right there ! What's with this guy, why is he in such a
hurry although obviously, walking isn't really his stuff. Is one of the
other guys owing him money ? Has he got some sort of terrific news to tell
them ? He looks so excited, there's got to be something going on.

After much efforts and swings, the man finally reached the square. But I was
wrong, he had nothing to do with the group I thought he'd join. They didn't
pay attention to him either. I should have known, the light in his eyes made
all the difference.
No, he just stood there, not very far from them, ignoring them, ignoring me,
ignoring everybody except Santa. He was looking at him with an almost
religious intensity, he didn't dare to approach any further but his whole
tortured body was aimed at him. Santa was still busy reciting good words for
the well-educated little girl and with his back turned, he had not even seen
him yet. So, regardless how impatient he was, he just waited there, a few
meters away, respectfully, with fervour in his eyes. Was he expecting
something from Santa, money perhaps ? Was he going to beg him ? It really
didn't look that way. It looked more like some scene of adoration and I
suddenly felt very very cold inside. I knew what he wanted.

Santa had finally reached the end of his play and was kissing the little
girl's cheeks, still oblivious to the presence of his homeless fan. He
wasn't even going to turn back, he was leaving and he was fast, the guy with
the bad leg wouldn't be able to catch him up ! I looked at him and I saw the
disappointment in his eyes. Not just your natural short-lived
disappointment, a much worst one, one that had mixed feelings in it,
sadness, pain, disgust, anger, unfairness, solitude, bitterness and loss. He
was defeated, once more. His reaction resumed in raising his free arm half
way and I'm the one who turned to Santa and shouted "Hey !"

That's all it took. Santa turned his face towards me, I turned my eyes
towards the guy and he finally saw him. He had a light jump of hesitation
and looked at me again. Yes, that guy looks very bad but his fervour had
come back entirely, all the bad feelings were gone and wiped away and he,
again, looked at Santa with an evident adoration, trying to walk towards him
as fast as he could.
And that's when I saw the magic of Christmas unfold before me. The bourgeois
Santa melted and went away with that little girl and her mother and the real
one appeared in front of my eyes. Almost with a kick, he quickly walked
towards the disabled man, stopping him from suffering at every step and he
simply offered his hand to shake while saying "Joyeux Noël !". And it was
enough because the homeless guy didn't seem so homeless, so disabled and so
hopeless all of a sudden. Something has straightened his back, reaffirmed
his look and I heard the voice of a man with a soul, strong and soft at the
same time, saying "Merci Père Noël. Joyeux Noël à vous aussi !".

After that, I got sick but it didn't matter at all, I had seen enough and
life's definitely not such a bitch !
Merry Christmas to you, everyday !
Nish (May 3rd, 2006)

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