Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Lesson Four

Even the Homeless Need Lovin’.
(part of a series, beginning with 'Lessons in French Courtship'.)

In Paris, those who ask for money receive it--I’ve never been on a metro car where all the passengers have ignored an extended hand.

Depending on the presentation, chomeurs can collect up to seven or eight Euros in a single car. I see a variety of strategies on any given day, from song-and-dance routines to the simple car sweep. The most effective of these methods is the speech. The person boards the trains, waits for the hush following the signal and the closing doors, and then launches into oratory wonder. His or her voice sails over the cries of the rail, tells a sad tale, and results in some hard cash. The discourse never changes; if you frequent one line for a few months, you come to know the speeches verbatim.

The same tactic applies to these men when they seek not money, but a woman’s touch. Sadly though, these attempts don’t reap the same reward. The man on the corner by my old market used to ask each time I passed, “Do you have a little coin?” When I’d shake my head, he’d respond with, “Well how about a little caress?” (In French, these two lines rhyme, making it slightly more charming.)

Three days ago on the busy quai at Gare du Nord, I hustled through the crowd and found a nice empty patch of platform. I soon realized, though, that the hole in the masses had been caused by a mumbling drunken man. He’d nestled between two seats against the wall. I decided to stand my ground; it was rush hour, and I wanted a seat.

But I soon heard rustling. I turned to see the man headed straight at me, hopping back and forth to his own drunken beat. He began to sing. Pretty girl, pretty girl, pretty-pretty whore! / Lovely girl, lovely girl, lovely-lovely whore! / All I want, is a kiss, a little-little kiss! / Snuggle up, snuggle up, snuggle up with this!

By the time he finished the song, he’d managed to successfully make his way over to me and attract the attention of the crowd. I couldn’t help but laugh with them. It’s a rare joy to share something with strangers on the quai. I moved away through the crowd, followed closely by my drunkenly enamored (and musically talented) suitor.

The true beauty of the metro is that the train always comes. It opens its doors to you, offering you relief from the life on the quai and introducing you to a whole new life between stations. I jumped into the car, feeling the eyes of passengers on me as the doors closed. The man from the quai smiled and waved good-bye. And I did the same.

(Go back to the Intro)
(Go back to Lesson One)
(Go back to Lesson Two)
(Go back to Lesson Three)
(Move on to Lesson Five)


At 3:48 PM, Blogger The Michael said...

Bored to tears by yet another night of "reality TV", I hop on the Imac and delve into the latest posts on Blogger, desperate for mental stimulation. The titles did not encourage me, till one caught my eye, and suddenly I found myself engrossed in the life of an American girl in Paris. It was not until many smiles and chuckles later that I realized that I had unwittingly been lured into a story skillfully crafted by a budding young novelist, certain to take her place on the New York Times Best Seller List. What was even more diabolical was how easy it would be for her to simply transfer her blog archives straight to book form, giving an editor precious little to do, save deviding her adventures and musings into chapters. Oh, how easy it is for some people, to be so damn good at one thing while in the pursuit of another! I suppose she will eventually be faced with the decision to either pursue her education to it's utltimate, drawn out end, with all it's dubious enrichments of the mind and soul, or simply package up her blog, hit the talk show circuit,nail down her 15 minutes of fame, and live comfortably off the royalties. Meanwhile, I soak in my envy, something I'm rather good at, and dare to consider following her lead and embracing the yellow brick road. Chuckle. Those are dreams best left to young dreamers, Michael, not those of us caught so firmly by the talons of our fate.


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