Poor E from New Orleans has had nothing but hard times since Hurricane Katrina hit. She has been living in my chambre de service, but she finally found a nice apartment in a much better place for her work. She was all set to rent it, but yesterday she found out that her bank here in Paris has apparently never received the $2000 from FEMA that left her account in Louisiana two weeks ago when she wrote a check for deposit. Now her phone is being cut off (phones are often paid with automatic payments from your bank here) and she is going to lose the apartment. Unfortunately I am going to England tomorrow morning and will not be able to help till I get back. At least she's not paying rent right now.
Today was another beautiful fall day. Some friends from the States are here and I took them all around Paris. First I had a couple of errands to do so we went to a parking garage. In the elevator there was a poster with a poem Apollinaire. "J'ai vu ce matin une jolie rue dont j'ai oublié le nom./ Neuve et propre du soleil elle était le clairon." [This morning I saw a pretty street whose name I have forgotten. New and clean she was the clarion of the sun."] And underneath: "This instant of poetry is brought to you by [the garage company]." I love how everyone still learns poetry here. France is the only country where I have seen poetry on superhighway signs. There is one in Burgundy from Ronsard: "Mignon, allons voir si la rose...."
Then we stopped at Deyrolle (this site has much better photos than mine), founded by a naturalist in 1831, an amazing old taxidermy place on the rue du Bac. It looks like a movie set, a place where you might meet a wizard or a mad scientist. You can rent the animals there for parties. Downstairs is the gardening store of the Prince Jardinier, owned by a real Prince, Louis Albert de Broglie. (Random facts: Broglie is pronounced "Breu-i"; in France, a duke outranks a prince.) The Gardening Prince saved Deyrolle in 2001 and is now restoring it.
Then we went over to the Canal Saint-Martin because it is a pretty area that most tourists don't get to. In the past ten years it has become more and more chic. The first bridge in the photo is like the one featured in the movie "Hotel du Nord,"(1938) by Marcel Carné, which is as famous to French people as "Casablanca" is to English-speakers. In the movie (which was actually filmed on set, with a much smaller bridge), the actress Arletty faces her lover, who tells her he needs a change of atmosphere (he is in love with a girl named Renée, or "reborn"). Arletty says scornfully, "Atmosphère, Atmosphère ! Est-ce que j'ai une gueule d'atmosphère? " ["Atmosphere, atmosphere! Do I look like atmosphere?"] The line made her the most famous actress in France. Nowadays the Canal Saint-Martin is an odd mixture of old Parisians from the neighborhood, glamorous and beautiful young people from all over, and immigrants. A Persian cultural center next to a hip hairdresser next to a rundown parking garage run by North Africans.
Something wonderful happened today. I got an invitation to an Indian wedding, of a young woman I like very much. It arrived in a special package from an express mail service. Then inside:
I've never been to India. I'm so excited.