Tuesday, November 22

Letter from Paris

Paris - the City of Lights - quite necessary due to the grey haze and often rainy days that is a part of its cityscape.  Although if you wake up early and hit the streets you can sometimes find cloud formations and skies that would wake the senses of any a fine artist.
Having lunch in a cafĂ©, I was startled out of my amazing Japanese meal when the elderly and elegant woman next to me started yelling -- calling for the owner to come to the front immediately. I was stunned by her total composure (she just kept right on supping) in the throws of what seemed like a total Bella Figura breakdown.  The New Yorker in me figured she was just another loose screw in the machine that makes up our civil society.
Finally turning my attentions away from her and in front of me, I realized the reason for her alarm: four gypsy kids had meandered into the crowded locale so they could meander out with a five-finger special: your bag, wallet, cellphone, or anything from the pockets of your coats hanging on racks or seat backs.  With all the raucous, they turned and ran out immediately, and straight into the arms of a local policeman who then popped his head in to see if anyone was missing an item.  He stepped back out to shake the kids down and recover their stash.  
This was not the only instance of security I found in this bustling city.  Your arrival at Orly (and probably a few other airports and train stations as well) is greeted with machine-gun wielding soldiers strolling the arrivals and departures areas.  Coupled with those lime green plastic garbage bags waving in the wind like a humungous Christo exhibit installed throughout every single arondissements which have taken the place of metal garbage cans, well, you can see that these Parisians take their security seriously.
I realized that not only were these the first gypsies I've ever seen around town, it was certainly the first time I've seen them so bold as to enter a restaurant.  In Italy, this doesn't seem to happen although instead we have a nightly infestation of wandering vendors selling Chinese gadgets and unscented roses who make their way in amongst the diners.  But at least these guys are fairly harmless and don't seem to steal (and, I must admit, I harbor a secret desire to buy some of that junk every so often...).
Nonetheless, I found that the vigilance of both the customers and the proprietors when it comes to protecting our private property and our dining experience quite impressive.  I imagine that in our always compassionate Italy, there is the idea that "they're just trying to make a living" which allows our vendors in the door. And the idea that "gypsies are people too" which allows them to roam the streets and pick-pocketing tourists to their heart's delight under the blind eye of our law enforcement officials.

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