Footwork

   393  
Footwork
It must be getting warmer, and I haven’t noticed. The red pear I bought the other day and set down in the sun on the counter was hard as an oyster when I put it there. Now it’s too mushy to eat, and the baguette I bought when the bakery was closing last night may have been the first solo flight of an apprentice or just a dry run. Looks like breakfast out and might as well make it a treat. I head for the shower. Breakfast at home has its advantages. I can make it for a couple of euros while it costs four times as much in a café. Better than frugality, there is the comfort of my own pace and juices: I can sit around in an old shirt and my undies, unhurried, unscrubbed, unbrushed, unshaven, and unobserved. My coffee is better than you can find at most cafés these days—a pity and a shame—even if the croissant may still be warm with luck and a bakery right next door. But as an old lady once said to me, what’s seldom is wonderful, and I’m looking forward to eating as I bound up the street towards a café. For the few minutes it takes me to get there, I’m walking in the wake of the fat guy on the scooter. I’ve seen him before. He’s tall and heavy. The little razor-blade scooters are still hanging on in Paris among small children who tend push along after mothers like ducklings. The fad among young men, well dressed and disdainful looking, pushing themselves along seems to have died a deserved death. Any adult on them is absurd enough, but the fat guy on the scooter is like being dealt a joker off the bottom of the deck. He’s wearing orange gym shorts, not quite long enough to qualify for fashionable in the NBA, but too long for Parisian street wear, a heavy green anorak zipped up to the bottom of his last chin, and his few strands of gray hair are evidently responding to different wind currents or drummers. I’ve seen him around the quartier several times. He often stops to talk with someone, but never close enough to me to make out what’s on his mind. He never smiles, but doesn’t seem to threaten or bother anyone, and off he goes, with a courier bag slung across his body, at a stately pace, no faster than I am walking, clearing the way for me, it seems. He arrives at the café just a couple of metres ahead of me, pivots to the right and stops as if he’s been my outrider, my pied piper, then pushes off, continuing his scooter dance as I find a sunny seat in the café. A man coming out from inside glances at me, holds out his copy of Le Monde and asks me if I’d like it—not that there’s anything in it one does not know already, he assures me. I take it and thank him. This is my favorite way to read newspapers in Paris, without paying, since they are expensive by American standards, about twice as much, and often even less interesting, but the paper goes with breakfast as surely and comfortably as Ralph with Norton, take it as you will. With a bolt of inspiration, I ask the waiter for chocolat instead of coffee, figuring things are going well and let’s keep it that way. It keeps. The chocolate is good, the bread better than the corpse on my counter, no pears to be had, but the waiter offers me fresh strawberries. The paper is the paper, and all is well as I stretch my feet out and wriggle my toes. This is actually therapy, but has become a habit. Trouble with my feet has taught me a few tricks. When my big toes hurt—and two neurologists, an orthopedist, and a podiatrist have not been able to figure it out—stretching and wriggling my big toes makes them feel better. The other problem, the pain under the balls of my feet, is something else. Various insoles, custom made devices, and trying on more than thirty pairs of shoes have done little except leave me with two large objects on my feet that look as if they escaped from underneath the Michelin tire man, except mine are black. But as I walked to the café, I noticed nothing painful and my feet are feeling good. Time for a walk, my first real one in a couple of weeks, maybe more, and I’m raring to go. And I know where. If I walk due west, allowing that walking due anywhere in Paris is impossible, there’s a museum I want to visit, probably seven or eight kilometres from where I am. A nice long walk right through the midsection of the city, even if I think it won’t hurt to take the Métro a couple of stops to get going, and so I do. Back on the street, I’m in crowds, more and more weighted to tourists as I get into the arrondissements with the low numbers, and figure What the hell and head toward the Rue de Rivoli. You want tourists? How many do you want? Wandering on Rivoli reminds me of wending uphill at Mont St. Michel the first time, passing all the stalls that once sold dried Virgin’s milk, chunks of the True Cross, and arrowheads plucked out of Saint Sebastian to pilgrims. When I got there, they were selling postcards, plastic models of the church, and Kodak film—so long ago, et où sont les Kodaks d’antan?—to tourists. Both sold crap, the pilgrims buying stuff made in the back rooms, the tourists buying stuff made in Asia. Rivoli is the same today and offers the same experience without having to travel to the ends of the earth or at least to Basse Normandie. You wonder—I do—what the architects under the two Napoleons had in…
  • SUBSCRIBE
  • ALREADY SUBSCRIBED?

More in Bakeries & pastry, Cafe, Food Wine, France, French etiquette, Hotels, Joseph Lestrange, Paris

Previous Article All Shipshape & Bristol Fashion Buzz
Next Article Capturing the Moment