A Paris Journal

If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris.... then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, like a moveable feast. Ernest Hemingway

Location: Sonoma, California, United States

I am constantly a work in progress.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

We rode the redeye from Toronto to Paris, empty seats our welcome companions. We were running 24 hours ahead of the London terror scare; our only fears were overweight bags and airline food. Thank god they didn’t get my shampoo.

My new best friend Michel was at the Paris Airport customs area to whisk us and our excessive baggage to his curbside van and on into Paris. An hour later we were wrestling our aforementioned luggage into an elevator the size of a house collector’s heart. Our apartment for August was a welcome refuge.

This is the start of our late life adventure, living in Paris for three months and doing the ex pat ‘lite’ life adventure.

Twenty-four hours later our jetlag diminishing, we are wandering around near Les Halles; it is 8 pm and restaurant research is occupying us when I see a Fire Department aerial truck coming out of a small alley into our narrow street. It stops at the corner and 3 jakies jump down. No turnouts, only one helmeted and it is like a chrome motorcycle helmet. Let the street theater begin.

People are stopping to watch the show and we lean against a convenient building. The basics: No siren used, lights only, manning at 1 and 2, moving briskly but hardly at first alarm speed. The riders go out and they raise the aerial to the 5th floor and the helmeted one goes over the top and into the building. An 8pm drill? Hard to believe. Going to a girlfriend’s assistance? Possible.

Meanwhile I am taking pictures as one of the Pompiers is taking a cell phone picture of the aerial operator. The tableau has a Two Truck air of relaxed and unhurried ambience; men in control of the moment. Then the aerial climber gives them a signal from the balcony and they pack up and leave. Maybe it is the climbers’ girlfriend.

A hunch draws me back to the alley where the rig had emerged. ( Do you think this could be Paris’ 1 Truck alley?); thirty yards down is a 3 Story Type 3 firehouse that is large. A fire department medical rig drives up and starts backing in, 1 and 4 manning. Hell! They could do open heart surgery with that many guys. (And still spring one for shopping). One of the Pompiers sees me taking a picture and using sign language, his 12 words of English and my 7 words of French he shows me the apparatus floor.

My keen eye spots the giant pin-up picture of a skimpily clad brunette and the large painting of the house insignia ( a mean dog with a chrome Pompier helmet). Suddenly I feel at home, the universal verities are in place.

Later we are having dinner around the corner on Rue Montmartre at a small Italian restaurant charmingly named Presto Fresco. Halfway thru dinner a jakie comes in for a late night pizza. Not even a shoppers jacket! Mary commented on how young, big and buffed they all look. The uniform is a blue golf shirt with insignia, blue pants with red stripes down the leg and black, slip-on motorcycle boots. It is such a sensible and good looking uniform I wonder where the SFFD missed the boat.

Even the Baroness remarked on the attractive and dare she say, snug uniforms the young and virile pompiers wore. She thought the strides were VPL tight in true Gallic style.

Tres Chic say I.


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