We Stay Strong in Paris—and Yet

Memorial flowers and notes amass at Place de la Republique after the Nov. 13 attacks.

We Stay Strong in Paris—and Yet

Nov. 19, 2015

By Patricia Tennison

www.ParisCafeWriting.com

A flower blooms in the window box of my apartment in the Marais.
A flower blooms in the window box of my apartment in the Marais.

Next time, I will tell you where to tap dance in Paris. Another time, we’ll talk about movies and theater and food.

Right now, we are walking in the aftermath of the ISIS attacks of Nov. 13.

Some scenes

The homeless couple who camp across the street in a sheltered doorway have disappeared. Sometimes they do this anyway, but now I wonder.

***

I wonder about a gentle friend, Nabil, who walks in his slightly darker skin. He has the age, the look that people would fear.

***

Yes, we are back at the outdoor cafes here in Paris, defiantly sipping coffee on the terraces. And yet …

***

And yet, I have started to walk on the driver’s side of the street. I figure it this way: One guy will be driving, the other guy with the AK-47 will be sitting in the passenger’s seat. So I don’t want to be on the passenger’s side. This new habit should be a great relief to my family and friends.

***

I splurged and had lunch for the first time at Michelin-ranked restaurant Suan Thai in the 4th arrondissement. A pretty flower on each plate. A man wearing a tie. A woman of a certain age who entered in an impeccable, two-piece white suit.

“Ça va," the waitress said, a familiar “how goes” that one says to a regular customer.

“Ça va?” the woman replied. “Je ne suis pas morte.” I am not dead.

***

The particular whine of the emergency vehicles is an audible passport stamp that I am again in Paris. But now, when I hear one go by, I wait for the second. No second one? Good.

***

I have started to shop for a cashmere scarf. This will take me days, as I decide which exact shade is best. It’s a miserable, lengthy chore because when I buy an item to store in my small closet, I intend that it will last me a lifetime.

***

Peace? Yes, I am for peace—right after we catch those guys.

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Place de la Republique, strewn with memorial flowers and candles.

 

Gendarmes are out in force near Place de la Republique
Gendarmes are out in force near Place de la Republique.

 

Across from the Bataclan, a group of protesters hold white roses and a sign that identifies them as the Iranian resistance, in unity with France.
Across from the Bataclan, a group of protesters hold white roses and a sign that identifies them as the Iranian Resistance, in unity with France.

 

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A handwritten note to a massacre victim, across from the Bataclan theater in Paris.

 

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Paris Stays Strong After Nov. 13

Parisian Streets

Paris Stays Strong After Nov. 13

By Patricia Tennison
www.ParisCafeWriting.com

It’s quiet here at 9 a.m. in Paris, but it’s always quiet on a Sunday morning. A few patrons are inside at the corner cafe sipping coffee at the counter, others read outside, smoking. The boulangerie is open. I bought a baguette, and then as I passed the butcher shop, on a whim, a freshly roasted chicken.Parisian Streets

Friday, Nov. 13 was a night off for the 10 Americans who were finishing a week with me here for Paris Cafe Writing. When the explosions and shootings started at 9:20 p.m. that night, a few of them were at the Lido cabaret on the Champs-Élysées, cellphones off and unaware until their cab driver picked them up. He wove them around barricaded streets and ultimately the wrong way up one-way streets to their hotel in our Marais neighborhood. Another couple, communications off, had settled into their rented apartment to continue a writing assignment.

I went tap dancing. When the tap class let out about 8:30 p.m., I stood on rue Keller in the 11th arrondissement. I love to decide at the last moment which way I will turn. If I turned right and looked for a cafe that way, I would have been on rue Charonne, where a few of us on Thursday night went to hear some jazz manouche, down the street from La Belle Equipe, where at 9:36 p.m. Friday gunmen in a black vehicle would kill 19 people sitting on the terrace. I turned left.

I was sleeping when my daughter called me from Colorado to see whether I was okay. It was only then that I heard about the horrific attacks here in Paris. She knew that the Bataclan theater, where at 9:40 p.m. at least 89 people were killed, was just a six-minute walk from our apartment.

On Saturday morning, I changed several plans for the group. Instead of meeting to write in a broad, corner cafe—which, it turned out, was shuttered—we packed into my small apartment, filling the couch, all the chairs, the bed. There was a comfort in the closeness as we processed what had happened.

I cancelled our trip to see the Cirque d’ Hiver, the winter circus, in its stunning Napoleon-era monument building in the 11th. I cancelled our final dinner at the famous Bofinger, “the most beautiful brasserie” in Paris.

We returned to our favorite, non-touristy little restaurant, Le Cellar on rue Crussol, and filled the dining space in the vaulted cellar. Joe wrote me from China that he would pop for the Champagne. But first, one of the women rose and read a prayer of peace.

Staying strong in Paris.

Patty

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