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July 1, 2012, vol 8, no 2

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David Gershator

Cold Spell in Paris

It's been raining on and off for five days in a row. More gray Paree than gay Paree. I'm wearing a red winter scarf in July fer chrissake! And my companion needs another sweater. Incroyable! But I've been here before in my Sorbonne student days hanging out with Verlaine, Baudelaire, and Villon. Bad weather is nothing new.

"Comme c'est beau a Paris," says the mocking Algerian desk clerk at my cheapo hotel. But we agree the rain's better than dying in a heat wave like the one that killed thousands a few summers ago.

The sky is primed to rain at any moment. I hedge my bets, taking the shortest route I know past the Hotel de Ville, and head straight for the Seine and Pont Notre Dame. From there it's a hop, skip and jump to the Cathedral to visit my old buddies, the gargoyles.

I stop at a kiosk to listen to a black man with a loudspeaker and a group of Africans chanting: LIBERTE! FRATERNITE! AIDEZ LES SANS PAPIERS! Police––black and white––keep a wary eye on the vociferous crowd of undocumented illegal immigrants and their supporters not far from the Palais de Justice.

Smashing thunder, lightning, a torrential cloudburst, but the police and demonstrators hold out till they're soaked. Then they run for it, finding refuge beneath the roof of the Marché aux Fleurs, the oldest flower market in Paris.

Instead of rose windows and gargoyles we have real roses and unreal orchids for company. I can't imagine a better place to be trapped––really not trapped at all––while a wicked storm rages away over the Ile de La Cité. I can imagine the wet crowds filling up the cathedral, and the gargoyles off limits on account of slippery stairs.

over the Marché aux Fleurs
time enough to meet each flower