Paris Journal 2003

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Tuesday, June 17

Pompiers put out fire on June 16, rue du Commerce A huge cloud of smoke arose from a building across rue du Commerce and began drifting into our apartment.  We closed the French doors and waited.  A man on a balcony above the billowing smoke was on his cell phone, calling the pompiers.

Soon, we heard the sirens.  The pompiers put the fire out relatively quickly, but it took a while for them to finish up and leave.  The smoke smelled toxic -- probably that awful modern carpeting -- and each of the pompiers went to a spray of water coming from the back of this truck to wash off their heads and hands.

Later, when we were walking by, we noticed the police were there interviewing residents.  Even later, we learned from Le Parisien that the fire killed a 42-year-old unemployed man, Hassane B.  A neighbor saw him drunk in his kitchen with a lit cigarette.  A short time later, he passed out and the cigarette butt started the fire.  Very sad.

Angel graffiti on Montmartre. The previous day, Sunday, we went to Montmartre as we often do on Sundays.  Montmartre is hopping on Sundays, and we usually hear good street musicians in front of Sacre Coeur.  No musicians were there this time, however.

Nevertheless, unusual events unrolled.  Crime on Montmartre, in mid-day.

Not everyone behaves angelically on this hill that has been historically a site of rebellious behavior.

nonoparking.jpg (19664 bytes) Small crimes occur everywhere -- like this subcompact parked on the sidewalk as we approached the intersection where the Lapin Agile (former hangout for famous writers) is located. 

When we got past this obstruction, we stood gazing at the Lapin Agile, and at the newly replanted vineyard across the street.  The vineyard is still on the wrong side of the hill for growing wine grapes,  but it still looks so romantic there.

A tall, middle-aged man was double-parked on the street, loading his car up for summer vacation.

monmartrestreet.jpg (22740 bytes) Soon, a taxi came down the street and had to squeeze past the double-parked car.  First, the taxi driver had to wait for the man to get out of the way because he'd just put something in the front seat and so had his driver's side door open, blocking the traffic completely.  But he was indeed closing the door, moving out of the way, when the taxi driver blasted his horn and shouted a few unintelligible things.  The middle-aged man answered back, relatively calmly.
Le Moulin de la Gallette But the taxi driver lost it.   He pulled his car up and over to the side, and was getting out to fight.   Whereupon the middle-aged man came up to the taxi's driver side door and inserted his knee into the taxi driver's face.  The driver wore glasses.  Not nice.   The man then used the car door to hurt the taxi driver, the taxi driver got out, and a real fist/knee fight was happening.  Road rage.
Sidewalk art on Montmartre The middle aged man was much bigger than the taxi driver.  A bystander came up from behind and wrapped his arms around the man, immobilizing him.  Then the bystander began attacking the middle aged man, throwing him down on the pavement.  The man's head hit the curb, but it sort of bounced up and did not make a loud noise on impact.  The man's wife came up crying, hysterical.
Tom Cooley While this was going on, several tourists were just watching it like it was a TV show.  Tom was shouting at the men to stop.  I had backed up the street to where I remembered an open, street-level window with a TV or radio blaring inside.  I shouted through the open window, asking for the occupant inside to call the police.  A British woman near me thought this was a good idea, and she poked her head in to see the occupant.  It was a woman sleeping, and she wasn't about to wake up even if there was a riot going on.
Menacing rabbit in shop window on Montmartre. Fortunately, the fight seemed to be ending, probably because of my shouting for the police to be called, but the bystander/fighter's friend was looking around, menacingly, at people.  Tom was much too close to them.  So I called for him to come with me, and we walked up the hill toward Sacre Coeur.  The taxi driver left the scene.  He shouldn't have a taxi license.
Lounging in the park behind Sacre Coeur. After we spent some time wandering around the Place du Tertre and Sacre Coeur, Tom went in to use the toilettes just below the plaza in front of the church.  The woman who takes the small fee for use of the toilettes stiffed him when she gave him change for a 5 euro note (the smallest denomination Tom had in his wallet).  He realized it, however, and went back to her, with is hand out, and said in a slightly scolding tone, "madame!" while shaking his finger at her.  She handed over the appropriate change, but did not apologize.   She must do this all day long!

Sundial on Montmartre house.

Woman who stiffs people by shortchanging.

After we lounged about in the park behind Sacre Coeur, I decided I needed to get the woman's picture for this journal.  It wasn't possible to take a picture of the fight -- a good way to get one's camera broken or worse.  But, I reasoned, who could object to a smiling tourist coming in and taking one's picture?

Well, a guilty conscience will make one object to having one's picture taken.  Even though I was smiling and polite, and I said "Smile!" in French, she threw a phone book at me, as you can see she is about to do here.  She missed by a long shot.

I calmly walked out the door, and as Tom and I were climbing the steps back up to the church, she came out and called after me.  "Madame!  Madame!"  I ignored her, but she could see then that I was with one of her intended victims.  She must have been terrified of losing her job.  I suppose if the authorities ever visit my web site, she could.

Tom and I stood in the crowd, in front of a police van, for  a while and then continued on to other adventures in another part of town.

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