Wednesday, August 24, 2016

La traversee de Paris estivale 2016...

The Association Vincennes en Ancienne was able to run it's traversee de Paris estivale before the authorities could get the word out that big crowd filled events should be cancelled if there was insufficient security.  Such has been the general state of concern over continued terrorist attacks.

la traversee de Paris estivale 2016

For those who don't already know, la traversee is run twice a year, once in January and once on the weekend start of les vacances.  The event involves the running of 700+ old vehicles on the streets of Paris.  Normally one of the major gathering points is la place de la Concorde.  It's there that I've headed the past two years to see fun and wonderful things.

It seems as if Asian tourists can't help themselves.  All too many times I've watched as someone climbs into a car to have their picture taken.  This year was no different.  So when someone got into an old old voiture to have his picture taken, I snapped.  I knew the owner wasn't asked permission and couldn't stand the idea that someone's pride and joy was under siege.  In anger I told him to get out.  He smiled broadly and noded "yes", but he kept his face toward the camera.  So I forcefully reiterated that it was time for him to get out!  He must've heard the edge in my voice.  He jumped out and walked away.

A Frenchmen (not the sullied car's owner) watching the commotion I created struck up a conversation.  I told him that foreigners are crazy and said I should know as I'm American.  We laughed and I felt my anger instantly drain away.

la traversee de Paris estivale 2016

The conversation led the man to telling me about the old cars he owns.  Here they are known as les voitures de collection.  As the man listed all the fun old things in his garage I stopped him to ask about his 1931 Ford Model A Deluxe.  I'm told it's deep blue with yellow rims.  It's a roadster convertible that was originally sold by a dealership in Bordeaux.  The man is the second owner and it rather proud of this car.  I told him about my father's automobile.  The same exact car (year and everything) but in robin's egg blue.

Later as I walked down the line of parked voitures I felt someone jostling me.  It was the Ford Model A owner.  He said "here, look at this" and showed me a photo on his cell phone.  I swear on a stack of well worn Avons that it was a near perfect match for my father's own car.

If I get the chance the next time they run la traversee I'll try to show him the video my father made recently of my great uncle's car that's still in the family.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

A few words...

I feel I should say a few things about the violence that's shaken France and Europe the past two years.

On 7 January, 2015 came news and shock of the Charlie Hebdo murders.  The violence shook Jude and I to the core.  Eleven people were murdered and eleven injured.

Nine months later we were in Madrid seeing my father and brother.  On November 13, 2016, the day we landed in Spain, 130 people were murdered and 368 injured back in Paris.  The borders to France were closed and we didn't know if we would able to get home.

On March 22, 2016 Jude and I were in Lisbon when Brussels was attacked.  32 people were murdered and 300 injured.  Again we struggled to reconcile our shattered dreams with the emerging reality.

More recently on Bastille Day (July 14, 2016) Nice was attacked.  85 people were killed and 307 injured.  Our dreams of peace and calm and civility have well and truly been laid to rest alongside those who were needlessly murdered.

Each time there's been an attack, Jude and I wonder if we did the right thing by moving here.  Our first two years living in Paris were blissful.  There was pride in feeling we'd made the right decision to leave the US if for no other reason than for health and safety.

All this comes at a time of a growing sense of community and sharing. We have our neighbors above, below, and across the way from us. We have our apartment owners who are wonderfully sensitive to all that is French.  We have our French/English conversation group, too.  We have a surprisingly large group of French friends.  All of this is set on a firm foundation of supportive friends back in the States.

When I was here in Paris in the winter of 1986 several bombs exploded in the area around Opera.  These were related to France's involvement in Algeria.  In the mid-1990's, al qaeda sympathizers set off bombs on the RER B.  In many ways it should not be surprising that Syrian trained European citizens would lash out at fellow countrymen over the US involvement in Iraq and the torture of captured al qaeda leaders.  These were, each in their own way, politically and ideologically motivated events, though this may be coming to an end.

There is more that could be considered about the recent violence, particularly about what's come after the Brussels event.  Increasingly, attackers are reportedly not so much motivated by political nor religious ideologies as they are for the desire to create chaos and to wreak havoc.  Certainly attackers pledge allegiance to ISIS, but as seen in the most recent attacks, they're not trained militarily nor politically nor religiously by that group.  What these attackers are doing is indicating agreement with ISIS.  That's all.  Yes, it's enough, but I can't confuse allegiance with direct links back into an organization.  In short, I feel the attackers are thugs, not militants.

I'm not sure which is worse.  Are ideologically driven militants any safer or more justified than thugs?  The end effect is the same, even as what drives these people can be subtly different.  Does it matter for how we make our decisions to remain or leave?  There's the center of the argument, right there.  As the situation evolves, so do our thoughts, feelings, and views of what we are doing.

How, why, and when do we choose to do something differently, if doing something differently would bring us the sense of peace and civility we desire?

I see there really are no conclusions to be drawn nor acted on.  That is, whatever is unfolding is not finished and never will be.  Violence is part of all culture in all places.  Europe is not Disneyland, nor is it the "Happiest Place on Earth."  It was never really meant to be these things, even though we had two years of blissful peace when we first moved here.

Musee de Montmartre ~ Paris, France