PARIS. Though decades ago already, I still recall my first full day in Paris. It was in June. I had only a week to take in the sights and so got right to work. As is my custom, I walked all around the town to get a sense of the place. This was 1988 before GPS and the onslaught of trolley tours. I set off, map in pocket, at 8:00 a.m. and had covered much ground by noon. Though I wanted to stop for a meal, my self-consciousness over my French language skills kept me pounding the pavement until past 2:00 p..m.
Just as my exhaustion was taking its toll, I stopped short as I had almost stepped into the person in front of me. She was wearing only string underwear and high heels. Aghast at almost having walked into that, I was speechless (so I missed that French dialogue about who had the right of way.) She had stepped out of a doorway that opened onto the sidewalk. She glanced at me briefly and kept on walking.
Emboldened, by the adrenaline I suppose, I stopped after a few more blocks and ordered the plât du jour, which when served was revealed to be roasted chicken. I was pleasantly surprised by the heap of crudités on the plate. I crunched away while in my mind’s eye, I saw Dorothy’s dog Toto sharing my table. He leaned toward me and out of the corner of his mouth, he said, “I don’t think you’re in Boston anymore.”
Mademoiselle from Armentière, she wears fancy underwear. Inky dinky parlez-vous. —hummed to the tune of “Mademoiselle from Armentières“ (1917)