Liberté d’expression !

This story needs no introduction. Last night I was at Place de la Republique, taking some photos for Planet Waves.

Place de la République.  January 7, 2015.

Place de la République. January 7, 2015.

When I went back a second time (the shooting, the assembly, it’s all in my neighborhood) the crowds were a little smaller, maybe a few thousand people. They were yelling “Liberté d’expression, liberté des crayons!” and “Je suis Charlie, Je suis Charlie!”

Then, a man standing on the statue shouted “SHHHHHHH!” and asked us all for a minute of silence to honor the fallen police officers. Since getting thousands of people to be quiet can be complicated, after maybe 5 minutes, the info made its way around and the Place de la Republique was pretty darn quiet. Quite remarkable.

Except this one guy, who continued to speak, explaining that he didn’t see why we should have a minute of silence for them, they’re police officers, it’s their job, etc. He kept going on and on, in a calm, monotonous, but very loud voice. The only voice talking. A few people shushed him and then some guy shouted, pretty violently, “TA GEULE!” (“SHUT UP!!”) And then, we heard the voice of a young woman cry out “Liberté d’expression, liberté d’expression!”

That got a laugh, then some hand-holding and about 30 seconds of silence.

I have never seen such an enormous assembly of people in one place in Paris. And I’ve been to countless gatherings and protests. It reminded me of when I went to Daley Plaza in Chicago on September 12th, 2001, where I understood how powerful is the sound of thousands of people in silence and solidarity.

Place de la République, January 7th, 2015, about 6:30pm.  Assembly of Parisians in honor of those who died at the newspaper Charlie Hebdo.

Place de la République, January 7th, 2015, about 6:30pm. Assembly of Parisians in honor of those who died at the newspaper Charlie Hebdo.

The night before the night before Christmas, when Chris was told to f*ck off

A tender story from a café terrace in Paris.

Moping around the Marais in the rain, I was eating Belgian chocolates out of my pocket, longing for Chicago and slipping into the dream of old horse-drawn, cobble-stoned Paris, fantasizing that I’d find a small abandoned Christmas tree that I could drag home and hang my earrings on.

Sinking comfortably into solitude, my eyes hidden under the shadow of a wide-brimmed winter hat, I took the least populated streets until I reached a clean, dimly-lit café terrasse and installed myself in the corner. There were only two other people outside: men bent over smartphones, quietly complaining to each other about their jobs. Inside, the only customer I could see was a young woman standing at the bar, poking fiercely at an iPhone.

The waiter was cheerful and so was I, when he set down my glass of rouge that sparkled so prettily in the over-head heat lights. Two days before Christmas, this normally busy Marais street was wonderfully silent. Sitting in the warm red light, across the street from a building draped in twinkling blue, with both colors swirling around each other on the shiny pavement in between, it was a lovely scene.

Until it got better. The men had just left and the girl from inside the bar came out, apparently needing some privacy to yell at her boyfriend. I looked up and our eyes met. I expected her to turn around and find somewhere to be alone, but she didn’t seem to mind me eavesdropping. She faced me as she yelled into her phone. “T’es ! Un ! Vrai ! Con ! Tu m’as pris du fric puis tu m’as jeté ! Je ne vais PLUS être ta connasse ! Je comprends pourquoi les gens te jettent, Chris ! Et moi, je te jette ! VA…TE…FAIRE…FOUTRE ! ET CREVER DANS TA MERDE !”* With that, she went back inside, gathered her things and left.

Stunned at the beauty and force of her efficacy, I smiled and took out a pen to write it down.

Merry Christmas eve eve Chris, wherever you are with this girl’s money.

Lonely man, green light.

Lonely man, green light.

* P.S. Translation of the rant: “You’re! A! Real! Asshole! You took my money and threw me away! I’m THROUGH being your bitch! I understand why people reject you, Chris! And I’m rejecting you! GO…FUCK…YOURSELF! AND DIE IN YOUR OWN SHIT!

Originally published on Dani’s Blog.

The trash commands

“J’ai envie de dormir, moi! C’est la poubelle qui va me commander!”

– A spunky, red-faced, homeless woman along the Canal St. Martin who found happiness in a mattress thrown out in someone’s trash. She shouts to her comrades, while dragging it across the street to sleep near the water.

11h31 on a sunny Wednesday.