The Seine meanders through the center of Paris.
There are two eyes in the middle of the river, the Île de la Cité and the Île St.-Louis. Just look on a map.
Artists tend to gravitate towards the left eye, the intuitive-feeling eye, the eye of dream.
Maybe it wasn’t coincidence that we chose to live within a few blocks of the left eye, the Île St.-Louis.
We often cross the Pont de la Tournelle over the Seine and stop to look at Notre Dame where the river forks around the Île de la Cité, the eye of judgment. Every time you look there are new things to see.
Mid-summer, walking to meet Richard for dinner in the Marais, I saw ahead of me the most startling street person I’ve seen so far in Paris. He had a vast hairy bare belly. Not only was he shirtless, but he was also missing the entire seat of his pants. No problem—it was a hot day. He stood by a trash can and picked out bottles to throw. His face and chest were so red that all the bottles might well have been downed by him. Passersby mostly stayed on the other side of the street, for this was a hairy bum with a hairy bum. Even seen-it-all Parisians kept sneaking peeks at his big furry butt, which at least was covered half an inch down the crack by what seemed to be a pair of cowboy chaps.
I sent him a silent greeting, Bless your hairy bum, oh hairy bum, but kept a comfortable distance.
On the way back from dinner, Richard and I paused on the Quai d’Orléans. It was 9 p.m., still light, the time of year you wish would never end.
Richard leaned over the quai to snap an overhead shot of a group of young people having a picnic.
Below them at the edge of the Seine, I watched six ducks in a row, as if in line at Poilâne Bakery.
Richard showed me the close-up photo in his viewfinder. “Their picnic seems to be mostly chips.”
There was an array of bags open, as well as wine. “Those ducks are smart. They know the picnickers will tire of the chips and toss them snacks.”
“Look!” Richard said, “Someone’s in the water.”
I peered out over the murky Seine and sure enough, a man with his head submerged was struggling back to the quay with choppy strokes.
“That’s one way to get a disease,” said Richard.
We had learned in reading The Secret Life of the Seine, our friend Mort Rosenblum’s book about the history of the Seine, of the dead bodies that are still found in the river. A few Japanese tourists were watching him too.
He seemed to be having trouble lifting himself out of the water onto the steps of the quai. Then, a dripping merman emerged. He was trim, perhaps in his 40s, sun-weathered, with a leaping panther tattooed above his heart. He wore dark blue swim trunks. Up on the quai he pulled a dark blue T-shirt over his head that said “Champion” and something else I couldn’t see, “Barcela?” “Barcelona?”
He glanced up, and seemed to be scanning for any watching females who might be impressed.
Two young women in sundresses and sandals passed speaking American English, their arms around each other’s waists, and stopped at the corner near the bridge. Oblivious to the onlookers, they turned to kiss each other.
“Look how the world has changed,” I said. “American lesbians are perfectly comfortable expressing their love in public.”
“All over the world,” said Richard.
“Maybe the world is becoming a more loving place…?” I wondered aloud.