They are shooting a film on our street. The big white trucks block the side where the handsome Japanese cordonnier resoles my boots, where the exuberant Egyptian pizza maker presses and stretches dough, filling the street with the smell of baking cheese.
“TV or film?” I ask the knot of Italian men between two trucks.
“It is called?”
“You Have Never Lived on the Moon!” they chorus in Italian. One translates into French.
“That’s right,” I say. “And that’s okay, I’d rather live on rue du Cardinal Lemoine” (where Jacques Henri Lartigue has his blue plaque, where Pascal lived, where James Joyce finished “Ulysses” in Valery Larbaud’s apartment, where Hemingway and Hadley first lived in Paris and Gertrude Stein came by with Alice and said about a novel he’d started, “Begin over and concentrate,” and he waited three years before starting to write The Sun Also Rises, where he watched carts pulled by goats clatter down the cobblestones at dawn, where Carolyn Kizer had an apartment, now our home).
I turn onto rue Monge, crazed with love for this city, so full of beauty and mystery and dirty streets, and knock on the door of the podologue. A young man with crossed eyes opens.
“Chantal?” The name on the card is puzzling, a strange name for a man. Perhaps it’s his surname?
“Non,” he says, “Elle est en vacances.” She’s on vacation. He gestures to a dentist’s chair, examines my right foot. “Where does it hurt?”
“Where is the bunion?”
“Bunion? I have no bunion.”
“What is wrong with your foot?”
He peers at my foot with crossed eyes. “Can’t you see?” I say. “Here, and here?”
“Do you want a pedicure?”
“What?” (Did the podologue put her manicurist in charge of her practice?!) “It’s athlete’s foot. From the gym.”
“Ah,” he says, “you want a dermatologue.”
“That’s funny. An Iranian masseuse told me I needed to see a podologue for this. I just assumed she knew what kind of doctor I should see.”
Down rue Monge I stop at our supermarket, Carrefour, to pick up some paper products. I greet the Indian woman behind the cash register. She won’t meet my eye. Do I look strange? Is there goat fur between my teeth?
I leave the market feeling slightly depressed by the interchange with her. No, I won’t carry this with me. I’ll shake it off.
But it will affect others too, like a virus. I turn back to where a smiling woman is answering customer questions. We exchange “Bonjour, Madames.” I ask her if she might suggest to the cashier that she meet the eyes of customers if only for a second.
“Oh yes,” the woman says, “She was here when I started this job three years ago. She’s always been like that. Everyone complains. We’ve asked her to be friendlier but she doesn’t change. We suggest she greet customers but she won’t.”
“Peut-être qu’elle est timide. Ou malheureuse.” Maybe she’s shy. Or unhappy. “If she’d just look at people for a moment, that would be enough. Otherwise, she conveys to you that you’re an object, not a human.”
“I find the French people to be that way,” says the customer representative. “I’m from the Antilles where people smile at each other.”
“Yes, it’s the same in California. Maybe this woman lives on the moon.”
She laughs. “Peut-être.”
I stop at our pharmacy on rue des Ecoles, where the pharmacien seems to me to be as knowledgeable as any doctor. He will be able to recommend a good dermatologue in the neighborhood. He shakes his head, pulls out a bottle and a small box from his cabinet of wonders. “Just use this and this for quinze jours,” he says.
I leave with the day’s simple needs met right here in our neighborhood in a mere thirty minutes, and wink at the quarter moon above the Pantheon. “Take care of all the people who live up there with you,” I say to La Lune, who is singing like a lunatic, sad or ecstatic, it’s hard to say.
* * * * *
Here’s a bit of lunacy from the French filmmaker, Georges Méliès, “Le Voyage dans la Lune,” a pataphysical film about a journey to the moon, considered the world's first science fiction film. The scientists who fly to the moon must escape from an underground group of Selenites (insectoid lunar inhabitants who go up in smoke when hit) played by acrobats from the Folies Bergère. The film was an international success when released in 1902, and Méliès' life was celebrated in director Martin Scorsese's multi-Oscar-winning 2011 film, "Hugo," based on Brian Selznick's novel.