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At Home and In Paris

Updated: May 30, 2023


Last night I was in awe …

I’d been writing at my desk all day, and occasionally looking out my window at my cheerful geraniums, when Ted called me to the kitchen table for dinner. The menu included an excellent grilled salmon filet with a honey-herb-pepper glaze, accompanied by a salad of pink grapefruit, navel oranges, radish slices, fresh ginger, and plenty of fresh dill weed. Some artfully sliced and fanned-out avocado sat with its complimentary color on the opposite side of the fish. Since moving to France, our diet has improved immensely, and we only eat twice daily; a late breakfast of assorted berries, almonds, and yogurt, and something that I call Drunch—a cross between brunch and dinner—between 4-6. Of course, before Covid-19, we would have dinner at a typical time with or without friends, in or out. I’d almost forgotten what that was like. It’s been over a year.

When I entered the kitchen, I passed by the window and saw an unusual sight. Across the rue, in one of those doorway niches that never opens, is the home of one whom we refer to as ‘The Queen of the Night.” She is a homeless woman who has lived on our rue longer than we have. She sleeps there every night and is usually gone by eight in the morning, except when the weather is unusually cold or stormy. She is very organized, with a cardboard lining for the nook, a sleeping bag and extra blankets, pillows, and clean clothes into which she changes in some secret refuge where it seems she also takes her showers. She appears incredibly neat and clean at all times, and when she wakes up, she folds all her belongings. These fit in a magical bag that reminds me of the one that Hermione used in Harry Potter. It is not unusually large, yet it can carry an innumerable quantity of provisions of every form, shape, and size. Then suddenly she and all her gear disappear.

Tonight, it had begun to rain and I noticed that she was in her den earlier than usual. It was not the customary drizzle-on-drizzle-off typical Parisienne precipitation, but a steady shower of visible droplets scheduled to continue throughout the next day. What was most unusual about this evening was that our lady was surrounded by a group of young people, all wearing rain gear and masks. She seemed to holding court. I was in awe. Then, I noticed something out of the usual; each group member wore a wide, white armband with a logo I couldn’t quite make out. Gradually I realized that they had come bearing provisions, food and drink for her Majesty.

It wasn’t that the Queen was uneducated. She spoke in erudite French to anyone who would stop to listen, and when alone she would read books and seemingly give lectures on a variety of topics to invisible audiences. She was indeed mentally ill. Mind you, it wasn’t that I had not witnessed the homeless in Los Angeles, even on the prosperous west-side; It was the humane treatment of the homeless, voluntary or involuntary, that was a newly discovered phenomenon since we took up residence in our flat in Paris. It made me think about the times when Ted would kid around about moving to France, if we were willing to sleep under the bridges as did so many others who couldn’t afford to buy or even rent a flat in this city. At the time, we’d laugh about it. But I don’t laugh about it any longer. We are clearly among the lucky ones to have four walls and a roof above our heads, warmth in the Winter and climatization in the Summer, food on the table every day, and a soft bed in which to sleep every night.

Covid-19 or no, we are alive and happy!.

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