The toe of my handcrafted raw leather boot catches an upstanding cobblestone and I take a violent step forward to catch my balance. A beautiful racket, really, as the clicks of the soles and stones create an auditory environment reminiscent of a domino game. But the physical toll of the struggle and the public embarrassment of the scene keep my positivity in check. Honestly, it's better this way. A glow of happiness or god forbid a smile are strictly taboo amidst a pedestrian commute in Paris and I have no reason to strive for sticking out. I continue my march with a look of monotony, boredom, lack of care and thanks to the scuff on my left boot, it seems genuine. But inside, I'm beaming. Boots are boots and I've never been one to keep my wear pristine, but experiences are reason for celebration to overtake a misstep, and an experience is just what's waiting for me at the place I'm headed.
The sun is setting and the lights of the cliché landmarks are beginning to shine brighter than the dark orange sky. The color makes the city feel homey and warm, but also a little extra dirty. There is a global acceptance of the beauty in this city, but most people seem to be mistaken by its source. In the trenches between the cobblestones lay sleeping cigarette butts, never to be awakened, but always within view. The cracks scarring every historic building grow like plants in a more well watered part of the world while the plants themselves struggle to find enough light, warmth, or water and most of the year, grow more slowly than the cracks. It is an image of truth and not an illusion of perfection that makes Paris so often considered one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
A wide grid of flat avenues gives way to a labyrinth of oddly angled narrow streets winding up and down steep hillsides. I'm getting close. Meandering through the web, I pass the expected sights: beautiful architecture, beautiful people, beauty food. The whole city has a feel of a place that all others were supposed to be like. And really, the world would be better if the others succeeded.
I spot a classic Parisian wine bar a block ahead and without a touch of self-control I step in. White wine and charcuterie. There are few places where my favorite meal is cheaper, and none where it is better. I order the staples, pull a book from my bag, and spend the next hour or so immersed in my own version of heaven. When I check my watch, it’s time to go.
I’m a short stroll from my destination in le 18ème arrondissement. In the shadow of Montmartre, the city takes on a different feel. I begin my long climb up the sides of the hill, weaving tiredly up streets and sidewalks canyon walled to each side by the standard Haussman design. The whole city appeals to artists, but this neighborhood in particular is apt for creativity and boasts a history of it as well. In its past, Picasso and Dali called it home, and tonight an artist of a different kind will be gracing it with his presence.
I approach the top where Sacré-Cœur keeps guard of the city. Due South, The Spotlight affixed to the top of the Eiffel Tower makes its rounds, lazily spinning without ever discovering anything worthy of keeping its light. Taking a more commanding control of the view is a stage that has been erected at the bottom of the out looking staircase. And taking the place of the normal late-night crowd scattered and seated on the steps while taking in the view, is a more energetic audience who came for a different kind of show. This one opts to stand with their bottles of cheap wine.
It’s evening and therefore it’s brisk – especially at the peak of one of the city’s highest points. People are dressed accordingly, and in Paris, that means the crowd looks damn good. Leather boots and suede high-fashion sneakers, tapered pants and long skirts, long woolen coats and short satin bombers, scarves, caps, and beanies. Black, grey, navy, brown, and an assortment of cold takes on warm colors blend the local fashion appropriately to the color palette of the city. Here, form always follows function.
I find myself a position amongst the crowd, pull a bottle of Sauvignon blanc from my back pocket, and make myself comfortable. After a few too many sips and a few too many intrinsic thoughts, I turn to find the crowd has filled in nicely behind me. I'm no longer just myself, I'm a piece of this well-dressed, wine-guzzling orb that will, when the purpose of our congregation begins, move as a singular body made up of its individual parts.
And just with that thought, a series of temporary stage lights dim and the crowd is immersed into fuller blackness than the comminutive garb was already allowing. Whispers of intrigue mark the silence of anticipation as another series of lights draw all of our attention stagewards. Refreshingly and unexpectedly, a full band has set up to provide the backup for the main act. All too often, shows like these are provided instrumentation by way of a sole producer, and as talented as that person may be, a live band makes the whole experiences so much more complete.
The man who we came to see pulls himself up on stage from a position amidst a circle at the front of the crowd, which in reaction, erupts in excitement and appreciation.
A man of the people. You gotta love that.
Blending with us, he too is dressed to reflect the truth and beauty of the city. He isn't from here. He comes from Bruxelles but the heart of his audience calls Paris home and so, by association, maybe he does too.
If nothing else, right now he belongs to the city, to his audience, to this view, and we, to him and his band.
Bonjour, Paris. Je m'appelle Krisy.
An energy overcomes the audience and as the music begins, so too does the swaying of our cohesive unit. Every culture hosts its own customs of concert and that of the French is unsurprisingly pristine and fluid, high energy and low-key, perfected and artistic. The fashionable conglomerate moving dedicatedly and smoothly is really a work of art in its own right and an ode to the place but more importantly to the music.
Une grande partie de cette audience est probablement d’autres pays, mais ce soir, nous sommes tous parisiens.