A surreal Sunday scene: I’m walking down Rue Alexandre Dumas, my familiar street made new when it’s washed in spring’s bright light. I fall behind two young French girls – they couldn’t have been more than 9 or 10 – on the corner near Conforama. One has an iPhone pressed to her ear, her blond tresses nearly covering the device. She’s speaking into it seriously, while her friend patiently waits.
When her serious talk is through she hangs up and becomes lighthearted again, and the two friends begin chatting and laughing. By this time, I’ve passed them, my long legs carrying me much faster than theirs.
Then, from behind me, I hear:
“I like the way you work it. No diggity, I got to bag it up, bag it up
I like the way you work it. No diggity, I got to bag it up…”
And the girls are singing along! When Dr. Dre starts rapping, they even keep pace with that, too.
A deep look of confusion has overtaken my face, then my lips spread into a huge grin, even while I’m shaking my head. How in the world do these little French girls 1) know this song twice as old as they are (1996, baby!) 2) keep up with the lyrics (do they have any idea what they’re saying?). I’m surprised and slightly disconcerted, too.
They cross the street and I lose the Blackstreet song and their voices rising to meet it. I continue on my way.
We’ve been basking in a whole string of warm, sunny days. Sun therapy isn’t reliably available in Paris, but my, no better option exists if you can get it. The default belief that the sunshine won’t last (the sky here so much more accustomed to a palate of grays), promises outsized excitement with its appearance. Each day for a couple weeks now, it seems, I wake and look out the window. It’s sunny…again? I simply can’t believe the good fortune. It’s impossible to ever take for granted the sun.
I’ve been making daily trips to a neighborhood park – my destination when I ran into the rapping girls – and I even made a recent trip to my favorite Parisian outpost, Buttes Chaumont. Another flashback to earlier times. It had been so long since I’d seen the Sybil Temple above the lake, and laid on its sloping hills.
I usually stick closer to home, though; I like anywhere I can walk. Yesterday, on my way back from sunbathing, I noticed a shop, its window crowded with colorful clothes and vintage jewelry, shoes and boots. How is it possible to follow the same route over and over and still discover you’ve completely missed something right in front of you?
“Are you open?” I peek my head into the door, already ajar. Sunday, sunny, open store? It did not compute.
“Yes, come in,” the woman inside said. I was the only customer. It’s hard for me to enter stores when the sun is out, but even harder for me to resist a new thrift shop.
I fingered the racks, imagining wearing some of the bright, patterned dresses around a city so often clothed in a sober style.
“Have you been here a long time?” I asked, as I ventured deeper into the store.
“No, about 2 months,” the owner replied.
“Ah, okay,” I said. “I was wondering, how did I miss this place?”
“No, no, you’re right,” she said. “Come look, we have a cafe, too,” she said. I scanned the cute little tea room in the back.
“I’m also a hair stylist,” she said, and I noticed then she’s standing by a salon chair facing a mirror.
“We’re trying,” she said and handed me a card. L’atypique.
“Great,” I said. “When are you open?”
“Tuesday through Saturday from 11..11:30…allez, let’s say 11 to 7, Monday afternoons and sometimes on Sunday, like this, when it’s nice out and I feel like it.”
The relaxed approach to business hours used to flummox me when I first moved here. Now, it tickles me. Indeed. Why not just do something when you feel like it?
“It’s very cute,” I said. “I’ll be back.”
“With pleasure, Madame.”
I headed out the door, happy with my new discovery.
I may not always be the most observant person, but I usually see the dog poop without needing it pointed out. But hey, maybe it’s a new public service! Also, there’s always some reminder not to get too carried away with Paris’ charms, n’est-ne pas?
I’ve been reflecting a lot recently. Just what am I doing? What is my purpose? My goals?
Stepping outside into a sunny day, though, often puts the existential questioning on lovely hold. Well, at this very moment, the present, I’m doing what I feel like doing: seeking the sun on my face.
Plus, life changes take time. I went back to L’atypique today and talked more to the owner, who I learned was Dominique. She told me about finding the space; how it took a year to go from the bare walls to what I saw now, about being in business with her brother, who creates many of the unconventional lamps that fill the store. She confessed how difficult it was setting everything up, especially since they’re doing so many activities under one roof.
“The paperwork was a nightmare!” she said.
Oh, I know something about that.
And yet, it was another gorgeous day outside and we were having a delightful chat. Almost anything can be forgiven in Paris, it feels, when the sun comes out.
In looking up the “No Diggity” song to put with this post, I learned that song was in a teen movie a few years ago, Pitch Perfect. (I never have a clue about pop culture). I guess that explained why those little girls had the song in their phone.
But I’m kind of okay not always finding the immediate answers. Getting comfortable with the tiny mysteries make for an interesting journey. Just stumbling along, but staying open, often has its own rewards. Surprises, atypical ones, often await.
No diggity, no doubt.
46 rue Chanzy