My son calls this Paris Gothic. So many older people here, and infinite ways to photograph their delicacy and timelessness. After a day spent lost in the nearly absolute emptiness in the cemetery at Montparnasse, I’m sitting in an old church listening to a priest speak in French and perhaps Latin….it feels medieval, so perhaps the Latin speech is part of my emotional reaction to the sombre quiet and the cavernous, centuries-old depth of the church. I can smell old wood and candle wax and mold, and the mix of sensations acts as a salve. I took refuge here because a man asking for money cornered me in the entrance, and, trapped in the vestibule, I panicked a bit and retreated into the cool shadows of the église. He watched me, face nearly pressed against the glass door, intensity and intention clear enough to summon two old women to urgently shoo him away. He didn’t want to acquiesce, and stayed, his stubborn refusal causing me to seek a quiet and dark corner at the other end, and as I sit he’s out there still, waiting in the hot sunlight. I love Paris but today especially it feels somewhat decayed and melancholy, despite the late August sun, a warm interlude after a series of cold, wet and rainy afternoons. There’s no real rebirth here….the old nostalgia remains, thinned enormously by chain stores–far too many of them originating in the USA–and a new generation locked onto their iPhones with tremendous intensity. Starbucks, iPhones, short shorts, hamburgers and homelessness. America in Paris.
But the old people remain, and I remember clearly when I first came to Paris, and my life started for real. And I will always love it here, and I will always remember the smell of Montparnasse in the sun, and in the rain too, the first time I saw it.