Today was sunny and almost 80. I went to the Anne Frank garden, near the Pompidou and where I live. Others had the same idea: twenty-somethings balancing beers in the grass, teenagers exchanging back massages, a bum slumped over a chessboard table, little kids playing kickball, tiny kids audibly panting as they raced through the trellises.
I chose a vacant bench and sat between the ants and spots of bird shit. A breeze scattered petals across my sneakers. Dogwood blossoms were all-the-way unfurled.
A woman strode through the garden, dangling a cigarette in one hand and a child-sized scooter in the other. A small boy followed her, barely keeping pace. He struggled to fasten or remove a helmet on his head. (Read 26-3-12 Shouts & Murmurs, “Vive La France,” The New Yorker.)
Two toddlers chasing one another edged behind my bench. The trellises and slatted wood made shadows on their faces. Nearby a man in clown make-up ate potato chips and talked with a woman in a daisy-printed sundress. I looked at the sky above the weird tubes of the Pompidou; it was very blue.
A grey city bird flapped wildly, low in my line of sight. Last night, as I waited for the train, an identical bird flew the same way through the subway tunnel. That was grotesque: a bird without room to fly. Spring here entails an opening-up: the rest of the year, the sky is shellacked white, so that living below it is like living in an igloo.
I don’t know anything about the Anne Frank garden, but I imagine it figures in Alexandre Lacroix’s new book, “Voyage au centre de Paris,” a seemingly lovely addition to the flâneur tradition that includes even such unnoteworthy neighboring landmarks as rue Michel le Comte. (I walk down this street every day, and the only interesting thing about it is that pedestrians on its narrow sidewalks are not routinely creamed by the 29 bus.) I paged through the book yesterday at Le Genre Urbain, a terrific bookstore in Belleville.
They seem to have newly watered the fountains of the city. Maybe last week or the week before. The one at Hotel de Ville is even better than the ice-skating rink. Across the street, at a metro entrance, a tired-looking woman sells bundles of daffodils. I bought daffodils from a similar woman at the Bastille market last week, and they wilted after a day and a half, but until then were very nice.
A woman carried a cake aflame toward girls who sat in the grass and sang. I made a note about the solemn, ceremonial, careful pace universal to deliveries of birthday cake.
Near a new planting, the passive-aggressive placard: “For your enjoyment, this massive arbusif [I don't know that word] has been replanted. We thank you for respecting the work of the gardeners.”
I checked my email and read a quote from Brain Pickings: “You can never know anyone as completely as you want. But that’s okay, love is better.”
One kid swung his foot at a ball and, failing to connect, overbalanced, nearly falling backwards — but he caught himself. I heard another one in the game say, “Moi, j’existe,” but I was not sure I heard him correctly. My French is good after six months here, but not perfect.