Free Man In Paris

Sufjan Stevens – Free Man In Paris (Joni Mitchell cover)

Written: June 18, 2011

I stepped out of my new apartment and shut the door with a loud bang. I have been told two things about my front door. First, never leave without your keys, because it locks behind you. And it costs an enormous amount (200€) to have a locksmith come unlock your door. Second, I have been told to close it with force in order for it to truly lock.

I turned on the hall light, which is near my door, and walked over to the room that has the trash chute. After disposing of the trash from the last few days, I walked to the elevator. When the doors opened, I saw one of my neighbors. We immediately smiled, said, “Bonjour,” and then rode the elevator down in silence. As I left, we said, “Au revoir.” A similar exchange happened in the evening where another neighbor and I walked past each other. We nodded, smiled and said “Bonsoir.”

Paris is so very polite. I have been told to always remember to say, “bonjour” (or “bonsoir”) to everyone to whom you speak. When you walk into a café, remember to say, “Bonjour, Madame” or “Monsieur.” It will be considered rude if you do not call the person at the café (or store) Madame, Monsieur or Mademoiselle when greeting them. I must admit, however, that I have failed a couple times with these greetings and have simply said “Bonjour” on a number of occasions, but those people have never seemed insulted. Instead they have usually smiled with a “Bonjour” in return. (When an older person has approached, I have been more formal though.)

Here it is also customary to greet everyone with a kiss on the cheek. At first, I was amazed at how many times you might kiss people depending on the amount of people with you. At a birthday party, I must have greeted a dozen people with kisses; however, I have come to find it to be a rather romantic way of saying hello. It’s actually a very polite society. It is also interesting that this city is so strict on manners and formalities (which I honestly like,) but has a reputation for being rude, which it honestly can be.

As I sit in a café, I look around me at the pedestrians passing me by. There are businessmen and women in well-tailored suits walking around amongst those like myself in blue jeans and a sweater. I am quietly having a cup of coffee (“café”) and writing in my journal. I have been sick for several days and it is good to be out, even though it is raining slightly.

In my two weeks here, I have had an amazing time with the people that I have met. It has been two weeks ago today that I came to Paris. July 4th! I left on the 3rd (a Friday) and arrived at CDG on the 4th. I am amazed at how happy I am here, although I know that I’ll have some low days, of which I have had a few. “Emotional days.” Days where I am fully aware that I have left what was my life in Los Angeles behind. A realization of what I have given up and have lost.

It is interesting how certain things or people remain close to your heart long after they are gone. And how a place can fell familiar, yet brand new – a new start – but still hold old feelings. As if these feelings came with me on my flight. Hence “baggage,” which is so appropriate. When does one let go and accept the finality of something being over and start anew? Start looking forward and outward and not looking back, because that person or those things are gone forever?

But I love being here. I am truly happy, as everything feels so streamlined. People are simply people here. No pretenses about what they might want from you. Simply put, people are less interested in what you do and are more interested in who you are. And when you meet people in your own field – i.e. film and photography – it feels far more genuine.