Week two of strikes in Paris. The metro, buses, RER (regional transport), SNCF trains not running, cancelled, staggering commutes, disproportionately hurting the poor and suburbanites. It is difficult to be stuck in traffic if it is the only option. This is the way we see it in the city. What you see on the news is images of demonstrations and heavy police engagement. You see the centrist neoliberal government not backing down and the people defending themselves against an abuse of power. There must be some concessions made by each side for it to stop, but it doesn't have to stop the good times. Out in the streets you can see the resolve of all kinds of souls and systems. Do we fold and get frustrated? I think some might, but if you live in the 20 arrondissements, you can make it work more easily. And if you are visiting, local life has more character than the during typical holiday season.
More people are on their bikes than ever before right now. The mayor, Anne Hidalgo, must be jumping for joy on that one account because she has been prioritizing bike lanes. The bike stores are getting a boost. Now that I bought a baggage rack and a seat, I can take my son to school on a bike more quickly than the bus can get us there on a typical day - and it is mostly safe. Parisians have a confusing sense of order and etiquette when it comes to traffic. Anything goes. They may conform in fashion and professional activity, but it's not all black and white and on the up-and-up if you are coasting, hoofing, or cruising. People often say that the roads are crazy. It isn't usually crazy. Now, it's a little crazy. Still, the boulevards and avenues are packed, but the side streets give limitless joy. I was zipping through rue Folie Mericourt in the 11eme the other day singing and glancing through store windows.
The stores are getting hit pretty badly. What does that mean? During the week the shopping should be pretty calm. School vacation begins tomorrow so families who can leave on vacation will be gone usually the second week. The real deal is so real right now. New cafés and bars and restaurants sweeping through east Paris. The classic sights might be experiencing some closures and that will give more time to find the Paris in Paris - on foot. Just the other day walking with some clients we saw two eighty-somethings get in a tussle on the sidewalk. A man with a cane had to be held back, such was his fighting spirit. You have to imagine the revolution of '68 or even the years of occupation to realize that airing grievances is what made the Parisian. Dissent and demonstration are extensions of critical thinking. High school students blocked traffic with a poor cardboard sign the other day and nobody stopped them. Bureaucrats and institutions are battling, and the city hardly skips a meal or a glass of wine.
Walk! Find the spirit! Chew on some new thoughts! France may be the last bastion of true democracy. Parisians don't engage with strangers too often, but this might be the exception because everyone has something clearly in common and they are all looking for a laugh or a smile or a way to calm down and keep their stride (full pension in hand!)
Good luck to all of us. See you soon in our town. Moontown.