Cute Meet

We went to the movies yesterday. R has been recuperating from a sinus infection and she needed an outing. It has been bitter cold in Paris as in all of Europe for the past week and today when we left the apartment it was 21 F.

We walked to the Bastille and saw the movie “Detachment.”  It is well made and tough, extremely tough and unflinching. Filmed in a NY City High School, it portrays a world of institutional and personal failure. It is a bold depiction of traumatized teenagers who have given up on wanting to learn, parents  who are unable to take or have absolved themselves of responsibility, and schools and teachers who are trapped between the overwhelming anger of their students, their own personal problems and the general misguided politics of education. 

Waiting in an area past the WC E hears R and a women talking in French.  We meet in the corridor and R tells me M, a Frenchwomen in her eighties, has just seen the same movie and was so moved that she started a conversation.

We are all eager to talk about the movie so we move to our neighborhood resto.  Our new friend, M speaks English so with an English/French mix we can make out just fine.  

We went to La Cavetiiere around the corner from the Bastille. 


The women owner greets us with a big smile as we have been there several times and E was in there, the other night with Bernard for a drink. One could call it a typical Parisian café, and we like it because like all things in this modern world, typical is fading away.



Everything about our newest friend is a surprise.

Her husband a rather brilliant academic was a professor of Public Law. He does not like Paris so he stays in Rennes, their hometown in Brittany. She stays here in Paris and they meet every 2 or 3 months. After all, she says, they have been married over 55 years and they each can live their own lives.

He has published umpteen books on Public Law and has translated books to French from English and Italian.

M, like a number of Parisians is crazy about the cinema, as they call it. She has seen and remembers all the worthy U.S. movies over many years.  In the course of the conversation Henry James is mentioned and she tells us she loves him and reads him in English. She also tells us she is so sorry she didn’t know us earlier as she had a party last Monday where there was a journalist and a woman who is the French translator of James.

We talk about our mutual love of James and recall the paragraph in The Ambassadors when Strether (the protagonist) realizes that his first response at the wonderful new things he is experiencing is not that he is stepping outside of the frame of his life but that the frame continues to expand thus expanding his life as well as his idea about himself.

M avoids e-mail so we exchange names and telephone numbers. We will be in touch.

On the way out, E sees a sign that the Café will be having a degustation (a tasting) of Bordeaux wines the next day. We agree to meet. 

That is what has been happening to us in Paris. Every year we meet new and interesting people, expanding the frame of our lives.

If R had not been sick over the past weekend, she would have gone to England this past Monday. We would not have gone to the cinema today and we would not have met M.  Using movie language which M completely understood, we agreed it had been a “cute meet”, (R and M dans les toilletes).


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