NEW FEATURE#2: THE LIVES OF PARIS CARS:
A CAR FOR ALL NATIONS—CHANTAL Q&A
New Feature BG: Of the innumerable and truly amazing treats available to anyone sauntering along Paris streets, avenues and boulevards is the chance to come upon and appreciate the riveting and often enchanting array of cars and vehicles spanning any number of years, eras, temperaments ….or moods!
While something ineffable may catch ones attention, …often it’s the little individualistic touches owners choose to adorn said possessions (stickers, notes, paint, photos, etc.,)* which alchemizes them into such interesting Urban artifacts*, if you will, testifying to inner dreams, goals or, more often than not, sheer gritty attitude.
This series shares our discoveries and our intrepid Reporters Q&A’s with the cars, with you. (Questions are spontaneous. No cars are primed or helped in any way with answers nor are any responses substantively edited, save for language clarification).
A CAR FOR ALL NATIONS – CHANTAL
Interview with Chantal, somewhere on a chemin privé, On November 15th.
On a quiet, inconspicuous road –which actually is no longer a road**, sits the proud, almost vain-looking, iconic Citroën 2CV (French: “deux chevaux-vapeur, …two steam horses), Chantal, with her very impressive paint job. (Chantal asks that we do not reveal her ‘exact’ location or that I found her by slipping thru a normally vaulted 150 year-old wooden set of massive doors…). Once part of a farm, outside the city limits, her street and surrounding area is now completely enveloped by the urban droning of a nearby commercial street rife with boulangeries, bucheries, kiosks and even a Metro stop not too far away).
Chantal: “Yes, it would be hard to miss. You know what this is, yes?”
Reporter: “Well, it appears to be the European Union flag with the stars being all the countries….”
Chantal: “houuuui….oui et non! The colors are the European Union ones but my stars don’t symbolize the number of countries….how many do you count?”
Reporter: At least 20…or so…
Chantal: “…the EU flag only has 12. Count them. The stars symbolize the ideas of unity, solidarity, and harmony among European people…”
Reporter: Your owner work there?
Chantal: “Her motives are mixed and she seldom..ah, comment dit ..‘discreet’…yes she’s discreet but obviously if someone spends a small fortune for a specialized paint job…ohh la…I was in that stinky garage for a WEEK!…well you can imagine they take the issue seriously”.
Reporter: But what a job…even your tires are yellow! That’s impressive
Chantal: “Yes, it is. We do get lots of complimentary, appreciative looks. Often at red lights someone will quickly whisper something. Last week one of those large horrid German SUV things sidled up. I was anticipating the green and suddenly heard, “wow, that is truly distinctive and handsome. You must be very proud.” He sped off but it made me realize that ‘yes,’ I am proud of my colors. We both are. As the saying goes, some people ‘put their money where their mouth is’, for my owner it was EU colors. It’s good to wear something you believe it.”
Reporter: I’m here fairly often for work yet never see you driving around. Why?
Chantal: “…how did you get here in by the way, that old wooden gate is usually locked?”
Reporter: “…just lucky …I never even notice the doors as they’ve always been locked…but there was construction and someone left one door slightly open….
Reporter: Well…I wasn’t planning to, just wanted to look thru the tunnel but, but then I saw you and had to explore…
Chantal: “Paris is a hidden mystery. There are walls you can see and invisible ones you never will. Some are social, some political others are economic. People may live next door to someone for 50 years and never meet them. Some prefer it that way. We have hidden courtyards, secret gardens…like this one, you can explore a bit later if you want….our neighbor is a well known artist…
….many in Paris prefer it that way. You’ve probably never noticed us for two reasons: One is we don’t get out much anymore. Age does that. Now we need to think twice before leaving….’how far is it?’, ‘what’s the road like?,….‘the weather?’ Getting old is no fun for cars or humans.” Ah, but the summers…those are ideal. We roll down the top…the air fills my lungs, cleans out the dust and we are young and free again.”
Reporter: Do you stay outside in the winter?
Chantal: “No, in the garage behind that wall there…the other end lets out on a small impasse that connects to a back-street which is normally how we leave to avoid the main street…”
Reporter: …ah..why I never see you?
Q: “How old are…”
Chantal: “Please…don’t think to ask a lady such a question.”
Chantal: “We can say ‘I am aware of many events that have occurred in this area covering a significant period of time’…is that better?”
Reporter: Perfect….I must go. May I revisit?
Chantal: “Would my saying ‘No’ stop you”
Chantal: “Why not try…and let’s see what happens..”
**There are many truncated, dead-end lanes/streets in Paris. Once active, they are the victims of urban development and can usually be found in private courtyards or disappearing (like the wall on ‘platform 9 3/4’ in Harry-Potter) into a brick wall or building.
*I am no different….years after the fact, I am still inordinately proud of my old truck bumper-sticker (received after toughing out a particularly gruesome western Canada winter of about 3 weeks of -40C temps). It read, “Minus 40 Keeps out the Scum!” My then 1982 V-8 Chevy half ton, code-named Lassie, got me out of many potentially disastrous touchy winter driving conditions. She spent her last days with a retired Navy Captain….(another story, that).