At last, an epiphany. On Memorial Day, which is a holiday here too (for different reasons), I did some yoga for the first time in a while (maybe that was the key), then took the Métro to Les Halles and started walking north. I followed Rue Montorgeuil. This was a trendy section of Paris a few years ago, just west of the upper reaches of the Marais. The sort of area where there's trash on the street; CDs, shoes and clothes are sold on the sidewalks; people speak in foreign languages --and I don't mean French -- and the prices are lower than where I live in the 7th. Actually, the 7th was closed tight for the holiday, the streets dead, but on Rue Montorgeuil there was life, a city pulse, as in New York.
I was overjoyed. I felt as though I was floating. Suddenly, I realized that, as good as my own neighborhood is for me now, it is not the right place in Paris for me to live. Too sedate and buttoned up. Montorgeuil is to Paris what Chelsea is to New York: a little downtown. Paris has even more downtown places, such as Belleville; someday soon I will explore those.
Meanwhile, I fantasized about a loft in the neighborhood of the grand old Art Deco Theatre Rex on Boulevard des Bonnes Nouvelles. That means "good news street." What could be better? I sat in a sidewalk cafe and was hassled by a drunk. It was everything I love about New York but prettier, because it's Paris, of course.
People have been writing to say I haven't been adventurous enough in my explorations of Paris. I don't think the criticism is fair. After all, I just spent a week hiking in the Libyan Sahara. And when I get back to Paris from my trips, I'm too busy writing on deadline to glibly saunter around. But, in a sense, I now see that my critics are right. I need to go farther afield. I've met the challenge of living here, in the best of conditions. Now I need to see what living here could really be like.