Wednesday, July 21, 2010
Home is ...
Yesterday I was set to meet Jean Louis, the present tenant at 2, rue Gustave Rouanet, and his landlord, Patrick, and together we were going to sit down, sign some papers, and voila! I would be granted a new place to call home for the next year, and possibly longer. Just before hopping on my funky green borrowed bicycle and heading north along the Canal St. Martin, I hopped on the slightly less funky internet to see what I could discover about this Gustave Rouanet fellow. I thought maybe there’d be something portentous there; you know, maybe he was the guy who started Paris’ first vegetarian society or something. (He was actually a lefty upstart and writer of scathing anti-establishment articles in the socialist press.) Armed with my newfound knowledge, I’d know for sure that the place was meant to be for me (or not).
Well, I found something altogether quite different when I went snooping around cyberspace, and it wasn’t “good”-different. Turns out that last month, at 4 in the morning, a young couple in their early twenties arrived at this very apartment building after a night partying with friends, and as they went to open the front gate, the two were stabbed by a “North African looking guy with bleached-blond hair.” (I have yet to see even one such fellow with bleached-blond hair; maybe they all dyed their heads en masse after reading this story in hopes of circumventing hair-related profiling.) The 21-year-old girl died. The boyfriend is still in the hospital.
Reading this story kind of put a damper on the whole oh-my-god-I’m-excited-about-my-new-apartment thing, but I went ahead and cycled over to the backside of Sacre Coeur to make good on our agreed rendezvous. When I arrived, Patrick and Jean-Louis showed me the bike parking room. It would have easily held all of Jeff’s bikes. Sigh.
“Say! Before I came here today I did a bit of internet research and found out there was a murder here recently. You didn’t mention that when I asked you if the neighborhood was safe.”
“Bof—it never even occurred to me,” said Jean Louis. “It was a crime of passion. A jealous ex-boyfriend. It could have happened anywhere.”
I totally got it. And he was right: it could have happened anywhere. But it didn’t happen anywhere. It happened right here in my new building! Together we piled into the elevator, a space which becomes very intimate very quickly when you are three adults and it’s 95 degrees outside. Entering the apartment, the living room suddenly felt very small. How would I possibly fit my couch, sideboard, coffee table, and chairs in here? Inspecting the closets one more time, I gauged the space and made a mental comparison to our Golden Gate wardrobe and thought, “No way. This is never going to hold all of our clothes.”
I shared my concerns with Patrick and with Jean Louis, who suggested I give it some thought and get back to him. I told him I thought that was a great idea. As I left, my mind was already made up, but I went downstairs and decided to query some of the building’s residents anyway, to get their impressions of the neighborhood, its degree of safety, and anything else folks would be willing to share.
The first two people I bumped into were a middle aged woman and an old man in the foyer. The old guy has lived in the building for 34 years. “It’s a great building, great neighbors, and a nice neighborhood,” he insisted. The woman, his personal grocery-shopper, agreed. “That murder was highly unusual for this neighborhood, and for Paris in general,” she said. Stopping into the concierge’s office, he, too, echoed their sentiments. “No, no, this is perfectly safe place. When do you move in?”
Well, the answer to that is: never. Boo hoo.
So: where is home? Back to the ol’ drawing board.