Paris Blue, Jean-Paul Who?

I see the grand old doors and door knobs in Pigalle battered by time and insulted by neglect. Here, I suppose, no tourist is looking.

The city was once great but it is falling apart; only the tourist areas are now properly maintained. If Napoleon were alive today, he would probably wage war on the owners of the city's buildings and only a few would be spared.

Would he like the walking dead of Place de Madeleine? Those shoppers who already have everything? The old women with wrinkles and fur coats who never smile? Their sour, stiff-jointed husbands hobbling along like prisoners of wedding vows made long ago?

Would he enjoy the sight of so many homeless young men along Boulevard Saint Germain? Why had they lost all hope? Would no one help them? Could no one at least think of a project that might keep them busy and better "society," or was society a silly thing of the past when buildings were grand and ideas were lofty? Oh, shameful! Who was in charge of government now?

And what about Montmartre and Pigalle? I don't think he would like the tacky sex shops, one after another, along Boulevard Clichy, but I think he might like the brothels on Frochot and rue Jean-Baptiste Pigalle. They at least deliver the goods and are still maintained in style.

But what about those desperate-looking characters who hang out along the boulevard sitting on the garden rails and benches?  Does their beer taste better when they break the bottles? Why doesn't someone stop them? Are their cigarettes more soothing to bad nerves when they throw the butts in the garden?

And those girls with the big breasts—are any of them real?—strutting noisily, almost trotting like race horses all over the city? Did they now want to win the race in bed, coming in first before their mates? Well, maybe that was okay if their mates were able to finish the race too. Winning wasn't everything, you know. Even Napoleon knew that.

Paris, Paris, what have you become? Are you anything more than a pickpocket and a sly smile, a shaved head, a soldierly look on the face of an accountant? A young woman being pulled down the street on a string attached to all her childhood fantasies about what it means to be French, an unwitting prop in the restaurant, talking tête-à-tête with a friend? Would Napoleon bother to fight a war for you, would Voltaire defend your freedom from tyranny? Why should he when you are hopelessly tyrannized by yourself? Would Camus even want to fuck you?

Sad city of fading light, chipped paint, and backed-up drains—ville de rats?—is this what you wanted to become? With hollow heels clicking the pavement, slap on a thick leather jacket resounding, and elongated vowels waiting for some meaning to emerge, you have shielded yourself from those existential questions whose answers determine the nature of your being. But instead of listening you turn up the volume on your headset, join the parade. Paris, where is your Sartre when you need him the most?
—Louis Martin