Tonight I wanted maki, so I walked to the sushi place a few blocks away from my apartment. I guess I should first explain the type of neighborhood I live in. Take a look at the map to the right.

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map of paris by arrondissement (district)

My place is in the 17th. Now, there are basically two “sides” of the 17th district of Paris. One is considered chic and a “good” area. The kind of area that causes people to raise their eyebrows and say, “ohhh, the 17th…”, forcing me to explain how I came to live there, which is really by luck and the incredible good graces of a woman named Anne-Marie. The other side of the 17th (which is, literally, on the other side of the railroad tracks) is the opposite of chic. This side of the neighborhood starts at the line just next to the “1” in “17” on the map. As you can see, this part of the 17th borders Clichy and St-Ouen, which are poor, tough suburban areas. I like the liveliness of this “other” 17th, and I especially like how I can buy cheap, decent fresh fruit and veggies there, but it can be a little much sometimes. Someone once described the area to me as being “notorious for its population of junkies”. Another time, coming home from the gym, a man flashed me a full frontal and then ran away. I yelled at him, but didn’t throw my clementine at his head like I wanted to because I was very hungry after 2 hours of working out. Anyway, you get the idea.  I live in the safe part, where you don’t expect things like this to happen. The occasional prostitute sighting? Yeah, ok, that happens. The resident insane homeless man? Yup, we have one of those. But he’s a really sweet drunk and prefers doing listening to 80s rock on his boombox to holding you up for drug money. In general, this neighborhood is so boring  and so expensive that I don’t even go out for a drink around here.

But tonight that all changed. I cannot with all honesty say the neighborhood was boring. Because on my way to get my california and fromage blanc maki rolls, I witnessed two men by the Credit du Nord bank on the corner engage in what I believe was fellatio. Yes, that’s right at 8:30pm on a Tuesday evening on avenue des ternes. The old women in my building would have been horrified (and I’m sad they couldn’t have snuck a peek). I’m sure the lady that proclaimed to me, “The rrrrrromani are ruining this neighborhood!!!!” when she saw a woman begging for spare change next to the boulangerie would have FLIPPED OUT if she’d seen these two men going at it. What’s so funny is that at first I thought I was seeing things, that this wasn’t what I thought it was. But then I saw other people looking, confirming my suspicions that the man sitting on the ledge was not just hugging his friend, who was standing up.

My reaction: quickly continue walking in as much of a straight line as possible, then turn around to verify after crossing the street.

On my way back from the sushi place (where they robbed me of 20 cents), I decided to walk along the same path just to see if those two were still there. I could tell from my place across the street that they were now both standing up, gesticulating excitedly. Before I crossed the street, one of them ran to cross the street and get his bag, which he had left in a precarious position on the corner. The two started walking and I did, too, because they were heading straight for my building. All the way, they were fighting. Punches in the butt, shoves in the back, kicks in the shins, cries of “You’re going to get your stuff…you do this …I don’t know why…” all that drama. At one point they started going at it again and I was just a few feet away, eying them, wondering if I should scream, “Boys, cut it out! You’re being ridiculous and you’re embarrassing yourselves!”, but I didn’t because they were two men and for some reason, even though one was clearly the dominator, I didn’t feel like I had the courage to tell them to stop.

I’d like to think that if I’d seen a man and a woman, I would have intervened or at least pulled a man off the street to intervene. Boy, who would have thought? All on avenue des ternes.

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