Well that was a week if I ever knew one. I’ve never drank so much coffee and so much wine in tandem with each other in my life.
I want to thank everyone for all the calls and texts and emails and Facebook IMs—for the overall concern for my safety. I am fine, and just trying to continue on with creating a life here in Paris. Now more than ever, I feel fortunate—privileged, even—to have the opportunity to do so. I’ve spent much of the last few days writing and have placed an essay about what it’s been like on ELLE.com. While the circumstances are dire, I’m super proud to have finally contributed to a magazine I’ve long admired. You can read the essay here.
Meanwhile, I’d like to share a side-note of coincidental information that I learned in the midst of all the madness last week. My apartment—my “office,” if you will—has a bunch of cool street art/graffiti canvases on its walls. I’m subletting from a friend of a friend, so while I didn’t choose the pieces myself, most of them happen to be very “me.” That said, I must admit I haven’t looked too closely at them. They just hang on the wall, quietly, adding some personality to the space. So when the owner IM’d me the other day to ask me how I felt about having two Charlie Hebdo’s on my kitchen wall, I thought something had gotten lost in translation.
Huh? I thought. What you talkin’ ’bout, Willis?
Then I ran into the kitchen. There, on the right-hand wall hung two framed covers of Charlie Hebdo!
How could I not have seen them? Because, for starters, the stove, the fridge, the dishwasher, the coffee-maker and the cabinets are all on the opposite wall and the kitchen itself is very narrow. Like, can’t-even-do-the-chicken-dance narrow. And because none of us Americans knew much of Charlie Hebdo before Wednesday. To me, they were just cool cartoons that matched the feel of the other artwork in the studio and looked really good against a kitchen wall that was oddly painted black.
Turns out, they’re there for a reason. Apparently, one of the founders of the original Charlie Hebdo—first known as Hara-Kiri in the ’60s—was Georges Bernier. He went by the pseudonym Professeur Choron—because the offices for Hara-Kiri WERE ON THIS VERY BLOCK WHERE I LIVE IN THE 9TH ARRONDISSEMENT: RUE CHORON.
Once I learned this information, I spent the next two days walking up and down my street to see if there was a possible story. While I followed several leads, none of them were nearly as exciting or important as the ones the police were following to catch the terrorists who launched this horrific event. But, I did get to speak to a bunch of my neighbors about the attack.
Remi Sauty, manager of a restaurant down the block called Professore—named, in part, after Professeur Choron—said: “It’s incredible to imagine that if what passed on Wednesday if it passed years ago, it would be here.”
He confirmed that while many people in France don’t necessarily like or agree with Charlie Hebdo, they all know it and respect it. “Every people [sic] who live in France knows this newspaper,” he said. “Many times they make some noise, some problems, some satire. We like it, we don’t like it, but we respect it. Liberté d’expression is really important for French people.”
And that’s why, despite the French’s generally laissez-faire attitude in daily life—how long it takes to get a menu, how slow the queues move at the boulangerie—within hours of the shooting, every window in every storefront was emblazoned in some way with the words “Je Suis Charlie.”
I may be new here, and I’m only just starting to really speak the language, but to be amongst all that solidarity one can’t help but feel at home, and yet at the same time with the whole wide world.