coolest thing ever.

February 26, 2007

sunday: so there isn’t much to do. one wonders what frenchmen get themselves up to on the lord’s day. stay in bed? impossible: the boulevards are overflowing with cityfolk. every café is operating well beyond capacity, every server looking like he or she is about to burst an artery. there’s hardly a spot to steal; it’s much like a game of musical chairs, but the music stopped playing sometime in the late ’70s. still, one keeps trying…since staying at home is not – socially-speaking – an option. These are the lazy days when la république shines. with 90% of the country having the day off, it makes for fantastic streetlife. one could walk the lanes and avenues for hours and watch people pass (a particularly good place to do this is in paris’ jewish quarter, on the rue des rosiers); it’s no wonder that the word flânerie is a uniquely french word with no english cognate (insert joke about the protestant work ethic here).

all this free time gives artistic ingenuity a spectacular vehicle. i took my bike and rode to la défense (i need to figure out how to better navigate the roads, as i seem to have ended up on a minor highway). it’s really not too busy on sunday from what i saw – which is to be expected; the business crowd is most certainly elsewhere – it probably merits another look, though, maybe when the weather is a bit better.

next, to nanterre’s city hall, which i’d seen once in a photo as a very cool-looking example of modernist architecture. it didn’t seem too inviting, however, so i didn’t stay. it did, however, lead me to the older, more established area of nantere, very different from the harsh, industrial vacuum that i call home. very cute; one could easily be in a small village far from the scream of the city. still, it’s evident that this town is working-class to the bone. i’d have stayed for a quick bite, and would have taken a few photos, but my trip was cut short by a defective bike lock and a “parisian cluster bomb” (if you’re unfamiliar with the term, simply use your imagination).

i return home, frustrated mostly by my bad luck, but also by the fact that the rear brake of my bike had started to rub against the rim. where to find a bike ship open on a sunday in france?

1.60€ and thirty minutes later, i’m on the other side of town in montreuil-sous-bois, a pretty sexy place as far as suburbs go. i mean, when i think of richmond back home, the last thing that i think of is a squat with a volunteer-run bike workshop.

get some work done on my bike, exchange contact info with some ultra-cool people and have one of the most prodctive days so far. so much so that i got home at 11:30 pm, much too tired to go out to some anza-like shindig in town, as had been originally-planned.

i was surprised. this is not a fly-by-night operation. there’s some serious work going on here. it’s very much b.y.o.everything, due to the limited resources at hand, but that’s okay. it’s got pretty much everything i need…nothing a little ingenuity can’t supply.

next sunday’s goals: repair front shifter. fix rear brake once and for all (it’s so soft that it may as well not even be there right now). drink beer with cool mechanics.

week after’s goals: find a frame and for my first fixed-gear. watch jubilation ensue everywhere.

atelier des vélos benevole
69, rue robespierre
93100 montreuil

métro: robespierre (3)
rer: vincennes (a)


2 Responses to “coolest thing ever.”

  1. Gillian Jerome Says:

    Hi Michael—Way to go: these are fine notes on a city one can so easily fall in love with. When I was 17 I visited the Rodin museum and fell in love with Camille Claudel, her work and the idea of her emerging from the shadows of the great artiste.

    So my life at home right now is so tiny and enclosed that I feel like a miniature action figure called mama, although I travel with babe on foot, by car. This entry is giving me bike envy since I used to ride to UBC every day BB (before baby).

    It was great to get that postcard from you—very thoughtful and as a result you and your words are now part of my favorite sites list and so I can live vicariously through you and your experiences in one of the most voluptuous cities of the world.

    I read Elie Wiesel’s book Night last month and it made me grateful for every moment of my life, a transformation of attitude that I needed at the time. It’s a great read.


  2. […] 21, 2008 i received this note a while back. i don’t know how, or why (or maybe i do, but i don’t feel like disclosing why right […]

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