The Paris I know will stand firm

Bullet holes and marks are seen on the windows of the Cafe Bonne Biere restaurant In Paris, Nov. 14. (David Ramos / Getty Images)

Bullet holes and marks are seen on the windows of the Cafe Bonne Biere restaurant In Paris, Nov. 14. (David Ramos / Getty Images)

There’s the Paris of college-age backpackers, all dingy hostels and breakneck tours to squeeze centuries of art, architecture and artifact into a long weekend on the way elsewhere. There’s the Paris of older visitors, moneyed and patient enough to know an extra hour – or three – soaking in the ambience and esprit at a cafe, or a used bookshop with titles they can’t read, beats checking off another collection at the Louvre or Musee d’Orsay.

And then there’s the Paris of Parisians, who know the modest doorways on block after block often open to stunning indoors, who know the difference between the cafe on this corner and the one on the next, who have the fortune to mold their lives around the city and the city around their lives.

I have known the first two and been granted a peek at the third, the Paris that murderers savaged late Friday night.

My wife and I spent the four and a half years between becoming spouses and becoming parents north of Paris in Brussels. My work put me on the 82-minute train to Paris’ Gare du Nord a few times a year: to cover an air show, interview leaders in business and politics, or just to have lunch and a chat with my editor, who was based there. If that life sounds fantastic, glamorous, even indulgent — well, it was.

Then again, I’ve also sweated my way through a night’s sleep worse there than anywhere in my native South, Mr. Carrier’s invention being embraced less in Paris than in Perry and box fans being available at the hardware store, not the front desk. (True story: My parents, native Georgians both, were so irritated by the temperature of a two-star Parisian hotel in July that they bought a fan, then proceeded to haul it by train to us in Brussels. I hope it still works for someone.)

But there is no bad time of year to be in Paris, and this is one of the best.

The holiday lights beckon shoppers to the Galleries Lafayette. The crisp night air seems to make one more aware of just how much bigger the sky is in Paris, crowning the lower-slung buildings of this ancient city, than in newer metropolises where it’s reduced to darting into one’s eyes between the sides of skyscrapers. In less than a week, the city’s largest Christmas market will open and the latest vintage of Beaujolais nouveau, the easy-drinking red wine with a short fermentation, will arrive from the south. There’s just enough of a chill most evenings to throw on a scarf over one’s sweater, then slowly unwind it in the warmth of a cafe.

It’s a scene just like that — friends speaking energetically (but never loudly; those are almost always les Américains) around an emptying bottle and a bowl of olives or nuts — that I picture when I think of what was interrupted, what was taken, what was shattered, on Friday night.

"We are not afraid!" (Christopher Furlong / Getty Images)

“We are not afraid!” (Christopher Furlong / Getty Images)

The horrors being told by survivors from the hijacked concert at the Bataclan theater, the all-too-imaginable scenario of explosions rocking a packed sports stadium: These are spectacular images of terror, and were intended to be so. But consider the routine nature of the cafe, the restaurant, the brasserie. How many of us pored over photos of the storefronts of the assailed venues to see if they looked familiar and thought, didn’t we go there, or was it another place? Consider the violation of the everyday, like returning to a burgled home. Consider the terror in that, a terror that can’t be rationalized away.

And yet, Parisians are a famously resilient people. Their reputed prickliness, which most visitors deem an unearned slander, is better understood as pride in their city and culture, which they defend like a mother’s honor. It is a pride that will serve the people of Paris well as they stand against these latest terrors, and the evil men who wrought them.

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On AJC.com: Georgia reaction from social media to the French terror attacks #paris @ajc

 

Reader Comments 0

25 comments
Bruno2
Bruno2

I always try to take the "long view" regarding world events to look for any potential "deeper meaning", but I have a hard time doing so in the case of the Islamo-terrorists.  I mostly feel anger, primarily because their actions come across as pointless in terms of accomplishing any positive goal.

I've heard it said that the number one grievance of these various terror groups is Western presence in the Middle East.  Fair enough, until you consider the case of the Saudis, who accept our money for their oil and eagerly purchase our military equipment in order to suppress their own citizens, then turn around and fund groups whose goal is the destruction of everything Western.  From my standpoint, the terrorists should probably re-focus on the true source of their anger:  their own governments.

The only "long view" I see here is the negative impact that Islam-based governments/societies have on the world.  Instead of being peaceful havens based upon the love of Allah, most majority Muslim countries are hell-holes in which basic human rights are not observed.  Why liberals support the idea of allowing huge numbers of immigrants from these countries into Europe and the US is beyond me.  It's not xenophobia to discriminate against people who are a threat to your safety and your way of life, it's common sense.

SmartAleck
SmartAleck

It will be interesting to see if France can, indeed, get of their soft-spoken butts and seek retribution for this outrage perpetrated against them.  
So sorry it took this massive tragedy to prove to France--- and the world that appeasing THIS infiltrator will not yield good results.  

I am sorry to say--they got exactly what any common sense person would expect they would get.  

---and Obama is importing them to the USA as fast, under the guise of being "refugees"-- as he can----  

---Good luck with that!  

FIGMO2
FIGMO2

A nice article, Kyle, but the 129 who can no longer enjoy the Paris THEY loved is paramount in my mind. Add to that the injured who are in critical condition, along with the family and friends of the ALL the victims, and Paris, the place, seems small by comparison.

I commend you for looking beyond though.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@FIGMO2 I don't think that's what I meant. But for the record, this was a piece I wrote for the paper because, as part of our Sunday package, the editors were looking for a piece about "the Paris I know" and I volunteered to write it.

quickworkbreak
quickworkbreak

Well written. Thanks for avoiding inflammatory rhetoric we've seen from others.

Finn-McCool
Finn-McCool

We don't deserve leaders who can't remain calm in the wake of violence thousands of miles from our shores. I believe Lindsey Graham needs to change his shorts.

lvg
lvg

Great article. According to Newt, if he and the Georgia Carry folks were there, this would never have happened.

Whirled Peas
Whirled Peas

The US will be hit again.  Get rid of Obama before it is too late.

Caius
Caius

@Whirled Peas We will get rid of Obama the same way we got rid of George W. after 9/11 attack and 3000 dead Americans. We will retire him.


January 20, 2017 is Obama's last day at work. He will retire at noon on that day with a pension of just over $200K plus some expense money. Plus he will write a book and get an advance of several million.  And hey, Fox may even hire him as a commentator on political events. 


And yes the US will be hit again.  Wonder when Congress is going to pass that bill authorizing the president to attack ISIS?  Last I heard it was dying in committee.

LilBarryBailout
LilBarryBailout

@Caius @Whirled Peas Obama doesn't need a law to attack ISIS.  It's already part of the job he's supposed to be doing, and in fact is already pretending to do in a very small way that he hopes poses no risk to him personally.

RoadScholar
RoadScholar

@Caius @Whirled Peas Repubs are all bluster....no heart!

But but but....aren't the cons against "executive action" decisions? esp those where the cons won't do anything?

Whirled Peas
Whirled Peas


Germany is next.  Get rid of Merkel before it is too late.


LDH2O
LDH2O

@Whirled Peas Germany (& Europe) faced communist and anarchist terrorists like the Red Army Faction in the 70s to 90s who were responsible for hundreds of bombings and killings. They were defeated within the rule of law and there is no reason to believe that ISIS cannot be either.

Whirled Peas
Whirled Peas


French politician Jean-Marie le Pen has been telling his people for years that they were crazy for letting all these foreigners in.  But the left ridiculed  him as a right wing crazy.  Wikipedia has labeled him "controversial".  A tag the main stream media put on anyone who fights their politically correct agenda.  The French people need to kick out Holland and elect Le Pen.  They also need to build a monument to him.









LDH2O
LDH2O

@Whirled Peas I guess that France should kick out all its citizens also since many of those responsible for this attack were citizens.

concernedoldtimer
concernedoldtimer

Great article....I loved Paris...and hopefully it will be safe again...

LilBarryBailout
LilBarryBailout

Will it be more safe or less safe after it's majority Muslim?

JeffreyEav
JeffreyEav

Great column Kyle. I too looked at the map and photos and recognized many of the places I've been lucky to go to. We're all with the French right now. They will overcome this I am sure.

Hopefully this is the high water mark of the cowards ISIS.

Steplers
Steplers

What a lovely column!  You've captured the Paris I remember and love.  (And thank you for smacking down the myth that Parisians are rude.  The only rudeness I ever encountered in Paris was, sadly, from some American tourists.)

xxxzzz
xxxzzz

@Steplers I found them very polite when I first asked them, "Polly vous Anglais?"

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@xxxzzz Another true story: Neither my wife nor I knew a lick of French upon arriving in Brussels, as we'd both studied Spanish in school. Very early on, when we were still living in a hotel and had to go out for every meal, I decided to impress her by asking for the bill in French. And so I said, "L'addition ... por favor."