Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Les chiens du Paris

In the first day we were here, Rex observed that the dogs were much bigger and more ubiquitous than in our home city, which he has called "the land of white wine and small dogs." It is one of those truisms about Parisians that their dogs go everywhere - on the Metro (muzzled in the case of larger animals), to cafes and into shops everywhere.

Yesterday we had dinner at the Cafe Boul' Mich', which is near the intersection of Boulevards St-Michel and St-Germain. When we lived in Chicago, people would refer to Michigan Avenue as "Boul' Mich'" with clearly ironic intent, except that I never had any idea what they were being ironic about. But obviously Boulevard St-Michel is the original, a truncation with the same affectionately derogatory effect as "Mass Ave," the nickname for another main drag running by an old university, had (has) in Cambridge.

At any rate, the Cafe Boul' Mich' is overseen by Lila, an elderly female dog of the bulldog type, with a coat of rich brown bristles and a grizzled muzzle. She spends her time, when it is sunny, lying on the sidewalk outside the cafe and grunting occasionally in her sleep. When it rains, as it did yesterday, she mooches around the interior of the cafe aimlessly if hopefully, and occasionally gets handouts from the waiters.

Today I went back to C.T. Loo and spent an hour or so sketching the coffin platform in their collection, on the grounds that if I ever want to write about these things this is the one that will be least easy of access, so I might as well look at it now. It has a few interesting details but is rather cobbled together from bits and pieces, repaired here and there with concrete, and I doubt that the two halves set on either side of the steps actually belonged to the same piece originally. But my work was overseen by a small, snub-nosed, wire-haired terrier type named Boston, who climbed halfway into my lap while I worked, and then curled up with a self-satisfied air on my feet.

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