I went to Paris this week hoping to accomplish two things: watch the Inauguration around some other Americans, and find a skirt.
If you remember, I've been on this skirtquest for at least a year. So I was skeptical that I'd be able to find anything, even with the sales on.
The Inauguration part seemed easy. There are lots of Americans in Paris, even in January, plus the French seemed to be interested in keeping tabs on the swearing in of President Obama.
But the idea of standing around some sports bar watching on a giant screen seemed wrong. I saw that they'd be showing it at the American Library so I went for that.
At the last minute a friend invited me over to watch on TV with him and his mother but by then I'd whipped myself into a rare patriotic frenzy and was hellbent on the library.
I emerged from the train station, looked up and the Eiffel Tower caught me completely off guard. It was so beautiful silhoutted there at the end of a deserted street, I knew I'd made the right choice. Stopped off at a bakery and got a pear almond tart. I wolfed it down on the street so I wouldn't be distracted by hunger.
The library was very homey and a little shabby and I felt like I was back in Brooklyn or Nashville or Cleveland, not at one of the big fancy libraries but an outpost. Perfectly unglamorous. The place was pretty full, everyone focused on a screen in the corner of the main room. There were all kinds of people, a lot of them obviously stopping off on their way home from work. American, French, English. Aretha came on the screen in her hat. "You go girl," someone had to say. A little bit of whooping and cheering.
And then the screen went blank. Murmuring, rustling. "The wireless cut out!"
Not to worry. Everyone started shouting suggestions. "Find a TV!"
Precious minutes went by. A lot of people left in search of a bar. The librarian wheeled out a big old TV. Then they couldn't find anywhere to plug it in. Someone found an extension cord and stretched it across a bookshelf. But when the TV came on there was still no picture. "Where's the remote?"
Scuffling, more of an exodus, everyone was getting desperate by now. A camera crew came in, initially to film people watching the historic moment but now getting everyone's reaction to missing it.
I got distracted for a little while in the biography section. I was reading about Julia Child's first trip to Paris, back in 1950, when I heard shouts. "We've got a radio!"
So, we had wireless, the old-fashioned kind. Too bad the French translator pretty much obscured and banalized everything Obama said. I got to read it all in the Herald Tribune next day, on the train back home. A brand new skirt in the Bon Marché bag next to me.