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Vêtements Fait l’Homme 24/06/2010

Posted by brendan in Bienvenue à la Semaine de Fonctionnement, La Vie en Paris.
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Magnum Gallery

“Can you do me a favor,” Robin asked. “Can you take off your jacket?”

Magnum Photo was throwing a gallery opening deep in the bowels of the upscale Saint-Germain district. Museum curators, millionaire collectors and world-renowned photographers were pressed shoulder to shoulder clutching their glasses and chattering about matters of the art world. The prints on display were imprisoned behind glass, reflecting the florescent lighting. Everything had a last minute feel to it, except for the carefully manicured denizens of the upper-crust who were so busy indulging in conversation that you had to physically part them in order to pass.

Robin had offered to introduce me to the bureau chief of Paris’ Magnum offices, the son of his employer. The problem was that under my coat I wore a hooded sweatshirt. No, Robin assured me, the problem is your shoes.

But in the end the problem was a gregarious socialite who propelled himself across the street on a stream of hot air to steal away the bureau chief. We commiserated over another free glass of champagne before calling it a night.

The freshly painted gallery stored a collection of prints which would sell for small fortunes, neatly catalogued in a custom built shelving unit at the rear of what looked less like an exhibition space and more like a car dealership. Men wore suits and leather jackets unless they were photographers or recognized eccentrics. Women wore jewelry and dresses and carried leather bags. People noticed us and went flipping through their mental rolodexes to determine if we were somebodies.

It’s one thing to feel out of place in a high-end gallery in a high-end neighborhood. Now I began to notice the eyes of others becoming suspicious. Four out of five passing cars would become an audience, peering at me through the night. Neighbors would always be startled when they chanced across me. How threatening can someone be holding a stained coffee cup? One woman from the next building began walking her dog in the middle of the street rather then share the sidewalk.

No one on the métro owns a pair of pants with frayed cuffs. Chuck Taylors are popular but the white rubber toes gleam like salt plains. T-shirts aren’t blighted by paint splotches, worn collars or faded emblems. Out in La Courneuve girls are wearing sweat-pants and pushing babies down the street but in the city proper I look a little ragged.

But no one ever takes me for a tourist.



1. Sab - 24/06/2010

“Scenes from a premature mid-life crisis: An uneducated, reactionary and reclusive American attempts to blend in seamlessly on the streets of Paris”

Looks like you didn’t manage it this time, eh?! 😉

blaark - 26/06/2010

No one told me I was gonna have to play dress-up. I don’t know how to deal with that.

Nancypie - 28/06/2010

actually Brendan most of your friends asked about whether you would be playing dress up and you assured us that it was not necessary. Not necessary to avoid being taken as a tourist for sure, but to avoid being taken into a side room and interrogated? you’re pushing your luck.
great writing friend.

2. petebrook - 25/06/2010

Was the plan to wrap you coat around you feet?

blaark - 26/06/2010

That’s a good question because of some poor editorial decisions. Originally I talked more about how my coat appears menacing to the French and this is why Robin initially asked me to remove it. But maybe that would have been a good idea. Next time I’m hobnobbing with rich people I’ll try it out.

3. Nancypie - 28/06/2010

I think it was that if you took off your coat you would look less noticeable so no one would pay attention to your fucked up shoes. I used to use this to my favor when going into grocery stores barefoot. Smile, act normal and walk like you have shoes on.

4. elana - 28/06/2010

10 euro Brendan’s picture from that night ends up on a Paris fashion blog.

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