We’ve been deconfined for five weeks now and oddly, lately, things, life, are kind of back to normal, with all kinds of caveats. Emmanuel Macron and all the usual top government officials have been truly on edge at the beginning of the deconfinement, horrified that a second wave would follow though that hasn’t panned out.
In a way, things are better than they were before in that restaurants and cafés can open now though considering they’re not allowed to serve inside, they’ve been given permission to expand their outside sidewalk seating, taking over parking spaces in front of their establishments. A lot of this looks like it’s being done in a bit of a permanent way which is to say with wooden fencing around the converted parking spots and pallets spread out as flooring for their outside seating area. Since no one wants to take the Métro anymore plenty of new bike lanes have been set up. To sum it up, the overall theme is fewer cars, more people and visually it’s all quite appealing.
On the other hand, the economy is naturally still staggering badly as there are Zero tourists, and France, like so many places around the world, has depended on tourism so much for the last 30 years at least. Cinemas will be allowed to open and sporting events will happen soon though one out of two seats will be off limits.
Work has resumed for me in the last month, almost as well as before the pandemic. It’s such an odd experience working with a mask on; a lot of the people I meet with aren’t wearing masks and for some reason they find it a bit odd that I am. I tell them, I don’t know if it serves any purpose but I wear it anyways. I figure it’s better to wear a mask in a professional context because it makes me look more serious as if I give a fling about the health authorities’ directives… actually, I do.
I’ve been working with people I’ve never seen before (and probably will never see again) so much since 2015 though now with the mask on, there’s no visual facial contact, so it doesn’t help much to smile at people to communicate, like, “We’re doing good? Yeah, we’re doing great!” etc. Also, I find that people have a hard time understanding me because they can’t read my lips. This is something I’ve known about for a long time: Often it’s possible to “speak” to someone in French on the other side of a very noisy room just by just moving your lips.
In the last two weeks I’ve seen so many people behaving as they always had, not wearing masks and making no effort to stay away from each other. This is disquieting though the statistics remain so encouraging that top authorities seem to be taking pleasure in announcing further deconfinement measures. I have the impression this is not a little bit in contrast to how things are going in the States, where infection rates are rising by one or two dozen percent after lockdown ends in whatever region. In the last week Maria and I have been to two events, a Bloomsday James Joyce celebration she sponsored in an art gallery and a poetry event where everyone was speaking and singing loudly, where no one was wearing masks or practicing social distancing; the only things that were missing were handshakes or «les bises». We’re still fine. I just hope we didn’t contribute to the spread of cooties those evenings.
La Fête de la Musique, the French national music festival, is happening today, an event where people have the right to make as much noise as they want until one or two in the morning. Naturally what constitutes music means all kinds of things to whatever kinds of people so at least one third of the events amount to DJs playing crap/disco/rave/techno drivel at Chernobyl volumes.
Traditionally my favorite way to enjoy la Fête is by bicycling, riding while listening and stopping wherever I hear something good. Another thing that helps is finding out about an event being put on by someone you know and like and going to that event.
—David Henry June 29th 2020
David Henry, photographer, graphic designer, photography teacher and social critic, has been living in Paris since 1996.