This neighborhood was my turf as an ambitious young man who changed everything in life by coming here, to Paris, the epicenter of Western civilization as we know it today. Back then, people were so spontaneous, courteous, romantic, gallant, flirtatious, affectionate, and simply cute. They used to court each other in public, talking like innocent children and moving and gesturing like some stars in romantic movies. After 19 years, I am here again in the same place, with some cafés and restaurants under the same names, but I don’t feel the same atmosphere. People sitting there in most cafés are mostly very old folks or tourists now, or if they are young, they are boys-only or girls-only groups. Not many couples anymore. It’s so weird to me. Is there a worldwide cold war going on between the two genders, or what? Should I call this a reverse culture shock for a time traveler?

A beautiful young girl was sitting right there on the Place de la Contrescarpe as if she was waiting for someone to approach her first. Nobody, not even one guy approached her for about 15 minutes while I took photos of this neighborhood full of my fond memories. What a dry, crude, uninteresting world have we become, after a mere two decades! Back then, such indifference and negligence would have been an insult to a beautiful woman. Where are all the young romantic spirits, now? Are today’s so-called “young” people only interested in their meager career, salary, jobs, government pension plan, and at what age they can retire? Have they forgotten all the zest and charm that this city used to show to other fellow human beings? Have they all become desiccated living zombies who only care about their own individual survival? 

It was too sad to witness such “indifference”, “ignoring” and “intentional neglecting” between the two genders in the heart of this city that I loved so much. It is even sadder to feel firsthand that in fact, they seem to be the motto, a zeitgeist if you will, of today’s ever-declining world. 


regarde ce grand arbre

et à travers lui

il peut suffire.

Car même déchiré, souillé,

l’arbre des rues,

c’est toute la nature,

tout le ciel,

l’oiseau s’y pose,

le vent y bouge, le soleil

y dit le même espoir malgré

la mort.


as-tu chance d’avoir l’arbre

dans ta rue,

tes pensées seront moins ardues,

tes yeux plus libres,

tes mains plus désireuses

de moins de nuit.

Yves Bonnefoy (1923 – 2016), “L’arbre des rues”

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