Saturday, 12 March 2011

Paris and I ~ 'Blue Bag Bolsheviks'

iPhone Photo Chronicles
~ Blue Bag Bolsheviks ~

Blue Bag Bolsheviks, originally uploaded by Paris Set Me Free.

You want culture? I've got some culture. You want subculture? I've got a bit of that too.

Riding into Paris from the banlieue on an RER whichever, you see a side of Paris that isn't exactly.. Paris, and yet isn't exactly not.

They disembark in a pack, holding turnstyles open for each other, looking round in nervous nonchalence, half hunted, half the hunters.

I was running the other day, and solved a little puzzle which had been niggling me for a good while now. Where the hell do they live, these shady underworld wiseguys? Well I live near a suburban river, and down that river a way is a kind of no-man's land. This is the where the no-men live. And their no-women and no-girls and boys.

Gypsies, Roms, gitanes, manouche, travelling folk, whatever you want to call them, just not very travelling right now, unless you count their daily skulk into the big city with their big blue bag full of... well I haven't solved that little puzzle yet.

I watched a girl with long skirts and long long hair, a few minutes from Biblioteque François Mitterand on line C who mechanically thrust a clipboard under my eyes, not really expecting a response, which is precisely what she got. Engaging the enemy is one thing; engaging in conversation is quite another.

It's a common tactic, the spurious survey or signature for some doubtful cause or other. Then comes the sting; the contribution offered. Ignorance is the best defence. Ignoring them, I mean.

This long haired girl possessed a characteristic I find particularly alluring, but she was bundling up her tresses as we drew into Paris proper. I watched as she slipped behind a platform pillar, put away her locks and pulled off her skirt, to reveal... blue jeans, all the better to fit in with the crowd.

The blue bag brigade are hardly subtle, but this is just the start of their day. Where and what will they be flogging? Pirate CDs in the metro? Yapping toy dogs on the trottoir? Belts at Barbes? Eiffel Tower keyrings? Pathos? Pitifulness? Peur bleue?

The more I think about it, the more I can admire them. At least they've got jobs, or they've invented a semblance of survival. Human instinct, and who's to say they deserve their small successes less than any other commuter on the daily grind.

They have a certain work ethic. They don't take things for granted. They don't scare people and don't seem to be out for trouble or to intimidate. And that counts for a lot these days. It's something you can respect.

© 2011
Sab Will / Paris Set Me Free - Contact me directly for photo tours, interviews, exhibitions, etc.


Rob said...

I am curious as to the contents of these oversized blue bags. The bags remind me of the suburban princess's shopping mecca, IKEA.

Sab said...

Hi Rob, my theory is that they are full of some sort of bulky merchandise like clothes to sell in one of the unofficial street markets (often literally ON the street) which pop up all over the place, especially in the north and east of the city.

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