14 November 2015

Je t'aime Paris -- My Friday

A photo I took during my most recent visit to Paris.
Yesterday I woke up and the two week long depression was lifted. I felt great. Not sure why it came or how it went but there you go. Things are always happening. Just gotta stick around for it.

Work was good. Had to say fare thee well to a co-worker I was quite fond of. People leave workplaces all the time. Sometimes they’re ones you’re glad to see go and sometimes they’re people you’ll miss and some of those you’ll even stay in contact with, at least for a bit or sporadically. I’m used to it but still hated having to do the hug goodbye and the exchanging of heartfelt thanks and well wishes.

For lunch I ate a sandwich.

Before my afternoon class I checked the news, which is my wont to do, and saw the horrible news from Paris, my favorite city. There is for me the twin reactions of shock and so-what-else-is-new. It’s very difficult to go more than a few weeks without some mass slaughter devastating a community or a country or the world. Every time I checked for updates the death toll rose. It started at 10, then 20, then 35 then over 50, then 80 then over 100 then over 125. It was macabre.

We have a lot of French students in the school and in fact my morning class features about six students from France. But my afternoon class has but two and neither live in Paris. Still I had to decide whether to raise the topic with them. This I pondered while they took a vocabulary quiz. I could have consulted with someone else but realized that I have more experience in such matters than any of my colleagues. Ultimately I decided to just let it go, if someone brought it up then I would open the class for discussion. Certainly if I was with the other class I would invited discussion. Also the French dominated group is my upper intermediate class while the one I was with is my upper beginners. A discussion with them would have been far more difficult.

At the break there were somber French students throughout the school many huddled together listening to French newscasts. It was a sobering scene.

The second half of class was typical for a Friday afternoon, which is to say fun and light and breezy and over quickly. My weekend had begun.

The bus I take to the subway station is rare for this area in that it seems there is nearly always one coming, waits are usually no more a few minutes. But on this day the wait was over 12 minutes long. It's entitled to an off day too, I reckoned. The bus had just reached the North Beach area when the driver announced it was the last stop, she could go no further. Buses were not allowed to go past Union Square or near it as the area was closed off due to a shooting. A shooting here too? My first thought was that there were coordinated attacks throughout the Western world. The driver directed us to a stop up the street where an express bus could take us to downtown. When I got to the stop there were people waiting from a previous bus, our bus and another behind us. In other words there were far more people than could fit on the express plus there was no telling how long we’d have to wait. I decided to hoof it.

The walk was not impossibly long but it did take me through Chinatown at around 5:00 on a Friday. Not an ideal time for a stroll. Also, I was not the only one who had set out on foot. At one point the bus I would have gotten on passed me. But within a block or so I passed it. I then proceeded to pass another — and I do not exaggerate here — 30 buses. Some were chock full of passengers and others were empty. The tunnel one passes through en route to downtown was bumper to bumper stalled buses.

A photo I took of the accident scene.
I finally made it near Union Square which was roped off. Police and firemen were everywhere, the vast majority of whom were standing around. I overheard someone say that there’d been an accident. This contradicted the bus driver’s claim so I didn’t know what to believe. I finally got close to the area where I could see the effects of a bus crash including the offending tour bus. A police officer told me that a bus had been going too fast and hit some scaffolding at a construction site. When asked about injuries he said 50 people had been taken to the hospital and that there were deaths.

My reporter’s instincts had gotten the best of me and in addition to surveying the scene as best I could I snapped some photos. After sating my curiosity I made my way to the subway station and the reminder of my trip home.

I continued checking my twitter feed. There were many touching expressions of sympathy for Paris but there were also links to compilations of tweets from American conservatives who displayed incredible callousness in the face of a tragedy. Some blamed France for letting refugees into their country (never mind that the attacks were committed by the very people the refugees were fleeing) others blamed Obama because to the American right winger of today there is nothing he cannot be blamed for, others merely engaged in sabre rattling because the right’s answer to anything is always war. Former speaker of the house, the odious Newt Gingrich even blamed France’s gun control laws. At times it seems that conservatives in this country have no heart, no humanity no compassion no conscience. What a horrible lot they are.

I met the wife in downtown Berkeley, she was holding in her hands a pizza which we went home and laid waste to while enjoying the previous evening’s Late Show With Stephen Colbert. 

It’s now early Saturday afternoon. I’ve got a film and a football game on tap for the rest of the day.  Not bad.

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