Farewell, and some farewells, to Paris

As my friends know, after 29 years living in Paris my wife and I are returning to the USA. Actually, it's a return for me; for my English wife, it's an emigration (that is, as long as her green card comes through in timely manner.)

The reasons are many and complicated, and I will probably write about them at annoying length in future posts, publications, and memoirs. The one reaction I would really like to put to rest, however, is surprise that I would want to return to the US during the Trump administration. As those who know me well are very aware, that's exactly the time I would be likely to come back--when there is a fight I need to be part of.

Anyway, selling our Paris apartment in the 11th arrondissement and shipping all our stuff to the US has taken up most of our time and energy, except for my latest reporting on sexual misconduct in the sciences. (There is more in that genre to come fairly soon.) Now that the international shippers have taken most of our earthly possessions and loaded them onto a ship bound for an East Coast port I will not name here, it's time to clean up and take care of odds and ends. Also time, of course, to say farewell to friends across the city, and local people we have known for much of the time we have been here.

I went to see one of them today. He is the guy who owned and managed Cartooocherie on the avenue de la Republique, one of those places that refills print cartridges (called cartouches in French) and sells them for reasonable prices. I confess that I have forgotten his name now, but I think it was Pierre, because he actually had a blog on the shop's Web site that I just looked at today. We used to live almost right door to the place, and during that time I often exchanged my cartridges there. When we bought an apartment nearby, I got into the habit--another confession--of buying my recycled cartridges from Amazon.

Several months ago, I had so many used cartridges I did not know what to do with them, so I went back to see him. I said, "I haven't seen you for a long time." He said, "But I see you often." I said, "Why didn't you say hello?" He said, "Because you were always rushing somewhere and walking very fast, I didn't want to slow you down."

That last time I saw him, he gave me a good deal in exchange for my cartridges, if I promised to get rid of my old Hewlett-Packard printer that only took two cartridges--black and color--and bought something that used several multicolored cartridges, like one of the new Canons. He didn't make a big deal about my buying it from him, because he must have realized I would go down to Darty and get it cheaper. But boy, could the guy talk printer cartridges. No visit to the shop had ever been less than 20 minutes, as he explained the economics of recycling the cartridges and gave me stern lectures about how I should be managing my printing supply needs. He was passionate about printing, about ink, and he was such a nice man with such a great sense of humor that I never made an excuse to try to get away.

Today I took down a bag of at least 50 cartridges and I had decided not to ask for anything in return. I would do my recycling duty and repay all the advice he had given me over the years.

I walked in and the guy who has worked with him for the past 11 years was at the counter. "Where's the boss?" I asked. "He died a week ago." How, why? A heart attack, sudden, age 59. Family? A wife and an 11 year old son. We talked a bit about how life was short and unpredictable, and then I put the bag of cartridges on the counter, said goodbye, and walked out.

Not much of a memorial, I realize. But perhaps an appropriate one. And yet another goodbye to a nice and funny man who, for me, was an integral part of this beautiful city.

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David Downie said…
I'll say au revoir, never adieu! See you soon in NYC or elsewhere! and give 45 hell for all of us!! Amities, dd
Unknown said…
September 8, 2019. I just read this. I am in the 11th arrondissemet passing through Paris en route to Provence and was hoping to get together. Sorry we missed you. If you are on the west coast, please get in touch.
Steve Levy
Michael Balter said…
Hey Steve, good to hear from you and sorry to miss you.

I'm livinig in the NY area now but expect to be in CA next April. If you want to go to my Web site, michaelbalter.com, you can send me an email which will be forwarded and we can be in touch. Send some news too!