Le jardin a été massacré!
Sometime Thursday night between 1h and 7h, a vandal got into my building’s courtyard and tagged all the walls. C and I had to stop and do a double, and then triple-take when we left the building yesterday morning to meet one of my maîtres de conférence for a guided tour of the Sénat. In hot pink and silver spray paint the mailboxes, front doors and walls were covered with graffiti.
Nike ta mere (F*** your mother), Tu va mourir (You’re going to die) and the tag VHR were among the less-than-friendly messages left for our building’s inhabitants. Apparently the earliest-risers also found broken beer bottles scattered around, but they’d been long gone by the time C and I first arrived on the scene.
The vandalism was the talk of rue Monsigny all day long. Neighbors I’ve never met before were stopping me in the courtyard and waiting for the ascenseur to get my take. At first the neighbors were enjoying the drama and pointing fingers at each other. The ex-Nazi in the poor half of the building must have let someone in unknowingly. Or, the business on the third floor has a constant stream of random people going in and out. Even the wife of the third-floor business owner was whispered about, though not out of suspicion. That woman tries to act so cool, like she doesn’t even mind graffiti in our courtyard! What an idiot… Eventually though, everyone came to the same conclusion, the favorite central Paris scapegoat – some jerk from the banlieue must have done it.
The first time I heard someone use gen de la banlieue as a slur I was a bit disturbed. Yeah, some of the banlieues are typically poorer, they have more crime and they were the setting for the 2005 riots, but encouraging the division between the inhabitants of central Paris and the inhabitants of the banlieues seems so unproductive and like it will just increase resentment. When I picked up P(8) and E(10) from school on Thursday, E was in tears. The boys in her class had been teasing her all day, lead by one who’d had an unreciprocated crush on her. He’s just mad, she said, because he knows I’d never like him. He’s just a stupid idiot from the banlieue. I think it’s pretty telling that deuxième arrondissement kids 10 years old are already using de la banlieue as a slur.
It was obvious to all of us that nobody from the banlieue spent 40 minutes on the RER to drink and vandalize a private courtyard in the 2ème arrondissement, but I think it calmed all the neighbors to have someone to blame outside of the building. They’d spent the first half of the day pointing fingers at each other over who were the irresponsible ones who’d not checked to make sure the front door had closed properly, and squabbling over the fact that the nanny mom was the only person in the entire building who had called the propriétaire to tell him what had happened.
On top of the rich half/poor half building division, there’s also some serious tension between the owners and the renters – mainly that the owners resent the renters, so anyone lacking a property deed experienced their share of gossip. There are a lot of irresponsible renters in this building, or when speculating who could have let the vandal in, there is that renter on the third floor…
The building finally began to calm down around dinnertime, mainly because the gay interior designing couple on the first floor were having a dinner party last night and decided to take cleaning matters into their own hands. Clearly residents of the rich half, the couple employs two full time menservants who were sent down mid-afternoon to scrub the walls. They managed to rid us of the VHR tags and the Tu vas mourir, but faint traces of Nike ta mère remain, as does the graffiti covering our mailboxes and the wall next to them.
The graffiti remnants are really barely noticeable – the nanny parents had guests for dinner who had no idea what they were talking about when they apologized for the graffiti. It seems to have been just a random act of vandalism, but it managed to stir up some pretty entertaining drama in an otherwise sleepy courtyard in Paris centre.
••• I had a real Mary Poppins moment today babysitting Georges. We were playing in the TV room when he pulled out a six-note xylophone, deposited in my lap and demanded, Ollie, play Au clair de la lune! I kind of looked and him and laughed, and said, Sorry pal, I don’t know that one. He did not appreciate that answer and started to get feisty in that way that only two and three year olds know how. Finally I said, Okay, okay, sing it for me. So he did. It was a pretty nice rendition, and he sang most of the words correctly. I shrugged, picked up the mallet, and – are you ready? Played Au clair de la lune. Yeah, I’m pretty much French Mary Poppins. Errrr, well I was proud, anyway.