In NYC, ‘Je suis Charlie’ solidarity with France — Beryl Goldberg photographs for GallicFever

10 JANUARY 2015. A day before millions mobilized in France for Je suis Charlie solidarity, hundreds assembled in New York City’s Washington Square Park to let France know we support freedom of expression from Paris to Timbuctu — and everywhere else. Without fear of being silenced by late-model weapons in the hands of terrorists.

The form of free expression chosen by one New Yorker in the park was dance . . . pole dance. As leather-clad Carolyn Chui slowly waved a Je suis Charlie placard from high above the crowd, onlookers smiled.”Only in New York,” commented Lamia, who’s from France via Algeria.

Carolyn danced to music of Chopin and Rachmaninoff, played by Colin Huggins on a grand piano. Especially haunting to my ear was Colin’s rendering of Yann Tierson’s, “Contine d’un autre été.” Tierson wrote his ‘little story of another summer’ — as I later learned, for  the movie, Amélie.” That frigid January Saturday [scroll down. . .]

Editor’s note: Play slide show, read captions and click comment link — just move your mouse over the photo mosaic.


was not the first time Colin played Chopin in the Greenwich Village venue, nor will it likely be the last. Where does he garage his grand piano? Wait for warmer weather, stop by the arch in Washington Square Park. . . and maybe he’ll tell you.

Colin’s fingers surely were ready to freeze — as were mine, and GallicFever photographer’s Beryl Goldberg’s. Beryl has photographed West African dance on location, but outdoor pole dance in New York was a first. For me, a chance to stand with the French couldn’t have been more welcome, once I discovered the Je suis Charlie invitation on the New York in French forum. French Institute Alliance France (FIAF), organized the bittersweet moment of Franco-U.S. solidarity.

Beryl and I had planned a second stop that Saturday afternoon: Albertine bookstore, uptown on Fifth Avenue. We’d long wanted to take some photos of my fave Franco-American cultural hotspot, but first we decided to warm up over hot chocolate at the Eighth Street branch of Vive la Crêpe. We thoroughly enjoyed the pleasant warmth of the shop, the French posters and our fresh fruit-filled crêpe. Tasty, and totally French — right? Only the former, since it’s a Mexican chain that opened their first Vive la Crêpe in Manhattan about five years ago.

At Albertine, I scoop up my budget-priced Folio paperback of Le Père Goriot, the Balzac novel we’ll read in the FIAF class I’m taking this semester. Meanwhile, Beryl has been shooting. We sit down in the shop’s upper level reading room and chose perfect photos of la belle Albertine, where the flower of French literature is shelved in both French and English editions. And where, every week, fascinating Franco-American cultural events inevitably attract full complements of my brothers and sisters in francofolie.

Missing urban presences — Paris, Brussels, Bordeaux

Ria (l.) and Suzanne, two from my Brussels charmed circle

Ria suggested in an email that Paris, in tandem with her city, Brussels, are like my part-time lover. Maybe, she added, that’s why you’re so in love. Ria is one of a Brussels circle of long-time special friends whose welcome charmed the city for me. The part-time lover idea appealed; after all, part-time is known to keep feelings potent, n’est-ce pas?

Place Royale in handsome Brussels

My first Brussels belle, Nicole, took this photo of the Musée Magritte, irresistible lure of the Royal Art Museum complex in the Place Royale

When I thanked Ria for the insight, she replied in an even deeper vein: In life, she wrote, rather than keep on missing — one feels better sustained by desire.* The better I get to know my friends’ handsome city, the more Brussels complements ethereal Paris. Two capitals after my own heart. And city missing may attack with no warning. . . .

On New York’s extreme east side — genteel but remote turf well north of midtown Manhattan — on a day when I’d skipped lunch, where could I go to fend off late-afternoon starvation? Just one more block east, said an informant, at a place named something like Pinocchio’s –? The array of sweets at first had my full attention in Beanocchio’s, but then as I Continue reading

After a hideous coup : mourning the Charlie Hebdo victims

Ten journalists and cartoonists of the French satirical weekly, Charlie Hebdo, and three police officers, all died violent deaths on 7 January 2015. Some of the journos’ photos are here, in Le Point.  In this post, GallicFever offers some French and American tributes to the victims.

Drawing by Kanako, courtesy of MyLIttleParis

Drawing by Kanako, courtesy of MyLIttleParis

Descending on the Charlie Hebdo offices, a pair of religious radical terrorist gunmen murdered two policemen in and near the scene, and massacred veteran staffers assembled for their Wednesday morning editorial meeting. A hideous coup.

As “E.W. Count,” I was a longtime nonfiction and fiction writer about the New York Police Department and I remain an honorary member of the French-American police friendship association, 911/17. As they say in France these days, je suis Charlie, and, je suis flic. I identify with and deeply mourn the journalists and policemen who perished in the horror maelstrom at Charlie Hebdo.

Martin, a Princeton University French teacher honored murdered French police

1/10/15, in NYC solidarity, Martine, a Princeton University French teacher, honored French police

The officers assassinated inside the Charlie Hebdo office and on the street outside, are respectively, Franck Brinsolaro, and Ahmed Merabet. Montrouge officer Clarissa Jean- Philippe was gunned down, point blank, by a third terrorist whose murder spree later claimed the lives of four Jewish men doing pre-sabbath errands on Friday afternoon in a Vincennes kosher grocery. I mourn my fallen fellow Jews, Yohan Cohen, Yohav Hattab, Philippe Braham and François-Michel Saada. As they also say in France lately, je suis juif.

Tuesday, 13 January, saw the Jewish victims buried in Israel; François Hollande honored the three police officers (NY Times video link) in the Paris courtyard of the police prefecture. According to Le Parisien, President Hollande said, “[the unity] we have shown . . . [is] our most sturdy weapon . . . .The French people has rendered to the police . . . the most beautiful homage possible.”

Parisians honor murdered police

Parisians remember their three police officers, assassinated by three terrorists, January 2015

As successive shocks emanated from Paris, I was comforted by a statement of solidarity and condolences offered by the International Association of Chiefs of Police President, Richard Beary. “I am horrified,” Mr. Beary wrote, “and deeply troubled by the tragic events that have taken place in Paris. . . . [We] mourn the lives of those who have perished and applaud the bravery and dedication of the law enforcement officers who gave their lives in an effort to protect the innocent victims of this horrific attack.

911/17 Patch

Patch worn by members of 911/17 French-American police friendship association

“As the French National Police and other agencies in France continue their efforts to apprehend those responsible for this attack, I want them to know that they have the support of the global policing community. . . .

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the families, friends and colleagues whose lives have been devastated by this tragic and senseless crime.”

Indeed, it remains no easy feat to think about anything else. Bon courage to all my French friends and colleagues.

M. & Mme. Sarkozy and — a penguin?! French politics Q&A

So, dear visitor, GallicFever preserves this look at past French politics in a Macron moment when the scene is vastly different. Can’t file this retrospective — must hold on for dear life to humorous touches from the past because, to my eye and ear, nothing is funny about the 2018 scene. President Macron and company inspire no penguin comparisons and themselves barely crack a smile, let alone laugh. Plummeting in the polls, attacked from many sides — well, no wonder  no public chuckles audible from the Matignon-Elysée halls of power. As to my personal fave pundit,Thibault Leroux, these days, he himself may be a bit grimmer. When politics can brutally reconfigure the top echelon of an independent journalist’s contacts index, income prospects can be seriously threatened. But when conditions turn more favorable, we’ll hear more in these columns from T. Leroux. Meantime, a sample, even historical, of the perennial Leroux wit is ever a pleasure to share.

The commentary that follows was translated by moi. Oh, of course,Thibault can write English, too, but it’s a labor of affection for me to translate observations I value. Not trying too hard to conceal my motive, I had forwarded a New York edition of the online journal, French Morning, with their roundup of U.S. media coverage of French politics. “What’s your take?” I nudged my former Paris neighbor. . . .

My French pundit pal, Thibault Leroux, notes that recent French polls show more citizens intend to vote for Bordeaux mayor Alain Juppé than for former president Nicolas Sarkozy

My French pundit pal, Thibault Leroux, helps me decode French politics.

Thibault Leroux: Not too much new in this summary — unless it’s the U.S. media’s orgy of French bashing. Let’s say, your media have an embarrassment of riches at the moment. Each week, we give them some page one news! And we’re far from finished, since the Big Chief, the Savior, Raymond de Carla, is climbing back down into the political arena.

La francofolle: Wait a minute – (baffled, I had to follow up by phone) ‘de Carla’ means [former president] Nicolas Sarkozy is the husband of chanteuse Carla Bruni, but why ‘Raymond’?

Thibault Leroux: Carla has a song about ‘mon Raymond,’ who’s a stand-in for Nicolas. And there’s a penguin in the song — a subliminal reference to Francois Hollande.

 Ff: How so? Something about how (now ex-president) Hollande dresses

Thibault Leroux: I think the penguin image is supposed to remind us of how he walks.

So much for Monsieur Hollande!  When France won two 2014 Nobel Prizes, Hollande’s prime minister, Manuel Valls, gleefully stood up (again) against international and internal French bashing. The big prizes, Valls tweeted, were a sucker punch to French bashers.  What’s the French French bashing tract you told me is an influence on public opinion at home?

penguin12Thibault Leroux:  That would be the current best-selling polemic on the “decline” of France, “Le Suicide Français”. Notorius author Eric Zemmour, tries to defend the WWII pro-nazi Vichy regime and its leader Pétain, as “saviors of the Jews.” Depressing!

You called the author ‘sinistre’ — which I translated as ‘notorious.’ To me, Zemmour is indeed a sinister character. I read that he’s Jewish. Talk about depressing! For some comic relief, at least relatively, let’s go back to Sarko. . . .

Thibault Leroux: Sarkozy could be our very own Berlusconi [the corrupt Italian former prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, who’s forever trying to sidle back to power]. The problem is, ‘Raymond’ hadn’t foreseen a comeback this fast. He foresaw it more towards the end of 2015, and he certainly didn’t plan on taking over the direction of his party. These things are decided somewhere behind the scenes. Bottom line, he’s a long way from becoming president of the republic once again, inasmuch as a good number of his “friends” are about to be his best enemies. We’ll have the right to two and a half years of Sarko Show and presidential campaign. French Morning  will have lots of fodder for their articles.

So, why did Sarkozy jump the gun? Explain a bit more about this surprise timing in relation to the sequence of French elections. And did the friends cum enemies give him a push?

Thibault Leroux: Primary elections are in 2016. But he came back in time for party elections this November, to try to take over his party – the UMP. It’s so theatrical, but it’s a dangerous game: if he doesn’t get 80 percent of the UMP vote, that Continue reading

Haunted Paris: The French role in the roundups of July 16, 1942

My French teacher mother and I never had agreed on much – other than a passion for the City of Lights. Long retired from the job to which she’d willingly devoted thirty-plus years, she shocked me with a sudden, bitter question: “How could I have spent my working life,” she wondered, “promoting the language and culture of France to young people. . .?”

For the first time at that moment in the 1980s, I heard her pronounce the name, “Drancy.” “The French deported four thousand children,” she informed me,“from Drancy, just outside Paris, to the gas chambers of Auschwitz.“

The Velodrome was razed; a plaque explains its dark history.

Razed after WWII, this Paris bicycle race stadium served as a detention center for Jews destined for deportation to the Auschwitz crematoria.

As I discovered much later, she had some facts mixed up. The 4,000 Jewish children (exactly 4,115) who were rounded up by French police in and around Paris on the early morning of July 16, 1942, were first transported in Paris SNCF city buses, not to Drancy but to a huge bicycle-race stadium in the 15th arrondissement. After four days in the wretched conditions of Le Vélodrome d’Hiver, the children, with 4,045 Jewish adults, were transported from “Le Vel d’Hiv” to the Pithiviers and Beaune-la- Continue reading