Sunday, December 21, 2008


T'is the season for nostalgia. 

HO. HO, HO - On y go! 

 FAUCHON AND THE HARD HATS  written 1993 - revised today

I wasn't making a fortune with my Paris painting post cards at five francs a shot, but it was a catalyst to get commissions. Gérard, an ex-rugby player, who owns a wine store on rue Gergovi
seemed very interested.  He wanted to offer a Christmas gift to a friend who was a big wheel at Fauchon. Could I make a painting of the store? 

A few years back, Gérard had bought a watercolor from me. It took him forever to pay me. Big man. Small pockets. I raised an eyebrow when he proposed a deal. He assured me that he was serious. 

Fauchon on La Place Madelin is the Rolls Royce - Tiffany's of all food stores in the world.  I visited and observed it as a victim for my next work. The building was not very attractive. Worse. There was a construction site nearly in front with cranes dangling high and wide.

Not inspired, I decided to window shop. I gazed at their strawberries. Jewels. 
The vitrine marked CHARCUTERIE was exquisite. Nearly no one was able to pass with out pausing to admire all the gems en gelée. That was going to be my next painting.

I returned the following morning equipped to begin. The doorman saw me setting up and inquired if I had authorization. I nodded. I was still tightening the bolts of my easel when the floor manager approached me.

"C'est pour vôtre chef. " I announced straight-faced. "Christmas present."

" A bon?" he replied.

Then added sheepishly, "It's a surprise."

He asked me if I needed anything. "Only water." I told him and pulled out an empty tin can from Leader Price marked "haricot verts".

He gestured for me to follow him. I was dressed to paint and stay warm not to visit Fauchon. The salesmen were all in tuxedos. The clientele in fur.  I was led to a back room where there was a not-so-pretty sink. He told me to help myself when needed .

I thanked him and returned to the sidewalk to work.

"I am an abstract painter with an abstract mind who paints outside, for the experience." I said to myself as I tried to construct the composition with blocks of color. My water  become murky. I dumped it and meekly entered the store.

The overly slick haired salesmen who had been observing my struggle from their warm interior gave me a friendly nod. 

"There are human beings behind those penguin suits." I thought.
 One, white gloved, slender and handsome serving  champagne  to the fancy clientele offered me une coupe.

"I'm not a customer.' I told him.

"Neither am I ." he replied and handed me a glass.

I placed my tin can on his mahogany bar and began to sip the vintage bubbly. The fortuneteller in the Par Har Gange Bazaar came to mind.
"You are a lucky girl." he had crooned to me with his dark glaring eyes many moons ago.
I thanked White Gloves and offered him one of my post cards.

Yellow cranes, a blue sky and part of l'eglise Madéline were all reflected in the store front
window. I was trying to work on the play of color between the exterior and interior. Meanwhile, "Pa ra pum pum," The Little Drummer Boy and other Christmas Caroles amplified from a lamp post.  Ra ta ta ta behind me from the construction site melled with all the languages of the world passing by.

The barrier between the construction site and the Fauchon valet parking collapsed splattering the privileged cars with mud. Pa ra pum pum. Ra pa pum pum.
A tuxedo came out of the store and was greeted by a hard hat. There was a discussion. No shouting. Another tuxedo. Another hardhat until there were at least twenty men clearly divided by profession and physical make-up looking, pointing, and discussing the mess. Out came the sponges. The cars were washed and polished immaculately.

The following days were less dramatic. Many people asked me if my painting was for sale. Regrettably, I told them "no".

Finally finished and signed, I brought it over to Gérard.

"But I wanted the whole store."

"The whole store would not have been a good painting."
He said to come back in three days. He was working.
"You don't think this is work." I shouted.
I walked out slamming the the door miraculously not breaking the glass.
When I got back home, I began searching for the address of an American lady who wanted a painting of her building. To my great surprise, I found it and gave her a call. She invited me over.   

1 comment:

  1. Mary, you tell such wonderful stories. Keep it up and stay away from the clowns.



Ruby chez la princess from