Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Mrs. Ornery goes to Montmartre

I guess I'm getting ornery in my old age. There I was, on the Place du Tertre in Montmartre on a balmy Paris evening. Finally overwhelmed with the myriad options inside the souvenir shop where my houseguests were selecting a few more dishtowels and calendars, and proud of my own excellent stocking-stuffer purchases, I stepped outside for some french air -- oops, I mean fresh air, of course.

Immediately the beret-topped portrait artists started circling like buzzards. I've been there and done that and I know that my ears aren't really as big as that artist drew them 10 years ago. (That fateful Paris memento ended up as kindling a while back, lest it get into the wrong hands.)

Anyway, I think it was the same guy from a decade ago, that singularly persistent one, who approached for the kill. Caught between Scylla and Charybdis, I was. Inside: more souvenirs and fluorescent lighting. Outside: hungry portraitists. Cranky and resolute, I steeled myself and steered a steady course.

Artiste (whipping out his sketch pad and beginning to sketch): "Portrait?"

Madame Ornery: "No thanks."

Artiste: "You don't have to buy -- just let me sketch you."

Ornery (this time in relatively rapid-fire French): "I don't need you to sketch my portrait. I live here in Paris. Besides, I have a friend who lives in Montmartre who is an artist."

Artiste: "Non, non, I'm just sketching you because I'd like to. Of course there are many artists in Montmartre."

Ornery: "Sketch away, monsieur, comme vous voulez -- but I couldn't pay you anyway. I have about 60 centimes in especes on me."

Artiste: "There is a distributeur around the corner." (Quite the fib -- the nearest ATM is apparently way down the hill at Abbesses.)

Ornery-and-deadpan: [silence]

Artiste (still sketching and trying the let's-get-chummy ploy): "So, what is your name?"

Ornerier: "Madame."

Artiste: "Oh, come on, now. No reason for animosity. Tell me, what is your name?"

Oh-so-Ornery: "Madame."

Artiste: "Well, if you're going to be like that, I'll stop sketching you."

Ornery-but-triumphant: [silence]

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