Living in Paris in the Seventies


At first glance, not much has changed. Students still wear bell-bottomed jeans. They sit in cafes and smoke cigarettes, but more likely nowadays they’ll have a cellular phone in their hand rather than a cigarette. Last I looked, the Shakespeare bookstore was still tucked in its corner overlooking the Seine and Notre Dame, but some things have changed.

In those days, students needed to carry their ‘papers’at all times i.e. passport or student I.D. card, not rolling papers. Van-loads of police patrolled the student quarter. In 1976, Paris had not quite recovered from the 1968 student riots.
Our teacher accused us all of being pseudo left wingers that would eventually grow up and live comfortable bourgeois lives. Students didn’t hesitate to accuse one another also. A Colombian student predicted my future: “You’ll go back to America, have babies, and forget about the world.”
I actually did meet an American woman who had done just that. She participated in the 1968 protests. I met her on a bike tour of Paris. She had brought along her son to see Paris.
“We were young then and didn’t have responsibilites,” she said.
I guess my French teacher was right in many ways.

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