Paris, Bound

Paris, Bound

If you're lucky enough to get to Paris, wandering along the aged, off-kilter, one-lane sidestreets of Le Marais is an instantly nostalgia-inducing joy.

Sometimes it becomes surreally anachronistic, and the other day, strolling the too-narrow sidewalk of rue de Sévigné, I found myself obstructed by a free-form gaggle of high-school-aged kids doing what high-school-aged kids do, chatting, smoking, flirting, giggling, comparing their discreet ink and timid piercings, and--of course!--singing, in loving harmony, snippets of kitschy American standards of the '40s and '50s.

Huh? How did these tunes even find there way into their consciousness, let alone their playlists? My dad's too young to be into these tunes! Bing Crosby, very early Frank Sinatra.... I crossed the street to avoid crashing the party, as they faithfully covered "Mr. Sandman" by the Lennon Sisters, sending it echoing down the tiny chasm of the alleyway.

I resumed my stroll on the other side, thanks to that bit of whimsy, and then came the serendipitous payoff. I almost missed it: a glimpse in a swiftly opening door-pane, a passing reflection, of.... a stack of magazines. You know that radar we mag-freaks have. It's hard to pass a newsstand or a bookstore, or even (admit it) a be-twined bundle on recycling night.
As I turned and looked into the tiny storefront, a space barely deeper than its 10-foot width, I saw....well, let's put it this way: I didn't see much floor. Or wall. I saw stacks and stacks of magazines and books. Not the usual used-bookstore selection of old LIFEs and National Geographics and Michener novels and Britannicas (or I suppose in this case, their French equivalents), no, these volumes had been assembled with a definite filter.

Nothing but fashion, photography, art, and design, as far as my (wide) eyes could see. The revered and the obscure. From the expected Vogue and Bazaar of all eras, to Egoiste and Dutch, to mags I'd never heard of. Photography monographs that had been out of print for years, even decades.

Fodor's says Galliano and Jacobs and Ungaro plumb the place for inspiration, and I don't doubt it. I wanted to spend hours, but had to rush off to meet my dinner companions, so I asked for a card, as to be able to find the place again. The man behind the counter, peering over a hedge of books, spoke in halting, hoarse French (and a little valiant English), and when I asked him what days he was closed he said he'd be here, every day.

I doubt I can say the same for singing kids, but I'm very glad they were there, in that particular spot, that particular moment.

Comptoir De L'Image
Nearest Metro: St-Paul
Address: 44 Rue De Sévigné, 75003, Paris.
Phone: 01 42 72 03 92
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