blackbird spring 2002 vol.1 no. 1



Les Cruel Shoes

One day, after I'd been living in Paris for several years, an older French couple stopped me outside a quincaillerie and asked for directions to Jules Joffrin, a local métro station. Had they known I was American, I doubt they would have asked, but they mistook me for a native and I struggled to contain my delight.

For years I had longed to be taken for one of them. Which longing had nothing to do with politics or history. It was neither a renunciation of my American belief that one man can make a difference, nor an embrace of the European view that it takes a village. Simply, I wanted to be seen as competent. A man of utility rather than a tourist.

"Keep going where you're going," I said. "Two blocks and you're there." That was that. From then on, by a slight but perceptible degree, I felt a little less clumsy, a little less like a fannypack of a man.

This four-minute video essay, "Les Cruel Shoes," shot with a borrowed mini-DV camcorder, shows one way to locate a sense of belonging, a sense of home, amid the most popular tourist destination on Earth.  

—John Bresland

   Contributor's Notes