There are two guys who have been living not far away in the back doorway of a Shell station mini-mart on Boulevard Raspail. How long they have been there I don't know, but they are as much a neighborhood fixture as the Musee Maillol diagonally across the street from them. One guy has long gray hair and a beard. The other guy has dark matted hair and glasses. Crammed in the doorway is some sort of duvet for their bed, their sleeping bags and two backpacks which I guess contain all their life’s possessions. I have seen a lot of people stop to chat, including the manager of the mini-mart. They sleep in the doorway all year long, even this past brutal winter.
Although they have a small plastic bowl with a perfunctory “Monnaie, SVP” sign in front of it, they are not aggressive beggars and actually don’t seem to care if you put money in it or not. I must have passed them hundreds of time going to and from my run. Mostly I just nod. A couple of times I put money in their dish to their great surprise. One day I was walking past them sweaty and relaxed on the Rue de Grenelle on my way home and the graybeard said, "Hey!"
I turned. "Where you going? The track is that way." And he started laughing at his own joke. I knew Spring was here.
The other, more droll comment came from a black homeless guy sitting meditatively on a bench tucked in a corner of the Luxembourg Gardens. He studied me each time I went past. I have a grim, preoccupied look on my face when I run, like I’m thinking about a dead puppy. So as I loped by him a third time he urged, “Allez. Avec JOIE” which basically translates into, “At least try to look like you’re enjoying it.”
Fascinating French fact: The word clochard comes from the French verb clocher, to limp.