Paris, Île-de-France, France
by

Chasing Thieves (3 of 3)

I spent most of my week in Paris avoiding the Eiffel Tower and thought I might not see it at all. But when I finally ended up close I fell in love. It is Paris’ Golden Gate, Paris’ Sutro Tower. A triumph of engineering beauty–or of engineering brutality. Of height and of mass and of gravity-be-damned. To take the stairs to the second floor is to hike through a forest of girders. The lift to the summit, like a carnival ride.

And look! Down there, someone is chasing a pickpocket. That someone is me. Nabbed him, the little shit. And stuck my hand out; he gave me the wallet. A good sport.

Credit cards, check. ID, check. Picture of @islabell, check. Cash: ah.

The kid was about 11. He was with a group of boys, mostly early-teens, who fanned through the park and nailed distracted tourists. Obvious.

I had taken out my wallet to add minutes to my phone so I could call my host Cecile. I was spread out–camera, wine, bread, cheese, journal, shoes off, shirt off, reclined. He approached when I was on the phone and pretended, as they do, to be a deaf. He fanned out a petition–that’s the misdirection. When I’d ended the phone call, I realized immediately.

Camera around neck. Journal into bag. Forget the wine and food. Shirt into bag. Shoes in hand. Wait, grab the wine. By now he’s looking over his shoulder at me, starts to run. I take off barefoot at full gallop.

After he’s returned the wallet I keep my hand out for the cash but he shakes his head and rattles off a string of what I assume are dirty words. Seeing us, an apparently homeless woman approaches pointing to some bushes, where I find the money buried. She then sticks out her hand, and I give her about half of the eighty euros.

She smacks the boy upside the head.

A policeman walks by, disinterested in the commotion. I call out: “Parlez-vous anglais?” A little. I explain what happened; the boy isn’t more than a few meters away and I point him out.

“You have your wallet back?” he asks.

“Yes,” I say. And again point, “That boy.”

He looks casually at the boy and then back at me. He smiles. “Enjoy your time in Paris.”

Chasing Thieves (3 of 3)