Tropic of Éclair

Parisian street walkers
Parisian “Ladies of the Evening” and afternoon and morning and…

1984. I’m in Paris for the first time and having coffee with an American ex-pat lawyer. I timidly begin to ask him if he knows how…

“Stop,” he says, pulling out his yellow legal pad. “You wanna know how to approach a French prostitute. You guys are all the same. Don’t tell me, you read Henry Miller.” 

“Uh, yes, but I not only read him, I feel a deep and abiding…”

“Yeah, right, so here’s what you do…” 

And, he writes down the appropriate phrases that will signal to a “working girl” that I’m not a diaper-wearing, ax-murderer. Great. With legal paper folded in my pocket, I set off for the Rue St. Denis. It’s where the girls hang out and I do mean, “hang out.” They have so few clothes on there’s nothin’ left to hang in. They drift about the Rue lounging in doorways and smoking in that French way that makes all other smokers look like sissies. If you can’t find what you want on the Rue St. Denis you must be blind. In fact, I see a blind hooker with her guide dog. Who knows? Maybe Rover turns tricks, too. The Rue is the set of Irma La Douce in Technicolor and Smell-O-Vision – more kinds of prostitutes than Heinz has beans. Black. White. Yellow. Red. Fat. Skinny. Short. Tall. Nurse. Nanny. Housewife. Harlot. Granny. Girl Scout. Honest to God, I see a Granny-Girl Scout in handcuffs! The variety makes me dizzy. The ambiance scares the merde out of me. 

Sex workers in Paris
Girls trying to earn an honest crust.
Boy Outa Brooklyn a murder memoir by Jack Antonio
Image: The smiling face of Steeplechase Park in Coney Island, Brooklyn
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