Ringo the Clochard
I arrived in Paris from Mexico in 1977. How and why is another story but I used to eat for 30 old French Francs including rough local wine on the Boule Miche, Saint Michel, the student district of Paris. I would go an old traditional restaurant with long benches and communal tables looking out on to the Boulevard Saint Michel.
I usually chatted to the students sitting next to me but this night was different. My eating neighbours were clochards (tramps). There were two of them. One was older and already drunk with a big bushy beard and the other had long hippy hair and wore flared denims and a mangy leather jacket. He introduced himself as Ringo, King of Place Moufftard which was a well known square in the 5e. Proudly he produced a postcard sent from California, addressed to Ringo, Place Mouffetard, Paris 5e, France. Amazing that he got it!
Then the older man caused havoc by sliding off his perch onto the floor. Drunk as a coot and ranting. Ringo tried to pacify his friend but to no avail. The special branch of the police was called and the man carted off to hospital for delousing and a night in a cell.
The night was young and so hippy Ringo suggested I walk with him slowly to Place Mouffetard having a beer on the way. At my expense, bien sur!! We crossed the Boulevard and walked on slowly taking short cuts when Ringo was approached by very friendly Police officers. I quickly worked it out he was a police informer out on the streets. After cadging a cigarette or two from the police, we continued on passing more tramps clustered together eating cans of sardines by a fountain. The first thing I noticed that the men had scabs on their legs. Ringo explained that this was because clochards never have hot meals! Everyone knew him and had all the time in the world to gossip about life on the streets.
A few beers later still at my expense, we finally reached the Place, still in the 5e district. On the way he told me that an American tourist had paid his ticket to join her in San Diego. When he showed me the photo in his wallet of the attractive blonde who had invited him, I realised Ringo was in fact an educated hippy dropout who had CHOSEN life on the streets.
At the evening's destination were groups of tramps in clusters in different parts of the square. On seeing an obvious green foreigner, one of the men approached me to chat me up. Ringo pounced on him saying "Hands off, she's my guest". Word went round fast. The man nodded respectfully and moved away.
After half an hour in the square, I got bored. I said adieu to Ringo and walked back to the reality of my new life in Montparnasse, Paris.
I never saw Ringo again!
Written May 2015, Buyuk Londra Hotel, Istanbul.