There's been some whining among journalists and bloggers lately about how tidy Paris is becoming, lamenting the loss of the old scruffiness that they found curiously endearing. Frankly, there's still plenty of scruffiness to go around here and anytime these folks would like to get reacquainted with the stench of urine, piles of litter marinating in heaven know's what, and cigarette butts ad nauseam, I know of several places in the nicer parts of town where they can get their fill.
I do understand that change is tough and appreciate that the things we treasure can get swept up in the name of progress. At the same time, some changes (like say, decent lighting in the Métro, one of the major perks of the multiyear capital improvement project now underway) actually do improve people's quality of life or at least the quality of the many hours Parisians must spend commuting on a daily basis. To insist that Paris never change is to ignore the fact that this is a living, breathing city where people are trying to make a decent living, raise their families, and grow old gracefully. It's not a picture postcard, a mirage about afternoons spent over cigarettes and cheap wine at Cafe Flor, or a theme park for tourists and others of us who are just passing through.
For those of you pining for the days when Paris really was Paris (1975 according to one of these complainers), I direct you to the words of A.J. Liebling:
When I returned to Paris in the fall of 1939, after an absence of 12 years, I noticed a decline in the serious quality of restaurants that could not be blamed on a war then one month old. The decline, I later learned, had been going on even in the twenties, when I made my first studies in eating, but I had had no standard of comparison then: what I taken for a Golden Age was in fact Late Silver.
Kinda puts things in perspective, doesn't it?