Stripey H+M sweaters for 24 euros. Cell phone plans with unlimited calls to (insert country) with (insert endless list of one-time fees and conditions). Smiling “non-Europeans” wiring their earnings home to a niece in Bangalore via Western Union. The Paris metro billboards are gargantuan. There is no escape. Even when you don’t want to look, they seem to practically fall on you – like the advertisement last spring for the Ingres show at the Louvre: a supersized reproduction of one of his odalisques sprawled on the platform of the 4 at Etienne Marcel, her fleshy hips and coy smile forcing even this narrator (gayer than Christmas, can’t you tell?) to admire the shapely buttocks on this pre-Olympia whore.
But I digress.
The images get insidiously stamped in my brain. It’s very effective advertising. Except that sometimes I get them a bit mixed up – I suffer from spontaneous metro billboard mashups. I see one ad and think of another. A recent billboard series, for example, pitched the irresistible charm of the “Salon des Animaux” (Pet Show), proudly proclaiming its “hundreds of baby animals!”, with photos of baby ducks, puppies, and every other cute animal you can imagine. The week earlier, I had been struck by an ad for a different kind of spectacle: a stadium performance of “Aida”, accompanied by some kind of pyrotechnics/fireworks spectacular. “AIDA, monumental opera on fire!”
Hundreds of baby Aidas? Monumental baby animals on fire? Pyrotechnics and puppies? Kittens (Nubian princesses?) brought to the pharaoh as war booty? The possibilities are endless…