The alibi: When I was in Paris, Boul’Mich.
Do you need an alibi if you are arrested for murder somewhere? Well, you could always say you were in Paris. On Boulevard Saint-Michel, specifically, and in 1904 to be even more precise. It has to be said in the most natural tone, of course. Nothing pretentious.
‘Just say in the most natural tone: when I was in Paris; boul’Mich, I used to. Yes, used to carry punched tickets to prove an alibi if they arrested you for murder somewhere.’– Ulysses (1922), Chapter 3, Proteus.
Stephen Dedalus, the main character in James Joyce’s Ulysses, is talking to Irish criminal Kevin Egan (in real life, Egan is Joseph Theobald Carey). They are having lunch in Paris, where Egan is exiled, and Dedalus is visiting. I don’t think this advice would work today.
Boul’Mich is the oft-used contraction for Le Boulevard Saint-Michel, a prominent street that separates the 6th arrondissement from the 5th arrondissement in Paris. Le Boulevard Saint-Michel starts at the Observatory, runs along the Luxembourg Garden, crosses the Boulevard Saint-Germain, and ends right at the river Seine. The closer to the river, the busier it becomes. That’s because the river end has a multitude of book stores, cafés, and souvenir stalls. It’s a wonderful place for postcards.
A popular meeting place for tour groups is the impressively large, walled Fontaine Saint-Michel—the Saint-Michael fountain—on the corner of Boul’Mich and la Place Saint-André-des-Arts, facing the river Seine. The 1860 fountain depicts archangel Michael crushing the Devil—the fight of good against evil. This could explain the number of previous clashes in this area, including the fight for liberation against German occupation.
On the sides of the fountain are two winged dragons that spew water. There are also four statues representing Prudence, Power, Justice, and Temperance, all sculpted by different artists.
Continuing off Boul’Mich is the Notre-Dame Cathedral and the English-language bookstore, Shakespeare and Company, modelled on Sylvia Beach’s original store—where Ulysses was published in 1922.
Being such a commonly popular and busy street, Boul’Mich would have made a perfect alibi at the turn of the 20th century, I guess. No-one would have noticed a criminal, ex-criminal, fugitive, or any other seedy character wandering up and down Boul’Mich!