Writing Archive from France
Paris is angry. Cities can get angry. This isn't the first time it's happened to me. New York threw me out once. Los Angeles and I left on mutually hostile terms, though we've since made up. Cities have personalities just like people, and to really be part of a city your personalities have to mesh, you have to find each other on your own terms everyday.
Just arrived Dulles-Reykjavik-Paris, 26-hour trip, no sleep. I see things. I see a grizzly looking Spaniard selling old railway lanterns at the flea market, I see muslim men playing basketball in skull caps, I see a Michael Faraday experiment with bulbs and wires enclosed in glass that turns out to be just an elevator. I see a stout Frenchwoman closing the gates of Pere Lachaise, no more dead, we've had enough of you.
Paris - Outside it's raining. Beads of water form on the window in front of me. The glow of the unseen sun is fading behind midnight blue clouds and darkening sky. An old man in a butcher apron selling oysters under an awning smokes a cigarette and watches the mothers and children walking home with bags of groceries.
Well it's my last night here in Paris and I've chosen to return to the best restaurant we've been to so far, an Iraqi restaurant in a Marais. I am using all my willpower right now to avoid having a political outburst re the quality of Iraqi food versus the intelligence of George Bush etc etc. I'm traveling; I don't want to get into politics except to say that my dislike for the current El Presidente was no small factor in my decision to go abroad.
I would like to say that the catacombs of Paris had some spectacular effect on me seeing that I strolled through human remains, skulls and femurs mainly, "decoratively arranged," but the truth is, after you get over the initial shock of seeing a skull, well, it turns out you can get adjusted to just about anything. Maybe that in and off itself is the scary part.
I've been thinking the last couple of days about something Bill's dad said to me before I left. I'm paraphrasing here since I don't remember the exact phrasing he used, but something to the effect of "people are essentially the same everywhere, they just build their houses differently." Indeed, Parisian architecture is completely unlike anything in America. Perhaps more than any other single element, architecture reflects culture and the ideas of the people that make up culture.
Sainte Chapelle was interesting to see after the modern, conceptual art stuff at the Pompidou, rather than simple stained glass, Sainte Chapelle felt quite conceptual. In a sense the entire Bible (i.e. all history from that perspective) is unfolding simultaneously, quite a so-called post-modern idea if you think about it. And yet it was conceived and executed over 800 years ago. Kind of kicks a lot pretentious modern art in its collective ass.
This French apartment is more like a railway sleeper car than apartment proper. Maybe fifteen feet long and only three feet wide at the ceiling. More like five feet wide at the floor, but, because it's an attic, the outer wall slopes in and you lose two feet by the time you get to the ceiling. It's narrow enough that you can't pass another body when you walk to length of it.