Saturday, April 18, 2020

Six visions to be grateful for

Vision #1

I am walking in the city of Paris for the first time.  It is 1972.  I am twenty-seven years old. I will be living here for six months.

I have never seen streets like these, some wind and curve and some are straight but all of them have buildings of such stateliness and accomplishment on either side.  I don't recognize some of the smells.  I don't recognize the way the phones work, the Metro, the busses, how you buy things.  This goes beyond language.  I don't understand that all women in shops must be addressed as "Madame."  It is uncomfortable but liberating.  I am liberated from the notion, so beaten into my head, that America is the best and only place there is.  I look around at the river Seine, and I see the Pont Neuf, and the Rue St. Jacques and the beautiful older women so confident and purposeful, and my real education begins.

My traveling companion and I have somehow managed to find an apartment on the villa d'Alésia, in the 14th arrondissement.  It is a sculptor's studio with tall opaque glass windows that face the street and can be thrown open to let the world come in.

We live in a neighborhood where there is a wine store where you get your litre bottles, without labels, filled with wine that costs .50cts a bottle.  There is a butcher shop that sells only horsemeat. 

I, like so many thousands of others through the years, discover that I've never eaten bread before.  That I never understood the idea of individual dignity in a café.  That I didn't see the nobleness of a life as a waiter.  That I didn't understand time, that Notre Dame existed as it does now in the 14th century.  That building began in the 12th century.  How can I process time like that?

All of this is mine for the months I live in Paris.

This city completes me, as the writer James Salter wrote.  It makes me the person I was meant to be.  I am coming to the place I have never been before but to which I have always belonged.


  1. My soul needed this. I am in love with Paris and have been since 1978, my first time there.
    Merci, monsieur.

  2. What a magical, magestical city it is! Don't you feel like a citizen by right of love?

  3. Wonderful, as always. I miss you, mister, & think of you often.

  4. Thank you, Glenny! Can we talk sometime? This seems like a good moment to do that.

  5. Richard, you write about anything the way, the reader falls in love with it (tomatoes, for instance, or French dirt). This time - Paris. Maybe, I have to go visit it again to see and feel the way you did?

  6. Marina, is that you? If it is--thanks!