A sculpture of waves, symbolizing, no doubt, the unfurling time that subsumes and occasionally pleases us all. A street down which one can walk while said processes are being enacted. Also two Parisians smooching.
The third picture is a cop in a plexi-glass box. He’s guarding the Jardin de Luxembourg: all night he stands there. The picture is blurred ’cause I was embarrassed to take his picture, since this was still my first night in the city and I wanted to act like I wasn’t a tourist, so I snapped it on the quick. I guess the box is to keep him safe from weather? Either that or to make a display out of him, as though there’s no nuisance for him to attend and at this point he’s more museum piece than anything, a reminder of the bad old days when there were crimes and violent skirmishes with law enforcement. Probably the latter.
After I took this picture both of us relaxed and had a nice conversation over tea, right there in the street. He told me his wife fell in love with him as he stood in the box. Every night she’d come and sit in the vicinity: far off at first, then increasingly closer. Eventually she started bringing him sandwiches and thermoses full of steaming coffee, until he told he he preferred tea. She told him she was doing survey work for the government and wanted to take in the lay of the city. He didn’t believe her but was too modest to actively let himself think otherwise. Still, he made it a point not to ask her about her work so as to continue the possibility that maybe she was there to see him. Aside from that, they talked about everything. He told her how he grew up in the mountains, and still to this day sees crested tops superimposed over the buildings. He said it was like a tithe the mountains exacted on anyone who dared leave their confines after enjoying such peace during their early, formative years. She told him how, when she was small, her mom made a living sewing shirts for mountain guides — true — and the two of them debated whether his dad, who worked at just that profession, might have worn something made by her mother. Then they fell into reverie, each imagining their own cosmology, interspersed with a kind, caring fate that had brought them so happily, and so mysteriously together. At that point two months had passed and they dropped all pretense. She admitted that she’d never been a land surveyor, and had only been coming by to see him. Which, you can imagine, thrilled him beyond all reason. He did a little dance, he told me, in the box, and smiled at the recollection. Like this, he said: and showed me how he’d raised both knees in turn, twirling. I told him I could understand entirely, which was maybe too much since he started blushing, said it was nothing, he was just pleased is all. Anyway. His wife still works doing freelance web design, as she always has, and he himself still spends his nights, obviously, in the plexi-glass. When I asked if that put a strain on their marriage — he working while she slept, she working while he slept — he waved his hand in front of his face and said she’d switched to a nocturnal schedule long ago. This way they have breakfast together, go for a walk, then later sleep the afternoon away in their sunny bedroom. Soon they’re gonna have kids, he said, beaming.
Also two bike lane paintings on the street in Paris. They look cool in rain when water pools, lavish signs that cover the city in all directions. I’m feeling hard pressed to come up with anything interesting about them aside from their needless gorgeousness. This subject will return with the Paris catacombs at a later date, so let’s just say this is an intro to that.
Here’s the room where I stayed my first night in Paris. My plan at the time was to spend two months volunteering on a farm in Brittany, although that idea turned into a fiasco to be described at a later time. Various exciting objects on the table such as what was to be my last pack of cigarettes, an exciting travel watch and various euros. I got used to those euros, so that now our crappy American money seems like bland utilitarian bullshit. Anyway. The posters at this hotel are, clearly, from a day when imperial subjects were enough to stimulate purchasing based on their sheer exoticism. The idea doesn’t work anymore, though, since if they used pictures of malquiladore workers on ads for a Yamaha piano or a car engine, most people would likely be dissuaded by the abject poverty and crap-ass factory conditions. Or ad people could shine some workers up and put them poolside, which, who knows, maybe some people would still find appealing. In any case, there shall be more and prettier pictures to come. Also there’s a French girl writing on a blackboard.
At the behest of a friend I’ve begun a blog. Failing said request I never would have taken part in such a self-indulgent endeavor as blogging, but now that I’m here what the hell, fuck it.
Anyway I’m in Paris. How I got here and why I’ve been able to stay these past three months with almost no money is a kinda interesting story. Maybe we can talk about that later, but for now the following:
I’ve been keeping really odd hours, what with not working and being utterly alone. Many days I speak to no one, just amble around this apartment and then when I get tired of that, amble around the city. Yesterday morning around four I went out for such an amble, keeping here in the 13th arrondisement since the metro doesn’t run at such a ridiculous hour. I’m staying in La Rue de la Butte aux Cailles, which is where the Paris commune took place so many years ago. Various fountains and street-signs commemorate this.
So it was snowing, which was really pretty in the streetlights and no one around at all except the white trucks that deliver meats and eggs and I guess dough to the butcher shops and bakeries before they open. The city is quiet then, very dark and I kind of felt I was in some sort of mythic landscape. The apartment buildings in Paris all have electronic key-pad entry modules affixed to the door-posts like mezuzahs and for some reason, I passed like five open doors. Usually they’re always closed since once you get past them you could theoretically lay in wait til people come out from their apartments and jump them – not that I would do that – but so I got to thinking it was a sort of magical morning when all doors would be open for me and anything could be possible. On very little sleep, very early in the morning, with no one around and lots of snow falling you maybe can get into those sorts of mind frames. Little bits of string laying on the ground seem to take on meaning. Random side streets that rise into cobblestone hills seem so pretty when the streetlights shine on them.
The point here being that I wound up passing by a little gated garden that sat in front of a tall apartment building. That gate, too, was open, and so in keeping with the general feeling of this walk I decided to peer inside and kind of waltz around in there for no good reason. A narrow path led toward the front of the building. On either side the ground rose up, covered in overgrown bushes and wild grasses and really tall fir trees. On the left that was all there was but on the right, behind a tree, was an old wooden shed covered in peeling white paint. Its diamond-patterned door was mostly blocked by stacked two by fours and grass somehow grew on the roof. So I just stood there for a while, thinking how cool it was to be in Paris while snow fell and these trees grew and no lights at all were on in the apartment building. Then I noticed a fat orange cat slinking around near the shed.
I put out my finger so he could sniff me, because I like to befriend cats. Then he darted so quick behind the shed, emerging into the path from a sideways route I hadn’t noticed. I tried to scratch his head but all he wanted was tail squeezes. It was weird, he was the strangest cat, so big, so orange with these crazy eyes and every time I ran my hand over his head he’d dart forward so I wound up squeezing his tail. Then he’d do this spin move, like a circle-dance, and look up at me til I squeezed his tail again.
This went on for some time. I was pleased that he liked me. Several birds sung a complicated song in the fir tree, way more complicated than most bird songs, so complicated I couldn’t quite pick up on the pattern. And this cat kept spinning in circles, looking up at me, wanting his tail squeezed. All the time it was snowing harder.
After a while I started getting self conscious that maybe someone would wake up in the apartments and look out the window, they’d see me standing there, basically skulking around on their property with no reason for being there and plus, earlier I’d seen a sign for a missing cat and I thought maybe they’d think, if they saw me, that I was trying to charm this cat into coming away with me. Which would have been fun, but wasn’t my intention. So I needed to break away and move on with the walk, only there was no good time for stopping. I couldn’t bear to walk off with the cat in mid-spin, since it would be sad if he turned around, expecting another squeeze, and I was gone. But every time I tried to stop he’d spin again.
Ah there’s no good end to this, eventually I just said the hell with it and walked off. I meant to say goodbye to the cat with some kind of dignity but instead wound up giving him this weird look, which I regretted. Later, on the way back I walked past the garden again and saw the cat. He was back under the tree cleaning himself, so I just moved on, waiting for the bakery to open so I could get something for breakfast.
Later I’ll post some pictures, which maybe will be more exciting. Eh.