April 8, 2018
In the morning the Pomeranian, now my pal, curls up on my lap as I sip coffee, eat my everyday I’m in France croissant and watch the Paris marathon front runners on local TV. One of the top women is bumped into a table of water and falls to the ground. She grimaces in pain, fights to get to her feet and continues to run limp, face in anguish. My heart is in my throat, and I have to stop myself from yelling at the TV.
I head to the 18th arrondissements of Paris. Irit highly suggested, kept mentioning it’s the
area they shot Amelie. I take the train to what looks like the edge of the district on my map, get off and cue the adventure. I turn left when I should have turned right and instead of Amelie, I am in another North African part of town, full of outdoor markets, fruit stands, and vendors. Fun food to see. But for the first and only time in Paris I am a little uneasy. A tall thin, less attractive Djimon Hounsou looking dude is clearly predator to my new role as prey. I don’t like being a mark. I slow down till he is close, then I make an abrupt pivot, turn and stop so he is in front of me and I have my back to a car. I glare back ready for a fight. That’s the entirety of my plan. He curses in my face, throws up his hands and walks away. Oh well, not mugged. I keep wandering in search of this magical 18th.
If I lived in Paris, this is the neighborhood I’d choose. After some walking and searching I have found myself in a hilly, Park Slope Brooklyn kinda Paris feel. And just after making that conclusion I follow a staircase up to the real jewel of 18. A series of winding, hilly, cobblestone streets, with quaint, small houses and green moss covered stone walls. There’s a little church where sunbeams hit the pews like a sign from heaven above. It’s no surprise when I find plaques with tourist information regarding Van Gough who spent some of his most productive years in Paris residing in and painting this neighborhood. It also describes his depression, his “madness”. I think on that. I see shops, restaurants, outdoor music and painters. This is where Irit was directing me. I encounter a Starbucks and I want to burn it to the ground. Easy boy. There’s a grand church in front of grand steps filled with Parisians and tourists lounging in the sun. Turns out it’s Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris, commonly known as Sacré-Cœur Basilica. I tour the inside of the church. I purchase a silver cross. For a moment I am holy pilgrim. I stand on the top of the steps and stare out at Paris with the crowd. The steps, the rolling lawn, the throngs of people lying on it, it’s all something to see. Around the corner is an outdoor square teeming with restaurants where folks eat oysters and and laugh. I love it here. I’m coming back tonight for dinner.
(and now for a brief photographic interlude)
(and we’re back)
I take the train back to the hotel and change. It’s going to end the only way it can. I run the Seine. From Gare de Lyon to the Eiffel Tower and back and then back to Notre Dame. Cobblestone road along the famous river. It’s how I’ve learned to let go; to say goodbye. No thoughts or highlights to share from this. That’s just for me.
I have a beer across from Notre Dame and try to write an old fashioned short story, in script, in the notebook Eleanor bought me about a girl who came to Paris after the death of her father looking for a sign from God.
At night I head back to the 18th, sit in the square, eat oysters, roasted chicken, and haricot verts with a Pouily-Fusse (crisp and dry, apple and lemon). I write and eat and listen. I look at the Eiffel Tower in the distance all lit up for night. Who knows if I’ll ever get the chance to come back. There’s always excitement in the beginning and sadness at the end. This is the end, only 23 hours of trains, busses, airplanes, shuttles, more planes and a Lyft ride tomorrow to get home. No souvenirs; just pictures and this. I am so glad I came. Paris was a grand experience; an artist’s retreat for my soul; a dip into the past. Had some damn fine food and wine. Thank you Paris for your sad, soulful burst of culture, beauty, delights and art. Maybe Asia next. Seems only right.