Sunday, September 28, 2014

Existence is an Act of Rebellion

“My thought is me: that is why I cannot stop thinking.  I exist because I think I cannot keep from thinking.”  -Sartre

Reynold is an old teaching pal from days of yore.  Very French with his French wit and paunch and protruding facial appendage that would make even Edmond Rostand stand in ovation.
 “If you are lonely when you’re alone, you are in bad company.”   -Sartre

We are on the roof of his apartment in Montparnasse grilling fish over small red embers with lemongrass and figs...and he is telling me about the wrongs done to his vaulted city.
 “The world of reality has its limits; the world of imagination is boundless.”  - Rousseau

...And of course, blaming America.
 “Man is born free and everywhere he is in chains.”  -Rousseau

'Paris is not a romantic city, this is a serious misconception,' he begins.  'There is no romance here.  Romance is not the French way.  We are philosophers.'
 “There is no conversation more boring than the one where everybody agrees.”  -Montaigne

 He continues in his French way of speaking with fingers cupped together beside spitting lips, 'In school we do not study arts or gymnasium or orchestra... we study rationality and logic.'
 “A good marriage would be between a blind wife and a deaf husband.”    -Montaigne

His lips sputter as he exclaims, 'The buildings and parks and statues of this city were constructed as a rationality not for the romance of lovers to behold.'
 “There is no love of life without despair of life.”  -Camus

'It is you Americans, with your songs of love and your movies of idiot boys and girls dancing in the rain, you have turned Paris into ..." he paused to find the exact phrasing, "an amusement park of the obscene, a carousel of fools ... it is absurd!  Grotesque.  This is not the Paris way."
 “You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life.”  -Camus

I'm laughing now at him, as we turn the fish over and add small flecks of garlic and parsley with our fingers.
 “The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.”  -Camus

Think all you want about Paris...think until your brain bursts... I'm an American, and Paris will always be about the sweet lure of romance.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Sonnet 73 at Shakespeare and Company Books, Paris

“That time of year thou mayst in me behold…” –Sonnet 73

On a little rainy late summer morning in Paris...
“When yellow leaves, or none, or few do hang…” –Sonnet 73

I slipped out to my favorite book store in the world.
“Upon the boughs which shake against the cold…” –Sonnet 73

Up the stairs into the little nook beside the Children's Literature Section...
“Bare ruined choirs, where late the sweet birds sang…” –Sonnet 73

And look who came with me!
“In me thou see’st the twilight of such day…” –Sonnet 73

I adore this little bookstore with it's crusty wooden shelves and old posters of Walt Whitman.
“As after sunset fadeth in the west…” –Sonnet 73

Sitting by the open window listening to the rain... oops!  Somebody is playing piano in the next room.
“Which by and by black night doth take away…”  –Sonnet 73

It's a Cole Porter tune.
“Death’s second self, that seals up all the rest…”  –Sonnet 73

My middle daughter and I took a chance while the others were shopping on the Champs-Elysees...
“In me though see’st the glowing of such fire…”  –Sonnet 73

Sitting upstairs beside the window just hanging out and reading together.  The Wonder Bear and The Little Prince and The Wayside School and Where the Sidewalk Ends...
“That on the ashes of his youth doth lie…”  –Sonnet 73

I can't begin to express the gratefulness I feel for having this time with her.
“As the deathbed whereon it must expire…”  –Sonnet 73

Up and down the stairs holding hands...
“Consumed with that which it was nourished by
This thou perceiv’st, which makes they love more strong
To love that well which thou must leave ere long.”  –Sonnet 73

Laughing without an umbrella outside, skipping and stomping through puddles by the Seine, tucking our book purchases inside warm jackets, squeezing into the back of a cab telling the man...just drive!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

A Poem Begins as a Lump in the Throat...

(Brian Hartenstein in Chon-Ju, South Korea.  1994.  with Ed and Sabrina)

A poem begins as a lump in the throat, a sense of wrong, a homesickness, a lovesickness… it finds the thought and the thought finds the words.”  -Robert Frost

Sucker for Porter

“Every time I look down on this timeless town
Whether blue or gray be her skies…” –Cole Porter

Oh…the Great American Songbook!  You get me every time.  Running around through Paris with my girls, what do you think I’m playing for them.  In the hotel room under the covers, riding up and down rickety elevators, sitting in the cafes watching the people pass … I’m putting Cole Porter in their ears.  Yep, I’m a sucker for Cole Porter!
“Whether loud be her cheers or whether soft be her tears
More and more do I realize…”  -Cole Porter

Visiting anything in Paris takes planning, precaution, and patience.   You have to leave early, you have to be willing to stand in line for hours, and you have to anticipate needs.  Now… as a father, I’m an old pro!  Umbrella, ipads, Ziploc baggie of snacks, roll of wet wipes, corkscrew, ink pens and sketch pad… I’m on top of things, people!
“That I love Paris in the spring time
I love Paris in the fall…”  -Cole Porter

So of course, taking your kids to the top of the Eiffel Tower is no problem.  On the day we went, a very blustery and rainy Sunday morning, we arrived at 8 a.m., elevators start at 9, and there was already a pretty lengthy queue.  
“I love Paris in the winter when it drizzles
I love Paris in the summer when it sizzles…”  -Cole Porter

So…it’s vacation!  A little ice cream in the early rainy gray morning with the wind swirling and dropping  bullet sized drops sideways in sheets…isn’t going to hurt anybody.
“I love Paris every moment…every moment of the year…”  -Cole Porter

The kids had a blast!  Riding the funny elevator diagonally and standing on the edge of the city with their hair whipping around.  Yes, it was slippery and…YES, as soon as we got on top all three kids ran in different directions and I was totally scattered…
“I love Paris, why oh, why do I love Paris?
Because my love is near.”  -Cole Porter

But it’s worth it. All of it is worth it… because what other kind of life do you want?

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Bob Seger Lays it Down

 “She stood there bright as the sun on that California coast
He was a mid-western boy on his own
She looked at him with those soft  eyes so innocent and blue
He knew right then he was too far from home.”  -Hollywood Nights, Seger

Jogging through the streets of Paris at dawn listening to headphones...
 “I know it’s late, I know you’re weary
I know your plans don’t include me
Still here we are, both of us lonely
Longing for shelter from all that we see.”  -We’ve Got Tonight, Seger

Hop the urine puddle and the drunk gypsy curled around a burlap sack...
 “Here comes the rich man in his big long limousine
Here comes the poor man all you got to have is green
Here comes the banker and the lawyer and the cop
One thing for certain it ain’t never gonna stop.”  -Fire Down Below, Seger

Two lovers grope behind a tree.  Boy shoots death glare as I glide by...
 “Twelve hours out of Mackinaw City
Stopped in a bar to have a brew
Met a girl and we had a few drinks
And I told her what I’d decided to do
She looked out the window a long long moment
Then she looked into my eyes
She didn’t say a thing
I knew what she was thinking.”  -Roll Me Away, Seger

Stop on a corner for the light to change, street sweepers and black garbage bags and store fronts closed in the blue light.
 “In the pool halls, the hustlers and the losers
I used to watch ‘em through the glass
Well I’d stand outside at closing time
Just to watch her walk on past…”  -Mainstreet, Seger

Through the wet grass soaking up my sneakers, I come to an ivy covered courtyard where an old man is pulling a rusted bicycle from a rack.  We smile.  I nod, and then he points to my headphones...
“Don’t try to take me to a disco
You’ll never even get me out on the floor

In ten minutes I’ll be late for the door…”  -Old Time Rock and Roll, Seger

So I take them off and place one against his ear.  Loud blaring rock and roll, American rock and roll!  The old man startles back and looks at me so knowingly as I speak way louder than any human should in a silent French courtyard at 5:30 a.m.  "THAT BOB SEGER REALLY LAYS IT DOWN, HUH?"  He nods... and both of us are on our way.

Dawn in Paris

 Is there a better city to wander at midnight than Paris?
 Roaming the side streets and alleyways.  Strolling the canals under the moonlight.
Being out among the faceless people, disappearing behind doorways and sliding away up the stairs, seeing the lights of balconies flicker and fade to black, left only to the streetlamps and your thoughts.
Staying out all night in Paris, waiting for the whispers of dawn.  Whispering back, and heading home.

Friday, September 12, 2014

The Wonderful Madness of Antoine de Saint-Exupery

 “And now here is my secret, a very simple secret:  It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”  -The Little Prince
 “All grown-ups were once children… but only few of them remember it.”  -The Little Prince
 “The most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or touched, they are felt with the heart.’  -The Little Prince
 “I must endure the presence of a few caterpillars if I wish to become acquainted with the butterflies.”  -The Little Prince
 “Of course I’ll hurt you.  Of course you’ll hurt me.  Of course we will hurt each other.  But this is the very condition of existence.”  -The Little Prince
“You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed.”  -The Little Prince
“All men have stars, but they are not the same things for different people.  For some, who are travelers, the stars are guides.”  -The Little Prince

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Views from Atop the Arch de Triomphe

 So... you want to climb to the top of the Arc de Triomphe?  Yeah, get in line, buddy.  Even Charles de Gaulle is elbowing you for position.  Visiting Paris is like standing in one never-ending tourist queue.  But some views are worth it, and this is one.
 CAN YOU BELIEVE THEY FLEW A PLANE THROUGH HERE?  The Arch of Napoleon in all its splendor.
 I told you the view was worth it!
 These intrepid travelers think so too.
What do you see in there, Kiddo?
Well...that seems like a short visit, but in reality we spent most of the morning around the bottom gazing at the Arc's pillars and then climbing up and down the narrow stairs for a beautiful look at the city.  Thank you for a little break in the rain...if you squint tight, you can sneak a peak at a couple of silly eyeballs staring up at their dad from below.  Ha!  Staring?  Yes, pun intended.