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Thursday, June 16, 2011
Heart and Soul
Thirza has a little crush on Chrome, ever since she felt his connection between jazz and art and Paris, where she currently resides, but don't worry, with Camille in the mix, there can be no harm, and no foul. There may be more posts about art, Parisian and virtual, but not tonight. Since I can't write anything Ess Elly, and since he won't mind sharing, here's a letter to him from the city.
It was a long day of walking, and some Metro. I'm always torn about the Metro. Something sinful about moving through the city without seeing it. Somehow, the train is less alarming than the bus, why is that? You'd think jumping on a train and disappearing down a dark tunnel would be more daunting, but I'm always afraid to get on the wrong bus, even though I'd be able to see perfectly where I am going.
End result is a lot of walking, which is like a watercolour wash. It changes the city. When you're here for a reason, for a meeting, for another person's agenda, the city breaks down into a set of places and times, and the gap between them is so much dark matter. But just walking, you become as light as a piece of litter, carried on the breeze, on a par with the smallnesses happening around you, the moving van, with its box-elevator, bringing packing cases down from a 5th floor balcony, the drunk fumbling for his car keys, or the dog tied to a railing while his master finishes his expresso. A stocky man and his wife, in their fifties, stand inside a public toilette, the curved door slowly closing on their anxious bemused faces, as they search for porcelain, or a partition. I am too light to take a photo, which is a shame, but maybe not. Instants like these get crushed by being memorialized - it would be like taking a picture of a dream.
My goal is the Pompidou, yes, but first to the obvious, just to make sure it is still there: the Eiffel Tower, and the Arc de Triomphe. It is a different Paris, the Champs Elysees part, venal and in the right light slightly absurd, like 5th avenue's older sister in the mold of Hyacinth Bucket.
Snaking around all that Hausmann architecture, to the Grand Palais, I try to think what Chrome would make of all this, I think he wouldn't like it. I think he would still be on the Metro, not on a train, exactly, but wandering the tunnels, soaking up the music, like the 8 piece Polish band playing at le Chatelet, or the Spanish guitar at Roosevelt, or the thin girl with the fluting, voice on the steps at the Trocadero, offering a rather pathetic 'thank you' to every passerby. Chrome would love the eternal twilight, the glow of the tiles under a rainless roof, and the virtual breeze when a distant train blasts up to a platform far below. I think Chrome would be happy to stay down there, marvelling at French ingenuity in positioning each singer just out of earshot of the next, endlessly curious to hear the next one play.
The Musee d'Orsay has that Disney-Dachau quality; middle-class, middle-aged middle Americans lined up obediently with only a vague idea of what awaits. The Orsay is like every arty postcard you've ever seen: lovely yet obvious Renoirs, Monets, Gauguins, Seurats, as familiar and disconcerting as if you walked into a room of your own possessions. The virtual has overtaken the real, in 2D art. Once, you had to go in person to gaze on Van Gogh's self-portrait, because an engraving or photograph just wouldn't do it justice. I don't think that's true any more. The poster in the entrance, ten feet high, is no different than the 'real' canvas just down the hall. Perhaps if you could touch it...
On and on, unspooling footsteps. Even without four inch heels, I stumble a lot on cobblestones and intersections, heading North over the river via the love-locked Passerelle, past the ghastly Louvre, and the rue de Rivoli, to the quartier de l'Horloge, which, apart from the glorious mess of the Pompidou, and Foucault's pendulum at S Martin, has nothing going for it, and seems quite happy that way.
I love it.
I put on the radio, which, together with sunglasses, make a good line of defence for a woman wandering alone, and suddenly, gloriously, the city jumps into focus.
A mere chance of the dial brought me Here to the sound of John Coltrane playing Body and Soul.Now the sound of the traffic is lit up with purpose, and the random faces of the people in the bars are knitting together, and the swaying, surging pedestrians are a troupe of performers, acting out the city. And I wish, in a wave of sadness, that Chrome were here to hear it too, until I realize that, of course, he already has.