Friday, September 23, 2011

my clark's are toast

     Today was another rambling day in Paris, this time in the 12em arrondisement, just next door to our place in Le Marais. Yesterday I pretty well maxed out on the bustle and density of our neighborhood and the adjacent 3em. My destination was The Louvre, but the crowds there were so dense, too much like an episode from World War Z. Tourist zombies! Everywhere! Attends! Je suis un touriste aussi! Je suis un zombie? Oui, je suis un zombie. I felt...depressed. So, I hid out for half an hour in the Jardin de Tuileries, under a long row of chestnut trees, sitting on one of the green chairs that are everywhere there.
     I haven't smelled dry fallen leaves in a long time. Where I come from, leaves turn into mush. Occasional leaf-pile jumping in Eugene is possible but it is more likely you will scrape or shovel leaves, or just let them melt into the ground. If you do jump on a leaf pile, you may land on a recent UO graduate who is trying to stay warm until financial aid checks for grad school arrive. The smell of dry chestnut leaves is calming--a midwestern smell, in Paris--and reading about Willie Mays' rookie season was a brief respite from hoof and tourist syndrome. Then back into the fray.
     We walked for maybe half an hour after our rendezvous, to Les Jardins Des Plantes. That's more than a stroll, at rush hour. The Clark's I bought for Amsterdam in 2009 are like Frankenstein clunkers, all beat to hell.  I am due a new pair... Then a brief trip to our old street near L'Arene de Lutece, a second century dirt floor arena where gladiators used to fight, and later, folks put on plays and other performances. Now old men play boules and kids play soccer and high school kids bring their beer and bottles of wine to sit in the stone bleachers late in the afternoon. One of my favorite places here, and worth the long walk. Lovely memory of Vietnamese takeout lunch at L'Arene, and the world-class jazz and blues record shop on the corner, where I bought a copy of Ornette Coleman's Dancing In Your Head.

     Today I said non to the urban jostle and discovered on my battered map Le Promenade Plantée, a repurposed railway line, now an elevated garden walkway, that cuts across the bottom of the 12em down to Le Jardin de Reiully. Perfect for brain recallibration. I had a simple lunch from a grocery store at the park and konked out for half an hour. Outdoor napping in a foreign country was not on my bucket list, but I recommend you put it on yours.
     From there I walked to the Cinematéque Francaise, a national film center with a museum, library, and screening rooms. This to me was good travelling, some wandering, some map work, with adjustments made for discoveries of particular things; and little or no shopping. I looked into and rotated a real zoetrope, and saw all of the early incarnations of toys and multi-image projection devices that led to the modern movie camera. Super cool, my kind of museum. Overhead 2-way screens, showing seminal, innovative early films, reflected in display glass and interacting nicely with all the posters and props and other screens at play. There were projections illuminating the floor in places--magic time, and not a granite bust in sight. Wanted to stay and see a movie!
     Then a short trip through the Jardin Itzhak Rabin and back to the Promenade de Plantée, which ends up behind the Opera De Paris Bastille, around the corner from our apartment. Travel legs recovered. And just the smallest glimpse of my french language neurons firing again. And tomorrow we EZ Jet to Spain, where new kinds of magic await.
     Overall, travel is a chance to get through some of my shyness and timidity (when not playing a guitar in front of people), and learn again and again that it's okay to fumble and feel your way through it. I came close to avoiding the film museum because the interaction with buying a ticket was bound to be goofy; what if it was free, and I tried to pay? What if it was not free and I tried to wander in without paying? What if it was all in French? (They provided cool English audio guide handsets w/ numbers corresponding to displays.) What if I knocked over a prop from Metropolis? None of these things happened. (But a couple of them did yesterday.) I use my map all the time, and haven't been lost except on a late night fallafel run in the 3em, when I ignored Tracy's sense of direction. And I did finally go running--eleven laps around the interior perimeter of Place Des Vosges.  I attracted the attention of locals when I was passed by a bust of Victor Hugo.That has not happened to any of the peppy Parisian joggers.
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