History, it has been said, is just one damn thing after another. And Paris is a place where those things keep happening, history is everywhere. Yet, how much of history do we know. A million, maybe a billion details that merely scratch the surface. The events that shaped the world or the path it would take are documented in the monuments. 13 million people a year visit Notre Dame. In how many minds has Napoleon placed the crown on his own head? But what about the events that didn't shape the world, at least not for you or me? 42 million people a year visit Paris and about 2.5 million live there. What of the history they make that no one else sees or feels? Where does it go? Given enough time wandering around in this city, say 20 years, and I begin to think about this. Can I see the ghost trails I have left here? Sitting with Jean-Pierre, a waiter at La Taverne on boulevard St Germain looking at the pictures of his grandchildren and talking about fishing. Jean-Pierre retired long ago and I hope the fishing is good for him. La Taverne disappeared last year. It is now rather more fancy and much less attractive to me. The seat in the corner where you could see the full moon over the church tower is gone but the sense of it lingers. Here are some chairs in Luxembourg Gardens. These chairs are all over the grounds, in the woods, alongside the fountains. What is their history? Just look at them. Can you see as I do that they have just been vacated, that people sat here and talked and that that moment will linger? Or are they just waiting, inviting us to sit, to make our own history?
Wednesday, April 18, 2012
Wednesday, April 4, 2012
It's been raining all morning in Paris and I've been out walking in it. It is December, not cold, yet the light has that filtered winter feel about it. I've been walking in Luxembourg Gardens, getting wet in the light rain. My shoes are dusty from the pathways in the Gardens. It is truly a black and white day punctuated by an occasional dark green. I'm at loose ends, I've seen the Cézanne exhibit at the Luxembourg Museum twice and besides, I'm feeling lazy. Paris can be a demanding mistress. Come here! See this! Doesn't that look good, taste it! Sometimes you want to run and hide from even your best friends. I duck down rue Férou just because it doesn't look interesting and probably won't make any demands on me. It's a narrow street and very closed in. Halfway down the street the rain stops suddenly. I'm a little surprised, it seemed so resolute. My little alley opens out onto Place St Sulpice. The church has been undergoing renovation for several years but is uncovered now. Oddly, it has taken so long to clean that the parts that were first cleaned already look dirty. It somehow fits this church with its asymmetric towers to be dressed in several tones from white to a not unpleasant earth tone. The sky is slate gray making the light in the Place more dramatic. I see a man with a hat smoking a pipe. It sets the era back 75 years to a time when all men wore hats and Inspector Maigret was on the trail of miscreants on these very streets. Thinking of Maigret makes me think of beer and there is a nice little café just behind the fountain in this image. I'll sit there a while, care to join me?