Tuesday, May 03, 2016

*****Fragments Of Sam Lowell’s Paris Notebooks- With Laura Perkins In Mind

*****Fragments Of Sam Lowell’s Paris Notebooks- With Laura Perkins In Mind


From The Pen Of Bart Webber


Rummaging through my Sam Lowell files several months ago, files composed of frantic notes taken when he, me, we were high on life, liquor, dope, usually high-end marijuana from Mexico or Columbia in the days when that was the cartel crop of choice not the oregano-filled stuff street dealers were trying to hustle, not after the first few rookie buying errors when we made connections with guys who knew how to get good reefer and pass it along uncut or cocaine, then a rarer drug of choice and harder to depend on, I noticed a document, a rather tattered document, worn at the edges, turned slightly yellow although that could have been from the sunlight directly hitting it rather than claiming ancient origin, really about thirty pages of mimeograph paper (the old mimeo a hand-cranked messy way, messy with the carbon copy, messy with the smelly fluid used to reproduce leaflets, flyers, or any other type material in the days when copying was expensive or non-existent in the days before you could reproduce whatever you wanted at home via your printer attached to your computer, hail progress), sheets of white paper, that’s what we called it in the old days anyway, stapled together, with the title Sam Lowell’s Paris Notebooks written in pen on the front but with no name to indicate whether he or I had written the material.

In the minute before I actually inspected the material, thumbed through the pages to find out the origins, I thought it might have been some old material that I had laid aside and let go to pot (no pun intended, although the lassitude of pot-smoking may have created the environment to forget about such things) about my old friend’s trips to Paris in the 1970s that he told me about over many nights sitting in my smoky living room (from dastardly, dastardly now, tobacco cigarette smoke as well as weed smoke since we both we practically chain-smokers especially when drinking wine, or in the desperate hours before some demonstration when we were in a frenzy to get things organized and used the tobacco to keep us at a fine edge knowing full well that some ancient Surgeon-General had forced the cigarette companies to put a skull and cross –bones warning label on each and every pack speaking about the seventy-six ways the “coffin sticks,” a term we used to use around Jack Slack’s bowling alleys where we hung out in high school down in Carver) regaling me with his adventures abroad when he felt he needed to put a little distance between himself and America, become something in the mold of the American ex-pats like Hemingway, Bowles, Scott Fitzgerald, Buddha Stein (and Miss Toklas) the aftermath of World War I. Maybe not with quite the same literary conviction, certainly not with the intention of writing the great American novel which they aimed to do but certainly with the same sense that an ebb tide had been building in this country after the big bad ass fresh breeze (Sam’s term) that had come through the land in the 1960s and had evaporated without a trance.

Sam had, has, provided me with a wealth of information from the old days for my own little pieces, sketches really, since he went through a lot of the episodes related in them by me back in the day. Sam remembering things, wanting to remember things, in the tradition of the great literary rememberers who seem to have become something of a dying breed as insto-information, mostly accurate too, can be gleaned from the products of modern information technology saving hurt overstuff  heads filled with two thousand facts which may, or maybe not, have gotten them out of a jam (Sam, me too, mere acolytes to the Pete Markin when he was in his prime and had two thousand facts available just as an appetizer, had then at the tipoff his tongue so he did not even work up a sweat, who could rattle the stuff off to some unsuspecting young girl and wind up with a date more times than you might think, good-looking girls too, and smart while we were left with egg on our faces).

Sam remembering events from our old corner boy days down in Carver, down in Southeastern Massachusetts cranberry bog country for which the town was then famous and we tagged far and wide as boggers, and sons of boggers, down in front of Harry’s Variety when we were just kids about going to school dances with our full complement of two-left feet, about our social immaturities and our wicked “from hunger” wanting habits which perhaps we could not articulate, in fact I know we could not articulate then but which hung just below the surface of every action, legal or illegal that we did in those holy goof days (Jack Kerouac’s term and appropriate), about the awkwardness of growing up and dealing with girls and their funny ways which I turned into a small series about various guys, including him and me, and their two left feet, their clammy hands, their clumsiness, trying to fit into the fresh breeze world of rock and roll which freed us from having to dance close with a girl (except for that last chance last dance song where you hoped you were lucky enough, had had enough charm to wangle a chance to go on with the evening).

Remembering later when we were in high school corner boy times hanging around Jack Slack’s bowling alleys desperate to talk about, mostly talk about, the cars, girls, dough, dough a big thing on Friday and Saturday nights, that we “from hunger” boys didn’t have and used many ways, some midnight sifter ways included to get dough for our needs which I also turned into a short series about the pratfalls and pitfalls of growing up in the heat of the night at the edge of the fresh  breeze 1960s before the new dispensation took hold and changed the courses of our lives. Remembering too later times, times after high school when we all mostly went our separate ways, a few to the raging Vietnam War where we lost Jack Jenkins and Sonny Kelly from the crowd in some swampy battlefields now eternally etched in memory on black granite down in D.C., RIP, brothers, RIP.

On a happier note Sam dragging me, one time almost literally when he wanted to hear the Jim Kweskin Jug Band, to Cambridge and his beloved Harvard Square folk scene music which frankly put me on edge, makes my teeth grind to this day, and eventually after his own military service (I was exempt from the draft since I was the sole support of my mother and four younger sisters when my father, my alcoholic father if you want to know, did us the great favor of dying of a heart attack and releasing us from his grimy grip) on the hitchhike road west which he and I did a big series on under the title The Search For The  Blue-Pink Great American West Night, which was hell of a ride while it lasted, lasted until the bad guys got their guns ready, got the ebb tide rolling and I am not quite sure we are not still in its grip.

After that I didn’t think anymore more about it at the time, just threw the manuscript back into the sun-drenched pile to get yellow with other bits of paper gathering dust since I had no intention on my own of doing anything with the material whether it was Sam’s or mine since the notes were in tough shape and frankly I couldn’t figure out what half the short sharp sentences without punctuation meant, a sure sign that they were Sam’s, only in Sam’s special code unlike my own extended paragraphs explaining everything under the sun, except maybe the subject I was trying to wade through.

There it lay gathering its dusty layers and being turned by the sun a shadow of its own color until a few weeks ago when Sam, now semi-retired from his small two-man law office down in Carver, a town which he never left, never left in his mind, and never left after all the 1970s adventures except to move into a house on the Plymouth side of the Carver-Plymouth line when he got married the first time, free from over the top alimony payments after two unsuccessful marriages and four successful children, all adults, free from the burden of their collective college and graduate school (one law school, daughter Jenny) told me when we met at the Sunnyvale Grille over near the Financial District in downtown Boston that he had just gotten back from Paris, Paris, the “city of lights” as he used to always call it back when he went over fairly regularly, back in the early 1970s when still in thrall to whatever romance the 1960s still had left, whatever appeal the lore of guys, writers like Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Bowles, Winot, Breslin had on him and his vivid imagination by vagrant freighter before those two unsuccessful marriages and four successful children put a stop to that, put a stop pronto. Sam had gone over by jet with his latest flame live-in flame, Laura Perkins, who had never been there and had a life-long wish to go. (Don’t get me wrong about the flame thing, Laura and Sam have been together several years so it is not some fly-by-night romance).

Strangely or maybe not given his martial history and strike-outs Sam never went there after those vagrant runs with either wife, none of the kids, nor me although I was supposed to go one time but my girlfriend of the time, Betsy, said “no” and that finished it (that girlfriend now a wife of thirty-seven years and still counting). I mentioned to him that I had in my office a yellowing manuscript entitled Sam Lowell’s Paris Notebooks which I told him I had thumbed through quickly a few months before and that kind of forgot about since I was then writing about the horrible effect and drama that the damn, yes still damn Vietnam War had had on our generation and still does. 

Sam was surprised when I told him that information about the manuscript since he thought that it had been lost forever in one of those “move out of the house” situations with one of the wives (or later move out of one of his girlfriends’ places when he, the supposedly smart lawyer, finally figured out that it was cheaper for him to just shack up with women and avoid the “marriage penalty”). He had forgotten that after his second divorce (Joyell and two children, both girls, including budding successful lawyer Jenny who, out of loyalty to her mother according to one of his other children, will not speak to him these days despite paying through the nose for seven years of high-priced education which practically made him an indentured servant) he had wound up in our spare bedroom complete with whatever earthy possessions he was able to keep after his banishment from civil society, Joyell’s high-end civil society, which was all that mattered at the time. He had put some of his papers, this written stuff in my office when he was thinking that he would like to start writing about his old time Paris experiences and wanted to use my electric typewriter to frame his ideas (yeah, electric typewriter so it had been a while and that yellowing patina actually was with age). One thing or another came up as it will with lawyers who are hustling to earn every dollar so that they don’t wind up in front of some fiery Brahmin judge who will hold them in contempt or whatever they do when you don’t pay up your court-ordered expenses for alimony and child support (and don’t forget the college and beyond tuitions which nearly broke him, and did break his spirit for a while). So the material just got left there.

One day a few days later after our conversation at the Sunnyville Grille Sam showed up at our apartment in Cambridge (condo really for we had downsized from a house in Watertown after the kids fled the scene and we became “empty-nesters”) all red-faced, red-faced from having had a few too many high-shelf whiskies at Jack’s s down the street looking for that damn manuscript (the “damn” his expression). He had taken it into his flushed head that he wanted to write about Paris again, Laura’s Paris, to show Laura he could write about Paris like in the old days, that if nothing else they would “always have Paris” ( a line stolen by him and sixteen million other guys for reasons as varied as giving some dame the brush-off to some act of bravery from Humphrey Bogart, Bogie of the constant cigarette in hand and mouth, cigarettes 1930s and 1940s cinematic “cool” and plentiful before the that Surgeon-General lowered the boom, and the arched-eyebrow, as Rick of Rick’s American Café to Ingrid Bergman’s Ilsa in the classic black and white film Casablanca as he is doing the noble thing in the struggle against the bloody Huns in letting her leave with her freedom-fighter husband Victor Lazlo after they had found each other again out in the Moroccan desert during World War II). So that night after sleeping it off a little in our spare room (feeling very spare even if smaller and more manageable than the house in Watertown now with the kids fled) Sam and I went into the office and read over the thirty odd handwritten pages of what would be the background skeleton, mainly of places and events that connected back then and now of the “travelogue” (Sam’s expression) that Sam would write. And write he did. Here is what he had to say:               


“Funny sitting here at Logan Airport with my sweetie, Laura Perkins, who has authorized me to call her sweetie, call her sweetie despite the fact that we are both well beyond the sweetie endearment stage to acknowledge our love, have been for years, call her sweetie even though today’s conventions, today’s women feminist conventions frown on such designations for women that term reflecting an certain old-time, hell, not so old time only forty or so years ago, a pittance in the male-female tightrope walk, male subjugation of the female by making her sound like some young child despite her womanly appearances, so there take that, a couple of hours to kill waiting for the Delta flight at 7: 35 PM, this will be the first time that I will have flown to Paris. First time too that I will have gone there since the early 1970s, since before I decided to go to law school after I felt that the fresh breathe of fresh air had held us together in the 1960s had gone to hell in fits of hubris and our own innocence and came back from California where I was trying to find the “Great Blue-Pink American West night along with Bart Webber (and the late Pete Markin who was the harbinger of the fresh breeze around Jack Slacks’ when we were in high school), since before the grind and, since before ex-wives Joyell and Ella got their claws into me.

In those days, no money, no cares in particular I would grab a cheap freighter heading to Europe, one that carried passengers although once on an oiler where they thought that I was somebody else, was one of the crew who had signed on and me near ocean-grown but totally ignorance of thing number one about boats and ships, where would I have got that kind of knowledge coming from the Carver projects and the only sea-worthy vehicle I had every had a chance to get on was a raft that me and a couple if my brothers built ,or tried to build, along the Carver River in order to head out to sea when our mother threw us out of the house at ages seven, eight, and nine for some reason that we were probably guilty of and we were going  to sail the ocean blue for adventure and blow the dust of Carver off of our shoes. Bu never again on an oiler the damn things stink worse than hell of seaweed and bilge and you have the smell of tarry oil in your nostrils forever. Although once I got my sea-legs on my first freighter, the S.S. Daniel Radley (flying a “flag of convenience out of Liberia), after a couple of days of barfing overboard or wherever I felt ill the trip wasn’t too bad but made me realize that flying in six or seven hours is surly easier that to spent several days at on the blue-green sea remembering that not too long before in human experience even the ides of crossing the rough-hewn Atlantic was an adventure fit only for the bravest, fittest, and luckiest.

Sitting too wondering what we will find about what is new in Paris since those by-gone days. Will it still have that certain charm that it had back then when the train arrived at the station from Le Havre (I had forgotten which one but it had these huge clocks with roman numerals on the top of the building which had a certain 19th century age of progress charm about them) and I turned around and there was the Eiffel Tower seen in the mind’s eye in every half decent film set in Paris (along with the Arc de Triumph). Will it still have the ubiquitous cafes with their outdoor seemingly in all weathers tables bunched tight together filled with people-watching customers sipping wines and smoking cigarettes. Cafes, many of which I drank small whiskies neat at or expresso coffee as only the French can make with that weird coppery machinery they use to brew the stuff (many of those cafes which apparently Hemingway haunted as well at least they all boasted that he drank there, drank their wines, closed their joint down as well, for they all had at least one copy of a Hemingway novel, in English and French, as proof). The Seine with its miles of cobblestone walks and ever present barges trolling product up and down the river. Notre Dame in the mist. But mainly the feeling that as some long ago writer up in the Montmartre art colony once said “it was better to be poor in Paris than rich elsewhere.” Yeah that feeling that Sam had not felt with his self-imposed burdens of forty years rolling the rock up the hill.               

I, Laura too, had always lived busy lives, had jobs that required lots of fast-stepping and avoiding of bottle-neck situations so we did not have to wait for much of anything except perhaps an unexpected traffic delay that had always been part of the modern landscape ever since we were kids (she in North Adamsville) and our parents took us them down to Cape Cod and would always wind up starting too late in the day like lots of families with plenty of kids to be accounted for, their needs satisfied, the kids that is, and their considerations on the long trip (even a fifty mile trip with three screaming kids is a long trip-for the parents as I and Laura would learn for ourselves with our own respective families) and by the time they started all those other delayed similarly delayed families would be piled up at the Sagamore or Bourne bridges (the former if headed toward Provincetown the latter headed toward the ferry for Martha’s Vineyard) and there would be creepy crawl all the way down Route 6 or Route 24.

Once I had my own car and a desire to head to the Cape (either place) I would leave at 6 AM or not bother. I would later get up early to head to my law office early if I had a court date in say Boston and so while I never fully mastered the urban sprawl which seemed to grow exponentially each year I held it in check, rolled a little more with the punches as I aged although why there would be a twenty-five car line-up on Thornton Street when they put the traffic light there and a three light wait where previously you could breeze through using the old four-way-stop courtesies still observed in town because some drunk guy had had an accident there still makes me grind my teeth. Of course through trial and error Laura and I have  both picked up a few tricks to avoid the dreaded waiting like, this is before the age of E-Pass transmitter of course, keeping to the right lanes when traffic was heavy at tolls since everybody thought that the left lanes held some speed magic even when the lanes were clogged; avoiding express lines in supermarkets and heading to the lonely full-load grocery cashier down at the far end of the check-out lanes; using cash for small transactions everywhere; and, well, avoiding Thornton Street at certain twenty-five car back-up hours and taking North Main and a two second stop at an stop sign intersection. There were probably more things as well like using curbside service for a couple of bucks at airports where and when possible rather than face the monster lines when there was luggage to check, especially at JetBlue in Boston for some reason (of course print-out of boarding pass a beauty of modern technology but nothing can be done about that security check unless you grabbed a random Pre-TSA clearance tab and sailed through, well, almost since my knee replacement from several years ago requires the obligatory “hands up” scan and occasional pat-down to be expected in a rabid 9/11 world).          

Me, for sure, and Laura perhaps a little less so were not used to delays, or the what amounted to the same thing- waiting for services. Welcome to Paris, the land of the line everywhere although that little surprise would not become manifest until later when I, with un-ground teeth which Laura knew meant I was only go to make a casual observation and not begin a civil war, a scene that would set Franco-American relations back about one hundred years, said that this line, this patient line business meant that Parisians must have different timeclocks in their heads. It all started at the huge modern Charles De Gaulle Airport “frontier” exit into France. This new airport (it was not there that last freighter trip over) named for the unlamented former head of the Free French forces in World War II after the French army went belly-up, again as in World War I, against the Germans and the six guys who had not abjectly surrender or run away when the tanks started rolling across the borders needed a leader, a leader who did not mind that France was to be liberated by outside forces despite a fig-leaf entry late after the key battles of Normandy were in the books  and despite the real fight by the Resistance on the ground during the war far from sedate London; named for the French President who was ready to kill every Algerian nationalist he could get his hands on until they fought back furiously  and he was forced to back off or face the bastards running amok in Paris; and, named for the returned President who was ready to commit another Paris Commune massacre if cooler heads had not prevailed when students and then workers got uppity in 1968, all first rate qualifications for having an airport or any other public building named after you but enough of political potshots as Laura and I are still waiting to get out of the damn airport, rather the border of France, technical border for the line to show passports was very, very long since about three flights from wherever (at least one with prosperous looking Germans coming peacefully to France, this time) were trying to pass through to France at that same time. Very different from landing on some French coastal port in a stinking freighter with about twelve people on it and a quick run through customs. I, to Laura’s relief, stayed calm and we survived the gauntlet on the way to get our cleared luggage.     

What got me, though not Laura since she was too excited to be in France, to be on her way to Paris and all the quaintness, charm, splendor and just plain cultural atmosphere to get unnerved by whatever small indignities that might befall us, was the interminable wait for a freaking taxi cab in order to ride into the place we were to stay at (via Airbnb another marvel of modern technology which produced an inexpensive place) near the Seine in Paris. Despite a never-ending array of taxis coming through a controlled point we waited about fifteen minutes before we grabbed the next available cab. After the cab-driver, who turned out to be an impatient Gallic brethren of mine since he fumed all the way to Paris about the damn traffic piled up going into the city, we were off in a light rain which turned heavier as we approached the city causing the aforementioned grousing by the cabbie. (That rain was no surprise to us again due to the beauties of modern weather technology and the Internet for we knew in advance it would be raining when we arrived and knew enough to bring umbrellas although after that rain it was dry the next several days of our stay a fact we had also expected since we, or rather tour director Laura, had had checked the ten day forecast from home-oh, techno-beauty thou are fine.)

So we arrived at their destination in the rain, bag and baggage in hand to wait for an hour until the owner of the Airbnb apartment we had rented would meet us. We had figured to be in Paris about the time we  had planned to meet Celine, the owner of the apartment we were renting, but somehow I had miscalculated the time zones between Boston and Paris at five rather than six hours. Rather than wait the rain out under a steel awning they decided to step right into the crepes shop next door to the apartment Celine lived in. And had the best crepes I had had since I was last in Paris. Oh beautiful start.

We rested and set up that day and walked around the neighborhood to get a feel for things, for the life, walked into the beautiful Luxemburg Gardens just an hour before they were ready to close (in Paris maybe elsewhere too but I tend to go to such places early in the day these days the guards will not let you in maybe forty-five minutes or an hour before closing. Some places it makes sense but at the Gardens that didn’t make sense to me. This is one place where I knew it had been a while since I know I had slept there more than one night back in the day when I was going to the nearby Sorbonne for lectures and demonstrations and there was no guard then. But mainly we rested for all out museum assault we had planned this trip around. To the Louvre first of all.”   

Here’s is what Sam told me about the tour one night at the Sunnyvale Grille:

“The crowd around the famous painting of  Mona Lisa by Leonardo Di Vinci posed all by itself (or is it herself) in the Louvre in a central room in one of the wings of that museum in Paris was ten deep in order for each and every viewer to get their very own digitally-contrived photograph of the bemused lady (that was Sam’s take on her quizzical look but he claimed no expertise in the matter and left it to the art critics who may very well have determined that she was merely being ironic before the master’s gaze). Everybody except Sam, and not excepting Laura who was all excited about being in the same room with the lady despite the hard fact that you could not get within ten feet of the portrait (held back first by a satiny red rope barricade, then by the surly looks of two museum guards whose only job was apparently to look surly and finally lurking unmentioned in the background although nobody tested this possibility out the combined forces of the Paris police, Interpol, the French Foreign Legion and NATO if you took a mad dash toward the wall in which the lady was encased. So Sam was content to “cool his heels” as Laura waited her turn to get that once-in-a-lifetime shot of the lady (that “cooling the heels” nothing new since he had perfected the art over the years waiting in the world’s shopping venues for his lady).         

That “cooling the heels” moreover allowed him to wander about the room where there were actually a fair number of Titians and other masters to gaze at closely (within a foot a distance he respected since other surly guards might set upon him and maybe the dreaded lurking second phalanx too if he got too close but close enough to see the brushstrokes that he was always interested in observing when he looked at a painting and which was emphatically not possible with milady Mona) and to wander out in the main hallway and look at some Di Vinci’s portraits that he thought were actually better than the famous lady’s.

And that was the point that he tried to make to Laura after she came down from her high of being within twenty feet of probably the most famous painting in the Western world. Here they were at the world famous Louvre, busily trying to maneuver through the endless crowds that filled every exhibition room (and worst the blazing lights underground mall that seemingly had more customers than the museum itself as well as the restaurant areas where they had wanted to grab a quick bite to eat to fortify them for the rigors of the day’s work but wound up fleeing the place for a nice little café on Rue Bonaparte), and its most famous product (except maybe sweet Venus De Milo) could easily have been purchased at the museum store with less work.

Sam didn’t want to generalize (and didn’t really want to burst Laura’s euphoric balloon) but it really was funny that the painting had sunk so deeply into Western consciousness that it was rather anti-climactic in actually viewing the thing even that twenty feet away. Laura naturally poured water on Sam’s “so-called theory” (her expression) until they were leaving for the day (the museum really was as advertised at least a two-day adventure so back on the morrow for a look at the Greek sculpture that fascinated them both and some 17th century French art. For later paintings you need to go to the Musee D’ Orsay across the river which is both less crowded and in a more spacious venue where you can see a billion Impressionists, maybe more) after viewing plenty of great Rodins (more than they would see at the Musee Rodin itself since except for the works in the garden the main building was closed for restorations), a ton of interesting Greek and Roman statuary and some Asian art in the new wing extension when she noticed a small mini-shop which had this most exquisite photograph of Mona Lisa. Better she admitted than anything that her “dinky” (her term again) digital camera could produce. Sam silently turned his head and chuckled.  

“Okay so you are in Paris, the city of lights (no question on the merits of that question since from the well-lighted boulevards to the twinkle of the Eiffel Tower at about 9 PM you are inundated with light), you are not out in the provinces, maybe Bordeaux or Iowa in the states, there are more museums, Left Bank, Right Bank, uptown too, there are more romantic outdoor cafes filled with people watchers and chain-smokers drinking their daily quota of sweet wines making you realize that Rick of Rick’s American Café was not blowing smoke at Ilsa when he said that they would always have Paris, the traffic on the Seine filled with tour boats, shuttle ships and long drawn out barges are bringing product to anxious Parisians, the cobblestones along the river walkways filled with the grasping green book stalls selling trinkets and books (in French of course it is their country if you want English titles go like Hemingway and his fellow ex-pats did in the 1920s to what was then Sylvia Beach’s Shakespeare and Company book store and still there) are doing a horrible job on your ankles as advertised and what are the great lessons you take from a day, a Saturday when you and your honey are out and about sizing up the town? Don’t by any means go within a mile, make that two miles of the famous (make that infamous) Champs Elysee on the weekends, not unless you wish to be trampled by, whip-lashed by, squeezed in by all of Paris which seems to have descended on the place in order to make some kind of statement. And not just the upper crust, the hipsters and tricksters but poor-boy Moslems with their covered up wives, seedy looking waterfront types and everybody in between.

The other great lesson you had being think strategically if you are of a certain age and plan your nature needs accordingly because from painful personal experience there is only one, one as in one stall, public restroom along the whole stretch. Too late did Sam and Laura find out that the McDonald’s  along the Champs was a known place to take care of business otherwise (although the lines there from what was told to them were as furious as at that one public stall).                      

But not all the lessons were weekend negative after all most of the great cities of the world are crowded on weekends. Here is what you do though if you want to keep the peace and want to do as promised to Laura and be nice during the trip. Take the waterway shuttle to the Champs stop and then go left rather than right for some blocks over to the Rodin Museum on a little side street where the crowds were not dangerous and where, praise be, the public restroom facilities were plentiful and no waiting. Plus you get to see some great works by that mad man sculptor at various stages of his long and prolific career.

But that was post hoc, the reality was something different, so different no self-respecting tour book would fill you in enough to do what you should have done to begin with. The day started out for Sam and Laura like most days in Paris late, about noon, when they ambled down the Rue Bonaparte to the shuttle boat at Rue Saint Germain to go up the Seine two stops to the Champs Elysee. The boat unlike on Friday was crowded a sign of things to come if they had only known then. So they rode, got off and started to head to the two beautiful palaces, big and small, which led to the Champs and to what was Sam’s idea of a place to finish, the Arc de Triumph. Not to leave anybody in the least suspense needless to say once they realized that they would have to break the equivalent of a siege to get there they abandoned that idea. That is also where the nature problem began to rear its ugly head. They asked a friendly police officer where the toilette was and were told “in the park” across the way. Expecting a big facility they were shocked when they found the place with a small line in front. As already noted there was only one stall and while the operation was something like state of the art in restroom fare they decided, or rather Mother Nature decided, that they would not be able to hold out long enough to use that facility so they went scouting for another such restroom. Silly them and really a surreal moment when twice they asked for the nearest toilette and were directed by friendly cops to that same damn spot. Quick witted Laura said they should grab a cab and head to the Rodin where they were sure to have a restroom. And the place did, large, multi-stalled and pleasant. 

But you don’t go to the Rodin, or any museum to use the restroom but to see beautiful works of art. And they were there except not in the museum which was closed for restoration but in the park where a number of his sculptures were standing in various locations. Best of all were the various individual sculptures that made up one of Rodin’s most famous works (after The Thinker), the Burghers of Calais who brought to mind the heroic efforts of the town’s leaders to save the city’s starving population after defeat at the hands of the bloody British and put themselves forth for execution. They were spared but the spirit that entailed had an enduring effect in the days when the emerging merchant bourgeoisie was capable of such actions. So yeah well worth the cab fare and the earlier discomfort. Wine and café life followed for Sam and Laura that day. And the days that followed at Notre Dame and the artists’ hang-outs at Montmartre before the seize trip home. As they entered the cab for the long trip to DeGaulle Laura, not usually one to throw old-time lines around said to Sam, “Yes, we will always have Paris.” Yes they will.                                  

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