Europe | France

Paris / Gold & Grime

a love true enough

   Oh Paris, who wouldn’t want to move in with you? Smitten with a romanticized ideal, yes perhaps, but doesn’t the feeling make it true, or at least true enough? I am here as an artist, gladly, but first and foremost to get to know you better. One’s gotta live and love before pursuing any art or trade. But if you choose to be my muse for matters of life and art, and if you take me somewhere you haven’t taken your past lovers, I promise to tell all your secrets for I know you don’t want to keep them.


Paris. You're a book. How do I put you in a paragraph? I won't.


Rue Poissonnière is certainly not a bad place to let feelings gallop, especially if you’re walking south.


These tasty awnings look like marzipan bibs for the houses. There are like ten ugly buildings in Paris and one or two of them aren't even that ugly. I know it's all stolen gold, and my conscience is trying to shame me out of liking it but try denying the heart what the eyes have already spoiled it with. This city would be quite disgusting if it wasn’t for the right amount of dirt.

"Such were most my obstacles in those days: benign, toy-like, welcome."




And then, spring. Sunrays tickling the giggling buds before curling up on moss sofas at Père Lachaise cemetery. Sitting under a tree that loves me.


Lying on the couch with your head upside down and your eyes vagabonding in the courtyard, you said that you wondered what life is like in those other little windows. “This apartment is too nappable,” you added after a cozy pause. We had lunch at the kitchen table and that house across the patio looked at me with its rectangles, that house that makes me feel like there is a sea behind it even though we are in the middle of Paris. And the cheese we had tasted like a cow had tried to make goat cheese; it didn’t have that sour sting, which I must assume is funneled from the very character of the goat, and was a little too mild and well-mannered.


Above me an open-ended sky and around me sharp but kind winds that slice the day’s heat in fine, digestible intervals. And in the streets, everybody is dancing without knowing it, effortlessly. For once, I shut up for I have nothing more to say to myself. All is there before me, feeding me feelings, lifting me, hushing my unrest, fondling my soul, urging me gently to remember. Sitting at Jardin du Potager with my back against the wall, I envy that tree – waving its magenta blossoms in the sky like pom-poms – for being under the stars tonight and every night, and for being awake from now until winter.


The Easter weekend, which in my calendar was just the weekend, was gorgeous. As I walked through Montmartre on that Easter Monday, a fine drizzle turned into finer hail and with the softest of headwinds in my face, the occasional grain would crash into my eyes – gentle impacts that were more friend than obstacle – to evaporate on my irises for fun. Such were most my obstacles in those days: benign, toy-like, welcome.

I walk up my beloved Avenue Trudaine and it feels like she is all mine because no one else gives her their undivided attention. The tree tops wiggle in the soft breeze like clownish mops turned upside down. In front of me walks a guy with a briefcase in one hand and headphones in the other. Red t-shirt, blue sweater wrapped around his shoulders to embrace him. Both the red and blue are intense like Windows 98 colors. No nuance, just deep hue. Very, very blue and red. It singes my retinas. I like him, but this is too much.


"I shouldn't have bought that almond croissant."

"Of course you should have and I admire that you had the courage to do the wrong thing at the right time."

“I feel like I've been eating healthier recently."

"I think that's called false feelings."

"I will give you falls feelings! That's when you throw someone down the stairs.”


That feeling when I go down Rue de Rivoli around 9pm on an early June day, passing by the Jardin des Tuileries where the last sun particles hop into the foliage, one after another until every leaf is gold-plated and the trees proud to stretch their trunk necks past the medieval iron fence, and Dylan in my ear – that feeling encompasses a good chunk of my and maybe the human experience, is it, is purpose, intention, destination, direction, existence. Thought, thought is strong, but the feeling is the sweeter information, and my feelings are so full just then.

"They all said it's different when you live there. Paris. Worse they meant, but when I lived there it was better. The best. The Paris you live in is the best Paris. Those who were born into it don't understand the Paris that is Paris by choice."



When I see them sitting on these Parisian terraces, I am all of them as much as I am happy to be my very me. We are all each other and one another, in one way or another, all part of the whole in the hole.


Lying on my back under a tree near Place de la Concorde, looking to my left, I realize that I want to move into these shrubs.


At Quai d'Orsay summer has everyone running and doing jumping jacks; that cemented riverbank is like an undesignated outdoor gym. This city is full of sporty, beautiful people who haven't given up yet, and us two.


A standalone triangular house slashing one of those Parisian boulevards in half with so much authority that it feels like it splits the universe into two different outcomes. “Choose wisely,” one of my inner voices cautions, but I’m not listening.


The delicious smell of mediocre restaurants fogging up a street in Clichy, and I look at all the people, and my mind’s eye, tearing up a little, is playing them like keys, writing their every story as sugary melodies.


And whenever I think I'm just going to go out for an hour, I'm wrong. Because no matter how much I know how much I love being out here, I can't ever conceive of it fully.





They all said it's different when you live there. Paris. Worse they meant, but when I lived there it was better. The best. The Paris you live in is the best Paris. Those who were born into it don't understand the Paris that is Paris by choice. Other cities have old towns. Paris is the old town, head to toe and back, both sides of the Seine. Paris is alive with frenzy and filth, smells so so good and so so bad. Paris is dense and loud and full. A never-ending story with every happy ending in the book, but first you gotta twist with the twists and wade through the grime in that gardenless pit. And I'm sitting on a night bench on St. German Boulevard with people gushing all around me and trees above me and underneath me in the puddles and Dylan shouting things into my ear that I fully love and feel and he's my best friend just then and the feeling is probably mutual and the smell of emptied bladders on concrete and everyone with a smoke in their hand and one in their mouth and some between their toes. Ambulances howling and the gas light bleeding warm orange all over me and I swim in it from here to there, people waiting for buses and cars and more ambulances, but no more horse carriages, and taxis play their game and I play mine: Muscle Mind. Flexing the mind. And the stores still so pretty at night.

I would have given my dry skin to see what a cloudburst could do to these masses populating the outdoor terraces on that Parisian Friday night. They are all caught up in their worlds, but what they don't know is that I pass through their worlds when I pass through the tables, that I'm stealing their front row seat to their own world while they're distracted, like a friendly parasite that just takes what isn't taken. You have to carry a machete to make your way through these outdoor terraces that sprawl across the sidewalk, three tables deep on both sides, people on top of each other, tangled up in each other, and there is so much good-looking food and so much conversation and affection that I go "ohh Paris" over and over again. What they don't know either is that I know and feel every inch and every second of the world that is this street we are in. Sometimes I wish I could take them with me. I can forget everything I know about this street and what is at its end and just make up my own street and end. I can squeeze entire universes between that tree and that wall. The trees smell different just before the night, with that stark blue lingering, and they smell different when they are wet with June rain. Brilliant song, brilliant world, brilliant life. Need to buy a bottle of whiskey I’m thinking.


Looking up Lafayette with the rain clouds hanging fat and heavy, and then down, where a baby blue sky gave way to a late sun dipping the apartment rows in friendly beige and lighting up the balcony residents like green fire, I felt love for a Monday today, love for it being just the beginning of the week, before those seven days of my life will be gone forever.


So hot, I'm melting away, my fingers thinned out like floss.


In Paris you can have a Michelin restaurant and right outside a reeking puddle of piss. To live in Paris is to love in Paris and to love life and to live love, and all these things.


The Seine is pretty drunk again and the Grand Palais protrudes from the riverbank like an upside-down crystal udder.


And then that breeze and my thoughts orgasm together.


Feeling a little lightheaded, sliding down Boulevard Poissonnière, but leaning into it now like a wholesome drunk would. The sky wears just the right shade of bluish-grey to hold enough promise for both those who hope for rain and those who hope for nothing. I'm on Haussmann now, passing underneath loud banners at Lafayette galleries, the sky still undecided, the lights waking, my feelings already up, triggered by all sorts of things to drift to other places and times, and it is now that I realize that home is this moment and every other like it. The sky. That sky. I just danced with someone. To avoid our collision, he went right as I went left, which left us stepping into the same void, then we switched and did it all over again. We smiled at each other and went our ways a little happier. I loved him. Much walking later, I'm trying to find a Velib – Paris’ public bike on good days, public trash on days like this one. They charge next to nothing for that pass, but that's plenty because every other bike is out of service and clings to its slot at the station like a stubborn metal mule. But you make good friends at the stations. Tonight, a girl smiled at me with that we're-in-this-together-smile, and a guy and two girls sitting on a terrace in front of another station pointed out to me that tout le monde had already tried that last bike and I said mercy bowcoo and we all felt a bit better about ourselves. People turn around the seats on the broken bikes and this anonymous solidarity is very fine. You might even do it for someone you wouldn't usually help or do so much as talk to, someone you hate even. Maybe those broken bikes are the only way to unite us all. Finally, I'm cruising up Lafayette. "Don't exert yourself,” she'd said, and it was good advice because the vaccine is being a jerk in my arm now, strumming on my muscles or whatever it is in there: jab, jab, jab, Corona, son of a bat.

Parisians are so attuned to these sudden cloud bursts that they seek shelter before the first drops hit, by the mere sound of rain in midair. And then these little enclaves under the awnings and in the doorways dissolve again and the puddles look surprised because none of them are going anywhere until later.


“You will distort my character in your book and take me out of context.”

“You are a distorted character out of context. Verbatim will do.”


“Can you tell me what time it it?"


"What? Shit!"

"How can you still be surprised by that? Your whole life is noon.”


“I think after graduation my job should be inventor.”

“Think again. Invent a better thought.”

Don't give me that saskwatch Geronimo!! My coasters, my toothbrush holder, huh?”


I can smell the green bowels of Park Monceau as I pass by, but I can't get in because they close off nature at night here in Paris. Put her behind bars and you too, just on the other side.


Crossing Boulevard Montparnasse at Vaugirad, my eyes climb up the bare stone wall on an aged house as I imagine scraping off a few of Henry Miller's dirty atoms there. Above it, there's an entire cloudscape that I haven't appreciated all day. Plenty of these bare walls in Montparnasse. What a waste the plaster is. Tacky makeup on that beautiful natural stone.


Held captive by this city, shackled to the centuries, inebriated by the fragrance of the Seine, I confess, and this is true, that I am profoundly in love with it, with its air and the way all these apartment buildings are at the right angle to my heart.




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