Sunday, January 17, 2010


(excerpt from vagabond:burning shoulders)

It was three years ago. My first trip to Paris without my family. It had been ten years. At 25, I was in young love, completed with rounded cheeks and a defensive drinking habit. My French was almost nonexistent as I was gladly preoccupied by my lover and letting him order my lunch and guide me around the somehow familiar city. I didn’t own a watch and my cell phone had no signal, so I rarely knew what time it was. And, I was secretly nearing the end of my Euro but absolutely LIVING with passion and without a map.

After my recent visit in the summer of 2009, I exited the city as a lonesome traveler with a specific knowledge of the city, and longing to be stranded there. I felt reunited with the anonymity that I originally encountered when I first arrived in New York. Maybe that is why young people can be so loud and attention hungry on the subway in my traumatic city. City life can be exciting and volatile for teenage eyes. Little hungry apes needing nameless shock value. Suddenly, those familiar feelings had returned for another city. After leaving last August, I felt like I had just spent an extended period of quiet time with an old friend. Those four days possessed the nuance of “first times” but also the familiarity of bookmarked friendships. Revisiting Paris’s romantic grandeur and creating my new, soft and lonely memories was extremely satisfying. A surprise considering my usual feeling is that of a mournful goodbye. It is nice to not only hope for and imagine a return to magic, but to experience it and watch its tricks. I liked tiptoeing around alone and asking strangers to take my picture. All of my journeys are completed by a moment of quiet time with myself. And, now I leave at the beginning.

I have discovered my Paris.

I think I am experiencing sincere possibility--like a gift for my hard work. My ambition.

I don’t usually like feeling like a visitor. Or I don't allow myself to. My fun began when I changed that. This makes me happy, when I let my evasive guard down and let this feeling guide me. The cab driver said on the way to my long bus ride to Barcelona that, “Sometimes time is more important than money.”

I stayed with new and cherished friends, Ikue and Lorenzo in the Paris’s Chinatown. To show my gratitude for a warm bed, friendly times, and their homemade blackberry preserves, I took the loving couple out to Chinese food. They enlightened me on the Parisian version of the “new” New York hipster - bobos. Bohemian Bourgeouis.

After dinner they took to me to a Canal where young people bring bottles of wine and stare into one another's eyes. While we were taking pictures a man excitedly ran across the street to enjoy his wine and tripped over a low chain barrier, shattering the bottle and injuring his knee on the cement sidewalk. The bottle dramatically displayed wine on the ground, almost admonishing his impulsiveness with its mark.

On my second day in Paris I ate a piece of plastic. Hard plastic that’s probably still lodged in my throat as I write this. It was deep within an apricot pastry I purchased on the Champs Elysees. That morning I had grabbed a dry pastry out of starvation near the Belleville train station before I jumped on the Metro. Then I purchased a bright nectarine at Chatelet and ate it as I walked towards the Musee d’Orsay bypassing the Louvre this time around. It was a gorgeous day, jam packed with tourists and families posing in front of the Louvre’s expansive majesty. The day felt endless influencing my thoughts on time and clocks. On this trip, I gained some sense and decided to carry a map, something that is truly hilarious for people that know me. I can go with the flow to a fault. And people watching in Paris is way more enjoyable than in New York, I can almost predict what people will say, wear. Now I want to impersonate looks, attitudes, strides.

I grabbed lunch in the Jardin du Tuilleries, possibly the first time I’d sat down and had a meal at a restaurant in over a month. Also rather unlike me…I have the tendency to treat myself to a "sacred meal" every once in awhile. As I ate, I do recall that being the exact moment that I decided to leave Europe in August. My journey would not be prolonged. Somehow the contentment in that moment, pacified all that I needed and I began to have confirming thoughts about my departure. These thoughts were slowly becoming concrete in Berlin. I was beginning to taste homesickness and at that moment, concerning my life, the decision to leave was heroic. Then I ventured down the Champs Elysees and chomped down on plastic. More confirmation, maybe?

As I walked, I experienced a bout of loneliness so powerful that I almost keeled over and wept in front of all of the families. I had to sit down and orient myself. I wanted someone with me, right at that moment.

After the Arc du Triomphe, I decided to return to Notre Dame. It is a place that I have visited with two great loves, my mother and my Frenchman of times past. After initially taking the train in the wrong direction, I made it. I walked and walked, passing the Hotel de Ville where an outdoor concert was happening with lots of friends and loved ones gathered –laughing and embracing. And then I crossed the Pont Nuoef and walked a bit to Shakespeare and Co. bookstore and found the spot. The spot where I took my favorite photo of my sweetheart from almost three years prior. The photo never really came out, but the warmth from the memory is unique and shared by another. Imagery is such, that some of our most treasured moments are blurry--never fully developed, possibly unfinished.

From PARIS 2009

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