Notre Dame

I have thought for a long time that what we think of as American culture is in a lot of ways the heritage of the indigenous people of this continent. It’s not just that we use their names to call our rivers, our mountains, and our towns. Their spirituality has permeated all religions and philosophies that have taken root in this fertile land. Whether we came from Europe, or Africa, or Asia, the people whose home this was first are part of our history and destiny.

Another indelible part of our history and our destiny comes from Paris. Voltaire and Rousseau, L’Enfant and Lafayette, are also founding fathers of Les États Unis.

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I first saw the spire of Notre Dame cathedral on my honeymoon, 29 years ago this June. Today I saw it go down in flames and while I know there were no lives lost, and any life means more than an inanimate object, no matter how iconic, it feels like what we lost today is not inanimate. What we lost today was a piece of something we can’t afford to lose.

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Me and a bell that probably melted today

Century Old Visions: Baudelaire

Baudelaire by Etienne Carjat

I’ll admit right out of the gate that I’m pushing the whole Century Old Visions conceit to include Charles Baudelaire, seeing as he died a century and a half ago but he had to be at least a half century ahead of his time.  Les Fleur du Mal, written in 1857, is still ahead of its time. If we’re lucky it always will be because we’re in trouble if we ever catch up to lines like this:

If rape, poison, dagger and fire,

Have still not embroidered their pleasant designs
On the banal canvas of our pitiable destinies,
It’s because our soul, alas, is not bold enough!

When, after a decree of the supreme powers,
The Poet is brought forth in this wearisome world,
His mother terrified and full of blasphemies
Raises her clenched fist to God, who pities her :
– “Ah ! would that I had spawned a whole knot of vipers
Rather than to have fed this derisive object !
Accursed be the night of ephemeral joy
When my belly conceived this, my expiation !
Since of all women You have chosen me
To be repugnant to my sorry spouse,
And since I cannot cast this misshapen monster
Into the flames, like an old love letter,
I shall spew the hatred with which you crush me down
On the cursed instrument of your malevolence
Baudelaire by Emile Deroy

Baudelaire’s father, who was thirty years older than his mother, died when the boy was six. He did not like his stepfather and was kicked out of school when he refused to give up a note passed to him by a classmate. He spent the next two years in the Latin Quarter of Paris doing what poets do: getting drunk, racking up debt, contracting syphilis, and writing poems. He also translated the work of his “twin soul” Edgar Allan Poe and brought the work of that genius to the French-speaking world.


Charles Baudelaire died at the age of forty-six in Paris after a series of strokes. Every poet would do themselves a favor by spending some time with his work.

Get drunk
One should always be drunk. That’s all that matters;
that’s our one imperative need. So as not to feel Time’s
horrible burden one which breaks your shoulders and bows
you down, you must get drunk without cease.
But with what?
With wine, poetry, or virtue
as you choose.
But get drunk.
And if, at some time, on steps of a palace,
in the green grass of a ditch,
in the bleak solitude of your room,
you are waking and the drunkenness has already abated,
ask the wind, the wave, the stars, the clock,
all that which flees,
all that which groans,
all that which rolls,
all that which sings,
all that which speaks,
ask them, what time it is;
and the wind, the wave, the stars, the birds, and the clock,
they will all reply:
“It is time to get drunk!
So that you may not be the martyred slaves of Time,
get drunk, get drunk,
and never pause for rest!
With wine, poetry, or virtue,
as you choose!”

La Ville Lumiere

360 degree panoramic view from The Eiffel Tower

Paris was founded in the 3rd century BC by a Celtic people called the Parisii, who gave the city its name.

By the 12th century, Paris was the largest city in the western world.

Paris is the home of the most visited art museum in the world, the Louvre, as well as the Musée d’Orsay, noted for its collection of French Impressionist art, and the Musée National d’Art Moderne, a museum of modern and contemporary art. The notable architectural landmarks of Paris include Notre Dame Cathedral (12th century); the Sainte-Chapelle (13th century); the Eiffel Tower (1889); and the Basilica of Sacré-Cœur on Montmartre (1914).

Paris is often referred to as “The City of Light” (La Ville Lumière), both because of its leading role during the Age of Enlightenment, and more literally because Paris was one of the first European cities to adopt gas street lighting. In the 1860s, the boulevards and streets of Paris were illuminated by 56,000 gas lamps.

At the beginning of the 20th century, artists from around the world, including Picasso, Modigliani and Matisse made Paris their home; it was the birthplace of Fauvism, Cubism and abstract art, and authors such as Marcel Proust were exploring new approaches to literature. Paris continued to be a mecca for writers, musicians and artists from around the world, including Ernest Hemingway, Igor Stravinsky, Josephine Baker, Sidney Bechet and the surrealist Salvador Dalí,

Also, Monet, Manet, Cezanne, Renoir, Gauguin, Seurat, Toulouse-Latrec, Chagall, Duchamp, Voltaire, Rousseau, Hugo, de Tocqueville, Dumas, Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Sarte, Descartes, Debussy, Ravel, Saint-Saens, and Bizet. People whose ideas made the world a better place.

Paris is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. It has inspired artists, philosophers, lovers and dreamers for centuries and will continue to do so for centuries to come. Paris will piss on the grave of ISIS.

Paris Sketchbook

This dude is St. Germain, a bishop of Paris, who was known for his love of the poor. His monks were so afraid that he’d give everything away that they rebelled against him. He died in 576. For the next 900 years his relics were carried in procession through the streets of Paris. This is a sketch of a wooden statue of his eminence in the church that’s named for him.

Rooftops of Paris as seen from our perch at 15 Passage Barrault.

Sketch of a lantern hanging in the garden. .

Our young friend Atri, reading.

This is the view from the kitchen table looking out into the garden:

Eiffel Tower

I wrote this song a couple decades ago and recorded it a few years ago with Late Model Humans. A recent trip to Paris has brought it back to the forefront of my memory.

It’s been so long since I held you in my arms
It’s been so long since you held me in your heart
And I’ve been running ’round, up and down, making love on the Eiffel Tower

Baby I know it’s too late
But baby I’m going to change anyway
And stop all this running ’round, up and down, making love on the Eiffel Tower

Now that I need you
You’re nowhere at all
But I just keep thinking
When you needed me
I stared through you at a brick wall

Baby I just can’t quit
But baby I can’t forget
All of our running ’round, up and down, making love on the Eiffel Tower

Scurrying: FHOP (Fictional Humans of Paris) #1



Paris was fascinating, profound and enlightening, everything you’d expect from the City of Lights, but it was not relaxing, and relaxation was the thing Martine needed most of all. She was overworked, like most of her contemporaries, and underappreciated, like most females. She held the world at arm’s length for fear of it overwhelming her with its salty waves. Her rendezvous with Henri, ill-timed and awkward, was the thing that finally tethered her to the pulse of the human race.

Henri was one of those men who saw it as his sacred duty in life to avenge his father’s humiliation at the hands of dispassionate existence. He was not going to follow those footsteps and let his life trickle away down the sewers of time, or watch it fade away without experiencing the love of a woman as fine as Martine. When he caught the sight of her skinny white legs scurrying across the Boulevard Saint-Germain he had no option but to follow them as far down the Rue de Pontoise as they would carry them both.

Martine was in a rush. She was always in a rush. Her mother was waiting for her at home, wondering what could take her so long to pick up a few baguettes? Her tutor was wondering why Martine was late, again, for her lesson. The man on the scooter was wondering why she was taking such a risk with her young life as to scurry across his path. And Martine was wondering who the strange boy was who followed her across the scooter’s path.

She spun on her heels so quickly that Henri had to hop on his tiptoes to keep from slamming into her. He almost came close enough to touch her nose with his. The terror in her eyes only made her more attractive. “What are you doing?” she yelled.

“You’re a fucking angel,” he panted, with all the impetuous honesty of youth.

 
She smiled very slowly. She looked away in confusion and then looked back again with more clarity. She liked what she saw. She relaxed. She stopped scurrying.