Friday, May 31, 2013

A Curious Confluence Chapter Eleven: The Boatman

The dream or hysterical sensation of a dream that occurred a few days ago has bothered, badgered and bewildered me. Adding together the glowing door to the opening of the third door and the woman who entered through that third door and spoke those words to me “why have you forgotten me?” all seem to constitute a portfolio of events that must point to my gradual lapse into unreality. Is this what paranoia is? I have only heard a few voices so far.

The worst of it all is that those things seemed real when they occurred and they intensify in their feeling of realness as the days pass. And with that intensity is beginning to form an even more intense feeling of longing for – something. Maybe the longing is for those events to have been real. That would be bad enough. But somewhere, still barely below conscious and rational strata, there lurks what I suspect to be the truth of the feeling.

That truth is that I want to return to wherever or whenever it was that those events occurred.

That is the irrational truth of the situation.

An event occurred this afternoon which makes me wonder if that phenomenon is in fact continuing. If it is continuing there seems to be neither rhyme nor reason for what has so far made up its component events.

I had the casement open as I usually do. Even when it is cold, which is most of the time now that October has fled and November is making itself felt, having the casement open lets in the sounds of the Seine. And that is reason enough to have the casement open. But it also seems to even allow the sights of the Seine to have more of a demeanor of immediacy. And since the wind flows in parallel to the front of the apartment building it enters, not as a direct head on invader, but as a sidelong pulse of freshness with a rather pleasant dash of briskness.

Fraîche, the French call it.

The open casement arrangement allows the river to demand my attention, as if such a demand were necessary. But that demand, on top of my already basic proclivity to watch it, makes the hours pass, sometimes, as minutes. It is a sort of hypnosis.

It was in that state of hypnosis that I noticed a change in the river.

It being November, the heavily overcast sky had been darkening for an hour or more. It was still light and I could clearly see everything that was occurring in my view of the river. There were barges laden with gravel – one had what looked to be coal – bucking the swiftly flowing down river current as they cleaved their way upriver, perhaps to the locks and the Canal St. Martin and beyond, or perhaps farther up river. There were tour boats, loudspeakers blaring in English, German, French, Chinese and Japanese, descriptions of the various sights that the boats were passing. The tour boats go both up river and down river. Up river they are outward bound from their pickup sites and they buck the current with the same tenacity as the working barges. Down river they return to their moorings to disgorge one happily toured crowd and to pick up another. Down river they fairly fly. The current, plus the thrust of their powerful engines, puts them down stream at an amazing clip. And in the midst of all of these larger craft there are frequent little boats with outboard motors – big horsepower outboard motors – with blue lights flashing. These are the police and they seem to have the mission of roaring up and then roaring down the river at frequent intervals with lights flashing and, I suppose, but cannot hear over the roar of the rest of the activity, their sirens blaring.

And to finish out the glimmering beauty of all of this, as the sky and river enter into full darkness, the motorway on the right bank becomes a massive array of little flowing red, amber and white pixels of light as cars make their egress toward places not in the heart of the city. And over all of this, as if to make the scene a fairy tale, Hôtel de Ville de Paris – the residence of the Mayor of Paris – spreads herself out along the right bank shimmering in multi hued refulgence.

“It is no wonder”, I thought to myself, “that I feel as if I become hypnotized when I watch these scenes. And what a privilege”, I thought, “to be able to have a place in space and time such that I can experience such a spectacularly beautiful form of hypnosis”.

On the occasion being described, just before opening the casement and becoming lost in the scene of the Seine, I had been writing. I had been writing for a couple of hours as I try to do every day between 1500 and 1700. At 1700 I like to walk back through the forecourt of Notre Dame to Pont Saint-Michel and over to Le Depart Saint-Michel for a quart to sustain me while I read the Economist for an hour or so.

I also get some chips with my wine order.

Then I return to the apartment and have some more wine and write some more for the blog.

Intertwined with the hypnosis of the river, as I watched it this evening out of the open casement, I had been thinking about the journal.

Since finding the sleep written yellow pages I have not thought much about the journal. There have been too many other things to occupy me. But for some reason on this afternoon, intertwined with the hypnosis of the river through the open casement, I was having occasional thoughts about the journal.

“Perhaps”, I was thinking,” it is time to start reading the thing. Perhaps there is something of value in it. Perhaps there is a reason that you have kept it. Perhaps there is a reason that you brought it with you to Paris”. Imbedded in those thoughts was a feeling. It was a faint feeling but it was there. It had something to do with the dream of the door opening and the woman. But I couldn’t make the feeling maintain itself or increase its intensity. Nor was I able to gain any focus on it.

And then I turned back to the casement and the river.

It was as if there had been some slippage slightly backward in time.

At first I thought that the overcast must have cleared substantially because, while not brilliant sunlight, it was quite a bit lighter than it had been moments before. It should have been darker, almost early night dark in fact. It was late enough in the day for that to be the case and moments before it had been on the brink of becoming quite dark.

But now it appeared to be as light as it had been an hour or more before.

“How odd” I thought.

Before I could foster that thought for long I noticed something. It looked like a large log that had been fashioned into a boat. I would have called it a dugout. There was a person in it. Even though the evening had become somewhat lighter, it was still gloomy enough that, at the distance from where I was watching, it was not possible to see with any clarity much more than the fact that a person was in the boat, probably a man, and wearing nondescript fairly bulky clothes. He had a sort of paddle that he pushed off from the stairs that descended to the quai at river’s edge from the quai at street level. And then he dipped the paddle moving the boat expertly into the current.

“How odd” I thought.

Before the paddle had been dipped a second time I was at the bank of the river. An instant before I had been four floors up in a building behind where I now stood. An instant later I was standing at a river bank over my shoes in muck and mud and in a grove of dense shore hugging trees.

I watched the little boat disappear down river.

There were no barges, tour boats, Mayor’s residence or little glittering red, amber and white pixels.

All that was there was the rapidly gathering gloom of an early winter afternoon on the banks of a river that looked as if human kind had never been near it. If it hadn’t been for the lone boatman, his blunt dugout now disappearing in the distance, I would have said with confidence that this was a river untouched by human influence. I did think that I heard the murmur of numerous voices very near to me and very near to the point of the boat’s departure.

But no one was to be seen.

And as quickly as it had appeared the scene on that primitive river bank passed. I found myself with my hand outstretched for a wine glass from the cupboard. I was in the apartment. The casement was open. The barges and tour boats were in full force and the Hôtel de Ville was even more brilliant in its glowing radiance now that the sun had fully set.

But the boatman and that river bank had been real.

And that is the hell of it.

They were there. And I was there. And I have no idea how that could have been.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

A Curious Confluence: Chapter Ten - The Third Door and the Woman

I don’t know why I don’t do it.

It wouldn’t be as if I were spying or prying.

It wouldn’t be.

But it would seem to me as if I were – prying or spying.

There is something that keeps me from opening the apartment door when I hear one of the now increasingly frequent bouts of door opening and closing activity in my hallway. I can’t put my finger on what that something that restrains me might be. It almost feels like the shyness that I overcame so many years ago, that shyness that made it so hard for me to cross the floor to the girls’ side of the gym to ask one of them to dance with me at the high school dances. How odd that a feeling I haven't thought of, and certainly haven't felt, for decades seems to be back in full force.

Why would that be? Or am I taking a fancifully easy way out rather than facing what the real reason is? But, as best as I can conclude, in all honesty, I don't know what the real reason might be. Still, it does seem to resemble that long forgotten shyness.

Four flights are quite a few. They become very much quite a few when one’s lifestyle causes one to descend and ascend those four flights perhaps eight or ten times a day. That is getting on toward being equivalent to climbing out of the Tube at Covent Garden or out of the Métro at Abbesses.

But that is the number of times, more or less, that I have been making the trip up and down those stairs. So I have become quite familiar with that spiral of ancient oak planks, worn variably round, concave and convex over a century or two or three. I have made the ascent equally as rapidly as the descent, more rapidly possibly, since going up I have less of a concern about stumbling and falling. But even at a fairly good clip up and down a gradual sense of the feel of that little circular corridor has begun to manifest itself to me. There has become a change of – something – a feeling perhaps, certainly not of temperature, but somehow similar to temperature, at the point where the polished, twisted oak banister has ceased its existence. And the sense of that feeling seems to be incrementally greater with each round trip. It isn’t intensely greater from trip to trip – I wouldn’t have noticed it in that sort of adjacency. But as I feel after a ten days, compared to how I felt after one day, there is a definite change to the stronger in favor of some sort of feeling. And it seems as if time and aggregate encounters are the contributors to the changing and deepening of the sense of whatever it is.

And the closer I get to my door, and to that other door, the more that incremental increase seems to be again amplified by some other increment. But still I have never opened my door to see if I could again see more clearly that once seen, but vaguely perceived woman who seems to spend time opening and closing that old, decorative door with the luminous panes of glass.

I have said that there are two doors on my floor.

But my statement of there being only two doors is not accurate.

There is a third door.

I didn’t mention that door, even though I knew that it is there, because it is a door without function. It, like the door with the shimmering lights is very old. Like that other door it is much more lightly constructed than the apartment doors. Unlike that other door it is solid wood, solid oak, with no glass. It consists of six equally sized oak panels. But it doesn’t go anywhere. It is a real door and it is really old, but it can’t be opened or closed. It is there in its original casement with its original hinges, and with handles and latches just as if it had function. But it has no function because it has at least twelve inches of limestone between itself and the interior of my apartment. It is in the outer side of the wall that forms the container in which the spiraling oak staircase is housed on one side and upon the other side of which is the little alcove that houses my bed. As near as I can estimate, if it could be opened it would open somewhere near the foot of my bed.

But it doesn’t open because it is not possible

That is why I didn’t mention it previously.

That is why I said that there are only two doors on my floor.

But something has happened that makes me need to mention that third door.

And the something that has happened has something to do with a dream that was so intense, and lingers still so deeply burned in my consciousness that it must be mentioned.  It was, or must have been, after all, a dream. 

But it was unlike any dream that I have ever had.

It had been one of those stereotypically Paris trademarked late fall or early winter days.

It never really got light.  It was the same at noon as it had been at nine and by four, night, or something like it, was already falling.  The sky seemed to have moved during the previous night much closer to the ground and with that lowering to have brought with it some sort of light absorbing matter that, when mixed with the rest of whatever it is that makes up the contents of the atmospheric bowl of a dismal late autumn Paris day, seems to draw all but the bare remains of daylight from all of the normally day lit hours.

And it was dismally, chillingly, cold.  It was a cold that did not register on a thermometer; the thermometers were all saying that it was 2 or 3 or 4 degrees.  But it was a cold that I could feel far beyond physical existence.

In spite of the dimness, darkness and coldness I went out to walk, and look, and take pictures, and perhaps stop somewhere on the return leg for a glass of wine.  As it turned out I did stop for a glass of wine at La Frégate which is on the Quai Voltaire side of Pont Royal.

And then I went back to the apartment.

In spite of the light absorbing nature of the day the unexplained luminance behind the second door was leaking through the ancient glass panes.  I stopped for the briefest of moments, thought my thoughts, and then, with a glance at the third door went into my apartment.

I checked email, offloaded the pictures and movies from the camera to the computer, re-sized to smaller size several of what I deemed the best stills and emailed them out to the people to whom I have been sending emails from Paris. 

Then I noted that the time was appropriate to start preparing an American-early dinner.  I didn’t think that I could last until the time came for a French-late dinner.

I have adopted a menu format that has become a sort of Paris tradition for me. It is: meat, vegetable, salad, bread and gazpacho. 

And so it was on this evening. I made a great zucchini sauté to go with the roast chicken that was left over from the previous night.

I ate, read the Economist and dawdled over my last glass of wine until the vapors of imminent sleep began to invade the apartment.

So I went to bed, read a paragraph of Aubrey/Maturin, and was off in never-never land before it would have been possible to say never-never land.

Something woke me.  Waking me doesn’t take much anymore, but I hadn’t been asleep very long, and normally the early stages of my various nightly sleep episodes tend to be deep and unwakeable. So I was surprised to be awakened so obviously soon after dropping deeply off.

But I was awake.

And then almost immediately I questioned whether I really was awake.

The heater on the wall below the window that looks out on the Seine is a real friend.  When it gets cold, there is a setting that I have discovered that keeps everything just right – warm but not hot.  The day being as I have described it, I put that heater at that setting as I got into bed; I had dropped off with a peasant ambient warmness.

But, now that I was awake again – or seemed to be awake – I was bitterly cold.

The reason became immediately apparent.

In the wall on the right side of my niche of a bed chamber there was a door that had opened. That wall is the same wall that is shared on the other side with the hallway and the landing at the top of the stairs. And the door had opened revealing, not the hallway, but something vastly different.

And the door had opened, not outwardly into the hallway, but inwardly into my bed chamber.  It had rotated inward a full 180 degrees to the wall so that it was flush with that wall and parallel with the edge of the bed. And in my bed chamber there was the edge of something impossible to comprehend that had bumped up against the foot of my bed.

To accommodate the door swinging inward, all the way to the wall, through at least a third of the lower part of my bed, and through the lower part of me, something had happened.  Because, in lieu of the lower part of the bed, and of the lower part of me, there was instead an area of swirling serpentine glitters of light and dark.  It was a multi-hued apparition but the net apparent color was a pale blue phasing to burgundy at the fringes.

And in the center was a woman.

The woman was, at first, far from the major aspect of the scene. It was the rest of the space – not the center with the woman - that stirred mixed feelings of stark terror and bemused wonder.

The stark terror was the result of the fact that there was no longer any bedroom or even any building surrounding me.  What was there instead was a vast open curvature of blackness mixed with goldness mixed with redness, mixed with amberness – mixed it seemed with whatever colors a mad theatre lighting man might have applied to the scene. It glittered with all the colors of the sun.

That was the stark terror part of the experience.

The bemused wonder was a dearer thing.

That consisted of what might have been called a slide show if it were not for the cosmic hugeness of its presentation. I saw a tree – a gigantic tree.  I saw the entire Seine, from Pont Sully to Pont d’Alma, and then I saw the golden giants of Pont Alexandre and at its edge, I saw a muddy pool of flint gravel mud with a chestnut lying in its middle; I saw a small boat with a hunched boatman, clothed in a manner not of this, or any that I knew of, millennium; I saw, and smelled the raspberry and urine canals of Ton Son Nhut; associated with those smells I felt the abject depths of a despair that I thought that I had long forgotten.

I saw and felt many more things that I cannot now remember or that I didn’t understand at the time. So I cannot give those things names or descriptions.

And then, at the center, where the woman still was, and where it was still flickering blue at the center to burgundy at the periphery, the woman looked at me and said “why did you leave me there?  Why have you forgotten me?”

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

A Curious Confluence: Chapter Nine–Thoughts of the Seine

I recently awoke near dawn and saw the Seine with its mirror surface broken only by the passage of an upriver bound barge. The glittering ripples thrown by the wake were slashed and splashed with gold and coral. I took a picture of it.

This picture has haunted me since that early morning.

The intense beauty of the scene captured by my camera is not the haunting component.

That is merely an aesthetic component.

The haunt is the feeling that wells in me from a place that I never knew was there until I saw this scene. And the feeling is one with which I have no experience. I am therefore unable to identify it, to categorize it, to give it a name, or to place it in some sort of time and space scheme.

The best I can do is to say that what I feel every time I look at that picture is what I felt on that dawn when I first saw it: I am somehow deeply involved with this view of the river. The beauty of the scene is only the attractive present day wrapping of something that is below and within. It is something that has been – although a thing that I sense to be unseen in this age - in existence and underway for a long, long time.

And it is something of vast importance to me, if only I could delve to where it is.

When I have these thoughts my sleep written document continually thrusts the term “curious confluence” into my mind. Curious indeed.

A Curious Confluence: Chapter Eight–Saumon Avec Champignons

Today I had an idea. Maybe I could combine two cooking tricks I have learned and produce a superior product for dinner.

Trick one is something I learned accidentally long ago. A filet of salmon turns out beautifully if you put it on the grill skin side down and cook it until a lot of white stuff has sweated out of the flesh. At that point the salmon is a little rare which shows off the texture and flavor of salmon to its best.

Trick two is something I have learned since coming to France. If you put anything – haricorts vertes, côte de porc for example – in a covered pan on an element pre-heated to high (emulating the instant heat of a gas range) and let whatever it is sear at high heat, but enveloped in the moisture that that searing drives out of whatever it is, and if you terminate this process just short of burning whatever it is, you produce amazingly flavorful results.

I decided to ust the big pot with the heavy glass lid that I have bought to cook the huge artichokes from Britany that I have been feasting upon. At high heat I seared the salmon with its skin side down in emulation of grilling. When the white stuff appeared in some abundance I terminated the process and put the salmon on a warmed plate.

After quick searing some mushrooms in the salmon juice, lemon jiuce and calvados and putting them and their juice atop the fish I had something that was too good to have been cooked by me. I am going to call it Saumon avec Champignons.

A Curious Confluence: Chapter Seven–Just Kind of Living Here

Yesterday was a day of discovery. The fact that Paris is a series of wedges formed by streets all heading to several common confluences with important interstitial streets webbing them together came into play for me yet again.

I like to go to the Marais. I like it for several reasons, the two most dominant being that I love the medieval feel of the place, especially at night, and I really like the falafel sandwiches at Chez Marianne on Rue des Rosiers (one of those interstices between the wedges). I have never been exactly clear where Rue des Rosiers is or how to get there. I have on numerous occasions, studied the map to the point of blindness and have not improved my ease of getting there. The actual act of going to Chez Marianne, therefore, has always been a sort of hopeful flinging of myself in the general direction of Place de la République and looking for a building with a mosaic of a horse on its exterior. If and when I see that horse I can generally find my way. (The horse mosaic is quite old and has nothing to do with whatever it is that they do in that building in today's world; in a previous time it marked the place as a market for horse meat.)

Yesterday all of that – my never being able to easily find Rue des Rosiers - may have changed.

For no apparent reason I decided to cross to the mainland via Pont Louis Philippe.

So I crossed Pont Louis Philippe. Once on the right bank I was, to no surprise of mine, on Rue Louis Philippe. I was beginning to notice a certain atypical –for Paris - symmetry in naming conventions. I pressed on because one of the objectives of the walk was to see if I could find a better grocery than the one I have so far been able to find in my new quartier. Then the significant thing happened. Rue Louis Philippe had changed to Rue Vieux du Temple which is the street that I always set out to find when I flail around looking for the horse mosaic. Rue Vieux de Temple is the street with which Rue des Rosiers webs.

There was Les Philosophes right where it always is, and close beyond was Rue des Rosiers. I not only now knew how to get there, but I had cut the transit time by about three quarters. What a windfall, if only I can remember what I discovered.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

A Curious Confluence: Chapter Six - Outside My Door

In my apartment building I am on the fourth floor. My floor and the other three floors (I have never gone above my floor, so I know not what may be their configuration) are served by a classic French spiraling staircase with, for the first two floors, the classic French twisted molded oak banister.

The banister stops at the start of floor two and all that is left to guide the hands of those who ascend or descend the staircase above floor one is a painted iron rail. Perhaps that rail was once clothed with its own twisted molded oak banister, perhaps not. The only certainty is that it doesn’t have one now. I can’t help but wonder: what could possibly have removed a deucedly heavy, and amazingly cumbersome spiraled piece of oak? And why would it have been removed?

The first three floors have two apartments. On each floor the stairway comes to a small landing. Straight ahead as one tops the flight at that landing there is a door which opens into an apartment. Immediately to the left, as one passes along that very brief landing on the way to the spiral to the next floor, there is another door. Behind that door is another apartment.

On my landing mine is the apartment behind the door that is straight ahead at the landing. The door to the left, on the way up to the next flight doesn’t exist. Where it should be is bare wall that, when rapped with one’s knuckles, emits a sound of deep stone and mortar solidarity. Why doesn’t that door and its apartment exist?

As if to answer that question with an alternative question, on my floor there is something that doesn’t exist on the other floors.

The thing that exists on my floor and not the first three is another type of door. It is totally dissimilar to the apartment doors.

The apartment doors are heavy oak-sheathed-in-steel doors with double turning locks that engage four side deploying steel probes with a milled steel accepter for those probes to engage when the lock is double turned and one vertically down thrusting steel bar that engages a milled steel accepter imbedded in the thick oak plank floor, again with the double turned lock.

The other door on my floor is not one of those.

The other door on my floor is really not on my floor at all. That door is really about half way up the spiraling staircase that ascends from below me. If I stand just outside my door and look down the staircase I see that door immediately to my left halfway down to the next lower landing.

That door is much flimsier than the doors fronting the apartments. It is very old, like everything in this building except the apartment doors and the plumbing and the electricity. The building is part of a cluster of very old buildings. Héloise and Abelard lived a few doors down the quai according to a bronze plaque affixed to one of the buildings. This very old door has external, spidery thin, painted iron hinges. It is divided in two equal segments: on the top are three horizontally long rectangular opaque glass windows. Those windows are opaque because they are made of glass that must have been kneaded when its sheets were still malleably and kneadably warm. Below those opaque sheets there are two equally sized vertically long rectangular panels. The door’s wood is oak, but it is thin and more of a decorative type than a barrier type. The barrier type is the type of the apartment doors.

Out of curiosity, several times since I have been here, I have stood in front of that door on my way up the stairs to my door. I have tried to see inside that opaque glass; if it is daytime the interior - behind the opaque glass - is very bright. Clearly, the sun has access to the area behind this door. I eschew using the word “room” for the space that exists behind the door because I don’t know what exists behind that door.

But what is it – if anything – that happens behind that door?

And why does it exist?

I didn’t realize it until today, but I have wondered these things from the first day that I have lived here.  But initially it was a low level type of wondering.  There are too many things to take all upper levels of my concentration, not the least of which is the constantly changing scene of the river – the marvelously beautiful Seine. That and getting used to things, getting things placed where they best serve my needs and best use the tiny space that is my apartment – those sorts of things and my adjacency to the river have left little mind-space for wondering about the door.  In fact those questions and my vague conjuring upon them might have been on the way to completely vanishing but for what occurred today. Late in the afternoon, just back into the apartment from a picture taking expedition in the Bois de Boulogne I realized that I had heard a door open and close outside mine.

I didn’t want to be a nosy old man and pop open my door and peer out, so I pulled the garbage sack out of the kitchen poubelle and opened the door to take the garbage down to one of the city provided garbage bag-lined decorative metal frames that line the streets of Paris.  I didn’t even take time to put on a coat. But I was too late to see anyone. 

So I continued on my mission of taking the sack to the street.

As I ascended the stairs coming back and came to the landing in front of the door I paused.

The sun sets on the side of the building that the space behind the door would have windows, if it does in fact have windows.  The space behind the door was clearly light, although I couldn’t make out anything that the light illuminated due to the opacity of the hammered glass panes. Such light as I could see somehow didn’t look or act like sunlight.  The light that I saw seemed to have a fluidity of color that neither sunlight, nor any other kind of light with which I am familiar, have. It reminded me more of the swirling iridescence of a small drop of gasoline spilled into a pail of water as the gasoline spreads itself across the surface of the water.  But that was a fleeting impression. I couldn’t be sure of anything due to the opaque glass barrier through which I perceived it.

Since standing there staring like a goon seemed a thing to avoid I went the additional few feet to my door and went back into my apartment.  I left the questions about the door and the possibility of some kind of inhabitant being behind it there behind me on the stoop and quit thinking about it.

But I looked out of my door again later. And that swirled iridescence of light remained even after the sun had set.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

A Curious Confluence: Chapter Five–Another Day of Image Harvest

The weather was warm and spectacular. I haven’t ever before walked through Parc Buttes des Chaumont when the air was warm so I felt compelled to take advantage of today’s warmth.

Getting there entailed taking line 4 to Gare d’Est and line 7 to Lois Blanc and a goofy little spur off 7 to Métro Stop Bozaris.

And then I plunged into the Parc.

Parc Buttes des Chaumont was built on the site of an old garbage dump by Monsieur Haussmann who re-did a large part of Paris (mercifully he left le Marias in its medieval state) for Napoleon III. The Parc has all kinds of cliffs, streams and waterfalls. Unlike most French gardens it is not regimented. It is more like Hyde Park than like Jardin de Luxembourg from a vegetation standpoint. And all the hills and stream traces and water covered cliffs are made of what was – in the 1870’s – a revolutionary new material: concrete. I think that’s chaumont.

So I took a bunch of pictures and a few movies in the parc and exited where Rue de Crimée meets the edge of the Parc and forms the Parc’s boundary on that side.

I walked down Rue de Crimée to Basin de Villette and down it to Canal Saint Martin and down the Canal until I got to Rue du Faubourg du Temple, which I thought I remembered terminates at Place de la République. It did so terminate and after some searching – huge Parisian intersections always flummox me – I found Rue de Turbigo which I walked to les Halles and home.

By the time I got there it was time to go buy a poulete for dinner.

By the time I got home from poulete shopping, grocery shopping and vegetable shopping, and had written this, it was well nigh on to wine time again.

I poured a glass of corbièrers and tried not to think about the door outside my apartment, down a few steps.

The sleep written document, it has turned out, has accurately described something of which I had not, at the time of reading it, become aware.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

A Curious Confluence: Chapter Four - Inklings

After the Pigeon Drop the day became bland.

I got back to the apartment at about four. I wrote the foregoing post until five thirty or so – I let a lot of things distract me so not much was written in an amount of time that normally produces more.

I walked to Le Départ St. Michel and had a quart de rosé and watched the ebb and flow of crowds out by the fountain. It became dark. I finished my wine and walked back to the apartment in that gathering darkness and after mounting my four flights of stairs I walked into the apartment, to the open casement and absorbed the glittering beauty of the river.

I took some movies of the tour boats, the police boats the working barges and the occasional privately owned pleasure boats as they made their way up river and down river in a never ending surface shattering burst of colored light.

I took a picture of Hôtel de Ville. It looked like a magic castle.

I finished the previous post that had been not quite complete when I left for Le Départ. I had a couple of glasses of wine as I finished that post and transitioned to the preliminary steps for preparing dinner.

And dinner was very good. I blackened the scallops that I had gotten at the poissonnerie this morning. They turned out perfectly. They were seared dark brown outside and rare on the interior. I sliced zucchini, mushrooms and shallots very thin, tossed them in a little olive oil and seared them in a covered sauté pan. With herbs de Provençe they were delicious. With glasses of Muscadet and a hot-when-I-had-brought-it-home demi baguette it was a perfect dinner.

I went out and around to Notre Dame, to tell her good night, came back and got into bed and read.

And somewhere in there I went to sleep.

As always happens anymore, later I woke up.

But this awakening was different. I wasn’t in bed. I was at the dinner table. And in front of me was a pile of sheets of lined pages from the yellow tablets that I use to organize my life and communicate and remind myself to do things.

I have heard of and have personally experienced sleep walking, but I have never heard of sleep writing.

Not until now.

The sheets had the following written on them. I know not from whence these words came but they were written in the almost printing form of cursive I have developed over the years. They were clearly written by me.

“I did not come here for the purpose of doing a lot of writing. But I have planned to do some writing; at least I had hopes of doing some writing. I brought an old journal – one that I had written into faithfully every day of a time long ago. I started it when I was in Saigon. I remember that. A woman had been my inspiration to commence it. I remember that. And I kept adding to it for years. I remember that. But I have no memory of what it is that I wrote. Nor do I have any memory of the times in which I wrote in that journal, or of the name or nature of the woman.

Nonetheless, for some reason, I have kept that journal.

For some reason I brought it with me to Paris.

I have no idea what that reason might be; I just brought it.

I haven’t looked at it for years.

I do expect to do some writing, however. There are too many interesting things that happen to one here not to write about them. To that end I have created a blog. I hope to post to it daily. I have named it “Four Months in Paris”.

How original.

Writing aside, the real and immediate reason that I came here to Paris was that I hadn’t been here for more than a year. And more than a year is much too long a time for me to be away from Paris.

This time I have rented an apartment on La Isle de la Cité. I am able to have it for the full four months. This is the first time that I have lived on the island.

I got to the apartment on October 1. It is on the third floor. Since Parisians assign the number zero to the ground floor that means that I am on the fourth floor. My vantage from that height affords a spectacular view. I can see Pont Neuf. I can see the lone remaining tower of Eglise St. Jacques. I can see Hôtel de Ville. Behind me, and blocked from view by the building in which I live, is Notre Dame. Even though I can’t see her I can feel her presence.

But more than anything, I can see the river.

When first I moved into this apartment I was massively entertained by the panorama of the Seine from four floors up. It was an experience I had never thought about having, or ever had expected to have. It has been special, exciting and, I guess, wonderful.

As the days have passed I have noticed something of which at first I had only vague inklings, but which has, every day become more assertive and more a part of whatever it is that I am. Living with the Seine around the clock and seeing all of its traffic, its inhabitants, its massive variations of color, surface texture and reflection of light have made it more than a river. Living with it has made it become a conscious and assertive being. It has become, for me, a being who demands my attention. This river, which I have loved from the first time ever I saw it has become more than a sight, more than a view, more than a scene or anything merely narrowly visual. It has become an entity with emotions, depth of feeling, distinct and identifiable behavior and insinuatingly endearing qualities of friendship and companionship.

Sometimes, when I open the casement and let the river’s full feel and sound engulf me I can almost convince myself that it is calling to me. More tangibly, when I feel that call from the river, I have a deep feeling of conviction that I am one of a vast host all of whom are somehow connected to this river and are somehow destined to be tied to it for eternity. That is an odd, but not altogether unpleasant feeling.


Since writing the foregoing I have been reading the journal. I do that in the early dawn hours when I awaken and can’t go immediately back to sleep. Being awake and reading and sipping calvados is a pleasing way to pass those hours of wakefulness.


Several days ago I finally admitted to myself that there really is something strange about the area immediately outside my apartment door. I have sensed it from the first time I crested the little landing and fumbled with the lock on the door of my apartment. I saw and sensed something but I ignored it. I told myself that I was the victim of an over active imagination. But I finally can’t deny it any more. So I am, at this moment, writing about it. That writing – only moments ago completed - has set in force a falling-domino-like series of insights into things that are beginning to occur.

The act of admitting to myself the existence of that strangeness outside my door has led to yet additional strangenesses. And they, each in kind, have added to my insights.

It is as if I have been enhanced spiritually by some guiding insight. If that is so, perhaps that insight has been brought to the forefront of my consciousness by the odd things that have been happening here in the present: the things happening here in Paris.

Perhaps those things have been a sort of inducing agent that has produced that insight.

If not an insight, I don’t know what to call it. Whatever it is, it is real, and it has more control over me, over how I feel, what I think, and what I write, every day. It has reminded me of things long forgotten. It has caused things that I have imagined previously to have a new context and reality which I can’t explain, but which I am unable to discard.

That insight has become an all encompassing envelope containing three categories of things: things previously imagined, things previously done in reality but long forgotten and the odd – sometimes odd to the point of stretching credulity - things that have been occurring to me in the here and now. Those are the Paris things.

The act of being contained in that envelope of insight has transformed those things from a jumble of sometimes surreal nonsense into a coherent narrative. Without the envelope I would never have seen the relationships between those three categories and would certainly have never been able to create the narrative that will no doubt follow.

All of this: the things previously imagined, the things previously done in reality but long forgotten and the odd things that have been occurring to me here and now constitute a curious confluence.

Perhaps the edge to which one sometimes approaches - that edge of something, or some time or some place – a phenomenon which is something like the rapidly fading place in which one finds oneself after awaking from a particularly intense and pleasing dream - can be crossed once and for all. Perhaps that will be my fate as I proceed with this endeavor.”

This, on its face, is a really odd document.

I have no knowledge of any strangeness outside my door, let alone have I written anything about it. I said that I had written about it in the document just quoted, but I haven’t written any such thing.

Nor do I have any knowledge of any “narrative that will no doubt follow”.

But of all the several odd things about this occurrence and about the document that was on the table that I have reproduced above the oddest is the fact that I have, indeed, brought a very old journal with me. I have not opened it yet on this trip. I have, in fact, not opened it in decades. I have no idea what is in it. I think I started it during the darkest days of my contribution to the “war effort” in Saigon. It is not surprising that I don’t remember anything about it. I was in such a state of psychological disrepair during that period of my life that I remember very little of that life itself, let alone anything that I might have written. In fact all I really remember about that Saigon experience is sliding nearly fully into a black pit that almost took me but ultimately released me.

That journal must have some interesting entries. I will have to peruse it someday when I have time.

I am posting this whole occurrence to the blog because, no matter how strange, it is part of this day’s experience.

Monday, May 20, 2013

A Curious Confluence: Chapter Three - Le Vieux Pigeon Drop de Paris

The first time I ever saw the Pigeon Drop attempted was on Quai Voltaire. That was one August some years ago. I was back in November of that year and I saw it again. By the end of that November visit I really had the role of the stupid tourist down pat: "Vous avez bon chance, Madame!" I said to the drab little woman who was conducting the scam.

The Pigeon Drop has been tried on me a number of times since.

Today I had decided was an ideal day for image gathering on the banks of the Seine. I set out about 1330. I kiddingly wondered to myself if I would again be pigeon-dropped. "No, not after all this time" I said to myself. A distance down the quais, I was standing and wondering if I should take another series of images of the statue of Thomas Jefferson when I became aware of a small dumpy brown skinned and brown clothed woman – her clothes were some kind of trademark eastern European garb - sort of floating into my view as she stooped down toward the sidewalk.

She was stooping down toward the sidewalk to “pick up” (it was actually already in her hand) a shiny gold ring. She rose to her full 4 foot 8 stature and said to me, "Voila! Regardez que j'ai trouvé!"

I was so excited.

The drop was on.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

A Curious Confluence: Chapter Two–Loose Ends For Starters

By the time I got to the apartment it was about half past eight in the morning of 1 October local Paris time – half past eleven at night the day after my departure. I had gone about 21 or so hours without sleep. From previous experience I know that the jet lag kiss of death is to “take a little nap” after arriving. After arriving, I have learned, one needs to keep doing things until 8 or 9 in the evening of that day. If that is done one can go to sleep at a functionally similar bedtime to that which one usually practices at home, sleep through the night, even sleep late perhaps, and be, after the harrowing experience of no sleep for 30 hours, more or less in tune with the local clock.

And I have developed a regimen and routine in support of that arrival day requirement. But I needed to get my stuff into the apartment first.

I had forgotten that my apartment was on the third floor and that there was no elevator. The elevator’s lack required that I take two very heavy Hartmann rollers, a very heavy Hartmann satchel and a very heavy Targus backpack to the apartment up four flights of stairs. (The French number the first floor as zero.) When I had completed that activity I was soaking wet, breathing somewhat more deeply than normal and experiencing an amazing heart beat. Any doubt concerning my heart health was allayed with that activity.

After I got into the apartment I took one of my cameras and headed for the Luxembourg Gardens.

The regimen for beating jet lag always starts in the Luxembourg Gardens. There are always pictures to be taken and the Garden is always a great place to walk. It is just over two kilometers around. Walking two kilometers and stopping to take pictures can be a stimulating endeavor; it takes one’s mind off the fact that one is experiencing a grinding sense of ultimate decline toward some very personal form of oblivion; and it takes time: time that needs to be consumed as the clock creeps its way toward Paris bedtime.

Another desirable feature of the Gardens is that one of its gates feeds onto Rue de Fleurus. Rue de Fleurus passes a number of interesting or personally significant places. For example, it passes the one time home of Gertrude Stein on 27 Rue de Fleurus. I have absolutely no interest in Gertrude Stein but Hemingway used to hang out there and he wrote about it in A Moveable Feast, and A Moveable Feast is a sort of touchstone document for me, so 27 Rue de Fleurus has some significance for me. It also passes a shambles of a Bricolagerie run by two old men. In my first few visits to Paris when I needed some piece of hardware that I had no idea where to get I was always able to get it there. Rue de Fleurus also passes Alliance Francaise de Paris. Passing Alliance always reminds me of my real lack of commitment, in spite of great and gravidly theatrical posturing, of my ever doing anything to learn any more French than is necessary to order a glass of wine. If I were serious I would walk into the Alliance and turn myself in and request not to be released or fed until I had become fluent.

Rue de Fleurus has another feature that is especially dear to me. It ultimately intersects with Rue de Rennes. Once on Rue de Rennes, heading toward Boulevard Saint-Germain, if one goes a certain distance, one comes to Café du Métro. And Café du Métro has wonderful onion soup. Onion soup, some bread and a carafe of wine can begin to put life back into one’s body, allaying to some degree the grinding of the long out of control clock. And consuming it uses some of the time left on that clock as it counts down to bedtime.

So after the great baggage lift, I circumnavigated the Luxembourg Gardens I nodded respectfully as I passed 27 Rue de Fleurus and waved to the Bricolagerie. I shuddered as I passed Alliance. And I had onion soup at Café du Métro.

But there still was time to fill.

So I went back to the apartment and tested the assurances proffered by Thierry my landlord that all I had to do to gain access to the internet was to unplug the Ethernet cable from his computer (the other end was inserted in a modem from Orange) and plug it into my computer. I have never known acquiring internet access to be anything but a harrowing experience. But in this case it worked. No outbound email, of course, but that’s a little much to expect. So more time passed. And I was still awake.

I went to Le Départ Saint-Michel and savored very slowly a carafe of rosé.

I walked across the Place in front of the fountain crossed Boulevard Saint-Michel and went down Rue Saint-Andre des Arts. I walked back to the apartment from Rue de Bucci down Rue de Seine to the river and back, going through the forecourt to Notre Dame.

And then, miraculously it had become about seven in the evening. I could now complete the regimen and call it a day – a long, long day.

I went to dinner at City Crêpes Café on Rue de Seine. A “Wall street” (a galette with lox, cream cheese and spinach) a quart de rosé, a salade de tomate and a crepe flambé with grand marnier pretty well greased the skids to my proximately subsequent act of reclaiming some lost sleep and of synchronizing my personal clock with that more cosmic one of Paris.

Other than those things, nothing has happened.

I have just been synchronizing.

But I sense that that may be about to change.

I have begun to have those feelings which I prefer not to think about, let alone talk about. But I have been having them. They are like some sort of distant rustle of leaves or some sort of subtly, barely existent waft of scent. They assert themselves in a manner that is discernible, but barely so.

And something always happens in the wake of those kinds of rustlings and those kinds of feelings.

We shall see.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

A Curious Confluence: The Story of Adrianna - Chapter One

Before we get going, I want to point out as the author of this story something I have already included in the story itself.

You have already read it as part of the story.

But I am aware of a problem related to this thing that I am about to point out.

Most of the people who have read the story have missed something.

And that something is crucial to the whole tale.

Most of the people who have read Adrianna haven’t understood that its spinal cord is that it is a travel blog that goes off the tracks somewhere mid-trip. 

Actually it goes off the tracks in this chapter which you are about to read, but I feign that the central character doesn’t know  that fact for several chapters yet to come – or, more realistically, that he doesn’t want to think about it.

Keep that in mind.

That spinal cord underpins every chapter and every incident. 

And there is one more thing.  

The journal – which exists not in fact but does exist in my heart – is the glue holding the whole story together.

Part One: Egress

I got up at a quarter to four on the 30th of September. The taxi showed up a couple of minutes before five and I was at the airport by half past the hour or a little earlier. I checked two bags and didn’t have to pay because I had made Business Class reservations. That meant that I flew First Class to Dulles and Business Class to Paris.

First Class on the domestic leg got me into the First Class security line. That’s a short line that lets one think that one is beating the system. It allows one to stand in a feeder line less long so one can stand in the real line with all the other, non First Class travelers for however long it takes.

It’s sort of a go to the head of the line so you can be first to get to the back of the line.

I still had to take off my shoes.

The young woman with infant behind me was somewhat upset with me as I began to fill every security container that she reached for.

I had a lot of stuff.

I had my ThinkPad supercomputer; I had my giant wool lined raincoat; I had my Hartmann satchel half full of books and half full of a plastic food container filled with toilet items and pills (I had no idea what terrorist functions pills might have but I could not imagine not having to explain them); I had my computer-and-electronics back pack, which once relieved of its ThinkPad was still brim full of cameras and nefarious looking electronic accoutrements (I was sure that I would need to explain the function of each of them prior to being allowed to graduate from security); and I had my navy blue blazer and wide leather belt which has a big buckle made of a beautiful slab of black walnut, and having, therefore, no electronic characteristics, but it is big and security always makes one take off big belt buckles.

Each of these items required a container. Each time I filled one of the containers the young mother would reach for another one (lest it sound as if I was being unfair, I was in front of her in the line) and would try to move ahead of me. I had no idea where she thought she was going to go ahead of me; my items stretched ahead as far as the eye could see; she would have had to go to the terminal end of my stuff to elude me and my stuff. But she really wanted to so elude and she kept – unsuccessfully – reaching for the next container and muttering, in some language unknown to me, what I assumed were curses upon me and all others of my ilk each time I took next container.

I had put my brain in neutral somewhere between the First Class security line and the place where I had taken off my shoes. When I had finally ceased being the bane of the young mother by having used every container that my vast array of carry-on could fill, I went into an additional sub-dimension of consciousness. I was preparing for what I knew would be a harrowing series of examinations of all my stuff. All I wanted was to get to the Red Carpet Lounge and I was ready to submit to whatever level and form of self deprecation that would be required to get through that expected examination. Everything but that concentration – that single minded unwillingness to consider anything but inducing an appropriate mindset for groveling - was gone from me. I knew nothing but that I possessed all kinds of things that were imminently going to be prodded, poked, unpacked, x-rayed and examined. I knew that I was going to have to explain all those things and that if my explanations won favor with security I was going to have to laboriously re-pack them all. If I had had any mind space left for anything else I would probably have envied the young woman who had only one item, that item which I had prevented her time after time getting into a container.

As it was, I had forgotten all about her.

So it was a dual surprise when at the exit end of the scanning machine my stuff all came out just as I had placed it with no questions, no agents brandishing one or more of my items for deeper scrutiny and no requests to go to another location for more extensive examination.

I gathered everything up and left.

But the young woman with child was detained by security. She had a whole bag full of unknown and unknowable creams, fluids, ointments and liquids.

Security was going to get to the bottom of that.

Part Two: On the Plane

As I went through the turnstile and handed my boarding pass to the gate attendant he said “we’ve changed your seat”. He handed me a different stub from a different boarding pass. It turned out to be a window seat in first class. I had never flown First Class on an international flight. I was pretty excited.

First Class had an immediate and noticeable advantage over Business Class. The minute I sat down an attendant asked me if I would like a glass of champagne. I asked what had taken so long. He laughed. I wondered how many times he had heard that one. I was just trying to fit in.

Having said “yes” it was only moments before I was sipping my glass of champagne. And it was a glass not a plastic cup.

Between sips I set about figuring out what all I could, should and would need to do with the device in which I was sitting. Calling it a seat was to vastly devalue the massive piece of technology in which I was engulfed. Learning all the seat positions, sound and video settings and lumbar support components and magic fingers like capabilities kept me occupied until we had taken off and I had ordered a scotch and ice.

I continued my research of my on board environment as I began to consume my scotch. It was Johnnie Walker Black Label. For some reason I prefer the cheaper Red Label. But then, I was trying to fit in. About halfway through the Black Label I discovered that in first class I had Wi-Fi.

That, in a manner similar to the immediately served champagne promised to be a new experience. I had never had the use of Wi-Fi on a plane before. I wasn’t at all sure that having it would be much of an advantage or a desirable travel feature, but I was surely going to try it.

So I did.

I got out the ThinkPad.

I had a couple of emails from Williams Sonoma which I deleted without reading.

I Googled “Maastricht Treaty” for no apparent reason.

I looked at my checking account balance.

Then I had to face the fact that being able to do the same mundane and boring things on an airplane that I do at home is not a value add.

So I decided to take a nap.

I have a state of being that is not awake and it is not asleep. It is in a precarious between-them state. It is a state of imminent sleep, but it isn’t sleep. And it is populated by wild perceptions and visions. These are as different from dreams as a porcupine from a hedgehog.

Sometimes I, if I am brought fully awake from this state, rather than continuing on to full sleep – the state where dreams prevail – I can remember shreds of those perceptions and visions.

So it was on this occasion.

I had been hearing someone singing the beginning of a song. It was a song that I knew with much more than an average amount of intimacy. That was because it was a song that – in a long distant part of my life – I had written. But the fact that I had written it was not even close to the whole story. That song had been my de facto post mortem of a relationship that had ended. The relationship had been important. I hadn’t known how important. After it had ended I had discovered just how exquisitely important that relationship had been. The fact that I had - not with malice, not with active conscious intent - but with, nonetheless, extreme, if inadvertent, effectiveness done everything in my power to cause that termination had added an almost unbearable layer of sadness to the post termination realization of that importance.

I spent days and weeks lapsed in deep moroseness.

The catharsis came with the words of a poem that occurred to me. The exorcism came with the music that I retrofitted to that poem. The synthesis of those two events became two copies of a forty five RPM disc that I recorded. I kept one; I sent the other to the reason for writing the song.

And that was it.

I occasionally played the disk until it became almost unplayable. I kept it somewhere in my archives of things important but things that don’t need to be found anymore. After not seeing it for years, I saw it just before departing on this trip. I had been looking in those archives, for reasons I could not explain, for something that I thought that I remembered having written once. I had an intense desire to find that thing, a thing that I was sure I had never disposed of.

So, having recently seen the ancient disc, perhaps some memory of the lyrics of that disc had populated itself into the near sleep shred of memory that I had just experienced on the plane.

I’ll build me a castle

Way up to the sky

I’ll find me a rainbow

Find it bye and bye

These things that I wanted

I set out to find

But I never knew it

When they were mine

My Black Label had been reduced to a not very large residue of very scotchless melted ice.

So I asked for another. We were still in the middle of the Atlantic a long way from Ireland.

I took a sip. And I took another. With the second came an inspiration. I took another sip. That was to celebrate the deliciously irrational flavor of the inspiration.

I went back to the keyboard and did a Google for “Rainbows and Castles”. I was just having fun. The scotch was making almost anything seem to be fun. I was, however, still conscious and rational – as rational as I ever am – so I was just having fun within the parameters that Black Label and Wi-Fi would allow. I wasn’t expecting a hit.

I took another sip as I looked out the window at the dark area where the Atlantic must be. I glanced at the screen imbedded into my automated airline habitat and saw that we were at 38,000 feet, a thousand miles from Limerick and travelling at 535 miles per hour. I leaned back with a sigh. The mechanical airline habitat was beginning to feel like a sort of personal exoskeleton. I almost dropped back off to sleep.

But, as I was in the process of closing my eyes, I saw a single-line result from the Google.

“Rainbows and Castles”:

I had never seen a single Google result before. “I guess” I gurgled through another sip “that there is a coincidentally named work of some kind – music, poetry or prose – that someone has posted.”

I clicked on the link.

I was not prepared for what came next.

There was a guy sitting at the foot of some kind of giant tree, between two of its roots. The roots were so large they thrust their backbones a foot or more above the ground. He was dressed in modern garb. He played a stringed instrument that I couldn’t recognize. It looked ancient.

The transfixing thing, though, was the sky.

It was the deepest black possible that also had a hint of some kind of equally deep blue. And there were stars. There were stars in numbers that I have only seen a few times in my life in places far from any city, town or village.

And the tree was huge.

He sang.

I’ll build me a castle

Way up to the sky

I’ll find me a rainbow

Find it bye and bye

As I look in her green eyes

At her wondrous black hair

With the red glinting highlights

I can’t even dare

The song continued, but my attention to the lyrics had faded. That was because, after the first four lines, it was not the song that I had written. That fact caused my attention to wander to questions.

Why would I have any expectation that it would have been my song? But since it clearly was my song, why would it have been re-written? And why would it be posted on the internet? How could anyone have known that the song even existed? And who was the guy singing?

I wanted to be sure that I could get back to this video so I clicked on the URL bubble, right clicked, copied and pasted in a word document. I saved the document on my desktop.

The screen faded. Our internet connection had been terminated. A thousand miles from Limerick what else would one expect?

I asked for another Black Label and savored it slowly. I could see something resembling drunkenness just up the aisle.

I took the nap that had recently been aborted.

When I woke up I opened the Word document and clicked on the link.

“The URL you entered could not be found.”

Several more attempts took me to the same error message.

I ordered another scotch and savored my memory of the new lyrics of that unexplainable song. I wondered why I was savoring them. I had no idea what they might mean. They just had the feeling of being right.

I wished that the link would work

Apparently the URL went to a one-time only experience.

I thought that to be rather odd. Maybe it was the altitude.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Paris – Late October 2010 From the Yellow Sheet of Paper

For a number of years I have come to Paris. Those stays have usually been for a few weeks. This time I decided to stay much longer. I have my apartment for four months.

I thought that that much time here would entail many adventures that I would want to write about. Before I left home I set up a blog. My plan was to post those daily adventures.

Once in Paris, somehow that blog, and the stories that have seemed to spontaneously appear for posting on it, have taken on a life of their own.

It is now the second half of October. I have begun to notice a curious phenomenon. Real events and imagined events and dreamed events and invented events have all converged on my writing in a manner that makes them indistinguishable from one another.

They all have begun to assume a mantle of coherent reality. It has become as if all of them, even the dreams and the imaginings, have really happened.

And there is another thing – an unnerving thing.

All the events – once written - have incrementally woven an increasingly complex fabric of a compellingly real and coherent story. Witnessing that story unfold has become a major component of my life.

I can’t help but wonder where it might be leading me.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Preface: Morganna’s Remarks

My father was not a bad man. Nor was my father a particularly good man. I guess he did his best. I know he wanted his tombstone to say “He nearly accomplished a number of things”. He thought of that fairly late in his life. I never knew what he thought those things might have been. They certainly weren’t in evidence to me. I would have said – had I had the chance to scribe his tombstone – “He probably did his best and it was none too good.”

But that was before I made the discovery.

It fell to me to do the things necessary to get his house ready for sale after he died. He had never re-married – my mother has remained a mystery to me for my entire life - and he had lived in that house for more than thirty years. He lived in it until he died, although he wasn’t physically in it when he died; he wasn’t even physically in the United States when he died.

He was in Paris.

The report of the Paris police in co-operation with the FBI had made a semi-positive identification of the corpse. I saw pictures and I don’t know how they could have made any kind of positive identification. The body had been in the river for a long time and there wasn’t a lot left.

He had no DNA on file anywhere. And I refused to volunteer any. So identification had to be done the old fashioned way.

My father had been in the US Air Force once, and even as long ago as that had been, there were still fingerprints on file for him. Apparently fingerprints can be digitally retrieved, even after long durations in water. In any event those that remained on the corpse allowed the Paris police and FBI to say with a 50% degree of certainty that the corpse was that of my father.

Events of the days before he was discovered to be missing added some degree of credibility to the identity of the body retrieved from the Seine. My father had been last seen going down the stairs to river level from Quais au Fleurs. It had been on toward dark one afternoon and the river had been rising dangerously for days from heavy rains in the region of its headwaters.

Although a frequent visitor to Paris, my father had never acquired ability with the French language beyond being able to order a glass of wine, a baguette or to apologize. So when he was there, and sometimes he was there for extended periods of time, he led a fairly solitary existence.

But that never bothered him. He loved the French people and had good relations with all he encountered and had something resembling friendship with a few. Those few were people with whom he had commercial relations – his landlord, for example – and all of whom spoke English.

With that sort of anonymity the police’s and FBI’s ability to establish that a person meeting my father’s description had made what apparently became a fatal descent to the river level quais of the Seine was a pure fluke.

My father walked a great deal when he was in Paris. I was with him a week or so before he died. In the brief period of my visit we walked everywhere. Sometimes we walked for hours. On one of those walks he took me to a park in the vicinity of Port D’Orleans. It had been a long walk. Once in the park we walked around a small lake and then ascended the path up a large hill that rose behind the lake. Part way up there was a small green building with a door with a brass handle on it.

He just wanted me to see it.

He was really odd.

On the day of his disappearance – or what has been legally established as that day – he had been seen at sundown going down the stairs from street level to the river.

There had been a police report.

Several people – native Isle de la Cité dwellers – had reported an apparently disoriented old man going down those stairs and yelling a name. They said he was shouting “Adrianna, Adrianna, Adrianna.” Nothing more: just “Adrianna”.

Fairly detailed descriptions of the man accompanied those reports so when my father came up missing it was inevitable that the reports were examined for the possibility of that man being my father.

It would be just like him. He had an intensely odd sense of humor. I could imagine that for some reason known only to him shouting “Adrianna” and going down to the nearly overflowing river would have been funny.

Or so I chose to think.

I needed some sort of rationale and I chose that.

But I am really not at all sure now.

On his laptop computer, which the Paris police gave to me once all the identification ceremonies and formalities had been completed there were a number of things of interest. Some of them might even be of value – the huge repository of images that he had taken over the years, most of Paris – looms as the most likely of those things of value.

But those are not of importance here.

What is important is that there was also among various documents one which seems to tell a story that may give explanation to many things. Those documents also open questions about many others.

That one document was the MS Word backup of his daily blog posts. He had been documenting the adventures he was having in Paris in his on line blog, “Four Months in Paris”.

And he faithfully posted to it daily. He did it daily that is until for no reason, in December, the posts cease. But they continued, unposted, on his computer.

I offer the complete document as a memorial to a perhaps unexplainable life that came to an end in a perhaps unexplainable manner. The document begins with something not officially in the blog or in its Word document backup. It is something I found in his apartment when I was gathering his things for return to the United States. It was written – that weird mix of printing and cursive that he always used – on a single sheet from one of his yellow pads.  I found it in the wastebasket in the bathroom.

I am including it because it clearly is part of the story.

Other than that aberration the document is the sequential sum of his daily posts, including the ones that never actually were posted on-line. I have chosen to adopt the traditional method of calling each post a chapter.

That yielded a fairly interesting, but quite pedestrian, document. 

But then I found the journal. 

And that changed everything.

And that everything – with the story of the journal included - is what I have published here.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013


cover for a curious confluence correct sizespine for adriannaback cover for a curious confluence corect size


Copyright © 2012 by Noel McKeehan

More can be found about the author at:

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, or in any eBook format without permission in writing from the author.

Published by


ISBN 978-1-105-57035-3

Author’s Remarks

Like most people, I have always thought that I had a novel in me. But I never was able to figure out what it might be about.

That was true until the first time I went to France.

From the first moment I encountered Paris I felt stories shrieking at me to be told.

Every nook, cranny, alley, downspout, petite Place, grande Place, every Passage, monument, church, bridge, bistro and bar screamed “take me; make me part of your story”. Or “make me your story”. Or “listen to me: I have your story.”

But it was an odd chance encounter with a non-human fellow creature that served as the inspiration for this – my first - novel.

That encounter occurred early one evening when I had returned to the apartment my wife and had rented on Rue Guissard.

It was about 1700. It was dark. I was tired. For reasons I have never been able to ascertain, I didn’t turn on the lights in the apartment when I entered. Maybe it was because there was ample, blinking low watt, multi-colored illumination coming in from the restaurant sign outside the casements on Rue Guissard, to make the place pleasantly, colorfully, blinkingly dim.

So I left the light off.

I sat down in a chair and dropped off to sleep.

After an indeterminate time I awoke. It hadn’t been long. The sign was blinking. The room alternated between being drenched in semi darkness and being dimly, colorfully lit.

I was giving serious thought to a glass of wine.

Then I heard something.

I have reasonably acute hearing for some things; I am virtually deaf to others. The things that I always seem to hear have something to do with animals; frequently those sounds are the sounds of small animals. Such was the case on this occasion.

What I had heard was a mouse. It was sitting not far from me bathed in the oscillating multi-colored light and was eating crumbs from the breakfast baguette and croissants.

I was entranced.

He or she sat there and finished the meal. When it finished I swear I thought it nodded its head in my direction as if acknowledging my presence. Then it went back to some place from which it had come.

I sat there happily.

I have always liked mice.

Although most of the places, and a few of the occurrences, in this book are substantially real everything else is imagined.

A Curious Confluence: The Story of Adrianna

A young woman is called to Paris to settle the final affairs of her father who had been on a multi-month visit there. He had said to his daughter just prior to his departure that he was going to “perhaps write, certainly gather images, and probably regale myself, and I hope, the world with daily posts to my blog”.

But something goes awry.

A few months into the sojourn her father becomes a missing person.

After a few weeks of being missing he becomes a “more than 50% certain” corpse found floating in the Seine.

So Morganna goes to Paris and takes up residence in the apartment that her father had leased. It is on the fourth floor of a building on Isle de Cité with a panoramic view of the Seine. She works with the French national police and the Paris police attending to the details necessary to close out the case.

She has not read any of her father’s blog posts prior to his disappearance. In fact, only the most loyal of his few friends ever read any of his blog posts. Why he kept posting to it had always been a mystery to her.

But in the apartment, with occasionally little to do, Morganna begins to read copies of the blog that her father had kept on his computer.

Almost immediately a completely off-center tale begins to emerge. From the very first post he is telling a story that sounds like the ravings of someone demented. And the more she reads, the stranger becomes the story.

And then she discovers the old journal that her father had begun to reference as the blog wended toward termination. Reading that journal, in juxtaposition with the blog, a genuinely bizarre story unfolds.

If one were to take that story at face value it tells of the recommencement of a love story spanning millennia.

A curious confluence is that story.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

The Hive Revisited

I wrote this in January 2010 long before Google Glass and somewhat before the full impact of the iPhone had been felt.

I had been thinking about it long before writing about it.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Concocting The Dots

When I was in the Air Force I once read an interesting document.

As it turned out it was the only interesting official document I ever read.

As I have recounted elsewhere I was a briefing officer while I was in the Air Force and I prepared my briefings from Time Magazine.

But there was that one document.

The document told a story of a Sunday morning at the US Navy base at Pearl Harbor. It was a Sunday morning typical of Sunday mornings to be found anywhere on US military bases anywhere in the world. Everyone was in a state of near civilian Sunday morning relaxation. Church services were being conducted in various denominational gatherings on base, and some base personnel were, presumably, attending services off base at churches of their choice. For those who eschewed church, or had already attended, there were brunches at the various personnel clubs: officer, NCO or enlisted.

Since it was Hawaii there were all sorts of outdoor activities commencing.

The military has a tradition that every day a junior officer is put into a position called Officer of the Day (OD). That function is designed to put someone in charge of worrying about the myriad mundane details and occurrences that go into daily life on a military base. This off-loads a degree of clerical, administrative and just plain humdrum activity from the base commander and his subordinates. The OD acts on behalf of the base commander in relation to everything that typically occurs every day on a military base that doesn’t require the attention of a relatively, or actually, high ranking officer.

On the day being discussed the OD was an Air Force Officer from the nearby Air Force base. The document didn’t mention why an Air Force Officer was performing OD duties on a Navy base. I assumed that it was some kind of affinity program, or cross service development program, or some other idea hatched by the folks in USAF personnel and BUPERS USN.

After a completely uneventful several hours of duty wherever it was that an OD was required to reside during the conduct of his duties, he had decided to go to breakfast at the Officers’ Club. On the way he happened to meet a friend of his, a Navy officer, who was going the opposite direction. They stopped to talk for a few minutes. His friend asked him how the tedious and boring job of OD was going, and he said it was going well. Then he remembered something that had been occurring intermittently for most of the morning. There had been radio transmissions, apparently from northeast Asian waters, in the vicinity of the water off North Korea. There hadn’t been any coherent or understandable message in the transmission, but there had been a recurring nonsense word. He mentioned the word and his Navy friend turned white.

He said, “We need to get back to base operations as quickly as possible”.

“Why?” his friend asked.

“I don’t have time to tell you. Just come with me,” said the Navy guy.

It turned out that the nonsense word was a Navy code word that the Air Force guy hadn’t been briefed on, and which indicated some sort of dire incident as being underway.

The Pueblo crisis was on.

The Pueblo crisis involved a small US Navy craft named USS Pueblo, which was an intelligence gathering ship. The intermittent messages heard by the OD were from the Pueblo. They were notifying Pearl that they were under attack and in imminent danger of being captured.

The encounter of the OD and his friend occurred in time for them to notify people who were in charge of doing something that they needed to do something.

Doing something it could have been comprised of things such as sending airplanes to bomb and strafe the shit out of the North Korean attackers.

Sadly, there were problems.

Those problems kept any rescue and attack response from happening.

The problems were two.

And they were inter-linked.

Problem One was that air power assets were substantially below requirements in Northeast Asia due to the needs of the ever-escalating Vietnam War.

Problem Two was that the assets that were available in the theatre were armed with nuclear weapons.

Sending nuclear armed aircraft aloft for any reason other than second strike response to an attack on the US or one of its NATO allies or Japan was a way to cause a catastrophic diplomatic nightmare for the US.

With just the wrong turn of the cards, such an action could even have started a nuclear exchange with the Soviet Union.

Attacking a North Korean ship with planes armed with that sort of weapon – obviously using for the attack only the auxiliary conventional cannons – but with nuclear arms on board – was not an option.

And there wasn’t time to re-arm the available inventory with conventional weapons only.

So we did nothing.

And the Pueblo and its crew were captured.

If this sounds similar to the reasons given for lack of military response to the terrorist attack on Benghazi that is because it is similar. 

Those kinds of things happen in minor ways all the time. 

We can’t always attack with precision, no plan and no forewarning on any new form of upheaval that the world randomly dishes out.

Those are facts.

We can’t always John Wayne the world into submission.

Sometimes we can but often we can’t.

Occasionally those that we can’t turn into nightmares – the Pueblo and Benghazi are good examples.

But the similarity of two occasions when a curious confluence of adverse factors has precluded military action stops there.

In 1968 there wasn’t a CABAL dedicated to ruining the President of the United States.

In 2013 there is just such a CABAL. 

In 2009 they announced their intention and they have been actively pursuing it on all fronts ever since.

They aren’t even operating in secret.

So watch as an ugly truth – we can’t always move fast enough to stop bad things from happening – get’s turned into the major activity of the republican party for the next four years: concocting the dots.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Saigon 1967 Chapter Final: Some Sort of Closure

The bond that had been created between Jack and me with that first hunting trip had continued to persist over time. It had endured through Vietnam, through our final post-Vietnam military assignments and into the early days of our return to civilian life. I worked for IBM; Jack went to law school. I was in Portland; Jack was at the University of Idaho. I never knew whether it was true or not, but Jack claimed that a D grade he had gotten from Sister Justitia had nearly disqualified him from entrance to law school. If nothing else, Jack was a teller of tales.

That bond had continued to assert itself in the form of trips that involved going to places that were somewhere distant and somewhere difficult to get to. As often as the hunting seasons allowed it these expeditions took the form of bird hunting trips. When we had both still been in the military, and I had lived in Omaha, we had taken Blitz and had gone out into the cornfields in search of pheasants. It was not in season. We couldn’t shoot them. We just wanted to introduce Blitz - a few months old German Shorthair puppy – to his life’s work. As we had settled into the routines of our civilian lives we had gone back to hunting in Eastern Oregon. Jack had had the luxury of a student’s schedule, so even though Moscow was farther from eastern Oregon than was Portland, he could balance the equation by leaving earlier in the day than my ostensive eight to five schedule allowed. By choosing a rendezvous point on Interstate 80 the right distance from Portland and Moscow, we could both arrive at roughly the same time and proceed with festivities. That rendezvous point was a place masquerading as a town; its name was Rufus. In earlier times Rufus had had some significance to the railroad. Since the significance of the railroad had long since faded, Rufus’ significance in the times that Jack and I met there had also faded. But it was just the right distance and time from Portland and Moscow.

And there was the Rufus Tavern.

The Rufus Tavern had salt of the earth bartenders and servers and had very good, greasy and inexpensive hamburgers. It also featured other items such as steaks, but hamburgers were our chosen fare. It also had beer on tap. The typical Friday night rendezvous consisted of our mutual arrival in Rufus around six in the evening – I left work early – taking Blitz for a walk and telling each other how smart we were for a half hour or so and then, having lodged Blitz in his place in the passenger side foot well of the car, going into the Rufus Tavern for some beer and hamburgers. Later we left Jack’s car at “the Rufus” and went down the road to the John Day Arm boat ramp and camping area. It may not have really been a camping area, but we made it one. I had a Mercury station wagon, which, with the back seats put down had room for two sleeping bags. And Blitz just squinted sleepily at us from the passenger side foot well and went back to sleep. The balance of those weekends from Saturday morning to Sunday sundown we hunted at the various places we had found between Wasco, Moro and Grass Valley. Those were the names of a string of vestigial towns in the upland wheat fields on the plateau above the Columbia River and above Rufus. There were some motels and one hotel up there, so we stayed in them, rather than sleeping in the car. Jack always negotiated for a lower than advertised rate every time, just as he had once successfully negotiated our taxi ride to Nha Bey on toward sundown one afternoon in Saigon.

Once we stayed in the Hotel. It was in Wasco. It was run by two very old women. It was my first experience with time travel. They had electricity, but somehow it seemed as if kerosene lanterns lighted the place with the old women tottering around up and down the stairs with candles in brass holders. It was probably an illusion but it was one I was never able to shake. Blitz liked it a lot and the women liked him so everything went well but we said good-by after one night and the breakfast they provided. We were never to return. We were more the 1920’s vintage motor court sort of hunters rather than the 1850’s hotel type. But staying in that hotel had been a good thing to have done once.

Over time this routine had morphed and been modified. We ranged farther afield and met in places farther from Portland and closer to Idaho. We had discovered the Willow Creek drainage. We had gotten to know the haunt of every covey of quail from Heppner Junction to Heppner. One of the best places we had discovered was a ghost town. Strung along highway 74 between its junction with Interstate 80 and Heppner were little towns in progressive stages of death: Cecil, Ione, Morgan and Lexington. One of these, Morgan, had actually succeeded in dying. But it had the largest covey of quail in the area. There were no “no trespassing” signs. There were no fences. The skeleton of the town was just off of highway 74. It consisted of a few wood frame once-had-been-commercial buildings long since abandoned and positioned along what appeared to have been the main street through town. Based on these remains, which, though weathered and gray, were not falling down, and which were not accompanied by other less well preserved buildings, it appeared as if Morgan had never been very big. An odd, almost wild west gunfighter feeling accompanied us each time Jack and Blitz and I worked the covey and shot some birds, and ultimately, moved on to other locations.

We had gotten all the way to Heppner in one of our early expeditions along Willow Creek and, since it had been late in the day, and since Heppner was deep enough into the mountains to preclude any quail, pheasant, chukkar or Hungarian partridge hunting, we called it a day and stayed the night. We stayed in the Hotel Heppner. Unlike the hotel in Wasco, the Hotel in Heppner didn’t seem like it was a character in a horror movie. It seemed like a hotel from the genuine Wild West. The town itself, although small, was alive with activity. It was a completely antithetical experience to walking the street of Morgan. But since it was barren of bird hunting opportunities we never went back.

But the rest of the Willow Creek drainage kept bringing us back. We stayed in motels on the freeway in Heppner Junction, retracing our way back down highway 74 at the end of Saturday, and re-entering the valley Sunday morning only to go back to Heppner Junction where we parted ways after sundown on Sunday. But back and forth had increasingly seemed like a waste of time and gasoline.

After some time and analysis an alternate plan had presented itself.

I had by that time accumulated a fairly complete complement of camping equipment, including two fold-up aluminum cots, a White Stag wall tent and a Coleman lantern and a Coleman stove with an accompanying cast aluminum grill with slide on stainless steel wire racks which were designed to raise a steak just off the grill allowing the fat and smoke when the grill was hot enough to be forced back into the meat giving it a char grilled flavor.

By this time we noticed that not far from downtown Morgan there was a place where a gravel road was intersected by another gravel road and that this intersection had resulted in a rather large flat chunk of sage brush grown land. It was far enough from highway 74, which was by no means busy in its own right, that the gravel road gave access to and created a beautiful little piece of campable ground. All one needed to do was drive into the little island between the gravel roads, park, and pitch. The gravel road going backwards from the direction of the camping island crossed highway 74 and became the main street of Morgan.

So late on one Friday afternoon we drove into the island, pitched the tent, unfolded the cots, put the stove on one of the coolers and the lantern on the other and set up house for the weekend.

We grilled a two-pound top sirloin, had some beer, made a salad, had some post dinner scotch and went to bed asking ourselves why we hadn’t thought of camping in the island long ago.

After bacon, eggs and Texas toast the next morning we went hunting. We had made the decision to put off going after the covey in Morgan until later in the day, partially due to the fact that being on location and not needing to drive back and forth to and from the Junction had given us a lot more time to explore for new opportunities. And the fact that our lodging place was just up the street from the Morgan covey had seemed to make a late afternoon sweep through the town to be the best sort of schedule.

So it was well past mid day when we got back to hunt in Morgan.

We had been in the process of working the covey with a few shots and some success when we were suddenly confronted by two rancher type guys.

They were well our seniors in age and had the verging-on-corpulent-but-not-quite air of prosperity that is common to the species. We hadn’t seen them when we entered the town, which made me wonder where they had been prior to appearing, and why they were there in an abandoned town which had little to offer other than a covey of quail.

And they were not armed.

“What do you boys think you’re doing?” one of them said.

“Bird hunting,” I said, congratulating myself on my calmness and brevity.

“This is private property,” said the other.

“No signs,” said Jack.

“Don’t need any,” said the first.

“Actually you do,” said Jack.

And he began to elaborate with a tightly reasoned legal case based on his already surprising knowledge of common law, property law, the law of the west and, probably, the law according to Zane Gray. None of this appeared to impress our two apparently about-to-be adversaries.

“You boys got anything to do with that tent over on the land by Morgan Road?” one of them said.

“It’s ours,” I said.

“That’s private property too,” said the second.

“It’s not posted either,” said Jack.

And then he began to elaborate on our legal case based on his understanding of roadway rights of way and abandoned or undeveloped pieces of land adjacent to public unimproved roadways.

Again there was little noticeable effect on our adversaries. The only result was that when Jack stopped talking silence reigned.

There was silence and – something. There was silence and something that felt vaguely familiar, if feeling was what was actually going on.

“But it must be feeling,” I thought. “I can’t smell anything, except almost. I can’t hear anything, although it seems as if I should be hearing something.”

But there was only silence, the passage of time and – something.

All of this, from the start of the silence and my thinking about the nature of the something had taken seconds, although whatever the something was had made it feel like a long time – minutes maybe. The absurdity of two old unarmed, almost pot-bellied men standing in the middle of a deserted street in a deserted town and taking a belligerent tone and attitude with two younger armed men – and men they didn’t know from a hole in the wall – was just beginning to creep upon me when I realized what was familiar about the situation.

The air was almost statically charged with a tension and a sense of imminent action; it was identical to what I had felt that day in the taxi on the way to Nha Bey.

I looked at Jack to get some sort of feeling about what he was thinking. The whole situation was still ticking forward in silence wrapped in tension and wrapped in a sense of immediately imminent action that was so heavy it should have been warping the air into waves.

It was still only seconds into the silence. As Jack looked back at me an odd expression fleetingly crossed his face. It was exactly the expression I had seen in that taxi the day we had quickly discussed how we were going to kill the driver when he got back into the taxi. He was fingering the safety on his gun. And then he sort of started, as if awakened abruptly.

“We’ll clear out,” he said.

“Good,” one of them said.

And we did.

And we never went back to the Willow Creek drainage.

I would never know, except deep down, how close we had come to dealing out mayhem that late autumn afternoon.

This is all that I have to say about Saigon 1967.