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”.
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.