Saturday, June 29, 2013

A Curious Confluence Chapter Twenty Seven: The Magic Wall

Why are you leaving me? Are you going to forget me? What about our dreams?”

He awoke with the sound of those words in his head.

He lay there and waited.

“Why are you leaving me? Are you going to forget me? What about our dreams?”

His last thoughts before dropping off to sleep had been that those words must be a part of a dream that was coming over him with. But they had persisted. And they had awakened him. And now he had heard them again after coming awake.

“Why are you leaving me? Are you going to forget me? What about our dreams?”

That made it three times.

The words – the voice of a woman - were not loud, but they were loud enough to be heard over the sound of the waters of the river as they rushed by the island on their way to the sea. The words were not loud but their timbre of urgency made them as clear as if they were being shouted. They were coming from some place a little into the woods – the woods that started immediately beyond the sparsely vegetated fringe of the sand where he had set up camp. He wondered if they were the voice of one of the Spirit Ones that were known to wander the world, especially at night. But they had a quality that made him doubt that. They sounded like the words of a normal woman. He even fleetingly thought they sounded to be the voice of the woman he knew, the woman he had had to leave behind. He put that thought out of his mind.

At the very least they were words that seemed to be coming from a real woman, not a spirit – or so he chose to believe – and that woman sounded as if she were not very far from where he was lying. The fact that the whole situation would probably have not made any sense to him if it had been daylight did not cross his mind. It was night and in the night things always changed. Things that would not seem real became totally natural and believable. That believability of events occurring in the darkness had been what had gotten him banished. He had believed what he had seen and had described what he had seen to the elders of his people hoping to get an explanation of what it had been that he had seen. Instead they had sent him away.

“At least” he thought with a certain irony “they can’t send me a way again. I am away.”

And then for a fourth time he heard the words “Why are you leaving me? Are you going to forget me? What about our dreams?”

There was no moon; nor were there any clouds. The stars that danced in multitude across the sky provided a rather distinct, if somewhat subdued, light. He had long since sundown switched to his night eyes and the additional illumination from the stars was more than enough for him to see well into the thicket that covered the area from which the words were emanating.

There were slight hints of shadows from the starlight dappling the ground.

He rose from his fur lined dugout and stepped onto the sparsely vegetated sand. He took the largest of the skins he had been using for bedding and wrapped it around his shoulders. It was a clear and fair night but it was cold. The starlight seemed to emphasize that cold. As he crossed the fringe of plants and debris that marked the transition from beach to woods he heard the words again. He headed in their apparent direction. There was a rustle to his left as he entered the wooded area, and it was followed by another to his right and one directly ahead of him. Perhaps he had disturbed the hunt of a family of foxes. Perhaps it had been something else. But once they had departed the silence returned and he felt himself completely alone once more. Alone, he felt, except for the words. They sounded forth again and this time they were slightly louder. He was closer to their source.

The small trees and underbrush were quite dense. He had to push branches and small and limber trunks about to make his way through them. He wished that he had brought the adz to hack some of it out of his way. But he hadn’t and he wasn’t going to go back. So he kept thrusting himself through the underbrush looking for something, but not knowing what it might be that he was looking for.

After some minutes of struggle with the brush all the while hearing the words repeated the undergrowth began to become less dense. Then it began to become smaller in size. Then it opened into a clearing. It was not a very large clearing because at the side opposite from where he had entered there was a barrier of significant size. It was a vertical cliff of stone thrusting up from the floor of the clearing.

And there was a faint but clearly present glow coming from it.

And then the words came again. And they seemed to be coming from the same place as was the glow.

He went closer to the thing to see if he could see any more.

And he did see more.

At first he thought it must be some living thing – a nocturnal insect perhaps – that had moved as he had first approached the wall of stone. But then he saw that if he looked where the glow was coming from he saw the source of the movement.

There was an image of a woman inside the stone. And she was looking at him, or seemed to be looking at him – he felt the same connection he always felt when he was looking at another person – and she said “Why are you leaving me? Are you going to forget me? What about our dreams? And what about me? Tomorrow the elders will take me to the killing place. I need you to help me. I need you to save me. I need you back to take me from them.”

At that moment he recognized her. She was the woman he had left behind. The elders had forced him to leave with only his dugout and the bare necessities of survival. They had not allowed him to have the woman he lived with to go with him. She was to be abandoned. That was part of his punishment. It was viewed by the elders as a shared punishment. The woman had lived with the man who had come back from his night under the giant oak tree with the dangerous story of things he had seen. The woman therefore must have some part in the whole unholy affair. So they had been forced to separate. But he had not been allowed to tell her these things. He had been forced to leave immediately upon hearing the sentence.

But here she was looking out at him from within the stone. And she was speaking to him as she looked at him. This time the words were different.

“A piece of this stone will bind us. Take a piece of the stone.”

The cliff was a face of rock that was about ten feet or so in height. In much later times a geologist might have described it as a layer that had experienced a sheer – a mass of stone that had, for some tectonic reason been subject to such a force that it had shattered vertically and part of it had remained in place and part of it had dropped, leaving the sheer face of the fracture line. The layer that had been shattered in this manner had been a very large deposit of what that geologist might call flint. And it was from that wall of flint that the glow was emanating and within that wall of flint from which the image and the woman’s voice were being seen and heard.

There were also multiple shards of the flint lying at its base, strewn here and there in a totally haphazard manner. And they all seemed to have the same glowing property as the cliff.

He picked one of them up.

The glow pulsed from the cliff and within the shard.

“In this way we shall be together” he heard, or if not heard, sensed.

“We will be together and you will save me”

A bat skittered across the space of air between him and the cliff. In a moment it was gone. Then there was another, and another. Then there were many. They flitted down from the trees and brush at the top of the cliff and into the space between the man and the cliff and darted at the cliff only to shoot to one side or the other, or up again toward the trees and brush from whence they had come or down toward the ground, darting upward before actually making contact with the ground. Several brushed against his arms, chest and face, ever so softly as they harvested the flying insects that had been attracted to the glow.

As he continued watching the woman she had stopped speaking. And the glow gradually receded as if into the very heart of the stone. And then he was alone.

The insect attracting glow had gone. And the bats had departed, perhaps following the insects.

Friday, June 28, 2013

A Curious Confluence Chapter Twenty Six: The Other island

As he cast off his boat from the island with the watching elders rapidly fading behind, the tribesman looked back for a last time. The island was where he had lived his entire life. The boat lingered in an inshore eddy for a moment and then was caught by the greater current of the main stem of the river. The tribesman dipped his paddle to steady the craft and point it stern-most to that current. And then with increasing speed he began his journey down stream to he knew not where.

The lateness of the day and the lateness of the year had made darkness near as the tribesman had pushed off. It was not long before the dark was much nearer. And it was not longer still before full darkness had arrived. But he was afloat. And he was under the control of the current. And only his paddle kept him from spinning in aimless slowly spinning circles. The current with the guidance of the paddle kept the boat on a purposeful downstream vector. The darkness precluded any indication of where in the great river – where between the banks – he might be. He said something to his ancestors, asking their assistance, and put his fate into their hands. Implicitly he also put his fate into his own hands and such skill as he possessed as a boatman. And the river and the night and his destiny became one.

There was no moon. All he had, under the clear ebony sky, was the light of the stars. And, better than nothing, that was not much.

In the dark he experienced many jolts and bumps. But he never lost his boat. And he never lost his courage. And he never lost his hope. Every time he seemed to be about to be upended or sideswiped or high centered into the river and into his doom he managed to stay upright. And he managed to stay in a straight down stream direction. And the night went on and on and on.


The sun had begun to pinken the sky at his back when he awoke with a startled snort. He had been lucky. For the duration of his being asleep – which had been only seconds – the river had been clear of debris and clear of the tiny islands of accumulated silt that had almost undone him so many times in his darkness-shrouded float down stream. Now, in the almost-light grayness of the proto-dawn he could see that his way was blocked not far ahead. He was rapidly approaching an island, and an island of some size. “Perhaps” he thought “this is the island that I saw in the dream I was having just now when I awoke.” “If so” he concluded “it is good. The feeling of that island was a good feeling. It had the feeling of home. Perhaps this is where the spirits intend for me to live. Perhaps this is why I had the dream about the great tree which caused the elders to cast me out. Perhaps that happened so I would be here”

As he approached the upriver tip of the place he could see that it had a gouge cut out of it. Two great jaws of the island jutted upstream and created a sheltered area between them. The thing was a sort of natural harbor. Into this harbor he guided his boat with deft dippings of his paddle. The sun had crept above the horizon behind him as he floated into his new home.

The small boat scraped bottom. The bottom, being a course flint based sand, yielded to the thrust of the craft, and a few well directed and purposefully firm thrusts of the paddle drove it half out of the water onto the sandy beach. The tribesman was exhausted. As he rose to step out onto land he nearly fell. He dropped the paddle. He tripped to his knees. He knelt briefly and then stretched out full length on the sand and gathered what strength he had left. And then he rose and pulled the boat up to nearly the tree line, stabilized it with driftwood on either side – making it a sort of primitive bed – and crawled back in. He untied one of the bundles of furs and tools that he had been allowed to take with him and pulled one of the larger furs over himself and slept.

And he slept. The sun continued its loop from down river to upriver and the day warmed. Even the lateness of the year couldn’t prevent the sun’s warming effect. It was a windless day and the tribesman slept.

He awoke first opening one eye and then opening the other. With both eyes open he lay motionless and tried to hear again what he had heard in his sleep that had awakened him. Until he knew what it had been he chose to stay down in his boat with the scooped out sides providing at least some degree of protection from anything that might be in the vicinity that might be a threat. There were, after all, wolves and bears and badgers and all sorts of lesser beasts who often either looked at humans as food or went mad and attacked for no reason at all. He had no idea of whether any of those sorts of things could be on his island – he realized that he was already thinking of it in that way: it was his island. As far as he knew, no one he had ever heard of had been as far away from the other island as he was as he lay there in his boat. He knew that wolves and all had been banished from that other island in the time of the ancients. He was not so sure of that being true on his island.

Then he heard the sound – once heard, he recognized it – again. It came from the sky and it seemed to be moving. He rose up and looked up into the sky with its westering sun and heard the sound again. He adjusted his gaze downward closer to the water and saw a flock of black long necked birds with orange cheeks and long pointed beaks. As they flashed down the river, just beyond his reach and just above the water they shouted joyfully to the waves with high pitched croaking shrieks. They seemed to have a kind of magic separation from the water, so close were they to it and so fast was their passage.

“Fish snakes” he thought to himself. He had seen them all his life and knew how they swam like lightning under water with their long serpentine necks fully extended. In this manner they captured their prey. Always after one of their sudden disappearances below the surface of the river they would soon be seen surfacing with some sort of fish in the beak of their snake-like forward quarter. The river teemed with myriad varieties of fish and these fish snakes prospered with that bounty. The tribesman had always wondered if one of these could be captured and tamed and taught to catch fish and return to a human master. He had never heard of such a thing, but he had often wondered, when he saw them in action if such a thing might be possible.

As the ones that had just passed disappeared he rose out of the boat and began to take stock of the nature of the place.

His little harbor was at the up-river end of the island. The arms of land that formed it were deep enough and substantial enough to calm the water within their embrace. A cross wind would rile the water to some extent, he thought, and a perpendicular wind from up river would not only rile them, it would probably drive the water inward in the little bay and up on the land to some extent. That sort of wind was uncommon. The river, he had surmised during his night-time float had taken a ninety degree bend to its course downstream from his previous home. The wind frequently blew parallel down river to that course. It much less frequently blew at ninety degrees to that course. So it was probable, he thought, that he could safely set up camp off the beach into the fringe of the woods. That would allow him to start fire and find food and begin to take serious account of the place as a long term home. He was lifted by a new hope as he dragged his boat up into the first layer of trees and bushes at the edge of the sand.

But he was beyond hungry. In one of the sub bundles of one of his bundles he knew that he had brought dried fish. He rapidly untied bundle after bundle until he found it and, taking half and repacking the rest, he ate ravenously.

And then he took the flint adz that was packed in one of the other bundles and began to flake and shred tinder from the outer edge of the bone white, utterly dry driftwood that abounded on the beach above water line. When he had accumulated enough for more than one fire start he deployed the tool more like a hatchet and produced a quantity of larger pieces of wood. Then he reduced some fairly large chunks to fire length pieces for the third stage of getting a fire going. By that time the sun was directly down island from him and beginning to dip below the trees. He knew that he needed to try to kill something relatively easy to track and kill if he were going to have an evening meal worth the name. Dried fish was great in a pinch but red blooded meat burned to a turn was more to his liking. Plants and nuts would have to wait until he had become better established and had time to search and gather such things.


The squirrel had been just plain stupid. And it had paid with its life as soon as the tribesman had seen it and put an arrow in it.

The first flash from the flint caught the tinder and the progressively larger pieces of firewood had, in their turn, rapidly and enthusiastically burst into flame. And the resulting bed of coals had burned the squirrel to the degree of doneness that the tribesman considered optimal. And he ate hungrily and chased the meat with water drawn from the river.

He had eaten the cooked squirrel after the sun had set. He had performed most of his fire building and cooking tasks in its rapidly waning light. The boat would need to be bed for at least another night. But at the dawn he would awaken and have the full day to become more settled and organized. Or so he thought - or some such words to that effect were present in his mind – as he listened to the gradual transition from day birds to night birds and to the rush of the river and to the shriek of an occasional rabbit or hare being impaled on the talons of an owl.

As he lapsed into sleep for the second night of his new life he thought of how much he missed and would always miss his mate who had been left abandoned by his banishment.

The last things he thought he heard as he dropped into exhausted sleep were the words “Why are you leaving me? Are you going to forget me? What about our dreams?”

Thursday, June 27, 2013

A Curious Confluence Chapter Twenty Five: The Reading Continues

I have not been out for several days. I am nearly spent of food and drink. The two bottles of calvados have become barely a dram in one of them. The tomatoes are gone but one. The lettuce has been gone since yesterday. But still I remain indoors reading. The journal has become my obsession. It has become my life. It has become my only form of sustenance.

And the tale continues to unfold. And I feel ever closer to that abyss. I slip closer with each page that I read. But I can’t stop reading.

I am abandoning the convention of indenting extractions from the journal. I was doing that to assign to those extractions the property of a quote. Now that their discovery has been made I am abandoning any artifice that gives me the shelter of treating “imagined events and dreamed events and invented events” as imagined, dreamed or invented. Such is my precarious state that I now consider them all to be real.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013


Today I heard the news that the Supreme Court has eviscerated the voting rights act.

It’s hard not to see a pattern.

So I posted on Facebook:

“I guess the pattern is obvious: Citizens United, rescind the Voting Rights Act. Coming Next: The Exclude Those "Not Like Us " Voting Act, which says that the "We" in the Preamble means only those of the racial stock and gender who were free citizens under the Articles of Confederation. Man that's strictly constructionist.”

A friend responded”

“And must be land owners?”

To which I replied:

“Not so stated, but implicitly included.”

Then it got serious.

Another friend, one whom I have known since my days in Saigon, one who is mentioned in my little memoir Saigon 1967 then chimed in:

“And ultimately another civil war??”

Oddly enough I had an answer already formulated to that unexpected question:

“Yeah, probably.

I don’t see how, with the number of militias extant, all wanting to go back to some other time, and all armed to the teeth with combat level weapons, and all trained to high skill level in the weapons’ use, we can avoid an outbreak of insurgencies.

When the insurgencies commence it will depend upon how well those militias are coordinated (have they got a war hard proprietary Twitter equivalent?) and upon what percentage of the officer corps of the US Army and Marines are waiting for those militias to kick the top off the anthill so that they can intercede and lead the insurgency rides the future of the Republic.

I ran an extremely low octane version of this viewpoint by some people at a potluck dinner recently.

I was met with a table full of Little Orphan Annie eyes.

I hope that being thought to be insane has some advantages.”

Sunday, June 23, 2013

A Curious Confluence - Chapter Twenty Four: I Open the Journal

I disclaimed previously any memory of what is written in the very old Journal that I have brought with me. It was a long time ago when I wrote most of it and I was in a mental state that was as close to insanity as a person is ever likely to have experienced without actually sinking into the state.

All of that is strictly true. But, sometimes in flashes of reverie, and other times woven into the dreams that populate most of my sleeping life, I have had what might be called insights. So it wasn’t a complete shock when I opened the yellowed and fragile thing and read the following.

But I am unable to explain it.

I guess, when laid side by side with the other occurrences already recounted, it doesn’t really need explanation.

“The tree was first noticed by one of the people as a thing of significance due to happenstance.

There were a few among the people who for reasons unknown were of a sort to wander beyond the normal distances that hunting and gathering would require.

One of these had become a frequent visitor to the rising ground on the left side of the river from his island home.

In the spring he would only touch that side of the river, gathering the new green shoots of the bracken and the pitted brown protuberances of the morels. It was at this time of the year that he and his mate would celebrate the advent of spring with the replacement of their humdrum winter fare of stewed dried fish, stewed dried meat and stewed dried fruits with the greens and browns of the shoots and the mushrooms. In spring the fish also began to run up river in profusion. They found that a particular one, an oily pink fleshed one, was especially flavorful when cooked with the mushrooms and the green shoots.

In the summer he ranged further from the river. He hunted the hares, squirrels and rabbits that abounded just beyond sight of the river’s banks. When he had harvested all of these that he could strap to his body and carry he would return to his mate. Summers were the time of plentiful fresh meat.

In the fall he would go even further, into the fringes of the highlands and into the oak forest. There he could not only gather the squirrels, he also could build snares for the ground dwelling birds that gorged on the acorns. Many ptarmigan and grouse fell to his snares as did the hares and the rabbits.

And he, like the birds and animals, gathered large stores of acorns.

It was in the course of one of these fall expeditions – very late fall - that the tribesman discovered the great oak.

On this day he had gone much higher than he had ever been before. It had not been a necessity. He was getting more than he could carry where he was. But the day had been clear and cold and beautiful and he had become curious about what might be above his normal haunts.

So he climbed and climbed.

He had not paid proper attention to the position of the sun in the sky and had found himself atop the crag that was the tree’s home as the sun was finishing his descent behind the island and behind the crag. With the imminence of darkness the man took the only possible course of action. He prepared as best he could a place to sleep, a place with as much shelter from wind, rain and foe as possible.

He took up temporary residence on the lee side of the tree, out of the always prevailing wind that came down the river and always – even in summer – chilled things at night.

Up to the moment that he had laid down the extra garments that he had carried with him in case of rain - those garments having been so laid down as to allow for as much shelter and insulation from the coldness and the rock sharpness of the bare ground as possible – he had not thought of the tree as anything special. He was not of a sort or of a mind to have any thoughts of any kinds other than mate, hearth, home, food and safety – he was not of a sort for philosophy or conjecture. He was doing the best he could in a manner similar to everyone he knew, and similar to everyone that, from the memorized and occasionally chanted history of his people, he or his people had ever known.

He was just trying to get through it.

But he was at a moment – “that moment” – when things were about to change.

He had put the ground cushioning extra garments between the splays of two huge exposed partially above ground roots of the tree. There was room enough between those roots for the man to lie down with neither his head nor his toes touching either of the roots. They formed a sort of head and foot to his bed. As he lay there with the wind rising and falling, and the stars – for it was a crystal clear and cold (in what would be called the month of December in much later times) early night, he began to think about the tree, starting with the fact that it was so large that he - and he was one of the larger members of his tribe - could lie between two of its roots and still have a good amount of root beyond his head and beyond his feet.

Such a thing, he thought, surely, if not a god, must be in communion with the gods. To be of such a size, the tree must be nearly eternal, and wasn’t some form of immortality one of the characteristics that men, in their dimly perceived view of the gods ceded to those gods? So should he not treat such a thing as the tree with reverence?

As he stared at the wonders of the darkening night sky: the individual stars and the massive cloudy white smudge that streaked it from horizon to horizon, and the moon as it rose and brightened into a thing of prominence, the tribesman, bedded down between two of the massive roots of the giant oak, drifted into sleep.

And then he dreamed.

But those being times primitive, and the tribesman being a product of those times, as he recalled the dream later after having returned to his island and having returned to his people, he believed the dream to have been something that had really happened.  And it was in that way that he told the story of his dream to his people, under the watchful eye of the Spirit One – the elder tribesman who was believed to have contact with, and deep understanding of, the spirit world and all of its manifestations.

Here is the story that the tribesman told.

“I didn’t have a fire.  Except for the stars and the moon, it was dark.  I was lying between two above-ground roots of a huge tree.  It was cold.  I was cold.  Then the tree began to sing.  It sang a song that I almost knew.  But I couldn’t make it out exactly.  I didn’t know the language. Then the tree stopped singing. And then it made a great laugh. And then it sang again. It sang very loudly.

I wanted to see if I could find the tree’s mouth. I wanted to see if I could find it so I could ask it to sing in my language. So I got up from my furs that were piled between the tree’s roots and walked around it. It is so large that walking around it took some time. It had stopped singing.

I came to the other side, the side with the wind, when I saw a man. He was lying between two of the roots just as I had been.

He didn’t look like any man we have ever seen. He had shields on his eyes that reflected the light from the stars. And then he pointed a star at me. He had a star in his hand.”

The Spirit One cleared his throat and rocked back and forth in the kneeling position that he had assumed to listen to his tribesman’s story.  At his right hand was a much younger man. He was much larger than the Spirit One. He was the largest of all of the men gathered there.

The large man spoke.

“He has lived all his life outside of the laws of the tribe. He has wandered at will far away from his home. He has gone where none of us have ever gone or will ever go. And now he has seen the evil one. He must not be allowed to remain.”

The Spirit One spoke.

“We have warned you of this. And now it has happened. You must live with us no more.”

And on that day, as the sun was setting, the people cast him off in his tiny boat and told him to come back no more.  They followed the boat as it drifted toward the tip of the island, toward the beginning of the third island in the little chain of islands, and watched him as he, dipped the paddle for the first time, casting back into the current, between the third island and the shore and disappeared from sight.

For it was said among the people, led by the thoughts of the Spirit One, that one who has seen such things must be forever set loose to wander, not to ever again be among the people, but to search and perhaps to find, the meaning of such a vision as he had experienced, and in finding it, if he ever did find it, to perhaps find oneness with that which had reached out to him.  But since that which had reached was clearly evil, he could live no more among the people.

If he never found that meaning – that oneness - he was to die alone.

But he was never to live again to live among men.  So the Spirit One said and so the people agreed.

And any that he left behind were to be killed.

And time went forward as it always had with little change, with the sun making his daily trip across the sky, except on days when the clouds hid him from view.

And the tree grew ever bigger.

I wrote this in that journal many years ago. What had been the background for this? Had I been thinking about writing some sort of novel? I know I have always – as does everyone – thought that I had one good novel in me. But I have no recollection of ever scribing one word to that end.

These questions, although obvious from a certain point of view, and pertinent from that point of view are really just defensive obfuscation. Because these words, at this late date, and as a part of this series of little stories that I have been telling about my various adventures here are not out of the blue. The maddening truth is that these words from some distant and not remembered past fit perfectly into the ongoing fabric of the story that has been unfolding in the here and now. That group of words in the here and now has taken on the coherence of a tale. These words from the journal seem to be about those events that the woman in the clearing on the island told me about. I not only had no idea what she was talking about, I only dreamed about her in the first place. She has no reality. She is the product of that hyperactive dreamscape that has bedeviled me my entire life.

Or so I have chosen to believe.

At the outset of this “tale” – when it was still very new and very much smaller – I wrote the following:

"Real events and imagined events and dreamed events and invented events have all converged on the project with surprising vigor. And they all have begun to assume a mantle of coherent reality. It has become as if everything, even the dreams and the imaginings, have really happened.

I wonder how that could be, but no answer seems to be forthcoming. All these events – once written - have joined the fabric of a compellingly real story. They are a story that I have been witnessing, and I feel that they are not the end of the story. I can’t help but wonder if the balance of that story is one that I will ever discover.”

Apparently the discovery that I had hoped for early in this document’s existence has been made. A very old journal seems to be providing the missing pieces of something genuinely strange.

That, from any normal point of view, seems to point to some form of imbalance. It seems to say that I am and will continue slipping into that abyss from which I had thought myself spared so long ago.”

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

A Curious Confluence Chapter Twenty Three: The Slippage Continues

I apparently lost control of my cut and paste muscles when I made the post of the last chapter.  That post said that the chapter being posted was chapter twenty one.  It turns out I cut and pasted chapters twenty one and twenty two.

After reviewing the mistake I think I should have combined them in the book.

But I didn’t; and the book is printed.

So here is chapter twenty three.

It’s long.


I mentioned previously that I met a couple at Brasserie Lipp a few evenings ago.

It was an unusual encounter in a number of ways. The results of the encounter have been more unusual still. I must tell what else has happened afterwards.

When I returned to the apartment I thought about the idea of walking the entire length of Rue Saint-Jacques. I couldn’t get the idea out of my mind. For a casual suggestion from a stranger it had taken on a surprisingly assertive character.

I got up and got a glass of calvados and sipped and pondered and, ultimately, slept.

When I awoke the next morning, after a pot of coffee, and a croissant, both of which aided immeasurably in thinking, I decided to walk Rue Saint-Jacques in search of whatever Lisa had imagined that I might find.

The day was fine, at least at that early hour.  Watching the clouds scud across a Paris sky at any time of the year causes one to quickly draw the conclusion that Paris weather is, and must be, capricious.  But on that morning, after the beautiful evening of the previous day, it looked as if the good weather would hold for awhile longer.

It was about 0830. That is really early for me to start. It is barely light at that time of day. But the sun was working his way up from the downstream bend of the river, and he would soon be high enough to shed some light into the canyons of the seven and eight story buildings that make up most of that part of Paris.

I had decided to intercept Rue Saint-Jacques where it begins at l’Eglise Saint-Séverin across Le Petite Pont from from Cathedral Notre Dame.

Rue Saint-Jacques at that place is called Rue Petite Pont; but that changes somewhere around Saint-Séverin.  And from there on, Rue Saint-Jacques wanders off at a more or less perpendicular angle to the river.

The clarity of Lisa’s assertions notwithstanding I was uncertain what I was supposed to be looking for.  At least, I decided, I could banish the ghosts that had been planted in my imagination by the banquette conversation of the previous evening. 

Or maybe Lisa’s idea would turn out to have some truth to it. Maybe I would hear the voices of the spirits that her friend Jacques had claimed to sometimes hear, and be able to add to the story that I had started the previous evening

It didn’t seem very likely, but I set off down Rue Petite Pont and by the time it had become Rue Saint-Jacques I was filled with a spirit of open-minded adventure.

The surroundings were initially like many of the places in Paris through which I have walked. And it was easy walking, the terrain being nearly level.

That began to change once I crossed a major Boulevard – Boulevard de Port Royal. The terrain began to rise and Saint-Jacques seemed to be following an uplifted seam of land, gradually ascending to a higher part of Paris. It had changed in name also. It was now Rue du Faubourg Saint-Jacques. Faubourg means something similar to suburb and where streets get that word added to them one knows that one is outside the ancient walls of Paris.

The rise in the ground continued. I came to a confusingly major intersection of streets.  It was the type of intersection that, until I have acquired the familiarity of numerous encounters with it, always befuddles me. It took me years to figure out Etoile Charles de Gaul, and years more to navigate the intersection in front of Gare Montparnasse.  I stopped and stood and stared.  I hadn’t heard any spirits to that point. Since I had been at it for nearly an hour, I wondered if it was worth continuing.  The intersection that I was looking at had all the aspects of other similar ones I have encountered. Those have always led after their encounter to – sometimes hours – of aimless wandering to no apparent immediate or personal advantage. The only ultimate good things that have ever come out of those wanderings has been that, sooner or later, I have found something I could identify from the map, or that a Métro stop rose up out of the kludge of streets, like some phantasmic Brigadoon.  Any Métro stop is always good news; one can get on at that stop and figure out from the map how to get home, no matter how many transfers it might take.

So I was pretty well on my way to giving up when I noticed something written on one of the arrow-without-tail-feathers direction signs.

“Parc Montsouris” it said.

“Park Mountain Mouse?”

“How bizarre.”

“Park Mouse Mountain” I said, reversing the words. 

It didn’t sound any better. 

“Better”, I guessed, wasn’t the right word. 

Maybe the “right” word would have been a string of words, shouted something like Peter Finch shouting over and over, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore”.  In my case the shout might have been “ I’m confused as hell and I want you to quit playing around with me with all this mouse stuff” (I was really either trying to forget what had happened at Deux Magots – or trying to remember what the mouse had told me that I should remember; I didn’t know which). 

But I was at the embarkment of a hideously complex Paris intersection. No matter how much I wanted to, doing nothing wasn’t in the cards.

What was in the cards was that, as I tried to see what might be the name of the major cross street, I saw what it was.  It was Boulevard Saint-Jacques. 

I felt exonerated.  My apparently misspoken street name to Nels and Lisa had basis in fact.

And I wondered if my exoneration might be some kind of sign – the confluence of two Saint-Jacques having been discovered by someone on a mission to see if there were, as someone that he had met in a Bistro had asserted, voices or spirits on that venerable way. 

It was a lot to think about.

So I was at the indecipherably difficult to comprehend confluence of a bunch of Rues and Avenues, and one Boulevard, with a sign that seemed to be baiting me: “Parc Montsouris”; and I felt as if – considering the various events I had experienced since entering Brasserie Lipp twelve or so hours earlier – I were being subjected to some cosmic practical joke.

At the moment that that thought crossed my mind the situation got immediately worse.

“Jacques will lead you” clearly sounded in – my head? Or was it in my mind? Or was it in my spirit? I had no idea, but hear it I did.  Or I would have sworn that I that I had heard it.

I couldn’t help thinking about Lisa talking about the spirits.

And that thought, and the oddness of it all – all of the events which had conspired to bring me to this place at this time - seemed to make resisting going on to Parc Montsouris an impossible thing to do. I couldn’t help being drawn into the spirit of the situation, no matter how self generated that spirit might have been. 

So I kept going.  I was intrigued by the thought of going to a park named Mouse Mountain, or Mountain Mouse – whichever. 

The segment of Rue du Faubourg Saint-Jacques that I then found myself walking entered into what seemed like a canyon.  On my right was a wall that looked as if at least a part of it might have been built by the Romans.  It had that Roman trademark: it was made of chunks of stone – limestone in this case - all ingeniously fitted together without mortar.  Such walls all over the former Roman Empire still stand.  The Tower of London is a good example.  The wall I was following down on my right side was probably twelve or more feet high, and at its base was a distinctly more modern looking foundation of what appeared to be crudely poured concrete.  That concrete made up about four feet of the total height of that wall. I wondered if some Roman wall had been somehow excavated underneath and backfilled with more modern, and probably inferior, engineering.

On my left, across Rue du Faubourg Saint-Jacques there was stack after stack of eight- story, flush-to-the-street apartments.  Although much higher than the twelve foot or so wall on my side of the street, the net effect of those apartments was that of closing that side of the canyon and becoming a co-equal participant with the Roman wall in being a canyon down Rue du Faubourg Saint-Jacques. 

It was as if the centuries between them had decided to co-operate in the canyon illusion, and as if they themselves had so decided. Or perhaps it was as if they had decided to co-operate in revealing the fact that this trace had actually once, in times out of mind, been such a canyon.

That segment of Saint-Jacques was beginning to have an up-hillness to it. 

Rue du Faubourg Saint-Jacques was clearly skirting a major mass of higher land – one might want to call it a hill or ridge – but it was also rising into that hill or ridge at the same time as it was was skirting it.  A voice that sounded almost like what I perceived to be mine was saying in low tones “Rue Saint-Jacques in ancient times was a major animal trail skirting the lower part of a gradual rise leading away from the river.”

I pressed forward feeling a sort of exhilaration due to the additional effort required by the gradual rise of the land. 

The exuberance of the exercise began to make the queasiness of the mousiness of the situation seem to be worth the trouble. 

Somewhere not far ahead, I could see that the “canyon” was going to empty into a place of green, a place of trees, and a place that continued to rise off into the distance ahead of me in the general direction of Rue Saint-Jacques.

“It must be Parc Montsouris”.

As I came to the terminal point of the canyon, ahead of me, across a fairly wide avenue was an area of green and trees and late season flowers.  The area from my vantage was of indeterminate size, but it was obviously big – very big.  It stretched up the avenue to my left and up the avenue to my right.  I was at a sort of point or a corner in the land that was the area of green and trees and flowers.  At the tip of that point was a wide gated entry area.  The gate was open.  The gate was made of wrought iron, or some other robust-looking blackly durable kind of metal.  Its vertical members all came to spear points painted with gilt.  As far as I could see on either side of the gate, up the avenue to my left and up the avenue to my right the green-treed area with the late season flowers was enclosed by a guardian fence made of the same metal as the gate. Like the gate, all of all its vertical members that terminated in pointed, spear tips painted with gilt.  The fence looked to be about ten or twelve feet in height.

When the light changed I crossed over and passed through the gate.

Immediately to my left, several hundred feet away was an arm of a small lake that stretched off to the left and disappeared around a kind of bend in the land that was at the base of an abrupt and impressively extensive rise in the land behind and above the lake. That rise in the land – a hill, or mound - like the fenced boundary of the park, extended as far as I could see through its complement of trees and bushes, to the left and to the right. It was a central prop in the theatre of the Parc with the flanking fences serving as a sort of gilt tipped gallery of sentinels. The lake was a kind of chubby crescent skirting the base of what was probably the “Mont” of Montsouris.

Not knowing what the overall lay of the land might be, and not having an agenda to pursue if I had had any idea of the terrain’s configuration, and being one who always has liked lakes, I took a left turn after the gate and began to walk the shore of the small body of water.

As I had thought at first glance, the lake had a relatively level shoreline on the side that I was walking. It was a shoreline whose levelness continued from the path I was on out to the thickets of bushes and very old and very large trees that shrouded the inside of the Parc where the iron gilt tipped fence established the Parc’s official terminus. 

Rue du Faubourg Saint-Jacques outside the fence, outside the Parc, across the boulevard, continued that optical illusion of apparent flatness, belying the fact that it pitched gradually downward back toward the river. I could vouch for that pitch having just had a brisk and heart rate incrementing ascent up its spine to the gate of the Parc.

In stark contrast to that side of the lake was the other side. There was a walking path hugging the shoreline of the lake on that other side. At its outer edge the land began an immediate and abrupt rise.  That rise stretched the entire shoreline of the lake, embracing it closely – immediately beyond the path - at all points along the interior concave curve of the chubby crescent.  The lake was probably in existence due to springs imbedded in the Mont, that were running downhill to the Mont’s base, where there must be a depression deep enough and fat enough to become the chubby crescent that was the lake. 

The path along the shoreline on my side of the lake – the side that stretched apparently flat and level to the fence and beyond - hugged the outer, convex, curve of the crescent.  As the path passed beyond the shoreline of the lake it continued to bend beyond the outer tip of the lake’s crescent and it began to rise, becoming a part of the Mont.  That rising land area, with its path topping, became the left flank – as I was facing it – of the Mont.  Thus the Mont must have had, I surmised, a summit somewhere more or less directly above the center of the crescent, and must stretch in a declining sweep of land back into the direction of the rising path.  Where the right flank of the Mont might be I couldn’t tell, but I surmised that it must be at an angle in the Parc such that a perpendicular through it, intersecting the Mont’s horizontal axis, would neatly bisect the gate into two neatly equal chunks.

I walked the entire periphery of the crescent, from the level side, around to and along the side from which the Mont sprang upwards and continued out to the wide level area immediately inside the gate.  Along the way I saw Mallard ducks, Canadian geese, a large tribe of Paris seagulls, lots of goldfish lurking barely below the surface and a blue heron on the prowl for some of those goldfish.

It was an extremely pleasant walk.  The plaisance of that walk almost made the fact that I had just walked halfway across Paris, down Rue Saint-Jacques, in search of – something – something that I had not found, to be not so vexing.  I had not found something, that is, unless one counted the voice at the intersection, and the oddity of the name of the Parc.  I moved on to the right side of the Parc, well inside the gate and toward what I believed must be the right flank of the Mont.

I hadn’t really believed that Jacques of the Lisa, Nels and Jacques triumvirate, had said he had heard things, or if he had so said, I didn’t believe that he actually had heard anything.  

But the idea had been so entertaining, that I couldn’t resist the quest. 

For some reason I felt drawn to that right flank.

As I continued along that path what must have been that right flank sloped off at a forty five degree angle to my direction of travel.  Straight ahead was the right-periphery-of-the-Parc-hugging-iron-gilt-tipped-fence that I had seen when I had been outside across the avenue.  Some distance inside that fenced periphery and up, and at the edge of another path – this was an area that was apparently the down-most, but still elevated part of the right flank – was a spectacular sight.  It was a large, spreading, rather tall and quite rangy tree.  It looked as if it might have been more at home on the Veldt. 

But that tree was not on the veldt. It was on the lower right flank of the Mont and through its green leaves shone myriad spots of orange.

It was a large persimmon tree and it was beautiful.

I stood and looked at it for an extended period of time.

Finally I broke the spell of the persimmons and started up a branch of the path that seemed best suited to gain access to the Mont by way of his right flank.

As I walked up that branch of the path the land began a significant rise.  I could see something that looked like a stone tower slightly to my right – the path was veering left – and an obvious elevational distance away from me. 

“That must be the top of the Mont” I was thinking, when, on my left, an extremely charming expanse appeared.  It was a little play park for children.  Even at the early hour that I had gotten to the Parc there were already families out in it with the children gamboling and chirping, all over the paths. 

And there was a little area dedicated to them and their parents.  It had a variety of spring-driven animal toys, mounted in concrete stanchions.  There were a number of cozy little areas with clusters of concrete legged benches for parents and children to stop and rest, and, perhaps eat glaces on hot summer days.  And there was a huge blue green-needled evergreen providing shade. 

I stood there and watched the activities within that area.

But then I turned to continue up the Mont.  As I did so, I saw something that I was unable to imagine having not seen before I had become engaged with watching the charming children's area. I couldn’t imagine not having seen it before because it was directly across from that children’s area. And the thing was so “something” in the context of the mission that I had set out upon that morning that I could not imagine not having seen it immediately upon nearing its location on the right side of the path across from the play park.

But I had missed it somehow.

It was a metal building about twelve feet square. It had a segmented steel sliding door as a front.  It extended from a place underneath the overhang of the roof down to the outside counter that jutted out horizontally about two thirds of the way down from the roof. That sliding door was closed.  The building was about as tall as it was square.  I could see, even from across the path by the children’s park, where I still was, that it sat on a square cobble stone pad, a pad that extended three or four feet beyond its own edges.  It was enclosed by a low iron fence.  Everything was painted green.  There were words on the top left: “BARBE A PAPA CONFISERIES” and to the right: “BOISSONS GLACES”.  It was a refreshment stand.  It was closed at that moment. I went across to it to examine it more closely.  I was drawn to perform that examination by the firm feeling that this might be the “something” that Nels and Lisa had sent me in search of.

In the middle of the top of the external overhanging front face of the roof, that area from inside and beneath which the sliding door went up and down, between “BARBE A PAPA CONFISERIES” and “BOISSONS GLACES” was printed “UNE SOURIS VERTE”.  The dot above the “I” in “SOURIS” was a small stylization of a green mouse.

The sun was not too high in the sky yet.  It was behind Une Souris Verte, and slightly elevated to its upper right.  The building was beautifully painted for an industrial strength creation.  The paint was a dark, really pretty color of green.  It was glossy to the point of being attractive but not to the point of being garishly shiny.  And the paint was either a first-ever coat, or someone had done a massive job of preparing the metal for a re-paint.  The surface was completely, immaculately smooth, and that smoothness only enhanced the glossiness of the surface.

All of that smoothness, glossiness and dark greenness apparently gave the sun, at least at its then current angle, some assistance toward casting a magical spell of light.  Because the whole building, and, really, its entire enclosure, including the iron fence seemed to be shedding light outward as if some inner glow from the thing was in need of escape.

I stood there and stared.

The greenness of the thing was reinforced by the shrubbery immediately surrounding it and, more subtly, by the backdrop of huge trees, which were still in a surprisingly healthy state of greenness for December.

I was, for some reason, happy to be looking at the thing.  As I continued to look, I gradually became aware of a different color from amidst all that green.

From where I stood in relation to the small green building, the building presented itself to me as being slightly rotated on its axis. (I was not standing face on to the front of the structure.)  I was looking simultaneously at its left side and its front. That front side was on the right side of my field of view. On my left was the left side of the building. I was at the apex of the triangle that those two sides constituted from my point of view.

In the part to the left there was another color.

It was gold.  Or it was golden.  Or most probably, as I narrowed my point of view into that small area, it was brass.

Like the green, the gold color was glowing in the backlight from the partially risen sun.  I walked up to a place as close as I could get, held back from being as close as I wanted to be by the low iron fence, and looked to see what it was. 

It was, as I had thought, a chunk of brass.  It was the handle, faceplate and lock of the door that was on that side of the building.  That must have been how the proprietor of the place entered his place of business and rolled up, from the inside, the vertical rolling front access door so that he could pass his glaces, boissons and such to his customers.  I use the description “chunk” for the handle, lock and faceplate, because, while being extremely horizontally svelte, probably an inch or less in width, and not over six inches vertically measured, with a gracefully simple lever handle, the relief of the apparatus measured from the surface of the door to its face was probably three quarters of an inch.  It was a graceful set milled out of a chunk.  Both grace and mass were a part of its appearance.

And it was beautiful deep yellow, burnished with enough texture to keep it from being shiny, but not enough for it to be dull; and it glowed.

As I looked at that golden latch I felt like a child, or like a primitive from some other place or time.

I looked at it for some – indeterminate – period of time.  As the sun became less of an oblique angled backdrop to the scene and as the golden glow became more of a beautifully golden piece of brass set upon a marvelously smooth and deeply green palette I realized that I had an urge to touch the thing.

The brass was so damn pretty that I wanted to touch it.

By pushing up as tightly as I could to the iron fence – it came up to my mid stomach – and bending over, I was able to put the tips of the fingers of my outstretched hand on the lever.  It felt nice. 

Nice is a vapid word.  But elevating a trivial experience in a Park in Paris named Mountain Mouse to some cosmic level by saying something such as “and when I touched it, I became immediately aware of the things of which Nels and Lisa had spoken” would be a bit too much.

But something did happen.

I apparently had put enough inadvertent pressure on the lever that, since it was unlocked, it rotated.

And the door opened.

And I looked inside.  There wasn’t much to see.  That was because the sun couldn’t get around the corner of the building and illuminate its guts.  The sun had to stay where he was, and where he was wasn’t conducive to seeing inside the little Souris Verte on that December morning.

So I crawled over the not very high fence and went in.

It wasn’t what I would have expected.  Not what I would have expected at all.

I was somewhere else, and when I looked back in the direction from which I had come – the open door with the glowing brass handle mechanism – I was still in that somewhere else.  The place from which I had come through the door was no longer there.  In its place was a somewhere else.  That somewhere else looked as if it were contiguous with the place into which I had just entered.  That place appeared to be partway up a fairly significant outcropping of a massively upturned piece of the earth.  It was a major ridge, and I was in its approximate middle, laterally, and at an approximate halfway point up its relief, as best as I could tell from trying to see through the cover of forest, and in the declining light of the day.

And the Souris Verte building, the door with brass latch, the iron fence and all the other components of the building and its compound were gone. 

In their place, I was out on that ridge.

And it was cold.

And, I realized, I had been able to see through a massive forest with ease.

And I realized that that ease had come about due to the fact that the trees had no leaves.  The trees that had been there moments before had had leaves, but the trees where I was now didn’t have leaves.  There were many more trees where I had found myself than there had been where I had come from moments before.  And, as big as those that had been there moments before had been, these were massively larger. 

They were mostly oaks.

It appeared to be the dead of winter.  It appeared to be the dead of winter on a cold, but beautifully clear late afternoon. 

I wondered where and maybe when that afternoon that I had just entered might be as it went through its gradual wind-down to darkness.

Not knowing what else to do, I started to climb the rest of the way up the ridge.  If I got to its top, so I thought, perhaps I would be able to get some idea of where I was, and perhaps I would be able to see where I was in relation to the rest of Paris.

It took a grueling three quarters of an hour to reach the top.  It should have taken less time.  It would have taken less time if I hadn’t gotten myself rim rocked and had needed to retrace the whole way back to where I had started.  The second attempt almost ended in another rim rocking, but I was able to sort my way around it.

All of that took time.  And time, it was turning out, was daylight.  And taking time, and therefore taking daylight, meant that as I gradually ascended for a better view, the ability to have that better view was equally gradually being taken away by advancing darkness.

By the time I had reached the top everything below me was shrouded in a cover of darkness unlike any I have ever encountered.  It was not that there wasn’t any light, now that the sun had completely set, and was on his way to the other side of the world.  It was, instead, as if some light absorbing substance had settled upon all things below me, absorbing every last tiny shred of visibility that should have been there even in darkness.  I had never seen darkness to which my eyes didn’t “get used to” allowing some degree of penetration, or allowing some level of seeing.

But I was on top of a ridge that was lost below in that kind of darkness.  It was a darkness that my eyes weren’t getting used to.

Since the stars – I had never seen so many; the milky way alone was a brilliant smear of light across the sky – were out they shed something resembling light on the top of the ridge where I was. That rendered some limited ability to see what was immediately around me.  As the moon rose it added its light.

And that was a good thing. 

It was a good thing because it looked as if I were going to spend the night up there, and being able to see, albeit only marginally, I was hoping would allow me to make as much of a good thing as it was possible to make out of, what seemed to me to be, a really bad situation.

Absently I reached into the pocket of my jacket and felt something. I had forgotten. I had put my little LED flashlight in my pocket on the way out of the apartment. I have no idea why I did that, but it was with a good deal of thankfulness to the fates that I discovered it.

There was an absolutely huge oak.  I had seen it from below when it was still not dark, when I had first set out to scale the ridge.  It must have been fifteen feet or more in diameter, if such a symmetrical term as diameter could be applied to a thing that was gnarled in manners that are almost beyond description.  Gnarled though it was, the trunk nonetheless was closer to a circle than it was to a triangle, or to a star or trapezoid, so diameter was the size elaborating description that seemed to best apply.

By the time I got to the base of the tree, darkness had completely descended on all that was below me.  But up there in the star glow I could make out the splay of the tree’s roots.  With my little flashlight I was able to see much better, albeit in a very narrow field of view.

There was enough room between any two of the roots, and enough elevation on any of them to provide some degree of shelter if not comfort.  It would be like lying down in an open ended triangular box, with sides about two feet high.

The ground was covered with deep layers of fallen leaves from the current and apparently endlessly previous seasons.  While not exactly bone dry, I was able to scoop up armfuls of them and fill the area between my two chosen roots with stuff that was at least soft, and not outright wet.  Apparently it had been dry and rainless for a spell.

I crawled into my makeshift bedchamber, face up to the Milky Way and turned off the LED.  It wasn’t until I had been lying there for a while that I realized I had made an unfortunate, mildly uncomfortable choice of location for my bed. It turned out that I was on the windward side of the tree. I knew that because not long after getting all tucked into the leaves a chill wind commenced. It wasn’t particularly strong, just a mild nighttime breeze. But it was chilly, especially to one with only leaves for bedclothes. But it wasn’t uncomfortable enough for me to stumble around in the dark and try to re-create my bed on the opposite side of the tree.

So I stayed put. As I sometimes do - and always for no apparent reason - I started singing to myself. And the choice of song had an equal lack of apparent reason.

I’ll build me a castle

Way up to the sky

I’ll find me a rainbow

Find it bye and bye

“Why did I choose this song?” I wondered. Then I remembered the YouTube clip I had seen on the airplane.

I contemplated how strange it would seem to anyone in the area to hear someone singing in the middle of the night on the top of a ridge in the middle of nowhere. “What if someone heard me?” That elicited a deep belly laugh. “You really are going nuts!”

I sang the rest of the first verse.

As I look in her green eyes

At her wondrous black hair

With the red glinting highlights

I can’t even dare

“Why did I sing the pirate words?”

“Maybe they are better?”

I pondered those questions as I continued humming when the darkness surrounding me was invaded by a portion of even darker darkness. It was as if a veil had dropped into the space my eyes were trying to probe as they stared into space. The veil didn’t fill the whole area. It was a sort of blob of more intense darkness than that which occupied the rest of the space.

And I had a sudden overwhelming feeling of being watched. The feeling was so intense that it drove a sharp pang of fear through me. Without thought, but on reflex I grabbed the LED and pushed the butt switch. The light came on but it was in cycle mode so the thing threw a high frequency stream of intense blinks of light.

Then the feeling of being watched passed as did the illusion of the veil of darker darkness. Feeling somewhat sheepish I turned off the LED and burrowed as deeply into my leaf bed as I could. I began to feel a little warmer. And I began to drowse. I must have finally gone to sleep.

And I guess I dreamed.

Or it must have been that I dreamed. Although the events leading up to my having gone to sleep on a pile of leaves between two immense roots of an even more immense oak tree would seem to, in their own right, qualify for dream – or nightmare – status already. But those had all started from a reference point in the real here and now. This dream lurched out of nowhere.

I found myself in a place that appeared to be a small level plateau, with a small clearing on its top.  There appeared to be in the center of the clearing a dwelling made of sod and furs and sticks, held in place by numerous flat stones at its base. 

There was a hole in its top out of which wisped a tendril of smoke. Apparently this dream had allowed me to get to the source of the tendril of smoke rather than running me all over hell’s half acre as had the previous dream that had brought me to this place and then dropped me at the bouquiniste. .

From somewhere behind the dwelling someone emerged.

It was a woman.

And, contrary to what would have been expected from such a primitive site, she was not a hag or a rustic.

She was a beauty.

Not that she would have been described in any sense to have been modern.  But she was beautiful in a way that would transcend any time or any place.  And anyone who might have had the privilege of describing her would, I am certain, have used the word beautiful.

She was wearing a light beige garment that could best be described as a muumuu that lacked a muumuu’s shapelessness. The curves of the woman were revealed because the garment was more form fitting than a muumuu. But it was a one piece garment. It appeared to be made of something that could have been cashmere.  That jangled.  A woman in a cashmere garment coming from the back side of a hovel made of skins and sticks and rocks seemed almost too odd even for a dream. 

But that was what I seemed to be seeing.

She had hair that had the look of having been recently washed and cared for.  It was the deep black with red chestnut overtones color of hair that I had first noticed to be a hair color when I had first come to France.  I had probably seen it previously somewhere else, but it had never been in enough dominance for me to have taken note of it. 

In France it had been dominant. 

And this woman had that color of hair.

That hair was gathered at the back by a comb of some sort. It looked, from my not very advantageous viewpoint as if it might be made of flint.   I was able to know about the stay that she was using for the gathering of her hair because as she bounded – with alarming vigor – toward me, her hair swung back and forth around her face – front to back and front to back.  It abetted her beauty.

And then she was immediately in front of me.

“We don’t have long” I heard in my head.

She had not opened her mouth.  I had “heard” the words as I had always heard my own thoughts; I had always talked to myself in my head.  But I had never had the experience of hearing someone else’s thoughts in my head.

“Pardon?” I said.

“The leaders are going to come from the Island tomorrow and take me to the killing place.”

I didn’t know what to say.  So I tried to think. 

“What would Pop Eye do"?”

“Pardon?!” she thought.

“The leaders – who are they?”

“The ones from the island.  The ones who sent you away, who cast you to the water to meet your fate on your own without the protection of the tribe.”

The dream was clearly out of control even by the most extreme standards of making allowances for the wild ebbings and the wild flowings of even the most unhinged sort of dream.


“They listened to your story and decided that it boded Ill - that it was evil - and so that it boded ill for the tribe for you to remain.”

“Are you sure it was me?”

“And you were banished with nothing but your boat.”

I sat down on a rather large rock outcropping and looked at her.  A tiny breeze blew some of her hair across her face.  She brushed it back with her left hand.  Her index finger had some kind of twist of what looked like white leather, but leather that was very thin and finely cured. It appeared to be more like silk than like rawhide.  It was sort of a ring.  She turned abruptly in the direction of the dwelling.

“Please, you must follow me.”

She lifted what appeared to be a very beautifully tanned white toned skin, which I hadn’t seen in my first look at the structure – perhaps it was of the same type as the index finger adornment; it appeared to be far from primitive in finish and quality. It had been covering the entrance to the dwelling. The opening was slightly vertically higher than she was tall.  She stopped momentarily with the flap lifted up toward the smoke hole, looked at me and smiled.  The smile would have been a sort of non-sequitur if it hadn’t been composed of such an element of – I could only call it – relief (“relief from what?” went through my mind the moment I perceived it) and, somehow the communicating of that relief to me via the configuration of that smile had seemed completely, appropriately natural to the situation.  I couldn’t even begin to conclude what that “situation” might be, but the smile seemed appropriate to me at some much deeper than conscious level of observation.

She disappeared into the dwelling.

I continued sitting on the rock trying to make myself wake up.  She may have smiled with a look that made some deep seated sense to me, but it hadn’t banished my wish to be elsewhere, and perhaps elsetime.  I had to, for the sake of whatever grip on what I considered to be reality that I still possessed, continue to assume that I was in the midst of the most richly and imaginatively staged dream of my life.

I couldn’t really be seeing, feeling and doing what I seemed to be seeing, feeling and doing.  I just couldn’t be.

But I was.

The flap had dropped when she had entered the structure.  It suddenly popped back up and open.

“Please, we only have a few hours.”  And she smiled that same smile again and gestured for me to enter with her free hand, which was the hand without the adornment.

So I obeyed her.

I had to squeeze by her and brush up firmly against her to enter, since she was holding the flap up for me to make that entrance.  The material of her garment was every bit as soft and yielding as I would have expected from what appeared to be cashmere, or if not cashmere, its functional equivalent.  And it exuded warmth.  It was warmth so profound that it was not merely a tactile sensation. It also carried a taste-like, and a smell-like component.  The taste was apricots.  The smell was bachelor buttons.  The composite was magic.

I pressed past her.

The interior was bathed in a soft glow which was enough illumination to see the sparse furnishings of the place.

But the prominent item that I immediately saw gave me an explanation for and a validation of the fabric of the woman’s garment.

On the farthest side of the roughly circular structure that I had entered, bathed in the glow that illuminated everything, but also backlit redly by the glow from the guttering fire was a loom.  It was made of irregularly shaped sticks – stout sticks, but sticks nonetheless – and was held together by rawhide (at least it looked as if it were rawhide) thongs that were deployed in an almost industrial age level of uniformity and intended durability: where they held structural members in place and together they consisted of multiple winds. It looked as if they all had the same number of winds, perhaps six, and were tied off doubly, with the first tie being a square knot securing the winds, and the second being a redundant loop back around that tie down, and also secured with a square knot.  The ends of these tie downs had been snubbed down to very short protrusions.  The ties had each, obviously involved much longer strands which had allowed the loops and ties to be made with ease, and which were then cut down to only the amount of strand necessary to retain the tie downs purchase on themselves.  I couldn’t help likening what I was seeing to later time things known as rivets, not because there was any visual similarity, but because of the standardized iterative identicalness of that series of fastening mechanisms.

I would not have known what the thing was if it had not been for the fact that I had seen a similar device once in Paris in the Musée des Arts et Métiers.  That loom had been a Twentieth Century African tribesman’s creation, and its workmanship had been substantially inferior to that of the device I was looking at, but it had also been a loom.  That African loom had made the deep impression necessary to cause me to remember it in a dimly glowing hut in a dream from which I couldn’t escape.  I remembered it because it had been in a display case next to a working model of a medieval loom.  That medieval device had been gigantic.  And it had also been essentially incomprehensible to me, as to how it worked.  But I had been at least able to identify its major working parts. To my amazement at the time, the African stick loom had had all the same major components as its gigantic medieval predecessor.

So also did the one I was looking at in the dwelling with the tendril of smoke in the clearing above the river in a dream.

I thought to myself “I wonder what she uses to make the yarn?”

“Dog” she thought back.  I had forgotten that she read my mind and I hers.

On the periphery of the structure forty five degrees back from the loom a very large dog-like animal raised his head, looked at me with his orange eyes and said – not thought; said – “woof”.

“That’s Moustache” I heard in my head.

“Odd Name for a dog.”

“Odd dog.”

I scanned the interior of the structure to see what my imagination had fed this dream in the way of furnishings.

I saw the loom.  I saw the fire pit with glowing but dying embers.  I saw the dog – hardly a furnishing, but certainly a presence.  I saw a low to the floor structure that appeared to be her bed.  It was directly across from the dog’s area and its head (there were creations that looked to be pillows, so it must be the head) was flush with the outer wall of the structure, and its foot (opposite from the pillow end) extended out into the room toward the fire pit.  It was rather large, I thought, for one as small as she.

And I saw something else. 

I didn’t really see that something else.  It was presented to my conscious as dreams always present things.  It was there and it, as far as the narrative of the dream was concerned was the most natural of things to have been presented, no matter how much of a non-sequitur it might be to a non dreaming mind.  What I saw, after I had examined the bed was that sort of thing to the extreme.

It was a door. It was a door that glowed through its ancient pressed glass panes, and it was a door that had a cut glass knob.  I had an excruciatingly intense feeling of recognition.  And then it was gone – both the door and the feeling of recognition. 

But it had been replaced admirably.

Again a dream logic segue had occurred.

I was making love with the woman on her bed, under the watchful eye of Moustache.  Dreams always seem to cut out useless time consuming transitions from one scene to the next.  This one had outdone itself.

That activity went wonderfully on and on and on and then it was over. Then we were finished. I lay with her beside me on the palette and tried to become settled, tried to become rational, tried to separate the real from the imagined. But her presence, her feel, her scent and her sound would not allow such to happen.

I had passed a gate through which I was sure I would never fully return. Dream though it seemed and dream though it must be - judged by any normal measurement - I nevertheless knew it was no dream.

Better said, I wanted it not to be a dream so intensely that “wanted” got replaced by “knew”.

We sat up side by side, arms loosely around one another. She handed me something and thought “take this.  You are going to need it sooner than you may realize.”  It was a piece of flint.

Then she moved even closer to me and ran her hand along the side of my face in a caress that was soft and warm beyond anything that I had ever experienced. Except that it had a feeling of deep and ancient familiarity. And it had a feeling of rightness.

“I am afraid” she thought. “But I have you.” Neither of those statements made any real sense, but neither did they lessen the feeling of rightness.

She looked at me with a look that elevated those feelings to an even higher pitch. The total combined package brought an even deeper feeling of knowing this was no dream. I had seen that look before – many times.

I just couldn’t remember where or when.

“This is where we began” she thought looking at me from as close as it is possible for one person to look at another person and not be touching that person’s face with one’s own face.  She had green eyes.  The green eyes opened another feeling of extreme recognition.  That new feeling dredged back the feeling of recognition that the door had generated and became linked with that feeling in a manner that caused that linkage to become a fleeting shred of fact. That fleeting shred seemed as if it should somehow be deeply meaningful.

But I couldn’t focus on it. 

I really couldn’t focus on anything. 

And it was hard to comprehend what it was that my companion was thinking to me because I was hearing someone saying increasingly adamantly “bon chance Monsieur; bon chance Monsieur”.  And there was a pudgy brown hand thrusting a man’s gold wedding ring into my face.

I was about to angrily brush past her – the pigeon drop lady – when she faded from existence and I awakened with a startled snort.  The partially finished glass of calvados was still on my bed stand.  It was, I could see on the face of my digital alarm clock, 0942 and 21 degrees Celsius.

“What the hell” I said, and reached for the glass of calvados.  As I reached I knocked something off the stand that I hadn’t seen.  It hit the floor with a quite solid, almost sharp sound that said that whatever the thing was it had some heft to it.

I reached over and down scanning the floor for whatever it was.  When I saw it there was a feeling of a shred of fact or facts becoming a meaningfully concatenated complete feeling of some sort of reality. 

The fact was that the thing was a chunk of flint. That was the shred. The reality was that the dream had been, in fact, real.

I picked up the flint and examined it.  It looked like a normal piece, the same as could be found on any of the non-paved gravel paths of Paris, or anywhere else in France.  On my I-am-a-totally-sane-and-normal-human-being level of self perception, I had no idea where it had come from.  But on another, less sane, and increasingly important level of consciousness, I had every idea of where it had come from.

That duality of knowing and not knowing where the flint had come from was both engaging and unsettling.  On balance that duality converged into a desire not to think about it anymore.  It converged into a desire to completely forget about the flint and everything that I could, if I wanted to remember it, connect to that flint.

I wanted out of the reality of the dream. I needed to be out of the reality of the dream. I would do anything to get back to the other side of wherever it was that I had slipped.

But I kept staring at the flint.  And a vision of green eyes as close to mine as could be possible and still be separate passed across my mental picture place.  And there seemed to be other images about to follow when I put the flint back on the night stand and took a sip of calvados.

As calming as not thinking about something, combined with the wonderfully apple-scented draught of calvados, both in combination, were, I couldn’t repress a mind spray of thoughts of other things.  I couldn’t avoid thinking about the events after I had left Brasserie Lipp the previous evening, parting company with Nels and Lisa. 

That parting with my banquette mates had been almost as eventful, in retrospect, given the things that I was choosing to forget, as the entire prior discussion had been.  That parting, brief though it had been, added an increment of something that contributed to my difficulty to forget.

As we had been reaching the obvious conclusion of our chatty follow-on to the Rue Saint-Jacques discussion there had been a brief lull when none of us was speaking.

That silence was broken by Nels.

“Or maybe Seattle.”

He was beginning to occupy for me a middle ground that almost never manifests itself in my life.  It is a middle ground that lies between a person who is irritating and a person who is fascinating. 

How could anyone have such single minded and single threaded concentrated devotion to a hobby as to keep processing data long after the subject that the data pertained to had been passed by in the face of larger and deeper topics? 

But apparently he could because he was.

Lisa was next.  “There is a display of artifacts from the Stone Age at the Louvre. Amazing how important flint once was.”

A few more words passed; we paid our checks; we exited; and we went our separate ways.

“Odd how, at the time, that comment had been at best an interesting non-sequitur, at worst it had been an abject inanity” passed across my mind.

I took another sip of the calvados, looked at the glass, thought about getting more, and decided to postpone that decision. I didn’t want to start being a morning drinker.

The encounter at Deux Magots, after I had left Lipp, on top of the walk down Rue Saint-Jacques that I apparently had dreamed rather than having actually taken, and that walk’s various also-dreamed side-trips was disquieting beyond my ability to ignore.  It strained beyond my ability to apply the just forget it approach to dealing with those occurrences.

I could not help calling back the events of the late previous evening.  I could not help thinking about them and wondering the what; wondering the where; wondering the why of them. 

Really, I couldn’t help wondering how.

I reached for the calvados, looked at the flint, and then looked beyond the flint.

There was a second piece of flint almost on the outer edge of the stand.

I felt a twinge of pain in my left hand middle finger. I looked and wondered about the dried blood.

Monday, June 17, 2013

A Curious Confluence Chapter Twenty One: Trolling for Pigeon Droppers

The day before my encounter with Nels and Lisa, I went to Neuilly sur Seine.

It is on the Paris Side of a loop of the Seine across from La Défense.  Part of it is on an island in that loop.

I decided to see what the part of Neuilly sur Seine that is on the island is like.

That part had a blue sign saying that Neuilly sur Seine is private and there was to be no entrance.

That fact was ameliorated by a large park immediately adjacent to the ville privee.

It was a pretty day and the park offers a very beautiful walk through trees and bushes along the banks of the Seine. Inside the path is grass and trees and benches and bool pitches and swings and teeter totters. It is a very pleasant place. At the up-stream end of the park, where it terminates, it is possible to continue the walk up the rest of the island all the way to its up-stream end. I did that. I took lots of pictures and enjoyed the whole endeavor.

When I reached the end of the road and the up-stream point of the island an odd thing happened.

I thought I heard what sounded like the shouts of a man and a woman and the barking and yelping of a dog. There was nothing to see that would have been the source of those sounds. They came wafting across the water.

I could not shake the feeling that they were having a wonderful time.

I listened for a few moments and the illusion passed. I walked back to the down-stream end of the island and the bridge that crosses back to the Métro line.

All of that took some time and as I contemplated what to do with the rest of the rapidly waning day I decided to take the Métro back to Pont d’Alma and walk back to the apartment on the left side of the Seine. 

Besides this being one of my favorite walks, it is usually alive with pigeon droppers. I had decided a few pigeon drop encounters previous that I wanted to start collecting their pictures.  I am getting so good at recognizing them that I felt that I could get a shot from the very beginning of the game as each one of them bent down as if picking something up and then get one or two follow on shots as the plot thickened.

But today was a lean day.  There weren’t any pigeon droppers.  I even crossed Pont de la Concorde over and back to see if I could roust one up.  Frequently one will make a hit on that bridge or Pont Royal or Pont du Carousel.  Today Pont de la Concorde was a dry hole.

Once across Pont de la Concorde and down a little bit along my main route one guy did make an attempt but it was so clumsy that if I had not been an expert in the game I would not have recognized what had happened.  In any event it had happened clumsily, and that clumsiness had taken me off my mark, and I hadn’t gotten a picture of it so there was nothing to do but ignore his plaintive cries of “monsieur, monsieur, bon chance, bon chance” and move on down the line.

A little farther on I saw a for sure pigeon drop woman and I made sure the power to the camera was on. But she turned out to be a woman who has tried the game so many times on me – she may even be the original one - that we now know each other.  She said a pleasant “bon jour” and kept on her way.

So it was looking like the day’s troll was going to prove fruitless.

As I approached the statue of Thomas Jefferson, failure to date notwithstanding, I became alert.  I seemed to remember that there often was activity at that point.

Sure enough there was hit in progress.  It looked as if the mark had taken the ring and was in the process of putting it in his pocket and was telling the pigeon dropper to fuck off.  I kind of stopped, and even half heartedly pointed my camera in the general direction of the encounter, but I wasn’t fast enough to get the ring, and in any event, it seemed kind of socially unacceptable intruding on someone else’s pigeon drop.

But I did recognize the dropper.  He was the big tall brown man that I mentioned in a previous post as the one who had ensnared an English speaking couple, the woman of which was saying to the man “why don’t you just give the ring back to him?”

So what I did do was stop slightly beyond this encounter and stare over the sea wall into the river with my camera at attention as if I were going to take some serious shots of the water.  I was hoping that that demeanor would mark me as his next victim, since it looked as if his, by then previous, mark had terminated the transaction.

I was watching out of the corner of my eye, hoping to see the guy come up do the bend down and pick something up act, at which point I was ready to get a shot.

Instead he was suddenly next to me, sort of engulfing me, and showing me the ring in his open paw.  Without thinking, I poked the camera almost into his palm and pulled the trigger.

And it turned out perfectly. Some feat of magic caused not only the ring, but also the hand – complete with well manicured finger nails, and even the cobble stones in the street to be in perfect focus.

This may be the basis for a whole new form of hunting. I think I will take it up.

Some days are better than others for pigeon drop encounters.

The foregoing is yesterday’s post.  Here is today’s post – the day after the day before.


Starting today that – the betterness or the worseness of the day for pigeon droppers - ceased to matter. 

That is due to a decision that I have made.

I have decided to quit trying to catch them in pictures. 

There is a reason for that.

Actually there are two reasons for that. One is that it’s just too damn hard catching their image. Since that first accidentally perfect shot I have accumulated a number of blurred barely identifiable encounters, none of which amount to a documentary hill of beans.

But the other reason for my abandonment of the project is probably more interesting.  Briefly, the story of that is as follows.

Today I went out specifically to harvest images of pigeon droppers. To that end I chose my route carefully, having by now noticed what appears to be patterns to their lurks and their haunts.

My plan was to cross at Pont Neuf and troll down the right bank to Pont d’Alma and cross at Pont d’Alma and troll back to L’institute de France and home. Two hours; maybe six or seven droppers; and maybe one or two decent pictures: it was pretty much a day’s work, I thought.

En route I changed my mind and crossed at Pont Saint-Michel to give myself a little bit of a leader on the first likely encounter (the droppers seem to like to start more toward Le Louvre).

As I walked along, it being a really nice day for a few days before winter solstice, I lost track of what I had been supposed to have been doing. There were some just-right-yellow poplar leaves and the river was absolutely sparklingly spectacular.

I had become many mind-space miles from thinking about the old pigeon drop gambit.

I was composing and taking pictures and savoring the beauty of the day when my concentration was broken by a rather large humanoid at my side thrusting his hand with a gold ring in it into my field of view.

I immediately snapped back into pigeon dropper image harvesting mode, put the camera next to his hand and pulled the trigger.

That did not please Gargantua.

He started asserting in a raised-level voice – something. “No fucking way” came to mind, but I really couldn’t get anything he was saying. I don’t think it was French.

But I didn’t need a dictionary to know the gist of the message.

The problem for me immediately had become – I didn’t really care whether he liked the fact that I had taken a picture of his hand – that the picture I had taken – he obviously believed – gave him the right to pursue the real point of the gambit, which was to extort funds from the mark, and I was the mark.

In the case of an unapproved photo, who knew what the endgame might be?

In any case, I had, inadvertently, stepped into the snare.

And I didn’t like that at all.

So I yelled at the top of as well modulated a pair of baritone male lungs as I could summon “God damn you, you son of a bitch”.

He spit at me. I think he missed. I threw a punch, hitting him mid chest. He was alarmingly lean and solid. I felt as if I had struck a rock. I was so angry that I was ready for a fight, which is totally out of character for me. I was surprised that all that he did was indulge in some eastern European-sounding guttural utterances. I said some things in riposte that I can’t remember now and he reciprocated.

And then not long after that he moved off down the quai.

I took some more pictures of the poplars, waiting for my heart rate to drop below three hundred.

I could see him not far up the quai.

There was no way I was going to backtrack or try to elude him.

I struck out in his direction.

As I had expected, I fairly quickly came abreast of where he was standing.

And he knew that I was there.

As our eyes met, and he had started spewing at me whatever language it is that he speaks, I threw him a snappy, Air Force officer salute.

That seemed to throw him a curve, because he came over and put his arm around me and started saying things that seemed to have “monaie” as a major and recurring word. “Bon chance a vous” I said; and the torrent from him grew even greater. He kept asking me in heavily accented English where I was from.

“You are English?”

I just laughed.

By the time that encounter had been closed out, I had discovered – I think – that he was from Romania, and that there was no luck without money.

If I encounter him again, which I assume I will, maybe I will find out if my feeling that we parted as sort of mutually respecting human beings was, in fact accurate.

That notwithstanding, I  realized during this second encounter that there was something unnervingly familiar about him.

And it was a sinister sort of familiarity.

I felt as if I had just encountered the tangible manifestation of someone or something that had always been with me, but who – or which – had never surfaced to my conscious perception.

It was as beguiling as it was unnerving.

Sometimes my imagination gets away from me.

That encounter is the more compelling of the two reasons that I am out of the game of trolling for droppers and taking their pictures.

I continued walking along the river. My altercation with Gargantua and the feeling of a distant familiarity with him had unnerved me more than I wanted to admit to myself. So I kept walking. As I walked I fought the urge to call it a day and go back to the apartment. But I kept telling myself that I couldn’t let someone or something cow me. That would be too much like being semi captive. It would be yielding to the desire to be safe, and I have made clear previously how I feel about that.

But the events of the last few minutes had pushed even me towards a need for safety. I resolved to put it out of my mind.

I was lost in these thoughts as I came abreast of Pont du Carrousel. I considered crossing and maybe going down to La Frégate to calm my nerves and have a glass – La Frégate has a big glass they call le Bacchus – of wine.

Instead I turned right in the direction of Les Tuilleries.

The entrance to the Tuilleries from the quai at this point consists of five Roman arched portals. The three in the middle are all the same size and larger than the two on their flanks. Those three in the center each allow motorized traffic to enter and exit the compound in a manner that, no matter how many times I have studied it to figure out the exact configuration on ins and outs I have not been able to get beyond the fact that traffic does indeed go in and out.

On each side of those three portals, there are the two smaller Roman arched portals. These are for foot traffic entrance to and exit from the Tuilleries and Louvre.

Since I am always coming at this series of entrances from the left bank, across Pont du Carrousel I always enter the Tuilleries through either the left or the right of the three traffic portals. The choice of which of these two is dependent upon which side of Pont du Carrousel I have decided to cross to get to the right bank. I had never until today been in a place to enter via one of the pedestrian only flanks.

This time it was different. I was already on the right bank, and when the whim to enter the Tuilleries had hit me I was already past all but the second of the two smaller entrances.

As I entered I realized that this portal was a completely different experience from going through the larger traffic portals.

Once into the archway one enters what is a more or less round room. On the right and the left are doorways that must lead into the some part of the Louvre. The rest of the walls are broken periodically by round vents, or things that appear to be vents that are protected by lacy ironwork grates. I hadn’t entered that portal to have an aesthetic experience, so what I am recounting is made up of fairly random impressions that I am surprised to be recalling. It was obvious that this entry was more than a mere passage from the bridge to the forecourt of the Louvre and the Tuilleries such as are the larger, utilitarian traffic arches.

I probably wouldn’t have remembered any of what I have described but for one thing: the floor of the place. It is made up of trapezoids of stone of varying size, their two parallel sides becoming increasingly curved the closer they come to the center of the enclosure. And at the center, the final stone is egg shaped. There is also a curvature to the floor itself dipping slightly inward from the walls to the egg. This configuration makes the floor of the place a sort of shallow dish.

As I stepped on the egg at the center of the saucer I was beset by a chill. And I saw what appeared to be a pool of some sort of liquid. That liquid, or the illusion of it, hadn’t been there in the moment before I stepped on the egg shaped stone. And it wasn’t there as my next step took me one trapezoid beyond it and closer to the light streaming in from the room’s other opening.

Something told me to keep going rather than stopping to examine what the pool or its illusion might have been. I did so keep moving and didn’t look or step back and I have no idea if the chill and the liquid had any basis in reality.

That, however, as fleeting as it had been, was one more adventure than I had room for today.

I walked down to Pont Royal and across to La Frégate.

A Bacchus was sounding really good.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

A Curious Confluence Chapter Twenty: An Extremely Odd Evening

Brasserie Lipp is a wonderful place.

Not only is it on what may be the premier street in the world – Boulevard Saint-Germain – but it also serves amazing food, and has an amazing ambience, harking to some other, distant, in the past time, when things just must have been better.

Several days after the incident on the beach I decided that it was time to go to Lipp for dinner.

The evening was warm for December. It had been one of those odd early winter sunny days that can occur in Paris, and the evening was apparently going to be warmer than the season would imply.  Due to that I had not worn an outer coat.  I had on grey wool slacks, a dress shirt open at the collar, no tie and a navy blue blazer.

Lipp can be deceptive. 

It can look, from the standpoint of its most obvious clientele – the ones out front - to be a place frequented by large numbers of tourists, and that can appear to be the end of its story. 

If one were to sit at a table in the area by the entrance, or on the sidewalk in the framed glass-enclosed ante-room at about 1900 or so, one would see hoards of be-jeaned, fanny or backpacked couples, triples and quartettes coming through the door, quacking loudly, topped out in sweatshirts, tee shirts or an occasional sweater, but in all cases looking as if they had come in from Disney. That demography at that time of evening I have always suspected to exist because that is the latest that most Americans, and I suspect also Britons, Australians and New Zealanders can endure to wait to eat while still attempting to be somewhat fashionable in their dining hour. 

These are the people who would cause one to draw the conclusion that Lipp is a tourist place. These are the people who get to sit in the outer room, or the enclosed ante-room on the sidewalk, stacked like cord wood among their fellows, ordering a beer and making that outer place pretty much an English speaking encampment. But there is an entire cadre of other people. They are another whole part of the story.

That other part of the story is that Brasserie Lipp has long been on the Paris scene, and the popularity it has always had with old, local residents has been deep and enduring. The “old” designation may or may not have something to do with the chronological age of any given member of the community to which it refers.  Rather, it primarily has to do with the long-term relationship that the people so-designated, or their families, have had over long years with Brasserie Lipp. 

So, I realized once I had heard those facts, that the outer sanctum filled with quacking English speaking rubes was only one dimension of a multi-dimensional place.

That realization was further amplified by the subsequently acquired additional information that the second floor is reserved for diners of that old-and-local-residents group. And that that has been the case for longer than many of the quackers – or their parents, and in some cases their grandparents - have been on this earth.

From that point forward – the point of that realization - one of my most cherished and deeply held ambitions has been to be ushered to the second floor for dinner at Brasserie Lipp.

That ambition has never been realized. I am sure it never will be.

I had, early in my relationship with the place, surmised that one’s mode of dress probably had something to do with second floor access.  I adopted the slacks and blazer mode (not overdone, but looking as if I had intended to spend an evening savoring good food, wine and service rather than intending to attend a mud wrestling event) and that got me out of the outer sanctum and into the first floor inner one. 

And that was a charming improvement.  But the second floor has nevertheless remained a distant dream.

The back room is large and filled with tables and all four walls are lined with banquettes.  The banquettes, it was obvious from the first time I was put in one, are the choice location in that sanctum.  The reason is that, Lipp being usually very well attended, one is forced to sit between people on either side whom one doesn’t know. 

That almost always results, over the course of the mutual, side-by-side dinners, in some very interesting conversations with people whom one would otherwise have had no occasion to meet, let alone to talk to.

From those conversations I have learned, or strongly surmised another thing about the demographics of Brasserie Lipp.

All of these people, or at least all of the ones that over the years I have been privileged to talk to, are, like me, tourists. 

They are not Parisians. 

There have been Swedes and Danes and Germans, and there were a couple of times Italians. (The Italians, when they had discovered that I was an English speaker with some French skills asked me to help them with the menu since they spoke no French.) 

Unlike me – isolated in being English-speaking only – my various banquette mates over the years have all been able to speak several languages. One of those languages having always been English, I have been able to experience those interesting conversations to which I have alluded. 

There have even, on occasion, been Americans and Britons and Australians and New Zealanders in the inner room. 

Unlike me these people – when I have sat next to them in the banquette - have always been able to speak French. 

But they also, like me and the rest of those in the inner area of the first floor, and unlike the quackers in the outer sanctum, always wear clothes that demonstrate a respect for the place where they dine.

A small nugget of analysis should drive at least one question to be posed to me:  “other than, perhaps, your dress code, what do you have in common with these accomplished and interesting people?”

The answer is “absolutely nothing”. 

Maybe my desire to be cleft from the outer sanctum is a shared trait, but I suspect that those people whom I am describing assume that the inner sanctum and the banquette are their rightful dining places. 

They may aspire to the second floor. 

That has been, however, apparently denied to them.  

But they probably assume residency in the inside room of the first floor.

That answer to that question, perhaps, should drive some further wondering – wondering centered on the question, “if I share no veneer of accomplishment with these other diners, although I do try to dress to look as if I might could, why have I been able to get in there?”

The answer of record that I have adopted as the right one to that question is that, because I am always alone, and therefore have no one to be quacking with, to and at, and since I am not dressed like any of the quackers, and since I can usually mumble enough French to make myself and my desires understood, the staff hasn’t figured me out yet.

If true, I hope they never do.

There never seem to be many native Parisian French speakers in that inner sanctum of floor one.

So, I guess, the demographic striations of the place can be easily described:  quackers in the outer sanctum of floor one; hybrids of Euro-Britannic extraction in the inner sanctum of floor one; the “old” Parisians on floor two. And never do that triune demographic meet, except, perhaps, on entry and exit.

As I had entered from the atypical early mid evening warmth, and the babble and general aura of pleasantness outside the place, and had presented myself to the maître de restaurant, and had mumbled “une table pour monsieur Noel” I had already begun to feel something – different – to be happening to me.  But it was only a feeling, and I am one of those people burdened with vast numbers of that type of feeling.

So I let it pass.

The maître immediately said “oui, monsieur Noel, allez” and led me into the inner room and to a banquette seat.

I was pleased to have again beaten the system.

Prior to departing, he looked at me as if assessing what he was seeing, and said, in English “after dinner, a café Deux Magots will be in order.”

As it happens, across Boulevard Saint-Germain from Brasserie Lipp is a place made famous by Ernest Hemingway, who frequented the place in his early and formative years when he was an unknown and starving fledgling in the writing business.  In the years since, that place – Café Deux Magots has milked the Hemingway connection for everything it could be worth. 

They may even have milked it for a little bit more than what it could be worth.

I personally think the place is over-priced and under-serviced, and that without Hemingway it would have gone belly up long ago. 

But that’s just me. 

And, in spite of those feelings, I do go there on occasion. 

Evenings such as the one I am describing were the sort of occasion on which I was likely to go to Deux Magots. 

I go there because the place has strengths, just not enough – for me – to offset what I see as its weak points.  One of its key strengths always screams out as obvious on warm evenings like the one I have been describing.  Deux Magots has a huge outside area in which to enjoy the sights, sounds, smells and general ambience of temperate Paris evenings.

I don’t know of any restaurants in Paris that don’t have outside seating.  Even if it amounts to only two or three chairs with no tables they all have some kind of outside seating. I know a place on Rue Guissard where there are a few tables outside a restaurant that are actually on a fairly steeply-slanted little mini-hill.  And people flock to those tilted tables; I have had a wonderful bottle of chilled rosé there on a not very warm August afternoon. But I don’t know of another cafe with anywhere near as much outside space as Deux Magots.  Le Bonaparte, one of its near neighbors, probably has a similar total number of tables, chairs and total square footage as Deux, but Le Bonaparte pales in size of outside seating in comparison to Deux Magots.

The reason for Deux Magots’ outside seating size advantage is that a sizeable chunk of either Rue Bonaparte or Rue de Rennes  - it’s one or the other, but I have never been sure which, because one stops and the other starts somewhere right there – which runs along the front of Café Deux Magots, has been blocked to traffic.  This has given Deux Magots a very large area of a hundred or so feet by fifty or so feet where they can put outside tables and chairs for the good weather times of the year.  It is, of course, covered to protect patrons from the occasional shower that occurs, even in the good weather times.

It is a classic and enjoyable outdoor venue for nursing a glass of wine, a cup of chocolate, or a coke lite, or a café, and watching Paris go by.

So the place is ringed immediately outside its windows by a large area of tables and chairs – covered against showers – with an open corridor of blocked off street between itself and a large other –outer - area of tables and chairs, occupying also the blocked off street. Those tables are also covered.

It’s a place that it makes sense - to me - to go after having had dinner at a really good place such as Lipp.  That good sense stems from the enjoyment that the large area outside Deux Magots can imbue, on pleasant evenings, with a feeling of participation in all that is going on around.

It makes the place the perfect venue for contemplation and observation after a good dinner.

I always have a Café Deux Magots when I go there.  Café Deux Magots is a little two or so cup pot of not very good coffee that I can nurse while prolonging my enjoyment of the setting.

Therefore I knew what the Maître d was talking about. I knew what “a” Café Deux Magots was, as opposed to “the” Café Deux Magots; I did, however, think it really odd that he would talk about it, in English, for no apparent reason, at the very outset of my dinner engagement in his establishment.

However I almost immediately forgot about it.

For an apéritif I ordered a glass of champagne.  Lipp’s champagne is always good, very dry and with lots of little bubbles.  I always order that.  I asked the waiter to give me a minute to decide the rest, even though I knew what it was going to be.  I wanted to savor what it was going to be before it had become what I knew it was going to be.

What it was going to be was a dozen number 2 oysters, choucroute Lipp (unbelievable Alsatian sour kraut laced with pepper corns served with a pig knuckle and an assortment of weird, unknown-to-me sausages) and a pitcher of some kind of white Alsatian wine that always is perfect for the oysters as well as perfect for the choucroute.

From a wine viewpoint, at least for me, the pig stood alone. 

As did the sausages; they fell into the category of oddments.

When the champagne level had fallen to about half way down the coupe de champagne the waiter came back and my order, never really in doubt, turned out to be a dozen number 2 oysters, choucroute Lipp and a pitcher of white Alsatian wine.

I wasn’t surprised.

And the food as always, within the limits of the intrinsic nature of each choice, was exquisite.

I was in the final process of worrying the last ham colored morsels out of the boney recesses of the pig knuckle when my banquette mate on my immediate right spoke. 

He was between forty and fifty, had all his hair, looked to be, as best as I could assess from his sitting position, to be above average height; I could definitely see that he didn’t have any fat.  He was in athletic shape.  He was with an extremely attractive woman who was the female reciprocal of himself.  They had been having an animated and humor filled – lots of laughs and apparent ripostes – conversation all during our mutual residency of the banquette.  I had no idea what language they were speaking except every now and then a word that sounded like unaccented English crept into the conversation.  I had heard that phenomenon from people that I knew to be speaking Dutch and I thought that I had observed it in Danes, so without giving it much thought I had assigned a Dutch orNordic nationality to these two people.

“Do you speak English?”

I told him that I did.

“Have you been down Rue Saint-Jacques?”

“Not that I recall.  Why do you ask?”

“I heard the maître de hôtel when he seated you.”

“I’m sorry.  This is beginning to go totally beyond me.  I don’t remember him saying anything, certainly not about Boulevard Saint-Jacques.”

“It is Rue Saint Jacques, not Boulevard Saint-Jacques.”

The woman spoke at that point.  She said something in the lilting language that I had been hearing them speak for the last hour or so, so I had no idea what she had said.  But it had a stern tone to it.

She turned to me.

“I told him to quit beating up on the cripple.”

And then she burst into uncontrolled laughter.

“It wasn’t cripple; it was a word there is no English for; there barely is any Human for it.”

I took a sip of my white Alsatian wine and looked at her.

She took a sip of whatever red wine it was that she and her table mate were sharing from a bottle with one of those – for me – undecipherable “mis en bouteille a la propriété” labels with the etching of a formidable-looking chateau prominently displayed in its upper third – and looked back. 

They had had steaks, of all things, in an Alsatian restaurant. 

“As close as the human tongue has come to the word it would be in English, hyphenated: ‘the-under-gunned-under-informed-possessor-of-the-ancient-secret-and-the future-solution’.”

“How nice” was the best that I could rejoin.

For the first time ever in my Brasserie Lipp banquette conversations I was beginning to wish that I were out with the quackers.

I mean, really, “the-under-gunned-under-informed-possessor-of-the-ancient-secret-and-the future-solution”?  I enjoy the weird and macabre as much as the next person, but there are limits to my willingness to go places with people on their frolics of fantasy, and I felt as if I had just reached one of those limits.

Apparently my interlocutor realized that that could be happening, because she said, “seriously, I apologize for having so much fun at your expense.  It’s just that you have reminded us of someone we once knew.  When Nels took you to task for the mistake of Boulevard for Rue it reminded me so much of the exchanges that we used to have with that friend that I lapsed into the mode we used to take with each other – the three of us.”

“But the translation stands.  I tell you it was meant in fun, jovial fun, not malicious fun.”

Nels decided to get back into the conversation.

“It was that resemblance that Lisa refers to that caused me to ask you about Rue Saint-Jacques.  Our friend – the one you remind us of – loved to walk its length every day.” 

“I haven’t ever done that.  I don’t even know where it is.”

“It’s parallel more or less to Boulevard Saint-Michel.  It starts out as Rue Petite Pont, across from Notre Dame, goes for a short distance as Rue Petite Pont, and then changes name and goes on for a long distance as Rue Saint-Jacques.”

Nels took, not a sip, I would call it a quaff, of his wine.

“But the reason I asked you if you spoke English, was because you look as if you do. Also, I heard Le Maître speak to you in English. On the assumption that I was correct, I wanted to ask you to assist me in a hobby that I enjoy.”

I thought to myself, “This encounter lurches from one odd event to yet another.  He can’t mean wife swapping; I’m obviously alone.  I don’t know what English would have to do with that anyway.  I wonder what English does have to do with…”

I was apparently lost in thought longer than would be normal in a conversation, and my face must have somehow betrayed the nature of those thoughts because the he interrupted them with “no –nothing deviant;  I am very interested in the fact that English – like any language – has regional variations. But English is so widely spoken that it creates a linguistic environment in which the number of variations is both amazingly broad and amazingly fascinating.  I am especially interested in American English. And you are obviously American.  If you would tell me something that might take three or four minutes to complete in the telling, I will tell you what area of America you are from.”

Since I am frequently thought to be Canadian in France, and since I generally let that impression stand during the George W. Bush era, I thought that this might be interesting, that I might be more of a challenge than he might expect.

“Sure; I’ll do that.  By the way what does looking like one speaks English look like?”

Nels laughed, took another quaff and said, “I think that was touché?”

“Maybe that too; I am really curious if there is an ‘Anglais’ look.”

“Only to someone such as I who is interested in listening and categorizing the speaking patterns of English speakers.  As a student of that phenomenon one becomes sensitive, perhaps, to nuanced clues.  All I can say is that I frequently get that feeling, as I did in your case.  Anyway, would you proceed?”

There was silence.

I realized that popping off for several minutes to someone I didn’t know about something I hadn’t thought of yet was going to more difficult than I would have thought it would be.  I didn’t have anything to say.  But I had said that I’d go along with the gag, and I was determined to do it.

I started talking with no forethought.  As I listened to what I was saying I was amazed because I had no idea what I was saying had come from.

“Rue Saint-Jacques in ancient times was a major animal trail skirting the lower part of a gradual rise leading away from the river.  It led into the hill country where a huge and ancient oak forest provided copious food and cover for all different sorts of birds and animals.  The acorns provided food for many of the mammals and birds such as the squirrels and the deer and the turkeys and the grouse; and many of those mammals and birds themselves provided food for others such as the wolves and the birds of prey like the eagle or the various hawks.  Some of the animals – the bears and the raccoons, principal among them - ate both their fellow mammals and also the fruit of the oaks. 

“Although that trail had been created by the never ending traffic of seemingly endless ages by the animals, men had discovered, sometime after the ancient thing had been in existence already longer than the men had been there that they – the men - could use it also.  They used it for access to the oak forests in the fall for acorns.  They used it at all times of the year to hunt the animals for their meat, for like the bears and raccoons, men ate both the acorns and whatever of the animals and birds that they could capture or kill. 

“The whole situation was in perfectly balanced symbiosis.

“That had been true for as long as any of the men could remember.  And some of those men knew that it had been true much longer than that – maybe forever – whatever ‘forever’ might mean.”

I stopped, wondering how I had thought all of that up out of a clear blue sky (actually clear lamp-lit ceiling) but I had done it.

I wondered if it had been three or four minutes.

My banquette mates sat there saying nothing.

Then Lisa said, “Is there more?  Don’t stop now.  I want to know how it comes out.”

“So would I” I said.  “So would I.”

“You are from Northern California, right?” said Nels.

“That’s pretty close” I said. 

He looked at me for a moment, took a sip (instead of a quaff this time) of his red wine, uttered a little whistle and said, “Lisa is right.  That is the beginning of a great little tale.  What is the rest of it?”

“I really don’t know.  It came to me out of nowhere when I realized that I didn’t know what I was going to say for three or four minutes for your language forensics.”

“Well it’s a great start.  Do you ever write fiction?”

“I’m like everybody.  I’m convinced that I have one good novel in me.  Like everybody I don’t, or can’t do anything about it.  Nothing ever gets written.”

“Well this thing has the feeling of an interesting historical novel’s beginning.  Maybe you should walk Rue Saint-Jacques – like our old friend used to – and see if any more comes to you.”

Lisa chimed in at that point.  “Yes, Jacques always said that sometimes when he walked it he could sense the spirits of the past.  I never took that as anything but fanciful; but maybe – maybe if there are spirits of the men and the animals that you were talking about – you can get more for your story.  You should try it.”

“Perhaps I will” I said, thinking that to be pretty unlikely, but I was beginning to feel the need to humor these people.

And then I looked at Lisa and said “Seriously? Jacques?” 

“The same as the Rue.”


“We always kidded about that.”

“I could see that.”

Nels spoke.  “Now that I have heard you some more, and in a very unguarded exchange, I can say that you are really from Portland.”


We chatted idly and pleasantly for another twenty minutes or so, got our checks, paid and went our separate ways.

As I was exiting the banquette our waiter was at my shoulder as I rose out of my seat.  “Remember the Café Deux Magots.”

I had forgotten about the Maître d’ saying that, but I hadn’t forgotten that that was going to be my next stop.  The evening was delightful and Deux Magots’ expanse of outside seating beckoned alluringly from across Boulevard Saint-Germain.

I backtracked to Rue de Rennes and crossed Boulevard Saint-Germain at that point with Deux Magots shining at me across the way. 

It was almost 2300.  There were still lots of people inside the place.  There were not very many out in the cluster of chairs and tables close to the exterior windows of the inside of the cafe.  No one at all was out in the large area of the closed-off street.  In fact it was, obviously closed down for the night.  A few pole lights kept it dimly illuminated, but all other aspects of wining, dining, conversing and just-being-there had ceased for the day.

I didn’t want to go inside.  The whole reason I had come over from Lipp was not the coffee, which was average at best; the reason had been the being outside in the unseasonably pleasant Paris evening air – and it was still really pleasant –  watching a living impressionist painting as it ebbed and flowed toward some ultimate, but heretofore un-realized state of stasis.

So I chose a little table and chair combination close to an imaginary, but very important corridor to the door (the door was where service came from) but at the outer edge of the concentric rings of chairs and tables clustered outside of Deux Magots.

I ordered my coffee and stretched my legs out – there was not the earlier-in-the evening crush of other table denizens that would have caused me to need to hunch over my table like some sort of gargoyle; instead, I was able to stretch my legs, sip occasionally from my cup, and watch Paris as she passed by in all her spectacular variety.  I idly wondered to myself if sitting with legs stretched out made one look like an English speaker. 

“Too late to ask now.  Too bad.  I would have liked to know about that.”

I was in the process of savoring to its fullest the passing scene on Boulevard Saint-Germain when something registered almost beyond the range of my peripheral vision.  But whatever it might have been, it was not quite beyond my peripheral vision, beyond the corner of my eye, as we sometimes call it.  And that particular place in my peripheral vision had been keeping watch, unknown to me, on that now-closed-for-the-night separate large outside area, until the whatever it was had been seen.

I looked directly into that area to see what I had caught out of the corner of my eye.

The line from Pink Floyd’s The Wall, “when I was a child I caught a fleeting glimpse out of the corner of my eye” lurched hauntingly into the music that comes and goes in my head.

There was nothing there.  I returned to sipping the coffee and savoring the looking-out-on-Boulevard-Saint-Germain, and losing any coverage, other than my eye’s corner, of the other outside seating area.   I had almost immediately forgotten that I thought that I had seen anything.

And then it happened again.  Again I looked at the area directly.  And again, I saw nothing.  And again, my attention turned to the much more interesting sights and sounds of Boulevard Saint-Germain.

And then it happened again.

“OK” I thought to myself, “this game has got to cease.  I am going to look over there until whatever it is that’s happening, happens when I am looking there directly.

A couple of minutes passed with nothing. 

Then it happened. 

A mouse flashed out from under one of the inner tables and ran down the outer edge of the seating area and then flashed back inside out of sight.  It had happened so fast that even with me looking directly at the area where it had occurred I had almost missed it. I could see why I was just “thinking” that I had caught something out of the corner of my eye, when that corner had been the only vantage point that I had had on the creature’s location.

I guessed that there must be lots of crumbs on the cobbles over there with the whole day and the better part of the evening every day being filled with a shower of crumbs from the many people who sit there during those hours eating crusty French bread and flaky croissants.  It wasn’t any surprise that an enterprising mouse had figured out that the outside seating area was a great place for a late night snack. Or perhaps it was a full course dinner from a mouse’s point of view.

In the next moment the mouse made another circuit.  I was in the process of turning back to Boulevard Saint-Germain when, from a slightly different place than I had just seen the mouse disappear, I saw him come back out again.  “Damn, that guy is fast” went through my mind.  “How could he get from where he ducked into the background to where he popped out again that fast?”  That had barely registered as a thought when he did it again, and then again.  I was about to draw the conclusion, that as fast as all mice are, this one must be the world champion. Then something happened that made the answer to the puzzle obvious.  Two mice flew from points of access to points of egress in the outer area tables and chairs at the same time.  “There are two of them.”  Then five or six flashed by.  And then, I don’t know how many were in motion.  In a moment the place was alive with them.

When I had first gotten there, there must have been just one or two of them; now the whole crowd had assembled. And they were all ready for their fashionable late dinner party.  It was fascinating to watch them as they streaked around, stopping occasionally to eat a morsel and then disappear only to pop out again elsewhere.  I had never seen that many mice.

As interesting as all those mice might have been, I was in the process, nonetheless, of turning back to my coffee and the Boulevard scene when one of the hoard streaked out of the enclosure, crossed the space between me and the area where all those mice were dining, and, I swear, skidded, cartoon-character-like, to a stop at my side.

I was glad that there weren’t many other people out there, and that those that were there were not near me. 

I wasn’t at all sure how Parisians took to mouse-magnet type people, and a mouse running over to me and skidding to a stop must have made me look like such a mouse attracter.

Once at my side on the cobbles below my table the creature slouched down on its haunches, looking like one of the mice in the old Disney movie Cinderella

I had never seen a mouse do that – except once.  I mean they are four-legged and that’s how they are supposed to meet the ground, not like a tiny version of Friar Tuck with hands folded over his paunch (because that is exactly what this mouse had just done with his hands – paws – but god they looked like hands.

“There is little time. You need to rescue her – right now” it said.

With a quick glance to see if anyone was watching us I said “Jacques”?

But he was gone in a flash.

I had a lot to think about when I finally got home that evening after my dinner at Brasserie Lipp and my coffee at Deux Magots.

There had been the non-sequitur suggestions, one from the Maître de hotel of Lipp, at the beginning of my time there, and the same one made by my waiter when I was departing, that I should have a café Deux Magots.  Those dual, almost-commands, hung in a limbo-like niche of time and space.  I couldn’t forget them, but I had no idea why they had been rendered, nor had I any idea what they might mean other than the literal interpretation of the words. In that case – if I took them at literal face value - I was back to not being able to give them any reasonable place in time, space or logic.

There had been the allusion by Lisa to a word that, even after disclaiming any malicious intent in using it, or in trying to translate it – a translation that sounded like either a bad line from a bad adventure novel or the ravings of a crazed linguist – she still insisted was a real word and that the translation was as close as English or any human tongue might get to it.  I wished that I had had the presence of mind to ask her how she knew the word, and if not translatable in a human tongue, what tongue?

There had been the little test of Nels’ ability to identify the place of origin for English speakers.  The fact that he had accurately identified my place of origin was mildly interesting, or mildly entertaining.  But it was the words that I had blurted out from no place that I could identify in my experience, to fill three or four minutes with my speech for Nels to analyze, that had been the key point of that whole exercise. 

Both the fact that those words had come from nowhere and that they had been really quite interesting were things that I couldn't set aside for forgetting.  And Lisa’s and Nels’ reaction to them was equally thought provoking.

There was the fact that the interest that I had stirred up with my little tale had led to the revelation that the friend of whom I had reminded them, and who had walked Rue Saint-Jacques daily, had said that he sometimes heard things as he walked.  That had led to the suggestion by Lisa, and seconded by Nels, that maybe if I too walked Rue Saint-Jacques I might also hear things, or see things, or think of things that would allow me to expand the story that I had apparently invented in their presence into something that might lead somewhere.  It might lead, so Nels suggested, to a real attempt at writing a historical novel of some kind.

And that idea, and that suggestion was beguiling enough to make me seriously think that walking Rue Saint-Jacques, at least once, was a damn fine idea.

Finally, there was the mouse. 

I preferred to forget about that altogether.  But the incident seemed to be trying to hook itself in my frame of reference to be in some way related to the statement “Remember the Café Deux Magots”.  But it was at best “a fleeting glimpse”. But it was a fleeting glimpse that had a predecessor. I had seen and talked to that mouse previously. Or I had dreamt that I had seen him previously. I knew that I had been awake at Deux Magots.

I sat in bed with my head propped up with three pillows and tried to forget the mouse, tried to divine the meaning of the staff at Lipp urging me to drink coffee across the street, and pondered the idea of walking Rue Saint-Jacques, and wondering what it would be that I should be looking for, to advance the larval state of my historical novel into its next, more advanced, form of existence.

It was almost too much. 

I got up and got a glass of calvados and sipped and pondered and, ultimately, slept.