Sunday, December 19, 2021

Paris Withdrawal

The first time I went to Paris was in 1999.

I had never wanted to go to Paris.

I had never given a moment's desirous thought to going to France.

I was like a lot of male Americans; I didn't know much about France, but I knew that I didn't need to know even the small amount that I knew; why would a red blooded 'Merican ever want to go to France?

But my wife was going to go with some friends of ours on a ten-day sojourn to Paris; one of those friends had set up the tour.

I decided out of some sort of solidarity need with my wife to go also.

I have never really ever come back.

Starting in the first hour, on a walk down Avenue des Champs-Élysées - we had opted to abandon our tour fellows who were going to McDonald's at Etois Charles de Gaulle - I began to have an out of body experience: from knowing that I had no use for France I had suddenly become aware of the fact that I had always lived there, and didn't ever want to live anywhere else.

I have no idea to this moment what that was all about; but it happened; and I have never changed my mind about it.

By the time we broached the front of the Marriott Champs-Élysées I was a Parisian, or a Frenchman, or, more likely, had found my ancient Celtic soul.

Whatever it was, it was unexpected, and it was wonderful.

We left Paris for 'Merica ten days later.

Several months later my wife emailed me an article from the Seattle Times about a property rental company in Paris that a lot of Seattle residents used for apartment rental.  

The article had links to descriptions of cartiers where the firm had apartments; as I read the descriptions I began to have a distinct need to go back; withdrawal syndrome I have come to call it; before 1999 was gone we had gone back and rented our first apartment, for a month.

That was on rue Visconte.

I have lived in Paris all over two or three arrondissements: on Ile de la Cité (where I wrote A Curious Confluence) over by Tour Eiffel in the 7th and on rue Jacob across from the apartment where James Baldwin once lived, and several other places.

That apartment on rue Jacob was just down the rue from where Americans and Frenchmen worked out the terms of co-operation that allowed the United States to exist.

Back in the Eighteenth Century.

In 2002 I started going to Paris alone; my wife - even though she was my tour guide down Champs-Élysées that day in 1999 - and she had attended le Sorbonne in the sixties, she just didn't find Paris to be as compelling as I have found her to be since that day on the Champs-Élysées.

Since 1999 my longest time in Paris has been five months - that was 2012; I celebrated my 70th birthday with Ann Claire, Joe and Mysti - and Alice the Citrouille cat - at la Citrouille, one of my favorite places in the world.

The withdrawal syndrome usually waits for a month or two to begin badgering me; when it does I always email Thierry, my landlord, and reserve again.

One time though, I was on the plane back from Paris and was watching a movie: Midnight in Paris; I emailed Theirry as soon as I had a network.

And I reserved my Paris home - the apartment that, for so much of the last twenty two years, has been where I live in paris; there is even a brass plaque with my name on my mailbox: 25 rue Guenéguad 75006.

I have been absent from Paris since December 2018.

I hope I live to go back.

To my real home.

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