Travel Memories: April in Paris 2003

In April of 2003 I wrote this email to my friends back home. I was newly arrived in Paris and absolutely in love with it. It was to be the best time of my life.  Ella Fitzgerald kept singing this song in my head…

Spring this year, has got me feelin’
Like a horse that never left the post…
I lie in my room, staring up at the ceilin’
Spring can really hang you up the most.

Morning’s kiss wakes trees and flowers
And to them I’d like to drink a toast.
I walk in the park just to kill lonely hours
Spring can really hang you up the most.

The cold winter has passed.  The trees which were once dark and barren have donned lovely coats of vibrant green and dashing pink.  The wind blows and they shimmer with silver light.  Children romp in the park and the old men play a game that sounds like ‘patunk’, but I’m sure that’s not how it’s spelled.  It really is delightful here.  As springs gently works her magic on this enchanting city, I find myself caught up in a wealth of emotions.

There are moments of ecstasy that are so inflaming, that I’m tempted to define them as pure bliss.  I feel this when I step out of my courtyard into the flow of my quartier and I look up and see a bright blue sky and feel a gentle breeze brush my skin.  With a deep breath, I smell fresh baked bread, the perfume of the elegant woman in black and something else…It’s like a memory of an event that I’ve never actually experienced.  It’s reminiscent of kindergarten and roses, but it’s not that.  It’s the way it smells when a certain spirit has entered the room.  You won’t ever be able to see it with your eyes, but it makes its presence known by its special pheromone… it’s like a memory of something you’ve never experienced. My emotions fluctuate between this sort of spiritual bliss and a deep melancholy.

All afternoon, those birds twitter twit
I know the tune this is love, this is it!
Heard it before and I know the score
And I’ve decided that spring is a bore.

College boys are writing sonnets
In their tender passion, they’re engrossed
But I’m on a shelf with last year’s easter bonnet
Spring can really hang you up the most.

Sometimes Paris can make one so lonely!  There are so many people here, from all over the world.  People with agendas and lives of which I am not a part. It’s tough to find a niche here.  As in any acropolis, the citizens have their personal purposes.  They come to the city to live out their ideas.  Their experience blinds them to the world beyond their individual pathology…I mean, it has to happen this way, doesn’t it?  One can’t connect and absorb the aspect of every human passed on the street.  So in a way, we’re all outsiders.  But at some point, we get inside the world of the other.  We create a connection, we develop a relationship and we nurture it to whatever ends.  It takes patience, though.  I’ve met many wonderful people here, people whose friendship I value and will work to retain.  I am very lucky…but sometimes, j’ai les cafards.

Love seemed sure around the new year
Now it’s April, love is just a ghost.
Spring arrived on time, only what became of you, dear?
Spring can really hang you up the most.

Doctors once prescribed a tonic
Sulphur and molasses was the dose.
Didn’t help a bit, my condition must be chronic
Spring can really hang you up the most.

Maybe it’s Spring Fever.  When I’m in this blue mood, I can hardly move.  I have to force myself to leave the sanctity of my bed.  I think about the great city outside and all the wonderful ways I could pass the day, but I swear, this puts me deeper in my funk.  The next thing I know, I’m stressed-out…haven’t even had coffee and I’m whacked!  Spring Fever.  During these times, my mind is wicked with self-deprecation and narcissism.  I’m bitter and I pout like a child…”Woe is me!  Woe is me!” I have learned, though, to accept these moments as being as valuable as the blissful ones.  There’s actually more value in these wild days because these are the ones I live with most of the time.  These are the ones that reveal my true personality with all its hopes and anxieties.  Happy days are rewards for having put up with yourself the other days of the week.

All alone, the party’s over.
Old man winter was a gracious host.
But when you keep praying for snow to hide the clover…
Spring can really hang you up the most.

I don’t know who authored that song, but Ella Fitzgerald croons it out sweet and mellow on the “Clap Hands, Here Comes Charlie” album.  There really is a certain joy that goes along with avoir les cafards.  There is a certain joy that goes along with having the blues.  I’m attaching a few photographs. I’ve yet to organize all the photos that I’ve taken.

Everything in due time. With that being said…

A bientot.

Avec grands bisoux,

PS:  Les cafards are cockroaches.  Avoir les cafards means literally “having cockroaches” or “to have cockroaches.”  It’s also a slang term to the equivalent of “being down in the dumps” or just plain old “sad” as in melancholy.  I’ve seen only one cockroach since I’ve been here.  It was in the hammam at the Mosquee de Paris.  The hammam is a turkish bath where you can take a sauna and have basic spa treatments.  You can also get a great North African meal and enjoy sweetened mint tea on a lovely patio.  I saw a cockroach the size of a small child on the marbled floor of the hammam. I’ve become quite bohemian since I’ve been here…I greeted la cafarde (it had to be female as only females are allowed in the hammam on Thursdays) with a warm “Bonjour” and asked it for directions to the toilet.  Who am I to judge French (or Turkish) bathhouse customs?


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Here I am! Eccomi qui!

Florence, Italy


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