Odeon, the snow , Pont Alexandria Trois & Schumann played on it, above the flowing Seine.
(work in progress …. )
Yesterday’s warm wind was replaced by his wayward twin. It got cold. At least a chill, my own, the place from which Parisians got their scarves. Walking from my hotel on St Sulpice, through Odeon, toward Boulevard St. Michelle (check) and breakfast café complete with strong coffee and liberation, the newspaper, from Henri at the newsstand. His wife could Odeil worked evenings. Sometimes dependent upon the kids, they switched shifts. Depending upon the kids.
I was glad for my heavy leather jacket, wool turtleneck, the closer I got to the Seine the more serious the cold. Like the French themselves, winter leaving Paris can be ambiguous. A part of Paris, is appearing correctly dressed, Like an older Parisian grande dame, dressed to kill, walking le dog in the morning. Her smile… could rapidly change
Often remember Christine, smiling to one of those bedecked ladies, and receiving the cold stare and return. “ah, she can go to hell.” The voice and pronunciation, Parisian surely not French. A few years later after we had all been digitalized without our permission, Chris would’ve been considered: an anomaly. Her mother an Israeli, her dad Palestinian “with an Israeli passport.” So Chris was on the outside looking in. An M.D. of course, for like the Jews of old, that profession could be carried like diamonds. Portable, valuable, and easy to hide.
Christine worked with Drs. without Borders, medicine sans frontiers, … She faxed me to explaining she was returning to Paris after a tough tour. Could I meet her? I had two Parisian projects in the works, and had just finished magazine concerning the economics of America. Where the steel mills had gone empty. The painful polluted sky the caused me so much grief that my main goal in life was to get away from.
Now they stood, lost in trouble, the Pennsylvania steel mills I’d just come from, the Paris projects waiting. Like army draftees that missed the bus, a handmade formal dress wrecked at a party- collars sewn by hand, then the fire sprinkler system gone wrong. A few flowers grew in the the mills, seed blown to the parking lots, waiting to be extinguished by winter. Like all grave yards, mostly the the detritus of the past, waiting around, fully knowing there was nothing to save it. The “friends made in the war” had left with their “winnings ” while you were in the loo. They felt like a war zone. One returned to after the deadly fight, all those years ago, a kid on a learning spree. Empty, broken, single shoes on the floor, untied. What was all this about? All the sweat and bother. Paint and emptiness. Payment had been made. Some bastards ran off with the goods. The beautiful Rembrandt light, an afterthought? … or smirk?
Yes, I could come to Paris. “You should come back to Paris.” That’s all she wrote.
I’ve given up my flat as times changed, returning to my hotel, were staying at Chris’s whether she was there and not. Unless she had rented it for a few weeks while she was gone. I met her coming back from Beirut. Her brother was with her, the perfect Parisian male, looking at the well-worn motorized Nikon F3 titanium, with the fastest lens made, as he passed my table. Pivoting, he turned. Then raising the Nikon’s square shade with two fingers. Looking it in the eye and askance . Smile and a nod … Respect for a tool that I would learn later he understood. I smiled back, it was a conspiracy. Returning to my notebook, and fountain pen, to finish the notes for chapter. This was Then…. finishing a coffee and cognac, separate glasses, and a bit of wiping peacock bleu pen ink from my comapnion, a Brit fishing Creel possibly from the firm of Hardy brothers, Mr. Hardy and Mr. Hardy, the relationship had outlived many others. The travelers possessions have gravitas, footsteps in the journey. The gentleman was sitting, perhaps a meter away when he was joined by Chris, who would become my best friend. We spoke short hand. So when she asked me if I could meet her in Paris, I said yes, knowing the complexity of the question. As she was coming back from hell, I made arrangements for my hotel … Such glitches were easier to solve than the traumas of a rotten tour. I would fax back to confirm the dates, a few hours later, the faxed chattered.
“It’s all right, I’ll be here.”
It was nearly Christmas, warm weather having replaced the expectation of “snow.” People were distracted by it, like cats finding the slippers misplaced. I was glad to miss the sappy good cheer Muzak spilling to the floor with a sticky splash. From little speakers at gas stations beside the pumps, from big speakers at shopping malls, from small radios at the police station. The ubiquity of the marketing Armageddon was en route. If not for horsemen, perhaps 4 million mindless, riding rats. Only the oblivious didn’t hear the screeching and fighting over there hidden by the hill. Christine and I had remarked upon it. Christmas Carols written by Jews 50 years ago. Now the purpose was changed from special to mundane … The only rescue being Easter.
Preferred Paris at Christmas. We would spend some time together and return home to our families before Santa dropped down the chimney to steal the family silver. Hopefully he wouldn’t get stuck to be discovered months later, by Smell.
When last we met, we sat with liberation, watching one more Clinton fiasco, and wondering if there was ever the possibility of getting away from political ick. A daily tagging the presidential news, even in Paris. The journalist and the doctors without borders MD had remained naïve. We were at the beginning of the reign of mentally unstable publicity seekers. As a journalist there was nothing I could do about it, I tried. As an MD, Lord knows she tried too. As my childhood fishing friend said of some hooligans who arrived to toss garbage and the lake … “They’re crazy, can’t do nothin’ with ’em.
This is what I thought as I finished the second coffee, packing off to the bridges crossing the Seine, in increasing snow. My jump boots supportive and sealed. The long walk, to my friends at the Lecoq school, and the tenth arrondisement, where I would have lunch with the Lecoq’s before the afternoon classes, and world work. I missed Christine, due to the nature of life, I often miss Christine, I suppose it was something we shared as it was better than worrying about each others safety. We would meet at her favorite neighborhood North African restaurant that evening at eight hours.
Nabil would ask after my son …. eyebrows raised … simply by holding his hand at waist. I would nod with smile… to say “Yes… fine.” I would hold my hand at waist … asking after his kids… we had been at it for years … would be went the kids were taller than we.
&Christine would arrive, smile, lowering her chin, perhaps a bit of snow in her hair. We would touch cheeks, hers cold from the dark nite, the smell of her perfume as she loosened her winter scarf … still don’t know its name. Sometimes, walking down the street, my son says he smells it.
The scarf was from Jordon.
In the snow. put a few francs where they belonged … atop the clinging flurries, We smiled I left . Then. In after thought returned saying: “Schumann?”. And at that point we exchanged more smiles, both working in less than promising circumstances. I believe he was Polish …. But I explained in French and English, how mum would play the piano while Dad would sing … the melodies were Schumann. When our Dutch friend, John Kuyper visited, John played the piano and mum the Hammond organ. Elegant moments for her.
I had my lunch at L’Elephant, after, two coffees made to go, one with cognac, the other with calvados …. the choice belonged to Sisyphus. And returned to the bridge. Alas, my Schumann gentleman had departed. I was colder still. I drank the coffees looking down the Seine, thinking about my parents singing in the warm house in Pennsylvania . The house I loved and learned to travel from. Well it was lots of coffee and lots of alcohol. Steaming in the cold. But then again, I’m frugal Pennsylvania Dutch.
Even in the winter snow in Paris, with the Seine flowing under me. Where I thought about my parents.
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