Passing through Paris I stopped by the Shakespeare and Company bookstore to pick up some reading for my trip. Two books jumped out at me, A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway and Stories by Susan Sontag. Happy with my purchases, I jumped on a train to the west coast.
On the way back through Paris I had a few hours to kill. I decided to visit the cafés of Hemingway, where he preferred to socialise, where he preferred to work. The weather was too hot to sketch or read and so I people watched for awhile over an espresso and citron pressé before heading into the Musée D’Orsay. When in Paris I would often go back to this museum to revisit the impressive impressionist collection and always be in awe of the model of the Paris Opera, seeing all its structure and inner workings.
It’s a curious place, watching people walk over to famous paintings to take a picture and walking away never spending any time looking at it with their own eyes. Others listen to the headphone guides, standing, glazed eyes elsewhere, not looking at the work being discussed. Two grand Toulouse-Lautrec paintings hang and yet everyone is looking the other way, taking pictures of the clock window. It has an impressive view to be fair, the river, the Louvre, the hill of Montmartre and the Sacré-Cœur.
I took a few photographs, details of artworks that impressed me. The colours, brush strokes, the canvas or paper, an exhibition of Tracey Emin’s drawings, the paint spills, the way her titles were written in pencil. Although it was extremely busy, I was glad to leave my bag for awhile and wander around in the cool building. It was soon time, to brave the 37 degree heatwave, to head to the airport and go home.
random quotes from A Moveable Feast:
“When I stopped working on the races I was glad but it left an emptiness. By then I knew that everything good and bad left an emptiness when it stopped. But if it was bad, the emptiness filled up by itself. If it was good you could only fill it by finding something better. I put the racing capital back into the general funds and I felt relaxed and good.”
“…I missed not working and I felt the death loneliness that comes at the end of every day that is wasted in your life.”
“Never go on trips with anyone you do not love.”
“They knew nothing of our pleasures nor how much fun it was to be damned to ourselves and never would know nor could know. Our pleasures, which were those of being in love, were as simple and still as mysterious and complicated as a simple mathematical formula that can mean all happiness or can mean the en of the world. That is the sort of happiness you should not tinker with but nearly everyone you knew tried to adjust it.”
a leftover fragment:
I sat in the café with a view of the burnt Notre Dame to decide how to spend these few hours. I noticed an exhibition of electronic music at the Philharmonie de Paris with Thom Yorke and RiceBoy Sleeps concerts the same week? perhaps I could have planned this trip better. At the entrance to Electro I was given a pair of headphones to plug into the many sockets throughout the installation to listen to the overwhelming history of electronic music. One video stood out, dancers, recreating a club scene moving really slowly. There was something in how they looked at each other, how they moved past each other sometimes touching. They captured that feeling of the dance floor, the drugs, the feeling of being one yet amongst many, those moments of brief eye contact so full of connection.