Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof

European Diary: Suite 503, Hotel Relais St.-Jacques, rue de l’Abbé de l’Epée; 3:30 p.m., Wednesday; June 23, 2004; Paris, France

In Europe, European Diary on December 11, 2004 at 4:47 pm

Took the Métro to the Eiffel Tower, walked along the Seine, waited in a 30-minute line with Koreans, Brits, Italians and Arabs but they closed the top due to the most amazing winds I’d ever experienced. We took the slat-wise water—wheel-powered elevators to the second viewing platform from whence we could see the Sacre Coeur on Montmartre and all around the city.

We had a special moment up on the tower. We sat down outside at one of the tables set out on the suicide-and-snack platform. There one can stare straight down through the perforated metal flooring into the extinction of the soul. There we ate a piece each of Tony’s Frozen Pizza, flown in special from the factory in White Plains. In one hand I was gripping a Styrofoam cup full of the worst coffee I’ve had in France, trying to hold it hard enough to keep it from flying off into space but not so hard I would crush it. In the other, I held a severely wind-abused cigarette as the gale-force winds whipped paper plates and plastic forks through the wind-tunnel heart of the Tour Eiffel.

“Diner coffee at amusement park prices, all in the heart of Paris,” I said to S. as the unreality whirled around us like a mesmer wheel. And it was amusement park awful, with the very worst of northern Italy screeching into their cell phones and trying to shove people aside and shoulder over to the railing and call their flesh-eating madam of a grandmother back in Milan to tell her how wonderful the view was, but how the French were such pigs and they could hardly wait to get back home.

After we got back to the Latin Quarter we had some suspiciously stiff camembert and salad soaked in vinegar at Le Mauzac. Now we’re back in the hotel.

Paris possesses a kind of pearlescence. It shines like the inside of an oyster shell. Even when it’s overcast it gleams like a zinc table. The city’s an intaglio of dull gold and platinum, playing across the sky and water and buildings, always accented with blue – deepest sapphire or turquoise or a gauzy robin’s egg. The sky above Paris looks like the Greek flag.

Joyce had the soul of a con man. But, as I am a poet an din Paris, I feel compelled to live beyond my means, as he did. The concierge has ordered our dinner from Le Mauzac an will bring it up to our rooms. We’ll eat and watch the Latvia-Netherlands game. I am assuming a world-weariness in order to blend in and am practicing speaking with pursed lips and chin angled into the air.

This book of Paris walks in the books shelf of our suite kept quoting Janet Flanner. I tried to read her first volume of Paris columns for the New Yorker before we came. I had never witnessed just how thoroughly journalism could, wielded properly by a skilled hand, such every drop of life even out of a city as fascinating and vital as pairs.

Her Paris was the Paris of tombs and file cabinets.

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