The Paris I have wanted to live in has always been the Paris of my imagination, the Paris I made out of what I’ve read – “A Moveable Feast,” “Being Geniuses Together,” Morley Callahan’s “That Summer in Paris,” “Exile’s Return” and “Tropic of Cancer.” The Paris of today is bright, hard, expensive, covered by CNN and, worst of all, accessible. Any crummy bustard can get there. Save 25% of your wages from your job at the minimart and even you can go to Paris. And, once in Paris, you can use your cell phone or laptop to exchange daily – or hourly – messages with your idiot friends. Paris is accessible.
But then I started to think, all the narratives of creative life in Paris were stories of endings. Hemingway, McAlmon, Cowley – all of them wrote elegies. Everyone but Miller, of course. Miller didn’t come to the party until after it had ended. The broken down Paris he found would always be there. The lousy, cheap, ghastly Paris of touts and workers and the poisonous rich and the mobs of dull-witted tourists. The more I think of it, the more I believe that this Paris of mine – cheap, excessively accessible, common, homogenous, European Union-infested – is the Paris I want to live in. It’s easy to live in a magical Paris of an imagined past. A grotesque, tourist-ridden place wormy with peroxided Italians screaming into cell phones and my fellow countrymen sitting in dark churches uncomfortable with all the emotions they know they’re supposed to have and don’t – that is the Paris I actually want to live in.
And when I leave – you always leave – I won’t write any pathetic elegy to it either. I’ll just let it go on being exactly and unremarkably what it is. And I’ll do the same.