So travel seems to be about the only sufficient inducement to get me to put anything in here. Luckily, I am headed to Amsterdam on Tuesday, where I will continue to work for a bit while ensconced in a seemingly charming apartment that’s more or less right outside the heart of things. Obviously, being 6 hours ahead of the home office is a bit more awkward than being 3 hours behind it, but my plan is to wake up, do some museums or other sightseeing, and then work into the night, which sort of suits me anyways.
For reasons that I think are coupled tightly with the fact that I’m an excellent traveler, I am terrible at preparing to travel. I’ve gotten through a shocking amount of cleaning today, but there’s still a lot to do, and I haven’t done anything that even resembles packing. I’ve been in a bit of a funk lately, so it has been surprising to me that I’ve been able to plow through as much of the cleaning as I have. When I went out to DC, I definitely left things in a pretty sorry state. Progress, I guess.
So I turned 38 on Monday. That’s pretty grim, of course, but the fact is I’m in pretty good shape these days. I could have better habits, but I’m lean and do a remarkably good job of breathing, under the circumstances. What I have noticed is that my night-vision has started to suffer substantially of late. Because I live in a city, I don’t really notice this at night. Instead, I notice it when I enter a building or get on a bus with my sunglasses on. Stuff that I’ve gotten used to being really obvious has started to be difficult to ascertain under this very specific circumstance.
Made my semi-annual reading of “Some Motifs in Baudelaire” recently, and was compelled to wonder if I miss crowds. While in Paris over the summer, I noted that it was much more crowded than Portland, and at the time my feelings about that were pretty clear. A little quiet time with Walter, however, has made me wonder.
Portland is very nice, in its way, but I’ve never found it very compelling. I don’t want to go out and explore it very much. Obviously, it suits a lot of people. Perhaps the difference is that I’m the type who finds it refreshing to parry his own blows, as it were. It is certainly the case that I find it very comforting to go out into the world and not recognize anyone. I have often thought of myself as a bit agoraphobic, but perhaps the problem that keeps me indoors is more akin to paranoia.
So perhaps the solution is brunch at The Screen Door? The problem is that many crowded places have lousy crowds. Portlanders, accustomed to a certain amount of leeway, are lousy gatherers. I think it’s also worth nothing that while crowds were smooth in NY when I lived there in 98 and 99, but the time I went back for Draper, the sort of New York flow had been irreparably disrupted by the idea that New York was somewhere that everyone should go, rather than being a place for people whose temperament it suited.
In “Motifs” Benjamin frequently returns to how unlike the crowds of Paris are from the crowds of other cities. In the context of a discussion of Baudelaire, this takes the form of suggesting that at the time no other continental cities were as urbanized (and while London is discussed earlier, it doesn’t get compared at this point.) At any rate, while I did feel penned in over the summer, it is worth noting that Parisian crowds still know how to move quickly, efficiently, and safely (definitely feel more at risk from drivers here than I did there.)
I have somehow ended up being the sort of person who is always doing all kinds of stuff. I’ve had a shocking dearth of evenings where I lay on my bed with my hand on my forehead and think about emptiness or whatever.
Here is a picture of C looking very maudlin, despite having some delicious pizza from Sizzle Pie.
Here are C and I goofing off with my camera’s lens cap.
If I look a bit like Rob Ford, it’s because I’d come back from class not so long before these were taken.
Here is C looking rawther dramatic.
Las weekend C and I decided riding the North Coast Scenic Railroad would be a fun day trip. We went to Girabaldi and discovered that our visit coincided with the town festival, Girabaldi Days. There was a little parade, but I didn’t get any pictures because we were at a little cafe eating turkey roasted on the premises. The train ride was charming. We were sad to have to come home, as we always are when we’ve been out at the coast.
So last Sunday C and I went to Montavilla to do some yard work, and maybe make the garage look a little less like somebody blew up a miniature Vancouver, WA in there. Because I am a lunatic, I decided that it would be a good idea to clear out a tremendous mass of blackberries between our garage and the neighbor’s.
This is from fairly soon after I started, but I’d already cleared out the space in which I’m standing.
And here’s the aftermath. It’s not as if there’s nothing left, but I plowed through almost the length of the garage.
Didn’t come for nothing, of course but at least I don’t have to worry about bacterial infection.
Wow, that was quite a gap. So, here’s the thing. On Sunday the 15th I went to a Mapplethorpe exhibit at Le Grand Palais. It was, in fact, probably the highlight of my trip, but I did not, unsurprisingly, bother taking any pictures there. I did bring a catalog back as a present for C, and perhaps it will be mined in future entries (in particular, I’d never seen any of his non-jewelry assemblages, some of which are. . . well, like I said: in the future). On Monday I mostly got things ready, although I did make a belated pass at sending some post-cards. The cards were surprisingly fun, and I’m going to make an effort to secure more addresses in advance the next time I go anywhere (thanks Mrs. Foster!)
I was ready, I suppose, but it was hard to come home.
The reason this post is so overdue is that my vacation coincided, in the worst possible coincidence, with the expiration of my old hosting plan, which I’ve been keen to abandon for some time. As I was returning to work I was also backing all this garbage up and finally getting hosting somewhere where I access my sites-available files with Vim and not some stupid “user friendly” control panel. Everything finally sorted out today, although there are lingering issues (since you asked, media controlled via WordPress on Futility Now is being served by raw IP; I’m hoping some location directives will resolve it without too much trauma).
On Thursday afternoon I tried to visit the Parc des Buttes Chaumont. In my arrogance I thought, “I don’t really have to do much planning. After all, I’m looking for a massive park, which includes the highest elevation in Paris.” They say pride comes before a fall, but in my case it was a rather substantial but fruitless climb.
At any rate, it was okay. Because it’s what we’d call “transitional” in the US, there are lots of sort of not-too-authentique, not-too-trop-moderne houses along my route, which I was able to revel in in lieu of goofy follies.
Like all foot journeys around here, mine ended along the canal. Almost everyone you can see in this picture is sketching, which is pretty great.
My evening was marred by losing the key to my flat, which was pretty embarassing, and also a bit frightening, as there is no way to get out of the apartment without one. My host was able to come by early Friday afternoon to let me out, at which point I discovered that the key had been trapped in the lining of my hat, which is both infuriating and hilarious.
So yesterday was Sacre Coeur day, which was pretty great. When C and I were here, there was some kind of exciting event going on, which was great because we got to watch this massive procession and listen to a bunch of neat chanting, but it also interrupted some things. In particular, we didn’t get a very good look at the main vault of the church, and the part of the crypt with the incredibly creepy relics (WHY DO PEOPLE DO THIS!?!?) was closed. I enjoyed a fuller experience of both of these, although my enjoyment of the vault was definitely less ambivalent.
But we all know what the point of coming up here is, right? So far I’ve had 100% beautiful sunny days, and while the heat and light in Paris can be pretty brutal, I’ve definitley avoided too much of that. In short, the vest possible staring out into space from the top of a massive church weather. The downside is that it really empasizes what I sacrificed in deciding to save space by not brining a real camera. Well, playing to the strengths of what I have, here’s a selfie of me on my way back down again.
In my subsequent wanderings around Montmartre, I saw a lot of people eating delicious-looking omelets, and some cool graffiti.
Okay, there’s more yesterday, but I’m quite groggy now. Hodge podge dating to continue apace!