Shock and the City Solution

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.)

The Belated Return

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).

How Does One Say “Lagging” in French

Phew, running behind here.

So after the whole key thing was resolved I did the obvious thing, and took in some modern art at the Centre Pompidou. You know a place is classy when its bathroom graffiti requires a passing familiarity with art history to enjoy.

This painting, from 1928, predicts 99% of all video game level design. Time to get a new paradigm, fellas.

If you know me, you may be aware that my dream has hitherto to been to live in a concrete cube atop a single column. This is no longer the case. I now want to live in a house based on this architectural maquette. I’m not sure about what would be under it. Maybe a deck supported by a single column.

On Saturday I went to the Marche aux Puces in Saint Ouen. Despite not really being a shopping person, I really like being up there. I think I find it funky like a French village while simultaneously being very much in Paris. Unfortunately, I had a really shocking disappointment when I went to cafe that I had really enjoyed when I’d been there with C and was served a quiche that had clearly come out of the fucking microwave. Not on, French people, not on.

In the afternoon I finally found Buttes Chaumont, which, as mentioned previously, shouldn’t have required two days of effort. Once there, I was rewarded with a pretty great over-the-top folly, and a very nice greenspace generally.

As always, however, don’t think too much about that water. Good enough for ducks, and that’s about it.

Missed the Park

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.

Random Photos

This abandoned typewriter in Brontes speaks to man’s inhumanity to man.

In retrospect, I’m sort of sad that I didn’t take more pictures of it.

Man’s inhumanity to man aside, the coolest place we visited was probably Simiane la Rotonde, so called for its incredibly scenic old fortification.

Here are some (I’m fairly certain) non-funerary cairns in a field behind our villa.

Here are my feet on their way out of the countryside.

These Parisian benches, each possessing something the other lacks, speak to man’s inhumanity to man.

Weekend Pictures

Here is C looking extremely glamorous at Holocene.

Here are C and I posing for our the cover of our as-yet-unrecorded (or conceptualized or even discussed) album cover at Holocene.

Here I am on Hawthorne having purchased a festive little hat for sipping rose under when I jet off to France on Thursday. Let’s hope it isn’t stolen from me by a swarm of loathsome flies as the last hat I took to France was.

It Comes From Within

So C’s birthday was last month and we went out to Ocean Haven and did things like have a picnic that consisted of cold pizza and Bourbon and ginger (Reed’s if you’re curious) with lots of lemon. Just to be clear, we also did things like stare out of the window for hours at a stretch. I had sort of hoped that it would serve as an impetus to start writing here again, but it didn’t. Now I’m sort of doing it for no other reason than to do it. Here we are!

I guess the other impetus is that I’m going to France in a few weeks to get some roses in my cheeks, as precocious grownups do from time to time. I guess I’m hoping that a little headwind here will make recording that easier, which I think is a good goal. We shall see how it goes. In the intervening time: lots of pictures of the cat, obvs.

Renewal

So I went on vacation around New Year’s, but I got swine flu (literally, I think) so I didn’t enjoy it very much. It’s a shame, because we spent a week out in Newport, which under better circumstances would have been very nice.

It’s a bit odd starting the new year like this. All that sort of drive that you’re supposed to have to carry you into. . . whatever it is you’re supposed to be carried to for the new year.Instead I’m sort of crawling towards some kind of semblance of normalcy, which isn’t really the same.

Regardless, I’m making some effort to figure out what this one’s going to be about. We’ll see how it turns out.