Caveat: Chartres &c.

14 janvier 1985 lundi

The weekend was busy. Saturday, recall: the soft chilly gloom of Chartres, an amazing cathedral, so dedicate to god, as were the generations of men who created it. Each window, her own story, framing the illiterate world wherein the medievals lived placidly, sheep of god. The cathedral seemed the sort of thing that I though only appeared in myth, or in the daydreams of young children (like I once was) who went to be architects someday (as I once did). But I watched too the midwesternesque french countryside roll by outside the frosted bus windows, and watched the little farms and towns swing past, and the vast wires which swooped by only to be caught up just before they fell, under their heavy electric loads, by another prententious tower of gaudy, post-industrial steel. So much for Poetry. I spent that night – the whole night – at La Piscine – a strictly across-the-channel sort of scene (i.e. Londoneque). But I stayed six hours till 5:30 am. Not drinking, not dancing, but just watching several hundred disaffected french, british, american, german, etc. youth party all one Saturday night. It left me content but exhausted. You can feel all the shields of a thousand static individual clash, and smell the hot, empty ozone of their lonely intermingling. Some were happier than others.

Yesterday, having slept 3 hours after taking the 1st metro homee (yes, I got that wonderful, almost ecstatic sense!), I staggled off to the Louvre, looking for something meditative. I hit the whole thing, spending 7 hours there, and despite my exhaustion, I felt somehow compelled to see it all, and meditate a little on each thing I saw. I spent a lot of time especially with the early rennaissance schools of painting in Italy. I could spend hours watching the renditions of so many vivid imaginations.

Well, I did miss the Ancient Near-Eastern part, basically. But I meditated too a great deal on the displays of tapistries and works of Coptic Egypt. I recalled several books I'd read last spring on gnosticism, and how one of the centers of that alternate, powerful christian spirituality was coptic Egypt. I tried to squint my eyes and visualize the vibrant, christian faith in its hydra-headed, flowering, youth among the dead stone and starched styles – but all I felt were the overwhelming waves of heat, that desert, where those same artifacts waited 1200+ years after Islam had ousted the coptic vibrancy. Etc.

So I spent today pretty much recuperating.

1985_ParisFranceViewFromND01

[The "retroblogging" project:  this is a "back-post" transcribed from a paper journal on 2013-04-26.  I've decided to "fill-in" my blog all the way back.  It's a big project.  But there's no time limit, right?

I will concede: frankly, this is very pretentious, embarrassing, unpleasant writing to look back on – especially considering it was my own journal? In 1985, who was I thinking was going to read it – some futuristic world-wide computer network?

The picture is from a scan of one of the rather extensive set of photos that I took in 1983-1985. It shows a view looking toward Sacre Coeur from one of the bell towers on Notre Dame.]

Caveat: Paris &c

7 janvier 1985; Monday

I arrived in Paris Saturday the 5th at Charles de Gaulle Airport, and took the bus into Paris with the group. I was impressed by the “Americanness” of so much of what I saw, yet at the same time permuted in its own peculiar french way. When one anticipates traveling in Europe, I imagine that it is easy to forget that for all the history, most of Western Europe is very modern, XXth century. Freeways slip past XVIIth, XVIIIth, XIXth century houses without pause, and the littel cars with yellow headlights climb over cobblestones laid many years ago.

After establishing myself at the hotel <- St Sulpice, I went out with some people to try the Metro, &c. We went to l’Arc de Triomphe & the Champs-Elysees and looked around a lot. I wasn’t too impressed – the Champs-Elysees was so “touristy” and the Arc just sort of brooded over it all, monument to another unnecessary, painful human folly. The flame burned insomnolently, but its focus seemed other than the present moment.

Yesterday, I went to see this Magritte exhibition across from Beaubourg, for I have always liked Magritte and surrealism in general. It was no disappointment, & after dwelling several hours peering at Magritte’s dark, dusky symbols, I checked out the Centre G. Pompidou, and moved on to see the Musee Rodin across town. Rodin is gorgeous, I love his statues – I expect to return here better prepared for what I will see. I was plunged into an extremely pensive mood by all this art, and unfortunately became depressed – the snow fell, and it was cold, & I could not sleep last night (perhaps that’s jetlag too). Somehow al that art got me thinking of the John Barth book I read over vacation amongst the redwoods of the isolated California coast – my home. The book was called Chimera, and all the mythological references made there were evoked by the Rodin statuary. Coming out of Rodin, I went past “Invalides” & l’Eglise de la Dome. Anyway, I finally returned to the hotel.

[The “retroblogging” project:  this is a “back-post” transcribed from a paper journal on 2013-04-28.  I’ve decided to “fill-in” my blog all the way back.  It’s a big project.  But there’s no time limit, right?

I will concede: frankly, this is very pretentious, embarrassing, unpleasant writing to look back on – especially considering it was my own journal? In 1985, who was I thinking was going to read it -some futuristic world-wide computer network?]