A sample from the recent travelogue:
5 April, 2009, Paris, France
Sitting in Place de la Bastille contemplating a question — what is it that makes Paris, well, Paris? Perhaps this is an inherent bias, but the answer seems to boil down to vitality — life, in other words. Paris is life. And life is Paris.
I once described it as a living museum. But that is too static…Inert. Like a charged electric coil, there is energy, at times invisible, that emanates from the place. A certain immunity — insulation — is transmitted to long-time denizens. They become inured…Blasé. This is part sophistication, part survival mechanism. One would die if unable to shut off a little. The dynamism would become too much. The rejuvenating source of spirit in the city thus comes from visitors and outsiders — not yet inoculated, they positively radiate with the city’s occult energy.
In Paris, someone is always doing “something”. There is actually a fairly rigid form in the city — the way restaurants advertise their specials, the way one orders in a café, even the way people dress (stylish, but somewhat conformist — perhaps that’s the essence of style…). But this form is constantly being challenged and destabilized by the inherent eccentricity of the locale. Bourgeois mores try and contain the outbursts, yet this leads to mixed results.
While the French are inheritors of a deeply exacting and rational Cartesian soul, it seems Paris is the vital instinctual force defying this order. In the end, if one plans anything in this city, it’s best to be prepared to adapt…
It’s a question of melangé — deep tradition mixed with exoticism and the new. Conformity and radicalism perched on the same corner. Filth and depravity juxtaposed with incredible, transcendental beauty.
There is a force, an intent, perhaps even a teleology, in Paris. It is inevitable. Like some Heraclitan dialectic, it’s an incarnation of the ever-changing river one can never step into twice. For lack of a better metaphor, Paris is a language all its own.
Add to this the fact that finding free wireless is like accidentally tripping over the Holy Grail, and it is clear how elusive the place can be…