A Free Man in Paris
There is something strange about the reconstruction of Notre Dame..... Perhaps it is because it represents the phoenix-like resurrection of a dream. Paris has been a part of my world for over fifty years - only a small part, but with comings and goings and this and that, from Absinthe to Maryland, from Cluny to Joyce. But now, as the cranes tower over the burned-out corpse of Our Lady, and passers-by take selfies, I lapse into reveries of times past and retrace the cinders of my life.
This picture graces the sous-terre of Bofinger Brasserie on rue de la Bastille, and I wondered what the lady was implying with her book.... On the internet I found that someone else had asked the question:
Que signifie : quo non hac duce?
To which this was the reply:
« quo non hac duce » pourrait être traduit par « Jusqu’où ne va-t-on pas sous sa conduite» [How far do we not go under his guidance? ] which is to be found on the reverse of coins from the reign of Napoléon III.
NB [François Houtin, jardinier-paysagiste, réalise un rêve d’artiste et met au service de la gravure sa maîtrise de l’art topiaire en réalisant cette composition paysagée de la place de la Bourse, siège de la Chambre de commerce. Palmiers, ifs et cyprès, bassins et jets d’eau ornés de coquilles et dauphins, donnent à cet espace emblématique de la ville un luxe versaillais, digne de son appellation d’origine, la place Royale. Au XVIIIe siècle, une médaille de la chambre de commerce de Bordeaux portait l’inscription Quo non hac duce (Jusqu’où ne va-t-on pas sous sa conduite ?), remplacée sur la gravure par florente, faisant référence à la floraison et la prospérité.]
Qui savait? And what, pray, does this have to do with my freedom?
Well, in the meanwhile, upstairs chez Bofinger there is la coupole (not, just now, to be confused with the restaurant in Montparnasse made famous by Josephine Baker (and, incidentally, my mother's godmother, though that's another story....):
And while my ROGNONS DE VEAU FLAMBÉS AU COGNAC (sauce au poivre vert, fricassée de champignons, purée de pommes de terre au beurre) are prepared:
Lady Gaga (whose privacy I respect, but who does not recognise me.....) enjoys PÂTÉ EN CROÛTE MAISON at la table à côté de moi:
Hey Ho! It's a mad mad mad mad world, full of celebrities or simulacra. At Bouillon Chartier in Montmartre I once ate close to Samuel Beckett - (but he did not recognise me). Now I find myself seated with three pretty maids from North Carolina - Rosa:
Yes, the world is full of wonderful people: some, comme cet homme, who could have been in the same chair on the left bank when I first took pictures here:
Others, like this combination of Monsieur Hulot and Magritte, seem to be artistic creations from a somehow better age:
In Le Jardin du Luxembourg two friends rehearse the news of the day:
While others remind themselves of the way to go:
Sunshine is le mot du jour. One takes simple pleasure in the fresh air:
While another stocks up on vitamin D:
Within The Musée du Luxembourg they are asking, Who was Gertrude Stein? in an exhibition to mark the 50th anniversary of the death of Pablo Picasso. And here she is, as pictured by Cecil Beaton, with, and without, her overcoat.....
Though despite her manteau, there is sunshine here too, and, in the background, Ten Portraits of Jews of the Twentieth Century by Andy Warhol, to remind us that the sun shines equally on all of us:
Yes, the world is full of interesting, different people, and their enigmatic shadows:
I am particularly pleased to meet this girl, who Picasso called Buste (étude pour Les Demoiselles d'Avignon). It seems that she is gentle, and I think she might make a demure companion for a free man in Paris:
In the Basilica of Sacré Coeur de Montmartre I find myself touched by the space, enveloped, perhaps, by a sense of peace. I know that Amanda would love this, but she cannot be with me, and, though my thoughts fly up, my words remain below [sic].....
Outside there are crowds - (but they don't recognise me either). I am a free man in Paris....
Free to drink Ricard at a pavement cafe:
Free to draw on a Gauloise (Disque Bleu) in the street at dusk:
And free to take a selfie by the Seine, with the charred skeleton of Louis Vierne's organ en arrière-plan.....
I was a free man in Paris
I felt unfettered and alive
Nobody was calling me up for favors
No one's future to decide
A Free man in Paris
Place de la République, Paris.
Marianne, the young and fictional woman who represents the republic, wears her Phrygian cap, the symbol of Liberty.....