No kidding. Hell is open for business.
Of course, “hell” is not the best translation of “L’Enfer.” “Inferno” would be better, but Hell rings about right (if you would excuse the pun) for much of the current American audience .
[Aside: Have you ever looking into the meaning of "Lucifer"? Light-bearer, god of light, Venus, the morning star, son of dawn. In Hebrew it means "Helel (bright one) son of Shachar (dawn)." Helel, the morning star, was a Babylonian (Canaanite) god who was the son of the god Shahar, god of the dawn.
In modern Jewish theology, Helel is not associated at all with HaSatan (the adversary). The prophet Isaiah spoke of the fall of Babylon and along with it the fall of her false gods Helel and Shahar.
It wasn't until medieval times that Christianity associated him with the Satan character. Mythologically, he's almost a twin of Prometheus. Ever wonder if Christians got the whole mythology terribly confused?]
I’d love to walk through the gates of hell – into a library… it’s what I always half-suspected it might be, considering how many contemporary god-followers appear to regard such unsheeplike activities as reading and thinking and possibly enjoying something for a few minutes.
It seems fitting that such luminaries as Voltaire, Apollinaire, Louÿs and Bataille should be so honored.
I want to wander around through the Bibliothèque Nationale (and the whole surrounding area!).
Just seeing this announcement makes me long for Paris – ‘The City of Light’ (La Ville-lumière).
I am overwhelmed by feelings of sadness and yearning.
I miss living on the left bank, the Quartier Latin, the 5th arrondissement.
I miss Jean Baudrillard so much, and I’m not done grieving him. I wonder if he is buried in Paris. I hope that he is.
I miss the lovely Isabelle, who tried every morning to tutor me away from an Italian accent when I arrived to buy fresh bread and treats. I think she thought I was Swedish. Bonjour. Bonjour mademoiselle. No, no, no – bah-GETT-te. Smiles. Shakes her finger. Makes me repeat. Softly claps as I get better… She wouldn’t let me buy anything until I had said it perfectly – just so. I miss her face.
I miss Rick Colbert, our American ex-pat landlord. He looked just like Mark Twain and he loved to sing with me. Can you imagine our duet – Celine Dion (in French) followed by Leon Redbone? We had a blast. I wonder where he is now – we lost track.
I miss Joseph Nechvatal – my “viral” friend – an almost unbelievably creative and lucid artist and writer. I wish I could have spent more time with him than I did. Of all the people I met there, he was my favorite friend.
I miss all the friends we met in Paris, and in Lille, and in the south of France, and in the mountains.
A rush of memories…
- Seeing Cathédrale Notre-Dame through the small window in the shower, or walking down to go sit inside it – breathing, attuned.
- Fresh flowers almost every day. Lilacs, too.
- The open-air markets in the square below – twice a week.
- So many fountains. So many beautiful things to look at, no matter where you go.
- Drinking wine while out on the rooftop, looking over the city at sunset and twilight.
- Throwing my high heeled shoes off the bridge and into the Seine during a fit of pain and petulance.
- Having to walk back across the city, in stockings, through most of the remaining night. Laughing at dawn.
- Being served a pig’s foot (surprisingly delicious) when I thought I had ordered a pork chop.
- Children playing in Luxembourg Garden.
- The graves of Abelard and Heloise, Oscar Wilde, and so many others – even the junky grave of Jim Morrison.
- Watching some of the strangest and most compelling films I’ve ever seen.
- Observing the long, long lines to see American movies – and I watched them, too.
- Buying exactly the wrong chicken to cook for dinner (one letter difference in the word = no spring chicken).
- Watching my carnivorous plants catching sunlight on a beam of the loft.
- Looking at enormous framed bugs in the Montmartre streets, beneath the majesty of Basilica of the Sacré Coeur.
- Being able to walk, or take public transportation, anywhere I want to go.
- Being as slender and fit as I’ve ever been.
- Meeting people easily, all the time – having amazing conversations with all sorts of people.
- Oh. The food. Oh.
- Oh. The clothes. Oh.
- Oh. The ART. Oh!
In many ways, the standard of living was much lower, it’s true.
But in all the ways that mattered to me, the quality of the life was much, much higher.
It was intellectually stimulating, socially engaging, aesthetically pleasing, spiritually uplifting, and fun. Fun. FUN.
I miss the raucous parades of every kind (but mostly protest and/or pride). I love the way gay Parisians sing “I Will Survive” when they’re rowdy. One time, we even saw two parades collide.
The only ones who were ever snooty to me were waiters (and really, that’s part of their job description).
There were some Americans that were horrible and loud and rude, though. I was pretty tempted to say something on occasion:
- “Hey, where’s my damn coffee?” (in a cafe)
- “I wonder how much money they spent on this thing?” (loudly, during a service at Notre Dame)
- “These women look like harlots” (on the street – beyond anything else, who uses the word “harlot”?)
- “All in all, I’d rather be in Milwaukee” (floating down the Seine at night, looking at the Eiffel Tower)
It’s life – just life. Every place one can live has its pros and cons. Here… we have a house we could never afford in France, some forms of security that would not be possible there – but it all feels so dead here, so unfriendly, so uncaring, so – un-fun.
Paris is a beautiful city, a beautiful city. I even got used to the bits of ashy grit in the air.
I was a free woman in Paris. I felt unfettered and alive. Or something like that.
The last time I was in Paris, our son was conceived. My body had simply refused to get pregnant in Atlanta. I like to think it was the city’s gift to me, a return gesture for my love song. And perhaps it put a sparkle in his soul.
So… I’ve never lived in Milwaukee, so I couldn’t really speak with authority on that, but all things considered, I think I’d rather be alive in the Paris inferno than buried in the Atlanta crypt.
At least today. At least after watching the news.