Paris Diaries: Apres-Midi Delice (Afternoon Delight)
The next morning my ankle was swollen, less swollen from the night before (which is normal with swelling), but still noticeably swollen. I tried not to panic. I searched the ankle for signs of a localized infection. In my left foot, I often get localized infections that start to spread up towards my heart via lymphic system. These types of infections usually require IV antibiotics and bed rest and occasionally emergency hospitalization. (To make things more fun I have a slight allergic reaction to the medications necessary to treat these infections so I also have to go on antihistamines as well.) But I didn't see any symptoms of an ascending lymphangitis. I didn't have any symptoms of a generalized infection (like fever) so I was at least a little reassured that my worst case scenario had not yet developed yet. Most likely, or so I tried to tell myself, I was suffering from soft tissue damage. If that was the case then I wasn't in any severe trouble. All I had to do was rest.
Except I had absolutely no intention of resting. I didn't come all the way to Paris to lie around my hotel room. I came all the way to Paris to see Paris. It had taken me three years to get back here, far longer than I thought it would. And how long would it be before I got back here again? And even if I intended to come back, things happen, the world changes on dime, and our plans sometimes evaporate. Like my wedding plans. Two Towers fall and pouff they're gone. The Towers and the plans. No I wasn't going to bank on the future. I came to Paris to see Paris now not plan my next visit relying on an unstable future.
Still I had to take care of myself. I couldn't tell my body to completely go fuck itself. That was a sure fire way to end up in a hospital bed. One of the arguments that I have with people often is when I bring up my disability they say "Well I don't think of you as disabled." As touching as that is, it is unfortunate that my physical reality isn't dictated by how you conceptualize me intellectually. Wish it was, but it's not. And this is what it is to be disabled. It has nothing to do with how others see you. It's about limitation and frustration. To constantly negotiate between what you want and what won't end you back in the ER. In this case, I had to tone the Enforced Cultural Death March down to a Casual Cultural Death Stroll.
One of my favorite places to go in Paris is the Musee du Moyen Age AKA the Musee du Cluny. As you may remember from my first trip, I wrote about my deep of love Cluny and particularly that Cluny has the Reliquary of the Umbilicus of Christ.
(I am not going to write all over again about my love of Cluny and being able to see what 15th century shoes look like. If you want to know click on the link and reread the post you slackers.)
On my way to Cluny, I stopped outside the gate and looked down at the ruins of the Roman Bath. (Massive Disgression:if you go inside Cluny, on the first floor you actually walk around what's left of that bath and you can feel the temperature change as you move from room to room. And that, people, is why they had one of the finest Empires ever. And why I forgive them for their utter lack of decent poetry. Because these were people who understood engineering. I could use a Roman or two. Well, I could use a whole harem of Romans, but I really need one to fix the plumbing in my apartment, but digress.) Anyway, a jauntily dressed man, confident enough to wear a white suit, was eye-ing a girl on the street when he spied me and sidled up. He was about to come on to me, a move I would have welcomed the day before, but today I didn't want a man who was going to hit on any girl he could find. I walked on before he could do anything about it.
Of course, Cluny was amazing as I remembered. I sat with the Unicorn Tapestries and meditated on the tapestries for quite some time. I moved on to the reliquary room where I was able to admire the Foot Reliquary of St Adalhard. What is with the whole reliquary thing? Is it because I'm Jewish that this whole hacking to pieces of saints thing bothers me? You think the person is a saint so instead of treating the body with reference, you cut it to pieces and then build a whole bunch of little jewel encrusted, but a little on the ridiculous side vessels so that your church can be "blessed" by the body part of a saint? Does that seem like a nice thing to do, a good way to reward a person who has done his/her best to live a blessed life? If you cut me to pieces after my death I guarantee you, you better take out some life insurance because I'm coming for you. Of course, I'm not a saint so maybe that's the whole problem. Still, it seems truly revolting.
And of course, the Umbilicus of Christ was still ensconced in its corner without much in the way of fanfare. That's the French for you. They have so many utterly awesome sights/works of art/museums, but they'll be goddamned before they stoop to tasteless American PR tactics to let people know and sell some tickets. Me? I'm dying to make a mint of Reliquary of the Umbilicus of Christ t-shirts.
There was a concert going on in one of the rooms while I was there. The voices of the choir easily penetrated the door and filtered through the entire museum. And so while I was wandering I got to listen to this lovely haunting music. While it is easy to look back on the fifteen hundreds and think "Thank God I didn't live then" occasionally I have these moments with the music and the art, and I think it must have been quite something at times. Magical and impressive. Terrifying and awesome.
Afterwards I sat in the courtyard
for a bit. A girl was reading Ubu Roi,and it made me smile as I read it when I was college. I was relieved to know that at least someone else was enjoying the play. (The play caused a riot after the first line was uttered on opening night. The reason was the play opened with the King coming on stage with a toilet brush as a scepter and uttering the word "Merde.")
A class of what appeared to be 12 years old then paraded through the courtyard. They were big hoop earring wearing, ipod listening, shoes fashionably too big and untied sporting, talk to the hand gesture giving students. They were properly unenthused about going into the museum and their teachers fluttered about them trying to herd them, like kittens, into the museum. It pleased me to know that the frustration of teaching and the lack of interest in learning is the same everywhere. There are some constants in the universe.
I hobbled to lunch at Polidor which is where Rimbaud and Verlaine used to sit long into the night drinking and talking and being generally brilliant. I was not impressed by the food (there is far better to bed had at the same prices all over Paris), but was pleased to sit there and be treated badly by the very brusque waitresses who are, at the very least, brusque to everyone. After tearing a corner of my paper table cloth off for a souvenir, I continued on to les Jardins Du Luxembourg.
I remembered the gardens there as absolutely glorious. This time was different. I was not nearly as impressed with the garden as I strolled about. Perhaps it was because of the intense pain I was in, perhaps it was because of how much effort it took me to get there, but I wondered why getting to the gardens had been so important to me. It seemed that there were more worthy places to hobble towards.
Still I had to take it easy. And I had limped all the way here. So I stood by the Medici fountain, which is quite beautiful and tranquil. There were ducks there cleaning their fathers and flapping. It's funny how watching something you have seen a thousand times seems more profound in the sight of such a beautiful work of art. My two great loves combined-statues and water.
John Fugelsang, who actually was the manager of my freshmen dorm while he was working his way to fame as a stand up comedian, used to say that there were two ways of buying pot in the Washington Square Park: make eye contact and don't make eye contact. Getting male attention at the Luxembourg Gardens is exactly the same. While sitting on the grass contemplating my next move, I made the mistake of sweeping my eyes across the vista in front of me. An older frenchman thought I was taking in him personally and so approached me politely.
And here is where I made a mistake.
I thought I wanted male desire. And so I was amenable. He understood a little English and so we took a bit of walk around the gardens. He didn't really want to stop and appreciate the jasmine as I did. Finally he pulled up a chair and sat next to me. And then he kissed me.
I've commented on this before, but since french kissing bears the name of this country one would THINK the inhabitants would excel at the art. Um.....in a word....no. I have kissed quite a few frenchman in my day and come across exactly two who kissed well. And the second one I hadn't met yet. Thus guy kissed not so much with desire, but like he was trying to pretend to wrestle a giant rubber anaconda. It was a scene from Ed Wood not Zalman King. I tried to put him off a bit,but before I knew it again with the wrestling. Finally I managed to disengage myself. I tried to escape by suggesting another walk. We chatted. He had wife, of course, not to mention a mistress, but that shouldn't bother me. All I could think of "And NEITHER of these women has corrected the kissing issue?" And then before I knew it he was trying for me again. I explained to him that I wasn't that kind of girl.
People, I told him I wasn't the type of girl who kisses strange men in public parks.
He believed it. He understood. He scaled back, but then tried gentle kissing. This was still horrible. I would have had more fun trying to gut a fish with my tongue. He had absolutely no sense of the sensual of the give and take of physical pleasure. Then after a minute again he was back trying to wrestle the anaconda. I pushed him off yet again. I suggested a walk. We walked about five feet before he said, "This is to difficult. Good-bye." He was hoping I would argue. I would kiss him. I would let down my guard.
I said, "Good-bye" and fled before he tried to give me a good-bye kiss.
I wandered, now freely, under the jasmine. Taking in their scent, I stopped and watched the games of picket in the park. One of the women playing picket was wearing a Yankees baseball hat. One of the players a handsome young man eyed me quite a bit. I wondered if there were picket groupies. I sat and watched for a while and then moved on. I pulled up a chair under a jasmine bush and began to write. I wrote, "The first time I came to Paris I needed to discover that I was still desirable to men. I know that now. This time I don't want desire, I want love. And if there is no love, I want to be free to go wherever the hell I want." I had had it with sacrificing my desires for men who just wanted to bed me. There was no fucking shortage of them on this side of the ocean or the other. What I wanted was love.
I looked up and realized as I had been writing the sky had darkened. Not with the setting of the sun, but with the threat of a terrible storm.
Labels: french kissing, les jardin du luxembourg, paris, the musee du cluny
Bad Bunni posted at 10/19/2007 10:22:00 PM