April in Paris… or not exactly

While I am fortunate to have ever been to Paris at all, I have never been there in April.  Songs and movies seem to suggest that to be in Paris in April is pretty much to fall in love, but I’m hoping that being wherever we are today (with a little consciousness thrown in) might give us that April-in-Paris feeling, even if we’ve never quite had that April-in-Paris feeling, at least not in April and in Paris.

While much of Los Angeles virtually is a movie set, with even super-luxury houses having brick or marble facades and stucco along the unseen sides, no British Manor house or French Chateau would need to be approached from only one direction; but in Hollywood it’s all about what’s “in the shot,” and the rest be damned.

Even if you hail from New York, San Francisco, Chicago or Boston (all fine cities in their own right), Paris has the uncanny feeling of making one feel as if one is not on a movie set, but in a movie setting—the real deal, the original to be copied.  Paris is dream-like, for me anyway, particularly the old streets winding through the Marais, buildings emanating the charm of history and authenticity.

Other places try to evoke or emulate the charm of Paris, but Paris just is.  All cities have humble beginnings if you go back far enough in time—like when all of Paris was a muddy island in the Seine (now the Isle St. Louis and the Isle de la Cité), and so all of America is at a city-charm disadvantage in comparison, with Notre Dame Cathedral rising into the sky five hundred years before Columbus even found America.

Charm takes time, centuries really… and I have every faith that if America can maintain its existence for another six hundred years our cities are going to get some real charm going.  Or maybe Paris will crumble under the weight of all that projection and Portland or Missoula or Mumbai will become the center of some ineffable ability to embody charm.

But maybe people are a bit like cities, and since none of us are getting any younger, maybe a contrarian, even a touch un-American, approach might be to trust that emerging and ever deepening wrinkles on our faces may be like the winding streets of an old city—places and faces that will not send people of cultivated taste running in fear, but rather leave those of discerning taste eager to wander around, explore and just be.

In many cities you have to “do” things to have a good time, but in Paris, just walking, hanging out, being is satisfying.  Same with people—and as we mature we come into our charming authenticity, thanks to a little urban planning perhaps, but also resting upon our own rich histories of revolutions and plagues we can enjoy the meandering sweep of time rather than trying to hang onto over-rated youth.

I imagine old men playing pétanque under towering marronier trees and I think how I like that feeling, that sense of the scuffle of gravel and the thud and clack of the ponderous boules, and even though it’s a lot of romanticized projection, I do just like it.

To walk with your lover through gardens and over bridges, to kiss in arching doorways, to gaze out atelier windows at the zigzagging rooftops filled with myriad lives begging for imagining… is to have the April in Paris feeling.

Perhaps for some of us April in Paris is being in bed with the Sunday Times (New York, The Guardian?) with rain falling outside; for some of us it might be the exotic Amazon or trekking in Nepal.  For some of us it might be a trout stream or a magnificent golf course… or an escape to the movies with popcorn and an old friend, or the adrenaline of a new romance.  As parents it might simply be the rare moment when everyone is together and everyone is happy to be doing a common activity—the ice cream after the complaint-heavy walk, be it to Bertillon or Baskin Robbins.

So, let’s dedicate today to drawing hard upon our memories and our fantasies and channeling the best of both into whatever our April in Paris feeling looks, tastes and feels like—and then letting that essence infuse some part of today, savoring the sweetness of lives richly lived, both externally and internally luminous, drifting toward some virtual Place des Vosges where we parents might gather in spirit as the kids play exuberantly in the park and we are free to enjoy each other and our own pleasures—sacred, sensual and arcane.

Namaste, Bruce

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10 Responses to “April in Paris… or not exactly”

  1. BigLittleWolf Says:

    I love your comparison of character to cities with history. Perhaps this is part of why I “function” so much more fully in Paris. Anywhere in France, really. But especially, in Paris. Whether it’s April or not.

    🙂

  2. Lindsey M Nelson Says:

    I was watching Coco Before Chanel last night and was struck with how in French films, the French come of as being refreshingly unapologetic. The characters often seem to have this attitude of “yes, I have flaws. So what”. Kind of how you describe the city of Paris that “just is”. Even though I did not personally have a positive experience in Paris, I am coming to recognize and appreciate this French attitude of self-acceptance that breeds confidence.

    • privilegeofparenting Says:

      Paris is like the ocean, you have to learn to go with it or it knocks you around a bit—and just as moms learn motherese, the French really respond to… well, French.

      It’s not that we have to master anything, and it doesn’t have to be Paris, it’s more like we have to be able to handle a little rudeness wherever it comes from (and kids can certainly be more than a bit French in this regard), but if we learn to not take it personally our kids can even be good teacher of unapologetically having flaws.

      Here’s to wearing our flaws gracefully and having a good time because we said so.

  3. Kristen @ Motherese Says:

    Delighted, of course, to see that Big Little Wolf has already visited. These days I often think of her when thinking of Paris.

    I have never been to Paris in April either, but I’ll happily join you on this existential journey. I think my soul could do with the quiet perfection of La Sainte-Chapelle and, yes, a double dip (nougat au miel et noix de coco, si vous plait) at Berthillon.

    Not sure if St. Vincent’s and the Dairy Queen down the street will give me that same transcendent feeling, but I’m willing to give it a go.

    • privilegeofparenting Says:

      “Quiet Perfection” les mots juste. And if Big Little Wolf cares to show us around HER Paris I’m sure we’ll come home with new appreciations. As for ice cream, I’ll have cacao-whiskey and pear.

      I loved riding my bike to the Dairy Queen growing up, having a chocolate dipped cone is really exquisite in its own right… or a blazing hot day when whatever it was they called their slurpees suddenly paralyzed your throat with stunning cold… and then passed, a faint headache worth the sweet cooling experience.

  4. BigLittleWolf Says:

    “My” Paris. Vous me faites rire – tous les deux !

    My Paris is all about walking and art. Talking and art. The art of talking, walking, and listening to the music of the language. And more art.

    Coffee, wine, and ice cream all part of the tour, though more likely to grab a gooey, smelly cheese and baguette, and revel in that instead. With art.

  5. bambooforest Says:

    Really lovely, Bruce. The light now in LA is magical… like in the movies or April in Paris.

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