Tuesday, January 16, 2018

A window in Paris

Hotel des Grandes Ecoles

     The bottomless idiocy of the top three forehead slapping aspects of the latest twirl-the-nation's-guts-on-a-stick moment of the eternal Trump hall-of-mirrors nightmare can best illustrated by ...
     Aw, fuck it.
     I was reading Trump's tweet blaming "Dicky Durbin" for scuttling the chances of a bill to save his own DACA program, when I stopped, and thought: enough. No mas. At least for today.
     Last spring I had the enviable task of finding a good hotel in Paris. I was hampered by the fact that I didn't have a lot of money to spend—two boys at private schools, one of them spending his spring semester at the Pantheon Sorbonne, which explained the trip to Paris. I justified it to my wife by pointing out that we were so far into hock at this point that a little more wouldn't matter.
     Luckily, I knew just where to look to find a deal. I visited Messy Nessy Chic, the wonderfully off-beat and stylish Parisian blog run by British ex-pat Vanessa Grail.
     Sure enough,  there was the Messy Nessy Chic Paris Hotel Guide, where one hotel stood out: the Hotel des Grand Ecoles—literally, "Hotel of the Great Schools." In an old convent school at 75 rue Cardinal Lemoine. An easy stroll to the Sorbonne. Right by Rue Mouffetard with its bakeries and butchers.
    "Romantic, beautiful and homey," MNC summarized. 
     You tell me if they exaggerated. Here is the view from our bedroom window.
    I will be honest. Printing this picture is the entire purpose of the post. The rest are just words, filler to explain and justify. The iron rail. In the foreground, the gorgeous purple flowering redbud. In the background, white-barked birches. 
     I didn't spend an awful lot of time gazing out of the window, true. Not with Paris waiting to be explored. Just enough to breathe in the day in the morning. But on our way out I did have the presence of mind to snap this photograph. It really looks more like a stage set than something real. But it was real.
    So I guess that's your task for today. It's snowy in Chicago, but not as cold as of late, and I'm sure there is snow-covered beauty aplenty out there to be seen, to be appreciated. Pause and look at it. This too is life.  
     I bought no souvenirs on my trip—well, a shoehorn in a leather shop in Florence because my wife insisted I buy something. A postcard of the painting of Dante in the Duomo. But otherwise the trip was too memorable to require tchotchkes. I carry the trip with me in its own pocket of memory, and pull it out when our American ordeal just seems too much. I'm not there now, but I was there, not so long ago.
     The yammering yam in Washington won't go away a second sooner because we spent his entire administration continually howling in justified shock at his endless string of corrosive wrongness. But that can't be good for the health of people who are sensitive to the rights and wrongs, the beauties and ugliness of the world. Evil can be like a spotlight—it'll blind you if you stare into it too long. I was really, really glad I took those two weeks, met our son in Rome, went to Florence and Venice and, finally Paris. Really, really glad my wife and I got the best baguette ever drawn from an oven and pulled chunks of it from a white paper bag as we walked to the Metro station. Really, really glad I have the memories and photographs to remind myself of it. I'll think about that baguette on my deathbed.
    Donald Trump is a racist. He is a bad man, surrounded by weaklings and cowards and supported by those who have stuck their heads so far up their asses that no light can reach their eyes. I heard from a bunch of them Monday, their bleats of anger and confusion echoing across my spam file. That's the situation yesterday, and today, and tomorrow. But don't let it bring you down. The good is still there too. It may be removed from us in time and space, but it exists somewhere now, and we can recall it whenever we like.   


  1. Thank you. I needed that. We all need that.

  2. Dude: "the yammering yam." Parfait...

  3. Tchotchke: lovely word. Too bad I'll never be able to spell it right when I need it.


  4. My husband & I visited Prague for the first time last fall. I understand.

  5. It can be discouraging at times when the ugly face of racism comes to the forefront. My relief comes from recalling the final scene of Places in the Heart, and beloeving our society will achieve that state of being, someday.

  6. Spending a little time abroad is a healthy way to regain perspective if you can afford it. You learn how similar people the world over are in their attributes and prejudices, but also gain insights into your own homeland, addressing a question famously posed by Mr. Kipling: " "What knows he of England, who never from England has gone?"


  7. Excellent composition Neil. I am remembering a solo road trip out west. Stopping atop a long rise, with miles of pavement visible in both directions. The sky was without clouds or Moon, the stars an incredible show above. No cars passed me, the westbound lanes being separated from the east by several hundred yards. I lingered there for a while, the stellar view overriding the urgency of my destination. When I final resumed driving, a blizzard started to build, blowing across the road an ever increasing amount of snow and tumbleweeds as I approach the Nevada/California border. The wind was trying to push me onto the shoulder, yet the hypnotics of the rolling sagebrush allayed any unease from the storm. Until I saw a great disturbance over the next rise, an explosion of powdery snow sent skyward by a jackknifing semi rig that I was near overtaking. Back to reality. I was able to backtrack a few hundred yards to an exit to avoid the wreck, the truck driver, he had a long night ahead of him. Which will it be for us in this age of Drumpf?

  8. What a lovely image, NS. Yesterday, I thought at first that it was a painting. Then I thought it was your backyard. Nope. Paris in the spring, tra-la, tra-la. No wonder everyone loves it so. And yes, there's even snow-covered beauty here in Cleveland... but it's not so beautiful if you have to clear a driveway and 250 feet of sidewalk on a corner lot.

    Not a world traveler like you, unfortunately. Never been to Europe...or even Mexico (Do 43 states and eastern Canada count for much?) Can't tell anybody where to stay in Venice or Rome, but I CAN tell them the best places in Carbondale. Like you, my wife and I were also there for the Great American Eclipse (and yes, we, too, had the fried chicken dinner--twice--at Giant City Lodge. The total solar eclipse was something we will remember until we die, had counted down for years, and had both waited for since childhood.

    Carbondale's "Shadowfest" allowed us to not only forget our long national nightmare for four whole days, but also reminded us of the good that still exists in America. In a terribly divided country, Democrats and Republicans from all over the map were brought together (and rendered speechless and awestruck) by two minutes of darkness at noon (well, 1:20 CDT, actually).

    For one whole day, Trump was trumped, by something he was powerless to speed up or slow down or stop. God help us (as in US)if we have wait until the next spectacular celestial event (on April 8, 2024) for that to happen again.

    1. As soon as all the debts are paid off, I will. Time to ease on down the road. This time it'll be "Go East, old man!" Haven't been there in quite a while.

  9. That image looks heavenly, and the hotel sounds wonderful. We had a similar experience in Montmartre at L'Hotel des Trois Poussins (three baby chicks)... around the corner from an exquisite viennoiserie with the best fluffy airy beignets we ever tasted. My nightmare was not being able to find American-style coffee... even the McDonald's had a machine dispensing hot water and espresso. When I found the green sign with the Mermaid on Montmartre Boulevard, I was saved! Paris is marvelous.

  10. I don't remember reading this. You link to the hotel did not work.


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