Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Navigating space/time in the spiral city of light

In my dream last night, I'm in a favorite dreamscape, an urban setting kind of like San Francisco, kind of like Kansas City, vaguely but never completely familiar. I'm headed towards the Embarcadero BART station. 

What was different last night is that I knew exactly where I was going. Usually in these dreams I get turned around or enter a building I intend to pass through but there’s no way so I have to back track. When other people are with me in these dreams, which happens a lot, I’m so embarrassed I don’t really know the way. But last night I knew! I easily located the correct building where we took the escalator down to the platform. I even had Smartcards for my sisters, who were with me in last night's dream. Sometimes in these dreams I’m struggling to buy tickets from lackadaisical people in the booth or recalcitrant vending machines … as I will in Paris, come to think of it.

In the dream we arrive at the platform just as the train is leaving the station. We hop on the last car. This is a BART train so people are allowed to move from car to car, not like the Metro here. I say to my sisters, “Would you like to sit in the open roofed car?” It’s a funny question since most subway rides are underground in creepy dark tunnels. 

A good dream.

My interior is in order at the moment. I know my way around my own psyche, thank god. I will need this when I go to Paris and become instantly disoriented. 

I remember when I first moved to Capitol Hill, how often I got turned around, and believe me I'm not the only one. When the French design a city layout, confusion is inevitable. Apparently!

Last night I hung my map of Paris on the wall. But even with it all laid out before me, it was disorienting. I've been reading about the development of that ancient city, how it spiraled out from the island. Even the arrondissements spiral out from the center. Remnants of old city walls hold the shape, move the energy in a huge spiral. Is it any wonder I am so easily thrown off when I'm there?

And then there are the streets. If there is really any rhyme or reason to the street layout, it is beyond me. In the past the only way I could keep from getting lost was to take the Metro. Out on the streets, it seems straightforward enough ... but. It isn't. Walk to the end of a block, turn right, then right again once, twice, three times, and you should come back to the same place, right? Not in Paris. You'll find yourself in a different neighborhood.

When I first moved to Capitol Hill, I used the Capitol dome as a landmark. When I got turned around, if I could find the dome, I was instantly oriented. I'm thinking in Montmartre at least I shouldn't get too lost. The basilica is way up there and huge, too. Maybe. Elsewhere, who knows?

I have small maps, large maps, book maps and wall maps. I have several maps on my iPhone. I'm studying the layout of the terrains I imagine I will visit while I'm there, as if this is actually going to help me. Maybe it will, and anyway this is one of my favorite things - maps and navigation. Fun.

I'm not going to buy any data for my phone. People say it doesn't really work, hence googlemaps will not be an option. I'm going to take a compass, and several well marked maps. 

I am such a nerd! 

Have a lovely Tuesday. Shalom.


  1. I am SO excited for you! Getting hopelessly lost is how I generally travel- I am like a goldfish, but somehow I find my way back to my bed. I do hope that you get lost a whole bunch- always makes the best stories. SO EXCITED!

  2. I LOVE maps! On road trips, even if I know where we're going I'll have one open on my lap. Maybe I'll see some small town or landmark I've missed before. It's endlessly fascinating to me!