|The scarf pins I'm taking with me. I will wear a scarf every day, I surely will.|
The first time I was in Paris was just a few weeks before the first anniversary of the collision between the car I was driving and the Southern Pacific freight train that called me to shamanism. Being hit by a freight train - well - could the metaphor be any more apt? I was completely insane during that period of my life, drinking a lot, doing every kind of drug I could get my hands on. God knows what all I snorted up my nose during those days. Allegedly I was better than before I had the Easter experience, but oh, I had some distance to go before I would begin to put myself together again.
I don't remember that time fondly, oh no.
Being in Paris was a huge exception. I remember being there very clearly. I remember how in awe I was of the beauty and how obvious it was that Paris is very very old. It changes, but stays the same, someone said. It surely does.
The moment I arrived, I decided not to return to the U.S., maybe ever. I was instantly in love. Initially I stayed in a flat on Rue Buffon in the Latin Quarter with my then boyfriend and a couple of other friends. The three of them were musicians determined to busk at St. Germain. I came along in a last ditch effort to revive my horrible relationship with the boyfriend, or so I thought. Once I arrived in Paris, I didn't even try. In fact, one of the most - if not the most - cinematic break ups of my life took place during that first visit to Paris. It came to me as we sat at a cafe just off the Champs-Élysées. I said, "You're not the right man for me to be in love with." He agreed.
Shortly after that, he and the other friends left Paris. I stayed on. The man who owned the flat invited me to stay as long as I liked which wasn't long since I had no money and of course had not thought to apply for a student work card before coming. During the rest of my stay in Paris, my Aunt Edie and cousin Bar John looked after me. Every day from then on until the day I left Paris felt like being in a movie.
My cousin was wonderful. He phoned every morning to make sure I was set for dinner, invited me join him every night. EVERY night. This isn't because he was so eager to hang out with me in particular, only because I am family and it was the polite thing to do. My aunt helped me in a hundred ways. She took me to get a haircut, made me stop wearing my Stanford hoody sweatshirt, showed me how to wrap a scarf around the neck, anchor it with a pin. She showed me where the English language bookstore was, she bought me meals. When I was completely out of money she put me on a freighter out of Dover.
I feel sad when I think of that period of time in my life. I was an unholy mess, chaotic, angry, self destructive. I was years away from going into psychotherapy. I flopped around, I tell you. Most of it is foggy in my memory. Surely I must have blocked a lot of it out. But I remember being in Paris, I surely do. Even as messed up as I was, the power and beauty of that magnificent city found its way into my heart. Paris is the Cary Grant of cities. The soul is like a majestic queen, unthinkably beautiful, exalted yet also earthy. Paris is medicinal for me.
It's just a few weeks until my feet connect with the cobblestones of that city again. Chin-chin!