Paris has been my favorite city since I was eight-years-old. Vivid memories that are mine forever. Sailing boats with other children on the bassins of the Tuileries dressed like a Parisian schoolboy. That first flaky croissant delivered by room service at the Hotel Meurice with fresh French preserves and butter. And of course, Notre Dame and its gargoyles all make up an indelible portrait of a timeless city that I was fortunate to visit as a child. I was incredibly blessed to have had parents who took me traveling and to have been in Paris in ’65 and ’67.
My trips to Paris have grown more frequent as the decades have gone by. These days I’m usually in Paris twice a year. The date of my final visit is yet to be determined, but it will likely be made in a “Chock Full O’ Nuts” coffee can which will contain my ashes to be deposited in the Seine, the Loire, and the Dordogne rivers.
MEMORY #1 – Sailing boats have resumed in the bassins of the Tuileries after many years of absence, a joyful memory for any child fortunate enough to travel to Paris.
MEMORY #2 – First flaky croissant in the Hotel Meurice in 1965.
MEMORY #3 – Notre Dame Cathedral – Even to an eight-year-old the architecture made quite an impression. Of course, it would be many years before I would understand what I was looking at, but first impressions can mean a lot. The gargoyles were fascinating to me as I toured the upper areas of the church.
Some of the cathedral goes up in flames but the memories remain intact.
Here you see the two bell towers flanking the now destroyed steeple, and in the center is the famed rosette stained-glass window that Herr Hitler brought back to Germany as a souvenir.
NOTRE DAME AT NIGHT – SUBLIME
Due to the catastrophic fire on April 15, Notre Dame itself has been turned into an oversized urn holding the ashes of its roof, random artifacts, and some of its stained glass. It also contains the grief of a nation as well as those around the world who have gazed upon it, walked its grounds and toured the amazing Gothic structure. Notre Dame appealed to the religious and secular alike and has been a symbol of Paris down through the ages. It has survived and born witness to great events, wars, revolutions, and acts of infamy. Even Hitler made off with the exquisite stained glass from the rosette window on the facade of the church. Thankfully it was retrieved at the end of the war.
I am due in Paris on April 29 and will meet friends who have never seen the great cathedral. No doubt, they will have a long wait to see it again in its former glory. I don’t know how long the restorations will take, but it could be quite a while. A couple of French billionaires have ponied up almost a billion euros, but it’s going to take a lot more money than that. If there is any justice in the world, the Vatican will open its coffers and pick up the balance. Thanks for all the prayers Holy See, but Paris needs the cash. What better way to get back in the public’s good graces after all of those child-abuse scandals? I personally put my money where my mouth is and set up a monthly donation. If as many people step as I think are going to, this should be a fait accompli.
On the brighter side, most of Notre Dame was saved and the structure is sound. That old timber roof was a firetrap anyway and the disaster inevitable in my opinion. The hallowed edifice will lose none of its charm or meaning in the long term. Instead, I believe there will be solidarity born out of the disaster and the common purpose will drive France and the world to return her to her former glory in record time. Notre Dame will bring out the best in humanity as people unite in their love of Paris to restore its spiritual heart to the landscape of the city. Because Paris ain’t Paris without Notre Dame and the world ain’t the world without it either. The resulting renewed cathedral will no doubt become an even greater symbol to the city of Paris than it ever was before the tragedy struck.
And that was just the beginning of the day’s bad news. I was coming down with some kind of illness that caused me violent chills the night before and had me starting to break out. I went to the Scripps Urgent Care and did the full spectrum analysis. The doctor suspected chicken pox, but I was sure I had it as a kid. Anyway, I went home to await the verdict which was worse than the illness itself. Given that I had recently traveled to Thailand, the Philippines, Indonesia, and Malaysia, a wide range of exotic and terminal illnesses can be caused to incubate in one’s imagination.
On a positive note, rather than wasting time laying about being ill in a state of dread, I instead constructively contemplated my limited existence and planned out my future ash-scattering arrangements. Although I did allow myself to embrace a few frightening paranoid delusions, I stayed relatively upbeat through the incredibly helpful distraction of my granddaughters. Being faced with your own mortality can be a good thing. It crystallizes what’s really important in life, and can bring clarity especially when the spots on your face start to recede.
CHICKEN POX CHARLIE – A FACE ONLY A GRANDDAUGHTER COULD LOVE
What an indignity! I looked like W.C. Fields after a serious bout with a crate of gin.
It took six days to get the diagnosis for the abomination you see before you. Indeed it was chicken pox. How I got it I’ll never know. Mia who has been inoculated against the illness probably brought it home from school. Thankfully her sister, Aria, was also immunized and the parents had both have had the disease. I can probably thank some anti-vaxxing wanker for my suffering. They are wreaking havoc in the control of infectious diseases throughout the world. Children are dying and poor old buggers like me are being turned into temporary mutants. So anti-vaxxer parents, do me a favor. Go ahead, pull your heads out of your asses, and vaccinate your f@#king kids. I’d really appreciate it.
IMAGINE HAVING YOUR BODY COVERED IN THESE – IT’S PRETTY REVOLTING
For Christ’s sake, the irony is I was exposed to all manner of exotic infections and pathogens in the past few months in SE Asia. Instead of succumbing to dengue fever or malaria, I end up being taken down by a toddler with a pedestrian illness back in the states. To add insult to injury, it’ll costs twice as much for half the treatment here in the good old USA, and the medicine and lab work is truly exorbitant. I’m sure I’ll become violently ill once again when I get the bill.
One positive takeaway was having people around who cared about me. My daughter, Dina, especially. And my granddaughter Mia melted my heart when she brought me blankets during a bone-rattling case of the chills. Even one year old, Aria was a comfort. Those memories will remain for the rest of my time. Whatever time I am lucky to have will be greatly enhanced by watching those two grow up.
MIA – Carrier of Pathogens, Caregiver, and Bringer of Blankets – Heals with a Smile
DAUGHTER DINA, MIA, and ARIA – My salvation during the poxy experience. When the time comes, they will be entrusted to commit my ashes to those three rivers in France. It is my intention that they have some time to get over the loss, and then carry out the task in the following spring which is a beautiful time to visit France. I will create an unforgettable itinerary that will leave them with happy memories that will last a lifetime and an enjoyable alternative to a miserable funeral. Instead, they will visit three of my favorite places on Earth. See an endless parade of magnificence so abundant that their senses will be rendered incapable of keeping pace. There are so many more layers to a French adventure.
The food is easily a foundation, and it is most enjoyable to experience the vast changes in cuisine from region to region. The wines, cheeses, regional dishes, and desserts all change as you traverse the countryside. As a full package, French cuisine has always been the pinnacle of the art of cooking. One of the best things about dining out in France is that you can eat very well for a reasonable price. Average food cost is excellent, and special menu pricing throughout the country offers very good three-course meals for under twenty euros for dinner. That includes Paris no less.
As my hideousness abates, I am excited to be visiting Paris once again, damaged cathedral or not. The city has weathered floods, wars, disease, famine, and revolution. It shall overcome this easily. The world is behind you, Paris. From the LVMH Billionaire to the Japanese girl who dreams of seeing the city for herself one day. It is no mistake that Paris is the most visited city in the world. It’s unlikely to change anytime in the near future, and preserving Paris for future generations is something essential for the enrichment of mankind.
Believe me, I’ll make sure my granddaughters see Paris before I take the dirt nap. I want to see the look on their faces as they make some of their own special memories.