Mapping the Multiple Parises
In a dimly lit café a crinkled map hangs from the ceiling, the aerial view
looks down at crisscrossing roads, a Rorschach of the multiple Parises.
The cities laid bare, skeletal, unpeopled, surrounded by farmland green.
The River Seine divides, tributaries split further. The past and the future
vie for favor, impinging on the present.
Some prefer the Gaulish name, Lutetia, the tribal imprint of the
Parisii craftsmen. Few remember, much is disputed. History depends on the angle
from which it is spun, thus, multiple versions of the truth pass through the gates of Notre Dame, but none are unvarnished. Those who lived during the French
Revolution see differently than those who peer through the lens of Vichy France,
and most likely they would all feel out of place in the maw of the twentieth
Some see the city as a series of masks, each covering what was there before.
A thousand eyes peer through the eyelets at modernity, cultural wallpaper
subtly shifting; the evolution of preferred styles. There is more than one Paris,
multiple Parises, each spinning inside the infrastructure of the other.
Some call it mystical, asking, Pourquoi Paris, Pourquoi? Know thyself Paree.
First, the capital, then an abandoned garrison town, then the city of light, candles giving over to blue neon. Who are you when the tourists go home?
Maps have no flesh, can only say so much, difficult to capture that
which is no more. One holds the artifacts, listens to the music, the art,
the imagined festivities, the historical demands, but it is elusive, and we
are cautioned not to grasp with certainty any conclusion. Still we know,
during Années Folles, a revolutionary way of thinking evolved, changing
the pursuit of extravagance, joy, and the subtle art of socializing.
Today, scaffolding covers all. When revealed, Paris won’t be recognizable.
Absent are the ribbed vaults and flying buttresses of Gothic origin.
The amphitheater facelift will confuse the public. The cut and color of the roof
tiles different, the angled extremity of modern architecture make us all dizzy,
vertigo as art, upending the peace and comfort of bygone days, reflecting an
anxious future. Street cookery is dead, plastic has no scent and robotic horses have
no need to drop their load in the street. The odor of the city, whatever
it was that contributed to so appealing a scent, is gone.
Still, for so many, Paris is the beloved city, mapped in our imaginations. Paris,
who walked away from its history. Paris as icon, as metaphor for romance and
passion, a refuge for avant garde artists. But all of the weight it bears was stolen
from the past. A campaign is underway to cover the warts, and give the come-on
to tourists, looking for something to spark anew, a possibility that could only be
born here. This is the place if you wish to pursue the lover that got away long ago,
or to try to capture the burgeoning creativity that once bristled in the mind.
It may be hidden in plain sight, but still here.
Dennis has been toying with words, darkening pages, scribbling and editing poems
since he was a wee child. Poetry has been a friend, a guide, and someone to talk with when nobody else was around. His fingers may have stiffened over his guitar strings, but they hold a writing instrument just fine.