03 June 2005

Father, the Chair!

So yesterday we met Kim at the Gare du Nord train station. She'd come in all the way from Rotterdam, and she and I had not seen each other in 15 years. And the last time was pretty depressing (see my poem "The Catch"). It was a really nice reunion, and Kim and Dana got on very well, which was a relief, I'll tell you.

We all climbed 50 million stairs to Sacre Coeur, but what I liked most was the walk from Gare du Nord to the base of the stairs -- the guidebooks call it "dreary," but it was simply a working-class neighbourhood devoid of any touristic espoilation (not a word, but wouldn't it be nice if it were?). Sort of like Toronto's Parkdale about five or six years ago.

Anyway, the view from Paris up at Sacre Coeur was pretty spectacular, and the walk back down the stairs was very lovely in comparison to the walk up. Kim asked what we wanted to do, and we asked what she wanted to do. She lived in Paris for a year about two decades ago, so I thought there might be something she wanted to revisit. I knew nothing much of Paris as of yesterday, so I chose Pere Lachaise Cemetery, being the morbid lad that I am.

So we hopped in the Metro and were soon there. At the top of my must-see list was Apollinaire's grave, and Dana wanted to see some dude named Hausmann who more or less designed this city apparently. Funny thing: Kim is a crown prosecutor in Holland, and, taking the day off, she missed her first autopsy (she'd begun the investigation of a murder the day before). So there she was skipping an autopsy and spending the afternoon in a cemetery! I did feel a little terrible dragging her all the way from Holland to hang out amongst corpses, but she didn't seem to mind at all. It was lovely to see her again -- and perhaps offered some closure from a rather sad episode of 1990. We both were amazed at how little it felt like 15 years had gone by.

The afternoon ended with a near-disaster as Kim and I thought we'd lost Dana, and while Dana was missing, which she really wasn't, I couldn't help but think of one of the most terrifying films ever -- the original, Dutch version of The Vanishing. Turned out to be a misunderstanding, and I found Dana at a café outside the cemetery and all was well and we saw Kim off, made our way to Place d'Italie and had us a nice dinner.

Gosh, this really is rather banal, isn't it?

Today, we saw some art. And then I went snooping through some English and French bookstores. In my ideal world, Paris bookstores would be all too aware that this city was once blessed as a second home to several New York School poets. But there wasn't an Ashbery, Padgett, O'Hara, Berrigan, or Koch book to be found anywhere, in any damn language, though I did come across Padgett's wonderful translation of Blaise Cendrars' poems. Still, it was fascinating looking through French bookshops at all the Max Jacob and Apollinaire and Tzara that isn't in English. Makes me wanna learn French so I can read that stuff. Every time I try to speak French, Spanish comes to mind. I always say "y" instead of "et". I say "con permiso" instead of "scoozaymwa". It's pathetic.

Made contact with Toronto writer and composer Sam Andreyev today and hope to meet with him Sunday for lunch. He's living here in Paris now, lucky guy. Oh! And the weirdest thing happened this evening -- while examining some Moroccan restaurants for dinner, I hear "Is that Stuart Ross?" and up walk Ellie and Sarah Nichol! In this vast, vast city, what were the chances of bumping into them here? We had a great chat -- they're here for pretty much the same week as Dana and I. I was thrilled to hear that Ellie picked up a (second) copy of my Confessions of a Small Press Racketeer to give to the poet Sean O'Huigin, who they'll be visiting next week in Ireland. I had dropped off a copy of Confessions to Ellie a few days before my own trip, because of all the bp content and the bp dedication.

Tomorrow (Saturday): more wanderings and galleries. I'd also like to try to do a bit more writing.

Over and out.


At June 04, 2005 11:18 am , Anonymous Anonymous said...


I'm loving the vicarious strolls through Paris that your blog provides. I tend to make for the graveyards first myself. I look forward to your next bulletin.

Kate S.


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