Follow along now…your table’s this way.
Please see the menu for today’s specials…enjoy!
Coming soon: Opus One …13 €
This 25 minute musical collage by Maury Smith and the Orchestra Bordenave features three songs from the album Mirage stitched together with ambient Parisian street sound.
(Important note: In order to listen to the Cafe’s musical selections while viewing slideshows or browsing the other offerings, you need to open a new browser window or tab, listen in one window and surf the Cafe in the other.)
Cafe Time…18 €
A slideshow collection of Marcia Yapp’s photography.
(To enjoy the slideshow or the essay while listening to the music, click on Opus One, then open a new browser window, return to Bistro Mirage, choose Salle and click on the slideshow or essay.)
The first installation in a (hopefully) endless series of dispatches from the front lines. Either click on the title just above in blue to download a text-only PDF file, or scroll below for a web-based and image-accompanied version
Ω ΩΩΩΩ ΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩ ΩΩΩΩ Ω
Parisite Fortnight Day One–March 21, 2009
Okay. So. Here’s what my notes say:
A) Quick exit plane to
B) Long walk to downstairs train billet kiosks…
C) RER from CDG 2 to Chatelet springtime!!! Forsythias!!!!
D) Metro (dreamlike underground maze) to St. Paul stop
E) Up to Rue Rivoli/St. Antionne…teary walk to Sully.
F) Bag lobby stash,
G) Blood orange juice at _________ on _________.
H) Café at Boquet St. Paul on Rue Ste Ant.
I) Walk through Marais, galleries, Place des Voges,
big horseshoe Petit Fer a Cheval (little horse shoe)
J) Checked in at south to Seinne, ND, Ile St Louis,
K) Lunch vin rouge at La Tartine
L) Back to hotel…nap…
M) Out at 6:30 to Metro (Louvre, Rivoli stop)…Pont Des Artes, St. Germaine, Galleries,
N) La Pallett
O) The Latin Quarter walk…Rue Git Le Coure
P) Trois Malletts…fromage and a bottle
Q) 11:00 walk to La Petit Bowfinger down very quiet alley…wedding barges on the Seinne…accordions
R) Meal of life…gratinee onion, cod w/ tomato + polenta…bottle vin rouge…cognac…crème broule…chocolate w/ frambois…
S) Rolled home at 1:00? Sigh. A perfect day in Paris. Slept like logs w 1 melatonin (3mg)
(sic ad infinitum)
That’s what my notes say. And while they tell a certain truth, they also cast things in a slightly misleading light. These journal entries make my first day in Paris sound like a series of isolated events—discrete activities, a pointillist painting, impressions filed away as if from a particle’s point of view.
However, I assure you, despite the journalistic clarity and the tidy little boxes into which my notes place the day’s events, the experience of my first day in Paris was more than a succession of discrete moments. It was also an exquisite waveform of a day…a day filled with perfectly independent moments strung like crystal beads on golden wire. And the day was those crystal beads…and the day was the golden wire as well.
Listen: This is important because our days simply must be more than the sum of the events they contain. They have to be. Otherwise our lives become nothing but a jar of pretty crystal beads…a decades-long recitation of discrete events spaced like integers on the number line, the spaces between them expanding forever. And it’s been proven, to my satisfaction, anyway, that the number line contains more than just the integers and the rational fractions created by those integers’ endless subdivisions. The number line (or “continuum” as it’s also known), is, in fact, populated mostly by irrational values: Those fuzzy, random decimals that seem to wave on endlessly without pattern or design. These irrationals…this randomness…the waveform of the day: They’re different names for the same thing.
Of course, giving the devil it’s due, the particle-nature of these journal entries transmits a great deal of information…and valuable information at that. The rational/particulate stuff matters. As such, I’ll always be grateful for these notes of mine and I’ll never stop jotting them down. However, the exquisite waveform of this, my first day in Paris—the emotional content, the psychological flavor—was largely composed of and transmitted by some obscure set of extra-sensory agents…some mysterious, irrational factors I can’t describe.
One such factor, maybe, was memory. Beat poet John Clellon Holmes captured it perfectly:
A buried memory seems to stab at your consciousness in Paris, and you follow in the steps of an elusive phantom déjà vu but never quite catch up. So deeply imbedded in the world’s dream of freedom, youth, art and pleasure has this city become that the feeling of a stranger newly in Paris is that of return.
What could be more irrational than walking in memory through a street you’d never yet set foot upon? But it truly did feel that way…
Other mysterious vectors of the day’s remarkable waveliness perhaps emerged from the world of dreams. This supremely irrational dreamlike-quality reveals itself in this journal entry:
D) Metro (dreamlike underground maze) to St. Paul stop.
The “Metro to St Paul” leg of our journey obviously resonated with some dream or another of mine (one of the dozens of fairly epic Paris dreams I enjoyed before my first day in Paris). I can only imagine how many other moments from my first day in Paris were spent feeling as if I were fixed in a scene from one of those dreams.
Before that day I recall at times having felt that no waking experience could possibly match the feelings prompted by those irrationally powerful Paris dreams from which I woke many times teary-eyed and begging for more. The metro-stop-to-hotel walk gave the lie to this proposition.
Whatever the wave’s vector, it got me. By the next journal entry I was in tears. I’ve said many times in recalling my first trip to Paris that the five minute walk from the St. Paul Metro stop to the Hotel Sully was enough for me. I could have pivoted there in the hotel lobby, returned to the plane, and flown home feeling like the good lord hadn’t gypped me, as the fellow says. Feeling like I’d seen enough for a lifetime. And I have meant it every time I have said it, and I still say it and mean it today.
But if I had pivoted then and there…I would have missed our café, Au Bouquet St Paul, at 85 Rue St. Antione, with its sweet stone walls and beautiful waiter and waitress (whom we later rescued, the waitress, along with her stereotypic Parisian puppy, from an ugly American asshole’s Pit Bull). And I’d have missed the view out the window every morning that always seemed to remind me of me, and the baked goods from Miss Manon next door requiring our waitress to dash across the Rue St. Paul and smoke a dark cigarette and return with her paper bag of fresh warm pastries to serve us every morning at 9:30 sharp, our café crème and double espressos and croissants fresh and impossibly flaky and butterful, and the morning shift workers coming in for a little liquid something to make it through until lunch, the professionals’ cord-du-roi and the street workers’ fluorescent green vests, faux-leather patched elbow to nylon-ed broad shoulder at the zinc bar, and beautiful wines behind like soldiers at parade rest and the tiny trapdoor through which all the provisions had to be stocked then recalled for later use, covered, the trap door, by a small Persian rug, but the old wooden wide-boarded and square-head-nailed floor elsewhere polished by a century of use as a café and a back room into which we never ventured and truly top-notch music on the stereo every time we were there, be it Latin Jazz or Ray Charles or whatever particular combination of sounds were required to get our particular group started every waveform morning we were there.
If I had pivoted then and there in the Hotel Sully lobby and returned, if I had missed our café, it would have been a great loss to me…and maybe to the universe, somehow, as well. I mean, if Vonnegut was correct in asserting that each human’s purpose in life is to be the eyes and ears and consciousness of the universe, then our goals ought to include seeking out those transcendent settings our lives have prepared us to experience to the very fullest degree, based on the assumption that the universe wants to soak up all the experiences it can, and the more intense, the better. It might even somehow have been pretty high on the Universe’s own personal to-do list, this notion of getting me into a Parisian Café several days in a row until it became My Parisian Café. So if there is a warning here it might be this: Despite how beautiful you find Paris as you walk from the Metro to your lodgings, don’t allow your trip to end until you have found your café. Consider it your universal duty.
But what was I saying a moment ago?…vectors of waveliness…the irrational components of a day, any day…memory as a factor…dreams…ah yes, dreams. Let’s talk about Paris dreams for a minute. One could have missed this pretty-big-deal-dream connection to my first day in Paris if the particulate record of my journal notes were all that remained of the day. The journal entries seem to imply that the day moved directly from:
L) Back to hotel…nap
straight on to:
M) Out at 6:30 to Metro (Louvre, Rivoli stop)…Pont Des Artes,St. Germaine, Galleries,
with nothing in between.
But of course we know there are an infinity of irrationals between every two integers, an infinity of waving golden wire between every two beads on the string, an infinity of moments between every two stops on the Metro line. Therefore it didn’t, of course. Move straight on. The day. My first day in Paris.
Instead, between journal entries L and M there was an interval of awakening-jetlagged-in-strange-room-dislocational-what-was-that-dream-I-was-just-having sort of time we often have on the first day of a long trip during which interval I recalled a song that was playing in the jet lag day nap dream from which I had just awoken (by , maybe, Al knocking on the door to say it was 6:30—time to get moving again.). It (the song in my dream) was a Joni Mitchell song. In my dream, I had been listening to her sing it, like on a stereo or whatever—but it was no song either of us (me nor J) had ever heard her sing before (that we could recall, anyway). And as I dreamt the song I realized (as we sometimes do in dreams) that “I” was writing the song she was singing as she was singing it (which realizing sort of gives us a chill, doesn’t it?). When I woke (to Al’s knuckle’s rap?) I quickly wrote down a few snatches of words, hoping to salvage something of what I’d dreamt/heard:
It’s a long way from the borderline
to the Rue Ste Bouganville
and if you don’t mind
scaring up a sacrifice
then you’ll earn your daily meal
And more groggy writing…
Somebody’s gonna get
hurt tonightwhat’s coming tonight
past just ain’tblues weren’t meant to last.
Then an arrow to the previous page of the journal pointing to the words:
This with the same notes as “he’s a real god talker…I think he’s a friend”
–which I recall having scrawled so I wouldn’t forget the melody of the Joni dream tune. (Though I can no longer, today, hear the dream tune itself, upon awakening that evening, my first in Paris, from the jetlag day nap, I could still hear it and its melody was similar to the passage above from Joni’s “Car On The Hill” from Court and Spark. )
Then a little more writing:
Nowas the last scrap of sun is slowly climbingclimbs
upthe courtyard mansard scenechimney
there on the mansard roof out back
I’m imagining scenes from the past
And at that point I guess I had to wrap up my dream-tune salvage efforts. It was time to hit the streets. Marcia was rising, Al would be waiting, the evening was coming on. But the snatch of dreamed melody stuck with me, and the meaning of the few lyrics I could recall stayed, too. A week after we returned from our trip, I worked on creating something out of those scraps. Here’s the finished version of the lyrics:
1) It’s a long way from the borderline
to the Hill of Genevieve
Just about the time that you settle in
that’s the time you’re asked to leave
I spent the morning I grew old
just rummaging through my past
Somebody’s gonna do some damage tonight
This was never meant to last
2) ‘Twas a violent revolution
when you turned to me and cried
The moment of truth was upon you
and so, of course, you lied
When you cannot see the light source
watch which way the shadow’s cast
The truth’ll come catching up quickly
Deception never lasts
3) As the sun climbs up the courtyard chimney
sewage and perfume
I’m catching Monet’s ghost hung from
the picture rail around the room
You snuck up from behind
and made the tables turn so fast
This banquet I’m attending
it was never meant to last
4) Now the wine we sipped
on the Rue De Seine
tastes more like smoke instead
and someone else’s memories
have gotten tangled in my head
Come on, kindly angel, lift the veil
I’m the captain, you’re the mast
Lashed tight against that siren’s song
That was never meant to last
5) As the sun cast half a shadow
down the old East Salem Road
I tried solitaire until
the Ace of Diamonds failed to show
You’re my man-sized midlife crisis
my debonair iconoclast
That fiction you created
It was never meant to last
6) Now it’s hard to say what’s what
and which are yours and whose are mine
I turned a brand new kind of old
the day we both were 49
If you’d just stayed merely useless
fewer castles might have crashed
But we built them all on sand
they were never meant to last
7) So won’t you meet me on Decatur Street
that little place we used to go
We’ve got a lot of catching up to do
and there’s a lot I need to know
I was banking on the magic
hoping that the proper spell gets cast
Those sevens up my sleeve
They were never meant to last
8) Now there’s half sun over the courtyard
on the Hill of Genevieve
Sometimes it’s the future
over which you have to grieve
Other times it pays to keep both eyes
focused closely on the past
Either way you play it
neither one was meant to last
9) There’s a lone light shining from a fifth floor window
on the Rue des Rosiers
Maybe it’s a watchman playing by the rules
or someone with dues to pay
There’s no way to pin an echo on
a silence this deep and vast
But I never met a silence
that was ever meant to last
I’m so sorry—that was very long, wasn’t it.
But it’s important…and it turned out to become one of the most memorable slices of that first day in Paris, that jetlag-day nap-dream and the song it enfolded and the scramble to record it.
I won’t say why the jetlag-day-nap song imagery was so dark–it had to do with events that had transpired in the days before we took our flight–but I can say this. The flight was spectacular. To quote again the journal:
Talk about your swift sunrise…Flying fast into a clear night above Ireland at 600 MPH… I’d be perfectly happy if we were simply allowed to stay on the plane for 6 days.
I do not wish to forget the beautiful sound of the language spoken on the plane by the pilots and attendants, the grace + good nature with which we were served…
And later still:
And now France is outside my window.
That’s when my first tear arrived.
I walked on air through customs at Charles DeGaulle and watched wide-eyed as the RER train showed me the first close-ups—those lovely slums on the northern outskirts. The exquisite graffiti, the cozy looking bungalows, the neighborhoods along the tracks that must have seemed shabby to everyone but me, the forsythia in bloom, for goodness sake…
The underground shift from RER to Metro was unlike anything I had ever experienced—vast and cavernous (but so like those dreams I’d had). And now I see it as so sweet how Paris ducks you underground (if you arrive from CDG) as if you’re her guest at the door and she needs to assemble herself before she greets you in the salon. You know it’s Paris up there on the surface as your train roars through the last few stops from Gare Du Nord to Chatelet, then on to St. Paul or Pont Marie. You know she’s in the next room applying some sensual enhancement, something lovely and sweet and maybe a little devious. She’s provocative that way. But you’re not permitted to see her on your terms when you arrive…you must wait until she’s ready to receive you at Pont Marie in all her glory with Sunday morning bells ringing everywhere, or at St. Paul in her peasant dress holding out flowers for you to smell and maybe buy.
It occurs to me, too, that I had previously intended to offer you no advice about places to visit in Paris beyond La Palette and Au Petit Fer a Cheval. I can see now that I must disappoint that intention by also recommending that you arrive via Charles DeGaulle Airport and that that you take the RER train into Paris from there. To me that’s where Intimate Paris begins. And having said that, why be shy? Allow me to recommend the Place Des Voges as well.
It looks like Grand Paris at first, but there’s a sandbox for children and warm afternoons find the park benches inhabited almost exclusively by locals—friends on lunch break, school kids on field trips, this cadre of rising citoyen all with bright red scarves, that group all in blue. The fountain sounds great, the trees are remarkable, and the architecture is perfect. The best part, maybe, is the gallery/arcade surrounding the green space…beautiful brickwork above, incredible shops beneath, wonderful echo-ey tones (listen for the sound of resounding high heels…they’ll knock you out. And god forbid there’s a string quartet hanging out to play street music). You need to go into some of the galleries eventually, but don’t feel you have to do so on your first day…you’ll be back several times. Victor Hugo’s rooms are on display here (one of the city’s free museums—definitely worth an hour. Bring a sketchbook). And at night, a stroll through the arcade while the cafes close up and the homeless guys bed down for the evening…that’s maybe most beautiful time of day at the Place Des Voges.
I mentioned earlier that lofty notion of being the eyes, ears and consciousness of the universe. While in Paris, I would happily settle for being merely the nose and throat of the universe. Every coffee-shop/bar looks like the perfect place to sit for a while. And while enjoying the sit, it would be rude not to order a little something. For cognac, Petit Fer A Cheval; For beer, Cafe Dome; For Pastis, La Peid a Verre and La Palette; Bordeaux, everywhere. And coffee, please, yes…double espresso. And, yes, please, to pastry. And to cheese. And chocolate. And all of it even better because it is served in the most perfect setting, and all of it even better than that because you had walked quite a while.
Then, after every zinc-bar-top elbow-rest-fest, you’re ready to go again even before you get the bill because you remember it’s Paris out there today. These cafes, islands in the most lovely river ever, and you wearing your very best riparian slippers, ever-ready for wading back in.
Grand Paris has hundreds of particular locations, each an enormous, perfect crystal bead. Intimate Paris has no particular location—it’s wavelike, instead. You find Intimate Paris by following your nose. And throat…and eyes and ears, too, of course. Duck down some side streets and you’ll catch a glimpse of her turning the corner a block ahead with her expensive suit and fresh daffodils. That’s the time to impulsively say, “This café…right now…one quick cognac.” She’s the flavor of the first sip with chocolate.
Our first day in Paris we had my first authentic Paris café-while-fully-engaged-in-serious-flanerie moment just off the Place Des Voges. Don’t know the name of the place, but I could find it again in a heartbeat. We didn’t stay long, though, because it was sunny and warm and we wanted to be out in it on a Saturday in the Marais. And besides…Al had another place in mind. But it was beautiful beyond description because it was nowhere we meant to go and it hit me for the first time that the city is filled with people living their lives all the time and you can really just drop by and join ‘em. C’mon in…the water’s fine.
The other place Al had in mind, I’ll hold off on describing for now because we went there many times during the trip—it became our nightcap hangout and will receive its due attention later. Instead, I’ll walk you through the Marais down to the Seinne.
Narrow, old streets dripping older memories. Devout Jews and blue-collar factories, mansions from the quarter’s 1600s heyday. Picture it unpaved with pot de chambers emptying last night’s excrement from the windows above. Turn your back on the Bastille and walk west on Rue St Antione. Picture the barricades and the commerce and the horseshit thick in the street. Cut left down the former Street of the Whore In Hiding, renamed Rue du Petit Musc. Victor Hugo’s characters lived here. Restif roamed these streets. Poke around and try to find the little courtyard fountain at the end of the cul de sac. Stand a minute with your eyes closed and see if you’re not leaning subtly in one direction or another. The whole neighborhood’s flat as a pancake (it’s a former marsh, after all—previously a floodplain for the river) yet it constantly seems to be dramatically tilted toward the flowing water, listing like a ship that wavers but fails, somehow, to sink.
No matter how you walk in the Marais, you’re like a marble on the well-warped hardwood floor of a flood damaged shotgun shack, (or maybe not a marble…maybe a drop-forged cannon ball on the deck of a tall ship drifting out at sea, wet, the deck, with salt spray and rum) spiraling ‘till you reach the level spot, (which level spot is always the right bank of the Seine when you’re in the Marais). Along the way, count the mosaics on the buildings, look closely for excellent grafitti, duck into the grocery, the chocolatier, the fromagerie, the remarkable pastry shop on, maybe, the Rue Charlemagne with the indescribable painted glass ceiling, and help yourself to the many intimate cafes, the carrousel at the metro stop, the string quartet on the corner, the ceramic mask cemented into the wall at Rue de Prevot.
It’s like regular people live there. It’s a neighborhood of people coming home from work at night, walking past the Café Dome from the Metro stop. It’s as un-Grand as Paris gets. It’s as beautiful as Paris has ever been. Intimate Paris has been spotted here just as she’s also been seen norther in the Marais…near The Carnavalet museum (home of another free Paris museum, this one dedicated to the history of Paris. Truly lovely and worth the walk-through if only to enjoy being in the sumptuous 17th century home of Madame de Sevigne, but make sure you see the amazing models of the Ile de la Cite in past eras) and west to the Rue Ville de Temple. She hangs out there a lot. Rue des Rosiers. Rue Du Roi du Sicile. Close your eyes and just listen…but keep your eyes open, too, because Intimate Paris is on display in every shop window. She lunches at Chez Janou. Check it out—they’re repairing the ancient courtyard stones behind this amazing wrought-iron fence like they’ve been doing it this way forever.
And always a little southwards you’re pulled and a little left or right until you tumble out like crystal beads from some nameless, strictly momentary tributary stream into the Seine herself. See her lazily curve and wave? There’s your Intimate Paris. Go ahead…walk down the stone steps leading from the quai to the water’s edge. If it’s evening, mind the rats. Join the millions who’ve come here for 8000 years to caress her and taste her, to join her flow awhile.
Supposing you resist the urge to jump, you’ll find yourself on a bridge in no time. I think we took Rue Ville du Temple and crossed first at Pont Louis Phillipe, nipping the tip of Ile St. Louis then sneaking up on Notre Dame from behind. Soaking up the Grand and massive cathedral took some doing, what with all the warm sun and the jet lag setting in like an itchy patch of scalp.
Oh…and we were getting a little hungry, too. Just a little.
Hence, the dizzy perspective of her west face, and the con-women pretending (this current century, anyway) to be Kosovar refugees with no way to make it home so won’t you read the scrap of paper (conveniently in English) and donate a few Euro, which at first seems like, you know, the right thing to do, until you notice there are eight women all dressed the same, working the tourist crowd at ground zero. And thank god there’s a public john there right about where Charlemagne’s horse would’a shat had he not had bowels of brass, (where I ventured solo for the first time in a foreign city—the john, not the bowles.) And Al sensing, after his check-in phone-home call, that his two dazed charges maybe needed a little pick me up.
So, he of course oxymoronically decided if it’s rest they need it’s more exploration I’ll deliver, and proceeded to force-march us beyond Citê to the left bank for my first taste of the Latin Quarter about which more later (but for now let’s just say buildings in constant habitation for seven centuries was a new to concept to me) until he felt we had suffered enough, then right back across the river and my first sip of wine in Paris at La Tartine, 59 Rue de Rivoli.
And Intimate Paris was our waitress, she who was so patient as Al ordered his petit Haut Medoc and our grand St. Emilion, asking of course, first, in French, if she spoke English, and three sandwiches camembert with mustard and called (Al did) to get us in the door at tomorrow night’s supper salon at Jim Haynes’ place (the guy who, among many other literary and artistic things fucking gave John Lennon Yoko Ono’s number after he’d (John) misplaced it (the number) a few days after meeting her (Yoko) and about which more later) and just like that you’re drinking wine in Paris. Just like that. And Intimate Paris is the wine.
And you ask for the bill like this: “L’addition, sil vous plait” and you hate to leave but it’s Paris out today and it’s about time for a quick jet lag day nap.
And to the world’s great sadness your first day in Paris is behind you. Just like that. And all you can say is merci boucoup.
Ω ΩΩΩΩ ΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩ ΩΩΩΩ Ω ΩΩΩΩ ΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩ Ω ΩΩΩΩ Ω