Fri Sep 14, 2001 | day 4
Every morning here in Paris, I roll out of my one-man tent and feel excited for the day ahead. I can't wait to get out there and see the sites and experience the wonders. But sometime in the morning, I begin thinking about New York. My day slows down and my mood goes with it.
But I think tomorrow will be a different day.
I had heard though the travelers-grapevine that there was to be a moment of silence for all of Europe at 12noon. I thought long and hard on where I wanted to be during that time. The Notre Dame, known for its history of prayer for the needed? The Arc De Triumph, memorializing the many lost in war? Or even a small park in The Latin Quarter, where I could be at peace with my thoughts during the moment of silence? Before I went to sleep last night, I had decided on none of the above. I would spend the time with other Americans at the site commemorating the tragedy: the shrine set up near the U.S. Embassy.
I arrived at the Embassy at 11:30a to find hundreds of people. The shrine of flowers, letters, posters, flags, and candles had grown 10-fold since I saw it yesterday at 4p. The police force had grown as well. Yesterday, there were guards on the other side of the street at the perimeter of the Embassy. Today, the barricades surrounding the shrine had extended and there were more barricades near the Place De La Concorde, the large circular area 100 feet from the shrine. It too was lined with people. Yesterday, you couldn't film the Embassy. Today, you can't even slow down to LOOK at it as you pass.
I made my way to the front of the barricades and stood near the shrine. The messages moved me beyond what I had expected. "America stay cool, you are as strong as peace." "God Bless America," "6 Juin 1944." The silence might have been scheduled to be for three minutes, from 12:00 to 12:03, but it started long before I got there and was still going after I had left. Everyone was emotional. One gentleman had a large American flag draped around his shoulders. Another had one on a flag pole and was silently praying while holding it over the ever-growing shine. And not only Americans were present. Many wore badges that read in bold letters "TODAY I AM AMERICAN."
A few minutes after noon, a gentleman dressed in a three-piece suit placed a large wreath of flowers at the shrine. The yellow roses and white daisies were wrapped in a long purple banner that read "La Presidente Ou Parliament Europeen." Soon after, another arrived reading "La Municipalite Le Maine et Les Hibitants de Vaulx en Velin." I did not know what it translated to, but I could only assume it was from another government agency.
I walked away at 12:40. I did not want to. I could have stayed all day. But I knew that there was nothing else to do but to try to move on.
I spent the rest of the afternoon exploring the Right Bank. The Madeleine Church, the huge ritzy shopping center Printemps Haussmann, and the small alleys of Paris that I have grown to love. In one of those alleys, I found myself looking through a video rental store. It was void of customers, so I chatted with the lone employee (William) and he was nice enough to tell me about some of the French movies that never came out in the States. He was even nice enough to stick one in the in-store DVD player to show me what it was like. I particularly liked "Le Pacte Des Loups" (Jim, Steve, and Pete - YOU HAVE TO FIND THIS!!!! Think Matrix meets Dracula).
Here's a test for you all. I will list names of Hollywood movie titles that have been translated into French. Try to see how many of them you can get. (Answers at the end)
- 1) "Double Jeu"
- 2) "Evades"
- 3) "Les Seigneurs De Harlem"
- 4) "Tigre & Dragon"
- 5) "Dans La Peau De John Malkovitch"
- 6) "Appearances"
- 7) "Le Dishonour D' Elisabeth Campell"
I hiked up the narrow, steep roads to the huge Sacre-Coeur. I was hoping to spend the afternoon sunlight up in the higher levels of the large church, but I never found out how to get up there! (How did you do it, Mom and Dad??) Instead, I sat down and took out my sketch pad for the very first time since I have been in Europe. Leading down to the funicular, I found a stairwell in which, if you sat on just the right step, the bushes, trees, and lower buildings perfectly framed the distant Eiffel Tower. Drawing in Paris was medicine for my soul. It was something I have thought about doing but, when the moment was there, I did not make the time for it. But here I was, sitting in the same place for a half hour, releasing all my tension through my ball-point pen, and to tell you the truth, the picture didn't turn out all that bad! In fact, I had quite a few people stop on the stairs and gather behind me to watch me draw. If I had really stopped to think about it at the time, I would probably would have been really nervous. Imagine ME drawing with a crowd of tourists huddling around... and in Paris! It was a moment that I will not soon forget.
I strolled down the hill and found myself at the famous Moulin Rogue. It struck me as something that should be in Vegas. If you know me, you know that I do not like Vegas. Too cheesy and fake for me.
I ended the night by riding the Metro back into the center of Paris, took a walk over the Ile De La Cite, past the lighted Notre Dame to my favorite (and the cheapest) Internet Cafe near La Sorbonne.
I do believe tomorrow will be a great day. The sun shined brightly today on Paris and in my heart and mind. I hope the clouds and rain leave your heart as well and your weather forecast is full of love and peace. If not, then I am sure the rain will go away soon. It always does.
PS - Here are the answers to the movie quiz: