Saturday, January 07, 2006

Episode 1. Two Cokes, Two Cafes

Paris is the artist’s home. An artist, arriving in Paris for the first time, instantly feels as if he’s returned to a place he has known and loved his whole life. The writer John Holmes explained: “So deeply embedded in the world’s dream of freedom, youth, art and pleasure has this city become that, when you arrive, you feel a strange pang evoked in you—a pang of nostalgia.”

The ordinary sights of the city are rendered extraordinary because of these associations. It is therefore the ordinary sights that visual artists endeavor to capture: the look of a bench, the façade of a building, the Seine at night, a flower market. These simple sights tug at an artist’s heart. He is compelled to grab his sketchbook, set down his easel, or pull out his camera and capture what he is feeling. An artist’s heart is set to beating by the simple sights of Paris.



Yesterday or the day before one such artist arrived: his name is David. So did another: her name is Genevieve. Will they meet, make love, and stay together for a few wild hours? Will they last longer than that? Or will the fates roll out a different story, leaving David to take up with a café singer and Genevieve with an Italian? Well, we can’t say yet. Each has just arrived—and is already completely immersed in the dream and the life of Paris.

An artist comes to Paris to be charmed. She is ready to smile, to nod at strangers, to let down her guard. Genevieve crosses Boulevard Montparnasse, her sketchbook and pens at the ready in her portfolio, and glances up: the café in front of her is called “The Dog Who Smokes.” Exactly right!

She has come for the cafes but she has also come for the café names. She has come a long way just for the sake of the cafés, for the legendary ones like Le Procope, Les Deux Magots, Café de Flore, and Brasserie Lipp, but even more for the sake of the ordinary ones like The Dog Who Smokes. She has come for the ordinary café that will become her personal spot, the place where she sits and sketches and watches the world. That is her real living room, her real Parisian home, the café on any corner.

Genevieve buys a Coke.

David is out walking at dawn, at midday, at dusk, and late at night. A student of light, a child of the Impressionists, he holds light as his subject, his very reason for being. Midday it is sunlight—at night it is moonlight and light cast by the lamps of Paris. His first look at the nighttime Seine took his breath away. He had seen it a million times in films, books, photographs, and even as genetic memory but nothing prepared him for how this first glimpse felt. He may have his own way of working and his own way of seeing that appear to owe nothing to any tradition but when he saw the Seine last night he felt like a living link to something very ancient.



In Paris the artist sees art everywhere. No matter where he has come from, he has never experienced an art environment like this. There are the great museums, the art galleries, the architecture, and the street art. Like every artist before him, David rummages through the bins of old prints at the stalls by the Seine, taking in images whose faded glory remind him that art has been made here for a thousand years.

Here a sixteenth-century map whose calligraphy is art, there a Belle Epoque print of princesses at the ball: the images may make him smile, so far has art moved in the ensuing centuries. He may paint in a way that would flabbergast these bygone artists but he is still their good friend. He handles this Seine-side art lovingly. Then he moves on, stopping after awhile to buy himself a Coke. But it is at another café, not at The Dog Who Smokes.



Will David and Genevieve meet soon? Check back and see!

10 comments:

Eric Maisel said...

I am commenting on myself to see if comments will post. Nice site, Eric!

Chanson said...

Well, I could use a vicarious trip to Paris. A little romance adds seasoning to life, too. Even if these folks don't meet [grin]. As a relationship veteran, I'll be interested in whether (and how) they make it work (or not) if they do meet. However, I also expect to be able to enjoy the environment, which will be a plus regardless of the pfft, crash-and-burn, sizzle, or comfy simmer (or all of the above).
Yes, Eric, posts work.

ameliacam said...

Wow- I can totally relate to what you have written. Paris is a wonderfully inspiring city. I lived there for 6 months and haven't been the same since.
Can't wait to read more!

Susan Taylor Brown said...

Hey Eric, Congrats on joining the blog revolution. Comments are some of my favorite part of blogging. I started out over here on blogspot but moved to Live Journal for more interaction. My goal is to blog something about my writing every day in 2006.

www.livejournal.com/users/susanwrites

Cristy said...

I get daily emails for you and I look forward to reading this as well. THis may be my only chance to see Paris, flying thing gets me every time. Looking forward to "seeing" the adventure unfold.

Deb B said...

As someone who is slowly discovering her creative abilities late in life, my heart smiled when I read your blog. I look forward to the experience!

Janet said...

I love the story so far but am so enamored with picturing myself there that I can hardly stay focused on David and Genevieve!
Preferably this will change as I learn more about our hero and heroine while enjoying your cultural insights and colorful photos as well.

Having never blogged before, I now have to figure out how to pass this on to my fellow francophiles.

Anne Marchand said...

Hi Eric,
Welcome to the world of blogging. I love your theme of artists in relationships and look forward to reading the unfolding story and seeing the pictures of Paris. Your first picture reminds me so much of what inspired my first cityscape painting of Paris. Thanks for the view.
www.annemarchand.com

claireHolcomb said...

Eric,
Your enormous energy and volume of work amaze me. I'm envious.

I think the aesthetics of blog are good. And your sensibilities are established enough to make someone peek in to see what you're adding to our understanding of creativity.

However, for a Southerner who found her "Paris" in New York .and then in Europe, found her "home" in many countries and cities, I do not have the particular passion for Paris you do. I once left Paris, in cab on way to airport, with snow drifting down, by the Seine. Lovely.
But Vienna, Florence, Cambridge, London - my God. So many places to resonate with/love/cherish.
I just finished your newest book and enjoyed the parts about writing.
As for "place" and "home" I found it in New York City from tenements in Lower East Side to walking across Bklyn Bridge, or exploring the waterfronts along the Hudson. NY is my mother.I love her ugly willingness to let everyone come and grow and perhaps leave.
However, I am now finishing up my first novel, after years of trying, and I am writing in a suburb in Washington, DC. DULL.
So the place to write in (at least for me)isn't relevant. It's a psychological/spiritual/gutsy place I've discovered in me. That's the place.
Good luck with blog,
Sheyn Aella Claire

claireHolcomb said...

Eric,
Your enormous energy and volume of work amaze me. I'm envious.

I think the aesthetics of blog are good. And your sensibilities are established enough to make someone peek in to see what you're adding to our understanding of creativity.

However, for a Southerner who found her "Paris" in New York .and then in Europe, found her "home" in many countries and cities, I do not have the particular passion for Paris you do. I once left Paris, in cab on way to airport, with snow drifting down, by the Seine. Lovely.
But Vienna, Florence, Cambridge, London - my God. So many places to resonate with/love/cherish.
I just finished your newest book and enjoyed the parts about writing.
As for "place" and "home" I found it in New York City from tenements in Lower East Side to walking across Bklyn Bridge, or exploring the waterfronts along the Hudson. NY is my mother.I love her ugly willingness to let everyone come and grow and perhaps leave.
However, I am now finishing up my first novel, after years of trying, and I am writing in a suburb in Washington, DC. DULL.
So the place to write in (at least for me)isn't relevant. It's a psychological/spiritual/gutsy place I've discovered in me. That's the place.
Good luck with blog,
Sheyn Aella Claire