Sunday, October 17, 2010

The employment of my five senses.

The sky is that painful depressing gray. The air bitter about being cold, and the breeze seems to find pleasure in seeing people bundle up. The only thing warm is the bag of roasted chestnuts I cup with my hands as I enter the Jardin du Luxembourg. Sitting on a cold stone bench, a boy chases pigeons next to me as I write this post.

Maybe the only thing consistent about traveling, the only aspect remotely predictable is the continuous employment of the five senses. Traveling centers around displacing your senses.

The smell of fresh hot crepes cooking on the burner along Blvd. St. Michel as I walk back to the bookstore after walking all day. The streets, tiny, hidden streets, so many, never really knowing where you are until you pop out at some major landmark. Seeing and sometimes speaking to those who I have helped in the bookstore as you pass them on the street in another corner of Paris. Passing the plaque where Hemingway pounded away at his masterpieces. The feeling of books in your hands, for my two hours shelving new arrivals I feel books in my hands, flip through the pages, some smell used, others new, my eyes searching over endless authors. Squeezing them on the shelves, so many books so little time. Never have I felt so un-well-read. Speaking to different people, some crazy, some cocky, others humble or standoffish. Hearing Notre Dame play its timely chime in such an odd Christmas carol way every quarter hour. Seeing old buildings soaked in history all around, beautiful, vintage history all around. Making that every-other-day walk down the street to the (free) public showers. Alone in the stall, not knowing that much french I hear a women who works there shouting at a man to get out of the stall next to me, he continues to press the water button, which sends bursts of hot water in 10 second increments, he just keeps pushing the button, says nothing, just continues as she raises her voice. I finish, step out of my stall and see her with keys, ready to remove whoever is unwilling, uncertain of the outcome only that he, or maybe he's a she, will be naked. Then to the sinks, as a women, having just showered herself, collects her bag of belongings and looks at me with a face painted with age and sadness and kindness. I see this in her eyes as we stand at the sinks, neither of us say a word, only sharing the knowledge that we are taking our showers at the public bath house.

There is no space to call your own at the bookstore. You collect your things and shove them in an old water closet for the day, no space to relax other than a small studio room which is often socialized by the others who are staying at the book store. A friendly and warm environment but no place to dwell with any sort of uninterrupted peace. Because of this the days seem so long, mostly for the good, but at times I grow tired literally and figuratively. The autumn air is a touch too chilly to take a nap in beauiful gardens next to the Louvre, but I did find myself falling asleep on a bench near Notre Dame the other day, laying out across the bench, the sun, the last of the warm sun was shining through the gaps between the elms so I took full advantage. But my trusted place of solace is the house of the Lord. I enter a small church near the bookstore, there in the back corner I take a seat, lean my head on fold arms which rest upon the row in front of me, I can fall asleep in this position rather easily as it is similar to the one I used in college at the library. And those that pass, I trust, see someone in prayer or completely dejected with life, but I hope its the former over the latter, and who's to say that my eyes shut with sleep are not dreaming up peaceful prayers.

Then laundry. Where to go? Once found, figure out the machines, how much, how long, she looks nice, she seems to have done this before, I should ask her. “excuse me, do you need to pay before you load your washer?...”

You see and hear the names of authors, all day, working or not, surrounded by the names and stories of authors, some new, some old some dead, all inspiring. Tasting the same baguette salami sandwich every afternoon because the lady down the street makes the cheapest in town. 2 Euro 20. The cafe in the morning with the croissant, reading a few pages of my Consider the Lobster book written by David Foster Wallace, one of thousands of books I wish to read on any given day. Closing the bookstore for the night, locking the front door in such a way that all of us living there and the other staff have to exit out a side door but first we have to make that quiet, dark retreat past the books, up the narrow staircase, worn in the middle of each step by thousands of people who have come to see what I now believe to be the most famous and mysterious bookstore in the universe, then we pass through the library, then to the locker to retrieve our belongings for the night, pull out the sleeping bag and take rest among the books. Resting my senses after a long day's work.

1 comment:

The Dude said...

When the dirty hamper gets too full, it might be time to go over to mum's house for a good washing and dinner?

We need Norma's number.

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