Saturday, July 3, 2010

Harold Jaffe's Paris 60, part 3

After recovering from the Parisian toilet, our intrepid author takes to the streets in search of Baudelaire.

4.6 Solitude

Baudelaire in Paris Spleen goes on about the virtues of solitude.

This was naturally before the advent of technology.

After despising Parisians with whom you're compelled to interact daily, returning to your flat at dusk and securing the locks on the door would seem reassuring.

The chalice of laudanum, half-open bottle of absinthe, and hashish laced with opium are arguably more productive than surfing the Net or texting a chum.

I've been isolated in New York, Berlin, London, Amsterdam, Mexico City, Quito, Tokyo, Singapore, New Delhi, Paris.

Paris is the most evocative city in which to be alone.

It is only the French who admit (or do not deny) the fou and folle.

The mad and palpably deviant.

I don't mean the functionally mad: bankers, corporate chieftains, uniformed child-murderers.

Those are welcome everywhere in the global village.

I mean the dysfunctional who smell bad, can't decipher the métro, do nothing but dream and rant.

True, Sade was imprisoned and Artaud institutionalized, but there were mitigating circumstances.

Parisians cross the boulevard at the red.

Drive their cars and motorcycles on the sidewalks.

Litter the Bois de Bologne with condoms.

Love their dogs but don't pick up the dog shit.

They welcome, at least in principle, the transgressive tradition in art and letters.

After a bad day with bad people, cross-dressing or undressing, getting high on anything.

Then going out in the Paris dark to a film or gallery opening and groping the human or sub-human to your left.

Stabbing him in the thigh with the poisoned tip of your umbrella.

It's a rush, cathartic, eminently satisfying.

And Paris is the only major city I know that grants you your donnée, won't even turn around to glare.

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