Part deux. Ok. I’m here again, but this time it’s December and quite gloomy. Chilly air puffs out in smoky plumes and the horizon has submerged into a musty gray haze. But it’s cool. Luckily, the magical Paris sunshine and its cobalt sky can’t distract me. Hemingway, I feel a literary masterpiece on the tip of my pen… wait, I mean keyboard. I’m ready to be one with the baguette, let the Brie cheese soak into my skin, and sweat buckets of Bordeaux. 2016 was a tough year, we elected The Cheeto from The Apprentice to be President of the good old U.S of A. I might just be tortured enough to pull a masterpiece from the depths.
Ah, to be an ex-pat in France. It’s Christmas and the streets are empty. It’s peaceful and silent, calming and yet eerie. This time, there is no way that Paris can seduce me into procrastination. Its shiny luster is hidden deep underneath all those layers of fog. I ache for some Parisian inspiration so I pile on three jackets, two scarves, and double up on socks. I head out into the crisp night. The frigid air smacks me in the face, knocking my jet lag onto the sidewalk. People begin to dot the landscape as I round the corner onto the Champs-Élysées.
Crap. It’s a glittery Christmas wonderland. Sparkles galore. Cartier is dressed up as a shiny blaring present. It’s lined from head to toe in crimson twinkle lights. A large bow adorns its upper left side. The streets are covered in vanilla and sapphire fairy lights from the Arc de Triomphe to the Roue de Paris which is decorated in the colors of a Parisian neon flag. It’s overwhelming and stunning and awfully romantic, sigh…
Concentrate! I must remember to be one with the notebook. I’m a tortured and forlorn Yankee. I will soon have a President who can’t spell unprecedented. Onward for more inspiration. Think frosty notions. Hemingway and Stein didn’t let The City of Light divert them. “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness…” And great, now I spot a Christmas craft fair spectacular up ahead. Rides that go loop de loop, piping hot mulled wine, Belgian waffles slathered in Nutella and whipped cream, and boatloads of tiny handmade knickknacks. I get lost in the fragrance of fried dough and hypnotized by glittery encrusted Eiffel Tower ornaments. I wave the white flag for the night as a piping hot crepe gets the best of me. Ok Paris, round one to you. Writer zero, City of Light one.
I have seen the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame countless times before. They won’t be able to penetrate my tough exterior. What could be new? It’s just fancy old architecture. But when I arrive I see hefty Christmas trees lining the front of the cathedral. They glow with a bluish white illumination and the sky cloaks the structure in a ginger indigo hue. The Eiffel Tower shimmers and flashes in the pitch-black sky like a thousand fiery birthday sparklers. It’s been a total of three days and I haven’t written a word. Paris 5. Writer zero.
I was foolish. I should have known better and locked myself up in the hotel room, chained to my laptop. Writers are not tourists. They do not roam the charming streets in search of the perfect French handbag or peruse the to-die-for fashion at Printemps or Le Bon Marché. They don’t munch on ginormous croissants layered in chocolate, almonds, and sprinkled with powdered sugar. They only drink water from the tap and take a half a bite of a plain baguette. No butter. They don’t eat dinner at Hôtel Costes, which is draped in red roses and rich scarlet velvet. Where slinky hostesses serve tasty cocktails to the “it” crowd and a tall silver holder displays crisp French fries. They don’t fight for a photo of the Mona Lisa at the Louvre and they most certainly don’t eat colorful French Macaroons at Ladurée.
I did all of this. I blame the Nutella. It gets me every time. That and the pain au chocolat. Or maybe it was the sparkly Christmas lights that mesmerized me into a constant state of procrastination. It could have been the festive department store holiday displays that tugged at my cold black heart or maybe it was that damn twinkling tower. I thought that the chilly climate would squash Paris’ charm and reveal it to be just like any other city. A city is just a city after all, and a writer who lives in a country with a silly orange President-Elect should be able to get some work done in the dead of winter. Finally, she could be like her ex-pat literary heroes.
Match point. Game. Set. Paris, you win again. City of Light 100. Writer zero.
An American Writer in Paris: Part Trois?