On the 11th anniversary of 9/11, it is some consolation that the man most responsible for that terrible morning will not be smiling smugly to himself as satellite TV brings to the leafy boulevards of Abbottabad the somber images of New Yorkers commemorating those who perished in the Twin Towers.
The heart of Paris is like nothing so much as the unending interior of a house. Buildings become furniture, courtyards become carpets and arrases, the streets are like galleries, the boulevards conservatories. It is a house, one or two centuries old, rich, bourgeois, distinguished. The only way of going out, or shutting the door behind you, is to leave the centre.
Like a blazing comet, I've traversed infinite nights, interstellar spaces of the imagination, voluptuousness and fear. I've been a man, a woman, an old person, a little girl, I've been the crowds on the grand boulevards of the capital cities of the West, I've been the serene Buddha of the East, whose calm and wisdom we envy. I've known honor and dishonor, enthusiasm and exhaustion. ...I've been the sun and the moon, and everything because life is not enough.
Everyone goes to the 'Grands-Boulevards' (in Paris, ed.) and let himself loose... ...Do not picture these in costume, they are not for the most part... ...perhaps a clown with a big nose, or two girls with bare necks and short skirts... ...the parade of the queens of the halls (markets) is also one of the events... ...Some are pretty but look awkward in their silk dresses and crowns, particularly as the broad sun displays their defects - perhaps a neck too thin or a painted face which shows ghastley white in the sunlight.
The city might be savage, stray dogs might share the streets with grimy urchins whose blank eyes reflected the knowledge that they might soon be covered over, blinded forever, by the same two pennies just begged from some gentleman, and no one in the fuming, fulminous boulevards of trade might know who actually ran Ambergris-or, if anyone ran it at all, but, like a renegade clock, it ran on and wound itself heedless, empowered by the insane weight of its own inertia, the weight of its own citizenry.
My loneliness...still comes over me sometimes...It's a liminal, lost sensation of having wandered wide, endless boulevards, among rows of orange trees, winter butterflies, seasons reversed and out of order, dogs barking from behind fences meant to keep out intruders. It's not the place that impoverishes me but I who bring my own sense of poverty, of loss, to the place. It's a sense of near nothingness, as though I were not so much a blank slate as an erased chalkboard, still bearing illegible smudges of smoothed-over writing.
By nature independent, gay, even exuberant, seductively responsive and given to those spontaneous sallies that sparkle in the conversation of certain daughters of Paris who seem to have inhaled since childhood the pungent breath of the boulevards laden with the nightly laughter of audiences leaving theaters, Madame de Burne's five years of bondage had nonetheless endowed her with a singular timidity which mingled oddly with her youthful mettle, a great fear of saying too much, of going to far, along with a fierce yearning for emancipation and a firm resolve never again to compromise her freedom.
Guy de Maupassant
Whoever is born in New York is ill-equipped to deal with any other city: all other cities seem, at best, a mistake, and, at worst, a fraud. No other city is so spitefully incoherent. Whereas other cities flaunt there history - their presumed glory - in vividly placed monuments, squares, parks, plaques, and boulevards, such history as New York has been unable entirely to obliterate is to be found, mainly, in the backwaters of Wall Street, in the goat tracks of Old and West Broadway, in and around Washington Square, and, for the relentless searcher, in grimly inaccessible regions of The Bronx.
Contrasts The windows of my poetry are wide open on the boulevards and in the shop windows Shine The precious stones of light Listen to the violins of the limousines and the xylophones of the linotypes The sketcher washes with the hand-towel of the sky All is color spots And the hats of the women passing by are comets in the conflagration of the evening Unity There's no more unity All the clocks now read midnight after being set back ten minutes There's no more time. There's no more money. In the Chamber They are spoiling the marvelous elements of raw material ("Contrasts")
Anais, I don't know how to tell you what I feel. I live in perpetual expectancy. You come and the time slips away in a dream. It is only when you go that I realize completely your presence. And then it is too late. You numb me. [... ] This is a little drunken, Anais. I am saying to myself "here is the first woman with whom I can be absolutely sincere." I remember your saying - "you could fool me, I wouldn't know it." When I walk along the boulevards and think of that. I can't fool you - and yet I would like to. I mean that I can never be absolutely loyal - it's not in me. I love women, or life, too much - which it is, I don't know. But laugh, Anais, I love to hear you laugh. You are the only woman who has a sense of gaiety, a wise tolerance - no more, you seem to urge me to betray you. I love you for that. [... ] I don't know what to expect of you, but it is something in the way of a miracle. I am going to demand everything of you - even the impossible, because you encourage it. You are really strong. I even like your deceit, your treachery. It seems aristocratic to me.
Paris was a universe whole and entire unto herself, hollowed and fashioned by history; so she seemed in this age of Napoleon III with her towering buildings, her massive cathedrals, her grand boulevards and ancient winding medieval streets-as vast and indestructible as nature itself. All was embraced by her, by her volatile and enchanted populace thronging the galleries, the theaters, the cafes, giving birth over and over to genius and sanctity, philosophy and war, frivolity and the finest art; so it seemed that if all the world outside her were to sink into darkness, what was fine, what was beautiful, what was essential might there still come to its finest flower. Even the majestic trees that graced and sheltered her streets were attuned to her-and the waters of the Seine, contained and beautiful as they wound through her heart; so that the earth on that spot, so shaped by blood and consciousness, had ceased to be the earth and had become Paris.
Finding a taxi, she felt like a child pressing her nose to the window of a candy store as she watched the changing vista pass by while the twilight descended and the capital became bathed in a translucent misty lavender glow. Entering the city from that airport was truly unique. Charles de Gaulle, built nineteen miles north of the bustling metropolis, ensured that the final point of destination was veiled from the eyes of the traveller as they descended. No doubt, the officials scrupulously planned the airport's location to prevent the incessant air traffic and roaring engines from visibly or audibly polluting the ambience of their beloved capital, and apparently, they succeeded. If one flew over during the summer months, the visitor would be visibly presented with beautifully managed quilt-like fields of alternating gold and green appearing as though they were tilled and clipped with the mathematical precision of a slide rule. The countryside was dotted with quaint villages and towns that were obviously under meticulous planning control. When the aircraft began to descend, this prevailing sense of exactitude and order made the visitor long for an aerial view of the capital city and its famous wonders, hoping they could see as many landmarks as they could before they touched ground, as was the usual case with other major international airports, but from this point of entry, one was denied a glimpse of the city below. Green fields, villages, more fields, the ground grew closer and closer, a runway appeared, a slight bump or two was felt as the craft landed, and they were surrounded by the steel and glass buildings of the airport. Slightly disappointed with this mysterious game of hide-and-seek, the voyager must continue on and collect their baggage, consoled by the reflection that they will see the metropolis as they make their way into town. For those travelling by road, the concrete motorway with its blue road signs, the underpasses and the typical traffic-logged hubbub of industrial areas were the first landmarks to greet the eye, without a doubt, it was a disheartening first impression. Then, the real introduction began. Quietly, and almost imperceptibly, the modern confusion of steel and asphalt was effaced little by little as the exquisite timelessness of Parisian heritage architecture was gradually unveiled. Popping up like mushrooms were cream sandstone edifices filigreed with curled, swirling carvings, gently sloping mansard roofs, elegant ironwork lanterns and wood doors that charmed the eye, until finally, the traveller was completely submerged in the glory of the Second Empire ala Baron Haussmann's master plan of city design, the iconic grand mansions, tree-lined boulevards and avenues, the quaint gardens, the majestic churches with their towers and spires, the shops and cafes with their colourful awnings, all crowded and nestled together like jewels encrusted on a gold setting.