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10 days to Kerouac-Piaf-Hemingway-Maugham-Jackie Paris

In a few days I will fly to Paris, as much for me as for many of my friends, a statement and a dream as well as a journey. Memory Paris, dream Paris, pastry-and-coffee Paris, the ache Paris, Piaf Paris, Hemingway Paris, painting Paris. All-balled-into-my-image-of-my-romantic-self Paris. Kerouac Paris, Modigliani, Picasso, Somerset Maugham, Muslim riots, Les Miz, JFK-and-Jackie Paris. Sitting at a cafe, writing in a small notebook Paris. As if you can’t do that in a Salt Lake City Starbucks. As if I won’t get bored, stiff, and squinty in the poor rainy light and bail out with my notebook to my apartment desk.

I’m not a big-city person, but here I am returning to this biggest of French cities for the fifth time. A wary introvert pulling two roller suitcases heavy with books and shoes, light on the clothing. In 1971 I took a backpack and a guitar. In 2007 I’m bringing too many books. 36 years later and you’d think my French would be fantastic. Vietnam then, Iraq now. Hoping to climb Montmartre and watch Americans. Planning to go to the Louvre many times and watch artists. Going out to walk morning streets and draw outlines for future paintings.

Maybe it will be enough of Paris this time. I’ll be done with her, solve the riddle of myself in Paris, fill in the puzzle of my promises to keep going back. Maybe next time a smaller town, a calm country plein-air kind of place where dawn patrols don’t need to bag up and hose down the revelries of the night before.

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