From Paris, with love

From Paris, with love

Hey there, it's been a while.

I've been a busy boy. I deactivated my social media, shaved my head, and fled to Paris after a long and trying year filled with change, grief, joy, chaos, you name it. If that all sounds like the warning signs of an oncoming existential crisis, that's because they were. Which begs a question I've been pondering: how does one undergo an existential crisis in 2023, in the age of oversharing and keeping up digital appearances? Why do we have a stigma around being concerned with one's existence and identity? But we won't dive into that, that's a question for another newsletter.

Today I just wanted to share some notes and pictures from Paris. I got back from France a little over 2 weeks ago after 18 days of romping through Parisian thoroughfares. Now that the experience has come and gone, I'm doing my best to distill and reflect on my time there. I didn't write much in Paris, I tried but ended up being too overstimulated. Sitting down and writing felt like being a leaf in a roaring river, nothing was going to stop the torrent from pushing me onward. And yet, there were a few moments which I will share below. Feel free to read them or just jump down to the music if you'd rather. Until my next edition, just know that I'm doing very well. Fall has arrived in New York City and I'm doing my best to crunch every leaf I can. I'm feeling grateful for this life and my ability to see things clearly, to see past my own muck. I wish the same for you.

Jet-lagged thoughts

It's 2:38 AM and restlessness has seeped through flesh and now rattles against my bones. This happened last time in Berlin, no matter how exhausted you think you are, you will not be able to wheel around the nasty side affects of jet-lag. The energy comes on in an instant and wakes you from whatever slumber you were lucky to find. In one moment, the time is moving steadily, the sand in the hour glass is tumbling through the pinch at a steady and predictable gait, then suddenly, as if water spilled and soaked the grains, the time begins to crawl, it starts and stops in sputtering gasps. The sand, drenched and heavy, globs and clogs the pinch. Suddenly, you're awake. No telling when the time will begin to move again. Maybe never, maybe this is it, a life time of endless night.

I’m at least glad I got out of bed this time as opposed to tossing and turning desperately until the first flame of dawn begins its dance on the wall above the bed. Now I can make something of this time, take a bad deal and make it better - a lesson, a discipline, a preference.

I’m writing from the small living room of a 10th Arrondissement apartment. This place is small but quaint, and it’s in the heart of Paris, or at least thats what our host told us. We are on the sixth floor of an old building with a surprisingly functional antiquated elevator. A gorgeous spiraling staircase lathered in a stunning and saturated navy blue twirls the expanse from ground to sky, vibrant green hanging plants snake down into the corridor from the floor above. The windows of our unit overlook the quiet and darkened rooftops of mid-night Paris, in the distance is the Sacre Coeur, looming over our Parisian district and signaling the highest point of Paris’ legendary Montmartre neighborhood.

There’s life flooding out of every corner here, people swarm up and down the terribly narrow sidewalks, some lagging at a leisurely pace while others weave full tilt through the sidewalk crowds, popping on and off the sidewalk into the road to get around the lazy types, they hardly look to see if a car is coming. It’s diverse, people of every color leer out of unassuming store fronts as they pull intensely on imported cigarettes. By day they all live their own separate lives - agendas, jobs, distinct to-dos - but when night falls and the City of Lights hums to a glow, everyone seems to get the same ideas: cigarettes and wine glasses on an outdoor table with the seats facing the street. This city is fueled on communal people watching.

It’s dirtier than I expected, and surprisingly drab. The streets are overwhelmingly cold and gray when there is no sun peeking into the winding canyons of buildings. When the sunlight finds its mark then the streets can glow with the warm and bright color of sand, I like this time the best. Tomorrow I’m hoping to find a boulevard lined with thriving trees and a stellar coffee shop.

There’s a castle on the hill in the distance, tomorrow my feet will carry me there.

The best thing I ate today: a cherry tomato.

Following the sunshine

There's no horizon here. Every street seems to run into another - crashing and piling up boulevards and alleys into myriad patchwork neighborhoods. It's quite beautiful if disorder is your kink. Surprisingly, there's a sadness in the streets that I didn't expect to find here. If the European quality of life is a real thing, I'm not convinced it lives in Paris, these streets feel shaded in something deceptive. Baguettes, corner bistros, drinking and smoking with your friends on a street corner quickly transforms from This is the best! to Is this all there is? I suppose I've seeded my own disappointment, after a lifetime of being force fed Parisian culture through movies, photography, social media, music, and literature I thought for certain something was going to stir within me, something powerful that would trigger a flight from the American dream/nightmare we are seemingly vexed to inhabit. How wrong I was.

Don't get me wrong, Paris and France are wonderful and unforgettable destinations, I'll be coming back as often as time allows. There have been many moments where the beauty of the culture and my environment has left me in a glassy-eyed stupor. The food is incredible, the ingredients honest and liberating to the senses, the sauces and choices of protein all fascinating and daring. The wine is cheap and flows freely. My favorite evenings have been spent huddled around candlelight while shoveling duck hearts into my mouth, gulping them down furiously with a generous taking of orange wine in some upcoming brasserie in East Paris. I've found myself moved standing on the top floor of the Musée D'Orsay dissolving happily into a Maximilien Luce painting, or witnessing the immersive 8-wall spanning beauty of Monet's Nymphéas. The art is incredible, the food mind expanding, the architecture beautiful, sure. So what has me on edge?

I suppose it all feels a bit too parochial and complacent, theres a strange sensation similar to that of swimming in a small and stagnant dark water pond. It's refreshing for a moment and fulfills your fantasy of leaping into a bucolic body of water, but you're not quite sure if staying in long is advisable, and you can't help but fantasize about what indescribable slimy things lurk at the bottom. Before you say I'm being harsh, the same could certainly be said about New York, this city is notorious for chewing up and spitting people out indiscriminately, and the seedy NYC underworld has influenced generations of pop-culture and blockbusting multimedia for generations, for better or worse. Yet, here I am, late into my Parisian getaway and longing to marvel at the mountains of man built along the Hudson and East River. Never have the towering facades of Manhattan seemed so impressive and awe inspiring. Give me the red brick buildings, the white marble courthouses, the brown stone stoops, the black top roads, the blue glass skyscrapers, the green trees along the boulevard, and the yellow taxis blaring in the afternoon bustle. Let me use the distant sounds of be-bop to chart my course through the Central Park laissez-faire. Suddenly I realize, or remember, or perhaps I'm noticing for the first time how singular New York is in the world circuit, and how true of a beacon it is to those who wish to reach for the heavens with their personal, professional, and shoot, the Empire State Building suggests even their physical ambitions. I suspect that you can't leave your mark on Paris in the same sort of way as New York, Paris wishes to remain there forever in it's glittering and golden past, Paris wishes to stay Paris, and that's fine, that can even be honorable, there needs to be places that preserve their history or we'll forget where we came from and which phases we've endured. It's just not for me, at least not for living, certainly for visiting, feasting, strolling and all manner of epicurean delights, but no, not for living.

I'll end with F. Scott on New York.

"For the moment I can only cry out that I have lost my splendid mirage. Come back, come back, O glittering and white!"
Before you go on, may I suggest brewing a cup of coffee or tea to accompany the following listens?

📚 A Quote to Consider

I found this book on a stoop here in Greenpoint and decided to dig in as it's about writing and I'm trying to be a better writer these days. I'm actually not enjoying it as much now as I was in the early pages but I'll finish it for the heck of it. I quite liked this quote on upper-class suburban malaise:

My father wrote an article for a magazine, called "A Lousy Place to Raise Kids," and it was about Marin County and specifically the community where we lived, which is as beautiful a place as one can imagine. Yet the people on our peninsula were second only to the Native Americans in the slums of Oakland in the rate of alcoholism, and the drug abuse among teenagers was, as my father wrote, soul chilling, and there was rampant divorce and mental breakdown and wayward sexual behavior. My father wrote disparagingly about the men in the community, their values and materialistic frenzy, and about their wives, "these estimable women, the wives of doctors, architects, and lawyers, in tennis dresses and cotton frocks, tanned and well preserved, wandering the aisles of our supermarkets with glints of madness in their eyes." No one in our town came off looking great. "This is the great tragedy of California," he wrote in the last paragraph, "for a life oriented to leisure is in the end a life oriented to death--the greatest leisure of all."

🎧 A Song to Study

Lively. Upbeat. Joyously energetic. Everyone playing on this track found themselves perfectly in the pocket and completely immersed in flow. Not a single note is played out of a place here, it's a marvel and testament to the magic of jazz improvisation. This one never fails to get me dancing in between my speakers.

🏡 An Album to Live In

In keeping up with my trends of bringing you compelling contemporary album recommendations, I'm bringing you this soothing and melodic dream/noise-pop effort from Lowly. Hand Habits, Beach House, and Wye Oak fans will find a lot to love here. This one came out back in February but I'm still finding more and more to enjoy about it with every listen since.

👋 Until next time...

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If something resonated from this edition please do not hesitate to reach out, I hope for this to be a two-way communication channel. Let's chat and discuss music and/or ideas.