Saturday, April 28, 2012

Satori in Paris

I am aware this might be considered some kind of phobia, but I have to admit that I hate lists. 

So I won't write down a list of things to do in Paris.

Paris for me is like true love. One you haven't seen in a while and for which your feelings are crystallized, idealized and platonic; one with whom you can talk about anything, have a silly and flirtatious talk in a nice café or engage in the most intense, romantic and disorienting conversations while watching the water of a river flowing peacefully and confidently on its bed.

Paris has it all!But I didn't want it all.

This time I wanted Satori: the  enlightenment, understanding and all encompassing awareness of zen Buddhism, sought (sometimes in a not so proper way) by Jack Kerouac and the Beat Poets. 

Not that there was a chance to meditate, and of course I wasn't going to get drunk, but it was very clear for me that this trip was one to discover something more profound than the latest fashion or new hip restaurant.

Maybe it wasn't only a coincidence that the apartment's owner had placed a Buddha head above the fireplace, as it wasn't mere chance that the place we were staying, a nice little apartment in the Latin Quarter*, was right next to the Beat Hotel.

All suggested that I, too, was going to experience the creative mood that filled the streets of this (once) bohemian, literary and artistic area on the left bank of the Seine.

"Paris can't change", I told myself!

"(In the 50s)...The Latin Quarter was an area of dusty used bookshops, avant-garde art galleries, antiques shops, dealers in ethnological artifacts, and the tiny cramped offices of radical publishing houses and small presses specializing in experimental literature and the arts. Along the Seine the booksellers displayed tattered prints and well-thumbed books in boxes clamped to the river wall, which could be locked shut at night. All around the rue de Seine and Place St. Michel there were bookshops that featured titles in Surrealism, 'Pataphysics, medicine, the occult, alchemy, and Asian mysticism. These were sometimes hidden in courtyards or on the higher floors of buildings, known only to aficionados[...]".

excerpt from "The Beat Hotel. Ginsberg, Burroughs, and Corso in Paris, 1958-1963" BARRY MILES, Grove Press

to be continued...

Read more *About the Latin Quarter
Note: "Satori in Paris" is a novel by Jack Kerouac