Friday, November 20, 2015

La Ville Lumiere

Paris.... The city of lights. Possibly named so because Louis the IV ordered his streets to be well lit, or maybe because it was one of the first cities to have gas lamps. Still others think the moniker dates back to all those big idea dudes like Voltaire and Rousseau. For me, it's the town where my waaaay back childhood friend, Karen lives.

Although my hopelessly romantic side longs to revert to the Jazz Age so I could booze around with Scotty and Zelda, present day me was a very happy camper last summer when Karen's husband Andy kindly took us to a former road along the Seine which was closed forever in favor of picnics. After watching the sunset with a decent little bottle of wine, we walked home past the Eiffel Tower lit up like a Christmas tree, tricked out with light and laser beams as it is most evenings.

To top it off, a wild little light show takes place close to midnight. The whole thing shimmers for about ten minutes like a giant sparkler on the Fourth of July. We could see the spectacle if we looked straight up through a tree in Karen and Andy's back yard.

When the news hit on Friday,  my first worries were allayed when a sleep deprived Karen shot me an email late on that dark night telling me that she and her family were safe. Karen sent me this picture last Saturday.

Aside from my friend, I feel a kind of kinship with Paris.  I've experienced the vista from Notre Dame to the Eiffel Tower which beat out the Washington monument for man made height in 1888. Between the river and the bridges, I see the inspiration for Washington. Having lived through the 9/11 attacks, I remember the eerie quiet of that otherwise beautiful September day when no air traffic except fighter jets ripped through our blue skies, and everyone but the residents left town for weeks on end. Our hearts were full of pain... and dread. Last weekend I wondered what would happen next in Paris? Would things shut down? Would children go back to school?

Here's what a Parisian father ( caught on video) said to his three year old son who was wondering if they would have to leave Paris to be safe:

Father: "Don't worry … We don't need to move out. France is our home," Angel tells Brandon in the video.
Brandon: "But there's bad guys, Dad."
Father: "Yes, but there are bad guys everywhere."
Brandon: "They have guns, they can shoot us because they are really mean, Daddy."
Father: "It's ok, they might have guns, but we have flowers," Angel tells Brandon.
"They have guns; we have flowers." As all the politics swirl around this event, this is the quote that struck me the most. How every day people pick up their lives after such a traumatic event. For Paris, as for us in Washington, the pain and anxiety will remain fresh for far too long, but the official mourning lasted only three days. People did go back to work. Kids went back to school. This is the picture Karen sent me on Monday- taken on the way home after picking her son up from orchestra practice:

Lights. Flowers. Candles.
We do our best as humans to light the darkness which sometimes we bring upon ourselves.  We continue the struggle to learn to live together on a scale big and small. Le vivre ensemble. Be patient with that idiot who just cut you off on the Beltway. You never know when a small kindness might make a huge difference.  Might create a revolution

Lumiere. Les fleurs. Les bougies.  Vive la France.
And Happy Birthday, Karen.


  1. Hooray Lynda. Merci beaucoups. We were walking near the Bataclan Nov. 6.....