by geezer in Paris
Thu Sep 29th, 2011 at 04:57:54 AM EST
I thought I would be happy to grow old(er) and die in Paris, but I was wrong.
Today, it's easy for me to see Paris as a vast theme park, packed with attractions for the rubes, with junk and doodads for sale at every turn. But it's of course something much more than that. Paris is a storehouse of art, music, culture, - in short, all the things that emerged from a chain of rapacious monarchies epitomized by Louis the Fourteenth and his merciless fostering of art, technology and architecture- not for the advancement of "civilization", but for his personal amusement, and as a testament showing his superiority over the other predators of the aristocracies of his day. Nonetheless, his real love of fine things and art seems to have fostered something great- a national predilection for the beautiful. But his predation eventually resulted in the death of his hapless descendant, Louis the Sixteenth, when the chickens finally came home to roost--more like the vultures, I guess.
The architectural triumphs, the art, the music, even the techniques of mirror-making that allowed the "Sun King" to exist, solidified, coalesced into the tourist's Paris, the culture vulture's Paris. For example, Americans, who come from a place where only the barest dribble of pocket change is invested in culture . Hell, we can't even fix the roads.
But there is another Paris: a place deeper than monument-world, where people live and love, where lives are spent and people have children to raise and educate, mortgages to pay, dreams to nurture and wounds to heal. The two overlap. They naturally blend with the many other cities that inhabit the same space, and produce a complex amalgam that was the Paris I fell in love with twenty-five years ago.. But change comes, with the toxic homogenization of "globalization", and change comes to me too. As I age, my perspective shifts. The world has changed around the Paris I loved, and it seems to me that Paris has changed till it is no longer as good a place for children as it once was. And, for now, I need a different perspective.
All great cities have their own character, their own history, and as a result their own independent persona. They "live". I still love Paris, as does Ivonne, and we may go back when the girls are more resistant to the toxic side- the self-involved Parisian girl, overdressed, perched on spikes and with her phone glued to her ear, who tramples you as you try to evade her charge for the department store door. Or the stapled, tattooed, death-clone, the black clad Goth. My girls need to know that there's a larger world. I need to remind myself of that, too.
Nevers is a sweet town in many ways. It has some of the chief liability of small environments- the authoritarian nature of a town with a relatively rigid definition of "us" and "them", but there's enough ideological wiggle-room, and it's physically big enough as well, so a fair bit of tolerance seems to be alive and well here. People smile, they say hello, they actually see you when they look at you- a person instead of just another obstacle. It has enough history to be culturally rich, but has escaped the obsession with the past that is common in towns ruled by an oligarchy in their seventies, who dream past glories and hate change.
It occurs to me that the absence of extreme role playing like Goth or Puncture-People might be an indication that the desired shock value is missing, since it's abundantly clear that disapprobation or prohibition just amplifies the rebellion these things seem to represent. Not so much to prove here.
Who rules here? I don't yet know, but we will find out.
Nevers has lost a lot of population in the last decade, and is therefore over-endowed with some infrastructure. A huge medical complex languishes just outside town to the West. Bored people and almost empty halls, with the bureaucratic nonsense that idleness tends to bring.
But Nevers seems to be a well-managed town, orderly without being oppressively authoritarian. Still very early- I may change my mind here, when I know more. But the schools have small classes by the standards of the times, and still do art and music, field trips and dramatic productions, and the Mairie provides subsidized camping and many other programs for kids during the school year as well as in the summers. There is a focus on the 12 to 16 age group, which Paris largely lacked.
Enough for now. I'm back to building model airplanes, and I have a sailplane in the works, and Giselle is building one too. More fun there. Still hope to fly something a bit larger again- perhaps an ultralight.