Michael Ruby



Paris, my wish for one day fulfilled, nothing more and nothing less, buildings with bulging brows, steely brows, the hotel where Ungaretti lived, tu ti spezzasti, booksellers under the cottonwoods along the Seine, Pei's glass pyramid seen for the first time, it won't be hard to tear down if people get sick of it, arch and obelisk and arch perfectly lined up, the inaccessible Orangerie, a video projection turning the columns of the National Assembly into barbers' poles, beer at 13 F a glass, it feels so safe (that’s right, everywhere isn't like America, the wild Western Hemisphere), the Eiffel Tower teeming on a Saturday night, overly complicated lines of steel, Shakespeare & Co., smaller and more rickety than I remember, "The Tumbleweed Hotel" anthology, autobiographies of American girls from the mid-’80s, my dead father’s voice in my ear, “I’m afraid your letting you're languages go, Mike,” one more place after his life, garbagemen in bright green suits on a Sunday morning, Proprete de Paris, Charlemagne as piercing as ever, incessant flashbulbs inside Notre Dame, HORA . FUGIT . STAT . JUS, Pei’s pyramid seen for the second time, surrounded by the honor roll, some France’s, some the world’s—Gregoire de Tours, Rabelais, Malsherbe, Abeilard, Colbert, Mazarin, Buffon, Froissart, Rousseau, Montesquieu, Mathieu, Mole, Turgot, S. Bermard, La Bruyere, Suger, De Thou, Bourdalou, J. Racine, Voltaire, Bossuet, Condorcet, Denis Papin—the list goes on and on, here in the intact capital of the late 19th century, complete before the age of cheapness, never bombed, vain, its looks are what it has to sell, and every country must have something to sell, a walk up Rue Valette to the Pantheon, the boarded-up Pantheon, graffiti that translates, "The Pantheon—Don't turn it into a basilisk," AU PLAISIR DU TEXTE bookstore, 49 Rue Guy Lussac, where I stayed in October of ’80, not a hotel anymore, not anything, quiet at 10 on a Sunday morning, Louisa points out where Uncle Clem lived on Rue de L'abbe de l'epee, a blonde makes up on a balcony, sun-baked buildings like in Ferrara, concrete ping pong tables in the park among pollarded alleés of browning horse chestnuts, turtle fountains turned off, careful perspective lines, a sign REGLEMENT at the edge of the park, an endless list, 37 Articles, everthing a little orderly and clean, fascistic, no surprise, they sent people like me to Drancy from here, people doing tai-chi, muted clothes, joggers who aren't equipment freaks, talks about Tsvetaeva and the devil, handouts on the Maastricht referendum, everything's about it, an occasional man wearing an ascot, the Marrais teeming after the Sabbath, on the lookout for halvah, Louisa’s Uncle John lives around here, Uncle Clem once lived on Place de Vosges, the Pompidou Center grimy after 12 years, smelling of piss, a fat acrobat bellowing in wretched English



Antwerpen, with its secret ribbed passageways and single Gothic spire, the spire I could never get away from, it hid in an Art Deco mirror, it stuck to the picture window in the pasta place on the last night, it followed me wherever I went, Westmalle triple beer, so many brands of beer, one better than the next, mussels, mosquito-netting, taste for Art Deco furniture, poorly designed bathrooms, tricky hot-water heaters, hedgerows of willow bushes in the countryside, rows of cottonwoods, cows, browning cornstalks, the Louvre’s “Anvers,” stark waterfront, red-light district, famous Vlaamese frites, but no mayo for me, please, construction everywhere, a facelift for Antwerpen '93, the Royal Museum built with the blood of the Congo, 16th century apocalypses, a Flemish dream of birds by Savery, flowers by Seghers or Jan Brueghel, fruit by Snuders or de Rijing, glasses by van Aelst, oysters by van Es, bathers by Siberechts, spaniels by Fijt and soldiers by Vranckx, art-historian friends of Louisa, surviving synagogues surrounded by men with walkie-talkies on Rosh Hashanah, get me out of here, postwar buildings along the waterfront, destroyed by German bombs, only the Butchers' Guild survived, houses and stores built right up against the cathedral, a hundred genever flavors, carefree youth at outdoor cafes, T.S. Eliot's "spawned in some estaminet in Antwerp," my unpopular contention that Europe is "the land of murderous hatred," an ad campaign everywhere that seems to extol the joys of heterosexual love and having children: EVERYTHING SHOULD BE XX. MEXX., Texican Spare Ribs Vegetarian, SUNSNACKS RAILTOUR SUNCOMFORT RELAXTOURS CENTRAIR AIRTOURS, banners going up, ARTWERPEN '93 CULTURAL CAPITAL OF EUROPE, thin blondes listening to walkmans, horse manure in the streets