Letter From New York 11 13 15 Poor Paris…

Paris.  City of Light.  Paris shootings. Stade de France. Arc de Triomphe. President Hollande. Bataclan Theater.

The sun is setting and the land is turning a dusky grey; white clouds reflect the fading light.  I am curled up in the cottage and have lit a fire; tonight will be the chillest night yet – down into the 30’s.  The trees have been stripped of their leaves and tomorrow should be the last clearing of the year.

In the late 1970’s I spent part of a summer in Paris, living in a little apartment in the 16th Arrondissement at 73 Rue Chardon La Gache.  It was a magical time in a magical city.  Anti-Americanism among the French was at its height but I experienced only one small incidence of that, in a McDonald’s near the Arc de Triomphe.

As I sit here writing, it is reported that 18 people have been killed in a series of shootings in the 10th.  More blood in Paris, the “City of Light.”  More have been injured.  I am trying to grasp this and find it difficult.  It is too early, say the reports, to determine that this is another terrorist attack.  President Hollande, who was in the area, has been evacuated as are several neighborhoods near the shootings.

In refreshing my browser, the death toll has risen to 28 and there are reports of explosions near Stade de France, which is where Hollande was, with the German Foreign Minister, watching a soccer game between the two countries.

Hostages have been taken in the Bataclan Theater where a heavy metal band from California was performing.

When I was in Paris, I walked miles a day, passing through, I’m sure, the streets that are now scenes of chaos.  One night a group of Americans, myself included, stood beneath the Eiffel Tower at two in the morning and sang “The Star Spangled Banner.”  A gendarme looked at us and shook his head: those crazy Americans and because it was so late the Metro was closed so we all walked to our homes across Paris, unafraid, feeling as safe and secure as we could have anywhere.

That is not the Paris of now.

I have been back a few times since then.  Paris has seemed to me like Colette when she was older rather than Colette the younger, which is what she seemed to me when I was there in my twenties, living out, briefly, my “Lost Generation” moment.

Now, tonight with jazz playing, I mourn for the “City of Light” through which darkness is passing.  It seems particularly cruel that Paris, noted for its gaiety and joy of life, has been singled out this year for so much sorrow.

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