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she sure smells good

I’ve just emerged from a long, hot bath and am a human dishrag. Truly, I can’t remember ever being this tired. Mustn’t give up, I keep thinking, there’s so much of Paris still to discover and explore! And yet I can hardly put one foot in front of the other.

Maybe I’m dealing at some subliminal level, or not even so subliminally, with the end of this adventure. Tomorrow is my last full day in Paris, and Monday, my last night on the road. I am desperately homesick, and yet also mourning, already, the freedom and adventure of these last almost 5 months. So this has translated, perhaps, into leaden feet.
Or perhaps I just have walked too goddamn much and I’m tired! It’s hot, the city is crowded, the streets are very long. My legs hurt.
This morning, I walked across the Jardins du Luxembourg to explore the other side. A friend wrote to say I must find the rue du Cherche Midi – what a wonderful name, “the street of search for midday.” There’s a story there. I was seriously underdressed for this very chic, elegant, stylish street. Fun to window shop. Ah, then something I could afford: there was the the famous bakery of Max Poilane, glowing gold across the street. I had to buy some of HIS bread, also the best bread in Paris apparently, and an apple tart, and a croissant light as air to eat on the spot. Yesterday’s bread was wonderful – very chewy with lots of stretchy holes. We’ll see how this one compares.
Then I did a crazy thing. I’m embarrassed even to write it but I’m going to confess. Nearby was the extremely expensive and ultra-chic store Au Bon Marché, unlike Galeries Lafayette a restrained palace that hits you, the minute you walk in, with the calm, muffled hush of money. I wandered, looking at absurdly priced and lovely things. And there – there was the Chanel counter, and there was the Cristalle Eau Verte cologne.
Reader, I bought it. I bought a bottle of Chanel perfume at Au Bon Marché, I who am currently living on my line of credit with a flooded basement to fix. Suddenly I wanted something elegant, to pretend, just for a minute, that I belonged in this store, that I’m rich too. Even as my Visa was sliding into the machine, a voice was shouting, “Stop! Are you insane?” Even once I’d bought it I wanted to return it. But I walked out of that emporium of wealth with flushed cheeks, holding a little Chanel shopping bag.
And immediately outside, ran into a homeless man selling newspapers and stuffed the ostentatious bag into my purse. I raged at myself for some time. But what the hell – in the list of loony things I’ve done in my life, this one is far down the list. The latest Elle is full of handbags that cost 2500 euros, so my perfume cost nothing in comparison; the bill will just add a little to my hefty debt. And at least now, as I’m mopping up the basement, I’ll smell good.
Ate my picnic sandwich in the Jardins – chicken this time, on yesterday’s best bread in Paris, and then my Poilane apple tart, divine – in front of a statue of the poet Verlaine, and then didn’t have the energy for anything else. I and my expensive smell went home. A complete systems failure.
But it was such a glorious day, I couldn’t just stay in. The Globe on-line had a review of a show of art by women at the Pompidou, so after a few hours rest, I went. Couldn’t miss that. Before I went out, I sprayed myself with Cristalle Eau Vert and joined a beautiful Paris dusk, the Beaubourg area jam-packed with activity, all kinds of street shows going on outside the museum with hundreds watching – and a huge exhibit of art by women.
Unfortunately, friends, I was just too exhausted to appreciate the art of women – or of men either, for that matter. There were a lot, really a lot, of vaginas, in paintings, video art, sculpture. There was a video of a naked female torso hula hooping with a hoop of barbed wire. Much was dark, satiric, self-regarding; much, I thought, was extremely ugly. One of Canadian artist Jana Sterbak’s well-known meat dresses was there, and a lovely Agnes Martin, a cream coloured canvas with meticulous straight lines, like a notebook – beautiful. I wondered what Agnes would think of all the vaginas, she who spent her life as an artist painting straight lines. But then I mostly do not understand modern art; she probably would.
It was good to see one Louise Nevelson’s fantastic shelf arrangements. And to go upstairs to the permanent collection, also displaying a lot of great women artists from bygone eras. Ironically – but then I really don’t understand modern art – I thought there was more love and respect for the essence of women in one of Matisse’s simple nudes than on the whole floor below.
But even as I tried to look at Derain, Matisse, Miro, more of my favourites, it was as if I were being served a giant banquet but wasn’t hungry. I’m stuffed. I just can’t see them any more.
As I’ve said a few times recently, time to go home.

The most solid advice for a writer is this, I think: Try to

learn to breathe deeply, really to taste food when you eat, and

when you sleep really to sleep. Try as much as possible to be

wholly alive with all your might, and when you laugh, laugh like

hell. And when you get angry, get good and angry. Try to be

alive. You will be dead soon enough”

William Saroyan (American Writer, 1908-1981)

PS. Inside my Chanel bag were three free samples of other perfumes which will make a nice present for my daughter – and the bag itself, too. So, really, a totally justifiable purchase. Yes?



4 Responses to “she sure smells good”

  1. Carolyn says:

    I'm glad you bought the cologne. When you smell it back in Toronto you will be transported to Paris.
    Speaking of female artists, I heard Eleanor Wachtel interview Agnes Varda on CBC yesterday. I am not a great movie buff but I really liked her. One thing she said was that old people should be free to forget everything if they wish. I must see Les Plages d'Agnes.

  2. beth says:

    Carolyn, thanks for your support of my impulse buy. You know, I agree with you – where else to buy perfume but in Paris? There's something so feminine about this city, about the women here, strong and independent as they are. So now I will have my cloud of scent too. (It's light and lemony. One of the perfume blogs said it smelled like Froot Loops. Luckily I don't know what Froot Loops smell like.)

    I'll listen to Eleanor on-line. Thanks for the tip.

    We bloggers will find it hard to forget anything when we're old – it's all preserved in cyberspace!

  3. Lynnie says:

    When I was a kid I used to eat my Fruit Loops one colour at a time.

    I haven't worn perfume in years, but I just might have to check this one out!

  4. beth says:

    It'd smell great wafting around the bike.

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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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