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The French Dispatch
Back on the Continent
Please forgive my lack of contact. This newsletter comes to you from France. Traveling is not an excuse for not writing, but you’ll get enough of me soon enough (there are going to be a lot of posts when I’m in Wisconsin for much of August).
I’ve been to Paris just about every year for the last three decades. That’s shocking to realize—one of these days I’ll stop being surprised by the math that comes with aging. Arriving here after two years away was more moving than I expected. Just seeing the neck scarf on the Air France flight attendant made me very happy (I love the Air France style!).
France has a way of doing things, of course, and being around that way felt very strong. Everything was heightened, like the first drink after a long sobriety. You realize again how much of Paris connects to the senses—the light reflecting off the buildings, the linen of the tablecloths, the salt of the butter, the extra fine bubbles in the mineral water (yes, they specify bubble size).
These pleasures were immediate. But revisiting a great city (like revisiting any great film or book) reminds you of the past, and what it meant to you at a certain point in your life. I thought of being in Paris at different ages. As a student reading A.J. Liebling, a few years later, when we would bring back roast chicken to my sister’s wonderful apartment on the Rue Jacob. As you get older and find more obscure museums and parks, while still returning to old favorites (like Chardin’s still lives in the Louvre). I remember the highs of great meals and the lows of various Vikings’ playoff losses I’ve suffered through at a Scottish bar.
It shouldn’t be surprising that everything felt more alive. There will be more and more of that as we reemerge into places that we love and that we’ve missed. Though I don’t want to make everything sound perfect—there’s a heat wave here, as there seems to be across the world, there are masks (as you’d expect), vaccine centers, and everything else that seems reminds us that we are not back to normal and that the world is not in balance.
But still we can dream. In the next few weeks, I’ll write more about this trip, about a few hotels I visited and give some ideas for itineraries when it’s easier to travel. Until then we’ll have to be safe and smart and take our pleasure when and where we can get it. And look forward to reunions with the places where we’ve always felt the most connection.