Can’t bring myself to blog too much today. I’m bone-tired, and I have a piece due tomorrow for the magazine. I walked seven miles today, and loved it. Loved it! I’ve been so run-down with mono for so long, and I love walking in Paris … so I walk whenever I can, and avoid the bus and the subway (N.B., I don’t make the rest of my family do this!). I don’t know why I’ve only had one episode of mono crash here in Paris, and I don’t care. It’s great to be tired because I’ve exercised.
Had to walk out some frustration too. My iPad went on the fritz just as we were about to board the plane in Baton Rouge. I finally got an appointment at the Apple store at the Carrousel de Louvre underground mall. The very nice and helpful geek performed some tests, and told me that there was an electrical short in the thing, and that it was going to have to be replaced.
“I have AppleCare,” I said confidently.
“I’m sorry, sir, but it says here that you do not, and it’s not under any kind of warranty,” he said.
He advised me that I could save a lot of money if I waited till I got back to the US to replace it. Sigh.
Later, when I was out walking along this morning on the rue de Rivoli, I passed the impressive Tour St. Jacques. It’s all that remains of a 1523 church built by wealthy butchers from nearby Les Halles. The entire church, except for the tower, was destroyed by revolutionaries in 1793.
The. Entire. Church.
Last week, I was walking with my eight year old son around the outside of Notre Dame Cathedral, and he asked me why some of the carvings of the saints were missing heads. I told him people who hated the Church did that in the Revolution. It’s jarring to see that kind of desecration, but nothing prepared me emotionally for standing next to that tower, and contemplating that the hateful revolutionaries tore down an entire church building, stone by stone. It was one of those moments when I remembered why I am a conservative. And I walked away thinking, “I have got to learn more about the Revolution.”
Now that my De Gaulle book is dead inside the tomb that used to be my iPad, I will go buy Simon Schama’s book “Citizens” and start it straightaway.
I met Julie and the kids later over by the Pompidou Center, and had lunch with an old, old friend and her wonderful husband, who was so kind that Julie and I admitted to each other afterward that we felt ashamed that we couldn’t speak French better, so we could have talked more to him. After we ate, the kids wanted to go inside the
butt-ugly fun-looking building, so off we went. We spent about 15 minutes in the first floor galleries, looking at some recent acquisitions, which put me in touch with my inner Field Marshal Goering (“Whenever I hear the word ‘culture,’ I reach for my revolver”). It bored and puzzled the kids, when it didn’t freak them out. I know exactly what they mean.
The floor featuring modern art from 1905 to mid-century was much more engaging to us. Magritte, Chagall, and Matisse are far more my style, though I must admit that I honestly don’t like most modern painting. Matthew really loved it, though. Lucas made it perfectly clear that he was sick of all this crap, and ready to go home. Nothing is quite as annoying as an eight-year-old boy who has decided that Picasso is stoopid and it’s time to go. Julie left for home with the little ones, and Matt and I padded up to the Museum of Arts and Metiers, which a pal had advised us not to miss.
This was the second really impressive moment I had today, and certainly the first grand-slam cultural event in Paris for my oldest son. I did not know what to expect from this museum, so it was one wonderful surprise after another. It’s a museum of scientific and industrial design. We started with the first computing machine ever made — by Blaise Pascal, to help his father with his business. Pascal’s own calculator, right there behind glass. There were sundials and astrolabes and suchlike, and then, in the next room, Lavoisier’s laboratory! By then, Matthew was walking on air, and we were only just getting started.
We saw a cyclotron from the 1930s (“Dad, it’s the precursor of the large hadron collider!”), a Foucault’s pendulum, Alexander Graham Bell’s first telephone, a Cray supercomputer from the 1980s, early televisions and printing presses, things like that. What was most astonishing to me, though, was seeing the progression of genius and invention through the development of things like looms, gears, and industrial devices. It was, quite literally, awesome, the brilliance and inventiveness that went into conceiving and developing these scientific applications. Matthew, apparently, has been doing a lot of reading over the years about these things, all on his own; he was telling me things I didn’t know, at every turn.
These exhibits made me realize how much I underestimate the creativity in scientific and industrial design. The Museum of Arts and Metiers is a terrific place, and I can’t recommend it enough, especially for boys.
So, in the space of one day, within one kilometer of Paris, I saw a thing that revealed the revolting depths of the destructive capacity within the human heart, and many things that revealed in fresh ways the exhilarating heights of man’s creative genius. They’re both us. Neither one stands alone as representative of who we are. “From the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way” (James 3:10). But they are, because that’s our way.
I love this city. I really do. Oh, and I bought sausages from Auvergne this morning before daylight at the street market on the Place Maubert. You didn’t think I was going to go a whole day without blogging about food, did you? Yes, that’s kangaroo sausage, and no, I didn’t buy any.