Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway
The Circus Sitter / Paris notes
Paris is a blank face. It is precisely half of Rene Magritte's green apple, round with glossy edges like a clock of emotion. You can project anything you want onto the city: your wishes and your fears. Sometimes Paris takes the form of a chocolate as dark as the river Seine. Other times it is in the leg of a woman--a lustful metronome. At still others it is in the bodies of lovers kissing thinking fishy thoughts of anchovy and moonlight...
When I roll into Charles De Gaulle I don't know what to expect. Faces confront me, some shielded like wooden blinds. More often, they are open or opaque. The glances belong to people: ladies, children or men on the march. An endless ensemble of limbs making a curious creature---one suited for commerce, work, play or spending money.
Then the sight of a door: DOUANE. The customs police.
A friendly female agent arrives with a face in a half smile centered with ebony stars. Her friendliness edged with efficency and polish. Back and forth, yet endlessly forward, left, right, droit, gauche, rolling and rolling. A crowd of people, expectant and silver, gleaming.
Hands and teeth holding signs.
Is my hair flaming orange? Am I Bowie...
Then I see the sign: Brockway Gail.
I made the flight and now a taxi is here. Maintenant. Ici.
The taxi is black and I wonder about crime. What are the chances? Kidnapping, bullets, flak jackets, ransom, Patricia Highsmith and the films of Michael Haneke.
But we are on the road to the apartment.
Green grass and cement, cement and green grass.
The apartment. Ochre, a friendly mushroom. Which way is front and back? Then up twenty steps.
A man giving my mom the details. The internet, the tv, the kitchen. He says of the Charlie Hebdo attacks that it is life, it only gets to people when it happens to them. He mentions the surrealism of it, then sleep comes like a sandbag over my face before I realize that I am actually physically in Paris France with my puppeteer-made body and this is not a virtual dream.
A park. Des Invalides. A Goth couple with black lipstick that mocks mischief across the face.
A young boy frolics between the thighs of a statue casually laying a finger on the granite pubis. Here are green thatched hedges, a razed uniform, smooth edges and topiary pointing to a maze in "The Shining."
I am present in the Tuilleries Gardens. A round ensemble of people stare into the pools depth.
Crowds of people sitting on grass. Dogs jumping. One girl with an ACDC shirt.
The Louvre. A giant stone cake of history and intimidation in the middle of everything. A guy tells a group that the statues were beheaded during the revolution. The statues are people as well.
We are met by a female guide. The essence of calm with a maroon hat. She explains that Napoleon promised Josephine pyramids but didn't come though, so I.M Pei made pyramids at the Louvre.
Through a maze of elevators and doors. The Mona Lisa. A rock star painting in glass. Shut away through time and space. A luxuriant star long dead that is still visible. Crushes of people taking iPhone pics two lines thick. I laugh and cry because I think this is what celebrity seems like for people and then merely that I made it here. The snapping of pictures melt with Petr's smile but Da Vinci made it. A star after suffering like Van Gogh.
I look into the salon and feel exactly where Turner stood and this feeling gets me more than Mona.
Winged victory. A beautiful goddess with an invisible head.
The paintings that depict Jesus strike. For once, here is a Jesus of darkness, his legs and torso draped in shadow, his eyes full of a raven's last kiss, the moment of Judas. I cannot read the artist plaque.
Out of the museum. Mom is struck by the guide. She tells me that the guide mentioned that France is not religious regarding Allah but I do not recall Allah mentioned. She hugged us which I liked.
We stop at a cafe. An ice cream sundae with actual curves of cream. Ripples of cool sugar hit me and I think at that moment this is what it felt like to be on a date with LaTrice and to be kissed, more than any dessert, just this instant sensation is what it feels like to have your body in balance, to be on top of the world.
The coffee and caramel is the sun in a glass.
I look down the narrow streets.
The Eiffel Tower sparkles silver but I think of Prince and the idea of following his ghost, a purple Apollinaire.
Woke up and Paris is silver dappled in gold. Have a chocolate croissant.
Mom and Petr said to bundle up but it is not cold.
When my feet hit my chair, my eye confronts a row of police cars lined up like profiteroles with a ribbon of blue on the side door creating hostile appetites.
The men's faces are blank.
In the distance, a few youths are waving flags, a red figure and a blue in the style of keith haring, action figures ready to jump.
A protest, but to what cause?
I did not plan it, but find I am on course to the military museum to see Napoleon's tomb.
There is a line of tourists and two machine gun guards with faces as hard and metal as the guns they carry. I am inches close to the gun which is to me like a closed beast ready to scream.
I am nervous.
A voice on a megaphone but the sounds are narcotic and muffled.
A crowd builds. If there were protesters, what did they want?
I went to the back entrance. Two officers are putting on face-shields and armor. A foot away, a cafe lunch proceeds as if it were summer.
Two older folks watch, equally puzzled and curious.
A tank stands in my path under an arch as part of an exhibit resembling an exotic reptile from a primitive planet, covered in bumps.
I love the tank as it reminds me of my dad when he said that he was part of the tank battalion. Here is strength and might! If only for a moment...
As I move away from my beloved tank, and into the open, I think of Passolini's "120 days of Sodom," those Nazis and life's imitation of art.
Surely a scene was filmed here.
Again my eye is usurped by the line of profiterole police trucks.
Are threats occurring?
Now, the Musée d'Orsay..
A cheerful young girl gives us the run down. There is an ad for the visual work of Guillaume Apollinaire and I ask, but the older woman does not understand. Went through a maze of corridors. Vincent Van Gogh’s Starry Night. Another rock star painting. No glass. Petr takes pictures of me under every painting that I say I like. I have the constant urge to laugh.
We have a good buttery dinner at a place that is titled in script like Picasso's hand: Pasco. The fish slides on the plate.
I immediately go to the aubergine as it reminds me of my Prince poem and tastes terrific as velvet might or salt. Life itself.
The street is dark and for others might contain the shape of legs.
I think of the white police cars stacked in rows earlier, angry milk bottles poised for a fight.
Just as the night is inevitable, so is conflict.
Pere La-chaise cemetery. The stones like a wrinkled face. Bump bump bump bump bumpbump bump bumpbumpbump bump. Huffing, puffing up a cobbled hill. Incredible heights up. My wheels marking distance little more than a child's pin-wheel at the beach.
After twenty minutes, Jim Morrison's home. A grave, medium sized. Small for the big man of rock. Its face heaped casually with beads and its entrance lined with stuck gum and locks. Sugar and iron: the intimacy of fan hearts. The sound of "Light My Fire" comes from within the stone and the cement itself seemingly glowing with a pale green light.
Petr lifts me up over seven others and I kiss him. I am excited but the grave seems sad and I feel a hurrying up sensation in my chest that begins when I cry.
Then it is gone.
The grave of Oscar Wilde. A beautiful rest. Art Deco and ornate, yet simple. After decades of wanting to see it. And Eureka!
I'm shocked to see it under glass like Mona Lisa.
A chatty woman comes upon us:
"Thank you for saying Hello in French. Thank you for saying Hello. You must go to see the trees and flowers here. Very important."
Then after much bumping and a little fear, a man helps us find Apollinaire, whose spirit I feel.
A man tells us that Guilluame's girlfriend Marie Laurencin wanted to be buried with him.
We find the grave: a terrific stone crowned with what looks like a rough penis.
He made his mark.
I feel closed in by ravens and trees. I think this is where I'll end up, hemmed in by clouds and brick.
All my thoughts overlap upon others. Ravens. Trees. Napoleon. Apollinaire. Blood. Dominatrices. Torn flesh. The pull of orgasm.
Across town to Montmartre. A while in time. Crowds of people. Cars. Noise. Headless colors and dirt. Mom is scared, says this is like Houston Street. Square buildings. Graffitti. Mouths with grimaces of steam.
Sacré-Cœur. The Taj Mahal, India. More cobblestones. Out into the air. The view: blue sky and little white buildings, squares of ice cream. The city.
I'm wheezing. How am I going to die? I am propelled behind some business men in dark suits.
Multiple scary rockings around the corner and then the choas of tourists and people, the endeavor of making money.
Who was once here? Lautrec? Dali? Does it matter?
I can't think clearly.
We ask several people about Dali. Most don't know. Then we see it: a squat gray hut that looks like a clamshell with a dark space within.
I submit, accept and give up. Thirty steps. Petr carries me. It is a vault, the catacombs. Darkness, then the white light of what seems 30 of Dali works to go with the 30 steps. Red and purple paint on paper. Don Quixote. A sculpture of gold and ego. The gallery guard gives no sign of greeting.
Up the stairs.
At the gift shop, the girl is friendly and doesn't know the English word "buttons." I buy two and a shirt with a Dali quote: "I don’t do drugs, I am drugs." Because I truly don't do drugs. Aside from two pieces of a marijuana cookie, each piece being twenty years apart.
I stop for a coffee and see men with guns yet again. Four of them.
After the cemetery and Montmartre, tired and buzzy, my bladder full of rubber bands, tight and hot. Almost uncomfortable. I try to think of sex, but cannot.
An unknown cafe for dinner. A bloody red on red chaimburger, surprising and good and disco house music in the air, which feels fun in its rattle of drums and metal rather than threatening.
The sidewalk has my initials written in red next to the military museum IAB, so I know it’s going to be all right.
I have come to Paris to see machine guns like rotten teeth.
So far, we have made it.
Write Ian at email@example.com