Deplorable in Paris – by Fred

A journey in the cold snows of winter, to the land of my forebears. A light snow fell as I walk to the cathedral my ancestors prayed in before they embarked on their journey to a new life in the New World. A day much like this; at the end of one year, before the birth of the new. Long ago when the world was lit only by fire.

I wonder what they would make of the lights of ours? Electric lamps and guards before the door to the house of God. They would recognize what was within; the joy at the birth of the hope of salvation. Even now, in the winter of such contentment, the song and the joy remains the same.
Cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris

Such was the day on my arrival in the City of Light that Christmas Day. A chill wind and soft snow with just enough warmth to threaten a thaw. No throngs of gawking tourists; just a long, thin, line of worshipers moving ever forward past the barriers and the watchful eyes of the CRS. Few seats were vacant. Only a few were filled with visitors from distant lands. A sermon in French and in Latin. My ancestors would recognize the temper of our times.

Such a different day, just two days later, at that other cathedral of the City, St. Sulpice. A paved road stretches forth from the Luxembourg Gardens to Place Saint Sulpice. 
The road

Guards and tourists too at one end. At the other? No throngs at the door, no CRS, no guards visible at all. A few tourists, a few parishioners. Just we few, we happy few. Lost souls hearing the echo of the Word. The soft baa, baaing of the black sheep is heard within the cathedral, though most do not know their condition, nor how close damnation – or salvation, lies. For there at the edge of the Nave stood Mephistopheles with – a bag of cookies. His hand out stretched in temptation to his pupils. His eyes gleaming as he tempts in mockery of the communion.

How close to evil we come, so close, when an anger equal to that of pagan Achilles rises in our breast. Lead us not into temptation and deliver us from evil, so goes the prayer. A softer passion moved me. I took a few short steps when at the edge of the transept I was brought to a stop by what I beheld at a nativity display. Just beyond the velvet rope, stretched out full length, giving coins and prayers to the baby Jesus, a woman of middling age. Tears ran down her faces; and down the faces of the French women who stood in amazement, in compassion. They crossed themselves and spoke soft prayers to God. Life played out before me in all its sadness and hope and glory. The third calendar day from the one we mark as the birth of our savior. A trinity indeed.

It was a short walk, though one long in contemplation, toward the Cluny and the Medieval Age. How did Goethe put it? Das Ewig Weibliche zieht uns hinan?  Long I stood in contemplation in front of her. “I’m with her” has such different meaning here.

In contemplation

Hours later a different longing, a secular one? A primal one? Growling out, from the stomach. A simple longing, for mothers cooking? Such a shift from food for thought, and the soul. I ventured out again, on a different road, one well paved, well traveled:
Road to dinner

A few turns, a darkened street, a single lite. So much like that first night in France, in the century passed. 


Here it lies, just beyond….an adventure.

Doorway to adventure

This must be the place, for romance, 


for, shall I say it, dinner?


Mmm, mm.  A full day, a full belly, satiated I journeyed forth again, to find just how late the hour.

Deplorable night

Even the night owls had ventured home to bed. An example I was looking forward to follow. Just a few steps more, a minute or two only from this very cafe. It was then, so unsuspectingly, at the very threshold of the Inn that I was set upon so suddenly – by a fierce beast with black hair and white fangs. I thought can it be, the hound, the Hound of the Baskervilles!? Why here is the scoundrel:

Lemon the Puppy of Paris

Well, he is a hound. More Puppy of Paris than diabolical beast. Lemon (pronounced the French way) the Puppy of Paris. Well there is only one thing to do after being set upon by such as he. Uphold the tradition – of Americans abroad. I took him (with the owners permission)  into the courtyard for a round of fetch. It was then the urge struck me; and yes, I did the deed, just like so long ago with Lil' Yeller. I taught a young dog a new trick. There were some hastily concealed smiles, betrayed by flashing eyes, from the ladies behind the counter when they heard young Lemon sound forth the proper greeting to the master when he returns home: "Baarrrooooo!".  I wonder how that greeting sounds in French? At least in the future no one will mistake him for a puppy. I know, it was, in a word, Deplorable.

Thus concluded the most important events in the tale of a winter journey. 

This entry was posted in France, Fred, Religion and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

28 Responses to Deplorable in Paris – by Fred

  1. Nice story, thank you, Fred !

  2. BabelFish says:

    I Baarrrooooo, therefore I am.

  3. johnf says:

    Very good – and a lovely turn of phrase.

  4. YT says:

    That would earn you a ‘like’ on zuckerberg’s over-rated product æther.

  5. Kerim says:

    Thanks Fred!
    The pictures are a fitting reflection of your words.
    Curious which is the hidden restaurant you picked…

  6. Fred says:

    Thanks comrade. What wonderful crowing from Taiwan to start the year of the rooster.

  7. Fred says:

    It’s Le Coupe-Chou on rue de Lanneau.

  8. Donald says:

    Your angry response to the post was startling. Apparently there is some history between you two.
    I have a question for Fred. I didn’t understand the man with the cookies portion. ( Perhaps I am just slow- witted today.)

  9. Fred says:

    I recommend reading Goethe.

  10. Fred,
    Thank you for sharing your observations and contemplations. I enjoy your pieces immensely. I was struck by your image of Mephistopheles and his bag of cookies in the Cathedral. Was this a street performer making some kind of political/theological statement? Or was it something else? An image of Nuland handing out cookies on the Maidan in Kiev flashed into my mind. You are so right in noting how close to evil we come. I think of those early Puritan farmer-soldiers who settled the town where I grew up. They were so aware of the battle between good and evil that raged around them and within them. Maybe too aware.
    You made me think of the first cathedral I encountered. It was a massive glacial erratic, some thirty feet tall, perched on the top of a ridge deep in the woods only fifteen minutes from my house. I would contemplate this geological wonder from all angles for answers to what was on my mind and far beyond. As a form of prayer, I would trace the deep grooves left in the bedrock as the glaciers ground their way towards what would become Long Island. This put me in touch with the “old ways” that my ancestors practiced before the arrival of Christianity… and long after it’s arrival. My father kept vestiges of those ways alive and passed them on to me. Of course, I was also an alter boy for eight years. I hope that doesn’t make me a deep cover theological illegal.

  11. Fred says:

    Thank you for the kind words. I think the cookie monster was a teacher of some kind. I was just close enough to recognize his Italian accented English. Communion was the first thing that came to mind, but that may have been due to my own thoughts and not his actual intent. Ms. Nuland only came to mind a few days later as I drafted this piece. It was the better part of discretion for me to move on.
    Those ancestors of mine arrived on Staten Island when it was still part of New Amsterdam. Farmer soldiers would be a good description. Their descendants eventually moved on to New Jersey where most of my relatives still live. One of the things that brought me back on this trip was to return to the Cluny. That’s the first pieta I had seen and it had a powerful impact, as did the first church I stepped into in Paris, over near Bir Hakeim, a local parish. Moving from a busy city into the serenity of a sacred space, whether St. Patrick’s in NYC or Paroisse Saint Léon, the effect is the same if one is open to the experience.

  12. Ishmael Zechariah says:

    Thanks for the piece. Very nice. Wish I had time to travel.
    However, I think you are being unfair to Donald. Not many people have read the 2nd part of Faust; reading it in translation truly detracts from it, and many readings are needed to “get” it.
    As one of my sainted teachers used to say “please be charitable to those less perfect than yourself”.
    Ishmael Zechariah

  13. YT says:

    Rooster Year does not commence till the 28th.
    PA is still up to monkey business.

  14. mike says:

    I am envious. Being one of your coastal elites, I never had the financial means to visit Paris. But once when I was working in Heidelberg, I did get across the Rhine to see Strasbourg.
    Beautiful city! I strolled through the Place Kleber. Attended services in the Pink Cathedral. Saw the statue of Marshal Kellermann. Walked a 13th Century bridge, or two. Ogled the many beautiful ladies jogging by the river. And I ate choucroute from a kiosk that was better than the finest restaurants in which I have ever eaten – but that is not saying much as my idea of fine dining is an Irish Pub or a Carolina Crab Boil. The crepes in the Petit Paris neighborhood were pretty darn good too, almost as tasty as my Swedish sister-in-law’s.

  15. euclidcreek says:


  16. Fred says:

    Very good points, I found something similar in reading Ortega in translation. I was unnecessarily brief in my comments to Donald.

  17. walrus says:

    Thank you for your wonderful writing Fred. I share your love of central Paris…and the proper dogs one meets in various establishments.
    What I think means most to me, and perhaps also to you, is the sense of continuity I feel in such places.

  18. The Beaver says:

    Confit de canard comme plat principal 🙂

  19. fasteddiez says:

    Fred: They have a parish named Bir Hakeim, Egyptian Copts/Christians?

  20. Fred says:

    Pont de Bir Hakeim is a bridge (there is also a metro stop) named after the battle the 1st Free French Brigade fought against the Afrika Corps. The church is Catholic, Paroisse Saint Léon.

  21. Valissa says:

    WTF indeed…
    “Man who jump off cliff, jump to conclusion!”
    “Man who smoke pot choke on handle.”
    For some gender balance…
    “Woman who wear jockstrap have make believe ballroom.”

  22. Fred says:

    My sisters were both station in Heidelberg when they were in the army. I was envious of them traveling through Europe on a Eurail pass while I was sailing the med under water on a submarine. Used my frequent flier miles this time, turned out to be less expensive than a trip to Florida.

  23. Fred says:

    I wanted to kidnap the pup! It’s been a long time since I owned a dog. I spend too much time on the road to be fair to one. My experiences in Paris have been good, even with my very poor French language skills. Having lived in a tourist city I am surprised how kind-hearted most of the people I have met are. (Other than the one who picked my pocket this time out. And skillfully done too).

  24. Fred says:

    The Beaver,
    The desert was even better.

  25. fasteddiez says:

    Fred: Sorry, I thought the battle was in Egypt not Libya. The French were real proud of this feat of arms, in that they slowed down the Afrika Korps south of Tobruk.

  26. Jack says:

    Very nice!
    What are your favorite restaurants in Paris? Do you travel much to Provence? I love the wines from Bandol.

  27. Fred says:

    Haven’t been to Provence yet. Can’t say I have a favorite restaurant in Paris, though lunch at Le Jules Verne was certainly an experience, though I don’t think I’ll pay that price for lunch again any time soon.

  28. rjj says:

    Greetings fellow traveler Fred.
    Gone coast-to-coast “walkabout” in Deplorajistan! Slava Deplorajistan! Slava! Slava!
    Found everywhere the same easy, generous good will and good humor as when I hitched it in the seventies. Surprised by and very grateful for that.
    Belated holiday well wishes to all.

Comments are closed.