Let Me Show You a Special Place…
In my last blog post in honor of American Independence Day, I so enjoyed reminiscing with you about the Fourth of July in Los Angeles, browsing through the photographs from those many years of celebrating both away from home and especially those in which we celebrated in our own backyard. Of course, I didn’t expect to be relying on that sort of indoor activity to occupy me for quite a few years. But soon after we moved to Paris, when I fractured both feet while overdoing the delights of being a perpetual pedestrian, and particularly this year during the confinement and after the most banal of household accidents knocked me off my feet (or at least, on my knee), rendering my memories in print doesn’t seem like such a bad thing to be doing these days. Most especially, the 15-months of pandemic-panic, when I wrote my memoir and a mystery novel titled “Couched in Blood", both remembering and writing were my life-savers.
Since my ‘flying leap’ laid me out these last couple of weeks, I must say that having my dressing changed and my anticoagulant injection administered by an ever-so-attentive prince-charming-of-a-nurse named Rafael, who comes to visit us every evening between seven and eight, has become our life-giving social highlight of each day. Rafael attends to my wound, gently caresses, carefully examines, and diligently observes my legs and feet as if I were Cendrillon, while at the same time he engages in an energetic, intellectual conversation with Ted in French, of course. For both Ted and for me, such simple pleasures haven’t been had for years. Rafael was educated at the Académie de Musique in Paris where he played the trumpet, after which he studied law, and finally pursued a three-year course in nursing, and settled down to support his wife and two daughters, in a cabinet just across the street from home. As Ted and Rafael spoke last night about French literature, and Ted gifted him with several books he had recently enjoyed, I thought to myself, “Only in France can a young person be afforded the freedom to undertake extensive education in three fields of study before determining what he will do for the rest of his working life!”
This is liberty in the truest sense of the word. Since living here, I now appreciate that, for the French, this hard-earned liberty along with the sense of egalitie and fraternity, won and preserved through more than one socio-political revolution, are indeed a trio of cultural norms to be protected at all costs.
Of course, the first French revolution is the one we think of most often, especially as July 14th nears each year. Best known to us Americans as Bastille Day, in France it is called The National Celebration, La Fête Nationale. It is not so much a commemoration of the storming of the Bastille on July 14, 1789 and the freeing of the hand-full of citizens imprisoned
there, nor is it the freedom from the tyranny of the ruling class as symbolized by the Guillotine that stood in the place of the deposed statue of that King for whom La Place Louis XV had originally been named. That was before King Louis XVI was beheaded there, as was Queen Marie Antoinette, not too long afterward. Then the square was renamed La Place de la Révolution during those turbulent six years.
Most importantly, the holiday honors the establishment of France’s First Republic, and the reconciliation of 1795 was the occasion of the renaming of this famous site, La Place de la Concorde.
An impressive 21-acre octagon, this largest public square in the capitol is embraced by two historical buildings, one on each of the two corners at the West end of the gardens of the Tuileries. The Musée de l’Orangerie, on the south, was named after the citrus trees it had originally sheltered in Winter, while the Gallerie Nationale du Jeu de Paume was named after
a forerunner of the game of tennis, once played within its walls. It now houses the most magnificent surrounding of curved waterlily murals painted by Monet. These two landmarks now famous art museums, had borne witness to the crucial events of that first revolution.
Amonst the recognizable statuary are two mythical winged horses, one mounted by the God Hermes holding his Caduceus staff, and the other straddled by the Angel Gabriel complete with his horn -- well known as a Torrecelli’s trumpet-- both keeping watch over the threshold of the gilded
gateway that opens to welcome visitors to the Jardin des Tuileries on its West end. Rumor has it that one witty Parisian once claimed that Gabriel’s horn could only be heard when at least one virgin woman was found in Paris. In the center of the Place, between two gold-trimmed bronze fountains, stands the famous Luxor Obelisk, a gift from Egypt.
Two Marly Horses, rear up high on their back legs, as slaves hold fast to their lead straps, linked to their halters. They herald the entrance from the Concorde into the magnificent tree-lined Avenue de Champs Élysée on its western boundary.
At the north end of the Place, two magnificent identical stone buildings were constructed during the reign of King Louis XV. Separated by the rue Royale, these structures remain among the best examples of Louis Quinze style architecture. Initially, the eastern building served as the French Naval Ministry, recently renovated and re-opened as Le Hôtel Marine, with glamorous lodging, restaurants, and a magnificent Heritage Museum. Shortly after its construction, the western building became the opulently home of the Duc d'Aumont. It was later purchased by the Comte de Crillon, whose family resided there until 1907. The famous luxury Hôtel de Crillon, which currently occupies half of the building, takes its
name from its previous owners.The other half of the building houses The National Auto Club of France, the most prestigious social club in the country, whose membership is yet to be open to even one woman. My first encounter with this magical public space took place on our first trip to Paris, when we visited family and announced our engagement in December 1981. Throughout my working life, directly over my analytic couch, was hung a pen and ink drawing of the Place de la Concorde with a white mat, simply framed in black. I had found it in a stall by the River Seine in Paris on Ted’s and my December honeymoon in 1982.
It depicts life as it must have been at the beginning of the 20th century; a lively scene taking place in late Fall or early winter, the time of our wedding and honeymoon. The etching featured pedestrians in period dress, men in top hats, and women in long, graceful gowns, sweeping the cobble-stone paved square. There were also stylish horse-drawn carriages, and a motor vehicle, all traversing the spaces between the two fountains decorated in oceanic and river themes. This drawing pictured them all on either side of the 3,000-year-old obelisk, and surrounded throughout by countless other monumental sculptures. It occurs to me that, perhaps even then, I had a faint dream of living in Paris. But it wasn’t until I was in my fifties that I realized that whenever I was disheartened by the work I was attempting to do, whenever I was close to despair or in fear of failure, I’d glance at
that etching that hung above the couch, and it served to remind me of the fact of my good fortune. After all, I was able to practice my yearned for, freely chosen, and hard-won profession, one that came complete with days that predictably rocked me between a sense of achievement and one of failure, very much like what I imagine might have been the sensation of driving in a carriage over those Parisian cobblestones. I have little doubt that even then I may have dared to dream that in my old age I might be able to retire to that wondrous spot, flagged on the atlas of my memory. Maybe the vision that hung on my wall over the couch, in black and white all those years, would one day become an everyday colorful reality. Somehow, it has become just that, even down to the location of our Parisian apartment
at the corner of the marvelous Place that is the home of the Church of the Madeleine. She stands stately at the head of the rue Royale, only a ten-minute walk to the Place Concorde of my earliest visions. For each of these past five years, we have watched as the Concorde becomes transformed into a celebratory
centerpiece, where a grand stand is erected for the President of The Republic of France and all the International dignitaries who are honored to be seated with him, as the world‘s oldest and regularly held military parade gathers at the Arc de Triumphe, and proceeds Eastward on the Avenue de Champs Élysée. Cheered by citizenry and tourists alike, all seated on bleachers along the Avenue, the various branches of the military salute all and after tribute is paid and received by all involved in this ceremony each division of the military and each visiting division from guest countries gracefully and with ceremony
part ways in front of the grandstand, after which jet fighters plume red, white and blue exhaust as they pass over all in formation, fanning out above that same viewing stand and we can hear it distinctly through our open windows while we view from the best seats in the house.
It is truly a festive and grand occasion, followed in the afternoon with families gathering for picnics in the lush grassy fields between the Ecole Militaire and the Tour Eiffel known as the Champs de Mars, and in the evening, all are entertained by a splendid classical concert, topped of by the French national anthem, “The Marseillaise” -- all performed by The Orchestra Nationale de France, the Choeur de Radio France, and many of the greatest international soloists of Europe. This concert takes place under a ceiling of lights covering over a stage built just for the occasion, right in front of the Tour Eiffel. In 2019, there was a record live audience of over 3-million people.The holiday is concluded with a your a spectacular light
show projected onto the Tower, and is finally topped off by a display of fireworks jettisoned from the pinnacle of the Tower in an hour-long burst of glorious colors, shapes and sounds that, for me, have no match in memory. This year, I wondered …
‘what could I do to personally commemorate this special day. What might there be that would represent my own personal liberty, egalitie, and fraternity? Eventually I realized that I could honestly say that the act of writing my memoirs represent my own sense of liberty; that publishing my experiences and memories were representative of a sense of egalitie with my readership, and perhaps by sharing and making my memoirs more accessible to all who have an interest might create a sense of fraternity between author and reader.
So I have decided to visit the guillotine and slash the price of my e-book version of
“The Most Beautiful Place in the World, a Memoir of a Psychoanalyst and the Realization of a State of Mind”.
I will offerthe ebook FREE of charge for the 24 hours of the 14th of July, 2021 on Amazon, in the spirit of brother and sisterhood the holiday. And since the time zones vary amongst those who frequent this Blog Post in all areas of the globe, my offer will begin at on Wednesday, July 13, at 12PM PST and will be valid until 23h59 on July 15th PST. Enjoy!