A walk-around Paris in mid-October.
Everyone is allowed a certain amount of odd habits. Or slight obsessions. Although Virginia Woolf said that “all extremes of feeling are allied with madness”. That is because, there is something ritualistic about the medical explanation of non-interrupted habit, or obsession, which most of the times, provides the agent with the feeling of security. And there is also something fascinatingly radical and intrusive within obsessions, since they do not require any permission to walk into the brain. They just enter it and in order to eliminate agony, they call themselves rocket-fuel of creativity and they are satisfied with that. Among my -probably over-the-limit of permitted without affirming Woolf’s quote- obsessions, is that one which necessitates that before any trip I get a new book -which will most likely stay hidden in the deep bottom of my handbag till the moment I enter my plane for my flight back. That hardly matters though, because the ambitious idea when buying it, is to combine its topic with my mood-set expectations for my new trip. This time, the bookshops were filled with Kazuo Ishiguro books’ hunters, since the previous day he won the year’s literature Nobel prize, and so the “Fear-of-Missing-Out” obsession of those readers, was about to overrule my “Don’t-travel-without-building-up-the-chances-for-early-shoulder-tenditis-because-of-extra-weight-constant-carrying” one.
Book was finally bought -for the satisfaction of my obsession rather than the satisfaction of my taste-, Spotify list got updated: Jon Ronson’s humorous yet paranoid journalistic technique, together with Matt Elliott’s delicate and melancholic melodic dexterity were left to take over my mood, in the beginning of the trip. Ironically enough and despite the fact that I do not highly appreciate the work of none of these two, the “Psychopath Test” that I got to read and the “Drinking songs” album that musically accompanied me on my way, can aptly summarise my recent visit to Paris, in the heart of autumn.
During this stay, I spent most of my time at St Denis, a rumoured as ghetto-area, yet probably the most lively, honest, colourful, vibrant and “human” part of Paris. What I came to conclude about the “Psychopath Test”, was that instead of enlightening, it distorts the principles of sanity and it creates a constant suspicion within -even unskilled- readers to maniacally search for psychopathic tendencies within everyone in their surroundings by filling checklists, instead of searching for complete stories. Similarly, from what I have heard about St Denis before arriving, I should have been sceptical, worried and triggered about the population wondering around the streets of the particular suburb. I should have simply avoid such a location and let paranoia conquer me, as Jon Ronson would do, judging from his expressed biases. Yet, I found myself, from the first day, into their traditional celebration taking place at their neighbourhood and I saw them interacting with each other in the most warm-hearted ways, I tasted their traditional dishes on the street, I danced with them and as the days passed by, the full stories of the people in concern, were displayed as they should, with the word given to them instead of the normative pen of a detached-from-the-field writer.
And then, central Paris: a centre steeped heavily in spirits, wrapped in the mystic atmosphere that the blend of different eras creates before your eyes. Exactly like Matt Elliott’s album, inspired by the combination of Easter-European folk with cabaret music, made me feel. A musical narrative which starts from a monotonous yet romantic misery, even tragedy in some songs (as that of the song “the Kursk”) but is smart enough to make stirring twists and so to distinguish itself from a trite melodrama. The discreet feeling of despair, which underlies the album’s element, progresses with a natural flow to the final song, “The maid we messed” where the pieces of the previous songs fall together to seal the created mood-set, with a sense of -hungover-resembling- haze. Is that enough to melodically summarise Paris in mid-October?
Put the album on (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YDWEz1mia1I) and think of summer colours which gradually fade to reveal the Parisian mere grey core. Think of that greyness being able of make anyone who happens to accidentally stand by the excessive amount of graciously framed windows, seem like a somewhat reference to a nuance of the film-noir. Think of blazers indecisively hanging on the shoulders of silent passengers, and thick smoke of their quickly-lighted cigarettes outside of busy, crowded and vibrant bars wherein their friends wait for them. Think even of that sound-alternations every time those bars’ doors open, only to give a sudden yet short taste of the violent interplay between the loud human laughter from inside with the soft, air-smoothened sounds of the narrow Parisian streets. Picture, the unexpectedly bright flower pots -as summer leftovers- which hung from some balconies and make the passengers lift their gaze up and so to observe a last-night wine-bottle forgotten on the balcony table, making them smile as it gave them the illusion that they quite know a detail about the residents of that house. Imagine of the calmness which accompanies the season-change, mixed with the smell of books and fruits, lushly displayed at every street-corner, which makes you shortly forget in what an architecture-heaven you are otherwise, and concentrate on the purely human dimensions of the city, instead. Think of the melancholy only this city knows how to generate, which resembles that of a deeply loved life-partner: the feeling that you know you are going to be longing it when you leave, straight from the moment of walking into it. That was Paris, while wearing its mid-autumn outfit.
Written and Curated by Marianna Serveta,
Photographed by Pierre Gironde (gallery available at: https://regards-libres.com)
Featuring “Mystery” embroidered velvet robe dress.