judging paris before paris can judge me

oops too late – i don’t own a scarf. why are scarves so ubiquitous here? i have seen very few exposed necks. is it because of that whole Reign of Terror business?

anyways hello everyone, and welcome to my very first web log, or ‘blog.’ while i have in the past written many things in many contexts for many reasons, this particular situation is entirely novel to me. it will take a while, probably, before i feel out the strengths and weaknesses of the medium. or maybe it won’t, i don’t know (is this good? people seem to equivocate in their blogs – probably because they offer a public forum for one’s chaotic and contradictory internal monologue. but then again i don’t really read blogs). probably i will be immediately perfect at it.

the title of this blog is stolen from the title of a poem by Paul Verlaine. i first heard the line, which simply means “the sky is above the roof,” during a conversation with my best and only professor of french at UMass, Philippe Baillargeon. i was visiting him at his office to request a letter of recommendation for this study abroad program that i am on, which he happily granted – but not before dramatically expounding on the virtues of the city. he told me that it was the ideal destination for a young person interested in the arts. that every inch of it is dripping with centuries of culture. when he found himself unable to tangibly qualify these assertions, he resorted to quoting poetry (i did, after all, take his renaissance poetry course). he quoted that line, “le ciel est par-dessus le toit,” as a somewhat circular way of explaining how a flatly declarative statement becomes poetry when it is in reference to Paris. he proceeded to qualify this explanation with the caveat that i couldn’t possibly understand it until i got here, that there is a way in which the roof and the sky form something beautiful and coherent that cannot be described. that there is in other words a CERTAIN JE NE SAIS QUOI. being a hopeless skeptic i was not entirely convinced by his effusions. “oh,” i thought. “architecture. i have heard that the architecture in Paris is lovely, yes.” but what i said was less smugly dismissive and more along the lines of “wow, now i get it. sounds great. sign me up.” not that i didn’t basically believe him, but there you have it. “kid, wait til you see Paris” was what i got out of the conversation at the time (not to mention the letter of recommendation and the title of this blog, for both of which i am very grateful).

so this blog. it will primarily concern itself with my time in Paris (and wherever else i happen go while i am stationed here), which will last from about a month ago until about four months from now. this is not to say that, during my time in paris, i will primarily concern myself with this blog. thus, please do not be disappointed if i go for weeks at a time without posting anything. for instance, this post had been sitting unfinished in the fifth tab of my fourth firefox window for a solid three weeks before i just posted it. right now. now.

now that i’m here, i can see what professor Baillargeon meant, to a certain extent. the city looks composed. the architecture is quite lovely, and it all fits together in a way most modern cities cannot hope to. and not just for the nostalgia imposed by the largely undiminished ranks of centuries old buildings. there is an embarrassment of riches of public art (and i’m easy – i count a grimacing face above a door as public art), from the dozens of aging stone and copper statues in any given public park to the sometimes exquisite graffiti on the walls of parking facilities. and yes, the roofs of Paris frame the sky quite nicely. especially in the narrower streets, if you can risk a glance skyward, it is well worth it.

but these are only my first impressions, tempered by the january weather (no, we are not getting snow, but it is cold and windy and i have a right to complain about it, dammit), and i hope to develop my opinion of the city as my time here continues.

meanwhile, i have been taking some pictures and otherwise living very comfortably in the 18th arrondissement apartment home of the generous and patient Makoundou family, whom i will describe in greater detail in a later post. other coming attractions: what i have actually been doing with my time here, my first impressions of french university life, and some hilarious anecdotes for the whole family to enjoy.

the city is alive with art

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