In recent months, I have been coaching / managing a state representative race in the Second Essex District and writing an essay on this unprecedented experience. Here is the first paragraph:
"In the 2022 Massachusetts midterms, Kristin Kassner, a candidate for state representative, flipped a seat from red to blue with one vote. Despite the will of the people, her Republican opponent continued to sit in her seat after the inauguration."
I hope to publish it soon so I can share it with you. The following is an essay on a recent trip to Paris. Enjoy!
"The Paris Bribe"
The drums beat for the dancers. Children play at red tables set up by young people in red aprons. Two older men play a game with a roller and wooden trough I have never seen before. A father and son play chess with pieces they have to walk among. Skateboarders careen over jumps. The Place de la République in Paris is an intentional park for people to gather. Traffic is rerouted, and people watch out for each other.
Circling the park is a protest of middle aged men and women with scarfed heads. The leader, clad in a brilliant purple garment, stands on a moving truck bed. He waves the Mali flag and speaks into a microphone. Posters shout, “No! NO! NO! Too much injustice! We demand the departure of the new prefect of Yelimane!”
Our room at the Crowne Plaza overlooks the park. A double glass door opens onto a balcony with an intricate rod iron railing. It can get noisy. That’s how we know everyone is awake. Denis and I are in Paris for a week before he delivers a paper at the International Cycle Safety Conference in Dresden. I hesitated about the trip to Dresden, thus the bribe.
We’re not big foodies. The menus are French. Back in the room, we use Google to plan our dinners. Every block has a sidewalk café with croissants and fabulous gooey disserts, and we like that. But where’s the food? Ah, a restaurant on Rue Saint-Martin serves dinner at 7 p.m. and we snatch the last reservation! It’s a neighborhood place. The only entree we recognize on the menu is chicken – delighted. By 9 p.m., the diners are talking and raising their glasses to other patrons. We respond in kind.
We travel everywhere on the Métro in Paris. Its hub is located under the Place de la République. The metro takes us to the Centre Pompidou, an overwhelming collection of galleries and libraries in an ultra-modern building. The utilities are attached to the outside. This unusual texture, painted in bold primary colors, is itself an art piece. We ride on the outside escalator to the highest floor and work our way down the more the 1 million square feet of art and books! No, we don’t see everything in one visit. But the multi-colored circular forms of Robert Delaunay catch our attention, along with geometric forms of Wassily Kandinsky. Great art energizes us.
I am no stranger to the Musée de l’Orangerie in Paris’ Tuileries Gardens, with Monet’s Water Lilies floating in two oval-shaped rooms. Back in 1971, there were very few people in the museum, and my best friend and I sat for hours on pink velvet-covered benches to write home and admire the complementary presentations of the lilies. Today, the crowd moves around wooden benches, and we use them to rest. Outside, the Tuileries are quiet on this sunny day as we make our way along the gravel path until we see a flock of children running after huge bubbles. A bohemian-dressed woman smiles as she holds her bucket and giant bubble wand. Beyond them is a majestic water fountain. Red chairs encircle the large round pool and beckon us to sit awhile and have a conversation with the person in the adjacent red chair. So welcoming, we sit down. These chairs are set out every morning and put to sleep at dusk. It is impossible not to compare this image with the popular lone benches in many public parks in the United States.
Seeing Le Tour Eiffel lit up at night is like being in a romcom. We immediately buy tickets for an evening dinner cruise on the Seine. We adorn ourselves with the fanciest clothes in our suitcase and hop on the metro to the dock. We order Champagne in flutes, the same excellent entrée as in the restaurant, and live dangerously with a custard and chocolate mousse dessert crowned with edible flowers. Romance is thriving.
The bribe is a success, and we’re off to Dresden for the second week of our trip. Denis creates a buzz at the conference. He proposes a bold but simple approach to saving cyclists' lives on the road.
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