Lucy Ferriss


I've called this blog "Travelin' Thoughts" in the past, because I kept it mostly as a journal to record impressions of new places and cultures. But in a way, it's still a place for traveling thoughts--ideas that move through and past me, and out into the world. Some of these are literary, some just about life. It's a good place to open up the conversation, and I welcome your thoughts and comments.

Le Cirque, Les Enfants

February 12, 2018

            Our neighborhood is also full of children. During the brief snow, there were snow ball fights on the sidewalks with dads and kids, and from one side of the narrow street to the other by teenagers. Mornings, the sidewalks are full of parents taking their kids to school. Wednesday afternoons, they pour out of the ateliers and the sports centers. Lots of mixed-race kids. Kids babbling French, and somehow it always amazes me that people learn this other language from birth, as my kids learned English. I love the high-pitched French that kids use to tell their parents about school, about their friends, even to complain.

            Saturdays, we seem to take excursions, Don and I. Two Saturdays ago, we visited our local cemetery, where Degas, La Goulue, and Offenbach, among others, are buried. (It's known as the "little Lachaise.) Last Saturday, we went to the Marais to check out the Victor Hugo house where I’ll be taking my students this week. I hadn’t realized how many plays he wrote, and how hugely celebrated he was in his lifetime. Then we walked to the Pompidou, but the lines were too long; we took in the Brancusi atelier instead, which was striking because I’ve been reading a book on Negrophilia in Paris that spoke a great deal, for instance, about his “blonde Negress” series and his absorption in the “primitive.” Then a bus down to the Musée du Quai Branly for an extraordinary exhibit by French artists and explorers of what was, or would become, French colonies – i.e., the gaze on “the other.” Once we got museum legs, we collapsed in the café, then went back to browse through their Oceania, Asia, Africa exhibits and the other special exhibit on Peru before the Incas. This last was extraordinary particularly for the astounding preservation of the pottery and artwork, all of which was found in gravesites. But the whole museum presented these arts very differently from the exoticizing way I’ve seen such things presented in the past. Objects were encased in clear glass, with scrupulous attention to their provenance and the artist if he or she was known. Lots of contextualizing. And still, I wonder about those gravesites, not just in Peru but so many places where we get artifacts. Does the value of having Westerners gaze on this material and gain a greater appreciation make up for the desecration, the exchange?

Finally, the Cirque de l'Avenie, the circus competition, won by this amazing Chinese fellow, who stacked all those chairs himself and then stacked a few loose blocks and then hoisted himself upside-down on one hand. Needless to say, he won the Palme d'Or.



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