What does an eighteen-year-old youth do in Paris? Walk, of course!
Well, if he's broke, that is...
The Lebanese Civil War started our western peregrination. I landed in Paris like a flying carpet in the Champs-Elysées (kids, don't try it; it really hurts) and, well, after picking myself up, I looked like a subway sandwich wrapped in a carpet–translation: I did not fit in.
Some have romantic ideas about life in Paris. I had indigestion about it. Back then, Paris was distinctly Parisian, and you either fit in, or...well, you didn't, and if you didn't, then you were like a flying carpet landing... well, you catch my drift.
The first year in Paris was exquisitely horrible. The second, mind-numbingly bearable. The third, well, the third year I walked in Paris. And when you walk in Paris–going aimlessly in her streets, wandering along the Seine, watching those passing by, those who passed away, and those who will never cross your path again–you fall in love with Paris; she then adopts you.
I became Parisian.
"You've got some wacky ideas about Paris, my lad," said Jean-Val-Jean, walking next to me on the Boulevard Montparnasse. "This city is no cake-walk. It is harsh and breeds loneliness like a rabid rabbit breeds wild dogs (no, it isn't a French expression, and no, I don't get it either, but I'm not about to interrupt Jean-Val-Jean!). Beware of Paris."
But my days of walking the streets in this great city that I came to love made me aware of the importance of space, solitude, the familiar stranger you cross, and the stranger in your family you don't know. It taught me that a true epic, as Paris is, cannot be written in straight lines, with the straight shot of an arrow; it is not a singular journey from point A to point B. An epic must be complex like Paris, filled with wonders like Paris, and above all shine, shine with a wonderful harmony of light, like Paris.
Next time you find yourself in Paris, if you happen to meet a lad on a flying carpet, tell him to come down from his impossible dreams and walk in the city of dreams.
He'll be glad you did.