Friday 12 April 2013

o : Paris, No. 1 (Beginning)

Rue Ordener
Paris, 18eme arrondissement

Dear o,

It begins here, at a corner Paris pizza dive, with a television blaring a translated American sports show into my ears from behind.  The programme oscillates (or tries to oscillate) between noisy, rocking, adrenaline-fueled excitement and quiet, watery, isn’t-it-amazing-that-he’s-so-articulate-and-yet-so-athletic thoughtfulness.

This is where I write to you the first letter in however many years.  This is where, from your perspective, my journey begins.  In a week I’ll be leaving this grey, greening city, for Africa.  I won’t get there immediately.  First my partner and I will be driving through and spending time in France and Spain, and then in May we’ll cross Gibraltar for Morocco.  So, I could have started with the wheeIs turning, when I would have something to say: about the Guggenheim in Bilbao, maybe, or the precipitous Algarve, or even a Saharan sunset.  But I figure you deserve an informed beginning, or at least one placed in context.

And, really, the reason for me not yet writing letter number one has nothing to do with wanting something to say.  I’ve wanted to write for years.  But I’ve been stumped by three questions: What’s the structure?  How do I stay anonymous?  And, especially if I can’t be anonymous, how can I – or this – be any good?

The very fact that I am writing to you and not to a server in Palo Alto is my solution to the first question.  But the second perplexes me still.  You see, as soon as I know that the people I know will be reading about what I pretend to know, I clam up.  If I am black-hearted, dim-witted, faint-spirited, ill-informed, thick-skulled and skin-deep, it will come out here, and I’d rather keep that between us; or, if I must, between me, you, and Palo Alto. 

But it occurs to me that not only is my nominal reticence a hindrance to my career, artistry, creativity and self, but that it will prevent the public documentation which my sheer overland shift in geography deserves.  No, that’s not quite saying it.  Do you detect the layers of utter rubbish in that sentence?  What I really mean is: it’s bullshit. 

So I’ll steer away from fantasy, at least for this part of the drive.  I’ll withold some names and omit as much of my lesser being as I can manage, but I’m not going to mess up the dates or change the details.  The more I write, the more dots there will be to connect, and when they line up to give me away to the four or five people who care, I’ll know it was coming.

Which leaves me with question three: how do I make this any good?

I don’t know.  But here’s me stepping out from the castle in the clouds, into…  the pizza place.  Where there are nine plastic yellow squirting bottles of all the sauces your Greek pita sandwich could desire.  Yes, I too hope it gets more exciting.