Wednesday, July 01, 2015

The Dust of this Planet 

image via ESPN

Earlier in June, I watched a few minutes of the Paris Open and noticed not too surprisingly how the players would tap the red Roland Garros clay from their shoes after each series. I was reminded of this as I laced up my shoes and noticed just how dusty they were. Wiping the worst of it away I realized this was the dust of Paris.

My shoes, resting, in the gardens at the Rodin Museum, Paris - see more photos here.

On my last afternoon in France, I left the office early to make my way to the Rodin museum. The main collection was closed so I strolled the impressive garden. In fact, I strolled the hell out of Paris. I became a regular Friday Flaneur, walking across Pont Alexandre III, to the Opera, then to the Jardin du Tuileries, and back along the Seine. I’ll hand it to them. Parisians like a good walk. Many pathways in Paris are simple stone dust which lends to the distinctive atmosphere of the place. The sound of crunching sand and pebbles under foot is as much a sound of Paris as the traffic, the language or the folky accordion music. When I sat for beer and a cheese sandwich in the Tuileries a strong gust kicked up and made a brief dustbowl of the promenade. It was vaguely apocalyptic, except for all of the people generally ignoring it and continuing their conversations while enjoying their wine, beer or coffee which gave the whole scene the feeling of an Antonioni film.

Now, here I was, back in Toronto with Paris dust all over my shoes. Dust that was just in Paris, France was now in Toronto, Canada. I don’t know why that gets me thinking more than the fact that I was just half a world away. Maybe it was because the journey that seemed at the time, arduous at over eight hours now seems ridiculous; so incredibly brief. Eight hours? Before commercial flights were feasible, cross-Atlantic trips took about a week. Here I was dusty of particles of Paris as though it were such a common inconvenience - “ugh, Paris dust everywhere!”
“Such is this world. Such is the dust of this planet.”
I suppose we should be used to this by now. The threat of MERS starting in the Middle East could easily show up anywhere in the world. Even the term “Middle East”, previously thought of as the Far East, then Near East, now Middle East, is couched in relativity. What was once far, then near is now sort of, the middle. And what is it far or near or in the middle of? Again that would be relative to where ever the seat of power resides: Rome, Paris, London, Berlin, New York and so on.

I had such an adventure in even getting to Paris that the trip itself was a relaxing zone of solitude, clasped in by my seat belt, blotting out the rest of the passengers with my ear buds. On a Saturday evening, two hours early for my flight, I was turned away for my passport expiring within 90 days of my stay. In a trance-like panic I rode from one place to another to get a passport photo taken (finally ending up in a now defunct Black’s Photography store which would announce its closure days later). Then up early Sunday morning, riding to work to print out my application, paying the emergency amount (seeming very close to bribing a government official), calling in favours of friends to vouch to the veracity of my identity. By noon, it was done, by 4PM I was back in a taxi. By 7PM I was on a plane flying to Paris. 9AM Paris time I was on a train to a hotel I assumed had a room waiting for me. By 1PM I was in the Paris office, trying to stay awake and introducing myself to people who were previously only voices on a phone. All the while, my shoes were collecting dust to bring back as crumbling souvenirs of benign and tedious work. I remember reading that particles of dust from a Roman emperor's cloak from thousands of years and miles, might have blown across the world and settled on your laundry drying in your back yard. Now that happens in eight hours or less. Such is this world. Such is the dust of this planet.

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