What could be lovelier than a jaunt through the Tuileries Garden? Filled with its barrage of tourists–primarily Asian (not that there’s anything wrong with that, but isn’t there? Does any other nationality seem to get so obnoxiously goddamn into it with the photo-snapping and the slack-jawed awe? Maybe Americans)–and its constant carnival cordoned off to the side. One that gives way to a Christmas motif replete with suspended reindeer in mid-air in November, which means dismantling the unitarian look of Ferris wheels and Tilt-a-Whirl type rides… what is the French word for Tilt-a-Whirl anyway? Or is it one of those things they surrender to simply saying with an accent, like “email” or “hamburger”? Whatever the case, mild-mannered, increasingly middle-aged Camila (who tried a stint going by Cam that didn’t quite work out past her twenties) did not find the garden to be “endlessly charming” as her fellow English sistren had insisted it would be. Nor did their recommendation that she ought to walk through it slowly taking in each statue–from Louis-Ernest Barrias’ The Oath of Spartacus to Rodin’s annoyingly cliche Le Baiser–seem to hold much merit. For the latter was teeming with maudlin women pulling at their boyfriends’ shirtsleeves to come join them in gawking at it through the screen of their phones as they took ad infinitum photos of the same exact scene.
She could imagine the garden being a peaceful place, as all places in Paris once were, when it was closed off to the plebeian public. After all Catherine de’ Medici didn’t like commoners. Not only were they uneducated, but they certainly had no appreciation for the same freaky shit that she did. And definitely not the same precise eye for beauty, traipsing through the jardin like rhinoceroses with no trace of grace or poise. The kind befitting the royals that once had exclusive access to these formerly immaculately untouched environs. Of course, like everything else decadent and therefore segregated, it all went out the window after the French Revolution. The kiss of death for the Tuileries. And all sense of remaining dignity for most exclusionary outdoor milieus in the city. Try as the French might to maintain the DNA of their pre-French Revolution snootiness–before everything was all about le peuple, hence completely at odds with an inherent French superiority complex—the fact was, the city was a playground for the coarse, or worse still, the nouveau riche.
As to the former category, Camila had to note that the tourists were unwieldy and seemingly completely out of control of their own bodies, hacking and screaming and careening (often on vexing trottinettes). They seemed to be being maneuvered by a drunken puppeteer who had lost control of the narrative. No longer had any idea what the purpose of these characters were to the story. Camila couldn’t discern one either, as she tried her best to weave in and out of the ilk that had come to roost in Paris to enjoy all of its “fall flavor.” From the multicolored leaves that had taken up residence on well-manicured lawns that no one was allowed to step on (which of course they did) to the line outside of Angelina on Rue de Rivoli (no hot chocolate is worth that kind of trouble), just at the point where one exits from the part of the garden where the carnival fanfare is set up.
And wherever there is carnival fanfare, there is a sea of children, worse than their forebears in terms of living solely to be annoying. Camila found herself drifting into the throng, magnetized by the sight of the half-dismantled Ferris wheel that seemed to wink knowingly at her and say, “I know what you’re going through.” Paris in the fall was possibly ill-advised. For everyone assumed it would be when things had “died down” in the wake of the insufferable summer, at which time Parisians leave the entire city to the peasants that come to visit it, letting them endure phenomenons like canicule instead. Let them eat each other’s densely polluted air (a thickness of which is built upon by collective farting and perspiration). As Marie Antoinette might revise had she been subjected to this modern nightmare of pervasive proletarians. Then again, Marie–and Catherine de’ M, for that matter–might have sooner guillotined themselves than watched their lovely gardens go to the vulgar and unwashed common man. As for Catherine de’ M, she technically had only to thank the vulgar and unwashed common man for coming up with a name for her garden–the Tuileries–thanks to buying property that, since the thirteenth century, had largely been comprised of tile making factories, tuile, being the French word for that, ergo the moniker Tuileries for that district. One that Catherine turned from being associated with the working class to one associated with the high class. If only she knew how swiftly karma would come back to bite her in the ass for that centuries later.
Resigned to being swept up in the child-pocked crowd, Camila found herself led like Gulliver atop a horde of Lilliputians toward a crepe stand. For there was always a crepe stand. Not that she minded. Anything was better than British fare, this she couldn’t deny. Unable to commit to being one of those “devil-may-care” sorts who could eat “street food” while walking, she decided to roam the disarrayed carnival part of the garden for a place that might accommodate a modicum of solitude. Alas, the very instant she found a lone chair slightly sequestered near the aforementioned dying Ferris wheel, a crow decided to swoop in and take up with the confection, cawing diabolically as it flew as far up into the sky as Camila presently wished she could. Plopping down on the seat as a means to yield to her lack of enjoyment in the garden that was designed to be charmant for all, it was at that moment that a giant piece of the Ferris wheel broke off from a worker’s grip, and, whipped by the wind, landed squarely on her head.