Monday, January 30, 2012

Paris, in Brief

I never in my life thought it would be possible to feel the way I did standing underneath the Eiffel Tower. That's where the epiphany struck. In one of the world's great cities, with steel beams rising above my upturned face into a cloudless sky, I stood with an open mouth, like an idiot.

People wearing berets stepped around me, adjusting their fanny packs. I closed my eyes and felt the air on my face. The din of the square reminded me of something from my past; voices from without, inflected with a midwestern flatness, resonated with voices deep within. The jostling crowd, the excitement, the music; these held hidden ties to a single memory that teased me and danced in the periphery of my mind. I searched the insides of my eyelids for a clue.

One song ended and another began. What was that? Something loomed behind the excited cacophony of a thousand American conversations. I tilted an ear up at the girder-mounted speakers just in time for the tell-tale sign: an unmistakable, unredeemable, unforgivable twang. God help us, they're playing country music at the Eiffel Tower.

In a rush of associations, I snatched the memory out of the ether. The whole scene brought me back to the Allen County Fair. Country music, a buzzing midwestern crowd, and I swear those crepes were being dispensed out of carts just like the ones that sell fried elephant ears all over semi-rural Ohio, beneath the banked turns of frighteningly-temporary miniature roller coasters. If I shut out my view of the world's ultimate romantic destination, I was left to assemble a patchwork out of my other sensory feeds, and their data were as well-matched to a chilly morning at a fair in Ohio as anything I was presently experiencing. (The absence of the smell of manure only meant I was on the food-side of the fairgrounds, rather than the barn-side.)

And that's how I came to feel the impossible while standing under the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France. Surrounded by my jowly countrymen, in the presence of whom I pensively chewed a cosmopolitan meat stick, I closed my eyes and felt perfectly at home.


  1. Recently I was starting to compose in my mind a blog about how smells are linked to some of my fondest childhood memories. It is so interesting how sensory stimuli can rocket us back to a certain time and location. This is wonderfully written, Marty.

  2. Smells are powerful triggers for memories! I think they have actually been scientifically (somehow) proven to create the most powerful and vivid associations, which is why distinctive scents bring back such specific memories. Thanks for the comment and compliment, Leanna!