Thursday, April 18, 2013

Schöneberg Sunrise

Jet-lag has opened my eyes to some great sunrises. One of the more memorable came in the fall of 2003, when I was invited to Paris to take part in a conference called America, whose mission it was to revitalize Franco-American relations, post 9/11. Whatever. The event had more to do with diplomacy than literature, and the participants took it out on each other, embarrassed perhaps that we might fall for such a thing, that whoever says yes to such initiatives can only say so for escape, not engagement. Rick Moody was the best at this, taking aggressive indifference to new levels, though the writer I found most annoying was a North Carolinian by the name of Alan Gurganus, who, in his own with-me-or-against-me way, was merely a pinker version of a president (GWB) he did not like.

So it was on the first morning after my arrival that I awoke to a sky no lighter than the one I fell asleep under. But as I was awake, wide awake, I knew there was no point in turning over the pillow and starting again, so I leapt from my bed, put on my clothes and, as if called, made my way from the hotel in Vincennes to the Seine.

If you know the streets that lead to the Seine you will know that many of them are old and winding, often narrow and unlit. The night sky was still dark, though darker still because you would expect more from those who ran businesses along these streets. If their businesses were closed for the day, then so too were their exterior lights. I am sensitive to stuff like this, particularly in advance of my panel talk, concerned as it was with the colours of the market state after the 1980s deregulation policies (and rationalizations) of U.K. prime minister Margaret Thatcher and U.S. president Ronald Reagan. So I noted this too.

Eventually I settled on a view of the Pont Neuf Bridge, where I watched not the sunrise but the light slowly bleed from the bridge's spandrels and cornices. That's all I really have to say about what I saw of the sun that morning -- that which comes from within.

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