Of my Paris stories, the one I like the most is that very cold day when I found myself down by the Seine. I had been out for hours and my body was shuddering in my heavy winter jacket, trying to regain the warmth that the bitter wind had bereft of it. I turned to my right and saw Notre Dame in the middle distance with the moon rising up behind it. The sky was a winter afternoon chalky blue-gray. This magical scene entranced me.
I must confess that the first corresponding image to pop into my brain was perhaps less romantic. It was from the very first Star Wars film, when Luke Skywalker, alone, lonely and pondering his future, looks across the desert and sees two suns rising, or was it setting.
A few weeks later, I had a similar disassociated moment while in the center of the very ancient streets of Tours, France. Surrounded by buildings dating from the 14th century, buildings that people still live in, I couldn't help but think that I was in the midst of a Disney recreation of exactly this scene.
The real had become a mere imitation of the imitation.
It's the odd power that image makers have finely honed over a century of image making -- to relegate the authentic to myth and substitute in its place a reproduction -- like saying that milk comes from a carton or peas from a can.
I fear this is a smoking gun with some American fingerprints on it.