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Letter from the hungry tourist Apr 28, 1993   Observations, Paris, The Universe, Travel


Dear Friend,
I am a tourist. A dumb, notorious tourist. Now I know. Now i know better than ever.

But why do I spend hours and hours in my car, why do i keep going, why am I on the road for such long distances?

To take a walk in a city? I am not capable of more than that. I barely dare to do more than that. I rarely achieve more than that.

Last time in Ghent I have not even dared to do that. I literally drove for eight hours, just to stop in front of the cathedral and then drive back. I had arrived. The city was barely lit. It was really late after all. And so I turned around. Drove the entire distance back. Again in one go.
The whole thing, going there and back, without actually properly exiting the car.

I apparently want to be where I am not.

I am in Paris writing this. Right now I am in Paris. But am I? Am I in Paris?

Yes, I am looking at the Louvre. I can feel the stones of the city under my feet. But otherwise? Is this a film? Is it a kind of film? A simulation?

I am here, but I can’t really handle the city. I can’t connect to the city. I can barely connect to it.

Well. I can walk through. I can have a look around. Everything is perfect. It does indeed look and feel like Paris. (Because it is Paris!) But what am I doing here? What am I here for? Why am I here?

Dear friend. I am writing to you, because I do not only want to stare. I also do not want to be an extra in this admittedly magnificent play, staged for other tourists.

I want to do something that needs to be be done. I do not only want to eat. I want to digest. Tourists only eat. They eat the same set of items again and again. Tourists do not digest. Some note what they ate, or where. Some describe in some way where they sat while they ate. Anyway.
But they do not digest. Most do not actually eat the city, to be honest.

Perhaps they only take the city into their mouth. Or they order the city to be served to them and then they ask for it to be taken away again.
The tourist experience. Replicated millions of times. Year after year after year.

Okay. So I guess I can’t digest.

Maybe it’s a horrible analogy. I feel like I have not even really eaten enough of this city. I do not know the city well enough. I do not know anybody here. I do not even speak the language.

And so I am like a tourist. But a badly prepared one. An ignorant tourist. No?

I have said a prayer today.
I have said “no” today.
I have eaten. (Not the city)
I have walked
I have looked.
I have called someone and I have… thought?

No, I actually have not thought much and not for a long time. I have just walked around somehow without a destination. I do not think I have really given anything a proper thought.
Thoughts are like the environment in which they emerge. And so I had similar thoughts to a similar environment, the road, the ever same road, now the streets, now the faces of people all same same same?

An old man just walked by me. In his right hand a yellow shopping bag. He stopped. He looks up now and is laughing. He is laughing.
He laughs and keeps going. He lifts the bag up above his head for a moment. Keeps laughing. Keeps walking.

Cars. So many cars.

Women. So many women.

What has happened? Why are there so many cars and women here, suddenly?

Cars driven by women. Women. So many cars and so many women.
Many of them are beautiful.
God, why am I here?

Am I here because someone needed to give the homeless man 20 Francs? Or am I here because another candle needed to be lit in the Polish church?
Or because I was supposed to meet someone? Or because I was not supposed to meet anyone? Or is my mission to destroy the forest? Or is my mission to write these words?
Why am I here?
Or because I was supposed to see the Polish motorcycle rider who just now got caught in the chain of his motorcycle and started cursing?
Will a pigeon shit on me in a few seconds? Am I supposed to see Paris and die?

A bald man in glasses stops in the same spot in which the old man stopped before. He looks up and he laughs. He has red shopping bag with him, in his left hand.
He looks in the almost same way as the old man before him did.
And he laughs out. He looks up and laughs.

I am hungry again.

Now I am laughing.

The bald man in glasses, carrying a red bag, keeps laughing and keeps walking.

Before I start my journey back, I walk to the spot where the two men looked up and laughed. It does not take long and I have to laugh too.

On the roof of the Opera house are stars. Small, large. They were someone’s idea how to make the roof of the building more interesting. An entire firmament of human-made stars. An artwork.
Precisely above the roof and the stars and exactly placed was… the moon.
The real moon. The actual rock traveling around the Earth, which in turn also keeps falling towards the sun which also keeps falling without the ability to describe itself.

There were the stars. And there was the moon. Exactly in the right spot.


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