23 March 2008

Celebrations Various

The Demon Chernabog terrorizes Bald Mountain:
A feature of the “Storybook Land” boat ride —
May it get no scarier than this.

It has been a busy week in Paris, culminating in a quiet, rainy Easter weekend. My Texas godsons and their mother visited me for several days, offering me abundant reminders that I’m glad I’m a godfather. (As well as a few reminders that I’m glad I’m not a father.) I feel it’s part of my duty, perhaps even part of the job description, to expose the boys to ideas and experiences they may carry forward in their lives: Paris is meaningful to me, and perhaps some day it will be meaningful to them, too.

For the moment, however, Disneyland seems to have held more allure. We divided ourselves into teams, according to age and taste: the boys sought out the grownup rides, and their mother and I stuck to the kiddie rides. Let it be said that the occasional dips and rises and momentary tilt of the “Casey Jones, Jr.,” train are about all that Karen and I are prepared to handle, at this point in our lives. Meanwhile, the boys grumbled that “Space Mountain” didn’t live up to their expectations — then they dashed off to ride it again.

The trip afforded us all kinds of opportunities to bond. Will is 15 now, and one evening we went out to drink beers and talk about women, while I tried very hard to forget how recently he was a wrinkly pink earthworm asleep in my arms. We are men of the world now, he and I.

Seasoned travellers

Tom is 12, and our bonding was more physical. I was surprised when he told me he wanted to take the “It’s a Small World” ride: he is, after all, a little old for that. But hardly had we taken our seats in the boat before I understood his real purpose: a scientific experiment, to see whether drinking the water in the “Small World” canal really would induce hallucinations like those experienced by Lisa on The Simpsons. Since the force of my argument would not dissuade him from his mission, I resorted to the force of my arms, and held him in a death-lock for the duration of the ride. Some day he will thank me for saving his life.

The rest of the week was devoted predictably to monuments and museums, and less predictably to shivering under awnings and waiting for the freezing rain to stop. We didn’t get around to about three quarters of the things that I normally consider to be absolutely essential. I always tell friends that the most important thing about any trip to Paris is that it will not be the last. In Will and Tom’s case, that’s neither reassurance nor advice; it’s a command.

I’ve now introduced Paris to all of my official godchildren and one unofficial goddaughter, Grace from Los Angeles. I feel I have done my duty by them. I’d like to think that these introductions will have an effect comparable to that of the introduction to opera that my godparents, Ann and Blair Coleman, gave me, many years ago. But at least I know that, no matter what happens, we’ll always have Paris. And that is cause for celebration.

As is the 78th anniversary of the birth of my father, this fine Easter Sunday. I suppose I would celebrate Easter, too, if I were in a country that knew the meaning of marshmallow peeps.

Ceci n’est pas une peep.