Monday, January 26, 2009

Ok, I love this stuff!

Being a magazine editor has its perks--one of them is the "free box" in the office kitchen.

Book publishers, cosmetics companies and other manufacturers are eager to promote their products and often send free samples--and free books--to magazine editors to entice us to cover them. If we can't use the items we receive--and we usually can't--we bring them to the kitchen and drop them in the free box where other staff members can find them and take them home.

It's just a carton on the floor beside the snack machine but to me, and several of my friends at work, the free box has become a kind of Aladdin's lamp--with an almost magical ability to produce just what we need at the moment when we need it.

There were all the books about bees, just when I was receiving bee-related signs and having bee-related dreams; and the time when, just when I was receiving messages from the Hindu goddess, Kali, a book about the Black Madonna showed up in the box (and my friend put it on my desk for me.)

And then, last week, the coolest thing happened. I've been working on a book called, "The Year I Didn't Go to Paris," which is about many things--among them, an aborted plan to rent an apartment in Paris and spend a month there, writing a book. I was having trouble remembering just why I'd loved Paris so much--and struggling to describe the apartment where I'd stayed, as an au pair, about thirty years ago--and why I'd been trying to get back there ever since.

As the new year turned, and I realized that, once again, I hadn't made it, I was feeling kind of sorry for myself. It was about that time that I found a book called, “Buying a Piece of Paris” in the free box. I have to tell you, it felt a little "orchestrated."

I took the book home and dug in. It was a fun read about an Australian woman who falls in love with Paris and decides, with her husband, to buy an apartment there but I wasn't finding any great revelation in its pages. Still, I loved getting reacquainted with the city’s different neighborhoods—the Marais, the 14th arrondisement, the right and left bank.

But then, drum roll, please, the author (and I, tagging along) wound up at the door of 5 Rue Dante--the very same apartment where I lived 30 years ago. I kid you not.

What are the odds? She'd only visited five or six places in total, there are tens of thousands of apartments in Paris--what are the odds that she would wind up there. In my apartment!

It all came back to me as I read her description: the parquet floors and white marble staircase; the white wooden door; the small kitchen and pantry, the fireplace and floor to ceiling French windows overlooking the street--there was even the same bathroom with the great big white tub where I washed my hair every night with a handheld shower. I don't know about you but I was--and I still am--just amazed. It's not like a big revelation from God or anything but boy that was a good one!

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