Friday, September 21, 2018

September 20/21, 2018 (Paris)

September 20/21, 2018

We just got back from Paris.  Yesterday we spent the day at Passage des Panoramas (11 Boulevard Montmartre).  This is the arcade that Walter Benjamin wrote about in his major (unfinished) book "Arcade Project."  What's interesting about this arcade is that it opened in 1800, and its the first role model or attempt to make an indoor shopping center in an urban area, in other words, a city.  Paris in 1800 was dirty streets that were not friendly to the retail space, due to the lack of electricity and their various plumbing problems, where citizens would throw their shit and piss on the streets.  The Passage des Panoramas is the oldest covered shopping area in Paris.   Going there was a moving experience for me.

I have great admiration for Walter Benjamin's writing, as well as his interest in culture and city-living.  He openly admired Charles Baudelaire not only for his poetry but also his appreciation for the aesthetic and nature of a city (Paris).   Passage des Panoramas was invented for the sole purpose of shopping, which one comes to think of it, a somewhat original 19th century thought.  But why is it fascinating now?

Well, for one, I'm a consumer.  I can't help it. Without a doubt, it's an addiction of great importance to me, as a person, and writer.  I'm sure those who read my posts have a good indication that I love records and books.  But I also have a deep secretive (even to myself) love for other's childhood culture.  For instance, I'm fascinated with TinTin, yet though I have to admit I'm not French or Belgium (the home of TinTin).  There was a tote bag we saw through the window that seemed to me to be a perfect purchase, but alas, the store was closed.  I find the independent stores in Paris a mystery due to their hours. Some are open from 1 pm to 6 pm, and I get the impression that they don't want to change their lives too much due to the success of the tourist demand.  Still, I'm amazed at the beauty of a culture that's expressed in a retail shop.  People tend to not to look up to the retail place as something as important as a museum.   Often I think it is even more critical, because there are people who open shops that are devoted to the past, and they do so with great passion.  When I go into a good shop, I feel obsession, love, sensuality, and pleasure.  I feel this when I enter the Passage des Panoramas

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