the chemistry of travel

before we left for paris, kay was commenting on the book she was then editing, on the subject of the strange doubleness of traveling, how you come back yourself and not yourself. as i had never traveled to a foreign country before this, i had a kind of fantasy in my mind of what the experience would be like. before experiencing jet lag i had an unrealistic sense that perhaps i'd be immune to it, a sense that was, of course, entirely false. i think i also imagined that somehow french words would miraculously form themselves upon my lips and beautiful french sentences would fly out with hardly any effort at all. well, the fact is i was tongue-tied most of the time and could barely form the simplest phrases, and the ones i did manage were usually met with troubled squints. i both overestimated my understanding of french and underestimated paris itself. this led to the feeling about midweek that though i loved paris, paris did not love me back. what i didn't realize was that i was throwing myself at paris; and how could i expect it to love me under such unsubtle circumstances?

i think jet lag has a lot to do with entropy. jet travel explosively introduces us into a closed system that is radically different from our own. we become like ice cubes plunged into lukewarm water. at first we are unmixed with the substance surrounding us, we are constrained from belonging to it by the sheer chemistry of our make-up. this constraint, translated by our bodies as a disorder of hours, constitutes jet lag, the pressure of going from one state to another.

by the end of our week our temperature was closer to that of paris than it had ever been. we were mixing with paris, paris had melted away a little of us and we had altered paris too.

we'd met with jean-michel at st. eustache:

i'd captured my reflection between picasso's dancers:

we had seen unusual things

during original moments:

and we had made connections until then unseen:

now, introduced back into my natural(?) environment, i am not exactly myself either. but as surely as i don't want the experience of paris to melt away, as much as i hate the idea of all energy evolving toward a state of inert uniformity, the second law of thermodynamics is working hard to ensure that my environment and i reach the same temperature within due time.


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Anonymous said...

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love; kqy qnd seqn

JM said...

it was great we met in Paris in front of St Eustache no?
Now I must go in Iowa for an american 09h09?

Julie R said...

jean-michel..yes it was so great to meet you in front of st. eustache. are you coming to iowa soon?