Road to Elsewhere, Excerpt #7: A Photo-booth Portrait of the Artist as a Young Nincompoop

I was 21. Terrified. And camera captured it all, for 2F.

On Fridays I run excerpts from The Road to Elsewhere, my coming-of-age-travel-memoir-with-funny-drawings. (You can find the first entry here.) Except for last Friday, when I was writing about 9.11.01, instead, so the excerpt got bounced until today. My memoir tells the story of my road through Paris, London, and Zagreb, in search of the ultimate destination: a life worth living.

ON MY THIRD MORNING IN PARIS, the registration clerk at the Alliance Française waved aside my attempts to speak French. Who has the time? I’d need a photo for my school I.D., she told me, directing me to une cabine photomaton down the street. Everything was a new challenge! I struggled first to find the photo booth, and then to understand the instructions on the placard.

How inconvenient: they were in French!

Experimentally, I dropped a two franc piece into a slot, and nothing happened immediately. Then, a loud pop and an explosion of light. The first exposure caught my dispirited look at the coin slot, where I had surrendered my scant funds. In photo number two I had registered the pop, and realized that maybe this machine was working. The final image shows my face composed, with a tight-lipped determination to be brave, projecting a confidence I hadn’t earned.

It’s so hard to be alone.

On September 29th I wrote in my journal: “‘In the privacy of his own brain….’

“Each of us has such a vigorous and unseen private life. Ninety percent of life transpires as a mental action, the other 10% falling forth as the physical motions and utterances by which we are judged.

“Is it any wonder, then, that the individual’s self-conception is the ultimate determinant of this exterior reality? This is certainly an interesting ‘tip of the iceberg’ realization, for the 10% of observable actions, probably 7% are acted out for the benefit of our social audience, allowing only 3% honest responses for our fellow human beings to judge us on, and love us for.

And I have noted (not alone in this realization) that people are so isolated. It is surely because they try to gain access to the guarded 3% of others, and the points of intersection here are almost impossibly distant.

In the 90% inside we share so much, but this is forbidden territory, so we are relegated to intercourse on the small scrap of land allotted, that scrap which is fortified enough to resist overt attacks.

No wonder we’re all lonely.”

One photo I clipped for my school I.D.; another, for my Carte d’Orange — my transit pass on the Paris Metro.

The other three I taped to the calendar that would be my daily record, before I committed to daily-journal writing. Whatever the content of my days, I was determined to hold it tightly in my hand, which gripped a pen.

“I’ve seen you, beauty,” Hemingway wrote, about a café crush, in A Moveable Feast. “And you belong to me now, whoever you are waiting for and if I never see you again. You belong to me and all Paris belongs to me and I belong to this notebook and this pencil.”



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Road 2 Elsewhere by Peter Moore

Road 2 Elsewhere by Peter Moore

Road 2 Where, Exactly? Hope you’ll join me for this picnic.