Saving Your Ticket Stubs, and So Much Else

“The past is never dead,” as Faulkner pointed out. “It’s not even past.”

BEFORE MY DAILY JOURNAL was up and running in October 1978, I was filling in blanks on calendar squares. I’d begun the latter habit in high school, when my father, observing my oversubscribed life, suggested that I carry a calendar to note important deadlines.

Among my first notes, on October 9, 1973: “Give up calendar idea.”

My friend L, the first female I would ever skinny-dip with, wrote underneath it: “No! I like this calendar!”

She and my dad were both onto something: Her with the skinny dipping, him with the calendar.

This latter was my first opportunity to record my day-to-day life, and I inscribed notes in it until March 1979, by which time my daily journal had fully taken over. But at some point the calendar had become a combination scrap book and daily record, which meant that it was filled with curiosities from my late adolescence through my first days in Paris.

For instance, I have all the ticket stubs from a viewing of Animal House, with four male friends, on August 29th, 1978. We were consumed with envy for John Belushi, on the ladder at the sorority house; what had I missed by attending Bates, a college without sororities?

On the 30th I wrote “au revoir, Etats Unis!,” and spelled it wrong in French, as recorded here.

The day after that: “Bonjour Paris? Mais monsieur, je ne parle pas bien le français!”

Flipping the calendar page to September, there’s the riot of activity I’d been hoping for, to distract me from the pain of being a young nincompoop.

I was a toddler again: learning a new language, shocked by onrushing sensations, figuring out how — and where — to walk in an unfamiliar landscape.

There are untold wonders on that page.

Evidently I played tennis twice, in Jardin du Luxembourg. But with whom? Using what tennis racket? Had I travelled to Europe with tennis balls?

Twice, I ate at La Tour, at 4 Place du 18 Juin 1940.

I know you’re wondering: June 18, 1940, was the date when Winston Churchill (whose recollections — have I mentioned this? — only equal three million words) speechified “this was their finest hour” in the House of Commons, honoring exertions during the Battle of France.

Honoring the date of the P.M.’s big speech didn’t help La Tour, however, because now it’s a joint called Kibaloma, which features a “Happy Days” menu (chef de cuisine: The Fonz) and is open 24/7.

Sic transit Gloria Mundi, though I bet Ms. Mundi herself has given up on the world’s glory, as well.

I have movie tickets from Le Mayfair and Logos, plus a receipt for a plat garni at the Alliance Français, from September 25.

The next day I quoted James Joyce, from his short story Araby, in the small box of the calendar, “Gazing up into the darkness, I saw myself as a creature driven and derided by vanity; and my eyes burned with anguish and anger.”

What, only on September 26th?

And I have preserved my torn ticket, for 2.50F, from the Musée Rodin.

None of this minutiae is Important, especially compared with Rodin’s sculpture “Honoré de Balzac,” or Churchill addressing the House of Commons. But I was so engaged with my new life that the 21.95F I spent on an entrecôte grillée at Cafe Bar Glacier reached the level of an historical artifact, preserved to this day.

I went to a liberal arts college in New England, so I couldn’t receive a diploma without reading some Thoreau. No one took this famous passage more to heart than I: “I went to the woods [i.e., Paris] because I wished to live deliberately [i.e. drink a lot of wine], to front only the essential facts of life [i.e. girls!], and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived [i.e. or completed The Jumble, That Scrambled Word Game, in the International Herald Tribune].”

Hey, HDT, I lived deliberately, and sucked the marrow out of a steak at the Cafe Bar Glacier on September 10th.

A glass raised to you, as well, Grampa, for paying for it.

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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.