Paris:  Morozov, cornered rats, Bulgakov, Don Giovanni, the invisible object, and of course food

March 5, 2022

Morocco was uneventful; not much to write about. When leaving Tunisia I got back my mini drone and upon entrance in Rabat it went unnoticed. When departing though, I was stopped again by security, this time because of the sat phone and yellow brick I’m taking to the boat. After answering several questions and showing them ANTARES’s papers they let me go.  

I landed in Paris  last Thursday and took a taxi to the apartment we had rented in Montparnasse; I arrived before noon.  Natalia was already there, waiting impatiently.  I just dropped my luggage and we walked to a Monoprix close-by to buy some essentials including tooth paste, Gordons gin, a couple of bottles of wine, and a sample of cheeses. France does have the best wines and cheeses.

Natalia had bought tickets for a Louis Vuitton Foundation expo of Mikhaïl and Ivan Morozov’s art collection.  While still young the two brothers were commissioning and collecting paintings from impressionists and other European painters who at the time were still unknown (you can see at the top of the gallery one of Picasso’ Arlequins, sailing boats and a auto-portrait by Cezanne, and a corridor by Matisse). When Michail died Ivan continued. At some point the collection included more than 100 chefs d’oeuvres.  It was eventually nationalized and this is the first time, I understand, it is being displayed outside of Russia.  Irony that we went to see the expo the day Russia invaded Ukraine.

Natalia who is half Russian couldn’t believe it.   Biden and Co. seemed to have had the best intelligence about what was going on.  I read an article about the young Putin and his fascination with rats.  He used to chase them until one day he cornered  a big one and things didn’t go well.  The rat, trying to escape, attacked him and landed on his face. He never forgot the experience, I wouldn’t have either. The lesson for him was that “you should never bring anyone into a corner.”  He seems to believe that “the West” brought him into a corner like a rat.  And as we are seeing, a man with an unbounded ego and military power, who feels he is not being taken seriously, and who seems to suffer from delusions (according to ex-collaborators he is quite disconnected from reality and interacts with only a small circle of acolytes), is a very dangerous man for humanity.

Natalia gave me a present, a mini english edition of Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita. These days I read all books on my Kindle, but this one will be an exception (the last hard copy I read was Chiles’ Return to the Sea which wasn’t available in digital format). It will come with me to ANTARES, my reading during the passage.  She had also bought tickets for the Opera de Bastille; Don Giovanni.  A 3.5 hours performance with a 30 min intermission that was enough to enjoy two glasses of champagne. The conductor, Bertrand de Billy, is truly phenomenal. Don Giovanni and Donna Anna were played by second tier singers — the leads could not make it because of COVID — but at that level these days there is little variance.  Plus, the choreography and decors by Ivo van Hove and Jan Versweyveld compensated any imbalance.  It was 11pm when we left the opera house and crossed the plaza for dinner at Bofinger.  I thought we would be too tired by then, but the music must have increased our serotonin levels.  We had a lovely dinner of escargots, duck, and steak tartare accompanied by a bottle of St. Stephe, all followed by a glass of armagnac.  

To have a break in our decadent lives, the following morning we went for a run to the Jardins the Luxembourg under a flawless blue sky. But by noon we were decaying again over brunch at Madame de Reve. The young barman there is a pro and prepared one of the best Negronis I’ve had in a while. We walked for a couple of hours in the afternoon with no real destination and soon it was time for dinner.  Sunday we took it easy and I cooked in the apartment.  

This past week the days were occupied with work. Around sunset we would go out for drinks and dinner, and by 10pm we were in bed. One afternoon we visited Giaometti’s studio, a 20 minutes walk from the apartment. Simone de Bauvoire also lived around there . There are just a few photos, books, sculptures and paintings (not his), including one with a green André Bretton, one of his close friends. The sculpture of The Invisible Object is there and just to see it the visit is worth it (see sculpture towards the end of the gallery). Afterwards we walked back to the Jardins de Luxembourg, crossed, walked up to the Pantheon, and then followed a couple of narrow streets to the Rue Mouftard where we found a place for dinner.  This is the culinary capital of the world after all.  

Our encounter in Paris was too short.   I am finishing writing this while flying over the Atlantic; I am three hours away from DC, it is 6:30 Paris time (I left the apartment at 4am). Natalia was just boarding her plane back to Riga when I was waiting for my connection in Lisbon. It was a last minute change in plans as she was supposed to fly to Bangkok. She must be with her parents by now.    

Next Wednesday I am supposed to fly to Grenada to start preparing ANTARES for the passage to Panama.  I expect to depart around the 15th.  The solar panels I bought were stuck in the US customs for a while but the problem was resolved and I now have UPS tracking numbers. More updates will follow… 

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