One of the best wedding cards we received pictured a cartoon bride and groom astride a white leaping/flying horse. Our friend, Carol, wrote “YOU” next to the figures and, pointing to the horse, “LIFE.” The image on the card was a mere flash amid so much pre-departure chaos, but it stuck in my head, re-appearing on the clouds through the scratched plastic of the airplane window.
Thoughts raced through a confused film of impending jet-lagged euphoria. Our Air India flight attendants, clad in sparkling purple saris, served us dahl and yoghurt and tea, and I tried to remember my last visit to Paris, 13 years ago; eager and privileged college kid, embarking on his first solo grand tour, Eurail pass in one hand, deliciously blank sketchbook in the other.
Now, once again, Paris was to be my launching pad; uber-civilized, choked with history and gargoyles; Paris was all strange cheeses, strong coffee, and walking for hours and hours.
As we touched down at Charles de Gaulle, I recalled another equine-tinted vision; my favorite passage from Thomas Wolfe’s Look Homeward, Angel:
“He was mad with such ecstasy as he had never known. He was a centaur, moon-eyed and wild of mane, torn apart with hunger for the golden world. . . The world lay before him for his picking–full of opulent cities, golden vintages, glorious triumphs. . .full of a thousand unmet and magnificent possibilities. Nothing was dull or tarnished. The strange enchanted coasts were unvisited.”