Paris is worth leaving if it’s via Open Skies.
You can bid farewell to Roland Garros and the Internationaux de France, aka the French Open, but there is no need to say goodbye. It will always be here and it will be the same, even if they are promising to expand the site over the next few years.
The truth is that I moved from enthusiasm to skepticism about this whole Roland-nouveau plan, and there are people I would talk to in the mayor’s office, the French tennis federation, and their various business partners, not to mention a few other interested parties, before coming to any conclusions about what this all adds up to — or subtracts from. After all, instead of going into contortions in the space they have, and infringing on the nearby botanical garden with its priceless works of nature, why could they not just spread the place into the adjacent suburbs. They do not want to share? You would have to share revenue between Paris and Boulogne, for example, if you went that way? And you are not into sharing and solidarity? (The mayor is a Socialist.) These thoughts may be all wet but of wet thoughts is journalism made, if you will forgive the crude image. And admit it is appropriate for the day before flying home into news of yet another Congressional s-x scandal.
Actually and in real fact, I was paying no attention until I got a whiff of it on the plane. I love coming home because home is where we are from. I always find myself humming a sentimental song when I am going home, by those fellows who have many fans around the world — one of them, Mr. Simon, will be in Paris for a concert later this summer. It is called “Homeward Bound,” and you have to hand it to its author, it is silly and sentimental, with the kinds of verse Quin and Aaron enjoy, please do not tell them I said this, but honestly and without wanting to be a pedant, just think about it, and tell me if I am not right to listen to Buddy Miller or Richard Thompson, John Hiatt. All right, Dwight Yoakam. Okay, we shall all agree on Bach. Bach and Bob Dylan.
Home’s where my racquet’s waiting… Thank you, Mr. Simon, Mr. Garfunkel.
In fact, like any normal 21st-century American, I have learned to pre-position my supplies. Months ago I shrewdly planned an active tour of local tennis venues, thanks to stashed-away shoes and racquet.
I found a place where I knew immediately if Congressmen and other powerful men settled in, they would forget about fooling around and wrecking their careers and their home lives. Spend the afternoon at the Cercle Amical (sports center) at Vincennes, on the east side of Paris right next to the old medieval fortress which, as it happens, served in the unsuccessful but heroic defense of the capital on more than one occasion when the enemy came from the east — spend the afternoon, I say, in this beautifully laid out private but affordable club, with the same kinds of red clay courts as you get at Roland-Garros, and hey, you avoid making an ass of yourself.
Like I always say about playground basketball when civilized grownups like Mr. Tyrrell ask why a man my age wants to wreck his knees in a kids’ game, “It beats another hassle with the little woman, ya know?”
The Cercle Amical is a super place. Fair rates, too, and they will pro-rata an annual membership for a short period, if you tell them you love this city, this sport, you are in favor of l’amitiée France-Amérique forever and depuis toujours. Sure enough, the pro guiding me around the club said, I see you are carrying a racquet, do you have shoes in that bag (votre sac) as well?
I allowed as how I had. Well, monsieur, may I have the honor of inviting you to try our, etc. He even apologized for the surfaces being a little hard – the sécheresse, he explained, the drought (which is causing real economic havoc this season). Fine player, too, with a reliably sharp forehand. He then invited me to luncheon on the terrace, I said he was too kind and really I was flying tomorrow so we only had an apéritif.
I made sure mine was dry, because I was determined to continue my investigations with a clear head. A kid I had spotted in the neighborhood carrying a racquet had assured me I should check out some courts near the Porte d’Orléans, and my plan was to go around the city, east to north to west to south, visiting as many places as possible.
The Cercle is a private club. I forewent the nearby public courts in order to get a jump and try to catch up on my schedule, already hours behind. And with that came doubts. Doubts about my mission. What if it was not public tennis courts in the northeast corner of Paris, where kids dream of fame on the football pitches, but something else that Mr. Tyrrell wanted?
No alternative but to plough on. I skipped several addresses on my list and made my way to the upper north east, between the Buttes Chaumont, a marvel of urban gardening, and the Villette neighborhood which lies above the Buttes. In the rue Edouard Pailleron near a high school, there are a couple of clay courts, manifestly not terribly well cared for but they looked quite usable. Unfortunately, no one was using them.
I realized I was never going to finish this. I would have to get an assignment from National Geographic and mount a full expedition with sherpas and cartographers and photographers. I needed pictures, to show the difference between the north east and the one place I decided to see before quitting, a west side sports center off the boulevard Lannes. Here I counted six courts, all occupied when I got there, but an animateur, youth activities counselor, said there was a seventh over there (he made a gesture, so I nodded). The courts are made of a material that feels like rubber, for a slower bounce than on other hard surfaces. The place itself is tree-lined.
Well, this would have to do it. At least I proved that there are choices — private clubs, public courts, at least some effort by the city to get kids going. Keep them off the streets.
However, it may be the adults, not the kids, who need keeping off the streets — or whatever trouble we mean by that. Back from the far west side, I stopped at the corner bar, which after a long period of distrust I finally got to know, to my immense satisfaction. It is a great bar, the Pub St Hilaire, and it is run by a great gang of expert barmen and the best kinds of owners, who take a real interest in their customers, most of whom, I discovered, are happy to discuss anything, plus a steady flow of tourists, due to the neighborhood, but these turned out to be fascinating people too, carrying news from places far away, such as Austria and Denmark.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?