The walk to Seymour+ was a straight shot along the Rue des Vinaigriers (Street of Vinegar-Makers). True to its working-class name, the street was lined with modest shops and bistros, artists’ studios, a couple of cheap hotels (one advertising rooms at about $50 per night), and many parked motorcycles. Some shops looked as though they were frozen in time. One decrepit shop sold old maps, displayed on a table all covered in dust. A young man hung out in the doorway of a small bookshop with a cat draped over his shoulder. OK, so maybe this scruffy neighborhood was charming after all. The real Paris.
I arrived at Seymour+, paid a small fee and handed over my cell phone. The place, created by an American expat, consisted of large sparsely furnished rooms with wood floors, high ceilings, and white walls. Guests engaged in a different activity in each room, guided by some simple instructions. The main idea was to look inside yourself, break through your conditioned thinking, reconnect with your subconscious, and ultimately, fire up your imagination. I was the only guest at that time and went from room to room, completing each activity in solitude.
One room had instructions for me to write whatever was on my mind, offering a simple pad of paper and a pencil. So, I sat down and wrote: “I feel that I am at the center of the universe or in a cocoon, totally detached from my real life. And it feels good. I like myself and maybe that’s a good thing to discover before I get any older.” My flaneur wanderings in the city during the week had allowed me to see how we get into ruts in our lives and never question our routines. Yes, we all must grapple with stark realities, but there are limits to what we can accomplish. We need to leave room for joy, even for some intoxication, whether by wine, poetry, or the random beauty that crosses our paths. Perhaps I should slow down, not be a slave to my to-do list, and spend less time looking at screens. Develop a sense of style as I get older. Disappear once in a while to roam, contemplate life’s mysteries, nurture my soul, and write some poems.