My sweet sweet box of journals: the lined green leather one from Greece, the one composed of napkins stapled together, the uniform French Claire Fontaines. Of course the contents of these charming tomes is anything but sweet. Who writes about the good times? Yet there is this wonderful undercurrent of hope and delight in the beauty of monuments. When I open the present volume I am humbled by the fact that it is #87; my hunch is there’s a bit of repetition in these pages! But the quotes! What great authors have accompanied me on this journey. My sweet, sweet journals. Begun my junior year in college in Greece where my real birth occurred, their presence has meant that I have never been alone. Every trip I take begins and ends in these pages. They hold my past like no photographic record ever could. They make the past present, the present past, the future a clean white page.
In my daughter’s eyes….
As I fastened the child safety seat Lauren looked up at me and said: “you know I’m living by my wits alone.” Little did I know that was a line from Charlotte’s Web and this utterance was not further proof that I was living with an Old Testament prophet. It had always seemed as if Lauren, beatific as the Smiling Angel from Reims Cathedral, was the sage soul who was patiently teaching me the basic steps to the tarantella we call life. When Lauren was born, I found myself a single mother in need of a teaching job. The south was kind, a good place to heal a broken heart, surrounded by well-mannered students eager to watch Lauren and introduce her to the mysteries of collard greens and black-eyed peas while I frantically prepared lectures. In a way, Lauren became the mascot of the art department at the college. Twice before the ripe age of 6 she accompanied my colleague and me as we conducted 25 students through Greece to study the ancient monuments. If we were discussing the myth of the minotaur at Knossos, Lauren was engaged in leaving a trail of Barbie accessories to assist Theseus should he attempt to emerge from the labyrinth. Was it those early forays into the past that made her so passionate about travel? In my daughter’s eyes I see the world scrutinized by an unfailing sense of justice, subject to both her wit and wisdom, and above all, to her compassion. Like Olivia, the princess of olives, who reigned supreme in the stories I would tell Lauren, she is destined to taste all the olives in the world before she chooses her future home. It is only in my daughter’s eyes that I see my home; she is the diamond in my heart.
Such a lyrical name for a place like that—
Calling to ask to speak to him one could almost imagine a yacht club
But all the boats had sailed and left these empty vessels.
He tried to piece together what he could—who I was, why I called him so often, and whether or not I knew where he lived.
Was he in there? Each call ended the same way—-
Don’t worry about me, everything is going to be okay.
Was he being a parent even through the fog that surrounded the boat- house? Why else would he tell me not to worry? Holding the phone in a frozen hand, knowing I would never hear his flirtatious banter with waitresses, knowing that I had lost Big Sam.
The little deaths we endure from day to day, from the frozen coleus on the porch to the co-worker who died in childbirth, do not prepare us for this primal loss. My heart keeps seeking my throat. We are all on the path to the Boathouse, no matter what Virginia Woolf says.
Après-midi de la fondling…….or, Paris @ 1400
I chose a Wednesday to see the Charles VI exhibit.
How crowded could it be?
As I squeezed in between bodies to see the Cité des Dames—
Christine de Pizan’s words came back to me.
My heart was pounding, my knees threatening to buckle
And then I noticed their reflection in the glass—
A young, handsome couple
He was squeezing her ass and she was oozing hormonal contentment.
And they were completely blocking the construction of the city of Virtue!
When I turned to the Grandes Chroniques de France, they were fondling in
Front of the greatest royal story ever told!
I was incensed!
They could have fondled in front of Mona or the
Venus de Milo—-why “Paris around the year 1400?”
Did this mean I was an intellectual snob after all?
Cringing to hear the blue-haired ladies discuss the azure robes the Virgin wore in a page by the Boucicault Master?
Being elbowed by the effigies and denied any views of the enamels,
I sank to the marble bench in front of the Apocalypse tapestries and
Tried to put this in perspective. It was not apocalyptic in import.
I just never cast myself as a misanthrope before—and now I had become a
Full-fledged member of the club.
In many ways I know nothing more than to squeeze the ass of art!
So why do I nod knowingly at the priceless parchment under glass?
Is Art Longer?
Was it her imagination or did the personals just take a turn for the overly precise? No one over a size 8 need respond? Yikes. Renata mused that this served to weed out the weekend dieters. There has to be a more humane way, but then she said that about everything from job interviewing to tenure. Both of which were behind her for the time being…as were the days of being a size 8. Though a tight 12 wasn’t something to be proud of, it was not at the top of her list of personal loathing. She remembered reading about someone’s mattering map and how that guided the heroine’s choices; for Renata, it was clearly the personal loathing column that steered her decisions. Perhaps after the “personals”, they should have “personal loathings”—now there’s a way to weed out the undesirables… Renata looked out the window and saw her wilting flowers and parched cats peering back at her. She should water both. She should finish her book, she should work more hours at the homeless shelter, she shouldn’t call her mother. It was all so familiar.
She tossed aside the paper and turned back to her computer —she knew how to get out of this mood but it required tremendous effort. Surely other scholars signaled their respective muses and the words appeared on their screens. Did others have to play computer solitaire to warm up the keys, to diminish the drone of the demons, to dispel the self doubt that raged near her temples, masquerading as a migraine? Arrgh. Her perennial lament—what’s it all for—seemed so humorous to her colleagues who were blissfully ensconced in denial. Why couldn’t she shelve her angst the way others did? The way she could “save” and exit at the drop of a hat…It was time for a double latte. Then she would work.
Of course the first person she ran into was her ex-husband with a student who looked all of 16, but to be fair was probably over 21. Renata thought she had staked out this Starbucks as her turf, but perhaps they had joint custody of the one closest to campus. They smiled knowingly at each other, though each possessed a very different genre of knowledge. Now she would have to sit strategically so that she could observe the student in order to complete an impromptu comparison of their respective qualities. Inner beauty had no place in this lineup. Ah, thank goodness for laptop screens, they hide a wealth of nefarious deeds. Why did she keep shaking her hair back like that? It was so affected, but of course very effective. Renata felt another attack of self-loathing coming on, so she googled the personals for one of the four sites she belonged to in order to see if anyone had looked at her in the last 24 hours. Business on the romance sites was sluggish to say the least. One man kept viewing her profile, but not contacting her. A stalker is born. She wonders what Hugh and the student are so earnestly talking about, surely he is not parsing Chaucer with her. But that can be quite a heady experience; many women have fallen for Old English in good-looking bottles. She was halfway through her Latte when she opened up chapter 3 to read over what she had written yesterday. Not bad, really. She could hear her thesis director chanting in her head “you need to unpack this Renata.” What’s wrong with having the reader unpack one’s prose? Closing her laptop, she tossed her cup into the garbage can and headed for home to clarify yesterday’s offering at the altar of Academia. She nodded to Hugh and the student and tried not to trip leaving the coffee house.
Once home she stroked the cats, watered the plants, and decided to work on the overstuffed chair in the library. Big mistake. But after she woke up from her coma-like nap, Renata returned to her manuscript with an amazing degree of energy and purpose. Renata wrote for three hours without many excursions to the www. or the dust bunnies beneath her couch. The seatbelt she had installed on her desk chair was pretty effective. Embarrassing, but effective. When she broke for lunch she read an essay on the importance of art for enriching lives and inspiring noble behavior in those who experienced its transformative power. It was then that she decided to replace her photo on the dating sites with that of Botticelli’s Venus from the Birth of Venus. A little nudity, to be sure, and she may even be a size 10, but she embodied the beauty that characterized so many of Botticelli’s Virgins. And talk about an interesting past! The birth of Venus was full of thunder, sex, and seafoam—it was about as procative as any woman’s avatar could be. Somehow in that moment of choice, Renata affirmed that both romance and life were outlived by Art, and that in the end was enough to renew her love of her work and the hope that it too could reach the lowest rung of transformative power.
The first time I saw Mel behind the counter I knew he was different. A series of incompetent, if friendly, pharmacists had preceded him, but Mel wielded his mortar and pestle with confidence. One of the most striking things about Mel was his appearance. It’s rare in the south to see dyed black hair on a middle-aged man, contrasting with green eyes (contact-induced?) and skin the hue of a New York pallor. The diamond stud on his earlobe similarly didn’t seem to mesh with his white pharmaceutical jacket. If central casting had been called, what had the drugstore specified? Someone from Death in Venice? Claude Levi-Strauss said that “Identity is a kind of virtual foyer to which we have, perforce, to refer to explain a number of things, but which has never had any real existence.” The thought of the human species trapped in the virtual foyer of non-existence, well, it gives one pause. Did Mel know that he was a construct of his own making? Yet, he was competent. Amazingly, quietly competent amidst a sea of assistants who seemed to be still learning the alphabet when one picked up one’s prescriptions by name. The flashy jewelry, the attention to his appearance—it fascinated me. He never made eye contact, but he was aware of each bottle he had filled, each waiting prescription, the telephone calls that mechanically requested the pharmacist to pick up the line. Where did Mel go when he left the drugstore at 9 p.m.? To walk his standard white poodle? No, there was nothing standard about Mel.
The journalist in question bore a slight resemblance to Princess Diana. This was something she capitalized on, not in physical terms but on the psychological level. She demanded attention, placing her imperious nose in the upper stratosphere and leveling her gaze at one. When I picked her up for lunch in my mini-cooper, I thought first about carrying her bags and then helping her into the lowly passenger seat. The irony of course is that on closer inspection she doesn’t really look like Princess Di at all, rather more like a caricature of her. Nor is she that gifted of a journalist, though her self-confidence erases all doubt in her audience. She is wonderfully charming at first, but then cynical and biting comments begin to issue from her mouth. As she approaches the meaner levels of gossip, her prominent nose displays a drop of fluid in the nostrils. Perhaps because of the long journey, she doesn’t seem aware of the event threatening to take place, but always rescues the day with a nearby tissue. No matter how many French scarves she dons, the threat of that droplet endears her to me. Ah, what is man but the sum of his bodily fluids?
The BP gas station I used to frequent had a series of one-armed men who worked there. I think there were three, but it may have only been two. I mention this not out of discrimination, but rather out of curiosity—what could have attracted these men to the same gas station? They were sort of interchangeable—I mean, they were all nice, helpful, and smiled at the quaintness of someone who had not yet mastered the art of pumping gas. The odd thing about this occurrence is that whenever I had my car filled up with others in the passenger seats, I warned them about the one-armed men—but they were never on duty when I was with others. Indeed, I have only met one other person who knew the one-armed men at the gas station, and she also found them elusive in the company of others. When they tore down the BP station to build a Mexican restaurant, I wondered what happened to the men; would they turn up in another station or garage in town? I’ve never seen them, but I’m on the lookout.
The mover, Tom, carried the dining room table to its destination as if he were handling a bag of groceries. At one point he spit on his hands to get a better grasp of the tabletop, though I am not sure how effective this method was. He did his work quietly and with incredible competence, only pausing once to go to the restroom. Despite the fan I could hear the steady stream of his urine—even that was done efficiently. Every so often one meets a person who has found his saucer—a perfect fit. He liked his job, he did it well, and he disappeared in his Mayflower truck as if he were riding off on a white steed.
I felt as if I had entered the Valley of the Dolls. They were everywhere, overflowing the tall glass cabinets that had been built to contain them and encroaching upon end tables, squatting on the piano, lurking on the windowsill, and even smiling benignly (?) from the hall closet where one hung one’s coat. Sleeping in the living room amidst this precious assembled clan fostered a deep sense of anxiety, as if they were restless souls trying to escape the prison of their porcelain flesh. My mother was valiant—this was her life that I was tossing in boxes and bags for the women’s shelter, for the various charities, and lastly, for her. How would I react under similar circumstances? I vowed to become a Buddhist then and there. Non-attachment is the only way. Yet weren’t the dolls, all 500 of them, just the most plaintive cry for some connection? Why had love failed to reach her main aorta?
Returning to the library in Paris in its new incarnation—four massive glass towers symbolizing the four disciplines (?), the cold, steely interior with layers of bureaucracy thinly disguised by the use of computers, how I would miss the domed interior of the old Bibliothèque nationale! And what about the regulars? Would they make the transition to the new millennium with the grace I couldn’t summon up? Days passed without a sighting of the researchers of old. Then, I saw him, still wearing his aviator glasses though they were clear instead of canary yellow. When Anne saw him years ago, she commented that he must be afraid that the words would fly off the page too rapidly and that he had to protect his eyes. Seeing him roam the corridors in deep thought filled me with joy. He made it to the other side—with his trusty glasses to ground him in his flight to the 21st century.
Sitting in the Salle of Litterature francaise I observed at least nine scholars working on Flaubert and about the same number consorting with Balzac. I wondered if they experienced the same waves of doubt as art historians toiling on “Chartres, encore?” But everyone harbors the silent conviction that he has the key to some elusive passage that the world is waiting to discover. Looking up I was startled to see “Foulard” walking with extreme self importance to his appointment with destiny. As his moniker might suggest, Foulard always wore a scarf or extreme cravat with every outfit he wore to the library. He even had a friend whom we dubbed “son of Foulard” who also wore scarves, though his neck attire was far more subdued than that of his mentor. Again, the feeling that all was right with the academic world if both Foulard and Aviator glasses could bridge the gulf between the BN of old and the new towers of learning, leaning precariously towards the total impersonal realm of scholarship in the 21st century. The author may be dead, but the seeker of truth in the authorless texts lived on.
It was fascinating to see the clochards of the quartier gather on a corner at the end of the day. Did they compare their earnings? The women seemed the most boisterous, laughing and punching each other in the arm for emphasis, whereas the men were just settling down for a fine bottle of table wine (no cork screw needed). I had read about how tightly orchestrated the system of the streets and their homeless inhabitants were in Paris. I was just so thankful that it had at last turned warmer, that the promise of spring chased away the vision of those human covered grates. My daughter asked me how I could walk past each outstretched hand as if it weren’t attached to a needy human being. I suppose that is what makes the urban dwellers so steely, how can they afford to waver for an instant? I do offer coins to some, but as my arteries harden so does my carapace acquire another coat of shellac.
In the BN of old, he used to arrive with a lady. They sat together, working, dressed elegantly, and when it was time for lunch, he helped her on with her coat. He always wore the same camel’s hair coat and cut such a striking figure with his shock of thick white hair. I passed them at a local restaurant, consuming the menu du jour, with café après. No sandwich in the park for such civilized savants. I saw him in the new BNF but he works alone now. There is still the same air of gentility, the same camel hair coat, though the latter has a few spots near the collar. Were they lovers, collaborators, colleagues, friends? Why does he seem so sad without her? Perhaps it is just age, both mine and his; I wonder how many years he has been without his graceful companion. Was it death or adultery that drove the wedge in their alliance? How sad that cynicism rears its head after 50. One cannot live that long without looking in the mirror.
Fanny had an unerring sense of direction except when she went the wrong way. Then she was lost beyond measure. The Saturday in question she had set off for the Asian Farmers’ Market and found herself in a part of Georgia where English did not seem to be the native language. When she stopped to ask directions, the gas station attendant screwed up his face as if her words were painful to hear—and clearly beyond comprehension. As she prepared to become one with the leather upholstery of the driver’s seat, she pondered the derision she formerly held for GPS systems. Who on earth could she call to find her way back to civilization? Why the hell hadn’t she brought breadcrumbs?
Today I looked at Henri IV and he looked at me. He seemed to smile. Later he will claw my ankles till he draws copious amounts of blood, but for right now he is all I need. I am obviously living in symbiotic denial with a cat. When I think back to my internet dates (sic), I still look for a reason for their catastrophic (on a microscopic level) endings. Was it something I said in the profile? Looking for a man of a certain ilk?…apparently this was a word that required a bit of explanation. For I seem to attract men called in from central casting by a cheap director who was more interested in finishing the shoot than in relaying the plot in a compelling manner. But I digress.
When I entered Starbucks two years ago I looked around furtively to see if anyone matched his photo, now a crumpled printout that I carried in my purse as a talisman. I breathed a sigh of relief because I was there first and I could order my coffee and work myself up to a state of sheer terror before he arrived. Shortly after the caffeine began to work its magic, a slightly overweight, but not bad looking man entered the coffee shop and I noticed he had a limp. I thought nothing of his gait as I was dwelling on the clammy hand I extended to greet him. We drank coffee and talked for about five minutes before it was abundantly clear that we had nothing to say to one another. This was my first internet date and I had no idea what the protocol was—what to do? Luckily he broke the silence by asking me if I would mind if he took off his wooden leg when we had sex. Now let me remind you that we were drinking coffee in broad daylight when he posed this query. I looked at him with utter disbelief and honestly replied that it wouldn’t bother me at all since I would not be there.
That was a Thursday and the internet dating service urged its members not to be discouraged, but to get right back on that horse again. Well, not that horse. So on Saturday I met Bachelor #2 at Starbucks. He seemed more skilled in communication and I realized as I looked into his eyes that something was funny about one of them, but I thought nothing of it. Until he brought up the subject of taking it out at night and leaving it by the bedside; would that bother me? Again, this is not normally what I talk about over coffee and I tried to change the subject to that all-time winner, hey, what about those Braves?! But to no avail. I never heard from him again either.
I am a firm believer in differently-abled people and these tales may sound horribly prejudicial and unkind. But I am a very kind person who simply believes in the fine art of foreplay. At least wait for dinner? I was convinced at this point to leave the world of virtual dating (as my experiences were unreal at best), but I thought I would try one more experiment. The next Monday I agreed to meet a man in a local bar at 5. After all, maybe it was Starbucks. I was slightly late and when I arrived there was a gentleman sitting at a table and he was very good looking and I immediately knew there had to be a catch. I approached and extended my arm to shake his hand and he did not take my hand. Immediately I began deconstructing this non-gesture: he hated feminists and equated hand-shaking with bra burning. Or, he had a thing about germs, or that he knew right away that I repulsed him, so he didn’t want to lead me on. When I sat down, the man took his left hand and moved his right arm to rest on the table, as he explained that all the nerves and muscles of the right arm had been severed in an industrial accident. I looked at him in disbelief—give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses…? And then I
started to laugh at life and I couldn’t convince him I wasn’t laughing at him, and it was a disaster. My ex-husband once likened my luck to the frequency that I stepped in dog shit; but that was too extraneous to relay to my third suitor.
The first three dates were an object lesson in the possible pitfalls of internet dating. I felt somehow that I had learned my lesson and that I would screen the next potential coffee-drinkers much more in depth. I spoke with Dave for over two months, establishing a connection that ranged from sense of humor to sensibility; to taste in novels and to pet peeves. I felt, in short, that I was ready to meet him. We agreed to meet at the Farmers’ Market and I was going to buy the ingredients for a gourmet meal, which he in turn would cook for me. There is a rule that one never brings an internet male home. Ever. Even when the person lives two states away, you never let him into your domicile. The meal was quite nice, but by the end of the quiche, the alarm inside my head started going off and I knew that I had to get him out of my house. When I asked him to leave, he said he couldn’t because he had no money and he was too tired to drive 6 hours that night. I asked him why he didn’t put the hotel on a credit card, and he said he didn’t believe in money and lived by barter alone. Now money is fairly tangible —I mean it exists; it’s not like the Supreme Being where belief enters into the equation. I said that perhaps he could exchange goods with the Holiday Inn, but in any case he could not stay the night with me. At that, his eyes lit up and he said he would leave on one condition: if I gave him a blow job. I quickly excused myself to go to the bathroom, cell phone in hand, and called my ex-husband to come over as fast as he could. He arrived with a wonderfully proprietary air about him and basically set up camp, chatting ol’ Dave up
until the latter left out of sheer exasperation at the limitations imposed by the barter system. Forfeiting the 5 remaining months of my membership was an easy decision.
That two years passed and I signed up again reveals how low my IQ must actually be. My first date in phase two consisted of an assignation at 7 at a trendy restaurant. When I arrived at 7:13, he was almost finished with his meal. I walked to the table and he still did not look up to acknowledge my presence. It was only when my shadow fell over his plate obscuring the last morsels of food that he spoke; “I cannot abide tardiness in a woman.” And then he looked at me. It was a look filled with utter disdain and it went right through me; but I had seen that look before and suddenly I felt 18 again and dropped in the midst of a Harvard mixer. The men (sic) all thought very highly of themselves and their objective was to snare the prettiest first year students in the Boston area. Let the bidding begin! Enough! It was a call to arms, my own arms, that is. One of the joys of being older is being older. I did not have to subject myself to this type of subliminal humiliation. Indeed, I had inner resources to sustain me through the long winters. Okay, those inner reserves are pretty useless on a cold night. But then there is Henri IV: surely he can be bribed to sleep on my bed. I know just the treats to win his feline affection.
Bali-Ha’l, that special island?
When my mother first introduced me to the Umbrellas of Cherbourg as one of her favorite movies, she supplied a large, missing piece of her identity: she really did feel that life should have a soundtrack. Was it from seeing too many musicals on Broadway during her maturation, or was it just her flair for the dramatic? Even though she has been dead for two years, if I am very quiet I can still hear her humming a few bars from South Pacific. Growing up to the strains of Bloody Mary, Do-Re-Mi, and As long as He Needs Me engendered a certain sense of whimsy and flightiness in my world view, which in turn led to a life of disconnectedness to people as a whole, if not to out and out cognitive dissonance. I’m sure if I met Gigi or Oliver on the street where they live(d) I could have struck up a conversation or duet with only minor discomfort. But my real encounters lacked substance and I seemed to waft toward adulthood. Becoming an art historian (the major of countless, lost blondes) I found a medium to which I responded from the head, heart, and hand. And one can ask no more of life than that.
But here’s the rub. In lieu of mother’s soundtrack, I became the victim of a parade of images to accompany my thoughts, my actions, and perversely, my inactions. What a rich inner life, you say, but there is a real drawback to this intrusion of visual stimuli. I would envision Goya’s Sleep of Reason before each exam; a hell scene from Bosch if I veered from the course of righteousness; Delacroix’s watercolors from Morocco floated before my eyes under the influence of marijuana; while images from Van der Weyden’s Beaune Last Judgment transported me in times of spiritual seeking. And medieval art? Everything about this long period of art history spoke to me, from the early Christian sarcophogai (I am the arch Early Christian martyr!), to Hiberno-Saxon manuscripts in their endless intricacy, to the sincerity of Romanesque capital sculpture in France, and finally to the Gothic period with its courtly elegance, its numinous manuscripts and sculptural ensembles, and of course, the cathedrals that challenge the imagination with feats of soaring height and skeletal frameworks. When I wrote a letter, I felt compelled to parse out the words between illustrations. Art history books became grist for my thinking, writing, and dreaming. Imagine if you will Fuseli’s Nightmare and you approach the intensity of my entrapment.
I tried to quiet the images, especially when in mixed company, in other words, with other human beings—always hoping I would meet someone who suffered from the same dis-ease. Eventually in graduate school I developed a friendship with a man in the same field, whose love of medieval art was palpable. We remained friends throughout the labor pains of writing our respective dissertations, through orals, through each failed relationship. It was only after years of this dance that we realized what others knew from the beginning. We married (think Chagall) and took turns keeping each other’s career back. Finally, he got a teaching position at an Ivy League school, and I was no competition for those hallowed halls. By then I had given birth to a rosy little girl and though devastated, I needed to find a teaching position for the intrepid duo.
I landed in a Liberal Arts College in the south. Living and teaching in the deep south is like living in a foreign country for someone from the north. It plagued me that my daughter would grow up with a southern accent! But it was a wonderful place to heal and that I did. One morning I was driving my daughter Lily to childcare, guilt dripping from my brow, when her eyes met mine in the rear view mirror and she said “you know, I’m living by my wits alone.” Though I managed to get the car back on the road before I hit any stationary objects or people, I was in a total state of shock. When we got to our destination and I released her from the prison of her car seat I asked her what she meant by that. She just looked at me and smiled knowing.
A couple of mornings later, I went into Lily’s room to awaken her for another busy day at childcare central. When she opened her eyes she said “Salutations!” I asked her if she knew what that word meant—and she said “of course! it is just a fancy way of saying hello!” Now I’m beginning to think that my daughter is a genius or that she is reading late at night after I collapse. It was only a week later that she informed me that “humble” had two meanings, one that meant not proud and another that meant close to the ground, just like Wilbur; finally I realized the source of Lily’s deep font of wisdom. Her affection for Charlotte’s Web knew no bounds, whether in book, film, or comic strip. There are few better thinkers than Charlotte in my book—and what a heart.
I had another realization that week. Just as my mother lived to an inner soundtrack and I lived to a pictorial slide show, my daughter was to live to her own melody: the pearls of wisdom that fell so close to Wilbur were only the beginning of insights gleaned from great writers, which would inspire and foster in Lily a just and nuanced worldview. What a lovely legacy.
Writing my Memoirs….
When Louis IX ransomed the Crown of Thorns from Baldwin II in Constantinople in the middle of the 13th century, the precious relic was transferred by two Dominican monks to the city of Villeneuve-l’Archeveque in France. A small, undistinguished Gothic church formed the background for the reception of this holy relic into the royal domain. A Gothic tympanum featuring the Coronation of the Virgin concealed some subtle iconographic hints aimed at the saintly ruler suggesting that an influx of royal money would not be rejected. Apparently the profusion of crowns and images of Largesse were too subtle, for the church remains truly unremarkable but graced with a beautiful Gothic portal. It is, in other words, a one portal town. I have always identified with this Gothic story and thus begin my blog in honor of all one portal towns.