Saturday, March 17, 2007

A Park in Search of Identity

I don't know much about people with multiple personality disorders. Maybe it's denial, but as far as I know the only person I've encountered with many characters inhabiting one so-called body was a certifiable boss I had about 15 years ago. It was fun; we never knew which one of her was going to show up for staff meetings.

It can be fun, too, when a place has multiple personalities. But like my former wacko boss, it can be a bit disconcerting, too. Paris places, like Parisian everything, are usually so "pulled together". That's why my trip to the Parc Georges Brassens was so unsettling today. It takes the word multi-tasking, multi-function -- multi-everything-- to new levels. For Paris.

In fact, the literature about the park touts its multi-level diversity. And diverse it is. In a small space there are vineyards and bee hives up on a hill, fake donkeys on a grand staircase, real ponies, a waterfall, a hideous giant modern tee pee building which wins my March award for RBA (Really Bad Architecture). On another level, a bland petanques courtyard, a covered outdoor market. Across the park, a fake cliff, the obligatory manege, lots of climbing structures, a huge odd shaped pond and and and and and.

But none of it holdstogether esthetically. The handsome bulls at the park's entrance, and the somewhat classical tower overlooking the empty pond seem to announce a traditional (read: pleasing) gathering. Instead of having one pleasiant surprise after another (the case with most Parisian parks), the visitor has instead one minor disappointment after another. Paths wind and snake around the park, but nothing is really mysterious or hidden. Closer inspection of things seen in the distance leads to disappointment. Nothing serious, but vaguely annoying. Craving something else.

To be sure, it is a pleasant place for families to gather. Lots of happy shouting kids. Learning opportunities abound in the apiary and the vineyard, when they're not chained shut. Patches of colorful flowers. Such variety of activities assures that there is something for everyone. A little potager, a vegetable garden, at the entrance proudly announces that it is maintained solely by a local elementary school and the gardeners of the city of Paris. A quaint little patchwork-quilt touch. The rest of it, rather than being charmingly patchwork, felt just patchy and disjointed. I really wanted to like the Parc. I loved Georges Brassens; his music helped me love French even more all those years of serious study.

But today's Saturday in the Parc with Georges was discordant. Not even fun, like those old staff meetings.

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