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Alison Goes to Paris - 2/02

Why I cried at the Louvre
I started to tear up a little on arrival when we came down the Champs Elysees and I saw the Arc de Triomphe for the first time, but it was just a fleeting momentary excitement. But actually seeing the Mona Lisa was something else altogether.

I had been told it was small. I was told it was very dark, unimpressive and an enormous disappointment to most American tourists. Well, they all clearly have their heads up their asses. The Mona Lisa is absolutely beautiful. It is a normal size portrait of a woman who glows. She is smiling, but only on one side of her mouth. It sort of moves if your stare at it for a while. Her eyes are beautiful and slightly hooded, like a lot of Italians. She could be a Scafidi, one of Bob's relatives. (In fact her beauty reminded me of Bob, who I am constantly telling that he reminds me of old paintings and who constantly thinks I'm crazy.). It is now burned onto my brain and I understand why people kept this painting all these years.

As I staggered away, trying to keep up with Thom as we hurtled off to see the Venus de Milo, I realized my throat hurt. I was grinning from ear to ear like an idiot, but my eyes were watering and there was nothing I could do to stop it. I couldn't stop thinking about how long I had wanted to come to Paris, to see the Mona Lisa and how I had come to believe I never would. I had actually accepted the idea that I was going to die without seeing the Mona Lisa. My nose started to run and I started to shake. I finally said, "Thom, wait up. I have to sit down." He had no idea what was happening until I said, "do you have a Kleenex?" and he saw I was crying for real. "Oh god, you're not really....?" And gave me Burberry designer Kleenex. I put it over my eyes, bent forward, put my head in my lap and sobbed.

I cried for all the years I hadn't been to Paris. I cried for not seeing the Mona Lisa until now. I cried with joy that I had finally seen it. I cried for everyone who has never seen her and for those who never will. I cried for the miserable empty souls of the people who had seen her and not felt what I did. I cried for my mother who was dead and who loved Paris and who I now couldn't call to tell her I had finally seen it. I cried because after September 11th I thought I wouldn't be able to fly to Europe anymore and feared that by the time I did, someone would have blown the whole place up Paris, Louvre, Mona Lisa and all. I cried that there had to be bulletproof glass over the Mona Lisa. I cried that human beings were brilliant enough to produce all the incredibly beautiful things in the Louvre and savage enough to destroy every bit of it in a second just to get a better shot at killing each other. I didn't think I'd ever stop crying.

Eventually I stopped crying long enough to get up and go to see the Venus DeMilo. She's missing a nipple as well as her arms, poor thing. She's really lucky to be here at all. Everything else we saw was jaw droppingly shockingly beautiful as well, but it didn't hurt quite as bad as the Mona Lisa.

When we went out to car, our driver Olivier, looked somewhat taken aback by my appearance. Later when asked if he understood how moved I was by the Mona Lisa, he said "oh yes, I saw it in your eyes". Later, when I caught up with a mirror, I found out what he meant. Thom hadn't bothered to tell me that I had huge black Tammy Faye mascara rivulets down both cheeks!! And he let me go walking around like that! I nearly killed him.

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