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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

OUTDOORSMAN




Sunday evening, I gave Moscow a weary glance from the window of the airplane. I was on my way to Paris, a city that has always been like a second home for me. I say that not so much because it's true, but because it sounds good. To call Paris my second home is to say that I have refinement, taste and style. And also that - as an American - I'm impervious to being in a place where I'm despised.


Visiting some family friends on Monday, I took a train to Chantilly, a town about 30 minutes north of Paris. Chantilly is quiet and beautiful, and is best known for its horse races, as well as for its set of ornate 18th-century stables that have now been converted into a museum. Apparently, the master of the adjacent chateau was convinced that he was going to be reincarnated as a horse - and this being the case, he wanted a guarantee that he would inhabit deluxe accommodations. So he had the stables built.


His reasoning made an impression on me. I had never given much thought to what would happen to me after I died, much less where I was going to stay after I was reincarnated. I just really hoped that I wouldn't come back as a poodle - a thought I have kept to myself because the French seem to be just wild about those darned dogs.


But can people be reincarnated as things, I wondered, and not just as animals? Could I come back as a loaf of baguette, for example, or maybe even as a bidet? I asked my hosts, but they just stood in a kind of stunned silence. It was national pride, I reasoned, for perhaps they felt that their part of the world had the monopoly on philosophical rigor. Then one of them started stammering something about the philosopher Pascal which I didn't understand. Perhaps he was trying to tell me that Pascal had been reincarnated as a bidet. How unpleasant, I thought, but said nothing.


Later, I returned to my senses and stopped thinking such damn fool things as coming back as a horse. I headed to EuroDisney to revive my spirits. I was heartened to see so many adults wandering around in mouse ears. Then I thanked the heavens that I'd been born into a world where genuine, artful eccentricity has been eradicated by packaged, artless idiocy.


- Guy Archer