Having enjoyed a sunny afternoon in the Jardin de Luxembourg finishing up George Orwell’s Down and Out in Paris and London (I’m now feeling much better about my possible future as a downtrodden bum in the freezing climes of northern Europe, by the way), I promptly bike the unemployable over to Shakespeare and Co. to shop for another. I choose this store, not because of its’ annoyingly cheesy romanticism, but because it’s the only place in Paris I know of where I’m sure to find literature in a language that I read beyond “menu” level.
Walking into the store there’s a staircase toward the back with a sign that reads something like: “Books Upstairs Are Not for Sale, but Feel Free to Read Them at Your Leisure.” Fair enough, I climb up. Peering into the back room, I see an elderly gentleman poring over typewritten notes, and sitting on the table in front of him is a hardback copy of George Orwell’s Down and Out in Paris and London. And I’m thinking, “Wow, what are the chances?!” I envision pulling the paperback copy out of my bag, shaking it in his face, and saying “Wow, what are the chances?!”, but he looks old and rapt, so I instead reverse course back through the musty hallway and contribute to a multi-lingual human logjam at the top of the stairs. You first. No, me? Pardon, madame. No, vous. Moi? Merci. Whatever. Somebody walk.
Moments later, browsing the fiction section, I see most of the Haruki Murakami canon and begin an unreasonably long internal debate concerning which one to purchase. I’m a late-comer to Murakami, so I want to make sure I’m not totally screwing up, like the time I read Cormac McCarthy’s Border Trilogy out of order. Back and forth, I can’t decide between Norwegian Wood (his first big hit), the more-recent Wind-Up Bird Chronicles, and some other non-fiction work of his about the 1995 sarin gas attacks in the Tokyo subway. I pick each one up and put it down at least three times before finally selecting Norwegian Wood. And this, only because it is revealed in the first paragraph that the protagonist is one year older than I am, and I’m vainly hoping that a fictional Japanese man might somehow mystically guide me through what is already (at 36) my second mid-life crisis. So, I buy it for an incredible 14 euros, head out to my bicycle to unlock, and consider whether afternoon coffee is a good idea today.
En Seine, I pull my iPod out of my pocket and lazily choose “shuffle songs.” It plays “Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown).” Some pigeons in the vicinity disperse. I look around for Allen Funt. Wow, again. I mean, what are the chances?!
Well, in this case it’s 1-in-2938, because that’s how many songs are on my iPod.