Guest contributor: Thierry Kauffmann

Anxious Bode Loves Paris (Despite Anxious Times)

categories: Cocktail Hour / Guest Columns / Sunday Sermon

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Thierry Kauffmann, aka Anxious Bode

Thierry Kauffmann, aka Anxious Bode

Bonjour! It’s me, Anxious Bode. I’m having French roast at my favorite
cafe, in the Paris airport. I’m on my way to New York. That’s the
truth. Many writers write to access a reality deeper than reality
itself. That’s my street address, reality deeper than reality. I write
to reach the surface of things. Pardon my levity, but the joy of
actually flying is hard to resist. But for you, readers of my
extraordinary adventures in the land of love, I will retreat slightly
from the glare of the sun on the surface of my coffee cup, I will
forget that the first thing a coffee cup reminds me of, is the giant
convection cells above the ocean surface, where the heat accumulated
at the Equator, rises then travels northward, before sinking at the
pole and back, the so-called General Circulation of the Atmosphere,
not the atmosphere of celebrated French film Hotel du Nord, but the
atmosphere that I studied when I first came to the US, in 1987, in the
Midwest. I had applied to graduate school, mailed one hundred
applications. Two said yes, one had money to fund me. It was Indiana.
Coming to America, as immigrants would say, and Elia Kazan said, but
that was eons ago, is a transforming experience. Coming to the US is
the shape it takes in the real world. But for me, back in my Paris
suburb, when I first conceived the project of going to the US, it
wasn’t to study. I was a student already in Paris. It was the
culmination of a long process of understanding, discovering, that my
true nature, my true culture, the one in which I would truly flourish,
was not the one I was born with, but that of New York. I was crossing
the ocean to be baptized, to begin a new life as me. But I don’t want
to drag you into my memoir, it’s a memoir because a true account of
all that happened, starting age ten and less, doesn’t fit in the space
allotted, so instead I will zoom in and take you to the first favorite
cafe. In the little town of Evry, a town split in two, the old, with
French houses, maisons, the mandatory square, trees, fountain, and the
modern, that is built with concrete, grey, postwar. My cafe was at the
edge. I would bring a book of exercises to learn English. I had to
take a test to be admitted. I had twenty days to learn, or to be able
to recognize, thousands of words. I would sit under the rising sun,
and let the words flow into my mind. I didn’t have time to review
mathematics, which was my major. Instead I focused on English. I had
not taken a single lesson, never studied it in school. My school was
watching films in Paris. My highest score on the GRE was in English.
It made me laugh, at that time, I wasn’t a writer yet. I came to the
US because I was told. It was my destiny. And that’s all I needed to
know. I had no doubt, and neither do I now. I know Paris is hurting, I
hurt too, but nothing will stop this city from existing. I have no
doubt about that either. Paris, New York, both cities attacked, London
too, are not united by this. They are united in me because they all
contain love, massive amounts, reservoirs of love. The concerto I’m
going to record in New York, was recorded in London for the strings,
by extraordinary people, friends which I hope to visit soon, and jam
with. They fell in love with the music. I’m not a man of politics and
cold intelligence, I trust others to do this. My intelligence is of
the heart, and my message is simple, as always. Love will prevail. And
Paris is more than a city, it is a state of heart, I see Paris in New
York City, I see love in small town life, I also see the strife of
living but I have no doubt. That is what Paris is for me. But Paris is
also in Syria, in Irak, in Palestine. Everywhere people can reach
above their condition and circumstances to live in love, is Paris. A
state of mind, an inextinguishable source of hope. I love. Paris.

[Anxious Bode is Thierry Kauffmann, who lives in Grenoble, France, where he’d do stand up if he could stand up, and fights Parkinson’s, all while keeping his chops on the piano.]

  1. Anxious Bode is back. Thanks to Bill. He, that is, I, did go to New York to record part of my concerto. More on that later. For the moment, happy to be back!