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That time I wanted to pass myself off as Joyce Carol Oates #TBT

I submitted my first piece of writing when I was seventeen, a story about my first job, working at the employee cafeteria at General Telephone where my mother was a dispatcher. Rolling the 20# white bond backed by a sheet of thin blue carbon paper into my Smith Corona, I typed it out slowly, carefully, on a piece of erasable paper—and mailed it off to Cosmopolitan along with a cover letter. Not just to any editor at Cosmo, by the way, I sent it directly to Helen Gurley Brown. 

The piece itself, meant to be comical, was full of clumsy attempts at self-effacing humor.  I strived for a similar tone in the cover letter I addressed to Brown, completely clueless that the high powered editor in chief wasn’t the one reading unsolicited manuscripts. After I signed off I added the following PS. I could have said I was Joyce Carol Oates. What I thought that would accomplish I can’t imagine. That an unsatisfactory submission would get published because of a lame joke? 

No surprise, in the SASE I’d …

The Height of Hubris : Climbing Notre Dame in 1989

A Paris flashback for Dreaming of France.

Voila! C'est moi with one of the iconic stone chimera of Notre Dame overlooking the entire city, the Eiffel Tower perfectly placed in the background as though by a giant set designer in the sky. I used to think the horned goat was a gargoyle but he's not. Gargoyles are the creatures fashioned into waterspouts, monstrous looking but serving the prosaic function of keeping water off the roof and the exterior walls of Notre Dame, minimizing damage from rainstorms. My bearded goat-friend is a chimera, a grotesque, one of hundreds added when the cathedral was restored in the 19th century by the architect Eugéne Viollet-le-Duc. Much of Notre Dame had been destroyed in the French Revolution, the French Revolution Mindy and I and a zillion other tourists and Frenchmen were celebrating that July in 1989.

I was excited to climb to the top of Notre Dame but once I got to there and my friend Mindy wanted to snap a ph0to of me and my friend the Chimera? Not so much although I put on a brave face.

Is that the terror on my face, fearful of the demonic aspect of the horned and bearded goat or was it merely my perilous position high above Paris that gave me pause? 

You can't do that anymore, pose with this chimera. Kneeling on the wall is not only forbidden, it's impossible. The chimera on the edges of the buttresses, like the Sabbatic Goat-like creature here, are fenced off from the public.

And here I am again, my arms wrapped around his neck as if in some post-coital rapture. Truth? I was probably relieved the picture taking was over and I could slide down off his back and slip away, back down the stone spiral staircase and onto the relative safety of the streets of Paris.

Twenty five years later and I'm a mother now. Wounds inflicted by stray firecrackers and being snubbed by sleazy men bother me not a bit anymore. What terrifies me these days is the thought of my son, grown man though he is, filled with the hubris of the young, doing something just as fool-hardy as I did that gloomy summer day.  Driving when he should be walking. Walking when he should stay put. I found out after the fact that when he was at NYU he loved to roam the city streets in the middle of the night. I'm glad I didn't have a clue. Those are the things that frighten me now. That's what really terrifies me.

Discover more at the official site of Cathedrale Notre Dame de Paris

Find more French-themed posts at Dreaming of France
hosted by Paulita Kincer.


  1. Thanks, Sim, for the visit and lovely conversation in response to today's French Musique post for Dreaming of France and Paris in July. And likewise value another Canadian blogger whether current or former :) Thanks for taking time to make the connxn. I anticipate more as we share these life travels...
    Your post is def a memory maker! Glad you made it back down those stairs to safety of streets :)

  2. OMG Sim these are amazing photos!! I love you commentary & your memories. Hopefully you have those two framed they are truly amazing... & oh wow it is you up there in them! Wow I have to say it again...amazing!

    1. I can't quite believe me it's me either but there I am!

  3. Sim, Love that picture. I wish I'd known I could pose like that when I was there in 1985. But on my own, I had no one to take my photo anyway. I agree about the hubris of the young. I walked the streets of Paris alone and even hung out with an Argentinian sailor til late at night. Thanks for playing along with Dreaming of France. Here’s my Dreaming of France meme

    1. Sounds like there's a story there!

  4. It gives me a scary feeling inside to see you hugging that figure! But I have a bit of a fear of heights.

    Here's my Paris in July post!

  5. Love the photos, what wonderful memories. I have photos of us fishing from the top of Ayers Rock back when climbing it was unrestricted but now in respect to the rock's aboriginal owners, they ask you not to climb. Things change and that's probably a good thing, but I'm pretty sure my sons do way sillier things than I ever did ... probably a good thing I don't know about all of them lol

    1. Ugh, those boys will be boys, eh? How cool to have climbed Ayers Rock; such an amazing natural phenomenon, I would love to just see it in person one day! I didn't realize there was anywhere to fish out there. Now you've got me going to google looking for bodies of water.

  6. Sim, Even if it endangered the chimera, I'm glad you got your photos. And I'm also happy not to know what my children are up to most of the time. It's better to find out about it later -- after they've survived. Thanks for playing along with Dreaming of France. Here’s my Dreaming of France meme


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