tous-les-saints

IT’S NOT SO HARD to start flying again, even if you haven’t flown for a long time, maybe even years. All you have to do is look down and focus and it will happen, you’ll rise up and the wind will rise with you. People are always amazed when they see it, because they don’t think it’s possible, but it is! All you have to do is try. For this last attempt I felt particularly ambitious. I decided to fly across the country, meaning the United States of America. It was after a high school graduation for some cousin, but I needed to stretch my legs, or rather my arms. I imagined myself dining on a pier in San Francisco in just a few hours, listening to the blue sounds of local jazz and the songs of the sea lions. I set off by the Peconic Bay on Long Island, and in a few effortless minutes had already cleared the sandy bars of Sandy Hook. It was easy, I tell you. Then over all of drugstore, downtown America, laid out in boulevards and avenues, parks, electric grids, square and rectangular counties, all of those cultural ghost towns that were to be experienced in their own right at the local five-and-tens, corner bookstores, backstreet diners, places with names like Centreville or Uniontown, Liberty City or Nowhere Springs. I was headed for the southwest, in general, that area, but I had drifted straight across the north, so I set down in a small city that was bifurcated by an immense rushing waterfall. I came down in the courtyard of a student house for a local university, and a series of good-humored but utterly bored sandy-haired students let me through a variety of doors. In the back of the house, a young blonde woman stood before a mirror, applying lipstick by candlelight. She let me out the final door and I encountered the falls. A series of log platforms had been built on both sides, along with a crossing point. “Welcome to Historic Fort Dulcimer,” a sign said, and a series of geysers shot glops of water into the air, one of which drenched my face. “That’s the historic Dulcimer Rip,” a tourist nearby told me. I decided to pull my phone from my pocket, take a photo, send one back to my father. I felt tired for the first time since I began my over-the-country trek. Maybe I would turn back, like all those other tourists who make it as far as Grand Teton National Park and don’t have the nerve, resolve, or interest to cross the Rockies and hit the West Coast. Or maybe I would sleep it off in that local university town, start tomorrow fresh. From my perch on the platform of Fort Dulcimer, I had a good look at all of the colorful and zigzagging architecture, the custard and red painted balconies, the curling blue chimney smoke. The air high stunk of deep-fried dough and pan-fried white fish. It was clearly française in derivation and reminded one of the French Quarters in Hà Nội or Sài Gòn. Maybe an old trading center of New France? I accosted another tourist group, and the young blonde I had seen applying her makeup before was there dressed in frontier dress. She must have been a tour guide. “What is this place?” I asked, gesturing at the habitation beyond the falls. She smiled and said something in French. It sounded like “Touzants” to my ears, but later, upon consulting an atlas at a local guest house, I learned the name of this commune was in fact Tous-Les-Saints, “all the saints.”

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