more synchronicities

Johnny Cash, as quoted in The Man Called Cash by Steve Turner:

[The Arc de Triomphe] was really a beautiful thing. About three times as big as I thought it would be and a lot prettier. We walked around there taking pictures and then went on to the Eiffel Tower. That was something else. That was different than I’d imagined. It didn’t seem so high but was probably higher than it looked. We couldn’t see it from very far off because of the fog, and we didn’t go to the top because we were plenty cold on the ground where we were, and it sure looked a lot colder up there.

James Baldwin, in “Encounter on the Seine: Black Meets Brown,” collected in Notes of a Native Son:

Both are quite willing, and indeed quite wise, to remark instead the considerably overrated impressiveness of the Eiffel Tower.

The Eiffel Tower has naturally long since ceased to divert the French, who consider that all Negroes arrive from America, trumpet-laden and twinkle-toed, bearing scars so unutterably painful that all the glories of the French Republic may not suffice to heal them.

[“Encounter on the Seine” appears to have been originally published in 1950 (I got that here; original pub dates were not available in my copy of Notes of a Native Son), which coincidentally is the same year that Johnny Cash joined the military. I feel safe assuming that Cash would have seen the Eiffel Tower in 1950 or ’51, although I confess I’m unclear on whether the above quotation came from a contemporary account (like a journal he kept at the Air Force base where he was stationed in Germany) or from reflections he made later in life.]

I would never have imagined, as I simultaneously read essays by James Baldwin and a biography of Johnny Cash, that I would find the two of them standing side by side, in the same year or darn close to it, at the base of the Eiffel Tower, looking up. Would you?

4 Responses

  1. That is really cool. The closest thing i can think is that once I was reading a biography of Hemingway and a biography or Orson Welles at the same time, and I decided to compare the indexes to see where they overlapped. I found two things: Marlene Dietrich (both men were close friends of hers) and Isak Dinesen (both were big fans). But that’s not as cool as Baldwin and Cash, because I was looking for connections and you just stumbled over one.

  2. I love this observation and sentiment!
    no matter where your life takes you, figuratively or literally, I hope you will always be doing this

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