Sunday, July 12, 2009

Footsteps of DLS – Day One – Paris

We begin a small but significant project that came together providentially some eight months ago, when in an email exchange with Br. Gerard Rummery of Australia, I’d mentioned my hope of “some time” working with him in doing an interactive DVD pilgrimage of De La Salle's life journey. He suggested we’d do it this summer, since he’d be coming to Saint Mary’s College anyway and it would be less expensive to simply keep on flying on to Europe rather than doing so again later.

And so I quickly wrote up a short proposal, with a very modest budget, spoke with various people in charge about it, and then submitted the proposal to the Visitors at their January meeting. They endorsed it, somewhat to my surprise, and here we are. Key to the project was getting Br. Roch Dufresne on board. His knowledge and experience in the area of video production was essential. Fortunately, he was available and interested. And so last Easter Week the two of us spent our “vacation” scouting locations throughout France and doing initial “B roll” filming. See previous blog entries about all that. Since April, he’s been collecting (or making) needed gear, looking over the locations Br. Gerard suggested, and the like. We also hired one of Br. Roch’s former students from Christian Brothers High School in Sacramento, Scott Sanbourne, to be a second cameraman, grip, lighting guy, etc. My role is to generally stay out of the way, drive the van, hold up the microphone and lights, do what Br. Roch asks on location, and make sure we don't spend too much money. More importantly, I'll be feeding questions to Br. Gerard when he's "on camera" and working towards producing the basic video elements for the final result.

For this first week, Roch, Scott and I will be going to many of the same places we were last Easter and getting all the footage necessary that will complement Br. Gerard's contribution. He will arrive next week, and from then on we will concentrate exclusively on filming his "stand up" input at the various locations throughout France that are associated with St. John Baptist de La Salle.

It all began yesterday. Scott and I boarded the direct Air France flight from SFO and landed in CDG some 10+ hours later. It was a farily uneventful flight, although turbulence is always a bit disturbing, especially after that Air France crash a few months ago. I find that air turbulence on a plane journey is a great asset to one’s prayer life.

Once off the plane in Paris, we collected our luggage and made our way to the Eurocar counter for our reserved rental van. It took a bit of “negotiations” to get the right-sized van for our needs, but after an hour’s wait, we were making our way (carefully!) through the Paris traffic to 78A Rue de Sevres and the Brothers’ “Maison” – which is both a Brothers community and a sort of hotel. The van is none too new or clean, but it will suffice and has lots of room; necessary because of the luggage and equiptment that we’ll be carrying around France.

Since it was Sunday afternoon, the Brothers weren’t around, but I was able to get in and open the gate into the courtyard where we could park the van. Then Br. Christian appeared and we soon had our rooms. Outside, I’d run into Br. Joel McGraw from the East Coast, with whom I'd been on a retreat a couple of years ago. He was on a Lasallian pilgrimage himself, along with Br. Peter Hannon, a classmate of his, and Br. Kevin Dalmasse, whom I knew from the Buttimer Institute. He invited us to an organ concert at Notre Dame commencing in an hour, so after 20 minutes settling into our room we were on the Metro bound for Notre Dame.

It took a bit of orientation once we popped out of the Metro to see where the church might be, but we eventually go there, blended seamlessly and with apparent ignorance into the long line of visitors into the church (very near the front of the line, of course) and were soon seated in that ancient, cavernous, beautiful space, listening to a Danish organist (Grethe Krosh) playing dissonant, strange, but somewhat haunting works by “Fuzzy” (that's what it said on the program) on that grand organ. It was soothing music – up to the point when he would lay his elbow on the keyboard with all the pipes turned on – and I took several short naps, abruptly interrupted by very loud chords every once in a while. But it was all quite interesting.

Afterwards, Scott and I wandered off to explore the nearby streets, including one alley that was a street market of bird vendors. Soon he was ready to return to the Maison, since he was beginning to experience the “fog of flight” and it’s 9-hour jet-lag (a new experience for him). We went into the Latin Quarter nearby, found a nice outdoor restaurant and had a leisurely dinner before heading back to the Brothers via the Metro. Once back, we made a short stop at corner grocery store – it was about the size of a good walk-in closet – where we bought some water and then made our way back to our rooms, where Scott swore he would simply collapse on his bed and not awake for some ten or so hours. We’ll see. I told him he’d likely wake up at 3 AM; wide awake.

It’s now Monday morning, and I’m hunting for wifi so that I can upload this blog entry. I finally found an unsecured signal from one of the neighbors, which is a particularly generous form of contemporary charity, as far as I’m concerned. With all these ancient, thick, stone or cement walls, wifi signals almost don’t have a chance even if the unit is located 20 feet away.

Br. Roch arrives today around noon, and Scott and I will go to pick him up at the airport. After that, the work truly begins.

I’ll try to keep these blogs up during our journey, depending on time commitments and the availability of wifi or the like. The least that these reports will do is provide a daily record for me to refer to in the future. My memory is turning more and more into Swiss cheese, it seems, when I’d really like it to be a good, solid, old Gouda.