Gothic Flames From Notre Dame

Written Apr 16, 2019

After Viktor Malenski was murdered outside the Continental Lounge on the Far Westside by persons unknown, I fled New York to Paris. 1982 was a good year for a fugitive in the City of Light. I worked at a popular nightclub, wrote poetry in my journals, and lived in the garret of a Marais Hotel with a view of the towers of Notre-Dame.

Over my six-year stay in Paris I must have passed the soot-blackened Cathedral a thousand times. I never ignored the Gothic gem and usually entered through the front and exited through a wooden door in a recessed apse behind the main altar, haunted by a ghost of Victor Hugo.

Quasimodo, the Roi de le Couer des Miracles, had reigned the bell towers in THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME.

The malformed man loved Esmerelda, a beautiful Gitane danseur.

The Church had no love for them.

Just another reason for my atheism.

Yet the cathedral’s eastern rosette window was a wonder to behold with the dawn light streaming through the carved glass.

Once I was guided through the Foret. The lead roof was supported by thousand of centuries-old planks and beams hewed from the Bois de Vincennes. The hardwood smelled of the ages beyond the 20th Century.

My friend Tony from the Studio restaurant on Rue du Temple regularly prayed to the statue of Black Michael beneath the six-thousand pipe organ.

“He was Lucifer’s brother.”

The angel was playing a clarion horn. Tony was into metal and said, “Sabbath, Bloody Sabbath.”

I had been raised a Catholic, but had been a devout atheist since the age of eight and certainly no devil worshipper. I respected the beliefs of others as long as they didn’t interfere with my wicked life, however one Easter I had played backgammon at a Left Bank apartment with several Peruvian drug dealers. All night long I had beaten them mercilessly and exited with my winnings and two slender dancers from the Moulin Rouge dressed in matching gold lame short-shorts and tube tops.

Another cathedral of Paris.

The procession approached the main doors. I told the girls to hurry up or else we were obliged to walk to the next bridge. The three of us scurried across the cobblestones. The bishop regarded us as Satan and his hand maidens. I crossed myself in reverse. His eyes widened with horror. I smiled and blessed with with a raised palm and mouthed in Latin, “Nunc autem Christus resurrexit.”

LIke I said I had been raised a Catholic by nuns, priests, brothers, and in the THE WAY OF THE FLESH Samuel Butler wrote aptly, “Learning Latin shows that you don’t have to know everything in the world.”

The girls and I retired to the Brasserie de Ile St. Louis to drink champagne and listen to the strains of the pipe organ. It was a glorious day in the shadow of the cathedral


I departed from Paris in 1986.

I went back often to see friends.

In 2011 I strolled along the Seine after a rain storm.

Notre-Dame wasn’t on my path until 2011.

A rainbow arced over the cathedral. The soot and car exhaust has been scrubbed from the facade. Notre Dame shone in the sun.

It had stood in that spot for over eight hundreds years and looked like it was bound to survive the extinction of man and God.


Forever doesn’t last long in the modern world.

The cathedral had fallen into neglect. The upkeep cost were only $2 million a year. The structure was falling apart at the seams and the guardians decided to replaced the two-hundred year-old spire above the main altar. Something went wrong and a fire spread up the tower melting the lead slates into molten lava. The foret burned out of control. Church officials saved what was outside the flames. The firemen geysered water over the cathedral.

The fire went unstoppable.

The spire toppled onto the roof.

The interior was abandoned to the conflagration.

In the morning the final embers were doused with water.

The bell towers had not fallen like the Twin Towers.

Dawn brought on blame and promises of renewal.

If not for Notre Dame, then for the love of Quasimodo.

He was not real, but neither is God.

Only love and compassion.


ps France only has 34% Catholics. Let them pay for the restoration of Notre Dame after paying the victims of child abuse.

Until then Notre-Dame should remain in ruins.

In transit gloria.

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