— Elaine Dundy American journalist, actress 1921 - 2008
Context: I stumbled across the Champs Élysées. I know it seems crazy to say, but before I actually stepped onto it (at what turned out to be the Étoile ) I had not even been aware of its existence. No, I swear it. I’d heard the words "Champs Élysées," of course, but I thought it was a park or something. I mean that’s what it sounds like, doesn’t it? All at once I found myself standing there gazing down that enchanted boulevard in the blue, blue evening. Everything seemed to fall into place. Here was all the gaiety and glory and sparkle I knew was going to be life if I could just grasp it.
I began floating down those Elysian Fields three inches off the ground, as easily as a Cocteau character floats through Hell. Luxury and order seemed to be shining from every street lamp along the Avenue; shining from every window of its toyshops and dress-shops and carshops; shining from its cafés and cinemas and theaters; from its bonbonneries and parfumeries and nighteries.… Talk about seeing Eternity in a Grain of Sand and Heaven in a Wild Flower; I really think I was having some sort of mystic revelation then. The whole thing seemed like a memory from the womb. It seemed to have been waiting there for me.
For some people history is a Beach or a Tower or a Graveyard. For me it was this giant primordial Toyshop with all its windows gloriously ablaze. It contained everything I’ve ever wanted that money can buy. It was an enormous Christmas present wrapped in silver and blue tissue paper tied with satin ribbons and bells. Inside would be something to adorn, to amuse, and to dazzle me forever. It was my present for being alive.
Part One, One