The other day I came across this article about the love locks on Paris bridges. You know, the romantic tradition where you and your lover affix a lock to a bridge to symbolise your undying love, and then dramatically toss the keys into the river below.
Except that according to the article this tradition isn’t romantic; it’s vandalism. I suppose they do have a point. It was OK when the first creative and enterprising lover did it. But if each of the hopeless romantics in the world puts a lock on a Paris bridge, all the Paris bridges will sooner or later collapse from the accumulated weight of all those locks. Cutting them off and donating them to charity is a pragmatic solution that I applaud, albeit with a twinge of sentimental regret. Still, perhaps it will have some kind of positive karmic effect on the respective love stories of the romantics involved, so maybe the municipal desecration of the original desecration is a win for everyone.
One of whom, I confess, is myself. Our lock is in Italy, not Paris. Florence, to be exact.
We left it on a railing just off the Ponte Vecchio, flinging our keys into the Arno to immortalise the moment. The article supports this key flinging as the received (although disapproved) procedure; however, shortly after we performed the ritual I encountered an Italian music video that seems to promote an alternative fate for the keys: each person keeping one key. In the video Luca Napolitano wears it romantically on his tennis shoelace; his girlfriend puts her key necklace in her gym bag while she’s at dance practice, precipitating a jealous crisis. I can’t decide which one I like better: casting your love into eternity and Heraclitus’ river of change, or individually clutching the evidence of your love and wearing it on your body at all times. Probably the former, since I’m prone to losing things, and for sure losing the symbol of your undying love is an unfortunate omen.
It had not occurred to me until I read the article that I had performed an act of vandalism. I’m not really in the habit of thinking of myself as a vandal, but I guess I am one. Which prompted me to do some soul-searching about what other acts of vandalism I might have committed in my life.
For example, there was the time when I launched a misguided and ill-fated act of anarchist protest over what I saw as the irrational rivalry between my university and its sworn nemesis. It happened at midnight on the eve of the big football game. I was wearing army fatigues and had a dastardly plan involving red duck tape. The campus security officers who intervened probably saved me from a future life of crime.
But I did my most legitimate act of vandalism in Tunisia. We lived just down the beach from the former despot’s former mansion. On our first giddy date night out without our children in Tunisia we took a romantic walk down that beach, which turned into some sightseeing of the impressive wreckage the revolution had wrought on this most obvious symbol of corrupt presidential luxury. Berlin-wall style, we chipped off a couple of pretty blue tiles from the ruined infinity pool in the backyard. Then we escaped with our booty into the night, feeling a sort of guilty but righteous thrill of gratuitous participation in the Tunisian revolution. We still have the tiles; in fact, they’re one of our most special treaures. I took the photo below this morning: