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At the time we all lived in Montreal, and my brothers and sisters went to a French private acad- to the cafeteria for lunch.I was the only one in an English-speaking school and became oddly, or maybe not so oddly, the only one to fall entirely in love with France.Everybody else in the crowd of thirteen or so people on the platform,mostly moms and dads and kids, are running around and making conversation and comforting children and buying tickets for the next trip and doing all the things people still do on station platforms in Paris.The device on the ticket window, like the title of the cartoon, reads: "A Railroad: From Paris to the Moon."The cartoon is, in part, a satire on the stock market of the time and on railway share manipulations.Sometime in the mid-sixties my mother, who has a flair for the odd, ready-made present, found I suppose in an Air France office in Philadelphiaa life-size cardboard three-dimensional cutout ofa Parisian policeman.He had on a blue uniform and red kepi and blue cape, and he wore a handlebar mustache and a smile.

The only genuine pleasure I recall that he finds in this unsmiling and rainy universe is when he leaves the balloon outside a tempting-looking bakery and goes in to buy a cake.When they die, Wilde wrote, all good Americans go to Paris.Some of us have always tried to get there early and beat the crowds. I had a lot of pictures of the place in my head and even a Parisian object, what I suppose I'd have to call an icon, in my bedroom.I suppose the two pillars are stronger than they look.

The train is departing at twilightpresumably its an overnight tripand among the crowd on the ground below, only a couple of top-hatted bourgeois watch the lunar express go on its way with any interest, much less wonder.

"Not long after we moved to Paris, in the fall of 1995, my wife, Martha, and I saw, in the window of a shop on the rue Saint-Sulpice, a nineteenth-century engraving, done in the manner, though I'm now inclined to think not from the hand, of Daumier.