The banging was first heard somewhere in the Alsace countryside, an hour or so after the train left Basel. For some reason, local worthies invariably pronounce the city’s name the French way, making it sound like the pagan deity denounced by the Hebrew prophets. The temples of Baal, in this unconscious interpretation, are the ubiquitous banks, I suppose, but having spent a few days as a guest of one of the high priests here, I had better hold my tongue. Ryltse v pushku, as the Russians say, there is down on my own muzzle. It was delicious, whatever it was.

The city is silent, except for the nearly inaudible hum of money being made, so the sudden insolence of all that banging was all the more jarring. On inspection, its source turned out to be the restaurant car, where a grim Frenchman kept rattling bottles and trays. He did so out of a sense of duty, and the noise seemed to echo his innermost thoughts. This is my job—bang, bang, rattle, rattle—he was thinking, and personally—bang, rattle, bang—I’d much rather be drinking coffee, but some of us—bang, bang, bang—have to work for a living.

We thought of the garbage collectors in Rome. The noise they made had no subtext, they did not think dark thoughts as they banged away. They would be at it between 6:00 and 6:30 in the morning, beneath our windows in Via Monte della Forina, throwing bits of scrap metal, old pipes, and other handy construction debris into the air, then picking them up and throwing them again and again, until 8:00, when it was time to start moving the garbage bins around and repeat the whole performance using only the low bass notes of which the new instruments were so marvelously capable. The third and final transcription of the piece—to be raced through molto vivace in just under half an hour, by 9:00, when citizens of Rome would start opening their window shutters—consisted of shouts, laughter, and serial experiments with the truck engine (which invariably rose to the occasion and produced animal, sometimes even human sounds rarely associated with that coarse, prosaic invention popularized by Henry Ford). There was no guile in any of this, no intention whatever to cause offense or inconvenience, no attempt to attract attention. Nor was this work in any conventional sense of the word, work as routine, as activity essential to survival; it was only work as poets understand it, which is why these people took three hours to “do” what could have been “done” in five minutes. They could have been drinking coffee instead, but they chose to work. Work is joy, and joy is sometimes inefficient.

Thus, as the train sped on towards Paris, the contrast with the calculated, underhanded noise of the working Gaul was obvious to the ear. Here was the aural midpoint between Swiss Money and Italian Pleasure: French Resentment.

The last of the pre-election rallies were on the march then, the marchers getting ready to vote their spite. It was clear that the candidate best able to muster the nation’s social envy in the most underhanded way would win. But we did not take the detour to watch the French vent their spite and make fresh mayonnaise. Paris is blessed with Russian restaurants—40 when last counted—and even a dinner at the modest Au Regal, in rue Nicolo, makes such a trip worthwhile. We ate our pelmeni seated across from Bakunin’s great-grandson, who happily harvests the fruits of social order as a professional masseur. The family must have known it would come to a bad end when Misha was tossed from the First International in 1872 (“Don’t say I didn’t warn you,” Karl must have told them).

Unlike the summer, April does not draw many Americans to the Continent. To make the condition permanent, we thought, someone should propose to Donald Trump the following ambitious undertaking. Why not build Europe in New York, or say New Jersey, complete with important monuments (Eiffel Tower, Houses of Parliament, Colosseum), cultural relics (Stonehenge, bits of the Vatican, some Paris cafes), and so on. Much of this has already been done piecemeal (Yale’s Oxbridge colleges, for example, or the House of Pancakes). New York already boasts the world’s largest Gothic cathedral, St. John the Divine. But the idea of a whole Disneyland of Europe—in Trump l’oeil, as it were—would have tremendous appeal!

As a project of Trumpeuropa (registered trademark), Europeland (registered trademark) would be very cheap to build: most buildings could be twodimensional, in the manner of Potemkin villages and Hollywood stage sets, since their main purpose, in the first place, is to provide a backdrop for family photographs. One or two could be working replicas, and another would be a kind of temple of world culture, its contents decided upon by the editors of the New York Times.

It would be marvelous, for example, if the vestry doors of a famous church could actually lead to a replica of Freud’s house in Vienna, while the British Museum Library, at last renamed the Karl Marx Library, could be filled with books written by the Times contributors over the years. Small historical inaccuracies would probably pass unnoticed (besides, since the Times would be given a piece of the cultural action, retired schoolteachers and other media gadflies would have nowhere to vent their complaints).

Thus Donald Trump himself (and his wife Ivana) would be able to carve out for himself (and his wife Ivana) a major niche in European history. Brezhnev, for example, was fairly modest (given the opportunities at his disposal) when he made himself the most important military commander of World War II, and there is no reason why Trump could not do him one better, indispensable as his leadership was in the Franco-Prussian, the Russo- Japanese, and the Boer wars, not to mention the Korean action and the Vietnam conflict. A war museum, crammed with Trump memorabilia, could be erected on the site, with Paul Nitze as custodian, Henry Kissinger as archivist, and Larry Speakes as tour guide. . . .

. . . That banging again! I must have dozed off. This is what happens when a vodka drinker not content with Ryabinovka (rowanberry) goes on to Admiralteiskaya (Siberian cranberry). . . . What a nightmare.