One afternoon this past July, as my wife and I exited the Louvre at closing time through I.M. Pei’s glass pyramid onto the museum’s main court, a young couple from Australia stopped me to ask about the t-shirt I was wearing. I had bought it at a Sun Ra Arkestra concert at the Club Ono in London a couple of weeks earlier and had since discovered when I wore it that it invited people to approach me.
While we were exchanging Sun Ra stories with the wonderful Aussie couple, a man suddenly appeared casually walking a goat across the courtyard. Like other stunned onlookers, we pondered the scene and tried to figure out what was going on.
Is the bearded man a chef? … The goat didn’t look like dinner—no sign of a baguette or bottle of wine.
Is the goat a pet, like a dog? … Sounds reasonable. But where do you keep a goat in Paris?
Is the goat his mistress? … Love of livestock doesn’t seem to fit within the tradition of French libertinage—the tradition of the Marquis de Sade, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, François Hollande, etc.—but, hey, I’m just an uncouth foreigner who knows nothing of such things. And anyway, what if the goat’s a boy? Instead of Marie, it’s Maurice. The thought takes me back to the dog theory. It’s a dog. It has to be a dog.
But wait, another possibility exists. Given where we were (in front of a glass pyramid), and given the conversation we were having, maybe we were experiencing a Sun Ra moment. We saw the goat—the symbol of Capricorn, which is ruled by the planet Saturn, where Sun Ra was born—the instant we started talking about Sonny.
I know it’s a stretch to see the cosmos at work here. Just like I know that goat is a dog … I mean that dog is a goat … I mean I don’t know what I mean … That’s why it’s a bloody mystery … “The Mystery of the French Dog.”
And that’s all there is to it. A mystery. No happy ending, folks. No parlor scene where every clue is pieced together until the puzzle is solved. No such luck. It’s just a cloudy afternoon in Paris where a man walks his goat across the Louvre’s main court and leaves us to wonder at the art of it all.