Many bars in Paris still do not have televisions blaring from every free bit of wall space, luckily. I found myself, briefly in one of the few which did. Ironically, I was not even in the mood for a drink but to use the restroom. My personal sense of etiquette though, I ordered a drink.
The man on the stool next to me asked me about my accent.
With a thumb he points at the television, the thumb being chosen as it was a second class citizen to the index finger and all such displayed vulgarity was worth.
“What’s television like stateside?”
“We have one channel that shows twelve hours a day of either Seinfeld or Friends, NCIS and Law and Order are always on at least two channels in six hour blocks and most channels, when they have time to fill will throw up either one of the fast & Furious movies or Avengers Endgame.”
He could not picture what I was saying and only half understood. Part of him suspected I was having fun at his expense while another part thought perhaps I had devolved into some form of gibberish. He insisted on buying me a drink as to get me to lapse back into the silence of strangers, while in the background a dubbed in French episode of the Mentalist came on. With a weary smile, the bartender pushed a small bowl of stale pretzels towards us as he went searching for either the bottle or remote.
Jim Morrison wanted to give up the rock star thing and become a full time author/poet. Many people pointed to his lyrics, citing those as evidence that he was pretty much already a poet. Jim Morrison is like Baudelaire or , as he was rebellious and died young, Rimbaud. Jim Morrison is like Rimbaud, unless you have read Rimbaud.
Even in North America, if one lives in the heart of a major city, eventually many strangers will see your private moments. Padding across a room naked, scratching or one of a million other things we all do. What separates us from beasts (usually, but slowly devolving to a 50-50 split) is the knowledge not to do these things in public.
You can have a bathrobe at the ready etc, reminding yourself every time you get up, who knows how many eyes are watching. Eventually though, all city dwellers become desensitized.
Paris is special in that even the smaller, cheaper apartments have the French windows or if not in this style, oddly shaped or strangely positioned. The way the buildings are piled up, at night I have many tiny illuminated in old- halogen- gold stage sets. You see people going about their lives, the erotic, the mundane, sometimes the poetic.
Like the time I watched a man building a model boat. He was skinny, bespeckled with sockless chuck Taylor sneakers, never a shirt and always some kind of sweat pants. No matter what music I put on, that season was mainly Chopin, it seemed to perfectly sync up with the scene he was acting out. Once the tiny ship was built, I never again saw his square of light against the dark silhouette of the building.
Being a demi Parisian, I know that I have had my time in being on the menu for the night’s programming. There he is, in bed pen dancing pirouettes upon the paper, book in hand he never falls asleep reading but snaps light off at proper end of chapter. Two corners of the bedsheets in hand, he is snapping them in the air with the flourish of a bullfighter before allowing them to float back down upon the mattress.
An interesting thing, during the day, it’s hard to tell what windows you had seen into at night.
I have always said that you can tell how great a city is by its relationship with cats. The best cities have plenty of cats to be seen in windows and walking along the streets.
My studio, when seated at my table a window two floors below mine and across is a fat cat I’ve named Porthos for his girth. Should I ever meet the owners and they introduce me, giving a different name, I will tell them that they are wrong.
One day as I was getting ready go to work, Porthos wasn’t in his usual spot but peripherally my eyes saw movement from a different apartments’.
There were two little kids in pajamas playing. I am horrible at knowing how old children are, a boy and girl maybe eight-ish. I thought it odd they weren’t dressed yet. Maybe they were tourists having arrived from far away, their internal clocks had not yet normalized.
Over the next few weeks, whenever I happen to glance by that window, the two kids still in pajamas, playing. It was weird because Paris has so many parks. You actually see children with their peers, with their parents, playing ping ping, chess and the Luxembourg Gardens has a large center fountain where you can rent a tiny toy sailboat by the hour. Yet this pair always seemed to be in that room.
After three weeks there was one change, a large tipi, but it was made of plastic, sort of Fisher Price(y). It gave them an unsettling Thirteen Ghosts aesthetic.
Once the sun went down that window never lit up and now I am pretty sure those two kids are ghosts.
(all pics by me)
One of the things I have always treasure about Paris is how much great art is to be had just walking in the parks. There are some beautiful Giacometti’s, works by not as well know artist but beautiful none the less. Ages ago I used to go on Sundays to the Cantor Center at Stanford. They had a giant de kooning bronze. Rare because he did not really do too much sculpture, especially at that size.
Right as I found myself really getting into his work, the sculpture was gone. It ended up in the Jardin Tuileries across from one my favorite Parisian bookstores.
Art aside, the parks are a treat. Delacroix, even when older and famous would regularly still go the the Jardin des Plantes to sketch. The Luxembourg Gardens is large and has many paths laid out with different feels to them. Found among all these paths and trails are all types of statues, flowers, flowerbeds and plaques.
Many of my friends are in the service industry, restauranters or bartenders. General consensus is that the two worst nations exporting tourists are the English and then Americans. England should not feel too bad though ,as most of the worst America has to offer proudly have no passports.
Any place in which Spanish is spoken, the English merely add an “O” to the word and say it several times louder as if this were a spell transmogrifying it into Spanish. For French they add a “Le” and roll their tongue a bit like Johnny rotten at the mic in a huff.
I was walking the ‘Luxe. There is a moving, large statue in remembrance of the holocaust with, in case one couldn’t figure out what was going on, a plaque at its base.
I watched a group of American girls in athleisure wear, with central pony tails clamber to the base of the statue, all turn semi sideways to face camera, in what many articles have said is ideal positioning, while making phony gang signs and letting mixed drink coated tongues stick from the corners of their mouths until the snap of the camera.
This is a direct effect of what we get when we try to get rid of unpleasant things from history books. This is how people act when there is zero empathy because they do not know from anything other than what has directly impacted their lives.
If you like what I say or how I say it, my books are available via amazon for kindle & paperback