31 Mar, 2010 | Posted by: photosource

My Story



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I remember back in Wuerzburg, I told Rick “If I make it to Paris, that’ll be good enough for me. You can put on my gravestone, ‘I made it to Paris.’”. But of course, what I probably meant was I wanted to leave Paris with memories like Hemingway or Fitzgerald and those guys –smiling.
I had seen enough movies about Paris that I felt it like a second home. As a former art student like I was, it was a goal for many of us students to feel that way. And you know something, Hitler used to be an art student also and he must’ve felt that way too. Maybe that was his reason for not burning Paris when he had the chance when his German army left Paris when the Allied Forces landed in France. It’s funny how art connects us all.

The French language is not easy to learn. Well, I shouldn’t say that because as soon as we crossed the border, I saw kids running around, 5 and 6 years old, speaking French fluently. At the Army Language School back in Monterey, California, six French persons (one was a lady) who were from six different parts of France taught us recruits so that we didn’t come away from the six-month Army Language School course with a regional accent of some kind. One thing they didn’t tell us is that the French people will be talking to you twice as fast as normal people do.

Before arriving in Paris, I got along O.K. with my “school French” as we traveled the countryside where the farm people were gracious enough to speak slowly to me to help me get my meaning across. Often they would speak loudly also, almost to the point of shouting, because their only experience with a person who couldn’t quite understand them was because they were hard of hearing.

But I found in Paris the city people had little patience with me and would simply walk away in the middle of a sentence when I was asking directions or some other question. Of course, what irritated me at first with this is they didn’t know I had spent six months learning their language and it was their fault they didn’t understand their own language. But I eventually came to understand with the French people that the way I was speaking their language, the rhythm and the accent, is an insult to them and that I was butchering their hallowed language to a point where they didn’t like to listen to me speaking it.

I had seen movies and heard about a lot of the places on our map that showed us the place to make our grand entrance. It was the railro ad station, the Gare D’Orsay. From there you can see the Seine with all its bookstalls and fishermen and touring boats, Notre Dame where the hunchback resided, The Gardens of Tuileries, the Place de la Concord, the Louvre where Mona Lisa awaits us. The Eiffel Tower was nearby too, and the Arc de Triomphe where we spun around counter-clockwise, just to see if we could escape the circling traffic and get out alive without a crash. We did and found ourselves on the upper end of the Champs Elysees, that’s the famous wide street with all the fancy shoppes and bistros and anything that has to do with world business including the fashion industry.

Good ol’ Lindbergh in 1927 chose Paris to fly into on his flight across the Atlantic and got some very good reception from the French people.

So why not us?

Up to this point, Rudi had more or less taken a tourist type of approach to his own travels to India. He was happy to see there was more dimension available to him with the way I was handling a new aspect of the trip that he hadn’t thought about yet.

That is, rather than just being spectators on our trip, we could get a better understanding of the people and the country we found ourselves in if we could become more three-dimensional to the people through a newspaper article about us.

I didn’t exactly know what I was doing, but he was happy to see me do the job and if it worked, we could both smile. If it didn’t, whatdaheck, we’d just move on.

Up to this point, Rudi had been the take over guy. And I was happy to be a part of the trip. But now I could see I had a contribution to make and Rudi was satisfied about that. I think our time in Paris bonded our relationship a little better and we became real partners.

My first thought in Paris was to find a popular newspaper in town and find their address. A cheap way to find out is to look on park benches, empty café tables, and in trash cans (we couldn’t afford to buy even a newspaper).

Our secret ticket at the big newspaper office in Paris was to flash the newspaper photo and article the Brussels newspaper had printed. But I learned something else and that is in the big cities, like Paris, they always have competition from another newspaper in town. In other words we didn’t have to go into a newspaper office, hat in hand, wishin’ they would do a story on us, like they were doing us a favor or something. Instead we would go in there like we were doing them a favor. After all, interesting feature articles like us sells newspapers for them.

Another thing I learned is, and if you ever take a trip like this, this is important, is to be sure to carry along a journal, sort of like a scrapbook where you paste in handwritten notes from well-wishers and fans along the way, and photos from people who would take them out of their wallet and paste them in my scrapbook.. All the way from Wuerzburg I had constructed ten or fifteen pages already. I kept these diary pages hooked together with two metal rings and people could flip through the pages and look at both sides.

At the Dutch, Belgian, and French border crossing, I asked the officials to rubber stamp the book’s current page with their country’s rubber stamp. This is especially useful because it gives you kind of an “official” look to your trip. Especially if a policeman stopped you somewhere just to acquire what these two guys on a Vespa were all about.

Now, back at the newspaper office, you have to remember all these people in newspaper offices like to get a “scoop” And what we learned was when we went into the first big newspaper, La Figaro, the feature editor was off to lunch and the receptionist gave me the editor’s business card and told us he would be back at 2pm. Well, we didn’t want to wait around and went to another newspaper offi ce and it happened to be the most prominent newspaper in Paris, Le Monde, like the New York Times in the USA.

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