21 Apr, 2010 | Posted by: photosource
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TOBY AT WORK
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MUSICIANS AT WORK
I was looking for the Paris that you see on posters
or hear about in movies. It’s hard to get a handle on what Paris is.
Paris, and this is just my impression, and I’m not an authority. I feel Paris thinks it’s a bright and glistening new-world machine of fashion turned into business politics and the arts turned into politics and culinary ambitions turned into politics and all of this protected by guards parading around in shiny badges and important-looking funny hats and uniforms.
At other times,
and it depends on the weather, Paris sometimes thinks it’s like a seaport city where sailors come in and trample all over town seeking out its pleasures and sexual delights and then leave the next morning without saying thank you.
At other times, I think Paris thinks it’s a college town with all the social intrigue you get with a bunch of intellectuals slippingly trying to get a hand grip on a level with each other slightly above the level of us student types. Us students are like children, recognize something’s wrong up there in the tower but we’re more interested in seeking out fun rather up than trying to solve the dilemma at headquarters.
I wanted none of those intellectual doings and maneuvers. Go-with-the-flow I always say.
Paris is also a self-conscious small town that’s flits by as you try to grasp it in one thought. That’s the thought I arrived in Paris with. It’s a small town, always looking at itself in a pocket mirror, always guarding and protecting its image of itself. A lot of people migrate to Paris because they want to be associated with this image that Paris has of itself.
I prefer this .
It’s light and gay as the song says. It’s a city where the moon is always shining, and it’s a full moon, too.
Maybe the description of Paris that the trolley car man for the tourist company gives, is the best one.
Rudi and I were bystanders in all of this.
Of course, me being a product of the art school background , I was looking at Paris in an artsy way. Rudi, well I don’t know. I hadn’t known Rudi long enough to figure out what he thought about all of this.
Although I knew the German language well enough to get along on a social level, I didn’t know German on a level to discuss inner meaning levels and that sort of thing. Plus I don’t know if Rudi ever got down to that level of discussion. He was someone to keep the level of conversation more like on replacing a part on the Vespa or keeping feelers out on where we could get our next meal. But that was O.K. ‘cause I think if we started disagreeing on some esoteric subject, we just might end up in a fistfight or so
mething and the whole trip would get miserable. So this was O.K. with me. “Let sleeping dogs lie,” I always said. I wasn’t looking for companionship or affection, I was looking to see the world and get things straightened out in my own head of just what my part in the whole universe scheme of things was.
When we arrived in town, we both knew Paris would like us.
We represented the free spirit that the French people love. Unlike in Belgium and Holland where the country folk we met up with thought we were breaking some sort of rule, or unspoken code, or breaking some actual law by traveling the way we were. The Parisians wondered why more people weren’t doing it.
So, we were welcome in Paris. The guitars on our back, the beards, the precisely packed motor scooter ready for adventure, it all invited a welcome from people. It also helped that the newspaper announced we were in town. At bistros, a drink would arrive at our table from someone across the room with a “thumbs up” sending us a smile. Even the ticket vendor at the Ferris wheel slipped us a ‘free pass’ reserved for celebrities. It all was heady stuff, but we both knew it had to be handled with a delicate touch. And we both knew that when we left Paris and headed south, it would be a new ball game.
Toby worked on his oil painting at nighttime
so he excused himself and suggested we go out to see Paris at night. We quickly learned the ‘Paris at night’ that you hear about and read about is elusive. In other words the popularity of the favorite spots are continually changing. Parisians make it a game in trying to escape the tourists.
We followed the winding back alleys of Saint-Germain-des-Pres
in search of Gertrude Stein or Henry Miller’s 1929 Paris. Well, this was 1957, would it be any different?
In one cellar and out again. Typical Parisian nightlife, where are you? We thought we had found it when we heard strains of Dixieland music coming from a cellar called the “Huchette”. We went down in there to find a mass of university students wildly dancing to something that sounded like New Orleans jazz performed by Parisian musicians. It brought a smile to my face and brought clear to me why French people smile when they see American art students trying to paint another picture of Monmarte or the Eiffel tower the way we Americans smile when we hear foreign musicians trying play jazz. The effort is there but something is always missing.
We turned around and left
just as a tour group from American Express tour Office was entering with its crowd of customers on a ‘visit to typical Parisian night spots’ as we left.
Down a side street, and beside the church of Saint-Germain-de la Pres, we heard the soft harmony of a male voice singing an American folk song. The music came from inside a thick Tudor door that had an Elizabethan sign hanging above: “L’Abbaye”.
Inside it was actually two guys entertaining, --one a Negro the other a White. They were seated at a small, spotlighted stage in the corner. They were both American, but sang folk songs in several languages according to the brochure in the entryway of the oak-paneled 18th century-looking hall. When the song was finished, as if by instruction, the crowd showed their approval not by applause but by snapping their fingers
To me, there was something curious about the lockstep fashion of the audience snapping their fingers like that. First of all, how do you get the initial audience of the evening to snap their fingers? Do you put up a sign in French, “No applause please, snap fingers only.” Or what if they don’t read French? Or what if they’re from Texas? Can you get cowboys to do that?
And besides, how ‘bout me? I can’t snap my fingers, left-handed or right. I never learned how. That would mean I could never show my appreciation for anything that required applause if this finge
r snapping thing spread world-wide!
I wondered what Rudi thought
of the finger snapping. I couldn’t help feeling that Rudi, growing up in Nazi Germany as a youngster was very familiar following a code that came from somewhere above. You don’t question it. You just do it.
The fellows were good singers. But we left when the waiter informed us drinks were 350 francs a go. That’s about a dollar. The fellows were good, but not that good.
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