28 Apr, 2010 | Posted by: photosource


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My Story

# 16

Toby returned to work on his painting in the early evening. He kept his colors in beer bottles, the kind that has a ceramic top on them and a little rubber washer and then a wire contraption that let’s you snap it shut real tight so the tempera color inside doesn’t dry up. When he was ready to start his painting he would pour a dab of each of the five colors into five glasses like a martini glass or Manhattan glass and mix his colors on a board beside him. “I like this tempera,” Toby said. “Oils are too messy. It’s hard to clean the brushes. And they’re smelly. And it takes too long to dry. Tempera dries fast. You can paint right over top of it if you don’t like how the color turns out. ”
Toby was a meticulous guy and his paintings were kinda like that too, all detailed and correct. I didn’t tell him about my painting exhibition back in Sommerhausen when I was still in the Army. Like Rudi says, “Play dumb, you can’t learn anything when you’re talking.”

Toby was a real good salesman. One thing I learned was that he took all of his paintings down by the river (he had fifteen completed) and stood them up alongside the bridge. “I always go to the same location every time, so if any of the tourists are in Paris for more than a week, they might come back a second time to the same spot to see if I’m there. I’ve sold two of them that way. One guy and his wife from Indiana, and a young girl and her mother from San Francisco.” Toby said.

He really didn’t need the money, so he aimed high with his price, like $250, (about 38,000 1957 francs francs) but he’d always come down $10 when they started to haggle.

“I didn’t want to lose respect so I never came lower than ten dollars,” Toby said.

So, it was early evening and Toby had returned to his work on the painting.
I left him alone to go out wandering in the streets. The outdoor cafes were closing down and with them went that wonderful fragrance. You could tell by the fragrance if a breeze was blowing through Paris if there was an outdoor café coming up in your walk by the coffee aroma. If you’re walking in the early morning, you could tell that with the bakeries too in Paris and they have a lot of ma ‘n’ pa Patiseries and Boulangeries because the French love those ‘just out of the oven’ long loaf baggetts. And you can also smell the chocolateries and the cosmetic shop. They all run together sometime which makes a groove in your memories of Paris.

It was dusk and I strolled along the Seine for a while. It was like strolling along the surf in my hometown back in Ocean City, Maryland. I’d wave to a beach patrol guy up in his high tower watch chair, or I’d wave to his girl friend sunning on a beach towel below, or I’d wave to whoever I wanted to and the girl would wave back, sometimes.

This was different. How’re you going to wave to strangers in Paris when you take a stroll? They’d probably think you were a creep or something. I felt lonely as I passed among couples stretched out along the sloping banks of the Seine. It was just before sundown and with a setting sun off to the west, it all reflected the skyline of Paris in the river. It was growing dark and I walked until the reflections disappeared into the dark of night.
I wondered what Rudi was doing at this time. He no doubt was with that girl, probably a German girl. Who knows? When girls are involved anything could happen. I thought about it. What if I were to be left alone in Paris? I didn’t like the thought. He’ll come back, I thought. If nothing else, all of his belongings were all back at Toby’s. This’ll be a test.

It was dark down by the river. I headed up for a section of Paris called Pigalle, the quick-fun, quarter of Paris, like Coney Island. I stepped down into a bar called, “The Three Brothers,” and took a seat between two strangers at an empty bar stool. There were five people sitting at a table near the bar. I watched their happy conversation. One attractive dark-skinned girl kept catching my eye. When the jukebox began to play, her friends left the table to dance and I went over to her.
“O.K.” she smiled.
As I embraced her, I felt her warm body snuggle against mine. And I decided she was interested in more than dancing with me. As the song lingered on, she danced with increased passion and as I talked with her I felt the firmness of her tapering torso and rounded limbs.
“My name’s Rohn, what’s yours?”
“Lullalia,” she said, drawing back suddenly to look at me with black enchanting eyes, and a coquettish smile.”
“Where do you come from?” I said, holding her at a distance, enjoying her gypsy beauty.
“I’m from Budapest, and I’ve been in Paris one year,” she said, drawing me in to her as the music was ending.
She joined me at the bar after dancing, and we spent two beers convincing each other what nice people we were. “I like you very much, Rohn” she said drawing little figures on the back of my hand that lay on her thigh. “Let’s go home.”
“Hone? But what will your parents say?” I said a little confused.
“They live too far away she said modestly, cocking her head and looking up at me blushing. I don’t mean that kind of home, ” She smiled, squeezing my hand.
I figured out which home she meant. I paid the bartender and we left.
We turned the corner by the bar and walked up the narrow street toward a lamplight. When we reached the light there was another light over a door to a small hotel that read “Hotel Dubois”.
We started walking up the stairs and Lullalia stopped. “Wait, you stay here…” she whispered, “They’ll never believe we’re man and wife.”

That was O.K. with me because I know back in Ocean City, it was against the law for hotel keepers to allow a man and woman who weren’t actually married to sleep in the same room in a hotel. I think the fine was $300. Pretty high! And they would set a court trial for you too.
“Well then, let me order the room,” I whispered back in a raspy voice.
“No, no, with your accent, they’ll charge you twice as much, she giggled”
“What’s it going to cost?” I said.
?? ?Not more than a 3000 francs,” she whispered.
That was fair enough but I only had a 5,000-franc note with me and gave it to her and she turned to go up the stairs.
“Wait,” I said. “I grabbed her waist with both hands and drew her in to me. I kissed her wildly. I drew my hand across her tight ass and then ran it up to her breast and with a soft feel said, “See you soon my beauty!” She went tripping up the steps, her black hair bouncing along with her excited steps.
Gad! I thought to myself, as she stopped and looked back at me and winked before she opened the front door. “How did I luck into this gypsy gal, so pretty and SO Paris!
I could see her trim figure disappear in silhouette as she opened the door and the light of the hotel entryway rushed out. It closed. And I waited.
And that was the last time I ever saw Lullalia.

I waited a few more minutes outside, and then, realizing what had happened to me I ran up the steps and thrust myself into the doorway to find a solemn set of crusty old men playing cards in the miniature lobby. A gray-haired desk clerk peered over the rim of his glasses when my entrance disturbed his newspaper reading. I started to ask him, “Did you see a girl..….?” And I thought how silly I would sound. I turned and left.

I walked and walked, sometimes laughing out loud at how easily I had been fooled, and then I howled, thinking of losing the 5,000 francs. I wondered what Rudi would have to say.
Well, I felt like getting drunk. What happened is I didn’t go out and get drunk. No. I did one better than that. Here’s what happened next. But let me give you a preview. It was still early evening. It wasn’t even midnight.

It began when I tried to find some good music. I still had some francs left. I wanted to find a place where I could curl up in a ball and listen to some good jazz.
If you know the music of Charlie Parker you know how it puts you in a trance if you’re not careful. That’s what I was looking for at this moment.
Let me backtrack.
During the late 40’s I had a high school girlfriend who had a record player and we used to play “Bird” and Dizzy Gillespie and all the top be-bop greats when her parents were gone for the weekend or on a trip. Parents in those days always dismissed anything new in music as evil and from the devil.
I guess this wickedness hung on with me because when I saw the signboard “The Mystique,” above the entryway to a Parisian jazz club down some stone basement steps into a cellar area, I was drawn by the sound inside. A lot of smoke greeted me at the door. It was easy to find a table in a corner; the late night crowd probably hadn’t arrived yet.
New music style takes a long time, sometimes, to get from one country to the next and while Rock ‘n’ Roll was just now getting established in the USA, be-bop was just getting going in Paris.
I was half finished with my red wine as the group came back from their break. They tinkered around with tuning and adjusting their equipment and lighting. There were five of them.
The boys were not bad, especially the alto sax kid. He had probably bought every record Charlie Parker ever put out. He was on a mission to do Charlie Parker one better. You could see some flashes of brilliance every now and then in his music. It was fresh and good-hearted music with a sense of warmth. The kid had talent.
And that’s what I hate to see in many brilliant musicians, they lead such an unhealthy life, drugs and all but they’re on to powerful statements, the kind you want to die for. You don’t have to understand it; you only have to receive it. They can open up a peephole and let you see things like the meaning of life and all that. And this kid could do it.
I wondered if he would ever make it past 30. He was probably an American,
I ordered an other glass of wine. A French girl with a red flower in her hair sat down in the chair next to me. I continued listening to the group, especially the sax player. She could see I was in some deep concentration and reached over and touched the back of my hand. When I didn’t respond, she got up and left.

What I mean with jazz is, and I mean good jazz, not the textbook stuff, when it all comes together it hits me. This guy on the alto sax had it all together. When music is right it flows right to me and through me and around me. Tonight, it was all because of him. I can’t really explain it anymore than like when you see some girl and you’re immediately in love. No questions. No numbers. You’re just in love. And in the case with music there’s no explanation needed. Nothing to figure out. You just sit there, have another glass of wine and be transported.

Like anything else that’s creative, you see it, or you hear it, or you watch it, or you read it and you’re gone. You don’t question it. You quietly absorb it. You don’t analyze it, like you don’t listen to see if it’s in tune, or harmony or spacing or if it’s out of rhythm, those mechanical things; it’s almost like you’re hearing it without letting it come through your ears. I know this is true because I’ve been in places where there’s good music and my date will ask me a question and bam! She asks it again and pretty soon she’s talking to some other guy at the table next to me because I’m in a daze of some kind. I know I’m not the only one like this cause other guys have told me they get entranced like that when they’re reading a good book and they miss the bus stop or the train station where they were supposed to get off. And that’s the nice thing about good art because it truly does have the gift to transport you away from a life that’s getting tough or probably not very exciting.

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