Friday, May 6, 2016

Paris: Day One

Arrive at Charles de Gaulle Airport. Like its namesake, the place is imposing, loud, and really makes no sense. Long, snaking lines of more ethnic groups than a 1980s Benetton ad. Su and I stand in one for a thousand years. Finally emerge from customs/baggage rigamarole into the actual terminal. Now, how do we get out of this glass cage? Look around, no exit. Keep looking, still no exit. Agggh! We're trapped in a giant glass homage to Sartre! Wait ...there it is!

The door out. The beautfiul glorious door out. 

So we're out. We find a taxi ... or a taxi finds us. Algerian taxi driver drives us to city. (The dude specifically said, "Je ne suis pas Francais," or I wouldn't mention it.) Excellent driver, going with the traffic's lunatic start-stop, switchback flow. Maintains a constant, high-speed rant the whole time.  France hassles Muslims; kids these days don't know how to work; he works five jobs. Something like that. I understand maybe one out of every ten words, but smile and nod like a bobblehead doll. Su does the same and occasionally comments. She grasps one in five words. 

And the road leads ever on.

Streets narrow, traffic slows. Le Interstate segues to the outer rings of Paris. Driverdirects our attention to one of many security cams. Says something to the effect, "Before the attack, the French hated CCTV. They believed in liberity, equality, Fraternity, hmm? But cameras are OK, now. Soldiers too. it's security, equality fraternity today." Good one.

Speaking of les soldats, we roll past a few. They're wearing camo and berets and carrying bigass automatic weapons straight out of Duke Nukem. Is this normal? Charlie Hebdo, says the driver. Ah.

He lets us out, does the things with the bags, drives off. We made it. 
Welcome to Paris. Watch your ass.

Yep, here we are in Le Marais, Paris' formerly Jewish quarter, now its mostly gay and/or hipster quarter. (Think street art, cobblestone streets, quaint buildings, hip tourists, and commerce.) A smiling, bearded, bright-eyed dude meets us, leads us to our Air BnB dwelling. As advertised, said flat is a bright, two-story cave in a building from the 1700s. Strictly speaking, he's not supposed to be renting it out. IF anybody asks, we're visiting cousins of a woman named ... uh. Marie Le Fakename. Something like that.

After squaring stuff away, we head back out. There's a soldier with an automatic weapon right in front of our door. I feel more secure already.

More streets. More soliders. Welcome to Alphaville, my friend.

Lots of the art on the walls, too. Graffiti. Subversions of signage. A sad-eyed lady, bleeding from the eye -- a repeated icon in massive posters signed Konny. Other weird stuff.

My art musings go in another blog -- one they actually pay me for. Might get irritating if I keep yammering about paintings. So as not to break the flow, I'll drop in links to my mirror site. Like so:

Marais: Street Art

Eyes full of art, Su and I stroll Seinewards, cross a bridge, make a pilgrimage to Shakespeare & Co. Su sits at an old mechanical typewriter and looks cute. I snap her pic with my iPhone. She gets up to browse. I sit down. Was planning to type ...

"time travel" what a ridiculous notion. The fine folks at "Temporal Excursions" took my money and supposedly sent me ahead to Shakespeare and Company in 2016. As predicted I blacked out, woke up. Now here I am ... at said bookshop. Don't buy it. I wasn't, if you'll pardon the expression, born yesterday. Don't know how they did it, but this is clearly a fake and this is obviously not Shakespeare & Co, obviously not Paris, and obviously not 2016. Where when what the hell it is I can't tell you. Hallucination? Thought scares the crap out of me. Wherever this is or isn't, I want to get out. It's all so damn dirty and ugly and the people dress like clowns or overgrown children. Fat old men in shorts with lots of pockets, and wearing these idiotic hats ... it's hard to describe. The future can't be this ...

Clever huh?

Yeah, but it remains a conceptual concept, not something somebody might read on that old Olympia thinking, gosh maybe a time traveler wrote this stuff. Not going to happen. It's a non-typing typewriter. There's paper, but no damn ribbon.

Almost bought an old issue of Evergreen. Didn't.

This one.

Homeways is bestways. We reverse direction., walk along the Seine. We pass by stand after stand of calendars, Eiffel Tower models. Looks like Banksy left his mark on the wall on the other side.

Another bridge. Our returning path intersects L'Isle de Citie. We see Notre Dame cathedral, no hunchback.

Back where we started, in good old Marais. Graffito on the walls, that woman's face again. Sad blonde with bleeding eye. OR many iterations of the eye-bleeding blonde. And ...

Walking the shop-me streets of Marais, just a croissant's throw from our Air B&B flat, we run into Jacques Halbert -- a French expat artist who lived in Sarasota years back. Fun guy, painter a Fluxus inspired cherry-painting Daddy who thumbs his nose at all things, as we used to say, square. Back when Su and I put out an art rag, we interviewed him, put his art on the cover a few times. Now he's here in the flesh. And he's gob-smacked. Can't believe he's looking at us ...

Shit! Su? Marty? Oh my God! What are you doing here? I can't believe it! Or words to the effect.

As the three of us stand there contemplating the sheer metaphysical, epistemological ontological improbability of it all, a blonde haired woman saunters up, thin, early 40s. Turns out she's the artist behind all those icons of the eye-bleeding blonde. (Self portrait maybe?) Jacques can't believe it.  Shit! Konny? Oh my God, this is too much! What the hell are you doing here? This is fucking impossible! Straining probability to the breaking point, it turns out she knows Jacques and Jacques knows her, yep, they're great friends. Her name is Konny Steding, she's visiting from Germany. Now, on this fine sunny day, we all bump into each other on this one little spot in one little street in Marais in the enormous seething hive of humanity that is 20th century PAris. What are the odds?

Having concluded our philosophical ruminations, the four of us cross the street our apartment. We stay maybe five minutes, then head back out to the pizza joint on the other side. Drink, eat, talk. Drink, eat, talk. Then return to the flat. Repeat the process.

A good time was had by all.

First impressions.
France resembles a dirtier, less efficient, more ethnically diverse version of Switzerland.

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