January 8th, 2003


Le Petite Paris – Part Four: Montmartre & Pigalle

Woke up to some good morning lovin’ with SBX and rubbed the sand from my eyes. Took a bath in a tub that I could lay down in while listening to the new BUSTA RHYMES album on my portable CD player. I sketched the backyard view [‘Allee de Pines’] while SBX got ready and we walked into town for a late breakfast where we met Jefferson, a snappy and semi-bitter 52-year old lawyer who wore jodhpurs and riding boots, and looked exactly like a gay Mel Brooks. He was sitting solo with his golden Labrador, finishing breakfast after a morning of riding his horses. He courted SBX and asked if she were American. She stated her royal lineage and pointed out the American in me. Hey, I only see America when I watch COPS or when the President delivers his State of the Union address. Otherwise, I’m strictly New York, kid! Jefferson got friendly quick. Turns out he made his Parisian exodus over 25-years ago and set up a clientele base for his practice. He spoke bitterly about France claimed its origins for Socialism. He felt stuck, caught in the crossroads, and couldn’t find his way back into the USA. Jefferson made a lot of poor excuses for why he couldn’t return to his roots and waxed Parisian philosophic, ultimately denouncing the culture. We discussed the French fashions and facade true Parisians employ and how precious space was; not a commodity to be bartered. How they bump into each other and smoke in people’s crowns with no regard or respect for their brother man. And, how important it was to look great, perhaps sexy, yet smell bad due to the perpetual rank of cigarette and espresso breath, and the lack of daily bathing. SBX noted that it was the French who invented perfume. Jefferson spoke of how snobbish and rude the French often were and how they don’t embrace other cultures, especially Americans. How they keep it close to the vest like a clan. At that point, Jefferson accidentally knocked over an empty wine glass to the floor and it smashed into a hundred pieces. The dog got scared and he mollycoddled his best friend. I got and paid the bill and we prepared to leave. I suggested Jefferson warn the waiter of the shattered glass and he said, “What do I care? This is not my home.” SBX noticed that his fly was open and, after some hesitation and a prod from me, kindly pointed at his zipper. Jefferson mistook the gesture for his jacket and zipped it up, walking away with his angry pud dangling for all of Paris to mock. A chuckled sigh of relief and we were on the metro to Montmartre.

SBX declined to take in a sex show or a cabaret at the Moulin Rouge in ye olde Red Light District of Pigalle, so we walked up many flights of exterior stairs to the top of Montmartre, taking in the rainy landscapes and sights. We stopped at the Place du Tertre where street artists of varying talents sketched quick caricatures and portraits of tourists for money. Even in the rain, they paved way for trade. We came upon Sacre-Coeur at the top of Montmartre and the clouds were torn wide open by a determined sun wanting to set sans storm. SBX and I admired the Eiffel Tower in the orange glow from afar and I so desperately wanted to kiss her. She was worried about getting sick and not being able to work and take care of her kids when she returned back to the USA, and it began to annoy me, this overtly cautious caveat, this lack of romantic impulse. We were in Paris and I wanted to kiss. No dice. SBX stood her ground. This stance would color the entire trip and frustrate me ~ to no end.

We walked back down the stairs and went shopping. I bought SBX a hot pink t-shirt with two fuzzy bunny rabbits snuggling for her to wear on New Year’s Eve in NYC. We found a place to rest our rears and drank café au lait and masticated awful, tourist quality, crepes. We wrote in our journals and watched the locals stumble by. We purposely went off trail and walked through a genuine neighborhood sans trendy hot spots, where cheese and chocolate shoppes were aplenty. SBX was sparkling in glee, basking in her two favorite delights. Vegetable stands featured cinemascope colored fruits, and the streets were so narrow, you had to march single file. We dipped into a bookstore where bandes-dessines [graphic novels] sections are popular among the French. SBX scored French fables and children’s books for her girls and bought me Anna Sommers’ BAIS DES BOIS collection. I got the splendid, mostly mute, oversized black & white comic, SIX CENT SOIXANTE SEIZE APPARITIONS de Killofer, for 25-Euros. We continued to stroll down the streets as stores began to close. I noticed another bookstore called ALBUM, and wondered what they might sell. SBX pointed towards the window display and discovered that it was filled to the gills with bandes-dessines. I was delighted to find ANOTHER comix shoppe filled with many great French comix, including translated editions of Marvel’s classic superhero icons.

We took the RER back to Maisons Lefitte where I finally got to meet Caroline, SBX’s old school chum, whose home we were crashing. Caroline hails from Wales and is 5-months pregnant with her second baby. She is married to a cuddly German named Torston, and they have a baby named Max. They met working in oil trade and now Caroline stays at home working full-time as house-wife/mother. SBX was semi-jealous of Caroline’s lifestyle, so I had to remind her how stir crazy SBX would get if she just puttered about the house all day every day, feeding and cleaning. SBX is an intellectual who needs a constant challenge beyond the domestic scope. We ate a tuna casserole with capers [not my cuppa] and played a great game of Scattagories. We had good fun and drank lots of wine from their wine cellar, easing our husks into the end of another night in Paris.

Le Petite Paris – Part Five: The River Siene

Another rainy day and a few sniffles away from snuffing my head cold [fingers crossed]. SBX woo’d me hard and we went for a power sex shower where jets protruding from the tiled walls spat water at us from all sides. Caroline made is a huge continental breakfast and SBX served them Xmas gifts. Little Max tore apart the gift wrap paper and we sat around getting to know each other a little bit better, including Caroline’s shared youth with SBX, which only adds prime intelligence to my SBX reconnaissance. Torston gave us a lift to the RER and we rode the metro to Place de la Concorde to visit the Musee D’Orsay [for its exemplary modern art collection] only to be greeted by lines of people wrapping long and far around the world famous museum. It got so packed that @2PM, there was an announcement that the museum could take no more visitors and everyone was turned away. Bummed, SBX and I rallied and made alternative plans with our trusty Top 10 Paris Guide.

So we walked to the Ile de la Citie via the River Siene, taking pictures in the rain along the way, and came to behold the mighty church of Notredame where the mythological Hunchback climbed its mystical gargoyles and rang its haunted bell for the sake of love. We walked the medieval streets through the Ile’s and got a pure shot of hot chocolate that was thick with raw cocoa [tasted like a melted chocolate bar!], and SBX ate a lemon tart. An old man with an accordion played his charming songs procuring tourists coins. We walked down by the River Siene again and walked its cobbled path as the cloudy day turned into night and the Xmas lights lit the city. The Siene was colored a muddy yellow and flooded certain passageways alongside the riverbank. SBX and I would be walking down a long stretch, come to a corner, turn and realize that we couldn’t continue unless we were armed with a paddle and float. The river was abnormally high. We didn’t mind the hassle for we were doing the kinds of quiet things we don’t often get to do back home. Just walk, hand in hand, surveying the land with its mini-obstacles. I thought of taking SBX to Riverside Park on the upper west side of Manhattan, where I used to play as a kid, and show her the park and Hudson River views when we got back home. I often forget the free things one can do in NYC.

We came upon Place de la Bastille where children were enjoying a small amusement fair, jumping on trampolines to BANANARAMA. I wanted to sit and people watch at a café on Rue de Faubourg Saint Antoine and we drank red wine to the hoi polloi. We wrote in our journals as French policemen hassled drivers on the road. Just like any major metropolis, no matter where you are on earth, there is an internal bustle that thrives, shucks, and jives. Just look and you’ll see it everywhere. Speaking of “everywhere,” the late Hugo Pratt’s CORTO MALTESE was selling DIOR Perfume on every other billboard. It was odd to see a comic book character/drawing employed to sell such an item. Had Pratt’s uber-marine replaced Ian Fleming’s suave secret agent, 007: James Bond, in the war for dapper Dan?

We walked through District 12 which housed many ethnic restaurants, including my default favorite; Chinese. It had video and music shoppes and looked a little like the upper west side of Manhattan, where I grew up. I could see this being an area that I would move to first if I ever desired to take a chance in France. It was available and familiar. Tired from walking all day, SBX and I hopped the RERE and caught the day up in our journals. I got sexy with SBX, which prompted her to write me a provocative note that made my pants tight. Our romantic woo got interrupted by the foul stench of cigarette smoke as two black punks smoked a few seats away. Righteous with angry vigor, I made it public that I was ready to throw down by opening up the metro car windows, allowing for a tease of fresh air. Not only was it illegal to smoke in the metro [my sanctuary] but also obnoxious and rude, a non-negotiable act. The punks and I shared a staring contest as my Hulk-out rose. I wasn’t in the business to play feeble and they weren’t going to back down. Youth was steering their attitude. Respect was guiding mine. So, we rode the trip in a stalemate: punks smoking, me boiling. They won, flipping me the bird, as SBX and I left the metro. But, what had they won? Would they have smoked had a Police Man surveyed the car? No. Were they winning anything at all by smoking in one of the very few places in France they shouldn’t? Losers.

We walked back to Caroline/Torston’s house where a lovely chicken and basil Thai dinner with saffron rice was home cooked. We drank more wine and played a bunch of board games, which SBX and I love but never find time to play. Games like YOU ARE THE WEAKEST LINK [bloody awful], WHO WANTS TO BE A MILLIONAIRE? [I’m terrible with fact and trivia, ergo, my rampant imagination], and RAPIDOUGH [which is like PICTIONARY but with dough. Another thing I’m terrible at -- reducing information into a few measly strokes]. We called it a night and hit the sack; making incognito love but the creaky bed betrayed our covert sex. SBX went to La-La-Land, and I let Jack Kirby’s MIRACLE MAN, send me.