Friday, September 14, 2018

September 14, 2018 (Paris)

September 14, 2018

Although I'm working on a writing project in Paris, I feel weird staying inside my Airbnb apartment,  while there's Paris life outside my window.  I feel like a child who is forced to stay in their bedroom, and you can hear voices outside, and see people eating, but you have to remain in your space due that you are a naughty child.  The truth is I'm a terrible child.  I'm 64 years old, and still, mainly a 4-year old.   I'm so in-tuned to my childhood feelings, that being an adult makes me feel like a foreigner in my aging body.   I sit here typing away, yet I have one eye on the computer screen, and the other is looking outside my little window showing the roof-top view of the world. I sat here and finally wrote one sentence.  That, I feel was enough work for the day, and admittedly I need to go out and investigate the outside world. 

When I left the building, I didn't have a clue what direction to go, or if I was going anywhere specific.  By my animalistic instinct, I headed toward rue Vieille du Temple going south.   My dad's art dealer lives near the area, so I remember the neighborhood.  The Marais is an old Jewish district in Paris, and it's a mixture of boutiques, restaurants, art galleries, gay/lesbian culture, and a touch of middle-Eastern life as well.  One of my favorite neighborhoods in Paris, due to the mixture of tourist and citizen.  One of the fantastic things about Paris is that it's a place of immigrants of all sorts, and in a sense, it is still Paris, that is in one's imagination.  Café La Perle is famous to me, for the sole reason that a renowned French designer was kicked out of there for saying racist stuff to the fellow citizens of that bar/cafe.  I wasn't there when it happened, so I wouldn't know what is real or not true.  Although I suspect that the incident did happen as reported by the press and witnesses.  

I kept going down South and made sure I stayed on the street because I didn't want to get lost or lose my sense of direction.  At this point, I knew I wanted to go to the Left Bank and visit Saint Michel, a street that brings me a lot of good memories.  As I walked, I came upon La Chaumiere en I'lle (4 rue Jean du Bellay, 75004 Paris) and decided to go there to have lunch. I ordered a glass of red wine and a plate of penne with tomato sauce.  Not an exciting dish by any means, but something simple gave me great pleasure.  Bread came with the meal (of course, we're in Paris) and the joy I received from dipping my bread into the sauce also reminded me of my childhood.  As a kid, I loved dipping something into something.  Especially when you can eat it as well.   I sat there as I ate and I took out my notebook to write poetry.    The only thing that I came up with:  "Penne Red/Penne bad/Penne went insane."  Not Rimbaud, but still, a mediocre Tosh.   The meal put me in a bright mood, as I paid my bill and headed toward the Norte Dame.  

The one thing I enjoy about the structure that is the Norte Dame are the sculptures of demons looking down at you.   I feel that this is a demon within yours truly.  I know they are a spirit or a symbol to protect the building, but me being me, I take it personally.  I look up, and I feel this is my "Picture of Dorian Gray" moment.  My body is here, but my spirit is within those demons that look over Paris.   With that thought in mind, I headed toward Shakespeare and Company, an all-English bookstore that is located 37 rue de la Bûcherie, 75005 Paris.   I've been here many times in the last 30 years or so, and it is always a special place within my heart.   The question is "why?"  For one, it's a great bookstore within a fantastic architectural space.  One feels like they are going into a cave.  The other thing I like about the store is that in their rare book annex they are displaying in the window a copy of "Narcotica," a book of poems by "Beat"/Surrealist poet Phillip Lamantia, and perhaps his translation of Artaud's writings as well.  The cover of the book is designed/photographed by my father, Wallace Berman.   I haven't seen a copy of this book since I was a child.   They were charging 400 Euros for "Narcotica."  I went inside the bookstore and asked them if their rare book annex was open or what their hours are.  They told me that the person who runs the space is on vacation and will not be back until next week.

On the other hand, since I last been here, Shakespeare & Company opened up a cafe.   While I was there, I notice that a lot of British and American tourists were in the store, as well as a student wanting to sell her books - which she had both French and English titles. Other then that, I couldn't find anything I wanted at the store.  I was slightly disappointed that they didn't have any of my Boris Vian titles (TamTam Books) in stock at the time I was there.  Nor any books by Tosh Berman.   Still, it was nice that my dad was represented in their store (sort of). 

I have heard of Crocodisc records, but never been there, until now. I found it on my phone map and went directly there from Shakespeare and Company.  Crocodisc (40/42 Rue des Écoles, 75005 Paris) is a fantastic used vinyl record store that is tightly packed with goodies.  What is it about French record stores and having their albums so packed so tightly?  Nevertheless, I found vinyl copies of recordings that I have been looking for a while now.  They are two albums by Jean-Claude Vannier, and an obscure record by Gérard Manset called "Le Train du Soir."  There's a song here on this album that is a French-rock-pop masterpiece "Les Loops."  You can find it on YouTube.   The gentlemen who work here are very helpful.   When I asked if they have any albums by Jean-Claude Vannier, he thought I said "John Coltrane."  Which shows you how horrible my pronunciation of French words.   A great record store!

I walked on Rue des Ecoles to Saint Michel, and I (again) by instinct walked into Gilbert Joseph (26 Boulevard Saint-Michel, 75006 Paris), which is a bookstore as well as a music store.  I found a vinyl copy of Jacques Dutronc's "Gentleman Cambrioleur," a recent reissue, but originally came out in 1975.  Here on this album, he worked with Serge Gainsbourg.  I have been searching for this album as well.   For today's shopping a perfect score of 100%.  

As I headed back to our apartment, I went shopping for laundry soap and two bananas.   As soon as I dropped my packages, I took Lun*na out to a sushi restaurant nearby our Paris home.   

- Tosh Berman

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