Thursday, November 10, 2005

Gay Paris (The Europe Saga, Part VI)


So after paying my 80 euros in overweight baggage, we get to Paris. For those of you who don't know, my last trip to Paris was awful. I was there for 4 days, during a heatwave (100 degree temp) in a hotel with only a fan for ventilation. It was miserable.

Other than sweating alot and watching a Dexter's laboratory marathon (which was on for god knows what reason -- maybe because Dexter speaks english with a French accent?) I have only one other distinct memory of Paris: the fruit seller yelling at me. See, they're all tricky -- they put the squishy side down so you can't see it, but won't let you pick up the fruit to examine it. I think that's cheating. Maybe they are supposed to pick the fruit for you, but the claim you touching it makes it squishy, which is true to a certain extent, but if they weren't trying to pawn off a bunch of half squishy fruit in the first place, touching would be unnecessary. You see the chicken and the egg argument here? While I'm sure at least half the faux pas is mine, it was hot and the fruit man yelled at me, and dammit if I'm going to pay $3 for a peach, it should damn well be as perfectly round and firm as a baby's bottom. And perhaps as delicious.

So Tiny and I discussed our priorities in terms of sight seeing. And we decided really that shopping topped the list so we went to that Galleries du Lafayette that Laureen raved about. It was pretty awesome, and I found exactly where my sister has been buying me presents (e.g. Satellite and Les Nereids). We also went to some stores on the street, but honestly they were so crowded with crazy women and whatnot that Tiny and I didn't find too much that we enjoyed.

Now generally, I make art a priority. But I've been to the Louvre* (see excerpted Lovre Story at the end), and I refuse to go to the Musee D'Orsay -- enforcing my own personal ban on Impressionism. Honestly people, Monet had cataracts, and I think the whole movement grew out of one near sighted man. I've personally seen so many shows of this crap, and then while I was at the DMA we had so many shows of the crap...and if one more little old lady came to see the damn blurry water lilly painting the DMA owned (honestly ladies, he made a jillion of them) I was going to scream. So no Musee D'Orsay. So where did we go instead? Surprisingly, the Rodin museum.

Many of you probably know that I am not a big Rodin fan. There is a shitload of his stuff running around too, but at least half of the people on this email list fucking raved about the museum, so I thought we should check it out. Now let me ruin it for you: in case you bitches didn't know, all the statues in the gardens are reproductions. Before you credit my AMAZING art skills giving me the ability to spot a Rodin fake, just realize that on the backside of each statute it says something like "Recreated for the Rodin Museum in 1984". P.S. Rodin was way dead by 1984, and "recreated" means "reproduced". These are copies people. If you don't believe me, ask Tiny. So while the garden is lovely, it's fakery. They should call themselves the Rodin reproduction museum.

Also, I just saw "The Kiss," which is at the Rodin Museum, also at the Tate modern the other day -- so I'm not sure how many of those he made either. I thought that the works in marble were one-of-a-kind, but clearly that's not the case. Basically I feel like Rodin was the Thomas Kincaid of his time, churning out shit left and right.

Ok, but that aside, I did enjoy the musuem. I liked some of the sculptures of hands and stuff and all said and done, I do like "the Kiss" and took a really great detail picture of it. Also, I am totally amuzed by his statute of Balzac. Don't know what I'm talking about? Check it out here).

Anyway, there is a great story on this one.Balzac is a famous French writer and when this stute was made he was actually in a wheelchair, and some people were pissed that Rodin chose to depict him more or less able bodied. But the real outrage is the, ahem, hand positions. Notice where they are under his coat?

To promote the work, this famous photographer, Edward Steichen, took photos of the statue by moonlight. In the photos it appears, for all intents and purposes, that Balzac is spanking the monkey in the moonlight. Beautiful. I didn't come up with this interpretation, this is popular belief at the time, I shit you not. Anyway, copies of the photos are in the museum, check it out next time you visit. You cannot look at this statute now without thinking about him spanking it can you? No, you can't.

I honestly think I could be the next dirtier, sluttier, Sister Wendy. Not sure what to call my show, but it would have great themes like "Spankin' it" and "Coppin' a Feel"* (again see Louvre story at end for reference).

Anyway, so Rodin museum, not bad. So then we check our email and I look up this stuff that EZ had suggested we go see, including his favorite place of places, Place de Voges, which I shall call PDV henceforth. So we go shop earlier in the day, then take the metro to this place which is way the hellfire far away from where we were staying (which was by the Louvre) and as we get off the metro, I got totally Shanghai-ed by the damn metro police.

Where does it say in the metro to retain your ticket stub once you pass through the gate? Answer: it doesn't. In fact, on our way to PDV I noticed that there were tickets all over the ground directly on the other side of the gate and I remember thinking "that's such a shame to trash the lovely metro" and then I tossed my ticket into the waste basket right there. I'm sure you see where this is going. When we got to the stop for PDV there were cops there demanding to see our used tickets with this scanner thing. This was CLEARLY a tourist trap as any real criminal would simply pick up one of the millions of dropped tickets on the way in. The only people "caught" were me and another american woman and I was fined 25 euros. I almost cried they were so mean. They said they would bring the police down and it would be a bigger fine if I didn't cooperate, so I just paid it.

Someone at the train station overheard me telling this to Tom (my sister's boyfriend in London) and said that it was a scam, but they had machines and badges and there were like 15 of them, so if it was a scam, then it was a really damn official one. All this and then, I must say, I was a bit disappointed in the PDV. Partially this may be due to my misunderstanding that it was a garden. I *love* flowers, but EZ pointed out that this is a plaza, not a garden, but whatever.

We stayed near the Louvre and there was a beautiful garden there, not crowded, with chairs you could pull up to the fountain. now that's MY idea of a plaza, garden, or whatever. At PDV, the only flora and fauna really were a couple making out on the "grass" which had largely died. Now I realize that my description of this is not very amsuing. However, what *is* amusing is EZ's spirited defense of the PDV (which he is probably going to *kill* me for sharing -- so EZ, I apologize in advance):

"Maybe one of the other reasons I love it so much is how perfectly balanced it is, the harmony of the red brick and limestone and the graceful arcades (I really have a thing for arcades). Plus it's the oldest square in Paris, the city's first stab at modern urban planning in a then decaying mess of winding streets and medieval houses. The fact that such a thoroughly 'modern' square is still the heart of the only surviving section of the old medieval city makes the place more beautiful to me somewhow. It's just such a perfect city square! Four squares of grass, four fountains, four perfectly trimmed rows of hedges, the contrast of the red brick against the limestone and slate, and did I mention the arcades? And that's not even considering the square's contribution to French lit (Mme de Sévigné was born there in the 17th century and Victor Hugo lived there in the 19th century). Cardinal Richelieu even lived there."I swear to God, like reading a tour brochure, no? If that doesn't win you over to PDV, I'm sure nothing will.

Ok, so EZ is probably mad right now(and rightfully so), but let me point out that I have been consistently humiliating myself for everyone's amusement. Also, I forgot to mention that I have fallen everywhere we've been. I bought these shoes before I left which are just leather bottoms with no grippy things and everytime I wear them, I fall down. Embarassingly so. I don't mean a little stumble, I mean full on flat-on-my-face/ass humiliation. I fell down outside Vatican City. I totally fell down these crazy steep steps in a restaurant in Siena. I fell in Il Campo. I fell in France. I have fallen all cross Europe. I have now retired these shoes.

My favorite fall was the restaurant in Siena with these crazy practically verticle steps. The owner was really worried I had hurt myself. I responded I'd just hurt my pride, but I did have this perfect line bruise across my butt where I fell on the step. I tried to take a pic with my digital camera, but it didn't come out (so sadly, no neat butt bruise picture to share). To sum up --I have endured a LOT of humiliation. I'm sorry I haven't worked that into previous stories, but I promise that should I revise this into a coherent travel memoir (as several of you have requested) I'll make sure to include this theme. Anyway, I have hopefully made up for humiliating EZ a tiny bit. Moving on.

So after visiting EZ's beloved PDV, we tried to visit this other park he suggested and then this place he recommended for dinner, but it just didn't pan out. Tiny and I both thought it was like an hour earlier than it was, but alas it was like 11pm, so we figured we'd best head back to our part of town to find food and whatnot before the metro shut down. So we head back to the stop by the Louvre and there is really only one place open for dinner, it's called Cab. This place is muy swank, but we walk in anyway to try to get seated. There is a nice fat lady who is clearly the proprietor and she looks us over (I'm thinking we'll get the boot) and Tiny whips out some French, but the lady smiles and responds in English and seats us. And is super nice about it.

In fact, everybody in France was extremely nice the whole trip, like nicer than the Italians. I was completely bewildered. So the waiter brings us menus, which are entirely in French and he realizes we aren't french and then asks if we'd like them in English. I just smiled embarassed and he brings us English menus very politely.Were seated outside Cab, with a lovely view of the little plaza on the backside of the Louvre, and I swear we are only there for like 15 minutes when they snap up a velvet rope and beatiful people start rolling up in Ferraris and what not and are standing in their nice clothes on the other side of the rope! It was nuts.

Apparently inside becomes a fancy schmancy club in the evenings. I am still amazed we are allowed to stay. So we have a nice dinner, in the lap of luxury, surrounded by the beautiful people, in Paris. And I'm sure it's the only time I'll ever be on that side of the velvet rope.

Post dinner, we were going to go to the Eiffel Tour, but the metro had clearly stopped running by this time, and as Tiny pointed out, it's just big scaffolding (which she is surely sick of at this point) so we were contented to view it from a distance.

The next morning we leave -- me for London, Tiny for Amsterdam -- which also, coincidentally happens to be my 28th birthday (which is frightening, enough said). As the date approached, old-age panic increased and I had plan to forgo any form of self celebration, but my law school homies had had Tiny bring some presents with her drug-mule style for me, which was really awesome. I got all teary eyed and what-not. Thanks guys!

So then to the train station to depart. I didn't realize it, but checking into the Eurostar for the Chunnel is more rigorous than checking in at the airport (especially with recent bombings). They made me show proof of going to school and everything. I thought that checking in was merely a formality, which it wasn't, and once I began, I couldn't go back and tell Shirley goodbye. In this glass holding tank, I finally saw her walk away to catch her own train and I felt terrible about the lack of goodbye.The train trip however was...amusing. Seated next to me was one Willy Karim, aka Rewind, the human beatbox of the up-and-coming French rap group Eska Crew.

Willy's "crew" had just been signed by Virgin records and Willy was on his way to a see a beat box competition in England. Willy was very cute, but, alas, also only 21. He also explained he was half Arab and half French but he looked French and could get in the clubs while his other friends couldn't. Willy's English was not so good, and my French is non-existant, although he tried to help me with some phrases. At the end of our train ride Willy offered to "help me with my luggage," which, though touched by the offer, I politely declined.

Oh for god's sake people, he was 21. I'm not going to get "help with my luggage" from a 21 year old, even if it was my birthday.Anyway, I passed safely into England where sister's 21 year old boyfriend Tom was waiting to literally, rather than metaphorically, help me with my luggage and to find my dorm. Tom later took me out for Indian food, then to a pub where I had a drink appropriately entitled a "strawberry fool" and then he kindly walked me back to my dorm, as I was rather tipsy. Bienvenue year 28!___________________________________________________

*Louvre Story*

When I went to the Lovre I was with Rave who was probably 15 or so at the time. So we are walking around together, clearly conoisseurs of art, and there is this statute of this little cherub grabbing this lady's boob. Rave and I had had a discussion earlier in the week about "copping a feel" (I do not remember why or what exactly we discussed, just that it happened) so referencing our discussion, I point out the statue and giggling whispered to her "Check it out...he's copin a feel." Raven squints and says "What?" So I repeat it, "he's copping a feel.""What?""He's COPPIN a FEEL.""What?""Oh never mind.""NO come on, really, what did you say?""I said, he's *copping* a *feel*.""WHAT?""I SAID HE'S COPPING A FEEL!!!"At which point the guard turned and glared at us, understanding perfectly well what I had just yelled across the museum, while my sister laughed like an evil villain having enticed me to shout out that absurd statement. Beeyatch.

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