Paris, France: Paris is for Jim
“If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, Infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro’ narrow chinks of his cavern.” William Blake, Marriage of Heaven and Hell.
“Indeed, Allah [alone] has knowledge of the Hour and sends down the rain and knows what is in the wombs. And no soul perceives what it will earn tomorrow, and no soul perceives in what land it will die. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted.” The Holy Quran. Surat Luqman (31:34)
We had not long arrived in Paris on the evening Eurostar from England. We were hungry and, while walking back to our hotel along the Seine, we saw a nice little restaurant inviting us in. The three of us sat down and began to read the menu. My vegan self’s heart sank a little as I saw the menu was almost 100% lumps of meat with little side orders of vegetables.
I was encouraged though, at least there were side orders of vegetables.
My French was rubbish, as was my father’s, so my step mum (in very excellent French) ever so nicely asked the waiter if it was all right to simply serve me some plain potatoes and French beans with no butter… They were on the menu after all.
He changed to a funny colour of red.
As if the request offended his sense of restaurant integrity.
We were asked to leave.
Preparing plain vegetables was a task beneath that particular establishment.
It seems Paris is not for vegans.
Paris Is for Art.
The next morning, we went to a massive Mark Rothko exhibition. At the time I was a big fan. Not that I am not now. My favourite work of Mark Rothko is in the Tate in London. There is a room there and whenever I go to the Tate I will spend time in the room. I like to just hang out and absorb the feelings from the huge paintings. I love how his work immerses the viewer in an emotional place.
The exhibition took us through his early works and gradually through to the giant canvases he was painting towards the end of his life.
We wandered the halls for hours. Soaking up the paintings. Learning about Mark’s sadness.
His eventual death. By his own hand.
Which brings me to Jim.
Paris Is for Jim.
For when you have lost your art where do you seek it?
Back at home in the U.S.A, after his obscenity trial, Jim Morrison’s art had become a circus, and it was to Paris he ran.
Paris is for Art.
“I love the friends I have gathered together on this thin raft
We have constructed pyramids in honor of our escaping…” The Doors – The Wasp.
I wonder how Paris and Jim liked each other. He would have liked the smoky bars, the streets with the smell of urine, the raunchy creative culture, the gatherings of great minds in cafes.
Would Paris and Jim have eyed each other proudly?
Then Paris with her nose in the air, did she say to him:
“You call yourself an artist? I have Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Pound, Stein, Sand, Hugo, Proust. I have Oscar Wilde, Gertrude Stein, Alice B. Toklas, Moliere, Balzac, Colette, Richard Wright. I have Shakespeare and Company’s George Whitman. I have Simone de Beauvoir, Jean-Paul Sartre, Samuel Beckett, Marguerite Duras, Charles Baudelaire and Guy de Maupassant. I have Alexandre Dumas.”
Did he snub his nose at her, raise his middle finger, down a whisky and make sure, if it was the last thing he did, he would bring his rock and rebellion, his stride for freedom, his unruly fans to the Père Lachaise?
In his death did he break through the doors? Did he find infinity?
We walked through the small winding pathways of the Père Lachaise, even now if I close my eyes I can picture the hard-grey flagstones on the ground, the grass tufting around their edges. The tall cemetery stones covering hordes of people.
We walked searching for the one that covered him.
Graffiti signs indicated the way.
Then we found him.
I thought he should have something big and bold, like he was.
There it was: a relatively small block with his name, the stone surround and a patch of earth in the middle.
For years after his death, his grave had only been a patch of earth.
I had a small bottle of whisky, which I managed to pour on the earth before the guard told me off and chased us away.
I wonder, sometimes, if he had known he was to die in Paris would he have gone there?
I suspect he would have.
Paris is for Jim.