I’d like to write some kind of insightful wrap-up of my first trip to Paris, but frankly there's no point. It was beautiful despite some grey weather, fascinating but occasionally cliche, elegant and base. It was really just a tourist trip for me, and I spent my time walking around (a lot), taking pictures, soaking up the sights, and deciding what to eat. Aside from breakfast with the group I was looking after and a couple of evenings spent pursuing diplomatic relations, I spent most of the time by myself, which is usually a sure-fire way to bring on gloomy, pensive moods, even if I’m otherwise enjoying myself.
All in all, I thought Paris was pretty fantastic, and I’d love to go back and continue to feast on many of the sights I was only able to taste this time around. I saw no point in going to the Louvre, for example, unless I’d have at least a couple of days to see more of it than the just the crowds around the Mona Lisa. I tried to stick lesser-known treats, like the fantastic collection of drawings at the Gustave Moreau museum and the side streets of Montmartre. (sadly, I was never able to find the street where Gene Kelly hawked his paintings in An American in Paris.) I was plagued by stomach problems, so I wasn't able to enjoy French food as much as I’d been told I would, and that sucked. I was happy as a clam just to wander around the city and see its buildings and signs and people, though. The art of typography is alive and well in Paris, and that made me very happy, very often. The boys are pretty cute, and generally more dapper than their American counterparts. They have a lot of accordion/clarinet combos who play in the subway cars, which I also liked an awful lot. I wasn't so crazy about the way they smoke like fiends all the time, but mostly because my sweaters really stink now. I still don't like the sound of French much, but I’m just biased because I like Portuguese so much.
I hope I get to go back and enjoy the city at less of a frantic pace one of these days, and hopefully next time I'll get to do it while travelling with someone who can keep me company at mealtime. Oh jeez, here comes that wave of gloominess...
And for those of you who are understandably sick of seeing my mug, here's an assortment of other photos I took this week in Paris. I used the digital camera for all the self-portraits and the color snapshots. I also shot a lot of high-speed black-and-white stuff with my trusty old Pentax K1000, but lord only knows when I'll get around to processing the film. For now...
Le sparc en Paris! Or, a totally narcissitic exercise in proving that I went to France for a bit. A set of photos without the same annoying amount of Sparky content will follow soon.
Notes from France:
French keyboards are absolutely maddening. This is my excuse for any subsequent typos.
When I first got here, I had to wander through a planeload of French Marines also arriving at the airport. Deeeeeeeeee-licious. What may be delicious is the food, but I’m not sure because I’ve been having terrible indigestion, making it hard for me to eat.
I am able to read more French than I thought, but I am able to speak much less. This language barrier is especially frustrating when handsome Frenchmen are whispering dirty propositions in your ear, but you are unable to decipher them. Luckily, not all forms or social interaction require much talking.
This is a very, very cruisy city. Like, out of control. It's also kinda dirty and graffitti-covered, which is a very welcome surprise. I like seeing signs of life like that.
As much as I am used to turning corners and seeing surprises in New York City, it's a very different thing when I turn corners here and see glorious architecture that I’ve studied for years. Even the regular buildings here have beautiful, enviable massing and proportions.
Versailles is a beautiful obscenity, but it totally lacks passion. It certainly doesn't lack lavish splendor, though. I would have revolted because of it, too. And I’m a wuss.
My hotel is a block away from a gaudy neon stretch of strip clubs, peepshow theaters, and faux-scandalous cabarets like the Moulin Rouge. The most glamorous whores I have ever seen wander the side streets and the taxi-dancer bars: They are plump, saggy, made up like paintings, and dressed in cheap cocktail dresses and fur coats. I completely love them. Very Toulouse-Lautrec, even in this day and age.
I am such a procrastinating bastard. I must go get my laundry so I can start packing so I can get the hell out of this country, but I can't seem to tear myself away from perusing the cute punk rock boys at the Make Out Club. I am officially on my way to becoming a lech.
Not as bad as this guy who was bothering me while I was out last night, though. Dude just wouldn't take a fucking hint, or even a polite but firm "no." After walking past me at one point and not bothering to stare at anything but my crotch, he comes up to me with some corny line, which I gently rebuffed. Then he does it again ten minutes later! And then he walks by me with some other corny line and paws my crotch. so I grab his arm, move it, give him a dirty look and walk away. Then he comes up to me whispering more cornball, canned-porn-movie shit. This is repeated about a half-dozen times over the course of the evening, and I’m getting more and more pissed off all the time. After a while, he tries to apologize and say that he recognized me from Pratt yadda yadda yadda (I think he was in one of the more bullshit required classes that I dropped) and he just wanted me to be cool and relax since I looked so tense. since "no thanks" and "no, I don't want to chat" and "leave me the fuck alone" didn't work yet, I wasn't too shocked that he didn't quite the get the point of "I’m not tense, I’m just fucking irritated." What a pain.
In honor of my upcoming trip, and because I’ve been getting a kick out of the latest meme, I'll also contribute this little goodie. Note, I am not the young German student of philosophy shown in the photograph.
And I finally got new glasses yesterday. Or rather, I put new lenses into old frames since I didn't want throw too much money at glasses I only wear around bedtime, in the mornings, and on days when I’m too lazy to deal with contacts. The old ones had to go: the prescription was so out of date I was a menace to myself and those around me if I wore them in public, and they were held together in the corners with dabs of hot glue, which is way too dorky, even for me.
I also meant to mention a few things spotted during the trip to San Francisco that were actually about New York.
First, I was thumbing through the in-flight rag on the American plane, and came across a gushing profile of Williamsburg, of all places. It's not bad enough that Bedford Ave. is already clogged with hipsters, or that The Real World may be coming here next year, but now hordes of tourists are being encouraged to cross the river and go slumming. Mark my words, it won't be long before they open a Marriott there. sheesh! I’m glad I live off in the boonies, where it's still more ghetto.
Second, I was looking at this beautiful coffee-table book about the photography of James Bidgood, and I was startled to learn that Bidgood met Bobby Kendall, and quite a few of his other models, at a place called Club 82. Apparently, this was quite the swinging joint in its day, with cabaret shows and go-go boys and all manner of decadence. I even discovered that Blondie played there back in the early 80s. As fellow connoisseurs of contemporary homo East Village sleaze know, this place is still kicking and is still good for a thrill or two, but it's a far cry now from its more flamboyant past. I love discovering ghosts like this in places that I know around the city. Reading books like Low Life (by fellow Regis alum Luc sante) and Gay New York clued me in to all sorts of colorful tidbits about parts of the city that have fascinating, racy histories that would really put the wind up your skirts.