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Paris, May-June 1999
written by Robert Storm
I had been in Paris once, 1991. In 1998 I thought about going there but
didn't go after all. Then in Autumn 1998 I had a big France craze, and I
became a fan of singer-songwriter Serge Gainsbourg. His albums were hard
to find in Finland so in 1999 I decided to go to Paris. I had four things
I wanted to do there: 1) Buy Gainsbourg's cd's. 2) See Gainsbourg's house.
3) See Gainsbourg's tomb. 4) Go to Disneyland.
Saturday 29. May 1999
I flew from Finland to Paris. It still wasn't very warm in Finland so it
was almost shocking to see that in Paris the temperature was 28 degrees
centigrate. I heard that all the big museums were out on strike. This of
course isn't a good thing because the museums are the reason for many people
to go to Paris.
My hotel was somewhere near Pigalle. Not a very nice area. There are a lot
of strip-tease places and such. Always when I went to my hotel, people were
shouting something like "Hello pretty boy, come see our girls".
I wouldn't go to places like that, I've heard that even if the entrance
is free they have their ways to get the customers pay lots of money. My
room was small and you could see inside through the window from another
room of the same hotel. In that room there were some high school students
who made an awful noise in the night. A few boys saw me through my window
and I think they thought I was a girl (because I have long hair). Then they
were outside my room all the time. When I came out of my room, they probably
thought I was the boyfriend of that girl and didn't realize that there wasn't
I didn't do much on the first day, just walked a bit on Champs-Élysées
near the Triumphal Arch.
Sunday 30. May 1999
There was a big thunderstorm in the morning. After that the electricity
was out for 24 hours. I went to the flea market of Saint-Ouen. It's a huge
place where people sell all kinds of stuff, especially antique. There were
also people selling cd's, and I found several Gainsbourg cd's for very good
price. I also found the Beach Boys cd Party/Stack'O'Tracks, the only Beach
Boys albums I didn't already have. In some record shop I saw a Japanese
guy who didn't speak French, only bad English, trying to say something to
the salesman who didn't speak English. They asked if I spoke both languages
and could interpret. I never really understood what the Japanese man wanted
but tried to translate the words he said into French. I wasn't of much help
but both guys were so grateful, they both thanked me many times. I guess
they found it admirable that somebody spoke several languages.
In the afternoon I decided to go to Serge Gainsbourg's house. I didn't remember
the exect address, just that it was in Rue Verneuil street. I was walking
down the Rue Verneuil hoping I would find it. Then I heard a woman mention
Gainsbourg. Her daughter asked who Gainsbourg was, and the mother said he
was a pop singer. I thought that they were talking about Gainsbourg because
we were near his house. And soon I saw the house. There were a lot of graffitis
and writings on the wall, written by fans from all over the world. Later
I saw a book of photos of those graffitis. One of them (which I saw in the
book but not the wall) was very touching: "I wish I had a father like
you. Charlotte is so lucky". I saw a young woman go inside the house
but I'm quite sure she wasn't Charlotte Gainsbourg.
Monday 31. May 1999
I was wandering in the park of Luxemburg. Then I went to the cemetery of
Montparnasse where Serge Gainsbourg was buried. I found his tomb quite quickly.
People had left teddybears, bunnies, flowers and stones on it. There were
also a lot of messages written in metro tickets. Many other famous people
were buried in the same cemetery. I heard that Charles Baudelaire should
be near Gainsbourg but didn't find his tomb. The tombstone of Henri Langlois
was interesting, there were pictures from his films.
Tuesday 1. June 1999
Not much happened. I was photographing Gainsbourg's house and shopping.
Wednesday 2. June 1999
I thought about going to Disneyland but this wasn't possible because the
metro and bus drivers were striking. The reason was that a metro driver
had been murdered quite brutally. The strike lasted until the next day.
In a big city like Paris this kind of thing makes the whole city a mess.
I heard that there was an awful traffic jam from the center to 50 km outside
Paris. Of course I don't approve the murder, and I understand the feelings
of other metro drivers. But I'm not sure if this was a good reason to mess
up the whole city of millions of people, a 10 minute work stoppage would
have been appropriate.
For me the was a bit inconvenient but not the end of the world. I'm used
to walking, the weather just was a bit rainy. I visitied the cemetery
of Montmartre. A lot of famous people have buried there too, I saw the tombs
of Hector Berlioz (composer), Vaslav Nijinsky (ballet dancer) and François
Truffaut (film director. I was looking for the tomb of composer Jacques
Offenbach but never found it.
Thursday 1. June 1999
The metro drivers were still striking in the morning but more and more metros
started running during the day so that they ran regularly in the evening.
I went to the Eiffel Tower but didn't go up because there was a long queue.
The Eiffel Tower may be a cliché but I think it's actually beautiful,
a symbol of the belle epoque before the first world war. When I was
sitting in the park, some man came to me and asked if the t-shirt I was
wearing was a Metallica shirt. It wasn't it was a Meat Loaf shirt. He asked
me who Meat Loaf is, and I sang a bit of I'd Do Anything for Love but
I Won't Do That. "Oh yes," he said. "That's a good song."
Then he asked me if I had any marijuana. When I said I didn't, he ran away.
Maybe he was scared that I'd report him to police.
When I was walking to the Movie Museum, it started to rain. I didn't have
an umbrella or even a jacket so soon I was soaking wet. Somebody let me
stand under his umbrella but it didn't help much. I went to the metro station
hoping that there would be a metro soon so I could go to the hotel and put
on some dry clothes. In the metro some girl asked about my Meat Loaf t-shirt.
She didn't know about Meat Loaf and his songwriter Jim Steinman but was
interested to hear. First we talked in French but at the moment my French
didn't work at all. She said that we could speak English which she actually
spoke very well. She lived quite near my hotel so we chatted with each other
all the way. I asked her if she liked Serge Gainsbourg's music. She said
she did, she just had heard it too much because her brother was a huge fan.
I guess my sister thinks the same way about the music of Jim Steinman which
I play a lot. It was really nice talking to this girl, in Finland strangers
don't usually start talking to each other like this.
In the evening I went to the record store FNAC in Champs-Élysées.
In the classical music department they were showing a video of Joseph Losey's
film version of Mozart's Don Giovanni. It seems that I see this film every
time I'm in Paris because I saw in on the tv in 1991. Don Giovanni is my
favorite opera, and I like this film version which stars my favorite opera
singer Ruggero Raimondi. When Raimondi was young, an opera director told
him that a singer who sings Don Giovanni's part should have a spermy voice.
"You Ruggero would be a great Giovanni because you have a spermy voice."
Friday 1. June 1999
I went to Disneyland by train. In the train there were two musicians, an
African singer-bassist and a Japanese guitarist. They played blues and were
excellent, especially the guitarist was a very charismatic performer. Everybody
in the train loved them. These musicians should be playing somewhere else
than a train. But unfortunately the music they play may be too much out
of fashion so they won't get a recording contract.
When I arrived in Disneyland, I was feeling a bit sick. The weather wasn't
sunny, there were long queues everywhere. At first I didn't like Disneyland
at all. I queued for 30 minutes to a Space Simulator, and it wasn't worth
it. Then I went to eat something and started feeling better. I went to the
ghost house which was great, the atmosphere and the gloomy music were magnificent.
Especially I liked the dancing ghost. Then I went to the Fantasyland where
you can travel through fairy tales. I love fairy tales, and especially Peter
Pan's Flight was something I liked. There I was singing songs from Jim Steinman's
musical Neverland which is based on Peter Pan (you may know some
of the songs that have been released on Meat Loaf's albums: Bat Out of Hell,
Heaven Can Wait, All Revved Up). I tried also carousels and such things.
In Discoveryland I saw a 3D movie called Honey, I Shrunk the Audience
which featured Eric Idle of Monty Python. It was very funny, you could see
snakes and such come very near, almost eat you!
I went to the Ghost house again and would have gone to Peter Pan's Flight
but there was still a long queue. It started to rain so I went to the Sleeping
Beauty's Castle where they sold all kinds of Disney stuff. I wanted to buy
a Donald Duck or Mickey Mouse t-shirt or doll but they were awfully expensive.
When I was in the castle, I started singing Serge Gainsbourg's song L'anamour
because the words say something about the Sleeping Beauty. I liked the atmosphere,
it was raining, I was in the Castle of the Sleeping Beauty singing Gainsbourg's
song. Suddenly I felt lonely. I'd wanted to share the moment with somebody
else. This all inspired me to later write a song called Sleeping Beauty.
Friday 1. June 1999
Back in Finland.
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