Paris, 6 November 2003
Thursday morning the 6th of November starts with me doing the smart
thing by reserving a hotel room via the Internet. I get a great rate for
a Paris hotel located near a metro, a train station and a great park
(though i don't know it at the time - since i've never been to Paris).
Though it cost about $250, if you take out for the breakfast included -
Say $15 for the three days. Include the fruit i ferret away for my
afternoon snack - say another $10 dollars i am saving in an afternoon
meal. Maybe i'm really paying about $175 for the three night stay.
That's about $55 for the Paris essentials. I start this chronicle of the
first stop on this, the last legs (18 months) of a nine year journey
with this money observation because money is very tight and from the
moment i leave Paris i will be spending less and less for my room and
board. But i did want to be a tourist for this first stop of the trip.
Before i get to the Paris goings-on, let us tell you about the final
morning preparations for this extraordinary journey. David and i went to
the barber shop around the corner from where the Orisha Tales Repertory
Radio Theatre Company has an office in his house in Brooklyn. I got my
MONK cut finalized, we met Hampton, took some pictures and i jumped on
the subway to go to Eastern Mountain Sports to look for something i was
pretty sure they had. And they did have it - a bag that perfectly fit my
travelling pillow. Yes, i have a travelling pillow. It is actually one
of those special contour pillows you put between your legs when sleeping
to Keep your spine in alignment. While at the store i also got a rubber
stretchable line to hang and dry clothes. All this will come in very
handy when i travel through especially India, Thailand, Laos and beyond
-- i'm sure.
It was an overcast day threatening to rain. After i got back to David's
house, very happy with my survival purchases and took a very long shower
we were ready to get to Newark airport twenty minutes after we wanted to
leave, but such is the best laid plans of mice and men. When we stepped
out of the house to get to the car it was pouring down rain - a very
good, no, an excellent sign for me.
Every time i have ever taken a trip
of great significance by plane it has always been raining. From my first
plane flight at 19 years old when the Air Force flew me from New York to
San Antonio, Texas to when this journey began in February of 1996 when i
went to Prague- it has been so.
At the airport they took away my trimming scissors. They must have a
great business in the resale of knives, scissors and the like. But it
does seem as though my magnetic silver neck chain does not set off any
The flight was uneventful. Well, is did bring my own bananas, almonds
and avocados. For the evening meal i discarded the chicken and ate one
avocado with the salad. The rice was pretty good.
Of course i did the Bruce Willis, Die Hard thing and had my shoes off
for the flight. That's the Bruce thing, not the Michael Franti thing - i
did have socks on. While i was back near the magazine rack, one of the
stewardess and i got to talking and she gave me the valuable tip
concerning the Louvre being free on Sundays. Being not much of a museum
person these past few years, partly because of the outrageous pricing,
this seemed a good thing for a Paris excursion. Of course, i'm talking
to all sorts of people before and after the plane ride because i am a
people person. So i get through customs without incident even though the
agent took a while examining my passport photo. This is to be expected
as i had a full head of hair when the picture was taken 8 years ago.
It is an early autumn morning (7:30) at the Charles de Gauile airport
and i know i can not go to the hotel too early, so i decide - actually i
knew before i left New York - to take the train into Paris proper. The
bank machine was nice enough to give me some of my money and i was set
for my Paris adventure. On my way to the train station located at one
end of the airport, i saw a ticket machine that noted (in French - i
don't read or speak French) tickets to Paris. Purchase a ticket i did,
though when i got to the train it did not work. Of course i didn't get
upset because i am on holiday until i get to South Africa. So i go to
the train ticket window and am told it is a ticket for a bus to the
center of Paris. Not a problem for me as now i know where the train
station is and all. In fact, i had done another rather smart thing and
asked the information people at the airport where my flight to the Dubai
Airport in the United Arab Emigres was leaving from on Monday
So i catch the special bus to Paris, driven by a very French looking
gentleman. I always wonder how the French can stay so thin eating all
that bread and cheese. After the bus ride which seems to take us through
all parts of the city, the driver points me in the direction of the
Metro, where i go and get a visitors day pass from the clerk, who is no
help in letting me know how to connect to the Metro line that would take
me to my destination stop at the 'Cour Saint Emilion' Metro station.
When all is said and done, i believe the New York City transit booth
clerks, even in a foul mood, are better than this clerk. In fact, this
morning i found out she actually sold me a ticket that cost more than i
needed. No matter, i am not spending much money in the French economy
After much jumping on and off the wrong trains going in the
wrong directions i finally make it to my hotel at around noon. I wasn't
stressed or anything. I have a great rolling bag, with good wheels i got
from a Army-Navy store on Houston street by Orchard Street for $26, and
it is more than worth it. Of course my room was not ready, but i was
cool. After putting my bag and a small backpack in the hotel luggage
holding room i did what i usually do when checking into a new
neighborhood - took a scouting walk. Found the post office, a good and
friendly sandwich shop and took a rest in Le Parc de Bercy. Quite a
lovely park. It seems Paris has lots and lots of parks - the lungs of
any city. This particular park even had a metal sculpture garden with 21
- 7 to 8 feet high figures of different nationalities from around the
world. Extraordinary work.
After i finally get back to the hotel with juice and a sandwich, i add
the other avocado to the sandwich eat and take a nap. Three hours later
a wake and decide to visit a Paris site at night. What else would one
pick but the Eiffel tower.
It is a full looking moon. I did not buy my usual Jim Maynard Moon
calendar date book this year - first time since 1987 i am without one -
so i can not be accurate.
The moon is full and i spot the tower and make my was towards it,
winding along the streets and taking in the night scene of people
hurrying home and folks in cafes and bars. I approach the tower and walk
through the South and East legs. The North leg has a very long line of
folks waiting to take a ride to the top.
Just when i am in the center of this huge structure the crowd give out
an ah-h, and right away, T (from thePatterson's takingthetraintoTibet.),
my radio alter-ego perks up as says in my head, "Oh, they have noticed
our arrival." Of course, i ignore him, look up and see they have
hundreds of mounded strobe lights flashing white light. It is
spectacular. I keep walk northwest and cross the bridge. The light are
still flashing as boats in the river pass under the bridge with huge
lights that luminate the banks on both sides as they pass. To my relief
there are no words from my ego driven radio 'nom de voce'.
zig-zaging the area, i decide i've had enough of this area and descend into
the Metro where i ask the agent, much nicer and more informed that the
morning's, how to get to the Left Bank. She doesn't know but gets on the
phone and finds out, takes my map and circles all the transfer points.
Bless her, and i even send love to the morning clerk.
At the left bank i eat what was supposed be a vegetarian Mexican
burrito, but these owners must have been several generations removed
from their culinary land as they didn't have an avocado on the premises.
But they treated me like an Mayan King, so i have little complaints.
In walking around i found this great Internet place called Access
Academy - they say they are a cafe but i don't see any food.
I also ran into some musicians passing out fliers for their gig later on
that night. After walking around a bit more, i went to the gig. It was
just adequate. It was an 8 piece band playing in a small cavernous space
in the basement space of a place called Bar Three. The lead guitarist,
James - who gave me the flyer - was good, great energy. The horn
section, trumpet, trombone, and Cynthia on the Sax was good. The
Keyboard guy was adequate. The drummer was interesting as he seemed to
get better and better as the night went on. The bass player was
fantastic. But the lead singer seemed to just be going through the
numbers which were in the James Brown, Gil Scott-Heron, Donny Hathaway
groove. If this band is to be successful the lead singer definitely
needs to step up his chops. You can't do a James Brown song without the
So i got back to the Hotel way before the Metro closes at 1 AM and read
a little in the Jack London short story book they have instead of the
Tonight i plan to perhaps see a visiting gospel group, who seem to be
from the states, can't tell for the wheat pasted poster.
All in all, i find Paris reminds me a little of Rome, a little of Barcelona, a Little of Antigua, a little of Amsterdam, a little of London, a little of...
After getting a sandwich and going to my hotel room and stuffing it
with an avocado i bought last night, before going to see the Urban
Groove Unit - that's the name of the 8 piece band playing in the
underground cavern last night, i took a nap and woke up a little past
9PM. We have a saying in off-off Broadway theatre, "Keep coming," even
if you know you are late, just keep trying to get to the performance. So
i did. Seems like i'm an old pro at the Paris Metro system after one day
because i made all the connections and got to the gospel performance.
Hearing the voices and music as i entered the church, i followed the
sound up steps and stopped at the back of the knave of the church where
the performance was in progress. They were in the middle of "When the
Saint Go Marching In," and i was expecting my ever present healthy radio
alter ego to come to the fore when a tall gentleman, who i noticed was
talking to a woman in the lobby down stairs and had followed me upstairs
approached speaking French. Of course i knew he wanted the price of
admission, which i gave up gladly, as an honest fellow am i. I do give
unto Ceaser what is his and unto the Universe what is necessary, and
unto paying presentations what is what they need for another show.
Sitting in the back was good for awhile until they engaged in some fancy
footwork and i just had to get a better view, so up front and to the
side i went. And lo and behold there was a space on the side bench just
waiting for me.
It struck me how here were a Back French gospel group singing Black
American spirituals to an overwhelming white French audience. What made
it more evident was the unrhythmic clapping of this audience.
I mean even the white girls were out of sync, which in this day and age
is unusual. But we are in France. Anyway, they end the set and since
they are speaking French i believe that is the end of the program. And
of course the thought starts percolating in my mind that i have been
ripped off by some Christians for 15 Euros. But since i am on holiday i
am cool - no stress...this is what happens to tourist. After a big
pause, as an afterthought, the woman who was making the announcement,
the same one talking to the follower, noted this was the intermission.
So i bring out my Jack London short story and finish reading "The White
Silence", and find it is only the first story in this three story book.
"The Men of Forty-Mile" is the next story i begin to read when
intermission is over. They begin this section with a very settling and
smooth version of "His Name is Jesus." The next song is a very moving
and well arranged version of the South African National Anthem. Of
course i no longer believe in coincidence. After the last few years of my life i have
resigned myself to just enjoying the ride the Great Mystery has set me
It was a good performance the seven female, six male voice ensemble was
well rehearsed and the gospel keyboard with French guy on trumpet was
most appropriate. Just the thing for me on a Saturday night.
The thing i forgot to mention about the Gospel Dreams concert last night
was the fact that there was not one big mama or prosperous daddy in the
group. How do these French do it? Could it be the State side African
Americans are just too addicted to the tumor food of the fast/fried/carbo
foods that are everywhere we turn? Somebody somewhere is doing a study on
this, i'm sure.
Also last night, i met a Sister here at the Internet Cafe. Though we
didn't really talk (and the Internet cafe seems to be a new pick-up point
on the journeying trail) i did manage to find out she was a resident of
Paris, did not like the people, yearned for Black American company (she
was reading Jet Magazine on-line) and indicated the Louvre may not be free
but for the first Sunday of the month. Of course, i could have offered my
company for this Sunday, but i just wasn't feeling her and her weave and
messiness (she had her stuff spread all over the place, in little bits,
taking over two spaces).
Which brings up the subject of intolerance.
The ugly specter of racism did not enter into my being until i was
actually serving in the United States Air Force at 19 years old (perhaps i
shall mention the minor incident in a latter writing - perhaps not). Sure,
i knew about, or rather heard about segregation and all, but in the South
Bronx of the mid to late fifties and on into the early sixties, we were
all together - Black, White, Puerto Rican -- everybody just a-freaking --
(sorry for the Prince lyric). Yeah, the Jewish folks were up on the
Concourse but we interacted in school. And we all genuinely rather got
along and even liked each other. Well maybe some of us third graders
didn't like Murray very much, especially after he stuck his finger up
skinny Jill's underpants in the playground, and Jill wouldn't squeal, and
we all (all the boys in the class) had to stay after school that day. But
generally we all got along because class and caste overrode skin color.
We, in the Patterson Projects, didn't even have much
division among shades of blackness or even sexual orientation or physical
disability. Our divisions were according to buildings. 340 Morris Avenue
vs 320 or 360 or even the other side of the projects. And of course you
had the Patterson's vs the Melrose Projects or the Lincoln Project over
the bridge in Harlem. And later there were the Spanish gangs of the
various side streets between Willis and St. Ann's Avenues. We won't
mention the Italian turf located between the Melrose and Patterson
Projects, or the Irish gangs up on Boston Road (The Boston Baldy's) and
all...I don't recall the Jewish guys having any gangs. But all that was
dissipated in the late fifties when the power structure of the
politicians, police and Mafia conspired to allow hard core drugs to flood the
neighborhood to kill off the gang activity, in an effort to stop the same
gangs from becoming consciously radicalized by the likes of Malcolm X, James
Baldwin and Lorraine Hansberry. But that's another story already written somewhere.
The intolerance i speak of is rooted in this constant separation of folks
from one another. This holding on to an injustice. This unforgiving nature
that permeates our modern world. And it seems to be written in stone.
I remember wondering about the D.W.Griffiths film of the popular novel of the era call "The Clansman" (film title "Birth of a Nation"). To this day
everyone is appalled at the film and it is held up as a defining moment in
U. S. American history. And it did have many great cinematic moments. But
no one even mentions the film he shot after the upheaval of that classic, in my (undergraduate degree in film studies) estimation an even better
cinematic presentation called "Intolerance."
So why do we hold on so tight to our indifferences? I don't know. Maybe on
this trip through so many different cultures, an answer will be
forthcoming. Meanwhile i continue to observe the French with a North
American sensibility...and i'm off to see if the Stewardess was right (The
Louvre is open free every Sunday) or if the Sister is right (it's only
free the first Sunday of the month).
Well Franchesca, My last night in Paris was great. i hooked up with a
friend of Larry Bensky. Yes, the very same Bay Area Bensky who i
engineered for at the Pacifica Studios as my last engineering gig in
Washington,DC before embarking on this little trek. At any rate, Larry
sent an e-mail hooking me up an old friend of his –Karen- who was also
part (weren’t you all) of the struggle involving KPFA a couple of years
back. It was a great evening. Her and her friend who teaches music
and me walked through several historical (aren’t they all) in Paris. A
funny thing though – several times people would stop us and ask me for
directions. It became quite funny after awhile. He had to go home and
prepare for his students the next day, so Karen and i pressed on. We
ended up at a great little place where i had the most-best falafel i’ve
ever tasted in my travels on the planet. Too bad it was my last night in
Paris, they would have made a whole lot of money off of me. I left my
coat with her to give to an African charity she works with. So as i will be
going to one part of Africa, my coat with an "Imagine Peace" button
from a New York Yoko Ono art installation i visited before leaving the big
Apple, will be going to another part of the Mother continent.
So the next morning i did the breakfast thing at the hotel, squirreling
away stuff for my flight to South Africa and all. It was a pleasant train ride
to the airport.
I was wearing the poncho i got at the Mexican market you took Jake
and me to all those years ago. You know the poncho that is in the
picture with me wearing the tambourine on my head in the market. That
poncho goes with me everywhere. I use it as a covering and blanket at
(It goes well with my NOMMO Radio hooded top i got in Montreal and
monogrammed in Harlem.)
My thoughts leaving Paris revolved around a feeling of Paris being a city
of coupling, a city of attachments. Folks have their attachments to their
lovers or each other or even their pets. One of the strangest things I saw
was on the metro when on a crowed metro train a woman had her dog
lying on a seat. Strange behavior…the thought i left Paris, France with
was that it was not a city for me and it was a city of longings
LOVE, Thy will be done.
*Orisha Tales Repertory Radio Theatre Co.* Artistic Director
**NOMMO Radio** Progenitor
"All I know is *Theatre...and **Radio"