The Unsequestered Monk Tour


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 alarms. Interesting. 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 afternoon.

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 anyway.

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'.

After 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 SCREAM!

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 bible...thank God. 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 on. 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 times. (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

Spread Joy...
LOVE, Thy will be done.

Anthony Sloan

*Orisha Tales Repertory Radio Theatre Co.* Artistic Director
**NOMMO Radio** Progenitor

"All I know is *Theatre...and **Radio"