A bottle of wine / a baguette / some cheese / some music and the rooftops of Paris – this is my Afterlife
It’s not a good croissant if there aren’t any crusty crumbs to stick your tongue into. (Clafouti, are you reading this?)
Sadly, the trip is over, but I’ll post more photos soon.
Appropriate for 1h17.
My favourite Serge Gainsbourg song (though that changes once in a while) is about another song – Les feuilles mortes (Autumn Leaves). Serge’s song is called La chanson de Prévert (Prévert’s Song) – lyrics by Jacques Prévert with music by Joseph Kosma. Here are the French lyrics, with the English translation by Alex Chabot.
|Oh je voudrais tant que tu te souviennes
Cette chanson était la tienne
C’était ta préférée
Qu’elle est de Prévert et
Avec d’autres bien sûr je m’abandonne
A cela il n’est rien
Passe l’automne vienne
Cette chanson, LES FEUILLES MORTES
|Oh how I’d like you to remember
This song was yours
It was your favorite
It’s by Prévert and
With others of course I give up
For that there isn’t anything
The autumn passes and brings
That song, DEAD LEAVES
Serge Gainsourg (Lucien Ginsburg) is buried with his parents Olga and Joesph Ginsburg in Cimetière du Montparnasse. There are always a lot of offerings from his fans – notes, métro tickets, cabbages, etc., all relating to song lyrics, quotations or moments in his life.
I will compose until my decomposition
Serge Gainsbourg died on 2 March 1991. At the time I knew almost nothing about him – perhaps I had heard only one song: Je t’aime… Moi non plus. I watched the state funeral on TV and couldn’t believe how it brought the city to a standstill. I had to find out more about him, I started listening to his CD’s and fell in love with his music – I loved his word play, double and triple entendres that I don’t pretend to understand all of.
(I recently discovered that Alex Chabot is translating the lyrics into English, so we Anglophones can finally “understand what Gainsbourg was saying in each song, and not always how he was saying it”. Alex Chabot: My Own Role – The Lyrics of Serge Gainsbourg in English – pay him a few sous so he can continue the good work).
He was a legend before he died and he still is influencing French music from beyond the grave. His daughter, Charlotte, has preserved his home on Rue de Verneuil (where he died). The front wall is filled with graffiti homages to him – layer upon layer have been added these past twenty years.
I just can’t believe it has been 20 years.
After staying for a couple of months in a company-supplied apartment near the Château de Vincennes area (Southeast), I moved to 13, Rue de Suez near the Château Rouge métro (Northeast). It was, and is, an African and North African neighbourhood. People I worked with were relieved every day that I arrived (late) for work – they were worried I wouldn’t survive. While it was not what you think Paris is, it was a safe area – I never had any trouble and never saw a fight. The worst that happened, happened once: my roommate Yasmeen was whistled at.
I lived on the fifth floor – no elevator. I actually exercised for a bit (the Canadian Army 5BX method) and was so energetic that I ran up the stairs and sometimes found myself on the sixth floor!
I took a walk around the neighbourhood, and after 20 years, just like the rest of Paris, some things are the same and some things have changed. I’ve done this so you don’t have to.
There is a story about Oscar Wilde living (and dying, I think) in a hotel near here. I’ll have to do some research on this.
The entrance to métro Château Rouge, which I used every day for two years. There used to be a boulangerie here where I would buy two croissants every day for my journey to work. Because I was a regular customer, the croissant girl would slip an extra free croissant in the bag. When I said I didn’t need a third croissant, she would say to give it to the homeless – but I never found the homeless up at that hour!
The launderette I frequented is no more – it was very convenient, where I could have my clothes washed and folded for an unreasonable fee, though it seemed they beat the clothes to a pulp. It was the only launderette in which I saw someone reading the Holy Quran. Next to the launderette is this little resto, where one could find the cheapest couscous in the city.
The market street, Rue Dejean
13, Rue de Suez. Tug on my coat-sleeve and I’ll tell you about a fire that broke out in the apartment next to mine.
Navel is an Indian resto on Rue de Suez (I can’t believe it’s still here). I was so excited to find an Indian restaurant five steps from home, but soon found that the Marks & Spencer frozen Indian meals tasted better!
Shopfronts are quite different here (many are closed on Mondays).
Two things that have changed: every shop is either a hair extension place or a mobile phone store.
Rue Montorgeuil is a fantastic market street with cheese shops, bakeries, fish stores, wine shops, produce and flower shops. It’s a very hip neighbourhood. There’s a Starbucks that I hope the smart people avoid comme la peste. The area has my favourite pavement. Small, square stones are arranged in a wavy pattern – the streets are dark, the sidewalks are light.
At the beginning of 1991 I began a two year work term in Paris. A few days after I arrived I participated in one of several anti-war rallies against the first American war in the Arabian Gulf (euphemistically called “The Gulf War”). The march took about three hours and while taking photographs and chanting some slogan or other, we passed monuments, famous buildings and streets – I saw Paris so differently than as a tourist.
It didn’t take me long to fall in love with everything about Paris – except the attitude. Twenty years (and a few months) later Paris is still Paris and the attitude has improved tremendously.
I thought I’d blog about my twentieth anniversary visit. It will be composed mainly of photographs with some nostalgic musings about places revisited and perhaps some new surprises.