Chapter Eleven

Copyright © 2002 by Martin S. Reff
All Rights Reserved

Thursday, June 7, 2001

A quiet laundry day.

Tried to get corrected airline tickets; difficult because Canada Air has two offices, one of which I visited, but neither knew what the other said. Finally solved the problem later by a few phone calls.

Shopping, dinner in.

Friday, June 8, 2001

E. and E., my brother and sister-in-law, arrived at eleven, as Marcia had predicted, but I had been waiting at the bus stop since 9. Oh well.

They liked their room which has a balcony and overlooks avenue. The Trianon Hotel, 22 avenue du Maine, charged 495FF (about $70). Breakfast, a feast, cost 35 FF per person.

Lunch at our place then took the bus to Notre Dame, followed by a visit to the Holocaust museum which is nearby, a stop at Hôtel de Ville and finally a visit to BHV where I bought a battery for my hearing aid's remote control unit.

We returned to Montparnasse, sent them off to bed, making arrangements to pick them up later for dinner.

We tried to nap.

We picked E. & E. up 7:45, and had a fine dinner at Morlaix. Later, we walked up boulevard Montparnasse...nice walk toward Luxembourg Gardens and over to St-Suplice, to Odéon, to André des Artes, to St-Michel, to Latin Quarter, and to the Shakespeare Book Store where we ran into Kevin, a person we met at Simone's party who gave me the insight on the use of hyphens in names. We talked for a bit. He said he'd send me some email.

Back to St-Michel where we took the métro home. Got to sleep at 12:35 AM.

Saturday, June 9, 2001

Slept late and then a late start to the Bastille area. Saw the ateliers, the opera where I bought a Picasso print, then a visit to the Michel and Charlette's boat. Later, a stop at the armory of the Garde Républicain. Lunch at Massif Central - enjoyed by all. We made a reservation at Bofinger, a well known brasserie for Monday night at 8.

Continued our walk to the Marais - Place de Vosges, the oldest and one of the most beautiful squares in Paris. At its southeast corner is a passage to the garden of the Hôtel de Sully and to the house itself. Built in the early 17th century it holds temporary art exhibits.

While Marcia was showing E. & E. the front courtyard, I remained in the back, leaning on the stone balustrade overlooking the garden. "We're traveling too quickly," I said to myself, looking for a metal chair, many of which are usually nearby. I wished I had one and a book. Under a tree young people were gathered on the grass. I heard a bird above protesting the intrusion. A scene that could be painted. What is the color of a bird's song?

We took a long walk around Carnavalet, the Picasso museum, then back home. Short respite. Slept a bit. Marcia's a bit fatigued.

Expect to have a bite here and then go to the Champs Élysée.

Sunday, June 10, 2001

The Louvre: We split up in the Danon wing near the "stable" Salle du Manége where I got a chance to take a second look at columns, and then Marcia and I moved to a gallery with sculpture.

Experiencing a work of art in a museum is so personal that I doubt seeing it together with another person is desirable. Of course observations and initial judgments can be shared, but a person may unexpectedly come upon a painting that touches one's soul in a private place where old feelings lie. Marcia and I walk separately; occasionally, we will meet and return to a painting to share a impression.

Then we saw E. & E. We all went upstairs and I got away by myself looking at Dutch painting in rooms 33-39.

I laughed - almost out loud - when I saw Gérard de Liresse's painting of "Hercule entre le Vice et la Vertu." The painting shows Vice on the left in the form of a voluptuous woman with a full breast almost completely revealed and Virtu, on the right, a demure woman, decently clothed looking on. The confused boy is in the center. His confusion is confounded by the fact that neither is particularly desirable.

I was intrigued by a small painting of an old Dutch Church. It was quiet, subdued. Painted by Henrick Cornélisz van VLiet in 1675 and was given to the Louvre by Mme. Dreyfus in 1969. The painting was ordinary, pleasant, subdued but it was the name of the donor who stopped me. I assumed Mme Dreyfus had been the daughter of Alfred Dreyfus the famous French Jewish soldier imprisoned falsely and about whom so much was written and still is. And then I wondered if he had every seen the painting or touched its frame. And if he had, so what. Had his eyes fallen where mine were?

We joined at the coat room and left for an Italian restaurant and light lunch of a salad. We crossed the river to find the art store of a friend of my brother. We did and then went home. Met again for dinner. Found the Hostellerie as well as a back up, Le Mer, closed. Fortunately, we ended in Passage Rohan at the the restaurant Le Procope. Marcia had wanted to eat there years before. The restaurant dates to the end of 17th century and it has been popular with the writers, artists, etc. ever since. We had a fine meal in beautiful surroundings.

Home for two hands of bridge and sleep.

Monday, June 11, 2001

Off to L'Opéra at place de l'Opéra for a tour and found a palace, as expected, set up for tourists with mockups of sets and photos of various productions. Everything is a museum in Paris. On the ceiling of the main salon were figures that were sitting on the ledge, out of frame so to speak. We've seen this before, most recently at the Louvre where I spotted a mouse. I wonder what the technique is called.

I'm not as interested in such buildings as I had been. I've had my fill. But the others enjoyed themselves while I sat and read.

Next was Le Printemps, the large department store where we took the elevator to the garden restaurant on the roof. We had a chance to look out on the city and take some pictures. Later we had lunch in the impressive dome restaurant.

Home for a nap.

Well rested, we took the métro to the Arc de Triomphe, elevatored up and surveyed the city once again...nice. Before and after our ascent I remembered the first time I walked near the memorial to the unknown soldier, passed the names and places of battles, and watched the flame. I liked that experience better than looking out on the city.

But we did experience something interesting. After buying our tickets and walking around a bit, we approached a ticket taker near a sign indicating the steps to the top (quite a few!). We were certain that there was an elevator. When our group of four senior citizens reached the ticket taker, she said we were in the wrong place, referring us to the other leg. Well we searched and searched, finally asking a policeman who pointed us to an area but all we found was an unmarked locked door. No handle, no button, no sign, no line of people. After milling about a man came over and asked if we wanted to use the elevator and said he would be back shortly. Eventually he returned and used a magic key to open the door to a nice small compartment which whisked us quickly high up to a little museum and then one flight of stairs took us to the roof. Now we know that grey hair really opens doors.

The Eiffel Tower - Few people around and so we went up to the, mid, or second level Because of maintenance work, we couldn't ascend to the top so our views were not much better than the one we had at the arch.

Later but we found a good very busy restaurant, Le Suffren, located on avenue de Suffren.

Tuesday, June 12, 2001

Not too much sleep.

Off to the Orsay Museum via quai Voltaire to check out the restaurant where Christain, my brother's friend, will meet us tonight for dinner. The restaurant, Le Voltaire, passed inspection, but d'Dorsay already had a long line. Crossed the Seine to Concorde, stopped by Madeleine, then on to rue Royal where we began a walking tour. Sculpture by Strebelle Turned on to rue de Ste-Honoré and continued. E. & E. stopped at jewelry and clothing shops.

We detoured at place Vendôme, pointed out the Ritz hotel, and saw a lot of sculpture by Olivier Strebelle, the sculptor whose huge bird-like creature dominates Place de l'Opéra.

I liked his work (and that's not because he's as old as I). Look at this piece featuring a mother and child. Strebelle conveys what he wants in a way Henry Moore would have appreciated. Moore used mass without being representational like Antoine Bourdelle. Strebelle's work is more graceful than either and considerably more challenging: lines to follow and spaces to look into and connections to discover. I was sorry I couldn't stay longer. I took photos.

In a nearby jewelry shop were smaller versions of the some of the works.

Finally stopped at a pocketbook store where we got a chance to buy a present for Joyce, our mailwoman who has been holding our mail each month so that Michael could pick it up for us. My sister-in-law bought a fine leather belt for herself and Marcia found a pocketbook that suited her.

Had lunch at a small sandwich shop on rue de Marches-St-Honoré (I believe that was the street.)..

We continued our walk to Palais Royal and picked up the métro at Louvre-Rivoli. We were heading for a visit to the synagogue near the Marais.

It was the trip to the Bastille that provided a disconcerting opportunity to see a gang of gypsies in action. The métro from Louvre-Rivoli to Châtelet was crowded. As we entered a teenaged boy brushed by me with his hand near mine. He was smiling. I elbowed him away and then had the distinct impression that he had tried to reach into my left side pocket where I keep my wallet. I hadn't completely finished that thought when a young girl asked me the time. I raised my hand to look and began report the time when she, giggling, began to fondle the hand with the watch as if to look at the time. I pulled away, found a seat, realizing suddenly what was going on.

As the realization dawned I watched the same boy frisk a older oriental man while his companion watched in confusion. The boy was laughing in a friendly manner, dancing around as his hands frisked professional. I tried to signal the companion what was happening. At the next métro stop, Châtelet, the group (one boy three girls) got off then re-boarded for the short trip to the next stop at Hôtel de Ville where they disappeared.

The gang action was obviously well planned and executed. I was an older person burdened by a plastic bag containing the gift and the pocket book and affluent enough to have a watch colored gold which they found to be a Timex. The older oriental man was likely to be completely confused by the friendly boy and by virtue of habit would restrain himself from resisting.

Later I realized how close I had been to losing my wallet. If I had been wearing a good watch, it would have been removed. I would have reacted and in the confusion that followed, the thieves would have not only secured my watch but a large of haul of wallets, purses and other valuables from the unsuspecting passengers. Choosing a busy metro line was perfect. Furthermore, the distance between l'Opéra stop and Châtelet is very short as is the distance between Châtelet and Hotel de Ville enabling two quick escape stations. A perfect set up for even the most experienced traveler.

At Bastille station, we all admired the ceramic tile paintings of the French Revolution that adorn the walls.

The synagogue, Temple des Tournelles, we were going to visit on rue des Tournelles was a short walk from place de la Bastille. We found the caretaker next door and, like the last time we visited it sometime in 1990, he led us inside Light from the sun made things visible. My brother and I were handed yarmulkes (skull caps).

While the others walked down the aisle and looked around, I remained with the gardien. To be candid I was uncomfortable leaving him alone. And so I asked questions.

He told me that the synagogue had more than 1000 members but only about 800 came for Friday night services. Men sit in pews on the main floor while the women sit in the balcony except for weddings, when the men sit on one side and women sit on the other.

I learned that the metal frame work of the structure, including the great arches, was created by the firm associated with Gustave Eiffel. The gardien smiled when he confessed that no one really knows if Eiffel himself was directly involved. We thanked and tipped him and then left. The city has more than one hundred synagogues.

Last time we were in Paris we visited a Mosque on the left bank behind the Jardin des Plantes.

Walked through the "Jewish" street, rue des Rosiers, then left to St.-Antoine where we discovered that a demonstration of some sort that prevented our bus from running. métro here we come.

That night we had dinner at the restaurant Le Voltaire with E's friend, Christian. The meal was a good one except for the Sancerre wine with its distinctive taste which overwhelmned my dorade (like a porgie) and Marcia's raie (a ray or skate),

At dinner we had a lively conversation with Christian. I confess I should not have asked him about Strebelle's work at place de l'Opéra but I did. He didn't like the work and I, impolitely, asked him why. He just didn't like it, he said. Although it was rude of me to ask him in the first place, I've run into many educated people who try to avoid answering by responding in the same fashion. "I just don't like it." Or what's worse is the person who says he likes a work but provides platitudes for reasons.

Actually, if you get a person to begin to talk about what he likes or dislikes, he suddenly discovers all kinds of things about himself.

How hard it is for people to talk about art. Ask a simple question about why a person likes or dislikes a work of art, it's as if you've invaded his soul ---Ah, ha! Perhaps you do. But even if you do on a personal level, that's no reason for a person to refuse to talk about it or, worse, to defend silence with the peculiarly American reaction, "Everybody has a right to his/her own opinion?"

It's hard to talk about art without using language which means using simple words. In graphic art the most elementary words such as lines, color, background, foreground, thin, thick, light, or dark would suffice if only people would try...but they don't. And even when the soul is on fire, a close examination would find it a wisp of smoke or a slip of flame and not a conflagration. Am I being clear?

"Original" is the password today and has been for too long. People use it to value all kinds of things. Size increases its value geometrically. This allows museums with large empty rooms to house such art, justifying the museum's existence. Such art also allows the wealthy to write off the donation. Perhaps I sound sour. I don't feel that way. I feel that art has been degraded to an extent that those who feel creative graphically and want to be artists don't get a chance to develop. Art nowadays is not interdisciplinary but non-disciplinary. I've written before that without discipline there is no freedom, and without freedom there is no art. And so students today think any thing goes and unfortunately it does.

We walked home. Arrived fifteen minutes past midnight.

Wednesday, June 13, 2001

Off to area just outside of Paris called La Défense once again to show E.& E. Saw the arch but differently. We exited at MacDonalds and then I just gazed up. A "wow" sight - magnificent. I never thought I'd say that about the arch but the difference was so great that one wonders what else I've missed by not seeing it.

It was the suddenness of the experience plus the angle that did it.

We had a light early lunch, took the new train to the Bibliothèque Nationale, stopped home a short time and then went to the Pompidou Centre to show our visitors theNational Museum of Modern Art at Beaubourg. While our guests pursued their interest, we wandered around.

I stopped in front of a big simply framed canvas by a Richard A painting by Serra Serra entitled "#9." I was told it was worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. Take a look. Within the frame of about 6-8 feet square was a piece of paper, the same texture and color of a file folder, which was affixed with staples and almost filled the frame. On top of that was glued either a black fabric or a fabric of a different color that had been painted black. The fabric practically covered the file folder material. There was a little more space on the right side than on the left, about half on the left and about an inch on the right. Both bottom corners of the fabric had been trimmed in make a long round on the lower edge.

I recognize value as a function of supply and demand and am forever grateful that Serra has not flooded the market.

I chatted with an elderly man in in front of an early and famous work of Jackson Pollock. I believe it was a work done in 1949 and entitled "26A Black and White." It was an early "drip painting," a style of painting which ignores traditional ideas of composition in which the relationships of parts contribute to a whole. He just paints (drip paints) all over. The man who was sitting commented sarcastically on the painting's importance. Then he told me that he was a printer and he could do the same thing and it, too, would be original.

I don't know why but I was reminded of the poem by Oliver Wendell Holmes about the one-hoss shay that was built "to last one hundred years to the day" which it did. Next morning it was nothing more than a pile of powder. It had all collapsed at once. I think that's the way I feel about Pollack's painting.

"Confidences" by Picasso attracted me. It was cute and well done. Picasso, himself, is in the painting, kneeling on a chair and leaning on its back facing an an innocent young lady. I'll try to get a print

We ate at the Chartier in Montmartre which is a good, large, busy, traditional, noisy restaurant that caters to people who like ordinary delicious French food.

Walked awhile in the evening and then home.

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