and the girl with pig tail lingered with Toby
over in one of the corners of the room. It was late, and I wondered when
they were going to leave so we could turn out that light in the ceiling.
They started mumbling among themselves, and occasionally looked over at
us. I felt uneasy. I don’t like that when people you don’t
know or you just met start talking just low enough that you can’t
quite make out what they’re saying. .
So far on
the trip, Rudi and I had not talked about drugs or alcohol because
neither of us seemed to need anything like that in the way of priority.
We both seemed to look at it the same way; it was a luxury, if you could
call it that, which we couldn’t afford. It costs money, and it was
that way on the trip, too Drugs and booze were O.K. but they were so expensive.
It’s not that either of us had some moral thing against it. It wasn’t
one of those “avoiding temptations” problem kind of things
That’s not to say we avoided it entirely. And one of those times
was coming up.
Paint brushes, oils,
and other art materials took every cent I had. Besides I was on a scholarship,
and losing that because of breaking the house rules would have not pleased
my mother who had encouraged me to follow a career in art.
After several sucking
ins of the burning smoke, I began to sink into a sleep-like mode. There
have been many descriptions and odes to smoking marijuana so I don’t
need to repeat them here. With me, and I hear it affects all people in
different ways, it was an experience of watching myself fall asleep, but
at the same time, struggling to keep from falling asleep, or waking my
self up. It was like I was driving on a busy two-lane highway knowing
that if I continued to fall asleep I could cause the car to go to the
right and go into a ditch and roll over, or I could veer off to the left
into oncoming traffic. So it was a constant struggling to keep awake,
a tension, the whole experience this time.
The pot was working its ways. I was secretly appreciating the newness of the day, a horizon of morning cleanliness from my Paris overlook.
I felt myself weaving. I wasn’t on any highway out of control, so I just eventually made my way to my sleeping bag where Rudi was already “out” and in a heavy sleep.
The day was half over when I woke up. Toby was shaking my shoulder. “You missed a lot of fun last night, Rohn,.”. I looked at the wall clock. It was noon. “But I got some fun for you two guys today. How’d you guys like to see this town? I know a fellow with bicycles.”
I grumbled and mumbled
“Sounds good!” . I figured some good healthy bike riding would
do us some good. I leaned over and shook Rudi. “C’mon Rudi.
Get up!” We’re going bicycle riding!”
Toby took us downstairs
to his friend, Emile, who had the bicycles.
1957 Paris looked to me like the pictures of Paris in 1857. What a stroke of luck that a vengeful Hitler had seen fit not to destroy the city when he ordered his troops to retreat back to the Fatherland. Or a vengeful Churchill decided not to retaliate during the London blitz time to bomb the Nazi troops stationed in their Paris stronghold.
Geeze! That was pure luck that Allied military leaders in that kind of turmoil just a couple decades ago could make that kind of sensible decision.
I can hear those hometown hawks in Baltimore on the radio back in the 40’s hollering “Kill those frogs in France that are harboring those Nazis in Paris. Bomb the city! Get them out! One city isn’t worth the life of one American soldier.!”
With the speed of mass destruction techniques that America had developed for Hiroshima over there in Japan, I’ve thought many times about how many historical and art and architectural treasures would have been lost forever in Paris. I can see now why the U.S. Government was holding back so much information about the atrocities that were happening to civilians in Europe until after the war.
During WWII, there were several small prisoner-of-war-camps all over the USA and a small one was near our high school about two miles away . In the schools, and in the churches, and the newspapers we were riled up about the Germans and the “Japs.” I remember one of the boys during my sophomore year had a car and we would jump in it and with the windows rolled down, speed down the dirt road alongside the camp and yell through the barbed wire at the German prisoners “Kill those Germans!“ We had other things to say to them also. They just stood there, hanging on to the barbed wire fence staring at us.
At the same time, just to show you something of this nature, during my junior year in high school, we had a boy come to our school from Fresno, California. He was from a Nesei internment camp. His name was Richard Takasaki and his grandparents were originally from Tokyo.
Here on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, no one had ever seen a Japanese-looking person except in the movies and on the war posters that were all around that had an evil-looking oriental person with the headline ”Loose Lips Sinks Ships.” He spoke perfectly good English since it was his grandfather who came to the USA from Japan. But since we saw him as that guy on the poster, he had a hard time getting to know people. I guess his parents did too because the whole family was transplanted to our town. I really don’t know all the details. Maybe he lived with a local foster family home. He seemed like a nice guy. But no one wanted to be seen talking to him. Eventually they did, and he played third base with us on our baseball team.
I’m just saying that to tell you what kind of feeling we had for Germans and Japanese during those times, and if the word had gotten out of the atrocities going on in Germany and France at that time, there’s no telling what might have happened to Paris.
Anyway, the antiquities of Paris awaited us, thanks to the good decisions of the American and English military leaders during the war.
Up the street we wove dizzily in and out of the market stalls that were just off the Jardin du Luxembourg. My head was tender from the night before. The park was bustling with little children with young mothers, or grandmothers, or British nannies, or little children with no one at all, tossing balls and paper airplanes, and climbing trees, peeing in the bushes and getting spanked. My throbbing head was in no mood for sight-seeing.
At the Place
de la Concorde Toby pointed out where Marie Antoinette and Robspierre
lost their heads by the guillotine during the revolution, and I wished
they could take mine too.
A couple more visits to “must see” museums and we headed for a park bench or soft grass to revitalize and then get some food. Every now and then Rudi and I were treated to a dinner invitation, but most of the time we were in Paris our meals came from the street food stands that always featured baguettes. Sometimes we’d splurge and have some cheap red wine and cheese. So if you’re going to be spending some time in Paris, and don’t expect to spend much, a lot of the Patisseries or Boulangers will have the same macarons or viennoises that the touristy sit-down places feature but without all the frills. And you don’t have to tip the waiter. There is none
We returned the bikes
to Emile and Toby returned to his apartment and the girl with the pigtail.
We headed back down the alley on our scooter.
The Caves of Paris