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TOBY MAKES PHOTO OF ROHN
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AT JAZZ PLACE
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DERELICT IN BOIS de BOULOGNE
to work on his painting in the early evening. He kept his colors
in beer bottles, the kind that has a ceramic top on them and a little
rubber washer and then a wire contraption that let’s you snap it
shut real tight so the tempera color inside doesn’t dry up. When
he was ready to start his painting he would pour a dab of each of the
five colors into five glasses like a martini glass or Manhattan glass
and mix his colors on a board beside him. “I like this tempera,”
Toby said. “Oils are too messy. It’s hard to clean the brushes.
And they’re smelly. And it takes too long to dry. Tempera dries
fast. You can paint right over top of it if you don’t like how the
color turns out. ”
Toby was a meticulous guy and his paintings were kinda like that too,
all detailed and correct. I didn’t tell him about my painting exhibition
back in Sommerhausen when I was still in the Army. Like Rudi says, “Play
dumb, you can’t learn anything when you’re talking.”
Toby was a real good salesman.
One thing I learned was that he took all of his paintings down by the
river (he had fifteen completed) and stood them up alongside the bridge.
“I always go to the same location every time, so if any of the tourists
are in Paris for more than a week, they might come back a second time
to the same spot to see if I’m there. I’ve sold two of them
that way. One guy and his wife from Indiana, and a young girl and her
mother from San Francisco.” Toby said.
didn’t need the money, so he aimed high with his price,
like $250, (about _____ francs) but he’d always come down when they
started to haggle. “I didn’t want to lose respect so I never
came lower than ten dollars,” Toby said.
So, it was early evening and
Toby had returned to his work on the painting.
I left him alone to go out wandering in the streets. The outdoor cafes
were closing down and with them went that wonderful fragrance. You could
tell by the fragrance if a breeze was blowing through Paris if there was
an outdoor café coming up in your walk by the coffee aroma. If
you’re walking in the early morning, you could tell that with the
bakeries too in Paris and they have a lot of ma ‘n’ pa Patiseries
and Boulangeries because the French love those ‘just out of the
oven’ long loaf baggetts. And you can also smell the chocolateries
and the cosmetic shop. They all run together sometime which makes a groove
in your memories of Paris.
It was dusk
and I strolled along the Seine for a while. It was like strolling
along the surf in my hometown back in Ocean City, Maryland. I’d
wave to a beach patrol guy up in his high tower watch chair, or I’d
wave to his girl friend sunning on a beach towel below, or I’d wave
to whoever I wanted to and the girl would wave back, sometimes.
This was different. How’re
you going to wave to strangers in Paris when you take a stroll? They’d
probably think you were a creep or something. I felt lonely as I passed
among couples stretched out along the sloping banks of the Seine. It was
just before sundown and with a setting sun off to the west, it all reflected
the skyline of Paris in the river. It was growing dark and I walked until
the reflections disappeared into the dark of night.
I wondered what Rudi was doing at this time. He no doubt was with that
girl, probably a German girl. Who knows? When girls are involved anything
could happen. I thought about it. What if I were to be left alone in Paris?
I didn’t like the thought. He’ll come back, I thought. If
nothing else, all of his belongings were all back at Toby’s. This’ll
be a test.
It was dark down by the river.
I headed up for a section of Paris called Pigalle, the quick-fun, quarter
of Paris, like Coney Island. I stepped down into a bar called, “The
Three Brothers,” and took a seat between two strangers at an empty
bar stool. There were five people sitting at a table near the bar. I watched
their happy conversation. One attractive dark-skinned girl kept catching
my eye. When the jukebox began to play, her friends left the table to
dance and I went over to her.
“O.K.” she smiled.
As I embraced her, I felt her warm body snuggle against mine. And I decided
she was interested in more than dancing with me. As the song lingered
on, she danced with increased passion and as I talked with her I felt
the firmness of her tapering torso and rounded limbs.
“My name’s Rohn, what’s yours?”
“Lullalia,” she said, drawing back suddenly to look at me
with black enchanting eyes, and a coquettish smile.”
“Where do you come from?” I said, holding her at a distance,
enjoying her gypsy beauty.
“I’m from Budapest, and I’ve been in Paris one year,”
she said, drawing me in to her as the music was ending.
She joined me at the bar after dancing, and we spent
two beers convincing each other what nice people we were. “I like
you very much, Rohn” she said drawing little figures on the back
of my hand that lay on her thigh. “Let’s go home.”
“Hone? But what will your parents say?” I said a little confused.
“They live too far away she said modestly, cocking her head and
looking up at me blushing. I don’t mean that kind of home, ”
She smiled, squeezing my hand.
I figured out which home she meant. I paid the bartender and we left.
We turned the corner by the bar and walked up the narrow street toward
a lamplight. When we reached the light there was another light over a
door to a small hotel that read “Hotel Dubois”.
We started walking up the stairs and Lullalia stopped. “Wait, you
stay here…” she whispered, “They’ll never believe
we’re man and wife.”
That was O.K. with me because
I know back in Ocean City, it was against the law for hotel keepers to
allow a man and woman who weren’t actually married to sleep in the
same room in a hotel. I think the fine was $300. Pretty high! And they
would set a court trial for you too.
“Well then, let me order the room,” I whispered back in a
“No, no, with your accent, they’ll charge you twice as much,
“What’s it going to cost?” I said.
“Not more than a 3000 francs,” she whispered.
That was fair enough but I only had a 5,000-franc note with me and gave
it to her and she turned to go up the stairs.
“Wait,” I said. “I grabbed her waist with both hands
and drew her in to me. I kissed her wildly. I drew my hand across her
tight ass and then ran it up to her breast and with a soft feel said,
“See you soon my beauty!” She went tripping up the steps,
her black hair bouncing along with her excited steps.
Gad! I thought to myself, as she stopped and looked back
at me and winked before she opened the front door. “How did I luck
into this gypsy gal, so pretty and SO Paris!
I could see her trim figure disappear in silhouette as she opened the
door and the light of the hotel entryway rushed out. It closed. And I
And that was the last time I ever saw Lullalia.
I waited a few more minutes
outside, and then, realizing what had happened to me I ran up the steps
and thrust myself into the doorway to find a solemn set of crusty old
men playing cards in the miniature lobby. A gray-haired desk clerk peered
over the rim of his glasses when my entrance disturbed his newspaper reading.
I started to ask him, “Did you see a girl..….?” And
I thought how silly I would sound. I turned and left.
I walked and walked, sometimes
laughing out loud at how easily I had been fooled, and then I howled,
thinking of losing the 5,000 francs. I wondered what Rudi would have to
Well, I felt like getting drunk. What happened is I didn’t go out
and get drunk. No. I did one better than that. Here’s what happened
next. But let me give you a preview. It was still early evening. It wasn’t
It began when
I tried to find some good music. I still had some francs left.
I wanted to find a place where I could curl up in a ball and listen to
some good jazz.
If you know the music of Charlie Parker you know how it puts you in a
trance if you’re not careful. That’s what I was looking for
at this moment.
Let me backtrack.
During the late 40’s I had a high school girlfriend who had a record
player and we used to play “Bird” and Dizzy Gillespie and
all the top be-bop greats when her parents were gone for the weekend or
on a trip. Parents in those days always dismissed anything new in music
as evil and from the devil.
I guess this wickedness hung on with me because when I saw the signboard
“The Mystique,” above the entryway to a Parisian jazz club
down some stone basement steps into a cellar area, I was drawn by the
sound inside. A lot of smoke greeted me at the door. It was easy to find
a table in a corner; the late night crowd probably hadn’t arrived
New music style takes a long time, sometimes, to get from one country
to the next and while Rock ‘n’ Roll was just now getting established
in the USA, be-bop was just getting going in Paris.
I was half finished with my red wine as the group came back from their
break. They tinkered around with tuning and adjusting their equipment
and lighting. There were five of them.
The boys were not bad, especially the alto sax kid. He had probably bought
every record Charlie Parker ever put out. He was on a mission to do Charlie
Parker one better. You could see some flashes of brilliance every now
and then in his music. It was fresh and good-hearted music with a sense
of warmth. The kid had talent.
And that’s what I hate to see in many brilliant musicians, they
lead such an unhealthy life, drugs and all but they’re on to powerful
statements, the kind you want to die for. You don’t have to understand
it; you only have to receive it. They can open up a peephole and let you
see things like the meaning of life and all that. And this kid could do
I wondered if he would ever make it past 30. He was probably an American,
I ordered another glass of wine. A French girl with a red flower in her
hair sat down in the chair next to me. I continued listening to the group,
especially the sax player. She could see I was in some deep concentration
and reached over and touched the back of my hand. When I didn’t
respond, she got up and left.
What I mean with jazz is, and
I mean good jazz, not the textbook stuff, when it all comes together it
hits me. This guy on the alto sax had it all together. When music is right
it flows right to me and through me and around me. Tonight, it was all
because of him. I can’t really explain it anymore than like when
you see some girl and you’re immediately in love. No questions.
No numbers. You’re just in love. And in the case with music there’s
no explanation needed. Nothing to figure out. You just sit there, have
another glass of wine and be transported.
Like anything else that’s
creative, you see it, or you hear it, or you watch it, or you read it
and you’re gone. You don’t question it. You quietly absorb
it. You don’t analyze it, like you don’t listen to see if
it’s in tune, or harmony or spacing or if it’s out of rhythm,
those mechanical things; it’s almost like you’re hearing it
without letting it come through your ears. I know this is true because
I’ve been in places where there’s good music and my date will
ask me a question and bam! She asks it again and pretty soon she’s
talking to some other guy at the table next to me because I’m in
a daze of some kind. I know I’m not the only one like this cause
other guys have told me they get entranced like that when they’re
reading a good book and they miss the bus stop or the train station where
they were supposed to get off. And that’s the nice thing about good
art because it truly does have the gift to transport you away from a life
that’s getting tough or probably not very exciting.
So if you ever wondered why some people love exhibits, or concerts, or
libraries and museums, that’s the reason. And that’s why when
I visited the Louvre I asked Rudi if he didn’t mind if I went in
alone. I can’t take it when I look at paintings in a museum and
some girl or relative is along there with me pointing out this and that
and not getting the full enjoyment of it. And like good jazz, there’s
some kind of a magnet in there somewhere pulling me into it.
I know with different people
there are different situations with art like this where some painters
and some writers just don’t reach you. There just isn’t a
channel open to you for all kinds of art like music might not be open
to you like this, or poetry writing, or dance. And in other areas where
the magnet is turned on full blast and then it gradually dies, and those
people try to keep holding on to it, and grab it, and wrestle with it
and recapture it and if they fail to reach the heights they once enjoyed,
then they experiment with other ways to reach those heights. In my case,
I just hope the glow that I experience sometimes will not recede. It’s
a spiritual thing. I’m thankful. And I’ve thought about it
a lot. I’ve learned not to be greedy with good art.
I stayed in there getting transported
until. I guess about, 1:00 o’clock. When I got outside I saw it
had been raining. It didn’t matter. I still felt like walking. I
came upon a lone girl standing on a street corner. She was waiting for
a bus. And for some reason, I decided to wait for the bus too. The girl
was all wrapped up in a duffle coat with a gray hood that covered most
of her face. It was like looking down a stovepipe to see her.
to me. “I guess that bus is never going to come,” She sighed.
She had a lovely high voice. Like a singer. Clear sweet tones.
I realized she was looking at me. Not at the puddles in the street or
up at the neon glitter. She was looking right at me. She was very
I guess she was asking me what
I thought ‘cause it really wasn’t a question. After my great
thing with Lullalia I hesitated before I answered her. She didn’t
look like she was ready to play some tricks on me. Besides I didn’t
have much money left in my wallet to lose. I answered her in French, “No
…looks like you’ve been waiting here a long time.”
I guess I
didn’t look very dangerous to her, either, and she took
the initiative. “Are you a tourist here??”
“So am I.”
Heck, I didn’t know where that was. But I pretended I did.
“Are you here in Paris alone?”
“No, I’m staying with my sister out in Neuilly.”
“Is she a tourist too?”
“No she’s working here,”
“She’s going to get married to a boy from Paris soon.”
“Is that where you’re going now, to your sister’s?”
“I guess so.”
“Where you’ve been?”
“To a movie.”
“I’ve been walking around awhile. I’ve never visited
this section of Paris.”
“And now you’re going home?”
“I guess so.”
She seemed very lonely, but I didn’t feel like getting myself involved
with someone with sad tales. I guess because she was a girl, I continued
“Don’t you want to go home? I mean to your sister’s?”
“I’m leaving Paris tomorrow.”
“To go back to Marseilles??”
“Yes, I have a job there.”
“Are you going to be glad to get back?”
“No, I love Paris.” She was melancholy. “…And
this is my last night.”
“And I was hoping I could stay up all night.”
“Aren’t you going to?”
“No, I’m lonesome. It’s no fun watching others having
a good time.”
“Don’t you get scared?”
“Would you like to have a cup of coffee?”
I don’t know why I said that. It just came out.
Besides, I want to see who was underneath that hood she was wearing. She
looked like a monk or something.
We left the corner just as the bus pulled up. “My name’s Rohn.
What’s yours?” I asked.
“Lilly”, she answered. “Lilly Beaugard.”
Lilly, that sounded a lot like Lullalia, I thought to myself. Jeeze, I
hope I’m not falling into a trap again.
Outdoors, all the coffee shops were closed because of the light mist and
intermittent rain. Nearby, we found a cellar coffee shop and I pointed
to a chair. She sat down and removed the heavy jacket and hood that had
been covering most of her face. I looked twice and she smiled --- she
was a beautiful girl! And she had a beautiful smile. The streetlight had
been deceiving. I had no idea she would be so lovely. I wondered what
she thought of me. The cool night air had reddened her cheeks. –
and the contrast with her light green eyes and short black hair made her
look like a Dresden doll, one of those porcelain dolls we had on our living
room knickknack shelf we had at home that my mother would never let me
She folded her arms under modest breasts in a tight sleeveless sweater,
and leaned toward me to talk.
I felt a warmth stirring in my loins. And then I remembered I felt just
about the same when I met Lullalia a few hours earlier. I drew back. Not
coldly or anything like that, Just a cautious kind of hesitation.
“How old are you?”
“How old do you think? She asked softly, tilting her head and smiling
as if she had a secret to share.
“Sixteen,” I said. With girls, I always say a number smaller
than I really think.
“No!” she laughed, “It never fails! I’m 20”
and she opened her wallet to show me a driver’s license. “There!”
And Glory Be, they must hire excellent photographers at the Driver’s
License place because the picture in the wallet showed a vivacious young
girl just as pretty as she was. I checked the date, just to show her how
impressed I was, but really to make sure she was the girl from Marseilles
she said she was. I felt relieved. And I felt another twinge of blush
in my loins.
It’s funny isn’t it, when something happens to you that seems
just right, just the way you want it to go, you still doubt you’ve
been blessed with a good situation.
But I wasn’t
going to let this go. This was enjoyment! This was fun. And even
if it turns out sour, I said I was going to dismiss all my doubts and
just crash and burn –so be it.
She said softly, “I liked you on that street corner because you
were so kind to me.”
“Kind?” I said. The waitress arrived with our coffee but I
was in a dream. .
Waitresses must have fun too. They slip into a situation where two lovers
are so engrossed they don’t even know the waitress has arrived.
And the waitress can linger and enjoy without interrupting the lovers,
like being a bird or something in their bedroom and watching their, listening
to their conversation and motions. No one else in the café can
do that. I mean they can’t intrude and overhear what’s being
said or watch the touching or listen to the whispering.
“”I like European girls.” I said.
“They seemed to have a more natural attitude toward life, “
I said. She lowered her head. She knew I meant sex.
“I’ve never known any American girls,” she said. But
they’re awfully pretty.
“Where’ve you seen them?”
“I the movies.”
“You don’t think they’d put any ugly ones in there?”
“And she found that very funny. And she laughed and I laughed with
her and we sipped our coffee. She told me about Marseilles and how it
was on the coast to the south and her life as a child there, and how she
got her job in an accounting bureau. I watched her as she lowered her
Mediterranean eyelashes to look in to her coffee.
She was truly a beautiful woman,
and I wished that she wasn’t leaving for Marseilles in the morning.
We could ride into the countryside on my scooter, and buy some bread and
cheese and red wine and spread out a blanket somewhere in France or go
swimming in a small creek where there were only trees and birds and flowers
and our nude bodies, or we could lie in some farmer’s field far
from everywhere, under a blue dome, in the high grass.
She caught me staring and I blushed. I took another sip of coffee and
thought of something charming that I was going to say to her but it was
too trite, and I didn’t say it. I could think only of how much I
had fallen in love with her.
You’ve been awfully quiet,
Rohn. You’re not mad at me for laughing at you?”
“No, no, Lily, I said, pleadingly reaching for her hand. I like
people to laugh at me. I like to be funny.
Tell me something funny, Rohn,” she said, placing her soft fingers
on my curled fist.
And I told her the story about ‘Lullalia, ” and how I was
fleeced out of 5,000 francs.
She laughed and laughed happily, and tears began appearing in her eyes
and flowing down the side of her face as she bounced lightly in her chair,
throwing her head back and I saw her lovely mouth and glistening teeth,
and she said that was the funniest story she ever heard. And it hurt me
a little bit to hear her laughing at me like that, But I didn’t
really care; it made me feel good to hear her laughing so freely; she
had seemed so lonely at the bus stop, and I began laughing with her too,
but we couldn’t stop and it seemed a long while until she gasped,
“Oh, Rohn, you’re just a little boy!”
Abruptly I stopped laughing.
“What’s wrong, Rohn, dear, you look hurt. Did I say something
“Nothing’s wrong,” I lied, avoiding her eyes.
“But there IS something wrong!” she grabbed my wrist and shook
She paused and then recalling what she had said, “You didn’t
like me calling you a little boy? Oh, Rohn, I’m sorry” She
said. “I wouldn’t hurt you for anything in the world! And
she took my hand and whispered, “My man!”
I twisted my hand roughly away from her and stared at her with evil in
my eyes. (And oh, God, have I ever been sorry for that moment!) I motioned
to the waitress. I wanted to pay the bill. Lilly reached for my hand again,
but I impatiently stood up to leave. She ran in front of me to the door
of the café and whispered frantically, “I’m going with
you. You can’t leave without me.!”
She came along and we walked swiftly down the narrow sidewalk. She tugged
at my arm, “Oh, Rohn, don’t you see? A man isn’t a man
until he can accept things like a man! That’s why I came to the
coffee shop with you, because I thought you were a man! I admired you!
And I called you a little boy out of affection.! And now you’re
running away like a little boy! Oh, Rohn! “ She pleaded,”
Don’t run away from me!”
I stopped as suddenly as I
had changed my mind about her and gathered her awkwardly into my body
and smeared my lips over her beautiful mouth until I was breathless.
“I love you, Rohn. “ She softly murmured. As she melted into
me, and I felt a warm sensation flow through my body. I held her face
between my trembling hands and tenderly kissed the lovely face that I
had passionately admired in the café. She opened her eyes to look
at me, and I whispered quietly, I’m sorry, my angel.”
I stood limply as she affectionately
buttoned the top button of my jacket. I pulled the hood up about her darling
face, and we turned and walked as one in the direction of Toby’s
far off studio, looking to get out of the chill of night.
Paris was asleep as we passed
through the quiet streets missing traffic and its quite parks missing
playful children; only the sound of empty busses in search of passengers,
broke the fresh early morning air. It was not difficult for us to keep
Paris in our hearts, the beauty of everything, as we strolled along. Here
and there, a forgotten bouquet left on a park bench, a theater ticket
stub atop a mailbox, a flyer from Moulin Rouge loosely flying in the breeze
down the sidewalk as we strolled on, becoming deeply intimate with the
loveliness of life.
It was dawn
when we reached Toby’s, and there was a note on his door.
“Rohn and Rudi, I won’t be back until tomorrow at noon, see
you then pal, Toby.”
I unlocked the door and we entered and turned to each other. The door
clicked shut; as I leaned against it, she cuddle into me, nestling her
body into the warmth of mine. I tenderly swept the wet locks of hair from
her face and kissed away the blush of her cheeks. That morning, in the
dawn, Lilly and I beheld the twinkling stars of love that don’t
disappear with the coming of day.
Lilly left of the 10:29 train for Marseilles, and a sweet melody seemed
to go with her. At the station she asked me “How do I say goodbye
“You say, ‘I love
you Rohn, and you will always be in my heart’ I said.
She placed her hand on her breast where I had pinned a small yellow flower
I found in the park on our way to the train station. As the train pulled
away, and framed by the car window and in tears, she pressed the flower
to her lips. I never saw or heard from Lily again.
I lingered around the station
for a while and bought a post card to send to the address she had given
me, but I thought and thought what I should say. Finally I scribbled out..
. dearest Lilly, I love you, I love you, I love you. And a tear smeared
the ink where I signed, ‘Rohn’.
Her name echoed along my path as I returned to Toby’s: “Lilly,
Lilly. I heard the forlorn sound of her name everywhere – like the
radios in a lonesome village all playing the same tune.
South to the Mediterranean