Tuer le Temps 05/06/2010Posted by brendan in La Vie en Paris.
Tags: centre pompidou, cimetiére montmartre, cimetiére saint vincent, france, montmartre, moving, paris, walks, wandering
Before I was an illegal tenant I was an early illegal tenant. Robin’s collection of boxes served as desks by sitting close enough to the window I could use the civic wifi with borrowed accounts. Bibia and Julien were extraordinarily kind about letting me move in, leaving me a strand of Christmas lights and digging out a plate from the trash so I could not eat off old magazines.
The landlords were coming to handle paperwork and scope the place out. It was decided by all involved that instead of trying to sweep and mop and tidy around my inert corpse I would vacate the premises. There was an exhibition at Pompidou so I badgered Vingt into hasty arrangements and wondered what else I could possibly do with no where to go.
Out on the streets on the ugly side of noon feeling not particularly well and unwilling to shell out the extortionist prices for shots of espresso. Instead I walked a couple blocks to the Cimetiére Saint-Vincent, a small graveyard hidden by high walls and houses I accidentally stumbled across one day. Marcel Carné is buried there, and Montmartre’s drunken son Utrillo.
It was a nice day, sunny without wind after a long and particularly cold winter. Little old ladies were holding court on benches. I walked up and down the rows wishing everyone away, wondering if my stomach would cease cramping and if trying to take a nap somewhere would cause offense. It’s hard to beat an unpopular graveyard for quiet open space, but when the seats are taken it’s too small for aimless wandering. I left the ladies to continue chatting gaily amongst the marble slabs.
Wound through the streets of Montmartre towards Saint Vincent’s better known brother. An old quarry purchased by Paris to compensate for the failed graves which spread pestilence and disease through the center of town, Cimetiére Montmartre is still an open pit. The effect has been softened by a tree planting program which affords surprising amounts of shade and hides a surprising amount of semi-feral cats. Free with a bathroom makes this my kind of place.
Twenty-seven acres of peace and tranquility. I walked along the walls reading inscriptions and marveling at the adornments of death, although the tombs are decidedly less dramatic than at Pére Lachaise. Drooling zombie cats watched me pass, wary but willing to fight if I pushed the issue. Clémence had told me that little old ladies visited the grounds to feed the mangy beasts so I rooted around the foliage and unearthed houses and fresh supplies.
One problem with hanging out in cemeteries is that sometimes you come across an internment or pack of mourners. When I stepped out from between two sarcophagus and saw a woman wearing sunglasses staring at a grave I tried to creep by with a casual hello. Almost made it, but then she said something to my back. Comment? She waved her arm at the grave, saying look what I come to find! Ah. I can’t tell if she’s upset because there’s no flowers laid out or if she’s upset because trees have dropped pollen that no one had bothered to wipe up.
When her irritation was spent she asked if I was looking for anyone on particular. No, not really. She told me where a famous composer I had never heard of was buried, saying he had a really nice tomb. I asked her if she knew where André Breton was buried, but she didn’t. Au revoir, au revoir. And I scuttled away as quickly as possible.
Climbed stairs, passed graves, found François Truffaut and then the Jewish quarter in the corner overlooking the lower grounds. I have no idea who requested the segregation, but I do know that relations have always been a little strained between the Jews and the French. There were no fresh flowers amongst the dusty stars of David.
Hours had passed and I still needed to get to Pompidou. Time was on my side so I took the long route walking back through Montmartre to Faubourg de Poissonniers, then headed south until I hit the Beaubourg. My instructions led me to the locked gate of the museum’s offices looking at a call box which was going to require some serious conversation. While I double checked to make sure I was at the right locked gate a group of people were buzzed in and I followed. The receptionist had an envelope with my name on it, a pass inside. Things have been getting easier on the museum front.
A group of deaf kids asked me to pledge money for their deafness. After explaining a lack of money the ringleader tried to convince me that swapping pens would be a good idea. I tried to indicate that my pen was much better than his with its metal top and black ink and finally just waved my hands and walked away.
They made me check my bag. The exhibition I had come to review was small and required general admission fees, making for a poor article. I strolled through the permanent collection taking notes just in case. I was getting tired and the day old baguette which I’d stuffed in my backpack seemed more likely to make me hungry than anything else. I finally broke down and let myself be ripped off at the Pompidou café for some shitty coffee and hoped the deaf kids wouldn’t see me as I left to walk home.