The Flaming Artist Speaks to the World
The Amsterdam Trip—January, 2005
8:25 a.m. Wednesday, February 2, 2005
Today is John’s 60th birthday.
We’re booked on a 2:00 p.m. tour of the Louvre, which will pick us up at the hotel at 1:45 p.m.
Yesterday morning we found we’d attempted to book the city tour too late Monday night to make the 8:30 a.m. tour. So we took the Metro to the Louvre anyway, to see if we could tour it on our own. In the Metro station, across the tracks from where we awaited our train, I saw an unforgettable, unbelievable sight: a billboard for a joint exhibition of two or my all-time favorite artists: “Miyazaki (Haiyo Miyazake, the Japanese “Anime” director of 4 of my all-time favorite movies in any genre: “Castle Cagliostro,” “Nausicaa,” “Laputa,” and “My Neighbor Totoro”) and Moebius (the alias of Jean Giraud, genius French comicbook artist, creator of “The Airtight Garage,” “Arzach,” and “Lieutenant Blueberry”) at some unknown exhibit hall somewhere in Paris. I forced John to wait, missing one train, as I quickly wrote down the info & resolved to try to get to see their exhibition before we left Paris.
The Louvre Metro station was part of a huge subterranean shopping complex. Everything was still closed (it was only 9:00 a.m.). I saw a shuttered art store, thought I might go in there later to see if they had any info on the M/M exhibition.
We ascended to the Louvre courtyard. We saw the glass pyramid, designed by I.M. Pei. Actually, we saw, while still underground, another, inverted, glass pyramid hanging from the ceiling, not quite touching noses with a much small cement pyramid rising from the floor. We found out later that this was also designed by I.M. Pei. John was tripping out that all of this was in The Da Vinci Code
We discovered that all national museums are closed on Tuesdays, so we were there on our own until the city tour convened at 1:30 p.m. We returned to the underground shopping mall. The stores were now opening, including the art store. The clerk there told me that the M/M exhibit was within walking distance, just the other side of the Seine. So John & I parted company, and I set out, following the clerk’s directions.
These turned out to be somewhat ambiguous, complicated by the fact that, like Florence, the street names changed every couple of blocks. Also, “across the Seine from the Louvre” is a pretty big across. The Louvre, including the Tuileries gardens, is about three football fields long. Eventually I found the building—an ex-government office directly on the Seine. I arrived after 11:00 a.m.—I figured I shouldn’t stay much past noon, not knowing how long my return trek would take. I spent the majority of my time watching a French documentary on Miyazaki & the making of “Princess Mononoke.” Interestingly, it was French subtitles over Japanese conversation. Alot of it I could figure out anyway. There was another docu on Moebius (also in French) running on the other side of the room. I watched the Miyazaki docu until 11:50; then I tore myself away to give the rest of the exhibit a quick once-over. Fuck! Too much to see. Several rooms full of artwork from the breadth of both artist’s long careers. The Moebius parts were illuminating: it showed a large selection of his film design work, both in live action and animation, of which I was only tangentially aware. I stayed on until 12:15 p.m., buying the program book of the exhibition on the way out. I took the metro back to Cadet, stopping by McDonalds for a Big Mac.
The amazing synchronicity of my chance observance of the M/M billboard and the narrow window of opportunity in which to see it was not lost on me. When I arrived in Paris Monday night I had not the slightest idea I’d be blessed with the opportunity to see this incredible exhibition by not one but two of my all-time top ten favorite artists in any medium. Thank you God, Satan, Krishna, Buddha, or whatever.
The city tour was something of a surprise. Instead of one of those big tour busses, we had a little mini-van. Our driver was from Finland, but a French citizen for 30 years. After picking us up, he went to another hotel for a middleaged Irish woman and her 2 young adult daughters. An hour later, the driver swung by the Seine departure point for our later river cruise and picked up a Nisei from Houston, TX and his infant son. It was odd hearing a Texas accent coming from a Japanese guy. I didn’t ask him if he voted for “W” (but wanted to).
I asked the driver if he was going to be dropping us at a larger bus, or if this was the tour. Yes, this was the tour.
We went up to the top of Monmartre, to this really cool church, looking down on Paris. Actually, we saw all kinds of shit, too much to keep track of. By the time the tour ended, and we were dropped off at the embarkation point of our river cruise, at 4:40, we were toured out. We had time to buy coffee & a brownie, and empty our bladders before the river cruise embarked at 5:00 p.m. The cruises left every hour. The boat was less than 1/5th full. Not for the first time, it occurred to us to wonder what our experience would’ve been “in season.” Some of the tour boats had seats on the roof as well as inside. Presumably, most of those seats would be filled during the summer. The departure/return point of the cruise was in the foot of the Eiffel Tower—I convinced John to accompany me there, & we paid €5 each to ride the elevator to the 2nd (out of 3) floor. We walked past the Disneyland-style snakey queues at the base of each of the four legs—in the summer they would all be full. We only had to wait for one elevator up, a blessing with our semi-lame tootsies.
During the bus tour, we had a 20 minute stop at Notre Dame. When I got back on the bus, the driver asked me if it was crowded, I was uncertain, so he said, in the summer there are lines. There were no lines, so I guess that it wasn’t crowded. In my opinion, it has been worth the cold weather (it was cold atop the Eiffel Tower) to miss out on all those fucked lines.
John lit a candle in Notre Dame. I watched silently & said nothing snide.
© 2005 Flaming Artist