07 May 2009

More London and Paris


What else happened in Paris? Lots of stuff, or maybe nothing. All I seem to remember at the moment was a fair bit of eating French food, which they seem to serve in quite a few of the restaurants, though not nearly as many as you'd imagine.

Oh! I went to, of all places, the Louvre. Yes, I know this is a fairly common tourist destination, and indeed a large number of fairly common tourists were already there when I arrived. But it was my first time in the old joint since the 1980s, as I generally avoid such places, especially when there's an admission charge involved.

It's not that I'm against museums; in fact, I love them, at least in principle, and in practice as well, when, as in Britain, they're free to enter and you can just stroll in randomly when you happen to be passing by and take in a few pictures or statues or simply get a coffee in surroundings more salubrious than your local Starbucks.

But when you have to pay a hefty fee, you're inclined to want to take in the whole museum in an afternoon (in the case of the Louvre, a reasonably thorough tour would probably require a couple weeks), which, as a friend pointed out, is like gorging yourself on wedding cake. There's only so much culture a guy can take in one sitting - or standing - and by the time I'd been there three hours, my eyes had either glazed over completely or rolled upward in their sockets, because I just wasn't seeing it or feeling it any longer.

I did get into one rumination piqued by the ancient (or apparently so) stone floor tiles in one section of the museum. They'd obviously been walked on quite a bit, to the point where there'd been some significant wear and tear on them, and that prompted me to wonder how many sets of feet over how many centuries would be required to reduce these stone tiles to a dusty oblivion. And if, at some point, people should be stopped from walking on them in order to preserve some portion of their original appearance for posterity.

That in turn set me off on another train of thought about the value of culture per se. What if, for example, an invading army threatened to destroy a museum like the Louvre? Should armies be deployed to protect it, even though it has no strategic military value? How many human lives could you justify losing in order to protect an ultimately ephemeral (even if we're talking about millennia, ultimately all the earth's museums will be reduced to rubble by nature and time) repository of culture? I was tempted to say quite a few, until I realized I was only referring to generic lives of unseen and unknown people, not those of people I know personally, or, for that matter, my own.

Well, so much for art. My last day in Paris, May 1, was a holiday, marked by a huge protest march culminating at the Hotel de Ville, where it was met by the largest riot squad deployment I have ever seen in any time or country. Criminals all over the rest of the capital could have had a field day if they'd been prepared. The following morning I set off for London, arriving just in time to follow our beloved Fulham over to neighboring Stamford Bridge, where they were rather systematically demolished by an awe-inspiring Chelsea team. With several of our players out injured, and almost no ready-for-prime-time substitutes on the bench, our best hope was that Chelsea, in between legs of a bruising Champions League battle with Barcelona, would rest some of their top players and field an average-strength team.

It was not to be; Chelsea, who we've had some luck against in the past, and who are still dreaming - dreaming of being the operative word - of catching up to league-leading Man United - brought out the same players they'd put out for a Cup final, and one of them, Nicolas Anelka, put the first ball into the Fulham net with only 56 seconds on the clock. Pessimists - another word for "Fulham supporters" - would have given up then and there, as visiting teams have a notoriously difficult time scoring against Chelsea on their home ground, but before ten minutes Erik Nevland had put Fulham level, and hopes rose anew.

But though the lads fought valiantly, there was no repelling the Chelsea onslaught, and, once the scorer Nevland had been hauled off injured, hope pretty much vanished. The Fulham predicament was best illustrated when Chelsea brought on two substitutes who, as my seatmate Dave pointed out, "cost more than the entire Fulham starting team."

We had enjoyed our week-long stay in 7th place, but the defeat knocked us back down to 9th, still a respectable finish for Fulham, and anyway, it was time for Dave and I to be off to Camden to see the Classics Of Love, the new band featuring Operation Ivy singer Jesse Michaels. It was inspiring to see Jesse up on stage again, and looking as though he were thoroughly enjoying it. The crowd was enthusiastic all the way through, but absolute mayhem ensued when the band broke into an Operation Ivy cover ("The Crowd," probably my - and apparently a lot of other people's - favorite Op Ivy song ever).

Post-show schmoozing ensued, featuring the likes of Sebby Zatopek and Tahoe Jeff, Germany-based denizen of the famous PPMB, over for his first visit ever to London. Sunday I mostly stayed in, and on Monday, Green Day, who were over to do some recording and some publicity for their upcoming new album, invited me out to dinner with them. We had a great old time at the restaurant and back at the hotel, where we were joined by Jesse Michaels after his West London (Kingston, actually) gig. It was Mike's birthday, and Tre's girlfriend's birthday as well, prompting many musings and recollections about "the old days" (it's amazing what we choose to remember, and perhaps even more amazing what we choose to forget). The party looked as though it might carry on well into the morning, but with an early flight to New York to catch, I had no choice but to, after a bit of posing for pictures and hugs all around, disappear into the misty London night.

1 comment:

andrea said...

The last time I went to Paris I wanted to go to the Louvre and got as far as the queue. I was too overwhelmed to go in.