November 5th, 2006


The Chaircrusher Guide to Paris

x09 asked for Paris hints, so I'm duplicating my e-mail here, for future reference. Please feel free to reply with corrections and additions:

1, Cathedral of Notre Dame right on the river. Effing amazing
building. Whenever I've been in Paris I go in and walk around every
time I'm near it.

2. Isle St. Louis -- in the Seine, over a short bridge at the east end
of Notre Dame, is a small island full of narrow streets. Fantastic
restaurants, art galleries, a variety of stores. There are some nice
small hotels there as well -- you could do a lot worse than to stay
right in the center of Paris.

3. On the left bank, close to Notre Dame, Shakespeare and Company --
60 year old english-language bookstore. It's pretty cool even if you
don't need books.

4. Up the hill from Shakespeare and company, there's a huge restaurant
district. Greek restaurants with guys out front breaking plates.
Some of it pretty touristy...

5. The Rex: -- premier club

6. If you're there on Sat, Sun, or Monday ... the insane flea market
up at Porte de Clignancourt -- this place is
insane. The usual outdoor stuff, where you can pick up anything from
fairly nice clothes, to really crap souvenirs (but cheaper than they
are at the shops on the Seine.). Plus there are a couple of huge
buildings full of shops selling old stuff, everything from 17th
Century baroque wardrobes, to a place that has new old stock buttons,
going back a hundred years.

7. Eating. Load up on croissants and bread and toast in the morning,
buy food on the street for lunch and save your money for a nice place
at dinner. The Isle St. Louis has a bunch of fairly spendy, but
excellent restaurants. The restaurant area on the left bank is a
little cheaper, with some fun places.

8. Museums. You can do the Louvre, but it's huge, and sometimes
crowded. I'm good for about 2 hours in a museum before I'm on visual
overload. My favorite museums are the Picasso Museum and Centre
Pompidou. Pompidou is the nutso building with all the ducting on the
outside, and it's a short walk from Notre Dame.

Picasso Museum is 'right-sized' for a museum imho, because you can
walk all the way through it at an appropriate pace in about 2 hours,
and you don't get that 'I haven't seen everything but my eyeballs will
explode if I see another fucking painting' feeling.

9. The Maire -- the Picasso Museum is in the 3rd Arrondissement aka
the Maire -- which is a great place for upscale -- but not absurdly
expensive -- restaurants and shops. It's the queer capital of Paris,
and we all know who you talk to if you want nice things ...

10. The Bastille Neighborhood -- about 15 minutes on foot from the
Picasso Museum. There is no Bastille any more -- they tore it down in
the revolution innit? But that's where the new Paris Opera is. More
to the point, in the neighborhood just east of the Opera, full of
restaurants of all sorts, from first rate traditional brasseries to
sushi restaurants. Also the home of Techno Import -- the best vinyl shop in paris.

11. Leon De Bruxelle -- this place is
frickin awesome. It's all about ordering a bucket of
mussels, with fries, and the fries are all you can eat. There's one on
the roundabout by the New Opera -- i.e. the Bastille neighborhood. I
like the Mussels with Roquefort, which sounds awful but is amazing.

The funniest thing about Leon De Bruxelle is that it's a chain like
Perkins, with some of the same trappings -- the garish plastic menus,
which you'll never see in a proper French restaurant. But it's still

12. Merguez Frite -- pretty much anywhere in Paris on the street, you
can get a sandwich called Merguez Frite which consists of a crunchy
french roll, spicy lamb sausage, french fries, mayonnaise, and
mustard. It's about 1000 calories at one go, tastes awesome, and is
the perfect walk-your-feet-off meal.

13. The Metro -- you can get everywhere on the Metro. Paris is a big
city and you need to choose when you take walks, or it's all you'll
do. If you're going to be there more than 3 days, buy a week pass.
Get a compass, because the easiest way to get lost in Paris is to come
out of the metro turned around and walk the wrong way.

14. Chatelet -- this is the metro stop you get out of to go to Notre
Dame, or Centre Pompidou, but it's also connected to Les Halles which
is a gigantic multilevel shopping mall in the center of the
city. A mall is a mall, but there are some nice shops.

15. FNAC -- the equivalent of Virgin Megastores for France.
Loads of listening stations, kinda high prices (but that's true all
over europe), but they will have stuff you'll want and have never
heard of.

16. La Defense -- outside Paris, but it's a huge transport
junction at the west end of one of the main Metro lines. It's a
monstrous building, which contains another gigantic -- and kinda cool
-- shopping mall, but on top is like 50 acres of concrete plaza
overlooked by this gigantic arch that is an echo of the Arc De

17. Rueil Malmaison -- if you want to go someplace quiet and pretty,
this is a ways out in the suburbs, where the Chateau Malmaison is,
which was the home of Napoleon's Empress Josephine. Beautiful
gardens, classic 17th Century Chateau that I believe you can tour.

18. Place Pigalle -- the Red Light district, which is coincidentally
where the synth and pro audio shops are. Where the famous Moulin
Rouge is. Kinda crap other than for a few minutes being amused by
guys trying to pull you into peep shows, but it's near

19. Montmartre -- go see where
Amelie hung out!

The US VS John Lennon

The US VS John Lennon is a really great movie, for a number of reasons:

1. The John Lennon soundtrack -- long on his more adventurous songs, short on "Imagine."
2. The interviews both with John's friends, and with FBI Agents, G. Gordon Liddy, and John Dean.
3. Loads of entertaining footage of John & Yoko.

All you young'uns can experience some sense of what I lived through as a teenager, vicariously. I was in Cedar Rapids, IA, which I don't think reached 1965 until 1975, but we were starved for news of the outside world, and got it from television and magazines like the Rolling Stone.

What it brought back to me was how much, at the time, the Beatles and John Lennon meant to me growing up. I along with nearly every American alive in 1964, watched the Beatles play the Ed Sullivan show. I was 7 years old, and impressionable to say the least, stuck between the Mormon world of my mom's family and the OCD blinders-on world of classical music my parents inhabited. I didn't know what I was seeing exactly, but the Beatles represented to me a third way. As I grew up, it's not stretching it to say that John Lennon was a hero, and one of few: When I was a kid it was him, Martin Luther King and Malcolm X that I thought worthy of hero status, and not many others.

It's hard for anyone born after that period to understand the lack of irony, and wide-eyed sincerity with which people came to the counterculture at that time. "All we are saying, is give peace a chance" completely captured the zeitgeist.

And in fact, we're confronted with the same situation all over again now -- a point the movie only has to make subtly -- in some cases with the same fucking people who were there in the Nixon administration the first time around. They still think wars can make things better, and they're no more willing now to give peace a chance now than they were then.

I recently said how much we could use Mark Twain about now. Add John Lennon to that short list of people who we could use again. No one since has come close to Lennon's combination of idealism, innocence, and whimsy, and his way of speaking truth to power with a smirk....