Death and Doors in Paris

On my last day in Paris, the only thing left on my ‘doables’ list was the Cimetiere Du Pere-Lachaise which is on the edge of town in the 20th Androssiment.  This cemetery is where many notable writers, musicians, and persons of the arts are buried.  I was on a quest to see where Jim Morrison, of The Doors music group from the 60s, was buried.  Just one of those things which some people would never even think of doing nor be remotely interested.

It was in 1968 when I saw Jim Morrison and The Doors in concert at an outdoor concert south of San Francisco. A few of us piled into Donnie’s VW bus and made the drive. Sue had a crush on Donnie and I was with Donnie’s friend, Peter, who would, unbeknownst to me at the time, become the father of my first-born child. A ‘love-child’ is what some would say; my son is what I say. 20130509-092008.jpg

Anyway, back to Paris.  These are some photos I took from the bus.IMG_7178 It wasn’t until later that I saw the little boy peering from the window; my eye had only caught the animal heads attached to female bodies which I thought was a bit weird.

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What’s this? Who knows…

In Rick Steves’ Paris handbook, he suggests taking the #69 bus which can be caught over on the Louvre side of the bridges, aka the Right Bank. It was easy to find the bus stop and a pleasant ride through an area of Paris I wouldn’t have seen otherwise. Several quaint neighborhoods, vegetable stands, and monuments which, unfortunately, meant nothing to me since I no inkling to the monument’s significance. Ignorance is not bliss; I actually do like to know what I’m seeing.  Guess this is a time when a guide on an organized tour would be helpful.  Other than for tips such as these, I stay clear of those tours.  Most of the time, I am a very independent traveler.  Maybe too independent at times as I know I miss a lot, but I also gain an extraordinary amount of insight into a country just by wandering and accidentally finding nooks and crannies I would have missed if I had been on a tour bus.  Different strokes for different folks, as they say.

Just inside the gates of the cemetery there was a booth where I picked up two sheets of paper filled with names, numbers, and maps with instructions in French. The cemetery is huge and trying to figure out the locations of the cemetery plots was challenging. I did what I could and asked people directions when it looked like they knew where they were going and that they maybe spoke English.  Unfortunately, for me, I didn’t read this list very thoroughly otherwise I would have also looked for Isadora Duncan while looking for Jim Morrison.

Entry to cemetery IMG_7185 IMG_7186 IMG_7187 Tree growing from grave There is something very creepy about a tree growing out of a tomb. IMG_7189  Someone’s little Scotty is perched on top of their tomb giving a little whimsy to the somber nature of a cemetery.

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Marcel Proust is in 30/Div. 85. It was not easy to find the divisions even with the sporadic signs.

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IMG_7198 IMG_7199 IMG_7201 There were beautiful intricate tombs here; so many doors to death. It was a great cemetery but there were many hills and switchbacks. Getting lost was easy. IMG_7202 IMG_7204 IMG_7205

Seeing this view of the acreage was one of my “OMG, you’ve got to be kidding.” moments.

Chopin was well-loved with all the flowers beside his tomb below. Chopin IMG_7208 There was this interesting totem pole-type headstone with inscriptions (I couldn’t read) which I’m curious about, as well. .

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The Division marker for the area of Jim Morrison’s grave.

James Douglas Morrison, 1943-1971, Kata Tom Aimona Batoy IMG_7211 IMG_7212 IMG_7213 Jim Morrison's grave in Paris IMG_7215 Jim R.I.P. 15-2-13 Mourners to Jim Morrison's grave in Paris

Several more Morrison mourners appeared during the short time I was taking photos.

Following is an excerpt from one of Rick Steves’ guides: “Enclosed by a massive wall and lined with 5,000 trees, the peaceful, car-free lanes and dirt paths of Père Lachaise cemetery (Cimetière du Père Lachaise) encourage parklike meandering. Named for Father (Père) La Chaise, whose job was listening to Louis XIV’s sins, the cemetery is relatively new, having opened in 1804 to accommodate Paris’ expansion. Today, this city of the dead (pop. 70,000) still accepts new residents, but real estate prices are very high. The 100-acre cemetery is big and confusing, with thousands of graves and tombs crammed every which way, and only a few pedestrian pathways to navigate by.

The maps available from any of the nearby florists help guide your way. But better still, take my tour and save lots of time as you play grave-hunt with the cemetery’s other visitors. This walk takes you on a one-way tour between two convenient Métro/bus stops (Gambetta and Père Lachaise), connecting a handful of graves from some of this necropolis’ best-known residents.

Jim Morrison (1943–1971) An American rock star has perhaps the most visited tomb in the cemetery. An iconic, funky bust of the rocker, which was stolen by fans, was replaced with a more toned-down headstone. Even so, his faithful still gather here at all hours. The headstone’s Greek inscription reads: “To the spirit (or demon) within.” Graffiti-ing nearby tombs, fans write: “You still Light My Fire” (referring to Jim’s biggest hit), “Ring my bell at the Dead Rock Star Hotel,” and “Mister Mojo Risin'” (referring to the legend that Jim faked his death and still lives today, age 66). Jim Morrison — singer for the popular rock band The Doors (named for the “Doors of Perception” they aimed to open) — arrived in Paris in the winter of 1971. He was famous; notorious for his erotic onstage antics; alcoholic; and burned-out. Paris was to be his chance to leave celebrity behind, get healthy, and get serious as a writer.

Living under an assumed name in a nondescript sublet apartment near place Bastille (head west down rue St. Antoine, and turn left to 17 rue Beautrellis), he spent his days as a carefree artist. He scribbled in notebooks at Le Café de Flore and Les Deux Magots, watched the sun set from the steps of Sacré-Cœur, visited Baudelaire’s house, and jammed with street musicians. He drank a lot, took other drugs, gained weight, and his health declined. In the wee hours of July 3, he died in his bathtub at age 27, officially of a heart attack, but likely from an overdose. (Any police investigation was thwarted by Morrison’s social circle of heroin users, leading to wild rumors surrounding his death.)

Jim’s friends approached Père Lachaise Cemetery about burying the famous rock star there, in accordance with his wishes. The director refused to admit him, until they mentioned that Jim was a writer. ‘A writer?’ he said, and found a spot.

‘This is the end, my only friend, the end.’ — Jim Morrison”

by Rick Steves

Leaving the cemetery from Morrison’s grave was easy, especially in comparison to the hour and a half it took to walk there. After stopping for lunch, I took the Metro subway (for the first time while in Paris) to get back to my hotel.  Although it was somewhat confusing, the women in the information booths at both stations were very helpful, so it wasn’t as hard as I had conjured up in my mind.  Most things are easier than what we imagine, aren’t they?  We can work our minds up into such tizzies, at least I can, thinking of all the “what if” scenarios, when it would be much less stressful to flow with it and “Just Do It.”

That’s how I feel about travel. Be prepared, of course, but don’t over think it; just do it.  Get your passport.  Make the reservation. Do some homework.  Pack your suitcase.  And just go.  Easy.

One of my new cousins wrote recently saying his wife (whom I think may have never left the county she was born in) was amazed by my courage to travel alone.  I told him I wasn’t courageous, it was all a matter of determination and paying attention to what you’re doing so you get on the right flights/trains/buses and get to the right place.  The rest is pretty easy.

Do your homework and have information at your fingertips, or at least know where to get the information.  Be informed.  Travel smart.  You can’t be too shy, and if you are, you need to get over it.  Pronto.

Join frequent flyer programs.  If you use credit cards, use the ones that give you miles on your favorite airline. Sign up for surveys that give you frequent flyer miles, too.  I’ve earned hundreds of miles doing silly time-waster surveys.  Those miles add up.

Say you CAN, rather than you CAN’T.   Believe in your own ability to get around on your own, or, travel with someone you know and whom you get along with very, very well.  Someone who doesn’t nitpick and complain.  Someone with a sense of humor. Do a test run with that person.

Or, go solo.  Just do it.  You will learn more about yourself and about the world than you can imagine.  And, you will feel good that you managed a trip well and have lifelong memories. It’s an accomplishment to make you proud of yourself and instill confidence whether you are 23 or 63.

Make online or hard copy albums and/or photo books of your adventures so that when you are old you can easily reminisce and be reminded of your lifetime of travels.

The end of my 3 weeks of traveling throughout England and France arrived and I was actually looking forward to being home again.  That is until I book the next journey.  It takes me about 6 weeks of being back home before I get itchy feet again.  What’s Bali like, I wonder?  Are there really rats running around everywhere?  Should I go back to Costa Rica? When is the next trip with my son, daughter-in-law, and granddaughter?  Where shall we go?

Travel is the journey into ourselves; the world opens its doors to our life lessons only if we are open to listening to those whispers in our ears.  No learning=no growth.

Jim Morrison sings, “People are strange, when you’re a stranger…”  We are all so very different and interesting.  Yet we are the same, really, and there are no strangers.  A smile, or even tears, are common denominators in every language.  Walk through the door and travel.

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Liverpool: Strawberry Fields Forever

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In 1963, I was thirteen when I saw the Beatles play at the Cow Palace in San Francisco. Paul McCartney was my “favorite” Beatle (we all had one) and I was one of the screaming fans. But, no, I did not cry or faint from the hysteria of it all, but I have remained a fan for 50 (!) years.

I have seen Paul twice since 1963. Once at a University of Colorado, Boulder concert in the 80s when he was “Wings” and then again, as a solo artist in Seattle in 2005 on the night my daughter went into labor with my first grandchild. (I had asked her to try not to go into labor that night, so, bless her heart, when she did, she waited to call me until after the concert was over.). He’s playing Verona, Italy this year in a great ancient amphitheater I’ve visited and I can only imagine what a great concert that will be.

When I knew I was going up to the Manchester area to visit my cousin, I decided that Liverpool would be on my short list of side trips. I booked a tour with the “Magical Mystery Tour” bus for 3 of us, as, surprisingly, John and Denise decided to join me. But I understood why after hearing that when John was a young policeman in Manchester, he was one of the several officers designated to protect The Boys (from people like me, I might add) during their first commercially successful gig in Manchester in the early 60’s. He was up close and personal with the Beatles in their own neighborhood before they even came to the States.

We arrived in Liverpool with time to spare but ended up parking in a multi-storied covered lot further from the dock, rather than park in the garage the Mystery Tour had recommended. I think we thought this one was closer or that we passed the other one; it was a confusing area to negotiate. Then we had a tough time finding an empty spot for the car. Realizing we were now running late, we briskly walked with time flying by, and we were in danger of missing the Magical Mystery tour bus. There was a Ferris wheel I could see in the near distance and I knew there was no way I’d get a bird’s eye view of the area today.

Of course, as usual, I was trailing behind taking photos (quickly, as I was walking as fast as I could, since running was out of the question) as I was not going to miss the chance to get a feel for and photograph the shipping port where my grandfather, grandmother, and mother all docked for their trip to England from Shanghai in the early ’30s. My grandmother had contracted TB when caring for her sister who had died from it, and she was going to stay at a sanitarium in the area to recuperate while my grandfather and my mom, who was only about 3 at the time, stayed with his sister (John’s mother) and family in Darwin for 6 months. This area was not only part of the Beatles’ history, but of my family’s history as well.

We were lost on the wharf in Liverpool and asking people where the TI (Tourist Information) office was located which was the meeting point for the tour group. John disappeared in his quest to find the bus and so I suggested that Denise call the office to tell them we were on the way, which she did, so they held the bus for us. John found us, we found the bus, and we were only about 5-8 minutes late. It was about 3/4 full which, for off-season, seemed an impressive showing.

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As I took photos of all the famous Beatles-related locations, I was also absorbing a sense of the area and photographing buildings and landmarks which would have been there in the 30’s, too. The Beatles were starting to take a backseat to why I was even there. But the tour-guide was amazing with the shtick he had fine-tuned. Talk about INFORMED. He knew his Beatles’ history, and I was duly impressed. Plus they played a few Beatles’ tunes during lulls in the 2 hour drive, which was lovely.

We were able to get off the bus at some locations for photo-ops, all of which I gladly participated. John was sweet and would also get off to be sure he could offer to take my photo. We would also offer to take photos of other tour group members so they could be in a shot together. There was also one American couple from San Diego on board (there were people from all over the world)who were, like me, freezing our patoonies off. But we still got on and off that bus at the prescribed stops to take photos.

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We were shown a side street where Ringo, or was it George, had lived on but which we couldn’t access, the church where Paul was a choir boy, the parks where they would have played ball in the neighborhood, the cemetery where it is said they got the name “Eleanor Rigby” off a tombstone, etc. Of course being in front of Paul’s old childhood home held a special place for me as well as seeing the house John Lennon had bought for his auntie. Both homes had historical landmark plaques mounted. How strange it must be to have lived in a house which was now a Historical Landmark just because you had lived there. My mother’s old apartment building in Shanghai is now a Historical Landmark but only because it is still standing in a city that was shattered by war with Japan and overcome by Chinese communist rule who destroyed most reminders that foreigners had once lived there. They also destroyed the cemetery where my grandfather was buried in 1942. It is pretty amazing my family’s old apartment is still there. It’s also pretty amazing my other “long lost” cousin is in China at this very moment and will be visiting a British man who is a historian on China, and who, coincidentally, lives in the same apartment complex. Very bizarre little coincidence. Or as James Redfield and myself believe, “There is no such thing as coincidence.”

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Then there was this red gate for Strawberry Fields where the boys got their song title of the same name. This was the gate to a charity organization which sounded similar to our USA Salvation Army.

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Pictured below is the building of the Arts college Paul McCartney bought and is expanding by purchasing the building next door. And, here is the venue where they hold graduations where he personally distributes diplomas. I remember a Seattle disc jockey talking about this years ago when his son graduated and he was bowled over, as a huge McCartney fan, to see his own son receive his diploma from Paul. Nice.

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This photo is of a new Catholic Church which someone, or group, voted as “ugliest building.”

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The tour was coming to the end of the “long and winding road” so I took more photos of older buildings, most of which were former gig venues The Boys had played. The guide pointed out where the Cavern was located as well as the new Hard Days Night Hotel, which was an utter surprise to me. When did THAT happen?!? Of course I would love to spend a night there for the novelty of it, but this seemed a bit OTT (over the top) even for me. I also never imagined the Cavern to be smack dab in the middle of the Liverpool downtown area.

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This venue shown below was pointed out as being where thousands of fans held a candlelight vigil for George Harrison when he died from brain cancer. I felt a bit of a shiver as we drove by thinking about both of the days I heard about John, and then George, were taken from this life too soon.

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The tour was over and we walked over to the Cavern passing the Hard Days Night Hotel along the way. Photo op…

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Into the Cavern where, even with the various modifications over the years, is still supposed to be in its original spot. The tour bus guide gave a very lengthly story about all that which made no difference to me whatsoever. It is where it is. And there is a ‘Sister Cavern’ across the alley.

But it was interesting to walk down the stairs of this famous music club to see what it was like. It was larger than I had thought it would be, and there were some great photos of performers who played there over the years. There was a musician setting up and I would have liked to just hang out and listen, but there wasn’t time for that. And we totally forgot to ask for our “free gift” for being on the tour bus and visiting the Cavern. We needed some lunch. So I clicked away as John and Denise patiently waited.

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Because I was lured by the “free wifi” sign in the window of this pub across the road from the Cavern, we went to William Gladstones for lunch. Later, we all agreed, that was the worse lunch we have had in, who knows, maybe forever. But I did dash into a souvenir shop nearby to pick up a few Beatles-related gifts. (We were hurrying to beat the rush hour traffic to get back to Congleton, aka ‘Bear Town.’)

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More walking and more old buildings and landmarks. The building with the birds is called the “Liver Building.” (Pronounced with a long “i” btw. Eventhough it is obviously a short for Liverpool, I suppose making it sound like an internal organ doesn’t have such a nice “ring” to it.)

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For years I had always heard that both Manchester and Liverpool were pretty much on the lower rung of the ladder when it came to so-called “class” and popularity. Apparently they both were dirty from industry, high crime rates from poverty, high unemployment, a lot of ‘riff-raff’, and both cities still have a long standing rivalry between their “football” teams (which the U.S. calls soccer) which I can only assume may have meant some rowdy games. From what I saw, both are interesting cities, with great old buildings, improved waterfronts, fascinating histories and which both looked like they were drastically improving their rough and tumble image. I was pleased to have had the opportunity to “meet” them both and would have no qualms with visiting again. Wonder if I could still redeem my bus tour ticket at the Cavern for that free memento I forgot to pick up. Plus, there is a massive Anglican Cathedral which deserves a visit, too.

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