NOTE: As I approach my 70th birthday, I’ve reposted a milestone post each day. But since tomorrow is The Day I went back and grabbed a bunch of photos – watching years fly by. Here they are – in no particular order.
Mark Knopfler at the Edison Awards, 2003
The freaks’ll stay together, They’re a tight old crew
You look at them, And they look at you….
Devil Baby, by Mark Knopfler
This is a song about a freak show. And why not?
Today I turned on the TV and found not one, but two “active shooter” situations going on in California. UPDATE: One hour after I wrote this, a news conference in San Bernardino, scene of the first of these shooting events, reported 14 people dead and 14 wounded, by “as many as three gunmen.”
Before that was Colorado and the viciousness and cruelty of targeting Planned Parenthood — and women. Before that was Paris. And the Russian plane. And always — Isis/Isil/DAESH/BokoHaram. And of course, Donald Trump. SO.
This is a song about a freak show. And that’s why.
ALSO we all know I love Mark Knopfler so there’s that.
The bombing and the shootings happened blocks from this, the Canal St. Martin. We took a boat ride down the Canal in June – from one end to the other. It was a ridiculously hot day but cool, beautiful, and peaceful on the water, with plenty of tempting activity along the shore.
Described as one of the “new cool” Parisian neighborhoods, it lived up to its reputation. Bankside restaurants were jammed on a Sunday afternoon, joined by popup boutiques and plenty of energy.
It was my favorite stop of this visit to Paris; so great to be in a place that really belonged to the locals and had that feeling great neighborhoods always do.
Although the beauty remains, residents have been violated and punished. It doesn’t compare to the violence and death inflicted upon so many, but it’s just so damn sad.
Donald Trump is important. Maybe he’s channeling Huey Long, maybe Lonesome Rhodes, maybe just “the Donald,” but despite his xenophobia and thinly veiled racist take on immigrants, he has spun a new American dream and captured those who have been without one for a long time.
Despite those excluded, whom Ta-Nehesi Coates describes so well, the belief that the dream exists is a gigantic part of the American story even though, for many, it’s faded from view. Today, in the shadow of the attacks in Paris, I wonder whether his message will thrive or wither in the face of such horror and fear.
With all that in mind, what does Trump have to do with John Valjean? What did the story mean to Jack Kemp (there’s a new biography ) and Teddy Kennedy (there’s a new book about him, too) both of whom, from opposite parties and ideologies, saw Les Miz multiple times? Can what spoke to them teach or maybe comfort us as we recoil from another bloody revolution in the streets of Paris? Tell me that this* is not what they – and we – are feeling today.
This little boy is now a father, but when he was six, we took him, along with his brother, to see Les Miz. At the end, he dissolved in my lap in tears, a wise child who understood, as so many do, especiallu today, what we may have lost and must struggle to recover? Listen and then, you decide.
*When Les Miz opened in New York, both Teddy Kennedy and Jack Kemp saw it multiple times. It might have been about a revolution, but it was everyone’s revolution:
Do you hear the people sing?
Singing a song of angry men?
It is the music of a people
Who will not be slaves again!
When the beating of your heart
Echoes the beating of the drums
There is a life about to start
When tomorrow comes!
Will you join in our crusade?
Who will be strong and stand with me?
Beyond the barricade
Is there a world you long to see?
Then join in the fight that will give you
The right to be free!
Jules and Jim. One the best movies ever. Really. Ever. Certified. Directed by Francois Truffaut and released in 1962, it appears on several best films lists and was, it is written, the biggest success of the influential French New Wave. The story of two men and one woman, all of whom love one another, and Paris, and World War I, and friendship, it is wry and romantic and original and wonderful.
And that song! Listen to it just above here, and watch Jeanne Moreau, Oskar Werner and Henri Serre as Moreau sings Cyrus Bassiak’s Le Tourbillion. The song did not deserve to be amputated and appropriated. It, and the emblematic film, have always stood for a time, a dream, a view of war and life, friends and love — and Paris.
Then TurboTax, a pox upon them, came along and stole it. Probably not technically; I’m sure they paid for permission to stick it into a dumb commercial about tax deductions and weddings. I am NOT posting or linking to it here. One less place you have to see it.
Of course there’s nothing to be done. There never is. There are scholarly books about it. And we know it works, or they wouldn’t do it, right? But oh what a violation.
Many commercials have used popular songs to strengthen the marketing message conveyed. When a commercial uses a popular song well, the music is aligned with the visual imagery and words. It creates a synchronized message that brands hope will induce purchase of their products. by David Mitchel, Vice President of Marketing at Norton Mitchel Marketing on Duetsblog
This is not my first musical outrage. I refused for years to buy Nikes for my sons because they were using Revolution in their 1987 commercial. (Only later did I learn how mean that really was; they had so wanted those shoes…) and that the Beatles, who had sold the song rights to Michael Jackson, had sued Nike [who had legitimate rights] to get the thing off the air.) The lawsuit finally wore everyone out and the ad stopped running but it had aired for a long time. Here’s the commercial:
Of course by now every song we’ve ever loved has been exploited — er, I mean licensed — to sell something. I can remember doing a story when the trend revived in the late 80’s and interviewing plenty of high-profile musicians who were devastated that their songs had been appropriated and others who were happy for the money. Some no longer owned their catalogues and had no control over how their music was used.
I get it. It’s part of capitalism and all that. It’s just that, once in a while, it feels like they go too far (if that’s possible) and use something that meant too much, at least to me.
It was impossible to watch Sunday’s enormous march through traumatized Paris with any detachment; events that touch us all invariably drive us to gather, so we felt it too. Stating the obvious, certainly, but, as I grow older and my inventory of remembered public sadness grows — JFK, Martin Luther King, Bobby Kennedy, Oklahoma City, 9/11 — it remains remarkable.
I am somewhere in this crowd, gathered for a vigil and moment of silence six days after the assassination of John Lennon. Imagine all the people, living life in peace he wrote. Grief and anger at his loss drew us then, as, so many years later, grief and anger summoned the people of Paris.
I am somewhere in this crowd, too: another Sunday, in 2014, 34 years later. We’re in San Francisco, not Paris, but once more have come together, a continent and an ocean away from the millions in France. We too mourn, and rage, and join together for comfort — but look. Thirty four years later, John Lennon is still present, asking the same questions, demanding, even as we mourn, that we do better.
I’ve been to Paris probably close to 15 times in the past 30 years; never has it disappointed me. But until I began living a more Jewishly observant life, I’d missed a huge part of it. Like virtually every other city in Europe, Paris has a “Jewish neighborhood.” Like virtually every other city in the world – (if they hadn’t been thrown out altogether) the Jews moved out of their old neighborhoods, as they did on the Lower East Side, leaving their stores and delis behind.
This neighborhood in Paris, in the Marais, is somewhere in the middle. Plenty of Jews are still there; plenty more have moved on. But the services, and especially the restaurants, groceries and bookstores — and several synagogues large and small — they’re still there. This is the bookstore where you can buy prayer books and Jewish history and Shoah books as well as candle sticks and other Jewish necessities. It’s not far from a primary school whose front entrance includes a tribute to the more than 100 Jewish children seized there during the German occupation of Paris, never to be seen again. Stand outside that door and you can’t help but imagine how it must have looked and sounded and felt that day.
On a lighter note though, since we’re Jews, there’s food. This is one of two competing falafel stands on Rue de Rosiers and the lines were enormous on this hot, sunny Sunday. In addition to residents and Jewish tourists wandering by, whole tour groups arrived to try the native fare. It was quite festive, actually.
Oh, and there’s a photo missing here. I was scared to take it. We were approaching the former home of Jo Goldenberg, the legendary Jewish restaurant in the neighborhood, internationally known even before it was bombed in the summer of 1982, killing six and injuring several others. It’s gone now, a victim of the times, but as we neared the empty building, police sirens in the ooh-aah sound European sirens make, blasted us, close by. They screeched to a halt outside and a policeman cautiously approached a bag siting on the stoop outside the former deli. Clearly frightened, he gingerly picked up the bag to put into the police van and move it from the area, now so full of tourists and shoppers. Unnerved, my husband and I sped away.
So you don’t get a photo. But I can tell you that the cop looked very scared. And just so you don’t think this is a lot of melodrama, I was in a synagogue in Vienna EXACTLY one week before it was bombed. I had my young son in his stroller. That next week, a mother died throwing herself on top of her child – in his stroller. So there’s more to hanging around a famous Jewish neighborhood that candlesticks and shwarma.
One more thing. It looks as if, again, like the Lower East Side, gentrification may complete the job that first persecution and then upward mobility began. Last year, a story appeared in AFP – the French wire service, with the headline: “Paris Jewish quarter fights tourism, commerce in battle for soul.” Fashion retailers and other high-end businesses want to be in what is now the “cool” neighborhood and let some of that cache rub off on them. The Jews? Well they’re fighting to keep their institutions and to remain a distinct community, but there’s no guarantee they’ll succeed. Until then, the Marais, in addition to great coats, shoes, bags and jewelry, remains the “Jewish neighborhood.” So get there while you can.
Ernest Hemingway is pretty passe these days, but in his wonderful memoir of his time in Paris, he wrote something that returns to me every time I’m here “If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a movable feast.” And so it is. Right here it’s going to rain, and the sky is far more grey-blue forbidding than I could get the camera to record, and it’s around 4 PM and we’ve been walking since 10 AM this morning. And we haven’t really done anything – not in the way tourists go into museums and enrich themselves. For us these streets, and the Seine, and the beautiful old buildings and boulevards – well, they’re the richest of all.
It’s pouring rain on the bookstores of Boulevard St. Michel on the Left Bank near the Sorbonne, but that doesn’t stop the book shoppers. Paris is a city of readers, one where great writers have been held as heroes and mourned by the city – and much of the entire nation when they died. There are many restaurants and cafes on the Left Bank, which had been home not only to Hemingway and Fitzgerald and Gertrude Stein and Sylvia Beach but also to Simone de Beauvoir and Jean Paul Sartre and so many others. They are crammed with people all the time – whether it’s the Deux Magots or the Brasserie Lipp or Cafe de Flore because these places have an enormous literary history and those who visit here know that these are the places to visit even if they’ve never read The Second Sex or The Sun Also Rises or even The Great Gatsby.
Or maybe they just know, like these two troubadours, that Paris, when you’re young, (or, hopefully, any other age) is still a gift. So many have already written better words about the indelible impact of this lovely place; I’m really just here to agree with them.
At the big Paris flea market, Marche aux Puces St-Ouen de Clignancourt, which takes up several city blocks, this portrait was among the items for sale. I’ve seen people reading Dreams from My Fatheron the Metro (seriously, the guy next to me, honest) and everyone wants to talk about him. What a difference!
OK so I’m in London and a friend posts this on my Facebook page. And I should be telling you more about London and that we’re leaving for Paris this afternoon (on theEurostar!!) for the weekend but this is just fun.
ALSO on that same Facebook page though, from Moms Rising, is this:
Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner “…we are now lagging behind the rest of the world in closing the gender gap. According to the World Economic Forum, the US ranks 31st of 128 countries overall, but 76th in educational attainment, 36th in health and survival, 69th in political empowerment, and 70th for wage equality for similar work. In the representation of women in our Congress, we rank 71st.”
So when you’re finished laughing at Kevin and Dave, think what we can do about these devastating numbers! I’ve just gone to work at Causes Managing Editor at Care2 and we have an active women’s rights section there – and we all know plenty of other places to raise some hell. Somehow, seeing it all aggregated like this makes it worse, no?