The first event in the calendar of the Dublin Psychogeographical Society took place last Friday, a challenging, insightful, and fun day out for all concerned. I met at the Omphalos of Irish society, Holles Street hospital, at 11 a.m., armed only with a Tupperware box filled with tuna sandwiches, a hip flask of Black Bush (for self-lubrication and bribery of prostitutes and small children), and a 1987 map of Paris. The obvious discrepancies in the cities’ contours notwithstanding, I was able to make fruitful use of my provisions. Moreover, when those provisions were found lacking, I was able to call on the help of the natives. Parisians have a reputation for being rude and/or condescending, but throughout my wanderings I found them inquisitive, friendly, helpful, and only a little repulsive.
Champs-Élysées and Louvre: I had been advised that it was possible to purchase the most exquisite Crêpes Suzette on the Champs-Élysées from street vendors, but I was disappointed to find one of Europe’s most famous boulevards to be underwhelming in nearly every respect: Far shorter and grubbier than I had anticipated, and populated only by a small group of street urchins, two of them on mountain bikes, one of them kicking a plastic football. One of the mountain bikers was blind, however, which I found charming and most agreeable.
The Louvre is dark and unprepossessing, the interior without the natural light characteristic of other galleries of a similar size and reputation. The works on show were nothing to write home about either, so I haven’t, but the gallery did serve alcoholic refreshments, a progressive step, in my opinion, indicative of France’s relaxed attitude toward art. At lunchtime, the gallery was packed with office workers, demonstrating the average Parisian’s thirst for culture that I had only previously known by repute.
The Marais: Formerly the Norwegian Quarter of Paris, following the expulsion of the Inktomi people from that country in 1580. It is unusual to find such huge tracts of Tundra in the centre of a modern European capital. Moose roamed freely, unembarrassed and unmolested.
Incidentally, the individual just ahead of me dressed in traditional Inktomi costume is Marcel, my illiterate native guide for this part of the Dérive. He refused swigs from my hip flask but devoured my tuna sandwiches greedily, a sign that not all has been lost and corrupted by Western decadence, I think. Marcel is not his birthname, but adopted out of reverence for the famous Inktomi explorer Marcel Addenammer.
Père Lachaise Cemetery: At last, I located part of the “real” Paris, untouched by tourists and largely unknown to outsiders. Buried here are such Parisian luminaries and low-lifes as Karl Marx, Jean-Paul Sartre, Orson Welles, and Milo O’Shea. And given the levels of cholesterol presented on each plate, I have to say, I’m not at all surprised. The sausage, bacon, eggs, chips, liver, onions, beans, and tomatoes with sliced white bread and butter and a pot of tea for one more than made up for my failure to find the grave of Samuel Beckett (I had been told that it was somewhere toward the back, near the toilets) and gave me a chance to sample authentic French cuisine, rather than the effete bourgeois rubbish on offer at such rip-off joints as La Garotte and Oulipo. Further investigation is required to find out exactly how French women manage to stay so slim on this diet, although I have to say that evidence for this conundrum was thin on the ground, if you’ll forgive the pun. French women are just as big-boned, sweaty, and swarthy as other European women. So, at least, were my observations last Friday. Perhaps the more svelte and less generously proportioned Parisian ladies come out after dark. More on that, anon, when I have researched that aspect of contemporary French society in more detail.
Report #2 to follow.