Being the third and final part of a dérive through Dublin with a map of Paris.
Place Pigalle: Vibrant, albeit a little rundown, Pigalle tends to attract large groups of Americans, and, as a result, there is a great deal of anti-American feeling among the residents and artists. Much of the artwork was, frankly, disappointing: Most of it was impressionistic and amateurish, some artists being reduced to scrawling phrases such as “We Are All Hezbollah Now” on their canvases and waving them over the heads of their rivals in order to attract buyers. Many of the paintings looked identical, as though mass-produced by some cynical, exploitative organization intent on cowing visitors into submission by turgid repetition. It may work with the young, gullible, and ideologically naive, but for this aesthete it left a decided taste of melancholia on the palate.
Les Invalides: Very cramped, and I couldn’t for the life of me locate Napoleon’s tomb. He must have been a very small man for them to bury him in here. What’s more, the atmosphere has actually deteriorated since the smoking ban. Many of the war veterans still resident seemed rather churlish and begrudging, unable to smoke and undoubtedly annoyed at having their meals disrupted by my incessant requests for stories about torture in Algeria and my perhaps overenthusiastic demands to see their wounds. I was asked to leave when, as a demonstration of my good faith, I showed the collected diners a few wounds of my own.
Le Chabanais: Quite by chance, my dérive came to an end at Paris’s most famous temple of love, one of the famous “Huis Clos” that Sartre wrote about so eloquently. Le Chabanais was supposedly shut down after the war, but the police clearly turn a blind eye to goings-on here or else partake of the delights on offer, because activity was constant during my visit, the corridors lined with rooms behind the doors of which god alone knows what goes on. I looked in vain for the famous “Fellatio Seat” that was constructed for the future Edward VII. The concierge denied all knowledge of its existence, even after being offered big notes: Discretion is everything here.
It is said that, once upon a time, fully one-third of all men visiting Le Chabanais were “juicers,” which is to say men who derived their pleasure from sucking the semen of the previous client from the whore’s vagina. I confess that this is not a pleasure that I share, but as I wandered the corridors in the last throes of my journey and inspected the demeanour of the respectable gentlemen disporting themselves there, I could not help but wonder which of them had only minutes earlier had their mouths full of another man’s come. Generally I find it’s the ones you least expect.