Friday, April 21, 2006

miss edith

(click on pics)
i am, and have been, hugely a fan of miss edith piaf (madame lamboukas). her music not only inspires me, if i can be so cliche, but also makes me the happiest girl on the train when i pipe her voice into my ears during my commute. it's like eating soft white cheese with honey (my new favorite treat)...and when in paris, i had to find her.
my visit to pere lachaise cemetary was a surreal one...but i didn't expect it to be anything but surreal. firstly, it's amazingly huge. i had no idea...but should have, what with all of the amazing minds and voices buried on those sacred grounds. i thought that i would have no problem finding her grave. So, as soon as i came up from the train station, i went to the nearest florist, bought a pink rose and started aimlessly walking into the great cemetary. after about a half hour of wandering around the beautifully creepy crypts, i gave up, and went to the little man at the gate to buy a map. i found, with the map, that i was no less than a mile away from her. in my boots (which are such a bad idea on cobble stone...poor ankles), i walked and climbed for another hour, wandering in and out of the artistic crypts, which seemed more like walking through a quiet, lovely neighborhood, than a graveyard. trees lines the cobblestone streets between the crypts, most were the size of large closets, complete with locked iron worked doors and incredible stained glass windows.
walking into the newer graves, i wondered what hers would look like, how beautiful would hers be...the little bird of paris that moved the world with her voice? of course, it didn't come as much of a suprise that when i did find her grave, it was rather plain, by pere lachaise standards. i wasn't the only one looking for her, there were at least three other people roaming around the same area when i finally came across her. so, i waited, i let them have their time...and then i went up and lay down my rose, sat down and said a small prayer in french, with the few words that i know (because maybe thats what she would have wanted), and walked away.
i couldn't leave the cemetary without, of course, paying some respect to others that were buried there...so i went off to find oscar wilde and marcel proust. the oscar wilde grave/monument was so odd, being covered tip to top in lipstick. yes, lipstick. mostly kisses, but also handwritten notes in lipstick. i wonder who started this trend. of course, the penis was missing from the statue..i wonder how much that's selling for on ebay.
proust grave was very average, i'm sure he would have wanted nothing grand.

the wonderful thing to see, was not the graves of the famed, but the graves of others. i came across many graves that were statues of the actual people, laying on top of the grave, just as they were in the coffin itself. this was my favorite, since they found it fit to bury him with his cane, tophat and spats....notice, if you will, where the bronze has been worn down on the picture...crotch, shoes, mouth. bizarre.
my visit was time well spent, and more beautiful than any of the museums i went to (except for maybe the rodin museum, but that's another day). the cemetary was definitely an amazingly beautiful and ceremonial waste of space, comfort for the living, not the dead.

after my search among the dead, i went to visit her birthplace...apparently on the steps of the rue de belleville in belleville (which is today, kind of like the parisian chinatown). it's not really marked, except for a plaque commemorating the fact that she was born here on the steps, in abject poverty, and there are no signs (i was told there is a small museum in her honor a few streets away, but it's by appointment only, and i just didn't have the time). it's funny, how we search out these things...it's not like you're going to find any great insight from visiting a persons birthplace, or their grave for that matter...but, there's something that feels good about taking the time and giving some respect to a life that means so much to you now.

1 comment:

Amy L Clark said...

These are so amazing. And the that pig in the last post, oh my god.