Non-fiction Splinters

photo: cafe de la plage, rue de charonne

If 'beach' is on your mind, this is to get you in the mood.

Mickey, Soot and Dud Posters

by Ric Erickson

Paris:- Monday, 5. June 2000:- The 'course of the week' for the last issue was particularly rich for fragments of conversations. Last week had no such richness. These things happen by chance and if chance isn't at the right place at the right time, not much is the result.

But you are not paying to read this ongoing chronicle about Paris in order to read 'not much' and I have no intention of turning to fiction here. This said, last week offered splinters rather than whole fragments.

Where Are the Freak Brothers?

About this time of year I get an uncontrollable urge to visit the Freak Brothers headquarters just off the Boulevard Voltaire. This is in 'east' Paris, which has a life all of its own with little resemblance to the central visitor's mecca.

If I'm more vigilant than usual, I also remember to pop into the Mairie of the 11th arrondissement, to get the details of the quartier-wide fête 'Onze' they have there every year at this time. I 'remembered' this on Wednesday only after I saw a poster for it while headed in the opposite direction.

I waited until the clouds parted in the afternoon a bit to let the air gain a couple of degrees. But the Freak Brothers' store front had a look of abandonment to it and hammering its metal shutter with a fist was not rewarded with any '50s rock-n-roll or Orangina-rosé.

Next door's little gallery was empty too. But the next-next door's little gallery was not. Usually there is a Japanese lady in the first one, so I've never been as far as the second one before.

A guy was sitting at a table in it, reading a book. The Freak Brothers' street is off the boulevard, and most of it is opposite a gymnasium, so there isn't a lot of foot traffic - but these two store-front galleries are there just the same.

I didn't intend to interrupt the second gallery's managerial book-reading, but something made me go in. Because of this initial lack of intention, I made no notes about this visit. If you want 'names,' you might as well stop here and skip to the next item.

There were photos on the walls. Most of these were groups of small photos, displayed simply, under glass. Onephoto: shop, piani piano set showed about 30 brick spiral chimneys on houses in some town in Brittany. Another set showed a pearl, shot at different times of the day and night. Maybe it wasn't a pearl; maybe it was some other small, round thing.

Part of 'east' Paris' 'rich-texture' is 'Piano Piano' which has nothing to do with pianos.

There was also what looked like a diagram of Versailles' garden, with an outline of Mickey Mouse neatly drawn in it as a red line.

'Art' that has to be explained - all of these photos were accompanied by fairly long texts - some of which I read some of. So I had to interrupt the reader after all.

The brick spiral chimneys were easy. The mayor of the town ordered that every house in it must have one. Many of the houses had a regular, plain chimney, too. No two of the brick spiral chimneys were identical. If this was also a whimsy of the mayor, or of the bricklayer, is unknown.

Another photo which seemed to be obscure, seemed to make much more sense when some circles of light in it - including a crystal ball - where indicated as resembling Mickey's main head features.

The Versailles garden diagram - which was designed some long time before Walt Disney ever made any cartoons - clearly shows itself to be based on Mickey's head design. Or, Mickey's head design is based on Versailles' garden.

Some guy - I wish I had made notes now - who had some routine job, found or photographed these things in his spare time, over a fair period of time. There's a book too; which I think explains the relationships between spiral chimneys in Brittany, Mickey's head in Louis' garden in Versailles, the pearl and the crystal ball.

If I had to classify this little exhibition I would say it is 'found' surrealism, with intellectual touches - which make it all quite logical and understandable, rather than being mere rubbish.

Dimitri's Job

Dimitri knocked on my door one day to ask me if I could type up a bid for a job he wanted; to restore a fire-damaged mirror frame. I did this and he got the job a couple of weeks later.

Usually his bids do not include the transport part of the work in question. He is a restorer, not a furniture mover. But he asked me if I could help him out on Wednesday morning - to lug the frame up his spiral staircase to his fourth-floor atelier.

The client had gotten it onto the roof of an old Golf and trucked it across Paris, and it was lying on the sidewalk a little before I was ready. So I skipped breakfast and started hauling.

There wasn't any way for three of us to carry it up the narrow, twisting staircase, so Dimitri directed us from above. We got it in where it was supposed to go without hittingphoto: restoration by dimitri any staircase plaster or wrecking the thing any worse than it was - and had a good huff-puff at the end.

On the left, the 'before,' and right beside it, the first stage to 'after.'

It was only on the way downstairs that I remembered the frame had been fire-damaged. My hands were black and my clean jeans were dirty with soot. Rats! But I have another pair.

On Saturday Dimitri came into the café Le Bouquet with an envelope full of photos. At first I didn't know what they were of - I thought they were just some shots of some random gilding he'd been doing.

But they were of the soot-covered frame. Dimitri hd also found a painting under the soot - which he said needed restoring even before the fire. The two photos here show the before and after. Actually, the 'after' shows just a little light cleaning and no actual restoration.


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