Homo Homini Khomeini
Ich werde euch die Richtung zeigen Nach Afrika kommt Santa Claus und vor Paris steht Micky Maus
Rammstein - Amerika
Thomas Hobbes in the dedication of his work De Cive (1651): 'To speak impartially, both sayings are very true; That Man to Man is a kind of God; and that Man to Man is an arrant Wolfe. The first is true, if we compare Citizens amongst themselves; and the second, if we compare Cities.' Hobbes's observation in turn echoes a line from Plautus claiming that man is inherently selfish.
Sometime in late 70s I spent a month or so in Paris. Ich stayed with my buddy Ivo Lakov, his father being a Bulgarian attaché there, presumably cultural, who managed the Paris transfer from Belgrade to arrange a kidney transplant for his son. If I'm not mistaken, which I probably am, the apartment was located in the 14ème arrondissement. On a few occasions younger guys from the embassy would stop by, get hammered, and share their spy stories. Since I was a member of the original Slavic tribe, my presence didn't bother them.
Smoking Gitanes sans filtre all day long placed me from the get-go in the comfortable company of one Django Reinhardt, Albert Camus, or Luis Buñuel, as well as Jim Morrison, and Alain Delon; having for once something in common with the luminaries of this caliber. Talking about Delon, I'm glad it stops there, since each and every one of his four Serb buddies and 'bodyguards' ended up tortured and murdered. All they achieved was to prove Delon, Mickey Rooney, even one Georges Pompidou cuckolds, and have fun in the process. Markovi? scandal shook French affairs for a decade, until the false testimony of the fifth Serb, Borivoje Ackov, cleared Delon and his 'godfather' François Marcantoni of any wrongdoing. Interestingly enough, the crown witness Ackov committed suicide before finishing his memoirs in 1992.
On the brighter note, Bruno Šulak, nicknamed Légionnaire, and Steve Jovanovi? casually walked into the Cartier store on La Croisette in Cannes, dressed like pastime tennis players and with rackets under their arms, only to walk out few minutes later with stones worth seven million dollars; leisurely taking one of the side streets toward Rue d'Antibes. They were never caught for this, yet Sulak became 'the French enemy number one'. The last time he was jailed, in 1984, Steve rented a chopper at Bordeaux-Mérignac Airport in a desperate attempt to pull his buddy out of the prison yard, but gendarmes weren't blind, and shot him dead. Sulak died a year later, under the questionable circumstances.
Far from this madding crowd, my favorite hangout in Paris is Notre Dame Cathedral, where the bells tolled in June of 1389 when Serbs were believed to had won the Battle of Kosovo (being outnumbered by Turks ten to one, to say the least). As Jean de Jandun wrote in 1323, 'In fact I believe that this church offers the carefully discerning such cause for admiration that its inspection can scarcely sate the soul'. And if I might add, it was the most powerful lesson in humility I've experienced to date, after inhaling those nine centuries condensed in a nutshell. What a secular time machine within the walls of this Gothic pride!
Ivo was a good friend of mine. We were at the identical 'wave length', shared the same tools for researching human enigma. Had a soft sense of humor, mellow appearance, with quite a firm intellectual integrity underneath. Twice a week he'd go for a kidney dialysis, allowing me reflective time in the City of Light. Still in my teens, all I could achieve was to track down the spirit of Lucien de Rubemprés in the facades of Monmartre, or picture Balzac bargain hunting all over town. Walking in the vicinity of Arc de Triomphe de l'Étoile, I had better luck with Remarque, since we shared passion for race cars, chess, and camaraderie in first place, featuring quasi philosophy mixed with wistful emotions. What a quintessential delight to watch Ravic and Boris Morosov sipping calvados in front of Fouquet's, observing time crawling into distance of Bois de Boulogne.
Sure, Paris was a esthetically cleaner space back then. No Pyramide du Louvre flipping its 70 foot all glass finger in the face of Hugo's Paris, 'climb this, hunchback!' No McDonald's in sight, so we could enjoy our inexpensive bistro lunch with a glass of wine. No Mickey Mouse fun, only Moulin Rouge and its can-can dance. The damage inflicted in the meantime is the least about the looks of Paris, fascinating as ever. Label me old fashioned, who I am, but it is beyond my pitiful imagination to draw even a sketch of good ol' Proust jumping off the line like John Force heading to the free buffet, or Ravic and Joan Madou holding hands during the Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast.
Times do change, that much I understand, but the spirit of 'that' Paris requires deep mental changes in direction of turning free spirits into consuming amateurs, dressing up the potential artists to look exactly like your newly divorced uncle on his first date: sloppy, pitiful, and ridiculous. If you somehow disagree, you can definitely laser blast this.
According to The Who, the real artist ain't got no distractions, can't hear those buzzers and bells, don't see lights a flashin', plays by sense of smell. And that's the most accurate portrait of an artist as a young man I've ever encountered. But I digress.
It took another band for me to revisit Paris (Ten Years After). Already married, two kids, driving a taxi cab all day long, my collar getting bluer and sweater. I traded my Fiat 128 with hundred thousand miles (my son's godfather Milan Radoni?, the best Peugeot mechanic in Yugoslavia by any measure, and I turned the odometer back to about 25K - nice, low mileage car) for a Peugeot 505 with almost gone gas engine, planning to install a diesel one. According to my fellow cabbies, who knew it all, you just cross the border to Austria, and junk yards with used engines everywhere. Bob Milovanovi?, a good friend from my racing days, Yugoslav and Balkan rally champ, joined our adventure.
We crossed to Austria - nothing, a small country. Crossed to Germany, much larger country - nothing other than Mercedes engines. Oops! Paris here we come.
Ivo turned every paper upside down until he found a junk yard in the outskirts of Paris. It was July, and rain wouldn't stop. We undug the right merchandise, a gorgeous naturally aspirated 2300ccm diesel engine, and went on dismantling it in order to fit in the trunk. Soaked to the bones, tired, we presented one discomfortable scene. 'Anybody for a hot chicken soup?', Ivo offered. Poor guy, this was getting to him hard. 'Are you a chef, or something?', we started to make fun of him, 'with a portable kitchen'. Sure enough, he showed up two minutes later, chicken soup steaming from vending machine's paper cups.
That was the last time I saw my long time buddy Ivo Lakov. I lost his address, he never wrote, and I have no idea if he received that kidney transplant necessary for him to live much longer.
Which takes care of Plautus' claim up there.
Published in Anastomoo (Tasmania), here