Friday, 31 March 2006

I Love the Smell of Teargas at Dawn.

The morning after the night before. I didn't even bother sleeping on the bed. I just crashed on the floor.

The staircase of Angela's apartment. Imagine yourself drunk and stoned going up to the third floor. Good Coffee is the only antidote.

It's amazing that Angela managed to wake up at 9am after the previous night's party. When I woke up she was just about to leave for work. "Can't you just call in sick?" I said. She has after all worked for 40 hours this week already which is 5 hours over the French 35-hour work week.

After getting my caffeine medication for the morning I went to the Place de l'hotel de Ville and found high school students staging a sit-in and barricading the Metro exits. The riot police were there of course but were relatively bored. It was a peaceful protest with no signs of infiltration from the gangs. Ah, the student revolts are getting exciting. The night before, trains were delayed as a mob of students dropped sandbags on the rail tracks. A very disruptive act, but fun and non-violent, and it certainly grabbed everyone's attention. I wish I could have joined them.

The really interesting thing was that on the other side of the Hotel de Ville, it was very quiet and the exhibition Paris au Cinema opened for the day to welcome cinephiles like me. The French invented Cinema and this was an exhibition that paid tribute to that fact. It was actually my second time this week to visit the exhibition but I did not have enough time to explore it fully the first time around. And I had a slight hangover this morning so what better way to recover than to lie down on the long and wide lounger in front of three big screens showing clips of movies shot in Paris (and the fact that you were surrounded by pretty Parisiennes). The clips were grouped into 6 themes: Amour, Bistrots, Sur les toits (roofs) , Parisiennes, Poursuites (Chases) , and La Tour Eiffel. It showed everything from Luc Besson (Subway, Angel-A) to Frankenheimer (that Robert de Niro car chase in Ronin is a Classic) to Nicole Kidman singing in Moulin Rouge. Of course, smaller screens were dedicated to the classics such as Marlene Dietrich singing in Blonde Venus and Gene Kelly dancing in An American in Paris. I tried to but could not avoid the love stories (Charade, Les Poupees russes etc). It so sucks to be single in Paris.

Of course, the pièce de résistance of the exhibit, for me at least, was the Givenchy dress Audrey Hepburn wore in the movie "Love in the Afternoon". Next to it was the original movie script and as I read it and imagined Audrey herself saying those words to me I creamed in my pants. How I wished I could extract DNA from that dress. I love Audrey so much that I'd sell my parents in just to be with her. (Of course, I also need to be transported to the 1960s which is just as well because I'm so sick of modern technology like cellphones.)

In the afternoon I visited the Musee Carnavalet which covers the history of Paris and includes objects relating to the French revolution. It's also a place where one is reminded of how easily man can be corrupted and become delusional. Take for example RobesPIERRE. Hero of the Revolution, he became authoritarian and a much reviled primary figure in The Reign of Terror. He was promptly guillotined for crimes against the masses. (Fast forward to the present: Gloria Arroyo, so-called hero of a misguided revolution, she nonethless became authoritarian and a much reviled primary figure in the Reign of Terror............)

Then I went cafe-hopping and people watching. It was after all a Friday when everyone lets their hair down. After coming home for dinner with Angela, I decided I wanted to at least visit one student gig place so I went back out at 11pm while sleepy Angela, still nursing a hangover, hit the sack.

I first browsed the shelves of the Shakespeare and Co. bookstore which used to be the hangout of expat writers such as Hemingway, James Joyce, Henry Miller, Ezra Pound and until recently Pinoys such as Clinton Palanca (who himself has won n Palanca awards). In one of those weird coincidences, I was seated next to Jame Joyce's great niece or something on the flight to La Rochelle. As you can see from the quality and poo editin gof this blog, I am not about to be a prize winning author anytime soon. (But heck, as I said before this is MY blog, meant for my future beautiful offsprings to read to remind them how cool/uncool their dad was. So while all the stories here are TRUE I am not writing to win the Pulitzer or Blooker Prize. Having said that, a book deal with a generous advance is always welcome. I can write about other things if it will pay the bills and an extravagant lifestyle.) I failed to find a gem as it was almost closing time but I did discover a copy of Jim Morrison's rare collection of poetry and essays which sadly I could not afford. I doubt it will still be there when I come back to Paris because it's such a unique and interesting anthology.

At midnight I headed towards the Sorbonne hoping to gain entry into one of those student jazz and open-mic haunts. But at the intersection of Blvd. St. Michel and Blvd. St. Germain, I caught the leading edge of a student march. Seeing that all the beautiful people where here, I realized that no student jazz place in its right mind would be open as the revolution was obviously more important. The students staged a sit-in at the intersection that paralyzed traffic. Oh well, might as well join in the fun, I said to myself. There were probably 10,000 students but some labour union leaders were also present. The police quickly set up roadblocks in the area. A union leader asked me for a light but I said I didn't smoke. He mentions another million-man march scheduled for next week.

I made friends with two Venetians who had just come up from Marseille where the strikes were a little more rowdy. They were exchange students and we quickly exchanged details. I notice that one of the surnames was a prominent Venetian surname. Whether it is a common surname I did not know. Funny how you get to network in the middle of a protest march of all places. The march edged closer and closer to the Sorbonne. Then the police started firing tear gas to goad the march in the opposite direction. I was caught in the middle of it all. Oddly, I liked the smell of the teargas. As long as it doesn't get in your eye, you know you are fine.

I maintain my position as the main body retreats slowly. Five feet from me a fist fight erupted between two hotheads. Some girls (of all people) tried to separate them. "Forget about them, hug me instead!" I shouted to the cute lasses. Eventually one riot policeman came with baton raised at chest level to separate the two. He didn't swing the baton but just pushed them the way one positions for a rebound in basketball. I was told that the CRS were heavy handed but having been in the frontline of two rallies, I would say that they were quite lenient. After the first volley of teargas, the main body was in danger of being split in the middle. Out of nowhere, a pretty girl shouted at the students to regroup, reinforcements were on the way she informed as another body of marches were expected to arrive from the other side. Needless to say, I was impressed. Suddenly, a car decided to drive across the thinned barricade but a student quickly spotted it and propelled himself forward. The driver hit the brakes and students began to lie on the hood of the car. There was a civil exchange of words between the driver and the students while one riot policeman watched from a distance. I think the driver supported the rallies (as 70% of France) but was in a hurry to get away from it all to shag his wife or something. But this was a barricade that no one was supposed to breach.

After an hourlong stand off, police fire another round of teargas but by this time the student leaders order the troops to march towards the Quai. I inhaled some more of the teargas before breaking with the group to look for a place to drink a pint preferably with live music. It was after all 2am. I found (after walking for another half an hour) an Irish pub with a band playing Rolling Stones hits. After being in two separate rallies for the day, I drink to the revolution.

I can play chess. B6 to E4. Checkmate. High school students create their own barricade.

It's nice to be well hung. I'm very jealous.

Let's see what this button does.

In this small manifestation, there were a lot of student couples making out. In fact since these students barricading the subway entrance were high school students, there were MORE couples kissing and hugging in the middle of it all. You gotta love student revolts in France. C'mon Captain, we know it's itchy and that body armor can chaf but it's okey to scratch in public. You know you want to.

Another day, another student march, another barricade.

Just on the other side, another barricade goes up. This time to make sure there was an orderly queue to watch the exhibit Paris au Cinema which celebrates movies shot in Paris as well as to toast Louis and Auguste Lumiere, inventors of the modern cinema. Lumiere is also the French word for 'light'. Now ain't that such a cool self-fulfiling prophecy.

The Sun King himself, Louis XIV whose extravagance forced France to sell their chateaus as retirement homes to the Brits.

The quiet courtyards of the Musee Carnavalet. This museum occupies two 16th and 17th century mansions.

Darling, shall we make passionate love in the blue room?

...In the Pink room perhaps?

Le Nashman in another self-serving self-portrait.

Seeing the world through rose-tinted glasses.

I need to get a new hair stylist. This is so heavy...

His Royal Orangeness Charles Guillaume visits the collections from the French Revolution.

The flags of the revolution.

Know your rights. I should get a postcard of the Bill of Rights and send it to GMA who knows nothing about civil liberties. Maybe I should also send one to that idiotic Justice secretary of hers.

Bastille Prison, actually a scale model of it, where the revolution started.

Napoleon I's death mask, chest armour, and pistol. Cool eh?

HRO Charles Guillaume and the Nashman in the reception hall.

HRO Charles Guillaume rests on an 18th century bench.

Bell Epoque on full display at the Carnavalet.

I stumbled into this wonderful ukay-ukay style bookstore which was spread over three floors. There were a couple of good photography books and graphic novels. The top floor was devoted entirely to prints and posters. A good selection of 1970s erotic books too.

I went to this packed Jewish shawarma joint but they had sold out on shawarma for the day. I had the second best thing and drowned it with excellent snot-dripping out of your nose-inducing harissa sauce. Thank God it was not yet the Sabbath.

Cafe Hopping
As a service to humanity, the Nashman took it upon himself to visit lots of cafes to sip the espresso, savour the ambience, mingle with the chi-chi crowd, meet pretty girls for a random chat, and to see and to be seen.

L'Apparemment Cafe at rue something something (secret). Hip, artsy, young crowd, excellent and friendly service, cheap cafe (as in cheaper than that ripoff called Starbucks, and I mean Philippine prices), happy looking customers. Disadvantages: no outdoor terrace, but you don't need one as all the beautiful people to stare at are inside.

Le Pick Clops. Mixed crowd. Student hangout Good croque monsieur. Excellent for people watching. Share a friend, win a seat. Disadvantages: No face police - Anyone ugly can just walk in (I did, didn't I?), thankfully, there are not a lot of ugly peeps in the Marais.

LesArts Et Metiers. Live Jazz in the lounge. Hip, if a bit pretentious crowd. Good service. Moderately priced cafe. And (wait for it) a terrace that faces DIRECTLY the metro access. How super cool is that for people watching? There are different lounges for more intimate cafe-drinking.

After drinking litres of coffee for the day, I thought I'd add a bit of bling bling to my last coffee by having it with Hennessy V.S. Ain't that nice, an upper and a downer at the same time?

The Arts et Metiers metro station is clad entirely in copper. One of the prettiest stations.



Looking down Angela's staircase.

Looking up Angela's Staircase.

Thursday, 30 March 2006

My Mother is Beautiful. My Father is Tall. I am Neither. I Wish They'd Tell Me I Was Adopted. That Would Explain A Lot of Things.

Time goes by so fast. Today is the first day of my 28th year. I need a haircut.

I have a theory that you could actually look beautiful if you surround yourself with beautiful people and beautiful things. (Unless you are extremely orc-like fugly then it's a stretch). This theory is proven by how dogs, over time, begin to look like their masters. That's why one should do the right thing by ringing up PETA whenever one sees someone ugly trying to own a dog.

In my rather young existence, I have suffered many rejections. I got rejected by the Philippine Science High School, Ateneo, University of Queensland, Transmeta, UCL, countless girls, banks, and credit card companies.

Today, the first day of my 28th year I thought it would be nice to spend an entire day in a place of beauty and rejection.

The Musee D'Orsay. Home to some of the finest Impressionist paintings on the face of the planet. Masterpieces by Monet, Renoir, Gaugin, Cezanne, Manet, Degas, Pisarro, and Van Gogh. Paintings that were rejected by the Louvre.

When I got to the Musee D'Orsay there was a looooooooooong queue and I did not have a museum pass or pre-booked ticket. I was not keen on waiting an hour or so under a showery sky so I decided it was time for another Nashman charm offensive. I went to the advanced booking box office, which was different from the normal ticket counters with the loooooooooong queue, and blagged my way to a ticket that was valid immediately. It also got me into the priority gate. So I did not have to queue to get a ticket and to get inside. If only I were this smooth when courting girls.

HRO Charles Guillaume got VIP treatment at the Musee D'Orsay including access to the temporary exhibits.

It's hard to imagine that this museum used to be a railway station. The building itself is beautiful. It was a very grand railway station indeed. Done in the Beaux-Arts/Belle Epoque style, the museum contains paintings from the different movements: Pre-Imp (Classicism, Romanticism), Impressionism, Post-, Realism (Academisme, Naturalisme, Symbolisme), Art Nouveau, and Bell Epoque. It's impossible not to get an art hard-on when you get inside.

His Royal Orangeness Charles Guillaume et The Nashman, given VIP access to the temporay exhibition Cezanne et Pissarro. It brought together over 60 of their works, circa 1865-1885 from around the world. It was an excellent exhibition that traced the influence of Cezanne and Pissarro on each other's works.

My bipolar tendencies came out like a pimple being squeezed as I stood facing the works of Cezanne and Pissarro arranged chronologically and side by side. It was such a treat to see them together in the same room as almost all of the pairs belong to different private and state collections, some not normally accessible to the public. I liked Pissarro's bright palette compared to Cezanne's gloomy colours but I preferred the way Cezanne painted deserted landscapes compared to the human presence in Pissarro's works. If you looked closely at the brush strokes, Cezanne was not a true blue impressionist, his strokes carefully measured showing he painted slowly and was a bit o.c. like me. Yet, overall I think I'm more a Pissarro man.

Spot the Difference

Pissaro's Louveciennes

Cezanne's Louveciennes.

After the orgasmic bliss of the Cezanne et Pissaro exhibit HRO Charles Guillaume and I had lunch before visiting the Museum's permanent collections.

HRO Charles Guillaume was pampered at the Bell Epoque granduer of the Musee D'Orsay's Restaurant. We could have opted to take a more austere meal at the topfloor cafe but the Museum curators insisted that HRO Charles Willem get a two course meal with a glass of Bordeaux.

I just love the fact that you could take pictures (without flash) of the permanent collections at most French museums. It's not so much the fact that you could take pictures of the artwork but also of how people interact and behave inside such a space.

And now for some random shots of the Musee D'Orsay.....

I don't think it's a good idea to have cockfighting while naked. Trust me, I grew up in a neighborhood where everyone bred gamecocks. Those birds are vicious. You really really don't want your pecker exposed to those beasts, unless you really want to take cockfighting literally. Even then, it's obvious which bird will win.

Come on, don't be shy. I don't have all day. Women actually walked half-naked during classical times. You can too, now is your chance.

HRO Charles Guillaume tells Jean-Joseph's Perraud's Le Désespoir not to despair.

I saw this art class and decided to sit down and join. The teacher was really good. This definitely beats the "bring out your coloured papers and let's make a paper boat" art class I had when I was at the same age. These little critters are very lucky. I have not yet seen an Amorsolo in the flesh or a Juan Luna. How sad that my own country's masterpieces are inaccessible or rotting in a warehouse somewhere.

HRO Charles Guillaume standing with great Frenchmen.

The great impressionist paintings under one roof. It was awesome.

The emancipation of Olympia. In the 1860s this masterpiece by Edouard Manet was controversial because it depicted an independent woman (hand firmly over genitals, black pussy on her bed, the icy gaze as if saying I can do what I want (sexually) with you).

The Painting That Everyone Has Seen (Unless you were blind) But Don't Want to Admit. The Aptly titled L'Origine du Monde (Origin of the World) by Gustave Courbet.

Hmm, I've seen this before. But where?

L'Origin du Monde is a very erotic work enveloped in a very interesting story. The alleged model, Jo, was James Whistler's lover. (Whistler is of course famous for the 'Whistler's Mother' painting, which was sadly on loan when I was at the museum). When this painting came out, Courbet and Whistler broke their friendship the way Tina left Ike. Now, there is nothing wrong with letting your girlfriend pose nude for your equally talented artist friend except that when you look closely at the painting and realize that the nipples are erect and the labia is red and swollen you could easily deduce that this was a post-coital image. Naturally, Whistler was not happy and went back to his mother. And now to Whistler's famous painting. It was not initially supposed to be of his mother but his model did not show up. Wonder where she went. Of course if you knew anything about pubic hair, you would also realise that because Jo was a redhead it could not have been her that posed for Courbet in that just-after-sex state although Courbet definitely did 4 paintings using Jo as the model. Was there another model? I guess we will never know. Nevertheless, this oil painting is a masterpiece of realism.

Artists and photographers can easily make a woman undress and show their beauty. I'm definitely going to art and photography school after my PhD.

C'mon think girls, think. Where have you seen this before?

With Impressionism, the whole is definitely bigger than the sum of its parts. It's amazing how the masters made beautiful paintings using short and quick brush strokes.

One of the best views of Paris can be seen from behind the iron clocks of the Musee D'Orsay. The cafe is behind one of the clocks. I took an hour long coffee break to recover from the art overload.

The Musee D'Orsay has some of the best Van Goghs outside Amsterdam. I actually have a print of La Siesta. Jali got it for me in Madrid when we stumbled into an art shop. I started to miss her again when I saw the actual painting.

When I saw Henri Toulouse-Lautrec's Le Lit it reminded me so much of my recent personal experience. The boy is half-awake but you couldn't tell if the girl was asleep. I bought a big-ass poster of it. It will stay next to my La Siesta.

His Royal Orangeness Karl Willem at the Reception Room

These polychromic onyx and bronze sculptures by Charles Cordier are some of the best sculptures that I have ever seen. I want me one of them on my living room.

After spending the entire day at the Musee D'Orsay, I met Angela and her friend who was a student at the Sorbonne at St. Michel and we headed north to Ile St. Denis to a 'secret' gathering of Flipinoy artists and artistes at their commune. Surprise surprise! Who did I get to meet there? Among the peeps were the Ifugao installation artist Gaston Damag (also from the Sorbonne), Joon Claudio who started the improvisational percussion group Pinikpikan and Waling Waling and who has played with the great Joey Ayala and currently recording and touring with a new French band, the performance artist Sandy Palomar, film and theatre actresses etc. etc. (Sadly K.C. was not there. I hope Kiko has not accidentally snorted her). The portrait of the struggling and poor artist I had in my mind was shattered as Manong Gaston brought out litres and litres of the best French liquid including a Montecristo which everyone happily puffed and inhaled. Nothing beats a proper Cuban cigar. We bewailed that fact that, among other depressing things, the Baguio arts scene is dying, literally and metaphorically.
I became even happier when after the artsy discussions were over and the meeting ended to make way for the inuman and my extended Birthday party, Joon played the guitar and we jammed till 4am singing classic pinoy rock and Baguio anthems. It's not very often that you get to listen to and sing with someone of Joon's CV. We did variations on a single song (the title I forgot because I was so trashed) from reggae, to blues, to classical. Sandra took lots of footage and I hope I did nothing totally embarassing. It felt like I was transported to the Baguio of yore and of my younger days. I agreed to come back to do some parts in an arthouse film the group was going to produce on the condition that I won't have to do full frontal nudity. (All French films have gratuitous nudity). Gaston gave me one of his signed works and the gesture was much appreciated. (When I get desperately poor, I have another thing to sell at eBay. For the meantime, I will treasure the artwork). It was 5am when Angela and I got back to Ile St. Louis. I crashed into the floor and had the best deep sleep in recent memory.

The music pierces my heart like a dagger.