I first visited France in the summer when I was 23 years old. I fell in love with Paris and vowed to move there and forget about the U.S. forever. I just returned from my second visit to France. I am 46 years old. I was traveling with 9 of the people I love most, on a trip of a life time, that was spectacular, amazing, and for me-very, very bittersweet. I rarely use that word: bittersweet. It seems somehow connected to the word regret, and I try to stay out of that. I decided that I was going to enjoy watching my children discover the wonders of Paris and there were things that I was going to do-even if I had to do them by myself. One of those things was that I had to get back to visit my old friend Jim. It had been 23 years, after all. The 20th arrondissement was a long way from our loft house on Avenue de Clichy- a metro switch and about 14 stops. Finally, on our last day, after a trip of a lifetime (that you will be reading more about in small segments), JC, Mini Me, The Middle Child, The Baby, and my cousin Clint went with me to Père Lachaise.
I have had a thing for The Doors, and particularly Jim Morrison, since I was a young teenager. Of course I never had the opportunity to see them perform live- Jim died when I was almost a year old. I have read a few of the books about The Doors… Jim’s poetry…done a little research….you know, the things an obsessive teenager does when they are infatuated with celebrity… There was a very long period of time (and yes, I do still wonder) that I believed that Jim did not actually die in Paris-that perhaps he did manage to fake his own death and run off somewhere to live the rest of his life in peace. 23 years ago, my visit to the grave of Jim Morrison was up there with seeing the Eiffel Tower for me…maybe even higher. When I came home from France that first time, I said that ‘when I die, I want my ashes taken to Paris and put on Jim Morrison’s grave’. Everybody thought I was nuts. I’m telling you–my thing for Jim was huge. It has never really waned-just filed away as I grew older. Notice that I did not say ‘as I grew up‘…
Père Lachaise is enormous. The website says that there are up to 1,000,000 people buried there and there are over 5,000 trees. It really is a beautiful cemetery-the most beautiful one I have ever seen.
Many important people are buried there–Balzac, Sarah Bernhardt, Chopin, Molière, Marcel Marceau, Proust, Oscar Wilde, and Edith Piaf, just to name a few. The graves are very close together and it would take days to see every one. There is a map to help visitors find people they are looking for, but even still, one can get lost easily! I started to recognize the area when we started getting close-mostly because it is flat. My heart sank when I saw that there was a police barricade around Jim’s grave (and others). There went my chance to recreate my photo. There was also a small crowd of people. The fleeting thought of jumping the barricade crossed my mind, but I shooed it away, reminding myself that I am insane…. LOL 😉 JC looked at me. He knew how important this was to me–ridiculous though it may have been. He started to try to figure out how we could be there when the place opened first thing the next morning, I could jump the barricade, he could take the picture, then we could get back to our place in time to leave for the airport. I thought about that for a few minutes but the whole idea seemed destined to fall apart–we would never have time to come all that way in the morning when we were trying to leave! Then, Clint (my cousin who is 2 weeks older than I am, and who is more like a brother to me) said, any true Jim Morrison fan would jump that barricade….Mini Me said, I’m doing it. And he did. Right there. In front of the little group of people who were standing there.
JC said, why don’t you just let that be your ’23 years later’ photo? I stood there-wheels spinning in my head…We did not need to come all the way back down here the next day, and, I was not getting any younger. My ballroom days are over, baby…Night is drawing near…. Here we were in Paris. Finally. 23 years later. The time to hesitate is through….no time to wallow in the mire…try now we can only lose… Jim would have jumped that barricade, no doubt. Then, I heard somebody whisper (I’m pretty sure it was Clint 😉 …BREAK ON THROUGH…. and that was all it took.
Five to one, baby…One in five…No one here gets out alive, now….You get yours, baby…I’ll get mine…Gonna make it, baby…If we try…..
If there is one thing that I can encourage my kids to do, it is to spend time in France. Go to school there. Move there. Do it. Make it happen. Who knows? Maybe I will do it someday. If not, I still want my ashes taken to Paris and put on Jim Morrison’s grave– I’m still nuts. And I no longer care what ‘everybody’ thinks 😉