It is the year 1999, people are waiting for the end of the world again, Bill Clinton is on trial and Pluto is still a planet. In Slovakia it was also 10 years since we got rid of the communist regime and were able to travel freely to the feared West. We just finished high school and decided to go interrailing, same as so many other eighteen year olds all over the world. But even though the prices were quickly catching up to the West, salaries were still very poor. For those of you who do not know, Interrail is a ticket for all the trains in Europe for a month except your home country and the price was about 400EUR. Only it was not Euro back then which was only introduced that same year. The average student salary was 10cents(!) per hour, to pay the full price of the ticket was just out of question so we improvised and did what the majority Slovak students did and bought us fake ones. Mind you they were still expensive, I remember my mom lamenting about the price, if she only knew they were not even the real thing. First stop- Amsterdam of course. Traveling with fake tickets adds a special kind of adrenaline to the adventure of travelling, every time the controller came we were scared shitless, only after few checks we were able to relax. The trip ended up to be one of the most amazing experiences in our lives, thinking back now, there are several stories I could and should probably write down.
One thing we did not get to do was go to Paris. It was on our plan, but we got a tip from other travellers that they catch people with fake tickets on the train to Paris. We decided to take a little detour and continued to Spain, where nobody cared about the origin of our tickets. But Paris never happened and we wanted to see it, not for the Eiffel Tower, art or the cafes but to visit Jim Morrison’s grave. And pay our respects by getting stoned next to it…
Fast forward 15 years in to the future. Two weeks ago I finally did visit the grave. This time I did go to Paris for the art, it was our end of the year trip with my art history class and even though I travel quite a lot, it was my first time in the city of lights. It was a great trip, we have seen some amazing exhibitions, some of which I plan to review in my art history blog(what a sneaky advertisement)
It was a rollercoaster of art, wine and Boulangeries, very different trip from the one that never happened those years ago. And I almost forgot about poor old Jim. Even though he was not old when he died…or poor. I remembered on the very last night sitting in the café from the movie Before Sunset. My flight was not until three in the afternoon so I hoped to make it. When I googlemapsed it, to my surprise, it was only 15 minutes’ walk from our apartment. And it was open on Monday which is in France considered a little Sunday. I made it. I checked the map by the entrance and his grave was not too far away, because the commentary is huge and beautiful with old tombs and graves of many famous people such as Honore de Balzac, Camille Pissarro or Oscar Wilde.
Half way through I realized I am coming empty handed so I turned around and went to find a shop with flowers and candles, which was more difficult than one might suspect around one of the most famous commentaries in Europe, but I manage to buy one (the last one) white rose and a candle and once again start to walk.
My girlfriend later pointed out, you have to put even numbers of flowers on a grave, I argued that one is more poetic and that this is not a grandmother I am visiting but the great poet from The Doors. She was not convinced. We had a similar discussion few weeks before when I told about my dream where I gave her two flowers but she seemed angry about it. Which is funny because I do not agree with giving flowers at all. When I buy people flowers, it is only in a pot, picked flowers in my opinion are dead and I am no flower activist (if there ever was such a thing) but killing nature and giving dead “bodies” to someone is lost on me as symbolism goes. I am just weird that way.
But pressured by time and limited options I made an exception for Jim. Moving on from a herbalism lesson I finally found his grave only to find it fenced off. The whole area. Apparently there were “hippies” partying day and night, doing drugs and tagging the surrounding graves. My younger self would have liked that. Now it did not bothered me that much since my wild party years were behind me, the fence a strange metaphor for it. Same fence was put around Oscar Wilde’s grave, the problem there was girls coming and kissing the stone turning it completely red.
There I was standing with the rose in my hand, feeling rather foolish, so close and yet so far. People came and went but nobody brought anything, making me the weirdo with a flower. So I decided to follow Jim’s advice and break on through to the other side…of the fence that is. It is just a fence after all, it is not the police, and people give too much value to signs and fences. Besides how much trouble can you get into for visiting a grave? I wanted to wait until I am alone but I realized that is not going to happen so I climbed over watched by two amused American girls. I placed the flower on the grave I took out the candle, realized I have no lighter (Come on baby, light my fire) then climbed back, smiling at the two girls who smiled back. On the other side it hit me that I should have taken a picture, since I already “broke the law” so I asked the girls if they could take my picture while I climb back.
It only took me 15 years but I made it. This is the end my only friend the end…
in response to the daily prompt snapshot stories