The Moulin Rouge


Before we left for Paris, Partner got us tickets for the Moulin Rouge. The tickets were hard to get; the show sells out very quickly.

And now I know why.

First of all, the neighborhood is exactly what you want it to be: it’s a slightly less grubby version of the old Times Square in Manhattan, or Boston’s late lamented Combat Zone. We arrived early and had a drink in a sidewalk café, and watched a pretty young prostitute pick up a nice young man at the next table. Romance!

The show was old-fashioned burlesque: big costumes, big musical numbers, and a little dash of Cirque du Soleil. The theme was “Feerie”: Fairyland.  There were two jugglers, one serious, one very funny. There was a big “exotic” musical number that couldn’t decide whether it wanted to be Indian, or Chinese, or Japanese. There were little ballads. There was, of course, the Can-can. (We were seated at a table with two very serious Frenchwomen, who only applauded the Can-can.)

Then there were the breasts.

They were everywhere, and they gave me quite a turn. I think I must have seen seventy or eighty of them. They were (mostly) very pert. (There were lots of bare behinds too, but they made less of an impression on me, for some reason.)

There was very little beefcake. There was one very nice number with two handsome acrobatic male dancers, one shirtless and the other in a t-shirt, who did elaborate handstands and carries. I could have done with a little more of that.

Upon leaving the club, I realized I’d left my American cap behind. To hell with it! I thought. I went to a street vendor and bought a very rakish hipster hat for seven euro.

So now I take a piece of the Moulin Rouge wherever I go, and my little American cap is floating around Montmartre somewhere.

Who knows? Maybe that prostitute has it.

Vive l’amour!


Montmartre


Our very first day in Paris – though we were both still deathly weary from the plane flight – we went, on foot, up into Montmartre.

(This seemed appropriate to me, since my favorite composer, Erik Satie, used to walk back and forth between le Chat Noir (the Montmartre bar in which he worked as a cabaret pianist) and his home in Arcueil (south of Paris) every day. He drank his way from bar to bar on both trips, and he carried a hammer in his pocket, just in case he was attacked on the way.)

So we climbed Montmartre. It was a brilliantly sunny early-autumn day. Partner knew the way, as he’d visited it several times on Google Earth, and he amazed me; he knew exactly which streets to take.

We ended up in front of Satie’s house on the Rue Cortot:

 

Next door is the Musee de Montmartre. It is a huge rambling old house, in which Renoir worked, and Suzanne Valadon and Maurice Utrillo lived, and Aristide Bruant, and many others.

It is beautiful. All of Paris is laid out at your feet. Look:

Partly we were still dazed and jet-lagged. But partly also we were wandering in an earthly paradise. If I didn’t have a photographic record of it, I’d swear it was a dream.

Two of my friends in Tunis used to call me “Hajj” as a joke; it’s the title of respect given to a man who’s visited the Holy Sites in Mecca.

Well, I’ve earned the title, because Montmartre is my Holy Land.

But don’t call me Hajj.

Call me Monsieur Hajj.


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