Monday, March 2, 2009

Bill Murray In Paris

The following is an excerpt from Bill Murray In Paris by Ben Shakey. It will be published by Jefferson Books in April 2009

A single sheet of paper hung from the classroom door.



The other students seemed happy or relieved.

‘I didn’t come here to impress my parents or to feel grown up. This is for my enjoyment. I’m figuring stuff out. I don’t care about what they think. I don’t care about Hollywood or Box Office or Awards. ‘ he thought.

He stomped down the front steps. Students and pigeons scattered in fear.

He marched towards the Metro. “I’ll study at home then.’ He thought.

The sun was almost directly overhead. There was still half the day left. At the French language class that morning he felt productive but it was the philosophy classes where he really felt inspired.

His French was more functional now.

“Excellent” said the instructor “But there is a slight problem with your accent. Although you pronounce everything correctly, you make everything sound like a joke. Even a plain and straight forward sentence sounds funny from you.”

“No, I have the same problem in English.”

She laughed.

“See what I mean. “ He said.

It was noon and he was hungry, maybe a baguette at the bakery. They cost mere pocket change but when they were fresh and crusty and pulled right off the bakery shelf they tasted better than anything at the fine, fine restaurants he had eaten at and could never have imagined himself in while working through school as a caddy.

No bakery in sight, he sat down at a cafe and ordered a quiche and a glass of wine. It was a spring day in Paris and he was eating rich cheese and mushroom and pastry on the boulevard and Bossa Nova music was playing and a beautiful French woman walked past in capris and a t shirt, swinging her hips like something out of Goddard movie.

Maybe there were worse things than wasting an afternoon in Paris.

On the wall was a photo of Hemmingway sitting at the bar. The first time he sat at a restaurant where Papa drank it was thrilling, like pulling up a chair to the movable feast, but after a few months in Paris it seemed that every bar or restaurant had a legitimate claim to Earnest drinking there.

“That man was drunk” He declared and ordered another glass of wine and contemplated growing a beard.

He read more and basked in the sun. A man in a very skinny tie let his dog crap on the sidewalk in front of him. Here it felt charming yet it would have been disgusting in Chicago.

“Are you....” asked the waiter and his voice trailed off.

“Non” he answered in French. The waiter laughed. Maybe he was funnier in French.

“Well, the owner would like the Ghost Buster to have a complimentary bottle of wine.”

“Mais Oui, then I am him” he said.

He drank and read and left a large tip.

He was not on TV here so he was recognized less which meant there were even less perks which made them fun again.

The wine may have affected his next move.

He bought a beret which on him looked rumpled and hilarious but he enjoyed it and to most people he just looked like an eccentric expat which he was.

In the plaza a silver robot man competed for spare change but the real entertainment began when a couple of school kids ran to the fountain and poured in liquid dish soap and within a minute the water churned it into a mountainous pile of white sudsy foam.

He laughed and decided to sit for a sketch by a struggling artist who drew charcoal portraits of tourists to pay the rent.

They talked about his studies at the Sorbonne and his love of Gurdjieff.

The artist studied in Spain, loved Picasso, but lately felt himself drawn to Dali and frequented the museum of his work here in Paris.

“Realism is less appealing as you get older?” He asked the artist.

“No, as I get older I see that the world is more surreal and this art is therefore more realistic.”
They looked at the fountain of soapsuds and laughed.

The caricature was complete. He was in a beret. His face was round and pockmarked. His bottom lip protruded slightly, not exactly pouting but not really grinning. His blank glassy eyes took in the surrealism of the Dali world.

The artist hung up charcoal drawings of celebrities around his chair in the plaza. It advertised his ability to render people and he used well known faces to illustrate this. There was Chaplin, Elvis, and Marilyn Monroe and in pork pie hats and dark glasses were John and Danny doing their Blues Brothers thing.

He paid for the picture and then let the artist keep it so he could hang it next to the others.

The surrealist cartoon was very realistic.

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