Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Following the hammereing footsteps.

I take the line twelve each day in Paris. I like the line twelve as it connects the 20th century artist and intellectual scene. No other metro line could possibly so elegantly trace the footsteps of artists as they moved down the hill from Montmartre to find refuge in the then cheap Montparnasse. The debut of the 20th century saw Montmartre as the center of the then sprouting avant-garde. Toulouse Lautrec sketched dancers and prostitutes serving the men attending the piano concerts of Claude Debussy and Erik Satie. The metro ran its first train in that first year of the new century but Erik Satie would never take the metro. He was known to walk home hours from piano concerts wearing his signature grey suit, carrying a hammer to avoid any unpleasantries. He walked home to the suburbs though, and with good reason, because as artists become more and more known, and as the artistic underworld became a fascination of the mainstream overworld, rent prices on the hill went up quickly. Dadaist found that although sound poems were revolutionary, they did not pay. They made there way down the hill, passing the intellectual torch across the exact same streets that the line twelve now runs, all the way down to Montparnasse. It was Hemingway first, criticizing the clientele at La Rotonde, full of posing amateurs, and praising those at Le Select, that first brought Montparnasse into the press, and then it was sightings of Sartre and Beauvoir, known for being social writers, quietly writing away into the desuetude in quiet corners of Montparnasse’s caf├ęs. These were what is now New York’s Brooklyn, Chicago’s Pilsen. This is where the artists could afford to live, and there they congregated. Now, seeping through the concrete and into the tunnels, the intellectual steam has all but evaporated. One is left now with a slower line, an out of date line, tracing history’s footsteps from beneath its very souls.


Lauren said...


serge said...

so that line is like paris's equivalent of new york's L train.
tracing artists from the east village to williamsburg, east williamsburg, and bushwick.

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