I meet Chris and Lisa Pitzer at the Montparnasse station in Paris. They tell me my wife e-mailed them to find out where I was because she hadn’t heard anything from me since I’d left for France. They hadn’t heard anything either. Everybody assumed I must be okay, but had no proof of it. My hosts in Paris, publisher Guy Buee and his wife Sylvie, had a computer failure just prior to my arrival which kept me incommunicado with the rest of the world. I didn’t have a cell phone or anything, and apparently Paris doesn’t have internet cafes. I used Chris’s iPhone to send a message home. I’M OKAY. The signal was really bad in the station and especially on the train and kept failing, so I was going to wait until later to send a more in-depth message.
I traded stories of Paris with the Pitzers on the train ride to Angoulême.
While in Paris I’d learned the popular French game petanque. Sort of like the Italian game Bocci that I played as a child, but with heavy metal balls and a lot of complicated rules.
This is a traditional beloved game in France, and they were shocked when I told them that it is unknown in America. They said I must become an ambassador of petanque to the U.S. I did okay. I didn’t understand the rules, just threw the ball when I was told.
Got to test two red wines, one a well wine, the other an expensive name brand. Restaurant co-owner and Wolverine lookalike Guillaum was convinced that it was impossible to tell the difference. I’m the furthest thing from a wine expert, and both tasted identically good to me.
Picked up a couple T. Rex albums on the cheap. T. Rex records are impossible to find in the U.S. I’d only ever seen four T. Rex albums for sale in my life and I bought every one of them. In France T. Rex records are everywhere. T. Rex was big everywhere but the U.S. during Bolan’s heyday. After his passing he became a legend, so in the U.S. there are a large number of fans fighting over a small number of records. In Europe, there are a ton of fans, but there are also a ton of records because T. Rex was big from day one. It was kind of an impulse buy, though. How am I going to get these records home without them breaking?
Walked pretty much the entire city from Champs-Elysee to the Arc d’ Triumph to the Eiffel Tower to the Louvre. Saw Mona, saw Venus Di Milo. Then sushi for lunch (French cuisine is way too expensive) then a cab to France 24 studios for my interview. Cab ride to Notre Dame. Awe-inspiring. Walked to Rue Dante, on Joe Keatinge’s recommendation. Then to Jim Morrison cemetery, which was closed. Tried to walk back to Guy’s apartment in Montmarte. Could not find my way there. Whenever I started to get close, I’d end up hopelessly lost. Turns out, because Guy’s region of Paris is tall and thin, it was printed in the map book sideways. I hadn’t noticed, so I thought east was north. Kept going in circles. Once I realized this I took the metro.
I told the Pitzers pretty much my entire story on the train ride to Angoulême. Some of the locals on the train were rolling their eyes and sighing about my endless blather. We arrived at Angoulême, got the rental car and settled in at the apartment in the Chateau where we were staying. The apartment was formerly a wine cellar.
Chris talked about why he wanted to go to Angouleme. We hadn’t talked about this before, so I was pretty surprised, because I had assumed a totally different set of motivations. I’d assumed he wanted to do Angoulême as part of a strategic move to place AdHouse on a global stage. But actually attending Angoulême was almost a lifelong dream for him. Something he’d always wanted to do, but had always proved too difficult to arrange. He wanted to do something fun to end his ninth year of publishing and this was it. After Angoulême, he said he’s looking to slow down a little bit, decrease the output and take a little bit of a break.
This was good, because I felt some pressure for Angoulême to work out well for him, since the launch of American Barbarian was AdHouse’s focus for the show. Learning that he was here more for fun rather than for some business goal made me feel a lot more at ease. I was here for the same reason. I was interested in the experience and the adventure of Angoulême. So far, just from my Paris trip alone, the whole enterprise was already a huge success.