Sunday, 9 p.m. – I am restless in this little apartment decorated in a way that only the ‘Neuvo Riche’ can manage to decorate. All the new accessories in the market…anything that is advertised…the hip and trendy … the whole apartment is making me feel out of place. In an attempt of protesting this vulgarity, I sit on the floor … no … I lay down on the floor and almost chain smoke my cigarettes … no Gitanes…they taste like shit … like ‘Peshgel’. I stick to my Winston Lights, and pour down the cheap Vodka I have bought. Must be careful … soon I am out of my scholarship money and will be on the street, especially if I keep showing my contempt openly for this whole place.
The only savior for my eyes is the new black shiny piano that her dad has bought her. But she can’t play…for many years she has taken piano lessons … expensive teachers, her dad had even sent her to Paris to study for this so called known teacher – same teacher as I study for, that now – in retrospect -I wish I had not.
Her technique has no soul, her musical dreams no color and her taste in music is so mediocre and conventional that I just want to puke. Take the music sheets away from her and she would not be able to play a single tone on that GIANT.
Yes a piano is a giant. It needs to be tamed …. one must conquer a piano. It is not like a freaking flute or a cello. It is a monster…HUGE and heavy and the sound of it, if played right, can bring all your demons out, making them perform a ‘Dance Grotesque’ right in front of your eyes.
It would have been ok if she just wanted to play for her own and her friends’ pleasure…but no … she insists on becoming a musician – and god forbid a piano teacher!!! Already 26 years old ad without any other education … nothing else. And then goes, wasting her time working at a store to afford to buy gifts for her near and dear back home! Oh yea … I should mention that she does have a rich daddy … so I guess she will be fine in the end of the day!
As I was saying, her dad bought her an apartment in the middle of Paris and along with it the piano – which now has become MY comfort.
I once improvised for her and her friends on Aref’s ‘Kochoolo Kochoolo’ … I should not have done that. She did not want to touch the piano for a few days, after hearing me play.
MUST get away from this colorless and bland small-burgios way of living! This atmosphere is scratching like chalks on my spirit’s blackboard.
There is only so much that a nineteen-year-old young man on fire can handle … you know.
That is why I keep calling Clair … must get away from this one and her apartment.
I call … no reply …I give it another half an hour.
9:30 … Nope.
10:00 … no answer … Fuck fuck fuck … I almost say out loud, jerking my head back and forth almost in spasms, while pronouncing these profound words!!!
I get up to play a bit on the piano…’Please don’t’ she says…Hamsayeha narahat mishan’!
I couldn’t play anyway. My right arm is hurting. The new exercises based on the French school, has done something to my arm – you know … Alfred Cortot and that kind of crap.
I mean we have the most fantastic pianists and methods, producing world artists such as Horowitz, Kissin and Richter, and countless others coming from our neighboring country in the north – Russia … but then what do we do? We seek anything that is French or Western European! We study composition at Vienna, still copying musical forms from the age of dinosaurs, and at best, use harmonies and sequences of Strauss (yes … the ‘Waltz Queen’). A few of the so-called new Iranian musicians / performers / composers (hame fan harif!), who really want to be on the edge and pat themselves on the shoulders for being pioneers of rejuvenating Iranian music, throw in a ‘Daf’ or a freaking Kamanche or use ‘Dastgah’ or god know what else, as tuning a piano in quarter tones, producing ‘sohane goosh’, and think to themselves as musical geniuses. Or better up, we enroll at Paris conservatory … a conservatory that is merely living off its former glory and reputation from the 19th century, when they even rejected Franz Liszt! … of course they had to eat that up for the rest of history – rejecting Liszt that is!!!
I know that many of the readers are now working up a steam, and in their attempt of being a ‘Chevaliere’, protecting the honor of Iranian progress and/or traditions or anything that is Iranian or just for the sake of keeping their cherished memory immaculate when ‘Bobby Joon’ back in Iran had just learned to play ‘Khabhaye Talaee’ and everybody called him ‘Betovene Irani’, are probably contemplating to write me a hate letter. But before you do that, and get yourself off on playing music critic contradicting me, listen to this.
When the review of Berlioz’s ‘Symphony Fantastique’ after its premiere came out, trashed by the critics, he responded:
“Critics are like eunuchs guarding the Harem of the Sultan. They know what is going on in there and how it is done, but can’t do it themselves”.
Trust me he knew what he was talking about as he himself moonlighted as a music critic.
So again, before you jump your guns, think about what Berlioz has said.
Anyway … as I was saying, these new exercises, so off from my already gained technique, are hurting my arm … I am starting to get cramps when playing.
FUCK … I say to myself…What am I going to do now? … don’t want to take her to bed either … can’t … no more. Don’t misunderstand…she is a beautiful girl, well proportioned, pretty face, great skin, thick lips … nice body … and hey … god knows that she is ready for me too! But No …can’t …need something more…it is not just erotic. I would not get anything out of it emotionally. I would be even more frustrated. It is as if I would ‘comfort eat’ a Big Mac. … it just don’t work. For comfort eating you need truffles … or at least a hot Hungarian Goulash made by gypsies on the road to Hortobágy, while listening to gypsy musicians, crying your heart out … either because of the spices in the Goulash or because of the music … or maybe a combination of both!
I lit another cigarette … another shot of Vodka. Can’t read either … Castaneda’s words are not sticking to my head.
I start calling Clair more frequently … almost obsessively.
10:45 – AHH … YESSS FINALLY!
‘Alo???’ C’est Claire’?
It’s me … from last night.
Ah Bonsoir … Ca va?
I am fine …thanks. I am calling you cuz I wanne see you.
Ah bon … when?
Baut eet iz late aaa .. and I need to go to worvk tomorvroow.
Well … you can always sleep tomorrow after work. But if you want to see me, you see me now.
Where? she asks.
Anywhere…I don’t care. But there is this little place … it is kind of hidden … at Les Halles. Not many know about it. It is called ‘Le Trottoir De Buenos Aires’.
Ha ha … she laughs and says … I always go there … I know the owner.
I could meet you there. Say …in half to 45 min.?
I need more time she says. Make it midnight.
See you then
I had met Claire the night before. It was at a huge Tango show. I was there with a date. But then during the intermezzo, I saw this goddess looking woman sitting on the edge of the stage chatting with some friends. She had crossed her legs tightly and had her body tilted. She looked like a work intended by Rodin, but never sculptured.
I never spoke to her during the intermezzo – after all I was with another girl … but was watching her every move. Her aura was so strong that it distracted me from the cry of the Bandoneon and the fabulous moves by the Tango dancers from Buenos Aires.
Once the concert was over and we all left, I noticed that she still was inside.
I realized that if I did not take the opportunity now, it would be gone forever. So I said to my date…”I am sorry I think I lost my cigarette etui in there, I have to go and look for it … I will be right back”.
I went inside and immediately spotted her. Walked straight to her and interrupted her conversing with another man. Without saying hello, I said … ‘Did you enjoy the concert’?
She looked at me for a good few seconds and then said.
Yes thank you…how about you?
Yes, I said.
Are you not here with a girl? she asked. I said yes, I am.
Silence again …
What do you do in Paris?
I am a musician … I am here to study music.
Without saying another word, she dug into her bag …pulled out a business card and said: Call me.
I will … I said.
Good night … I turned around and left.
The whole encounter took less than 30 seconds!
And so here I am now.
I am at ‘Le Trottoir De Buenos Aires’, off Saint Michelle and at this narrow backstreet of Les Halles.
No point looking for the club. It was sold years ago. And now they have set up this stupid bar instead.
It took me a good half an hour form ‘Place D’Italie’ to ‘Les Halles’. It was late and the night was chilly. The spring in Paris had not come in its full force, and so the mild air could not be felt as yet.
I went in. Sat at a small round table unnoticeably and ordered a Vodka Tonic … insisted that it would be severed in a highball, no more than two ice cubes and no lemon but lime.
Fuck the money I thought … tomorrow is another day. I need these drinks.
The club was one big long hall with high ceiling. Walls painted in black with colorful illustrations of Tango dancers on them. It was dimly lit with round tables and French café chairs; the floor resembling a chess board – how symbolic…made for the game of the opposites! To your right, when entering the club, was the bar, then a dance floor (kind of) and at the end there was the stage with a grand piano. That was the jewel of the whole club. It could not have been more simple and ‘Noir’ than this. The atmosphere took you almost back to one of those brothels at the outskirts of Buenos Aires around the turn of the century, that one sees paintings of.
Close to midnight on a Sunday, at that little club you had people dancing. I noticed this couple – the guy wearing a striped suite and a tight west, tie with a perfect knot and a spitshine on his shoes… the whole nine yard … with his partner dressed in a long black dress, net stockings and high heels. They were dancing to ‘Por Una Cabeza’. The guy does a ‘Fanfarrón’ (Such drama queen, I think to myself), proceeds with an ‘Ocho’, then ‘Media Luna’. She stops, holds him tightly and does a ‘Gancho’ on him (very close to his family jewels indeed – scary).
Sure … why the hell not. If you are out there on a late Sunday night dancing, instead of watching TV and then get on your lady in missionary position as a routine, while cursing life that you have to be at work at 8 the morning, then I guess only the most passionate Tango like ‘Por Una Cabeza’ will do, to dance to.
Clair was late. But somehow I was not worried. I know she would show up.
I am on my second drink, when the music changes and I hear ‘Milonga des Mis Flores’ … then suddenly she enters the club – how symbolic! My heart jumps. I almost can’t breathe. I get up to greet her. Kiss, kiss and another one on the check. We sit down.
She asks what I am drinking and orders the same. I am now on my third Vodka Tonic. We talk a bit.
We race through the basic information about each other … where you are from, how old you are and all that sort of nonsense, that really does not say a shit about anybody, just helps you to put them in a nice little box so that you form your own opinion about them….very comfortable. Anyway, she is 28 years old and nine years older than me, a TV reporter for Channel+, and a scorpion …ha! What else? Of course a Scorpion!!!
After a short while she excuses herself and walks over to the other side of the club, and starts talking to this chubby guy. Then comes back and apologizes, and says she wants to hear me playing.
Man, I thought to my self … this gal don’t play around! She wanted to see if I was bullshitting being a pianist and all.
I said … not now … this is a club and they have their own musicians and besides, I don’t play Tangos. I was going to explain to her that I have pain in my arm … but then suddenly there he stands on the stage, this guy with whom Claire had spoken to (apparently the owner), and announces that tonight they have a guest musician and that he is going to play.
Clair said … there you go. The piano is yours.
I looked at her …almost mad …and said. ‘Are you out of your mind’?
Too late … people were applauding.
I had no choice.
My hands are shaking out of excitement seeing her. She had sat so close to me that I could smell the scent coming from between her small firm breasts.
With jelly legs, I made my way to the stage. The club is dark … smoky … I still have my cigarette in the corner of my mouth. Someone hurries with an ashtray and I put it on top of the grand piano … the cigarettes keeps burning.
Have no freaking clue what to play. Can’t pull a Chopin … nothing classical … not here. Don’t want to play one of my own compositions … too heavy, too dark … then I just rather play Liszt.
I start without the slightest idea of what to play … a few harmonies, modulations, I start to improvise … just drifting. Then suddenly (god knows why) I remember Marcello Mastroianni in this movie called ‘Black Eyes’ chasing this Russian woman whom he had only met once at Baden Baden, all over Russia, to finally give up the chase and go back to his wife in Verona. The few tones of ‘Ochy Chornaya’ (black eyes) find themselves to my fingers. Fine, I can do that I think to myself, and people would recognize the melody, always a sure bet when playing for strangers. I gear down and play just the melody with simple chords…then I start with variations in rhythms, harmonies and of course syncope … fast, slow, meditative, passionate … before I know it, my fingers are flying all over the keyboard in arpeggios … the piano almost jumps when I hit the base with my octaves in a chromatic passage while my right hand is filling the air with heavy and rich chords on the melody line.
I am lost … the shakiness of my hands are still there and I miss a few keys here and there … but hey …who cares? Even Schnabel had mistakes as his signature when playing, I thought to myself!
Suddenly I realize that Clair is sitting on the stage, almost UNDER the piano … she is resting her arm on the edge of the piano with her open hand supporting her right cheek and literally looking up to me – hypnotized by my playing.
I go on for a little longer, more avant-garde harmonies … almost atonal, and then end the whole thing in a brilliant chromatic passage in dim-chords before finding back to tonica of G minor.
My right arm is in cramp … I almost can’t bend my fingers.
I hear shouts …I just wanted to get the fuck out of that stage and go back to my table and Vodka. Almost in arrogance, I half bowed and thanked, then practically ran back to my table. My glass was half full … with my right upper arm still in cramp, I hold the glass with both hands and drink it in one swoop. In the corner of my eye I catch the waiter, and while still having the glass to my mouth I sign to him to bring me another one.
Clair’s eyes were fixed on me and as soon as I put the glass down she almost attacked me and gave me this long hot French kiss … what else?…after all, she was French!
While she is consuming me, I open my eyes and see this other girl bending towards us with her huge breasts almost jumping out of her blouse, trying to get my attention – not her breasts, but herself I mean. So I stop kissing Clair and the new arrival tells me that she really enjoyed the music and whether or not I normally come to this club. By then, I thought Clair is going to jump up and punch this girl – this intruder – into next week!
Very politely I get rid of her and went back to Clair…well … to her lips that is.
It is now around 2 am and the club is closing … it is drizzling outside … we are walking arm in arm and now and then stop under a neon sign to indulge in each other. It was under of these kissing sessions that I pushed her into a dark corner. It was at George Pompidou.
I had no control no more… nor did she.
All I knew was that suddenly she is breathing heavy in staccatos in my ear and grabbing my hair tight as I have her right wrist tightly held in my hand pinned to the wall, while my left hand is holding her chin as if not letting it escape from my kisses.
I had no idea how, between my long trench coat and hers … between my pants and hers, how our body united. All I know was that if I had let go of her, she would have sunken on to the floor as a sack of potato as she had no control of her body. She was a bit taller than I was, and so I almost had to stand on my toes.
The climax of our passion was going on and on. But we finally both slowed down and I realized that I was shivering and yet I was hot and sweaty.
Suddenly, the excitement of the entire evening produced a few tears.
We were glued together for a long moment in that position holding each other, with my head buried into her shoulders trying to hide my tears. She had my head in her hand caressing me gently as if to say … ‘hush baby … everything is gonna be OK’.
No words …no kisses … nothing … just holding each other.
Finally, we realized that we almost were in the middle of an open piazza, and decided that we should not push our luck more than what we already had done.
I grabbed a taxi for her. She wanted me to go home with her … I declined … and told her that I would to see her the next evening. I did … and the following evening and the next and the next
Years later I laughed out lout at the movie theatre, when seeing the premiere of the movie ‘Henry & June’ as the character of Henry Miller took Anaïs Nin exactly the same way, as I had taken Claire that night, under a bridge in Paris!
Aug. 23 – Gothenburg, Swede