Docteur Dominque Dupont
While looking at some photographs from my recent trip to Paris, I couldn't help but think about my good friend and fellow photographer, Dominque Dupont: otherwise known as CrazyDoc. Upon my arrival in the City of Light, I made arrangements to meet up with him on the following day.
The next morning rolled around quickly. After waking, showering, dressing and eating, I had some time to kill before driving to meet my buddy for lunch, and decided to walk around the neighborhood to see how the locals spent their mornings. After one more little cup of coffee, I was on my way. People were strolling about, carrying long loaves of French bread called baguettes, and buying fruits and vegetables at the many markets that lined the street where my small hotel was located. Fresh-fruit and produce stands were abound. A fish market, a butcher shop, a bakery, a tobacco store, and a few restaurants and bars all attracted many of the residents, who cheerfully chatted with one another before going about their business.
At eight fifteen I found the Fiat already had a parking ticket tucked under the windshield wiper. The meter maid must have started early, or my car was the first one ticketed for the day. The fine was for eleven euros, making the fee for one night's parking a bargain. I had considered leaving the vehicle on the street for the remaining three days of my stay in Paris and just paying the price of the parking tickets, which would been a lot cheaper than leaving it in a garage; but considering my luck, the police would have had it towed away, resulting in my having to pay two hundred and fifty euros to bail the auto out. Since it had already received a summons, the car was going to remain there for a couple of hours longer while I walked down to the area of the Louvre and Palais-Royal, which was less than two miles down Rue Montmartre.
Upon arrival at the royal digs, I stopped at the outdoor café in the palace gardens and had a few noggins of java while taking photographs of the grounds surrounding the historic site.
Kings and queens hadn't lived inside the stately palace since the abolition of the French monarchy in 1792, when King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette were executed during the French Revolution. The Palais-Royal originally was called the Palais-Cardinal for Cardinal Richelieu, who was the chief minister of King Louis XIII; and the cleric had the palace built to be his residence early in the seventeenth century. Upon Richelieu's death, the palace was bequeathed to the French Crown and later played host to the exiled Queen of England, Henrietta Maria of France—daughter of French King Henry IV—and her youngest daughter, Princess Henrietta-Anne of England: the wife, and daughter, of the beheaded English King Charles I, at the end of the English Civil Wars.
Henrietta-Anne married Phillipe de France, Duc d'Orleans and the younger brother of King Louis XIV; after which the couple made the palace their home. As a result, the Palais-Royal became the main residence of the Orleans Family and remained in their possession for the majority of its history. The princess, who became the Duchesse d'Orleans, created the gardens in which I was sitting that morning, and she established the palace to be the social center of Paris.
The duchess had been described as a famed beauty and quite flirtatious, who died young and suddenly in the late-seventeenth century allegedly from having been poisoned by her husband and his homosexual lover. An autopsy was performed after her death, which claimed that Henrietta-Anne had died of peritonitis caused by a perforated ulcer.
Back to the future, the present-day Palais-Royal housed a few governmental offices; and at the rear of the gardens, the National Library of Deposit resided, where a collection of more than six million books, documents, maps and prints had at one time been stored; but a good portion of the works have been relocated to modern facilities. The time was approaching ten forty-five, and my appointment to meet Dominique for lunch was at twelve noon, which prompted me to walk back to the hotel and pick up the car. The drive across the city was uneventful, and I arrived in time to find my buddy waiting for me outside his flat.
I met my French friend on a networking Web site that hosted a few forums for fun, nonsense, and discussions of pertinent, daily topics that were either frivolous or serious in nature. I posted to the general-bullshit board, on which anything went. Every day, Dominique posted a link to his blog, which showcased artistically drawn, painted, or photographed subject matter, created by both vintage and contemporary artists who were devoted to Erotica, the art of sexual desire and pleasure. We would joke back and forth about that day's offerings with comments posted on the board in response to each other. On one occasion back in 2007, I had mentioned my plans to the forum about visiting Paris for my first time. Dominique suggested we get together and meet during my initial stay there. I agreed. After my arrival and settling into my hotel room, I gave him a call, and he picked me up later that evening. We visited the Moulin Rouge, checked out the sights of the neighborhood while eye-balling, but by-passing the ladies of the night; and we ate an early-morning meal at a large and popular restaurant in Montparnasse, called La Coupole.
The eatery was huge and built over eighty years ago. The interior of the restaurant was styled in Art Deco, with its fresco-covered pillars and cubist tiling. Many artists from the Modern School of Paris, who considered the city as being the center of Western Art, and who were also the masters of the early twentieth century, sat together regularly at this fabulous chophouse. Such notable figures as Pablo Picasso, Man Ray, Amedeo Modigliani, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Kees van Dongen, and French writer Anais Nin with her American bohemian counterparts: Henry Miller and Ernest Hemingway, were all partial to this eatery.
While we were feasting and yakking away, a sudden cry for help and a doctor was heard. A woman was choking on what was presumed to be part of her meal. Dominique, who is a Doctor of Psychiatry, leaped into action and went over to help this woman. A crowd had assembled, obscuring my line of sight, and prevented me from seeing the outcome of all the commotion. The gathering finally dispersed, and Dominique return back to the table, sat down, and nonchalantly gobbled a forkful of his steak dinner.
“What happened,” I said. “Is she alright?”
“Yes,” he replied. “It was a chicken bone she was choking on.” I inquired about which method he used to extract the bone from the woman's throat. He responded, “I pinched her butt and the bone flew out of her mouth.” That was CrazyDoc's subtle style of humor which made visits with him so enjoyable.
Dominique got in the car and gave me a hard time about having to enter from the wrong side of the vehicle, as my British-oriented Fiat sported the steering wheel on the right side of the automobile. It was good seeing him again. He hadn't changed much, except for a few less hairs on the top of his head, and a few more wrinkles on his face; but his graciousness was still the same. He told me to put the car in parking lot across from the Radio France building. From there, it was only a few blocks to the Vietnamese bistro where we ate lunch. We joked about checking the kitchen for evidence of dogs or cats before we sat down to eat. Once inside the restaurant, I ordered a bottle of Vietnamese wine to drink while the meal was being prepared.
Our conversation went from small talk to discussing the state-sponsored health-care system in France versus the United States. It was arguably the hottest topic in America at the time, and was of great interest to both of us. Since Dominique was a psychiatrist, he had first-hand information regarding the French system of universal health care; and I had approached a precarious situation of having to pay extremely high rates for my medical insurance. No matter which way one looked at it, I surmised from our long-winded discussion that the working people ended up having to flip the bill, one way or the other; but at least in France, the indigent, the terminally ill, or those with absolutely no money had free access to clinics under the auspices of the public-hospital network, available to all without prejudice, regardless of whatever type of treatment was needed. The costs for retirees were substantially lower than those in the US as well.
We had finished eating our lunch and were drinking what was left of the tasty Vietnamese wine. After settling the check, Dominique and I took a walk around the neighborhood, photographing buildings built after the annexation of the area by the City of Paris, in the beginning decades of the twentieth century, when the Art Deco movement was at its peak. The architectural designs of the structures greatly reflected the art form.
A great view of the Eiffel Tower, upstream in the distance, provided a terrific photo opportunity while we stood along the banks of the nearby Seine River.
I told the story about my escapades on the previous night with the gendarmes at the landmark, nearly landing myself in the city jail for video-tapping from the roof of my car, driving with just one hand on the steering wheel, going through a red light, and ending up on the wrong side of the roadway, alongside of Eiffel Tower. The police escorted me to a non-congested corner, a half-mile away. They positioned me in the right direction and told me to stop right there. It was then I believed I was in deep doo-doo.
“Your credentials, please, Monsieur,” the gendarme requested. I handed him my license, the car-rental agreement, and my passport. “You made an illegal right turn through a red light when coming over the bridge,” he declared. Telling the cop about my being very excited while seeing the Eiffel Tower all lit up for the first time ever, I admitted to making a mistake. “A very big mistake,” he replied, “and what were you doing filming with a video camera while you were driving? In France, we keep both hands on the steering wheel.”
“I'm sorry,” I said. “I won't do it again.”
The gendarme went on to say, “When I visited your country, I went to Miami and drove through a red light too. The policeman who pulled me over let me go without a ticket. I now do the same for you.” He handed me back my documents. “This is your lucky night, Monsieur,” he said before pulling away with the others. “Be careful in Paris.”
Very seldom did I step in crap and come out smelling like a rose. I relished the thought of not having to spend the night in a Parisian jail. Perhaps he let me go because of my French nose.
Dominique and I had a good laugh over it, and I was able to get quite a few decent photographs of the monument without worrying about spending the night in the Bastille, or at some other stockade there about. I was invited up to his flat for a few drinks and to meet his lady friend, Madeleine. He was escorting her to a family function later. Dominique mixed us a cocktail, but I stayed for only a short visit while not wanting to impose, as they had to get ready; and time was slipping away. Madeleine was a pleasant sort who liked to laugh and share a joke. She too was a doctor and worked as a general practitioner. We made plans for the following morning to meet up in my friend's office at eleven o'clock sharp, and take a trip afterward to the Paris Flea Market for the afternoon. I finished my drink and said my good-byes before leaving to pick up the Fiat.