Fall 1991

(Paris, with side trips to Grenoble, Bonn, Warsaw, Barcelona, and Bergerac. Two months.)


September 16. Early shuttle to San Francisco airport. Stopover in Toronto. Read part of Jack Vance’s Magics and Fantasms, then forgot the book when we changed planes. Read Ambler’s Judgement on Deltchev.

Ken and Joel
With Joël Camous

September 17. Arrived in Paris late morning. To Camus’.* Joël there (Christian still in Colombia). Also Élisabeth (Peruvian woman I’d met before). Walked a lot with Joël (Goutte d’Or, les Buttes Chaumont, etc.). Unpacked and arranged my room. Looked through Joël’s books. Dinner with him and Élisabeth.

*On Rue du Département in the 18th Arrondissement, where Christian Camus and his brother Joël had adjoining apartments. I had been good friends with both of them since my 1979 Paris trip.

September 18. Breakfast with them. To the Latin Quarter — bookstore browsing all morning and afternoon, including Parallèles and Lebovici* (bought a bunch of Champ Libre books at discount and had them shipped home), record stores, etc. Couscous for lunch. Home. To Jeff Martos’s at 8:00. Situ gossip and dinner with him and his new girlfriend Laurence. Some uneasiness as the conversation drifted into the sort of traditional stuff re breaks, etc. Home at midnight.

*Éditions Gérard Lebovici: the new name for Éditions Champ Libre following Lebovici’s assassination in 1984.

September 19. Slept poorly — partly mulling over the encounter with Jeff (who represents the sort of situ orthodoxy that is a challenge to me — i.e., a credible one as opposed to the more delirious types I can largely dismiss); partly jet lag and late dinner and noise outside (we’re right across the street from a station where trucks load all night). Out all afternoon, including briefly seeing Gérard Berréby (Éditions Allia), who suggested a later encounter when he’d have time to talk. Fastfood lunch (Greek sandwich) and dinner at Chartier. Almost everything else is much more expensive than before.

September 20. With Joël to pick up a package of books I’d sent here, then to FNAC where we found a Germaine Montero CD and an Aristide Bruant cassette. Home, listened to them and other French chansons.* With Joël to dinner with Patrick Grauer, Élisabeth (Patricks’s girlfriend), Hélène, Khaled, and Philippe. I played a few songs with guitar. Excellent drawn-out dinner (rabbit stew, etc.). At midnight we watched Kubrick’s The Killing on TV, but I’d already seen it and didn’t stay till the end.

*As you will see, around this time I was beginning to get really into French songs. During this trip and the following one (1997) I had a lot of fun rummaging through flea markets and used record stores for old LPs, and I also recorded lots of my French friends’ collections. Over the years I have continued to explore and enjoy the rich variety of la chanson française, and I recently put together a series of ten Zoom presentations called The Secret History of French Songs. That webpage includes links to video recordings of all ten of my presentations as well as YouTube links to all the songs I played during those presentations.

September 21. No success yet contacting Linda Lanphear, Labrugère, or Salva. With Joël to two flea markets. Got a few Champ Libre books, but mainly we looked for records of French songs and found a few. Home, we listened to and talked re several of them (and also re Leonard Cohen).

Classics Revisited in French
Classics Revisited
in French

September 22. Called Joël and Nadine. They just adopted a baby girl and will be so busy with her that they won’t have time to see me. Talked with him re their Rexroth book,* etc. With Joël Camous to another flea market, where I bought a number of records, including several Anne Sylvestre.** Couscous at restaurant. Home, we listened to records and talked re differences between Dylan and Brassens, American and French subcultures, etc.

*Joël Cornuault and Nadine Bloch had recently translated Rexroth’s Classics Revisited into French:

**Anne Sylvestre (1934-2020): one of France’s greatest singer-songwriters, somewhat comparable to Joni Mitchell. Here is an illustrated recording of one of her songs (an exquisite duet with her daughter). And here is her live performance of a truly wonderful love song with a difference.

September 23. Went to Roger and Linda’s old apartment and was told they had moved to San Francisco (!).* Met Berréby at Éditions Allia.** He was interested in some possible exchanges. I agreed to loan him some American SI texts for a forthcoming collection he’s preparing and gave him a few of my own publications, but said I couldn’t help much re anything else (e.g. finding an American publisher for a book on AIDS he had published). Out browsing bookstores, finally found a book on Anne Sylvestre, containing words to lots of her songs. Dinner with Joël and Élisabeth. Miscellaneous chansons françaises. Labrugère finally called — I’ll go see him in a couple days.

*Actually, it turned out they had moved to New York. I stayed with them there for a week in 1999. They moved back to France a few years ago.

**To a certain extent Éditions Allia has carried on the tradition of Champ Libre. The owner, Gérard Berréby, has edited and published numerous books by or about several of the original Situationist International members, and the Allia catalog also includes many of the same sorts of related and unjustly neglected classic works that Champ Libre published.

September 24. Train to a Paris suburb to see a satellite tennis tournament. Had lunch there, but only stayed for one match. A few bookstores, then home.

The Relevance of Rexroth
My book on Rexroth
The War and the Spectacle in French
The War and the
in French

September 25. Train to Grenoble (9:30-3:30).  Françou Labrugère* met me at the station. To his apartment. Rapped a long time — situ gossip, American counterculture, etc. His friend Pierre showed up and they asked me questions about “The War and the Spectacle” and about Rexroth.** Couscous restaurant — they talked re the anti-TGV*** pamphlet and related developments. Home, Françou and I rapped a bit more re literature, French language, my démarches during the last few years.

*Jean-François (“Françou”) Labrugère: I had briefly met him in Paris during my previous trip. Since then he had translated Sanguinetti’s book On Terrorism and the State and co-translated (with Jean-Pierre Piotaix) my leaflet about the Gulf war, The War and the Spectacle:

**I had published my small book The Relevance of Rexroth in 1990. Francou later helped me translate it into French.

***TGV: train à grande vitesse (high-speed train).

September 26. Since it rained we stayed in most of the day, including a hearty and leisurely lunch. Exchanged addresses from each other’s mailing lists, went through his books and pamphlets, and talked a lot. Late afternoon we went out to some bookstores. Ran into Jean-Pierre Piotaix at a café. To Piotaix’s house, where we met his girlfriend Natalie. Over dinner and all evening we chatted around the table about our respective backgrounds, including me going through my adolescent history up to the psychedelic period, which led to some description/explanation of my current Zen practice.* Home a little after midnight.

*I had explored Zen practice some during the sixties, but since 1985 I had been practicing more regularly, as described here.

Francou Labrugere
Françou Labrugère

September 27. We walked around Grenoble a lot more, including book and record stores and a Vietnamese lunch. Took the périphérique to the fortifications on top of the surrounding mountains, then walked back down into the city. Ran across a little Zen center and talked a few minutes with the woman running it. Home. Jean-Pierre and Natalie over for dinner (included duck with truffles, etc. — quite a feast). Françou showed us photos of family and countryside. After they left, talked with him re 1960s American movement.

September 28. Some walking with Françou, a long time in a café-bar (talked re not getting too caught up in hating, insulting, etc.). Home for lunch (discussed the CRQS-Notice breakup). Got ticket at train station (where a guy was playing 1950s rock). Car into the mountains, visit to a Carthusian (Chartreuse) museum. Blocked for a bit on the way back by a tree that had fallen across a bridge. Home, then out for a superb dinner at an excellent Italian place — octopus salad and sea food spaghetti followed by a glass of chartreuse. Talked re our families, etc. Home at midnight, I went over several Rexroth poems for him. A very pleasant and I think productive visit for both of us. 

September 29. To train station. Arrived in Paris early afternoon. Quite tired, stayed home and read.

September 30. Shopping and post office. Wrote several postcards. Home, then to Champ Libre/Lebovici to buy a second selection of books (some to take to Poland, some for friends of Joël in Nice). Home. Élisabeth came over and she and Joël and I had dinner together. She left. Joël and I listened to records. At 9:30 went with him to a bar near Ménilmontant where we ran into another guy whom I’d met at Patrick’s.

October 1. Called Tilla. Record and book browsing. Stopped by Zen place. Home — dinner with Joël.

October 2. Left a note at Pierre Brée’s. (A friend of his called later to say he had moved to New York.) To Place d’Italie, past where Isa used to live, then up Rue Mouffetard, etc. Home late afternoon. Called Salva — any time I want to come is okay. Dinner with Joël and Élisabeth, then more songs (Trenet, etc.). Pascal Billiard (Atelier de Catalyse Sociale) called — we’ll get together later.

October 3. Zazen at Zen dojo 12:30-2:00. A few slightly different nuances. They charge for it, which put me off a bit. Record store browsing. Home, helped Élisabeth carry her things to a friend’s car. Dinner and records with Joël. Finished Bounan’s Le Temps du Sida [The AIDS Era] (given me by Berréby).

October 4. Christian and his Colombian girlfriend Marta arrived. Brunch with them, Joël, and Patrick. Moved my stuff to the apartment downstairs. Out all afternoon (record and bookstores). Dinner at a restaurant with Christian and Marta. After dinner to some Latino friends of theirs (Xavier and Omaira), then home.

October 5. Christian down to my room for morning coffee. He talked a bit re his Latin American job* and re Marta. He agreed that she is naïve in many regards, but said he finds in her some qualities (warmth, spontaneity) that he had missed in most Europeans. I spent the afternoon at the Clignancourt flea market but didn’t get anything. Back, rapped a bit with Christian re present-day politics. Pascal Billiard called. Met him at a café. We drove to another one downtown where Fred Goldbronn and Brigitte Larguèze had said they’d be, but they weren’t there. Then to Belleville, where we had a late Chinese dinner. He had a typical Parisian militant situ manner. I distanced myself a bit from some of his questions and assumptions. Eventually he turned out to be really pro-Voyer, while saying that Debord was completely zero for the last two decades. He said that my Religion pamphlet had had a “big impact” in France, but it turned out that he meant that it had influenced Voyer and the Fossoyeurs, of all people! I told him I considered Voyer ridiculous. He then talked a long time about the importance of Voyer’s “analysis,” which according to him is now really influential. I gave him a few extra copies of the texts he said he’d liked and we split up around midnight. It was pretty much understood that we didn’t have much else to say to each other.

*Christian worked for a French company with international connections. Since he was fond of Latino culture and was fluent in Spanish, he had convinced the company to make him one of their main representatives in Latin America. As a result, he was able to spend a month or two there every year at the company’s expense, cultivating business contacts in several different countries while exploring the local scenes during his time off. He had met Marta in Bogota during one of those trips and they’ve been together ever since.

Coordinating something with Christian
Coordinating something with Christian

October 6. With Christian shopping. Lunch with him and Marta. With him to play squash for a half hour. I’d never played it, but since it’s somewhat like tennis I got into the swing of it pretty quickly. Party at his place — 15-20 people, mainly Latin Americans. I danced a fair amount as well as chatting, notably with Xavier. After everyone else had left (around 11:00), Christian, Joël, and I discussed different kinds of music.

October 7. Brunch with Christian (Marta was at a class). We moved bedding and other stuff up from the cellar. I went out — got a couple more Montero records, etc. Back at 5:00, rapped with Christian re world situation, possibilities of a supersession, utopias, etc. Down to my place, where he’s put the TV. A carpenter came by who will fix up a kitchen here soon. Dinner upstairs.

October 8. Coffee with Christian. He left, I stayed and listened to a few records. Out — through the 9th Arrondissement checking record stores. Back, rapped with Christian about future arrangement of his apartments. To Fred and Brigitte’s. They finished feeding their three-year-old, then a Polish couple came and we had dinner. The latter talked re diverse events and anecdotes in Poland and gave me a few addresses and suggestions for my trip there. I made a brief critique of the style of Mordicus* (which Fred writes for) — how the “noisy,” strident, in-your-face comics and layout drown out anything interesting they might have to say.

*Mordicus: A popular illustrated anarcho-situish paper (1990-1994).

October 9. Out all afternoon — 15th, 14th, 6th, and 5th Arrondissements. Negligible success at record stores, but found a copy of L’Assassinat de Paris* and a book on Bruant. Home, Christian was busy with a meeting of people in the building. Rapped with Joël, then we ate later in Christian’s apartment, joking with Christian and Marta.

*Translated as The Assassination of Paris: a book by Louis Chevalier about the destruction of Paris in recent decades by commercial and governmental forces.

October 10. At Christian’s all morning, listening to music while waiting for Kathy.* She arrived late, in the early afternoon. With her, Christian, Marta, and Joël to a restaurant for lunch. She napped and I went out — continuing checking records stores. Back at 7:00. The four of us went out at 9:00 for dinner at a nice Indian place.

*My sister Kathleen, who has joined me during three of my Paris trips, and who by this time had become good friends with Christian.

Kathy, Marta, Christian, Joel
Kathy, Marta, Christian, Joël

October 11. Out shopping for breakfast stuff. (Ran into Xavier.) Breakfast with Christian, Marta, Kathy, and Joël. Kathy and I to 5th and 6th Arrondissements. Greek lunch outside. Talk re Paris history. Back. Some packing. Gérard (the carpenter) put in stove etc. With Joël played Brassens records for Kathy. Dinner at Christian’s. Xavier and Omaira over. Salsa lessons.

October 12. Kathy and Christian came to Gare du Nord to see me off. Train to Bonn where I was picked up by Wolfgang, Tilla, and their friend Kirsten. To their place, which is still being fixed up. Mackie home later — she played some saxophone pieces. We talked re the US response to the Gulf war, the situation in Russia and East Europe, Wolf’s trip to China, etc.

October 13. Talked with Wolf and Tilla over breakfast (Kirsten got up later). They prepared a goose they’d been given (Tilla sewing up the stuffing). Went for a long walk — muddy as it had rained overnight. Back home, ate the goose dinner. Talked with Kirsten re Zen experiences, and with Tilla and Wolf re all sorts of social-political topics — developments in computer technology, countercultural states of mind, radical arts, Gulf war, their friends they’re going to meet in Barcelona (who are apparently going to translate “The War and the Spectacle” for the next issue of Etcetera). Tried calling Warsaw but couldn’t get through. They took me to the train station and got my ticket (I’d forgotten to get German marks). A quite pleasant visit. Train left (a bit late) at 11:30 p.m. I was in a sleeper car and was able to sleep or at least rest comfortably all night.

October 14. Up at 9:00 a.m. for Polish border crossing. Breakfast of sandwiches Tilla had made me. Slept again for two or three hours. Warsaw at 4 p.m. Piotr Rymuczyk met me. Bus to place near university. Salva* was supposed to meet us, but he apparently thought I was coming tomorrow. Meanwhile several other young people happened by, including Mateusz Kwaterko (who speaks French well) and Dariusz Misiuna (another translator, better at English). Went with Mateusz and his girlfriend Alexandra to his place. After a little dinner they left me to look around at his father’s books while they studied. His mother came home and we ended up disagreeing about world politics. Piotr R. came by, then we all walked Alexandra home. Back, talked with Mateusz a lot re the SI. He’s the one who will probably translate stuff from French. Spent the night there.

*The American journal Anarchy had reprinted a letter from Piotr Salwowski (“Salva”), including his Warsaw address, which is how I had originally gotten in contact with him and his friends.

October 15. Breakfasted alone (Mateusz and his mother already gone). Alexandra came by for me and we wandered around in Warsaw a couple hours. Then she took me to Mateusz’s lycée, where I spoke to his English class. I had had no idea what this would involve, but I answered a few questions about California, etc., and ended up talking about Marx and anarchism and Stalinism, etc.* We ate lunch at his Mateusz’s grandmother’s. Out, met Piotr R., saw graffiti in subterranean passages, had a coffee, and ran into several others, including Salva. With them strolled around in the city, explored some sort of underground garage, and had a beer. Eventually just Piotr and Maciej Gachewicz remained. The latter is doing SI translations from English and had a lot more detailed questions re the SI, Vaneigem, Voyer, breaks, etc. They brought me back to Mateusz’s at 9:00, then left. Read, then to bed early (Mateusz had to study).

*I of course stressed that Stalinism (i.e. the so-called Communist regimes) had no resemblance to what Marx was talking about, and said that if the bad experience of Stalinism caused them to ignore Marx, then Stalinism had won.

October 16. Piotr R. came by to take me to the university, where I met Alexandra. She took me around a couple hours — to a classic church, a record store, different sections of town, etc. Then she passed me on to Darek (Dariusz) and a couple other guys. With them to eat lunch at a sort of cafeteria, then to a tiny bookstore in an avant-garde cultural center, then had coffee while Darek translated some questions re the situs from one of the others. Then to the university, where 5:00-7:30 I talked and answered questions from about ten people (Darek, Maciej, Salva, etc.). Covered a lot of the usual issues re the SI and situ perspectives. Then with Salva to his place in a suburb village where he lives with his parents and brother. Dinner. He showed me a lot of photos of people blockading a dam project, squatting, doing guerrilla theater, etc.

October 17. Salva took me around Warsaw — old trains, a view from the top of a cultural center, an old book store, monuments, etc. At lunch ran into a pacifist-ecologist guy who’s going to Russia tomorrow to meet some anarchists there. We had a coffee and then he left. Back to Salva’s place — dinner. He showed me pictures of Polish mountains, which led to me talking to him and his brother re rock climbing.

The War and the Spectacle in Polish
The War and the
in Polish
Darek, Ken Mateusz
Darek, Ken, Mateusz
Salva, Darek, Ken, Mateusz
Salva, Darek, Ken, Mateusz
Darek, Ken, Piotr, Mateusz
Darek, Ken, Piotr, Mateusz

October 18. Up at 6:00 so we could meet the above-mentioned guy at the train station and give him some SI Anthologies etc. to take to Russia — but he didn’t show up. Salva left me for his school and work. Walked around a bit and had sweet rolls and coffee at an outdoor café by a small public square. Met Darek and his two friends who don’t speak English (same as the other day). Buses to Darek’s, where his mother had lunch ready. In his room I answered a lot more questions (which they recorded, as they have done some of my previous discussions). Maciek showed up later, then Mateusz and Alexandra. Salva didn’t show up due to a misunderstanding of the meeting place. Finally Maciek took me back to Raszin (talk re 60s counterculture, psychedelics, Zen, etc.) where I was met by Salva and his mother. Earlier, I left 2,000,000 dotis (about $200) with Darek as a contribution toward his and Mateusz’s project of publishing an anthology of SI texts in Polish.

October 19. Breakfast while Salva made sandwiches for me. (His girlfriend had spent the night.) To Warsaw, where we met Mateusz and Darek. Treated them to cappuccino and cheesecake. Took a few photos of us in the streets. Ran into Piotr R. All left except Salva, who took me to train station, where I left at 1:30 p.m. All in all, very glad I came. There were a few tedious or ludicrous moments, when e.g. Salva showed me and explained in detail some aspect of Warsaw life that he thought remarkable but that would be completely banal to any Westerner. But generally the people I met were quite sympa. I mustn’t exaggerate — they are almost all students, much of their situ interest is blurred with general interest in all sorts of previously forbidden and unknown things (counterculture, avant-garde arts, etc.). Nevertheless, they are already well advanced in putting together a substantial SI anthology, the next Revolte will have a Polish translation of “The War and the Spectacle,” and Mateusz says that he and Darek are thinking of putting out a situish journal. I intend to continue to send them a lot of stuff. It will be interesting to see how they develop. In the evening (on the train) I had to shift rooms — spent the night sharing a room with a Polish couple visiting Paris. Virtually impossible to communicate with them.

October 20. Breakfast (they bought me tea and then coffee). With a Paris map and Polish-French dictionary we succeeded in discussing a few banalities re Paris. Later we ran into a young French woman who had just spent three weeks in Poland who could convey a little more. After we arrived in Paris, she and I got them to a Polish hotel, from which they will presumably be okay. Home, no one there. Showered and did laundry. Went up to Christian’s. He and Marta came in later in the evening. Talked with him re Poland while he made dinner and Marta studied. Kathy in late (she’d been out dancing). Finished Ambler’s Epitaph for a Spy.

October 21. Christian took Kathy and me out to lunch at a small Latin American restaurant (owned by a friend) where Marta was with some fellow students. He went back. Kathy and I looked for a bank offering a good exchange rate. Back, we made pasta etc. while Christian and Marta went out for dinner. Played records while Kathy started cleaning up Joël’s room (where she’s now staying). Called Françou and Tilla re Barcelona trip.

October 22. To delivery place to pick up a box of Rexroth translations sent by Joël and Nadine. With Christian bought train ticket, then changed money, got a few more records, and back. Kathy and I took Christian and Marta to dinner at a French place near here. Lots of jokes.

October 23. Christian left real early for Grasse [for his work]. Breakfasted with Kathy, then headed out all afternoon — hit record stores (which all turned out to be new) in the 20th, 16th, and 15th. Back. Packed. Called Jacline,* who told me there had been a big fire in the Oakland-Berkeley Hills. Called Günter re travel plans. Dinner with Kathy and Marta. To train station, for Barcelona.

*A Belgian friend staying at my home in Berkeley.

October 24. Train arrived in Barcelona later than I was told (just before noon), so the people who had come to meet me had left. Called Quim and got instructions for getting to their place via the metro. Once there, talked with him and Teresa Cabral (from Portugal). Later arrived: Quim’s wife Sara, their two daughters Sara and Magali, my German friends Tilla, Wolf, their daughter Mackie, and Mackie’s friend Hanna.* At dinner a lot of language repartees with Magali. Called Pierrette.

*I don’t have any photos from this Barcelona trip, but there are quite a few from my 2001 trip with many of the same people.

October 25. With Teresa on bus to downtown. I wandered around a few hours, had lunch, looked for Pierrette’s* address a long time and finally found it. Then back there at 5:00 to meet her and her boyfriend Frances (a painter). Talked a lot, then out for shopping and walking around. They live in the old (“Gothic”) quarter. To a bar, where we ran into a friend of theirs, then back to their place for dinner. Left at 10:00, metro back to Quim’s. Unfortunately the apartment building’s front door was locked and Mackie couldn’t open it from the inside, so I had to wait three hours till all the adults got back from a late concert.

*Pierrette Labrugère, sister of Françou. I had enjoyed her booklet Chère Barcelone, a charming account of her years in Barcelona.

October 26. With the whole bunch to a place in the country. About 25-30 people there (about half kids). Ping pong. Big dinner in midafternoon. One guy played Spanish songs, I did a few American ones. Everyone into the fields and woods to collect mushrooms. Back, played some more songs. Drove home — 15 in a van. Really tired, but it was pretty fun with this group — their whole manner of having fun together.

October 27. To a bookfair, then an outdoor café, then in a van with Paco (and the Germans and Ana and Teresa) to overlook Barcelona and its port, then to the Park Güell built by Gaudi, then home. Met Quim at nearby restaurant. Home, chatted around the table and listened to records.

October 28. Talked around the table with Quim, Teresa, Wolf and Tilla — re various political developments, etc. I criticized the tendency to be too “objective” or determinist, i.e. describing big, seemingly unsurmountable global developments as opposed to subjective possibilities. After lunch to downtown — miscellaneous wandering around. At 8:00 to Etcetera* meeting — about 20 people. I answered a few questions re US, Gulf war, etc., and Wolf and Tilla did the same re the current German reunification. All out to eat at 10:00. Back at midnight: Mackie and Hanna had made a charming assemblage of the stuffed bears etc. that we’d been throwing at each other, with a sign: “We animals protest against being used to scare girls!”

*Etcetera: correspondencia de la guerra social: a journal of radical analysis and international correspondence published in Barcelona since 1983.

October 29. Downtown to buy train ticket. Back for lunch. Philippe Rouyau (a friend of Labrugère) came by at 4:00. We went out to a café and rapped till 7:30, mostly re Barcelona and Rexroth. He had already read The Relevance of Rexroth and he bought a copy of Joël and Nadine’s translation [Les Classiques Revisités], enthused about the prospect of a fresh approach to the classics and other topics. He left. Dinner with the Germans and Quim’s family, final goodbyes.

With Joel, Gabrielle, Dominique and Nadine
With Joel, Gabrielle, Dominique, and Nadine
With Joel and Nadine
With Joel and Nadine
With Kathy, Dominique, and Emmeline
With Kathy, Dominique, and Emmeline
in front of an ancient cliff dwelling

October 30. Up at 5:30 a.m. Coffee with Tilla, then Wolf accompanied me to the downtown train station (talked re the sociality here, e.g. at the Saturday excursion, including the different appreciation and spirit of children than in some other countries). Picked up in Dordogne by Dominique* and her boyfriend Jean. To their place. Kathy had already arrived in the village. Talking, dinner, to bed early.

*Dominique Robin, Christian’s former girlfriend whom my sister Kathy and I had known in Paris, was now living in Dordogne.

October 31. With Kathy, Dominique, and Emmeline (Jean’s daughter) to Bergerac — saw Nadine at their bookstore, but only for a few minutes as she had to leave for lunch errands. Back home for lunch. Played around a swimming pool with Emmeline (frogs in the pool). Then to see cave paintings. Back for a nap, then to a pizza place (half-owned by Jean). To a cavern to watch spelunkers clean away algae from stalagtites. To discotheque owned by Jean. Kathy and I talked with the guy who does the records.

November 1. To a cliff dwelling/fortress, then to Joël and Nadine’s. Kathy and I stayed while Dominique and Emmeline left. Looked over their house and took a walk in the countryside with their newly adopted baby, Gabrielle. Talk re their Rexroth book (lack of responses in the press) and their bookstore (just barely making it). Train back to Dominique’s. To Auberge à la Ferme, where we had an extremely heavy-rich traditional Périgordin meal.

Salsa party at Christian's
Salsa party at Christian's
Xavier and Omaira
Salsa party at Christian's
Marta (center), Kathy (back right)
Salsa party at Christian's
Salsa party at Christian’s

November 2. Drove to Paris with Kathy, Dominique, and Emmeline, picking up Emmeline’s grandmother on the way. Arrived around 6:00. Salsa party at Christian’s, including most of the Latin Americans who were at the previous one. Up till 2:30.

November 3. With Kathy to Clignancourt flea market. Back to watch final of Paris Open on TV (Guy Forget defeated Sampras). Washed dishes and listened to records at Joël’s. Kathy and I picked up by Dominique and Élisabeth — I took them to an Indian restaurant. (Christian and Marta busy with her homework.) Dominique going back south tomorrow. Letter from Morgan Gibson [author of two books on Rexroth] and postcard from Salva.

November 4. Kathy and Christian and I to play squash. Then lunch chez Christian. I went out — found a used copy of the French translation of Clan of the Cave Bear to send to Dominique, and a couple of records. Back, listened to records with Joël (just back from a London trip). Günter, his girlfriend Angelika (not the previous one of that name), and Tommy Mittelstädt* over for dinner — Christian cooked it in his place, but we ate it next door in Joël’s. Pleasant evening, including some funny anecdotes from Joël about his London trip. I did dishes, then to bed at 1:00.

Marta, Joel, Angelika, Gunter, Tommy, Ken, Christian
Marta, Joël, Angelika, Günter, Tommy, Ken, Christian
Elisabeth, Ken, Dominique
With Élisabeth and Dominique

*I had met Günter Hoffmann and Hanna Mittelstädt in Germany during my 1979 Europe trip. Tommy (who lived in Paris) was Hanna’s brother. During an extended sojourn in Germany in the early 1980s, Christian had met the same group and had become good friends with Günter.

November 5. To Tommy’s to meet Günter and Angelika. Breakfast and coffee. Günter talked re his last few years and various events in Germany, and I re “The War and the Spectacle” and The Relevance of Rexroth — to the point that they lost track of time and had to postpone their train trip to Berlin till tomorrow. I went out for three hours (FNAC, etc.), then back. Tommy came by and had a sandwich — we talked re Mordicus etc. — then he left to play volleyball. With Günter and Angelika to a sympa restaurant, Tommy joined us later. Goodbyes and back home at midnight.

November 6. Christian called — he’s in Grasse for three days. Met Joël’s friend Jean-Paul Nadaud — rapped re Rexroth (he bought Classiques Revisités), computers, etc. Out late afternoon. Met Kathy near Montparnasse. Polish restaurant, then to a musical show of Brassens songs — a lot of fun. Ran into Jean-Claude Le Gué there, a guy I’d met at a party with Viviane in Oakland many years ago.

With Jean-Paul and Joel
With Jean-Paul and Joël

November 7. All day with Kathy. To Père-Lachaise, to bank, lunch at Chartier, Orsay museum to see the Impressionists. Walk on Left Bank, met the Japanese wife of a work friend of Kathy’s — they had a drink, I met them later, then home. Dinner with Joël and Jean-Paul — we listened to records and played several songs together.

November 8. Saw Kathy off at Gare du Nord. Lunch at Chartier. Latin Quarter. Back. Records and conversation and dinner with Joël and Jean-Paul. The whole apartment building had just been fumigated for cockroaches etc.

November 9. Flea markets at Vanves and Montreuil (negligible finds). Late afternoon and evening with Christian and Marta — shopping, dinner, records (started recording some of Joël’s to take back with me).

November 10. With Joël to Patrick’s for lunch. Also there to meet me, three members of their antinuke group — Renaud, Marc, and Lorette. I noted the limitations of the practice of simply accumulating news of and complaints about ever more horrors and disasters. We read a lot of Far Sides, listened to Bach, etc. Home, had to do laundry by hand as the machine wasn’t working well. In the evening (after Mitterrand on TV) met Sebastian Reichmann, a friend of Jim’s and Christian’s who liked my book on Rexroth. Christian and Marta had us for dinner. Talk re Rexroth, 60s history, Romania, etc.

November 11. Moved the record player down to my room and recorded LPs for much of the day. Out for a couscous late afternoon. Made cassettes of all my Montero* songs for Joël and Jean-Paul and started some for Kathy (Montero, Brassens, and miscellaneous), as well as several for myself (Mouloudji, Béart, Ferré, etc.).

*My favorite French singer, Germaine Montero, noted for her superb performances of Pierre-Jean Béranger, Aristide Bruant, Pierre Mac Orlan, and many other French songwriters, as well as of Spanish folksongs and Garcia Lorca. You can find most of her recordings here.

November 12. Morning and early afternoon recording Charles Trenet albums. Out for errands, saw Berréby again, got a few expensive records, then back home. A kir with Christian and Marta. To Jeff Martos’s for dinner. I’m getting increasingly turned off by his general attitude — very typical of the méprisant [contemptuous] situ type who only grudgingly acknowledges anything positive.

November 13. Coffee and long talk with Christian re types of people, relationships, attitudes. Notably I expressed the sort of things I hoped to accomplish with my Rexroth book — in the way of stirring up interests and interesting people. And I repeated my old critique of him as having lots of good ideas in conversation, but not realizing them or communicating them more fully and more widely by writing about them. Joël joined us for lunch, then left. More talk, then Christian left. Spent rest of afternoon recording. With Christian and Marta to dinner at Xavier and Omaira’s. Delicious Colombian soup. A cassette of José Afonso [an underground Portuguese singer] arrived from Teresa (which I later copied for Christian).

November 14. Françou arrived late morning. Lunch with him at Routiers. Back, introduced him to Christian, Marta, and Joël. Then we went out again — to Parallèles etc., then had a beer, then to his friends Jean-Paul Fouilloux and Odile Martinon. He played tapes (including a few cuts of Montero), I played a few songs. Late dinner. Much talk re customs of different countries, Eskimos of Greenland, French, Spanish, and American (I disabused them of some exaggerations re the latter). They drove us home at 1:00.

November 15. Françou and I had coffee with Christian — light talk re quality of coffee in Colombia, French cheeses, etc. Françou went to meet Venant, Encyclopédistes, etc. I packed and mailed two boxes of books to Berkeley, went to the anarchist bookstore, lunched at Café de l’Industrie, got three expensive Montero 45s and returned home. Dinner with Christian, Marta, and an Egyptian doctor friend of hers.

November 16. Françou, who had not gotten back till 6:00 a.m., got up and joined us at noon. After music and lunch, Françou and I went downtown. We tried unsuccessfully to get tickets to a flamenco concert Jean-Paul and Odile were going to, so instead we went to the Latin Quarter and had a hot chocolate and then met them afterwards. The four of us walked to Café de l’Industrie but it was closed. Had a drink across the street, then to a Turkish restaurant. Music and a belly dancer. Talked re the hip experiences of the sixties. Home at 1:00. (Françou went home with them.)

November 17. Got up at 6:30 to see Christian off (to Venezuela and Portugal for two weeks). Back to bed till noon. Clignancourt flea market (three Montero 45s). To see Robert Chasse briefly (he talked re a book he’s been writing on New York architecture) then to Jean-Paul and Odile’s. Jean-Paul and Françou argued awhile re their respective tendencies to generalize or not. Listened to Montero, flamenco, and some of Jean-Paul’s own songs. Dinner (oysters etc.). Talk re recent experiments in nuclear fusion. I played some more American songs. They brought me home at 2:00.

November 18. Recorded most of the day. Went out once and transferred $450 to Joël and Nadine’s account in payment for the large box of their Rexroth translations they’d sent me. Françou came by at 6:00. We went to Café de l’Industrie. He thought it was too trendy, and we argued a bit re what different types were more congenial, or possible to find. This difference no doubt reflects our differences of background, he feeling more at home in the traditional worker/peasant type scenes which in any case (I said) scarcely exist anymore, however congenial they may once have been. Jean-Paul came and tended to like the place better. Then Tommy Mittelstädt arrived, and the two Frenchmen were pleasantly amused to see an American and a German speaking French with each other. We had dinner. A lot of talk re TGV, Métro, social feeling in public places; then later re Debord and the SI exposition.* Home at 2:00. Françou picked up his stuff, to continue staying over at their place.

*“On the Passage of a Few People Through a Brief Moment in Time” (1989-1990): a months-long widely visited exposition on the Situationist International at the Centre Pompidou in Paris, the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London, and the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston. As was to be expected, the exposition focused on the “artistic” aspects of the situationists more than on their politically radical aims and actions.

November 19. Scrounged up some boxes to pack records. Went out to one record store, which referred me to another that had a bunch of Montero records, but they were all too expensive. Had felt bad and started feeling worse as I came home — upset stomach. Slept a bit. To Marta’s at 8:00. Joël prepared a bicarb for me. I vomited and felt somewhat better. Finished packing.

November 20. Up early, said goodbye to Marta and Joël. Françou and Jean-Paul came by to take me to Gare du Nord. Train to airport, plane left a bit after noon. Managed to sleep some as there were two empty seats by mine. Customs at Montreal, then on to San Francisco. Shuttle home at 9:00 p.m.


Account of Ken Knabb’s 1991 Paris trip.
No copyright.

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