Saturday, June 20

Paris Chic

Model: Marti Armstrong

A grey, damp, chilly parisian winter morning. 

As my friend Andreas Manessinger knows I'm uncomfortable with graffiti. Bur a visit to Pompeii's softened my resistance since that ancient town's walls are covered in the stuff. My disapproval's leaning against an acient... maybe even primal... instinct for humans to scrawl, paint, scratch their presence onto history. How much do graffs differ from the plaques under statues, the etchings onto stone monuments, or for that matter, the carvings dug into tombstones? Is it fine for a minor politician to have his/her name chiseled onto to stone, like the guy who wrote that he made the Partheon left this huge inscription across the top of the portico:"M*AGRIPPA *L* F* COSTERTIVM*FECIT".  Which in English sort of means, "M. AGRIPPA L.F. COSTRTIUM*MADE IT"!

And that differs from tags, how? When it's kid that tags a wall, that's conceit but when old Agrippa does it... 

Okay, there's a place for autographs - but the front of my city home isn't one of them. The "graffiti artist is stealing some of my property value. Theft's theft, huh?Should it necessitate major repair it's Grand Theft.  In the U.S. most municipalities have some sort of laws allowing the protection of personal property from thieves which can trigger (yeah, pun intended) an owner who is legally armed. Now it probably should not come to that especially since a spray can ain't a weapon equivalent to Dirty Harry's Magnum revolver. Still, I'd be cautious about spitting paint onto most private homes today. 

My first trip to Europe decades ago was a major shock... so much graffiti. Rome is a stinking dirty mess of the stuff. So too Holland, Spain, and most recently France. While both Austria and Germany sported less of the stuff, it was still a pox. I guess to avoid the possibility of retaliation, most U.S. graffiti seems to get painted upon public buildings and surfaces.An exception seems to be RR cars that scoated heavily. 

L.A., Baltimore, DC and NYC seem to have the least self respect among American cities I've visited recently. Philly's got bad neighborhoods along with the largest Jersey cities. Generally speaking the smaller the American town, the less scribbling's on walls. Maybe because the taggers are less likely to be anonymous? Amsterdam was the first place that I visited where street markets sold kits filled with small spray cans in color coordinated six and ten packs. These came with shoulder straps so the 'artist' could both access them easily, and run quickly. 

Which brings me back to Paris - which is almost as dingy as Rome. The romance of its reputation eludes me. Why, even as they remodel buildings, they sell facades which cover the remodelers for giant billboards to sell products! Block long and stories high boards  that are a form of graffiti themselves. The crumbling street in the scene above is a major boulevard just off of the Bastille. It is as if Parisians have lost a sense of dignity. 

Much of the city is not merely tacky but lurches toward the vulgar. Odd, since I'd never have equated Parisian tastes with vulgarity. In the sense of style, Parisians have convinced us that they're the gold standard. I'd expected high tailored men, and haute ladies. Nope... that kind of fashion walked the streets of Rome, Vienna, NYC, and Valencia. 

But... But... look how the street rubble works in those portraits of Marty up above. I love the contrast. Hmmmm... 

Parisian blocks have most in common with the ruins of Pompeii. Who'd have thought?

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