Skip Hunt

Austin, United States

Skip Hunt, born on the wind-swept plains of Oklahoma, is a professional photographer in Austin, Texas. He picked up a 35mm camera in the...

Pere Lachaise cemetery

I just read someone mention the Pere Lachaise. This time of year always brings back a memory of a very strange experience I had a few years ago in the Pere Lachaise cemetery in Paris where Jim Morrison is buried.

I’d just finished a loop starting in Lisbon, Portugal that took me up into Spain.. up into South France… back down into Spain… and completed a circle crossing from Seville to Tavira, Portugal and back up to Lisbon for my flight back home to the States.

When I confirmed my flight I was told that I’d have about a 3hr layover in Paris. I asked the agent if that was enough time to get into the city and back to the airport in time? She said that it wasn’t and asked if I wanted a longer layover. I said “absolutely!” She asked how long I wanted, and I joked “how ’bout a week or so?”. She said that wouldn’t be a problem and that I could make it as long as I wanted as long as I was getting on the same flight in my original route.

I pulled the trigger on changing my layover in Paris from 3hrs to about a week….the problem was… I hadn’t thought about how I was going to survive in Paris on a near empty wallet…. I’d already been traveling several weeks and was kinda broke. But, I got real creative and found a cheap room that would take a credit card.. did things like going to the Louvre after 3pm when the price dropped to half-price, ate quiche in bakeries instead of restaurants, etc. My cheap room didn’t have a shower, but it had a huge sink that I could get mostly clean with instead of paying the extra fee to use the common shower down the hall. And spent time in the Pere Lachaise cemetery looking for famous tombs and taking photos. I actually had a fairly rich experience in Paris with next to no money at all!

I found all the tombs on my list of famous people I’d heard of. My favorite was Oscar Wilde’s tomb with all the lipstick kisses covering it.

For some reason I got the name “Edith Piaf” in my head. Must have seen it somewhere. Or heard her name mentioned at some point. Not sure, but I really wasn’t sure who she was at all. Didn’t even know she was a singer at the time, but I was obsessed with finding her tomb for some strange reason. It took me the longest to find of anyone’s, but I finally found it toward the end of the afternoon. It wasn’t as impressive as many of the others I’d seen, but I took a snap of it anyway and was about to leave the cemetery and check out that brasserie near one entrance that has all the Jim Morrison memorabilia an a few broken down old fans still morning his death over cheap wine.

It’s hard to explain, but it seemed like this Edith person was communicating with me. I didn’t have anything pressing to do so I went with it.

She instructed me to not be in such a hurry and to sit down for a bit. I sat on her tomb and lit a gauloise cigarette. She asked for a drag and then passed it back to me. She told me that I was always in too much of a hurry and worried way too much. That there was so much in life I was missing by being so rushed all the time and that I should slow down. She said that she knew that I felt my life wasn’t going the way I wanted it to at the moment… but that it was about to get worse after I got home, and that I’d feel like I’d been kicked in the stomach.. that it would get very heavy to deal with.. but that I should hang in there and that it would get much better after what I was about to go through. She didn’t specify what that was… but just told me to slow down, not worry so much, and know that what I was about to go through would be tough.. but, that I’d survive it and move on down the road for more adventures.

She then said that’s all she had to tell me and that I was free to go. She asked that I have a glass of wine for her in that Morrison brasserie on the way out.

I thought.. wow… that was pretty odd. I must’ve really lost it. Or, my imagination has completely got out of control this time. I honored her request and had one glass of cheap red wine for me, one for Jim, and one for Edith… then headed back to the Latin Quarter.

After I got home, I found a CD of her music and bought it. I hadn’t even listened to it yet as I was going over how much I’d spent on that trip and how I couldn’t afford it, etc. Various other things had happened that felt like the whole world was starting to close in on me… just like Edith said… and then I got a call. It was my sister and she said that our father had unexpectedly passed away the night before. It felt like I’d indeed been kicked in the stomach and all the wind had been sucked out of me. I told my sister I needed a moment and that I’d call her back. I opened a bottle of wine, and put on the Edith Piaf CD I’d bought a few day prior. I can’t tell you how soothing it was to hear her sing for the first time. And, it definitely helped during that very tough time in my life.

I still don’t know if it was all just Wilde imagination… or something else.

That trip was around this time of year and often wonder every time someone mentions that beautiful Pere Lachaise cemetery in Paris.

WILDE

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