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The Louvre

The overnight from Berlin to Paris gets in around 9am. I stuggle a bit with luggage and finding a place to eat, a place to store my luggage, and the intiricacies of buying a metro ticket, but I figure it out and head off to the Louvre. A friend in Berlin told me that the Louvre is free the first Sunday of the month, my first day in Paris, and in true Vagabond fashion I’m damned if I’ll give up a chance to see the Louvre for free.

Unfortunately, someone tipped off all the other tourists about the same offer. The Louvre is a lovely place. It has a wonderful courtyard, that looks like this:

The Louvre's courtyard

The Louvre's courtyard

It has some lovely statues, that look like this:

A lovely sculpture

A lovely sculpture

It has some wonderful archaeological artifacts of great importance to human history, and they look like this:

Statue of Queen Napir Asu

Statue of Queen Napir Asu

Unfortunately, it has a very long line to get in, which looks like this:

A very long line

A very long line

As I get into the Louvre’s majestic hallways, elbowing my way past fat tourists and craning my head to get a look at the finest artwork the human race has produced, I try to think of a single word that describes the experience of being in this place.

Queen Napir Asu

Queen Napir Asu

That word is “Clusterfuck”. Although this is France, so the correct term is “le fuq du cloustier”. You know those frat parties you’d go to as an undergraduate, in some house where the halls are too narrow and there’s three thousand people attending, maybe ten pretty girls, each surrounded by abouth 18 toe-headed jackasses that are trying to impress them? You’re a little disgusted with the girl for even bothering to talk to these meatheads when you’re *so* much more deserving of her attention, and you’re disgusted with yourself for not being able to think of a way to get her attention away from jackasses 3-19?

It’s a little like that, with the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo as the hot girls, and everyone on the planet as your competition.

In addition to the crowded conditions, everyone EVERYONE is using a flash. So while you’re trying to enjoy the use of light in a particularly fine Carvaggio, some retarded tourist standing next to you is merrily snapping away with his Canon, destroying humanity’s masterpieces one pixel at a time. The guards don’t seem to give a damn. I say a few choice words the first hundred times it happens, then resort to dirty looks, and finally just give up.

The whole experience was a bit like walking into Leonardo da Vinci’s studio and being forced to watch a parade of idiots casually toss buckets of water on his canvases. I’d have no problem with the fact that this sort of idiotic and destructive behavior is allowed, if I was allowed to march through the place with a hypodermic needle with some Drano. Not a lethal dose, mind you, just enough to take a few minutes off your life. A punishment commensurate with the crime.

As bad as the behavior is in the Louvre, the only time I come anywhere close to throwing a punch is in the Rodin Museum, where someone was so moved by the artistry of one of the sculptures that he GRABS IT WITH BOTH HANDS. No guards present. If they were, I don’t think they’d care much.

Rodin fan that I am, I have only one mature, responsible option open to me.

I shove the guy.

I shove him with both hands, not hard, but enough to make sure he gets the point. “You can’t touch the statues!” My voice is somewhere between enraged and incredulous. He’s looking at me like I’m nuts. Does this guy really not understand the concept of not putting your grubby little fingers on a masterpiece? At his blank stare, I can only shout again, “You can’t touch the statues,” ommitting “You fucking retard” because I’m still a relatively nice guy. I follow him around a bit to make sure he doesn’t do it again, and also to teach him the lesson that, in any museum in the world, you might just run into some psychotic American that will have no compunction about getting physical with you, should you decide to get physical with the art work. Seriously. We’re the country that, when attacked by terrorists, will invade other countries just because we’re feeling bitchy and feel like killing something.

We’re nuts. And we’re everywhere. And some of us love Rodin.


So if you want to do the human race a favor and preserve some of our cultural heritage, my only recommendation is this: take a trip to Paris as soon as possible, and steal as many artworks as you can. Donate them to Berlin, where any infraction in a museum will be met with swift Prussian vengeance.

Later I get drunk in front of Notre Dame. That’s a different story.

  1. August 12, 2009 at 7:33 pm

    I’m glad you shoved the bastard!

    • nycwastrel
      August 12, 2009 at 11:19 pm

      And he looked at me like I’M the psychopath…there is a distinct lack of flamethrowers in this world…

  2. Chris
    August 12, 2009 at 8:20 pm

    We had exactly the same problem in Rome. You walk into a dimly-lit hallway in the Vatican museum containing centuries’-old tapestries, and people start working their flashes. Then into the Sistine Chapel, and… same thing. It was utterly infuriating.

    The Pope had just given mass earlier in the day, so the museum was closed to the public; since our cruise group had pre-arranged the visit, though, they let us through parts of it. We thought maybe the lack of people laying the smackdown on the flash photography was due to that, but it sounds like it might be a more widespread problem.


    • nycwastrel
      August 12, 2009 at 11:21 pm

      There’s only one possible solution to this problem: widespread art museum theft to preserve our cultural history. This is justifiable larceny. C’mon, who’s with me? You’ve all seen “To Catch a Thief” right? We’ll become an army of Cary Grant/Remington Steele cat burglars. Let’s do this.

  3. J
    August 13, 2009 at 11:51 pm

    Hmm. I didn’t have quite the same problem when I visited the Louvre. There were crowds, and the occasional flashes I suppose, but I found that if you go to the art that interests *you* (and by you, I mean me) you end up hanging with a higher cut of goober (i.e., goobers like you and me). I rather like Romanticism over, say, Impressionism, and Hammurabi’s Code over, say, the Mona Lisa. (Did you ever hear the “But it’s HAMMURABI’S CODE!!!” story, told from the perspective of Frantic Man?) For reasons beyond me, the great works of, say, Leo from the Block (where the Block = Vinci) were of more import to people than a TABLET FROM THE FORMATIVE TIMES OF OUR VERY CIVILIZATION and the Sumerian statues. I like Leo and all, but I found looking at the non-Brand-Name art to be a largely more enjoyable experience, in no small part due to not just the different goober content, but also because I know infinitely less about the non-brand-names than the infinitely little I know about the Big ‘uns, so the experience was a bit headier than seeing Winged Victory up close (cool as she was, though somewhat slighter than I pictured — I guess TV does add 15 pounds) because I was either learning something, or seeing something I’d never imagined I’d see that I actually *did* know some litlte bit about (Mesopatamia).

  4. nycwastrel
    August 14, 2009 at 1:04 pm

    It’s true: the ancient Mesopotamian section, one of my favorites, was remarkable less crowded than the main halls, though you still had some bad behavior there as well. I’m not sure I can convey just HOW MANY FRAKKING people were there. Even your beloved Romanic section was packed. Anything that was a painting or sculpture was packed. The only stuff people were ignoring was the archaeological stuff (which meant I got to ogle the Dipylon Krater to my heart’s content).

    I think I must have picked the absolute worst calendar day of the year to visit. August is probably the busiest tourist month, and the FREE day in August is probably going to be the worst of the month. A lot of my frustration (aside from the flash photography) was that this place was, well, kinda like a church for me. A museum like the Louvre is one of those few places where you really can commune with something almost transcendent in nature. Can, unless you’re surrounded by millions of jackasses eating their ham sandwiches.

  5. J
    August 14, 2009 at 6:45 pm

    Ah. The free day in August does not strike me as transcendent commune time.

    On other hand, is it not heartening that so many people were there? Surely, it’s better for vagabonds and wastrels, as it were, to be making time in the Louvre rather than engaging in all the pursuits one often finds horrifying, like following Big Brother aka We Don’t Understand Irony LCIII? (As long as they’re not, say, communing physically with the art and taking flash snaps of unprotected bits of it.)

  6. Shannon
    August 14, 2009 at 9:14 pm

    Who wouldn’t want to see Hammurabi’s Code? It would certainly be on my list of the “Big’uns.” But maybe my list is weird. Ah to have the Louvre to my self to worship my beloved Nike in peace. Some of us love both Romanticism and Impressionism. I have yet to go to the Louvre but I have a feeling that I will prefer to pay to get in than be there on the free day. Truly, all I can remember of the Sistine Chapel, other than it’s sheer beauty, is my rage and my need to use the restroom….sigh…I need to go back. Jef, where is the Venus of Willendorf these days?

    • nycwastrel
      August 14, 2009 at 11:55 pm

      That´s actually a very interesting question, since I´ve now seen it TWICE. Once in the Prague National Museum (in an exhibit on the history of OBSTETRICS) and once in Berlin. Which means at least one is a fake. No idea which one though. So it´s either in Prague, Berlin, or somewhere else.

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