Paris 1971 … an American and an Irishman meet by chance in a bar.

The young American tries in vain to attract the attention of a waiter for another beer. Nearby the Irishman reads a newspaper and sips a whiskey.

JIM
Excuse me. Excuse me. S’il vous plaît. Une bière. It’s no good. But hey, it’s Paris. (turning to SAM nearby) Excuse me, sir, can you speak French?

SAM
Would you like some help?

JIM
You live here?

SAM
Yes. A long time.

JIM
I live here too, now. Not so long.

SAM
I see. How do you find it?

JIM
Hey man, it’s Paris. But I can’t speak the language. That kind of bums me out a little.

SAM
Why don’t you learn it?

JIM
Why don’t I learn to play the guitar too… why didn’t I just plod away in my own garden?

SAM
Are you interested in music or gardening? Or do you like both?

JIM
More like music is interested in me.

SAM
I don’t follow you.

JIM
I’m in… eh, show-business, back home.

SAM
But you just said you live here now.

JIM
I’ve got the soul of a clown and it’s taken me a long way, so far. But who knows what’s round the next corner? I came here to get away from something.

SAM
Haven’t we all? What do you play? Maybe you sing. Is that it? Do you sing?

JIM
Classical buff, I imagine? Thought so. Well, it ain’t Schubert. Let’s just say I’m a troubadour. A minstrel. But where are you from?

SAM
Eh, Dublin.

JIM
Getting nowhere here with this waiter reminds me of a play by an Irish guy. It’s about two bums on a road, just shooting the breeze. Years ago, when I was back there in some school or other, I had to write a paper on it. I put forth the proposition that it was a Civil War story. It had a Grant, a Lee and a Slave.

SAM
What part of America are you from?

JIM
California.

SAM
Warm and dry. People can swim. They can be happy.

JIM
The water is very cold. I’m Jim.

SAM
Sam. I was in New York once.

JIM
Yeah?

SAM
It was a few years ago now. The people there… were all a bit odd.

JIM
I should have been a poet. A love poet, perhaps… I wish I was a girl of sixteen/I’d be the queen of the magazine/And all night long you could hear me scream.

SAM
Ah, sweet sixteen. An exceedingly unhappy birthday, zero by the chronometer. But why a poet?

JIM
Feelings are disturbing.

SAM
Einer muss wachen, heisst es. Einer muss da sein. Someone must watch, it means. Someone must be there. Find someone you can talk to. It’s just a bonus if you don’t mind the cut of her jib.

JIM
Jib – a triangular staysail, set forward of the forward-most mast. That implies going by first impressions. I never heard of an unattractive muse so I’m looking for another flashing chance at bliss.

SAM
When I was your age, or thereabouts, I used to console myself by saying that at least, with my initial efforts, Lord help us, I’d achieved creative fulfillment and a preparation for death at such an early age. Later, I maintained that success or failure on a public level didn’t matter and indeed that the latter had a certain vivifying air about it.

JIM
I guess you knew what you wanted to do. You just didn’t know what you were doing. What tripped your wire?

SAM
It was an extraordinarily bitter season, zero by the thermometer. The winter of forty and forty-one. The Gestapo started arresting my friends. I couldn’t just sit around, waiting for inspiration. But I ended up down South, working on a farm, just for food, until other Americans came, so don’t talk to me about gardens, metaphorical or botanical.

JIM
What did you do then? Just come back here and stroll around?

SAM
When it was over, I went back to see my mother.

JIM
Don’t talk to me about mothers, man.

SAM
That’s when I finally saw it. What I had to do from then on. I was nearly forty. Imagine. If only she could have seen that I made something of myself, in the end, on my own terms.

JIM
Some of us get the vision early. Maybe it was the acid… This waiter could be a regular guy on a bad day or he could be a real asshole. Were we in former times, back home, way out west, I could just shoot him and put him on my tab. But I haven’t reacted because at least he doesn’t know who I am. I haven’t given him any trouble yet.

SAM
It must be a pact with the Devil, setting out down that road into the high life.

JIM
It was different with me. Spring came early.

SAM
Shed some light.

JIM
I think I knew exactly what I was doing, at least at the beginning. Even when no one else knew it.

SAM
There are two great, mirror questions of faith, it seems. How should one live and when should one believe that other people actually know what they’re doing.

JIM
I knew, man. I knew.

SAM
I admire your youthful clarity.

JIM
But if you’ve got anything to say, you’ve only got so much of it to say and you’ve got to hope you don’t run out too fast.

SAM
I admire your clarity.

JIM
If you failed first, when you were young, at least you know you can live with it.

SAM
I went on. Like almost everybody.

JIM
I was sleeping on the roof of an empty warehouse and doing a lot of acid. It was then that the orchestra started up, just in my head. All I had was a candle and a blanket and an occasional can of soup. Then I met one of the other guys on the beach and I gave him a blast. The rest is, well, you can guess the rest.

SAM
You’re in pop, I take it.

JIM
So here I am, an American in Paris, at the end of an incredible springtime. Why are you here?

SAM
It was the place that bothered me the least. Why don’t you stop what you’re doing now and go do something else for a while? Clear the head a bit.

JIM
Like what?

SAM
I don’t know.

JIM
I’m an American in Paris. What you want me to do? Start dancing?

SAM
You must have some idea otherwise. Plus you can always keep your hand in.

JIM
If I try to keep my hand in they’ll take it off at the shoulder.

SAM
There’s always the Legion. But you’d have to learn French.

JIM
My father was in the navy… could be, still… From a thin raft, one clown could be drowned while the other was saved.

SAM
Well, why not?

JIM
It’s my job. There’s no going back now. When we started out we dreamed of being big in the city or even all along the coast but then the bullshit took over and I made interviews into an art form. It’s something I invented. But I wish I could build me a woman.

SAM
Bastard journalists. I wouldn’t give them the time of day.

JIM
I gave them the best time of their lives.

SAM
Never say anything under interrogation, if you can help it at all.

JIM
Is that something you learned in the war?

SAM
In boarding school.

JIM
Now I can’t stand it anymore. I’d be so glad if people just didn’t recognize me.

SAM
Poor you. The world is full of distress. What did you expect? A land without shadows? Why should you or I think we should be any different?

JIM
What gives you the most pain?

SAM
Whatever it is, we must master our anguish.

JIM
But what gives you the most pain?

SAM
What I’ve had to master.

JIM
But what-

SAM
The past, what else? Christ, what else?

JIM
Pain is something to carry, like a radio, to keep us awake.

SAM
I usually listen to sports on the radio.

JIM
I guess that’s enough pain if it’s your guy who’s losing.

SAM
We must master our anguish.

JIM
If you hide your feelings, you’re denying a part of yourself, you’re letting society twist your reality.

SAM
What I’ve felt has been clear since 1945. I don’t care about society. I just know that I’m not afraid to stand up for my friends. That’s all. That’s me. It’s not about what I feel, it’s about what I do. It’s what you do with it. The tracks of my tears are like invisible ink.

JIM
But how’s that trick done?

SAM
You don’t have to be a saint. Heaven knows you don’t. When you have to be somewhere, you’re there, that’s all. Someone must be there. Someone must be sound.

JIM
You don’t know shit, my friend.

SAM
That’s what tortures me.

JIM
Tortures you? You’re killing me, man.

SAM
You try to grasp a piece of flotsam, only to slip beneath the waves into the black void again.

JIM
That’s the killer on the road. Is that all you have to tell me?

SAM
For heaven’s sake, boy, go easy on the sauce.

JIM
Like I said, who knows what’s round the next corner? Now I think I got to get out of here.

SAM
I’m about to leave, myself.

JIM
Come on a crawl with me, man.

SAM
I don’t think so.

JIM
Come on, man. I can show you an amazing hole in the ground just a few blocks from here.

SAM
What hole? The earth is full of holes. Getting out at night holds different meanings for us now, Jim.

JIM
Come on. Let’s move on.

SAM
I can’t go on.

JIM
I’ll go on.

SAM
Good luck, Jim.

JIM
You threw me a bone, you explained your twilight. But I’ve got to believe there’s still manna in Paris for imbeciles like me. So long, Sam.

SAM
God bless.

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