Or as Michael Jordan calls it, the Louie

Today on Travel Thursday, we have a semi-virtual tour of my favorite parts of the Louvre, that gigantic building in Paris that houses the only cool stuff in all of France, with commentary by a mysterious (in her own mind) dark-haired model.

I helped the supposed damsel out of the taxi and then handed the driver a bigger sum than he would have expected, tip included. The man handed back a part of it and said something in French, something that made her blush and say “Merci.”
After the driver left, she turned to see me grinning. She had her mouth open when I shook my head and said, “Never mind translating. I understood it perfectly.”
She blushed again.
Since she was a simple girl who made more money than she knew what to do with, I let her pay the entrance fee. Once inside she turned to me and asked, “Do you want to wander through like we did in the Hermitage, or go straight for the ‘Mona Lisa’?”
I grimaced. “I want nothing to do with that pathetic work. I think we should just wander through. . . after I check out Bosch’s ‘Ship of Fools.”
She sighed. “Somehow I’m not surprised.” When I frowned, she hastened to add, “Because of Bosch, not because you’re a fool.”
I shook my head at her, as if not convinced.
As had been our custom in the other museums we’d seen together, we stared at a painting we both liked for a good time before trying to discuss it. On the surface, “Ship of Fools” was easy enough to look at, though you could never be sure at the deeper meanings Bosch intended. It consisted of a small boat on some body of water, obviously a small one because of the trees growing right next to the boat. There were two naked men swimming alongside, one holding an empty bowl out and the other seemingly trying to get aboard. There were eight people on the boat: one was lying at the front, trying to raise a flask cooling in the water, while another was either trying to talk him out of it or telling him to hurry it up. {It’s hard to tell if that one’s male or fem, but since it was holding a cup in its hand and looking impatient for the flask, we assumed it was a guy.} There was another figure looking down over the edge of the stern, which consisted of an old tree branch as the rudder; in the center, to the back, was a fat man with an arm raised and mouth open as if doing opera. And the central part was dominated by four people bobbing for a piece of bread hanging before their faces. One of these was a monk, and another was a lute-playing nun.
There were two more figures in the painting: a small man dressed as a joker, drinking from a bowl while sitting in the upper branches of the rudder, and a man up in the tree the ship had bumped into, trying to liberate the plucked body of an unlucky fowl that had been strapped to the mast.
“Rather easy to figure out,” she smirked as we sat down where we could still see it and discuss it without being shushed. “Bosch is obviously telling everyone, including those in the church, to lighten up and enjoy life.”
I grinned; I would have usually agreed with such a statement about Bosch, but this time logic did not fit. “Why did he title it Ship of Fools, then?”
She had her mouth ready for an answer, then shut it and frowned, obviously thinking about it. Soon enough she pouted, “Well, what other explanation is there?”
“It could be he was warning the people about such fools. For instance, he could be angry at the way certain members of the religious orders abuse their influence. Those people are supposed to be noble and in the service of their god, but they waste their time singing and goofing off and are just as much gluttons as the rest of the people. They might have been the televangelists of their day.”
She smiled at the thought and admitted it was possible. “But then he would have made them suffer a bit, like he did in the Hell of the Garden of Delights.”
“He did. Didn’t you see that the guy at the rear of the boat, the one leaning over the side, was throwing up?”
She frowned again–I hope she wasn’t worried about wrinkles–and got up to make sure I was telling the truth. When she came back she was very contrite. “Are you going to tell me I missed something else, or can I say it’s unusual to see a Bosch painting without animals or demons?”
“Ha! You missed the owl in the tree.” She frowned again, got up again, and walked over to the painting again. This time she did not sit back down on her return, but grabbed my arm and hauled me up before leading me out of the room and on to another part of the museum. Some of the onlookers chuckled at our antics, especially when I grabbed the doorjamb as if to avoid being pulled on by her, but this only inspired one guy to say, “I would go anywhere that woman wanted to drag me to.”
She blushed again.
“Oh, I thought you were dragging me to the ladies’ room for a quickie.”
Thanks for the set-up! She smile beamed. “Pierre. . . cuz my bladder’s empty.”
I poked her in the stomach to see if this was indeed the case, causing her to yelp loud enough to get the attention of everyone in the room. Fortunately she was already through the doorway, and made a quick left into the hall. I followed at a more sedate pace, not caring what people I was never going to see again in my life thought.
Not wanting to face another embarrassment for a while, she led me toward the archaeology stuff. She knew I was far more expert at such things, but at least they weren’t open to as much interpretation as art.
She hoped.
We found ourselves in the Near Eastern Gallery after a while of wandering. It was rather dark in there, but when we approached a black stela in the middle of the hall, I recognized it instantly. I quickly left her behind and moved to it.
When she managed to join me again, she quickly read the French explanation next to it. “Code of Hammurabi.” Then she looked up at the phallic-shaped piece of black basalt and said, “Not much to look at, is it?”
I turned to her. “I’m surprised you aren’t more excited to see it, considering how much of a feminist you are.”
Again she had her mouth open to speak, then decided not to provoke me and get the lecture over with. She moved her hands into position as if holding a pen and pad. “Go ahead; I’m all ears.”
Since I am always aware of my surroundings, I knew that at the moment we were alone and thus allowed my hands to quickly run over the tight body encased in the blue dress. “Not ALL ears,” I corrected. She just grinned and shook her head, but didn’t say what she most obviously wanted to say.
I cleared my throat, bringing her back to attention. “Hammurabi was an eighteenth century B.C. king of Babylonia–he’s the bearded one standing here with the god of justice–who wrote this code, which is one of the most significant legal documents in history.” Then I grinned and lost my professorial look. “According to this code, women had many of the same rights as men: they could own property, have their own businesses, and work as scribes, which was a big thing back then, not like today when writers are treated like a lower life-form. It also stated that the strong should not subjugate the weak and gave protection to widows and orphans.”
The brunette grinned yet again. “Is that all, professor?”
I gave her a dark look, then continued at full speed so as to overwhelm her. “Most of the other laws were pretty harsh, although technically they weren’t laws at all. It was more the literary expression of the king of his social responsibilities and his awareness of the disparity between they way things are and the way he wants them to be. The stela itself was found in Susa in 1902 and is written in cuneiform, in the Semitic language, covering 49 lines of writing. On the front is a prologue, 65 laws that are easily read–” She leaned forward. “–if you know cuneiform, of course.” She blushed and moved back to her original position. “There are another 40 laws on the front that are almost illegible.”
She saw me pause for breath and quickly got a word in. “If you can’t read them, how do you know what they say?”
I glared at her. “Next time raise your hand like a good girl.” She actually turned and looked around before remembering we weren’t in a classroom, but by that time I had continued. “This is not the only copy of the laws; others were found later in Nippur and Nineveh. On the back are 183 other laws and the epilogue.”
She suddenly looked intrigued. “Can you read this?”
Which made her completely lose interest, typical model.
After some more aimless wandering, we blundered into another art room, and she pointed to a painting she instantly liked.
“Do a painting like that today,” I snorted, “and the only place it’ll get shown is on the top of a chocolate box.”
“You don’t like it?” she asked, surprised.
“I love it. I just meant that the subject and style wouldn’t be appreciated today. But this guy could really paint. Look at the way he uses the colors. . .”
“Yes.” She lost herself in the painting for a while, then went on slowly, “The whole effect is. . .” She shrugged. “I don’t know.”
“Nacreous,” I said, and she laughed because she recognized my habit of coming up with words no one had ever thought of–or heard–before to describe something that had been described millions of times.
“Yeah, you’re right. It shimmers like mother-of-pearl.”
Closer than she knew, but I wasn’t going to credit her for what had to be a guess.
Knowing me well, she thought I would want to pay my respects to my goddess in her most famous incarnation, the Venus de Milo, but once we saw all the flashes popping around it, we decided to come back later.
A little more wandering led to the Egyptian Galleries, which pleased me no end. “I know nothing about Babylonia compared to the Egyptians,” I told her, making her sigh and wish there was something she knew even a little bit better than I did.
Besides modeling, of course, though as a photographer I was well-versed–
No, best not think about that.
The first thing we saw was a bust of Champollion, who had of course deciphered the famous Rosetta Stone–or so he claimed–which was residing in the British Museum, luckily for it. He had also been the first curator of this section of the museum back in the 1820s.
“This guy must be one of your heroes.”
“Not even close. He was great at what he did, but like most Frenchmen, he could never admit he had help. Champollion was certainly influenced by Thomas Young’s pioneering work, but never gave him due acknowledgement, and took pains to diminish it in his book. It’s true that he made the important discovery that the cartouches contained the names of Ptolemy and Cleopatra, but if it wasn’t for Young realizing the hieroglyphics had some non-alphabetic signs, Champollion would never have gotten that far.”
“What does that mean?” she asked, once again frowning.
I smoothed out the frown with my fingers, which made her giggle, then explained, “Some of the symbols stand for letters, just like in English the letter A stands for the sound A. But some of the symbols also stand for certain things, like Chinese characters. An owl might stand for the letter M, for example, but it might also stand for wisdom, since the owl is the bird of wisdom. Or it could stand for the sound an owl makes, theoretically, as well.”
“Ah!” she exclaimed, seeing the light. “Good enough. Let’s move on.”
“You’ll never learn anything just by hearing the tip of the iceberg.”
“If you waste too much time, we may not get back to your place in time to enjoy ourselves enough, since I have another shoot early tomorrow.”
“You talked me into it,” I grumped comically as we moved on down the hall. Within seconds we came to a figurine, headless.
But it was still enough for me to recognize it. “Queen Nefertiti!” I exclaimed in delight. “Now we’re getting to my area. I know all about her and her hubby.”
“I was afraid of that,” she grumbled. Then she looked closely at the figure. “Rather fat, isn’t she? Those thighs didn’t come from exercise. If she was a queen, she probably didn‘t have to walk to the top of pyramids very often. I imagine a pulley system–”
“There’s two possibilities,” I told her, then ignored her earlier “I was afraid of that.” “It could have just been what was in back then; think of Reubens.” She agreed with that. “Or it could have been done to go along with her hubby’s look.”
“What hubby? You keep alluding to him.”
“A completely fascinating and probably crazy pharaoh named Akhenaton. He should be around here somewhere.” Then I laughed at a sudden thought. “They should bring the famous bust of Nefertiti and join it with this headless figure so they could have a complete set.”
She frowned yet again. “I’m beginning to remember. Is that bust the one in Berlin?”
I took her in my arms and pretended to kiss her passionately. “I knew you wouldn’t let me down,” I said after we finally separated, and her pretending to catch her breath.
“Not with incentive like that!” she murmured happily as we continued down the hall, eventually coming to the big guy in question.
“Akhenaton was a renegade who had different ideas about how he wanted to rule than his predecessors. He was a pacifist in a time of conquering, but more importantly, he believed in only one god instead of all the ones in vogue at that time, putting a lot of priests on unemployment. He worshipped the sun and nothing else. His story’s way too long to tell. He was the world’s first hippie: love and peace, not war. And he had a glandular ailment that distorted his body.”
“I can see it now,” she nodded. “Was his wife really like that too?”
“Who knows? Maybe she had a girlish figure just like yours.” She gave me a look of askance. “Right. No one has a body like yours. Still, it’s strange that this guy was really pretty important, but his little brother became a lot more famous because his tomb was found with all the loot intact.”
Instead of frowning, this time she smiled. “Don’t tell me, I can guess this one easily. His brother was Tutankhamen, right?”
I looked at her in mild surprise. “You even pronounced it right. I’m so impressed I’ll hate to wait until we’re alone to show you how much.”
“No point in waiting, then,” she announced, tugging on my arm. “Let’s go.”
“Uh-uh.” Smile. “We’re nowhere near finished with this place. You’ll just have to show a little patience.”
Her response was an unintelligible mutter, thankfully.
“This thing has five legs!” she exclaimed in the next room.
“Very good.” I was sarcastic. “It takes some people hours to figure it out.”
She looked at the figure in silence, debating whether to listen to what was bound to be an interesting story or sparing herself some more of my conceit.
But I made the choice for her. “These are human-headed eagle-winged bulls called lamasuu, mythological guardians keeping evil spirits away, found in the huge palace of Sargon II at Dur Sharrukin.”
“Sargon?” she frowned in concentration. “Wasn’t that used in Star Trek once?”
“Original series, Return to Tomorrow. Kirk, Spock, and the babe of the week beam down and get possessed by these giant melon balls.”
“I remember. So go ahead and tell my why they have five legs.”
“Well, it is a bit strange, considering how boring the Assyrians are in general, but basically it’s so a person looking from the front could see the winged bull standing proudly while at the same time a person looking from the side could see it in full stride.”
“Sounds simple enough. Are these the only ones?”
“Nope I’ve seen them before, the ones from the palace at Nimrud. I just can’t remember where.”
“You actually can’t remember something?” the brunette hooted. “Is the world ending?”
I did my best to ignore her, though her body did jiggle enticingly when she jumped up and down like that, as I tried to remember where I had seen them. . . obviously not easy with her aforementioned jumping around. “Must’ve been at the Pergammon in Berlin. I can’t think of any other museum that might have them.”
“I will never let you forget this,” she promised.
This time I was the one who walked on.
As we climbed yet another staircase, we found ourselves confronted with a statue. She squealed and said, “Even I know this one. It’s the Victory of Samothrace.”
“Perfect and intact it might be only a remarkable work of art, but broken, her gown windblown against her torso, she appears to resist annihilation itself with a fierce and sensuous fury.”
She nodded “Look! I have survived time itself. This is my truest victory.”
“Not bad for a model,” I said out of the corner of my mouth, obviously intent on regaining the edge in our little battle.
The murderous look in her eye did nothing to inspire fear in me, to her dismay. “All right,” she said, already sounding arrogant as they moved over to make room for those ascending, “if you’re so smart, what goddess is this? She doesn’t have a head, so that can’t help you.”
“But the wings do, as well as that marvelously sculptured body.” I grinned as I saw her glaring at me sharply, no doubt waiting for me to say something about her own figure. “Besides, the goddess’ name is written all over my shoes.”
She looked down quickly at my footgear, but all she saw was the curvy checkmark on the side. “Are you saying the goddess is Converse or Adidas? It surely couldn’t be LA Gear.” She’d done a commercial for them, and was waiting for me to remark on it.
I started walking away. “Just when I think there might actually be a brain behind all that only-skin-deep beauty, you fail me again. Any third-grader knows about Nike. . .”
She quickly looked down to the placard next to the statue and saw that this was true. Then she looked back in my direction and, mock-furious, ran and threw herself at me, landing on my back.
The guard, wanting to do his job well despite the beautiful woman, told her to cut it out, only to find her simpering and saying she had been aiming for him; she definitely loved to flirt, sometimes way over the top. Guys were an easy sell anyway, but she would have them believing she wanted them right then and there, all the while claiming she had no idea where they’d gotten the idea.
Anyway, as the guard basked, we disappeared to another art gallery.
“When photography came into being, realism in painting pretty much died,” I replied to her question as to the effect of photography on art.
“But photography doesn’t have to realistic either,” she argued, though she knew she was preaching to the choir on this one.
Never letting an opportunity to tease her slip by, I tried, “Pascal once said, a long time ago, ‘How vain painting is, exciting admiration by its resemblance to things of which we do not admire the originals’.”
“Sounds like he was talking about Van Gogh.”
“It was long before the Earless Wonder.”
“He still had one ear.”
“Good thing he didn’t fall in love again. Imagine what part of the body he’d send his third love.”
“Overdoing it as usual,” she sighed. “Anyway, this Pascal dude missed the point. Admiring a painting that depicts a place we know but don’t like seems absurd and pretentious at first, but only if we imagine that painters do nothing but reproduce exactly what they see.”
I grinned, liking it so far, but she’d never believe it, so I let her ramble on.
“If that were true, then all we could admire in a painting would be the technical skills involved in the reproduction of an object.”
“I just thought of something.”
“I might have seen those five-legged creatures at the British Museum.”
“Moving on. . .” she sighed.
“Cythera was a mythical island associated with the Goddess of Love,” I told her as she went glum again. She’d been hoping to reestablish superiority in the paintings, but I was already ahead of her.
“I didn’t know you were an expert on mythology as well,” she grumbled.
“You think I’m not going to know something about the goddess I worship?”
“That’s true,” she brightened. “I am the current priestess, right?”
“At least for today,” I answered, flexing my biceps, knowing the blow would be coming. It did, but luckily she only had superhuman strength in bed. . . and other places, but this was not one of those times.
At least not yet, the way things were going.
We continued looking at “The Embarkation for Cythera.” To be completely honest, there was nothing in it to suggest it was a masterpiece. Except for the sky, the colors were very dark; all you could see was a large number of people heading away from the viewer toward the distant sea.
“Now that you know what it’s about,” I gave her a wicked grin, “what do you think they’re doing? Are they about to go to the island, and who wouldn’t, seeing it’s run by the goddess of love, or are they being forced to leave the island? If you look carefully, you can see they’re a bit sad.”
She looked closely for a bit longer, then turned to answer and found a stranger there. Looking around, she saw me walking toward the next gallery, but I saw the Mona Lisa was in that direction and made a rapid U-turn.
“I don’t know,” she admitted when she finally caught up with me. “which is it?”
“I don’t know either.” I interrupted her growing grin with, “Nobody knows. Watteau died of tuberculosis when he was 37, and he didn’t tell anyone.”
“Then why did you ask me?” she growled, nettled.
“No reason in particular,” I said lightly, walking along regardless of her slow pace. “You ready to stop this little competition?”
She startled, then was about to make things worse by saying, “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” but luckily refrained.
I nodded, as if agreeing with that course of action. “Can you be satisfied with being the second most-intelligent person in this horrible country? After all, I’ll be gone soon, and you’ll be back to being number one. The sad thought is that soon you’ll leave too, and then where will this country be?”
She stared at me for a while, then burst into laughter, causing me to do the same. The guard there this time was obviously immune to her blandishments–or just too plain old to bother anymore–and ordered us out of the hall.
“Gladly. Let’s get the hell out of here. I’ve seen enough of Reuben’s fat ladies to last me a lifetime anyway. . .”



2 thoughts on “Or as Michael Jordan calls it, the Louie

    • Thank ya kindly, ma’am. Have you tried the British Museum? I can spend weeks in the without coming out. . . if they didn’t find me and shoo me away, of course.


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