What do you do at the grave of a dead rock star?

Paris, France 2005

At age 22, I was passionately in love with dead rock stars. I still kind of am. I found myself in Paris, a place that had made it onto my list after beginning my travels as a passionate rock and roll soul. I’d just gotten off the heels of a trip to England where I spent a bunch of time in Camden Town retracing the steps of Sid Vicious and the Sex Pistols and I was dedicated to rock and roll tourism, having decided that was a thing.

After a very late night of sitting under the Eiffel Tower drinking 7-euro bottles of champagne and smoking way too many European Marlboros, we woke up early in the Paris hotel for our mission.

We were staying in some hotel that pretty much embodied both the good and ugly of Paris that I’d imagined in rock and roll history. It was dank, dark, with deathtraps for electric sockets and a lumpy bed that held god-knows-what history. Nevertheless, its foreign romantic charm took over me as a writer during that stay that still has my best writing in a notebook I bought from a street vendor selling books. I digress —–

After grabbing a pastry from a French Bakery, we made our way on foot to our destination. Pere Lachaise Cemetery, where we would look for the final resting place of my first love of rock and roll, Jim Morrison.

His life and death was tragic, dirty, sad. Yet his legacy for me became a romantic love story that I’d dived into, having the music of The Doors becoming the soundtrack of my early angsty and confused 20s. He had died some 12 years before I was born. I felt like I missed out, so I needed to have my piece of the long-passed Doors pie.

As we walked through the gates of Pere Lachaise, we began our journey through the aged, decrepit, but mesmerizing rows of tombstones and mausoleums.

We got super lost. For a REALLY LONG TIME. The first times we saw the tombstones of Chopin, Oscar Wilde and all the famous people laid to rest in Pere Lachaise was awesome. The fifth time wasn’t as thrilling – where was my JIM?

About 3 hours later, about a dozen rest stops on people’s final resting places, and wishing we had eaten a little more than a tiny French pastry for breakfast, there he was.

A guard stood by, still, unfazed by the pilgrimage we had made to see Mr Mojo Risin’. Trinkets, graffiti, flowers, cards, and tributes to our man were a-plenty, we weren’t the first ones that day to arrive that day or in days before us, nor would we be the last.

What do you do when you arrive to the grave of your rock and roll love? There’s really nothing you can do. He’s still dead in there. My friend and I sat quietly by his grave, and watched it. We had come all this way, so we had to make it cathartic, we supposed, but couldn’t find an appropriate gesture, act, or word to mark this anticipated monumental occasion.

After a few minutes, I wanted to leave. It did not behoove me to be at the final resting place of a 27-year-old man who had lived too hard that he died harder. The Jim I had grown to falsely idolize wasn’t in there. That was the ugly part of Jim, the end to the romantic story I had built in my head – gruesome, shameful, and just plain sad. I knew I wouldn’t find Jim in Pere Lachaise; he lived where I had originally found him – in my records, on my CDs, and in the archives that hold the contribution of this poet and artist. Those songs and albums that are still listened to, revered, and loved to this day.

“Thank you for the music, Jim”, I said, a little disappointed at the anti-climactic event it was, but still kinda proud that I had been among the few that had made that trip to see the final resting place of The Lizard King.

I lit a Marlboro, nodded to the guard, and left my Jim behind, where his tragic story will remain forever. I said goodbye to Chopin and Mr. Wilde for the last time, and made my way back to the land of the living where I intended to stay for a while*.

*I’ve quit smoking since.

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