Walking the Walk and Talking the Walk

By Ernie Witham   |   October 10, 2023
Ernie halfway through an idea for a new story

After my first date with an attractive young woman named Pat, she told a friend that she’d never met a guy who talked as much as I did! My strategy was to regale her with as many stories about myself as I could think of in hopes that something I said was clever and endearing. Must have worked, she married me, though she did ask to read my vows before the wedding, as she said we only had the venue for five hours or so and guests would want time to eat. 

Recently, though, I learned about a really amazing talker. “This is San-Denis,” the tour guide said as we looked at a statue of a bishop holding his severed head in front of him, which probably really confused les pigeons. Apparently, Denis, a bishop sent to the Montmartre area of Paris in the 3rd century, irked the pagans with his conversion and constant promoting of Christianity and they beheaded him. 

“According to legend,” the guide continued, “San-Denis then picked his head up and walked several miles preaching a sermon all the way.” The legend continues that when he finally stopped to wash his gooey head, he dropped dead. This made him a martyr and they built a Basilica on the spot, after the lengthy approval process and environmental review board, I assume.

“My kind of guy,” I said to Pat, in my best French accent, as we continued our walking tour. “I remember one time I lost my mind and…”

“Shh,” Pat whispered. 

There were eight of us following a bubbly and enthusiastic British lady on our “Paris Walks” excursion, who enjoyed pointing out the idiosyncrasies of the 18th arrondissement of Paris. Our tour started at the “Loving Wall,” which has more than 300 blue tiles saying “I love you” in 280 different languages. I looked for one that said “I ove-lay ou-lay” but apparently Pig Latin is not a recognized language in France. 

Our guide then pointed out some small sculptures of a man’s face with closed eyes and his tongue sticking out. “This is an artist named Gregos who sneaks around Banksy-like at night and glues these clay images of himself to walls,” she said. “There are supposedly more than 200 discretely placed all over Paris.”

“We should do that in Santa Barbara,” I suggested to Pat. “Let’s take a selfie and we can get a mold made.” I stuck out my tongue and closed my eyes. When I opened them, Pat and the others had already moved on and I hurried to catch up. 

Keeping the art theme going, the guide pointed out the apartment where Vincent van Gogh lived with his brother Theo and not far away the one where Toulouse-Lautrec resided, plus the Moulin Galette, L’Agile Lapin, artists’ square where Picasso, Modigliani, and other artists had studios.

“I used to paint,” I told Pat. “Mostly exteriors, but once the inside of an entire house…”

“Shh,” Pat whispered again. 

The guide led us to another neighborhood corner called Place Marcel Ayme where we came to one of the greatest sculptures I have ever seen – sorry Leonardo. “This is Le Passe-Muraille,” she told us, pointing out a bronze man partially protruding out of a cement wall. “It is based on a short story by French novelist Marcel Aymé.” We all took photos of ourselves with the statue. “In the story, the man develops the skill of passing through walls, and uses it to sneak into a house and rendezvous with a woman he loves while her husband is away.” Unfortunately, the guide told us he made a mistake with a special medication and his ability wore off when he was only halfway through the wall.

“I got stuck in a wall once,” I told Pat. “Actually, it was between two walls. Wonder if I should ask for a statue…”

Our incredible tour ended at Sacré-Coeur, after which we decided to have lunch at the Artist’s Square. “Wow. I’m just bubbling over with story ideas,” I told Pat. She smiled, then signaled for a waiter. 

“Could we please get him something to munch on right away?” The waiter glanced at me as I rambled on with some pure gems.

“Oui, Madame. Je comprend!”  


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