I continue on my quest and discover along the way, families with picnics, young children who deem this to be the best mausoleum themed adventure playground ever and extremely old people paying respects to plots because you can still be buried here if you have the inclination.
There is much to love about how this cemetery is seemingly left to fend for itself but I suspect behind the scenes an incredible amount of work goes on to make it appear so. A man and his creative mind can easily get distracted for days in here if he’s not paying attention.
One thing is for sure. If you’re ever stuck for a cigarette in here, you can likely pick one up any time of the day from around Jim Morrison’s grave. This is the third time I’ve paid my respects to the man that taught me through music how much freedom meant to me.
What can I tell you, I felt the need to get together one more time.
On my first visit, it was a culture shock to find the grave of a man I thought to be larger than life itself squeezed into a plot that you certainly wouldn’t pick out for yourself if you had a choice. You wouldn’t even think it was a plot. If it was a garden, you would struggle to grow more than twelve broccolis here. That first trip, I was a teenager and it was also the period when there was a bust of Jim created by Mladen Mikulin sitting on top. The bust arrived sometime in the early eighties I think and at various times has had cigarettes wedged in its mouth, been spray-painted, pissed on, coloured in and had LSD rubbed on its face until finally, it mysteriously disappeared in 1988.
Assuming whoever stole it was in their twenties - which rather begs the question of how you can walk off with a marble bust without anybody noticing in the middle of a Parisian cemetery - that would make them in their forties now. Maybe one day in another forty years, somebody will be cleaning out an apartment above a chocolate shop and discover it. I hope it makes it back there one day. The bust was quite beautiful when it arrived. I’m not big on sentiment these days, but I hope Mikulin himself took it.
On my second visit, the plot was fenced off from the public with metal traffic barriers and there was nobody else here, which is possibly what I expected the first time. Not that you couldn’t have climbed over the barriers if you had really wanted to, despite the ‘Do Not Jump Over The Fence’ warning notice stuck to it. Maybe the thrill had gone out of my pilgrimage, maybe it was the incessant rain, but it seemed different on this occasion - aside from the missing bust. Jim appeared to have left the building for good. On that trip, it was nothing but a dirty headstone with a bin emptied out on top of it - there was certainly nothing respectful or homage like about it. In hindsight, maybe the Oliver Stone movie had pushed people over the edge. I wish I hadn’t gone and it took a long time before I wanted to go back again.
This visit is an altogether different experience. It is coincidentally five to one in the afternoon which pleases me more than it should - there are flowers and poems encased in cling-film and, as there always have been, some pictures of Jim left on top. Photocopies of pictures out of books. Just in case somebody who had got so lost in here happened to find themselves in this three foot by five foot plot and had never heard of him. Why that should apply to Jim and not the one million plus people who are memorialised here, who can say.
Visiting here as a teenager, and then in my late twenties and now in my forties, at no point did I feel the need to do anything other than acknowledge a man who gave me so much pleasure over the years (and still does). A salute is enough for me. No need to destroy the damn thing in the name of rebellion but I guess that says a lot about what Morrison means to many different people - though to be honest here, Jim would probably punch you in the mouth if he caught you wasting your time over such things. If you were listening properly, you’d know this.
A fitting end to this trip would be to walk out of the gates and feel melancholy about the whole thing, but the gates are miles away, so you have to pass by many other dead people and along the way, all of your melancholy will dissipate because Père Lachaise is not a sad place.
It’s too big to be sad but it is absolutely big enough to remind you to live your life while it’s still within your control to do so.