Recently I reached out to Tom Teicholz to request adding a rare photograph of his of Jim’s grave from Spring 1976. Not only did Tom oblige, but he in turn reached out to his fellow travel companions in the photo who kindly provided their memories from that day.
I am so pleased to be able to share this photo and their comments with you. Many, many kind thanks to Tom, Mary and Lawrence!
“Living in Paris in the spring of 1976, we went to Père Lachaise as a pilgrimage, out of deep respect for the greats buried there. And as Beats revered Kerouac, and as Patti Smith, who played Paris that Spring invoked Rimbaud, we sought out Jim’s grave to commune with his poet spirit. The grave was unmarked and the site was messy but we made it for a few minutes our own.”
“This is a very special photo of a very special day. It was unseasonably warm and very sunny. We walked in the gates and this enormous vista of paths opened up. Many of the gravestones were in fact small monuments, like buildings along a road, and it was hard to tell the direction.
I turned to the guard to ask for a map. Before I could speak, and without prompting, he asked “Vous cherchez Jim Morrison?” That was weird.
There was in fact a map and we were shown how to get to his grave. Though I don’t remember that the site was listed on the map. My memory was that the grave was behind other graves, almost a no-man’s plot on leftover land. There was no official marking, maybe a frame of cement on dirt.
I don’t know what the grave looks like now but it was an absolute mess then. Of course there were candles, and other memorabilia around, but I was very disturbed at the amount of graffiti on every possible surface. And garbage. I was sorry that I hadn’t taken anything decent to leave like flowers.
On the other hand, the amount of emotion that squalid little corner could evoke was incredible. Here was a great. And there was no doubt that his visitors felt that. If there would be no official recognition, so be it.
The faithful would come and leave their mark. Seeing this photo again always brings back a lot of emotions for me.”
“I remember the day as sunny and no one else was about in the grounds. We spread out, each one forging along and exploring, calling out names. The layout of graves was chaotic. I remember feeling smallish as some of the headstones were immense, as those under them. I best remember Balzac, Proust, Chopin, then at last our Jim, in his cramped corner, defaced by ugly graffiti and other stuff.
We found our little place to sit and make it feel like home, at least, a connection to America for us in Paris. And I remember thinking he would appreciate the respect paid because the place was a mess and we came to pay our respects to one we admired.
We were lost, as he was lost, as the place was lost, at the time…, an ironic, lustrous back corner of history.”
Photo courtesy of Tom Teicholz www.tommywood.com
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