A year ago, as the waitress pulled open the door quietly, nodding with her head for me to walk in - there is hush in the air. I look around and see two women quietly talking in the corner, another couple two tables over and a third guy by the lounge on his phone. The volume of a usually buzzing atmosphere has been turned right down.
I spot a cute little table by the corner next to the old wooden wine rack marinating bottles of red. Up on the wall a faded piece of art that I’ll enjoy studying later. She pulls out my chair to sit down, and walks away to bring me the menu.
Something is different. The curtains were drawn across the French windows, and outside the blind awnings are low. From the outside you wouldn’t even know it was open.
Edith Piaf’s voice is singing in the background, much softer than back in the day when the foot traffic of tourists would often muffle out her La Vie En Rose. Even then this place was such an escape, instantly transporting me to a different world… Paris. I always looked forward to the pleasure of being taken away.
As I’m waiting for my menu, I look down at the dark tarnished wooden table where there is a little flyer sitting quite casually by the flickering candle light.
“Enjoy your meal. As we are in curfew, we advise that you leave by 8pm. Police are patrolling the streets and deportation my be a consequence. Please use your own discretion.”
I completely forgot.
Deserted streets were now normal for me and it didn't even cross my mind.
It had been so long since I’d been out. However I’d been quite content and focused on my work at home, and in some strange way in thanks for the quality time with myself all this had allowed me.
But restless I became this particular Friday night. The thought of a fresh wood oven pizza coupled with a crisp white wine, followed by a decadent dessert naturally with an espresso straight up, would not stop alluring my mind.
I’d completely forgot about curfew. And all off a sudden sitting there with Edith in the background, the Parisian windows blocked out with curtains closed and the hushed sound of quiet talk, I was pulled back in time.
Was this what it was like back in the 1940’s?
Dark memories remerged of the stories I’d be told of my grandparents fleeing their home country as war had pushed them out. Shots firing through the air breaking the laundry glass window, jumping into trains in the dead of night, and escape boats just missing being torpedoed as they pulled away from shore.
And then to disrupt, thankfully a favourite sprang to mind… Frida Kahlo. Her art coming to life alongside Diego Rivera. The drunken parties of poetry and dance, Diego’s controversial political mural ordered to be taken down from the Rockefeller Centre. To Mexico where Frida’s family home became a safe haven for the Communist Revolutionary Leon Trotsky.
In amongst the chaos of war, (and no we weren’t at war - in the traditional sense, although one could question all sorts of things at this time), boarders were closed and rules and regulation were rife…
I had come to learn, love & thrive on the undercurrent of creativity, politics & rebellion that was rippling away under the surface.
A tsunami waiting to happen.
The culture of Speakeasy’s had been reborn, misfits of creatives, philosophers, artists and lovers of politics would huddle around tables discussing world events and drinking their choice of poison to dull the enduring pain outside the walls.
In times of great control, are also times of great creativity.
Diamonds are created under extreme pressure. The artists process works exactly the same way.
All of a sudden I felt my body light up as I was reminded about what a profound time in history this was.
These times are how revolutions begin. The fight for freedom and to be ourselves. Freedom of expression being the highest form.
The power of visual art over a written piece is that it’s open to interpretation. The artist will have their perception and concept - yet the audience will have theirs. It’s the perfect platform to make a statement that is hard for authorities or anyone to silence.
“What do you mean? It’s simply art?…”
History can be written, read and remembered in many ways, yet it’s the visual art of those times that paint a true picture because it’s an expression of the people from the ground up. The truth. At times it will be raw and ruthless in it’s beauty as it becomes the channel for emotions to be dispelled.
It has to come out. Otherwise we’d all go crazy.
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That night a year ago eating pizza - I will never forget. It marked the beginning of my own revolution, and what I believe will be the most lively times for my generation. It’s far from over yet - and the stories and artistic expression will forever live on.
If you have the itch, now is the time to do it.
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Psychosomatic Therapist & EQ Business Specialist, Melanie Midegs has a gift for understand who you are, just by looking at your face. Her mission in life is to transmute the mundane and confused into a world of endless possibilities.
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