A pair of drug-addled punk rockers prowl the streets of Paris in 1978 and connect with other kids living in an anarchist collective.
"Mon pitou!" Mireia chirped, racing into our loft while throwing her purse into a corner, golden eyes sparkling as a bright smile broke across her face. "You’ll never believe who I met at work!"
"Who?" I asked, looking up from my writing.
"Do we have any chiva?" she asked, stopping dead in her tracks and scanning the room. "I’m so fucking wired, I need a little bomb."
"In our bedroom," I said, pointing with my pen, "under the mattress. There should be a couple of bags."
"The mattress? Paranoid, are we?"
"This place is fucking Dêpot le Landy with kids rolling in at all hours, partying like crazy and crashing wherever they want. If they want smack, they can bring it themselves. Hell, I’ll provide the sharps and spoons—the goddamn cotton if they want—but our dope is ours."
"Didn’t you slide a bag to Etienne just the other day, my love? Didn’t you fix Ariane from a packet you bought on Wednesday? What about the lovely Anaïk, our dearest co-conspirator? I seem to recall us splitting a whole ounce with her at no charge, none whatever, just last week."
"Well, the exceptions prove the rule."
"Eh, bien," she said, skittering into the bedroom and searching around the edges of our mattress. "Aha! Victory!" She pulled a small packet out and sat on the edge of the bed, drawing her works from an ancient, second-hand nightstand salvaged from the sidewalk along rue St-Severin.
"So who was this marvelous whoever that you met at Dysphorie?" I asked.
"Just a minute, mon pitou. Let me take care of this first."
"You come bounding in here like a freight train, dying to give me your news, and now you’re making me wait?"
"But you love me anyway, don’t you?"
"Madly. With abandon. Like Tristan loved Iseulte. Like Achilles adored Penthesilea, though without all the blood."
"Blood? There’s blood, sometimes. We go through sheets like underwear."
"I’m not speaking of fucking during menstruation, my love."
"Oh, all right. Now hush. The needle is going in. A very delicate operation, as you know. I need my concentration. No fucking abscesses for this girl, thank you."
"Load a rig for me when you’re finished."
"Shut the fuck up, mon pitou!"
Pitou was a word not to be found in my Dictionnaire de l'Académie française. It was slang—gutter slang, in fact—and Cardinal Richelieu would have objected in the strongest possible terms. It meant "puppy," in the sense of a homeless and feral young dog, and Mireia had informed me that its feminine counterpart was minou or, very loosely, "sleazy little kitten." Parisians were so taken with their perfect pronunciations and correct usages that these words often fell on their ears with scandal, and Mireia delighted in accommodating them.
A delicate moan gently drifted from the bedroom.
"Success, I take it?" I said.
"By the balls of St. Peter," she dreamily answered, "what is this shit? It’s fucking fabulous!"
"A shipment of Albanian, I was told, that just happened to land in Yves’s lap this morning. It’s a little spendy, but Yves assured me it’s top-notch."
"You haven’t tried it, yet?"
"I was waiting for you."
"You’re too sweet."
"Load me a rig?"
"Give me a couple of minutes, mon coeur. This shit is kicking my ass. It’s gotta be, like, what… seventy per-cent, eighty per-cent pure?"
"You tell me."
"Oh, sweet baby Jesus."
Chuckling, I went on with my scribbling:
"Fuck everything: At sixteen, that was my mantra. Only the music mattered. Brezhnev could’ve bombed this country into a glass parking lot for all it concerned me, just so long as I had my tunes. Popular culture was crap, the aroma of decay everywhere. Plugged into my headphones, I could fuck off that bicentennial year and its myopic nostalgia for an America that never was. Iggy Pop was my personal lord and savior, The Modern Lovers my catechism, the Velvet Underground my heavenly host.
"I was worthless and snotty—a child of the Seventies who’d rejected the peace-and-love pretenses of my older brothers and sisters. By night, standing in front of the mirror, I practiced my sneer, the jailhouse-psychotic look in my eyes, a consummate fuck-you expression. Listening to "Panic in Detroit" or "Generation Landslide," I marveled at the purity of hate in my heart, the utter contempt for everything from family to God. During the day, I skipped classes and hung out in the parking lot of a local 7-Eleven, sitting on the hood of my oxidation-gold Vega, smoking pot, and banging out tunes on a cheap Ovation guitar.
"A neon sign glimmered before my brain: KEEP CLEAR—PERSONALITY DISORDER, words buttressed by a ragged pair of Levi’s, filthy black-and-white Chuck Taylors, and an army surplus field jacket with a portrait of Lou Reed, taken from the Transformer album and rendered in black marker, on the back…"
Mireia quietly floated out of the bedroom, grasping a loaded rig in her left hand.
"We need some music," she said. "Put something on. Maybe that new Electric Chairs LP I brought home. Wayne County’s a fucking god. Or goddess. Or something. Fuck, I’m lit. Put the Electric Chairs on, baby, and I’ll hit you up."
Snapping into audiophile mode, I did as commanded and slid a pristine vinyl disc from its sleeve, carefully placed it onto the Hitachi turntable suspended in mid-air by a macramé sling anchored to the ceiling. Taking the tone arm between forefinger and thumb, I eased its diamond-tipped needle into the record’s opening grooves. A click and a buzz crackled through our faux-quadraphonic speakers—four Bose 501 speakers, 100 watts per channel, clinging to the corners of our loft—and I happily slapped my thigh to the opening chords of "Cream In My Jeans."
Mireia swung my chair around, pushed my sleeve up and tied a tight tourniquet onto my arm, tapping the veins with her forefinger for a likely candidate. Yes, she was good at this, a damned professional. It seemed almost as intimate as sex. Having raised a healthy vein, she expertly slid the needle in, pulled back the plunger, smiled at a little swarm of blood entering into the syringe, and confidently shot me up.
Holy. Fucking. Shit.
Yves’s latest haul was so pure as to be almost painful. His dope rippled through my bloodstream and shook me with a shimmering feeling of full-body orgasm. My head rolled back as an ecstatic groan bubbled up from deep within. My legs fell open and Mireia squatted between them, her elbows resting on my knees while the syringe dropped from her hand and clattered across our floor. "Goddamn, but I love you," she murmured, "more than life itself."
"So, again, ma minou," I said, barely able to sustain speech, "what wonderful and excellent person did you meet at Dysphorie?"
Through the haze, she brightened.
"A girl named Angelique Vioget, and a couple of her friends. They came in looking for some Komische musik and we got to talking. They belong to an anarchist collective that squats in an abandoned warehouse in St-Cloud Bougival. Angelique said there’s, like, twelve of them—guys and girls, gays and straights, some of them lovers—and they work together on written manifestos and art propaganda. She had some fliers in her rucksack, and gave me a few, which are in my purse. It’s really great stuff!
"I said that my boyfriend was an American anarchist from Texas, and told how you sometimes put together and publish limited-edition books for people, artists and politicos and such. I told them all about your Éditions and the stuff we’re working on with Anaïk. They’re really excited about meeting you. They had no idea that anarchists existed in America, just cowboys.
"I thought we could ride our bikes out there on Saturday and meet the whole bunch of them. Maybe we can take some that that chiva that you lie about never giving away. They also want me to bring records, British and American punk, German electronic."
"My God, girl—what have you gotten me into? Anaïk’s thing with the photographs is probably the last thing Éditions will ever do. And I’m not clear about how we’ll pay for that. There’s precious little money. Hell, we spend it all on smack and Russian vodka, fancy damn martinis at the Hotel des Argonautes, and night after night of live music shows. Éditions has never made a centime. It probably never will. It probably can’t. Art propaganda? Have you any idea of how expensive it is to reproduce art? God forbid that it’s full-color."
"Do all Texans worry about useless shit the way you do? Is it, like, a cultural trait or something? Good God, I love you something fierce, but you’re aggravating as Hell sometimes."
"I’m talking about sheer common sense."
"What you’re talking is pure, unadulterated trash. We may be dead tomorrow. What the fuck will money mean to us then? Your common sense will rot in the ground with you. This is all we’ve got, baby—this one life. So what if we wind up a little short here and there? At least we’ll have done things we love, no? Isn’t that the difference between living and simply existing? Has two years inside my pussy taught you nothing?"
What could I say? Her argument was ironclad. And those topaz eyes bore into me like a wildcat drill. Despite angling for rebellion and independence, I was still too much a creature of my father’s making. His conservatism and cautious planning still colored my judgment. However, I’d left my home in Austin and resettled in Paris for the express purpose of escaping his influence. And part of my love for Mireia stemmed from her free spirit and blithe way of life, a direct contrast to my own rigid background. Slowly, she was teaching me liberty; she was absolving me of crippling self-doubt.
"It’s the Colonel," I said with no small embarrassment, "rearing his ugly head again. Sorry, ma minou. Show me those fliers, if you can make it across the floor."
"Mireia is mighty!" she said, popping to attention and raising fists over her shoulders. "Mireia is strong! Mireia…" She stumbled a step from me, grasping her forehead and weaving uncertainly. "Mireia is seriously fucked-up. Toast. But she’ll get those fucking fliers one way or another."
The fliers were good, impressive even. Mireia sank to the floor beside me, one arm thrown over my thigh, and passed each one hand-to-hand, then to me, pointing out interesting graphic details and reading the words with her smoldering Catalan accent. The style was a little derivative of Jamie Reid’s work for the Sex Pistols—but what wasn’t in 1978? The leaflets were monochromatic, purple ink on cheap white paper, produced on a mimeograph (and not one of very high quality).
They were anarchopunk manifestoes, carefully argued and well-formatted within the limitations of their medium. Old-school anarchists would see little of value in them, but most of those cranky old farts had devolved into Soviet communism anyway. However, kids our age would find real worth in these pieces, especially in the worker-conscious Left Bank whose districts seemed forever on the razor’s edge of protest and general strike.
The fliers made me think of Joe Hill and Big Bill Haywood, passionate young men of early twentieth century America who’d fought long and hard and with devastating passion to make the International Workers of the World, the One Big Union, a reality through song and poetry and scintillating speeches. Sadly, they’d failed—ripped to pieces by a paranoid and vengeful government. But maybe these kids were the inheritors of that mantle and perhaps they’d succeed where others had faltered.
"Okay," I said, "Saturday’s a deal. I’ll see if Yves has any more of this Albanian and pick some up. Twelve kids, huh? That’s a lot of fucking chiva. But what the Hell? Maybe he can get me something cheaper. Or I can always call on Marcel. Pick out your best records, take some Kraftwerk along, and we can pack sandwiches for the trip. St-Cloud, huh? That’s out there a ways. Maybe we should take a bottle of wine, too, to sip along the way. Or would you rather have vodka? Whatever. Let’s take everything. We’ll strike out at sunrise. Sound good?"
"Thank you, mon pitou," she said with a smile. "See, you don’t have to be such a prick after all."
"Hell, they didn’t give up at the Alamo. Why should I?"
"Wasn’t that just a fancy land grab?"
"Hush, my dear. Never say such a thing to a Texan. Mexico’s getting it all back anyway, along with New Mexico, Arizona, and a big chunk of California. Immigration. Sneaky bastards."
On Friday night, we stayed home while I trimmed Mireia’s hair—tightening up her signature bob. In turn, she carefully crafted teal-and-fuchsia tiger stripes in my hair with two bottles of Krazy Kolor. We polished the metal on our Perfectos and oiled the leather. We spruced our Doc Martens up and I selected my best distressed jeans while Mireia laid out a black knit miniskirt and a pair of artfully ruined fishnets. She baked a baguette and tore into a heart-shaped box of chocolates, setting aside several caramel-filled bob-bons for herself and coconut-filled for me.
Feeling prepared, we settled onto our futon-couch and watched Godard’s A bout de souffle on M6. A bottle of mescal accompanied us, along with an enormous bowl of popcorn and a gram of heroin. The movie was interesting but Mireia became positively fascinating. Halfway through the movie, she began kissing me, I began kissing her, she began to massage my thighs, I began to knead her tiny breasts, our clothes inched off, and we rutted far into the night like wild monkeys—her gentle moans echoing through the cavernous loft until nearly sunrise.
A sterling Saturday rose over the Seine, bathing us in warmth as we mounted our bikes. Our knapsacks were bulging with treats: a cheap but fair-quality no-name pink heroin from Marcel; several Thai sticks; a few amphetamines and some tabs of clearlight; a gram of cocaine Mireia had received in repayment of a debt; something I’d encountered on le pont de Bir-Hakeim called angeldust; several high-potency sherms; a bottle of Beaujolais, another bottle of Polish vodka; and my requisite pint of Jim Beam. In addition, Mireia’s pack was brimming with EPs and LPs and, as we rolled down rue de la Huchette on the first leg of our trip, she broke into song:
There's no point in asking
You'll get no reply
Oh just remember a don't decide
I got no reason it's too all much
You'll always find us out to lunch
Oh we're so pretty
Oh so pretty we're vacant
Oh we're so pretty
Oh so pretty
"A good song," I said, "but a clear rip-off of Richard Hell’s ‘Blank Generation.’ Malcolm McLaren has the morals of an alley-cat."
"You’re such a fucking cynic, mon mari précieux."
"Hey, punk’s a tough town."
And it was my turn to sing:
Here we come, walkin'
Down the street.
We get the funniest looks from
Ev'ry one we meet.
Hey, hey, we're the Monkees
And people say we monkey around.
But we're too busy singing
To put anybody down.
"What the fuck is that?" Mireia asked.
"Never heard of the Monkees?"
"The Monkees. They were a silly made-up band in the Sixties in America with a TV show, cheaply cashing in on the success of the Beatles. For some completely incomprehensible reason, they were wildly popular—mostly, I guess, with the bubble-gum crowd. They didn’t even write their own songs. But I was just a kid and faithfully watched every show. They were right up my nine-year-old alley. Damn it all, though—I’ve never been able to get that fucking song out of my head. It was their theme song."
"Americans are weird."
"And you’ll notice that I’m living in France now."
In the early afternoon, already fried owing to the gradual lightening of our knapsacks, we reached our destination: a squat cinderblock warehouse, long abandoned and dead-center in St-Cloud Bougival—Le collectif d’anarchiste. A girl of about sixteen greeted us at the door, who Mireia hugged tightly and introduced as Angelique. The girl took hold of my shoulders, leaned in and kissed me on both cheeks. "I’m so glad to meet you, Sky. Mireia’s said tons of great stuff about you. Come on in."
She led us into the warehouse, a cavern of roughly 4,000 square feet, and announced us to the gathered group. To my surprise the space was rather well appointed, populated by salvaged couches and castoff chairs, all in good shape, pulled into a cozy square. A passable Fisher stereo played in one corner, strains of the Banshees’ "Metal Postcard" filling the air. (I later learned that our new friends were kiting electricity by running an illegal connection to a nearby underground powerline.) An old mimeograph machine, circa 1950, loomed in one corner. Artwork, paintings and sophisticated etchings produced by some of the kids, were hammered into the cement walls. Bedrolls and futons lay scattered about.
Mireia and I lighted on an old loveseat and set our knapsacks on the floor, opening them and pulling out a panoply of drugs, the remaining alcohol, albums, and copies of Éditions. "The dope is for everyone," Mireia announced. One kid idly thumbed through my girlfriend’s records while another reached below his couch and produced an impressive brick of golden hashish. "And this is for everyone too," he said with a bright smile. Angelique went to the icebox and returned with a cold case of Abbaye de Vaucelles Blonde Ale, setting it on the floor and ripping its top open. "Enjoy!" was all she said.
Another kid of about nineteen strolled over to me and began leafing through the Éditions. The fellow rummaging through Mireia’s records found one he liked—Agitation Free‘s Malesch—and ran to put it on the stereo. The savage opening chords of "You Play For Us Today," ripped through the warehouse while Angelique lit a Rasta joint and peppered me with questions about America. Some of the kids prowled through our drugs, readily recognizing a few and asking Mireia about others. "That’s angeldust," I heard her telling someone. "It’s kind of like LSD but more of an upper."
"So do you put many of these out?" the nineteen year-old asked, paging through a copy of my friend Emil Vogel’s Toute l’âime résumée.
"Depends upon the money. Some of the titles are financed entirely by their authors, one way or the other. Emil’s family paid for the one you’re holding, a total run of two thousand. Some of the authors belong to cooperatives and the money is pieced together there. A few have been backed by schools or faculties, for students of course. One was actually paid for by a council housing project in Asnières-sur-Seine to support the work of one of their talented but mentally ill artists, five thousand copies. Money can come from anywhere, depending upon how many copies you want and what kinds of features are included."
"The books are beautiful," he said, running his finger along the spine. "Very artistic. The papers you use are amazing. I really like the deckled edges of this one. Is it Asian?"
"Do you design the covers?"
"Sometimes. It depends upon the author. I designed that one for Emil."
"I believe that the actual book should be as much an objet d’art as the contents, so long as it doesn’t detract from the author’s vision."
"Would you be interested in publishing our manifesto? It’s about a-hundred-and-fifty pages. I’m sure we could come up with the money somehow. It would attract a lot more attention in one of your books than it would coming off that creaky old mimeograph. What would it cost?"
"How many copies would you want?"
"Don’t know. It depends upon the cost."
"And that depends upon the paper, whether it’s paperback or hard-cover, the size, the binding. But you might be able to get off the ground for, say, a thousand francs for three hundred copies."
"A thousand? We could conceivably do that."
"Let’s light up a bowl of kif and talk about it."
His name was Denis Girard and, by virtue of age alone, he was the titular leader of this group—insofar as anarchists can have leaders. We passed the hash pipe back and forth, discussing variables in his project, while Mireia entertained the others with her vast knowledge of music. Denis made sure the pipe never emptied and talked excitedly of their manifesto. Eventually, he brought a copy out, typewritten pages bound with brads, and let me peruse it. From time to time, Mireia glanced at the pages while discussing the Who’s influence on punk rock.
I found myself liking Denis, believing in the collective’s project and wanting to help. I suppressed my prices, pretty sure that I could wrangle a good deal on a gorgeous Kodomo Shippou paper from Jean Teten’s outlet in St-Germain-des-Prés and find other ways to cut expenses. I suggested a unique (and slightly cheaper) 12" x 12" format, assuring Denis that the unusual size would attract attention. I offered to do the cover design free of charge, citing my skill with collages that would provide an authentic punk feel. Before it was all over, as Mireia knowingly smirked at me, I said I’d contribute half the cost of the manifesto’s first run. Once again, Éditions wouldn’t make a blessed dime.
We stayed the night, playing Mireia’s records into the wee hours. She wound up giving more than a dozen away and we whiled away the hours smoking hash, shooting Marcel’s sweet heroin, drinking beer and wine, debating Emma Goldman’s writings, arguing over France’s brand of socialism, and falling in love with each other. A profound sense of well-being gradually settled over us and many plans were made for the future. In a way, Mireia and I became the Latin Quarter outpost of Le collectif d’anarchiste that night.
A purplish-silver morning began to dawn beyond the warehouse’s tiny windows as, one by one, kids drifted off to their bedrolls and futons—some pointedly doubling up. Mireia and I contentedly curled up in our loveseat together, falling into a deep and satisfying sleep. The sounds of sex drifted around us, issuing from moving blankets in the dark corners, and my desire for Mireia became intense; but I restrained myself, unwilling to stage a public spectacle, and resolved that we’d make love immediately upon returning home.
It was early afternoon before we boarded our bicycles, with Denis shaking my hand grandly and saying how pleased he’d been to meet me. Angelique kissed Mireia on both cheeks, then on the lips, while they hugged. Adrien shoved a small block of hashish into my knapsack as Brielle handed Mireia a checkered cloth containing homemade merengues. Laurent slapped a black anarchy button onto my jacket and the entire group waved us off as we pedaled down the street. We zipped around the corner and started on the thoroughfare.
"Goddamnit, ma minou. I’m bloody well going to finance the entire thing."
"Heh, I knew you probably would, mon pitou."
"Why not? And I’ll give them one kick-ass book, you can be sure. We can cut back on cocaine for a month or so, buy Marcel’s cheaper smack—even if we sacrifice a little in quality—maybe cut out a few shows this month, stay at home some, you know, and watch movies. We can come up with the money."
"Ah, your time inside my pussy has been well spent, grasshopper."
"And utterly life-changing."