"They're up in Paris."
1974...alone in Paris...after having one-man shows in the States for ten years, I found myself in Paris...exhibiting just like the Impressionists did 100 years before. I was in the middle of a dream. How did it happen? One thing simply led to another...from hanging my stuff in the Belle Animal Clinic on Roswell Road in Atlanta in 1970...to a show in a bank in Oklahoma City...a vacation in Paris in 1973. My heart started beating faster in the springtime of Paris.
Here's my trip journal covering my flight to Paris and back to Atlanta.
EUROPE NOVEMBER 74
JOHN'S TRIP BOOK SUMMARY
Savannah, Ga. Sun. Nov. 10
I'm wondering what this dream is I'm chasing. I believe Jonathan Livingston Seagull would understand and also my grandfather. To dream this impossible dream and to make people smile is my shot in life.
Savannah, GA Mon. Nov. 11
Flew Grumman's "GII" to Gander, Newfoundland and then to London. It was fantastic. Sat in the cockpit over New York. Stayed with Jann and Bruce Macdonald in London. Bruce gave me my first job in advertising.
London, Tue. Nov. 12
Jann gave me the cook's tour of the heart of London. Don't understand why the British drive on the left side. My blind side will get me, yet. Started walking at Westminster Bridge, past Big Ben to Westminster Abbey, where the kings, queens and poets are "kept". Visited the National Gallery. It's loaded with French Impressionists. They put me in my place. Asked how far it was to the Tate Gallery, a Brit replied: "It depends on how big your feet are." Saw Tate Gallery. That's where Turner lives forever. He beat the Impressionists by 80 years. Starting at 8pm, the Macdonalds took me to six very English pubs: The Greyhound, Windsor Castle, The Red Lion, Sherlock Holmes, The Grenadiers and Samuel Pepys. We drank our way through them all on bitter. Ate late dinner at the Great American Success. Played Bruce a game of snooker at home...won't tell who won.
London, Wed. Nov. 13
Drove 65 miles north to Woodstock where Blenheim is, Churchill's birthplace. It was beautiful. The autumn leaves were falling. Cows were in the yard. Churchill's grave in Bladon Cemetery is most common for such a great man. Lesser me have greater sites. Returned to London in the rain. Saw Sleuth at the Fortune Theatre. Walked around Covent Gardens. Took tube home.
London - Dover - Paris, Thur. Nov. 14
This would be a long day. Took train to Dover. There I crossed the English Channel with my head in the loo on a boat that was riding 30 foot waves. Arrived via train at Paris Nord Station and spent two long hours looking for Ella Hermann. I was ready to cry, thinking someone might take pity on me. By chance, Ella and I found each other. We laughed and cried. Drove to Dampierre, 30 miles southwest of Paris. Met Julie and Luc Hermann. Knew we would have fun together. Had dinner and talked until 2pm. Ella and Bruno had done everything. Ella had a briefcase filled with information on the show. This "thing" had gone on for a year and a half. Paintings were still in customs. It was going to be close. Show starts Sun.
Dampierre, France Fri. Nov. 15
It was a slow day. Ate French bread while walking streets of Dampierre. Drove country side in the rain with Ella, Julie and Luc. Paintings were delivered at 6pm. Bruno arrived home at10:30 from eastern France. He's still funny. Enjoyed frozen vodka til 1am.
Dampierre, Sat. Nov. 16
Went to Versailles to pick up furniture. Lots of hunters were finishing in the fields. Hermann's had six people in for dinner, including Steve Croft from Atlanta (of all places). Steve is the publisher of Textile World, one of the magazines Bruno sells. Ended the evening with frozen vodka at 1:30.
Dampierre - Paris Sun. Nov. 17
Helped Bruno hang a bathroom cabinet. He gets mad in French. Walked to the village with Julie and Luc for bread. Hung paintings at Jean Camion Galerie and Ella said the right thing: "They're up in Paris." Bill Dowling, a close friend from New York, sent a telegram wishing me much success. I almost cried. The galerie had 17th Century stone walls and beamed ceiling. Galerie had very French john. You stand up and aim...and pray. Checked in at Hotel Vieux Paris near Notre Dame. Very small. WC was in hall stairwell. They didn't speak English. Couldn't find el shower. Went to bed at 9:30 to wake at 5:30 to look for the ragwoman.
Paris, Mon. Nov. 18
Woke at 5:30 and walked streets looking for the ragwoman. No luck. Opened galerie at 11am. Had lunch alone. It's damn difficult ordering without the right tongue. Closed galerie at 7:30pm. Took nap til 8:45 and went to theatre on St. Michel to see The Great Gatsby til 11:45. It was bad. Read til 1am.
Paris, Tue. Nov. 19
Woke at 8:30 and took my bath standing up for the second day. It's the day of the general strike and my vernissage is tonight. No electric and some stores are closed. There's confusion. Opened galerie at 10:30 and found telegram from Carol and Ollie (my sec. and partner at Feight & White Advertising. Had lunch with Dot Slak of the U.S. Information Agency. Approx 40 people came to the vernissage. Sold The Fiddler. Ten of us went to the Café Coupole for dinner. The Impressionists had painted the walls 100 years ago. The Hermanns took me to a café near Notre Dame at 2pm.
Paris, Wed. Nov. 20
Surprised! Discovered shower in hotel...after three days of taking my bath standing up. I'll never learn to ask, especially in French. Had lunch with Julie, Luc and Ella in a café near the School of Art. Had dinner with Hidie and Lucin Sa at Au Bateau Lavoir on Montmartre. This restaurant will expose my paintings. We laughed and drank til 1:30 with the owner Odette.
Paris, Thur. Nov. 21
Saw Saint Chappelle. Fantastic. Waited in line for one hour for Impressionists exposition at Grand Palais. It was the 100th anniversary of their first show in Paris. Called home for Scott's 6th birthday. Linda and the boys sounded great. Had dinner with Louise and All Sklower. Drove back to "Old Hotel" in the rain. It was a beautiful day.
Paris, Fri. Nov. 22
Rainy day. Shopped on Champs-Elysees. Took paintings to Au Bateau Lavoir and had a long French lunch with Bruno "the second". He convinced the restaurant people they should hang Feight. Took motorcycle down Montmarte and hung on with my life. Met Galerie Mouffe manage at my galerie. They want to represent me. Cheers! Went to Betty Rocher's home with 15 people for dinner and good talk.
Paris, Sat. Nov. 23
Ran to Louvre to see Winged Victory, Venus de Milo, Rembrandt's room and Mona Lisa. They were all beautiful. Walked through the Tuileries Gardens to Musee du Jeu de Paume. The Impressionists are there. They laid it down with their hearts. Allen Campbell, a friend from the States and now living in Amsterdam, came to the galerie. Left for Dampierre by train to meet Ella (God bless her) and the kids at the St. Remey station. Had dinner and frozen vodka.
Dampierre - Paris - New York - Atlanta, Sun. Nov. 24
Ella, Bruno and I discussed our plan of attack with the paintings now that they are in France forever. Bruno took me to Charlie Airport for 1pm flight to New York/Atlanta. Linda and my boys were waiting for me at the gate. Scott cried. So did Daddy. It was the end of a beautiful trip.
On the plane out of Paris, I wrote a letter to my friends, making a public statement that I would put myself in a place where I could help someone else. I had come to the conclusion on the plane back from Paris that I wasn't helping anyone but myself...I was just painting to compete...to be better than the next artist...to sell my work. I thought about my grandfather, the country doctor. He had lived his dream...he gave medicine to those who couldn't afford to pay. He didn't put limits on his dreams. I didn't have a dream.
After my Paris show I started volunteering at Northside Hospital. I had promised in this letter to my friends on my return from Paris that I would find something of value to do.
I had just read Richard Bach's book titled Jonathan Livingston Seagull. That bird discovered that through his mistakes he could become better...become who he was meant to be. He discovered that deep down in his soul he should not put limits on his dreams. I try to live by that motto... never, never put limits on your dreams.