I hear that Yoko Ono is going to be in town on Thursday, at Dublin Pop Up Biennal, at Point Village, to visit her wishing tree installation and inaugurate something else. That reminds me of the time I bumped into her when I was living in Paris, and she and her friends were reviving the Fluxus Movement. I wrote a story about it that was broadcast on RTE Sunday Miscellany, and published in the RTE Sunday Miscellany 2004 - 2006 Anthology. I just rooted it out from an old hard drive - here it is!:
Yoko Ono Says Yes
After some French and English at UCD, it was on the Number Ten bus, swinging around into Baggot Street that the ‘there has to be more to life’ epiphany hit. Time to avail of the ‘year out’ option.
Intrepidly browsing Eason’s International magazine shelves an A3-sized magazine called Paris Passion leaped out at me saying ‘Come do an internship in Paris’. Who was I to say no? 22 Rue Yves Toudic, Paris 75009. I wrote it down.
No sooner was I comfortably ensconsed in my teeny chambre de bonne on the swish Avenue de la Grande Armee, than I consulted my Rough Guide for the aforementioned Rue Yves Toudic. Well, when I say ‘comfortably’… A little wider and longer than myself, my room consisted of a single bed and one plug-in electric cooking ring on which I cooked porridge for le petit dejeuner, le dejeuner, et le tea.
Map in hand, out of my Chambre de Bonne I marched, down the six flights of stairs, up past the Arc de Triomphe, down the Champs Elysees and all the way to Place de la République. It was my first foray in Paris. Before the end of day, I was in the Paris Passion Magazine offices saying ‘hi, I saw your advertisement for Interns, when can I start?’…
I was assigned to the Culture Editor, who in turn assigned me to the Classical Music and Opera Listings. ‘Great!’, I enthused. I knew nothing about Classical Music and Opera, but thought it best not to mention that.
For my first assignment, the rather glamorous Culture Editor (I heard she went out with John McEnroe afterwards), asked me to deliver an RSVP to a gallery on Rue de Seine et Bucci. (Couldn’t they have faxed it?). ‘No problem!’, I responded cheerfully and set off on my mission like Indiana Jones.
Beloved Rough Guide in hand, I found the narrow Rue de Seine et Bucci. Confidently, I counted down the numéro’s to find the one I was looking for. But it wasn’t there. How could that be? I paced up and down the rue, trying to figure out the logic of its street numbers. Finally, I resorted to banging on the boarded up entrance of a derelict-looking building where in a causal universe, the gallery should logically be.
No answer. Picturing the faces at Paris Passion when I arrived back with the letter undelivered got me walloping the boarded-up entrance even harder.
Time passed. Eventually a door where there was no door creaked open. Within, a little man whispered: “SSShhhhhhhhh, Yoko Ono and John Cage are in here”. John Who? The little man led me in to a small brightly-lit space with television cameras, a white ladder against a white wall, and, yes, Yoko Ono standing there in all her understated glory with short hair and big bug-eyed glasses. It was unmistakeably her.
I found myself squashed up beside a gentle-looking tall man, who smiled at me benevolently, before moving over so I could lean on the wall beside him. That was John Cage, I discovered later. Yoko nodded at me, and returned her gaze to the camera. I watched on incredulously as she climbed the step-ladder, reached up, took hold of a magnifying glass that was dangling on a piece of string from the ceiling, peered through it at something on the ceiling, and then climbed down the ladder again. She took a moment, before pronouncing delightedly to the camera: “It says yes!“ Miming out climbing actions she elaborated “You see, life’s like that, you’re climbing, climbing, climbing, climbing – and the answer is YES!”
As soon as Yoko concluded her strange display, I handed over the RSVP, and ran out of there as fast as my little legs could carry me. ‘Weirdo’s!’, I thought.
Back in the safety of Paris Passion’s open-plan office, I sidled in front of my computer screen and returned to compiling my listings. A while later I mumbled in a throwaway manner ‘Oh yeah, Yoko Ono and some tall guy called Cage were there recording stuff for TV’.
As if back where I came from - Joyce’s land of the ‘yes, yes, yes’ - this sort of thing happened every day.