One cold December day while in Paris, I set out on a mission – to find the grave of Jim Morrison. Yes, Jim Morrison, aka lead singer of The Doors – you know the iconic ’60’s band that helped pave the way for the modern rock era. Morrison had died in Paris the year I was born – 1971. We only occupied this planet at the same time for a few mere months, but something about him had fascinated me for years. I wanted to see his final resting place.
I took the train to the outskirts of Paris. Once leaving the Metro, I set out walking through what appeared to be a very working class part of town – far away from the major tourist sites like the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre. Finally I started seeing a huge wall appear on the left of the sidewalk. It was very tall and you couldn’t see over or around it. After a bit further, I saw the gates of my destination – Pere Lachaise Cemetery.
The cemetery takes its name from the confessor to Louis XIV, Pere Francois de la Chaise, who lived in a Jesuit house rebuilt in 1682 on the site of the chapel. Although the largest cemetery in Paris, it wasn’t even part of the city until the early nineteenth century. In the beginning, due to the cemetery’s distance from the city, people had to be enticed to be buried there. Famous graves were relocated to the cemetery so it would become “fashionable.” Today there are over 300,000 souls who call Pere Lachaise their final resting place, including Jim Morrison.
Finding his actual grave took some diligence. Full of confidence at first, I stumbled along with my trusty map figuring I would just follow the many arrows left behind by others that pointed the way to “Jim.” Somehow this plan didn’t get me far and I soon found myself trying to speak French with one of the caretakers. Basically I resorted to “Jim Morrison?” and that got the job done. I was so close to the grave at the time I asked, Jim was probably laughing his ass off.
His nondescript tombstone was hidden behind a much larger above ground mausoleum. The back of this mausoleum had been defaced over the years by fans coming to pay their respects to Jim. You could see that the caretakers had tried to repair the damage time and again, but each repair seemed only to bite deeper into the stone. Now it has the appearance of an arm once a tattoo has been removed – sandblasted.
The grave itself was tiny and sandwiched between two others. There was hardly enough room to squeeze in between to get a picture. Flowers, both fresh and not so fresh, littered the grave, as did the remnants of candles, cigarettes, and a few tokes. Even today, almost forty years after his death, people like me still come to visit. Some even stay a while and have a drink at the grave. I bet Chopin, buried in the same cemetery, doesn’t get this kind of action. The day I visited, no one else was around. It was one of those cold, overcast, winter days. The trees around still had lingering color from the previous fall. Other than the wind and an occasional leaf hitting the stone pavement, there was only silence. Somehow I think Jim would’ve liked that.