I Met Jim…And the World Became a Better Place
The weather in Paris went from Summer to Fall in a nano-second. I spent Saturday morning digging out the boots, storing away the sandals, unearthing the sweaters, jackets and berets (of course). The cotton blanket got taken off the bed and washed to store for next year and the down comforter came out and put on. The fans went into their respective spots on the shelf in a closet and the most miraculous thing happened—I managed to find room in the closets to store the unsightly new air conditioning units over which I have had several sleepless nights. (Yes, this is the dumb kind of stuff that keeps me awake at night.)
The cool weather makes it easier to breathe wearing a mask, but not as pleasant for dining outdoors. This is the big dilemma at the moment—how we will manage dining in restaurants (or out) under the weather circumstances (rainy all this week). Or do we go back to fending for ourselves at home leaving the restaurants without customers? Every day is a new day with Covid-19. One thing for sure, it hasn’t been boring this year in spite of spending much of the year alone or with our friends…virtually.
Paris and its departments in the inner suburbs are now considered to be an “enhanced alert zone.” The newest measures for Paris, as posted on the 25th of September include shutting down sports halls and gymnasiums, and bars can stay open only until 10 p.m. as of today and no more take-away drinks after 10 p.m. Masks are obligatory, with some exceptions. Offenders risk a fine of 135€. Museums remain open, but that makes this to be a perfect moment to visit them with so few people inside. The city is seriously trying to avoid another shut-down, and with weather like this, it won’t be too difficult to keep people inside!
Ignoring the inclement weather, I headed out Sunday to pay a visit to my old friend, Jim Haynes.
I’ve always contended that Jim is Paris’ most well-known American, thanks to his Sunday Night Dinner Soirées—that have taken place since 1978 in his apartment with 60 to 80 people—that is until the Covid-19 pandemic struck.
In 42 years, he’s hosted over 250,000 diners in his own home, although with lots of repeat customers. So, if you were to do a rough estimate, you could count about half to have been regulars or occasionals, and the other half one-timers. Either way, that’s a helluva lot of people to welcome and feed.
According to Jim, “If people could meet each other more easily, the world would become a better place.”
I met Jim just like most people, at one of his soirées. Or maybe it was somewhere else and then I attended his event. I can’t remember now—it was too many years ago. Jim incredibly never forgets a face or a name or what you do in life. His memory is uncanny. Over a roast chicken lunch at his atelier-style apartment in the 14th arrondissement, with just Jim and his long-standing buddy, Séamas McSwiney, we heard his stories about interesting people he had come to know over the years. At one point, he couldn’t remember the name of a particular nightclub owner in New Orleans and it was really bugging him that the names weren’t on the tip of his tongue.
On October 1, 2004, almost exactly 16 years ago, I launched my new business, Adrian Leeds Group, with its first “nouvellettre®” and chose to write about Jim Haynes, “Paris’ Most Well-Known American.” I’ve written about him many times over the years because Jim is that inspiring kind of a guy. Everyone who has ever come to know him will agree with me. In fact, two young women who attended his Sunday Night Dinner Soirée, and met there for the first time, decided that very evening to do a documentary about him. They had never done a documentary before and hadn’t known one another until that evening, but against all odds, with no money, managed to pull it off and pull it off very, very well.
“Meeting Jim is a feature length documentary about a journey back to the lifetime of Jim Haynes, an extraordinary 83-year-old man who grabbed with heart and soul the spirit of the 60s and continued to carry it throughout his life. This journey becomes also a physical one when he takes a train from the city of Paris, where he lives, to London and Edinburgh, the cities where he left his unique mark. A journey that will not only bring out his past and memories, but also his carefully preserved collection of human interconnections.” (imdb.com/title/tt6197972/)
Séamas reminded me, too, that Jim was well-enough to travel to Edinburgh in June of 2018 to attend the Edinburgh Film Festival for the premiere of “Meeting Jim”—which was nominated for Best Documentary at its premier there. The Edinburgh Napier University conferred Jim with their Honorary Doctor of Arts. Séamas recorded the entire event and that video can be watched here on Youtube.
Meanwhile, join us for a Special Screening of “Meeting Jim!” at our upcoming Après-Midi, October 13th from 3 to 5 p.m. We hope to be able to Zoom with Jim himself and the producers in a Q and A after the showing. The film is 1 hour 16 minutes long. I’m certain you’ll enjoy “meeting Jim” as much as I have.
A la prochaine…
Adrian Leeds Group
(with Jim, Sunday September 27, 2020)
P.S. I asked Jim and Séamas about the stories…if they were being recorded in some way. And yes they are…Alison Scott is an archivist cataloguing the papers of Jim Haynes. The project has a blog which she uses to publicize the collection and would like to include something from people who knew Jim. If you knew Jim, then perhaps you could contribute a short paragraph about your favorite Jim memory or how you met him along with a favorite image? If you send it to Allison, she’ll post it on the blog which is available here.
“Hello – Thank you, Allison!”
Jim Haynes Living Archive Project
Edinburgh Napier University
Email: [email protected]
Tel: +44 131 455 2264
P.P.S. Jim needs some extra care these days. If you are a caretaker kind of person and would like to trade light services to make Jim feel more comfortable, for free room and board Chez Jim at his home in the 14th district (close to Métro Alésia), contact [email protected] or [email protected] or call either +33 (0) 43 27 17 67 or +33 (0) 6 76 12 23 96.