#4 - Church of Thieves

Sept 26, 1999 - Paris, France - last show of the tour

Paris Audience

Today after we played and got paid for this last show, Rick's entire bag was ripped off. We lost around $1500 - $2000, all the money we had made on the tour; and all of Rick's personal belongings; his passport, toiletries, palm pilot, library books, electric shaver, because we stupidly went to a tourist area at night in Paris, and the door of the van was accidentally left open. We are trying to cope with the loss - obviously it's not the money that was lost that upsets us or even Rick's belongings - and I don't think it's the violation that upsets us either (although I am not Rick) - it's the stupidity of the whole thing. How stupid we were to let this happen; in 12 years of touring - with really only one other incident, in Barcelona, really, we should know better.

So the long story is, we played our show and it was really fun. We got 2 encores; hooray. We even played a song we'd not played in 2 years and did it pretty well. Ca bonne.(?)

Midnight, we travelled to Sacre Coeur or something like that; I think it means Church of Thieves, to view the overlook. It was beautiful for the 60 seconds I stood there looking, 3 feet away from the car, until I took a look behind me and noticed the car door ajar. I walked around to the side and noticed a man crouching down, holding MY bag, with my computer in it and all MY stuff. Then he looked at me for what seemed like eternity and then gently put my bag down. It was like I was dreaming. I stood there just staring at him stupidly as he went away. Then I grabbed my bag. Then I stood and thought about all the things I knew that I could do to this man, all the kicks I knew, the grabs, the punches, all the ways that I could potentially kill him, and I DID NOTHING. I just walked slowly toward my bag.

Maybe it's because I didn't see he had Rick's bag with him. Maybe he didn't even have Rick's bag. The rest of the band, standing further away from the car, noticed 2 men running down the thousands of grimy dark stairs between us and the horizon, and they said one of the men was holding a bag. They didn't realize it was Rick's bag. Rick came walking back up the steps and I yelled, Rick, "WHERE'S YOUR BAG?"

We were all stunned after that. We walked around in the dark, looking for the bag, like it had run away like a pesky little puppy and was cowering around the littered grounds. It was long gone. There were people all over the steps to the church in little groups and they all looked like thieves to me. I wanted to grab each one of them and shake Rick's bag out of them.

A couple of minutes later the area cleared out around where we were; probably the gang of thieves decided to go elsewhere, and then I looked on the ground where the man was crouched and found a wallet. The wallet was full of a lot of money.

So now I went walking around, looking for someone who looked like they'd had their wallet ripped off. I was still stunned and pretty soon a police van pulled up, and I ran after it. The police said 3 people had been ripped off in the past 10 minutes, right where we were. I gave them the wallet, and one of them put it in his pocket. Instantly I started wondering if the police were just going to take the money. They were really looking at me suspiciously, too. I had JC explain to them that I'd found the money, and they told us that we should just keep the money then and return the wallet to the police station, because it would just go in the lost and found and be thrown away. Like I could ever keep that money. I can't lie.

Paris Police Station

This is the good part. We travelled to the police station, and that's where the real absurdity began. We were in this almost empty police station for a good 5 hours, while poor Jim and Howie slept in the van, never once complaining. In the station, we met the other people who had been ripped off. One group was an Australian man and a New Zealander woman, the woman had her bag stolen from a bar. They were almost impossible to understand. Then there was a group of two Israeli women with their daughters - they'd had their wallets stolen. Then apparently there was another man, a 4th, who looked really, really mad and didn't speak to any of us. He'd had his bag razored off of him; they just slashed the strap with a razor and took it from him.

Rick standing with the other 2 women who got robbed.

JC had to translate for everyone to the police. We sat in the police station for a good hour before they were able to help us. It was around 2am when we got into this little room the size of the van, with 7 people it. The police input our stories at about 1 word for every 5 minutes, SO SLOWLY, and JC had to translate for both parties as well. At one point the Australian guy said, "HEY! IS that a COPIER, MATES?" and they said, "yes," and he asked if he could use it; they said yes, and he pulled out a book of papers; his diary - and began copying the stack.


I finally began to take pictures - one of the police posed for me, with handcuffs out.

Here is a picture of the desk we were sitting in front of; the police has the contents of the wallet spread out on the desk.

The wallet contents are pretty good too: A bunch of crazily folded bills that are obviously the Israeli woman's money because she had said her bills were folded weird. A bunch of other money which we assume is a 3-way split between the guy who dropped the wallet and the rest of his gang. A condom - for safe sex, of course. An orange card, for the subway, with a bogus address written on it. And get this - 2 folded up papers with about 20 cell-phone numbers and names written in Arabic underneath them. The Israeli women had said that their thieves were Arabic-looking, and I suppose if I think about it, the guy who had my bag looked that way too.

They asked if I could pick this guy out of a lineup and I said no. Anyone who knows me knows of my strange and amazing powers of recognition. (I have none.) On top of it, I had heard everyone else talking about these guys and had my opinion of them colored already. I would hate to pick the wrong guy. I heard about the University Law Class experiment where a guy runs into class and grabs the teacher's bag and runs out, and the teacher asks his students to describe the robber - they all say begin describing, and then a fake student in the class loudly makes a completely incorrect description and by the time the class is over he has the class believing they saw something completely different than what they actually saw.

So the money is not going to be returned to the Israeli woman, or the Australians, or anyone else who lost money that night. It's going to be held at the police station as evidence. I am just a bit angry because I think the woman should get her money back. What kind of lesson is this? If I had kept the money I would have been able to return it to her, I guess. But there is no way I'd have kept the money, even if I had to do it all over again.