March 2 - March 3
Our plans have changed
We are no longer staying in the 11th, but we have taken a place in the fifth on Cardinal Lemoine for the month of March. We got here this morning with many things going well and a few things not so much. After a few immigration officials sent us from one line to another with very suspect explanations, I got to Passport Control handed him my passport and he said "Non", just "Non". He might have even folded his arms.
If you have been reading our travelogues over the years, you have noticed how much we love the French. We sing their praises constantly. So this was a big change. I burst into English trying to explain that we had been sent here by the women in their suits and ID tags but he seemed to be adamant. The solution was simple but odd. He was one of two guys sharing a booth with exactly the same signage over their heads. He was doing EU passports only and the guy next to him was doing tout passeports (all passports), so I just slipped myself into the other line and sailed through. Mostly, you just have to smile.
We outsmarted ourselves by moving a few heavy things to our roller bags to make our backpacks a little lighter, but forgetting that we would have to lift these same bags up and down stairs making the transfer from the RER to the metro and then getting out of the Metro at Cardinal Lemoine.
On the train, I thought we would be able to send a message to Pascal, the guy who was going to let us into the apartment, but no. I may figure this out, but for now we can communicate when we are in the apartment through wifi. Dawn spoke to the woman in the bike shop next door and she allowed Dawn to use her phone and make the call and Pascal came down and let us in and gave us a quick tour of the place.
Small, but we knew that. Dawn thinks a little dusty but that may be a function of being in central Paris or the construction in the air shaft of the building. It is actually next door. They have scaffolding up and are probably doing a total rehab of that building.
Construction? Did I mention construction? Our window from the bedroom and toilet open onto the air shaft of the building . Kind of noisy, but not always. We can also see the workers' reflections in the windows across the street when they are on the roof. They come at 9 AM and leave at 5 PM and take an hour for lunch. In the morning the sun projects their shadows on the same building wall across the street.
Within a one minute walk from our front door:
Our friends, Isabelle et Jean
Aforementioned bike rental place.
several bread stores
Le Petit Cardinal, a cafe, bar and restaurant (See the photo taken from our window overlooking Cardinal Lemoine). This is our favorite bar, perhaps because of the purple awnings, Dawn's favorite color.
Le Carrefour, a small version of a very good chain supermarket
Cardinal Lemoine metro stop
Bus stop for the 89
Place Contrescarpe (maybe 2 or 3 minutes on foot), a high-priced area with cafes and restaurants, another good boulangerie, and rue Mouffetard, a medieval street well-known to tourists for its markets...but charming, nonetheless
the Sorbonne and a host of other schools
the Pantheon (well, maybe five minutes on foot)
the Seine (maybe five minutes also)
Being in such a familiar quartier is a bit like coming home. On our first full day here, we took a long walk through the Arenes Lutece, the Jardin des Plantes, over to the river. It is a little bittersweet as we walked in so many of these places with our friend, Malek. We are thinking about creating some kind of video here as an homage to him. Veronique sent us the last poem that he ever wrote, and it is beautiful. I believe he became Buddhist, and the poem was heartbreakingly prescient. He wrote of us becoming the sky, becoming the sunrise, becoming a whispering stream, and being conduits for all things natural and luminous. It will be a challenge to make a piece that does justice to the poem.
Lunch with Isabelle and Jean
The day before we made a date with Isabelle to have lunch with them at a Vietnamese Restaurant up on Contrascarpe. It is really interesting. They are a wonderful couple and have maintained their sense of humor about each other that is wonderful. We learned more about the exhibition that he (really they) is mounting down at the Henri Martin Musée in Cahors, near their house in Çezac. It will really be a history of his life with his art and poems, photographs of him with his friends and colleagues, and many politicians, photographs taken by his children. We need to go down there to the opening and will make plans in the week to come.
The proprietor in the Vietnamese restaurant knows just about everyone in the place. It is small and he snakes his way around directing newcomers to their tables delivering food and picking up empty plates. Isabelle is late so Jean orders for her and has his regular dish. We have one of each of the Menus. Chicken for Dawn and pork for me. I manage to get the check although it might be bad manners.
After lunch, Isabelle and I go to Picards which is a store that sells only frozen food, maybe 200 different items. She says many of them are very good. I don't buy anything but do watch her and find out what the really good items are. We have a very small kitchen, and we may not want to always make things from scratch.
For Isabelle to say that a pre-made soup is good is a big deal; she is an excellent soup-maker herself and only recently has treated herself to a little help from products like Picard's.
I love being here in Paris. Mexico and San Francisco were wonderful in their way, but Paris opens its arms to me in a way that no other place in the world does. I don't speak French, only well enough to get a drink or buy a baguette but not enough to be really friendly the way Dawn is.
Another beautiful day, we went leisurely through the Jardin du Luxumbourg, a classic Parisian park, with the kids sailing the little sailboats in the pond and spring flowers actually beginning to bloom! Yes, crocus in bloom, and Sunday, March 8, daffodils were starting to bloom! I hope you Boston folks will get steady slow melting enough to enjoy some spring flowers in April!
Before we went to the garden we stopped by a couple of gyms looking for some classes for Dawn. We are in a swanky neighborhood so the prices seemed really high. On the way back we wandered up a small street toward Mouffetard and then cut across Place du Pantheon, looking for some monastery that Dawn saw in the travel book. We didn't quite find it.We did find the City of Paris local gym and swimming pool. I hung around in the lobby while Dawn took a tour.
We did find the City of Paris local gym and swimming pool. I hung around in the lobby while Dawn took a tour.
On the way back, we probably stopped in at the Petit Cardinal for a glass of something. We usually sit at the bar and have a glass of wine or espresso or beer. If it wasn't this day, it was the next. We do it a lot.
The photo is from my favorite seat at the Petit Cardinal.
We are going to stop organizing by date and start by topic. We will now be writing about things as we think about them even though we will be outside of time. If we hate it, we'll go back.
In our little apartment, I found a book called Paris, Secret et Insolite
(secret and unusual) it lists unusual places off the tourist list, neighborhood by neighborhood. If you have never been to Paris before or if you have only a week, it would be a book to ignore. However, having had the pleasure of visiting Paris many times before and enjoying most of the "must-see" sites, it seemed like a good idea to discover parts of the city that we do not know at all. So we have been getting out of the "bubble" as our new friend Catharine calls the center of Paris.
In the 19th arrondissement we walked over to the Canal St. Martin and found a neighborhood filled with all kinds of people, much more diverse than the center, more colorful, more different languages, clothes, etc.. The "secret" was an old Prussian church, now Russian Orthodox. It has a wooden porch with cutout designs and beautiful paintings of saints. The whole place had the air of being Japanese, although it was kind of rundown. We were not able to get in, although a gentleman doing research at the adjacent library said the priest should be there in 15 minutes for vespers. Since we were not there for the religion but or the art, we decided not to wait.
We walked over to the park, Butte-Chaumont which was a total surprise.
Maxwell Parish on steroids. We will have to go back on a sunny day to get the blue sky and probably should hire some Isadora Duncan dancers to complete the picture. It was an old quarry and the butte is what they left after finished taking the gypsum. Two bridges connect the butte to the surrounding city and it is topped by a Roman Portico. The whole thing is outlandish.
We headed for another Paris, Secret et Insolite
suggestion, a neighborhood a small houses built for the quarry workers. Everything is relative and now they are large, for Paris, houses for upscale Parisians. They have beautiful gardens in front and each pair of rows face a cobblestone drive just wide enough for one car. Some are divided into two or three flats but most remain single family homes.
Another day we went over to the 15th, practically at the perepherique (beltway), around the city.
We were looking for the Parc Andre Citröen that Catharine had mentioned but discovered “La Petite Ceinture du 15me”, a walking path that was made by transforming train tracks that used to carry people and also goods to factories around the edge of the city. They are trying to make it an "Eco" place, although at this time of year, there is not a whole lot growing. Nevertheless lots of folks of all ages walk or run there. They even have an elevator for wheelchairs which is not the case throughout the city.
But now I have to talk about something not at all secret or insolite, our visit to the Marmatton Museum. Well, maybe it is a bit secret and unusual because it is not in the city center where most of the museums and monuments are, but it is still "an art museum." It is in a very elegant, right bank arrondissement, the 16th. It started out as a hunting lodge and was later turned into a townhouse. before the family donated as a museum. What got us there were the posters all over town of the back of a standing nude woman at her "toilette."
The title of the exposition was "La Toilette, la naissance de l'intime." It was one of those themed shows that I thought actually worked. (As against the "Gorgeous" show at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco which felt so contrived to me.) It was a history of women's bathing, toilet, and cosmetic practices through art over several centuries, including a couple of racy paintings by Boucher, 18th c. There was some beautiful work there including Manet and Morisot.
However, what really got me was the huge collection of Monet paintings donated by his son, around 1970. The Marmatton was formerly a sumptuous private home. As you walk in the building, the dining room sports a few Renoirs, Caillebottes, a Corot and a Chagall. A special place was designed downstairs for the amazing collection donated by Michel Monet. Now I know that Monet was cutting edge over a hundred years ago, but I was still brought to tears when surrounded by his paintings...maybe because my mother loved his work so much, and as a painter wished that her work could be as "free or loose" as his. While there were many familiar subjects, especially the water lilies that he could paint hundreds of times and they would always differ, there were some that I had never seen reproductions of...les glycines, the (wisteria), for example, almost totally abstract, just color, shape and light. The man was incredibly prolific. Maybe I became so emotional being in the presence of such daily discipline, with such beautiful results, an artist painting what he saw, the shimmer of light, how colors changed with time of day, regardless of whether his art was "accepted" at the time.
April Will Be in the 11th
Today we stood in an apartment on Rue Auguste Barbier with the owner and made a deal to rent it for the month of April. No pens, no paper. Julie gave me the the name and password of the wifi and I pulled out the laptop and signed into Airbnb and clicked on a bunch of buttons, sent my rental request out in the internet where it came back to her phone and she accepted my offer and we had a deal. Scant minutes before someone else was in line to grab it.
It is not the apartment that Dawn wanted, but it was the one that was ours if we said so. I feel they are going fast now and I wanted this search to be behind us. The other one is many dollars more but bigger and with views of most of the sacred cows of Paris: Eiffel Tower, Sacre Coeur, Notre Dame, etc. Maybe that will be for May. (Dawn is thinking that we should we should head out in May to Provence or Norway or Padua or Italy). I am thinking we will just hitting our stride.
The apartment is near the Canal St. Martin. It goes from the Seine up to the Bastille and then goes underground up past the Blvd du Republic where it comes out again. But there is more to it. There are locks at both ends of the tunnel because they have to send the boats down to get through the tunnel and then lift them up again to get out. I have never been in the tunnel but I grabbed a photo in order to see.
March seems to be the month for sprucing up Paris. Perhaps they are getting ready for the deluge of tourists to come in spring and summer. This morning we have a jackhammer tearing up the sidewalk beneath our window. They are replacing some underground pipes throughout the neighborhood. This sound, in addition to the daily workers' sounds in the air shaft right outside the bedroom window, makes for an interesting atmosphere for meditation! Sometimes I move from focus on the breath to a little John Cage focus on the "symphony of sound" around me. It seems to turn something inherently annoying into something useful.
They are also rebuilding the shelters for many of the bus stops so there is green fencing around many, making us question where we should actually wait for the bus. Last week a crane came to the stop across the street and lifted a new roof onto the shelter. Oh, and did I mention that the dome of the Pantheon is covered in a huge tarp because of the Travaux they are doing there? At least the tarp is printed with large photos of peoples faces, quite interesting really.
(At right, a photo shows the scaffolding going up. It and the crane are supported by four towers and nothing touches the dome itself. JSB)
I should also say that during our walks and bus rides through town, we have noticed how many great monuments have been cleaned since we were last here. For example, the impressive Gothic cathedral of Notre Dame is no longer gray; it is a beautiful blonde sandstone kind of color.
Oddly enough, we also live across the street from the firehouse, reminding us of the firehouse not far from our home on Cummins Highway. The sirens here are completely different, reminiscent of those sirens that one hears in all those gruesome films about WWII. The interesting part, though, is watching the pompiers practice their skills. They have apparently rented an apartment a couple of floors up in the same building that houses their engines. Every so often, they get out there in full regalia and practice getting the ladder up, getting the hoses going, etc. I haven't seen a practice rescue yet, but maybe that's next.
A week or so ago, we were walking on Île de la Cité, behind Notre Dame and noticed some glittering colors all along the railings of the bridge, the Pont l'Archevêque. I thought it was an art installation. As we started crossing the bridge, we saw that there were thousands, yes thousands, of metal padlocks attached to the grillwork of the railings. Upon closer inspection, we saw names, initials, hearts, declarations of everlasting love, etc. I wondered if an artist started a collective project. I took some pictures because it was such an arresting sight.
When we got back to the apartment, Stephen did a little research and found out that since the year 2,000, padlocks have been showing up like this in cities around the world. Apparently it is a revival of a tradition started in the early 20th century in which lovers lock a padlock to a public place, usually a bridge, then throw the key in the river. Although to my eye, it is mostly beautiful, it is apparently a major nuisance and safety hazard. The metal locks weigh a lot and have brought down sections of railings. Using a metal saw to remove them also potentially damages the bridges. It is really too bad because now the city government is putting up different kinds of railings to which people cannot attach locks. Problem is, those railings are mostly kind of ugly....combinations of concrete and plexiglass.
It seems such an irony that the City of Light, known as a haven for lovers, is experiencing slow destruction of one aspect of its beauty by people who come here to leave a tangible memento of their love.
You know you are old when you have to think about how you feel about the "Love Locks". As a young man in love, the rest of the universe disappears. You crave the intensity of your own emotions. The closing of the lock is the perfect metaphor, it is the height of grasping, of possession, of desire. It is Paris, you are young and your love will never die. Anything to remove the uncertainty is to be desired.
We should have more sympathy for the pain of this uncertainty and their desperate attempt to stave off the future. Now, we know love dies. The single rose given to your love is perhaps a more elegant symbol than a lock with no key. Its complexity of shape and color, its death or preservation as a dried flower foretells the difficulty of the relationship for anyone who cares to notice. But you can give another rose, write another poem. If your love doesn't die, it changes. But we didn't know that. We didn't know anything then.
Maybe we could start another tradition. The same guys that sell the locks and do the engraving could rent bolt cutters with four foot handles. I am sure that they would easily go through 90% of the locks. Then the people that believe in love with a lighter touch or believe that most of the lovers have moved on, or just that they are ugly could cut away at their hearts' content.
I have created two sides here but they don't exist. I can believe that the locks are wonderful and terrible at the same time. I was hoping a Möbius strip would be the apt metaphor for this situation, but it is going to fall short. Even though it creates one side out of two, it goes in a circle that seems dizzying. Maybe I can save it by making it infinitely long and wide, and put everything on it so although it looks like there are two sides to everything, actually there is only one.
One More Comment
from Lily Cockerill:
It's a new habit that's taken off on the Brooklyn Bridge in NY. We saw the padlocks when we were there. It's a lovely idea...although the padlocks with combination locks seem to have missed the point!
We went to the David Bowie Exposition. To get the difficulties out of the way first: We bought our tickets online and signed up for the first admission slot at noon. They said we could pick our tickets up one hour before Exhibit opened. That wasn't true and it wasn't true that they had any velvet ropes up or anyone one there who know what was happening before many people arrived and we all just milled around. It was true that they sold a lot of tickets and it was crowded.
But after we got in and picked up our Sennheiser audio devices the day really began.
From the Sennheiser Website:
Sound at the heart of the exhibition
The exhibition is designed to be an immersive audio experience. Sound quality is therefore one of the most critical elements, and the organizers have drawn on the expertise and technology of audio specialist Sennheiser to craft the exhibition’s rich soundscape.
Fittingly for a tribute to an artist that has embraced technology throughout his career, the exhibition uses leading edge tools to blend sound and vision. Audio guides, powered by Sennheiser’s guidePORT system, automatically provide the music and soundtrack when visitors approach the exhibits and screens, and seamlessly integrate all sound material into the tour. The exhibition will use 550 body packs with Sennheiser stereo headphones, offering a simple solution that lets the visitor explore Bowie’s music, art, and style with all their senses.
While two audio events are directly stored on the visitors’ body pack receivers, a welcome text when entering the exhibition and an “extro” when leaving, all other music and video sound is transmitted as real-time, lip-sync stereo audio from eleven twin cell transmitters. These rackmount units are located in two control rooms that also accommodate the control PC for the guidePORT system. The visitors’ receivers automatically download the audio when they pass by the corresponding guidePORT antenna units, and “know” which track to play when they approach so-called identifiers, small trigger units placed near the exhibits, just like an indoor GPS.
This is a fully automated yet entirely personal tour, as the exhibition can be explored in whatever order and at any pace whatsoever. The audio is always played at the right time for each visitor,” explains Norbert Hilbich, Sennheiser Application Engineering, who assisted in the set-up of the guidePORT system. Tours with a tour-guide are possible too. For this, the museum uses a convenient body pack transmitter with a headset microphone, enabling the guides to both make tailor-made commentary for their guests and trigger any of the pre-recorded exhibition material as they like.
One of the sweetest moments in the exhibition was the five minute video. It must be from the year he took off from pop music to study and tour with his theater and mime mentor, Lindsay Kemp. You can find some interesting videos of both Lindsay's dance company and his video work by searching online.
The video is the classic mask story, of someone who finds a mask and realizing that when he puts it on he becomes liked , popular and then famous. Of course, toward the end he can't remove it. I won't spoil the ending. He performs it honestly and straightforwardly and in the context of this mega pop star show it is at least awkward. It speaks of his balls that he put it into the show.
The photo is not from the mime video, but it seemed to me to be the most "David" we are ever going to see.
This was indeed a totally immersive, multimedia experience. The sound quality was fabulous, and so important. Normally we don't get audio guides to exhibits, but this was different. It wasn't about "explaining" what we were seeing. Half the show was the sound. We could hear Bowie speaking in various video interviews or slide shows, and his music was synced with every music-video presented...and there were many over his long career. Plus the spaces were beautifully designed to allow the visitor to enter into the experience as against just witnessing it.
From a MassArt point of view, Bowie was a SIM kinda guy. Yes, very much in the pop/rock roster of greats, but also a performance artist at heart, transforming himself into so many different personas. Ziggy Stardust was probably the main catapult into fame. AND he knew how to collaborate, how to gather visual artists, designers, film-video and sound people to support and expand his visions. Oh, and the guy could paint too. During his Berlin years, post LA and de-toxing from who knows what drugs, he gave himself time and permission to do whatever. His paintings, mostly large portraits, were reminiscent of Edvard Munch with "Scream"-like intensity.
After a couple of hours of perusing all the amazing costumes, videos, sketches, writings, recordings, we "exited" (next to a photo of Bowie at a stage-door exit) and turned in our headsets. Then we entered yet another large, high-ceilinged space called something like "Bowie Live...in Performance." Now the sound was all around us, yes loud, but perfectly balanced and not irritating. Large video projections of various live performances played on different walls behind which life-size mannequins in Bowie costumes would shift in and out of sight. People could lounge on deep, cushioned benches in the center of the space. Oh, I wanted to DANCE! Couldn't believe no one was dancing. There were plenty of young folks there too, not just old retirees like us. Well, I did my little unobtrusive grooving but would've loved to move big!
It all started in Mexico City, at the Red Tree House. We were having breakfast and the couple across the table, upon hearing that we were going to Paris, mentioned that their son had played in a bar named Coulée Douzieme or something like that. Now we can't remember quite who that was but we think it was the Canadian couple from north of Toronto.
The place turned out to be the Coulée Douce, a little wordplay (sweet against twelve, the arrondissement that the bar was in. It also sold bio spices, wines and meat. The website said they were closed all day Saturday and opened on Sunday around 4 PM for the 5 PM concert. For the last ten years or so, on Thursdays they have the occasional mathematics lecture. One guy ran it. I assume he was the owner.
Manu is the guy on the left in the poster.
This place belonged in Dawn's book, Secret and Insolite de Paris.
It is out in the middle of nowhere. It wasn't opened when we arrived and being cold we headed out to get a coffee to warm up. Must have been five blocks. I mean, this is Paris!
We got back to find it open with a couple at the bar.We joined them and had a glass of wine at the bar as people began to trickle in. The place is not very big.
Manu himself came in shortly and began to set up his microphone. The picture was taken from the back of the room. The owner set up some more chairs and turned on the light behind the mirror that you can see in the picture. The volume seemed kind of loud so I made a decision to sit at a table at the back of the room. We put our coats on two of the chairs. Before we sat down a handsome guy sat down on the other. I kind of assumed that the owner would bring more chairs and that everyone would be seated.
Wrong. On the right you can see the results. Could not see a thing but the music sounded great, so we just sat and listened.
I could see the patron and was able refresh my beer (I had switched) by just a wave. People kept coming in. There was a one drink cover, about 3 Euros, but I am not sure that the last people could cross the ten feet to reach the bar.
Like the Bazaar cafe show in San Francisco with Mike Simpson and Judi Jaeger and Simon Kanzler CD release party in Berlin, I think we were the only people in the room that didn't know the performers. This is the other Cafe Society of Paris, where hearing music is supporting it. We left after two sets, throwing some Euros into the hat that was passed. Actually, I decided that we had not contributed enough and went to the stage area and asked Manu for the hat. None was there so I just handed him the money.
So when Manu came in from his pre-show glass of wine and cigarette, he proceeded to greet everyone with the French double kiss on the cheeks, including the man sitting next to us who said, "Tout le monde ici le connait." Every one here knows him, to which I said "sauf nous!" (except us.) So the man whose name was David, and I had an interesting conversation on breaks between the music. Turns out he had been an aspiring actor but gave it up about fifteen years ago in order to feed his family, basically. He admires Manu for knowing that he wanted to sing since he was five and that he still does it, even though he has a day job as well. Sound familiar? David said that while France still has an active cultural life (like duh...), government support is always decreasing. This, in a country where dance companies are installed in all the provinces with paid artists and staff, studios and performance spaces. However, I guess it's all relative, and David said that if you want to commit to being a musician, actor, or dancer, you have to be ready to eat a lot of pasta.
The detail-minded reader will notice that I said that Manu had a cigarette before singing...so did David Bowie in all those interview clips. It is sad to see that there is still such a culture of smoking here in Paris, and especially that so many young people are doing it. I certainly did enjoy smoking at certain times in my life, but the idea that even singers who depend on their voices....and of course the smokers are driven outside because there are laws against smoking inside now, so the streets are littered with butts, which really bugs our friend Isabelle who says that in other European cities, there are unobtrusive standing ashtrays on the sidewalks. I think that was a run-on sentence. Time to quit for the evening!
After getting back from a long walk in the fourteenth, Dawn started her yoga so I grabbed the laptop and headed to the Petit Cardinal to get in some writing. I gave myself an hour and a half and said I would be back around six. I did get some in, the new part about the mime video
at the David Bowie exhibition. But then Pascal came in and sat down, ordered a glass of wine and we talked for a while until Tristan came in and then he and I talked for a while. I emailed Dawn but then my phone ran out of power and I didn't get any more of her messages. By the time I got home, it was eight thirty. Not so good.
I did arrange for us to go to a showing of Pascal and Tristan's friend art work next Wednesday in his studio in the building next to ours. A kind of "bring a bottle of wine and talk about and look at art" kind of event. Also, the five of us (including Pascal's wife) will get together for a drink in the near future. Although Pascal works at hotels, he is in fact an historian and writing a book about Jean-Andoche Junot who was Napoleon's first secretary and later commanded some of his armies.
Pascal works one day a week at the Hotel des Grandes Ecoles of which he had a couple of crazy stories which we can add to our collection. Last Sunday, Veronique told us some stories about staying their when it was more of a youth hostel and then another about when she first met Malek. We can add some from our own experience there. They range from semi-scandalous to weird so we will just leave them be. Tristan has been traveling as part of his work as a journalist. He sang the praises of Romania especially the part called Transylvania. I thought tourism would be undeveloped in this part of the world, but he said no, there are a lot of tourists.
Well one story led to another and one beer always seemed to generate another (It was a two toilette trip evening) and between Pascal and Tristan I am not sure I got in to pay for a round. Next time.
Stephen found a studio/performance place on the Internet, so we went to a performance at "Le Regard du Cygne" Thursday afternoon,. We heard someone say she was from Boston, et voilà, it was Amy that went to college with our good friend, Micki. She has done an amazing job with developing this little dance center in the 20th arrondisement...since 1982! She is now trying to pass the torch. She was very generous with offers to help out with whatever, and for us to stay at her place in Normandy, if we want.
The space is yet another renovated écurie (stable), and somehow Amy got the city of Paris to help subsidize renovations. It reminded us of Dock 11 in Berlin. They both are small, but attractive and have the obligatory bar for European venues with coffee, soft drinks, and wine available. The program was four solos, nothing embarrassing, all thoughtfully made and well performed, but nothing that blew your sox off! However, at 5 Euros a pop for tickets, we will go back and see some other performances.
Au contraire, we went to Theatre de la Ville Wednesday night and saw a wonderfully surprising, refreshing piece "organized" by Robyn Orlin, a white South African choreographer, and performed by a fabulous group of Senegalese men. I wouldn't be surprised if Maure brings it to Boston. Full of surprises, and a modern, often humorous take on traditional African dance and contemporary street dance, with some "audience participation" to boot....some politics involved too. The thematic percussion instruments of the evening were flip-flops, whether worn on the feet or used in the hands. Because we were the fortunate recipients of tickets from our friend Jean who is the president of the board of the theater, we were sitting third row center. So when the flip-flop, sunglass wearing dancers climbed into the audience and balanced on the arms of the seats, we were definitely "up close and personal." The piece was based on a traditional lion ceremony in which young men express their bravery and fierceness. In this case, it was virtuosic dance bravado, but also tongue-in-cheek. They had a great sense of humor about themselves.
Tristan's place in the fifth is in a fabulous location, especially if you have never been to Paris before. If you have a sense of adventure, you will really like this place. It evokes the Paris of the writer, artist and composer. It is in the center of old Paris, within a walk from so many of the icons. Place Contrescarpe and Rue Mouffetard are nearby with their countless cafes and restaurants. L’Estrapade and L’écurie are two that we enjoyed. Our favorite place for a coffee or a drink is nearby Le Petit Cardinal.
We were there for the month of March. The apartment itself has a lot of personality. It reminds me of my hippy days, with lots of color, lots of cushions, a couch and a covered army cot in the living room and a mattress on the floor in a dark, walk-through bedroom. The front windows have an extra pane for sound insulation. There are lots of books about Paris and a few art books. The bathroom is very nice with the traditionally French separate toilet room. The kitchen is tiny and has room for only one person, which was a small problem for us because we usually cook and clean up together. The microwave is versatile; you can broil or make toast in it, but there is no oven.
We were there when there was construction work in both the building adjacent to ours and on the sidewalk under the front window. So the main problem for us was noise and dust. We think the work in the street is ending, but it might be a good idea to ask Tristan how the renovation work next door is going. They work only during business hours so most of time, you would probably be out while they are making noise. Being there for a month we did not feel compelled to get out every morning at 9:00 hence the noise may have been more of a problem for us than for most folks who may stay a week.
One of the things we most enjoy about travel is meeting people. Tristan was out of town when we arrived so his friend Pascal greeted us and took care of us and anything that came up. He is a charming, interesting young man as is Tristan who returned to Paris during the last week of our stay. We had drinks with both of them and a studio visit with Bruno, an artist friend of Pascal's.
We recommend the apartment especially for a young single or couple. Some folks in our age group (late sixties & upwards) might find getting in and out of the floor level bed a bit cumbersome. It depends on how good your knees are and how much you enjoy rolling over your partner to get out! If you don't want to climb any stairs, be aware that the apartment is two floors up.
Having visited about five gyms and rejecting them as too expensive or unappealing, I have started dancing again at the Centre de Danse du Marais with Maggie Boogart's improv class and Régine Petit's Nia class (Zumba for hippies, as Stephen calls it.)
The courtyard of the Dance School with the roof of the Pompidou in the back, a view from the dressing room
They are both lovely and very appreciative of whatever it is I bring to the group. Maggie and I have some dear friends in common and have quickly made a nice friendship. In fact, she seems interested in having us do a little presentation about our lives in dance and art and to show some of our videos. On verra (We'll see). Hope so.
Those of you who dance will appreciate this one! The first improv class I went to was all contact with much weight sharing, etc. the students are all in their 20's...and me. Yesterday, the class was more about exploring space, body parts, movement qualities and various relationships to music. She asked the students to watch me several times because as some of you know, I have a particular way of moving and take the rules of the score seriously. When discussing the space improv in the group, I mentioned that restrictions inspire invention, hence the usefulness of "rules" in any given improv structure. I hope that was useful to the class.
Maggie had gone to my website and appreciated my work and the Martha Graham heritage we have in common so introduced me yesterday as a "grande chorégraphe américaine!" She asked me to talk about my time at the Graham school and how that influenced me, etc...all of which I managed to pull off in (imperfect) French! The students are very sweet, and several thanked me after the class for "inspiring" them. Guess I am not dead yet! (But I am sore :-).
Last Friday we took what I call the "train à moins vitesse" - a little wordplay on the high speed TGV (train à grande vitesse) to Cahors. It was a five and a half hour ride in a compartment with three-person benches on each side. It was an old train and clearly a couchette car for overnight sleeping that was being used for a day trip.
The middle two beds swing down to form the back of the seats. No armrests (to fight over) or lumbar support.We got to the Hotel Terminus about 3:20 and immediately called Isabelle to see how they were doing with the installation of Jean's exhibition. She said, in English, "we are still working like Hell! Please come over as soon as you can."
Although they had gone down there for several days weeks ago to bring the materials to the Henri Martin museum and begin the installation, it turned out that both the director and electrician were ill and unable to work. So there was a lot of last minute hanging, cleaning, and labeling. Stephen did a little refocusing of the lights (first time in 9 months). It was actually done at 5:15, and the opening started at 6:00. Meanwhile they had a twenty-minute drive each way to their house in Cézac because they needed to change clothes. Both in their mid-eighties, they are amazing.
There was a huge crowd for the opening, including three of their daughters and one of their partners and a niece and one of the artists he included in the show. We all had a very late dinner afterwards in a local bistro. I think Jean was very happy with how things turned out and expressed appreciation to all his family and to us. It is an unusual show because it was really autobiographical, including many photos he has taken of family and artist friends, many press photos of him with French luminaries from the political and artistic worlds, his writing, sketches and watercolors as well as paintings and sculptures that he has collected.
We wanted to see our friends who own the vineyard where we made our videos during my sabbatical in fall, 2012, but it just didn't work out for various reasons. So we had a full day to spend in Cahors. Unfortunately it was just as cold there as it has been in Paris, but we bundled up and found a little cafe for morning coffee that allowed us to buy our pain au chocolat next door and bring it in. Then we went to the Saturday morning outdoor market that we have visited and loved so many times. It was just as beautiful, but we couldn't buy much because we were heading back to Paris late that afternoon. Still, we had to get some Cabecou, the wonderful, small round goat cheeses they make in that region and one bottle of a nice Cahors Réserve from our friends at the Domaine de la Garde. Well, they are not really our friends, but when we were staying in Cézac, we either walked or biked over to their Domaine a couple of times and got to know Madame. She is memorable for having asked us where we were from and saying she had never heard of Boston! She also had a classic southern accent that made me think she said viande (meat) when she actually had said avion (airplane.) Now her son is in charge, and upon inquiry, it sounds like his mother may not be doing so well. Yes, everything changes.
After the market, we walked back to the hotel, packed up and checked out. They kept our bags behind the desk so we could walk around unencumbered for the afternoon.
Although we have been to Cahors many a time, we found a warren of small medieval streets to explore that we had never walked before. It is really a lovely town. We found a small place to have a chocolat chaud à l'ancienne. This was like a meal of hot chocolate, the dark thick chocolate having been churning and warming all day. Stephen had a little Kirsch in his.
We stopped into the Cathedral and found much changed, especially the lighting. Also, The windows were completely modern and new since we were last there.
The train back to Paris was modern, and we had side-by-side seats in a coach that was very comfortable. There was even a gentleman with a cart that came through the aisle, like on an airplane, so we could buy a little wine and beer to go with our "meal" of cheese, nuts, prunes, and clementines from the morning market. The train arrived about 11:15 PM at the Gare d'Austerlitz. Two Métro trains and we were home well before midnight. It was a whirlwind trip, but luckily I had a good book that I borrowed from our apartment to read on the train, and we were really glad that we were there for this important episode in our friends' lives.
On moving day I asked the trip planner to take us by bus route with the least amount of walking. Its solution wasn't the fast way but it didn't include any Metro steps, so all we had to do was get down the apartment steps, then on and off two buses and then up the three flights at Julie's. There was some walking, but when you have rolling suitcases, they are meant to be rolled, not carried. Julie's husband Charles met us downstairs and took care of Dawn's worry of the day by carrying her suitcase up to the apartment. He offered to carry mine, but that seemed over the top.
He had been busy in the apartment cleaning the shower stall which had developed a layer of mold during a few months long stay of the previous tenant. It was bad enough that he had to recaulk the seams around the door. We took the opportunity to drop our stuff and head out to lunch at the local on the corner. It is the Caravane, a hippy bar that uses LP's (long playing Vinyl Discs for the youngsters out there) to play their music. The food was good and inexpensive. They stay open from 11 AM to 2 AM the next day and they have WiFi.
During coffee, we got a Whatsapp that Charles was done fixing the shower, so we returned.
The apartment is kind of bauhaus. We have a shower with a door and all the modern appliances: induction burners, digitally controlled oven and a large refrigerator in a kitchen where we can both cook simultaneously, if carefully. The apartment is white including floor, walls and ceiling with a lot of windows and light so we can see our stuff. Pretty much the opposite of Tristan's.
The 11th arrondissement is more racially and culturally diverse than the fifth and exists on a different schedule. On Easter, we left a quiet more upscale neighborhood where we heard a concert, and when we came up the stairs at the Belleville stop we found a teeming crowd packing the street. People were buying clothes, food, filling the brasseries. There were a lot of street stalls selling all kinds of things. The place had a nearly Mexican energy.
Watching Young People Create
I set up the coffee in our electric Moka the night before and did not return to bed when the alarm went off at seven so that we could go down to the Danse Center in the Marais and watch Maggie Boogart's advanced Graham techniques class at 9:30 this morning. The subway was packed and we couldn't even get on the first train that came in. We managed to get on the second train by separating (Gasp) and slipping past separate closing doors, each hoping the other got on. We got there in plenty of time and took our shoes off and entered the Offenbach studio. This spring could it be forty-five years since I last entered the Martha Graham studio? And now it is thirty five years since I have entered any kind of studio with my tights on. I guess that is moving on and looking back it was the right decision. But now we are faced with four young Graham dancers who are going to show us what it means to dance in the Graham technique some eighty five years after she created it.
Okay, well I haven't been in the Graham studio since 1963! I can't even count the years since I was a scholarship student there when in high school, with memories of Martha herself entering the studio and inspiring/scaring the daylights out of us!
It was fascinating to watch Maggie's class. She herself is a tall, lean and lovely mover with tons of power. The students (two French, one Dutch, one Argentinian) worked very hard in that class, doing lots of combinations that they had built over the week. It was interesting to note the similarities and differences from what I remember doing back in the day. Maggie's class tended to have faster tempos and more accented rhythms than I remember. However, the heart of the technique (contraction/release, spiral, breath) remains the same. It was easy to see why I was so attracted to Graham's technique. It is so organic, with all movements of the limbs emanating from deep in the core. I am reminded of a romantic poem that I wrote for my high school literary magazine which started, " As the molten core in the center of the earth causes the ground to tremble, an impulse from the heart of man impels his limbs to dance!" (Those were the days when "man" meant "human being.")
The same evening. we were invited to join our new friend Catherine at a small, informal jazz performance in the fifth at the Auberge Espagnole. She said the keyboard player was Justin, a nineteen year-old friend of her daughter's. She called around 6:00 to say that something had come up with her family so she was unable to attend, but she encouraged us to check it out anyway...which we did. We arrived about 8:30 and were ushered downstairs to a small "cave" where the three guys were set up: keyboard, alto sax and standing bass. We were the only audience there!! I mentioned that Catherine had "sent" us but was unable to attend herself. Justin did not recognize her name, and since I didn't know her daughter's name, I couldn't give him that connection.
However, they were pleased to have an audience of two and launched into some wonderful jazz standards by folks like Thelonius Monk and Charlie Parker. They were really quite good. Eventually, a young woman, who did not know them, showed up as audience, and later some of their friends came...but not many. A lovely tall young woman showed up with her own mic and sang very well, with sophisticated performance technique. Her spoken French with the guys was so natural, but her English pronunciation of the lyrics (like "Love for Sale") was so American, j'ai demandé, "est-ce que vous êtes française ou américaine?" to which she responded "allemande!" (I asked if she was French or American. She replied that she was German!) Stephen and I enjoyed a little dance, in a small space, to the last piece they played. Stephen asked for a card from the alto sax player as he is thinking he might add something to our, still imaginary, video that we may make here in Paris.
So we seem to be surrounded by young people making music and dance. It seems fitting that as I write, today is the annual benefit for the REACH program
, Micki's iteration at BU of the outreach program that Mart and I started so many years ago with Dance Collective. It continues to be a wonderful intergenerational program that serves thousands of city kids with performances and workshops each summer.
We went to see Boston Camerata celebrate their 60th anniversary with a performance at the Theatre de la Ville. Five of them made the trip including Anne and they worked with eleven singers who were studying at an atelier in the 11th. It was a wonderful show. They did Carmina Burana
, not with the Carl Orff music that is so well know but with Medieval Music. Boston Camerata always does a lot of dramatizing when they sing and it was fun to see the choreography for this larger group.
Anne is French so was comfortable introducing the group and the music. The first time I saw Boston Camerata was a snowy night around Christmas a number of years ago up on Cape Ann with Linda and Sage in a small New England church. The whole thing was in French! Surprised me. I understood just a little but it gave the concert of Christmas music the feeling that we had traveled far in both distance and time to some magical place to hear this wonderful music. Since then, we have seen many more concerts and I have done a little lighting for them. We had a little reunion with Anne after the show, short as she was signing programs and CD's for the very appreciative Parisian audience. The couple seated next to us had bought tickets thinking that they were going to hear the Orff version, but loved these settings to the poems.
We can get to the Theatre de la Ville, at the heart of Paris, without crossing a street. Our street winds out to Parmentier and we catch the 11 Metro up at the corner which brings us to the side of theatre on the same side of the street. Today we head for the Bois de Vincennes and we can do the same thing by catching the 46 Bus next to the Metro stop and it ends at the chateau in the park.
Checking out the French Medical System
Dawn was getting over a cold and we decided to go to the Parc Floral in the Bois de Vincennes take a blanket and take turn lying in the sun and admiring the flowers. They have amazing flower beds and that is what we were looking at when Dawn tripped on a broken step and fell awkwardly on her shoulder. On of those falls with a sharp joint pain as the arm is not in a normal position when the shoulder hit the ground. This put an end to our flower tour. Some body went for help and Dawn lay on the ground because if the moved it hurt and sitting up or especially standing hurt.
Various people came by and took information and finally we heard that familiar sound of the Pompiers Sapeurs come through the Park to take Dawn to the hospital.
So we have ridden in one of those sapeur pompiers vehicles. Although it made that wailing sound as it was coming, thankfully it was silent as we made our way to the hospital. The people at the park who helped us were very nice as we worked up what language we would all speak and at what speed. They wore patches that can be translated as "Welcome and Surveillance." I guess that is life in France.
Because of her nausea and wooziness Dawn came into the Emergency room on a gurney and I was sent to the admissions window to take care of Dawn's paperwork, in French. I was churning along when I heard Dawn's cheery voice as she came around the corner in a wheelchair to take over the job. We found Dawn's Blue Cross Blue Shield card and handed that over along with her driver's license .
So now we are in the waiting room after two exams and an x-ray. I have found out where we are by walking over to the main entrance and finding a poster. All the construction around probably explains why there wasn't a sign on the building. We are at a Military Teaching Hospital which explains all the people in Camos. We are not in Paris anymore but in Saint Mandé, a suburb of Paris.
They don't call these waiting rooms for nothing. We are hanging out for a diagnosis that we think will be a damaged rotator cuff.
I am wrong a lot. The doctor came out and said that Dawn broke the top of her humerus, so now we are waiting for a surgeon. After a while, someone came out and told us we could go home. She had papers for us. Two were prescriptions, one for a sling and one for a pain reliever. the other papers were for a physeotheraptists which we should find on our own through the internet. The fall was around 2:30 in the afternoon and now it is about six.
We had one more question, where do we pay? What we found out was that they were going to bill the insurance company and we shouldn't worry about anything. That was interesting. We have always thought that we would have to pay first and then be reimbursed. I think that BCBS is going to be very surprised when they get a lot of invoices in French. I have no idea about the emergency workers that came to us and took us to the hospital.
We walked through the grounds and left by a gate that had guards with automatic weapons and looked right to see the pharmacy and the Metro sign that would take us home.
The woman in the pharmacy again was wonderful. She answered all the questions we had about what was going on and told Dawn the details of each of the drugs on the prescription. Dawn opted for the milder. We payed the bill and thanked her and headed for the subway.
We are talking 5-6 weeks of recovery. Dawn should wear the sling for three weeks and not move her arm. Therapy starts tomorrow and continues in unknown ways that we will find out. Dawn put some calls out to friends in Paris to find a good therapist. This will change our plans a little. Whatever dance video we do will be one armed. This will probably bring to an end to dance classes in Paris for Dawn. But who knows. This might open all kinds of things that we don't know about.
We stopped at the Caravane for a spritzer and a beer just to get our emotional breath. Everything changes.
I think Medicine here is pretty good. We were treated with respect and courtesy every step of the way. The paperwork was simple and hope the diagnosis accurate. We shall see.
Well, instead of a cast, they sent me to a pharmacy, and the pharmacist put on a two-part sling device to immobilize my arm and gave me some pain meds. It looks like I have to wear this thing, day and night, for three weeks, and maybe for five. Am supposed to see a PT 3x/week for massage and "reeducation" of the shoulder. I am quickly learning to be more adept with my left hand, including typing!
When I fell, I felt pain in the arm and the right hip. Because I had some nausea when upright, they put me on a stretcher to get to the hospital and in a wheelchair there. My hip didn't hurt then so we didn't x-ray it. However, once I started walking again, I started having pain in the right hip. It is probably not fractured, but to be sure, we have contacted Isabelle's eldest son who is a doctor. He said to get the hip x-rayed today and bring both hip and shoulder films to see him tomorrow....which means an extra trip back to the military hospital for Stephen to get the films from the emergency room because no on gave them to us yesterday.
Well, this wasn't exactly what we had in mind for April in Paris, but it is what we have. The saddest part for me is that I had just started dancing again. I guess we are really "living" here now, as the original concept of being in a place for three months was to not feel like tourists, but to BE here. Right now, I would take "tourist" over "handicapped resident."
The trip back to the hospital went well to get the X-rays. I had to open my bag for the soldier with the automatic weapon and show ID. That was a first. He seemed pleased that I was American, not sure why. When people talk too fast for me I tell them that I am American because it is easier to say than that I don't speak French. Goes along with the concept that I only eat food that I can pronounce.
We took the bus to go down to the radiologist and stopped for some sun at a delightful park near the doctor's office. It had everything: benches, a garden with explanations about the trees and plants, a playground, a lawn and new for us, a small wetlands with goldfish and lily pads. We soaked in the sun and headed for the lab. We sat in four different waiting rooms: to be x-rayed, after the x-rays and after the reading, after the payment to get the film. People were friendly and efficient and the whole thing wasn't too expensive. We celebrated with beer and a Cote du Rhone at the local.
Today, we washed and dried Dawn's hair in a collaborative effort, got new clothes on her, (she looks great) and we are off to see Emmanuel with our x-rays and make sure we are getting the best treatment. Although we didn't know the door code or see a doorbell to ring for Emmanuel's office, we got into the building when a couple of motorcyclists went in the door. His waiting room bespeaks of his family, with art on the walls and a bookcase full of interesting things to read.
The verdict is that I have tendon damage as well as a partial fracture in the humerus. He recommends keeping the arm as quiet as possible in the sling for three weeks, with no physical therapy or massage until after the bone has healed. About the hip, the good news is that I have no fracture but also tendon damage which definitely hurt when he pressed here and there. He says to walk and use my lower body as much as feels okay. The bad news is that he does see moderate cartilage degeneration in the left hip in the x-rays...no big surprise, given my age and occupation. Get more x-rays of the shoulder in three weeks, then see him again. Voilà!
I remain upbeat as an optimistic outlook is the key to healing. Moreover, I have been noticing more street people here than ever and realize how lucky I am. Knowing that the coins I give sometimes are a tiny drop in the bucket, I wonder how the City of Paris is handling the situation...something to investigate.
Another Dance Concert
We went back to Regard du Cygne to see two Italian soloists. Actually a solo and a duet with a dancer and a musician. All these dancers we have seen can really move but this duet was very nice and for a change the lighting was very well done, hooked up to the sound in a way that transported the room. The sound had a lot of dynamics and sometimes seemed loud without actually being loud. He really had control over his frequencies and there was never any distortion or abuse of the speakers. The piece was long but always had a forward push and came to a satisfying end after perhaps one false ending. Look here again for Dawn's take on this concert.
Amy Swanson, from New England, and who runs the place invited us and gave us comps and we responded by buying a membership. After a wine social before the event, Amy took us to the head of the line so that we could enter keeping Dawn's arm safe.
The photo is the alleyway and the studio. The large studio/theater is behind the camera at the end of the alley. This is intermission. This is another of the thousand of hidden places in Paris.
Yes, the artists were Laura Simi and Damiano Foé, originally from Florence, but working now in Caen, Normandy. Called, "Shut Up!", in English, it was a piece that questions the dominance or authority of sound that surrounds us daily. It was a wonderful sound/movement dialogs, using familiar technology to record and layer the sound live from about six or seven mics on stage, but using the technology completely at the service of the concept. Jean-Noel Francoise created and performed most of the sound, while Laura did most of the amazing movement, but she also sounded...and he also moved. It made me think of the piece i did with David Moss, back in '85, in terms of the eccentricity of both sound and movement, but it was like that piece on steroids! She also explores some of the movement qualities that have interested me for decades like shaking, brittle, off-balance, flinging. Sitting there in my sling, as i watched her flinging her arms wildly and falling to the floor, i wondered if my body will ever be up to that again.
Friends Come to Town
Our friends who own Sophia's Grotto in Roslindale were in Paris for the last five days with their children, ages 12 and 14. It was wonderful to spend some time with them and feel their enthusiasm for the city. It was the first time their children had been to Europe which reminded me that I was 14 the first time I came to Europe with my family, and my daughter was 14 the first time she came to Europe with me. How odd!
They had five days of perfect weather. Flowers are blooming everywhere, including wisteria and huge tree peonies, (on the right) and the leaves on the trees are almost all green now. We walked through central Paris, through the Louvre courtyard with the Pyramide, past the Arc du Carousel, through the Tuileries where a goat was grazing as an experimental lawnmower, through Place de la Concorde, to the Grand Palais. We walked through the outdoor market that starts in Place de la Bastille, and later met them for a picnic in les Jardins du Luxembourg. Joe brought a very nice Sancerre. The rest of the time, they combined a hop on/hop off L'Open bus with the Batobus which is a boat that goes up and down the Seine, which they loved and got them to all those must-see places.
The big news that we got when they came to Paris is that they are opening another restaurant which will be in Hyde Park in Boston called "Antonio's Bacaro". When you get there you can ask Joe about the name. They are hoping for end of June or beginning of July. We will send out the info to the Boston area people inviting you to the opening. It will be a pure Northern Italian restaurant and I am certainly looking forward to it.
A Stroll to Dinner (with photos)
We returned to the restaurant, Les Zygomates (the smile muscles) at which we celebrated Dawn's 60th birthday some years ago. It is in the 12th, on Rue de Capri. There is a restaurant of the same name in Boston because the two chefs were friends and had graduated together from cooking school and although they went their separate ways, they gave their restaurants the same name.
As we found out, the restaurant has a new owner now, a woman. The decor is a little lighter and the place a little less formal, in that I remember last time that the waiter wore the classic French waiter uniform. The food seemed about the same, good without being crazy good.
We have been reading about the Coulée Verte for a while and had been on it for a moment or two on the cold day that we went to see Manu Lods, which was not very far from where the restaurant is, so we decided to take the metro to Bastille and then walk from there.
It was about two miles so we just sauntered our way along. We could stop for a drink on the way.
There were flowers everywhere. Everything is early by Boston standards.
At this point we are at the junction of two parks. We walked around, but they built a bridge so that the people on the Coulée Verte can walk over the other park.
We did stop for a drink, but the first stop was at a public water fountain where they had two faucets, one for plain water and one for mineral fizzy water. I think the sign said that it was unique in France. They weren't drinking faucets but fountains to fill up your water bottles.
The Coulée Verte is an old railway right of way somewhat like the Hi-Line in NYC which I have never been on. But there are times when it comes off the Viaduct to go under boulevards through long tunnels. To the right is one.
The rocks on the side are art and in the middle there are two waterfalls on the sides. The green you see in the distance is the beginning of a ravine that continues to wander through Paris. The bicycles are separated from the pedestrians and you are transported into some magical forest. There are platforms to climb up on, perhaps to bird watch.
This may not be something to do on your first trip to Paris, but definitely on your second if the sun is out and it is during the blooming season.
This arrondissement is not particularly near the center of Paris. The L'Open Tour Bus does not come here. They are not any attractions which may make it very nice for the people who live here. It is pretty upscale, but you can walk down the sidewalk without doing battle.
We did find a brasserie, Au Tramway on Boulevard Daumesnil to sit and relax. I had a couple of beers and Dawn had a kir and snuck in a glass of rosé from Provence.
We were there during the its changeover from a drinks place to an eating place. Place mats go onto the tables and a group that wanted to have some drinks inside were gently but firmly shown to the table outside.
Stephen, Redeemed at the Voyageur
A couple of days ago, I let Dawn go back to the apartment and dropped into a bar near the apartment for a Guinness. I have enjoyed the beers I have been drinking but missed my Guinness. In France, the accent is on the second syllable. I managed to make myself understood. There was a paper on the bar so I worked through a couple of articles, paid my tab, checking with the patron that 3 Euros 40 was the right amount. It was bottled Guinness and was okay but now as good as a draft.
Today we ran out of coffee and it was necessary to go out. Le Voyageur may be the name of this place, it is what is on the mirror. I knew it had stools at the counter so we stopped in and ordered deux café crèmes. he was very solicitous about Dawn's arm and breaking the sugar tube and pouring it into Dawn cup. He was on his way to putting a second in when I stopped him and he gave me the opened tube. I had to put my own sugar in.
"Did you want a croissant"? he asked.
"Pain au chocolat"? we responded.
And he said he would be right back and went to the corner to pick them up where we usually buy our baguettes. He mentioned that he was providing this service because of Dawn's injury. Elsewhere, you get sent out to get your own when a place doesn't have them or has run out.
So I think he has now recognized me from the previous evening and so he goes over to the place where I was sitting and acts out my, to his eye, my surly and unresponsive body language as he was trying to joke with me. Dawn finally told him that I speak French better when I am with her and he finally understood that I don't speak French and that I am not really a curmudgeon. We went on to talk about the ways that different coffee preparations are described in different languages. In the end we paid, 8 Euros 40, and left.
On the right, the owner is explaining something next to the stand up table in front of his bar. In front of him is a container for cigarette butts.
I would not be having as great a time in Paris without Dawn. As most of you know, she lights up a room and is generous and outgoing and interested in the people that she meets. Things are more social when she is around.
I spoke the fews words that I uttered well enough that I made the owner think that I could speak French.
Two and a half things, I should probably be thinking about communicating more than pronouncing them as a Frenchman. I might have more fun. He spoke a little English and maybe we could have had a short conversation.
We have abandoned the Caravane as our official watering hole and moved here to Le Voyageur. We think it has a more age appropriate group for us and is more engaging. Mohammed showed Dawn how to shake hands when your right arm is not functioning - you touch left elbows. In countries with little water, one's left hand is not used socially.
Yesterday I sent a beer back or rather I walked with it to the bar and asked him to taste it. I think the tubes from the keg or something had not been flushed properly. He agreed because what what followed was a great moving of chairs and a table and then opening of a trap door and descending a steep ladder to the cellar. A pause. Then returning to the taps to exhaust the one and then two beers for Dawn and I to test. It was amazing the difference. Heineken is a good light beer. I don't drink it very ofter but when I do I want that freshness that it brings.
Le voyager is a bar/café. During lunch and dinner hours they will make crêpes on a cart on the sidewalk, otherwise drinks and peanuts and the other day a friend of Mohammed did some amazing sleight of hand with cards and some coins both in French and for us, English. We are having fun there and doing some writing and emails there also.
Place Dauphine/Square du Vert-Galant
When we are finished with our trip, we will make a list of the small places in Paris to visit. Again, maybe not during the first trip, but the second. Good candidates are the Place Dauphine and the Square du Vert-Galant, a park named in honor of Henry IV, nicknamed the "Green Gallant". They are right next to each other and count as one.
Place Dauphine is reached from the Pont Neuf as it crosses the Île de la Cité. Take the small street between two apartment buildings and it quickly opens up into a very quiet triangular plaza with trees and benches and a couple of cafés and restaurants. It is surrounded on both sides of the Île by noisy boulevards, so it is a much needed haven if you need one. Midday it should have a lot of sun, In April by late afternoon it will be mostly in the shade. There is a place to get take out sandwiches.
Across the street, behind the state of Henri IV on his horse, down some stairs is the park. It forms the western tip of the island and has a small lawn surrounded by benches, flowers and trees. We had a blanket with us and we just spread it out and took a rest. Every once in a while a guy would walk by selling bottles water, wine and beer. As we have been saying, sometimes we are very lazy tourists.
I notice that little has changed from the expressionists' paintings of these parks of Paris. Perhaps the clothes are different, but the sense of the Parisian out for his or her stroll seems to me the same. Paris today connects with its past not just with its buildings, monuments and art, but with its people.
The day we were there it was full of people, but I didn't take a picture.
The Weather is Good
We are reluctant to go inside because we are in a spate of really beautiful days.
We compromised with a trip to Delacroix's last apartment, studio and garden museum in the middle of the 6th arrondissement. It is hard to find but we managed with the help of a map drawn by Jean and my Google map app.
First you find Place Furstenberg with a sign that looks like a poster that once the truck moved we saw that it pointed to a door that led to a small courtyard in which the museum had its true entrance. Six Euros apiece, free with a paid ticket to the Louvre. They run it now, and restored the garden.
La Musée de la Vie Romantique
George Sand, Frederick Chopin, a small pre-Haussmann cottage in the middle of Paris, Courtyard with Café/Tea Garden. How could this not be the Romantic Life? I like these small museums. Can you tell whether he is a mime or a statue?
We returned to Parc Buttes des Chaumont on a warmer, prettier day. Just a spectacular place getting a complete face lift by the city of Paris. After our walk we found a place in the sun for 2 coffees. Two women snagged our table and we spoke to them for some minutes. They were practicing their English and Dawn working on her French. The one women had a complaint about our President, she couldn't understand him when he spoke.
Thoughts of Home and Family
We love traveling but we are sharing what draws our thoughts homeward.
During our trip through Boston in February, I got a chance to be read to by Chloe. Winter is gone now and that hat is put away, but the warmth of this picture remains for me.
Happy Birthday Lily!
Missing or Appreciating?
Paris has always made me think about my mom. Many of you have heard this story several times, but for those who don't know the connection, voilà:
My mother was born in Paris in 1909 to a Norwegian mother studying music at the Paris Conservatory and an absent American father, Walter Wellman, who was a journalist and Polar explorer. Apparently, my grandfather was twenty-four years older than my grandmother whom he met in Spitsbergen when preparing for one of his dirigible attempts at the North Pole.
Since he was off on his explorations for long periods, my grandmother preferred to be in the cultural center of Paris rather than in Norway. She was an opera singer, and I have a handwritten letter from the composer Jules Massenet, complimenting the young "blonde Norvégienne" on her voice...which could become very fine if she continues to study...or something to that effect.
My mother regaled me with stories of her beloved French "Nou Nou" who helped take care of her and her older brother and actually moved to NYC with them in 1914. Nou Nou wore sabots (wooden shoes) and said that Camembert wasn't ripe until it ran over the windowsill. Camembert is still one of my favorite cheeses, and I do like it ripe! My mom spoke French before she spoke English. In fact, her Nou Nou refused to learn that "ugly language" even when they lived in New York. Hence, I learned the sound of beautiful, old Parisian French from my mother, although I learned all the grammar, etc. in American schools. I guess that's why most French people think I speak their language pretty well.
When we walk through the Jardin des Tuileries, I remember my mother saying that her Nou Nou was such a good storyteller that all the kids in the park would gather around to hear her tell a tale.
My mom also talked about those lovely little wooden sailboats that the kids could rent along with sticks to push them out to catch the wind in the Tuileries and Luxembourg ponds...and they still do. In fact, our young American friend, Anthony, asked his dad to rent one for him after our picnic in the Luxembourg Gardens.
So, yes, Paris reminds me that I miss my mom.
And as you already know, Paris reminds me of how much I miss my friend Malek. Stephen and I both shared so many places and experiences with him here. Even the nice patron (owner) of the bar today reminds us of Malek, his body language, his sense of humor, his way of speaking French. He is probably Algerian. We are, after all, living in the 11th which has a sizable North African population.
Yet today I have a new feeling about all these memories. Maybe it's a bit of a "Buddhish" trick I am playing on myself, but instead of feeling the loss of them, I am feeling the fullness of their presence in my life. What gifts they both brought to me! Although so different from each other, both Malek and my mom gave me some deep connection to France, it's language and culture. Both being artists, mom a painter and Malek a writer, they also supported the artist in me.
When I experience time not as linear but as an ever-widening circle, everyone I have ever loved is here. So why am I getting teary as I write this? I guess it is simply part of the human condition to miss the physical presence of those whom one has cared deeply for, even amidst the fullness of their spiritual presence here and now.
More Americans in Paris
Our friends Jim and Lee were in town for a few days, between a riverboat trip on the Seine through Normandy and a week in Provence. They stayed in the Marais. We had drinks with them and met Jim's sister and brother-in-law Monday evening, and then spent most of Wednesday with them. Compared to last week it has been very chilly in Paris., so we bundled up to go to Place Dauphine for lunch and to show them that sweet little corner of Paris and the park at the bottom tip of Ile
de la Cité.
We walked to the Left Bank as Lee wanted to see more of medieval Paris. We wandered around streets near St. André des Arts and stopped for coffee at Café de l'Odéon where we had an interesting and confusing discussion about what kinds of coffee we wanted. It turns out that a "café noisette" is an espresso with a dash of hot milk or cream in it. Since a noisette is a hazelnut, I would have thought it was hazelnut coffee, but it is named for the color of the nut that the coffee takes on when just a bit of milk is in it!
We took a twenty-minute wander through all the grands écoles, Sorbonne, etc., finally ending at Place Contrescarpe. We passed some our favorite spots in the fifth, pointing out a couple of cafés and restaurants like L'écurie and L'Estrapade, the Eglise St. Etienne, and the Panthéon as well as where Jean and Isabelle live. After a drink in the Place, we headed down Cardinal Lemoine to the subway and to show them the building we lived in during March. Before we got there, Pascal walked by, and we exchanged greetings and chatted a bit about upcoming Bruno's art installation at the Petit Cardinal, etc.
After they bought more subway tickets, we got ourselves back to their hotel by métro and hung out in the lobby while they went upstairs to change. They invited us to join them and Jim's sister and brother-in-law for a drink which we did, again at the corner spot "La Favorite." I have been trying to drink a little less alcohol and a little more milk to make sure I get calcium for bone healing, so I ordered "Lait Aromatisé" that turned out to be frothy sweet hot milk with vanilla in it. Delicious, especially on a cold day.
Again it was wonderful to feel friends' enthusiasm for Paris. Lee wanted to know what every beautiful old building was, and no matter that I have been here many a time, I could only identify about half the ones she asked about. Paris is SO full of amazing architecture, art, and a complex history.
Jim and Lee have been enjoying guided tours during their travels in France and Jim was able to correct some of the stories that I had told Antony about Paris. Antony, The Obelisk was a gift to the people of Paris and it wasn't stolen like I said it was. The Hotel I said was the George Cinq was the Hotel Carillon. We thought about going to the George Cinq bar for a drink but the 27 Euro price tag sort of slowed us down.
How To Open a Supermarket in Paris
When we first moved to Auguste Barbier from the fifth we had a little Huit à Huit (8 AM to 8 PM) on the corner. It was very convenient for beer, wine, butter and other staples. the store was part of a chain. Then suddenly it closed with a sign saying for construction and that it would reopen on April 29th. They didn"t even say what they would reopen as.
We pass this corner at least once a day and we watched as everything was removed and the place completely gutted. Slowly it was rebuilt and we found out that it was becoming a Carrefour Express. If we went by at lunchtime one of the workbenches would be cleared and the guys would be having lunch at it. It is possible that Carrefour bought the Huit à Huit company and were now transforming all the stores.
On the 28th, coming home after having a drink with Jim and Lee we passed the corner and saw an opening taking place in the store. It is unmistakable. People standing around in a crowd drinking wine and talking to one another. So we went in and were offered champagne in plastic glasses and some savory and sweet pastries. They were opening but weren't open as someone found out when she wasn't able to buy lettuce. People came in and out, congratulating the new managers who were serving the food and drink. Some were friends, there by invitation, the rest of us just came in off the street.
The next day we stopped in for a few things for dinner, an entrecôte so that we could drink the Cahor wine that we had brought back from our trip to Jean's opening, and a salad to complete the meal. Also we picked up some milk and grapefruit juice to feed Dawn's rapidly healing arm bone and my burgeoning cold.
On the way out, Dawn thanked them for a lovely evening the night before and he pointed to a vase full of single roses and said take one. So we have our rose and our new store but today is our last day here so we won't do much shopping there.
Another Moving Day(s)
Tomorrow, we get up early, have a coffee, pack our remaining stuff, leave a bag for Charles to store and head out to the Hertz Rental Agency at the Gar de L'Est to drive to Montigny-sur-Loing to spend the long holiday weekend on the Loing River. We have learned to take the bus so to avoid the stairs that come along with the Metro. So the 46 Bus will take us north on Parmentier before wending over to the station and then on Monday after we drop the car we will get back on the 46 to take us farther down Parmentier to our last Paris apartment. The weekend place is another Airbnb place about an hour south of Paris near Fontainebleau, it will be our home until Monday when we return to Paris to take up residency on Neuve Popincourt near the Parmentier Metro stop. We are taking this weekend both because Dawn wanted to wake up in the country and because our new place, a Penthouse with a view
only becomes available on Monday. As this week has progressed, the weather forecast has deteriorated so much that our new host called us to see if we wanted to change the weekend. We had to tell her that if we did so that we would be homeless for the weekend. Next Tuesday will be complicated as we try to schedule picking up the bag we left behind with getting a new X-ray of Dawn's arm and seeing her doctor again. When that is done, we will have officially moved.
Our Navigo Decouvertes have been charged up for May, my phone will need a half a month recharge later, but we have a small feeling that we are beginning to fold our tents. Notices from Boston for events that we have been automatically deleting now need attention to see if they are for June. Our June calendar is sprouting little bits of color signifying appointments, birthdays and engagements, (I am green, Dawn is purple, both of us are red, other is blue) . I even see a job in July. I can't give up the Lowell Folk Festival because I see so many friends working there.
May 1, A Day to Remember
Looking back down the lane toward the gate. Gringo is on guard.
The emotional and perhaps chronological center of this day is when Thierry tells us that he has donated a kidney to his wife. They had been looking for a donor for a while when the doctor asked him why he hadn't been tested. Thierry's response was that they were different blood types and assumed that this would disqualify him. The doctor said no matter and when he was tested he was found to be a close match, although she is Brazilian and he French. We were all sitting in their living room in the old stone hunting lodge where they lived drinking kirs before lunch. Outside it was raining and now we were sitting in front of a fireplace.JSB
From the river, their house and our renovated stable.
Backtracking a bit, Carmen had called when she got the email that mentioned my broken arm. She asked if we needed anything, but we decided she would help us find the local market when we arrived at their place. However, when we got there and they installed us in this lovely, newly renovated loft in the old stable, she said that she forgot that it was May 1, a huge national holiday in France, like our Labor Day, and everything was closed. So an hour later we were sitting in front of their fireplace drinking Kirs, as Stephen mentioned, in their classic house, dated about 1865. Thierry claims that the models for two of Renoir's portraits of young girls lived in the house. All we were able to contribute to this lovely meal was some nicely aging "Entre Deux Cantal" cheese that we had brought with us. The dining room was beautifully set, and Carmen had even made dessert to go with this meal that she claimed was just snacking.
As mentioned above, the conversation became quite personal. They both spoke French so clearly that Stephen and I had no problem understanding, unless there was a word outside of our vocabulary that he would explain to us. Because Carmen has to take cortisone for anti-rejection, she has gained weight. She is determined to lose it, so we went on their 6k daily walk with them, in the rain. There are so many different greens here. First we went by the River Loing, which is just below flood level, then past the Plaine de Sorques where some of the Impressionists painted, then into Fontainebleau Forest itself. Although my feet and jeans were soaked, it was worth it.
When we walked it was easier to walk in pairs, so sometimes Thierry and I walked together and sometimes I walked with Carmen. I made comments in French and they spoke English. Just practising the language. The dog came along, a yellow lab. Dawn has always had a fantasy about about living somewhere where she can ski out the back door. Well this was the Springtime equivalent. Across the lawn, past the rabbit hutch and the chickens wandering around, through a port in their wall, then under the road through a tunnel and the hike begins.
We are trying to make some video here, even with my arm issue. My idea, reflecting on Malek's poem, is to create "evanescent moments," short episodes that have a kind of translucency about them. Stephen may have another idea about making video here, but I am not exactly sure what it is...so we stumble along and occasionally make an interesting minute or two.
We shot a section in the full moon in Montigny sur Loing. It is a section of a work in progress. It rained most of the weekend, but after getting back from dinner Sunday night, the sky clear enough to see that gorgeous pleine lune so we shot a little late video. During the night the Loing River overflowed with the full moon and covered the part of the lawn where we had shot. We also did a little bit of me moving around the old Chestnut tree in the rain, but not sure the viewer can see that it's raining. Malek's poem is called, Les Pluies du Miracle (The Rains of the Miracle) so a little rain scene seemed appropriate. So far, I think our best shot at "evanescent luminescence" (!) was made in Charles and Julie's apartment, using the windows with gauze curtains and the mirror.
See below for the nearly finished piece called Mémoire
Sunday we had planned to visit the Chateau de Fontainebleau, but when we got in our rental car, it started but kept puttering out. The engine just didn't sound right, and when something started smelling, we stopped trying. Had there been a manual in the glove compartment, Stephen might have looked under the hood. However, there was none, and he didn't want to fool around with a rented car. So we called the Hertz emergency number, twice, and waited....and waited.A few hours later, a local mechanic showed up, tried the car and heard the same problem. Under the hood, a couple of wires were completely detached. He re-connected them, tried the car again, and it still sounded weird. Then he switched the way he had connected them, and it worked fine. He said that there had been a bête (beast) in the motor that had detached the spark plug wires. I thought he meant it metaphorically, but he actually meant that he saw little rodent footprints on the motor. I guess a mouse could have crawled in there from below, seeking warmth and shelter from the rain overnight. By that time it was too late to visit the Chateau, but we had a lovely meal at Bistrot9 in the town of Fontainebleau. DJK
I took a few pictures because although the top of the motor was dirty I didn't see any pawprints. We are waiting to see whether Hertz whines a little.
Our New Place on Neuve Popincourt
Some pictures to start us off:
It is on the sixth and top floor of the building. Piano needs a little tuning,
(with an elevator, perhaps the smallest that we have ever been in). From out the window, most of the Paris icons are visible. We will probably not use up the candles we bought because unless we eat very late, it is not dark enough.
Music as Magic
We found a website that lists classical music concerts all over Paris. Many are free and given by young musicians, some still working on their degrees. There have been mixed results. A young cellist blew us away with her subtlety and control while her colleagues, both sopranos, underwhelmed us.
Yesterday we heard three young women on the piano, two Koreans and one Chinese. All amazing musicians, aged twenty or so. They played Bach, Couperin, and Haydn.They were not only technically superb, but they each had a particular expressive interpretation of the music. We often hear Bach on the harpsichord or clavier, the original keyboards he wrote for which are fairly "dry" in that there is no way to sustain tones on those instruments.. So it took me awhile to get over the pedaling and the romantic take on Bach, but I said to myself, "If you are going to play Bach on a piano, you might as well use all the expressive capabilities of that instrument." At one point, all I could see were the arms and legs of the pianist, the black dress, and the black piano; couldn't really see her fingers connecting with the keyboard so it felt like the music was emanating directly from her body. Maybe the fact that there was never a piece of sheet music in sight contributed to the feeling that the music, musician, and piano were one. For Stephen and me, it was music as magic, as I tried to tell the girls afterwards. I managed to say my two words in Korean to one of them, and she beamed. We always give a donation at the end of these "free" concerts. Yesterday, it was bigger than usual.
I am the navigator. The sun better be shining when we get out of the metro so I can tell which way is which. Today the church, Saint Philippe de Roule appeared across the intersection. Of course, that doesn't mean that it is easy to get to because it means that there are at least three roads to cross with green and red pedestrian lights going on and off at there own pleasure. The problem today was that the church had a midday mass going on and no sign of a concert. We returned outside and did a circle around the church and at the back end we found a poster, then a small chapel and someone ready to hand us a program and tell us where to go. We step into an unrennovated chapel with some chairs set up and a black piano in front.
The space was raw. Its main purpose might be as a construction office and storage for the renovation going on at the church. It was kind of cold. With all their talent, their performance experience seemed thin. Each of the succeeding performers entered before the applause for the preceding pianist was finished and their sense of what a bow should be was still unformed. But oh, how they could play. The concert started with a young girl sitting in the audience simply getting up, going to the piano, sitting down and starting to play. Wow.
We were thirty, the audience. I imagine in a few years an audience of thousands roaring to their feet at the end of one of these women's concerts and calling them back again and again. For now, it was just us and their teacher, making a recording to drive them forward in their practice rooms.
Updates (Arm and Adam)
We are glad to hear that you who are New Englanders are getting some warm weather. The weather is improving here too. In fact yesterday, May 11, we had temps in the 80's! This heat will not last, though.
Maggie, the Graham-based teacher here who generously feels that I am a "grand chorégraphe américan," has scheduled an evening at the Centre de Danse du Marais for us to show video and yak about our lives in dance and art, Now I just have to figure out what to show, what to say...and in which language!
I am totally out of shape and not happy about it. I am trying to consume more milk and yogurt for the calcium. As you can imagine, we already OD on cheese here.:-)
Update on my arm fracture: The doc said the 3-week X-ray shows that I am starting to heal, one more week in sling, some passive arm dangles, wear the sling when out and about next week, but it will be six weeks for the bone to really knit, and don't start PT until I am home which means June.
>Adam, my son, turned forty-five on May 9. and is coming to Paris May 15-17 en route to Denmark and Vienna for business. He will stay with us because we have lots of space and an extra bed here in our last apartment in Paris. We can celebrate both our "big" spring birthdays together, even though mine was in March! This is a surprise, we just found out last weekend.
Dawn looks to my eyes to be in great shape, but who am I to say?
We had dinner at Maggie and Ghislain's apartment, with Isabelle and Jean. It turns out that Ghislain is their nephew. They live near their studio in the Marais, having moved there from the suburbs. They say that the money they save in not commuting nearly compensates for the increased rent. And the extra time in their lives is a bonus.
Adam is here now and we took him to lunch at the same restaurant at which we celebrated Dawn's birthday in March. We got into the Petit Palais during "Museum Night" here in Paris and are getting ready to go down to the Bastille Sunday market to buy some oysters for our brunch. This apartment is the first that has an oyster knife, which will become important later on.
Frank Gehry in the Bois de Boulogne
We got out to the Bois de Boulogne to see the outside of the new Gehry building, a museum for the Louis Vuitton Foundation. It took me a while to get used to it. The outside of the building has glass sails that are projected away from the building by massive curved wooden beams. They didn't really seem to have a function but I decided in the end that they served to add glass to a building that has no use for it. Sunlight doesn't belong in a modern museum. Afterwards we staggered around on the paths in the woods. We didn't really stagger, but it felt that way because I left both the guide book and my smart phone at home so I had no way of knowing where I was or where I was going. There are things to see out there but we seemed to dodge them.
However, we did come across a sweet little "café in the woods"- with plastic tables and chairs, umbrellas, and a bunch of workers having drinks, smoking dope, and talking in French and Arabic. I had a lemonade and Stephen a very nice rosé from the Rhone. It reminded us a bit of Costa Rica or Mexico. Before that, a pair of young women on horseback trotted past us as well as a few joggers. It is a huge Bois, and we will have to return to explore other parts of it and/or to see the contemporary art exhibit in that museum.
It is six minutes long and includes Dawn at the window and under the full moon. Also, on a bridge over the canal St. Martin and at the window in the Neuve Popincourt apartment. I threw in a couple of shots of the moon and a shot of the sun coming through a chesnut tree. It is our most collaborative work. I don't think it is really about anything, but we thought about some people while we made it. Perhaps at its core it is about us, where we are, where we've been and where we are going. We love the music that we are using, Memoir
by Evan Harlan.
We are dedicating the video to Malek, because at least for me, it is "about" a kind of human translucence, how we are the sky, the sun, the glistening of colors of the moon, the sunrise. It is his last poem that inspired my attitude towards making the video.
When I was teaching dance, I sometimes told my students that if they were having difficulty learning a style or a technique that perhaps they should spend some time exaggerating it. this was particularly true for the Graham technique as well as classical ballet. Some of these things cannot be reached by the correct manipulations of one's body parts, but must be grabbed as a whole. Humor allows you to go beyond what you know, out into the unknown.
I have discovered that the same is true for me when I am learning to speak French which I have done miserably during this trip to France. I have many excuses but the best is that too many other things pushed their way to the front. Recently, I have begun to make fun of myself when I am speaking French in a restaurant. I turn pauses into dramatic pauses. I speak slowly with much pronunciation (think of Saturday Night Live), maybe even trying to entertain the waiter with my language. But it is also more real, I do not try to fool anyone about the state of my language skills.
Next time, I will prepare better, hopefully not coming from a Spanish speaking country, and take some classes when I am here. It would be good to understand a little more, especially after sitting through three hours of poetry and discussion and lobby chitchat at an event honoring Malek at the Maison de la Poesie last night. I came home the most exhausted I have been on the entire nine month trip. But, on the other hand, it was great to see the number of people who were there.
Adam - Come and Gone
Adam has come and gone in a whirlwind. We went out and kind of bashed around Paris. We did return to the L'Estrapade to treat him to a birthday dinner. We did drop in on all our haunts, the Petit Cardinal, Le Voyageur, Les Petits Indecises and lastly the Caravane. We demonstrated to each other the various forms of Paris transportation, we the Metro and buses, and Adam, Uber. For that "take me home right now", it was no contest with Uber winning hands down. It was especially true if we weren't too far away from home.
Also, Adam was employing his special "Calling all Ubers" dance, you can see a picture of him at left standing on a post near the Hotel de Ville in order to get closer to the Uber Gods .
For that "I need to travel from one end of Paris to the other" trip, I think the Metro won. It comes every two minutes and it goes fast and under any traffic jams.
I led us on one disasterous trip to the Buttes-Chaumont. On Sunday, the buses are crowded, especially on a beautiful day. The park itself was crowded and had little of the charm that it demonstrated on previous visits. We recovered to find a seat in the sun to have some beer, (I had my first and last Desparado, a French beer that tastes like soda-pop). We sat down at a food table and had one of smallest tapas available. The waiter was not happy, but really, it was too early to be putting out the napkins and knives and forks. Sometimes, it's a battle.
Later, we had a small meal at a Corsican Restaurant that turned out well and the whole day was capped off with a visit to the Caravane.
Dawn and I usually stopped at the Caravane in the afternoon to have a beer or a kir. Once for a small bite at lunch that was amazingly good. The picture at left shows the place at 4 in the afternoon when we had the place to ourselves. They were preparing mint for the evening cocktails and the whole place smelled wonderful.
But this time we arrived in an Uber black car to a bar overflowing with young people, some with blinking headgear. Plates, now empty with remnants of appetizers were scattered around the place. American music came out of the speakers from LP's on a turntable. What had looked simply unrenovated in the daylight now looked somehow stylish. We got to the bar and got our drinks and turned down a table that the staff (or maybe some regulars) offered to clear for us to just stand at the end of the bar. The restaurant side of the place was packed as well. The place had great energy and buzz. Was it hip? That is a question that you can only answer for yourself. You will have to come and try it.
I had hesitated to bring Adam to the Caravane because he has been known to call us hippies on occasion, and I think this place is the height of "hippiness," with its worn-out, mismatched vinyl covered chairs, hand-lettered signs, and a mishmosh of tables. In fact, what we thought was hippy, he thought was hip! Reminded him of some cool places in Brooklyn. It certainly has more personality than the scores of cafe-bars we passed walking near the Beauborg and through the Marais.
Saturday night, we went to the Petit Palais as part of "Museum Night" which is held once a year throughout Europe. As we waited in line we watched five thousand young people file into the Grand Palais to participate in the world's largest fitness class in the most beautiful room.
Back at our museum, once we got in it took us a few minutes to find the galleries because we were let into basement so they could divide the crowd to check bags more quickly. It is a beautiful museum and in one of the large galleries they mixed in contemporary work in amongst the older work. These guys to the right are in a piece called the kiss. Doesn't look like a kiss to me, and it might not be. There is a confusion in the translation for the French verb for kiss. Over the years its meaning has changed to something more intimate and forceful.
Adam pioneered ahead into the garden where the was a cafe. When we arrived there was a half bottle of wine and three glasses. The people who designed these spaces really knew what they were doing. We were transported to another land. We stopped at another gallery where people were standing in line to dress up in medieval clothing and be posed by a professional photgrapher with a lighting person working on the lights. What they produced were there amazing large digital photographs that looked like photos of actual paintings.
Sunday started out with a trip to the Bastille Market. We bought a few things but the main goal was to go there and taste some oysters and bring a couple of dozen back with us to have an oyster brunch.
It is complicated. There are many kinds and the price ranges from 5 to 24 Euros a dozen. Some are small, some large, some are saltier, some are nutty. We ordered a tasting plate of nine and a couple of plastic glasses of wine and paper towels were available as needed. They were very good so we ordered two and a half more (the half being the large ones which really were a dozen). I did the opening and Adam did the cleanup and Dawn encouraged us. Her arm is really recovering but not to the point of opening oysters. I uploaded a high resolution photo of our friend below to show him or her in the glory that is deserved.
I think we have been sold a bill of goods. The woman said they were wild asparagus. Images of Euell Gibbons rose in our minds. But they didn't quite taste like asparagus and later they produced none of the classic smell of asparagus pee. Not sure what they are.
Video Presentation (top)
This evening we are going down to the Dance Center to present a one to two hour presentation of our work. Dawn will talk in French and I in English. We are starting off with Isadora (my software) showing random selected clips starting at random times in the clip. Maybe fur seconds each. We have been endlessly fascinated by it. We will see about the audience. We have shown Memoire to two friends but this will be its first public showing.
We have an hour to set up the projector and sound and cover the windows with aluminum foil to make the space dark enough. 7:30 PM is now the middle of the afternoon in Paris.
Above is a facsimile of Maggie introducing us. We went for an hour and a half. Dawn was great and we had a good time. Everything came down quickly and we had time for a nice dinner and a glass or two of wine with Maggie and Ghislain.
Here are the first two paragraphs of an email invitation that Maggie sent out about our evening of presenting videos and discussing our collaborative work:
"Nous avons le grand plaisir de vous inviter à une soirée spéciale le SAMEDI 23 MAI 2015, 19h30-21h30, salle Wagner
screen-dance/danse-video avec les artistes Dawn KRAMER & Steve BUCK, à Paris Marais Dance School
Une chance rare de rencontrer deux artistes américains (danseurs/chorégraphes/réalisateurs danse-video) qui sont à Paris en ce moment et qui sont ouverts à partager leur expérience et leurs meilleur oeuvres avec nous. En bas du page l'information sur les artistes. "
Stephen spent about twenty hours preparing the videos, making excerpts, using Isadora software to show random bits of works as people entered, creating titles, etc. I spent a fair amount of time figuring out what I was going to say...to be interesting, not boring, and not to go on too long...in French. It was challenging to decide what to show from over forty years of making choreography and videos. We had an hour to set up the small dance studio which meant covering all the windows with aluminum foil to keep the light out, setting up laptop, projector, sound connections, bringing in seating and tables, refreshments, etc. The windows are very high so Maggie and Ghislain, although both very tall, needed a ladder to reach the top. We were ready at exactly 7:30!
It was a nice crowd of mostly their students of various ages and our friend Amy who came from the Regard du Cygne studio. I started with a short meditation because that is how I often start classes at Mass/Art, and it also leads into some of the concepts that I am exploring in recent work. Although I started the evening speaking French, apparently most of the people there understood English, and Maggie preferred that I speak my native tongue, so that is mostly what I did. I think the evening went well. People had interesting questions and comments, and several people commented on the evolving nature of Stephen's and my collaboration over the years, sensing the equal presence of us both in the recent work. Many of the students approached us individually with questions about process and to thank us for being "inspiring." Apparently one of the young men who is a diehard classical dancer, and not a very good one according to Maggie and Ghislain, said it wasn't his "style" and he was not at all inspired! Can't win 'em all!
Club des Poètes
After dinner, candles were lit and the lights went out except on the reciter who stood by the bar. There is one rule: you can only recite poetry, you can not read it. Otherwise it is a free for all in any language, sometimes people helping from the audience when the next verse remained elusive. There were guitars hanging around.
“I'm nobody! Who are you?
Are you nobody, too?
Then there's a pair of us, don't tell!
They'd banish us, you know.
How dreary to be somebody!
How public, like a frog
To tell your name the livelong day
To an admiring bog!”
From: Emily Dickinson. “Poems.” iBooks. https://itun.es/us/Hw3Kx.l
There was a woman there, Sophie, in her last year of her doctoral thesis on Emily Dickinson at the Sorbonne. Three months in Amherst and at Harvard doing the research and now writing. One thing we remember her saying was that the poet frightens her a little bit. She read two short poems, and then translated them into French. One is above.
After the poetry and most people had left, around midnight, we showed Mémoire
to Marcelle and Blaise, her son. We will have to go back with poems, but on our next trip. Dawn has some or could recite some of Malek's. I am working very slowly on the writing in poetic form about a Buddhist life.
The club has been around for about fifty years. It was started by Jean-Pierre Rosnay, a poet who had joined the Resistance at the age of 15, survived injuries and capture, and has supported poetry as a living, relevant art form "for the people." His belief was that poetry should be "inevitable and contagious." His wonderful wife, Marcelle, and his son Blaise have kept the Club alive and active. We were invited because of a connection that I have with an old high school friend who has translated some of Rosnay's poems into English. This friend, Jim, first came to Paris during high school or college, in the 60's which is when he met Jean Pierre and Marcelle.
The place is tiny, with seating en famille style for informal, well-cooked meals. It is in the 7th arrondisement which is filled with big government buildings and upscale apartments. The Club des Poetes is like a breath of fresh air in what otherwise feels like a somewhat stuffy neighborhood.
Besides Sophie, some of the others who spoke were a young man who reminded me of a thin James Baldwin, and a beautiful young Asian man, probably Vietnamese. At the end, Marcelle did a couple of her husband's humorous poems, one turning some French orthographic markings into personalities who had a conversation with each other, and the other a modern-day Cinderella story.
L'ACCENT CIRCONFLEXE ET LA PETITE CéDILLE ç
Entre deux vers
D'un long poème
D'un poème fort ennuyeux
La cédille aux yeux de verveine
qui nattait ses jolis cheveux
rencontra l'accent circonflexe
Curieuse quoiqu'un peu perplexe
Sans moi vous l'eussiez deviné
Elle lui dit pour commencer
Quel bizarre chapeau que le vôtre
Seriez-vous par hasard gendarme ou polytechnicien
Et que faites-vous donc sur le front des apôtres
Est-ce vous la colombe ou la fumée du train
Je suis je suis gentille cédille
Le S escamoté des mots de l'autrefois
C'est à l'hostellerie qu'on emmenait les filles
Le S a disparu me voici sur le toit
Et toi que fais-tu cédille
A traîner derrière les garçons
Sont-ce là d'honnêtes façons
N'es-tu point de bonne famille
Accent bel accent circonflexe
Voilà toute ma vérité
Je t'aime et pour te le prouver
Je fais un S avec un C
We will translate this as soon as we figure it out. The cedille is in love with the circomflex.
It was wonderful to see such a mixture of ages and nationalities represented. Another one recited a poem in Turkish which he than translated into French. Although Stephen and I certainly don't get all the French, it was really sweet to feel so included.
Wrap Up in Paris
Yesterday, we went to the Linguistics Museum. We spent two hours where six would have been more appropriate. We didn't bring our glasses so we went home at rush hour to get them and turned around to get to the theater. Isabelle got us some great seats for which we paid artist rate for Pina Bausch's Company at he Theatre de la Ville. An amazing but very long show. It started at 8:30 and they let us out around 11:30.
We have been clothes shopping. I have been consulting for Dawn.
Also, birthday presents have been acquired.
We are about to attend a music performance of someone who came to see our videos at the Centre du Danse, which will wrap up official duties here. All that remains in to get to the airport tomorrow (with Uber, the bags are too heavy with Dawn's arm situation) and fly home.
We are wrapping up the three months in Paris and nine months of living elsewhere. I think it has been a success as a first attempt, but there will be changes as we do it again next year. Maybe shorter. Maybe more in the United States. Lots for us to think about.
Some adventure remains in getting my car off the blocks and the battery connected and jumped and sneaking to my service station to get the car inspected. It expired in March. and there is getting Dawn's arm to heal.
Thanks everyone one for reading our travelogue.
Dawn and Stephen
We welcome comments. Please send them to Stephen and Dawn