Jardin des Plantes, September 4, 2010
Unlike these sunflowers, I have not died. But this blog sure seems to have gone the way of dodos, 8-track tapes, and leisure suits, hasn’t it?
I thought I would take a quick minute (although this is me here, so take the word “minute” with a grain of gros sel de cuisine and go grab your cup of coffee, or glass of wine, or whatever) to let you know what has been up and why my corner of the bloghood has been so quiet of late.
Old Antibes, August 26, 2010
The Deep End of the Pool
The last time I posted, I was here, in Antibes, Côte d’Azur, with my best friend, Janet. That was about a month ago. I’ve been back in Paris for three-and-a-half weeks, but as soon as I got back, I jumped into the deep end of the pool and started treading water, getting water up my nose, and choking on it.
This past summer I was approached by a company to write some tours of Paris for a company creating downloadable smartphone applications — a kind of one-time, subcontracted, technical-writing gig, that, honestly, by the time I am done with it, based on the hours I have already put into it, is probably going to net me about two euros an hour in wages (not exaggerating). On the good side of it, I am learning a TON about Paris, especially more about how the city is organized, the various interesting sights around the city, and its history. I’m really enjoying the learning part of this project, the writing part of this project, and the (eventual) paid part of this project, but not the time-suck part of this project.
As a result of jumping in the pool, my recreational blog reading has completely dried up, and I can barely even keep up with what my other half is doing with his increasingly popular blog sites and articles. Like I have mentioned before, and to which many of you have responded — thank you– Paul writes for his own Paris blogs now: Paris Inspired, and his Paris Inspired photos page, as well as keeping up with his Paris by Cell Phone page, not to mention writing articles for the great site Bonjour Paris — a helpful place for expats and travelers alike — which I have been keeping tabs on for over a year now (in fact, Paul found out about them through me. Just sayin’. ).
All this and we share one three-year-old home-built desktop whose motherboard is starting to go. (Think: the old beater car you had in high school that you had to get up early and go out to start as the engine would not turn over on first try. Or second. Or third. Finally, it gets going, but then you have to do all of your driving in one go because if it sits there, idle, for more than a couple of hours, you have to go through the whole process all over again. That’s the computer.)
I’ve been getting up earlier and earlier each morning to get the computer started and get to work, doing all my personal stuff in the first couple of hours in the morning, and then working as much as possible until the afternoon. I started with getting up at 7 am, then 6, and for this morning I had set the alarm for 5:30 am. I confess I did not get up right when the alarm went off today, but that’s because I’ve developed a change-of-seasons cold and had taken a nighttime cold pill, which I discovered last night, after having taken it for a couple of days, has gluten in it — but that is another story.
Paul commented once to someone (I think it was MJ from An American Mom in Paris) on (one of) his blog(s) that he and I and the computer are like the 1985 movie Ladyhawke. In case you don’t remember, here is this, from the linked Wikipedia article about the movie:
In medieval Europe a thief called “The Mouse” escapes the dungeons of Aquila, setting in motion a chain of events that may save or destroy a beautiful woman and a brave captain. The two lovers are doomed to lifelong separation by a demonic curse invoked by the corrupt and jealous Bishop of Aquila: by day Isabeau is transformed into a hawk, while at night Navarre becomes a black wolf. Imperius, the monk who drunkenly betrayed their love to the Bishop, has found a way to break the curse, but only if he and the Mouse can get them back into Aquila to face the Bishop.
Matthew Broderick is the thief, “The Mouse,” Rutger Hauer is the brave captain, Etienne Navarre, and Michelle Pfeiffer is the beautiful woman, Isabeau d’Anjou.
The movie tag line went something like this: “CURSED FOR ETERNITY…No force in Heaven will release them. No power on Earth can save them.” (Thank you, IMDB.)
They are “Always together; eternally apart” for by day Isabeau becomes a hawk, and by night Navarre becomes a black wolf. Neither has any memory of their half-life in animal form; only at dusk and dawn of each day can they see each other in human form for one fleeting moment, but can never touch. (Wiki)
That’s me and Paul and the computer/life right now. One reason I have taken the on the tour writing project is to be able to afford to fix the existing computer and hopefully get an additional laptop so we can become a two-car — I mean, two-computer family and stop the insanity that is two writers using one lousy desktop.
On the good side of all this, Paul has been in more and more of a place of rekindling his love for Paris, something I blogged about before (it’s about halfway down, under this heading: “Paris as Girlfriend versus Wife versus Potential Best Friend.” It’s a good story, I think, if you have time to take a look at it, and will show you just how far Paul and I have come in this Paris Thing, for lack of a better way to explain it at the moment, as I see the computer clock advancing and I am thinking, “I have to move on to other things…”). Paul and I have been getting out to do a lot of things. Or, as was the case of this past Saturday, getting out to not do a lot of things.
The Tour of Jean sans Peur That Wasn’t
I hope to get to a couple of other things I need to tell you, but first this little tale of how I fucked things up this past Saturday.
(Sorry if you freak at he “F word.” I rather like it. I usually refrain from using it in these posts, but now and then one of them slips in there. It’s just the way I roll, and, like they say, if you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen, hmmmm? I don’t do it a lot, though, so if you are persnickety about language and good manners, please do not let this dissuade you from returning in the future. It’s not really my usual M.O.)
Tour Jean sans Peur, 20 rue Etienne Marcel in the 2nd arr.
aka The Tour Jean sans Peur (Fearless John Tower) Turns into Fear and Loathing in Las Paris (But Then Gets Better).
This past weekend was the Journées du Patrimoine — Heritage Days in France. This is the third year for which I have been present for them, although I only just became aware of them last year. As far as I can understand, it is an opportunity for French and other Europeans (as other places in the EU observe these days, too) to get in touch with their “patrimony” (ooooh, this is interesting over at Wikipedia — national patrimony/essence) and see some of the inner workings of national heritage places normally closed or limited to the public at other times of the year. There are special events at museums, churches, and other national and historical sites.
The Tour Jean sans Peur is located in the Second Arrondissement and is a medieval tower of the former residence of the Dukes of Burgundy dating to the 14th century or thereabouts. Lots of historical stuff, blah blah blah, but another interesting (to me) note is that the building was a very early theater for the King’s Players circa the 16th century.
Paul let me know earlier in the week that he had reserved a 4 pm tour time on Saturday for us and whichever kid wanted to come along to check this place out. Wanting to know more about what I was going to be seeing, I looked up lots of information on the site a couple of days before, and even copied off and used Google Translate to record some information to save for maybe a blog post, or another writing project. I was psyched that Paul had set all this up, and was really looking forward to learning more about the place and getting an insider’s look at it.
Saturday rolls around, I got up early (7:30 am) to start the computer and got some work done. I made almond flour bars for myself, and did the dishes — household stuff like that. I showered. I helped the Girl Child learn to cook spaghetti noodles and a special sauce called “Ay Carumba Pasketti Sauce” , which is one of our Ghetto Paris Living recipes (I still hope to blog about that one day soon. I make it for the kids just about every Friday night). I went shopping at Monoprix for some ingredients we needed for that night. I was planning on making Breakfast for Dinner and wanted to get “bacon” (which is in quotations as the closest stuff I can find in Monoprix is this hybrid Canadian-style and regular Amuurrican bacon-style-bacon).
(BTW: Any of you ever do the Breakfast for Dinner thing? That was the good part of our day. Let me finish the bad part first, though.)
I’m not sure what else I all did, but I do know that at 10 minutes to 3:00 pm, I decided to do the last of the shopping, thinking I could be in and out of Leader Price and have all the groceries put away by 3:30, when we needed to leave. For sure.
Well, you all know what’s coming, and the road to hell is paved with them (as well as unbought stuffed dogs).
I walk in the door at about 3:32 pm with groceries still needing to be put away, plus needing a quick trip to the loo before leaving (always, ALWAYS go before you leave in Paris — you never know when you next will get to use the toilet as they are as scarce as dodos in the city). Paul was ready to go, toes tapping, already knowing how late we were going to be and how we are likely to lose our spot on the tour.
Sure enough. We were too late. The next tour with an opening was at 6 pm. Feeling ashamed and guilty for making us late and missing the tour (even though it was for the good reason of ensuring the family was fed for the next few days, to mediate this ever so slightly in my favor), I wanted to try to find the silver lining in the debacle. Maybe there would be a cancellation — someone like us who did not show up on time — for the next tour. Maybe we could spend the next hour and 50 minutes taking some other photos in the area, having a coffee, and making the 6 pm tour. Maybe, maybe, maybe — but all of my ideas were falling on the deaf ears of the man I love, who was clearly miffed we missed the tour, who hates waiting for anything, and who clearly just wanted to go home. Which in turn pissed me off because I DID NOT WANT TO BAIL. It was a beautiful day nonetheless, and I thought we should have stayed and at least tried to do *something.* So, fight or flight — the two classic responses to a situation like this — were going head-to-head. I wanted to stay and fight (knowing how hard it is to get out of the apartment with the kids. The Girl Child was with us while Boy Child — or Guy Child as I should be calling him since he is almost 16 — was out doing what Guy Children his age do: hang with friends). Paul wanted to take flight.
So what did I do? Like a petulant three-year-old, I stomped off, thinking “Screw this! (Okay, it was really “F— this,” but I can’t bring myself to write it twice in one post.) I came all this way to see *something* so something I will see!” and I left Paul and Girl Child in the dust, just wanting to be away from the entire situation. Girl Child ran up after me and said “What’s wrong?” and I replied something about her father being an a-hole, except I really say the word, and how I just wanted to walk AWAY and SEE SOMETHING on this BEAUTIFUL DAY. Not one of my shining moments. I have to say, though, I am usually the picture of calm and composed grace around Paul’s kids, almost always. Yeah, I have fallen apart in front of them a couple of times, but I really think that I have done a pretty good job of holding myself together in front of them, not always an easy thing to do with blended families and this whole living-in-France thing being something new for me.
So I stomped. Stomped all around an area for which I had just written a tour for that project I mentioned. I saw a lot of cool things as I cooled down. Karma had its way with me, too, as I jammed my toe really badly while hopping off of a concrete seating area I had jumped upon to take this photo:
(To read more about the interesting history of the little tower there to the left, see this about Catherine de Medici.)
It turns out I had a pretty good time. I wandered around Église Saint-Eustache, got to see the Chapel of the Duchess of Orléans, which is normally closed to the public, saw some acrobats doing some kind of show hanging from ropes tied up to the ceilings and walls of the church (I have a crappy little video of it, but it’s not finished uploading yet — oooh wait, now it is, as I am editing the post — see here), walked through the inside of the Église Saint-Germain de l’Auxerrois, and found and took the Number 48 Bus all the way home. It was an enjoyable afternoon for me after all. (I’ll link in photos from Flickr if they ever get finished uploading. *a little later* Okay — here you go. Sorry. They are all jammed in with the rest of the unlabeled September photos so far.)
When I got home, Paul and Anaïs met me with huge hugs, there was forgiveness all the way around, and I proceeded to make them chocolate chip pancakes, eggs, bacon, and Paul grated and fried potatoes for homemade hashbrowns. It was proclaimed a fantastic Breakfast for Dinner and We All Lived Happily Ever After.
Oh no, no, there is *always* more.
Not too much though, I hope. I have to write some of the tour today.
In addition to the tour project, I am participating in the care of a three-year-old French boy whose mother wants him to be exposed to more English. In addition, I am taking care of a thorough weekly housecleaning for them. So I am now investing 12 hours a week (16 with transportation time) into this family’s life and well-being. There are a few tricky things about blogging on this whole situation, one of which is the strict importance of keeping the family’s privacy as well as keeping my own when it comes to exchanging “goods for services,” shall we say; in this case “goods” being grocery money, which is pretty much all I am earning while doing this stuff. But it is a vast improvement over the nothing I was making in the past.
I think all I shall say more about this here is that I really like helping this family out as they are helping me out, there are a couple of little glitches where I am having to demonstrate some flexibility and be available to them when I might rather be doing other things such as reading all y’all’s blogs, cleaning my own home (which is being sadly neglected by comparison these days), working on the tour project, or just plain sleeping. But it is going well, and sometimes we have to do what we have to do to make ends meet, and that’s where things are at right now.
Another thing all this busyness is doing is putting a crimp in my being able to go out to do things with friends I have met here in Paris. But thankfully, I have still been able to connect with a few of you, like Anne in Oxfordshire, who was visiting from England two weeks ago.
Anne, if you read this, the other photos I took of that day are here in this set. Let me know if you have troubles seeing them/downloading them, and I will email them to you instead.
I have so enjoyed the friends I have made through blogging, which is why I feel especially forlorn that I am not able to keep up with people’s posts right now, and that I have already missed a couple of opportunities for getting together with others. I hope that things will settle into a steady pace soon, and in a few weeks the tour project will be completed. I’ve needed these income-increasing opportunities, so I am grateful for them. I know eventually this type of schedule will likely be the norm, too. It’s what I have been wanting and needing all along here in Paris, so I’m trying to embrace the different rhythm of life. But it is taking a toll. First, forgive me, Dear Readers for not only not posting here with more consistency, but also for skipping out of the bloghood with no forewarning of vacancy. I’ve had to move back into Real Life World for a while until I find my balance (and a really cheap laptop, haha).
I keep thinking about the lines from Professor Keating in the movie Dead Poets Society, paraphrasing and embellishing Thoreau:
Sucking the marrow out of life doesn’t mean choking on the bone.
It’s a bit the opposite of my situation right now — I am not really sucking on the marrow so much that I am choking on the bone (i.e., living for pleasure so much that it is my downfall), but I recall what my life was like before Paul, before Paris, in the Before Time of Stress — too much mindblowing, incapacitating stress that it about broke me. I sucked so hard at the marrow of expectations of society, norms, and others’ expectations of me, that I choked. I choked on my own life of trying to have, be, and do it all. It left me here, gluten-and dairy-intolerant, weakened, having had to, in a spiritual sense, cut off my own hand to spare my life (at least that is how it has felt to me).
I don’t want to be back there again, and some of what I have been experiencing the past three weeks is feeling back in that place. Please hope along with me that a fine balance of all the parts of my life can be found once again. Please hope that I can find a reasonable and achievable schedule, and that I can find the time to start back up on that young adult novel I started working on. It is another casualty of my recent schedule.
Connecting the Dots with Julia Roberts
I was wondering how to ségue into the final part of this post, and I found the connection within two degrees of separation. Woot!
Here we go.
I referenced Aron Ralston up there in the link about cutting off the hand to spare the life. Aron Ralston is the Colorado man who was hiking/climbing in Utah in 2003 when he got trapped in a canyon and got to the place of desperation where he chose to amputate his own arm with a dull knife rather than stay in the canyon and die.
I just read that Danny Boyle, one of my favorite directors (“Trainspotting,” and “Slumdog Millionaire”) is making a movie of Aron Ralston’s story, due for release in late 2010. The movie will feature James Franco as Aron Ralston.
James Franco is the actor who recently starred as “David” in “Eat, Pray, Love,” which had its Paris premiere on this past Sunday evening (September 19), and GUESS WHO was there at the premiere?! Why little old moi and Monsieur Paris Paul, that’s who. Here are Julia and her co-star, Richard Jenkins, who played “Richard from Texas,” along with producer Dede Gardner (far left), one of the screenwriters Ryan Murphy, and the announcer, who a Facebook friend of mine says is this guy (Niko Aliagas, from the French show “Star Academy.” That’s one show I have not seen, so those of you in-the-know can voice your knowledge here and weigh in on who the announcer guy is. More photos of him are here on my Flickr page).
Dede Gardner, Ryan Murphy, Julia Roberts, Richard Jenkins, and ???
Julia was herded quickly past us by all her hulking and serious-looking goons, but she was just one body(guard) away from Paul and me when she passed us. I got to see her this close (I’m holding my arms less than a meter apart). She is really very, very pretty in person, and oh my word, her legs? Granted, she is wearing, I shit you not, what looked like SIX INCH Lanvin heels, but her legs go up to her neck anyway, I swear. You can see even better pictures of her here: Zimbio, Celeb Showbiz, and Broadwayworld (and yes, I just noticed that it was Nikos Aliagas who announced them all, as he is pictured and named at that last link).
An Honorable Mention
In closing, and before I get the load of laundry out of the washer that just finished spinning and kick in on tour production for the day (no babysitting this afternoon, thank goodness), I want to direct your attention to a marvelous blog about Paris’s monuments and history as well as other places in France. Keith, if you have not seen this blog, you should take a look at it — I am really impressed with the work and scholarship in it.
Online Travel France is written by DeeBee L. DeeBee is a fourth generation Parisienne on both sides of her family. Large portions of her life have been spent abroad, so she knows what it is like to be an expat, too. In her posts you can find a wealth of information about some of Paris’s major sites, and their historical backgrounds. I have found her site so helpful in the tour writing project as she has really researched her topics well. As a thank-you to her for her help, I said I would give her a huge shout-out here. Thank you, DeeBee!
Please go and visit her site, and add her on to your list of Paris Must-Reads if you love to read about sights and monuments in Paris and their roots in history.
There you go. I’m finally finished. It’s good to catch up with you here, and if you are a blogger whom I normally read, if there has been anything huge going on in your life, would you mind letting me know what’s up with you in comments? Maybe link me into a post I might read up on to get the skinny, the 411 on your life? And the rest of you readers-but-not-bloggers, by all means share if you like what’s going on in your lives as you have experienced the whole rentrée (aka “back to school”) month for yourselves.
I hope I can figure out a way to be back here with a little more frequency, like, maybe finally learning that whole “short blogging” thing once and for all. In the meantime, go to Paul’s blog, haha! He’s keeping you posted. Add me on Facebook (see sidebar) — I am discovering that I can quickly check in there more often than on blogs.
Adios, amigos. Make that au revoir, canard! (I just learned that is the French version of “See you later, alligator!” from the subtitles on “Eat, Pray, Love.” Check this out — so cute: Au revoir, canard.)
(an alien parisienne)