Another François Boucher painting detail from my trip to the Louvre on 6 September, 2009. I lost the info in the great backup debacle this past weekend. In fact, as I peruse the set on Flickr now, I realize I have lost a *lot* of good photos from that day. *sigh* I am really glad to have what I do (I found a Flickr 3rd party batch downloader, by the way!), but sad that some of the photos I really enjoyed taking are now lost for good.
As of yesterday, I reached 6,666 words towards my goal of 50,000 by the end of the month.
Today, for what I have dubbed as my NaNo book title, My Life in Paris (*snort* I know, soooo original, eh?), I plan to write about PJ’s writer’s altar, a leafy mess in Paris, and a dog poo story. Like yesterday, I am dividing this blog up with headings, and I am putting into bold (maybe for my own sake more than yours) the ideas that emerge from each section which are salient to me. (Not trying to be snooty with the vocab here, but “salient” is one of my favorite words. It means something that stands out as significant. I tend to equate it with “salty,” though. Get it? Salient? Saline? So to me, something salient is something tasty. The good stuff, with flavor.) I know how it is to read long blogs. If you’re interested, you read the whole thing. If not, you skim to read the good bits and let the rest sort of flow around those. The bold sentences are what I have determined are the good bits. The salty ones.
So, let’s go.
The Writer’s Altar
PJ has Billie Holiday playing on the CD player this morning while we both write. PJ is not officially participating in NaNoWriMo but since I am doing writing for it, he has caught the bug. Well, I don’t think there is really so much of a causal connection there. Let’s say that his desire to begin his new novel converged with my doing this. I know it has been something working up in him independently of my own writing for NaNoWriMo, but he now happens to be writing in the mornings, too. We are both getting up early and both setting words to the page, me on the computer as this is where I write best, and he on pages in his hardcover journal. He likes the Moleskine ones best. They are sturdy. He also likes to use his fountain pens. He often lights candles while writing, setting up what he calls his “writing sanctuary,” or “writer’s altar.” He makes a comparison between holy acts in a church with the holy act of writing. He believes in distracting the five senses so that the mind can focus on its one task; in the case of church this is worship. In the case of writing this is the word.
In churches, there is incense (smell), music (hearing), candles and icons (sight), making prayerful hands (touch), and the consecrated bread and wine (taste). In PJ’s writer’s altar, there is incense, music (today is Billie Holiday), candles and little writing muse figurines (photo of the candles below, maybe a photo of the figurines later), a fountain pen in hand, and strong, hot coffee (lol. Hey. I think coffee is sacred, too).
Writer’s Altar Candles
I work best at the computer as this is where I got my start doing intensive writing for graduate school from 1993 to 1995. I had a basic model back in the day (they were ALL basic back then), it ran on DOS still, I think, or maybe Windows 3.0. Anyway, I was most prolific with my papers (imagine that!) on teaching English to speakers of other languages. PJ mentions my quote-happiness in his comment on my previous blog and I attribute this in part to the academic requirement to cite, cite, cite. That, and I confess I am still totally fascinated with petite anglaise. I have her words in my brain and so it is not surprising that what she writes has an impact to what I am thinking about and then it shows up in my writing, too. I have reached near-stalker status as I am avidly reading her back blogs and I discovered her Flickr page yesterday, complete with a set of her wedding to her now-husband Manuel and photos of her new digs. Her place is really nice! I keep wondering if it is still in Belleville, which is just up a hill to the SE of me by a few city blocks. We are roughly in the same ‘hood. In fact, I also learned on her FAQ page that she used to frequent this café which I happened to snap photos of back when I took my giant walk of the Canal St-Martin and went home via Belleville.
[ASIDE: Check out this totally fabulous link of a Belleville Walk in Paris. SOUNDWALK It’s a great site! I would totally love to do this walk… I also discovered a blog of collected essays about Belleville at this link: OdysseyFromChina2NewYork2Paris. I’m bookmarking it now.]
I write “used to” as she has got to have had her second child, a boy, within the past week or so. According to her blog, she was due by now, and I read yesterday that in her middle trimester the baby’s length and weight showed that he was about two weeks ahead of schedule. I doubt she has been tossing back café expresses at the Café Aux Folies of late.
[Stalker Report. I just found her Twitter page and for November 2 she writes, “Let’s get this show on the road. SRSLY.” Sounds like no baby, yet. Poor girl.]
Going with a chain of thoughts here: four years ago today I was nine months pregnant, my due date was on November 11, but on the night of November 6 I went into labor with a baby of my own, a child I have not seen in 17 months now. Seventeen months ago tomorrow is when I arrived in Paris to live with PJ.
The above are allusions to things which may or may not be wise to blog about here, but which dominate my life nonetheless. This is where my blog becomes a fiction by omission, something I wrote about yesterday. I guess it is important for you to know that I am not one of those people with a charmed life simply because I am living somewhere like Paris, what is to many a kind of magical, dreamed-of destination. As I have written before and as I tell people all the time, I am only in Paris because of PJ, not because of some burning lifelong desire to live here. My attachments to Paris have been very tenuous, but this blog is in part a way to find the joy in living here. I have a lot more thoughts on that, things I would like to write about for this blog. Let it be said for today that my being here in many ways is entirely accidental. And not necessarily accidental in the happy, synchronistic kind-of-way, more like in the roadside tragedy kind-of-way in some respects. Of course there has been joy in being here, too.
I guess I just want you all to know that this is not your typical Paris Blog which screams, “Look at me! I am young, naîve, I live in this great city and let me tell and show you how charmed my life is! I eat the pastries, I see the museums, and I enjoy my happy, little life in this magical place!”
Yeahhhhh, but no. Oui… mais non. This blog has a tinged-with-dark underbelly to it. Naïve? Hardly. Charmed? Not. Attempting to reach for contentment? Oui.
A Parisian Leafy Mess
It’s another wet morning after another wet evening. The rain has been punctuated by periods of blue sky, but it has been a cool, wet mess here in the city. Or, in my part of the city.
Paris is not really that large of a place in terms of square miles/kilometers, though. Wiki says it is only 34 square miles (about 87 sq km). Answers.com/Paris has info that corroborates this. From end to end, this means that Paris is all of about six miles across (Wikipedia. Holy cow! Is that ALL?! Really?! ).
Yeahhhh, I’m thinking that whatever weather is going down in the 19th arrondissement is probably going on in the rest of Paris, too. LOL.
On November 1, the triangular “square” in front of our building was carpeted with soggy, golden leaves:
The gray containers there are a “donation station” for the Le Relais, a relief organization that takes used clothing and… does something with it. I’m too lazy/too focused on writing right now to want to throw that page into Google Translate, but I know that they not only refurbish shoes and clothing and make it available to needy persons, they do so in developing nations as well.
What I know of personal experience from the donation station in front of our apartment building is that the containers fill up quickly and there is often overflow on the ground below it. I also know this can be a great place to get some needed clothing (scroll to “Sunday”). 😀
It is also amusing as through the months I have been here I have been entertained by what goes on at the bins.
One weekend, there was an obviously homeless and/or mentally not-all-there older man who was taking the overflow clothing and organizing it around the little plaza as if he were operating a storefront. For some weird reason, he decided to put a child’s sweater on top of the phone booth, spread out, as if he were placing it on a sacrificial altar to the Sweater Gods. Hmmmm. It stayed there for weeks. I would sit and look out the window at it and wonder who it used to belong to. I tried to imagine the little boy (or girl, I guess a little girl could wear turquoise, too) who wore it. I thought about the sweater’s story, from where it might have come to it’s odd turn of existence on top of a phone booth.
Wondering if I have the photo of it handy.
Oh yesssss! Got it.
I don’t remember when the sweater was finally removed or by whom. One day it was just not there anymore. Perhaps one of the city workers finally noted its presence on the telephone booth/altar and disposed of it.
The second amusing story happened not long ago when one morning I saw a man at the bin on the right, but instead of his putting IN bags of clothing , I saw bags of clothing coming OUT. Then, much to my angst and amusement (angst as it freaked me out in a bad way, but amusement as it freaked me out in a good way, too), I saw a child emerge from the bin! There were two adults with him, adults with very large duffles, one adult who was catching the emerging bags and who helped the child in and out of the bin and the other stuffing things into the duffles.
They looked a lot like Romani, or Gypsies. I’m sure they were going to try to resell the clothing. In addition to the linked article to the left, I found another interesting article on Paris’ Romani here: A Gypsy Rendez-vous.
I wish I had gotten some photos of the incident, but I was so taken with watching what was happening I did not want to miss a moment looking for the camera.
More soggy leaves.
We have a Vélib’ station in front of our building. I like this perspective of it.
I have been kind of chickensh*t to use the Vélib’. Most people who have tried it get hooked, I have read. Including the man I would have as Prom King to My Prom Queen in Paris Blog High School, David Lebovitz.
David (I hope he does not mind the familiarity of my using his first name, lol) writes this in 2007, when the Vélib’ was introduced in Paris:
Personally, the idea of riding in traffic around here scares the merde out of me.
But I’m going to give it a go. Bonne chance!…
But soon he writes this:
I wouldn’t trade my bike pass for the métro; it’s a great way to get around the city and it’s nice being in the open-air.
Sure we [the Vélib’ and I] got off to a rocky start, but after a couple of years of using the nearly-free bikes, the only way you could get me to take the métro is to hold a bar of low-carb chocolate to my head. (Or my mouth.)
Our not-so-secure railing of our dining area window with the golden leaves showing through.
The leaves by night.
Reminds me of this scene from La Nuit Blanche a month ago:
In the Parc Buttes Chaumont, a modern art display by Noël Dolla
The cleanup started on November 2 with a great Hosing Down of the plaza.
Just the center part of the plaza was hosed down, however. Leaves continued to clog the sidewalk and gutter.
It was a beautiful blue-sky day for a few hours!
Nooo, I did not leave my apartment yesterday to enjoy the sunshine. Heh. The view from the window was lovely, though.
That night, I got a fuzzy shot of the November full moon. Happy Full Beaver Moon everyone! *snicker*
As I was writing this blog, I heard this weird whirring sound outside, almost like a high-speed drill set to whine, or a tattoo needle (<— the video link there does not load very well/quickly, but that’s okay. You are only going to be able to tolerate about two nanoseconds of listening to it, anyways. My teeth are totally on edge now after listening for the short time I have been. Maybe mute it after getting the idea and go ahead and watch the kid’s face for a bit, though. It’s hysterical! Ohhhh nooooo. He’s what sounds like an Italian kiddo getting the ubiquitous Chinese character tattoo. Argh!!! LOL. Oh, and for some more laughs, see this. Ink that stinks, lol. From the first hanzismatter.com link, you may find this uproariously funny, too: Semicolon On Her Back. Hahahahahaha!).
The street sweeper was coming by to suck up the rest of the leaves.
Apparently, there was something important to discuss about the leaves.
These were taken at about noon. It is a dark, cloudy day. Love how the street lamp was so conveniently in the way of my shot!
Making sure all the leaves get sucked up.
At 13.30 (that’s 1:30 pm to you folks not on a 24 hour clock system) this afternoon, I snapped this photo:
Most of the leaves are now cleared. For the time being.
But oh dear!
Something is wrong with the Vélib’ station, and a man is there to fix it!
Bagged leaves wait to be collected.
My life in Paris, as seen from my window? Booooor-ing!! LOL!
Yeah. That’s pretty much my life in a nutshell here in Paris, though. As seen from my dining area window. I feel like a human version of a city web cam.
But now, for the climactic third chapter:
Pretty much every blog and every book I have read about the tourist and the expat life in Paris has mentioned dog poo. Dog poo on sidewalks, dog poo on shoes, the reasons for the dog poo on the sidewalks (a lot of Parisians have a lot of little dogs whom they consider to be their “children”), how the dog poo used to be worse before the city started issuing more citations to owners who did not bag up the poo after their dogs did their thing on the sidewalks. La la la la.
Frankly, with this current jag I am on reading numerous blogs and memoirs from expats living here, the whole dog-poo-on-Paris-sidewalks is becoming really cliché to me. There are only so many funny and/or gross things one can say about the dog poo sitch in Paris before readers (like me) begin to say to themselves, “We’ve heard it all! Enough with the dog poo!” We get it: there is poo. A lot of it. Watch where you walk.
Yeah, well then Friday happened.
Because we reformatted the computer on Sunday, I can’t check to see my history in Google Chrome to know what it was I was doing online that day, but oh you can be sure I was doing what I do most days: surfing the ‘net, reading and writing blogs, researching (really just a part of the surfing, though, lol), doing some kind of le ménage task, which is NOT what you think it could be you-misinformed-English-users-you (see here).
In fact, now that I think about it, I was reading back blogs at petite anglaise. I told you — I am obsessed, lol. I hope Catherine Sanderson never reads this and thinks I am a stalker-weirdo. I just really relate to her story and like a good book you cannot put down, I want to continue to find out as much as I can. She’s got a good story. And lord knows she has already made a buck/euro/quid off of me when I bought her memoir, and her blog IS still public, so I might as well read it. I am probably going to wind up buying her newest fictional work, too.
Another aside here, but I just read a couple of reviews at that site link up there. Ouch. I see what Catherine means when she writes this here:
I love writing, but I don’t know if I’m in love with the writing lifestyle. It’s hard work, it’s solitary and you have to develop a very thick skin (see Amazon.co.uk readers reviews).
Those reviews must really sting. I. Do. Not. Have. Said. Thick. Skin.
It’s why I am of such a double-mind doing THIS. Writing, and writing here. I love it, I need it, I want to do it, and yet it apparently comes with a steep price tag if the writing ever “takes off” in terms of recognition and remuneration. It seems like such a high price to pay (exposure to harsh criticism and lack of anonymity) for the benefits it gives (potential praise and a paycheck for doing what one loves). Worth it? I have no idea.
My life could get downright complicated and messy if I became known for this blog. Part of me gets shivers of anticipation with hopes that this *would* become a known and popular place to read; the other half of me knows that it could become my worst nightmare come true.
I’m risking a lot, I know, by pursuing this here. But still I write. It has a hold of me now and it won’t let go.
Anyway, back to dog poo.
So on Friday PJ says, “Let’s meet up to see the new Bruce Willis film ‘Surrogates’ at the Georges V UGC cinema on the Champs-Elysées at 18.15.”
Actually, that is not what he said at all. He probably really said something like,”Let’s see ‘Clones’ [the French title of the movie]. Meet me at the Etoile at 6:15.”
But since I am “fictionalizing” this for NaNo, let’s say he said the first thing, which explains a lot more to you, the reader.
I think I had taken a shower earlier that day. That may seem like an odd thing to write, but facts are that when one has her entire existence wrapped up in the online world and in daily household tasks of managing a Parisian-American household, I know that there have been many a day where about 15 minutes before PJ is due to come home, I happen to glance up at the digital clock of our ADSL internet box, see a time like 16.55, think, “What the hell time is that?” subtract 12, and then say out loud to no one but myself, “Oh sh*t! I have to take a shower… PJ is home soon!”
I think that on the Friday of which I am writing, it was more like, “Oh sh*t! It’s 5:45 and I have to be at the Etoile in 30 minutes! Crap!”
When I go out of doors in Paris, which is not a terribly frequent occurrence, I take care to dress to fit in as much as I can. This autumn that means skinny jeans or leggings. And ballet flats. (I love ParisBreakfast’s blogs! Her photos are wonderful and her descriptions of what Parisienne women are wearing are spot on.) I was wearing the skinny jeans, my dark wool coat from H&M, a gray scarf, and, at the last moment, I put on my black ballet flats.
One thing I did not know about weight loss is that one’s feet can lose weight. Over the past year-and-a-half, with the weight I have lost, my shoe size has gone down by half a size.
I had purchased my ballet flats in early 2008 from a Maurice’s in north Denver. I first learned about Maurice’s living in a small northern Colorado town, and when I found out there was one in north Denver, I went and got some things there, including very cute ballet flats, ones that happen to really fit in with “the look” here in Paris. I purchased a size which normally fit back then and although they felt a wee bit large, I thought at the time, “Rather too loose than too tight,” and figured all would be well.
Shoes also stretch.
Combined with my slightly smaller feet and the slightly big shoes which have now stretched ever so slightly, what we now have are ballet flats which will not even slightly stay on my feet.
I discovered this on Friday evening when rushing down rue de Meaux trying to get to M° Colonel Fabien in haste as I was so engrossed in petite’s blogs that I lost track of time. My shoes were practically flying off my feet and I could not walk.
I was late enough and far enough down rue de Meaux a that going back to the apartment was not an option. Necessity of course being the proverbial mother of both insight and invention, I remember that I have a packet of tissues in my bag. I stop next to the side of a building on the sidewalk, dig out the packet of tissues, and wrangle one out of the pack. My right shoe, which is half off already slides to the sidewalk and I bend over to shove the tissue, which I have crumpled slightly, into the toe of my shoe. As I bend over, I lower my right foot slightly to keep my balance, and it touches something wet and squishy.
Oh. My. God.
Let it not be.
I believe that my right foot has just made contact with poo.
I look down. In the Paris evening dusk, I cannot make out exactly what I have stepped in. There is no super strong odor of poo and it looks sort of reddish, not brown and poo-looking. I think, hopefully, that perhaps it is a bit of persimmon that someone has chewed and spit out, or maybe a candied apple (then thinking I have never, ever seen a candied apple in Paris).
I do not have time to mess about investigating the is-it-or-isn’t it question. I shove my foot in my tissue-stuffed ballet flat and march on to the métro. While waiting for a train to arrive, I shove my last tissue inside of the left shoe (it fared better as I was walking. My left foot must be bigger than my right).
After I arrive and meet PJ at the Etoile, we go to the theater, and there is time to use the ladies’ room, time enough to investigate the foot and poo situation. Sure enough. I get into the stall, remove my foot from the shoe (to which my foot is now sticking to the inside –poo glue!), and there are tell-tale signs and smells that poo indeed made contact with the bottom of my foot.
I wiped it as best I could with the tissue that had been in the shoe, and with fresh toilet paper in the stall. I rolled off clean toilet tissue from the roll, stuffed more inside the top of the shoe. I started the countdown until which I would be back at home, able to not only clean my foot and my shoe, but take a full, long, hot shower as I have the total creeps. I don’t think I will ever feel clean again.
I made it through the movie (it was a bit of poo, too) and back home. I took a shower, disinfected the inside of my shoes with copious amounts of rubbing alcohol, got some nice comfy jammies on, and went to bed. It’s what I get for going out, I am convinced. 😉
This is all for now…
Oh sh*t. It is 16.22 (*subtracts 12 in her head*). PJ is home in about 20 minutes, and I have not taken a shower. I have been writing all day long.
It is time to publish for the day. I bid you adieu, and see you back here à demain.
Over & out.