Métro Jourdain (L11), sortie rue de Belleville (20th arr), 20 December 2010
A very Métro — I mean, Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year to all you readers out there!
I hope that everyone is having a spectacular Solstice, I hope that that Hanukkah was happenin’, that your Festivus will be fantastic, and that Kwanzaa is completely creative, cooperative, and community-driven (q.v. Kwanzaa principles).
Okay, that right there is the “short version” of this blog. The long version is coming right up. Get your coffee, or should I say café, or vin chaud, a tisane or heck, a Diet Coke, eh? Come back, and sit down, and read. I have a lot on my mind, and was stalling on writing a post because I just could not choose what I was going to focus on, so you are going to get the smörgåsbord of blog posts. You know, the kind of one where I break all the blogging “rules” and am all over the place for around (over???) 3,000 words. One of those. (A warning: I am committing a HUGE blog no-no, and pretty much blogging the entire month here. Just giving you fair warning. I’ve tried to divide it up so you can take it in chunks, haha.)
If you are not much of a reader, please press on to at least peruse the pretty pictures. There are some good ones of holiday scenes at the end. 🙂
The Snow Family, 8 December 2010 — during the “Big Snow”
In front of the Synagogue Michkenot Israël, 6 Rue Jean Nohain.
Here’s the little snowman brother. I could not get the whole family in one shot. I need a wider-angle lens.
So, the snow. Since maybe a lot of you read those other Paris Bloggy Folk who are more on top of things, posting-wise, jumping on the top Paris news stories with alacrity, you have probably seen pictures of the snow here. Pretty pictures of the snow at pretty places like the Place des Vosges, and the Eiffel Tower, and maybe some chi-chi places in the Marais. You know, Paris in the Single Digit Arrondissements. Here are my pictures of the area of Paris I have kind of started to think of as like Brooklyn. Although I have never been to Brooklyn, so I don’t really know. But I have read a lot about Brooklyn, and I see a basis for comparison. Maybe one of you New York-y people out there who also know my ‘hood in Paris could concur, or deny and let me know if it is more like the Bronx. At any rate, this is what I have come to call “Ghetto Paris,” and this is going to be a Ghetto Paris post.
My Snow Photos
18 December 2010
19 December 2010
20 December 2010
No, it’s not as much as the UK or other places in the EU has gotten, not in my part of the Île de France anyway, although some who live in the southern ‘burbs around Paris say they have had a lot more than Paris. Certainly it is not as much as in Germany or anywhere in Scandinavia in a normal winter. But those of you in parts of the U.S. that get some snow in the winter (like Colorado, for example) will understand that for a place like Paris to get snow like this, not just these three days in a row, but very consistently throughout the month of December, it is a lot like when there is snow in Texas or California. Parisians freak on it a little bit, and are not all that well-prepared when it snows often or a lot, especially as was the case during the snow of December 8th.
Actually, in the second photo up there, you can see what looks like the street-sweeping truck equipped with a snow plow. Instead of scrubbing streets, this one was scraping snow. The city workers actually seem to be doing a pretty good job of things when the snow is light, but here is what it looked like in our neighborhood on the night of the 8th, when traffic was a honking, paralyzed, clusterf*ck around the entire city:
There is not normally traffic like this on this street. While it is the direct street on up to the Mairie XIXeme (Town Hall for the 19th) and the Buttes Chaumont Park, it is not ever jammed up, bumper to bumper quite like this. I was also near the Place Gambetta that night, and every street coming into the roundabout in front of the Mairie for the 20th and the roundabout itself was filled completely with honking buses and cars. It was a total mess, and I was grateful to be taking the Métro, which was working just fine. Those taking the RER trains were not so lucky, though. They were delayed and even stopped for a while, too.
My story is so boring compared to this one, though: Kung Fu Dana’s And Then There Was Zed: A Birth Story Gone Awry. It is about what happened to her on the night of the snow, and she tells it in a humorous and poignant way. All I did that day was help the mom for whom I babysit assemble some IKEA shelves. Heh.
What Else Has Happened This Month
On November 30, I logged in 51,506 words on the NaNoWriMo website, confirming that I had “won” the goal of writing 50,000 or more words of fiction during the month of November.
I have had a lot of interesting questions/comments about NaNo in person and on Facebook. I wanted to clear up a few things as some of those comments and questions make me think that people believe me to be submitting a manuscript and getting published from the experience.
Okay, no. While I am sure that some seasoned writers have been able to come up with a manuscript with which to work, revise, and hone into a novel ready to submit to agents and subsequently publishers within a month’s time, I am a NOVICE. All I did during the month was dedicate several hours a day to try to write 1,667 words for that day (and making up for it on other days when I did not). Yes, the goal is to try to write an entire novel with a beginning, middle, and end in the month of November (and 50K being the minimum number of words publishers designate a “novel”), but I did not accomplish that. I went into the experience this time (my third attempt, my third year of trying) with no plot outline, no story idea, no nothing at the beginning. I free-wrote the first couple of days until a character name popped into my head and I got some exposition accomplished. After writing some of the basics of the beginning of the story, I wrote the middle, and then the middle, and then some more middle… Basically, I have about 50,000 words of the middle of the story where some interesting things happen to the protagonist (she has drunk-sex with an old college friend and meets the ghost of Jim Morrison in Père Lachaise Cemetery, as well as Ethan Hawke in the Shakespeare and Company bookshop), but there is no real narrative arc to anything, and certainly no complete story.
What there is is a lot of practice at what it means to write fiction: I came up with action, dialogue, and descriptions — I learned what it is to move from one scene to the next and establish a lot of things in the process such as characterization and motivation. What I also learned is that it’s all well and good (and very hard!) to write enough words to have a novel, but unless you have some kind of plot outline before going into something like the NaNoWriMo experience (or for *any* sort of writing experience), you’re probably going to flounder a lot like I did and not really have much to speak of in terms of an actual story at the end of it all. I learned that it’s helpful to have an idea of what is going to happen, an outline of the story and the major conflicts within it, before jumping in to write actual words.
So, this was just practice for whatever is next. I am actually thinking of working on the thing I started on back in August about the 12-year-old girl. I realize now, however, after November’s experience, that creating a story outline is what I need to do next. Then I can set about some actual writing and see what happens.
Images from Google Search
On Saint Nicholas’s Day, and the Finnish Independence Day, Paul turned 47. I was asked to babysit from 8 pm until midnight that night, so we didn’t really celebrate Paul’s birthday that day. However, his son turned 16 on Tuesday the 7th, the day which will live in infamy (not because of his birth, because of Pearl Harbor. Duh 😉 ). The 16-year-old had been spending a couple of weeks with us during this time (and will again in the coming year, living with us every other week or so. Maybe every two weeks — it’s TBD at this point). His mom and he have needed a little break from one another. Those of you who have raised teen boys can probably understand this. Anyway, that week he was with Paul and me, so Paul, his ex-wife, her boyfriend, Paul’s daughter, son, and I all had McDonald’s dinner together (well, I ate fries and had a Coke Zero) at our place. It was a nice gathering. It’s a good thing I am a flexible person and quite enjoy hanging out with Paul’s ex-wife and her boyfriend. I made a cake; in fact, it was the one I posted about here, the chestnut flour cake. I made it dairy-free by subbing coconut milk for the crème fraîche and it worked out great! (Thank you, Mary Cadogan, author of the recipe!)
I’m of a mixed mind for this next part. Sometimes I feel like things about which I am about to write are a little gratuitous, as if I am trying to say, “Look who I saw in Paris!” and “Look what I did in Paris!” and it could seem, you know, braggy.
But I don’t mean it that way.
In fact, for me, part of this blog’s purpose was to help me get out, connect with others, and help me enjoy Paris more. The first six months I was here, I had agoraphobia, I barely left my apartment, and when I did, it would take me 20 minutes or more just to open the door and go down the stairs into the “outside world” of Paris (like, I would stand by the door for those minutes, physically shaking and freaking out, and talking out loud to myself, trying to convince myself it was safe to go outside). I was smoking back then, too, and the whole going-outside-thing would freak me out so badly, I would chain smoke up until going out, then I’d chain smoke while outside, and then I’d do it some more when I returned home because I had flipped out so badly. It was not pretty, and it was probably really stinky, too.
So, if anything, this is the part where I am trying to note, mostly for myself, to tell myself the following: “Think about how f*cked up you used to be, and NOW look at yourself! You are able to go out by yourself to meet people, you no longer need to smoke to get through the experience, and WOW. Look how far you’ve come, baby!”
There are ten events listed below, ten things I did this past month.
( 1 ) At the very beginning of the month, I was pleased to connect with Lily of Context Travel, who talked with me about options here in Paris for work, and who told me more about her Paris story (how she arrived, and so on) and also a little about the tour business. I had met her at Misadventures With Andi’s get-together in October. Getting to know Lily better was such a pleasure, and I was really impressed with the way she runs the Paris office for Context Travel (there was a bit of a crisis while I was there, and she handled it smoothly and graciously!). I note that Context Travel is now working with not only one of my favorite sites for information about Paris, Bonjour Paris, but also with Discover Paris, whom I wrote about this past autumn. Context Travel seems like a great organization with whom to book tours, so if you are visiting Paris, check them out. (That was a totally un-coerced endorsement, by the way. I have not ever been on a tour of theirs, comp’d or not. I have read a post by someone — a friend — who has been on a tour, and it sounded great. I just think Lily is really nice, and the company appears to be professional and top-notch. So there you go. Sounds like a good deal.)
( 2 ) The first weekend of the month I got to meet some very special people, who graciously met with me on the down-low during their low-key Paris honeymoon trip, in order to finally meet face-to-face (we kept missing one another on their previous trips). I took them on the Ghetto Tour (most of it — it was a VERY chilly day, so we abbreviated things) to see the Église Saint-Serge de Radonège, my local Leader Price (which underwent a makeover in November!), and the “square” in front of my apartment. I very much appreciated being able to meet this special couple.
( 3 ) I have also been getting together with another blogger who shares my sense of humor and also the same era of birth and coming-of-age (that is to say, we are ladeeez in our fordeeez! 😉 ). We have a lot to giggle about together, just like a couple of teens. I like it when people make me feel like I am 17 again. 🙂
Also, check out the size of this wine goblet she has. It’s GINORMOUS! That baby has got to hold at least a half a bottle of wine, if you filled it all the way up (37.5 centiliters — a bottle is 75. That’s about 12.7 ounces, or a cup-and-a-half. THAT’s a wine glass!).
( 4 ) This past spring I met Leesa of News From France. When I met her, I also met Dawn, aka Notes from Noëlle. Dawn goes to a monthly book club, and this past fall, she invited me to be a part of it. Every third Wednesday of the month, I have been getting together with some ladies to discuss a book we have read prior to the meeting. I’ve been attending since October, and here are the books we have read so far:
Actually, Sea of Poppies was the September selection, and I did not go to that meeting. But one of the book club members donated her copy to a book exchange for the group (the “leftovers” are taken to the American Library in Paris), so I decided to pick it up and read it, anyway. Our book for discussion in January is The Other Hand by Chris Cleave. This book is called Little Bee in the States. I just finished it, and it is really good.
( 5 ) On the 16th of December, I told you I would be going to a promotion party for Mademoiselle London (see post here). I had a great time seeing Franki Goodwin again, and also meeting Katya Jezzard-Payraud. The event was held at Adam Studio on Boulevard Sébastopol, in the 1st.
While there, I met a couple of new people, very briefly, but one was Amanda of Skinny Cappuccino in Paris (I think that’s her link…) and the other a German woman named Anna who writes for European Chic Design. I had fun talking with them, as well as the event photographer, and this guy named Cedric, who works in press relations of some kind. And there was this really drunk guy, too, who was kind of annoying, lol, but I forgot his name.
What was important about this event for me, personally, was that I actually went OUT on a Thursday night, all by myself. It was pretty fun. A little, hmmm, how to put it — probably not my normal kind of crowd to hang with, but it was interesting. I got video interviewed by the photographer/videographer guy and the video is supposedly going to show up on DailyMotion on Adam Studio’s account/page, eventually, but I can’t even find their page, so god/dess only knows what the deal is on that one. There was free alcoholic punch, though. 🙂
I hope that the event drummed up some business for Franki and Katya, who have a cool concept on their hands, as I have written about before.
( 6 ) Earlier that day, I met with my photographer friend, also a Karin in Paris. You have to check out her Flickr site. She takes incredible photos! We are, believe it or not, both Karins born in 1968, and in the springtime, no less. Karin in Paris is originally from Sweden, a country I have not been to, but when I was growing up, we had two Swedish exchange students living with us (at separate times), so I have felt a connection with Swedish culture since I was a kid. Karin made me a delicious gluten and dairy-free Thai shrimp and coconut milk soup (it was fantastic!) and we visited in her home in the 18th, talking about all kinds of things. She’s really cool.
I took these photos out of her apartment window because I am fascinated with the views outside of apartment windows here in Paris, haha.
( 7 ) Aurelia came over this past Saturday to use my oven to make some wonderful-looking Mexican Wedding Cookies a/k/a Russian Tea Cakes a/k/a Pecan Dreams (if made with pecans instead of walnuts) for the holidays. I did not try any since they had flour in them, but they looked great! We lunched on some gluten and dairy-free pasta with sauce. I love visiting with Aurelia. She is so kind! And funny, too. 🙂 You have to read her story about meeting David Sedaris on her blog. It’s a riot. She’s another friend who graduated from high school the same year as me, and so we have the whole growing-up-in-the-80s thing in common, just like I have with Amy75. She’s also one who eats differently from most people, so I take comfort in the fact that she understands some of what I go through in social situations, not eating like other people do. She’s in the middle of writing a book about living in France, and I cannot wait to see the results! She encourages me a lot that it is possible to write, to find someone to publish that writing, and to do the work. I really enjoy hearing about her writing process, too.
That same night (the night in the first snowy picture with the windows up there), dear Tess, my very first friend here in the city, who is so kind and has such a gentle personality, came over for a Christmas dinner before she leaves (has left, actually, at the time I am writing this) for a holiday retreat in Ireland. She got me the book Sacred Contracts, by Carolyn Myss, for Christmas. I have already started reading it, and am blown away by its insights. It is a perfect follow-up to a book I have read and loved for a long time, Women Who Run With the Wolves, by Clarissa Pinkola Estés.
( 8 ) Then I connected with the writer/blogger/photographer Sab in Paris this past weekend, too. He has a few blogs (this one, Paris If You Please, is his newest, but check out his sidebar for the other nine [9!!] blogs), a Flickr site, a Facebook page, and another project, which is organizing a MeetUp group. It was the MeetUp group I joined on this past Sunday the 19th.
We met just next to the Passage Jouffroy in the 9th, the “secret location” of Sab’s favorite tearoom, which we found out when we got there was the Le Valentin. Sab, a woman named Sylvie, a man named Jean, and another guy named Jean-Baptiste all met at 8 Blvd. Montmartre next to the Musée Grevin to gather, coverse, and discover more about Sab’s favorite tearoom in the city.
I had a macaron framboise (no gluten & no dairy, allegedly, in one of those) and a pot of Lapsang Souchong, which is a smoky, rich, Chinese black tea I love to drink in the wintertime. It’s a very cozy tea.
We walked around and took photos of the shopping Passages Jouffroy and Panoramas. (Click on the images to make them bigger. This post is too gigantic as it is, and I am not quite wrapped up yet, lol.)
Passage des Panoramas (mostly, I think)
This one is interesting — it was photos of the windows of a Philatérie — a stamp-collecting shop in the Passage des Panoramas, across from the Passage Jouffroy. It looks like it is in one of the older locations of this company, Stern Graveur, an engraving company which is now located in the 8th on rue du Faubourg Saint Honoré. –a little research later– Yes, in fact, French Wikipedia has more about it here. I just learned that the Philatérie is one where some of the collection of a famed philatelist, Arthur Maury, is kept (again, I think). At least that’s what I got out of reading in French, and then with the help of Google Translate. Maybe you try reading it and see if you can get more out of it than I did…
Anyway, I was fascinated by these buckets of old letters with their fancy handwriting, colorful envelopes, and exotic stamps. I wish I could have seen some of the correspondence within (and then understood what it said). I wonder where all of that stuff was found! Oh, too many questions I have with my inquisitive mind.
( 9 ) This past Monday I met up with a young woman in the city who is struggling with health issues very similar to my own. She found me through my blog. It was really good to meet someone who knows what it is to not eat what everyone else is eating in social situations. I hope that she and I can start a Paris support group for people with food intolerances and Candida! At first, with just us two. After that, who knows?!?
An organic, fair-trade cola with the same name as a version of a Linux OS
After meeting with her, I met up with Leesa (again, of News from France), Susa and Brigitte, whom I had not seen in ages and had hoped to see before the holidays, and I met for the first time Jennifer, whom I had heard a lot about and had seen comment on various Facebook posts of my friends I have met because of Leesa.
We ate lunch at this great place on the Boulevard Montparnasse called “Exki.” Leesa has blogged about it before. What I liked is that they had organic items as well as gluten-free ones, and all the ingredients on every food were marked really clearly. It was a little pricey, but delicious. The place was clean, fairly spacious, and really convenient.
( 10 ) The last event — and I will be caught up for the month. Promise.
So Amy75 Facebook-messaged me on Tuesday and wrote that a friend had cancelled for a “pedicure” because she had sick children, and how would I feel about going with her for a “fish exfoliation”? You know, the fish that tickle and eat the dead skin off your feet. I said, “Sure! Why not?” and so I went to have my feet and calves exfoliated, by fish. It was… weird. Funny. Now that I look at the photos a couple of days later, it’s kind of creepy, haha. It was cool to try once in my life, though. I’m glad she thought of me to go with her. Many thanks to her friend, too. 🙂
Some Final Holiday Thoughts and Photos
So, all of the above is why I have not really blogged much for the past month — I have been out living life. Always a good thing to be living life. 🙂 Gives me something to write massive blogs about! 😉
Paul and his two kids are in New Mexico right now. I’m not. The reasons why are too complex for this very public blog, but suffice it to say it was the wisest decision that I made the choice to remain here. They left on the 14th of December and will return on January 1st. It is one reason I have been out the past ten days, doing a lot of things. It has been nice to have people to do things with since I am by myself during the holidays here. No worries: my friend Janet is arriving on the 26th to stay for a week. I have been doing just fine being by myself. In fact, it is kind of refreshing and a true confirmation of just how much I have grown. I am so far past that panic-stricken woman I described earlier, and it is wonderful to be by myself in Paris this holiday and know I *can* be by myself. It’s like getting to pass a test with flying colors, and I feel very proud!
So, two more things and then I will bid you adieu.
The first is that Janet, my best friend in the whole world, could not abide that I was not really decorating for Christmas and that I was going to spend the actual day by myself. I am honestly fine with not decorating and having Christmas Day to myself, but she up and ordered me a teeny-tiny Charlie Brown Christmas kind of tree from Tati, which my downstairs neighbor accepted from the delivery people yesterday afternoon, and then brought to me last night.
1) Open the box. Duh.
2) Open the second box with the origami-folded tree. Duh.
3) Read the directions. Apparently, make sure you are an adult before assembling the tree. I think I am mostly adult when it comes to assembling origami Charlie Brown trees. (The funniest thing was that I could not find anything labeled “A,” “B,” “C” or “D” anywhere on the Christmas tree parts. But, you would have to be pretty dense to not be able to figure it all out.)
4) Put everything together not *really* following directions, but your common sense instead.
5) Spread out the cheap-o, scraggly branches to make a “Christmas Tree.” *snicker*
6) Put the silk-flower fairy lights your fiancé’s ex-wife gave to you and your S.O. for Christmas two years ago on the tree as well as popcorn you stringed on tooth floss and had wrapped around your philodendron until the tree arrived.
Et voilà. You have a Christmas Tree.
Okay, now for the grand finale.
This year, so far, I have decided to not go to see the shop windows at the Galaries Lafayette and Printemps like I did last year. First, there are other bloggers who have done it for me. (And here, too.)
Next, my life is really not in that part of Paris, but in the 19th and the 20th arrondissements, as well as the other neighborhoods on my journey about town, such as where I go to my book club and to events such as the Mademoiselle London party. Here is a collection of the lights in the neighborhood places I have been in Paris over the past month:
Bûches de Noël at a bakery just at Métro Jourdain
So here you are.
You have made it to the very end of this post. Kudos to you.
I want to close with what happened to me this past Monday just before I met Leesa and Co. for lunch. I was just near the Église Notre Dame des Champs on the Boulevard Montparnasse, so I went inside, looked about, saw fantastic murals of the life of Mary, and had a short conversation with one of the volunteer ladies working in the church to greet guests that day. The convo went successfully, more or less, in French (those volunteer church ladies are so nice!). But it was this scene, the scene of the Nativity that got to me, that reminded me of Christmases past, and how much I loved the story behind the Nativity, the story in carols like the peaceful and powerful “Silent Night” or “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” I am not particularly religious any more, but I do respect that there is a reason for the season. I view the message of “Peace On Earth” and “Goodwill toward men,” as something good, no matter what beliefs I have at this point.
This scene makes me think of books like The Very Best Christmas Pageant Ever, and stories of love and redemption.
I love how the Wise Men are all the way across the central pulpit area, making their way to the scene of the Nativity. 🙂
I saw this Nativity Scene in the church, and I got a very peaceful feeling, thinking of the baby in the stable, a baby who came to say, “Peace on Earth, Goodwill toward men!” along with the angels that announced his birth.
When I saw it, I remembered all those Christmases past when I loved to hear this story, and it was good to see it represented in a church all the way in France, all those years after I first heard it when I was small. For the moments I gazed upon this scene, all was right in the world.
I want to wish you and yours peace and goodwill. Thank you for your loyal readership, even when I don’t post so often, and especially when I post something that is “too long” and “too unreadable” as a result. 🙂
May your holiday be merry and bright, and may 2011 be your best year yet.
(an alien parisienne)