Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Bonjour et au revoir

Les arrondisemonts de Paris


A final look at Paris in July.

Books read about Paris: three - The Moveable Feast; Paris Was Ours; and,  Paris Was A Woman

Books that took place in Paris and/or France: two - Maigret and the Millionaires; Maigret on the Riviera

Book that had scenes in Paris: one - Eye of the God

Still reading: The Three Musketeers

Movies watched: three - Six in Paris; Paris, je t'aime; and, Paris

French cooking classes: one - Coq au vin

French restaurants: one - Louis le Francais

Brief history lessons: two - Le Fete Nationale and Louis XVI

Photo albums: four - Hotel de Varenne, Rodin Museum, Eiffel Tower; Fountains in Paris; Art in Paris, Gardens at Giverney

Posts about Paris: 31

It has been a delightful vacation.

Au revoir!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Toward the end of the journey

Here I am almost to the end of my July spent in Paris. Although it has been quite an experience writing, reading, eating, and watching all things French, I must admit I am quite exhausted. I am beginning to dream in French  - not that that is a bad thing.

Tomorrow I will give a recap of what I have accomplished in celebrating a month in the City of Light. I am still plowing through The Three Musketeers and am actually ready to be finished with Athos, Porthos, Aramis, and D'Artagnan. It amazes me how many scrapes and close calls they get embroiled in. And to think Dumas wrote (and wrote and wrote) the book with a dip pen.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Paris, je t'aime

Ah. Another movie featuring the streets and sights of Paris.

Paris je t'aime is a film made up of 18, five-minute stories set in different neighborhoods of Paris. Characters find the beginning of love, the end of love, and the mysteries of love in these assorted vignettes. There are soft-spoken French actors and the more rambunctious American actors. There is a cameo by Oscar Wilde, a vampiress, a mime, and, of course, the arrondisements of the city.

My two favorites just happen to be the final two sketches:

In "Quartier Latin", Ben Gazzara and Gena Rowlands play a long-married and yet long-separated couple who meet in a cafe the night before they are to sign their final divorce papers. Gérard Depardieu (it is always nice to see him) plays the patron of the cafe. The couple's reunion is bittersweet as there is still much affection between the two.

In "14e Arrondissement", Margo Martindale plays an older solo tourist on her first visit to Paris. Her  scenes are narrated with a voice-over of the report that she has written for her French class recounting her days in the city. As she sits on a park bench taking in all that is around her, she thinks:

Sitting there, alone in a foreign country, far from my job and everyone I know, a feeling came over me. It was like remembering something I'd never known before or had always been waiting for, but I didn't know what. Maybe it was something I'd forgotten or something I've been missing all my life. All I can say is that I felt, at the same time, joy and sadness. But not too much sadness, because I felt alive. Yes, alive. That was the moment I fell in love with Paris. And I felt Paris fall in love with me.

Ah, oui. Paris, je t'aime!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Paris Was A Woman

I finished the final chapters of Paris Was A Woman by Andrea Weiss. Here are the stories of the female friends and lovers, writers and artists, booksellers and editors, poets, photographers and philanthropists of Paris in the 1920s and '30s.

So much has been written about the men of expatriate Paris, it was a pleasure to read what the women were doing: Gertrude Stein, Janet Flanner, Sylvia Beach, Colette, and Djuna Barnes. Many others' stories are told as well. I got some of the women confused as they all seemed to know each other and shared their lives, if not their beds, at one time or another.

The photos and excerpts from letters are worth the price of the book. The prose is a bit slow going, like I said I got the players confused sometimes, but learning of the contributions the women made to the art of the time is fascinating.

Of course it all came to an end with the occupation of Paris by the Germans in 1940. Some of the women did stay or at least moved to the French countryside, but most of them left before the Germans entered Paris.

Janet Flanner

The work I most want to get to know further is by journalist Janet Flanner who wrote under the name Genêt for The New Yorker magazine. A collection of her columns is published as Paris Was Yesterday (1929-1934) and three volumes entitled Paris Journal (1944-1955, 1956-1964,  and 1965-1970.). She writes of the arts, fashion, politics and people, the scandals and celebrities of Paris. She is known for her insight and wit.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Swording it up in Paris

I am so surprised at how fun it is reading The Three Musketeers. There are many more stolen kisses, lost letters, intrigues, adventures and witty writing than I ever would have expected. And everyone is so polite...even when one is getting ready to stab another in a duel.

And although many of the Paris streets mentioned are gone, there are still plenty les rues and landmarks to keep the reader grounded in the city.

I can see why movie makers are so attracted to the story.

I love Michael York at D'Artagnan in the 1973 film version and think the casting of the others in that movie is just about perfect. There has never been a better Cardinal Richelieu than Charlton Heston. Luckily, fans were treated to a sequel in 1974.

Michael York as D'Artagnan

I looked at the cast of the movie made in 1993 with Chris O'Donnell as D'Artagnan. This one is by Disney and features Keifer Sutherland and Charlie Sheen - neither of whom is a favorite of mine. I watched it long ago, but now am curious to watch it again just to see how the story is handled.

Chris O'Donnell as D'Artagnan

Then there is the 2011 version with Matthew Macfadyen (he of MI-5 fame) as Athos. This version is much more visual (it was filmed in 3-D) but alas I watched in on my laptop so missed much of the impact. But it was still pretty spectacular.

Matthew Macfadyen as Athos

Do you have a favorite?

Thursday, July 26, 2012

In Monet's Garden

Since my flower garden is fried from the heat, I thought I would post some healthy flower photos that I took in Monet's garden at Giverny. Of course I have no idea what the names of the flowers are but what care I?

Monet's house and garden

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Art is Everywhere

Another chance to highlight what makes Paris so wonderful - Art is Everywhere.
Standing Woman
Gaston Lachaise
Tuileries Gardens
Cain venant de tuer son frere Abel
Henri Vidal
Tuileries Gardens
Louis Auguste Leveque
Tuileries Gardens

Outside Le Musee D'Orsay
Allegorical sculptures representing South America, North America, Europe, Asia, Oceania and Africa, which were originally made for 1878 Exposition Universelle.

 From a bookstall along the Seine
Artist unknown
I love the swoop of her hat! Tres chic!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Getting from here to there

A lovely passage from The Three Musketeers that explains how we sometimes get from here to there:

Nothing makes time pass more quickly or more shortens a journey than a thought which absorbs in itself all the faculties of the organization of him who thinks. External existence then resembles a sleep of which this thought is the dream. By its influence, time has no longer measure, space has no longer distance. We depart from one place, and arrive at another, that is all. Of the interval passed, nothing remains in the memory but a vague mist in which a thousand confused images of trees, mountains, and landscapes are lost.

Monday, July 23, 2012

King Louis XVI

King Louis XVI

With one week left in the Paris in July event, I thought that today we would have a little history lesson.

King Louis XVI, also known as Louis-Auguste, duc de Berry, was born August 23, 1754 in Versailles, France. He married Marie Antoinette when he was 15 and she was a mere jeune fille of 14. It was not for love, but for political strategy that the two young people, he a Bourbon and she an Austrian Hapsburg, were united.

He became king of France at the age of 20. His reign was frought with troubles, intrigues, and financial missteps. After the storming of the Bastille in 1789, he tried to escape from Paris with his family, but was captured. He was arrested, tried for high treason and crimes against the state, and beheaded on January 21, 1793. His Queen was executed on October 16 the same year.

I only write about King Louis XVI as my hometown, Louisville, chartered in 1780, is named in his honor for assisting us in the American Revolution. There is a marble statue of King Louis downtown in front of the courthouse. It was commissioned by his daughter Marie-Therese and unveiled in 1820 in France. It came to rest here in 1967 as a gift from the city of Montpellier, our sister city.  It is 12 feet tall and weighs nine tons.

I must admit that for years I had no idea that my hometown was named for an executed criminal. Oh, the truths we sometimes have to face.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Six dans Paris

Place d'Etoile

Six in Paris is a New Wave film that features six short episodes by six different directors. Each story takes place in one of six arrondisements in Paris. It was filmed in 1965 so what the viewer is treated to a grainy, gray view of the city. The stories are nonsensical. One involves a man and his attack in self defense on a drunk with his umbrella. Another has a boy who finds a pair of earplugs and uses them to block the voices of his arguing parents. A third concerns a world-weary prostitute and her inexperienced client.

Nothing much really happens. That is so French. There is a lot of talk and smoke and atrocious table manners. But, and here is the thing, the street scenes of Paris are fantastic. What we have is Paris of the 1960s with its automobiles, fashions, and what seems to be an awful lot of building construction going on. What I was most struck by was that there was hardly any traffic - compared to today - and the sidewalks were practically empty. Surely Paris of a different time.

While watching the vignette about the haberdasher with the umbrella, Place d'Etoile, I recalled how I landed at the Arc-de-Triomphe by bus from the airport. To get from the cafe where the bus let me off (and where I ate un petit déjeuner) to the Avenue des Champs-Elysées, I had to cross something like seven streets. I believe there are twelve streets that meet at the circle.

It is a great mess for traffic, and a bigger mess for pedestrians.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Tapeworm Is In

David Sedaris

This morning I did finish reading the reflections of the male writers on Paris in Paris Was Ours. The best of course was David Sedaris's The Tapeworm Is In. Here, after moving to Paris, he wanders the city listening, not to French language tapes on his Walkman, but books on tape in English. He comments:

If a person who constantly reads is labeled a bookworm, then I was quickly becoming what might be called a tapeworm.

His sister, Amy, sends him a tape of Pocket Medical French with phrases spoken in English and then repeated in French.

I was quickly able to learn such sparkling conversational icebreakers as "Remove your dentures and all of your jewelry" and "You now need to deliver the afterbirth."

 Tapeworm indeed!

On another note, one of the best things about reading The Three Musketeers on my Nook is that it is so easy to look up the definition of words...and there are quite a few that are unfamiliar to me, such as:

baldric - an often ornamented belt worn over one shoulder to support a sword or bugle

windgall - a soft tumor of synovial swelling on a horse's leg in the region of the fetlock joint

poltroon - a spiritless coward

See what I mean. This is not contemporary vocabulary and I am well pleased at the ease with which I can find the definition. I just hold my fingertip on the weird word and voila! the definition appears. Modern technology at its finest.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Louis Le Francais restaurant

I have had another lovely Frenchy day. I began with a cup of coffee and the first chapters of The Three Musketeers by Alexander Dumas. I have had it on my Nook for quite a while and I am determined to read it before Paris in July is over. That gives me eleven more days. The Nook copy comes in at 672 pages. I am on page 72...so let's see that means I must read about 60 pages a day.

I am surprised at how funny it is. And easy to read. I have watched three of the Musketeer movies this year and now it is time to read the real story.

I also had lunch at a fairly new French restaurant, Louis le Français. When I walked in I was greeted with, "Bonjour!" It turns out the owner really is French and his cousin, Arzelie, is here from Paris to work in the restaurant. She was delightful and perfectly French - slim, black dress, hair swooped up with a beaded clip. So elegant and simple.

The restaurant is located in an historic building and its decor is delightful. Yellow and blue walls, wooden floors, and a blue ceiling filled with white fluffy clouds. The blue chairs are right out of a Parisienne cafe and white tablecloths cover the tables. When we left the chef, Louis, and his sous-chefs were sitting down to a feast of their own.

My friend and I both ate the salade verte and Bouchée à la Reine (puff pastry, chicken, mushrooms, onions, cream sauce).

Très bon.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Oh, to be in Paris

La Tour Eiffel la nuit.
If I were in Paris right now it would be 11:30 in the night and only 61 degrees. As it is, I am not in Paris, it is 5:30 in the evening and 100 degrees.

I think the heat has fried my computer. The screen image is jumping and squiggling and wiggling and it is taking quite a bit of effort to even get these few words down. I have to wait for stillness and then there is only a brief moment when I can see the screen.

It is too much to deal with: the heat and the technical difficulties. The best I can do is share with you with this lovely image of a very famous landmark.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Maigret on the Riviera

My dear Inspector Maigret has taken the train from Paris to the Antibes to investigate the stabbing death of one William Brown. Brown lived in a villa with two women - Gina and her maman - an unlikely threesome as Maigret soon discovers. Brown had the money and would go off on a drinking binge once a month. On his last escapade, he came home drunk with stab wounds in his back, He died. The women didn't know what to do, so they waited two days, buried the man in his own garden and tried to run away.

So Maigret has been called in to investigate discreetly because Brown, an Australian, had worked for French intelligence.

What I love is that in just a few words, Simenon can evoke such a sense of place.

On the villa's garden:

The air was heavy with the sweet smell of mimosa. Small orange trees still bore a few oranges. There were some queer-shaped flowers that Maigret had never seen before.

On Cannes, the city by the sea:

Everything here seemed white: hotels, shops, trousers and dresses, sails on the sea. It might have been a theatre set, a charming fairyland in blue and white.

Finally, on an out-of-the-way bar:

The empty bar below street level, the half-lit kitchen lower still; upstairs, a bedroom, probably in disorder; and the little window on the back yard, from which the sun had almost disappeared...

It was a strange world, and in the middle of it sat Maigret, finishing up the remains of a perfect salad.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Maigret and the Millionaires

The naked body of multimillion-aire Colonel Ward has been found in the bathtub of his suite at the ritzy Hotel George V. The next day, his lover, the Countess Paverini disappears from the hospital after trying to commit suicide.

Inspector Maigret doesn't like that he feels a little out of his element in Maigret and the Millionaires. The case will take him from the streets of Paris to the hotels and casinos of Monte Carlo to Lausanne, Switzerland and back to the elegant Paris hotel.

Maigret seeks answers in the back halls of the exclusive hotel. He spends a restless night of pacing and questioning and much sitting and thinking with pipe in hand before he determines the murderer and sets his trap to ensnare the guilty one.

This is a lovely mystery (if murder can be lovely) written in 1958 by Georges Simenon. It has been quite a while since Maigret and I crossed paths and I am glad to be back in his company on the streets of Paris. Or anywhere else for that matter.

Simenon writes of Maigret and Paris with such fondness. The mystery is solved in 170 pages and Maigret gets to go home to the apartment on the Boulevard Richard-Lenoir that he shares with his wife, almost always referred to as Madame Maigret.

A satisfying ending to a well-written mystery.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Paris, the movie

Romaine Duris and Juliette Binoche star in Paris
Here I sit in a café composing this post. I felt it might be fun to do so. Something different.

I have a report to make on Paris, the movie.

If you want a quick trip to the City of Light, this movie has wonderful scenes of the city - the streets, the cafés, the people, the traffic, the famous and familiar landmarks. Basically the story is of Pierre, a dancer, who is told he needs to have a heart transplant. His sister, the as always lovely Juliette Binoche, comes to stay with and take of him bringing along her three children.

The brother has a spectacular apartment on the top floor with balconies overlooking a busy street. The story follows a couple the of residents of the street and their lives: a young student and her affair with her professor; the men who work the street market near the apartment, the particular (and peculiar) owner of the boulangerie and her troubles hiring a clerk.

It is sort of an city-expanded Rear Window with no murder.

It is all very French. There is much kissing, there is mournful music, there is existential angst that the French do so well.

But of course the real star of the movie is Paris herself. It might be worth a second look without the English subtitles, just the sounds and sights en français.

A very suitable movie for Paris in July.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Paris Was a Woman

Here is a book I have had on my shelf for ages. It's copyright is 1995 and I received it as a birthday gift that year. I had been to Paris the year before and was still reeling from the sensory overload of the city.

Paris Was a Woman is not a comfortable book. It is not uncomfortable to read, but to hold. It is a bit oversized and the pages are thick and glossy to accommodate its many lovely black and white photos making it is awkward and heavy.

But I picked it up this morning and began. Here are the women of the Left Bank of the 1920s, '30s and '40s. Most, as author Andrea Weiss writes, were lesbian or bisexual and all felt a primary emotional attachment, if not sexual, to other women.

Women with creative energy and varying degrees of talent, women with a passion for art and literature, women without the obligations that come with husbands and children, were especially drawn to the Left Bank and with never more urgency and excitement than in the first quarter of the (20th) century. It was not simply its beauty but that rare promise of freedom which drew these women to it.

So we have a chapter devoted to Sylvia Beach and Adrienne Monnier as proprietresses of Shakespeare and Co. and La Maison des Amis des Livres. They were friends and they lived together for years. And then there is the famous couple Stein and Toklas. Profiled also are Janet Flanner who wrote for The New Yorker; the wealthy Natalie Barney; the novelist and journalist Djuna Barnes; American painter Romaine Brooks; and, others who lived and loved and wrote when Paris was a Woman.

It proves to be a fascinating study of independent, ardent artists.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

La Fête Nationale - le quatorze juillet

To celebrate La Fête Nationale, the anniversary of the storming of the Bastille in 1789, I splurged and enjoyed this croissant for breakfast, had a latte at a café with a friend, and tonite I am going to settle in and watch Paris, a movie released in 2008 that promises to take me from Montmatre to Notre Dame to La Tour Eiffel.

Lovely way to spend the day.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Inspector Maigret Takes a Case

Georges Simenon
creator of Inspector Jules Maigret
I have now returned three mysteries unread to the library that take place in Paris. All three were duds. I have written my thoughts on the first two and will not waste any more time writing about the third.

I don't know what I was thinking. What I needed to do was to spend time with pipe-smoking Inspector Maigret of Paris. Classic! I stopped by a used book store hoping to find one or two of Georges Simenon's creations. Zéro.

So I headed to the main library and found two shelves full of Maigret mysteries. What to choose? After careful consideration I picked Maigret and the Millionaires and Maigret on the Riviera. In the first, Maigret solves a murder that happened at the luxurious Hotel George V. In the second, no surprise here, he is on a case on the Côte d'Azur.

I am sure I won't be disappointed.

On another note, I finished reading Paris Was Ours: Thirty-two writers reflect on the City of Light. Well, actually, I finished reading all the ones written by women of which there were 21. I will save the experiences of les hommes for another day.

Here are stories of women at all stages in life: single, divorced, married, mothers, students, young, mature, and émigrés all trying to find their way. Some had easier times than others. Some had connections when they arrived in Paris to ease their way with French customs; others had no one. The different views are what put the zing in these tales of Paris. No matter what memory or illusion one might have of how Paris is or could be, there is always someone who will come along to offer a totally different view.

Remember Hemingway's quote from yesterday?

There is never any ending to Paris and the memory of each person who has lived in it differs from that of any other.

The stories from Paris Was Ours prove that to be true.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

A Moveable Feast - Chapitre Deux

Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Scapegoat by Daniel Pennac was a disappointment. I gave up after just a couple of chapters. I had no idea what was going on and didn't feel compelled to sort anything out.

I wanted to comment on the final chapters of A Moveable Feast. The stories about F. Scott Fitzgerald are très triste. Hemingway paints him as being rather a hypochondriac and in the early stages of his alcoholism. His wife Zelda loved to party and was jealous of Scotty's work so she pulled him along with her. He would resist for a bit and get some writing done, but then fall under the spell of the drink and was unable to work until he would resist again and then fall again.

But Hemingway loved him and they were good friends.

The final pages of the book are heartbreaking: Hemingway and Hadley and why that marriage ended and how. He is writing of their relationship from some distance of time and place and has great insight into its end. I felt as if he were heartbroken still.

I wondered often as I read these vignettes and stories if they would have been just as interesting if the characters were not so well known. I had to answer, mais oui. Hemingway's writing is what gives them their power, not the names.

"There is never any ending to Paris and the memory of each person who has lived in it differs from that of any other."

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Deux livres

I had fun yesterday nosing around my library's e-book collection for French mysteries. I came across a series by Cara Black starring her reluctant investigator Aimée Leduc. Aimée, whose father was a flic killed by a terrorist bomb, runs a computer security firm in Paris with her partner, a dwarf named René.

Th first book in the series is Murder in the Marais which I remember starting to read some time ago and putting aside. I couldn't get that one so I downloaded the second in the series Murder in Belleville.  After reading quite a bit of it last night I remember why I put aside the first book. How could these books not be engaging? Paris...a female detective...a female author...what is not to like? Actually there is quite a lot not to like. Everything seems just a bit too forced. The characters, the dialogue, the action.

I am seriously disappointed.

It is always good to have a backup book and I came across a French writer, Daniel Pennac. He has quite a few mysteries out in translation (known as The Malaussene Saga) and my wonderful library had his first titled The Scapegoat (Au Bonheur des Ogres). I braved the heat today and I have that one in hand hoping it will make me laugh and present a pretty Parisian puzzle at the same time.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Cooking the French Way

Here are photos from the French Favorites cooking class I attended last night. C'est bon. There were twelve of us salivating and stirring although Mary the Chef did most of the work. We just wanted to eat!

La table

 La salade verte

Le pain

Coq au vin

Les champignons

La sauce

Les pommes

Les macarons

Monday, July 9, 2012

Have you ever eaten a macaron from Ladurée's in Paris? They are scrumptious.

Tonight I am attending a cooking class: French Favorites. Mary is a chef and has cooking classes in her home. When the cooking is over everyone gets to sit down and eat. She turned her living room into a dining room with a long table.  I have attended these events before and they are such fun. I signed up for this one before I joined the Paris in July celebration and it fits right in. The classes are small so it is like being at a private dinner party.

Here is the menu: Coq au Vin, Rustic Country Style Bread, a typical French Salad and French Macarons. (I am sure they will be just like those pictured.) Ooh La La!

I am so looking forward to this and hope I remember to take photos.

Bon Appetit!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Paris is Everywhere and That is a Good Thing

King Louis XVI of France

It seems I couldn't get away from Paris if I wanted to. I am reading Eye of the God by Ariel Allison on my Nook. It is a mystery about the theft of the Hope Diamond from the Smithsonian. All of a sudden, voilà, all the action is taking place in Paris. Not only modern day, but also in the days of the French Revolution and the beheading of King Louis. He owned the big blue diamond which came with a curse. I guess you could count losing your country and your head as a cursed thing.

Have been bebopping around other Paris in July blogging sites and have discovered a book that I just put on my library reserve list.  Paris in Love is a memoir about packing up and moving to Paris with her family by Eloisa James. Kelly wrote about it here. It looks to be fun. I am a sucker for Real Life adventures in Paris.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Il est beaucoup trop chaud!

It is too hot to think (105 degrees) so I am posting some cooling photos from my album Paris 2010.

The Seine, the gilded Alexander III bridge, and of course, The Eiffel Tower.

The pond in the Tuileries Garden. A favorite spot to sit, cool off, and contemplate life.

The boats on the Seine. The river is as busy as the streets.

No one does fountains like the French. That is the Hôtel de Ville in the background.

Monet's garden and lily pond

Hope you are staying cool!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Hemingway's A Moveable Feast

La Closerie des Lilas
Hemingway loved to write here and called it "one of the best cafés in Paris."
It is so easy to fall into Ernest Hemingway's Paris. Although the pieces in A Moveable Feast were written about the Paris of the 1920s, the pictures he creates of the streets, the cafés, the people, the food, the shops, are still as fresh and complete as ever.  Nothing escapes his notice: waiters, trees, goatherds, race tracks, train stations, bookstalls, weather.

Hemingway wrote these sketches of Paris long after he and Hadley lived there. Long after the suitcase full of his stories was stolen from the platform at the Gare de Lyon; long after he and Gertrude Stein had conversations about homosexuality, art and writing; long after he spent time among the shelves of books at Shakespeare & Company with Sylvia Beach; and, long after The Lost Generation - Une Génération Perdue - had aged into another generation.

No matter what I may think of Hemingway's personal life - his attitudes and actions - and I have had a somewhat love/hate relationship with them - I have to admit he is one heck of a writer. It has been quite a while since I read these snapshots of Paris and the prose is so bristling and evocative of the city that I had to put the book aside and make myself an espresso - un petit café, if you will.

A selection of first lines:

Then there was the bad weather. - A Good Café on the Place St.-Michel

When we came back to Paris it was clear and cold and lovely. - Miss Stein Instructs

In those days there was no money to buy books. - Shakespeare and Company

When spring came, even the false spring, there were no problems except where to be happiest. - A False Spring

You got very hungry when you did not eat enough in Paris because all the bakery shops had such good things in the windows and people ate outside at tables on the sidewalk so that you saw and smelled the food. - Hunger Was Good Discipline

The blue-backed notebooks, the two pencils and the pencil sharpener (a pocket knife was too wasteful), the marble-topped tables, the smell of early morning, sweeping out and mopping, and luck were all you needed. - Birth of a New School

Thursday, July 5, 2012


In her short essay, Love Without Reason, Carolyn Weber writes of her time living in Paris after graduating Harvard with an undergraduate degree in French literature.  At the time, she admits she was not even sure she liked French men because, based on generalities, she is tall, they are short; she is well-toned, they have flaccid muscles; her teeth are perfect, theirs are stained yellow from smoking too many Gauloises.

But she tosses those prejudices aside and embarks on a whirlwind romp through the city taking many French lovers. A friend calls her "a one-woman band of seduction." The only problem, as she eventually discovers, is she keeps changing herself based on what she thinks the current lover wants her to be: an intellectual or one who is up on current events or in an attempt to be tres chic, buying Chanel and Hermes at second-hand designer clothing shops.

I had molded myself, time and again, into the woman I thought they wanted, and then was shocked to discover they had no interest in the woman I was.

Well, ladies, one doesn't have to go to Paris to learn that lesson, n'est-ce pas?