Sunday, January 30, 2011

Time – and the Bottle

I have no sense of direction.  I didn’t know that there was such a thing - although I had heard the term used I had never given it any credence, had thought it to be a figure of speech, until fairly recently in my life.  Up to that time I had always stumbled around in places unfamiliar trying to find where it was that I was trying to get to and refusing resolutely any offers of help from other people.

“What could they know about how to get somewhere that I don’t already know?” was my mantra.

So I stumbled through a life of never knowing, unless I happened to be in a place that I already knew intimately, or a place that had a significant body of water – I seemed to find direction from significant bodies of water – where I was or how I was going to get to where it was that I wanted to go.

The aggregate accretion of experiences with people who did seem to know where it was that they were going (or in some few cases where I had grudgingly acceded to their views of how one might get somewhere) finally, after years and years created a body of evidence that even one as stubborn as I had to accept as proof of the fact that there is, indeed, a sense of direction.  The fact that I lacked it was, from my viewpoint a disadvantage, but to continue to deny its existence, to my always maximum disadvantage, and to the irritation of my intimates, who usually were victims, if not of my misdirection, at least victims of my bad temper related to the subject, seemed, once I had perceived that there was indeed such a thing as sense of direction, at the point of that discovery, to be something from which even I, Noel the stubborn, should cease and desist.

I guess age mellows one.

The realization and subsequent admission that there is a sense of direction, and that it is something that I completely lack, brought on a degree of pensivity.

Could there be other such “senses” that some have some don’t?

Could, for example, my running battle with everybody I have ever known about what the color of something is, be due to the fact that I have as sense of color much more acute than most?  One of my best friends and I almost came to blows when I was quite young, as was he, over what the color of his sleeping bag was.

It was clearly a very dark, almost black, purple.  But purple it was, nonetheless.

He said it was black.

He was, the Joe, who in my memoir, Screen Saver, picked up a hatchet and split an offending can of chili, spraying it into the air, and into the campfire, and all over his face.

That happened substantially later in my friendship with him than the disagreement over the color of his sleeping bag, but I have often wondered if, in relation to our heated arguments over that bag’s color, I had been flirting with disaster.

In any event, he couldn’t see the bag’s color.

I, long ago, stopped trying to describe to anyone, the color of anything. 

Most people just don't see the colors that I see.

There are myriad much less interesting stories, hard though it may be to believe that anything could be less interesting than the foregoing, than Joe and his sleeping bag,  relating to the subject of sense of color that I could drone on about.

But I won’t.

Suffice it to say that there seem to be – as illustrated by the examples given here – direction and color – senses that some of us have and some of us don’t have.

That is all a prologue to the following.

I have always thought that time has a horizontal component and a vertical component.  It has a horizontal axis and a vertical axis.

The horizontal component can be expressed in garden variety, we’ve-always-known-that terms: seconds, minutes, hours, days, and so on and so on.

The vertical component is the one I have never heard anyone speak of.  They allude to it but never acknowledge its existence. It is measured in numbers of – somethings – occurring across the horizontal component.  Those somethings can be gustatorial, transactional, gladiatorial, sexual or anything that humans do or perceive while suspended in the horizontal axis of time.

My sojourn here in France has stress tested one such thing that humans do.

It has been bottles of wine. It has been many, many, many bottles of wine.  They have been responsibly spaced across the horizontal axis of time but they have been many.

I should mention that they have not always been bottles. They have sometimes been carafes or glasses, but in aggregate they can have been measured in bottles.  But they have represented a startlingly robust vertical axis to a startlingly minute horizontal one.

And that has, occasionally been cause for concern.

But not much.

As I lay in bed this evening, having come back from a great dinner, only spoiled by the most self-absorbed and boring young people that I have ever had the misfortune of having been put in proximity of, and their droning, self absorbed, listlessly asexual conversation (they were, of course Americans)  I had a twinge of pain.

I had the first such twinge – I have twinges all the time anymore but this one was new to the area from which it emanated – this morning and had tried to ignore it.

The day that unfolded after that early morning twinge had been too interesting to allow me to notice further twinges.

But now, just before I started writing this piece, it is dark, it is night, the day is done and all I have to read is some kind of thriller that I  found in the inventory of abandoned books that various other tenants from the English speaking world have left behind (and I have been reading it voraciously, it being amazingly good) I had nothing to fend off my awareness of the twinges.

The twinge was centered, as it had been in the morning, in my left side in the bulge, not large, by the way, of fat that exists just below one’s rib cage.

I think that is the area of the kidney.  At least that belief allows me to foster deep worries about my long term permanence in this life, and I like having such worries.

I felt the area from which the twinge seemed to be coming from and I felt again, and yet again; but I couldn’t make any meaningful pain result from my probing fingers.

But when I moved the pain again re-asserted itself.  It was still there.

It wasn’t a very bad pain.  It was just an irritating, worrying little pain.

“Oh, I hope it’s my back and not my kidney” I heard myself say.

In my other blog I wrote a post that ended with my preferred epitaph: “He nearly accomplished quite a number of things”.

I think I like “Oh, I hope it’s my back and not my kidney” better.

Addendum to Asians

I was so tangled up in trying to be valid in my impressions from which I was deriving conclusions that I was putting into the post “Asians” that I completely forgot something way more important – it seems to me –  than the fact that there now seems to be a rather large number of French men and French women of Asian descent out and about and speaking educated French. 

That something is that, like the Africans, the Asian sourced French seem to have a reasonably strong affinity for the European sourced French: the number of mixed couples on the streets walking hither and yon, stopping at boulangeries, boucheries and poissonneries, or having a café in the brasserie of their choice, speaking French that sounds to me to be the standard that is taught in school as properly accented, articulated, pronounced and grammared are legion. 

Of course, in a mixed couple, one would expect that correctness of French from the non Asian member.  That would be an appropriate and unarguable default prejudice.

But both seem to be railing on at one another with equally correct Frenchness.

I seem to have noticed that these ubiquitous mixed Asian and European couples are all of an age to have children.  That is a difference compared to what I think that I have observed with the Africans.  My observations, at least, don’t support the apparently multi generational mixing that seems, again by my observations, to be occurring (and apparently have already occurred) between the Europeans and the Africans.


I was in the checkout line at Carrefour City back awhile and in the line next to me was and absolutely beautiful three or so year old Asian child – I guess a girl – it was too beautiful to have been a boy.  She started speaking what sounded like complex sentences to no one apparently in particular.  She was apparently just making observations on what was going on around her. 

As always a surge of the unfairness of it all, that I didn’t somewhere early enough in life to have done something about it, acquire the need to learn French.  It just seems so unfair that all these little kids can speak the language and I am illiterately mute.

But, what the hell.

Anyway, I was going through this envy trip and trying to figure out what it was that she was saying when her father bent down to her and said something.  I know not what it was, but the tone and demeanor were suitably adoring.

He was a slender six foot or so, tall, European stock Frenchman with strawberry blond hair.

“Oh” I said to myself.  “How stupid of me to have thought that the kid was having her hair done.”

Thursday, January 27, 2011


The first couple of times I was in Paris there were tour busses full of Japanese tourists going to all the places that bus loads of tourists go to.

When I got here at the beginning of the beginning of this trip there were bus loads of Chinese tourists going to all of the places that bus loads of tourists go to.

Between those two apparently symmetrical statements of tourist demography lies a gulf of change.

When Mysti and I spent our first month in Paris we quickly discovered the traiteurs – the food shops that had a vast and unbelievably enticing array of importer food – takeout food.  In our arrondissement, just around the corner from our apartment was, what in later trips I started calling “The Pig” because of its happy pig’s head sign hanging over it.  There were many others but The Pig seemed to be the best.

So we frequently acquired key items for of our dinner at The Pig.

We bought galettes, which were what I would have called shredded raw potato pancakes.  These were cooked to a deeply, crisply, deep golden brown. 

We bought quiches of wonderful, imaginative  variety and wonderful, unbelievably edible  quality.

I bought cold cooked trout with the skin partially removed at an angle to the axis of the fish.

Being vegetarian, Mysti bought a wide variety of salads. I eat salads too, so she bought enough for two.

And for both of us, we bought choucroute.  We bought wonderful choucroute.  I always thought that sauerkraut was some sort of ethnic joke.  The kind that I had experience with in the United States was, by my standards, inedible.  Bud Clark, the pub master of the Goose Hollow Inn in Portland had for years a standing offer n his menu:  “all the sauerkraut you can eat – $5.00”.  Apparently Bud had similar feelings about sauerkraut.

But this thing that they have in France, this choucroute, I discovered on first eating, starting with the thinness of the strands of cabbage, is a thing apart.  It has no resemblance to its American cousin other than that it is made of cabbage.

The French version – actually it is the Alsatian version -  has juniper berries mixed into it.  It often has had just a little white wine added to its magical preparation process.  It is only mildly sour, being more savory than sour.  And it is good eaten cold, room temperature, or warm.

So, early in out times in Paris the traiteurs ran what an American would probably have called an upscale delicatessen with a pan-European selection of food. 

Somewhere in the very early 2000s that changed.  Sushi appeared in one of the traiteur’s shops.  Then it was soon in two. And in almost no time its presence in the shops had gone geometric.  And it wasn’t that the traiteurs  had decided to go eclectic.  Traiteurs who had all been native European stock had changed somewhere while we weren’t paying attention into Asians.  The European heritage traiteurs seemed to have all, or mostly, been replaced.  And soon the sushi had full show cases of other Asian foods to accompany it. 

Choucroute wasn’t in every deli anymore; sushi was.

These new Asian entrepreneurs all spoke French, but even I could tell that it was French with a strange accent.  French was clearly not their first language.  But they were integrating at least to the point of learning the language.  But where Mysti and I went, we didn’t see them.  We didn’t see them, that is, unless they had happened to have taken over a shop in the areas that we habituated.  And then we only saw them if we did business with that shop. They weren’t in the general population of the streets walking hither and yon, stopping at boulangeries, boucheries and poissonneries, or having a café in the brasserie of their choice and chatting gaily in animated French as their European heritage fellow citizens are all wont to do.

But a beach head apparently had been established.

And on this trip French people of Asian heritage are everywhere that I go.  They are in the general population of the streets walking hither and yon, stopping at boulangeries, boucheries and poissonneries, or having a café in the brasserie of their choice.  And they all speak French that sounds to me to be what is taught in school as properly accented, articulated, pronounced and grammared.

In just  twelve or so years there has been, at least so it seems to me, to be that much change to the ethnicity of the typical Frenchman, or typical French woman on the street.  Lots of them are Africans and lots of them are Asians. But that is merely an ethnic fact.  The important thing, the fact of their nationality, is that they are French.

Pretty impressive progress it seems to me.

Sunday, January 23, 2011


As with the post on beggars, this post is based on impressions.  It is not gospel documentation of something; it is what I think I remember from past trips to Paris and it is what I think I am seeing during this four months.

And, as with beggars, I think I am seeing things changing dramatically.

My memory tells me that in most previous trips I didn’t see a whole lot of Africans.  The ones I did see seemed mainly to be on a limited number of Metro routes.  And those that I saw were mainly one of two types.

There were the honest to god Africans in their most formal native garb. 

Or there were the boys from the hood wannabees with their hugely baggy jeans falling off their nearly non-existent haunches and their gigantic athletic shoes tastefully in a state of random, untied, disarray, with the bills of their baseball caps skewed to some meaningful angle (probably – to them) to their direction of travel.

Oh, there was the occasional businessman (judging by his briefcase and suit) or the occasional professional woman (judged by her grooming, clothes and demeanor) and there was the occasional mixed race couple – usually the man was African and the woman European - but they were not very common.  At least they were not very common in the places that I frequented.

The indicators of any advanced state of integration didn’t seem to be in evidence, at least from my observations of the Paris scene.  It was depressingly similar to the scene I still observe in most of the places that I inhabit in the United States.

I have to mention one other African population, because although small, it is hard to ignore when one is in its vicinity.  And what its objective of existence might be – because it is a homogeneous group gathered in a single place and doing the same thing, and apparently doing it for hours, days, weeks, and, perhaps, months and years – is a thing that I have never divined.  But I have found them to be a fascinating group.

That group is the Africans that congregate around the exit of Metro Stop Chateau d’Eau.  They ring the exit, leaving only the steps onto the sidewalk from the steps out of the station clear.  They are all young men in their late teens or early twenties and they are all really black Africans.  They dress, as I recall, in normal casual clothes, eschewing the homeboy look for more middle class mainstream attire.

Their sole activity is to stand there around the exit of Chateau d’Eau and shout at the top of their lungs.  The language would appear to be African.  At least it is not a French that I can identify.  And the sound is deafening, and intimidating. 

Maybe that is the point.  But I have so far been unable to ascertain what the downstream benefits are that accrue to those guys.  I can’t figure out what the benefits of such intimidation might be.

But since Chateau d’Eau is the exit for my favorite Pakistani restaurant I don’t accept the intimidation.

That was then.

This is now.  Again these things are what I believe I am seeing.

The jeans falling off the haunches set is still present.  But it seems to have expanded.  The Africans aren’t the only ones dressing in that manner.  Large numbers of their male European counterparts have also adopted the look.  Apparently it has become such a compelling internationally embraced mode that it has to be considered mainstream.

But what is different is manifold.

Mixed race couples seem to be everywhere (African and European).  And they seem to be as likely European man and African woman as the opposite.  And they seem to span a wide age range.  Many of the couples I see are not kids.  On the other hand, there are enough kids that there are a lot of infants in strollers.

Bravo!  I find myself wanting to sometimes utter.

There numbers of Africans in every crowd that I observe in the places that I habituate.  They are young, medium and old.  They are dressed just like everybody else, and, like everybody else they can be heard to be speaking French.  They are stylish old women dressed to the nines just as all old Parisian women dress.  They are beautiful young women dressed in the tights, wool stockings or actual synthetic sheer stockings with shorts or short skirt look that has become the dominant mode of young Parisian women since the last time I was here.  (The last time I was here it was still the bare midriff look – even in winter.)  They are young men in blazers or, sometimes in the highly tailored, form-fitting double breasted black wool coats that are so popular. They are just average men and women of all ages and in all manners of dress just like everybody else.  They are the Postal mail carrier or the guy who drives a delivery van or is a waiter in a brasserie, or they are the woman that works in the boulangerie.  They are men and women dressed like business people.  They are the nice young man who pounded on my door the other day in search of Monsieur…He worked for Electricité de France.

But the main thing is they are everywhere – the streets, the brasseries, the metro, the museums, in Luxembourg Gardens with their kids or strolling the Tuileries hand in hand.  (And, I think, the Chateau d’Eau crowd has shrunken.)

And their ubiquity is new.  And it feels good.

It seems then, all the discussion and publicity surrounding the plight of the residents of the banlieues notwithstanding, that the French citizens of African descent have rejected the banlieue form of balkanized living.  They have embraced the French view of the world and have become French:  if you just speak the language well and accept a secular state that seems to care about its citizens, nobody much cares what color you are.

That seems to me to be a good way to live.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Walk to La Bastille

“Everything is good in the neighborhood” – I said in answer to Morgan’s emailed question about the state of the quartier after her, now, two day absence. 

I flirted with the idea of saying that it was a sad quartier since she had left – which from my point of view is true  to a painful extent – but I squelched the impulse to say so – and wrote the following sentences.

“I’m going out for a walk in a few minutes – maybe to the Tour and back,”  I said to her – in emailish.  “Yesterday I did something I haven’t done before because I wasn’t sure how to do it and didn’t know if it would even be fun, and therefore worth the trouble, if I figured it out. 

It was great.  

I started out at Parc des Buttes Chaumont  - I used one of my now copiously non diminishing  supply of carnets ( you are certainly a walker) - and walked around the Parc, and then exited and walked  down rue Crimée to the Bassin de la Villette at Place de Bitche, and then down it to the end of the Canal Saint-Martin. 

That is where I did the different thing. 

I kept on going after the Canal had disappeared underground and  I walked to La Bastille. 

The underground canal has a park covering it all the way down to La Bastille. 

The water re-appears – which I already knew, I go there all the time – as Bassin de l'Arsenal where a lot of boats are moored. 

There is a lock between it and the Seine proper. 

The cover park has stainless steel mesh covered air holes all along it. 

Men were playing bool and others were playing ping pong on tables that are permanently installed.  Just before the Bastille there was an unoccupied market space – all the covered frames were there but no vendors.  The sign said it was going to be some kind of clothing market.  It was huge. 

It was a great walk – I came back as, I often do, up Rue Saint Antoine/Rue de Rivoli to Pont Marie and home. 

I wish I had known about this walk when you were here.

I wish you had been with me.”

bassin de l'Arsenal entrance

Friday, January 21, 2011


The first several times I came to Paris I never saw a beggar. At least I never saw one if you didn’t count the little women of indeterminate Eastern origin that skulked at the doors of the major tourist attraction churches with babes clutched to their multi-rag-wrapped breasts as beggars. I always assumed they were hired employees of the state put there to enhance the tourist experience.

From the vantage point of the subject of this blog and the retrospection that its writing has required of me, I have considered that it may be that, in those early days of my relationship with Paris, I just didn’t get out to all the places that the beggars inhabited.

But I don’t think so. The Metro took me far and wide. I even went to the Marché de Puce.

The years from 2000 to 2007, in relation to the subject of beggars, I will admit, are rather vague. However, I do have a sense of an increase in the tempo of the begging game during those years.

I know it was during those years that I had my first encounter with the woman and child combo (a version very similar to the crouching-on-the-steps-of-the-church version) accosting me on my way through the Tuileries with the question as she strode purposefully toward me “do you speak English?”

I said, as a reflex, “yes”.

She said “my baby is hungry and my husband has fallen ill. Please give me money.”

I have trained myself since that encounter to not even look at the now, in 2011, hoards of those supplicants, let alone answer them.

It was in 2006 when I had the first encounter with a pigeon dropper. That gambit is described in excruciating detail elsewhere in this blog, and in my memoir Screen Saver, so if you are interested, have at it.

The point is, merely, that the tempo from 1999 to today has picked up.

So let’s move to 2010-2011.

I wonder if they have copyrighted the formats.

There is the crippled old woman with the cup. The cup has something – presumably coins – in it that rattle harshly when she shakes the cup, which she does continuously. She is always bent – I am not making this up – at ninety degrees to the ground. One of her thighs is always wrapped in, maybe, cheesecloth. She almost chants – something – I don’t think it is French, it sounds more like what a witch might say while stirring her kettle.

She is a really sad sight.

And she, or her clones, are now spread across Paris. They are everywhere. And they are all the same.

There is the hunched-on-the-ground-with-the-dog-wrapped-in-the-blanket person. My first question, every time I see one of these people, is, what, other than brilliant marketing, does the dog have to do with it, and, as a follow on question, do you dope the dog to make it stay there looking pitifully out at the passing scene?

They are everywhere. And they are all the same.

There are the hunched-in-the-doors-of-the-church format. They were local color in a few places when I first came to Paris. Now they are everywhere – every church ahs one or some.

And they are all the same.

There are the pigeon droppers. They are the entrepreneurs of the beggar class it would seem. On one warm rainy day in November I was dropped seven times.

I was ecstatic.

The pigeon drop gambit makes my blood run happy.

There are the I-have-enough-money-to-buy-a-metro-or-RER-ticket people.

These seem to come in two formats. They either stand at one end of the car that they have chosen to harvest, or wander through that car. In any event they rave. Even I am able to hear the word “deranger” said multiple times.

That is one format.

The other is simpler from a theatrical viewpoint. They just walk around and put on the seats of the passengers a slip of paper that says “J’ai faim. J’ai deux enfants, etc. etc. etc.”

On the RER to and from the airport yesterday I was approached by three of these and one of the ravers. The paper-on-the-seat in all cases was identically verbatim.

There must be a beggar central somewhere.

So what is my point? Am I John Boehner’s brother and Mitch McConnell's cousin venting, not surprisingly, my highly self-satisfied and conservatively very large spleen on the nation of France and its unique “model?”

It would be a cold day in hell were that to ever happen.

What I have just written is merely an attempt to document what I have seen and the changes that what I have seen seem to imply.

It tears my guts out to see many of the people I have described. They can’t help it that they have nothing. They are at least trying. But if I were to try to give a euro to each of them that I encounter in a day, what is left of what I managed to save over the years and that has been massively reduced by the great tranche disaster would be gone.

And there is another consideration.

Gut wrenching aside, I still have a sense of self preservation: I am hard wired into the American model. That model says that I must be a part, as much as I am able, of the inevitable periodic bailouts of Goldman Sachs, Citicorp and the rest.

There is nothing left for beggars in Paris.

The bonuses for the bankers must not be set aside. And I am but a cog in the wheel that assures their on-going payment.

My sense of self preservation arises every time I see one of these beggars. As the humanly-intense feeling of need to give the beggar something warms my heart, I see a hologram of Jamie Dimon and I pass on; and my heart chills.

The bonuses must be paid.

But back to France: it would seem that one of two things, or perhaps both, are happening.

Is it possible that an increasing number of French citizens are falling through the mesh of the safety net?


is it possible that immigration has swelled the ranks of those that don’t qualify for the protection of the safety net?


is it both?

This needs to be figured out post haste. France is too great to have so many beggars on the streets of the city of lights.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

I Was Asked A Couple Of Questions

A friend of a friend has been getting the pictures that I have been sending via email to a group of friends and acquaintances; my friend has been forwarding those pictures to her friend, and her friend contacted me via email and posed three questions.

They were: “I'm also curious as to how you are enjoying your extended stay. Any advice for someone considering staying for over a month? How did you go about finding a place to stay?”

And here is what I answered.

Of course in this post I have embellished and edited what I said in the email.


I am enjoying the seemingly endless nature of four months as compared to a few weeks. Having said that, I will be glad to get back to the US. There are too many people, places and things that are important to me at home for me be totally comfortable in being away from them for as long as I am in the process of having been gone.

The only advice I have should be pretty useful.

I always bring way too many clothes, and I did it again. It seemed to me that four months just implied two suitcases. How could one reside in the City of Lights for four months with only one suit case?

So I filled two suit cases.

That was just about as stupid as anything I have ever done. Stupid, by the way, is my strong suit.

I know these things that I am about to list, but I always either forget them, or convince myself that I must be wrong.

You need to know these two guideposts.

Translate the following information to be applicable to a woman. I have written the information presented as if I were talking to myself. Here is that information.

You won't wear a suit; you always plan to do so, want to do so, and even did so - once; and it was just stupid.

You don't need to take a month's supply of underwear. Thierry's apartments all have washer dryers.

There will be more more about Thierry a little later.

One dress shirt is plenty. They go great with Jeans, and dress one up just a little. Of course, that is seldom needed.

Paris is full of Netoyers so one shirt can go to the cleaners, if it ever is actually worn.

A pair of good gray wool flannel slacks is really compact and provides the upgrade from jeans that is almost never required or desired. I always wear my Navy blazer on the plane, so I have a coat if I feel the need to get carried away. So if I bring the grey flannels, I am ready for the yacht club; or Brasserie Lipp.

The problem with the uplift provided by the flannel pants and the blazer is that you need to bring dress shoes, and shoes take an amazing amount of space.

But you can stuff them with stuff – like socks - so maybe that’s ok.

A bunch of other nice but casual shirts that you always feel the need to bring will remain hanging unworn in the closet for the trip’s duration and then go back across the Atlantic to your closet in Seattle where they also will remain unworn. Why do you feel the need to add their bulk to your already challenged luggage?

Who knows.


The summertime uniform for me in Paris is tee shirt and jeans and a travel vest.

The wintertime uniform is (not so cold) tee shirt and cotton sweater and the multi pocketed, multi zippered campaign coat. The wintertime uniform (really cold) is a Smart Wool jersey and a St James wool sweater and - maybe the raincoat with the wool zip-in; or, more probably, the multi-everything coat is still fine for the outer garment. Some really good over-the-ears wool hat is mandatory. It gets colder than a bitch in Paris in the winter.

So why did you bring all those other shirts? For that matter, since you have a perfectly good washer/dryer in your apartment, why did you bring a dozen tee shirts. Nobody knows you here, so they won't notice that there is a not much variety in your wardrobe. Clean is important, and the washer/dryers do that for you. Variety is completely lost on the populace of Paris. And even if you bring it (variety) you won't use it. You'll just drag it around in you roller bags and across the Atlantic to no apparent purpose.


I have rented the last three trips from a guy who is the best landlord in Paris.

His name is Thierry.

Thierry believes that the rental price ought to include everything, including someone who will help you out when you need help – I have heard him call for a taxi for clients who speak zero French; I have told him I have a light that is going out in the bathroom, and he has showed up within hours to fix it; I have had him come back with just the right device to keep the shutters from flapping in the wind after I asked him if there were such an apparatus; I have attended his invitational teas for some of his clients and learned a lot more about Paris, about Thierry and about his love of the United States: he hikes in Colorado and Christmases in New York, and has been a lot of other places in the US.

As long as one of his vocations is landlord – he also teaches architecture and is a musician – I will be one of his clients.

The real advantage of that is that I will also be his friend.

His web site is at

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Hiatus Est Terminé

Except for a couple contentless posts following Halloween Story Moving On there have been none. 

The reason has been that all my writing time and effort has been taken up with additional sections to what I am now considering a novel – bad though it is, nonetheless a novel – in process.

But I have felt unsettled not making real blog posts as my time here in Paris winds down.

To address that unsettled feeling I have been constantly noting on my four folded, lined 8.5 x 11 sheets of paper torn from their tablet, ideas for posts: ideas that would become posts once the time to write them appeared.

That set of scribbled observations has evolved into what will be my “The State Of Paris” post.

The basis for my thinking I have the depth of viewpoint to write anything analytical about a place as sophisticated and complex as Paris has at least some small degree of heft.

In the last twelve years I have come to Paris quite a few times.  I don’t really know how many times I have been here, but it must be somewhere near twenty.  At least two years I came here three times.  And except for the in and outs of being on the way or coming back from some other expedition: a month in Brittany or a self directed bike tour in Entre Deux Mers or Languedoc, I have lived in Apartments.  Those stays have been as brief as two weeks – one time – were usually a month, and one time the stay was six weeks.  And this time it has been four months.  And this time I have lodged in three different apartments in two distinctly different locations: three months in Saint-Germain des Pres and a month on Isle de Cité.

So I think I have basis for saying that I have lived among them (“a’hve lived amongst ‘em”) for a reasonably significant amount of time.


Things change.

I have no surprise in that.

One of the first posts in this blog was about my – lack of surprise notwithstanding – continuing sadness about things that I had valued, loved, maybe, even, having changed or departed.  But those were all physical things that everywhere come and go.  My documenting of their passing was only a mark of the inevitable affection that one has for those physical things whether in Portland or Paris and the frequently felt sadness that accompanies their passing.

The basis for the post-to-be that I am previewing here in this post is change that isn’t tangible.  Obviously some of the changes I will mention will have physically tangible manifestations, but the changes themselves are intangible and their physically observable manifestations are merely clues to their existence. 

Some of the changes don’t have even physical clues.  They are just “vibrations in the air”.

The things that I have noticed, or felt, can be categorized with the following tangible words:


Africans and Asians

General Hostility

The Beautiful and Self Absorbed

Friday, January 7, 2011


I spent two days there this week and enjoyed every minute as I always have.  Here is a picture of a bridge that I like.  There is a blue lion on the far side.


le pont de bordeaux

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Halloween Story Moves On

I said at the outset of this blog that its purpose was to try to exhume from a – I hoped – premature grave, a novel that I was writing.

The novel had a purpose.

I really didn’t care much about it – the novel - but, if I could put it in form sufficient to get an agent to want to try to promote it, and to try to sell it to editors, I hoped that it might become the sort of vehicle of near fame, or pseudo fame, or presque- fame ( sort of like being a young woman who catapults herself to riches by being stupid, pregnant, unmarried and extremely desirous of being paid for talking about her state of affairs on cable television) that I see happening daily.

So the reason for that hope had nothing to do with the novel that I might be writing.

That hope had to do with the memoir that I had already written: a memoir to which I am extremely attached.

My idea had been, that if I could get one or more of the twenty-one, or so, year old young women agents (as I understand it there are no men left standing who function in that capacity) in New York, none of whom have ever been to the left side of the Hudson (left if one is looking north) and feel that ever going hence is a trivial un-necessity, or if they have, by some untoward causality, been to that other Hudson-side, can’t remember having been so,(or if they do so remember, stoutly refuse to admit to that memory) who are in charge of the literary input and output of the United States of America, to become interested in a half-baked tale that I had concocted in support of - I hoped to be in support of, anyway - creating downstream interest in my memoir.

I had hoped that if I could get someone to publish and promote some schlock, I could get somebody to pay attention to something that I deemed to be pretty good.

As always, things change.

I have no idea whether I can ultimately tie all the treads that I have cast out in Jacques ( the stalking horse novel) into a coherent story, but I really want to.

The stalking horse has become the mission.

I should have known.

But I didn’t.

Halloween Story is probably going to be titled Jacques if it ever appears as a published work..

That maybe someday novel is now comfortably resting – all Twenty Seven Parts and thirty four or so  thousand words – in an MS Word 2007 document, complete with sections and a first page header.

Thirty four or so thousand words is just its momentary form.  There are somewhere around five thousand more words in my mind yet to be put to disk. And my Ouija  promises me that the rest of my ideas for this story may become unmanageable in size.

What a comforting thought.

So what I am telling you-all (y’all) is that Halloween Story - as a web blog post - is finished. It has served its – for me – unbelievably important purpose, but as a part of this blog it is finished.

The rest of its story will be between me and those young women agents in New York.