Tuesday, April 26, 2005


April 26, 2005

I walked into the boulangerie Garcia this morning, on my way up rue Vielle du Temple to Adrian's, and found myself in a line of people extending out the door of the tiny bakery, most picking up their baguettes for lunch, though I was there for my usual breakfast pain complet with nuts and raisins and apricots. Got a big smile and "Bonjour, Madame!" from the proprietress, which added to my already growing sense of reluctance to leave Paris ... It's just so good to be here every day, it just feels so unfailingly good to be here, where I can walk alone at night, unafraid, see the moon shining over Notre Dame, the lights glittering on the Seine ... Where I can strike up intelligent conversations with strangers, run into friends on the street also out on errands, or sitting in cafes ... W here I can get pretty much anywhere I want to go on foot or by public transportation -- and I've just heard that gas in the U.S. is up to $3 a gallon, while people continue to drive SUV's and Bush kisses the cheeks (ass cheeks?) of Saudi princes ... Where I can even smoke a cigarette, if I want to, and where the streets are regularly packed with demonstrators for one "manifestation" or another, and not herded into "free speech" cages, as they are in "the land of the free, home of the brave." As someone said the other day, "How can America EXPORT democracy when it doesn't HAVE democracy anymore?" Oh la la.

So I've been soaking up as much of the city as I can, knowing that I'll be sur la route again in another week. Yesterday afternoon, I got an ice cream cone from the place on the corner and sat in the little park at the end of rue des Guillemites, watching a well-dressed French grandmother playing ping pong with her grandson, and some pigeons diving into the trash bin for pieces of a discarded sandwich. I'd been to see my doctor in the 17th, and it's always a pleasure to see her. One gets a half hour or hour of the doctor's attention during medical visits here, and since I'd only needed some prescriptions refilled, I got to spend a little time chatting with Julia about the adorable shoes she was wearing. Then I picked up three months worth of prescriptions -- which would have cost a few hundred dollars in the U.S., and for which I paid a total of 11 euros (about $15). I stopped in at the neighborhood travel agency and booked a ticket on the EuroStar for London, pleased that I was able to accomplish the whole transaction in French. In the evening, Adrian came by and we walked the rest of the way together from the Marais to Shakespeare & Co. bookshop, where we joined a crouching-room-only crowd for a presentation by Leonard Pitt, author of Paris Disparu. The beautiful Sylvia, who runs the place now, was flitting around with that puppy in her arms, the almost-comparably beautiful golden lab that she swears she's not going to keep. But she kept kissing the puppy's head as she greeted clients and rang up sales, and the puppy kept licking Sylvia's cheek, her perfect, translucent English Rose face. Wherever Sylvia goes in Paris, people stop her to kiss her hello; everyone seems thrilled and delighted just that she exists. And she's brought so much new energy and vitality to Shakespeare & Co., running the bookstore and numerous weekly events and taking care of her father, too. George is in his 90's now, but still a presence, with his lanky frame and long white hair. As Adrian and Kim and I were leaving the bookstore at dusk, George was standing in the doorway that leads from the square in front of Shakespeare & Co. down into the basement, surrounded by a group of young people lighting birthday candles. For a minute, we thought it might be a birthday celebration, and we stopped so that we could help sing the birthday song. But no, it was just the beginning of an expedition into the bookstore's bowels, to see what treasures might be down there still ...

Kim and Adrian and I walked up the hill toward the Pantheon and went into one of Adrian's favorite restaurants, Les Fetes Galantes, for dinner -- a cozy little candlelit room with pink tablecloths and an entire wall tastefully decorated with lacy lingerie, especially brassieres in various sizes. Naturally, there was a couple seated at another table who knew Adrian. Naturally, the owner's son brought a complementary kir for each of us almost the moment we sat down. Naturally, the food was elegant, simple, delicious, and not expensive. There was even a vegetarian dish for Kim. And then there were profiterolles for dessert. At the end of our meal, the proprietor/chef, the handsome "Bibi," came out of the kitchen to see how we'd enjoyed ourselves, to try to offer us champagne -- we had no more room, so he poured it instead for some other women at a nearby table --and to flirt and philosophize. He kept saying that it's such a small time in each of our lives that we're really happy, and I kept insisting, no, my happiness is very, very big these days ...

It's like I was saying to Adrian this afternoon ... In a few weeks, I'll be in the Carpathians, sleeping in what I still think of as "the seed room" of Sarah and Lukasz's place in Rzepnik, then hanging out in the meadow with Nasim, while Lukasz walks around in his underwear with his coffee cup in hand, greeting the wildflowers he so adores, while Sarah cooks lunch on the woodstove ... And then I'll be on a train again ... And then I'll be sipping brandy with Tom and Cathy -- whom I've known since Tom was my professor at Transy 30 years ago -- on their elegant garden terrace overlooking Zurich. I love these extremes. I love my life, I told Adrian. And she said, "You really ARE a gypsy, you know."


Blogger nolapoet said...

Bonjour, Cecilia--Raysa and I ask ourselves the same question about the tenuousness of American democracy.

Please drop by http://nolapoet.blogspot.com and check out Chelsea Rathburn's work. Y'all should know each other.

Miss you! Bisous!


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