Sunday, May 08, 2005

Where Was I?

May 7, 2005

Someone has suggested that maybe I add an "itinerary" link to my blog so that those who need to know will know where I can be found. Now why didn't I think of that myself?

Last time I blogged, I think, was just before I relinquished the laptop once again to the service center, packed my things and left the apartment on rue des Guillemites and took the EuroStar to London for a long weekend. Spring had just come on like gangbusters -- every cafe terrace in Paris packed with people drinking and flirting and smiling, and I'd gotten my hair done and gotten the surprise kiss worth a thousand beauty treatments and, well, no wonder I've been in a blur, a fog of blossoms ...

The weather stayed gorgeous most of the weekend in London, too, and Jill and I took long walks across the heath, hung out in her latest (her last, she swears) "dream house" in Hampstead, went to an amazing exhibit of photos by Lee Miller at the National Portrait Gallery, then had lunch in the rooftop restaurant, then walked out into Trafalgar Square and the middle of a big May Day anti-fascism rally ... Also had a long, delicious Indian dinner with Bob at the Bombay Bicycle Cafe, a lively political discussion, lots of laughing, catching up with what's happened in one another's lives in the past year ... And I also had a chance to see Milica before I left, at a pub near her office in Camden Town, and to hear about the work she's doing in eastern Europe and the Caucasus, working with "vulnerable populations" -- especially gypsies -- to help them learn to use the media to counter racism and hate crime. I told her about the book I've been reading called Stalking the Soul: Emotional Abuse and the Erosion of Identity, and she told me about a website called BlueEyed that addresses the same core issue: what do we do about the bully mentality of those who seek, and too often gain, domination over others? More about "the dark book" soon ... But read it now, if that title strikes the kind of chord with you that it struck with me.

London looks prettier and more prosperous than I've ever seen it, but even a short trip in the underground leaves one sooty and ready for "the disgusting hour," as Michele Q. so famously called it, or at least a good long soak in the bathtub ...

Back in Paris on Tuesday evening, I settled in for a few days chez Adrian in the third arrondissment, a slightly different rhythm from the Marais but a lively, wonderful neighborhood. Once I finally retrieved the laptop, I was determined to tackle the backlog of work. But after a frustrating and not-all-that-productive morning and afternoon on Saturday, I decided to at least get out of the apartment to do some errands. And I walked out of Adrian's door, turned onto the rue de Bretagne and found myself in the midst of the weekend market ... Within five minutes I was feeling light as a feather, struck dumb with that pure happiness about being in Paris that comes over me when I'm here. I bought cheese for Poland at the fromagerie, and wine, and some DVD's of French films (with subtitles, so that I can keep up with my language "studies") from a sidewalk vendor who advised me to go "little by little," and come back every weekend for some new films.

Then I walked down rue Vielle du Temple to the Marais, all the way down to rue de Rivoli -- I sometimes feel as if I need turn signals to negotiate the sidewalks here, but a simple "pardon, pardon" always works just fine. I got to the cell phone store just before it closed, got my mobile phone set up for Poland, breezed past Franck Provost and waved to Michael, strolled to the tabac at Chatelet and bought their last three packs of American Spirits, the same drunk clochard always out in front, begging for change from passersby. And walking back down Rivoli, I saw those pink shoes again -- the pair I've stared at a hundred times in the past few months. When I'd passed by that shop with Christine last week, she'd asked why I hadn't bought them yet. And my horoscope that morning had asked the same thing: Why haven't you bought those shoes? So I went in, only to find they no longer had my size. The sales girl looked at me askance and said, "You don't have to think so much." She called their other store a few blocks away and sent me flying in that direction. Yes, they had my size. Yes, I adore them, yes, I'll take them, I said. Little pink satin strappy things that will be perfect for dancing this summer, I think.

Later, I met Sonia and Shakil and Christine for dinner at the Grizzli -- great wine and food and a rowdy tri-lingual conversation, then hand-made ice cream. Walking home at midnight, I thought again of how lucky I am to be here, to be living this life, still feeling ridiculously happy, the streets and cafes still bustling ...

It's been said before and there's probably no way to say it better or more emphatically, but the sense of a shared life here, the sense of vitality and community one feels just walking in the streets, is what makes Paris so different from any city in America. This is what Jenny H. (she looks gorgeous in cyberspace!) was trying to tell me on Wednesday night -- really Thursday morning at about 2 a.m. -- while we sat at a little table in L'Etoile Manquante sipping vin chaud, facing the sidewalk still full of pedestrians, a couple of friends waving to us as they passed. This is what we lack in America, where we've given up sidewalks and one another's company for cars and stripmalls, where we've made ourselves lonely and politically impotent because we have no sense of how we're all in this together. Of course I agreed with Jenny whole-heartedly, though I keep wishing it were different, that I could see some light at the end of the tunnel ...

We'd had dinner earlier with her parents, who were in Paris as part of their first trip outside the U.S. So I finally got to meet Jenny's mom, who's an old high school friend of my old friend Betty, which is how I met Jenny in the first place, almost ten years ago now. I think her parents have been flabbergasted for years about their daughter's adventuresome spirit, her desire to live abroad and make photographs and poems. But seeing her here, in her element, speaking perfect French and flirting with the waiter, patiently translating the entire menu for her dad, sparkling in the way only Jenny can sparkle ... Well, her mom grinned across the table and said, "Can you believe that's my kid?" She's come a long way from the Pennsylvania suburb she called, at thirteen, "a stagnant pool of desperation." I think they understand her better, now and I think they'll be back to visit her here. They even encouraged her to visit Poland with me. Jenny said, "Only Cecilia could get my parents to TELL me to go to Poland."

So tomorrow, Monday, I'll fly to Warsaw. Richard has written me that someone named Viktor will meet me at the airport; that Sergio will give me a massage; that another friend will bake the Camembert with raspberries; that we'll have a poetry salon in his flat one evening. And he's set up some school visits for me there, and I hope there'll be some tango, too -- yes, the pink shoes will do perfectly.


Blogger jon said...

scorpio horoscope info is so cheesy but we were looking at it anyway...why i dont know. I guess it is fun to play around online. Anyway, I saw your scorpio horoscope posts and though it was cool...Alright, well...have a great night, I am back to scorpio horoscope surfing LOL : )


11:35 PM  

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