Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Bastille Day

It's the people that you meet...

I'm still awed and amazed by this city sometimes. It happens by chance... an intersection of time, place, and people. It happens often, actually.

Last night I ended up at a Bastille Day celebration in Montmartre where I met JoJo from China who was flirting with her gorgeous German colleague--they work for a Swedish company--and Ingrid from Sweden but living in the northeastern US somewhere but I forget where, and her sons Daniel and Niels--ages 13 and 8--who like the Arc de Triomphe best, so far. Georges, the sometimes driver of Le Petit Train de Montmartre--the tram-like train that winds and whirs around that mountain--his Portuguese wife and their handsome young son. (I am old ;) Anna from Michigan. Florence from Paris--he's pretty sure she's Algerian. Yes, he came. It took some convincing but he ended up venturing out with me and my gal pal Theresa--from the LBC. Hehe.

All this after an afternoon spent lunching at Le Relais Gascon and girl-talking at Theresa's "Lola Studio" with Paris rooftops and blue sky out her window. We even had Ellen Fujioka for those precious hours! But when she left us, early evening, Theresa and I went for rum and fromage off the rue Lepic before deciding how our Bastille Day evening would be spent, all the while spending it. Her rental agent had invited her to a party further up the hill... at her 7th floor apartment over looking the whole of the city.

And do you know? I didn't take one picture. Sorry! It happens, especially when so many others are taking pictures. There was a guy with a ponytail and a super professional video camera who finished the evening by playing and singing "Halleluja" on the white upright piano in the mirrored dining area. This was after the fireworks so he had our full attention and got a flattering applause when he finished, which made me feel kinda bad for the guy who had been playing for most of the night--a less sexy character who didn't sing. We stood by the nuts on the clear glass table. A toddler with white blond locks of curls hit his head at least twice near the graciously angled corner. I didn't say anything to either one of them then. What do you say at moments like that?

Speaking of fireworks, the Eiffel Tower--clearly visible from the four french-doored terraces--stood ready to the south. JoJo and Theresa took those pictures where you hold it in the palm of your hand, and the sun went down to the west in its customary blazing glory, Monday morning passing in California. Once the fireworks began, the sky looked more like sea than air, high clouds like foam in moonlight. A cool breeze carried the smoke quickly and predictably to the northeast as everything always blows. I thought of the dust and paper casings from some 15,000 explosions--most ending up in the Seine, Johnny Hallyday--the French Bruce Springsteen--crooning to the million-or-so people trampling the grass that rests all year across the Champ de Mars, so that as I stood at that threshold--so close to the clouds with that plastic flute of Veuve Clicquot--I felt lucky. Even the piano player stopped... soft voices, the occasional ooh or ah--especially when the Tour sparkled with all her usual panache--and the delayed sound of light being made, flames thrown and burned brightly out.

When it was over, we clapped and clung to the few distant and lingering displays outside the city. George and his wife seemed to know which outlying cities these might be. I was happy just to be able to point out to Daniel and Niels the Arc de Triomphe rising like a stage in-the-round and lit-up above the darkening rooftops. Inside, though we tried to regain our earlier conversations, other guests had arrived and the champagne had stopped flowing. Guests took turns at the piano. Daniel and Niels sat next to Ingrid on one of the white leather sofas while she exchanged phone numbers with Anna. Others gathered around the generous remains of nuts, chips, sliced sausage, olives, cherries, and at the center--a gorgeous tray of middle-eastern pastries which went quickly, marking the last movements of the evening.

The table base of giant glass blocks was lined with books, stacks and rows of them, red hardbacks with script and impressionistic painting on the covers wrapped in plastic. One sat open on the table, an illustrated account of one woman's love affair with that mountain and its people... Paris Montmartre avec amour written by the hostess, Theresa's rental agent, Eva Leandre. The images--Cezanne-like studies of the locals--had been framed to cover the two walls not windowed or mirrored in that well-lit space. The artist, an old friend of Ms. Leandre's, Jean-Marc Gueroux was also in attendance. As we said our goodbyes and gave out cheek kisses, Ms. Leandre said I should stop by any time.

We got home after midnight and I finally walked the Filou at around 2. Two guys drove up and asked the way to the Marais ;) An Asian woman was dragged by the arm in halfhearted protest into the Hotel Chatelet by a uniformed officer. A couple argues by their car. Filou grumbled and growled at a group of young drunk guys trotting up his tree-lined avenue, their arms around each other's shoulders. The night seemed darker than usual despite the large half-moon at Saint Jacques' back. Maybe I still had fireworks in my eyes.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Reporting from...


A little rain shower just moved quickly through and we're ready for Sunday, part two.

We did a lot of shopping today, gifts mostly... a few for me and many for people in our other cities. The daytime sky is not as poetic as the Parisian one, but the night sky is sublime... so I'm on a blue kick. Got a Lapis Lazuli ring at the Sunday flea market. And a clutch purse, but that's brown, orange and red floral print upholstery fabric... with tiny pink flowers on one side, too. With a little luck, we'll catch a canal tour this evening. Hope the clouds clear.

All of my web browsers are slowly switching to Dutch, so I'm going to get back to real life. I posted a few photos here... stay tuned for the video(s).

Friday, July 3, 2009

Shakin' Loose

At last!

I knew there was a good reason I was sleepless tonight. Just finished chatting with my little sis, my favorite sister... though she hasn't been my favorite for months now, not since she told me she was going to see Depeche Mode in August at the Hollywood Bowl--coolest of all LA venues--with SOMEONE ELSE! But now he can't go, so I'm in! I do hope Dave Gahan wears his leather pants!

And that's not all that's super cool tonight. I've finally begun my stint as, get this, the Creative Writing Program Director for WICE--a continuing education institute here in Paris--and our first course is all but on the books for this fall. This responsibility is the main reason why I didn't go home last month, but I'll make good use of my time since I also have a great lead on a job a language school. Thank you, Ellen Fujioka--my little go getter friend! I might have to go see her psychic while I'm in Long Beach.

I'll also be sitting in for David Barnes at The Other Writers' Group at Shakespeare & Co on July 11th and 18th. Come if you can... five copies of a work in progress, or just listen to the fine writing that others bring in. We can always use fresh eyes and ears.

Other great things that have happened in recent months: This spring I had the honor of working with Cecilia Woloch again to organize her Paris Poetry Workshop--click to see the video I made. Cecilia has such a great group of friends and poets every year. The themes of place, image, and collaboration always make for a very rewarding experience, so if you ever need a(nother) reason to come to Paris, I can highly recommend this week-long workshop. This year we also did photography with Jennifer Huxta, the Montparnasse Cemetery with Heather Hartley, a day in the country with Jeffrey Green--read French Spirits!--and an afternoon of collage poetry with Jen K. Dick. We finished up the week with a participants' reading at S&C, then dinner--Au Chien Qui Fume, where else?! The highlight of my week was reading my recently anthologized tribute to Alan Ginsberg's "Howl"--it's called "Wail"--at a reading we organized at Berkeley Books. There was thunderous applause and the owner of the bookstore complimented me on my bravery... They didn't put me in the "Woman as Freedom Figter" section for nothing! I left him a copy to read and/or sell, but if you can't stop in there, buy it here! The anthology is called Not a Muse, a global anthology of post-feminist poetry published by Haven Books in Hong Kong.

Then... I had my 39th birthday. He took me on a dinner cruise on the Bateaux Mouches--not even overrated. Can't believe it's taken us four years to finally do it! He even muscled us up to a table at the front of the boat, which made for a lovely video ;) Miles Davis' Blue In Green made the perfect soundtrack, even the title, given the colors of that evening. The clouds cleared when night fell, and then it was over.

But not my birthday! It went on all weekend long 'cause he took me to Amsterdam the next day. We just showed up at the train station and boarded the next train, wandered around town for two hours looking for a hotel that would allow Filou to stay, too. Then I got sick. Boooo... So, we're going back tomorrow/today. Seriously, does it get any better?! Ok. Depeche Mode at The Hollywood Bowl is pretty damn good.

Oh yeah, and this week Filou turned two. Of course we had a little party... and two of my MFA gal pals came! Thank you, Filou, for the great excuse to open up the Old El Paso Burrito Kit. He even got to lick his Raspberry Charlotte birthday cake. Oh yeah, and I made a video to celebrate his first two years. See it here.

I guess that just about catches you all up. 5am... time to go take my bath and head for Gare du Nord. See you soon!