in 36 hours i'll be airborne.
this is going to be fun. especially once i've actually packed my stuff and left town.
today's the day i'm leaving, and i just posted the pictures from the de-hanging party. shout out to dani, jules, christian, maureen, catherine, and especially keith. i'm very lucky to have such kind people in my life.
and on a different note, if sarah hadn't packed for me, i'd be up much later than this.
yesterday i said goodbye to florence, and thanked her for being in my life.
i got to sit next to princess rosalie, 4.5 years of age. she was a model of decorum, sitting mostly quietly through 4.5 hours of plane trip. on jetblue, everybody gets directv in the seatback monitor, and rosalie cracked her mom up by tuning in to the weather channel, which is apparently what daddy watches. i stubbornly watched the livemap, which showed our plane over the various states, and lake michigan. taking one spin around the dial, i stumbled on a peter gabriel concert film, and it turns out i really like peter gabriel. the concert also featured paula cole, who's very warm indeed. i spent about an hour bouncing around in my seat, with less decorum than the princess.
this morning i walked in the rain to the farmers market at grand army plaza, and took some pictures and mailed a thank you card, and met another small princess, dressed all in purple. she recognized me as a kindred soul.
maureen and catherine are just the sweetest people in the world. they do my heart good.i brought apples and focaccio for breakfast, and then maureen went out for muffins, donuts, and coffee.
i'm in new york until monday evening.
today maureen took me to the 50th birthday party of her feng shui practitioner. it was in an art gallery on 25th street, and attended by a nice assortment of interesting white people, though i have a sense of the men being short and many of the women being alarmingly thin.
then to b&h photo, which was a quintessentially new york retail experience. they had two lines for help with digital cameras: one if you knew exactly what you wanted, and one if you were going to dither. there were people attending all the lines, directing traffic, and making sure you were in the correct line. there was also a video monitor displaying the number of the counter where you would find a helpful person. there were tram lines for little boxes on the ceiling and (apparently) under the floor, so sales folk could place orders on the computer, and the item itself would land at their feet in a matter of minutes. once i got up to the counter, i had a lovely chat with a very patient guy, who sold me a great battery, and helped me decide which polarizing filter to buy. (i'll have to hold it up to the camera, but it'll be better than nothing.) then i went and stood in the to-pay-with-credit-card line. when i got to the head of that line, there was a sign indicating that there was a free gift for anyone who spent over $50 and brought the coupon or hotel referral. alas, i had neither. i asked the guy what the gift was, and it was a throwaway camera. aw, i said, i coulda *used* that. so he gave me one. then i stood in the pick-up-your-stuff line, and before i knew it i was out blinking on the sidewalk.
after that we went to kiev, the restaurant that figured so prominently in cara's and my saturday night summer routine, 23 years ago. alas, it had changed hands, and was much prettier, but the waitress was unsure what was meant by "pastrami," and the latkes were greasy, and not in a good way.
i was grinning most of the time we were driving around, remembering stuff (and noticing i don't remember other stuff: there was a parochial school and a church on the same block i lived on in brooklyn heights for over a year: i had no recollection of them). i have such affection for new yorkers in general. i like their fearlessness. i like how the children all seem secure in being adored by their parents and indulged by most of the other adults in their lives. i liked that nobody seemed defensive.
and i've seen so many wonderful signs and juxtapositions. i could easily live here for a couple of years, just wandering around taking pictures of signs.
as the saying goes: i love new york.
what a splendid time i've had in england! i leave for amsterdam tomorrow, and mara's taking me to pub food tonight, and i'm so grateful that i begin and end my transatlantic adventures here, where i can almost understand people if i take a moment to spell out in my head what they're saying.
i had several little panics on the way to my virgin atlantic flight, but it always turned out that my mistake was imagining i'd made one. didn't sleep much on the plane. smiled to the customs worker about how lucky she was to see all of humanity at its best. found cash machine, found underground, made my way to jill's shared flat in covent garden. sharon, the roommate, had left towels for me, earning stars in her crown in heaven. it was the best darn bath i'd ever had in my life. i decided i needed to get her some flowers in thanks, and set out to find some. and walked for 3 or 4 hours.
i am the poster child for attention deficit disorder. whenever something bright and shiny catches my eye, i wander off in that direction. i walked across the thames, examined the huge ferris wheel, failed to buy a ticket, wandered past the dali museum. back across the thames, houses of parliament, big ben, horse guards. i was amazed at how close i wandered to 10 downing street, without even guessing that there was anything special about the neighborhood.
finally made my way back to covent garden, and asked a kind-faced stranger for a flower store. she said there was a flower *stall* two blocks from jill's flat. i laughed and laughed. left a note for sharon, and called mara, who was worried, since i was supposed to arrive in the morning. she'd left a key with pat, her next door neighbor. she told me when the fast trains to east croydon from covent garden train station were. so i got on one of those, and thanks to annemarie's fabulous map had no trouble finding mara and bill's charming abode. pat is a pistol. she offered me tea and a biscuit, and told me stories about her 50 years in nursing.
mara got home shortly after pat let me in, and we had a lovely chat until she had to run off to her class. i made friends with nina the fabulous cat, and fell profoundly asleep.
wednesday i took a train as far as blackfriars bridge, then the tube to, um, kensington. gave a glance to the natural history museum and the victoria and albert. walked up to harrods, which is a tribute to excess and luxe. kept walking up picadilly. finally landed in leicester square, where mara was to meet me. she'd just missed the fast train, so we arranged to meet later. i wandered around the west end (which seems pretty centrally located, but what do i know). then mara and i went to see "the madness of george dubya", which was completely fabulous, and featured several songs by tom lehrer. the american accents were pretty funny. they'd be dead on for 5 or 6 beats, and then be completely wrong. mara's been here long enough that she couldn't hear the wrongness.
before the play, a man in the row behind me opined that american intelligence was an oxymoron. i turned around and grinned at him. he made sure that i wasn't offended, and then we had a lovely chat, and i showed him and his french wife the card i'm handing out on the continent. they asked if i knew french, and i said no, only my magic sentence, and what i remember from class 40 years ago. i said the sentence to her (bonsoir, madame. excusez-moi de vous deranger, mais j'ai une probleme. je ne parle pas francais...). she said my accent was very good, and i was, like, totally thrilled.
i'm a cheap date, what can i say?
after the play, mara and i went to an indian place, where we had what she tells me is the english national dish, chicken tikka masala, which is unknown in india itself. apparently in india they don't make orange sauces.
this morning i walked to the market stalls and bought too much produce. i forgot to get postcard stamps, so i may walk out again. and then perhaps take a petit nap.
it's a little mammal superstition, the idea that the universe is conspiring on one's behalf: pronoia. this trip so far has done nothing to discourage my pronoia.
there's a direct train from croydon to gatwick, and mara looked up the best ones for me. i draggled out of the house about 8 and got to the airport by 830. the flight to amsterdam was scheduled for 1020. i wandered up to the easyjet counter and confessed "i'm confused." the nice young smart alec replied "we all are." i got sorted out and checked in (number 29: seating on easyjet follows the southwest air model, so i could board first), and wandered around the terminal for an hour. there's a main lounge for all departing passengers, and monitors to tell you what your gate is, when they think you need to know. my flight's gate was not announced until 30 minutes before it was scheduled to leave. since it's at least a ten minute walk to the gate, this made logistics ... interesting. also, gatwick is positively pitiless: if you can't take stairs, they're not especially interested in you. i'm grateful i can.
short flight. easy train connection. i probably could have found marian's place with my luggage and everything, but my nerve failed, and i had her come meet me. she wore a kokopeli jacket, and a dyke march 2001 tshirt (where no man has gone before), so i'd feel at home.
after my stuff was stowed, we went for a walk and she showed me useful things, like the produce market, and the flea market, and the bookstore, and then we went to the supermarket for ingredients for dinner. as we came out of the supermarket we found it was pouring rain, and so slipped into a cafe and drank while waiting for it to abate. i had heavenly hot chocolate. marian, with steely self-discipline, had mineral water. eventually it was raining lightly enough that we ventured home.
invited also to dinner were michelle and marjo. dinner was tofu tikka masala, which was extremely tasty. and salad, and marjo brought a nice little organic (biological, in european) wine. and there were chocolates. oh my. about halfway through dinner the sky opened up. marian said the sky was green, it must be a tornado (i'd told her this was one of the signs of tornado in kansas). there was hail. there was lightning and thunder (i'd also said this was a species of weather i missed from kansas).
it was spectacular. especially from several floors up: we could look down on other roofs and see the drama of it.
and also, i don't have to find an internet cafe yet. marian lets me use her computer. tomorrow i'll see if i can get a couple of writable cds, and back up the pictures i've taken so far.
i rather think if i stayed here a month i could start picking up dutch. so far i'm getting about one word in ten. if i can find a phrasebook tomorrow i'll buy it. maybe at the flea market. after the farmers market.
toto, i'm pretty sure we're nowhere near kansas. even if the sky turns green and we get lightning and thunder.
on saturday, farmers market, then flea market. but it was cold, and the wind blew off the canals, and it was not the most fun i've ever had in my life. at the flea market (hilarious costumes the young folk wear these days) i finally had een kroket and some frites, to dip in it. pretty tasty. heart-stopping food, but definitely tasty. on the way back, i found a place with writable cds, and stopped in a bookstore. marian took me in the day before, to say hello to somebody who worked there. when i brought a phrasebook and some postcards to the counter, the woman said "oh, and are you going to learn our beautiful language?" she obviously thought much better of me for it.
then i went back to marian's and spent the rest of the day wrestling with her computer, trying to bend it to my will. the software she uses to make cds is called nero (because you use it to burn rom). between the phrasebook and the dutch-english dictionary i found, after 4 or 5 hours, i was successful. then it was too late to go out again, so i just wrote postcards. (yes, dori, blogger *and*, in some cases, postcards.)
sunday was a national day of remembrance for those who lost their lives in world war ii. the big, official observance was in the dam, with the queen and everything. but marjo had offered to come collect me and take me to the one at the homo monument.
she was to collect me at 1900, which left the entire day to burn. michelle called in the morning, to see how i was getting on and say goodbye before she goes back to paris. she warned me that the van gogh museum was very crowded on saturday, so i decided to see it on monday instead. i draggled out of the house about 1030, i think, and just started walking. past the dam, over to jordaan, past many coffee houses. my experience of amsterdam is very different than it would have been 30 years ago, when i was young and cute and doing drugs. i walked past the coffeehouses and the cafes, where the tourists were getting cheerfully baked in the sunshine, and i just smiled.
walked down prinsengracht, to the modern art market, and finally broke down and looked at the map. got turned around, walked away from home for a bit, but it felt wrong. looked at the sun, calculated the direction, turned myself about, and headed for home. got there about 1700. which left me a couple of hours to think about how much my feet hurt. (alas. they're not as painful as before i learned to walk with my toes down, but they're still 53-year-old feet.)
shortly after 1900 marjo buzzed, and i went down to meet her. we took the great circle route to the homo monument. (since the dam was blocked off for the other ceremony.) her friend olga was waiting on the bridge. marjo showed me the 3 pink triangles. the one by the water was already almost covered with flowers. after a bit there was a solemn march of perhaps a dozen people in uniform, and maybe another dozen in civilian clothing, carrying floral tributes. marjo found us a good place to stand, and after awhile there was a ceremony. in dutch, but very touching and dignified nonetheless. a very striking woman of african descent spoke at some length, and there was a speech by a deaf woman, translated by the signer who'd translated into sign the other speeches. then official people started walking down to the water triangle with their flowers. after the people in uniform (police, marines, soldiers), everybody else who'd brought flowers trooped down to the water.
it was a good remembrance.
then we went to cafe saarein, and then to olga's. olga has a canal-side place, with her own bathroom. she's an artist, and she's been painting and decorating the furniture so it's exactly to her taste. we went up on the roof and admired things, and we looked out at the rich people's houses from the place olga used to live in. i took some pictures. i hope they come out. i even used the tripod.
then they walked me toward marian's, and they kept saying, aren't you tired? i said i'll sleep when i'm dead. so we had another glass at the cafe in de waag, at nieuw markt, a half a block from home. there was a halo around the moon, so it's probably true what they say about the weather tomorrow.
it's been a lovely day. sweet as the kiss of the goddess. i am very very lucky.
monday was another wet day, but at least the wind was mostly calm. i walked to the museumplein, where the rijksmuseum is closed on account of asbestos, but there's wonderful acoustics in the tunnel through the building. they were setting up for a festival in honor of liberation day, the day in 1945 when the allies freed holland. it's a very big deal, and i have to admire the dutch for remembering both the lives that were lost, and the sweetness of freedom. i went over to the van gogh (fon hockh, phonetically) museum, and stood in line for awhile, and then noticed i was getting a teensy bit claustrophobic, so i ducked out of line.
i am officially a philistine. i have visited amsterdam and not spent time with vincent's artwork.
wandered over to vondelpark. back to museumplein. it's wonderful to hear american rock standards played, with feeling, expertly, in dutch. poked around through the spiegelkwartier, with galleries and antique stores. found a post office open even though it was a feast day. bought postcard stamps to the u.s., which set me back 7.50 in euros for every 10. yikes! hit the bloemenmarkt, which is a whole lot of flowers. somehow found myself in the shoppers maze, with the overhead banners every few meters exhorting us to beware of pickpockets. when i had my bearings again i was at the rokin canal. as opposed to roken, which means smoking. i have great pictures of the slogan roken is dodlijk (smoking is deadly).
that was pretty close to home, and even though my feet were unhappy with me, i stubbornly completed some errands before succumbing to horizontality. (i'd been walking about 4 hours by then.) i saw that the flea market at waterlooplein was open, so i took another look around. then i picked up some satsumas at the store to replace the ones i'd eaten. finally, i stopped at the bookstore to get a postcard of a cow with its tongue sticking out, for someone who'll truly appreciate it.
finally, whimpering, i got the hell off my feet.
(interesting side note: in dutch, some plurals are indeed formed by the addition of an apostrophe and an s. just goes to show you.)
today, marian took me to her place of work, the homo-lesbisch archives of the netherlands. i gave them a copy of lesbian love poems, and did not give them a copy of the art book, because, alas, the package i sent marian did not arrive. because i didn't have her postal code, and they punish you with slowness if you leave off the postal code. when it finally does arrive, marian has my blessing to distribute the contents to the archives, and marjo, and whoever else might want one.
i spent a happy couple of hours looking at photo books by gon buurman, and then marian wanted to document my visit, so i picked up tee's book, and posed by the hilarious statue of the virgin and daughter.
then we went for more interesting walking adventures. when marian's building was being fixed up, she lived for half a year in a complex of buildings done in the amsterdam style of architecture. i took lots of pictures. the details are elegant, and the conception is dignified and respectful of the working people for whom the buildings were made. we walked and walked and walked, and came to an unlabeled statue which i divined to be karl marx, because the pedestal portrayed what can only have been a worker breaking his chains. this was very near mirakelbrug, or miracle bridge. we walked through narrow streets, peering into interesting shops. poked our heads into a sweet little art deco movie place. walked along canals. marian kept asking if my feet weren't tired. i explained it was like with certain kinds of food: my stomach will be saying "enough, already," while my mouth is saying "just another bite." in this case, my feet are saying "enough," and my eyes are saying "more! more!" i'll surely have plenty of time to sleep when i'm dead.
marian had made reservations for 1900 at a little, but extremely high-toned, restaurant up the block from her apartment. we had very entertaining food. the bread and something to spread on it was exquisite, but we were afraid to eat too much of it, for fear of not having room for the real food. we shared an appetizer, i wish i'd written down the exact description. it was a salad, with a mousse of some kind of bird, inside ham of lamb. for our main courses, marian had cataplana, which looked a lot like paella to me, and i had duck breast with chestnut and mushroom rice. marian had decaf coffee, and i had a homemade truffle. we got out at 2130 or so.
tomorrow i'm going to belgium, and i want to leave the house about 0800, so once again i'm up too late. i still have to finish packing. but i don't know what the internet situation will be in belgium, so i'm getting online while the getting's good.
marian was lovely the other night, letting me sleep in her bed even though she was back from arnheim. (she slept downstairs, in her old apartment. apparently in holland relationships with apartments last as long as relationships with people.)
once again, i stayed up far too late. must have hit the snooze button eight times. finally when marian came to collect me, i was vertical, but just barely. i struggled into my clothes, and we had a pleasant walk to the train station.
she helped me negotiate the ticket purchase to leuven, and waved goodbye from the platform. i had to change trains in antwerp, and had a little anxiety about it, since i only had a few minutes to do it in. i came down from the platform looking for information, and when it wasn't immediately obvious i approached a severe-looking man in a hat that implied he was a train employee. "excusez-moi," i began, "je voudrais Š" he interrupted. "oh, english," he said. i meekly completed my request in my native tongue.
lieve met me at the train station, and brought me back to the table on the terrace where she and her green companions were discussing campaign strategy. i was wearing my american flag tshirt, because the next thing we were going to do was attend the women in black demo, and (a) it's black, and (b) janet told me i had to attend every possible demonstration. one of the greens had to have "we are not all jerks" explained to him. "jerks" was not a familiar term. i think i will send the tshirt back home.
after the women in black demo the 8 of us adjourned to a nearby cafe for conversation and lunch. after i'd been introduced around, the conversation mostly flowed around me in flemish. one woman asked me to print the correct spelling of "potluck" for her. she was vastly amused to hear that potluck is an ancient lesbian tradition in my country. in this one, "pot" is the word for dyke.
then lieve and a friend of hers took me on a walking tour of leuven, a university town for six or seven hundred years. first we went to the very fine botanical garden "kruidtuin," i think it was called, and then to the grote beginage, where unmarried women lived together, without being nuns, for hundreds of years. inspiring landscape.
thence to lieve's, for dinner. she'd cooked the night before, and i'm pretty sure it was yummy. we had a bottle of champagne first, and i'm a little fuzzy on the details. I remember a lot of conversation, and a lot of laughing.
the next morning (thursday), i got to check my email (lieve has cable!), and found that my friend florence died in her sleep last saturday. she hadn't been having much fun in her body for several months, and i know she was ready to go, and we'd said our goodbyes . . . still. i'll miss her. the last time we talked, we played with the idea of her stowing away with me to europe: in her new state, unbound from space and time, she should have no problem finding me in belgium. unless there's something more interesting elsewhere. i'm sure she and bobbie have a lot of catching up to do, even though bobbie only died in january.
then lieve had a meeting to go to, and she turned me loose in the center of town. she looked askance at my flipflops (the silly, decorated ones) and suggested (and then insisted) that i take my real shoes with me. she's a very smart woman. turned out i spent more time on my feet than i'd expected, and by the time i was reunited with the shoes (in the trunk of her car) i'd worn a pair of pitiful sore places on my feet. that'll learn me. the flipflops are going back to the states as well.
that evening lieve let me take her to a restaurant she likes. it's called gempemolen, it's an old mill and it's right next to some hiking and walking trails. we had a glass of something first, and then went taking pictures and walking around. it was very pleasant, and the light was amazing. for dinner we had belgian feast food. lieve had rabbit and prune sauce, i had asparagus. since this was serious food, we did not have frites. lieve ordered kroketten instead. not dutch kroketten, which is spiced minced meat breaded and deep fried, but belgian kroketten, which is mashed potatoes breaded and deep fried. not unlike tater-tots.
but of course much more dignified.
this is really really hard. these are the keys that are not where I expect them: a, q, z, w, m, comma, period, semicolon. and all the numbers. unless I can get the windows box to change keyboard configurations on the fly (and the configuration tool, in flemish, was not very helpful), i probably won't update the weblog again until paris. where i understand the keyboards are even more nonintuitive.
today we had cookie cake and ice cream, a belgian specialty, known locally as koekjesgateau and speculoos ijs. this evening we had stoofvlees (quite a bit like brisket, with a very nice sauce) and balletjes in tomatensaus (meatballs in tomato sauce, but not either of those items anything like you think). served with frites (the famous belgian fries) and mayonnaise (again, trust me, your imagination is failing you). lieve has taken it as her mission to connect me with as much regional cuisine as possible.
in between, we walked around leuven amusing ourselves taking pictures. went to the train station so i could book my trip to paris. i got nonsmoking, of course, and the ticket guy assumed second class. i asked what was the difference in fare, and he looked it up and it was only 6 or 7 euros. so i'm going first class to paris: i can't tell you how this thrills my kansas soul.
okay, yeah, my bodyworker doubts the existence of my kansas soul. but i am so completely obviously Not From Around Here.
michelle, an ex-pat, gave me the short tour last night. we omitted sacre coeur, but included four women's bars, chez omar (fabulous couscous), the eiffel tower, the pompidou center, notre-dame, some left bank, ice cream which is made and sold only on the ile st louis, and a stirring ride up the champs elysees, during which i burst spontaneously into la marseilles. at the arc de triomphe, michelle circled, illegally honking her horn and shouting "jean's here! after 40 years, she finally made it to paris!" very satisfying.
today i slept late, and when i went out it turned out the silk socks were not 100% comfortable. so i didn't cover ten kilometres. maybe five. poked around in les halles shopping center, philistine that i am. wandered over to the louvre, which i did not enter, but rather looked hard at the outside. in the cour carree there are dozens of niches containing naked and semi naked babes. the first one I looked at was labeled "la ceramique" and held a piece of pottery. I was looking forward to a rousing game of guess the tutelary spirit, but was disappointed. the others were not named. if I had another few weeks here, I'd make it a project to photograph them all and in photoshop grant them titles.
quel swell temps je suis having, mes cheres et chers! next time je voudrais etre une parisienne.
wednesday i walked from les halles to the bibliotheque nationale. michelle lives and has her studio near there in an old building that used to serve as refrigerated storage for the railroad. the building is called "les frigos." it and all the nearby walls and the interior stairwells are covered with graffiti in the hiphop style of the 80s . charming and quaint .
it was a 4 or 5 km walk, and i had to keep stopping and taking pictures. about 2/3 of the way there, my left big toe started hurting. it was the oddest sensation--as if i suddenly had extra bones in there, and they were misaligned.
i passed the sellers on the left bank; with books and newspapers and--yes!--dirty postcards--no playing cards. sorry, linda.
a lovely walk, and then a nice dinner--salad, to stave off traveller's scurvy--and good music, good conversation. as it got dark, and nothing but candles and moonlight to see by, we got silly and tried to take pictures. her computer has no usb port, so i'll have to wait, maybe until i get home, to see what i've got.
then she was kind enough to drive me home, and we stopped at a bar owned by a friend of hers. here i discovered an interesting thing. my accent really is good, much better than hers. it makes people think i can speak the language. they talk to me. and i understand perhaps 60% of what they say. but i can't answer them, because i still have to work out my sentences in advance, looking up every fifth word. michelle, otoh, sounds like she's reading the words off the page. she has a pronounced texas accent, but she understands very well what people are saying, and she knows which words convey her meaning.
she thinks of it as a form of auditory dyslexia. i see it as different ways of being smart.
one reason i walked is because the strike was still on. maybe on thursday i'll finally step foot in a museum. it could happen.
today i had lunch at au pere fouettard, which i'm afraid has something to do with daddy and a whip. the salad folle had duck and foie gras in it; as well as eggs and haricots verts. it was yummy. also, i had for dessert the glacee berthillon, which apparently *can* be bought outside the ile st louis. I did all my ordering in french, and the waiter, whose english was perfectly good, indulged me. i was grateful.
this morning madame wanted to know when i was definitely leaving, and i haven't decided. i'm thinking maybe i'll stay until monday, 2/6 and then just fly to dublin from paris. as i think about it, I realize I don't really much care about the countryside...
if one of you who has the rough guide for dublin would be so kind as to email me; i'd like recommendations for inexpensive hotels, in not horribly scary neighborhoods. herself(at)jeansirius.com. s'il vous plait. (damn french keyboard strikes again.)
it is my experience that when something becomes very hard to do, it is possible that reality is not in favor of it. ireland is not being easy to arrange. my contact in dublin stopped answering my emails weeks ago. maureen's cousin is not to be found. there's a perfectly lovely contact in wicklow, but she has no especially compelling recommendations.
and while there are many things i can think of to do in ireland should i find myself there, there aren't a lot that i'd actually go there for.
so I may, unless some wonderful irish opportunity presents itself, simply stay in paris until it's time to go to london.
michelle took me to a sweet restaurant on the left bank. (something about a saint-benoit. marguerite duras used to go there.) we had terrine de campagne, she had boeuf bourguignon, and i had mignon de porc. avec moutard. et pommes de terre, machez. then creme caramel.
tasty. it's a mercy i'm walking so much, or i'd never be able to fit into my economy seat on the airplane back.
then she showed me where natalie barney used to live, and camille claudel worked. it was a very edifying tour.
stood beside the seine for the full moon rising. visited shakespeare & co., which is vehemently not sylvia beach's establishment. peered up at notre-dame. stood at kilometre zero. photographed my feet on it.
magpie that i am, i dragged us into a little jewelry store, where the young man behind the counter divined my nationality (possibly by the stars & stripes peace button), so i gave him the "je suis americaine, je suis desolee" card, which cracked him up. michelle hadn't seen it, it turned out. she invited the young man to her porte ouvert (open studio) a week from friday, and i found a nice orange cats eye something ring.
then up to the butte of montmartre, to sacre coeur. tried to take pictures. tried not to trip over young couples desperate to share genetic material. examined souvenirs.
it was pretty. michelle pointed out landmarks--notre-dame, the eiffel tower. I gotta admit, what it reminded me of more than anything was the view from the parking lot at merritt college.
friday, she's going to drive me to chartres. to walk the labyrinth.
i bet you can get really cool tshirts at chartres.
okay, then. chartres. it's old. it doesn't match. it's at the top of a hill , but by the grace of sister mary francis, patron saint of lesbian parking, we found a space closer to the top than the bottom. before we left paris, we stopped at the studio of mireille to pick up some posters for the porte ouvert. i really like her work. if the canvases weren't so big i'd be tempted to buy one. so we got on the A10, and then we got off at the wrong exit so i could take a picture of an establishment called buffalo grill.
from the highway it looks like the cathedral is right next to the road, but it isn't. not by a long shot.
once we parked, we ducked into the church to check when the english-language tour is, then went to michelle's favorite restaurant in chartres for lunch. m. had an omelet, i had fried poultry giblet salad. yum.
as it happens, the tour gave me rather more medieval theology than interests me. the windows are lovely, i wished for binoculars, and the alternation of circles and squares amused me, since it's how my own small collection of rose windows proceeds.
they'd pulled windows out of the east side, and covered their absence with clear plastic. light streamed in onto the labyrinth, uncovered on friday. the labyrinth is what most interested me. the tour guide hated all that harsh light.
we walked the labyrinth barefoot, and in the center michelle recited some poetry to me about roses. (the center is a six-petalled rose.) it took me a few beats to recognize it as my own.
then we stalked the interior, trying to get photographs without going to the trouble of setting up the tripod. thence to the mystical bookstore, where we got a great recommendation for dessert. (an army may march on its stomach, but this particular tourist visits with her tongue.)
i had chocolat grand-mere (avec orange) and a hilarious conconction of three kinds of chocolate and at least two forms of pistachio. they don't have anything like it in kansas.
back to the city of lights, though it wasn't dark yet. ended up at the maison des femmes. i wished i'd brought a copy of the book michelle was quoting from, so i could donate it to the archives.
people were perfectly nice, but i didn't understand a word they were saying. (the tireder i get, the less french i know.) and it remindeed me of new york, 20 years ago, and people being sure they knew what i should be thinking.
it depressed me a little. maybe i'll just give michelle another copy and ask her to donate it for me.
this is me, asking for advice. i can't decide what to do, and i have to tell the landlady on monday. should i just bag dublin and divide the time budgeted for it between paris and london? or should i not pass up this opportunity to step foot on the ancestral bog? there may be strikes in france on the next two mondays, which could make getting out of the country impossible anyway...
what do you think? improve my french or plant another flag? herself(at)jeansirius.com
i just booked my train to london, via eurostar, a paltry 35 euros. i'll be landing at waterloo station about 1500 on wednesday, 4/6. as i've come to remember, context switching is expensive, and at my age, i've switched context just about as often as i can stand.
so anyway. yesterday. saturday. i almost went to st.-chappelle. went through the security checkpoint. stood in the line to pay to get in ... and changed my mind. don't know why. maybe the crowd thingie. maybe it's just that when i start using my museum pass, the timer starts, whether there's a strike or not. and there's going to be a strike monday, which is a prime louvre day. so ... no.
i did wander over to the memorial to the french victims of the holocaust. it's a brilliant, brilliant space. it does exactly what it's supposed to do. i have the highest respect for the architect. and had a lump in my throat for much of the rest of the afternoon.
it rains a lot here. (someone has probably pointed this out.) it's wonderful light for traditional photographers: soft and forgiving, no harsh shadows. makes me wish i'd sprung for the waterproof case, but i am being careful with the borrowed camera. paris is, of course, one of the world's most photogenic cities, and i find i've been shooting about 100 megs of pictures a day. there's a place where i can buy 256meg compact flash cards for 100 euros apiece, or i can pay 50 euros to get prints (and a cd) of everything on a cf card, and then reuse it.
or i can try to find some parisian geeks. obviously, the people in the cybercafe don't have cd burners, or they'd be home. and the people at the counter don't speak any english at all. maybe i should write down what i want, and get them to write down their answer. i can make out french on the page better than in the air.
the women here are, of course, terrifyingly chic, but they are also scarily thin. and they have deep, dark circles under their eyes. the smoking, btw, hasn't bothered me much at all. i've been in a lot of nonsmoking spaces, and in the others i don't seem to attract the smoke to me. that's pure luck.
last night michelle and i did a mitzvah. a young friend of hers was in a group show out in romainville, which is hard to get to, and michelle wasn't sure any of giselle's other friends would be able to make it. so we went out to the suburbs, where the show was in a very grand room in the town hall. giselle was well attended, so we stayed a decent period, looked at everybody's work, and slid back to paris, in search of dinner.
we ended up at a place in the passage brady, an immigrant neighborhood. an indian restaurant (route du kashmir, i think). the waiter's english was probably better than mine, and he wasn't having any of my fumbling in french. i try to be meek about it. michelle ordered (wait for it) chicken tikka masala! which is not known in india. the lamb biryani i got, however, *also* had orange-colored sauce, which is not known on the subcontinent itself, except in restaurants catering to the tourist trade.
then we went looking for parking near chez nicole.
parking in paris is as difficult as anywhere in the civilized world, i think. we invoked sister mary francis, and we circled and we circled and we circled. while we lined up for a space we thought we saw opening up, the car ahead of us went into reverse and bumped us. michelle was having none of this. (she's been in paris long enough to have the bloodlust of the local drivers.) she yelled at the driver, and bumped him back. he got out of his car and said something abusive. michelle backed up and bumped him again. he huffed off in search of the police, and in the end nothing came of it: no parking space materialized, the police drove by, but the guy had already driven off, we got back in the circling stream...
it was as good as a movie. michelle apologized for her triple scorpio energy, but i was laughing too hard to forgive.
sister mary francis came through in her own good time, just in time for us to get prime seats at boobsbourg. lots of people, lots of smoke, several guys, the lovely nicole herself bustling about. a dj upstairs, ferocious in her concentration. ah, youth.
back near my hotel, there was a group of police standing on the sidewalk, looking up at a 3rd floor apartment. michelle explained that it was a noisy party, someone had complained, and the police had come. but without the access code, they couldn't get in to the building to tell the people to quiet down, so they stood on the sidewalk and hollered.
as good as a movie.
i'd just like to say that so far every commercial interaction i've had in france has resulted in a bag for my purchase. every food transaction has involved a napkin, usually without even asking. so much for what everybody says.
it was raining in a boring way most of the day, so i spent the afternoon teaching a newbie how to email files. this involved creating a file first. since her computer does not have the english option installed, i typed as fast as i could and then did search-and-replace. but now she knows how to do it, so i've done my mitzvah for the week.
then i walked back along the seine (and how nicely that phrase rolls off the tongue, let me tell you), and poked around on the left bank, and then back across the pont neuf. searching for cheap dinner on my way to the cyber cafe, i finally succumbed to the lures of the french "hot dog."
yes indeed. first of all, it's about as long as the split baguette it comes in. and it's covered in grated cheese. and it's heated up in a toaster oven. also, it's two euros. hey, some nights it's the 40 euro dinner, and some nights ... it isn't.
having a swell time. maybe i'll fall by cinecite in les halles, and see if there's a showing of matrix starting at a convenient time...
finally set foot in a museum. the musee d'orsay. no line. no charge. and no admission to the main collection. there were signs outside saying that they apologized, but not telling why.
whatever. there were extremely amusing sculptures.
walked down to the luxembourg gardens, took pictures of queens and saintes patronnes.
had dinner on the left bank, fell by shakespeare & co. for a look.
today's survey: should i spend an unspecified amount of money to get a paris street sign with my name on it? it's rather like the bicycle license plate in concept, but, you know, much classier. i dunno. it might be funny. i should have asked how much.
this morning i got quiche lorraine, chauffee, s'il vous plait. ate it on the hoof, on my way to the internet cafe. and for some reason this morning the sparrows were dive-bombing me. you think sparrows are quiet, unassuming, timid, beige birds, right? well, maybe elsewhere, but in paris they know their rights, and they go for whatever they might be able to get away with. it's like artists in the u.s.: as psychodyke used to say, art is whatever you can get away with.
after checking my email, i strolled down rue sebastopol, and noticed a little storefront with iMacs in it. i tried the door, and it was locked. i had an opportunity to use my french sentence, but i forgot. (the french sentence, if it's scrolled off already, is "bonjour, m'sieur. excusez-moi de vous deranger, mais j'ai une probleme.") the guy grudgingly opened the door, and made fun of my inability to speak his language. i was very humble. i asked what kind of a place this was. he said it was not an internet cafe, it was a place for helping students and artists with computer stuff. i said i had an account at an internet cafe down the street, but i'm an artist, a photographer, and i'm desperate to burn cds of the photographs i've taken, because i'm running out of compact flash cards.
apparently the french are powerless before artists, or something. he admitted that there might be a possibility, as an exceptional kind of thing, for me to use their equipment, provided i had the card reader and the cds. i thanked him in as many languages as i could think of, and gave him my business card and my "je suis americaine" card. he laughed. 1000 heures demain.
plan B was to get the 35-euro eurostar deal and zip over to london, use bill-and-mara's cd burner, and zip right back. unfortunately, all the 35-euro deals were gone between now and when i'm actually going back to london. this was a wonderful stroke of luck.
and i didn't even light any candles at chartres.
what else? my wonderful purple backpack, made out of lightweight ripstop something, has been pulling apart, because it wasn't designed to carry a tripod, even a small lightweight one. last week i found a similar one, but black. i didn't buy it, because i'm stubborn, and i wanted purple.
today i bought it. only 15 euros. very reasonable. yesterday i bought a purple beret, which is almost better than an umbrella, in that it leaves my hands free.
walking around in the left bank, on a narrow street lined with art galleries, i met christopher. christopher is shorter than i am, and was certainly born after i became sexually active, but he wanted to have a conversation, and when the goddess sends me random people, it is my practice to give them the time of day. we discussed war and peace, and reincarnation, and eastern philosophy, and whether god is cruel. it was very deep, and when the frustration level (christopher's english is about a thousand times better than my french, which tells you more about my french than his english) was too great, i suggested that if it was written down, even in french, i might be able to understand it better. he took the idea and ran with it, said he would write me a letter. i gave him my card, and he puzzled over it for a bit. "jean" is, after all, a man's name, and he thought i'd given him my husband's card for some reason. i explained that in the u.s., it's a girl's name. he shook his head at the inexplicableness of the world.
we shook hands. i told him i was glad to have met him. he went on his way. i'll be interested to see what lands in my p.o. box in a few weeks.
then i went looking for dinner. i found a formule a 10 euros, with pate and poulet. the waiter teased me about my french, but when he realized i was an artist (maybe it was the beret) he softened up some. asked me how many photos fit on my carte compact-flash. i said "deux cent". he asked how much it cost. "en france, deux cent." and in my country? "un cent." he shook his head at what a difference taxation makes. or maybe it was something else. how would i know?
somebody told me to be sure to eat french tomatoes, because they're better than here. and i have. and they're good, but i've been buying all my tomatoes from farmers' markets for a couple of years, and french tomatoes are just about as good as locally grown tomatoes at jack london square.
also: organic road hazards: not so much. there's an advertising campaign, with a guy and his dog, and the guy says "j'aime mon arrondissement. je remasse." whatever that means. i've been amazed, however, that some people have been able to convince apparently very large dogs to relieve themselves on the grating around trees.
but i haven't stepped in any.
tomorrow i'm going to take the metro out to the cemetery at montparnesse, and then walk over to les frigos, see if i can help michelle prepare for the porte ouverte. i'm thinking saturday for versailles, since they turn on the fountains only on the weekends.
then monday for sure for the louvre. oh, wait. michelle was going to take me to pere lachaise monday.
well, i'm bound to get to the louvre eventually, aren't i?
this morning for breakfast: quiche roquefort avec noix. chauffee.
and may i just say: i really really like french people.
i showed up at emanuel's door yesterday, two minutes late, which seemed decent in a french sort of way, and he opened the door before i even knocked. i gave him my french sentence (excusez-moi de vous deranger), to which he replied "pas de probleme," and then we spent over an hour verifying that in OS9 we needed a driver for the card reader. (those of you who don't care about technical details, skip to the part about montparnasse.) we could read things, but as soon as we tried to copy them onto the hard drive, we got freezure. on iMacs, on G3s, on G4s. the stubbornness of a determined french person is a heart-warming (and somehow familiar) sight to see.
when we gave up, emanuel called a place he'd interviewed recently, an internet cafe, and asked if they could help. they said no, it's illegal to make CDs. we both knew that was ridiculous, and so he called another place, which said bien sur, she's not going to need help, is she?
so i offered him my humblest thanks and a bar of monastic chocolate, which he noted was "the real thing," and his girlfriend loves this stuff. he also said he was happy to have the diversion, his job is generally very boring. the french are said either to work like crazy people or to do nothing at all. ah, i said. in that case, my soul is french. he laughed.
then i went and wasted two hours at cyberc@fe de paris. the first machine they gave me didn't have enough space on the hard drive to make a CD. the second needed a driver to recognize the card reader. i wrote down, in french, what my various problems had been and what i needed in a machine, and was ushered into the basement, where the machine was fast and had plenty of space and recognized my card reader. its keyboard was in french only, and across the browser window were permanent links to various porn sites, labeled in english ... but an hour later i had my CDs. my stubborn persistence reminded me of something, but i couldn't quite put my finger on it.
walked to the cemetery at montparnasse, and spent an hour looking for the tomb of jean-antoine houdon, who made the wonderful bust of mme adrien-cyprien, which i took as my model for middle age. once released from that geas, i wandered randomly, only on my way out finding the combined grave of jean-paul sartre and simone de beauvoir. people had left little notes of thanks to them. this made me happy.
and then, silly person that i am, i walked to les frigos, near the bibliotheque nationale. i put about 6km on my shoes, and then it was up 3 flights of stairs to michelle's. she pitied me, and divined that a hot soak would make my feet happier. and it did. then we unearthed chairs, and straightened rugs, and reassembled furniture, in preparation for the porte ouverte. she kept offering me food, but as a salute to sarah i had already had a sandwich saucisson. (next time i'll ask for moutarde instead of just declining the beurre.) we figured out how to open her wine-in-a-box, and i had some sips of that, and then we broke open the pretzels.
she found some more books about paris for me, and then gave me a ride home.
this morning nice french people showed me how to negotiate the laundromat, and i almost don't mind that there are now what looks like pencil or pen marks all over my putty-colored pants. i'll try to get them out with spot remover back at my room, and otherwise just accept my fate as an untidy tourist.
because i'm sure not finding anything to buy here that fits over my hips. maybe back in london...
so. tonight michelle's porte ouverte, tomorrow versailles, and sunday, i dunno, maybe pompidou.
today? i dunno. i still haven't seen the matrix. and i think it might be amusing to see it with french people.
breakfast: pate de canard en baguette. et une verre (plastique) de blanc.
i've been reminded several times of new orleans, which i didn't experience until i was 50. style of architecture, attitude toward food and drink. general friendliness and equally incomprehensible language.
porte ouverte last night, and may i just say, in france they really take art seriously. and also partying.
michelle turned her tiny galley kitchen into a respectable gallery space, and it took me three tries to see the photos at the far (1.5 meters away) end of the room, because of the crush of people. great stuff, two bodies of work: photos from pere lachaise of doors/jim morrison fans, and portraits of trees near a power vortex somewhere in france profonde. her friend dee d'alton (or deed action, as the advertising has it, and a swell name it is for a superhero, if you ask me) had very intense paintings in the studio of xavier, down the hall.
in michelle's actual living space a few of her friends sat and talked. and drank wine. and told stories. my gracious, i thought, i'm having a vrai experience des artistes en paris. so i pulled out my little book of photographs, and my book of collage, and passed them around. dee actually read every word in the book, and then she had to find a tissue, which is apparently the highest compliment imaginable. annemarie and crystal and i had a hilarious three-way conversation (four-way if you count my dictionary) where we discussed art and how various effects were achieved. then i fooled around taking blurry photos of everybody. i'll be interested to see how they look on the big screen.
at 2300, michelle ferme'd la porte. a late art-lover with a squirrelly look in his eyes wanted in, and she said no, the door was closed, and he said "so?", and so she closed the door in his face. he lay down in front of it and went to sleep, or perhaps it was merely a civil disobedience action. i dunno. via cell phone some friends of one of the friends in the room were invited up, and when squirrel guy heard them coming up the stairs he thought perhaps his action was over, and he went away.
by 0100, the conversation was still going strong, but dee's boyfriend wanted her to come and help him close his bar, so the survivors, now few enough in number to fit in michelle's voiture, made our way from the 13th arrondissement to the 1st.
at the bar there was champagne, and we toasted sammy and his fiancee, who dances very smooth to the R&B music that was playing ("shaft"! "r-e-s-p-e-c-t"!). finally, about 0300, i wandered off. michelle walked me to the end of the block and then i recognized where i was. took several pictures on the way home.
and lord, did this morning come early. 1100, and madame was way past ready to make up my room. i wonder if i could negotiate with her to *not* have my room made up a couple of days this week. maybe if i write it out.
off to versailles. maybe the rain will keep the tourists at bay.
i don't know why i bother to make plans. just to give the goddess a laugh, i guess. i was halfway across the bridge, headed for the notre-dame/st.mich metro stop, when i realized i didn't have the tickets i went to the trouble of buying. and anyway, it was cloudy and likely to rain.
so i went to the louvre, to the leonard de vinci exhibit instead. somehow i timed it exactly right, and waited in line for a mere 15 minutes, and had a good hour and a half in the exhibit. on the way out, i saw the line was about 4 times as long as it'd been when i joined it.
pretty good exhibit. sketches, drafts, backwards handwriting. worth the 7 euros.
then i walked the rue de rivoli looking for the place that puts your name on a paris street sign. decided i really like allee better than rue, because the verb is more auspicious. found the shop. it takes 5 weeks to do it. they want 122 euros, and mailing is another 17. my gracious. i'm not sure it's *that* funny. i wonder if there isn't somebody on the web who'll do it for cheaper, faster.
wandered around the tuilleries, photographing statuary. there's another small, amusing series of installations, calling itself mini mouasse, or something like that. found lunch. came home for a nice shower and lie down, and now i'm on my way back to the porte ouverte, in my flipflops, because my feet are really starting to hate the shoes i've made them wear every damn day for a month.
i hope i can find the stupid train tickets. it's just 5 euros, not that big a deal. i'm just being stubborn.
i'm also considering going to a concert in sainte-chappelle, by carlos gardel and astor piazzola. sunday, monday, wednesday evenings. 16-25 euros. the main problem will be negotiating the purchase of tickets. but i might. it's an appealing idea.
this morning: crepe salee, avec poulet et fromage.
shared it with the sparrows. apparently their contract stipulates that they're entitled to 5% of all food consumed outdoors. so i was throwing them little bits of my crepe, and they were fighting over it, and getting very very close (i told you they were fearless). finally, i was holding a scrap in my hand, deciding to whom to fling it, and somebody flew up, hovered, and took it out of my fingers.
so that's how i fed them for the rest of the crepe. they took turns, which was adorable. a few pigeons sought to get some of the action, but the sparrows were faster and more determined. also, it is not aerodynamically possible for a pigeon to hover.
again, it seems too dark to go look at the sun king's place, but that doesn't mean i won't do it. there's also the pompidou.
i've been having short little exchanges with y-chromosome folk the last couple of days. yesterday in the tuilleries, a guy was trying to get my attention, and i had a peripheral sense that perhaps his trousers weren't adjusted properly. rather than make sure, i simply refused to acknowledge his existence on my planet. he wandered off. this morning the sun was shining for about five minutes, and i had my arm up to shade my eyes (too lazy to dig my sun hat out). a man saluted me, and asked me in english if i was british. again, refusal to acknowledge his existence seemed to do the trick. then after my crepe, i was walking to the internet cafe, and a young bullet-headed anglo-saxon came out of a bar, saying "excusez-moi, madame." he stared into the sky for a bit. "je voudrais ..." more sky. "des food." i looked him in the eye. "je ne comprends pas," i said. he gave me a thumbs-up. "well, okay, then."
this morning i haven't found breakfast yet. probably a quiche at the boulangerie down the street. they're always nice to me, and heat it up without grumbling.
yesterday i finally started doing museums. once over the pompidou, lightly. some fun stuff, a great deal of overinflated taking oneself way too seriously stuff. then back to the louvre, where i got about a dozen angles of the nike of samothrace (what thigh muscles!) and stood near the monna lisa, as she is alternatively known here. viewed some fine michel-ange drawings and sculpture. today i'd like to go back and look at the vermeers, and some french sculpture and, let's face it, whatever i stumble across.
when they closed the museum on me, i went walking to the atm machine so i could pay for the rest of my hotel stay this morning. (and i don't know why this time madame did not write me a receipt.) the machine was past my metro stop to the last day of michelle's porte ouverte, so i thought, no big deal, i'll just walk to the next one.
it was a very very long way away. i did have the happiness of intersecting at gare de lyon with a lot of people about my age who were carrying banners. they seemed very cheerful. apparently it was a massive demonstration on the subject of retirement. 500,000 baby boomers out in the streets.
i do like this country.
breakfast this morning: cerises, and sojea, which is jus de fruits et soja (soy). i decided i'm not getting enough calcium, but on second thought that's silly, with all the cheese i've been eating. anyway, today's flavor is orange and pamplemousse (grapefruit). because my nose started running yesterday evening, and this morning i have a petite french cold. froide francaise? probably not.
yesterday i walked around the louvre some more, got some great postcards. the dutch section was closed for the day, alas, so i didn't get to commune with the vermeer. i got several angles on the venus of milo, with varying numbers of live people in the back and foreground. overheard a tour guide say it was called a venus because it was a pretty girl. ooooookay, then. there was a perfectly monumental melpomene, at least 3 meters tall. wandered around until i was footsore (again), tried to buy tickets to the carlos gardel/astor piazzola concert at sainte-chappelle, but the ticket machine was broken at virgin. maybe i'll try fnac in les halles.
then over to michelle's, because she wanted to take pictures of me in my beret. yeesh. i try to be a good sport, but i have to admit i was whining a teensy bit. ("can i take the beret off now? it's not raining and my head isn't cold.")
we did some hilarious pictures of each other taking pictures of ... and there was a great mirror down one of the graffiti'd halls. i'll be interested to see the pictures we took in it side by side. tee corinne should just be delighted. tee told me to take photographs of all the pertinent women i met in europe. especially the artists.
then we went over to the down town cafe, which is in actuality a bar, to meet dee and isabell, and also pascal and marisa, who's flying to chicago for a dixie chicks concert this week. (and michelle, i know you're reading this, *somebody* in texas is making "dixie chicks for president 2004" t-shirts.) we went to an italian restaurant around the corner, owned by a lovely portuguese citizen from ... angola? mozambique? quite good food. we talked about changing names, and how hard it is in france, and how too easy it is in the u.s., and i told my name stories. later, when jokes were being told, i had the satisfaction of making both american citizens groan in horrible agony, while leaving the transatlantic faction completely blank. (it's the monks selling flowers story, a terrible assault on the senses that only connects if you grew up being admonished by a certain national parks mascot. i can say no more.)
some guys at the next table really wanted to connect with dee, and if they'd had a lick of sense they'd have realized they were outclassed by several orders of magnitude. but they didn't, and i had my back to them, and i couldn't understand the ebb and flow of the conversation in mostly french, and michelle and i wrote a little poem together. ("roses are red, violets are blue, i didn't come to this restaurant to listen to you.")
and then i went home, sniffling. at 0300 i dug out some of the extremely expired cold cruncher a certain deery-lou procured for me, and finally achieved unconsciousness. i maybe feel a smidgeon better this morning. but i can't decide: should i go see some sights, or should i go back to the hotel and lie down?
it's a glorious day. one of the rare sunshiny warm ones in my paris experience so far. maybe i'll just go to bed early tonight.
this morning for breakfast: supermarket bread, and a banana, so far. shoot, i left most of a quart of fruit juice in my room.
on my way over here, i saw a woman with great calves, wearing a metallic blue helmet with the word "psycho" written on it. so i didn't ask her if i could take her picture. yesterday, walking around forum des halles, i saw a hilarious store window, with "A- crotch" as part of the signage. i have no idea what that might mean, but as i came up to document it, a man came out of the store and waggled his finger at me. we argued with eyebrows for awhile, and then i put my camera away. maybe i'll go back after closing or something.
today what i'd like to do is try to find some article of clothing to purchase. and then poke my head into the louvre for the dutch paintings. then this evening i have a ticket for carlos gardel at sainte-chappelle. this is all just a little too much to be trying to do, i realize, while i'm still somewhat under the weather, but i realized last night that i have seven more days in paris, so i'll do as much as i can. without making myself sick, if possible.
this morning: two apples and some petit LU beurre cookies. yesterday, in the laundromat, pain au chocolat and un brioche a l'orange.
wednesday i looked at department stores, in the hope of finding something wearable to buy. i did find signs that read "jean attitude" and "jean's createurs", and that was almost as funny. had lunch in the restaurant at the top of printemps, which had very nice tile work, and pretty stained glass, but not any great efflorescence of the noodle style i'd been led to expect. it was amusing how i confidently presented myself to the hostess, "bonjour, madame. une table, s'il vous plait. je suis seule." and then madame asked me something, and i had no clue. she was gracious about translating, and i ended up with a table in the nonsmoking section. i can read and write french considerably better than i can hear or speak it.
the vermeers at the louvre amounted to two (small and dim). there may well be a better selection in new york. i'll have to check. the rubens room was pretty splendid, though. i'm glad marie de medicis had enough money to buy such deluxe spin.
the tickets at sainte-chappelle were not for carlos gardel, except in the sense that you can get tickets for bach. i can just expect to be taxed for what i don't understand. the music was very lovely, and i have the program, if somebody wants it, but i became very clear that music is a language and i don't speak it. i know many lovely people do, and i applaud the pleasure it gives them, but if a piece of music doesn't have words, especially words i can understand, it's pretty much wasted on me.
but the stained glass was nice, and i admired the apostles, with their walking sticks and movie film cannisters.
afterward, i walked around the first arrondissement in the warm summer air, feeling safe and happy, much as i felt in new orleans for mardi gras. content. i couldn't understand what people were saying there, either. but i could have learned.
thursday morning i did laundry, but it was a feast day--the ascension--and it was hard to find something to buy for breakfast, to break my 20 euro note, and of course the change machine was broken.
lit candles at notre-dame for my mom's knee surgery (she's fine, nice new knee) in front of jeanne d'arc and the virgin of guadeloupe. then michelle and i decided to go to versailles instead of pere lachaise. the listing in the pariscope sounded enticing: the fountains would be turned on, and there'd be wonderful music. it was hot, the place was swarming with people who speak languages other than french, and, oddly, the fountains at versailles aren't any more fascinating when they're running that the fountains you can see for free. and the music was just a recording, played on loudspeakers.
michelle called it taking a big bite out of the tourist taco.
so then we wandered around inside, where there was a great deal of furniture, some of it with hilarious plastic slipcovers--just like in kansas!--and some people, over the centuries, had scratched their initials into the glass in the hall of mirrors. there were dozens of 8 or 10 foot tall lamps, consisting of naked gilded babes holding torches or something. that was pretty good.
then michelle had a special surprise for me, and we drove in the late afternoon (after 1800, but afternoon by the sun) and i started saying, isn't that interesting, some of this landscape looks like kansas. and then we pulled up next to a small cemetery, and vincent's wheat field. so that was a lovely treat.
back in paris, crepes at a breton place michelle likes. we both had banana and chocolate crepe for dessert. called colorado to see how mom's surgery had gone. then off to chez nicole, where a romanian woman with a camera obscura was taking pictures. michelle got hers done with her camera. i just struck a fearless tourist pose.
friday, we went to see the cartier-bresson exhibit right across the street from les-frigos. what a lucky man he is, to have lived so long, to have had the opportunity to go to all those interesting places (except for the stalag, of course), to have been paid most of his life to make wonderful art. maybe everybody thinks this, but i could easily imagine having taken some of those shots. also, it was air conditioned.
then we went back to the premiere arrondissement and walked along the seine, ate berthillon glace, visited two bookstores (david sedaris paperbacks in both), went back to the jewelry store where i'd got my nice orange chatoyant ring. "bonsoir, m'sieur. j'ai besoin de..." and then i pointed to where a pinkie ring would go. the nice young man encouraged me to practice my french, supplied the informal word for ring. it was pleasant. i found something i liked, michelle decided to treat me, i thanked her. the young man commented approvingly on my stars-and-stripes peace sign, so i fished out my "je suis americaine. je suis desolee" cards and gave him one. he shouted with laughter and returned michelle's money.
i like it here so much.
we watched the sun go down over the seine (about 2130), along with hordes of teenagers drinking wine and laughing. walked to the hotel so she could have another look at the photographs, about which she said many very kind things. then to nicole's for a sip or two. michelle was kind enough to translate when a boisterous twenty-something had a point to make. i said "i see you are a philosopher." michelle translated. the twenty-something sat up very straight and smiled all over. so i wrote it on the back of one of my business cards, signed and dated it.
today: honest to god. pere lachaise. no, really.
breakfast: two pears, quiche jambon, pain aux raisins.
saturday morning i dragged my sorry butt out of bed at an ungodly hour, assembled all my compact flash cards, card reader, blank cds, shoes just in case. trudged down to the cyberc@fe de paris, where i stared dumbfounded at the closed, locked, gated door. read the sign for awhile, and slowly realized they don't open until 1300. michelle and i were going to meet around noon and go to pere lachaise. i needed to empty *all* my compact flash cards, because it's a hundred acres of tasty funerary statuary.
but okay, it was not to be. i'd just have to do pere lachaise with as many compact flash cards as i had left, and hope for the best. i called michelle and suggested we start early, but her eyes weren't entirely open, so i came to the cybersports emporium and updated the weblog.
on the way to pere lachaise, we stopped and bought water, fruit, and pain aux raisins. i wore flipflops. axilly, since it got hot a few days ago, i've mostly been wearing flipflops. my feet really really hate shoes, even if i'm walking on cobblestones. as we came near the entrance to the cemetery, michelle had to stop and greet a number of the regulars, friends she's made while working on a photography project there. we wandered up hill and down dale, and i went through two batteries and had only one 128M card left when it was 1800 and they closed the place down.
it's a great site for marble and granite and terracotta and even iron babes: naked, seminaked, and entirely clothed. there are wonderful names and weird juxtapositions. the lipstick kisses were all over the oscar wilde tomb, and one had been spared for the respectable woman in the grave next door. the generosity of strangers. okay, the generosity of the strange. dozens, possibly hundreds, of angels. a swell place.
afterward, we had a drink at the cafe a la renaissance. jackie, who had startling red hair and brilliant blue eyes at the porte ouverte last week, sat with us, but today only her hair was startling. michelle asked where were the blue eyes. "a la maison," she replied. i worked it out in my head, and then murmured "j'ai le coeur d'une jeune fille" pause "a la maison." jackie laughed, and said "horrible." my first joke in french. i was thrilled.
after michelle dropped me off at the cyberc@fe de paris, i crept downstairs and found a machine with both a cd burner and a respectable amount of free space on the hard drive. the sucker crashed twice, because i was trying to do more than one thing at a time. (have i mentioned i hate windows?) the first time it went down, the keyboard also died. since i was alone in the basement, i just unplugged the keyboard off another machine and swapped it out. it took me two and a half hours, but i ended up with 4 new cds, and the use of all my compact flash cards. i was fairly quivering with aggravation, triumph, and exhaustion when i finally stumbled out into the warm paris night.
draggled off to the vegetarian restaurant around the corner, something about the triumph of the heart. the indian onion fritters were a lot like the awesome blossom they sell at ren faire. the escallope of seitan was pretty okay, and plus there were other vegetables. i realized that part of the quivering had been blood sugar. somewhat restored, i looked around me. two photographs on the wall, perhaps a meter above my head. both featured a swarthy bald-headed gentleman. in one he's standing next to someone who looks rather like lady di. in the other he's with a group of possibly indian nuns, one of whom might be mother teresa. i recall that both women died in 1997. i resolve not to inquire.
this morning i wandered over to musee d'orsay, because they've got all that great impressionist and postimpressionist stuff. wore shoes, but i've forgotten why. there wasn't much of a line, *and* today being the first sunday of the month, it was free! i spent a lot of time at the top of the museum, didn't even see the entire floor before lunch. wondered why french museums are laid out so that you can't pick things you want to see and have any hope of actually navigating between them. much of the stuff they put in the way is worth looking at, but i've never liked being herded.
one thing i noticed is that i often liked the studies better than the finished paintings. i don't much care for signac or sisley. the toulouse-lautrec they had was especially yummy. the manet was often tasty, and i was charmed by a berthe morisot. monet's painting of his dead wife took a couple weeks off my life. after three hours, i started telling myself my eyes were full, and it was time to wend my way doorward, but then i finally found the art nouveau section (at the opposite end of the museum from where i'd been looking on the map), and i was doomed. one piece that knocked my socks off was a gigantic canvas, with a long-haired, robed figure preaching in the center of a group of twelve ... well, they looked like disciples to me, except they were naked.
it was by jean delville, called "l'ecole de platon." oh. greeks. yeah, gotcha.
on the way back to the hotel, an antique store displayed a piece of furniture elaborated to such an extent it can only have been made for people who don't know the meaning of the phrase "over the top."
then i saw a rainbow flag at a souvenir stand, and i could make out the letters "ace," so i asked how much, and it was only dix euros, so i bought it. it was only on closer (later) inspection that i realized that i'd purchased a counterfeit. the real peace flags have the colors of the rainbow, purple at the top, and the word "pace" in white across them. this had red, orange, yellow, green, violet, blue, indigo, and the word "peace." hilarious. i'm fond of it already.
met michelle at 1900, and we went to les scandaleuses to think about dinner. it was happy hour, so we had plenty of time to think. we finally found a place to eat about 2200. "au roi du falafel," it was called, and the owner disapproved of my drink order (water). he brought out a bottle of kosher white wine, and poured me a glass. it was lovely falafel, and swell vegetables. after an hour or so, i said "m'sieur, s'il vous plait, l'addition." he wondered, in french, why nobody ever asked him for the subtraction. i said, "m'sieur, s'il vous plait, le subtraction." we laughed uproariously.
it was a swell evening. tomorrow i send a package off via ups, and try for gauguin and the remaining queens at the luxembourg gardens.
precious golden moments in paris mode.
sometime in the last week i switched gears into precious golden moments mode, which is why no further updates.
okay. i'm here in england, and i have to say it's a vast relief (a) to be able to eavesdrop effectively again and (b) to be surrounded by people who wouldn't blow away in a stiff wind.
where were we? wow, almost a week ago.
i went to UPS, first thing, in the rain, to send a bunch of cadeaux back home. shipping, unsurprisingly, cost more than les cadeaux themselves, but i was paying not to have to haul them, and it was worth every penny.
then metro out to luxembourg palace, where there was a show of gauguin and l'ecole pont-aven (those exotic bretons). the lighting was exquisite: best i've seen in my travels. glow, not glare. "flock" in french is "troupeau." then i went around back to the gardens, to complete my collection of queens of france. (i did about half of them 20 may, and then got tired.) the next thing i wanted to do was visit the cemetery of st. vincent, because of a lovely statue i'd seen pictured in the book "permanent parisians." consulting my map, i find that the most efficient route to that metro line is via the rue de fleurus, where gertrude and alice used to live. how fortuitous. i got pictures of the building and the plaque, which mentions them both. the sun was shining brightly by the time i got to the cemetery, which is too bad. i waited, though, and eventually it went behind a cloud.
went back to the hotel, where i could not find my travel journal. quel horreur!
i was going to get up at 8 and walk to UPS to inquire after mon cahier, couleur violet, but i slept until 915 and was meeting michelle at 10, so it didn't happen. turned out to be a good thing, because UPS paris opens at 11. how annoyed i would have been to walk in the rain at 8... it was there, though, once they opened, praise everybody.
then we had lunch at la tartine. i had a tartine with saumon fume. and un verre de pouilly fume. yum. then the magritte exhibition, which was a great lesson in the virtues of persistence. if he'd only done six of these strange things, he'd've been dismissed as a (mostly) harmless weirdo. since there are dozens, and he kept it up for decades, he's ... an institution. there were also some photographs and collages. all very much of a piece. alas, it was late in the exhibition, so there weren't very many interesting postcards left.
next stop, angelina's. lisa gave me a whole script, and i'd been putting it off because i was never pulled-together enough to satisfy the demands of the script. but that was okay, because from the very beginning, the script wasn't going to work. i didn't get to ask for a table: i was just waved to one, from the middle of the room. i can't say the service was any worse than, say, new york city. i also can't say i saw a single doting grandmother. it was wall to wall tourists, but the waitstaff seemed to have a pretty good sense of humor about it. the chocolate was divine, and the mont blanc was completely over the top. i didn't even try to finish it. michelle got several pictures.
michelle had to go teach, so i had a chance to take a shower and do some packing. met up about 2100, and wandered over to aquarius, a vegetarian place, for dinner. the food was perfectly fine, but the service was way worse than at angelina's. possibly because the patronne was ... tipsy? forgetful, anyway. after that, a stroll to ile st. louis for a last taste of berthillon. walked by the seine for a bit, then michelle drove me back to the hotel.
i hesitated outside, and decided that since i'd been hearing the music at kent'z bar for three weeks, and it had a rainbow flag sticker with a smiley face on it, that i might as well go in for a glass of wine. the bar guy was the rudest of anybody i've met in paris, which i guess is reasonable. when i was nearly finished with my glass of wine, he brought a bowl of peanuts and a bowl of olives to the table. i had two olives.
i should not have had the two olives. a half hour later, i lost the battle with my stomach, and everything i'd eaten starting with aquarius. i think i'd already absorbed angelina.
oh well. one of the things i like about me is my willingness to do unwise things and suffer the consequences. when i was a little girl, one of my favorite questions was "and what happens if i don't?"
first thing i did was go to the market and buy cherries for breakfast. second thing was realize i couldn't possibly fit what i had into my luggage. so i started a bag for michelle, which i left for her at the desk.
i'd got my landlady's name the day before, in case i want to send her a thank you note, or recommend somebody.
at the eurostar place, they were renovating or something, and there were not enough seats (by about half), and there were no telephones either. and the train was late. once we got to calais, we watied for something to come out of the chunnel before we could go in. then on the other side, due to "massive signal failure", we were routed through maidstone. which was fine with me: it's all landscape.
at waterloo station, i did not have 20p british to spend at the loo, so i didn't spend a penny at all. ha. ha. made it to east croydon, with a couple of transfers. (up the stairs with my luggage. down the stairs with my luggage. i'm pretty darn muscular these days, let me tell you.)
when mara and bill got home, with walter in tow, we all went out for pub dinner at The Spread Eagle. honest. i would not make this up. though i don't think i got a picture of it, either. i had a corned beef pie. and it was darn tasty.
thursday i did laundry and napped. friday i picked up drycleaning and napped. saturday (today) i'm going to london, to stay at jill's flat in covent garden.
this morning i mailed a packet of french car magazines and blank books to myself. once again, it cost more than the things themselves. then i had a traditional english breakfast. there was a fried egg, baked beans, a sausage, bacon, a fried tomato, hash browns (in cute little rectangles) and some mushrooms. it was pretty tasty. i feel ready to go plough something.
life is good. oh yes it is.
in the morning i discovered i didn't know how to make phone calls in england. that was chastening. i was running late, and i wanted to alert sharon that i wouldn't be at the flat when i said i would, but when i dialed her number, all the phone would do is hum. sent her email, which fortuitously she checked before becoming cross with me.
between the charing cross road station and the flat, in the piazza, as the locals call it, was a big old moroccan cultural fair. so i dropped my luggage off and came back for kebab dinner. pretty tasty, with a handful of olives and pickled baby corn on top of the nice chicken in a bun. i have no idea how authentic it may have been.
i called rosy, from one of my mailing lists. she was just on her way out the door to look at art. since art is one of the things i'm here to look at, i cheerfully invited myself along. we met at a tube station and walked through a big nice park (kensington gardens, i'm pretty sure) along the serpentine. admired the ducks, disparaged the geese (they're a plague everywhere, apparently, those dastardly canadian geese), and cooed at the swans.
the serpentine gallery was having a big old cindy sherman show, and the first room was dedicated to her latest work: cindy as various clowns of her own invention. i was scared, and clowns don't ordinarily scare me. they had work going back to her college days, and it was great to be able to take in most of her career in a couple of hours.
then we went in search of lunch. back to the banks of the serpentine, where we'd seen a food place. green pea and mint soup, asparagus and cheese on puff pastry. we shared a shaded outside table with a mom and two blonde daughters. the wind picked up, the children started whining to be taken inside. rosy and i toughed it out. the wind got worse. eventually, it was as if someone was standing just offstage with buckets of pollen, pitching it at us. or the day of the triffids. or a hitchcock movie, where you start out with a few flakes, and it builds until you have a killing mob.
we rinsed our eyes out in the ladies, and walked, we hoped, away from the triffids. circumnavigated the prince albert memorial, recently gilded and fenced. the four corners were devoted to empire and enterprise: asia, africa, america, europe; agriculture, engineering, manufactures, commerce. very edifying.
the next stop was the royal college of art, where the graduates were showing us their stuff. they're very clever, very cheeky, and some of the stuff was actually quite beautiful. i very much admired their invitation, which i left back at the flat or i'd quote to you. maybe tomorrow.
back on the tube, we decided to go to the gloucester station, where they have an unused platform and use it to display art. there were ten cindy shermans there, some of which were not at the show. after that we wandered around covent garden and leicester square looking for dinner. eventually we picked the crispy duck restaurant, betting that the presence of many persons of asian descent was auspicious. and indeed, it turned out that they could make their eponymous dish to a fare-thee-well.
we ended up in a wonderfully overdecorated, mercifully underamplified pub, where i attempted to cut the concentration of pollen in my throat with a cognac. we agreed to try to see "the madness of george dubya" on tuesday night. out in the night i waited with her for her bus, and then home to bed.
another traditional british breakfast, and not a field to plough. wandered by scribbler, a card and tchatchka store, where i'd admired cards and magnets by (i think) ed monkton. great sensibility. drifted over to the british museum, where the reading room is a shrine. i'd've lit a candle if they'd let me. took in the exhibit on memory, and grazed the asian deities. dipped into several gift shops, and bought a children's book about the cut-throat celts. indeed.
in the afternoon i was going to find the internet cafes i'd looked up online, and also the lesbian bar. the first internet cafe on my list had been taken over by a chinese medicine place. they offered reflexology massage for 25 pounds. i thought about it for 15 seconds, and then sat down and had it done. the nice person who worked on my brave tired feet was named jing, which sounds exactly like my name. since we didn't have a lot of language in common, i just made my face as expressive as possible. at the end of the hour, she told me my smile was like a child's. what the hell, i'm going to take it as a compliment.
found a big old internet place above a supermarket, sharing space with a subway. just about as much ambiance as costco, and they were charging 1.35 in pounds an hour. (this morning while wandering more-or-less toward it, i found this other internet cafe, where it's only a pound, and they'll bring you coffee if you want it.)
wending my way southish, i tracked down candy bar, the lesbian joint, sampled the tiny chinatown (bought some fruit), and bought the tickets for madness for tuesday night.
when sharon got home, she told me she'd walked by rule's on the way to work, and if one of us was on crutches, it'd take ten minutes to get there. i was deeply entertained by rule's. during my trip, i've been trying to do things and eat things that i can't get at home, so no sushi, no hamburgers. (having said this, i'm doomed to have both before i get back, alas.) at rule's i had the pimm's cup aperatif, and then watercress and stilton soup. rabbit stew (which i'm sure they called something else). i threw myself on the waitstaff's mercy, and ended up with a fleurish kind of red wine to go with. sharon had the lamb, which was the best lamb she'd had in years. for dessert, sharon had a butterscotch and something sponge, and i had the stilton and port. the presentation was very dramatic: they brought an entire freaking cartwheel of cheese, wrapped in a dishtowel (okay, maybe a linen cloth), with a couple of spoons stabbed into it. a silver footed cylinder containing several kinds of crackers. wonderful. just wonderful.
and very tasty, which is a bonus. plus, our waitron can't have been 30 yet, and she had bright red hair in that fashionable bed-head do. looked very smart in the starched white apron and all that somber black. clearly had never tasted treacle sponge in her life, sharon and i agreed.
which brings us to this morning. more traditional breakfast, but vegetarian this time, and i had orange juice too. i'm meeting rosy at 1430 in the mexican part of the british museum, and then we'll amuse ourselves until the madness begins at 1930.
if it's pretty, we may see if we can get on the ferris wheel thingie, which i only want to do if i have a local with me, so i can say: what's that? how long's that been there? or there's the docklands light rail. or just wandering.
so far i'm not getting much use out of my 7-day transit pass. mostly, i'd just as soon walk. surely i'll be able to do a doubledecker bus or two before the week's up.
greetings from london.
on the way to meet rosy, i found a comics store near the british museum, and i cruised it, but then i remembered that my friend who loves comics is actually striving toward fewer, rather than more, so i abandoned those precincts.
tried to meet rosy at 1430 near mexico, but it was closed, and there were two entrances, and of course we were at different ones. silly. we had lunch at the cafe (spinach soup, not bad), and then we grazed egypt and greece. i took many flat-footed tourist pictures, and i'm not ashamed.
for dinner, we caught a bus (double decker! purple and green velour seats!) up to euston, to the canonical indian vegetarian inexpensive restaurant. it has a red star on my rough guide map, and sharon said she thinks everybody who moves to london learns about it some time in their first six months here. it was extremely tasty. it was also near calumet photo, the people who made my 4x5 camera. (sound of mental note being made.)
after dinner we flew down to the theater, and 30 seconds after our arrival they began seating the throngs. madness of george dubya didn't make rosy laugh as much as me. she thought it was too true to be funny.
afterward we ended up at first out, a gayish cafe with a bar downstairs. they were happy to let us sit upstairs with our little glasses of white wine. when they started mopping the floor around us we thought perhaps it might be time to go.
walked directly to the river from covent garden (where i bought a couple pounds of cherries for breakfast). the direct route comes out very near cleopatra's needle. over the hungerford footbridge to buy tickets to the london eye, and a special offer cruise after. walked around waterloo station (because i couldn't figure out how to go through) in search of the imperial war museum, because i still hadn't found an appropriate what-did-you-bring-me gift for mom's third and fourth husband, who was stationed in england in wwii as a pilot in the army air corps.
swooped up to euston and calumet, where i asked about buying a lens board for the 4x5. the helpful assistant said he'd have to see the camera. i explained that it wasn't going to happen, the laws of physics being very strict. he asked if perhaps i could have someone measure. (i did, but apparently my description of what to measure was unclear.)
onto the hammersmith & city train to ladbroke grove, to meet andrew, friend and former co-worker. we found a nice terrace to have lunch on, and caught up with each other and gossiped a very little. walked up portobello road, stopping to take photographs and poke into shops. picked up andrew's pictures from a trip to (scotland? oxford?). there was a wonderful one of a row house the owner had turned into an art installation, with a sculpture of a giant shark having fallen from the sky into the roof. i hope he'll put it up on the web. it's great.
and in the evening, anthropology. sharon is an avid football fan, and england was having a terribly important match against slovakia, or something. so that was on the agenda, not to mention the television. beckham couldn't play, and many of the first team also couldn't play. but they won anyway, so sharon was happy. get this: no commercials. the game happens in two 45-minute halves, and it took just a little over 90 minutes to play.
amazing. last football game i watched was theoretically in four 15-minute quarters, and took slightly over four hours, i think. but there were many opportunities to attend to personal hygiene, bill-paying, suitcase packing, and refrigerator-looking. two countries divided by a common something.
then it was time for big brother, another tv program. like reality tv only, uh, not very. everybody in the country gets to vote on who gets evicted from the house. apparently many people care very much.
sharon was extremely kind and answered all my uninformed questions about football, beckham, posh spice, and the various personalities on the reality show. it turns out that "ginger-haired" is a term of opprobrium.
i was thoroughly edified by the end of the evening. this morning, alas, i'd lost much of my newfound knowledge. sic transit...
again, trying to do just a little bit too much, as the days dwindle down to a precious few. hoofed it over to john soames' establishment first thing. famous architect and helpless magpie as well, apparently. could have used a twelve-step program, if you ask me. cameos, medals, busts, pottery, statuary, paintings, etchings, drawings, furniture. they told me i couldn't take pictures. so i bought a postcard with a 20-pound note.
glanced in at the celtic room in the british museum, since it was right close. mightily resisting the urge to buy a book. i do not need to truck any more books home. that's what the internet is for. over to the british museum store, where i purchased the next-to-last netsuke in the shape of an angel. one of the trip motifs is angels, and i'd had horrible anxiety that i'd go back to the store and it'd be gone. whew. plus, if i spend another 17 pounds there, i can apply for a value-added-tax refund. it'd be scarily easy to spend another 17 pounds there, i'm afraid.
then it was time to be at the london eye to meet rosy to go on our "flight". yikes! i plunged into the nearest tube, and a train came in a minute, and i worked out that i needed to walk toward the back of it when i got out, to get as close to the eye as possible. i was fifteen minutes late, but she'd only been waiting a few minutes, and we had no problem getting on the ride. which was very amusing. i probably took more pictures of the structure than the landscape. the voice on the intercom told us they were going to take pictures of us, and where to stand if we wanted to be in them. rosy managed to be completely behind somebody (you could just make out here distinctive hair), but i was peering out, taking pictures. so i bought one for tee, thinking she might find it amusing.
buying a photo entitled me to a 10% discount in the gift shop. a sign informed us that "the gift shop is located in the landscape behind the eye." poetry everywhere. i got a pretty good pair of binoculars, which i wish i'd got six weeks ago. i don't suppose physics will let me make them retroactive, will it? also, some eye-related tchotchkes. "eye rule," "eye draw," "eye eraser." couldn't help it. had to get them.
the cruise was next, and i took a lot of indiscriminate tourist-type pictures. finished off a battery and a compact flash card. it was pleasant out on the water, and the canned spiel contained many interesting factoids. waterloo bridge is also called the lady bridge, because it was built by women in wwii. there are silver dragons between the city of london and the city of westminster, though i forget which way they're facing. the queen has to ask for permission to enter the city of london, and she does. also, jerry springer, the opera, is in repertory at the performing art center. we rushed over after the cruise to try to get tickets, but it doesn't start up again until after i'm gone, more's the pity.
we found pretty good italian for dinner. mine had pine nuts. rosy's had asparagus. we had a pleasant chilean sauvignon blanc with it. then back to the flat. i tried to show some of my trip pictures, but the loading process was excruciating, and also windows didn't automatically size the pictures to fit in the window. so we looked at a few of my pictures from the february peace march, but the connection was too slow. finally we gave up and went for a walk in the warm summer night. the moon is nearly full. the eye was lit. i might have a pretty good picture from the balcony.
theoretically, mara and i are going to the portobello road market on friday. unless she's too jetlagged.
this is a swell old vacation, it is.
no portobello road, alas. mara jetlagged and oogy.
instead, i burned two more cds at the nice place up the road, and then started walking. poked my head in at st. paul's, noted that there was an admission charge, clucked my tongue and ducked back out. walked over the millennium footbridge, checking for tacoma narrows syndrome. nothing noteworthy. and then the tate modern.
swell gift shop. several violet items. one twelve-inch piece of violet plastic labeled "rule breaker". between that and the "eye rule," it's practically a suite. there were also items labeled "tate eraser". rosy pointed out yesterday that in england, this object is called "a rubber," so whenever i see it called an eraser, it is my own demographic being targeted.
"cruel+tender" is immense, but, um, spotty, or weirdly selected. walker evans, robert frank, garry winogrand. fine. august sander, a bunch of other german photographers. rineke dijkstra, a dutch woman who photographed bullfighters still bloody from the ring, and women who'd just given birth (but mercifully not still bloody). diane arbus. in adjoining rooms, even. there was another woman, but she was part of a married couple team. it seems childish to count, but that doesn't stop the guerilla girls, and it's not going to stop me: 22 men. 3 women.
that's just wrong. i administer a mailing list of lesbian artists, and there are several photographers who are doing work that should have been considered for this show, and wasn't.
:: steps off soapbox ::
anyway. after that i went ahead and looked at some other stuff in the tate modern. amy psychodyke appears to have been right: art's whatever you can get away with. outside were two immense inflatable "sculptures": one homage to pinocchio, and one that was said to be inspired by a ketchup bottle. mccarthy, i think the artist's name is.
after that i wandered into the cafe for sustenance. got a glass of wine, ordered fish tapas. a slice of bread appeared on my table. the fish came. i asked for another slice of bread. they charged me 95 pence for it.
:: kicks soapbox across the room ::
that's just wrong.
walked along the thames looking for the sculpture of queen boudicca, but by the time i found it the light was all gone and it was 2130. maybe 22. so then i walked back to covent garden, occasionally bracing the camera against a light pole to try to photograph something like "the glorious dead" etched in stone. i'm pretty sure the picture of a display of union jack thong underwear isn't going to come out.
tomorrow: the wallace collection, i think. and the work of rosy martin, photographer.
a prediction that worked out, for once.
woke up at 1000 this morning, which was in fact eight hours after i'd settled down to sleep. off to see the wallace collection. michelle told me about it in paris, and andrew endorsed it the other day, so it was a must-see.
another of the mad magpie folk, i'm afraid. and it runs in families, as the eponymous wallace's father actually began the collection. there were several large rooms full of weapons of individual destruction. armor. knives, swords, shields. guns? maybe guns, i don't remember. there was a warrior mandarin's kit, and a soldier of allah costume, including a helmet with two horns and a point on top.
there were sevres ice cream coolers. there were collections of snuff boxes. there was furniture. (sweet jesus, was there furniture.) statuary. ballusters. paintings. i'm sure there were more than a dozen large paintings of dead things. well, fair enough, they don't move around and spoil the composition, do they? there was a rubens madonna/child/john/elizabeth number, in which i am positive the baby jesus was wearing a little bead necklace. a mrs. robinson ("perdita") was painted, at full length, and life size, looked like, by romney, reynolds, *and* gainsborough. she was a nice-looking woman and all, but i'm wondering how it was that she was so popular. and how this wallace guy ended up with all the pictures.
the swing, by fragonard. no, really, *that* swing, by fragonard. kinda dopey-looking, axilly. there must be something about excessive furniture that makes me think i have mud on my shoes, even when i'm essentially barefoot.
once again i got in trouble trying to photograph a piece of statuary. i don't know why they're so cross about it. it's not like i'm going to put them out of business. if they'd just sell me a postcard of the piece i want a picture of, we'd all be happy.
so then it was off to percival street, to grimthorpe house. in london, "house" does not signify size in any way. rosy lives at the top of an n-story apartment building, where n=8 in american measurement, 7 in british. i took the tube to within a half mile and walked the rest of the way.
her most recent work is called "outrageous agers", and i vibrated like a struck drum to the videos. there was also work about her mother's declining health and acuity. i like rosy's sensibility, and admire her intellect.
i really liked the work.
we had a swell picnic on her living room floor, and then her friend emma came over. after lovely fruit salad and we went outdoors (gorgeous day) looking for a place to have a cup of something while sitting in the sun. easier said than done. after some desultory walking, we decided that there might be someplace out by the canal. we walked along the canal for a long ways before convincing ourselves that it wasn't possible, since (a) the sun was going down and (b) there was nothing but pubs. so we had a glass of something alcoholic, and started back the way we'd come. it was faster on the return trip, for some reason.
emma got on her bus, and rosy and i had local fish and chips for dinner. she put me on a double-decker bus to go home, and i could tell when i'd missed my stop and so didn't have to walk very far to get home.
tomorrow: tate classic with mara. no, really, i'm sure this time it'll happen. and maybe national gallery or national portrait gallery. or the queen's stuff. that might be fun. monday the victoria and albert again. and then tuesday i'm off to nyc.
wandered down to trafalgar square in the morning. peeked in at the national portrait gallery. bought many postcards. wished david hockney had done more gay people in his double portraits. (otoh, maybe he did, and these are the ones the npg chose.) poked my head in at the national gallery, then walked with a purposeful stride toward the houses of parliament.
there was a demonstration blocking the way. people in wheelchairs, people with oxygen tubes. the biggest banner said "it's not my legs that don't work, it's my lungs." one of the chants was "doctor reed, help us breathe." the police in riot gear looked embarrassed.
spent fifteen minutes getting many angles on the statue of boudicca. found i couldn't continue along the thames, so walked around to the other side of the houses of parliament. admired the statue of richard the lionhearted, was shocked to see cromwell memorialized in bronze. i thought the last word on him was he was a bad guy?
in parliament park, a stern bronze of emmeline pankhurst. proceeding across the park, i spied a group of statuary, and began muttering "blah blah blah rodin; blah blah blah rodin." sure enough, the burghers of calais.
met mara at the tate, where we discovered that neither of us cares for turner. in the words of his contemporary, "pictures of nothing, and very like." it's been clear for weeks that this is the weblog of a philistine, right? we went downstairs to the wolfgang tillmans, which was more to our taste. mr. tillmans was born a couple years after i became sexually active, which is to say i'm old enough to be his mother, but i rather liked his work just the same.
it was rather shocking (i'm old fashioned as well as a philistine) that some of the work was affixed to the wall with clear tape, and some using a system of binder clips. and i must say there were several penises too many for me, but many of the other pictures were lovely, and several reminded me of things i've done/seen/chosen to memorialize in my own work.
our eyes full, we went outside for an ice cream, and contemplated a fenced area with two wonderful signs. "Do not enter/Naked flame" and "Sorry but due to technical problems this installation is not working." it was a bare, paved area. we saw no place for naked flame to erupt. on consideration, mara and i decided it was a charlotte's web sort of thing: a kindly old sign maker pumping up the self esteem of a depressed piece of concrete. very conceptual.
then we took a bus over to the museum of natural history, to look at the extensive outdoor exhibition of pictures of earth from the air. stunning. then double decker buses to leicester square, for dinner at mr. kong's, as recommended in the rough guide map.
and so ended my last full day out and about in london.
i'm back in the states. interestingly, i find i like americans better than i did when i left. i guess it helps to have something to compare us with.
this morning i was cutting up fruit, and singing joni mitchell's "california." i'm ready to come home.
but today (wednesday) i'm seeing joelle & rowana, and deb edel, one of the founders of the lesbian herstory archives.
in the morning i went for a walk. bought cherries from a random street stall. looked at The Old Curiosity Shop, and dutifully photographed it. went to the british museum and spent a little more money. ("will i be sorry i didn't? then do it." that's my algorithm.)
got takeaway from the vegetarian restaurant on neal street, mentioned in my rough guide map. food for thought, i think. haha. and off to the airport, in plenty of time, because i like to be relaxed and serene when i travel. cleared quite a bit of security. had some airport food--a last traditional british breakfast, just for laughs. cleared more security, and then reported to the holding corral for departing passengers. in london, your gate number is revealed on a need-to-know basis. until they tell you what it is, you're confined to a concentration shopping mall.
and there was yet another search just before the gate. i detail all these searches because, once we were on the plane i think it was likely we were all pretty clean. unfortunately, we ended up sitting on the tarmac for an hour or so after our posted departure time, because, we were told, some of the passengers had decided, after getting *on* the plane, that they wanted *off*.
this meant that all the storage areas around the departed had to be checked for bombs. all the lavatories as well. their checked luggage was retrieved by a guy in a hazmat suit, and there were emergency vehicles standing by.
just reporting, here.
had an aisle seat, next to some very nice people from wappingers falls. the amusing thing about being a baby boomer is that you go through life encountering mainly people your own age. i watched adaptation for my first movie, and enjoyed it very much. for my second movie (hey, it's a six hour flight) i chose the hours. after a half hour, i asked the flight attendant if i could get the "elapsed time" printing off my tiny screen. she explained that she could re-set my video, but i'd lose some of the movie.
i lost all of the movie, and was doomed to the default selection, how to lose a guy in ten days. that was okay, it meant i was happy getting up and walking around, so my legs still worked when we got to new york.
and i finally got to experience the joy of going through the passport-checking line for citizens. it was the shorter line, and i liked it very much. unfortunately, the actual customs line was a random sort, and took ... as long as it took, like everything else in life.
and then my buddy maureen was waiting for me at the first opportunity. i'd been telling myself i could navigate the subway system, even if my body thought it was 2 am. what a relief to see her. we went out for something to eat, and sat up and talked a bit, and then when my body thought it was 5 am i finally got to sleep.
when the clock said it was 7 am, i woke up, having had most of a night's sleep. this is my favorite direction to travel. *gaining* time. that's the ticket.
by popular demand:
it's official. i'm home.
so i've put up some pictures from the trip. april 24 to may 22 and may 23 to june 20.
it took me two weeks to accomplish this. go figure.