Friday, November 30, 2012
...or at least my children do...Zelda woke up this morning and told me she had a nice playdate with Johnny Cash. They played the guitar and sang together. When I asked her what they sang, she responded "Flesh and Blood." - Then she asked if Johnny Cash could play at ACL and she could have a playdate with him, Willie Nelson and Patsy Cline. They could all sing "Crazy." I am really excited about this next playdate! WWJD - What would Johnny Cash do?
Saturday, November 10, 2012
...sometimes I try too hard to explain things to Zelda. It has to do with thinking she has to "see" things the way that we see them. So, the other day as we drove to school, the fog was as thick as pea soup. Crossing the South 1st Street bridge, we couldn't even see City Hall sitting 100 yds ahead. We talked about fog and how we could feel the tiny delicate bits of moisture in the air but it didn't feel like rain. I tried to compare it to reaching for something and having soft cotton get in the way so that you couldn't quite feel the object - that explanation was too vague and complicated. Creed even said "what are you talking about?" Well, I was trying to relate vision to a tactile experience. Finally Creed would say, "Zelda we can't see the City Hall from here." And then, "We can't even see the water In the river." Zelda replied, "Oh, I know there is fog. I can see the water because it's under the bridge. And our car is on the bridge. And my seat is in the car." "I am sitting on the water." Touché...
Sunday, November 4, 2012
...but I live in Austin. I have for over 15 years now. Before that it was Washington, DC, before that years in Paris, but I was born and raised in New Jersey. When people in Texas ask me if I am from here, I respond, "I 'live' here, I am 'from' New Jersey." When Evan and I decided to dive into getting pregnant in our we mid forties, we chose a fertility clinic in Morristown, New Jersey. I like to tell people that the Toxotwins were born in Texas but built in a factory in New Jersey. So, I have been thinking a lot about my home state and the surrounding areas after the abominable hurricane sandy hit the east coast last week with so much devastation. I don't want to capitalize her name, for that would just give her more strength and recognition of power. My memories of the Jersey shore are good ones. I can reference my age as I remember my parents taking us to Atlantic City as kids to see the horse dive off of the Steel Pier. My dad hated the ocean, but we went as a family and have the old black & white photos from the late 50's and early 60's to prove it. We had many trips to Island Beach State Park on weekends and high school skip days. We would drove to the shore for dinners with my shellfish eating family to a dive near the beach while I ate a hamburger. There were afternoons at Point Pleasant and Sandy Hook. My friends and I had college weekends in a rented house on stilts in Ocean City. We have those lovely memories, I haven't lost them. It's poetry, past reality. The loss now is without compare for those in New Jersey. They have lost their homes, their possessions, their businesses, their lives. The ones that still have their homes are without food and power. Staten Island is in ruin. Breezy Point in Queens succumbed to fire. My memories are nothing compared to this loss. If you can help, please do...we have friends driving supplies to people, cooking meals, housing the homeless, not sleeping in order to assist those in need. So, my sunny Saturday of a sunburn in the sand seems meaningless, almost guilt ridden that now I can't be there to help...please hold them in your hearts and thoughts.
Wednesday, August 15, 2012
Further Illumination Rounds (with apologies to Michael Herr): "Un petit canon" translates directly to "a little cannon" but might more accurately be taken as "a little shot" since it is how the old men in the cafes take their tiny morning draught of red wine. As I do now. ...... Creed has, in exile, and much to my surprise, developed some skill at "Angry Birds": firing upon Goliath structures with a slingshot, adjusting trajectories and velocities and burst intervals. So I should not have been surprised when, atop the majestic military mountaintop that is the Arc de Triomphe, Creed occupied one of the brass telescope emplacements, found his range through the small sighting telescope, and prepared his angle for an artillery attack upon the Eiffel Tower! While Zelda was knocking over the barricades and distracting the gendarmes down below, on the Place de L'Etoile, with its commanding access to Hausmann's axial consensus of avenues. The twins are the latest occupying army to take this gateway to the Cité. ...... When Madame Gail Antoinette has reached the end of her rope, out in the streets, and the little peasants are revolting (literally and figuratively), and all seems lost, she reaches into her bag (Comme des Garçons) for her Secret Weapon, and deploys it: she lets them eat ... Cake! ...... King Evan XIV is distracted from the Revolution around him by the images he finds on the street and in the Metro, of an idealized culture (where women are colorful sensuous models, and men are gray stern statues) that is tattered and crumbling at the same time that it is being papered over and reborn and critiqued daily. Missives broken into shards and fragments: advertisements, mostly, placed in antique frameworks and then torn and "modified" by the street denizens. Words untranslatable appear and disappear in these contexts, and he (Evan XIV) dreams and schemes how to bring the whole experience home and render it into paintings and constructions. While he is thus transfixed, Zelda has wandered up the platform, and Creed has run up the escalator in the opposite direction. ...... Nothing so focusses the mind as traversing a dark apartment in the middle of the night, guided only by the antique ivory streetlight staining some of the walls, seeking the added-as-an-afterthought toilet near the front door, telling oneself it is better then the old system of walking out into the staircase naked to find the closet with the hole-in-the-floor à la Turque ... when one steps barefoot onto a tiny Lego landmine. Trying not to scream and wake the sleeping combatants. ...... We, the family, had dinner on the terrace one evening. Creed came up with a new version of his patented, but not necessarily popular, cut carrots and ham shreds, by adding bananas to the mix: carottes, jambon et bananes. Zelda, of course, stuck to her Cheerios diet. Gail made a salad of lettuce, salmon, dressing, and a little French soil or sand (we couldn't tell which) that snuck in somehow. Evan served everyone their drink of choice: Creed had nectar de pomme, Zelda had lait, Gail had inexpensive rosé from the market, and Evan had bière brune. All was quiet, all was well. The setting sun lit the variety of chimney pots across the street. "I don't care what it cost," Gail whispered to Evan, "I would do it all again for this meal together".
Tuesday, August 14, 2012
The French Revolution, fought door to door and street by street, in the catacombs of the Metro and on the ornate balconies of the past. Red wine. Not my usual weapon-of-choice. But they drink it for breakfast here, and I am trying to follow suit. We have carried out all the empty bottles, down the five flights of stairs -- Creed prefers the antique spiral staircase to the modern ascenseur that threads the stairwell like a needle through DNA. There's a basket in the apartment with 28 wine corks in it: the empty cartridges of our ongoing fusillade. Our French friends helped, of course. Dinner parties on the narrow terrace, overlooking the apartments and rooftops across the way, and rue Rambuteau far below. We pick the tiny tomatoes as they ripen, courtesy of the landlady, and dry our laundry in the cool sunlight. We eat what we buy from the bakery and the market across the street. At night you can hear the occasional siren, and the clatter of high heels through the Marais. By dawn it is quiet, with only the pigeons making noise at the windows open onto the streets and the outside air. The kids stay up till midnight and sleep until nine. As do we. Creed spent this evening finishing the "sculpture" he began last night for his "art exhibit" along the apartment's outside wall. The crowning piece was the scrap of poster he liberated from the metro while Daddy was photographing the tattered remains of another such. We want to believe that his "work" is influenced by the street art we saw displayed yesterday at the Palais de Tokyo, which claims to be the largest center for emerging/contemporary art in the world. But the fact is, the art there wasn't very good. Creed was more impressed with the skateboarders who have occupied the dead fountain plaza outside the building. Daddy was more impressed with the human excrement "installation" he saw on one of the landings en route to that plaza, suspiciously close to the skateboarders. Mommy was more impressed with her mojito at the outside cafe, as a slight refuge from the demands of Zelda, who wants access to Everything and Everywhere ... NOW! The demands of six-year-old twins against the monarchy of Mommy and Daddy. We can already feel the guillotine blade whispering to the hairs on the backs of our necks, We have determined, through non-scientific experimentation, that the kids can only handle short jaunts through the crowded streets and the maze and rumble of the Metro before they begin to melt down, usually upon arrival at some particular stimulus which we had intended to be our final destination. Thus today we survived the lines and the climb to the top of the Arc de Triomphe, only to have them whirl into screaming fits when we reached the famous carousel at Montmartre later this afternoon: "I want to ride the black horse the bouncy horse the bench the sleigh the spinning car again again again!". The attendant didn't seem to care how many times we rode, and the Sacre Coeur pigeons were eager to eat the Cheerios Zelda flung out headlong in her frustration. It got no better when we tried to break free and delve into the nearby fabric district, so that Gail could fortify her supplies for her next collection of clothing designs. Fortunately there were dozens of stores for the kids to weave in and out of, feeling the scraps and bolts of cloth. But they fought us every inch of the way. And of course, the real saving grace of Paris that there is a cafe every fifty feet, in case you need a break from the battle. And an endless supply of parks, museums, and monuments. The water fountain at the Citroen Gardens, with a hundred wet screaming children running through it. Followed by fruit sorbets served from the custom-fitted wooden bed of a 1920's Citroen convertible pickup (probably not a coincidence that the make of vehicle matched the park's patron). The Pompidou, its distinctive rooftop visible from the apartment windows, just two blocks away, where Zelda circles the gypsies playing their antique fiddles, camped on their blankets on the cobblestones. The Museum of the Hunt, a few blocks away on Rue de Archives, with taxidermy specimens including a talking boar that Creed thought was burping, and firearms so intricate that they resemble the plumbing and electrical harnesses of these ancient buildings. And I am studying those harnesses as a guide to solving our own architectural challenges at home. At the Marches aux Puces we bought an antique brass faucet, as heavy and industrial as a sledgehammer, and intended to serve in our master bathroom in the Bough House, back in Texas. If we can survive until Friday, that is.
Thursday, August 2, 2012
Friday, July 27, 2012
...since the kids were in pre-school - French immersion Montessori pre-school, that is...we have had a tradition that we call French Fry Friday. It meant that I didn't cook dinner (not that I do anyway) but that either Evan or I would pick the kids up at Ecole and we would do the french fry drive thru on our way home. More often than not, it is at P Terry's, a fine Austin institution with properly made "frites" etc. - all very PC and supposedly not bad for you. So, this week Creed asked: "Mom, please can we do French Fry Friday and go and get frites? And pleeeaaasse, can we eat there?" Well, this summer, living only a mere 3 long blocks from last year's apartment, we returned to see "Les Turques": two turkish brothers and an old woman who sits guard at a little shot gun, hole-in-the-wall experience with a pass thru window to the sidewalk outside. Last summer they got used to us sitting out front and Zelda rearranging the furniture as Creed ate his brochettes de poulet avec frites. So tonight, on Creed's insistence, and my fatigue, we headed over for French Fry Friday now known as "Frites avec les Turques." Once there, we placed our order and took a table outside, as two gentlemen - and I use that term loosely - finished their meal. As always, distracted by Zelda doing her tour of the tables, I hardly noticed the debate that ensued. It all went something like this: big man with accent stands up and starts rustling tables as older Turque tries to hand him money. Other man with accent starts yelling. Big man picks up chair to crash it on table and cracks me in the elbow - yeowwww! Creed runs to kiss me, I shuffle the kids inside with the old Turque woman and another customer. Turque brothers are in heated argument with men with accents - tables jostling, threats of destruction. Police station happens to be right across the street. Someone gets them and three officers arrive about the same time as our food that pretty much had been forgotten by the Turques. Now men with accents are arguing with the police, screaming is involved, something about not getting a receipt (?) - really?! Everyone is blocking the exit. Creed thinks it's an actual "case" and wants to call his (imaginary) guys onto the scene. We get our food, distact the younger Turque by throwing 10 euros at him, dump the food in a to-go bag and escape down the street - French Fry Friday was never like this in Austin...and my elbow is still throbbing...