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.