Thursday, August 15, 2013
This seems to be the first year of this annual Parisian sojourn-à-la-Sorbonne that we have had a steady stream of visitors. Today it was a former employee of Gail's, from her years as a manager at a streetwear boutique in Washington D.C. in the early 90's, and her husband and two daughters. The husband -- radio personality and program director Dave Marsh (NOT the Springsteen/Sirius one) -- asked me: "so what would you do here in Paris, if it was just you?". An interesting question for me, who seems to be constantly and exclusively shepherding my children (the feral cats) from métro to glaces stand. .......So here's what I said in answer to his question: First thing I would do is the flea markets: the Puces, the brocante. French culture is constantly crumbling and constantly being repaired and rebuilt, and the chunks of it that fall away and are available for sale are fascinating to me, and of course I am a collector at heart and professionally across four decades now and I cannot resist the perfect object. And believe me, the French are a tribe that can create perfect objets d'art: everything, from their buildings to their street art, is made, seemingly, as if time and budget were unimportant. I once considered purchasing an embroidered frock coat from the French revolution, at Clingancourt. It was $1000 and didn't fit me, but just the idea that it was AVAILABLE was amazing ......Secondly, I would drift from cafe to cafe. I wouldn't get far, since there are several in any Parisian block, each a jewel: with its own particular furniture, gilding, signage, and woodwork, and each appearing to be at least 75 years old. For all I can tell, each has its own regulars and maybe even its own language. My taste for dark beer makes ordering drinks at any of these cares a bit dicey (not much of that available locally), but I can always fall back on Gail's stock côte de Provence rosé order if necessary. ....... Thirdly, I would wander the streets and métro stations looking at the cross-pollination of street art (grafitti, posters, stickers, etc) of the moment, with the stone and iron work of centuries past. I especially like it when these things begin to layer and degrade together, and the intended meanings become lost and confused........ Like me in Paris...herding cats. .......guest-written by Evan.
Wednesday, August 14, 2013
Imagine a child running blindly through the Paris métro, long golden hair flying, bumping into strangers and white tile walls, ignoring calls to stop or slow down, even when the child crashes into a splatter at the bottom of the concrete Metro steps. ....... Now realize that the child is not Zelda but Creed. ..... Who at this precise moment is naked, being fitted by Gail with the pieces of the jacket he has designed for himself from the two satins (gold, and peacock blue floral) he picked out at the Montmartre fabric stores yesterday. The jacket design itself is a cross-breed of his vintage western suit jacket, and the ITALIA soccer warmup he got at the flea market on the Italian Riviera last week. Gail is calling this Creed's "Versace Period", with a little "Blue Lagoon" thrown in (he just rigged himself a loincloth out of the peacock blue floral satin). But it is the soundtrack for this fitting -- pulled up on the iPad by Creed himself, snatching it out of my hands -- that gives the clue to who Creed's "aesthetic ghost" is: Alejandro Escovedo, the "Real Animal" of fashion, which I suspect will make Alejandro extremely proud. ....... As frustrating as I find this boy to be, when I am chasing him or arguing with him to stop trying to control everything and everyone in his path I must admit that he is more me than I will maybe ever be. Guest-written by Evan
Monday, July 15, 2013
We love going to flea markets - les Marchés aux Puces de Clignancourt is one of our favorites. The kids first went to Warrenton/Round Top in Texas when they were 6 months old in a twin stroller. So even though Evan has yet to arrive in Paris to join us this summer, Creed convinced me that we needed to go to "les Puces" this past Saturday. It's a bit scary to say that I have been hunting good stuff there for 30+ years now and my kids, for 3:) We have our preferred markets, vendors and alleys and the tall, wild haired blonde lady with the be-spectacled twins: chatty boy and blind girl are quite "inoubliable" - unforgettable. So, after Zelda had selected her jewels and Creed had bought his toy car and we had listened to the woman sing Edith Piaf in the marché Vernaison and the guy play the guitar à la Django....we settled into our favorite, red, plastic chairs at the non-descript café for our "frites", paninis, milk and rosé. No sooner had the food arrived and we had quieted Zelda with her IPod and tall, iced glass of milk when Creed ABSOLUTELY had to go to the potty. Well, "les toilettes" happen to be down a half block, across the street and down a long corridor of very expensive Art Deco stalls in another market. SHIT! So as not to disturb Zelda, I asked Kamel (the owner's son) to keep an eye an Zelda while I grabbed Creed by his hand, ran across the street to the corridor and directed him in French with an Art Deco vendor down the hall to the potty. I then ran back to Zelda where Kamel seemed more worried that someone would steal her IPod than Zelda. As soon as I returned to Z, SHE had to go to the potty!! Kamel guarded our food as I ran with Zelda across the street and passing through the corridor, I arrived at "les toilettes" thinking that I would catch Creed on his way out. I asked the guardian of the potty: "Petit garçon? Lunettes? Blond?" No, he hadn't come out yet. Pushing Zelda into a stall to pee on the women's side, I queried an old man. NO, he hadn't seen him AND then the guardian chimed in, "I saw him go in, but not come out." Ok, that's when the mom - in this case, ME - starts freaking out. The old man and I search the stalls - two are locked and unresponsive - never a good sign. Zelda has finished and we are ready to hunt for our missing Creed. Not screaming, but beginning to panic, with visions of a little lost American boy with no identification kidnapped into the rabbit-warren of flea markets stalls, I literally drag Zelda back down the corridor. Oui, they saw him go by, and NON, they didn't see him return. Shit, shit, shit...I curse myself. I will never forgive myself for sending my kid off, in a maze, in French, to pee by himself. And then Zelda and I emerge from the market and look a half a block away down the street .... And there is Creed, smiling and sitting at our table at the café. My boy of the world...he knew exactly what to do, where to go and had the confidence to do it. I was the one who had made the bad choice, as they teach in 1st grade. Don't make bad choices... I told Creed that when he grew older, he would write a song about this, "My boy of the world, you are the smartest boy I know, no tears, no fear, I love you so..."
Saturday, July 13, 2013
Le Fort Broyard... Ok........ imagine a guy in an International Male brown leather jacket and tight pants aka "the Host", another guy aka "the Wizard" with a bald cap, bad make-up & fake beard and whiskers, two dwarves (should I say little people? Plus they look like brothers) dressed in Jean-Paul Gaultier-like "style-marin" striped sailor shirts and then, 6 B-level (in the US D-level) French celebrities...they take a boat out to a fortress, "Le Fort Broyard", off the coast of France in the Atlantic and do a series of challenges. The 6 "celebrities" which this week included an anchor from a non-Parisian TV station ( so think, Topeka, Kansas), an ex-rugby player and a virtually unknown pop star, attempt different feats of strength, grossness and determination. It's a combo platter of the Amazing Race meets the Fear Factor meets Wipe Out ... And even if you aren't familiar with any of these American reality TV shows, you can probably get the idea. It's a cluster f*#k of a mess and has been airing on French TV for 20+ years. These 6 people, broadcast on a Saturday night and led by Monsieur I.M., do things like bungee cord over the ocean, walk though maggots, and answer weird French literary references to win old-time fortress keys and clues that the dwarves then run to the Wizard for verification...and eventually the 6 (who are not competing against each other - ah voilà! - very different from American TV! as no one is "voted off" the fortress) dive into a pile of doubloons and win it all for an obscure French charity. Have you followed ANY of this? It is Creed's favorite show now for 3 years and he can explain the entire premise including the tiger pit and an "ex-footballeur " named Pascal who wins everything for the team. Apparently Creed & Pascal are friends - huh???? Every Saturday night, social obligations be-damned, it’s time for Le Fort Broyard. One cannot make up this shit up if they tried!!
Thursday, July 11, 2013
I do come to Paris for 2 months to work, you know. I teach international students a course in Fashion & Design. Teaching has started... Classes began on Tuesday and so far, so good. I have to travel across Paris to get to work and my last class doesn't end until 6:20pm but...sigh...then, it's back into the hot, crowded RER and home by 7pm. Une vraie Parisienne, my friend told me at dinner tonight. Now, if only they would give me socialized medical benefits, since I am paid in Euros. I spent the first day laying the groundwork for the course... And then dove into fashion history, but only began with Marie Antoinette and her couturièure, Rose Bertin. Thank goodness Sophia Coppola had Kirsten Dunst star in that film because at least some of the kids can relate a bit to that pop-culture meets historical reference. We discuss the cultural and political meanings of "les sans culottes" during the Révolution Française ( very timely since it is Bastille Day weekend) and then move to major industrial developments of the 19th century - culminating in the arrival of the Brit, Charles Worth and his creation of the first Maison de la Haute Couture. Paul Poiret and his revolution of design open the 20th century and then we compare and contrast the innovations of Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel & Elsa Schiaparelli during the 1920's and 30's. All of that leads up to the effects of WWll on the design community and the relaunching of couture with Dior's "New Look" in 1947. Phew! Then they get a take-home quiz. Tomorrow, I present their 3-week mash-up team project. This year's students are from the US, Canada, Lebanon, Mexico, Costa Rica, Japan, Australia, South Africa and Hong Kong. Some are nearly fluent in French while some speak no French at all...
Monday, July 8, 2013
Various weekend thoughts: 1. Sometimes Creed pees in the bidet as does Zelda. Trying to break them of that habit. 2. Creed over waters the plants of the balcony and it drips down on the unhappy heads of the passers-by. 3. If one more French woman looks at Zelda and says, "Ah, la pauvre." (Oh, poor thing), I am going to slap them upside their head. 4. Same thing for when Creed was choosing a postcard to send to Millie and the un-gentilhomme yelled at Zelda for spinning the rack. I think that I have the perfect mix of unfettered New Jersey meets Parisian stubbornness to be outspoken to the asshole, apologize and storm off. 5. It has taken a variety of different tricks over the years and a bit more maturity but the 3 of us can now successfully sit at a cafe for at least an hour...calmly...as long as Zelda has her IPod. 6. As I had to check in with the director of my school on Saturday, we took the métro, RER, tramway, and bus, had a long walk, stopped in two cafés, fought the crowds at Notre Dame and arrived home 6 hrs later. 7. I like that the animal prints are always alive and well in Paris, dalmation mini-skirts, leopard shiny leggings, tiger caftan tops...all worn with timeless abandon and purple suede heels or sparkle mules. 8. Cranky children are best contained by Haribou Crocodiles.
Saturday, July 6, 2013
I first saw this film when I was in grad school here in Paris. I went often to the cinema and saw everything I could...it was a grungy little theatre with maybe ten of us there, but it was memorable. La Ballade de Narayama... It's a film that came out in 1983 by Imamura. It is on the list of my 10 favorite films ever. If you haven't see it, rent it and give it a try. When the old people of this Japanese village turn 70, it is up to their children to carry them up to the top of the mountain and leave them there to die. I won't tell you anymore because it is beautiful, humorous and poignant. The images are sublime. So what made me think of this? I observe these beautiful old people every day in Paris...they are out on the street. Dapper men on the arm of their 50 yr old sons. Great watches, good shoes. Love in their eyes. Having an ice cream. Impeccably dressed silver-haired women shopping with their 60 yr old twin daughters and grand daughters. And then there are just people aging gracefully...long-white-haired men...they don't need to have a Texas buzz cut:) They wear bracelets and read Levy-Strauss and Sartre and have their "petit canon" at the café each day. There is the 80 yr old woman in a chic black dress and hose with matching bag that does her grocery shopping everyday and dresses for it. Sweat pants?!! Non. So I want to grow old in France...in La Ballade de Narayama: the 70 yr old woman is vibrant and alive but has sworn to herself that she needs to go up the mountain. Her son resists. Please watch it. Having had children at 47, where the fuck will I be at 70? If not alive, hopefully, a beautiful memory of at least their time of summers in Paris if not at my sewing machine everyday. Bonne nuit...
Friday, July 5, 2013
Things I am liking in Paris this summer: 1. Seeing 3 couples in their 70's (at least) sitting around a table at a café enjoying glasses of wine and a spirited discussion in the late afternoon. 2. The fact that Pierre Hermé macarons opened exactly 2 days ago on my street. 3. Having an old man stop me in the street and say "Madame, vous êtes très belle", and then he smiled and walked off. 4. Seeing a guy in a long fitted leather trench coat and amazing rubberized boots, long black hair, all dressed in black, fly past me down the street on a Razor scooter. 5. Stopping at La Perle and seeing that it has now re-become a café/bar of the neighborhood since John Galliano and the fashionistas have moved on... 6. Little details.
Tuesday, July 2, 2013
Oh, for the love of the gods... So, we left Austin yesterday - was it yesterday? - nope it was the day before! (Addendum to all parents with young children: at 0-5.5 yrs easy, peasy for the jet-lag, at 7.5yrs : "Mom, is it time for breakfast (at 6pm)", "Mom, Kidz Bob Dance Party! (at midnight)" ... We are getting there, slowly but surely. Austin to Atlanta was quite uneventful - despite the entire glass of spilled milk all over Zelda's pants soaked through to her seat. Super-traveler mom (moi!) had packed extra everything in our 500lb carry on bag. Atlanta to Paris was uneventful as well - we got our seats together from an extremely bitchy AirFrance desk attendant. They all felt it was necessary to explain to me that my original seats really WERE together - you know 2 behind, one in front. Sigh. But I ended up in the middle crunched between twins draped over their mom. No sleep for me. Manu picked us up at the airport and marveled at how little luggage I had packed this year. Really??? - even with Creed's Razor scooter topping out the big bag at 49lbs. DAY 1: Our appart is perfect - rue ste croix de la Bretonnerie - in the Marais. Each year, I try and rent within 6 blocks of the Pompidou. They remember the kids there and our exquisite, fearless nounou - that's our nanny - Marie-Lou aka Malou, knows exactly what they like. We also have our favorite boulangerie, pizzas, pharmacy, markets, etc... We just missed Gay Pride weekend, so not only are we in the oldest Jewish district of Paris, it's also gay central. We are famously next door to the Gay Choc, the bakery where they bake brioches in the shape of penises. Lots of colorful flags flying from the balconies on our street. Monday was spent moving in and then led by Creed, with the utmost confidence, through the streets to the Ile Saint-Louis. We walked along the Seine, with Zelda zipping down the cobblestone ramps and talking to the ducks and Creed analyzing the different styles of barges moving up the river. I kept reminding him that the further we walked, the further it was to walk back "home". Fatigué....so tired...I pulled them home and managed to stop by Mariage Frères for my stash of Marco Polo tea that starts my every morning. Crazy sleep patterns had us all in bed until noon today... DAY 2: When one stays in bed til noon, and Malou arrives at 14h - 2pm - these 2 hours involve eating, tidying up and trying to figure out the various appliances in this apartment. Lave-linge, lave-vaiselle, et four/micro-onde: washer, dishwasher, and convection oven/microwave combo - oh and I forgot the TV... Spent the afternoon at the London Showrooms for Men's Fashion Week to visit with Matthew Harding, the uber-talented partner in design and life of my dear friend, Levi Palmer. Through their line Palmer Harding (www.palmerharding.com), they create the absolutely most subtly, studied twists on the classic white shirt for women and for men. So smart, so talented...stocked around the world. Lots of errands, groceries for the house, Monoprix for basic essentials: trash bags and such. Dinner tonight: Elsa & Laurent with their children Evaluna & Vermeer, Manu, and Christian...wine, pizzas, salads, cheeses, taught them to make Salty Dogs with the grapefruit Vodka that I gifted them from Austin...and the dessert: macarons from the Pierre Hermé boutique that opened THIS morning only 1 block from our appart. Oh no... Faites dodo!! That means go to sleep kids, dammit! A demain...