Chapter Eight

Copyright © 2002 by Martin S. Reff
All Rights Reserved

Thursday, May 17, 2001

After sleeping three times - feel considerably better.

Marcia visited Simone all day.

That night when we returned home from our evening stroll we found a clochard sitting by the door right near the place where I punch in the code. I told Marcia to stick close. As soon as I entered the numbers, and Marcia pushed the door open, the clochard tried to squeeze by. I pushed ahead of him and closed him out. I did not then have the telephone number of the gardien and so I went downstairs to knock on his door. The clochard had already gotten in the lobby and was now sitting on the floor sound asleep. I returned to our apartment to go to sleep, too. I learned tolerance quickly: but was I really allowing the clochard his sleep because he needed it, or was I not alerting the gardien because I didn't want to make a fuss?

Friday, May 18, 2001

Can you imagine? Marcia's come down with the cold.

Shopped a bit and then used my legs for a dozen blocks.

Saturday, May 19, 2001

Shopped; scallops plus lamb

Afternoon: Atlantic Park

Sun tan lotion. Contentment. I'm reading The Voyage of the Narwhal, by Andrea Barrett which is pretty good - although slow at times. Marcia took along her book on architecture.

When we arrived at the park, twelve policemen were visible: three standing by, three on bicycles, and two groups of three more walking and looking. Apparently, there had been a problem. We watched and saw them stop a young man on the other side of the park who was dressed in a red jumpsuit. They read his identification papers, checked him for weapons, making him take off with his shoes and socks, and after more talk, all of which we couldn't hear, took him away.

We read and sunned ourselves.

I watched the children throwing a ball in the water and then running in and out. The scene reminded me of my childhood playing against the small waves that would creep up on the beach. On one side a few steps brought a child to the water's edge. The water, ranging from zero to about 6 inches high, was pulsed upward in small fountains in an erratic rhythm. The child with a little ball could throw it in the water, wait for it to recede (stop pulsing) and just as it stopped, allow the child to dash in on the wet sand (concrete), retrieve his ball and dash to the other side which opened on a dry, flat sand (concrete) area...only to repeat the game when the next wave (small fountains of water) came in again. Braver souls (older children) waded right in.

Notes from my small book under heading, "Why Paris?"

Part of wonder of Paris I attribute to the connections we Americans, particularly Americans, have for the French and the Paris,

Long before I sat on a bench in a pocket park outside of Gare St. Lazar that early October morning in 1950 when I first arrived in Paris, a liberal arts education had prepared me to like the French. Late 19th and early 20th century art still plays an important role in my life...Renoir, Sisley, Degas, Picasso. I've owned prints of them all.

And as an American who is proud to be one, I knew how many of our political institutions, indeed the foundations of our democracy, we owe the French philosophers Jean Jacques Rousseau and Montesquieu (Charles Louis de Secondat, Baron de la Brède et de Montesquieu, wow!). But France sometimes forgets how men from America sowed the seeds for their great revolution in the years before 1789 through the exchange of ideas and the example of ours. Benjamin Franklin lived in France between 1779 and 1785 and endeared himself to the French. Thomas Jefferson came in 1784 and stayed until after the revolution in 1789; he found time to help his friend and neighbor, The Marquis de Lafayette write France's "Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen." Gouverneur Morris came as minister to France between 1792 to 1794. James Monroe, who would soon be president, was our minister between 1794 to 1796. The writings of Thomas Paine, mentioned earlier, who lived in Paris from 1792 to 1802, had a tremendous influence on the future of France.

Sitting in the park that morning in 1950, I felt at home. The French looked like me, walked as I did, and dressed as I. Having already taken the boat train from London, I was familiar with the warm greetings of "Bonjour, monsieur." which I could not help but compare with the stone silence of the British.

Evening : It's good to get out. We learned that a long time ago. And so we went to a concert at St-Bernard: Sonata in La mineur Op 137 no. 2 by Schubert and Grieg's Sonata in Fa M, Op. We came in late so the first piece was a gonner for me. The second was just too much piano. Very loud in the basement. No more piano.

Sunday, May 20, 2001

Marcia is more ill than I now, but I'm still not over it.

A few minutes after 10 AM we entered the Antoine Bourdelle Museum which is a stone's throw from our balcony. We've seen some of the sculpture from the street and remember it well from our visit a decade before.

A student of Rodin until he decided to go his own way, Bourdell is best known for his creations of massive works of larger-than-life allegorical and mythical figures. You stand in his garden and feel small. Copies of four allegorical pieces - Victory, Liberty, Force, and Eloquence - as well as the friezes that were made for the Theater of the Champs Elysée remind me of post-revolutionary Russian art....worker art. The friezes are also like the murals of WPA in the USA in the 30's.

The Herakles with the bow is well known but this too, upon reflection, doesn't really interest me.

Having an affection for a work of art doesn't usually happen with the first experience. Familiarity is an ingredient. I'm not sure now if affection is the word I can use for the feeling I have when I take another look at art "to see what I can see of me today." There's a mystery in those forms, lines, colors - words, phrases, names, places - etc. I don't feel affection toward a mystery. Or, perhaps I do. At least I know part of the way.

And there are gradations of interest - from mere fun, through familiarity, into connection on a superficial plane, to a level of appreciation that is fathomless.

I noticed an unlabeled figure of a nude young male contemplating in a pensive stance. It was good. But when I learned that the man's name was Adam...all parts came together.

I saw another bending down to pick up a skull. Hamlet. I liked his right arm reaching up to heaven in anguish and incomprehension. For me the upraised arm swept the small sculpture into my hall of memories. How important a name is. The sculpture itself points to itself...sui generis. But the title connects us to the artist's world and our own.

The lines of some of his female figures are reminiscent of Picasso's Graces and Bathers -- elongated nudes.

"If you look, you find," I say to myself as I examine two tall frieze's of women. I didn't notice the inscription until later, but I do notice that the nose of the one on the right has nose that is aquiline but the nose on the left is flat...the titles, right: L'áme heroique and L'áme passioonée. The stereotype, just as you'd expect.

Antoine Bourdell never knew Rembrandt or Beethoven but sculpted each in various poses. My guess is that he thought that, if he worked with great people, his work would be considered more seriously.

He did one of Rembrandt as an old man that is singular. Burdelle's clay paved with his thumbs age the artist in a way that makes him live. Particularly his eyes. The figure itself is not massive but you get the feeling that a large person created him.

I want to sculpt.

We left - I was tired. Lunched and then took a long nap.

Awoke - for a walk around and then stopped to buy a tartellete normande, a small apple cake for me and a mocha cafe one for Marcia.

We're having dinner - lamb...and Marcia is quite uncomfortable. I'm much better. The gigot or lamb, is the first solid meat we've cooked at home other than a bifsteak which we threw away. The lamb was delicious. We also had a half dozen small onions. Our desserts, the tartellete, at 11 F each ($1.62), were delicious.

Although both of us had stuffy noses and Marcia particularly didn't feel well, we abided by one of the commandments we established in The Netherlands back in 1988, namely, "It's when you're tired and really don't want to walk that a walk is imperative." We decided on a short one but a had a glorious long one which made both of us feel good. We kept looking at the façades of buildings and I showed Marcia the largest roof trees that I've seen.

The French love a spectacle and given the chance would create one a day somewhere in Paris so that all Parisians would see one at least once a week. (Recently, some have begun to think that the labor disruptions have become a form of entertainment.)

We know that dozens of times a year place de la Bastille was officially turned into a vast arena for a celebration in the form of a parade, a band with vocalists, a television presentation, or a merely meeting with a speaker. Add the colorful labor manifestations and you have one lively place which we enjoyed. Outside of Paris beginning with June and running through September dramatic sound and light shows are common in towns and villages. Oh, yes, two days ago it was announced that 150,000 poppies would be displayed at Beaubourg, the name for area housing the George Pompidou Centre, including the National Museum of Modern Art. Although the area dates back to the Middle Ages, you'd never know it today.

Because Paris is a capital city it receives visiting dignitaries weekly (often more often). Most travel in a line of limousines preceded through the city by a police motorcycle escort on streets that had been closed to ordinary traffic. The leader of a nation, say a king or a president, is given a "royal" welcome: his national flags fly on the Champs Élysée as a motorcycle unit of the elite Garde Républican escorts the entourage through the city. It's impressive.

I guess the French love of pomp and circumstance may represent a longing for the monarchy - the glories of which are self evident in monuments and parks throughout the city or, perhaps, for the pageantry of the medieval era.

No wonder so many French citizens tolerate strikes, disturbances, and interruptions which in a country like the United States people would not.

Perhaps it's the climate. The French, living as they do in Northern Europe with long nights and then long days, get as excited by the first rays of real warmth after a winter without much sun as a child does at Christmas. Clothing is removed and getting some sun on your body is imperative, even if the temperature is in the upper fifties. We watched the Dutch do it in Enkhuizen and the French do it at the marina in Paris. Young women would strip to a bra and panties and men to jockey shorts then lie on the cobblestoned quai to catch the sun during the lunch hour. The display was a treat for the immigrant workers also on their lunch hour, sort of a poor man's Follies Bergere.

My guess is that the French and the Dutch fondness for flowers is also related to the importance of sunlight and life. When the rains of late April and early March ended, we watched almost daily as people began to work the land in the planter boxes on the balconies. Soon flowers appeared on every floor. I'm not sure but I'd guess the ten or fifteen foot tree in a corner balcony will shortly bloom.

Monday, May 21, 2001

Laundry day. Later I shopped.

We napped and then went out to buy some film. Walked, then home.

Marcia outdid herself tonight. Using a white wine recipe she took a comely chicken that was raised in the open air and raised it, once more, to a coq au vin that caused problems in our apartment house. It's fragrance prompted neighbors to call the French food police who serve the same function as the French language police. The former tried to protect and prevent the use of American words such as "super," "chick," or even "okay." The latter, a new organization, serves to prevent Americans from stealing French recipes. With our window open as we cocktailed on our balcony overlooking the Eiffel Tower and the whole of Paris, the smell of that chicken wafted out across the yard and into other open windows, clinging to curtains and to the green leaves of plants. An alert was sounded and the police arrived. We confessed that we did have a cog au vin cooking. They wanted a taste. Marcia refused, claiming chef's rights and extra-territorial immunity. The wanted to see the recipe. Unfortunately for them the recipe was in a book on wine cookery, was not a French cookbook, and finally the book was printed in 1965 in the United States.

By that time the fragrance was so intense that the Inspector-in-Charge begged for a taste. Using one of our 40 petite café spoons she gave him a taste. That did it. After much talk, we compromised. We promised not to give the recipe to any American and he promised that he would forget the whole incident in the spirit of Anglo-French relations. He did, however, insist that we close the window.

The best Coq au Vin I've ever had. The onions came out perfectly as well. And, as old time Americans "comme" French, we used parts our baguette to wipe the dish.

But after dinner which took some time and after having done the laundry and some ironing in the morning and still having an uncomfortable cold, Marcia opted out of my invitation to go for a walk.

So, at 8:30 I took off for a long St.-Germain but mainly to look closely at the lively restaurants we saw off off rue des Canettes near place Saint-Sulpice. The walk was fun. Skaters flew past and I marveled at their speed and grace. Most used single blades but some old fashioned four wheeled skates glided as if they were on a dance floor. Down rue de Rennes they coasted. Beautiful curves, in an out. Ballet!

I took an ad hoc route, turning this way and that. I smiled at a pretty young girl sitting on her motorcycle waiting for the light to change. She was dressed in black but had orange sneakers which I was looking at. She smiled back. Charming I continued my leisurely walk and she was off racing at the first glow of green.

I passed the André Malraux center which is at the corner of boulevard Raspail and rue de Rennes. His name brought back my youth when abstractions had no referents. I enjoyed all his novels.

Found some nice restaurants, wrote their names down with prices, and then walked toward Odéon. The street was alive with people, mostly under 40. A bookstore. The titles. Outside. An art store. "All the things that can be done!" I said to myself. "Is there time enough?"

I took the métro back.

Tuesday, May 22, 2001

It's 7 in the morning and as I turn east on rue Vaugirard, the sun's reflection on the sidewalks is blinding. I squint and turn to the right only to find diamonds on the cobblestoned road.

First. the Le Figaro with a headline on the "Loft Story" the latest reality show whose succcess can be explained by the polls. Ah, ha, C'est logique, n'est pas?
And then a croissant for Marcia who is sleeping after commandeering all the blanket that I had previously used as well as her raincoat to keep her warm. I hope she's better today.

And finally back home to find the gardien polishing the marble floor of the lobby with a concentration and care that only a good morning and a renewed dedication can bring. I am at the computer doing what is important to me and he is at his work. I hope my work is as satisfying to readers as his work is to his tenants. He and/or his wife clean and polish the marble floors and walls, vacuum and polish the elevators, vacuum the hall rugs, clean the lights, remove the waste cans in the lower level, tend the front garden (troubled by the lack of under soil), slip the mail under each tenant's door, remove the grass that tries to grow on the roof as well as keep the books and welcome everyone with a Bonjour monsieur or madame . Before we leave we will leave some money, our herb plants. and our cluster of orchids in the small pot.

Marcia has just yawned. It is almost 8 AM. I have poured another cup of coffee to finish off my big cherry muffin.

Another Paris spring day has dawned and the sun should shine for the rest of it.
She's sighing now. I go over and muss her hair. She clutches a tissue and smiles. So begins our 55th day in Paris; only 35 left. Seven weeks sounds better.

Although she rose for breakfast, she remained in bed the rest of the day. I shopped, had lunch and visited the museum at Beaubourg violating the first law for a visitor in Paris, viz., have a back-up The museum was closed because all national museums are closed on Tuesday. See what happens when Marcia is not at my side.

On the way over by bus I began to review in my mind and with my notebook what makes living or visiting Paris like an esthetic experience. From my notes:

Is it Paris or the French? Is it both or just the city?

It's not important to identify the national character of the French which I've been doing regularly. A visitor sees Paris as a work of art....not!....Paris was deliberate and still is...and so, a spectacle (extravaganza):

Roadways are tree line and Raspail has an island practically throughout its length and an island with trees. It starts at St.-Germain, near the Seine and begins to rise through the left bank, rising always going up until Denfert-Rochereau where it continues disguised as avenue René Coty. I like Raspail.

A demonstration was scheduled today...a march to Place June 1940 which is in front of the Montparnasse Tower. As the bus passed the place I could already see sound trucks, loudspeakers, leader quarters, booths, stands, etc. Those involved wore bright colored signs and labels. On its way down rue de Rennes, the bus passed a contingent of about 250 marchers walking up on the other lane. They were having fun....yelling occasionally. The bus driver tooted his horn and must have waved, because he got a rousing cheer with thumbs up from the marchers.

Another spectacle. It's a nice way to spend a sunny day. Beats working. And marching for the good of the working people is something Parisians have always understood.

After I found the museum closed, I wandered around, checking some art stores for a print of Picasso's Figures au bord de la mer. I'd love to have that print. And then I'm also looking for a print of any Chinese long rectangular painting that illustrates the sense of height and depth that are so characteristic of that school. We will visit the other oriental museum.

Found a street, rue de Rambuteau, that Marcia wanted to see because of a building. And I passed that wonderfully naughty French street, rue St. Denis, which is notorious for its sex shops as well as for male and female hookers who stand in doorways and in alleys dressed in the wierdest outfits you can imagine. E & E, my brother and sister-in-law who will be visiting next month, must see this.

Found an "Office Depot" - just like the one at home except that it was vertical, three floors with a small circular staircase. I bought two small notebooks.

I became tired suddenly and stopped at café for rest and a pick-me-up - Coca Cola. Perhaps I was walking too much and too soon after my bad cold.

Later I spent a half hour on the top floor of Les Halles, which in reality is one floor underground. Then at a métro Boutique I bought a full size copy of the métro Map of Paris. I brought home one in 1952 and I will bring home one in 2001. Could have I imagined?

Took the métro back, stopped off for a rhubarb tartelette for Marcia and home to find her still in bed.

Wednesday, May 23, 2001

Marcia's still under the weather and I've relapsed.

Shopped for water and used my check card for the first time. I didn't need to get currency that way; I still have traveler's checks in francs but I wanted to make sure the card worked here in France as well as it did in England. I also wanted to find out if there was a charge. Tomorrow I'll access my account on the internet and see how much if anything was charged. Internet is marvelous. Our iBook from Apple works just fine.

Felt tired later in the morning, napped, had lunch, napped again.

Misc Notes:

I remember when all the streets in Paris were cobblestoned. They were good, albeit bumpy. The street outside my window was boulevard Jourdan, part of the périphérique, a river of stone that circles Pairs, just like the Seine crosses it. It sparkled at night and I remember at times it wasn't easy crossing with shoes. If a repair were to be made underground, the stones were removed, the repair made, and the stones replaced. The stone never failed. The space between them prevented cracks from ice and they never seem to wear. But then, in 1950, there were few automobiles. The islands in the middle of boulevards were not marked for auto parking, nor I must say, were there as many dogs.

Early on I discovered the difference between the dove and the pigeon., both of which fly in and around our complex, diving off the ledge into the nothing eight floors below. Pigeons flock and never court in public. Doves on the other hand court publicly in a dignified manner: the male starts it off with a few bows, accompanied by the spreading the tail feathers, and then the ritual continues. Once they're married they stay together and coo in the morning and in the evening. They are clean and eat only green fresh kind of food. Marcia tells me I'm wrong but I am right.

We finished our leftover Coq au Vin dinner at about 9 PM. Marcia is pooped and begged off the short walk that I suggested. I think she really wanted to finish reading A Widow for One Year by John Irving. And so off for a short one. I'm tired myself but I needed the exercise and the fresh air.

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