30 March, 2011


It is raining now.

Rain that spits on the sides of my building and the wrought iron gates surrounding my terrace. The sky is grey again which I know, now, tells me that a heavy rain will follow. I hope the dark clouds come my way.

I hear Parisien thunder for the first time. It sounds like my Arizona home during a warm August monsoon. My eyes tell me that I should see the lighting any minute. But I still wait for it. The air has gotten cold swiftly and the soft pellets of rain touch my skin. I can't stay inside. Instead I am on the terrace not only hearing but feeling the thunder 360 degrees around where I stand, I hear it and feel it.

Why does the rain bring such joy? Is it because it washes everything clean, making it all new again? I have never felt so much beauty. Not this intensely at least. I want to almost rejoice in the fact that I have always fought against regret (all the while knowing it is a fact of a life well lived). Today I am, once again, reminded of why.

I know Chat won't be visiting again tonight, the ground too slick and wet to welcome her to my side. But I wish she was here. I wish to have companionship on this beautiful evening. The sun is still awake, I know, even as it hides behind the clouds. After all "changement d'huere" took place two days ago. We now get an extra hour of sunlight in the day. I want to soak it all in: the sounds of rolling thunder, the cool drops of rain, the warmth of my home. 6 weeks in and I feel more at home then ever.

As quickly as it came the rain subsides. But I am, like the streets below me, covered in rain, renewed, cleansed, overjoyed, and at peace.

29 March, 2011

Rights of Passage

This week handed me both, one of the best moments I have ever had and one of the most disturbing.

Oh how to eloquently share with you what I witnessed? Let’s get the disturbing bit out of the way.

I prepared to go for a run in the garden of the beautiful Palais Royal, I laced up my sneakers and secured my key to my belt buckle with two knots. Then I was off. As I circled around the cage of the lift I could see movement on the floor below, the floor I was about to reach. With each step I took more of the scene was revealed to me and along with it my growing horror. A man, a crazy eyed man, sat with his back up against my landlord’s hand carved door. His black eyes and greasy hair aren’t what took me by surprise. Instead it was the fact instead of pants he was wearing ladies nylons. He wasn’t bothered by my presence, as it didn’t deter him from his task. I will allow you to fill in the blank here. Yelling, “Mal, tres mal” I hustled quickly past making record time getting down the 6 flights of stairs. The insides of my skin where crawling and the imagine disturbing my thoughts even now as I write these words. My run that day was faster than usual; I was running from the memory. Perhaps it is a right of passage when living in a city to witness something like this. This is what I will tell myself at least.

To make up for the intruding thoughts of that occurrence Paris handed me a beautiful moment that is forever imprinted in my mind and heart. It was a magnificent Saturday on the streets of Paris and so my friend Leo and I set out to enjoy the sunshine and a sandwich on Ile St. Louis. We walked with purpose hoping to reach the shore of the island before we lost any more sun. The clouds in the sky were like nothing I had ever seen – half of the sky held gray, the kind of gray you see right before it snows. But it was nice and cool out. The sun was poking through and danced on the dark waters of the Seine. Half the sky gray the other half sunshine, a complete contradiction that left me wondering what the day had in store.

We found a place to sit, feet dangling towards the water, and unwrapped our sandwiches. People sat on all sides of us enjoying the dwindling sunlight. The birds circled the sky perhaps trying to listen to the lone man quietly strumming his guitar. As we finished our last bites my bare feet began to get cold. The clouds were winning, the sun didn't stand a chance.

Ile St. Louis is the smaller of the two islands that are the center of Paris. We sat on the banks of the island which are often lined with locals snacking, laughing, and sunning. It has quickly become one of my favorite places. The tiny cobblestone streets above are filled with tourists every day of the year even the coldest days. I put my shoes back on then we climbed up the cracked cement stairs to walk. We walked along its winding streets in hopes of finding gelato, hey – when you want stracciatella you must have stracciatella! Everywhere you look people are walking along with ice cream even as the temperature dropped. Soon Leo and I would be joining them. We hopped in a line that began out on the street and waited our turn to duck into the little shop with ancient wooden beams covering the ceiling. This is a staple in Paris and a dead give away of the buildings age. I have come to love this as it can be seen in hundreds of places throughout the city.

I ordered my gelato and enjoyed a bite before even walking away from the counter. Perfection.

We then went to stroll among the crowds while savoring every bite. As we met the street again the clouds finally broke. A little at first, small droplets falling on our gelato. Then the downpour. Everywhere people were huddled in doorways lined up on the narrow streets. We followed suit only briefly to have a few bites without rainwater. We stood there leaning up against the cream colored walls of a building before deciding to brave the storm. We walked on. Only after I realized some of the cream color was coming along with me, had I not read the “Wet Paint” sign that was posted there?

We walked then through the growing puddles, our hair saturated along with our clothes. I was shivering, soaking wet and not dressed properly for the sudden cold. But I didn’t care.

The streets got quiet.

Walking along I captured the moment in my minds eye, the green of the trees blowing in the breeze, the puddles that soaked my feet, the rainwater dripping down my face, the gray sky, the smell of wet cement. I will go back there to that one place in time over and over again in my life. Getting caught in the rain in Paris...,perhaps another right of passage.

I feel so lucky.

18 March, 2011

A day in the life...

Today the air is soft, like air off of the ocean. I awoke from my bizarre and intricate dreams to this chilly, overcast Paris day. Walking onto my terrace with my daily cup of earl grey I laugh to myself thinking about last night. I looked down into my friends apartment across from mine and I had to compliment him on his shirt. It is one most of the world would recognize,

“ I heart NY”

I agree with him. But here is where I laugh. As we chat my eyes unconsciously wander one window over to the usually anti-shirt man, you remember him. He, too, is sporting an “I heart NY” t-shirt! Classic. Just classic.

Finishing my cup of hot tea I suit up and head out to run some errands. Exiting my front door I have 3 choices of where to go. Unfortunately today I must go right, that is where my bank is and also the closest market. As I head north I know what to expect since I pass this almost everyday. Leaning against the light-posts to my left and the 'Paris a Nuit' dress shop to my right there are a dozen Asian women who stand, purse on shoulder, boots mid thigh and eyes out for their next “job”. They stand there so casually and chat with each other like teenagers might in school hallways. Today must be a busy day because I spot only 5. I feel bad for these woman and I can’t help but wonder what has happened in their lives to bring them here, standing on a corner at noon on a Thursday? I pass by and try not to judge. I walk on.

Deciding to accomplish my errands later I head east towards the Seine. Finding a café I sit down and order a pasta. I am enthralled by the passer-bys. But moreso I am enveloped in the knowledge that as they stop to look at the menu the owner speaks to them in English (I am in a tourist part of town at this minute) yet he has not spoken one word of English to me. As I think this, a French couple stops to ask me if I know where the Louvre is. I not only understood this question BUT I know how to answer. Suddenly my pasta bolognaise tastes even better.

After finishing my lunch and about an hour of writing I head towards home. I stop by the bank and say hello to my friendly neighborhood banker Virgine then head to le Monoprix (the local market).

The market is an event, always. The aisles are narrow and the shoppers plentiful. I can hardly get my pully cart through and no one seems to want to move out of my way. The most stressful part begins as I wait in the long lines. The speed of the cashier is welcome as the line moves forward quickly. But when it is my turn I pray she will by slowed by some distraction.

She never has.

I say this because it is at this point that she flings my purchases to her right while I scramble to catch them and toss them in my bag. If, heaven forbid, I have forgotten my own bag the process is even worse. I can never seem to open up the little red plastic bags they provide, sparingly, which slows me down even more. Annoyance is written on her face as she repeats how much I owe. She speaks so fast I never really am sure what she has said so I hand her a 20. Before I can even put my change in my bag she is flinging the next guests items towards mine. I continue to scramble until I have snatched up all of my things. Deep breath and another chaotic checkout is behind me.

10 minutes, 6 flights of stairs with 3 heavy bags and I am home. Tonight is a good night. I heat up my leftover veggies and pasta (with soy sauce and peanut butter) and settle in for a good read. My patio door is cracked so I can feel the cold breeze waft through my home. Just then a little kitten pokes his tiger striped head through to observe what I am doing. He comes right in, no invitation required. This isn’t the first time we have met. He lives in the adjacent apartment with which I have an adjoining terrace, the only thing that separates us is the little black gate with plastic mesh, which I assume, was placed there to keep the kitty on her "side". Luckily it has failed.

We have been curious about each other for a week, that cat and I, since the day I first saw him on the other side of the gate. I got down on my knees and stuck my fingers through the mesh all the while introducing myself in French, I imagine he speaks French, no? This game continued for days until he figured out a way over the mesh lined gate to delight me in my apartment. He looks around, smells things, climbs under my covers and tries to attack my toes. He hides under the bed and playfully chases my feet as I walk by. His simple presence and continuing visits fill me with the kind of joy only an animal companion can. I have aptly decided to call him “Chat”. After all we don’t belong to each other, we are just “two no name slobs” to one another.*** see below

He leaves and I close the door behind him.

Another beautiful day behind me I climb under my covers and rest my eyes eager for the sun to rise again.

***You will understand this

if you know my favorite movie!

04 March, 2011

Inside the Roundabout

In the center of a busy roundabout the stones of the Arc de Triumph reside. I make my way through the underground tunnel to stand below its beauty, the eternal flame burning to my left and the Tomb of the Unknown soldiers resting yards below my feet. It is here, leaning against the body of this aging landmark that I write.

The sun is on my face and the crisp March wind in my hair. Today may be the first full day that I really, truly feel at home in Paris. I do not feel misplaced, scared or lonely. Instead I have a sense of calm that embodies every part of my being. I know that at this very moment, I am exactly where I am supposed to be. The Champs Elysees stretches out before me making it impossible to forget where in fact that is.

I look out at the busy roundabout that circles the Arc and for a moment I don’t know if the winds that blow my hair are from God or the cars speeding past. I could sit here forever watching the tourists in awe of this proud Parisian monument that is a staple of the city. Meanwhile the trained eyes of the locals pass it by as if it doesn’t exist at all.

So, I watch: hoards of people (both coming and going), tour buses, scooters, and cars intermingling on the uncontrolled veins of the circle. It feels so peaceful in all of its chaos.

A Russian family takes a seat near me warming the previously cold stones with their heavy jackets. They take snapshots of each other, the children, the Arc, and the smiles as they make an effort to capture this brief moment in time. I sit alone next to them doing the very same thing, only I do so with my pen.

The children run around on the cobblestones doing cartwheels then spinning round and round in circles with their arms out, heads back completely careless. I wonder. Will they remember this hour in their lives? Will they remember the carefree turns they made or the laughter they shared? Or will, once their feet leave these streets, forget that once they had really been alive here? Will it be the pictures they take now that remind them of the little moments of joy they felt?

I look up behind me to see the carved stones on the side of the arc, 5 warriors frozen in time.

And then I remember, a young woman standing exactly where I sit writing this. I stood with 4 other naive childish girls, joking and giggling. We were trying to recreate the scene of the warriors above our heads for a memory of our own. I do remember being extraordinarily happy forming visions of my future in my head. Do I remember only because of the picture in my scrapbook of the 5 American students with wide-eyed innocence? Just in case, I reach in my bag and pull out my camera.

I take a picture of the now empty step where I sat, where a Russian family took a break from their sightseeing and where once, many, many moons ago I stood as a girl with a dream of one day living in this city.

I take a deep breath of what must be polluted air, but all I can smell is Paris and in it my very own triumph.