Aside

FB_IMG_1467242462865    printemp … spring has arrived in paris, slowly the temperature has begun to match the abundance of green leaves and magical flowers that have been making their appearance over the past couple of weeks …. last night, as i looked out of my window, well past midnight, there, through the patchy pink and yellow clouds, which are reflected from the glow of light that envelopes paris at night, there was a glorious golden moon …. just over the rooftops, perfectly framed in the chimneys on the other side of the courtyard … it was definitely a sign of things to come with the waking of the day …. i put on something spring like, shedding the heavy and dark winter clothes that we have all been wearing for so many months and left down the 7 flights of our staircase  and out into the almost balmy street below … i rode the metro to the north of the city into an area where we are hoping to live later this summer … the cafe’s were lively with people taking advantage of the spectacular day despite a sudden little rain shower … the streets were much more lively than the quiet area where we are currently living … after a few blocks i found the antique market that i came to see along one side of a busy street and strolled past stall after stall of french treasures culled from attics across the country, a piece of this history always follows me home, one of my favorite, a box with 10 euro items in which i found two old ornate metal teapots which translated mean joy … at the end of the market i turned to the right and headed in the direction of the apartment that we were hoping would be our future home in late summer … i walked up the winding streets through the sunday crowds where almost every other person was clutching a paper wrapped flower bouquet on their way to sunday dinner at the home of a relative or friend … just as i was crossing the street, bus number 95 was pulling up and i had just enough time to climb aboard through the open back door and make my way to my favorite bus seat with the large open window near the door … the driver squeezed through the narrow street once again filling me with amazement as to how he misses clipping cars and pedestrians as he does so … we started down the steep incline, heading toward the heart of paris when i looked down at my lap and noticed that the small cameo that had been attached to my bracelet was now in my lap … the cameo had been purchased in rome, on the street leading to the vatican, and i would have been so sad to have lost it … a lesson of appreciation … as the bus continued i saw the brick wall surrounding the cimitiere du montmartre (montmartre cemetary) just to the right and noticed an apartment for sale overlooking the cimitiere … i could see us living there, in the north of paris, very near the edge of the city … i feel myself the most in the world there, a peace, and yes i meant to spell it that way, of paris, the city that i love as a dearest friend … we continued down the hill to the opera garnier and i got off at the next stop, palais royal, my favorite spot in all of paris … i crossed the busy rue de rivoli, weaving my way past the japanese tourists coming of of the big duty free perfume shop and went in to carrousel de louvre and hurried past the throngs of more tourists buzzing around the corridors and into the coffee shop next to the louvre book store … a soft velvet chair awaited me and on the table in front of it was a book called ‘dogs of the louvre’ … page after page of precious and beautiful little dogs that grace the famous works of art housed there … i went into the book store and bought a few books on the cathedral of notre dame as i had recently become a docent and was working on my tours of this most important of landmarks of paris … i left the busy crowds and went back onto the rue de rivoli and into the hush of the palais royal just across the plaza … as i entered the arcades i could hear music and saw two young men playing clarinet and cello … paris never ceases to give up her gifts and today had already blessed me with so many … i walked into the garden and felt the crunch of the fine gravel under my feet … i walked back into the arcades and for a moment could hear the voices of history, the clink of glasses, the laughter and the muffled speech of those gone before … just as i was passing toward the rue du beaujolais i heard a beautiful aria being sung by a tenor with a small crowd around him … it ended just as i passed by and all was a hush again … i walked down the rue des petites champs and into the place de victoires and looking at the buildings surrounding the statue of louis xiv on his horse … i walked on to the market street of rue montorgorueil which was still busy with sunday shoppers and stopped to gaze at the fuzzy orange, yellow, green & pink poppies that filled a bucket on the corner of rue tinquetonne …. i would have bought some but my window boxes at our apartment were already overflowing with shocking pink geraniums and the joy that they give me was enough … i entered the digicode to the old blue door on the front of our rue de turbigo apartment. climbed back up the 7 flights of stairs and hugged my little dog who was waiting for me and knew in my heart that paris had once again given me the gift of one of her perfect days …. just in time for spring

 

 

 

 

 

Perfect Paris Day

Ete 2002

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Ete 2002

Key West to Paris, Premier Fois

After seven years of life on my little island wrapped between the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico, the day came and it was time to go and to leave the place that I had once longed so dearly for. The place that I had made home, raised my son, married again and where I had a usual life. Now married to one of the most well known residents had always meant that my life was a bit on display but no one except a few close friends really knew that it was as much of an act as my husband’s evening performances. My coworkers and friends stood on the steps to bid me farewell that morning while breakfast was still being served around the pool. My son had left for college a few days earlier and my soon to be estranged husband was, as usual, off sleeping in his RV at the marina.

I climbed into the airport shuttle van with my little poodle Pondicherry while my friends loaded the luggage in the back. We drove out of the circular drive way and I saw the Curry Mansion for the last time for a long time out of the front window. We drove through the narrow streets of Key West and quickly we were crossing the bridge out of town. As we drove across the Cow Key Channel I looked at the back of the RV sitting on the banks the channel knowing he was sleeping there.

Pondi sat in my lap as we rode up the Keys, stopping for gas and fried chicken with the other passengers. It seemed so easy, was it?
After the three hour trip we pulled up to the terminal and climbed out with our bags in tow and sat waiting for the Air France gate to open. At long last we found ourselves on the plane, in the last row in a plane full of lively Cuban’s going to Paris for vacation. All through the night their laughter and Spanish conversation filled the cabin. We felt as if we never left home.

Pondi hated the flight and spent a great deal of effort chewing at her crate under the seat in front of me. When we had finally all settled down, I let her out and under my blanket and we flew in the dark and quiet night over the Atlantic and to a life that I couldn’t imagine.

Welcome to Charles de Gaulle Aeroport…Our bags arrived quickly and then we were on the van with just one other couple…American’s on a holiday…
Our stop was first…15 rue St Denis, a narrow one way street near the Seine on the right bank of Paris … the driver was annoyed at my heavy baggage so the man who rode with us helped me get it to the door… For 20 euros I was able to persuade the panini maker downstairs to carry my bags up the winding 6 flights of stairs…as I sat in the apt, just grateful that I was able to unlock the complicated French door I could hear his dismay…For the longest time after that I could barely make eye contact with him when I went past his shop. After Pondi and I sat just looking at the luggage and taking it all in, we went down rue St Denis and had a Chinese lunch, sitting at a table on the sidewalk like the Parisians we were to become.

The trip overnight, the Chinese lunch and the overwhelming reality of it all enveloped us and we fell asleep late in the afternoon in the little apartment at 15 rue St. Denis. When we woke up it was past 10p and I could hardly believe it but it was still light outside…something I had not known about this latitude…but the light was faded by 10:30 and we went back to bed…

The apartment was furnished, the very best thing being a large, almost wall size old mirror…it’s frame was painted a soft creamy beige almost like the wall and the glass of the mirror was the old type and was peeling from the back creating lots of dark stormy spots…so your image was faded and spotty…this made me like it even more…There was a chaise in front of mirror and during my time here I repeatedly covered it in different fabrics and changed it’s angles…it was a royal blue upholstery, a color that was never mine…nor were the rest of the furnishings in the apartment, but I knew that it would be only temporary…the furniture at least.

Every morning we would get up and look out our little windows and see the sun and feel the warmth that led us down the 6 flights of stairs and out onto the street below for another day of learning…all summer we walked day after day, rue après rue, we learned to ride le metro and the buses…we listened to conversations all around us and we began to know Paris and to feel that we were home and believe that we would never leave…we would see the planes flying overhead and feel sorry for those unfortunate enough to have to leave Paris. The summer days and nights passed under the skies of Paris and under the zinc rooftops of our apartment on the rue St. Denis.

Marche Aux Puces, The Paris Flea Market

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Paris November 10 097

Metros and Markets with Musty Memories

 

Saturday mornings find me riding the Line 13 metro to the very south of Paris with some fellow early risers and a few familiar characters.  Many of the other passengers have suitcases and are heading to one of the two major train stations that our metro line passes through.   There are more often than not a couple of familiar characters as well along for the ride including an older woman always wearing the same faded and torn jeans, with long matted hair and a wide toothless grin who sings and smiles with such joy and energy even before most of the city is awake.  Perhaps she was flower child many years ago, as she seems to still embrace the spirit of that era.  There is a man in a grey ribbed sweater who always announces at the back of the car his plight of lack of work ending with a request for a small donation after which he quickly passes down the aisle then out the door at the next stop leaving behind him the scent of the many Saturday mornings his sweater has seen. 

 

There are 18 stops on the metro from my apartment in the north of the city to my destination and the reason for my being up at such an early hour on a Saturday.  Stepping off the now very familiar train and heading past the stairs through the glass doors to the escalator, turning right and down a corridor, always looking at the new posters that have changed since the previous week announcing concerts, discounts at local groceries and cell phone offers, my fellow passengers and I flow like a herd of sheep through the underground tunnel.  A steep climb up the narrow steps leading to the waiting sunlight, or sometimes misty rain, a sharp right and I am on the street just inside the ring road the surrounds the whole of Paris. 

 

The first shop to greet me is a florist who is often just pushing out her carts of seasonal beauties onto the sidewalk, her little dog watching.  Next door is the old timeworn café’ and bakery where in the warmer months patrons fill the sidewalks as they do in virtually every café in the city, smoking and drinking coffee from tiny almost child sized ceramic cups.  The newsstand is next and then you cross the street to the beginning of blocks and blocks of antique treasures awaiting.  Each Saturday, for as long as I can remember I have come to this Marche Aux Puces, usually spending several wonderful hours and an equal amount of euros combing through the remnants of Paris past.

 

The merchants and dealers, by in large, remain the same from week to week and year to year with occasional new faces coming and going.  Some are cheerful and smiling while others look as tired and worn as their wares and yet others as serious and reverent as the antique vestments and crucifix’s that cover their tables.   Every week there are, among my fellow shoppers, a fairly large amount of young Japanese who pour endlessly over boxes of vintage plastic key chains, old cards of buttons and sewing items, bits and pieces of antique lace and anything else that is very small.  I always wonder why their focus is on these tiny treasures and can only imagine in their crowded lives back in Japan that there is not much room for anything of a larger size.  Also among us are the Americans of course, which you can’t miss by their voices, most always rising above the rest of the crowd and hovering in the air as an echo.  The rest of the crowd is rounded out by the French of course and other travelers from all over the world.  Very often you will hear familiar things being said repeatedly by both dealer and buyer. The excellent condition of the item is noted as bon etat, and there is the always constant comment on the very fair price which is ne pas cher.  There are always quite a few elderly men looking through the mountains of old books and peering with squinty eyes at the bottoms of china or silver urns and trays. 

 

The flea market goes for blocks and there are hundreds of different stands usually covered by a large folding umbrellas.  The umbrellas have long metal feet that splay out beneath and beyond the tables holding the wares and almost always cause someone, usually me, to trip in a very ungracious fashion.  Most of the dealers put their items out on long narrow tables or display them in small, often antique glass cases.  Some however, put out rows of plastic milk crates full of musty, moldy and mildewing tidbits which people throng to with great anticipation.  Seeing the behinds of my fellow shoppers up in the air, heads down and elbows flying always makes me grin as in France most people would never assume such an unflattering position in public otherwise.  I too have participated in this ritual but have found that most often it is not worth the backache involved.  Sticking to the tabletop treasures has always worked out best in the end. 

 

Among all of the business at hand there is a sense of community, which is evident by the laughter and familiar greetings.   Dogs join both the dealers and shoppers in the market and are well behaved and gentle for the most part.  They pad along behind their people, patiently waiting as the owner mulls over the item and often has lengthy conversations about with the merchant.  The dogs that belong to the merchants sit curled up under the tables, or in the winter often on blankets with small heaters aimed at them.  Sometimes they are sitting in the backs of the vans and cars parked just behind the tables and only rarely bark as they have seen many, many such Saturdays and realize there is nothing new to bark at.  These are true old hands at the flea market.

 

One of the best things about the market is, being French of course, the food and its consumption.  It is common practice for the dealers and merchants to set up small tables complete with tablecloths, china and silver and serve a lovely lunch right in the midst of what most would find a rather chaotic setting.  Meals appear almost from nowhere and it is hard to understand how such a lovely cuisine could come from the back of an old rusty van, but it does.  It is not uncommon for the wine to be uncorked very early in the morning, though most recently boxes of wine have begun to make an appearance, of course served in a proper glass, no plastic cups please!  Cheeses, sausages and other yummy delicacies are passed around from dealer to dealer with several sometimes joining together for the meal.  Those who are too far to keep an eye on their tables just cover them with tarps or cloths and enjoy the meal and companionship without concern for the business they may be losing.  It is obvious we are not in America!

 

By the time I get to the end of the flea market and to the end of my baguette with butter, jambon pays and cheese, I am ready to sit down and think about the treasures I bought, where I will place them in my little Parisian apartment or how much money they may bring at the online auctions that I often run.  I walk back out through the main row of venders, taking once last look to see if something new had found its way out of an almost forgotten box or corner of the van.  Turning around for a last look at the long row of activity, I cross the street and sit under the plastic shelter of the 95 bus stop.  When the bus arrives, which is usually does quite quickly, I climb aboard and gratefully sit by the window feeling the ache in my lower back.  Bags of treasures at my feet I prepare for the final ritual of this weekly event as the bus lurches forward and we begin the long journey back to the heart of Paris. 

 

We travel for what seems like several miles passing through some faded but charming residential sections of the city with people pulling their shopping caddies home from the market, then past the one large and hideous sky scraper that somehow snuck it’s way into the city some years ago and then past the ancient left bank historic quays and through the courtyard of the Louvre up to the doorstep of the Opera.  It is here that I get off, rested and ready too walk the rest of the way home reminding myself all the way that I am blessed to live in such a place as Paris.

Tallulah, Key West and Paris

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Lovie

TALLULAH 

It was another one of those Key West days, salty and warm, with a wind that blew mostly gently across the island.   It was a day just like the ones so many months before, before the move to Paris and the very unexpected return, or so it seemed, and then something marvelous began to unfold.  

Despite what we have all been told, it is possible to buy love.  In Key West, there is only one place where you could buy this kind of true love, and that was in a little shop, tucked in a plaza, on the wide boulevard leading to the heart of the island.   Next to this haven of hope, there was a pawnshop run by a short and stout man who wore lots and lots of gold chains and sold all sorts of nautical coins and seafaring booty so popular with the islanders.  And it was in this same plaza, that there was a store, filled with a multitude of things for just one dollar. You could buy your most basic needs there such as pot scrubbers in a 3 pack, generic brand toothpaste and rubber gloves in an assortment of colors, while at the same time fulfilling your most hidden and decadent desires with an unending selection of colorful and unusual costume jewelry, plastic and china figurines for every occasion and taste and décor as well as decorations for virtually any holiday imaginable.  When you lived on a tiny island such as Key West, which is over 150 miles from the nearest city, things in the dollar store looked amazing and priceless in a way they wouldn’t anywhere else.   Checking the inventory frequently there becomes a sort of passion and obsession for many people with far too much time on their hands, something which living in Key West affords most.   But by far, the best shop in the plaza was located between the pawnshop and the dollar store, across the boulevard from the Gulf of Mexico and the mangrove swamps that surround Key West. 

This was a shop full of little beating hearts, hearts that are full of the pure love that comes covered in fur.  The little creatures were lovingly collected from all over the country and even the world, and brought to the island several times a year by the owners of this emporium of love.  The couple left Key West several times a year and traveled in search of these little hearts, returning with a large crate full of furry, barking puppies.   The first few days after each one of these returns, the word spread across the island and you would find the shop full of people all staining to look into the crate and see these newest members of the community and possibly their family.  I was one of those puppies. 

Now, because I was so little, only about 7 weeks old I don’t really remember my long journey to Key West or anything that went before.   My memories begin the afternoon she came into the store.  I was hiding in the back of a high shiny crate in the corner behind all of the other unruly puppies trying desperately to find some peace and comfort.   I remember the yapping and wrestling all stopped when she came up to the crate and peered in.  Her face looked kind of sad, at least that was what I thought, but then there was a smile.   I heard her voice while the terrier, pug and dachshund resumed their play, forcing me further and further into the corner, and then the next thing that I knew I was being lifted out of the crate and placed on the floor next to all of the toys that were hanging on the wall.  When I looked up she was kneeling in front of me, hands out, and now an even bigger smile was on her face.  I was scared and froze where I sat thumping my tail on the floor.  She reached forward, scooped me up and held me close.   I had never felt anything that good before.  What I didn’t know then, was that I was not the first puppy that she had held this way, and that that puppy’s little heart ceased beating one day somewhere very far away, and that this was the reason that she was here, back in Key West and in the little shop that afternoon.    

She said something to the lady behind the counter as I was being carried back to the crate and this time the other puppies were even louder and wilder than before.  I was immediately ‘welcomed’ by them, much to my dismay, and I curled up as tight as I could back in the little corner just in time to see her give me a smile and walk out the door making the bell ring as it did each time someone went in or out of the store.  I went to sleep and didn’t think anything more until early, very early, the following morning while I was still warm and sleepy in a place, far, far away from the crate,  I felt someone lift me up from the furry pile and before I knew it I was being carried down the aisle toward the back of the shop where I could hear bigger dogs barking.  Before I could even grasp what my surroundings were, I was wet, soaking wet, and bubbles were closing in all around me.  Firm fingers were rubbing and rubbing me, over and over and bubbles were growing bigger and bigger, my heart was beating faster and faster, and just when I thought it would never stop a gush of warm water began raining down over me.  The bubbles disappeared and the fingers wrapped around me again, but this time with a soft blanket of a towel that covered me so that it was dark and I felt safe at last.  Safe that was until the towel fell away and a big, shiny silver tube appeared and a fierce wind, hot and dry began to blow and follow me no matter how I struggled to escape it…my poor fur!  

I do have to admit though, that soon I felt better, and a nice scratchy brush smoothed my wind blown fur and I could feel the bristles gently rub at my skin underneath.  It was then that I noticed, a very pleasant aroma. It was coming from me!  It certainly smelled better than anything in that crate!  So I guess this was all worth it.  The same hands scooped me up once again and back through the shop we went.  Oh no I thought, all this to just be put back in the crate with the very ones who were bent on my torture!   Past the tanks of fish, cages of birds and lizards, the rack of doggie toys where I sat just the day before when she was there.  Just when I thought surely I was going to be put back in that terrible crate, I saw her standing there, smiling and reaching toward me.  She took me, kissed me and said, ‘there she is!’ and I knew that this was the beginning of something very wonderful.  I looked at her with my biggest eyes which is the way I speak and told her my name was Tallulah. 

Then, while I was enjoying this wonderful moment, she handed me to a man who was not smiling at all and whose hands were hard and rough and who just looked at me with no expression whatsoever.  She continued to talk to the lady in the shop and the man took me out the door making the little bell ring and set me up high on some crates that were stacked on the sidewalk.  I looked back through the big window and saw her looking at some papers and then she came out the door, plucked me from the top of the crate, said something to the man, and we headed to the parking lot and a little green car with a tan top dropped down to let the sun come in. 

The three of us, with me in her lap, whirred out of the parking lot and onto the boulevard I had seen from the shop window.  The first couple of days were a blur as I was exhausted from the lack of sleep due to the constant motion of my former roommates in the crate.  We went to a place near the water where she and the man lived.  She kept me very close to her there as there were lots of big cats at this house.  One of the cats was always trying to get close to me and she took great care to prevent that from happening, tucking me up under her leg when we were on the sofa or at night in bed.  The cat was named Chopin and he would sneak around just waiting for a moment when she was not looking to bat me with his black paw of daggers.

Needless to say, I never took a liking to Chopin.   Then one day she put lots of things in the little car with the tan top and we drove off from the man’s house.  

I snuggled on her lap in the car again and we headed up a long highway, surrounded by the ocean on both sides, and the big pine trees that were leaning over from many, many years of gentle winds that blew across the chain of islands.  We drove for a very long time and soon the little road spilled out onto a big land with no ocean.   All around us were buildings, people and lots of signs.  It was not as pretty as Key West.   For several days we went from place to place on this big land where we visited lots of people.  Before I knew, it we were driving back to the little island, and when I woke up from my nap and looked out the window, I saw the long road with the ocean on either side of us and the bent pine trees and I knew we were close.   We moved to a little cottage in the heart of the little town on a street called Love Lane.   There were purple flowers all over the cottage and the little lane that led to it which covered the sky and the ground making a lovely shade everywhere.  My first meal was a lizard I found on the path to our house.  

One day, she started leaving in the morning, and would be gone for a very, very long time.  I didn’t understand this at all, nor did I like it, and I would be in the little cottage all by myself.   It was terrible, especially since I was too little to even see out the windows and watch the roosters and hens that scratched in our yard and I hated those papers that she put on the floor for me.    I rebelled and would pee on the tile just next to them instead.  But then just as it got dark, she would always come back, and we were so happy to see each other that the long day alone would fade away and we would go for a walk around the island.  At night we would climb into her big bed and fall fast asleep only to be awakened by the roosters and for the day to begin again.  Sometimes the man would come late but not often.  One of the last mornings I remember him being there he startled me and I peed in the bed which caused his face to look less pleasant than usual.  It wasn’t my fault she told him, but he didn’t seem to hear her. 

Early one morning, as I sadly sat and watched her prepare to leave, she reached down for me and much to my joy out the front door of the little cottage we went.  As we walked down the lane she said, ‘Tallulah, it is time for you to come to work with me.  I asked the owner and he said as long as you stayed in the office and did not bark, that you could come with me’.  Into the car and down the sleepy streets of the little island town we went that morning to what became a wonderful new life for us.  We spent many busy and contented days at the little hotel where we worked.  I met new people everyday and would sleep the afternoon away under the desk in the office after a long, exhausting games of ball on the long wooden front porch facing Duval Street. 

The days were passing and the man who never smiled quit coming to the apartment, which was just fine with me.  I liked it when just the two of us were there.  

It was now winter on the little island and it was very cold.  It was cold in our little cottage and cold at the hotel.   At the hotel we would huddle next to a little heater under the desk and she would rub her hands together and hold me close.  At home we would snuggle under the green velvet blanket on the big bed but we were always cold.  The guests at the hotel would come in the office and ask if we had any space heaters, but she always told them, ‘no, I am so sorry but we don’t have even one’ and we would both go back to huddling next to our secret heater. 

One day we didn’t go to the hotel.  Instead she put large suitcases packed with all sorts of things including my toys into the car and as much as I tried to ask her with my biggest eyes ‘what is going on’?   All she did was hug me close and say we were going to some place wonderful and that we would be very happy there.  Up the long highway again, the ocean on either side of us, the bent pine trees blowing a little more now in the wintry wind we went. When we reached the big land this time we drove straight to a place that had big silver birds parked everywhere.  At least that is what it looked like to me not knowing that much about birds, as I was never able to get close enough to really investigate one.    After a cozy night in a hotel nearby, where I had to be snuck inside in my own little suitcase, tucked between all of the other bags, we went to where all of the silver birds were parked.  After awhile,  we put all of the other bags on a long moving sidewalk and soon were walking down a long, long corridor to one of those big silver birds.  Inside were rows and rows of seats and lots and lots of people.  I was safe in my little bag where I could see everything and everyone and I was very excited…we both were.   She sat down and held me in my bag on her lap and told me over and over that we were going to have a wonderful adventure and I heard lots of people talking in a strange and beautiful way, and she told me it was called French and that where we were going, this is the way that people spoke.  Soon the big silver bird took flight with us inside and so did our hearts.

That First Summer in Paris

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So the days passed quickly….Pondicherry and I descending the stairs each day to walk the beautiful streets and ride the crowded buses of our new world…each night we would come home to our apartment on the rue St. Denis and lay in bed with aching legs…we were making a life and life was growing in the tiny window of our bathroom where I kept the little bleeding heart plant that I had bought on the nearby quai….and soon it was blooming much to my delight…just like our life in Paris was…many wonderful people came across my path that summer, first and foremost Gigi who has remained a lifelong friend, Brenda who I have sadly lost contact with and last saw the night I also lost Pondicherry months later, Lem who I have also lost contact with but who will never truly leave me….there was beautiful Vernita, amazing Adrian, creative Layla, awesome Alice and many more…5000 miles from 'home' and friends filled the days and nights in ways I had never known…it was a summer of true Paris magic that was to end too soon…a passing too quickly in more than one way…