Archive for February, 2013

I Can See You’re a Writer

February 28, 2013

She said, my new acquaintance, as we walked toward the Metro, Champs-Elysees Clemenceau, smiling at me.

I cocked my head and stopped mid-description, also taking personal note to come back to this particular Metro stop, there was some statuary I wanted to get a closer look at.

“You’re a storyteller, and I find myself wanting to listen, you have a way with words,” she concluded.

“Words with way, you have,” Steve Martin said.

Love me some Steve Martin.

We tumbled down the steps to the train station, I stopped right before the gates to dig through my purse to locate my wallet with my upgraded Navigo in it.

Another month in Paris.

Another month of Metro travel.

I get off on zooming through the gates, banging my wallet down on the scanner, listening to the bright beep that says, yes, you, yes, are allowed between these hallowed gates to ride the fabled Paris Metro trains, welcome.

The time saved on not having to buy tickets or stare in confusion at the signs or having to pester the train agents.

I have probably already saved a days time here in Paris just on the expediency upon which I move through the Metro.  I have even gone so far as to realize which cars I should get on to be at the right tunnel to make my connection or my exit.

Thereby avoiding the gaggle of Japanese tourists with their clatter of heavy paper bags, glossed and embossed with logos of high-end French finery, the occasional Gap or H&M plastic bag wrapped loosely in their grips, as they stand blocking the flow of foot traffic in front of the exit signs on the platform.

“Do you have a Navigo?”  She asked.

“Yup,” I replied, “upgraded for March and ready to go, just have to dig it out.”

“Zones 1 & 2?” She queried further.

I nodded my head.

“Excellent, on the weekends you can go beyond the periphery without charge, you are going to come out to my place in the country, I live in Fontainebleau.” She said as I finally located my wallet and swung it onto the scanner, which lit up with green arrows and a trill of payment, the gates open and I slid by.

Just like that, a weekend in the country.

This is what happens when you start talking books with someone.

This is what happens when I speak my truth, I get invited to country homes in France?

What the hell?

I am going to start speaking my truth all over the place.

I have writers honesty on my mind.

I have begun reading Stephen Kings “On Writing.”

No, that’s not correct, I am three-quarters finished with it.  I started reading it last night on the Metro.  I got in about thirty or forty pages.  Today I kicked through another hundred twenty pages.

I will be done with it tomorrow.

I am happy to report that I am already doing a lot, almost everything, that he is suggesting.

This is what I suspected when it was recommended to me by two people I hold in regard.

I did a number of google searches and the excerpts from the book as well as the continued literary acclaim had me convinced that I needed to read it.

I am a Stephen King fan.

I proudly admit that right here, right now.

I have been a King fan since the first book of his I picked up.

It.

I was too young to read it and you could not have stopped me from reading it anyhow.

I was too young to read a lot of things that I managed to get my hands on.

Dead Ringers, anyone?

Nothing about twin brother sadist gynecologists says fit for a ten-year old.

Ok, maybe I was eleven.

I know I was not twelve, the summer of my thirteenth year, I got my period.

I had read Dead Ringers the summer before.

I also read some Erica Jong too, before my mom caught onto the fact that her eldest daughter was pilfering books off her nightstand.

I read everything Stephen King had written that was in the library at DeForest High School.

I found the Bachman books, I found myself later identifying with the main character from the Long Walk in the book and reference it in my own book, Baby Girl.

My favorite high school history teacher, who was not abashed to admit he had actually voted for Nixon, would give me the tsk-tsk shake of his head whenever he saw that I was reading another King book.

“Ms. Martines, Mister King again?”  He would drift down the aisles looking at the presidents and posters of people of importance lining the classroom, “isn’t it time you read something else?”

I tried to hoodwink him when I found Talisman, a King/Peter Straub collaboration.

He was not fooled.

One day I trembled with anticipation waiting for my teacher to walk by.

I had finished all the Stephen King in the library and was now reading “One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich” by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.

“What trash are you reading today, Ms. Martines,” he asked lifting the title page off the desk with his wood pointer.

I have never seen eyebrows rise so high.

“Well,” he said, drawing out the word, “I must say I am pleasantly surprised, keep up the good work.”  He smiled at me and I roasted in his warm approval.

I still went off and read everything Stephen King I could find when given the chance, and in the horror genre add to that list all the Peter Straub and Dean Koontz I could get my hands on.  Koontz was an easy catch on, he was right next to King in the stacks.

I once said if I were to go to get a doctorate in English Literature or a Masters, I would do my final thesis on his oeuvre.

Hands down, no question.

If anyone has influenced my writing more, I probably could not tell you.

I read a lot.

A lot.

All part of being a writer.

I got my approval today, I have been allowing in more and more of it in my quest to become a better writer.  Reading is part of being a great writer.

Let me rephrase, a good writer.

I don’t know that I will be a great writer.

But I do know I will be a good writer.

I do it already for the sheer pleasure of it.  I moved across the world to sit at a folding table covered in green cloth with a bamboo stick mat on it with my computer and notebooks and pens to do it.

I sit on a folding chair in Paris.

I finally gave myself permission and you are not taking it away from me.

I am going to be a good writer.

I am.

I have a tool chest full of tools and I am practising every day.

Every day.

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Feeling the Love

February 27, 2013

I just came in.

I just came in and I tore open the package that was waiting for me.

I was punching in the door code to the hall entrance and it was though a little beep went off in my head, a little homing device was suddenly activated.  Something is here, what is it?

Where is it?

I checked the mail box, empty.

Wait, what is that?

Aha.

In the same box that I got my first package from the lover, another package, there, sitting in the bottom box, just a little too plump to fit in my mail box.

A gift.

Oh, my heart.

Blown open again.

I got photographs of me and the Bug, look I have blue hair! a box of tea, a Christmas card, and a little something, something.

Heh.

I wasn’t going to share, but I feel I must; I also got a bottle of my favorite lube–Liquid Silk–so unlike what I procured here early in my stay (meaning it doesn’t smell like European men on poppers and remorse) to help stave off the homesick.  Irony of irony, my room-mate made his reappearance today.  So, I won’t be breaking it out right away, but I know it is there.  Happily awaiting a private moment.

Big smile on my face.

Big.

God, I have good friends.

The tea was the kicker though, my favorite tea, I actually yelped out loud when I saw it.

Such a small little comfort and I am drinking a hot cup of it right now, Celestial Seasonings Bengal Spice tea.  I put the kettle on and ripped open the package.  The warm cinnamon spice smell drifted out and instantly I felt warm and cared for and snuggled.

The best cold February treat ever, ever.

Aside from a warm body to snuggle, or share the new bottle of lube with.

Ha.

I also was given a pound of Philz Coffee–Ambrosia of the Gods–this week from another San Francisco friend who is visiting.  Unfortunately it is in bean form and I do not have a grinder.  I am debating breaking down and buying one, but I am going to prowl about my Paris peeps for a few days and see if anyone has a grinder.

Fresh beans here are a rarity.

I believe I have only seen one store so far that actually had whole beans displayed.  They certainly do not have it like it is in SF, where I could get really picky if I wanted to.

“Oh, that was roasted last week, have anything fresher?”

And there usually was.

Sometimes it had been roasted that very day.

Spoiled.

I wonder if I can find a little hand grinder at a specialty store.  I will poke around, I have not given it a real hard look yet.

Adding on to the loot that I have received this week–two, count them two boxes of Pilot Gel 2 black ink pens.

PENS.

Good pens!

PENS!

I have my writing cut out for me.

My room-mate came back from San Francisco laden with some other awesome things as well.  He had dropped me a message asking if I wanted anything and I had asked for the tea and a certain kind of toothbrush.

He forgot the toothbrush and the tea and I did not give a fuck as soon as he said I got you pens.  I replied and said don’t worry about anything else.

I had no idea that he would get me two boxes plus the five solo ones he found at Flax.

I have, hold your breath, 29 new black gel pens.

I am peeing my pants with excitement.

Which is good, seeing as how I need to make room for more tea.

God damn it tastes good.

The presents continue.

I got books.

And notebooks.

Where to start?

Barnaby got together with Tanya.

Tanya has my few boxes of things, bits and pieces of my life, flotsam and jetsam, four boxes total, of photographs, art work, some personal effects, and my journals and the original rough drafts of Baby Girl, The Iowa Waltz, and Fatherless Madison (title still a work in progress, maybe I should just call it Madison.  DUH.  Why did that take years to figure out? Fuck. Madison. That is it.).

Barnaby picked up my rough drafts.  Since I finished Baby Girl, finally almost six and a half-years later, I am ready to work on the next piece and take it into second draft form.  I now have two manuscripts to work on.

And books.

Tanya sent me books!

My love, thank you so much.

I really feel like a writer at the moment, as I write my blog, surrounded by photographs of darling people I adore, with stacks of notebooks and boxes of pens and a little tower of books to read.

Living, really living the dream.

Writing in Paris.

Matters not that I lost both the baby sitting gigs I was supposed to have next week.

My brain was so unaffected.

I think it was because I got up earlier than it was expecting, 7 a.m., beating my disease way to the punch, I had coffee and was dressed before it had even stirred, to head out to Courbevoie and hang out with my Wednesday girl.

Who will be on vacation next week and she and the parents decided to go away.  They had originally planned to be here and I was going to have extra work.  Now they are not and I have none.

But, really, I have loads of work.

I have tons of reading to do.

I have to read my rough drafts and then prepare to take them into second drafts.

I am a little nervous, but I know how to do this.

I have had the practice now of going to the cafe and sitting and doing the editing work on Baby Girl.  There will be plenty of re-writing to do, I am sure, and of course, just getting the work out of my notebooks and into a document on my computer.

When I got the news that I no longer had the gigs I went right to a place of complete calm.

God must have something amazing happening for me next week.  My whole week has been cleared for adventure.  I can feel it coming.

It may just be the adventure of sitting in my favorite spot at Odette & Aime and reading and writing my heart the fuck out.

I am down for that.

Barnaby also picked me up a book that I had requested.  Yes, finally, I am now in possession of  Stephen King’s “On Writing”.

I am ready.

Bring it.

I began reading it today on my Metro ride over to 65 Quai D’Orsay.

I want to have it knocked off by this Saturday and I will follow all his suggestions.

I am a suggestion monster right now, you got one, I’ll take it.

I’ll take it with a hot cup of my favorite tea, I’ll use a new pen to write it down, and when I get tired of trying something new and scary, I’ll pause for a moment and read something wonderful to right (write) my world again.

I am loved.

I am loveable.

I am worthy of love.

Thank you.

Thank you my friends, I could not be doing any of this without your continued love and support.  I am not sure what I did to deserve it, but I am not going to turn it down.

No, in fact, I am going to go to town on it and drink up another cup of love right now.

In Paris.

Begone Self-Doubt

February 26, 2013

Get the fuck out my head.

I told a friend on the phone today that I was walking along and all the sudden my head sprang out of a dark, wet alley and bit me on the ass.

Not true.

My brain was up before the rest of me was awake, say maybe 15 minutes or so, twitching, like a cat about to pounce on a laser pointer.

Perfect metaphor.

By the way.

The cat one, chasing after a laser pointer light; chasing after something not real.

Instincts gone awry.

That little red spot is not a mouse.

Not anything worth pursuing, eating, or really playing with; however you can chase that light all day long, never catching it, getting more and more exhausted, until you give you and call in the cavalry.

I went for a swim, this helped quite a bit.

I got out of my head for an hour and into the pool.

The quick gliding stroke along the bottom of the pool right before the tightness in my chest forces me to rise and breathe in air.  There is a space there where all is quiet, blue lit serene.

To quote my friend Calvin, “SERENITY NOW!”

He says it just like that, all caps.

I laughed at myself when I left Corinne a message detailing the crazy in my head before I headed off to the pool to get reprieve from the monsters up there.

She laughed later when we finally connected and said something that I had not ever heard before, or perhaps had not let myself hear, “you are doing all the work, so your disease is working overtime.”

I knew it.

Little fucker.

I knew you were up today before me, doing push ups, corralling the fear police, getting all decked out in your riot gear.

Note to self, there is no fire to put out.

None.

There is not even the picture of a burning log on a television screen to turn off.

Everything is alright, because it already is.

My head told me today, thanks for sharing!  That I was a shit writer, that no one wants to read my book, that I don’t know what I am doing (there is some truth in that, lies always come off better if they are wrapped up in a little white paper square of truth, like a sandwich wrapped up with a twist of string), that I will never write like so and so…fact is, I get to write like me and that is a huge gift.  

My voice.

I have a voice and I use it.

I express it.

Of course I won’t write like so and so.

I don’t really want to.

I want to write like me.

Oh, I want the success of that writer or this writer.  I want to see my books, yes I said books, up on a shelf in Shakespeare and Company.  Hell, I want to give a reading there.

Preferably when it is warm.

Just hang in there, Martines, the weather is going to change.  Spring is a comin’.

To tell myself that I am not a good writer or that I can’t do it is bullshit.

I am doing it.

I went through and counted how many queries I have sent out since I finished the book–32 total.

My friend suggested that I stop at 40, to represent the new me at 40 in Paris, and I like that. I sent another off today, 33, and that means I have about seven left to do.  Then I will start doing follow-up e-mails.

I have also applied to contests, have submitted my short stories, and an essay, as well as written, still in draft form, a blog for  a new blog a friend is starting (which, I shall also count a success, to not only be asked, but to be asked to be a continuing contributor.  How nice is that?), I have applied to work jobs here in Paris.

And yesterday I also applied to work at the first 24 hour a day English-speaking radio station in Paris.  It is going to be launching in Spring/Summer.  I have some experience writing pieces from when I was a radio news intern at KQED in San Francisco.

It is not a paid position, but it will get me writing more pieces, as well as getting my voice, literally out there.  Anything at this point feels like I have to try it.

I was a little bummed out, I realized, today, a bit defeated after listening to my friend yesterday at Shakespeare and Company.  I believe this is where my head was mining for treasure this morning, up having a double espresso while I was still laying in bed, it lay in waiting, ready to pounce, ready to beat me with the Oak stick.

Corinne made a suggestion today about not beating myself up and I am going to try it.

In fact, pause here, to take a breath and do it.

There.

Breathe.

And again.

Nobody beats up Baby, er puts her in a corner.

Meh.

I am putting down the stick, I am dropping the red light beam of inscrutability and I am allowing myself this moment, here, after my swim, after my dinner, a shower, and a hot cup  of tea, in Paris, in February, thank God you are a short month you brutal little fuck, and give myself a pat on the back instead.

I am doing alright.

I am doing better than alright.

I am allowing myself to have experiences and to learn and I leapt.

Damn it, I deserve to allow myself that.

I leapt.

Of course I brought my brain with me, and I had been warned that little monster would make an appearance, and now I am seeing what Corinne means, I am doing the work and getting out there and taking suggestions.

My brain is so fucking afraid of success.

If I succeed there will be no more tender moments of self-flagellation.

What the hell would life look like then?

I don’t know, but I am going to start finding out.

Right now.

 

Keep Swimming

February 25, 2013

Keep pushing.

Keep submitting.

“How many queries have you sent out,” she asked me from the deep-seated chair snuck up against the second story window in Shakespeare and Company.

I rapidly flicked through the e-mails in my head.

“About thirty, maybe forty,” I said after a moment’s calculations.

“After you hit fifty, stop and start doing follow-up e-mails,” she said with a smile, “that’ll keep you busy for the next few months.”

Sigh.

Yes, it will.

“Have you gotten any response?” She asked, the light glinting off her glasses, I noticed the miniature frame of the window in her frames and then the snow drift that fell from the swollen grey lowering sky.

I shared the response, mostly no’s and one agent in Connecticut who asked for the entire book.

“Push her, follow-up,” she said, leaning forward out of the chair.

The door behind me opened and an employee of the book store came out with a small black and white Holstein, no, wait that is a baby French Bulldog.

Oh, I want one.

I want a little Frenchie to nestle in my lap as I read books in a corner of Shakespeare and Company, really on a cold day there are only a few places more appealing than a warm book store with corners and cubbies and nooks, one in which a stand up piano was softly being played and a woman with a halting French accent picked out a tune on the yellowed keys.

Maybe a warm cafe.

Shakespeare and Company should also open a cafe.

I am sure they have heard that before.

Maybe I could open my own.

Or I could just style a salon in my home, I will have a home someday in Paris, a home with a library and deep cozy chairs and a fireplace to warm up the toes on.

Ah dreams.

Ah, the dreams I get to currently live.

The experience of being here, even when I have no idea how long or wherefore after, I have this, I have had three and a half months in Paris.

Wintery Paris.

Snowy wet cold grey slate salt ice crackled frost white bare branched windy Paris.

Imagine how it will be in Spring.

Just hang in there this month is almost over.

On one hand I don’t want March to come, I don’t want to think past these last few days of my rent being paid and then back in the boat of scrapping and scrabbling.

A friend from San Francisco is here and we had lunch today at le Comptoir de L’Arc, thank you for the treat!  And I expressed that no I don’t know what I am doing, or where I am going, or how I am going to get there.  But I have this, these experiences.

And this is worth an awful lot.

I am happy.

I am happy despite what my writer friend said to me in the book store.

She did not paint the brightest of pictures.

She described the challenge of being a writer and how she has gone about it.  The more she talked the more I was in awe that there were even any books that ever did get published.  Looking at the titles on the bookshelves, how did they do it?

I tried to keep the frown of my face, I sighed.

“The market is over saturated,” she continued, “there’s a lot of books out there like your book.”

Memoir that is.

She’s right, the market probably is over saturated, but when have I cared for odds?

Never.

She did say to keep swimming, she did say it would change, she did say there would be a yes, she said, follow-up, then follow-up, then follow-up again.  Hit your 50 queries and start bugging people.

Annoy them.

Pester.

The person who gets published is often the person who does not give up.

I am not about to give up.

I am here in Paris after all, past the point of my tourist Visa, past the point of my savings, slipping on and off the Metro and transferring stations all over the city to get to a baby sitting gig here or there or elsewhere, just so that I can be here, getting a lunch here from a friend, a small gift of money from another friend via Paypal, a few euro in the mail.

I am getting to live so in the present, that I am constantly being showered with gifts.

Sometimes they look like snow flurries falling through the glazed pane windows of a book shop on the Left Bank in Paris.  I won’t forget the snow falling along the lamp-post of Pont Neuf, or the way the spire of Notre Dame raises up, almost supporting the heavy mass of grey clouds.

Then she said the magic words, words I was waiting for more than perhaps the hows and whats and whys of publishing (honestly after the talk I had no idea if I was meant to be a published author at all) or whether I will get published at all…and then she said,

“you’re a great writer.”

I inwardly heaved a sigh.

Yes, I want to be a published writer living on my words, getting advances and royalties and options and all the stuff she was talking about, yes, drench my ego in the financial glory of glittery literary stardom.

Fete me damn it.

Yet, what I want more, much more, is to be a good writer.

I accept that I may not have the kind of financial success that I dream of.

I have, however, had success.

I have had another person pick up the book and say, you are a good writer.

“You are a great writer, don’t stop writing.”

I am a great writer in Paris.

I’ll keep swimming with that kind of motivation.

That was the push I needed to send out another query today, number 37 (random, arbitrary number I just pulled out of my ass, I have no idea to the number how many I have sent out since I finished the book) toward the next step in the long process of getting published.

I will get published.

I will.

In Paris.

Persevere

February 24, 2013

That is what I heard today.

Yes.

Continue.

Just because I cannot see what lies around the next bend of the road does not mean I need to lie down in the middle of that road and give in.

I can.

I will.

Continue to persevere.

Especially after I ran into K. today.

We were supposed to meet up on Friday at Shakespeare and Company and talk writing and books and what not.  She was unable to make it, we rescheduled and I have her down tomorrow to meet with; of course, it would happen to coincide with another visitor from San Francisco!

I cannot believe how many people from San Francisco I am getting to see.

I gave out instructions and directions today to this friend as she was arriving today into town to stay, at of all places, the Hilton at La Defense.

I know exactly where that is.

I go by it once a week on my way to my baby sitting gig in Courbevoie.

I was able to tell her exactly what line to take into the city tomorrow, what Metro stop to get off at, where to cross the street, which street, walk two blocks, turn right, open door, up three sets of steps, and voila!

I will see you at noon on Avenue George V.

Of course I would have made plans to meet with K. at Shakespeare and Company.

Of course.

I thought about cancelling, rescheduling, negotiating.

I thought about it, then she said the magic words, the sentence that has stuck in my head all day long since she mouthed it this morning.

“I started reading your book, I’m up to page 56, I didn’t want to stop to come here,” she paused with a bright smile.  “I wanted to keep reading.”

The highest flattery to a writer’s ears.

At least to this writer’s ears.

I wanted to read more.

Magic words.

Words that made up my mind than and there to keep my date with her.

I did tell her, however, that another friend was in town and I would be having coffee with this friend at 2pm.  I would make the Shakespeare and Company date, but I would be a little late.

I eagerly, nervously, await her thoughts.

On the writing front, I continue to send out queries.

I sent out two today, unfortunately the first one got bounced back, the e-mail address was incorrect from the data base I am now working with.  I did not feel like sending out another.

Then I saw a post from my friend Beth, congratulating and acknowledging my work.

That quickly made my mind up for me, yes, that’s right, I do seek approval from my peers.

But in this case I don’t care if it is a defect of character, it got me to send out another query.

I also went for a swim today.

First time in three tries that the pool was open.

I swam for about an hour.

It was good for me to get out of my head, into the pool, and just paddle about.

The lanes were not too crowded, despite their being in all three of the open swim lanes, an elderly man or woman, sometimes both, doing some hang-dog version of a back stroke.

I slowed down to a crawl, not the crawl as I would have crashed right on into her, but literally a drifting breaststroke of the barest bit of movement, while in front of me this woman paddled painfully on her back like a frog with her red capped head bobbing up and down in the water.

She had the right side of the lane and grandpa side stroke had the left side.

The traffic jam was behind me a mess of swimmers with kick boards and pull buoys waiting impatiently for the moment where we could all slip through the slow morass.

I have found myself becoming more patient with the slow swimmers, letting myself slow down as well, or flip over and do a back stroke instead–which is my slowest stroke.

I debated in my head what I would write about today.

Would I come back to the house and hide out?

Or would I venture on down the road to Odette & Aime and tackle some reading and writing?

What would I do if I weren’t afraid?

I would go sit my ass down at a table and let whatever comes, come.

I would persevere, despite not having heard from any of the queries I have been sending out.  I would continue with the path, knowing only this, if I didn’t what was the point of coming to Paris?

Maybe it was only to be in the cafe, sitting at a table watching the snow flurries drift down.

Settled against a black leatherette chair with the remnants of my cafe creme in a cup on the table, the blog written (still to be proofed and sent–not this blog, this blog I am writing in real-time and in approximately two to three hundred words I will post up–the blog my friend requested on being 40), I went to open the new book I am reading.

I get an hour of time to read, I grant myself that, often times I get it riding the Metro, but if I have spent the money to get a cafe at the cafe, I am going to do some reading as well.  It is easier to read in the cafe than at the house as well, I feel the need to do it.

I stayed at the table, occasionally lifting my eyes off the printed paper to watch the snow flutter down, or notice that the person striding past the cafe had been walking for some time, the accumulation of snow on his head a cap of white against his tight black curls.

I thought of Cafe Montmartre in Madison.

I remember this one night, which is the one night that my brain likes to have romanticized.

It was January, winter break, the students were gone.  The city was quiet, defiantly belonging to the locals, and shrouded in heavy snow.

The side walks were treacherous and the cars were stranded.

The plows were working over time and then some.

The boyfriend and I bundled up and waded through the drifts to the bar.

I will always remember, for whatever reason, the smell of the bar as we walked in, the wood plank bench, the cafe table we sat at along the wall.  We had Baileys and Frangelico in snifters over ice.  The snow fell, liquid jazz played on the stereo, Thelonious Monk piano notes splattered slowly against my ear drums and the booze heated my feet.

The candles were lit.

The sodium street lights haloed the snow fall.

The bartender polished glasses.

The cocktail waitress paid us just the right amount of attention.

We nestled in the nook, glazed with sweet liqueurs, snow fall, jazz, and the smell of candles burning.

I do not remember a word of the conversation.

But I would have said, this is it, this is the moment.

My whole life in this snifter of booze, creamy sweet, slick sliding down the balloon of glass, my love across from me in a t-shirt and flannel, wet snow shining in his hair, pulled back in a messy ponytail.

My life persevered.

I persevered.

That relationship shattered.

Then I am back, in this time, alone, but not lonely, kept company by the drifts of French spiraling around me, all in correct tense, and fluidly spoken, lyrically spoken, just the good nights and hello’s and how are you’s, flurries like the snow, falling about me.

I am sad for that girl, so in love with that boy.

Yet, I am cannot regret those moments, or any other, that led me here, in front of this computer,writing this blog.

In Paris.

 

Exhausting

February 23, 2013

I have gone through the entire Poets and Writers agent base and sent out a query to each and every agent that was accepting memoir submissions.

I am tired thinking about it.

Actually, there are still agents on the data base I could query, but it would be in bad taste, and not professional to query two agents in the same agency for the work.

That would pretty much cancel out my request to do that.

I started going to the next stack of agents that I can find.  I was given a data base that I have actually used before, and had lost the contacts to.

Opening up the agent base made me feel like crawling under the covers and skipping the whole damn thing.

Here is the database.

Basically everyone who is anyone in the literary world.

Of course, I still have to do research when using the date base.  I still have to go and look and see if the agent is first accepting queries, whether they accept e-mail queries, whether or not I have already queried them, which there are a few I have, what kind of material they are looking for.

I do not want to send a children’s book agent a memoir about smoking crack and being homeless.

Although that would be one darkly humourous children’s book, now wouldn’t it?

My god.

There’s an idea.

Children’s books.

I have had the thought before.

Writing children’s books, but I actually have no idea how to go about it.

Fuck, I have the barest of ideas how to go about what I am doing now.  I do not feel quite as blind as I did when I first started the process, but I am still in the hallway and I have no idea where the light switch is.

Just fumbling around here folks, don’t pay no attention to me.

Actually, please pay some attention.

Please.

I feel like I put all my eggs in this basket, this writing basket, and this going to Paris basket.

Occasionally I wonder, what the fuck am I doing, then I just keep whistling in the dark and trying to stay warm.  It is cold here.  Snowed again today, although nothing heavy.  Had there been more moisture in the air it would have been a good snowfall, it is definitely cold enough for it to stick to the streets.

I just keep showing up here, at my desk/kitchen table and writing my morning pages and writing my blog.

I have been finding it challenging to do more than that.

There, I said it, my dirty secret is out.

I have been having a challenging time doing more.

Once I get a query out I feel fizzled.

I know I want to be producing more work, but I feel like I am doing the best I can right now with just getting to the blog and the morning pages and the queries.

Then I think, what if this is all for naught?

Then I think so what?

What if it is?

At least I am trying.

If the writing thing does not work out, which it might not, let’s be honest, it may not.

Something else will.

I will write anyway.

I cannot see ever letting my blog go, I really feel connected to it and the forum and the way my fingers fly over the keyboard.  My day does not feel complete without writing the blog.  So too, the morning pages.  If I am having a challenging time doing more, than that is ok.

I can be easy on myself, three and a half months into the Paris experiment, I am making progress.  I am.  I also will acknowledge that I am doing other writing.  Other kinds of work, which is more important, ultimately, than this.

I cannot do the writing without doing the other work.

So, I wrote some letters today and some e-mails and took some steps toward amending my behaviours.  Not as many to write as there were in the past and nothing direct to do, which is nice, and I don’t owe any money to anyone.

It is freeing to have them out-of-the-way.

So, there, brain, I did do writing today that was beyond the scope of my blog and morning pages, blow me you little bastard.

I also cleaned, the room-mate is back tomorrow, and I re-arranged the living space so that we would have more communal space.  I tossed a lot of extraneous crap that other tenants have left and cleaned and re-arranged the closet that now has a lot of the unnecessary furniture that the apartment has an abundance of.  I did laundry too.

I tried to go to the pool for a swim this afternoon, but it was closed again.

I think there must be some sort of school holiday coming up.

I also know that I have writing coming my way.

The blog for my friend and the manuscripts that my room-mate picked up for me from San Francisco.  I will be able to go and work on those.  There really is no end to the writing.  I have to move out from this place of fear and just muddle through some more.

Things change.

I am changing.

Love is happening.

And it may be cold right now and I may not be getting the response I want, but things are in the works, I know it.  I am not about to throw in the towel yet, not yet, no.  I still have things to do here in Paris.

I still have words to write.

Even when I think I have exhausted my brain, I can see that there is still more to come and more that will be revealed.  I am blessed, especially when I get the fuck out of my own way.

Here, in Paris.

Prep Time

February 22, 2013

I am going to do a little research.

Ok.

That was depressing.

I googled “woman age 40 stats”.

I have to say I am not fond of what I found.  Nor am I of the opinion that what mostly popped up was in any way applicable to me.

Either I am a raving lunatic who must make baby now.

Or.

I am losing my sex drive and have nothing to look forward to but the ravages of menopause.

I say fuck you to both those things.

I have been letting my thoughts percolate this week on the subject of being a woman of 40.  A topic I feel like I have done a lot of thinking about and a lot of playing with for this last year.  However, since I was asked to participate in this blog project, I have been coming back to it again and again.

Doing some sorting out of what makes me tick at 40 and what differences I see in my life and whether that has anything to do with anything regarding the actuality of what the age means to the society at large.

I don’t read a lot of papers.

I don’t watch the news.

I don’t get women’s magazines.

I do read “Voici” when I go babysit.

It is this hysterical French gossip rag.

I don’t have to understand much French to understand the scope of the magazine.

Besides the pictures really are worth a 1,000 words.

Not that the articles accompanying them are ever that long.

I have preconceived ideas, I suppose, of what 40 should look like.

It just looks like me.

My scope is limited.  Maybe I don’t have the same kinds of pressure to perform, to juggle marriage, children, career.

Working in a bike shop was a career, of sorts, I suppose, as is babysitting.  But they are certainly not the careers I think I would have seen myself pursuing at this age.  I just see what I am doing and think that it’s what I am doing.  It does not have much to do with my age.

When my age comes up for me it is generally a stick to beat myself with, as in I should be this, this, this, that and the other, like women I see who are my age.

I don’t look like women my age or act like women my age.

I just act like Carmen.

Do I need to put an age on that?

Do I need a signifier to go forward?

Nope.

The age has brought wisdom.

That I will give it, wisdom which comes with experience.

There is nothing I would go back and change, though.

No.

I like this me.

I like the work I have done to get here.

That is what I believe I will end up writing about for the blog project, the last year in a kind of retrospective, what happened to get me to Paris.  How I let go of things, the couch surfing at Calvin’s, the change of jobs, the losing the cats, the house siting in Oakland, the Lover, the Mister, the dating, the sex, the Burning Man, the service, the roll on suitcase.

I was also asked to be a contributor beyond the initial blog.

Which has me thinking too.

What goals do I have for myself, what am I doing now, where do I plan on going, how to move forward with my most authenticated self.  How to not care that I am 40 and acting like a student on holiday.

Well, actually, perhaps not acting like a student on holiday, the posters of the movie “Spring Breakers” in the Metro are cracking me up.  I am no spring breaker or spring chicken.

But I still get from here to there with a messenger bag, the new “back pack” oft-times and I am looking at Europe through the eyes of a student on vacation.

I found out through a friend recently about a train that runs from Paris to Florence/Milan/Rome/Venice called Thello and it costs, wait for it….

35 Euro one way.

That means for 70 Euro I can go back and forth to Venice.

VENICE.

I can take an over night sleeper train for 35 Euro and go to Venice.

That is something.

I am going to do.

I have been writing I am a world traveller in my daily affirmations for what feels like years now and Venice is one of the places I have always wanted to go.  I could go for a weekend.

Walk, stay in a hostel, maybe couch surf, take a gondola, go to a museum, watch the light and see what the sky looks like in Venice.

70 Euro.

Less than what it cost me to go to London and back.

I want in.

Of course I am still looking for Euro for rent for next month and food and all that jazz.

But 70 Euro?

How can I not do that?

I also do not know when or how things are going to change.

But they are.

That too is something that being 40 has given me.

This utter belief that if I show up things work their way out.  They don’t always work out how I think they ought to or the way I had suspected they would.  No, the world spins to a different tune than the one the dj in my brain box has playing.

It is a better song to dance to, frankly, I get tired of the station my head plays.

Reality when I show up for it is fantastic.

I am doing the work.

Corinne pointed that out to me tonight as I sat on the couch rocking the baby and shedding a few tears, mostly tears of frustration over the thoughts I beat myself with, the 40-year-old stick that I need to retire.  “Your really do the work,” she said.

Firm.

Strong.

No bullshit.

I can always push harder and try harder and exhaust myself and wrack my brains with schemes.  Or I can just soften myself, lay down the bat, just because I have been using it for 40 years does not mean that I have to use it for the next 40.

I am not even middle-aged yet.

One day I will look at where I am now and see that it was all exactly the way it was supposed to be.

Because it already is.

Did That Just Happen?

February 21, 2013

I walked into Bert’s cafe today, on Avenue Marceau, and was waiting in line, when a friend bounded over.

“No way,” she said, “you have to come here, I have to show you something, I was just about to message you.”

In fact, later, I pulled out my phone and there was indeed a message sent from her, confirming our tentative plans to meet tomorrow at Shakespeare and Company and talk writing.

I got my cafe americain and went to her table.

She was tucked away in the back waiting for her husband to bring her a brownie.

Good husband.

I looked down at her table and did a double take.

My entire body broke out in goose-flesh.

There it was.

My book.

Printed.

“Oh, my gosh, that is so weird for me to see,” I said trying to unsuccessfully not look down, not alert the entire cafe, not say anything too loud, too obnoxious, too American.

Which it was probably too late for that anyhow.

Especially as I was decked out today in my hot pink sweater.

There it was, my book.  My brain was still taking in the information.

Just a stack of pages.

I have seen it printed off before, in fact, I have a few copies of it in 4th and 5th draft printed off.  As well as the third draft and there are at least three copies of the second draft out there too.

Yet, here, to see my book, granted not bound, but the book I wrote, sitting on a cafe table in Paris.  I think a little part of my soul jumped up and down on the trampoline of my heart and shouted,

“I have arrived, motherfuckers!”

It was like Samuel L. Jackson all “Royale with Cheese,” Pulp Fiction style.

That was inside.

Outside, I played it cool.

Or I thought I was until I caught my big grin in the mirror and how my feet danced me out the door after we had discussed what time we were going to meet up at the book store tomorrow.  I wanted to stay and chat but another friend from San Francisco had arrived and I was back out to the cafe tables under the awnings to catch up and drink coffee before heading out to the Eiffel Tower.

I ended up doing a small dance of joy around the table, plopped myself down, and drank the coffee while it was still hot.  We made decisions on where to go and soon thereafter headed to the tower.

It was blazing cold.

It got right into my bones.

Worse, it got right into my feet, which are still, still not warmed up yet, and that was around 3p.m.  This is what it means to be old.  Not the number, not the attitude, not the way I feel, or the emotions I show, or the glee, it’s this.  My feet got cold and like a little old lady I needed a scarf and a hot water bottle stat.

It does not happen that often, but when my extremities get cold, I am seriously screwed.

I just made another hot cup of tea and thought for a moment of putting my feet in the cup.

Not that they would fit.

But yes, that’s the gist of it, old lady cold feet.

That’s how you can tell my age.

A friend was telling me last week that women who wear socks while having sex actually experience a higher rate of orgasms.

Totally makes sense to me.

First of all, I don’t want to have sex if my fee are cold, I’m tense.

If I am tense, my body is not relaxed, of course I won’t reach climax.

Thus the ladies wearing the socks will get off.

Perhaps this is why so many women fake orgasm.

Their feet are cold.

Who wants to have sex with socks on?

You don’t take off your socks to fuck me, you’re not getting any.

Just in case you were wondering.

My desire to do anything today petered out right quick when my feet got cold, the rest of me got cold, and it did not matter that my friends were here, I just wanted to get home, warm up, eat hot food.  In fact, I went to the store and bought “comfort” food.

Like making pan-fried garlic potatoes and pan roasted chicken will heat up my feet.

Maybe if I stick them in the pan.

They would probably fit in the pan, at least better than my tea-cup.

It would be close though.

The food almost worked.

I am still a little chilled, the downstairs part of the apartment is drafty too, so, once this blog is finished, the not so secret secret?

I’m going to get into my bed and hope my feet warm up under the covers.

The weird thing, once they are warm, they are super hot and it’s like I have had my body charged up.  I’ll need to take off layers to get my body temp back to a sort of equilibrium.  But until that happens, socks, slippers, and yes, soon, a throw blanket draped over my lap, old lady style.

Thank you very much.

This old lady can still dance a jig though, and cold feet or no cold feet, I will be walking my ass over to Shakespeare and Company tomorrow to find out what my friend thought of my memoir.

I almost don’t want to know.

I can see the manuscript with a bunch of red lines and comments and question marks.

That’s the way the fear goes.

It’s an honor to have some one read it.  An honor too, as she has been published, her book is out there.  She is a writer.  I can use her suggestions.  So, go I will, cold feet and all.

Appropriate metaphors amply supplied by Paris weather, not by author.

Grey Hair and Stiff Arms

February 20, 2013

That is what 40 means to me.

I looked in the mirror today and saw another little grey hair sprouting from the temple.

Out damn spot!

It is, of course, only noticeable to me.

It is also, number three of the grey hairs.

Truly, only three grey hairs and I am 40.

Not bad.

The stiff hands though, are starting to get me a little concerned.  My mom has had arthritis for a long while now.  Although I do not quite understand how it has manifested for her, she has had a number of other health issues and I am not really up on all of them.

I actually think the stiff hands are a by-product of the amount of typing and writing that I have been doing since I came to Paris.  I write constantly.

When I am not baby sitting.

And then I write when I am babysitting, should the timing allow, as it is tonight.

I am out in the suburbs, not once, but twice today.  When I look at my commute time for the day it factors in around three and a half hours door to door to door to door.

I left the house this morning at 8 a.m. came back at 2:15 p.m. had a late lunch, did some photo editing, posted up the photography blog here, did some research around agents, sent a query, then packed the computer, the book, and the dinner in my messenger bag and headed off again to the Metro at 6 p.m.

I will get home around midnight, maybe later.

I brought the computer with me.

I have some commitments tomorrow I have to make and the thought of coming back to the house after having spent that much time on the Metro to sit down and write a blog, made me think twice about getting on the trains during commuter rush hour with my computer; I decided it was well worth the hassle of having my laptop on me.

Grateful I did.

I am zonked out.

I do not feel like I have much to write about.

I have also been thinking about what to write about for a friends blog.

She asked me to contribute to a forum about turning 40.

What does that mean to me?

Aside from the slight annoyance that at this stage in the game I still get acne and I have three grey hairs.

I don’t feel 40.

I don’t particularly act like I am 40.

I do not believe I think like I am 40 either.

Then again I do not believe that I do a lot of things in general like the masses.

I was taken with something a friend said to me yesterday.

First, was that I was a talented writer, his words were amazing, so I’ll just use those, and he said that my chances of making it were better than most.  Simply because I decided to leap.  That most people do not.  They don’t try, they don’t go, they don’t buy tickets half way around the world with no clear idea how to proceed.

I feel like I am constantly walking into this darkness.

I know there is light, but I tend to feel like it is emanating from me.

Not that I am headed towards it.

I am the source.

Does that make me a typical 40-year-old?

I do not believe so.

I have been grappling with the idea and find that I don’t often care what people think of my age, except that I still find it endearing when someone thinks I am younger than I am.

The father of my charge from Courbevoie was taken aback to find that I was older than he was.  What is a 40-year-old American woman doing picking up part-time baby sitting gigs in the Paris suburbs?

Living the dream.

Maybe that is what makes me 40.

Not necessarily that I am doing something 40 year olds do, I am sure there are other 40-year-old baby sitters, of course there are.  However, what the age thing has to do is not so much the number of years on the tree, but rather just the accumulation of time which has garnered me a faint bit of wisdom.

I have the experience behind me which clearly dictates that I am not a product of my age, but of my journey.  I am not my job, but what I do.

I am a writer.

I am not a babysitter.  I no longer, for the most part, correlate who I am with what job I do.

The job is a job.

Who I am is a brave woman.

Scared, yes.

But brave as well with a perspective on myself that I would not have except for having aged into it.

Does that qualify as 40?

Or 50?

Or 60?

When will I feel like an adult?

When will I not have a slight fetishistic fascination with Hello Kitty?

Or the color pink in my wardrobe?

Or sparkles for that matter.

Ah, I know what makes me 40.

It is my, I don’t care what you “thinkness”.  Because if I did maybe I would take the glitter out of my clothing choices.  Maybe I would not flirt with the 25 year olds.

Then again, as I was told recently, “you would rock a 23 year olds world.”

I dare say I might.

Not that I have any presenting at the moment.

40.

I still have not quite grasped it.

Perhaps by the time my friend needs her blog I will have come to some sort of conclusion.

I am a 40-year-old in name only, with my fixed gear bike, my tattoos of stars, butterflies, dragons, and one small pink jack-a-lope, with my school girl dreams, and yes crushes, with the insouciant  nature I still count myself fortunate to have, and the picture of me in my own minds eye scuffling through the fall leaves that first week in November when I landed in Paris.

Skipping through the leaves, kicking them up, doing a pirouette or four, and listening to music way too loud for any adult on my headphones as I walked along Quai D’Orsay in the twilight hours of a Saturday evening.

40 is looking pretty damn good if you ask me.

On Paris Time

February 19, 2013

Not on my time.

On the city’s time.

Which is almost like playa time, I told a friend of mine today as we stood next to one of the three Metro stops that our mutual friend might or might not be coming out of next to the Louvre.

“Like this, I’ll meet you a 9 o’clock between the big purple sun sculpture by the sound camp underneath the red and white shade structure, bring your kite.”

And then you show up and wait and wonder where are they?

I mean, really I gave perfect instructions.

Except it is Burning Man and there are 100 and 1 distractions and things to look at and the next thing you know you have fallen down a rabbit hole and you are on the other side of the playa in an art car with friends you randomly re-unite with at the monkey chant.

Except that it is Paris and just because you say “let’s meet by the Louvre,” it is not just meeting by the Louvre.

The Louvre is enormous.

The Metro stop has three different exits and despite standing next to the one I thought would be the most noticeable, my friend pointed out, “to you.”

Oh.

Shit.

He would not have even noticed it.  In fact, I realized once I had looked over the Metro stop again, although a gorgeous piece of the Paris landscape, it was only one of a thousand things to look at and it doesn’t look at all like a Metro stop.

Fortunately we all met up and all went well.

Despite getting a late start to the day, we were all together sitting in a cafe, with the sun shining down and the waiters bustling about.  My cafe allonge was quite lovely and my companions happily smoked cigarettes, ate baguette with Camembert and Jambon and tarte tatin.

Quintessential Paris.

It was lovely to get to be a part of the journey.

Surreal to be sitting with a couple of friends from San Francisco in Paris.

How small the world can be.

How large as well.

We walked everywhere and really did not cover that much ground.

That happens in Paris too.

You walk in circles.

You get turned around.

The skyline can be disorienting and until you get the gist of the landscape it is easy to wander around the same four block radius without making any kind of progress.

A simple trip to the Tabac can take you off schedule in moments as you scour the side streets for a place to buy your next packet of smokes.

Not that I am smoking, but my friends do and if you are in Paris it seems, if you smoke, you have to indulge, almost overindulge, as it is not as taboo to smoke here as it is in the States.

We all went to the Louvre, only to discover it is closed on Tuesdays.

This was news to me.

So, a slight detour, after of course, snapping some obligatory shots of the courtyard.

Musee de Louvre

Musee de Louvre

There is so much to see, that even after numerous times strolling through the area, I can always find something new to see.

Another photograph I must stop and take.

The blue of the sky reflected in the blue of the windows against the patina blue of the lamp-post; just there, and I must stop and take out the camera.

My camera may be one of the greatest investments I have ever made.

Shortly followed by my MAC book and my Iphone.

I still cannot believe that I am one of those people.

I am also one of those people who don’t really know what I am doing.  Sure, I can get connected to the internet, but once there I can almost never tell you how to do the same thing.

I struggled trying to co-ordinate coordinates and phones and internet and help my friend get from here to there.

Things progressed, however, and when we weren’t busy tying to find a WiFi signal, we saw some Paris.  It was pretty lovely, this city.

Since the Louvre was unavailable, after a stroll through the Tuileries we went over to the Musee D’Orsay and got some Impressionists on.

The crowds were not bad at all and I got some art fever walking through the salons.

It was also just wonderful to be with my friend, his first time in Paris, and observe his reactions and how he saw things, appreciated things.

I won’t soon forget the swooning look on his face when he took his first sip of a Valhrona chocolate chaud in the cafe on the fifth floor of the Orsay.

Cafe d'Orsay

Cafe d’Orsay

“It’s like drinking the best chocolate bar melted down into a cup and hot!” He exclaimed with a swoon of a smile on his face.

We talked art and paintings and life and travel.

I got to sit across the table from a friend in cafe on the fifth floor of the Orsay Museum in Paris.

Life, my friends is not too shabby.

I am on Paris time.

I figure that is why I got the not one, but two turn downs today in my inbox.

Thanks, but no thanks.

Oh well.

I just laughed, two rejection e-mails in one day once would have made me sad.  Today I had nothing to be sad about.  I took a walk in Paris. Had a cafe allonge at one cafe by the Louvre and a cafe creme in the Orsay.  I walked across the Seine three times.  I saw the sunset in a glowing haze of soft fury blowy and scattered gold on the buildings tossing a good night to me as I stood on Pont d’Alexandre taking a photograph of my friend in the falling light; the back drop of the Eiffel Tower and the spire of the American Church on Quai D’Orsay framing his smiling face.

I still have plenty of adjusting to do to my home, but I am falling more and more in sync.

All in due, Paris, time.

 

 


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