Archive for April, 2013

The Wake Up Call

April 30, 2013

Is set for 3:45 a.m.

The luggage is packed.

The bicycle is boxed up and waiting for me to grab it from behind the front desk at the hotel.

I have had a long shower.

I have to say this now, I will not miss the hard as granite water, my hair feels like a wreck.

I have printed off my boarding pass.

Actually the front desk gentleman did it.

With help from the “technique” man who had to walk him through it as the printer was not working in the “conference center” which has the slowest internet connection ever.

It took me awhile to get that all happening.  The computer keyboard is the French keyboard, which is not your traditional QWERTY board and you have to hold down the shift key to type a number.   I have had some experience with this board before, making it easier for me to navigate, yet still quite time-consuming.

I am to take the shuttle from the hotel to the airport at 4:30a.m.

My flight boards at 6:05 a.m. and departs from Charles de Gaulle  to Frankfurt.

There I will transfer, and an hour later, or 50 minutes, whichever comes first, I shall be lifting into the air headed toward SFO.

I am ready to come home.

It has been a long day.

Long.

I went to bed late.

I got up early.

I did not set an alarm, I had happy hope thoughts of sleeping in, and the construction in the courtyard, ie, right outside my window, woke me up hours before I was going to get up.

I sighed and thought, this is good, get up, get going, get breakfast in, write your morning pages and start breaking down the bicycle.

The bicycle break down almost became a breakdown as my click tool–the little handle of Allen wrenches–nearly broke trying to get my pedals off the crank on the bicycle.

My room-mate lent a hand and literally bent the tool in half trying to get enough torque on it to turn.  I could feel my chest tighten and the immediate panic set in, if I don’t get it boxed I can’t get it on the plane and how the hell am I going to commute in Oakland a 7 mile ride?

Maybe you could BART it Martines.

NO.

My room-mate said hang on  I will go to the hardware store, hand it over.  He took the tool and went out the door.  In the mean time I youtubed how to remove bicycle pedals.

With a pedal wrench.

Which is not something one normally finds at a hardware store in France.

I breathed and thought, whatever happens, it’s just a thing, it’s just stuff.

IT’S MY BICYCLE.

Ugh.

The room-mate returned with a set of allen wrenches that had longer handles and within 30 seconds the pedals had come off and I began the break down.

Of the bicycle, not myself.

That came later.

After the long haul trek to the suburbs to take the things that my room-mate and I needed to store at a friend’s home.  I had hoped that the endeavor would only take one person, I don’t have a lot of stuff.

However, there was enough that we both needed to go.

Two hours later, two train rides, RER C, two Metro line transfers, and one cab ride later, we returned to the house.

This time to finish cleaning and my room-mate had to toss a few things out that weren’t going to fit in his luggage.  He is a tattoo artist and has a lot of equipment, heavy stuff, more arranging, more cleaning, a quick-lunch, then the land lord came.

He walked through, checked us out and we struggled out the door.

I had my roll on, which will be checked–it’s too full to carry on–a messenger bag, my purse, and my bike box.  The room-mate had three suitcases of various sizes and two huge Chrome messenger bags full of stuff.

We looked like we were moving half way around the world.

And as it turns out, we are.

Into the cab, out to the hotel, exhausted, and wonky, my brain not quite firing on all pistons.   They took my bicycle at the front, scheduled my wake up call, and said feel free to check in, but the printer is not working so you will have to forward your check in to the front desk.

Uh, too much information, I will check in later, my brain is fried, I am tired, and I have not even got to the airport yet to get abroad my twelve plus hour flight.

Tired typing that.

We got up to the room and I collapsed on my side of the bed and my face wrenched up in a moue and I cried hysterically for two seconds, then stifled it all up.

After some general lounging, rearranging and decompressing, we went had dinner, and began the stress of getting the boarding passes printed.

I could have broke down again, I did put my head down on the desk, and then I did something novel, I went to the front and asked for help.

The clerk and the technique man got it all to work and I got my pass.  I tucked it next to my passport and smuggled it into my purse.

I did not cry.

I figure I have a good cry coming to me sometime tomorrow night.

I am not going to think about tomorrow night, it is so far away.

Everything feels so far away right now.

My passport is in my wallet, my bike box tag, and my boarding pass.  I have everything right there.  The call will come and I will get up and I will get dressed and I will go.

The stress of moving, of wrapping up my life again, and getting on another plane to another world.  A world I won’t struggle to figure out the past tense or the future imperfect.

A world where my hair might go back to normal.

Fingers crossed.

A world so far away.

And so close.

I cannot fathom this world anymore.

Maybe it’s just the stress.

Maybe it’s the saying goodbyes.

“Are you ok?” She said to me on the phone this afternoon as I was getting the gigantic duffel bag situated while we waited for the RER C train to pull into the quai.

Nope.

I am not ok.

I am tired.

I am stressed out.

And I just want to be home.

At least I know where home is.

I am ready.

I love you Paris.

I do.

And tomorrow, maybe I will write you a love letter.

But tonight, I just have to say, I got to go.

I have a plane to catch back.

To San Francisco.

I apparently left my heart there.

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Neither Here Nor There

April 29, 2013

This is the last push.

The last bit of time.

The last night at 36 Rue Bellefond.

Tomorrow the check out happens at 4pm.

I still have yet to break down my bicycle, although I did get out and get one last ride on my bike.  The room-mate and I went for a cruise along the canal.

Velo

Velo

I lost him on the way back.

I went faster than I thought, once you set a rhythm on a fixed gear it is difficult to slow down, and I had found the sweet spot.

I had also taken the wrong turn without realizing it until it was too late.

It would not be me in Paris without one last day of getting lost.

My quickie bike ride turned into a two-hour excursion.

By the time I got back to the house I was a bit uncertain as to which way to go next.  I had a coffee date with a friend, but she had to cancel.  I ran up to her place and dropped off her book that I had borrowed for the Rome trip, got in a good solid hug and promises to stay in touch.

That is one thing, as I sit here typing furiously away at quarter past midnight, the number of people who said to me, “see you soon,” and really meant it.

I have no idea when I will see my former French classmate from South Africa, but we felt certain that we would indeed see each other, sooner rather than later.

So too, my darling friend Mario who took me out for a late night coffee–helps to fuel the late night blogging–and instead of going straight to the Invalides station, we ended up walking along the Seine to Pont Neuf.

I can see his beautiful face smiling at me as the line 7 train headed off in the opposite direction I was going.  We waved and smiled and blew kisses and I teared up.

“This is not goodbye and don’t look back,” he said, “with any kind of shame or remorse, you came, you lived your dream, you have more dreams.”

I have more dreams.

Things do feel like they are moving in some sort of new and magical direction.

Oakland.

Ha.

Ah.

Actually, it feels so right that I am not second guessing it.  Ride the horse the direction it’s running, and hang the fuck on because it’s about to get interesting.

“I feel something enormous is about to happen,” I said to John Ater last night.

“Uh, yes, like you’re flying to California after living in Paris for six months, kind of big.”

“Fuck you.” I said and laughed.

Yes, exactly.

I am.

Other things are happening.

Two turn downs from agencies to represent me, not a worry at all about that, and what I found intriguing about the one that just popped up into my inbox was a little personal note from the assistant to the agent.

The agent never got the query, her assistant went through the e-mail, this often happens at the bigger houses, and she said, nope not a match, however, here’s some contact info for another agency in New York and a phone number.

That blew me away.

That means she read the query, she was intrigued, she thinks there is something worthwhile to the work–just that the agent she works for is not a fit.

But a fit is out there.

I started writing that into my affirmations that I do in the morning as part of my daily journal writing–I have an amazing literary agent that advocates for me.

I am a brilliant, prolific, well paid, published author.

The brilliant part is a matter of perspective.

The prolific, I think I have that covered.

“I don’t think that is going to fit in your suitcase,” he said to me today as I was kneeling on my luggage struggling with the zipper.  “You may want to carry that on the plane.”

“Nope, it’s going to fit just fine,” I said applying a little more pressure to the top and sliding the zipper home.

An extra souvenir?

No.

An extra pair of shoes?

No.

Five notebooks?

Uh, yeah.

That is what I was squashing down into the suitcase, five notebooks full of writings since I have been here, plus the addition of two manuscripts that my room-mate brought back from San Francisco in February, and yes, I have another manuscript in my messenger bag and a full notebook of morning pages, six sheets shy of full, that I have been doing my current writing in.

What did you bring back from Paris?

A lot of words.

The magical reality of my life.

The promise of more will be revealed.

The astounding realization that I have lived in Paris for six months.

Six.

All the museums I have went to, all the boulevards I have strolled down, all the streets that I have gotten lost on, the trains I have travelled, the stairs I have climbed, the endless views of statuary and beauty and meanders through parks.

The snow on the hills of Sacre Couer.

The light that falls on the Seine at night, glistening like copper coins thrown on black oil capped waves, the slip of Batobuses that go by with their bright lights and multitude of languages booming out over the water exhorting tourists from German, Japan, Spain, and all points West to the alluring sights along the banks of the river.

The wonderful, astounding, courageous, generous, kind, and loving people who I have met and shared my life with here.

Six months is not too early to fall in love.

Six months is just enough time to see how much love I have, both here and there.

I am not inbetween.

I am exactly  where I am supposed to be.

Living in and from my heart.

Evening Constitutional

April 28, 2013

This is my last evening in Chambourcy, France.

I decided to take Rusty out for another walk after dinner.  The sun had come out and was lancing through the trees and despite the chilly air it actually looked like Spring outside.

I went for two long walks today.

I read a lot.

Finished the Jeffrey Eugenides book, Middlesex, good read.  Much better than I remember.  As I was completing the 500 + page work I realized I was not sober when I read it the first time and was allowing myself to suffer from writer’s envy.

No longer.

Part of that stems from the fact that I am a writer now.

Perhaps not as well-known as Eugenides, slight understatement.

Yet, a writer nonetheless.

I wrote my four pages in the morning after breakfast and a couple of cups of coffee, then did a meditation before the dog got noisy and excited to be outside, then went for the first of my walks.

After returning I made a heaping salad–baby spinach, mache, tomato, miniature artichoke hearts, mushrooms, carrots, broccoli, avocado, and garbanzo beans.  Dressed with some olive oil and balsamic, little fresh ground pepper, and sea salt.

Divine.

I down loaded some photographs after and checked my e-mails.

I conferred with the room-mate and made plans for tomorrow.

Despite the family being back tonight, they are in the kitchen having a late dinner, they requested I stay the night so they would not have to drive back to the train station.

I acquiesced.

Tomorrow I will go back to Paris, back to the apartment and break down the bike and box her up.  I was contemplating taking one last ride, but I will probably not.  I have a late afternoon tea date with my friend from French class–need to return her guide-book on Rome.

Then an early dinner and off, one last time to the American Church on quai D’Orsay.

I have some last good byes to make.

In the mean time I am also making contact with folks in the Bay.

I am seeing Beth on Friday night, staying over and having lunch the next day with Tanya somewhere in the Mission.

Wow.

That still feels very strange to say.

I will be having lunch in the Mission.

Getting in on Wednesday, Action Girl will be picking me up, living up to her moniker!

I am excited to see her, possibly get a hit of Junebug love as well.

I contacted the master of the house at Graceland, confirmed my get in time and prepared myself for the onslaught of the kittens.  Of whom, I am delighted to get to see again.

I e-mailed some ladies in Oakland about possibly getting out to meet with some folks that evening.  I have nothing planned for Thursday, recovering from the jet lag, maybe grocery shopping.

Friday before I head into San Francisco I will be making my way over to the Burning Man folks, meeting with them to discuss the nannying and then meeting with their next door neighbors to check in about the house sitting needs.

One dog.

One cat.

I then re-focused on being here, today, in the moment.

Made some tea.

Got off the computer.

Did some writing.

Did some reading.

I wrote for a while and wrapped up the first chapter of “Mother” in rough draft.

I then read through to the end of my first draft manuscript “The Iowa Waltz” and was quite happy to read it.  So much better than I had recalled and I was actually surprised at how the ending went.  I had forgotten!

My friend yesterday had suggested I work on a new piece, and he’s correct, new work needs working on, which I did.  Yet, the call of taking “The Iowa Waltz” further was very alluring.

Since I have read the hand written manuscript, I may just do the typing to take it out of my notebook.  I am not making any plans.

Nope.

None at all.

Although the previous 600 words may belie that.

“What are your plans?” Asked John Ater this evening when I skype called him.

“I don’t have any,” I said, “whenever I make plans the Universe laughs.”

“Are you wearing mascara?” He asked.

“Yes, but its waterproof and I am not wearing eyeliner,” I replied.

The eyeliner is what usually is the mess.

We had a really good check in, one in which I did mention that I was pre-anxious about other people’s judgement, me coming back after I said I was gone for good.

“Fuck what other people think of you,” he said.

God damn it’s nice to hear that.

Despite knowing that he’s entirely correct and I need no shame, I came here, I had an incredible learning experience and I did something really grand.

I shot the fantasy in the fucking foot.

Living in Paris was a dream and I went after my dream and I realized it and then I went, “oh shit,” this is not at all what I thought it would be.

Oh my God.

This is 1800 times harder.

“Good for you for knowing when to get out,” she said to me tonight as the dog pranced happily about.  “Paris is hard for French people to live in and they have the support of their country and a system to fall back on when things go wrong.”

Paris, I love you, I adore you, I think you are the bees knees.

I got stung hard though.

It hurt, having that dream popped.

Yet, on the other hand, it was well worth it.

“You had a learning experience,” he said templing his fingers together, his eyebrow lifting up in an arch.

“Yes, yes, I did.” I responded.

“What did you learn?” He asked leaning forward on California time and adjusting the lapel of his bathrobe–it’s morning in San Francisco.

“I learned I am very mean to myself, that I do not treat myself well,” I said, and there went the tears.

“What else?”

“I learned that people really want to help me when I let them help me, when I let down the guard and let them in.”

“Good, and,” his chin lifted.

“And I don’t want to live like this anymore,” tears overflowing, “I don’t want to live like this, I want to change,” I finished.

“Excellent, we will have us a sit down when you get back, but not right away, let’s let you get unjetlagged before we go there.” He said with a gentle smile.

“Oh!” I said, smiling, “I learned one other thing!”

“Yes.”

“I will work any fucking job there is to work, I am done with not having a job.” I finished.

“Great! We will talk about that too, now just get yourself back.” He twinkled at me, “I can’t wait to see you.”

“You too,” I said and yes, a few more tears slid down my face.

“Are those tears!  Yes! seven thousand miles away, I’ve still got it.” He exclaimed.

“Yes, ugh.” I said, “good-bye.”

“Good bye sugar, I’ll see you soon.” He tossed me a kiss and a wave and signed off.

Yes, yes you will.

In San Francisco.

Limbo Land

April 27, 2013

All alone in a great big house, the dusk starting to fall, the grey clouds heavy on the horizon, pregnant with the inevitable rain.

Dreary, cold, and clasped still in the bosom of winter the weather belies the light that still lingers nearly 9 o’clock at night.

I had no idea it was as late as it was, sitting curled up on the couch deep into a book.

I must have read about 200 pages today.

Not a normal occurrence in my every day life, a luxury, a taste that I am beginning to become more accustomed to.

Despite knowing that it will go back to being sips and snatches, quick drinks of words as I assimilate back into the states.

I find that I can slide back there quite quickly, messaging with a friend, skype’ing with another, texting from my Iphone, sending out little feelers into the Universe, the ethernet of possibility.

I feel a little caught between the here and the there as I consult the world clock on my phone–Paris, Cupertino, New York, and Sao Paulo.

“You should go to New York, you would eat that shit up after Paris,” he said to me today on the chat line.

I do feel a little New York is in me at times, no pun intended.

I sent a query out to an agent in New York today.  I send a lot of queries to agencies in New York, that is where the preponderance of them seem to be.

That and LA.

I have never had a LA vibe though.

Not quite my thing.

I am more NorCal than SoCal.

That was about as much as I did today, chatting with a friend, went for a couple of walks with the dog, ate a big juicy salad, drank a lot of tea, looked over some photographs–happy to report I asked a friend to help with backing up the photos.

I also did install Google drive to that extent, though I am uncertain whether or not I actually successfully transferred all my photos.

Something was happening, the fan on my computer went into protestation mode and I got nervous about continuing.

On the list of things to get when I get my feet back under me, a new laptop.

I may be just worrying for no reason, but it may be a wise investment before it goes kaput.

I also started a project today, just went and pulled a blog post from 2011 that I wrote about nannying at Burning Man and re-organized it a bit, tightened it a bit, and did some editing on it.  I am going to write-up a proposal for Chronicle Books.

I will also confer with a few folks about it, there are some photographs out there that I did not take that I want for the piece.

My friend suggested I start something new.

Something that is not what I have been working on for a while.

I like the thought and with that in mind I got the first piece situated.

I have a lot of material, it just needs organizing.

Like my life.

Jesus.

I have potential spouting out my ears, it feels like, but no solid direction, do I want a family, do I want to be a writer, do I want to make money, do I want career, do I want to own a home, if so where, ack.

I cannot figure it out.

“Use your words, ask for what you want,” he told me.

They get crammed up in my throat, these words, stuck like a tickle, fluttering high in my consciousness like an unruly jay squawking out harsh jabs of doubt.

Let’s have it all, shall we?

If wishes were horses and beggars did ride, where would I ride to?

After exploring San Francisco and Paris, right now I would hazard San Francisco.  I do not like admitting defeat, but I recall that surrender means to go over to the winning side.

I do not know that I want to return to France to live.

Honest injun.

This is hard.

I know I take me with me wherever I go and many a time I create my own issues in the taking, but it is a challenge living an expat life, even if you have money.

If you don’t let’s make it 10 times harder.

Now, I am not afraid of hard work, life can be a grind, but I choose to be polished by it rather than ground down.

Being in Paris is being ground down when I have found work that could sustain my frugal little life.  I wasn’t being polished, I was being worn apart, I wasn’t writing happily or much when I was working crazy ass hours babysitting trying to just pay rent and eat.

I am an artist.

And as such that does not work for me.

I have to be somewhere I can work, but not work myself down to the bone.

Having had space, both too much and not enough, here in France, I realize I need some structure, a job is good for that, and not too much free time, but enough.

I am dangerously close to veering off into figure it out land.

I feel that I have perhaps put myself in a corner when there is a door behind me opening up and out and I cannot see it as I did not achieve what I set out to achieve here, in France, living abroad, living in Paris.

I am not disparaging the experience.

I will not know how living here for six months has changed me until I have a little more perspective on it.  I know that the experiment was successful, even if I did not get the results I wanted.

What I want is generally not good for me.

Something wild and fragrant and delirious has been culminating in the crucible.

I know it.

I will continue to stir the pot to the best of my ability, not going crazy in these last few days either figuring it all out or berating myself for not having the answers.

The answers are none of my business anyway.

Whether in San Francisco.

Paris.

Or Chambourcy.

Oakland.

Or in my own head.

The last is the only truly dangerous place to live.

The rest is honey, unbridled and sweet with potential and pear blossom nectar.

Pear Orchard

Pear Orchard

Feels Like A Sunday

April 26, 2013

Despite it being Friday night.

However, I am out in Chambourcy, just outside of Saint Germain-en-Laye, France.

I am already in my pjs, and it is just before 8 p.m.

I just got out of the gigantic bathtub in the master bath and I felt no compunctions about putting on my Hello Kitty sleep shirt and yoga pants.

None whatsoever.

It has been a very relaxing kind of day, also, why it feels like a Sunday.

I have listened to jazz, gone for a walk with the dog in the woods, drank tea, curled up on the couch for a few hours while the rains blew in–just barely got back from the walk before the rain started to drop–and a bath.

I am quite blissed out.

It is counter intuitive to my personality, this slowness.

I am not a good practitioner of the resting, slow down, mellow out school.

I mean, come on, my blog subtitle is “Girl on the Go.”

That’s what I am usually up to or going to.

I realized as I was plugging in this person there and that person here and what BART would I take to get from Oakland to SF to see such and such and maybe I can squeeze that errand in here, that I was not in California yet.

I was in Chambourcy.

I put down my Iphone and turned on the music.

Jazz for the majority of my day and for a little throwback fun, I am now listening to some new age–Thomas Dolby, The Golden Age of Wireless.

It always reminds me of my last summer after highschool before I started my freshman year at University of Wisconsin, Madison.  We had sold the house in Windsor and I was living with my mom in a small two bedroom apartment on East Johnson Street.

The entire apartment was about the size of the room I had previously been occupying.

I escaped with friends from school.

Not my school either.

Although I had some friends from DeForest High School, I had left abruptly, the house had sold faster than I thought it would and we actually moved before I graduated from highschool.  I was the only person that did not show up for the dress rehearsal for graduation.

I had no clue it was happening.

I was busy helping my mom box up the house and move into the tiny apartment.

I was embarrassed and shy and scared, although from the front I put on, you would never have known.  No one in my group of friends knew that I had run away from home just a few months prior to graduation.

I had nowhere to go.

I ran away to school.

I slept in the back of the bus in the back parking lot I had broken into.

My swim coach had some suspicions, but did not discuss them with me.  He did however stop handing over my paychecks to my mom from the lifeguarding shifts I was doing after I asked him to not do it any more.

That may have been the first time I had really stood up for myself.

I am still learning how to do so.

It takes a little more time than one would think.

I still feel like a young woman finding herself out in the world.

I still want some one to tell me what to do.

I find that people pleasing is just a way for me to be in control of my environment.  Though the fact, amply substantiated by years of evidence, is that I do not have control of my environment.

The more I can let go of that, the freer I am.

I wanted to feel guilty about being out here in the country, taking it easy, but really, it is a bit of work.  I traveled from outside the city early in the morning to the city center, walked through thorough fares teeming with tourists hauling my pack of stuff with me like a college kid on sabbatical, up and down train station steps to the next Metro line to the next RER.

I do not mind work though and as I sit here berating myself, not as hard as I used to, I know that I will continue to do what is put in front of me to do.

Usually it’s just the dishes.

I don’t remember doing a lot of dishes that summer.

I remember I went to the pool nearly every day, riding my bike from the East side of Madison on Hwy 51 to DeForest.  My friend Jay had no idea I had actually moved to Madison until one night after the pool closed he offered to give me a lift and as I directed him past the Windsor Road turn off I finally broke the news to him.

The friends I hung out with were from Sun Prairie.

I had met one of them when I was in middle school in Madison.

When we moved to Windsor she and I stayed in touch.

Then her family moved to the outskirts of Madison and she was relocated into the Sun Prairie school system.  I would go weekends to her house in the country to escape the crazy at my house.

Not that I even knew it was crazy.

But when your step father makes you cut the grass with hand shears and the lawn is about an acre, there is some crazy going on.

My friend’s mom had her own struggles, I am sure of it, looking back with perspective, however, she seemed to make do in a way that I still admire.

She cooked and baked and made stained glass ornaments and windows in a little studio off the side of the house.  The house did not have running water, there was a well, hooked up to a motor, and there was an outhouse, but it was more civilized than anything I had experienced.

The bread she made still makes my mouth salivate.

One of my favorite smells to this day, hot bread fresh from the oven, mixed in with the scent of cut grass on a warm dusky night, topped with butter and mulberry jam she made I don’t know that I ever wanted to leave.

I was not always that fond of the friend, but man, did I love her mom.

I love my mom and I know she was just doing what she could, but that summer a lot of stuff fell out and I just knew my life on my own was really starting.  I took what fun I could and tried to cram the worry away in a bolt hole.

Worrying about the future does me no good, it takes me away from the blooming pear orchard out the window of the house here in Chambourcy France, where the sun has gathered one last welter of light to push the edge of the clouds apart and shafts of golden lace are caught high in the balls of mistletoe in the trees at the periphery of the lawn.

I was never at ease in my younger girl days.

I am now, which may explain the glitter and the pink and the fondness I have for childish things and toys, yes, my vibrator is pink, but it took me a god awful long time to get to this point.

I am going to enjoy myself to the utmost.

I am aware that the road is about to change and I am about to change again, I still carry the core of girl within me though, and today I am alright with it.

I have no regrets.

I really don’t

Here in France.

Four more days.

There She Is!

April 25, 2013

He said to me, and busked both my cheeks.

“I thought you had already gone,” he said and pulled back to look at me with big brown eyes and a wry smile.

“Not yet,” I smiled back, “soon.”

I will miss this kissing of cheeks, somehow more sweet and familiar than just a hug, although I still do give a great hug.

There is an intimacy in the cheek busk, a letting in of a person to your vulnerable self, a letting down of guard.

At least for me.

I will miss much about Paris, the wonderful new friends, the robin’s egg blue brushed sky with the pillows of clouds, when it is sunny, which it was today.

Rain forecast for tomorrow and for the weekend, cooling back off, this false come hither, go yon Spring, turning fickle once more and chill.

I will not however, miss the crowds.

Tourist season is in full swing and I was in amongst it a few times today.  Down in the 4th–the Latin Quarter–a quick nip into the Marais, and a walk about the Seine through the bookseller stalls.  I had come into town from Vitry-Sur-Seine to wrap up some things at the house before I head out to Chambourcy for the weekend to housesit and walk Rusty the dog.

Or course it will be raining.

Oh well, at least it shouldn’t be snowing, like it did over Easter weekend.

A rainy walk through the woods is not necessarily a bad thing and the trees should be blooming and the grass will be green and the flowers will be pushing their bright faces out at me.

I was thinking of the white French tulips I saw today on the edge of the Marais in a small, hidden courtyard–the soft fluted petals flared out nodding heavy on the waxy green stems, the breeze rifled through and I felt his kiss on my forehead and knew he was with me in that moment.

I was thinking of Shadrach.

I was thinking he would be proud of me.

I breathed in the air and the sun and the warmth that ricocheted off the walls of the church in front of me and I said thank you to the Universe, to love, to being taken care of, to the host of people he introduced me to.

I looked at the tattoo I have on my arm in commemoration of him, “until I die, he will not leave my side,” the last line of the eulogy Dylan Thomas wrote for his father, underscored with sky blue ink and curled around the green stems of two white French tulips, and I compared the tulips to the flowers in front of me.

They were one and the same.

I never actually thought I would be in Paris looking at white French tulips and have my entire last 8 years flash before my eyes and the wash of gratitude that flushed over me was almost more than I could bear.  “Not yet,” I am not ready yet,” I remember thinking this once when another such feeling came over me, there is still too much for me to experience and to have, to learn, and to grow.

“You’re not going to relapse,” he said to me, “please, Martines, you are going to be around a long time to annoy the hell out of people who don’t have the kind of faith you have.”

“Shut up!” I said, despondent and annoyed, I wanted to have my pity party and he was not having any of it.

“Your faith,” he paused and looked at me over the top rim of his glasses, usually a twinkle, a sassy mischievous kind of glance, this time tempered with something akin to wonder, “frankly, lady, it scares me sometimes, you walk this razor’s edge of trust and you just keep going, it’s a little intimidating to the average bear.”

I pushed him, put I was pleased.

I do have a kind of faith, in showing up, mostly, that I still find to be a kind of miracle.

I showed up today, despite not wanting to leave the house.

Yes, the day was sunny and warm and bright and I could feel the call of the outdoors, but leaving would mean saying good-bye, to Paris, to people who I have just begun to get to know.  There is no begrudging ego in the way either, which is a relief, just that sad well of feelings that I will miss some of these faces I have just begun to know.  And there is the preparing to leave part that is always a little anxiety inducing.

They say, who they is, fuck if I know, but it feels right, that moving is the most stressful thing that a person can do.

I must handle stress damn well as I move a lot.

I would like to not actually have this stress for a bit.

I am, however, good at getting my shit together and bundling up the stray ends.

When I got over to 36 Rue Bellefond today, yes I managed to get my bottom out of Vitry-sur-Seine, onto the RER C train, transferring to Metro 10 at Gare d’Austerlitz, then again at Jussieu onto Line 7, I was only going to pop in and gather a few things that I needed to return to folks.  I thought I would sit down for a minute, have a cup of tea, heat up some lunch, and then be on my way.

But as I started to move about the house I realized that I could just pack it all up.

So, I did.

The only thing really left to do is break down my bike and put it in the bike box.

I was able to sort through my things, throwing out two pieces of clothing that had gotten shredded with frequent wear, an old pair of socks, and a few bits and pieces of collage art I had put up on the wall.

I put aside the outfit I will wear to the airport and I packed my suitcase full.  My life, once again, reduced down to a roll on suitcase and a messenger bag.

My life expanding into the ever-increasing cosmos of love.

I walked the streets of Paris today and took photographs and meandered in and out of shops on Ile Saint Louis, then over toward the Marais, where I saw the tulips, and then onto Hotel de Ville, where I saw the Couture Exhibit.  It was empty, everyone was outside enjoying the weather.  I looked at the gowns and the designers and I got fevered with fashion, I saw a Rochas from 1938 that made me swoon.

I went back out into the light and headed to the Metro, navigating my way through Chatelet and Les Halles without much thought, I knew where I was going and I circumnavigated the clumps of tourists peering at maps with stern scared looks on their faces.

I am not an old pro at Paris, but I know the city enough to get about, and as I strolled up the Champs Elysees and headed toward Rue Vacquerie, I remembered how overwhelmed I was when I first landed here and how scared I was.

Today, the fear, nibbled on my collarbones and tried to get me to stay put, but I have always learned that the majority of the work is to just show up.

Show up I did.

One more day in Paris.

Spa Day

April 24, 2013

After the trains, buses, planes, and various Metro lines I took yesterday, both in Rome and in Paris, I was pretty tuckered out.

So much so that when the offer was made to me to come over to a friend’s house and stay while she was away in the states for the week, I balked.

No.

I don’t want to get back on a Metro to transfer to another Metro to hop on the RER C and head out to Vitry-Sur-Seine.

I want to cry in my tea and put my head down on the table and give the fuck up.

I felt done in.

Then the realization hit that my room-mate had a friend coming into town who was going to be staying for the next week, ie until I left back for the states, and perhaps getting on another round of trains was not such a bad idea after all.

I said yes, let me get myself together, drink a cup of tea and re-pack the bag I had just unpacked.

It took me an hour to unwind my frazzled self, a spot of food, what was left in the house before my adventures in Rome–potatoes–and two mugs of tea and I was ready to hit the road, Jack, once again.

When the hell am I going to slow down, I thought to myself as I transferred from Line 7 to Line 10 to the RER C at Gare d’Austerlitz, I shifted my bags and opened to the door to the train and stepped onto the platform.

How many platforms did I cross yesterday?

Express Bus 40 to the Trevi Fountain; Metro Line A to Termini; platform 34 on the Leonardo Express; the plane from Rome To Paris; RER B from Charles de Gaulle International airport to Gare du Nord in Paris; walk down the hill to the house, then back out the door to Metro Line 7 to Metro line 10 to RER C off at Les Ardoines, walk to the house.

Whew.

I was ready to sit the fuck down.

Apparently I was ready to sleep too.

I did that in spades.

I slept until 11:30 a.m.

It felt like much later, as the house has black out blinds in the living room where I was crashed out on the couch.

“You could always couch surf, you know,” he said to me this evening, the light golden and rich, haloed his blonde hair and his eyes sparkled with a bit of sexy French man charm.

“I could,” I replied, “I am in fact now, couch surfing, despite having rent paid at my place, the opportunity to be in a more spacious environment was given to me, so I took it.”

“I have,” I repeated, “done a lot of couch surfing, and you know, I’m about done with it.”

“Are you moving back in with your parents,” she said and leaned toward me eager to hear my response.

I just about spat out my tea.

“Uh, no,” I said, “that’s never really been an option, although, my parents have lived with me from time to time.”

“Oh,” she said, and stumbled around looking for the next thing to say.

I stepped in and saved her the embarrassment of assumption, “I’ll be staying with friends when I go back,” I concluded and looked up to see another friend coming toward me to kiss my cheeks.  Saved from the continuation of the awkward conversation I turned my complete attention to him, as he sprinkled me with “Ciao Bella’s”.  We hugged and caught up.  I am going to miss some people here, I surely am.

“You look beautiful,” he said to me.

I should, I thought, I got so much sleep and then instead of running out the door and trying to cram some last moments of Paris into the last week I am here, I gave myself a spa day.

Plucked, waxed, shaved, showered, deep conditioned the hair, manicure, pedicure.

While my nails were drying I nibbled a salad of raw vegetables and green olives and sat on the porch in the sunlight and read a book.

Life is not so hard when I stop the struggling.

I do need to focus on getting my feet beneath me, I know this quite well, I do not want to live on the generosity of my friends, I do not want to be a taker, I want to give.

We sat on the banks of the Seine tonight, reading from a book, passing the pages back and forth, talking about the wisdom expressed, sharing our experiences.  The sunset, firing her hair with red-gold and smothering us in love.  “I cannot say how much this means to me,” I said, tears forming in my eyes, “to be here, in Paris, sharing my experience, getting to work with you, on the banks of the Seine at sunset.”

What gifts I have been given.

What a life I get to lead.

Relaxed and at ease, and having an awesome hair day, if I do say so myself, I know that these next few days will have moments of fear, of challenge, perhaps of anxiety, but I believe, I truly do, that I am only going up from here.

The book I was reading today on the porch while my toenails dried in the warm French breeze, finally! Was Middlesex by Jeffery Eugenides.

There was a quote that caught me,  “to go forward, you have to go back to where you began.”

That is exactly what this feels like.

I am going forward by going back.

I am no failure for having come here, despite the financial repercussions of my actions.  If anything, they are showing me exactly what I want and knowing that I can begin to change the habits and patterns that do not work for me and find a way forward.

“We will stay close,” he said to me tonight, looking deep into me.  I felt my heart breaking open, breaking wider, allowing in even more love, I love you my dear, I do so very much.  “I will read your words, I will be close, we will see each other again.”

And we will.

Here in Paris.

Or on the playa.

Or where ever the Universe decides to drop me next.

Just hoping it is not on a couch, but in a room, a place to call my own for a while, to grow forward to make my way, to bloom with brightness and love the way the trees along the Seine were blooming tonight.

“I love you,” I said into her hair and the shell of her ear, “I love you so much,” we hugged good-bye and I plunged down the steps to the train station, another platform to cross another rail to ride.

Here in Paris.

Six more days.

Train Traveling Blues

April 23, 2013

“Did they check your ticket on the train into Rome?” She asked me as we headed into the maw of the Metro.

“No,” I said, “as a matter of fact, they did not and I kept it.”

I like to keep ticket stubs and museum passes, stamps, post cards, paper bits and pieces that I glue into my little journals.  I look back and have an instant souvenir, a sense memory of where I was.

I was also thinking that I may act the stupid American and just pretend to use it as my ticket back.

Stupid is right.

I got a ticket.

I got a ticket for not having a ticket.

I got a 50 Euro fine.

Cue tears.

I ain’t got that kind of money honey.

Mortifying.

“You know, I just want to do the correct thing, the sober thing,” I said to my friend, although I was actively weighing the pros and cons.

We boarded the Metro and I let the thought stew in my brain.

She got off at her stop and I continued onto mine.

I shifted my bags in front of me, the pick pocket action in Rome is no joke.  Then I got off at my stop.  I closed my eyes and asked for direction and I heard, “pay”.

Then I thought of “think, think, think,” and I heard “pay” a second time.

Then a third.

Ok.

I got the picture.

No, apparently there was more, I suddenly got the image of a policeman in my head checking tickets on the train and how that felt handing over the invalid ticket.

Did I listen to my gut?

No.

I made a fear based decision.

I got onto the platform and it was so busy and crazy and people coming and going and I let myself get overwhelmed.  I saw a Interpol and I asked him which way the train was to the airport.  He pointed out to me platform 34.  I walked over.  The crowds started to thin and there it was, a ticket seller.  I looked at it.  I thought about it.  I pulled out my ticket and held it in my hand.  I pretended to be nonchalant.  I thought about the groceries I could buy with the 14 Euro.  I did not go buy a new ticket.

When the train pulled in I boarded.

No ticket taker.

I relaxed, watched the scenery go by, pulled out my notebook and began to write my morning pages.

“Ticket please,” I was startled up from writing my affirmations in my notebook, no, hahahaha, I was actually writing a gratitude list.

Even fucking better.

I could feel my heart beat and my skin blushed and I dug around in my purse and handed the woman my ticket.

She shook her head.

She pointed out that the ticket was for going to Rome not leaving from Rome.

I apologized and said I could I pay for the ticket now.

“Si.”

64 Euro.

I did not catch that.

I handed her 15 Euro, the last bit I had in my wallet, and waited for the 1 Euro change.

She gestured to the seat next to me and sat down and said not enough, I handed her my card, and she began charging it.

I saw the 64 Euro charge come up on the screen.

“64?” I asked flabbergast.

“Yes, 14 for the ticket and 50 for the fine,” she plugged in numbers into the little machine.

“I don’t have it, I’m sorry, I said, I don’t have that much in my account,” tears of abject horror fell down my face.

So much for not listening to my gut.

I do not need to learn this again.

She smacked the machine around, it wasn’t getting a signal, and I am not certain she understood exactly what I was saying about there not being the money in my acccount.

“Not working,” she said, “we go to station and run card there, you wait for me.”

“Yes,” I nodded abashed, ashamed, horrified, I turned toward the window and watched the high blue sky fly by stacked with soft cottony clouds and the green grass waving in the wind, the umbrella pines unfolding on the horizon and the bright graffiti that was scrawled on the walls of the station we had just passed.  I had a moment of panic, then thought, ok, what are they going to do?

Throw me in the pokey?

Kick me out of Italy?

There was nothing to do but man up and face what was about to happen.  I was not going to make a run for it.  I am too damn conspicuous as it is, and I would offer again to pay the ticket and if I needed to send money from the states when I get back, so be it.  I settled against the chair and apologized to myself and to the Universe for not listening and for allowing myself to be in fear instead of faith.

When we got to the station I sat and waited for her to return.

She gestured to me to follow and she led me to a money machine.  I explained once again that I did not have the money in my account.  I have money in the account, $36 American, but not 50 Euro.  I showed her my balance and I started to cry again and I apologized.  She looked at me with some mixture of pity and compassion, of which I will not question whether there was contempt in there whatsoever, patted my arm and gestured to me to follow her.

I followed her to the ticket vendor, she had a conversation in rapid Italian with the woman behind the glass, a ticket was hand written out, I was asked for 14 Euro, I handed over the 15 Euro I had in my wallet, said “grazi” and took my train ticket.  I walked away chastised and small and fervent with desire to not travel like this again.

Neither to be in fear of not having enough, I had it, I had it in spades, with one Euro to spare.

I got to the airport, found the terminal, checked into my flight, printed off the boarding pass and went and sat in the lounge eating a bag of pistachio’s and drinking a bottle of Pellegrino I bought at the concessions stand.  I found my seat, said good bye to Rome, and vowed, should I ever come back, I mean I did toss a coin in the Trevi Fountain, that I would come back fiscally responsible.

I realize with more than a little ego smashing and some chagrin, that I do not like living this close to the bone.

I just don’t.

I think I have hit some sort of financial bottom, one that I have played out again and again and again.

I want to be a successful writer and I want to be able to travel again and I want a job.

I don’t care what job.

I just want to pay the bills, pay rent, not scrabble so much for the money.

Money does not equate happiness and I know this, but for some reason or another I continue, have continued for the last 8 years to really be on the low end of the money scale.  The one time I was making some decent dough I hated my job so much it was not worth staying at.

There has to be a happy medium.

I will be able to do what I want–write, photography, travel–and have some security.

I don’t think that’s too much to ask.

When I got home I received a phone call to come out and stay at a friends house while they are in the states–fully stocked fridge, huge tub, internet, Netflix, cable, large screen television, the whole she-bang.

I did not have to worry about groceries at all.

Plus, I have the house sitting to go to this weekend.

I am taken care of, even when I cannot see it.

So, no more fear based decisions, just faith.

I believe this will change and here’s to that happening.

Now.

In Paris.

And soon to be in the Bay.

I Would Read That Book

April 22, 2013

 

“And you do need an agent,” he finished.  “That is the way to go, you are right in the not self-publishing.”

That being said he also described how the aperture on the publishing industry had grown 20 % smaller in the last seven years.

Of course it has.

“But you have faith and you keep putting it out there and you will get published and I will read your stories.”  He added, and then asked, “what’s the title?”

“Baby Girl,” I replied.

“Good title!”  He exclaimed then smiled.

It was validation to my little writer’s heart to hear that from a published writer.

Then I told him about the follow up pieces, “The Iowa Waltz,” “Madison,” and “Mother”.

His eyes grew round beneath his black frame glasses, “all good titles!”

I wanted to roll around like a little puppy at his feet, groveling for more attention, or maybe the name of his agent, but I refrained.

It did however, rekindle the small flame that although not guttering out, was beginning to not burn as fervent as it had in the first weeks after I finished the final edits (which when I see my friend in San Francisco I suspect, will not be the final, final edits), the weeks in which I was querying for agency every day.

Every day.

Since I made the decision to turn around and ride the horse the direction it was galloping, (it was suggested to me that it is easier to ride the horse the direction it is running) to Oakland, back to the Bay Area to be of service for those that are of service to Burning Man, I have not been querying as much.

I have sent out some follow up e-mails and I have sent out a few more queries, but it has not been a daily practice.

I began focusing on trying to figure out how and where I was going to land and what I was going to do and where I was going to work and how am I going to get money together for rent, and ad naseum, that I forgot the whole reason I came over here was to write.

Granted, I will not brow beat myself here, I am writing now.  I wrote this morning, sitting at a table in a kitchen in Rome with my notebook and pen, as well.

I continue to write everyday; however, I wish to re-commit to getting my work out there as well.   I need to find agency.

Yes and I do still want to work at Burning Man.

As more than just a nanny or a fluffer.

I like both those positions, and I have had some ideas about putting together a book proposal for Chronicle Books in San Francisco—“You do What At Burning Man?” tales of a Burning Man nanny.  I have had it for some time, this idea, it is time to do it.

It would be mainly essays and photography.

I write every day and I was blogging while I was at Burning Man the last few years.  I also take photographs and I have a lot of them.

Holy Jesus the Pope dropped his hat; I have a lot of them.

Slight segue, I think this is why my computer is running slower and the fan sounds like an over active vibrator.  Whenever I download my photos from the day to my hard drive it kicks into gear.  And whenever I post photographs to my blog it goes haywire.

I just saw yesterday that I have over 4,500 photographs on my computer.

The majority of them have been taken in this last year.

I have to get them off, off, off.  The next project in the list of things to do.

Yes, so writing, publishing, getting myself and my words out there.

And my photographs, I really do have fun taking them.

I got rained on a lot today.  I would stop, try to hold the umbrella, point and shoot and frame and set up the shot.  I gave up trying to stay dry and I just would stop, gather my things about me to the best of my abilities and take the photo.

After I came back from my walk about Rome I sat and down loaded them and edited them, cropped them, adjusted color and exposure, brightness, shadows, high-lights.

I love the ritual of doing this.

It often takes me an hour to an hour and a half and I joke that it is the job that does not pay.

Just like my regular blog.

Except that in both case that is not the truth.

This blog does pay; I received another lovely infusion of 40 Euro to get me through the rest of the week.  Thank you!  Thank you!  Thank you!

I have a lot of hugs to give to people when I get back to the Bay.

They both pay, really, in the joy of creating, in allowing my artistic side to come out.  I told a friend of mine recently that I had an ex-boyfriend who knew I wanted to be a photographer and he bought me a really nice camera.

Except that I did not know how to use it and it overwhelmed me and when I developed the film and discovered that only one of the 80 photographs I took turned out I became discouraged and put it on the shelf and when we broke up he asked for it back.

I gave it back.

I also changed my track in college.  I had originally gone back to school after the fabulous flame out I had my original go around, to be a photographer, to perhaps be a photo-journalist, or a nature photographer, work for National Geographic, who knows.

Except that I had to take a load of art classes and I was not a sketcher or painter and although I appreciated art, loved art, got high off of it even before I knew what it was doing for me, I did not believe myself an artist.

I did not believe that I could make it through the art classes so after one beginning art class, I dropped it and decided I was not going to be a photographer.

Cue my trip to Paris four years ago and buying a digital camera.

Add to that one photography workshop with John Ater last spring and a year later, I won’t say I am a great photographer, but I can frame a good shot and I love doing it.

That is what being an artist is about.

Not doing it to be great, but doing it because I love it.

I love the writing too.

I want to continue to do both.

So, I will.

Who’s stopping me anyhow?

“Honey,” John Ater said to me in a deep sonorous voice, “you are you own enemy, you step on your neck all the time, you hold you down.”

He continued, “you are a good writer, I have read what you write and you are a good photographer, I like you photographs, so get the fuck out of your own way.”

Here’s to me doing just that.

Whether in Rome.

In Paris.

In Oakland.

Or where ever I am supposed to be.

Because if he will read that book, then so will a lot of other people too.

 

Some Times The Hall Way

April 21, 2013

Is dark.

But do not worry, worry does no good, there is a light.

Hall Way

Hall Way

There is a light and it beckons me toward it.

I climbed up the last set of stairs and discovered that I had circumnavigated the vast crowds around the museum and slipped in a back entrance to the top terrace of the building.

My host, Michelle, had mentioned in passing that there was a cafe at the top of the museum.

I was beyond grateful to have been made privy to this information.

Whilst she was off leading a guide of the Coliseum, I decided to head toward the cafe, nestled high above the ruins and pressed bold against the blue skies.

I ordered an Americano and found myself a table in the middle of the terrace.  I pulled off my jacket, set down my bag, and took out my notebook, my bag of pens, an Italian journal Maggie had given me and I commenced to write.

A few times I paused and looked out over the ruins below.  My eyes misted, a tear slid down my face, and I felt as though I could just lay my head down upon the table and die of sheer joy and gratitude.

What was I doing here,  on this terrace, in this cafe, doing what I love, writing, in Rome?

I was saying, “yes,” and “yes,” and more “yes.”

I said a lot of yes today.

I spoke in the evening and shared with new friends what led me to this point, being in Rome, my time spent living in Paris, adventures in Burning Man, life in San Francisco, and who I am, every single authentic bit of me.

I swore a little, I laughed a lot, I cried some.

I am an emotional being.

I felt the joy flying through me so often today.

It may have been helped by a few shots of espresso.

Damn the coffee is good here, Paris, you could take a lesson.

I am sitting now in the kitchen of an apartment in Rome where three women live, two Italian ladies and one lovely doll from Southern California and I am listening to the rain fall.

The sunshine decided to not last, but just like the hall way has its light beckoning to me, I know the rain too shall pass.

This too shall pass, I think to myself, this time will go and I will have photographs to look back on and words I wrote in a journal and ticket stubs and post cards and new friendships.

I will have a better perspective on my life and a greater appreciation for my life.

Most of all, I can say I have a life, a life in which I proceed to allow myself to grow in.

Positively.

My new challenge is to set some roots.

Be still for a while.

Let the words continue to come, but let them nestle into a rooted place.

As I was being warmed by the sunshine of Rome I was thinking of the hills of San Francisco and seeing more and more that it is home, it is time to go back to the Bay and to settle down.

I wish to allow myself a home.

I want to grow up and stay put.

I am done running away from myself and I am here, oddly enough in a foreign country sitting at a kitchen table in the apartment of people I just met today, saying I want a home.

I carry home with me, in my bag of pens, in my laptop, in my heart, I go where I am directed and I live a life beyond my wildest dreams.  Yet, I also have a deep desire that I have kept to myself for a long time to be still.  To let these experiences settle out and see what gold there is to be taken from the dross.

I will keep traveling, I do not doubt that in the least, but I want terra firma under my feet and a place to return to.

I want to make San Francisco my base.

I love the journey and I know there will be more to come and more will be revealed, but as I wrap up my Paris adventure, ironically by going off to Rome, I know where home is now.

Home is where I left my heart.

Home is where my fellowship is.

Home is where the hills are not always sunny, often times they are shrouded in fog, but home is there.  I wish to go back and really try to create a pot to piss in.

Or to plant a geranium in.

I do not feel the chagrin I thought I would when I was writing this, I do not feel buyers remorse for having said I am going to travel and write and take photographs and I am running away to Paris to join the circus.

I need to go to the circus.

I hear there’s a good one happening out in the desert in Nevada.

My authentic self is happiest in the Bay.

My travel plans are still writ large and I do not know where I will go next or how I will get there, but I believe it is time to be in one place for a while.

Of course, my plans could change tomorrow, but I feel that I have been softened up, the rough edges have been worn down and as I sat in a cafe in Rome today with my, shhhh, third americano in front of me, I realized I had been polished smooth by these travels and I surrendered to the end of the journey here abroad.

It is time for the prodigal daughter to return home.

With a pocket full of photographs and a bigger heart.

I know this hallway is dark, but I see the blue skies framed beyond the door and I carry with me now my own inner light, a light that I was allowed to bathe in today.

In Rome.

A glow

A glow


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