Archive for April, 2013

Damn Good Directions

April 21, 2013

And I am officially on Roman Holiday

Her directions were perfect.

Spot on.

I took each moment by each moment.

Each minute by each minute.

I started out my day in disastrous fear.

So much so that I was yelling out loud to shut up, please, shut my head off, please make it stop, I cannot take this for very long.

By the time I was into my second cup of coffee and had started to write out my morning pages that voice had gotten softer, but it was still a lot louder than I would have.  I told myself again and again, all you have to do is to breathe.

Pause.

Breathe.

Do the next action directly in front of you.

Yes, that means picking up your cup of coffee and taking a drink, going to the bathroom and brushing your teeth, washing the breakfast dishes.

Now, quiet head, pull out what you are going to wear to Rome.

It is not enough, you are not enough, there is not enough.

Shhh

Yes, there is.

All you have to do is show up, show up to the Metro, take the train to Gare de Nord.

Which I actually realized one stop later was so close that I did not need to be on the train, I could walk, and I would rather walk above ground than below ground.  So, up I popped at Peletier and strode toward the Gare du Nord station.

It was a riot of people, confusing at first glance, but as I had already done some exploring of the train station previous when I went to London, not nearly as bad as it could have been.

Follow the signs.

It really is not that hard.

Read the directions.

I had already written down the directions in my Iphone and had the message from my host on my phone saved, so I knew what I needed to know to get from the Rome airport to the meet up at the hotel.

However, navigating the Paris side fell on me and I needed to do investigation of the situation, especially when it was revealed that there was a strike going on and the trains running to Charles de Gaulle were not running to the airport.

I came back up from the platform I was on and just patiently read the signs.

Ok.

I need to go upstairs and I need to find quai 32 and 33.

I did.

I got on the train.

I asked the girl in the seat across from me if this was the correct train, in French, she confirmed, and I settled into my seat and ate a banana and an apple.

My go to snacks for traveling.

I just had a banana and an apple a few minutes back, here in Rome, at the desk of my host while she was getting ready for bed and I was editing down the photographs I had taken today.

I do not currently have internet here at the house, I may or may not be able to post this blog up before I go to bed, but I am going to write it regardless, that is what I do.

I write regardless.

What am I going to write about tonight, I thought as I looked out the window at the Air France plane I was about to board.

The girl had been correct, I was on the right train, I got off at the right platform, went through the doors, up the escalators, checked in at the Air France terminal, printed off my boarding pass and was through security so fast it seemed as though all lights were green.

What am I going to write about, I thought again in the airport lounge of my connecting flight in Milan.

Perhaps I shall write about how I asked the security agent in French where to go next.

That has been quite funny to me.

Speaking French in Italy.

I have caught myself doing it more than a few times.

I have also heard French thoughts in my head, I like hearing those French thoughts, even if they are coming to a close, for the moment, I choose to think, who knows what yet may happen.

The directions she gave, I thought, as I got on the train on the Metro were flawless.

There were some spots I had to fill in myself, how to get to said train from the terminal where the plane landed, but fortunately I have become used to the way European signage works and was able to locate the directions far easier than I would have thought.

Despite the languages being, well, two different languages, they do have similar roots in Latin.

I recognized the Italian word for next when I realized it had the same root as the French word for next and I was able to hop off at the correct exit.

I will be alright, I thought to myself as I wrote this morning.

I will get there.

I will find my way.

I will go slow and it will be alright.

There will be enough, there is enough, I have enough.

I thought, I am also not cut out for this much longer.

How many times will I travel like this, on the skin of my teeth, watching every Euro slide through my fingers, figuring down to the last centime how I can afford to get there, stay there, and eat.

Let alone buy a souvenir.

Then again, there is nothing wrong with traveling on a shoe string.

“What are you going to do here?”  Her friends asked me over dinner.

“Walk, wander, meander, sit in a cafe and observe the people, write,” I replied.

I don’t have to do the destination spots and see the sights and spend the Euros like crazy to get a good taste of a place, I can people watch and walk.

It is what I do best.

Then write about it.

The Universe often surprises me too with gifts from out of the blue and I shall be on the look out for those as well.  I am loved, I love, and I shall do my best to bring that love with me as I go about the ruins and the temples and the cobbled streets.

I will be myself and that, despite myself, is always enough.

In Rome.

Pantheon

Pantheon

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Leave Here By 1 PM

April 19, 2013

Be there just before two pm.

Check into my flight.

And off to Rome.

The days are counting down so fast.

“When do you leave?” She asked me today.

“Wednesday, May 1st, 6:40 a.m.” I replied and sipped on my cafe allonge at Bert’s.

I had back to back meet ups with my ladies at the coffee shop.  Where it was decided I would be keeping my relationship with both the gals whilst they were here in Paris and I am in Oakland.

“Will you?” She asked, her big brown eyes soft, dewy, doe like.

I paused, just say “yes” came into my mind.

I had not planned on saying yes, I was firm with the lady bugs I left in San Francisco, find some one else to work with, but here, in the land of transitional travelers, I felt I had to say yes, I wanted to say yes, and yes, I said, yes.

“We will Skype and we will continue to work,” I said.

The relief on her face was so deep I felt shook to my own core and tears sprang up.

“I will miss you,” I said to my second gal today, “it really was worth the entire journey if it was only to meet and get to work with you,” I told her.

And the tears did slip down my face.

I am so lucky to have made the connections here that I have made and so fortunate to found myself surrounded by more love.

How easily I find myself falling in love with people.

I had no idea that I have this capacity and that it continues to be filled with faces and people and while I make plans with one set of women to continue to work with them and stay connected, I have more plans being spun into motion with people in San Francisco.

“When do I get to see you?” She asked on my Iphone messenger.

And voila!

More plans.

I will be seeing my Bethie at Philz coffee on 24th and Folsom Street in San Francisco on Friday May 3rd.

That is two weeks from today.

At this time, in two weeks I will get to see her pretty face.

I cannot believe my luck.

I am graced.

“Where are you going next,” she asked me as we walked out the door of Bert’s into the light spring rain.

I was about to reply Alam-Marceau and wave to the Metro stop that was beckoning to me.

“Do some quick grocery shopping and hang out my laundry,” I replied.

“Walk with me?” She asked, “just to the next Metro stop.”

Say “yes” the voice whispered in my ear and the “no” that was on the tip of my tongue got swallowed back and I said, “of course!”

The rain fell down on our heads and the sun shone through the clouds at the same time as we skirted down the avenue to Metro Lena.

“Have you ever been there?” She said and pointed across the avenue.

I had no idea where I was and nothing looked familiar and I shook my head negatively.

“Oh!  I want to show you, let’s go, just for a minute,” she said and crossed to the intersection.

I was about to say no and head toward the Metro.

“Where do you need to go that fast, Martines?” I asked myself.

“Ok,” I said and followed her across the street.

Musee Guimet.

The Asian Art museum of Paris.

We went to the gift shop and she told me about the Buddhas and the little girl Sue that she takes care of and how she wanted Sue to stay that age forever, two and a half, “Buddha, Buddha, Buddha, I want to see the Buddha’s.”

I smiled and fingered the paper the ceramic dishes while she flipped through the paper notebooks.

“Do you want to go in?” She asked me, nodding toward the museum.

“I, uh,” not really I was thinking, then it just popped out, “sure, why not? How much is it?”

“Oh, it’s free, I’ll get you a ticket with my student id.”  She walked over to the ticket counter, flashed her id, and returned to me with a ticket.

I stood there in wonder.

I was just going to get on the Metro and go grocery shopping and suddenly, here I am, at another museum, with a free ticket in my hand, and a camera.

She gave me the ticket and then a hug and went out into the scatter of rain showers and fallow sunshine slipping through the clouds.  I watched her golden halo of hair down the street, then turned to the woman at the front taking tickets.

The museum was gorgeous.

Quiet.

Three floors of statues and calligraphy, tapestry, and paintings, Buddhas, Shiva’s, Tree Goddesses, monks, Shaolin warriors, art from China, Japan, Thailand, I was stunned to be given another gift.

Elephant

Elephant

Musee Guimet

Musee Guimet

Buddha

Buddha

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I slipped in and out of the statues and savored the silence of a museum that not many seemed to be drawn to.  The guards sitting in the chairs could have been snoozing and there were long stretches of time when I did not see another person or hear anything but the sound of my own breath.

The Buddhas smiled.

They knew, know, are knowing.

Say yes, just say yes.

“Friday eve!  Can I have it?”  Her message shouted in glee.

“Yes, I will be hella jet lagged, but it is yours,” I replied.

I figure since I will be adjourning to Oakland soon I should work the “hella” into my conversations as much as possible.

I just got goosebumps, Philz, a dear friend, and a trip to the Koo Koo factory later that evening.  More friends.  It will be overwhelming and I will be jet lagged, but it will be wonderful.

Leaving here on a jet plane to Rome.

Returning to Paris.

Taking a train to Chambourcy.

Returning to Paris.

Flying into San Francisco International.

Going to Oakland.

My blog, “Girl on the Go,” is really getting a work out.

Here’s to more saying yes!

Getting Exactly What I Asked For

April 18, 2013

A museum date with a cute boy.

My man Mario.

God damn he is sexy.

Mario

Mario

He picked me up on George V and we walked over to the Palais de Tokyo.

“I have a plan,” he whispered in my ear as he busked my cheeks with kisses.

“Yes?” I said, delighted to see him, I could sit in a card board box with Mario and be happy.

“Have you been to the Tokyo Palace?” He asked.

“I have!  But I have not gone through the exhibits.” I replied, my day already special with getting to see him, brightened even more.

“Let’s go!” He said and slung his arm around my shoulders, and I wrapped my arm around his waist and off we strolled down the avenue on a warm spring day in Paris.

I smiled on the inside, I was getting exactly what I wanted, a museum day with a man I delight in, a handsome, sexy, sweet, charming, intelligent being.

And lunch!

“I’m hungry, you?” He asked as we rambled along down the rue.

“Yes!”

“Let’s have lunch first, then we’ll hit the museum.”

We went to the cafe and waited to be sat, the tables were jammed with Parisians having lunch.  I whipped out my camera and took some photographs, of him, of the lights that looked like little Martian space ships floating through the air, of my coffee cup, the menu, the walls, the tables and chairs.

Martian Lights

Space Ship

I warned Mario that I was camera happy.

“I know, I read your blogs,” he smiled at me.

I took another photograph.

“You are so photogenic,” I said.

He smiled and I smiled.

We smiled at each other.

The waitress came round and we ordered.

I stayed vegan actually sending back a salad that had a pile of cheese heaped all over it.  The waitress whisked it back to the kitchen and repaired to the table with a fresh plate.

I had an extraordinary bowl of miso soup with mushrooms and sprouts and cilantro and a green bean salad mixed with a scattering of chopped hazelnuts and a light citrus and olive oil dressing.  I finished it off with a cafe allonge and reveled in the space, the company and the impending museum visit.

Mario and I talked Burning Man and art and music and men.

We have similar tastes.

Then we meandered off into the museum.

“I hope you don’t mind,” I said, “I really like to take photographs….”

He interrupted me, “I will wander off on my own.”

“Oh, thank God,” I said, rather relieved.  I do like company on museums walks, but sometimes I just want to contemplate and look on my own and not have some deep discussion about the art.  I just want to look off into the distance and see what there is to be seen.

Off in the Distance

Off in the Distance

Often times it was just the museum space itself.  It was three levels inter connected via wide cement stair cases and spiral staircases and the urbanity of it drew me forward without having to say a lot.

The space was gritty and dirty and modern and industrial in a way that just charmed me to the bone.

Mario and I explored together and apart, going from room to room and exhibit to exhibit.

We sank down in one of the rooms where a massive installation was on display of Julio Le Parc.  The artist’s work was with motion and mirrors and lights.  Very simple and yet elegant in the spare way the pieces were built and displayed. Often times it was just pieces of thin bent metal or hanging pieces of glass or plastic that had filtered colored lights playing over them.

Red Globe

Red Globe

One of my favorite pieces was in a dark room that had low black leather couches scattered in front of it.

The pinpricks of light that slipped through the dark sky light reminded me of random constellations of stars and the quiet of the room was serene and meditative.

“Regarde! La lune,” a little boy said walking by.

“Shhhh…” his mother pulled him off and suddenly it was just Mario and I on the couch holding hands.

I leaned into him and matched my breath to his and we sat and stared in contemplative wonder at the installation.

Light Play

Light Play

It was easily twelve feet across and ten feet wide, a circle of thin bent, flexible metal with a scatter of soft white and dusty yellow star light that would flex and float within the circle shifting with the molecules of air in the room.

“I could use one of those in my house,” I said to Mario with a chuckle.

“I would watch it from my bed,” he replied.

“Yes!  Exactly, I would kneel down at night and say my prayers and watch it until I fell asleep, buried under God’s light.” I finished.

We must have sat in the dark for another ten minutes, then a shift and it was time to be off and walk more.  We split up and came back and went in and out of rooms, finding what we needed to see and coming back together to share what we had found.

I caught Mario in contemplative mode and just about died at how divine he looked, nibbling on a finger as his eyes played over the art hanging on the wall.

“Hold still,” I thought to myself.

He did.

Mario

Mario in Thought

I don’t often take photographs of people.  I prefer to take pictures of architecture or space or things that have texture and depth and angles.

Occasionally I will find a person I have to take a photograph of.  I actually took quite a few of Mario, surprising myself and enjoying having a person to frame in the lens.

I did catch a few others on film today.

A couple of little girls in the interactive part of the museum who were with a frenetic group of elementary school age kids pinging and ponging around the room.

And a man in a pair of 3 D glasses.

Mario was the one who had my attention though.

Complete and thoroughly.

“Let’s get outside,” he said to me after a couple of hours in the museum.

“Yes,” I said and followed him out the door.

He sat down on the steps and lit a cigarette, I sat next to him, watching the traffic of people coming in and out, the posters unfurling for the Keith Herring premier that was getting ready to open at the Museum of Modern Art next to the Tokyo Palace.

“Have you ever been to that park,” Mario asked, pointing across the street.

“I have, and I love it,” I said.

“Let’s go lie in the grass,” he said.

And we did.

A lunch date, hand holding, museum time, and a lay about in the grass in a park surrounded by flowers, a fountain of water with a baroque statue, blue skies, and my man Mario.

Does not get much better.

In Paris.

Or anywhere else.

Three Times The Charm

April 17, 2013

I was out at La Defense this morning, again this afternoon, and yes, this evening.

Gah.

It was not a planned day.

I forgot the phone at the baby sitting gig.

I did not, of course, realize this until I was at Pont Neuilly, sitting in the sun, on a bench, reading a book, when all of a sudden, my head snuck up behind me and took a big bite out of my butt.

FEAR!

It screamed in my ear.

Jesus.

I literally jumped.

Did you really have to go and do that, I asked my head, it’s a lovely sunny day, we went to a museum, you’re sitting on a park bench with La Defense’s Grande Arche shimmering in the sun to your left and the Arc de Triomphe off in the haze of spring time sunshine to your left.

You have eaten today, you have money in your wallet.

“Not enough,” my brain whispered, trying to whip itself up into a miniature frenzy of fear.

Listen I don’t want french fries for lunch, freedom fries either, and the last thing I did not order was a side of fear to dip that shit in.

You are enough.

You have enough.

Everything is exactly the way it is.

ROME.

Yeah, so what?

You got a place to stay, and 100 Euro in your wallet.

OAKLAND.

RENT.

JOB.

yadayadayadayadayadayadayadayadayaya.

We could play this game all day long.

I pulled an apple out of my messenger bag and bit into its crisp sweetness and licked the juice off my thumb.  I flipped my book over and continued to read.

And there it was again, the insidious little fuck in my head.

You don’t have enough to go, you don’t have enough, you don’t have enough, you aren’t enough, why don’t you just go eat worms?

Good Lord.

Really?

I put my book down.

I can only listen to this crap for so long and I did not want to hear it any more.  I decided it was time to call in the cavalry, it was time to make a phone call, it was time to ask some one else how was their day going.

I reached into my bag.

FEAR!

Where’s the phone, you lost the phone, you got pickpocketed.

WHERE’S YOUR IPHONE!?

In your hand.

Shaddup.

I looked in all the various nooks and crannies in my messenger bag, opened all the pockets, sifted, through the bag with pens in it, and yup, no phone.

You got pick pocketed.

No I did not.

I retorted.

Why would some one bother to take my little trashy red Samsung throw away phone and not my Iphone?  No one is that stupid.  And my Iphone is bigger and had someone gotten into my bag they would have fumbled upon that faster than the little red phone.

I remembered taking the phone out and checking a text message, I was supposed to meet with Corinne and help out with the baby and she had not needed the coverage.  I responded to the text and I must have left it on the table.

Sigh.

No.

I don’t want to go back.

Back I went.

But mom and daughter were out and about and no one answered the door.

Sigh again.

By this time the fear klaxons were still ringing, but I also knew that I was half-way through HALT.

Hungry.

Angry.

Lonely.

Tired.

I needed a little more sustenance than the apple.  I was tired from having gotten up at 7 a.m.   I was angry with myself for leaving the phone on the table, and yes, although I did not want to admit it, as I caught myself staring at the guy and girl making out on the Metro, I was, indeed a little lonely.

“Hey sexy,” he said, as the Skype call came through.

I had just finished some food and was sipping tea, the mom had sent me an e-mail, my phone was there, and suddenly I was no longer tired.

Caffeinated tea.

I will probably crash hard as hell tonight.

But I was wide awake then.

A nice flirtatious Skype call, a good meal, some caffeine, and my phone is fine.

Deep breath.

I tucked the fear under the bed and went back out into the day.

I rode the Metro over to Pont Alma, crossed the bridge and sat in a patch of sunlight reading my book until I had to go cover my commitment.

Then I realized that the e-mail the mom had sent said come by at 6:30pm.

Not 8:30 p.m.

1830h is not 8:30pm.

Zoot alors.

Oh well.

I dithered when I realized this, I don’t want to go back out to La Defense again.  But I also knew I was going to need that phone and I would want it back and the night was warm and soft and the shimmering sky promised a beautiful sunset and I thought, you don’t have to go anywhere tomorrow, just show up at noon at one spot and the rest of the day is yours, so just go.

Mom will be there and yes, you’re way late, but go.

I got the phone.

I got some lovely photographs.

Go check them out.

Then I came home.

I opened the windows onto the courtyard and downloaded my photographs.

I happily edited them.

The third trip was definitely worth it.  The sky line, the colors of sunset on the glass walls, I was content with the content.

The fear stayed under the bed.

I have a bed to sleep in, an apple with some soy yogurt to snack on (day 17 vegan!), a hot cup of tea and yes, a working phone in my possession.

Life is lovely.

In Paris.

For two more weeks!

 

 

 

Surreal and Oddly Wonderful

April 16, 2013

All at the same time.

I was just with my friend Wilmein, my South African friend from French class, having tea in the Montmartre neighborhood, just scant steps away from Sacre Couer.

She gave me a book on Rome–Lonely Planet’s Pocket Book on Rome–for my trip this upcoming weekend.

How small and odd and quirky is the world?

Like this, look at those sentences that came prior, my South African friend who I met in Paris at French class gave me a tour guide-book on Rome where I will be staying with a friend who I met in Paris who turns out to have been the roommate of a darling friend of mine in Berkeley who I met at Burning Man, introduced to me by another mutual friend from New York.

And breathe.

Add to that I just made a coffee date with one friend in San Francisco whose husband I met on the AidsLifeCycle Ride in 2010 while confirming another coffee date with a friend in Oakland.

Then there’s the Burning Man substructure to add to the mix, of which the previous friend is, and you just got global weirdness happening.

I mean, it’s wonderful, but strange too.

Then, I chuckle to myself as I was talking with my South African friend about the crush on the boy from New York with the blue eyes and the Irish passport who happens to be the older brother of one of my nearest and dearest friends in San Francisco and I just have to laugh.

I love how small the world is.

I mean it’s huge, but with Skype, G-mail chat, facecrack, Linkedin, Twitter, and God only know what else, my blog, I am more connected than I have ever been.

This is good.

Oh, fyi, anyone free to pick me up from SFO on May 1st?

Hahahahahahaha.

Jesus.

And before I go, let me not forget that I will be house sitting in Saint Germain-en-Laye for friends from Paris via Australia.

While having just confirmed the house sitting/dog sitting gig in Oakland that a Burning Man friend set up for me with a neighbor for when I get back from Paris.

I am going to help another friend in Paris, from Pittsburgh, tomorrow with an hour of babysitting while she goes to a doctor’s appointment.

I will be coming from my last day of English tutoring that was obtained through a connection via Oakland with a woman who is from LA who lives here on a Polish passport who heard I was looking for work and forwarded the information on to me.

Let me also not forget the weeks worth of work that friends of friends at Burning Man, from Austin Texas, sent me just prior to Easter weekend, who, said family, happen to also know my room-mate from the tattoo world.

6 Degrees of Carmen.

Recap the French connection, my friend from Madison, Wisconsin, from the dojo on State Street was the person who gifted me the money to go to French class in the first place where I met Wilmein.

All because I like to say “yes” to the Universe rather than no.

May I always have such love in my life.

May you as well.

I am glad I live a life where I get out and meet people and say yes to experiences, even when they scare me.  I am nervous about going to Rome, I won’t lie, but I am looking forward to it as well, especially after I started flipping through the little pocket guide.

I am also smiling at the scattered postcards on my table.

In the past week I have sent out postcards to Rome, Austin,  Oakland, New York, Lady Lake Florida and San Francisco.  Since I have been in Paris, add to that list: Silicon Valley, Berkeley, Castro Valley California, Green Bay, and Hudson, Wisconsin.

I think that about covers it.

I have been supported via donations from Paypal by folks in Maine, San Jose, CA, San Francisco, and Florida.

I have had people host me in London, been gifted Pounds, Euros, and Dollars.

I am so grateful I do not have the words.

I am going to try to find them.

I still need to write about 400.

I like my blogs about a 1,000 words long.

Or there abouts.

I now have Twitter followers, thanks for the heads up on how to increase my blog profile Dirty415, in London, Tokyo, Australia, France, the USA, South America, and Canada.

I have someone retweet my photographs every time I post them.

I have no idea who this is.

NONE.

But every day since he stumbled upon my blog and Twitter feed, he retweets.

Thanks man.

I have hung out with singers from LA in Paris parks, gone backstage at Paris nightclubs and met famous globe-trotting djs.

Who is that girl?

Just moi.

“You’re going to be one of those people famous for being famous, I just know it” he posted on the photograph Keith Carslon took of me at Burning Man on my FaceBook feed.

I met him on OKCupid.

Hahahahahaha.

This is crazy.

The world can be big and scary and frightening.

Or it can be just a sweet little living room where we get to sit down, have a cup of real African Rooibous tea from South Africa, see the view of Sacre Couer out the window and talk about what happens next in this global drama I call my life.

Did I mention I grew up in a unicorporated town in Wisconsin.

There wasn’t even a bar on the main street–just a small general store, a post office and a farm next to the baseball diamond at Fireman’s Park.

“I don’t know anyone from Defo (DeForest High School, the closest school system to where I lived.  When we moved to Windsor there was a school–one room–across the street for the elementary age kids) who lives in Paris,” he chatted with me on Facebook, “keep the faith.”

And I am only 40!

Who know where I will go next or who I will meet.

But I know this.

I will continue to say yes, or oui, or even, you betcha!

To the Universe.

It really is a wonderful world out there.

I wonder where I will go next?

I Am Lost Already

April 15, 2013

Well, Rome and navigation will start off with a bang.

Not excited to find out tonight that my host will be unable to meet me at the airport.  I will be left to my own devices to make my way into the city.

I already feel lost.

I had to get off the chat and take a deep breath and go put the kettle on the stove.

I dislike being lost.

And being lost in a country that I do not speak the language.

Fuck my mother.

Sounds horrid.

She is busy typing instructions and I will go back and read them in a moment when my brain settles down.  Yeah, I will probably get lost.

What else is new?

I feel like I am finally getting my bearings here, only to be leaving and having to figure out another city.  Despite having been in Oakland before I left for Paris, I only went so far, mainly on my bike back and forth to BART.

I learned quickly that there were only a couple of routes that made sense to me and I stuck to them.  I did no real exploring of the neighborhood, it did not feel safe to do so, however, I am sure I will have to do more when I get there.

I really do not want to navigate around a new city and meet someone at a hotel somewhere in Rome.

Argh.

I am getting way ahead of myself.

The directions will be clear and easy and I will do the opposite of what my brain tells me, turning left when I feel that I really should turn right.

I always turn the wrong direction.

Do not tell me to go East either, where the hell is that?

Left, right, up, down.

If it could all only be in just a straight line, then the world would be such an easier place to navigate.  As it stands it never is a straight line.

But the path can be pretty when I let it be.

I felt pretty today.

It did not hurt to be told by two different people who I adore that I looked pretty as well.

I was so complimented earlier that I carried it with me the entire day.

I was easy in my body, light in my skin, I felt aglow and a loft and scattered before myself with my own external lamp of good being and wellness.

There are times when I struggle with this body I have been given and it feels unwieldy and unforgiving and just not graced at all.

I remember when I was filling out the application to the martial arts studio that I trained with for four and a half years, leaving right before I moved to San Francisco with a black belt amongst the few possessions I had decided to take with me, there was one question that stuck out to me.

It had something to do with my desires to study, what was I looking for.

I answered with a much higher degree of honesty than I suspected I was capable of.

First, I wanted to lose weight.

Second, and more importantly, I wanted to be graceful.

One can be graceful and heavy and I was just that.

In fact, despite becoming quite good at martial arts, I mean I did earn that black belt, that was not something that came all together that easy.  I will never forget Mister Kessel spending a good solid hour showing me blocks one and two.

An hour.

I was so frustrated, left and right, left and right, left and right, that I was in tears.

I eventually got it.

But man, it took a long while.

I never lost all that much weight.

Oh I did, I dropped about thirty, maybe thirty-five pounds over the course of the four and a half years, but I am easily 60 lbs lighter than when I got my black belt.

Sometimes I wonder about that, what it would have been like, how fast I would have been without the weight holding me down.

I mean, you go do a five-hour black belt test with an additional 60 lbs on you, that’s like having a third grader strapped to your body, do anything with extra weight after being lighter, and see how it feels.

Of course, I never knew what being lighter was until fairly recently.

I did put on some Paris pounds when I first arrived, trying to juggle the change in food styles and eating eighteen times as many french fries as I did in the states–really I cannot remember eating french fries at all when I was in the Bay area, roasted Japanese sweet potatoes with Earth Balance and fresh tomatoes from the garden at Graceland, but not french fries.

I have since dropped the Paris pounds, sort of like the freshman 20, although I am doubtful I put on that much, enough that there was a week or two when I wanted to wear tights all the time instead of my jeans which felt a little too tight, but not enough that I need to go up a dress size.

And since the house sitting gig in Chambourcy I have been vegan.

Whether or not it sticks I am not going to promise, but I will say once the dairy detox was done (head aches, mucus–where the hell did that all come from–I mean I know they say not to drink milk when you have a cold, but I had no idea, mild body aches, and some irritability), it took about a week and a half, I am at day fifteen today,  I have been feeling good.

Really good.

Sassy.

Could be that it is Spring.

Could be that I am wearing pink.

Who knows.

But I do know this, I am pretty, even when I am lost, and I am graced.

Despite what size I am.

Despite what pants size I am.

I am graced.

The kung fu training was not what did it, although it did not hurt, I still tend to carry myself a bit like a stalking lion, but it was the acceptance of my body being what it is, how it is, beautiful despite the sagging arms and loose belly skin.

That, hate to break it too you, is what happens when you lose a lot of weight and don’t do the cosmetic surgery bit.

Which I may somewhere down the line, but probably won’t, as I have more important things to spend my money on.

Self-love, self-acceptance, forgiveness.

Time and patience.

Fortunately, they came before I got too many grey hairs.

“You are NOT 40,” she said to me Saturday.

Yes, I am, just talk to the varicose veins on my thighs, but they lay over some strong muscles and some graceful moves, and once in while the day conspires to tell me I am pretty and I actually believe to my core I am totally one with myself.

That is damn fine.

Lost or not lost.

Utterly graced.

Here in Paris.

Or.

Lost in Rome.

Graced.

To Market, To Market

April 14, 2013

To buy a fat pig.

Or a five euro glass box.

Which I tried to barter down from 7 euro to quinze Euro.

The man in the stall did a double take, laughed, patted my arm, pulled his wife over, showed her the box told her I wanted to buy it for quinze instead of cinque, cue me blushing, having realized I asked for a higher price rather than a lower.

Ah, French.

How do I love thee, let me count the nouns.

I also just discovered the difference between the noun “baiser” and the verb  “baiser”.

One means a kiss.

The other, in slang, means to fuck.

Well, no wonder all French men think us American gals are all for the having sex non-stop.

“No, monsieur, just kiss me.”

Uh huh.

Christ.

Well, I did get it for the reduced price and I actually had a very cute and charming conversation with the vendor.  I told his wife I knew I spoke French like a Spanish cow, her husband doubled over, first time I have heard a French person belly laugh, tears standing in his eyes.

I was on a roll and explained at least it was better than the mistake I made a few months back when I first arrived here and said “no, I don’t need a sack, I am a sack.”

At this point, I believe if the wife had not been present, he might have just given me the box, he was laughing so hard.

Glad to know we can all laugh at me, most of all myself.

I do have a tendency to take myself too damn seriously anyhow.

I actually did quite well today at the flea market.

I was thrilled, too, to not have to go out to Cliangcourt to get my flea market fix, which was most likely swamped, as today was the first deliriously real day of Spring, I actually chose to walk on the shaded side of the street at one point, I went instead to Square D’Anvers, just a few blocks away from where I live.

Last night as I was returning from the baby sitting gig (which earned me the money for the few little splurges I got) I noticed the stalls being set up and the flyers posted around the square for “Brocante Soldes.”

Antiques.

Yes.

It was actually a really big market, I was surprised by how much of the street it ended up encompassing.  I walked through it twice.  The first time to get a lay of the stalls and what was being offered.  The second time to make my purchases.

All of which I talked down from the original price.

I may not be able to speak French as well as I imagine I do, and I do imagine it–I find myself thinking in French more and more often which is kind of crazy–but I do know how to barter.

I also know when I am being snookered.

I refused to pay for the price of a pair of bib overalls that a woman was selling in her stall.

Partially because I found it astoundingly rude to be hollered at from the cafe table across the way.  Lady, get off your ass and make the sale, put the cigarette down, leave the wine, and man your stall.  No, I don’t think I want to buy from you anyhow.

They are my current obsession, bib overalls.

I have no idea why, but I want a pair.

I do need a new pair of jeans, my last pair from the states died.

Bicycle riding will do that.

They did last longer than I thought they would, but the last bike ride out they died.  And no new jeans.  I find that I have looked a little for new jeans but I am finding it difficult to shop.  I am not much of a shopper any how, oh, I would be, I am sure, if I had more money to spend, but I am not much for just going and trying stuff on.

I still don’t see my body very clearly and despite having tried on clothes since I lost the weight, over two years ago now, I find myself either going for things that are too small or too big, getting discouraged, and giving up.

Plus, despite being smaller than the last time I was here in Paris four years ago, I do still have a bigger frame than the majority of woman here, except for the African immigrants.

French woman are just tiny naturally, shorter, in leg and torso, and thin.

I am none of the above.

Now, I love my body, it’s strong, and much healthier than it was for years and years, but finding clothing that works well for me has never been quite my forte.

Hence the lure of the accessory.

I found my Paris earrings!

Five euro.

Pink plastic hearts.

I also found a wood bead and fabric necklace for five euros.  It had been originally been 25 Euro, not sure how I got it for five and I scampered away before the madame could change her mind.  I knew I had made a great score when a few stalls down when I stopped to look at some beautiful vintage hats and gloves (way out of my range even with barter skills) the woman in the stall approached me and complimented me on the necklace asking what country I was from and where I got the necklace.

When I told her, ici, here, she was quite surprised.

I was thrilled and told her thank you and that she had a lovely stall, more expensive than I could afford, but so pretty.  She thanked me, we talked about my tattoos and I slowly drifted off to the next stall.

I got a lot of attention for the tattoos.

The weather, ah, oh, ooooooh, the sun, it came out today.

And off with the jacket, the scarf, and the layers.

I showed more skin today than I have in months.

I was not openly harassed, though, just admired and it was a pleasant experience.  I told my friend today at the park, as we sat in the sunshine and admired the green leaves unfurling, that I often had men, mostly, approach me, and touch me, then ask after the tattoos, the last time I came to Paris.

It was a disconcerting experience then, my French much more rusty than it is currently, despite making mistakes still, which I will, I am sure, make more of.

I don’t put up with the touching now at all.

It won’t be an issue for the next few days anyhow, I will be covered up again.

Tomorrow it is supposed to rain, but I got out today, walking, wandering, bartering, speaking my poor French and soaking up the sun.  I don’t even care that I made an ass of myself.

If I can’t laugh at me then I am taking myself too damn seriously.

And I am not that French.

Change of Plans

April 13, 2013

Nope.

Not going to do it.

Not going to wait in line.

I know I only have a few more weeks left in Paris, just over two, to be exact, but I cannot bring myself to wait in line for an exhibit, even if it is free, even if it is couture, I just could not do it.

Besides, I was to meet with Corinne at 4 p.m. and I did not have the wiggle room in my schedule to wait even had I wanted to.

I went for a walk along the Seine and did one of my favorite things instead, I perused the book stalls.  I bought some post cards and I got a few small posters.

All for less than 15 Euro.

I also picked up the requested magnet to bring to my friend’s fridge in Rome–ie rent for the three days I am there.

“What are you going to do in Rome?” I was asked earlier.

Fuck if I know.

I am just going to go.

I know it is a beautiful place, and I hear it is warm and sunny.  I am very much down for the warm and sunny bit.  Since my friend does tour guiding I don’t feel like I have to do much research here, I will show up, get off the plane and let myself be led.

And should I just end up sitting in a cafe, well, then, that’s not too bad either, sitting in a cafe in Rome sounds pretty damn tight actually.

I was going through the Paris tour books in the flat this morning as I ate my oatmeal and had my morning coffee, I was thinking about what I should do and where I should go and I got tired of looking at the photographs, and the suggestions, and the maps, and the go here, do this.

Tired.

I tossed the books aside and said screw it, I am done trying to figure out what more I can do while I am here.  Just being here is enough.

I have done a lot of living here and I have seen a lot of the monuments and like a person who actually lives here I am no longer much of a fan of the places that curate to the tourist.

I do not want to deal with crowds.

I do not want to stand in line.

I am just about museum’ed out.

I have been to the D’Orsay, twice, the Orangerie, the Louvre, the Pompidou, the Rodin, Musee Branly, the Musee Marmottan-Monet, the Dali museum, and Musee Carnvalet.

I think I have pretty much covered what I want to see as far as museums go.

I do not have a desire to see Versailles, though I hear it is worth the trip.

I just do not feel like taking a full day trip outside of Paris, aside from exploring Saint Germain-en-Laye when I go out to Chambourcy in two weeks.  That will be my quiet time retreat to get centered before I return state side.

I found myself plugging in the co-ordinates to the house sitting gig I am doing and Graceland where I will be staying as well as the nanny gig, and I realized, yes, once again my sense of direction is not really direct.

There is a difference between street and avenue in Oakland.

The gig is on 42nd Street.

Graceland is on 51st Avenue.

I google mapped it and it is not 9 blocks away.

Ack.

It is 7.7 miles away.

Well, fuck me.

Then I thought, you know, that’s not so bad.

Fuck me.

Oh well.

Actually, it is not so bad.  It means exercise, and exercise for me is a good thing.  It means riding my bike.  Although I am sure for the first few times out I will probably take BART to get back and forth.  I am actually looking forward to riding.  The legs are a little rusty.

Rain in Paris is lovely and I like walking in it.

Riding my bicycle?

Not so much.

I have my fingers crossed that tomorrow will actually dawn bright and sunny and in the 70s as the weather forecast has promised all week.

There have been pockets of sunshine, got to step out to the park yesterday with the kids in Asniers Sur Seine, but then it blew over and hailed and thundered and flash flood rain and lightening.

It was exciting, but not really bicycle weather.

Should it actually be sunny, I plan on taking out the bike.  I will ride from the 9th into the 7th and hang out there for a while.  I have a commitment to take care of, my last time there, and two coffee dates back to back at La Tour Eiffel Cafe afterwards.

Yes, it is near the Eiffel Tower.

No, I will not be going there.

I was thinking, rather, either a trip out to Bois de Bologne.

Or.

A bicycle ride through the Marais.

I have not been there in a while and the draw of the small streets and the eclectic shops was calling to me as I skirted around Hotel de Ville trying to find the entrance to the couture exhibit.  I did briefly think about popping in and out, but time being tight I decided to just walk the Seine.

Book Stall

Book Stall

I rambled up both the Left and the Right Banks crossing over a couple of the bridges, until I found the spot I got my magnet, posters, and post-cards from.

Then I dropped down the stairs and hit the RER C and went to Pont d’Alma to ramble over to 65 Quai D’Orsay.

After a check in with Corinne and some quality time seeing people I dearly love and cherish.

Funny that, how fast you can connect with someone and create a community and love another, so much, it brings tears to your eyes to even begin to say good-bye.

“You’ll be back,” she said and hugged me tighter.

Yes, I will.

When?

To tell you the truth, I don’t know.

I am uncertain how the rest of this falls out.

I am, however, excited to be still in one spot for a while.  To live and breathe and speak English, to not make an ass out myself in French, to get a manicure/pedicure that does not cost 50 Euro.

50 Euro!

Not that I have gone and done it, that’s just the average price you see listed on the few places that do offer the service.

I am not going to dwell long on what will happen next or where I will go next.

I am still here, still in Paris, still abroad, and despite not really being a tourist, I am putting my tourist pants on. Getting out the camera a little more and really asking myself if there is anything I have not done that I must do.

Stay present minded and enjoy the view is all that really comes up.

The view, well, it’s pretty good.

Here in Paris.

Invalides

Invalides

And The Word Got Out

April 12, 2013

And the word was good.

Looks like I’m coming up nanny.

Surrender to the babies.

Ok then.

At least they be Burning Man babies.

I got asked by another person from my Burning Man connections about a nanny position.  I said yes, however, I had to be upfront and say, um, yeah, I may have already said yes to a co-worker of yours.

Can we all share?

I want full-time work no matter what.

I have to supplement the extravagant life style I have.

You know, steamed potatoes and canned corn, generic box tea from Carrefour and apples.

Oh, hush, I am not that bad off, I am doing just fine, actually.

I was asked to pick up a Saturday shift tomorrow–the kids in the 7th want to say goodbye to me.  I am totally down with that, not always with the good-bye part, but I really like them, crushed out a little on the six-year-old girl, she is such a pumpkin and now that I think of it, she was my first baby sitting gig I had in Paris.

We made paper cut out snowflakes.

I will also have access to the phone line, free calls to the states!

Not that I feel like I actually need to make any phone calls, people seem to know more about me than I do.

“R….. told me you were coming back, we would LOVE to work with you.”

How the hell did R….. find out?

Who knows, facebook, linkedin, twitter, smoke signals, the blog.

I am one of those people.

Iphone charging next to my laptop.

My poor overworked laptop whose fan goes non-stop and seems to get slower and slower the more I use it.  I use it a lot.

“It’s ok to watch a show on your laptop,” my therapist told me three and a half years ago when I got it, “you are using it.”

“Not the way I want to be,” I said crying.

I was so abashed that I watched downloaded episodes of The Wire and had sex with my boyfriend after ward while using the Itunes app on it to play music.

Man I miss sex.

Segue.

And back to lap top, I was ashamed that I wasn’t doing enough with it.

Now, I can’t live without the damn thing.

I mean, I can, I did for a little while last night, it got so hot and the fan sounded like a vibrator on high-speed, yeah sex on the mind, it’ll pass, hopefully, that I turned it off to let it cool down and I just read for a while.

Reading, that’s a nice thing.

I am just about through all the books that were sent over with my room-mate when he made his trip back to San Francisco, good timing that.  What is left to read is the rest of my manuscript.

And I have a gig in Chambourcy in two weeks, so I know I will get it in there.

I Skype with my laptop, use it to blog, obviously, download videos to it, send out queries, e-mails, and generally live a pretty global kind of life when it gets down to it.

I have also a lot of photography work on my computer, something that has just sort of materialized without me thinking much about it, but yesterday, I realized that I had spent over an hour and a half editing the photographs I took, before I posted them to my photography blog and to my facecrack account.

And I have a full written manuscript on this baby.

I need to back all this up, is what I am realizing and I don’t know how to do that, I am supposing it is probably not so hard as I think it is, generally things are never as hard as they seem.

I was thinking about a day about a week and a half ago when I thought, “whatever I can do today to be happy, let me do that.”

I spent the whole damn day crying and letting go and surrendering.

And then doing it again.

What do you know, happiness came from it.

Work as well.

The ease that this is happening really does seem to point to me that it is the way forward.

I also will share a secret, not really a secret, but if I do get the opportunity to work as a nanny again for Burning Man folks this could be good fodder for the book I have always considered writing about regarding my experiences being a nanny at Burning Man.

“Would you be available to nanny on the playa?”

Yes.

As long as I am paid.

Otherwise, I will be spending my time at Media Mecca with the monkeys I hung about with last year.  And I put it out to the Universe, I do want to work for the Borg, it is true, there has always been a longing to be more than just a participant after my first go about there.

I have every year gone and done work there, I actually don’t know that I could go and not be a working girl.

I am getting ahead of myself, but it is really nice to know that people are thinking about me and want my nanny help, again, I repeat, to be wanted is really nice.

Unless it’s by the creeps on the Metro.

Go away.

And stop sucking your teeth at me, like what is that?

Please, next time, just drop your pants and let me blow you in front of the madame sitting next to me with the sack of groceries next to us because that teeth slurping sound you are making is so sexy I am hot just thinking about it.

Gah.

Can’t you see I’m reading?

Please, and it’s not a manual on how to please you nasty pants.

I digress.

Being wanted is a nice feeling and I have had so many people reach out to me over the last few days, here in Paris for coffee dates and walks and babysitting, dog sitting, and hugs, to dinner offers and tea parties in San Francisco when I return.

Thank you all for thinking of me, of helping me, of saying, yeah, you did do something incredible, you dared, you leapt, you sought, you rock.

I hear you.

And the word was good.

In Paris.

For a little while longer.

 

 

Keeping Busy

April 11, 2013

Getting booked up.

As the word gets ’round I am finding that my days are filling quickly as I prepare to return to the states.

I was contacted today to pick up one more Saturday night shift in the Invalides neighborhood so my loves in the 7th could say good-bye.

I also suspect mom and dad want one more long night out having a person they know and trust to watch over the kids before they start looking again for another sitter.

I was also asked today to do another long weekend in Chambourcy.

My last weekend in France will be spent quietly walking the dog through the woods.  I am quite happy to be of service.  Not only will I get a few more Euro for the road–which I just realized I will have to exchange in for dollars–but I will get a real spring in the French country side.

No snow this go around.

I am also planning on going out a little earlier than the arranged pick up time from the station so that I may do some exploring of Saint Germain-en-Laye.  It is so picturesque I want to make sure I get a few more photographs.

I don’t mind that my last weekend in France will be spent in the country.  Especially since I will still have Monday and Tuesday to do one last hit of Paris.

I am really getting out and seeing Paris too.

My room-mate told me last night that I have seen more of Paris in the short time I have been here than he has in the last two years.

Some of that comes from the fact that he works full-time.

Some of that comes from me getting myself out there.

Every day I have taken photographs.

Every day I have walked somewhere.

Yesterday I just walked around the neighborhood seeing what there was to be seen.  I was also looking for a little trinket or pair of earrings or a small bauble to buy to take with me as a souvenir of my ‘hood.

I did not find a thing.

I did today, however.

A few small things.

Post cards, a small hair clip, and stamps.

Today I went to Musee Marmottan-Monet.

It was superb.

In fact, I will say that it may be my new favorite.  I really appreciate the way the museum is laid out and the way the Monet Nymphaes were presented.  It was arranged so that the paintings could be seen from many different angles and you could walk amongst them.  I felt immersed in art.

In joy.

In love.

I was rapturous.

These photographs, as far as I am concerned do not tell a story of a thousand words, you frankly have to see the way the paintings are displayed, but they give an idea of the depth of the exhibit.

Nymphaes

Nymphaea

There were paintings around the walls, than paintings on clear panels dispersed in layers, so that when one walked around them you had different perspective and you could play one painting off the other behind or to the side of it.

Monet

Monet

I walked back and forth and up and down the aisles stunned again and again at the depth of color and the vibrancy of the work.

I shivered.

I got art high.

I got overwhelmed and wanted to sink onto the floor and just stare up into the paintings.

I wanted to lie down and be subsumed.

It was delicious.

I bought my favorite souvenirs in the gift shop after going through the main exhibit three times and the rest of the museum twice, postcards, a magnet, and some stamps.

I also bought a hand-made in France hair clip for 6 Euro.  It has an overlay of the Monet Agapanthus painting on it.

I dithered for a moment.

Then, I thought, really, Carmen, come on, you will love to have this, you will wear your hair up and think of the museum and the way you were overcome with the terrible happiness of being alive in Paris surrounded by Monet paintings.

Well worth the price.

I slid it on the counter with my little pile of postcards and wore a smile out the door.

I stood outside the walls of the museum and looked up at the sky and saw the buds of a flowering tree finally opening to the new warmth of Spring and my heart broke open and I was overcome with beauty and awe and gratitude.

What the hell am I doing here on this sidewalk in Paris?

How did this happen?

I walked, slowly along the street and went through the park as the warm misty rain fell on my face, I pocketed my glasses and raised my face heaven ward and said, “thank you,” tears filled my eyes and I breathed deep the fresh air.

It was still fairly early in the day I realized as I walked back to La Muette on Metro Line 9.

Where should I go?

Clingancourt!

It won’t be crowded, the weather is not really accommodating, and it is late enough in the day that I figured I would avoid the crowds.

As it turns out, there were no crowds and nearly everything was shut down.  I may very well have to come back on a weekend.  However, I may not, I don’t feel the need to buy a bunch of things to take back to the states with me.

I have taken so many photographs on my walk about’s and written so much in my journals that I feel quite satiated with my Paris experiences.  I do not need a trinket to remind me I was here.

Although I will most likely acquire a few small things to stuff in my suitcase before I pack it all in and head back.  I always get a pair of earrings from where ever I go.  I have been on the look out for something, besides the hoops I am wearing, which are standard fare for me.

Hoops that look just like the ones I bought at the Ashby Bart station flea market.

Only I know that I bought them here in Paris.

I would also like a hat.

I bought a little cabbie hat in the Saint Germain de Pres neighborhood when I was here four years ago and I still have it, it might have cost 16 Euro, or 12 Euro, I do not recall, but I know I did not spend over twenty.  I saw a hat stand in the Bastille that had hats I quite liked, though at the time I did not feel it prudent to purchase one, I do think that I will now, besides they too were under 20 Euro.

As my remaining days fill up with a few more baby sitting gigs, the house sitting, and some coffee dates with friends I have made here I realize that I will fast approach the end of April and poof!

Be gone.

But Paris, you will not be forgot.

Oh no.

You are seared into my being.

Thinking

Thinking of You Always

 

 

 


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