Posts Tagged ‘Odette & Aime’

Rainy Valentine

February 14, 2013

My plans were effectively shot in the foot with the weather being cold, rainy, and generally blech.  I did not want to walk anywhere today.  Go anywhere today.  Or do anything today.

Frankly, I am astounded I got out of the house.

Yet, out I went.

I struggled a little this morning with my routine and I just gave up the idea that I had it all figured out, I obviously did not, I forgot to dry my hair after the shower–I came downstairs and was like, did I forget something?  Uh, yes, to dry your hair, I realized as the water dripped down my back as I was getting dressed.

I was discombobulated for no particular reason.

I let myself take it easy and instead of rushing about to get to a spot by noon, I switched gears and headed elsewhere.

And got just what I needed.

Plus coffee at a new cafe with new friends.

I shared about my move and marveled at the response I got from the women about what I was doing.  Much applause, much admiration, much, much, much.

It was astoundingly self-affirming.

The best kind of Valentines Day gift, acknowledging that I am doing a damn good job with my life and where I am at.  The weariness wore off and despite the chill of the day, I did indeed do a little walking.  I was going to go to a museum, taking a ferris wheel ride in this weather was absoulutely out, but I found myself drifting towards the warmth of a cafe.

I walked through an unknown neighborhood, which as it turns out had a vast amount of galleries with some absolutely amazing art.  I saw Chagall’s and Picasso’s and sculptures and gorgeous window displays.

Skull and Butterflies

Skull and Butterflies

I wandered onto Rue Faubourg St. Honore.

I did window shopping.

No other kind of shopping was going to be happening for me in this neighborhood, but it was fun to walk through it none the less.

I did not feel less than.

The coffee with the ladies had really helped.  I had thought, what do I have in common with these women?


Look at how they are dressed and look at the jewelry they are wearing and listen to the things they are….

Wait, they are saying the same things I am, it’s just outside stuff.  The stuff they have is just different from the stuff I have.  We are all equal.  I may not have a golden square-cut 3 carat diamond surrounded by pave diamonds on a platinum band.


However, I believe that the woman I was talking to would have given it over in a minute to have done some of the things I was talking about.

“I want so much to write a book,” she said over her 9.50 Euro teeny tiny salad, “it just terrifies me though, I cannot write.  I just cannot.”

I can no longer argue for my own limitations.

I can write.

I do write.

I get to read and write and walk and spin my umbrella in the rain and on the occasion when it’s a special day and I am living in faith and I believe that it is ok to treat myself to a little special bit of Paris, I can go to Odette & Aime for steak tartar.

Odette & Aime

Odette & Aime

I can have a seat on the cozy banquette and regard the rainy day from the warm of the cafe.

I can read a book.

I can daydream.

I can observe.

Lunch date

Lunch date








I ate a delicious ‘bouef de tartar’ and melted into the seat and enjoyed every bite and did not freak out that I did not have enough.  I haven’t bought myself a meal in Paris in over a month, I can afford to enjoy my life.  I am allowed.  I would have done it for anyone else.

Every time I balked at being nice to myself today, I thought back to about seven and a half years ago when I was told to take myself on a date.  I had no clue what to do and she said, if it was Valentines Day what would you do for the person you were dating.


Well, I would do this, and this, and this, and that, and then this.

She smiled, “excellent, now go do those things for yourself.”

What would I do if I was on a date with a romantic partner in Paris?

Well, I would go for a walk.  Paris is known for being a good walking city.


I would have a leisurely lunch, I would definitely have steak tartar as it is one of my favorites.  I would skip dessert, but I would, yes, please, I would have a hot latte.

Un cafe creme, s’il vous plait.

cafe creme

cafe creme

And I would get some flowers for the person.

I had walked past the flower shop and perversely did not go in and buy anything.  I had almost walked past the cafe too, if truth be told.

You don’t deserve it, an evil little voice whispered.

Fuck off.

I do too.

I got a message from a lady bug and that rather sealed the deal, what would I tell her?

Go buy the damn flowers.

I did.

I went back and picked out some very pretty white roses and some deep magenta and violet gerber daisies.

Les Fleurs

Les Fleurs

It was really sweet to be in the flower shop too, surrounded by people in love, or lust, or like, all gathered together getting flowers for those in their lives.  I stood happily in line holding my purchase and was mightily impressed with the care the woman took to make my bouquet pretty, sheathed in pink tissue, rearranged, shed of the plastic they had been bunched in, swaddled finally in brown paper and tied with a ribbon.

There would have been a time where I would have said, “don’t bother, they’re just for me.”

Please, bother, they are for me.

I loved walking back up the hill with my bouquet of flowers.  I felt loved and taken care of, full of good food and good humor.

Topping it off?

I got a card today.

On Valentines Day!

I got a card.



Granted it was a thank you card, but it still felt like I got a load of love right when I needed it.  That is what this day is about, letting the love in.

Thank You

Thank You


No, thank you.

A mille bisous from Paris with love.





Getting into the Pool

January 24, 2013

Literally and figuratively.

Living the writers life.

I bought a new notebook today.

I went to my Papeterie up by Square D’Anvers.  I like that I am recognized when I go there now.  The patroness always gives me a smile as I wander through the small store picking up a notebook here, fondling a pen, touching a card.

I am a tactile sort of gal.

I picked up another Claire Fontaine notebook.

This make three notebooks I have bought in Paris.

Three notebooks full, bah, bah, black sheep.

I also picked up some more pens.  Yes, they are more expensive than the US, but as the days continue to compile on my Parisian experience I am more and more seeing things in Euro instead of dollars.

The work that the pens do, as well, merits using good ink.

I have a certain kind of requirement for getting me to that happy place where the pen hits the paper and strides confidently along it, smoothly, without a hitch.

One of those things I require is exercise.

My brain does not want to admit that.

Watch some Shameless, that’ll do the trick.

Uh, no.

It actually won’t.  Not to say that I won’t watch a little Shameless later, but I won’t do it in the middle of the afternoon, I won’t check out on my computer.

I will check things out, however.

Like the piscine at the Paul Valeyre Centre de Sportif on the corner of Rue Cadet and Rue Maubeuge.  Which is on the corner of oh my God that’s so close I have no excuse not to go.

It is a block away from me.

That’s right, there is a swimming pool, open to the public, a block away from me.

I could tell, I have been thinking about it now for weeks.  I can smell the chlorine wash drifting out of one of the vents every time I dash down the hill from 36 Rue Bellefond to the Cadet Metro stop.

I have been quietly investigating.

Doing a little research here and there.

What I have found is actually quite astounding.

There are a huge amount of pools in the Paris area and they are really quite affordable to go to, if you get the pass.  If you don’t it’s about 3.70 Euro a swim.  But if you get the three-month pass it’s 37 Euro.

37 Euro for three months!

That is a freaking deal.

For a little spot of time when I was in San Francisco I was a member at the UCSF center down on Mission Bay, they have two pools there, an indoor and an outdoor.  I was paying about $89 American a month to be a member.

I did it for about four months.

I swam.

I miss swimming.

It is soothing for me.

It feels like flying.

It is good exercise and it is highly meditative for me.

I started swimming, competitively, “late” in life.

I got onto the high school swim team when I was a sophomore in highschool.

Most of the swimmers on my team had been competing from an early age, most before the age of ten.

I was a truly late bloomer at the age of 16.

I had never intended to be on swim team.

I had not intended on having weak ankles either, which is what I discovered at the age of 15 when I suffered an injury in a basketball game.  I went in for a lay up and got fouled, I landed heavily on my left ankle and blew it out.

I wore an air cast for a week.

Life sucked.

I rested off it for another week, then I was back in the game, and literally the next practice I had, the exact same thing, I went in for a lay up, and when I came down my ankle went out, and this time I had not been fouled.

The doctor looked at me and said, “no more contact sports, unless you want to undergo surgery and be on crutches for three months instead of a week.”

“No contact sports?”  I asked, I had not really thought basketball was that much of a contact sport, but ok.

“No.” The doctor replied, then asked me, “what other sports do you play?”

“Soccer and softball,” I said.

“No, neither, you can’t do either,” the doctor said firmly.

I was in shock.

“What can I do?”  I asked.

“Swim.”  He said, shut the file with my ankle x-rays in it, and said, “swim, that’s about it.”

I thought no more of it until that summer when I went to the pool.  My ankle was still tender, I do remember that, surprisingly so, I had not been doing any sports for months and it was still tender.

One of the lifeguards noticed me and said, “you should go out for team, you’re not bad.”

I was totally flattered and thought, why not?  That’s the only sport left.

I went out for team.

To this day I am still shocked that she said that to me and that I actually decided to try something else.  I loved being in the water though, I had been swimming since I was a baby, literally, my mom put me in swim lessons at 10 months.

I don’t remember not being able to swim.

I think I thought it would be that same sort of lovely divine floating and playing that it was that summer before I actually joined the team.

It was not.

It was horribly hard and I struggled for a long time.

But I kept showing up and at the end of the season I had been named Most Improved.

I lettered the next year and the year following.

I became a life guard and the pool my refuge from home when home got too hard.  And home was getting pretty fucking hard.  I ran away, to the pool, after spending the night in the back of a school bus, my senior year.

I was always at the pool.

It was my comfort, a constant, I could show up at, work hard, and even if I was not the best on the team, I could always improve on my own times.

The perfect team and individual sport all at the same time.

I had lots of surprises being on that team.  I got a kind of acceptance from my team mates and from the school I had never really had before.  I will always be grateful for that place.

Now, I feel that itch happening again.

The desire to get back into the water.

Despite the tattoos, which I am nervous about unveiling to the entire French world, or so it feels, and despite not having actively swam in years, the allure is there.

Today I went looking for a swim suit.

I did not find one, but I did find out from a friend that there is a store I can go to at Les Halles that will have them, along with goggles and caps–which all the pools require.

I am actually happy about that, I prefer to swim with a cap on, protects the hair and it keeps it out of my eyes.

I did not swim today, but I will soon.

I walked two miles, bought a new notebook, went to Odette & Aime and worked on my new piece, which has gone back to being a novel, I had a little epiphany, and I realized I was shying away from the story by trying to write a screen play.

I got in the writers pool.

I read.

I wrote.

And soon I shall swim.


Full Time Work

January 8, 2013

Is what I have.

I just realized that as I posted the rest of today’s photographs up.

It is not paid in the conventional sense of the word.

Yet it is what makes my life so rich.

I walk, I write, I take photographs.  I walk some more.  I write some more.  I post pictures up.







It really is a full-time job.

I got up this morning, finally getting my timing down, I got up early enough to eat breakfast, ask direction, write three pages long hand, wash, drink two Americanos, and meditate (before the Americanos hit) and get off to my noon commitment without having to ditch one or the other.

Usually what happens is that I drop the meditating.  I do the writing, I do the breakfast, and you can be damn sure I do the caffeinating, but I don’t always get in those minutes of stillness that I need to have more and more as I move forward.

I headed out to the American Cathedral and hung out there for a little bit, then I went a walking.

The plan was to walk along the Seine from Pont D’Alma to Ile de la Cite and see Notre Dame.

I have not been inside Notre Dame since the first time I was in Paris back in 2002, and I was hung over.  I remember the feeling that came over me then, flushed briefly with something other than alcoholic defenestration, I had a brief connection.

I wanted to go back and say hello to that space again, I also had been given the suggestion to climb the stairs of the towers and see the view.  I did get to Notre Dame, but I did not climb the stairs. I just went inside.

I took no photographs.

I also did not take any phone calls.


I have to restrain myself from the dirty looks I am so capable of tossing out.  I am not the church police.  It is not my responsibility to monitor the people who are in the space, despite wanting to be right, despite wanting to put the smack down on the two girls behind me talking, talking, talking.

Shut up.

I restrained myself.

I took no photographs, except with my eyes, stopping once to get out of the flow of traffic, to press my palm against a pillar growing up into the cathedral, just feeling the warm stone, soft, buffeted by centuries of prayers and entreaties to God.

I walked out, glanced at the line to climb the towers and said, no thanks.

I went back walking.

I easily did a few miles today, putting in about two hours of steady meander.

I ended by weaving my way through the flower market, which was quite diminished after the holidays and a little sparse with flowers.

But flowers there were, including the house of orchids, which was divine.

I am not a huge fan of orchids, I like flowers that smell–woodsy violets, sweet lilies of the valley, pungent lilacs, soft apple blossoms, the heady heavy smell of peonies, the deep lacquered breath of tuber roses, piquant jasmine, peppery geraniums–orchids do not.

However, they are hot-house flowers, and  they like warmth and heat and moisture.

I walked into the steamy jungle of a green house in the heart of the flower district and just let the warmth wrap itself about me.

I shall remember this spot when the megrims chase me down in February and the days don’t seem like they are going to get long ever again, that there may be a sunny spring day somewhere on the horizon.

I will remember the flower market and let myself discreetly nestle beside a pot of orchidae.

After my walk about I was ready for lunch, damn ready, I had just an apple around 1:30 pm and it was pushing 4 pm.

I hopped back on the Metro, headed to the market in my neck of the woods, then home again home again, to make a big lunch.

Fortifying myself with food and caffeine I headed back out the door, after down loading the photographs and sending out a few e-mails (I am reaching out to those people who I know may have a connection to the publishing world), I put in a good word with the bunny bank-my god box-and went to Odette and Aime.

Write it out

Preparing to write

I spent an hour at the cafe.

I might have stayed longer, but my flow got interrupted when I was asked to move from my table to another.

I had sat myself in the dining area, which the cafe does not have any problem with when it is not serving dinner, but tonight they got busy out of the blue and I got asked to move.

I did, however, get in an hour of writing and I got another ten pages of my new work pushed out.

I got lost in the club scene of San Francisco and the nights and the smoke of drugs and the husk of dawn happening on 6th and Harrison and I was gone.

Ghosted along into another time.

It really does fascinate me that I can drop into it that fast.  The cafe dissolves, I am gone, I am in the words, I am in the music, I could smell the garbage can, a 50 gallon plastic Rubbermaid contraption, full of plastic cups, the splash of vodka and Redbull, the sweetly sick smell of raspberry chewing gum gone bad.

Then, I look up and the couple next to me are tucking into a meal–the man had the tartare, which I can vouch for is tasty, tasty, and the woman had the canard (duck) which my room-mate can vouch for.

The basket of bread, the heel left in the napkin, the smear of butter on a crust, the drift of pepper from the arugula salad that was served with the tartare.

And I am back.

Then moved, note to self–sit at the table that only has one chair next time.

I do not always sit there as it is a little disconcerting–there is a mirror right in front of you, but considering that the writing takes me so swiftly, I don’t see it until I come up for air.

I paid my check, wrapped up my notebooks, took my book, tucked it in my bag and headed out the door back to the homestead.

Where upon I went about making a little dinner, since lunch was so late, of oatmeal and banana and tea with vanilla soy milk.  Yeah, I roll like that sometime.  I will eat your raw meat tartar and up you a soy milk spiked tea later for shits and giggles.

I finished with dessert–an album of John Coltrane, Blue Train, and another good session with the Will Self novel, Umbrella.

Once I had a break I got on to the rest of the business for the day.

Post the photographs, write the dialogue for the photographs, update an album on Facecrack, and then go write another blog–this one here.

My job done for the day, I am going to go rest my writing arm.

It is sore.

In that sexy kind of way.









Walk It Off

January 4, 2013

Shake it out.

My arm is sore.

I realized that tonight as I was sitting quietly in a room listening to some one elses crazy.

I kept rubbing this one spot.

I smiled every time.  I could not help it.  It feels good, this pain, this ache.  It is a satisfactory ache.  Like the good ache after a good roll in the sack.  Yup, that is sore, but man does it feel good.

My arm sore, just like that, just there, just now.

My arm is sore right now typing this and it brings a smile to my face to report it.

It means I wrote a lot today.

A lot.

New Work

New Work

I wrote my standard three pages long hand this morning.

Then I went about my day.

I meditated for nine minutes.

I got out of the house after breakfast and ran some errands.

I went first to my paper shop up by Square D’Anvers and I perused the aisles.

I was drawn to this notebook immediately.  The pages creamy, soft, the cover a nice sweet tan, the lines, college rule narrow.  Over two hundred sheets to put pen to.

I purred when I picked it up.

Then I looked at the price.

7.50 Euro.


I put it down.

But the damn notebook haunted me around the store and I did not find anything that sang the same way to me.  I knew I was going to shell out the Euro and I told myself, you are making an investment.  This is an investment you will be very happy with, so just do it.

I did.

Without pause, I shelled out the Euro, declined the plastic bag, using my best French, did not say I am a sack, I just said, simply, no, merci, pas de sac pour moi.  Oui.  Je sais, c’est tres jolie, merci beaucoup.  Au Revoir, bonne journee!


Then across the street to the marche.

The outdoor Friday afternoon market around the park.

Mostly I go to lust.

Look at those cheeses, smell that roti poulet, eye those piles of Coquilles St. Jacques.

I do not go to buy, except for apples.

I go for this one stand that always has these amazing apples.

The woman who runs the stand is a bit much at times and she yelled at me today as I began putting apples into my cloth bag.


Oui, I nodded and kept putting apples in my bag.

SERVICE! (inflection up, high, demanding, a question, she is posing a question to you)

Oh, you are going to do it for me.  Gotcha.  You did not last Friday.  But nothing was going to shake my good mood.  I asked for seven apples, no, une autre, oui, huit pommes.

Eight beautiful apples.


I nibble them on my walks.

Today I ate one on my way from the Metro stop Palais Royale-Musee de Louvre on my walk to Rue de la Sourdiere.

It was luscious.

I was back in Paris.

Just minutes prior I had been in San Francisco.


It happened.

I went into the land of words and for over an hour I stayed put.

After I had procured my apples I meandered back down the hill and stopped briefly at the Carrefour.  I picked up a few things and went back to the apartment to make lunch.

Late lunch, two coffees, sent out a query asking someone if they had some suggestions about where to send Baby Girl, checked my bank account, oh look, there is still a few dollars in there.  Enough to get me through the weekend while I am in London.

No fancy pants dinners.

Just like here.

Lots of apples, walking, and free museum days.

I digress.

As lunch was winding down and the obvious e-mails read and responded too, the query written I found myself on google checking out a few things about the topic of which I have decided to base my novel on.

“Knock it off,” I said out loud.

“Get out of the house, Carmen, you are procrastinating, go, go, go.”  I realized quite quickly that I was putting off the I am going to start a new work and instead of write I am going to get cracked out on the internet.


I stood up.

I went to the book shelf and got the next book from my small Paris collection.

I finished The Magus last night at the baby sitting gig.

I am on to the new Will Self novel, “Umbrella”.

I have said it before, I say it again.

I love that part of my responsibility to being a good writer is to read.  Reading, after writing, is my favorite activity.

Ok, sex might be my favorite activity, but that is not happening at the moment.

And I don’t want to have a career of having sex, thank you very much.

No, my career is as a writer.

I had someone post a link to me yesterday about the odds of getting a work published and the best thing the article said to me, that which spoke to me the loudest, was that writers who succeed are first and foremost writers who write, not just people who constantly noodle over the same piece of work, and writers who read a lot.

It helps to develop your skills.  It helps you to see what is good from what is crap.

There is a lot of crap out there and I don’t want to be a part of it.

I want my words to sing.

At least my novels.

There are times I believe, that my blogs sings, times when the words seem to come from somewhere outside myself a beautiful lilac scented place with warm grass and soft breezes.

Most of the time, it is just reportage.

Here’s how I’m doing folks.

Yup, that’s me, see I’m tap dancing, don’t look behind the heel toe tap, please, I don’t want you to peek behind the curtain.

Well, maybe a little.

Stand up, get out, shake it off, Martines.

I scribbled a little note to the powers that be, folded it in half, slid it into my bunny bank and shouldered my bag.

I was off, on the long tortuous, half a block walk, the journey to Odette and Aime.

I had my new notebook, a new book, an idea, the first sentence, the first scene.

A working title, a timer on my phone, and enough Euro left in my wallet to have a cafe creme without worry.

The creme is worth the investment if it gets me out of the house.  I cannot write in the house, aside from my blog and my morning pages, I am a fucking trained monkey when it comes down to that.

But fresh work?

New work?

This new layer of added writing and reading?

Uh, no.

I have to be out of the house.

It was suggested to me long ago when I was first writing Baby Girl that I find a cafe, a place most people would not bother me at, nor would I be bothered with.  I could drift off into the place, look up once in a while and “see” the next word, the next scene, the next line of the sentence.

That place used to be Muddy Waters on 24th and Valencia.

It is a crappy coffee shop with crappy coffee.

It is not hipster play land.

I love a good coffee, but sometimes you just need to blend into the scenery and do the work.

Odette and Aime is perfect because no one knows me there.

I am just another American.

I walked in.


Sat at my table.

Creme, notebook, small glass of water, bag of pens, book.

Ready, steady, go!

I pulled out my phone, set my timer for ten minutes, opened the notebook and started writing.

Today I started a new work.

My arm hurts.

Hurts so good.

I wrote ten and a half pages long hand.

I wrote for over an hour.

The plan, if you can call it a plan, was to write until I had nothing left to write.  I did not know where the story was going, I just had a scene.  I just had an idea, I just had a moment in time to work with.  I had an opening line to the book and I started in.

The way I was taught was to start with sitting down for an hour.

Show up.

That is the first and most important rule.

More important than what is written.

If you don’t show up, you won’t write.

Show up.

Give myself an hour.  I may write one sentence, I may write ten pages.  There will be days when it feels sludgy and horrid and as though nothing is there and nothing ever will be, but I will show up.

The words will come if I allow them the space to happen.

But if I don’t show up, sit down, and open that notebook, it will never happen.

I am absolved of whatever is written, just by the act of showing up.

I am present.

What a gift.

This ache, this taking of myself out of time to sit and describe a scene.  It is so like watching a movie, I am just dictating.  I am not the creator at all, just the channel.

A channel with a sore arm.

And a great big fucking grin on my face.

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