dimanche 31 octobre 2010

Fall hues

It was a perfect day to visit Seattle's Sculpture Park. The autumn chill was unmistakeable in spite of the sun. We also managed to get the yard and deck ready to hunker down for fall/winter. And our candy bowl is filled with treats for the costumed; we may have to take it to the streets again this year. Nobody comes our way because we live on a steep hill. Walt's grandson stopped by for a treat yesterday, but he wasn't wearing his lumberjack costume. However, I think what he was wearing is indistinghuishable from it.

samedi 30 octobre 2010

A little bit of Picasso visits Seattle

The Musée Picasso in Paris is closed for renovation and expansion. Il était temps! That splendid museum, which is actually a converted 17th century townhouse in the Marais, could only display 300 of Picasso's works at a time (out of the 5,000 in its possession!), faute de place.

Some 150 of these works have made their way to Seattle, and other works have been packaged and shipped elsewhere, for public viewing while the work is carried out on the museum.

We got to go last night as part of a special evening sponsored by Alliance française. Our visit included wine, cheese and a brief but very informative pre-tour talk by SAM's Chiyo Ichikawa. Is it worth seeing Picasso in Seattle? Yes, I think so. The selection made available to SAM gives viewers a sense of the breadth and diversity of Picasso's long and protean career as an artist. And it is always exciting to see actual paintings and sculptures as opposed to photos of them in books. Like the work of any great artist, Picasso's needs to be viewed the flesh to be fully appreciated, I think.

Everyone will find something to like. Personally, I enjoyed watching a couple of Robert Picault's black and white videos of Picasso at work in the studio circa 1950. I also liked some of the photos, including a couple of self-portraits.

It was strange to see Picasso exhibited in Seattle, out of his element somehow. Maybe this is because I associate Picasso with the Musée Picasso in Paris, which I lived very close to for a couple of years during my Marais period. My apartment was on Rue Saint Antoine, which is near St Paul, La Bastille and La Place des Vosges. I used to walk by the Picasso museum on my way to visit a friend who -- get this -- was living in the magnificent Paris townhouse owned by the Farah Diba, wife of the deposed Shah of Iran. I won't get into why or how my friend ended up there, or even where it was located exactly. But it was an incredible place by anyone's standards. My friend was the daughter of an ex "political analyst for the State Department" (wink, wink). National security prevents me from saying another word about her or the Farah's townhouse. I value my ongoing existence.

vendredi 29 octobre 2010

Dysfunctional family

Yesterday I dropped a teeny tiny little thing behind the sofa (I was trying to move a huge and heavy painting 2 millimeters to the right), which meant pulling out the sofa to find it. Yikes! If anyone out there is missing anything, chances are Pushy has hidden it under our sofa. I could not believe the stash. Too bad I have forgotten to recharge my camera batteries for a week now, or I would have photographic evidence that my non-disabled cat, in addition to being evil, is a hoarder.
Nothing is too small or insignificant for her. She apparently loves wine corks and beer bottle caps. There were dozens of them. Straws too (we had a six-year old living in our basement for three months recently), not to mention paper clips, pens and pencils (many chewed on by Neko), dog toys, cat toys, chunks of dog and cat food, half eaten dog treats, balls of dust and hair (I'm not sure Pushy is to blame for this stash), several of Neko's cherished bones, money (spare change mostly), Jimmy Hoffa's dead body.... You name it, it was under the sofa.
But that's not the worst of it. In addition to living with a hoarder, we live with a bulimic. Neko, who has been particularly cunning of late in her never-ending quest to sneak a bite of cat poop as soon as our backs are turned, immediately began trying to eat the huge pile of gross, greasy, dusty stash that was under the sofa. She's bulimic! Except that she only binges, never purges. At least she doesn't eat her own poop. That would be really gross.
On that cheery note, I'm outta here for some yoga. Namaste y'all!

mardi 26 octobre 2010

The face of evil

You can see it in her eyes: she loves nothing better than thwarting our desire for a quiet cup of coffee in the morning before facing the day. Before reading and reponding to emails. Before anything. Just a quiet cup of joe and, in my case, a tiny square of dark chocolate.

Pushkin Nosy Parker has other plans, however, and if she can include us in them in some way, then she is happy. You can tell by the way she spends the rest of the morning (after coming out of hiding, post-prank) sleeping on her favorite perch.

This morning, I heard what sounded like a thousand tiny beads being poured on the floor upstairs, followed by the sound of little cat feet, scampering for cover, followed by a very specific Neko bark, which I think translates as "You are going to be in so much trouble."

Did I mention that Pushy likes to get into the wicker trash can upstairs? We usually put it out of reach, which means putting it on top of the dresser. I have tried to see this as an innovation in home décor, but frankly I don't think this new placement idea will be taking the world by storm any time soon. Sometimes the trash can ends up on ground level, where it belongs. Usually, it is empty when this happens. This morning, there must have been a packet of that silicon stuff that gets packed with stuff you order that comes in boxes. You know, like lamps and stuff. Pushy found one and through a deft combination of pushing, clawing and chewing, somehow got it open. I am pretty sure Neko got involved at some point. I have no idea how the opening of this teeny packet produced a noise that sounded more like a thousand beads or marbles being dropped to the floor from a great height. Perhaps I'll have a better idea after we install the video surveillance camera that will be on 24/7.

Anyway, this is why at 7 am we were vacuuming upstairs, moving furniture to get every little bead of poisonous silicon, instead of enjoying the freshly brewed coffee that awaited us below. Of course, the vacuum cleaner bag was full and had to be changed. That's how these narratives work.

Remember the song by the Seeds?

All I want is to just have fun,
Live my life like it's just begun,
But you're pushin' too hard on me (too hard).

mercredi 20 octobre 2010

This little boy

One of the unexpected highlights of my stay in Paris last summer was the famous défilé du 14 juillet. July 14th is what we Americans call Bastille Day, and what is officially La Fête Nationale in France. Some Americans call it the French Fourth of July, which it kind of is, though I don't like to hear it referred to in this patrio-centric way.

Anyway, I used to watch the military parade on television when I lived in Paris, even when I lived on rue de Courcelles, which is right next to the Champs Elysées (the focal point for the parade). Since everything was closed on the morning of the parade and since all of my friends were out of town for the holiday, I decided to actually go to the parade. Without my umbrella, although I knew the forecast called for rain. And it poured. I ducked into a café at one point, just before it began to really come down. I drank an espresso and watched the parade on television for awhile. This little boy was in the café and kept running out every time the television indicated that the planes were flying overhead. He was so excited. Jumping up and down. Unable to contain himself. I had to take a picture of him. But I didn't want to be obvious about it. I always feel like I am invading someone's privacy when I take a picture of a stranger (as opposed to a group of strangers, which seems okay). I tried to be discreet. I had forgotten about this photo until I came across it this morning as part of a work avoidance exercise. I hadn't noticed that the photo also contains an arm and a hand of an unseen passerby, who is smoking a cigarette. Mais oui, bien sûr. This is France, after all.

dimanche 17 octobre 2010

Les bons tons

Quel week-end magnifique!

mercredi 13 octobre 2010


Well, that was interesting. Mathilde and I got free tickets to see Manu Chao last night at the Paramount. And we had great seats. First balcony, third row. Had it not been for the writhing woman in row one of the balcony, who for some reason felt she needed to stand up and dance, though she looked more like she was writhing in agony or had to pee, I would have had an unobstructed view all night. Luckily, she could not keep up with Manu and sat down every so often and then permanently. She was a really bad dancer, with no sense of rhythm at all. It was actually kind of hilarious.

But the real thrills were down below, in the mosh pit. Call me old, old-fashioned, no fun, whatever. But a mosh pit--what a stupendously horrible idea. Lip-service crowd control for a bunch of stoners pushing and shoving one another in random fashion, interspersed with random people being lifted off the ground and used as human projectiles. It doesn't look like fun at all. (Je sais que la maman de Mathilde lit ce blog, donc: Pas de panique! Mathilde et moi étions très sages, assises et loin de la mêlée.) It just looks like a bunch of vaguely unhappy, usually overweight, slightly awkward, mostly male humans with free-floating anger issues that they need to work out. Ick. Just ick.

Manu was pretty amazing. Quite energetic, especially considering he was born in 1961 and thus is a mere five years younger than me. In fact, he has more energy than a five year-old on speed. There are lots of influences in his music, from years of wandering around the world, from being born in Paris to Spanish parents and having a musical father with (I think) some Cuban roots. Manu is also un chanteur engagé, which is always a nice plus. Anyway, you can read all about him on the Internet if you are interested in knowing more about Manu Chao (and his original band, long since disbanded, Mano Negra). I am sure one of the influences on Manu Chao is the French rock group Les Negresses Vertes. Check them out. And Manu has produced for Amadou and Mariam, a truly amazing duo. Check them out too. Yeah, world music.

Unrelated: I found this on the Internet. It is by my dear friend Pierre Vella. You can see his name (and that of the late Cathleen Vella, his lovely wife and my dear friend) and address on the postcard he illustrated and sent to a friend.

mardi 5 octobre 2010

Touche pas à mon cirque!

When I lived in the 18th (Rue Camille Tahan, near Place de Clichy), there was a vacant lot on Avenue de Clichy (on the right side facing north, which is important because the left side of Avenue de Clichy is in the 17th and the right side is in the 18th, two arrondissements that are totally different, one populaire, the other not) that one day spawned a circus. It was winter; it was a cirque d'hiver. Just a small affair -- a tent, a caravan and a bunch of tziganes (gypsies). When I was a kid, I wanted to run away and join a circus. Maybe most kids entertain this fantasy; I'm not sure many almost do it, as I did. I made a plan with my friend from across the street, which included throwing a pebble against her window in the middle of the night. I got as far as the front door of my house before I really saw clearly that this plan of ours would end badly. I touched the door knob but couldn't turn it; I went back to bed and gave up my circus fantasy.

I used to walk by the little circus on Avenue de Clichy every day. Sometimes I would see the tziganes sitting around and smoking or practicing their routines. I wanted to join them; I wanted to run away and join the circus.

The French government has recently decided to get tough on its tzigane population. The pretext is that with Roumania and other Eastern European countries joining the European Union, France is being overrun by these "gens du voyage". A little legislative history is in order: until 2000, the Loi Besson dated May 31, 1990 required cities with more than 5,000 inhabitants to set aside a patch of land for nomads. In 2000, another law was passed (Loi n°2000-614 du 5 juillet 2000) to deal with complex cases (cities with just under 5,000 inhabitants, for example). In 2003, another law (la loi sur la sécurité intérieure) placed further restrictions on the rights of these gens du voyage to occupy these encampments. In 2005, France's legislators decided to make them pay residency taxes (property taxes).

So what's happening now and getting everybody up in arms is really just part of a process that was set in motion years ago. The problematizing of itinerant people did not begin yesterday; in fact, it goes back way further than the law passed in 1991.

Back to the Cirque parisien Romanès: it winters in Paris and performs across Europe the rest of the year. It even represented France at the Shanghai World's Fair. Now Eric Besson, France's Ministre du Travail, has caused a stir for revoking the work permits of a couple of its musicians. Alexandre Romanès, the colorful and eloquent head of the Cirque, claims there is a link between the way his musicians are being treated and the government's larger crusade against gypsies and their encampments. The current winter home of the Cirque Romanès is on another street I used to live on, Rue de Courcelles (actually, the address is 42-44 Boulevard de Reims in the 17th; I was further down on Rue de Courcelles and my apartment was in the 8th arrondissement). I was listening to one of my daily podcasts (Pascale Clark's Comme on nous parle) when suddenly I heard the familiar voice of Alexandre Romanès. The France Inter program was initially aired on September 27. Romanès announced that a soirée de soutien au cirque would be held on October 4 and that he hoped his troupe would be able to perform as planned starting on November 6. Vive le cirque! Vive le Cirque Romanès! If you live in Paris, please go and see these talented people perform. Think of it as a nice way to flip the bird at Nico and all the pretty people who apparently want to rid the landscape of gypsies. Where is first lady Carla Bruni, l'artiste, when we most need her to go to bat for her fellow artistes?

vendredi 1 octobre 2010

Good news, horrible news

I was driving up to Hiawatha for a walk with Neko before dark, feeling happy and cheery because damn it the sun was out! I turned on the radio just in time to hear a weather forecast for the month of October that was awesome. It called for fog overnight and in the early morning, burning off around 11 am and giving way to sunshine and temperatures in the mid-60's. That's what I call an Indian Summer, folks! I couldn't believe it and even now wonder if I really heard this at all. My euphoria was short-lived, though, because the next item up on the radio was the event now referred to as the Rutgers Suicide. One of the saddest stories I have ever heard.

RIP Tyler Clementi.