Diary, Experience, Work / Life

Back with less than what I left with

A month pretending I’m two places simultaneously. And pretending is more true than either/or. The double-ness of being abroad forced a space/time elucidation of where I am and what I’m doing — a precision of role-distinction, excising tertiary duties, clarifying… the need for further clarification (in work, life, studies, etc ad infinitum).

A month of non-refreshing, not necessarily inspiring, intermittently productive self-exaction. Action, pared down to its minimal, most naked machinations — action stripped of extraneous exertions (i.e. the kind that shred each workday into countless unmanageable slivers of half-done obligations).

A month that didn’t obviate any particular/specific future action points. But instead, cleaned out a semi-significant fraction of the [things] that impede forward movement.

I have no imminent aspirations (at least not born of my month in Paris), but I now have a bit of room for aspirations to begin fomenting and manifesting themselves.

I’m back with less than what I left with, and that’s success enough.

Diary, Verse, Work / Life

Readily Unprepared

Less than 6 hours til our taxi takes us to Charles de Gaulle Airport. Our flight leaves at 11am for Toronto.

At the Used Book Café on Boulevard Beaumarchais.

At the Used Book Café on Boulevard Beaumarchais.

Anxiousness has ceded to readiness. (Although readiness ≠ preparedness.)
I’m ready for home.
I’m not prepared to be back (there).
Paris is shoving me westward; Indianapolis is tugging me to South Broad Ripple.
At 10pm, I’ll be in Indy (4am, Paris time).
I am unthinkingly ready.
I’m readily unprepared.
Being places is always foreign.
Home is where the habit is.

Diary, Experience, Learning

Being multi-city

Concept, collaboration, multi-cultural, global localization.

The pervasive mission over the last month has been to find what’s French or Parisian. What can I only do or get here? Think like a local. We’ve certainly enjoyed the quintessential C’s: cafes, croissants, Chanel and cigarettes. But the richer experiences, and life in this city of Paris, have been imbued with flavors and culture from around the world: Nanashi‘s bento boxes, Candalaria‘s tostadas, Isabel Marant’s Indian silk, Mary Celeste‘s Brooklyn design, the cactus of French Trotters.

Local takes on a new dimension, bearing an awareness of a surrounding world. While there’s certain pride and carriage of the region, it doesn’t seem as urgent or imperative.

Coming back to Indy, my quest it deepened to be cross-disciplinary, collaborative, and multi-city. How do we build and develop character beyond the local lens? Is there pride and place beyond Indy? How do we think of ourselves as part of a larger fabric and less possessive about talent and acclaim?

Cafe, Diary, Experience

Enterprising Urchins (or: phone stolen)

A few hours ago, two tables to the right of where I’m sitting now, my iPhone was stolen by two kids. A perfectly executed bait-&-switch, where one of the (7 or 8 year old!) boys chatted me up about some religious thing and the other boy deftly laid a laminated pamphlet over my phone (which I’d set on the table next to my half-sipped café crème). Once they’d finished their spiel, they gathered their papers and walked off… with my phone neatly tucked into whatever cause they were pretending to proselytize about. It wasn’t til twenty minutes after they’d left that I realized what had just occurred. By then, the two little thieves were long gone, traipsing along Rue Bretagne toward Republique. I looked for them for a minute, took a xanax, and walked home to my macbook (reported it stolen; tried “Find Your Phone”; locked, erased and suspended it via AT&T and iCloud).

The City of Revolution & Protest: 1792, the Jacobin Insurrection. 1871, La Commune de Paris. 1968, the May Protests & Strikes of students and workers. Today...∞

The City of Revolution & Protest: 1792, the Jacobin Insurrection. 1871, La Commune de Paris. 1968, the May Protests & Strikes of students and workers. Today…∞

Moving on… I bought my daily copy of Libération – headline: “Moi, Ahmed Sohail, expulsé par la gauche.” (Still don’t know what it means – something about a guy being kicked out of the left-wing party?) Then, perused the Seine-side bookseller booths with m’mum, Janneane and my sisters. Found copies of Rancière’s anti-Leninist leaflet, a few newspapers printed during the Paris Commune in 1871 (the paper was called Decentralisation, I think), and a French translation of Hemingway’s ode to Paris, A Moveable Feast.

Still, I can’t stop reaching for my phone. No Instagram, Google maps, weather updates, Twitter/Facebook, email – I don’t even know what time it is. Crafty little buggers, those darling street-trolls. If only I had a skill-set as well-developed as their craft…

Diary, Work / Life

a Ramble through St-Germain

18:28. 43° and raining in a café in Le Marais, sipping espresso slowly as Janneane reads about Diana Vreeland and nurses a sore-throat-soothing grog au rhum (like a honey-less hot toddy).

Yesterday, we walked past the magnificently exoskeleton-ed Pompidou, across the rue Rivoli and the Seine, and down to Saint-Germain. Though little remains of Saint Laurent’s Rive Gauche and the Lost Generation‘s* (footnotes at end) literary conclave, the tangled sidestreets and multi-named (and multi-directional) allweyways still feel a bit like the worlds that Yves designed for and the 20’s expats wrote about (and in).

In Saint-Germain, outside the (4-star/luxury) hotel where Oscar Wilde died, remarking “I am dying beyond my means.”

We try to wander slowly, perceptively. But the ease of instant mobile-GPS mapping makes accidental discoveries feel purposeful. Still, we’re able to happen upon unmapped libraires & boulangeries (while simultaneously making sure we turn right on Rue des Beaux-Arts to stare at L’Hôtel, where Oscar Wilde succumbed to cerebral meningitis in 1900).

After a few espressos & pomme chaussons, we find Rue de l’Odéon and its tightly tucked-away Shakespeare and Company book… place (I hesitate to call it a bookstore because although buying is the point, you’re supposed to pretend that you’re in a 1920’s salon – sitting with Sylvia Beach, waiting for Joyce to hobble his crumbling figure through the tiny entryway and listen to his unintelligible reading of an unexpurgated passage from Ulysses). I still bought books**. And I said yes when the cashier asked if I’d like the tourist-baiting Shakespeare & Co stamp inside the front cover of my purchase. Continue reading

Diary, Experience, Learning

Unlocking the City Cipher

Staying in Paris. For a month. And I don’t speak (much) French. Everyone asks, “How will you live, navigate, communicate?” Well, first, set aside that you speak English and the chances are relatively high that your fellow Parisians understand more of your language than you do…

Rue de Renard

So, what’s left when you strip away verbal communication? Your instincts and senses are heightened. Even if you can’t understand words, you can understand tone and see motion. You depend on signage, iconography, street names, and maps to navigate. You follow the masses out of the metro, learning along the way that sortie means “exit.” No need to talk to anyone as long as you’re an adequate orienteer. When shopping, you look at pictures on the packages, and continue to build your vocabulary. You know what an apple looks like, and see that in Paris it’s a pomme; bread is pain; cheese is fromage; wine is vin, and so on. When ordering at the restaurant, however rudimentary, hand motions to eat & drink and pointing at items on the menu work universally (and thank goodness for your grocery store vocab lesson, so you have a slight clue what you’re ordering).

Then you do the laundry, which turns out to be a little trickier. First off, there’s a single machine, so you expect that it will just wash and you’ll need to hang things to dry. Much to your surprise, your clothes emerge piping hot and dry! Wait – was that your favorite sweater in there? Mon dieu! And so by trial and error you adjust the knobs. The symbol that you though indicated drying, turns out to be for the spin cycle. Another sweater lost. So you try again (and locate the user manual online – in French, nonetheless) and discover that sechage means “drying” and are now able to dry clothes at your discretion. Continue reading

Diary, Work / Life

at the Café du Marché

23:48. 41° at the Café du Marché. Windy outside, hiding beneath an ineffective space-heater.

Today, I bought Gauloises at a tabac on rue de Bretagne. Like fancy-named Camel Lights. And fancy tastes better.

The combination of over-stimulation and lack of comprehensive information can be a bit immobilising, writing-wise. Which is a poor argument for not writing…

Yesterday, we lunched at Bob’s Kitchen, a juice bar and haven for vegan/gluten-free food-lovers. Afterwards, we walked to Colette and picked up A Magazine Curated by Stephen Jones (then, in the checkout line, I inexplicably needed to purchase a kitschy limited-edition Marc Jacobs Coca-Cola Light bottle).

Janneane, via @ballarde instagramToday, I walked along the Canal St-Martin with Janneane in the (all-too-rare) sunlight, sipping drinks on the water-side benches, eating our pain au chocolat pastries from Du Pain et Des Idées, taking photographs and laughing at nothing/everything. As the afternoon wind and clouds began to creep in, we ambled back to the Marais, arriving home in time for the workday to start (the six-hour time difference is still off-putting). Spent the evening getting an IndySpectator article and an IndyHub enews ready to send.

I’ve been trying to write for this blog (so: ostensibly, more for others and less for myself; more lucid & practical and less verse-ish). Thus far, I haven’t been super successful…

I’ve been maintaining my newspaper archival, buying copies of Libération and scavenging Le Monde & Le Figaro discards from café tables and trash cans.

I carry my Canon T2i with me everywhere, taking snapshots compulsively – mostly of political posters and graffiti and instagram-able prettiness and/or grittiness. Continue reading