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, 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, Experience

Ease & Patina

We’re finally feeling the ease of the city. We’ve become regulars at the corner cafés and crêperies and enjoy the glimmer of recognition and conversation.

Rue des Saules in Montmartre

Rue des Saules in Montmartre

I half expect to see that they are all actors and props on a stage. So often, you enjoy a city like Paris in the contracted and fleeting moments of several days. After a month, will you see the strings and frames, the costume and makeup?

But we’ve come to enjoy and discover the genuine. First impressions of surprise and delight warm into familiarity, recognition and knowing. Patina replaces shininess.

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…

Experience, Fashion, News, Pattern, Tech, Work / Life

Posts From Indy

◙ On Monday, Erika Smith wrote an Indy Star column in response to (the response to) that Worst Dressed City “study” by Movoto: “Benjamin and Janneane Blevins were in one of the most fashionable cities in the world when they got the bad news about their hometown of Indianapolis… But the truth is, fashion is becoming a serious business in Indianapolis — especially for a growing number of young professionals such as the Blevins. The couple, heavy into business, technology and urban issues, helped found the local fashion magazine, Pattern. They’re currently in Paris — the one in France, not Illinois — on a fashion-fact-finding mission.”

“When I first heard about the list, I was pretty ambivalent,” Benjamin wrote. “We’re not known for anything regarding fashion — and that includes being known for so-called bad fashion.”

“We aren’t interested in getting a Gucci next to every Starbucks or a Versace inside each Downtown hotel lobby,” Benjamin said. “… Pattern wants local designers to be able to sustain their businesses and build viable, long-term brands. We don’t want everyone to suddenly start sporting Luxe fur coats or (name your exotic animal)-skinned boots.”

“We believe that fashion can help Indianapolis in a way that benefits the city aesthetically and economically. And we believe that the combination of those two is a potent force.”

So, should we compete with Chicago or NY or LA? No. Should we shrug, and sit around competing with our past? No. We’re trying to see what’s next – and the horizon is full of opportunities for homegrown upstarts like Indy to beat Chicago and the Coasts to the punch. (What that “punch” is, I’m not sure. But it’s on tip of everyone’s tongue, and it’s coming faster than ever.)

◙ Tuesday’s We Are City [BRIEFING] had a lovely bit about our stay in Paris as temporary Hoosier expats: Retrouver Paris! “Hoosiers Janneane and Benjamin Blevins, who have their hands in some of Indy’s coolest orgs and businesses including PATTERNIndyHubIndySpectator, and KA+A, are living in Paris for a month and proving it with a blog.”

“And while they live and work, they’re taking an amateur urbanist’s eye to it all.”

We Are City“As we meander through Paris’ coworking spaces, fashion incubators, tech accelerators and universities, we hope to bring back a few new tools that may help us to better be a part of guiding and participating in Indy’s urban growth,” write the Blevins on their about page. / tag: Paris / MH

Subscribe to We Are City’s biweekly [BRIEFING] here. And be sure to keep your eye on this month’s [IMPORT] (Oliver Blank) and last month’s (James Reeves) and their Bureau of Manufactured History project.

Cafe, Experience, Fashion, Play

Parisian Vetiver

We explored the concept stores of Paris. Part boutique and cafe, they offer products for home, beauty, fashion, music and more.  Shopping becomes an experience that blurs past departments to displays that are matched by mood rather than object. Colette, Merci, 0fr, and Broken Arm are just a few that we’ve enjoyed.

Cafe creme in Merci's library.

Cafe creme in Merci’s library.

We had lunch in Merci’s used book cafe, surrounded by library shelves and little tables & nooks to sit and munch. We enjoyed œuf à la coque and chocolat tartines, along with frothy cafe cremes. Clumsily breaking through the shell of the egg, we reached the sunny center, dredging the fingers of bread in butter and yolk. With full bellies, we went on to explore the three levels of the store, I with a mission to buy something that captured the Parisian spirit. Once I spied the rack of Isabel Marant Étoilé, my heart was  set on a piece from the quintessential designer of effortless chic and cool femme style. I came away with an embroidered silk sheath , spun of kohl and gold, with a low slung tie that hung on my hips hearkening the 20s. It matched the mood of my new scent, Byredo’s Bal d’Afrique, “a warm and romantic vetiver” inspired by Paris in the late 20s and its infatuation with the avant-garde and vibrant expression of the African culture. I imagine my own euphoria in Paris – spun in a cloud of cloves and mojitos, drinking in the city and its exuberance of light and culture.

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