Wednesday, May 30, 2012

On the Street Where I Live

Vic Damone – On The Street Where You Live

Voici une carte.  Drawn by yours truly.  This is where I live, the streets I most often frequent, the places I most often go, and a few landmarks to help you place it all.  (All pictures taken by me.  I suppose that'll be rather obvious and you'll ask me to return to my google searched images.)

1. Boulevard Raspail - The Street Where I Live.  I couldn't help but think of the song, so I decided to link a version of it to all of you.  Surprisingly, I have not been up and down this street much further than what is drawn here.  I must put that on my to-do list.  But it is a nice street.

2. Jardin du Luxembourg - Left out of my door, Left on Rue Sainte-Beuve, Right on Notre-Dame-des-Champs, Left on Vavin and tout droit until the garden.  I spent at least an hour here every day, writing, watching, giving myself an excuse to leave the apartment.  I usually sit in the sun down by the "lake" or up in the shade where the little #2 is.

3. Boulangerie - Here is where the boulangerie I frequent is.  I have officially been going there long enough to have been given a warm baguette yesterday.  Hurrah for me.

4. Monoprix - This is the grocery store I most often go to, to get the essentials.

5. St.-Michel - Boulevard St.-Michel is one of the roads I use most often to get to the other side of the Seine.  I've since been looking for other ways to get there, however, because there are so many people on this street and at least 70% of them smoke.  I love walking this street at 9am on a Sunday morning.  Empty and beautiful.

6. Boulevard St.-Germain - An important boulevard in Paris, but also for my time here.

7. Hotel de Cluny - On St.-Germain is the Hotel de Cluny where the Musée du Moyan Age and the jardin l'agrément médiévale (Medieval Pleasure Garden) is.  Despite how sinful this garden sounds--there is a history that lessens the sound of scandal and I reserve judgement until the hereafter when I learn more about who used them and why--it is a beautiful and well-kept space.

8. Cinéma - Also on St.-Germain are several cinema's, which I go see movies.  Does this really surprise you?

9. St. Sulpice - Included on the map is rue Bonaparte which runs straight through to St. Sulpice and St.-Germain-des-Prés.  St.-Sulpice may be my favorite church in Paris, though don't hold me to the decision until I've seen them all.  This is the one I most often come back to, to sit, write, and attend concerts/mass.

10. Village Voice - At the behest of rem who informed me about this gem of a bookshop, I have gone to Village Voice several times as my go-to for books in English.  I plan to make another trip today.  It's just off Rue du Four, a medieval road off of St.-Germain.

11. St.-Germain-des-Prés - The oldest church in Paris written about in a prior blogpost.

12. franprix - I consider this larger franprix a reward for aimless wandering, as I decided to go down rue Mazarin one day instead of a street I was already familiar with.  It has a larger selection of fresh produce.  I buy fruit here.  Mangoes.  Strawberries.  Wonderful, wonderful things.

13. 56 rue du Jacob - More on this later, when I write about American Paris.  This is the site of where the treaty for American Independence was signed with Britain by Benjamin Franklin.

14. Crepes - Here on St.-Germain is where my favorite crepes are made.  Also, they are cheapest here.

15. Notre-Dame - On Ile-de-la-Cité.  I walk past Notre-Dame on my way to church on Sundays.  I love walking by and sitting in this area because of the sheer number and diversity of people who come every day.   Good memories here.

16. Pont Neuf - "New Bridge," named because it was the newest bridge at the time it was built.  It is now the longest standing bridge connecting the "Right" and "Left" rivers.  Made of stone, the older medieval bridges were made of wood and had houses built into them.

17. Hotel de Ville - I walk past Hotel de Ville to get to church.  It's the "City Hall" of Paris.

18. l'Église de Jésus-Christ des Saints des Derniers Jours - Where I go to church.  Down Hotel de Ville, down rue du Temple, Left on St. Merri, #12, you're there.

19. Louvre - Because I know you've been wondering where it is in relation to everything, and its surprisingly close.  There are several museums here, including the well-known Musée du Louvre.  Also here is the Musée Art Decoratifs where you are not allowed to take pictures.  But I snapped one--as a gift to Rachel.  Pending.  Also behind the Louvre is the Jardin Tuileries.

20. Place de la Concorde - More about this place later when I write about the Revolution.  But it's the largest open area in Paris, I believe, and right in the middle of it.  If you walk down through the Tuileries Garden, and past Place de la Concorde you find the Avenue Champs-Elysées and eventually the Arc de Triomphe.


Some tidbits (things I've noticed, rules--or lack thereof--of spaces, how areas are used, etc.)
1. Most streets in Paris are one-way.  This is usually because most streets are too narrow to be two-way.
2. Pedestrians in Paris are--by far--the most inconsiderate pedestrians in existence.  Blame it on tourists, if you like, but I really don't think they're the ones to blame.
3. Large open areas unused by cars are always used for football (soccer) by children, teenagers or young men.
4. It is not strictly kosher to eat while walking.  However, there is enough sitting space throughout the entire of Paris for you not to have to walk too long before you can sit down and eat.  Among those who are sitting, there are always several eating.
5. Using two chairs at the Garden of Luxembourg is expected.  One for you and one for your feet.  This is not considered rude, no matter how crowded the garden is.
6. The gypsies who say they are deaf and mute are not deaf or mute.  Charitable donations are expected to be at a minimum 25 euros.  My happiness is showing, I'm sure.
7. There is no such thing as jaywalking in Paris.  You may walk wherever you like, whenever you like so long as there are no cars/bikes/scooters coming your way.
8. You have fifteen to twenty seconds after the crosswalk tells you to stop crossing before cars get a green light.
9. You are expected to frequent a boulangerie.  They do eventually recognize you, and they treat you better for it.  Tried and true.
10. Parisians frequently walk around the city listening to music on their iPods.  I know you think this doesn't surprise you because in theory it doesn't surprise me either.  But in practice, it is a bit strange.
11. There are no large one-stop shops anywhere in Paris.  Nothing like malls with department stores, nothing like Target.  There are areas like the Promenade in Santa Monica--outdoor malls, so to speak.  But I have not found anything like a Macy's or a JC Penneys.  There are a lot of little boutiques for clothing instead, most of them seemingly specializing in shoes.
12. 'Bonsoir' is for after about 5pm and they really do say 'Au revoir' after every transaction.  Reciprocation is, I think, appreciated.
13. There are no rules about which side of the sidewalk to take when coming head to head with other pedestrians.  Anglo's are more aware of pedestrian patterns than others (which I judge purely off of who is speaking what languages) and will move off to the side so others can get by or will made enough room on sidewalks for two-way foot-travel.
14. Men are allowed to call you out on how you look.  Or at least say, "Ah, Mademoiselle."  They usually expect a smile, and not much else. (To date, anyway.)
15. No one minds if you stand in front of a menu or a choice of grocery items for a long time to make a decision.  Are the French indecisive?  I don't know, but they don't mind taking their time making a choice.
16.  Sun bathing is still a "thing."  Old men do it in French gardens.  They remind me of the body-builders on Venice beach.
17. The gendarmerie are the best-looking group of men in Paris.  Also, harmless.  Smiling at them will not wind you up with a $132 ticket.  (Though, I wouldn't really put the harmless comment to the test, particularly when they're on the job, because some of them are also the largest men in Paris.)  They stand outside of important government buildings, on streets during demonstrations and political rallies, on many of the bridges in groups of twos or threes, and occasionally direct traffic.
18. Tickets for film showings sell ten minutes before the film starts.  If it starts at 10:40am, they sell tickets at 10:30am.  If its the first show of the day, the cinéma does not open until 10:32am.  Yes.
19. The consumer/client is not God in France like they are in the US.  If it's inconvenient for you that your grocery story closes early, opens late, or is closed for entire days at a time, too bad.  Deal with it.  Stop by when they are open, or memorize their schedule, or stop expecting to eat what and when you want.  Be flexible.
20. Old women and middle-aged men are the most likely to let you practice your French.  True.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Who owns Paris if not the Parisians?

I suppose Paris is owned by many people, everyone has their own take on it, though I recognize I can only say that as someone who is not a Parisian.

If someone said the same of my city, I would probably agree, but only after frowning.

Monday, May 21, 2012

What Stays and What Goes?

Are you an old building in Paris?  Are you hoping not to be torn down at some point in history?  Here are a few simple tips for your survival.

1. Get to know Baron Haussmann.  He makes all of the decisions on what stays and what goes.  (Or you can try to get to know Napoleon, he seems to wield a bit of power, but I do think that'd prove a little harder.)

Baron Haussmann

2. Longevity.  If you are already in existence and have already been in Paris for a few centuries, your chances of survival have improved.

2.a. Be useful, too.  The French are suckers for tradition.  They go to same boulangerie and shop at the same street markets for generations.  If you're a building near a useful food market, or an important thoroughfare, or garden, you're more likely to survive.  Beware, however, some locations are better than others.  Haussmann may keep the street market, but level the buildings around it!

3. Be well built. We can't have you falling apart, or else they'll elect to tear you down.  To ensure this, your best options are:
A Roman: Augustus

3.1.a. Stone. Be built of stone.

3.1.b. Be an important building from the get-go.  Nearly any builder will build you well if you are an important.

3.1.c. Hire the Romans.  No, seriously, they built everything to stay.  Remember the Colloseum?

3.1.d. Medieval peasants.  They are a good bet for being well-built, but only if you are a religious building.

3.1.e. Royalty.  You'll be given lots of TCL, money will be poured into you like you wouldn't believe, and they'll build your walls thick and strong to keep the peasants out.  Win-win.

3.2. Be built on roman foundations.  If you can’t be built by the romans, be built on roman foundations.  They're hard to tear down, so they and anything built on top of them usually get to stay.  Take ancient roman roads, or the roman baths on St. Michel where Cluny Abbey was built as evidence.

Drawing; Inside of Roman Baths on Boulevard St. Michel

4. Location.  The middle of Paris is a good place to be, since it is the oldest part of Paris and implies you are important and/or valued.  However, if you happen to be a lesser-known or less-important building, try to be situated on the corner of a major Boulevard.  This will not help if you are a blacksmith shop, because they go out of fashion around the 19th century.  But if you are a café, or boutique, you’re chances of survival improve slightly.  This may mean you start off as a blacksmith shop and must be converted to a café.  Ensure your proprietor is a smart one and makes good decisions.

Van Gogh: Blacksmith Shop

5. Space. Hopefully you started on several acres of land.  Take an abbey, or a monastery, for example.  This usually ensures that part of you will survive the ages.  No promises though, pesky things like Revolutions may destroy you if you are a religious building and execute all those residing within your walls.  Tread carefully.

Abbey at St.-Germain-des-Prés
Only the small church in the corner survives today.

Tour Eiffel
6.1. Become a national symbol.  Take the Tour Eiffel.  Hated by Parisians when it was initially built, this gloriously tall edifice is now a national symbol which Hollywood films like to destroy for the pure sake of how distraught it makes its audience.  Suggestion for becoming a national symbol: find a literary patron (see 6.2.).


6.2. Find a literary patron. Notre-Dame was quite accomplished on this front.  Having survived the French Revolution, and though it was falling to ruin, it still stood!  Until it was threatened with being torn down in which it found patron Victor Hugo who not only saved it from being torn down, but saved it from ruin and has made it quite possibly the most famous religious building in all of France.  (Literary patrons are also known to have kept a good number of cafés from financial ruin.  Though poor, literary patrons sometimes publish, and if news of where they ate and worked gets out, you are sure to have tourists pay for your upkeep.)

Popular Parisian Café; Favorite of Ernest Hemingway.
The inside was used for Midnight in Paris

7.Grandeur.  Grandeur is important.  Very important, and the grander you are, the more likely it is you will be considered of some value later on and not be torn down.

7.1.a. Religious: Stain glass windows.  They are most certainly a point in your favor.

Rose Window at Notre-Dame

7.1.b. ReligiousA royal chapel. If royalty built you or sponsored you, chances are you more likely to stick around because its more likely you will be built quite grand indeed.  Since royalty no longer exists, I suggest you find a patron willing to time travel and marry into the royal family.  Do tell him/her to be careful, however, French royalty has the tendency to start massacres, incite rebellion, be assassinated, or even executed!  Your patrons assassination or execution may be a point in your favor under certain circumstances, but also may ensure you are never built!

7.2. Palaces. While chances are the royalty you are meant to house and their children will not live to see your completion as a royal palace--or, if they do, that you will be seized from them during some peasant uprising--grand palaces will usually be considered too useful to destroy.  While you may have to endure a few hard years of being a grimy and hopeless jail cell, eventually you will probably be converted into a Senat building, or some other Government House.  You will be well looked after for years to come.

Palais du Luxembourg

7.3. Gardens/Public Squares. The usefulness of gardens to the French cannot be overestimated.  Therefore if you adjoin a garden they can make public later on in history, the chances of your surviving as a tidbit of history and being converted into a Museum or the like are good.  You may have to endure endless years of tourists,  but rest-assured this is better than not enduring at all.  Likewise, public squares that can serve a multitude of uses, particularly if they have a fountain, gives you major 'keeping' value.

St.-Sulpice.  One of my favorite buildings in Paris.
I have seen its square used for wedding pictures, soccer games, lunch picnics, and sunbathing.

8. History.  History is important, and chances are that if you are of historical significance, you will be recorded in the annals of history at least, and kept around at best.

8.1.a. Religious: Martyrs. Try to have a beloved Saint die or be executed on your site (St. Denis is a good bet).  Massacres or blood-baths of some other kind are also promising.

St. Denis is in the center.  Beheaded by the Romans.
8.1.b. Religious: Patrons. Significant religious patrons are not sure-fire, but they are helpful.  Though hatred of religious symbols may come about in some later century, there is still some sentimental value left for some saints, like St. Genevieve.

l'Eglise Sainte-Etienne-du-Mont is dedicated to St.-Genivieve

8.1.c. Religious: Reliquaries. Difficult to prove as legitimate reliquaries, like the pinky finger of St. Genevieve, or a piece of a cross from martyred saints, or the crown of thorns from Christ’s crucifixion, they do award you a few points in importance (see 3.b.).

8.2. Gruesome.  Endure a few years of gruesome history and you are more likely to be kept around as an important reminder of what no one wants to happen again.  Suggestions: become a jail for a revolution; be the assassination site of a king or important individual, be near an execution site. (Note: Becoming a jail or  near an execution site is not the same as being a jail or execution site.  See "Other Useful Tips".)

The Conciergerie, once a Royal Palace, was used as a prison.

51, rue Montmorency
Home of Nicolas Flamel
8.3.a. Mundane: Homes.  Your chances of survival if you are a mundane historical building are slight, but possible!  Be sure your occupant is famous for something.  Take the house of Nicolas Flamel!  The oldest surviving building in Paris!  (Don't put your eggs in one basket, try to ensure your occupant comes to a gruesome end in or near you, but you have a chance!)

8.3.b. Mundane: Markets.  Strictly speaking, if you are a market, you are not a building and therefore have no right to be reading this exclusive guide for buildings.  However, if you came here by accident: You have some chance of surviving as the mundane if you are a market.  (See 2. and 2.a.) Take the flower market on the quai, or Les Halles Market—oh, wait, that was obliterated in 1971 after centuries of use by Parisians. Nevermind. (See “Do’s and Don’ts: For Parisian Markets”)

8.4. Royal.  Yes, royal history seems to prevail.  While no one can tell if it is the grandeur, the longevity or the history that plays the biggest part, there's no harm in stacking up your chips.  Be grand.  Be old.  Be significant.  Have something important happen on the Courtyard or on the steps or inside the rooms, and you're good to stay.

History of Paris Museum - Hotel Carnavalet

9. Have entertainment value.  If you happen to get the worst lot: you’re built out of wood, by peasants or entertainers, you never had royalty live within your walls, you never had someone die on your steps, or assassinated in your courtyard, and you don’t have a literary patron, then you must must must have entertainment value.  This is how many of the buildings of Montmartre have survived its long history of poor artists and foreign immigrants.  Perhaps this comes down to location.  If you are going to be built by, inhabited by, and frequented by the poor, have entertainment value, and your chances to endure live on.

Moulin Rouge

10. Be beautiful.  It's Paris.  If you're not beautiful, if you don't shine, or light up, or if you're not detailed and intricate, if you're not visually appealing or interesting, then you won't survive.

Other Useful Tips.
- Don't end up like the Bastille.  If you must be a government building, don't be built as a jail.  If you must be a public space, don't be an execution site.  These areas are often torn down or re-named.

- Don’t be a market. They’re great.  They’re pretty.  They’re fun.  But inevitably someone will decide all that open space should be used for something else and a building will be born.  If you’re a building, you’re not open space.  You’re a building. Win for you.

- Don’t be built during the 1960s in the outer arrondissements.  People are just beginning to discover how ugly these buildings are.  (See: Be well built. 3.) Also read: Ugly Paris


In short: Be an extraordinarily beautiful building, built by royalty primarily out of stone and stained-glass windows.  Be religious enough to have a Saint martyred on your steps or house a reliquary, but not TOO religious to be torn down during the Revolution.  Be in the center of the city.  Stay away from markets and the Bastille.  Have a courtyard.  Be connected with a gruesome part of history, but don't be the gruesome part of history.
Who are you?

Good luck surviving; we'll check up with you in a couple hundred years.

Noticing the Culture of Paris: Consumption

Being eco-friendly is important to the French from their toilet paper to their café menus.  Now you think I’m talking about the paper the makes the menu itself, but I’m not.  I’m talking about the food offered on the menu.  But let me start with toilet paper.  Toilet paper, cleaning products, hygiene products—all the things you can buy, use and then throw away, are and advertise themselves as being earth-healthy and safe.  I thought this meant they were ahead of the curve.  It turns out, yes, by a couple hundred years.  It’s not that France knows we need to save the earth and so they are creating earth-safe products—no.  This is the way the French have always lived, and earth-safe products just kind of make sense.

Let me tell you another detail.  I was having un chocolat with my landlady over two hours of conversation and she asked me about my living arrangements and how it was all working out for me.  So I told her all the great things and then mentioned the sauté man in my apartment.  “The sauté pan I’m having a difficult time with, I told her.  It has a waffle pattern on the bottom, I have no idea what kind of pan it is or what it’s used for.”  (I doubt if she’s seen the particular pan in question, and I’m sure a pan that would work better for me exists, but her choice of response was that her husband was very conscious of health risks and so rest-assured all the pots and pans were healthy to cook with.  “He doesn’t even like me painting my fingernails, he says, ‘That is TOXIC!  Why are you putting it on your body!?’” and she laughed.  This idea was so interesting to me I abandoned my plea for a legitimate sauté pan to follow it.  Apparently it’s his line of work in some way or another, though I wasn’t sure if she meant this literally or as a serious interest, “it’s what he does,” kind of thing.  Olivier is a through-and-through Parisian, she followed up with.  This is one example of a health conscious mindset that I am surprised by, not because it seems odd, but because for this woman at least, it was attached to being a Parisian.

I’m not going to even try to explain (for clarity’s sake: because I can’t) the obvious hypocrisy of cigarette smoking in Paris, especially among the young, but let’s go to food because if anything could offset the smoking, it’s eating.  Its not the way Parisians eat, but what they eat that’s particularly life-saving.

Q. How is it that French food is characterized by butter and they’re not all grossly fat?
A. Yes, it is.  But no, it’s not.  Also, yes it is, but it’s FRENCH butter, from FRENCH milk, from FRENCH cows.  It’s fresh.  It’s local—as in within France, if not the area surrounding Paris.  Regarding the “no, it’s not” of the statement above: It’s an ingredient.  And if they were eating 12 croissants a day like a tourist they might be fat, but given they eat consciously and sparingly, they are not fat.

A. The main ingredient of French cuisine is “fresh.”  I mentioned French butter from French milk from French cows.  Now pair that with French bread from French grains.  French in-season fruit.  French in-season vegetables.  French meat—fresh meat.  Most ingredients for cooking food in fromageries, boucharies, boulongeries were never frozen, they are never shipped from another country, let alone another continent.  They were most likely baked that day, or cut that day, or in the case of cheese, are portioned and categorized down to the day or hour you want that cheese to taste best.

Then the Parisians go on a run.

Healthy.  Absolutely nutrient-rich food.  There are certain markets in Paris (in France) where you do none of the selecting of food.  You go up to the vendor and you tell them what you’re eating and when, and THEY pick the perfect mango for tomorrow morning.  They’re in touch with their trade, and proud fo it.  I’m not sure if you can find this everywhere, but I know it can be found, and it’s a good rule of consumption: fresh, healthy, and perfectly timed.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Participation & Observation: Mass

I attended a church service last Sunday.  Mass at St. Sulpice which is a beautiful church, probably one of my favorite that I’ve seen.; it reminds me a little of St. Peter in Chains in Rome, how open it is, the clerestory.  St. Peter in Chains (in Rome) is hands down my favorite Catholic chuch.

There’s a big square out in front of St. Sulpice where some boys were playing football before I went in to attend mass and they were still there an hour later, so I sat and watched them for a while.

The bell of St. Sulpice rings fifteen minutes before mass, to call people to church.  It gives them a chance to hear the bell and walk to the church from home.  I love that.  People a hundred or more years ago would not have owned a watch—this is the only way they would know it was time to go to church.

I have to admit, Catholic mass feels different from an Anglican service, which I’ve been to half a dozen of.  Even in the center of Paris, there are local paroissiens/parishoners and its much like it must have been a hundred years ago: a community church service.  Only there are less people than there used to be (or so I assume) and several of the people attending are tourists (which I count myself as, for the time being).  I do prefer the church when its silent and I get to walk around and sit and worship God in my own way, but I’m glad to have had the experience of mass, regardless.

The people who attended mass were not dressed for church in the sense that we expect them to be.  Everyone’s shoulders are covered, their legs are covered at least to the knee, but most were wearing day clothes.  Older women and men wear skirts, dresses or suits, respectively.  Even the kids leading mass wore normal clothes, not anything fancy or dressed up.  I think this is a fairly normal trait of Catholic mass, even in antiquity.  To come to church with attire one could afford/work in, though the rich would have certainly come dressed for Sunday best.  Though I do think it’s a lost “art” as it where to come to mass dressed for the Sabbath.

Mass begins with a prayer, and is run by the priest of the parish—St. Sulpice is not a Cathedral, but a church.  Music is an integral part of the service, too.  You stand during most of the singing, all of which is memoried; most who attend mass probably know the words by heart.  They give a program of sorts with words for the music, but in general—especially for a non-french speaker—its hard to follow.  A young woman led the music, maybe 17 or 18 years old.  A boy about the same age read the accompanying scriptures.  Then there was a sermon given by the priest about loving one another.  I did the best I could to understand what he was saying but I have a much harder time retaining French in my memory as ideas worth keeping unless I translate them into English which I can then file away.  I suppose soon enough my brain may purchase a French filing cabinet complete with folders for different categories.  Until then, I’ll keep plugging along.

Music in Catholic mass is sung rather quickly, mosty in French, but some in Latin.  I never understood my Bishop my sophomore year of college who said that being Catholic, he hated LDS hymns because they were too slow.  Its true our hymns are a funerary march in comparison.  Their music is beautiful, spiritual, but with a living pulse type of tempo.  If music is going to be slow it ought only to be Chants Gregorien or Anglican choirs.  Nearly all I saw contributed to the tithe offering.

The service was only an hour, ended carefully, but somewhat suddenly, like putting down a sleeping child.  The priest spoke to the people in his congregation afterwards.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Noticing the Culture of Paris: Waste

Depending on the part of Paris you’re in, Paris is a very clean or surprisingly dirty city.  The average Parisian—non-immigrant—is concerned with eco-friendly products and good recycling habits.  In immigrant laden areas of Paris, this is not always the case, though still is for some.  Regardless, there are trash recepticals everywhere throughout Paris, and one sees trashmen going about to collect this trash on a daily basis.  The center of Paris is usually very clean and it’s nearly impossible to find trash on the ground, though one my find the occasional box filled with empty wine bottles from the night before, if walking around in the early morning hours.  However, cigarette butts are not trash.  One cannot regard them as garbage.  Given this, cigarette butts line Paris in an astonishing way.  In any given square foot there are 1-15 cigarette butts in places near where people can sit or street curbs.

Their trash men are not “underlings” of French society the way they are in the United States—service jobs where you do your job unseen.  In fact, they talk to and joke with people on the street as they pass by picking up full trash bags and replacing them with new bags.  People have conversations with them and they do their job well.  Despite relative cleanliness of the inner-city and the well-doing trashmen, France is not afraid of trash and not afraid to admit trash/rubbish exists.  Today I walked out onto my street—a nice street in the 6th arrondisement—to see two LARGE mounds of trash in the middle of the street.  Perhaps the truck broke down, perhaps that’s how they collect trash (I’ll watch out for this again) but no one seemed in a rush to move the trash, and people walked past it without the slightest worry.  It was being taken care of, I imagine.—This is not something you would ever see on an important, well-to-do street in the United States.  Someone would have complained the second it happened, someone would be scrambling to get it off the street and out of the area, someone would be fired.  In Paris, it was life as usual, only a giant mound of trash was accompanying it.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Heaven on the Quai

If truth cannot be found or arrived at, but merely given, what will the philosophers talk of in heaven?

I no longer believe in one truth.  If it were so, conversation would have no healing power.

This is how my thought came to be.

Île de la Cité

I was walking around  Île-de-la-Cité , having decided I’d see for myself what this little island was about, strolling along the Quai aux Fleurs when a beautiful red-headed man asked me where St. Michel was and I pointed—with my hand—down the road, realizing I did not know the word for ‘straight’ or ‘ahead.’ (For future reference: Continuez à marcher tout droit.—WHAT THE HECK? ‘straight’ and ‘right’ are the same word!?!  How confusing is that!)  He thanked me and continued on his way.

I continued, too, down a little quai named Quai d’Horloge.  So, naturally, I was thinking of clocks and clock makers (horloge = clock) and wondering if there was any eternal significance to me walking around memorizing this city.  Then it occurred to me how much and how often I wish I could time travel.  All I want to do is walk down Quai d’Horloge when it really was the Quai of horloges, is that so much to ask? and I realized the closest I may ever get is when God calls those lectures in heaven together and I get to talk to the Parisians of the 16th century—no joke I really think these things—and know, when they say ‘Quai d’Horloge,’ where in the city they mean.  Fist pump in heaven, lording it over all my friends who will have NO clue where Quai d'Horloge is.  (Except for you, now, grâce à la carte--thanks to the map--I've included above.  See on the top left of the island--Quai de l'Horloge?)

Back to thought about knowing where Quai d'Horloge is when all my friends don't.--Neat.

But of course THEN I was thinking about who I’d really like to be with in heaven, and of course (of course) the French Enlightenment philosophers came to mind, and I figured that probably Jefferson would be there too, so I’d be killing two birds, so to speak, and then—I hit a brick wall.

It really hurt.  Metaphorically.  I nearly stopped RIGHT there on Quai d’Horloge thinking, “Oh no!  What will they TALK about?” Because French Enlightenment thinkers were–well every artist ever (yes, conversation is an art) has been—about finding truth.  Talking around (or painting, or writing, or sculpting, or whatever around) the truth in circles until you nearly come to the center of it, trying to figure it out and understand it .

We talk about, and I had largely accepted that once we die, we will be informed of the truth, and then we’ll be happy, because we’ll have the truth.  But the problem is that people think that now!  And it’s certainly not the case for me.  What I mean is, people think, “If only they had the true and everlasting gospel, they’d be happy.”  And I’m not saying that the true and everlasting gospel can’t make you happy, I’m just saying it’s not a cure-all and it doesn’t solve all problems and it DOESN'T make me happy all the time.  It doesn’t even answer half of my questions.  The gospel would have never quelled the minds or the spirits of Enlightenment philosophers—it certainly doesn’t come close to quelling mine—and even if they'd believed it, they'd still be talking about what truth is and where to find it!  So geometry--that great mathematical enlightenment of my youth--and its proofs have taught me that if some people say we have the truth now and it should make us happy, but it isn't the cure-all, it stands to believe that even if we have the truth in heaven, it may not be the cure-all, and thus we will still be having conversations in heaven about truth.  This brought me to the conclusion that perhaps how we can better define the truth we have on earth is "necessary and saving truth" rather than "truth" as a catch-all.  Furthermore, this begs the question, “Will we ever have ALL truth?” and my desperate realization, “I hope not.”

Ah!  It slipped out!  I had no control over the desperation.  Am I going to burn in hell?  (If so, I might as well continue:) Then I thought, maybe even God does not have all truth, but still discovers it every day, through us, through his work.  I mean, "necessary and saving truth" he has, knowledge he has, but maybe there is still truth to be had, even for him.  That’d make life interesting again. (I’ve also wondered if God is bored up there and am desperately hoping not--for his sake.)

And all of these thoughts in combination—or more in conflagration, perhaps—brought me to my disbelief in one truth.

Heaven (No joke.)

We think heaven will be a perfect place full of light, truth, perfection.  But if it’s much different than life on earth, it could be hell.  And honestly, hell sounds boring.  I mean people who don't care about food talk about a heaven where we won’t need to eat—but then what will the chef’s do with their passion?  People who don't notice the buildings that surround them talk about a heaven where the elements will have no power to hurt or kill us and we'll live on clouds—but then what will the architects do with their life passion?  Most of us imagine a heaven without pollution or cars or dirt or rocks—but what will the mechanics do, or the engineers, or the geologists?  And a heaven where no one is sick, no one is ailing—what will the nurses and the doctors and the surgeons do?  We talk too often about a heaven where truth is known—but then what will the archeologists, and the philosophers, and the physicists do?  And what about the linguists, and the historians, and the chemists, the personal trainers, the movie producers—what will they do?  Certain types of people decide that certain things in heaven will be unimportant, and continue to disregard all the human beings who have made that thing their life-work, have found it as their passion.  You can’t tell me history won’t matter, it’s the only thing that gets me out of bed in the morning.  You can’t tell me language won’t matter—I know too many linguists for that to be possible.  You can't tell me movies don't matter, they've taught me more empathy than every church meeting combined.

I keep thinking of circumstances in which heaven could be the most boring place on earth—if all things, especially intellectual and spiritual truths, were just given to us.  And I realize how much I hope for a heaven that is a lot like earth.  Maybe earth is that great university of life where we are taught not what to think, but how to think, not what to do, but how to do it.  In heaven, I don’t want people to have to scrape for survival, but perhaps we should always have to scrape for truth.  That way, it means a little bit more.

For now, back to the Quai.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Paris au Moyen Age

You can slap my wrist later because I haven't done anything even remotely related to my project for almost a week.  For now, you can be proud of me because I got out of the apartment before noon today without the excuse of having to meet my landlady or the necessity of going to a church meeting.  This is what got me out and about today:

Yes.  That's right.  Medieval Paris.  I think I'm in love, and also, I should have known that 1920 isn't long enough ago.  I was walking through the Montparnasse Cemetery the other day, disappointed that all those people had died between 1875 and 2011.  "Isn't there anyone who's been dead LONGER?"  I'm going to Montmartre Cemetery one of these days to see if people there have been dead longer.  After I get my bearings in the parts of Paris I can walk to, I'll start venturing out to the parts I have to Metro to and walk back from.  I'm hoping my shoes will be nice and worn in by then.

Anyway, Medieval Paris.  I went to St.-Sulpice the other day and just about died

(of happiness).

It's just about that beautiful in person, except all that open space around it is a lie.  There's a nice big square out in front of it, where some boys were playing football before I went in to attend messe and they were still there when I got out an hour later, so I sat and watched them for a while.  I have to admit, Catholic mass feels different from an Anglican service, which I've been to half a dozen of.  Even in the center of Paris, there are local paroissiens/parissioners--um, I don't know the spelling in either English or French, so you'll have to take a cross between the two--and its much like it must have been a hundred years ago: a community church service.  Only there are less people than there used to be (or so I assume) and several of the people attending are tourists (I'm going to count myself as one of them for the time being).  I do prefer the church when its silent and I get to walk around and sit and worship God in my own way, but I'm glad to have had the experience of mass, regardless.

St. Sulpice opened doors.  I decided to do some research on it because I want to write an architecture piece on it for one of my classes.  I started with wikipedia, which is really a lot more useful than academia gives it credit for.  And I found this.

And this is what I thought: "Holy Hell.  Streets.  That existed then.  That might exist now."

So it started a long and involved internet search for Medieval maps of Paris in which one of the maps I found was the first one I posted above.  I encourage you to click on the picture and see it at full resolution, if it lets you.  It's awesome.  Well, I'd been wanting to go to St. Germain-des-Prés, when what should I find out but that it's the oldest church in Paris, founded in the 6th century by the SON OF CLOVIS (relaying this information makes me want to cry--seriously).  ARE YOU HEARING ME?!  CLOVIS!  (Also, a Medieval side-note: Clovis-->Clouis-->Louis.  The French have been using that name for a long time.  Is your mind blown?)  Anyway, the tower of the Abbey of St. Germain-des-Prés was finished in 1014.  You're probably one of those people to whom dates mean nothing.  1014 was almost 1000 years ago.

0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0.

That's a thousand 0's.  For you.  To see how many 0's it would take to make a thousand.  One 0 at the end of every year.  That's a LOT of years.  Okay.  So here I am just looking at this map of this ancient church that used to sit on this one street in--and I realize, it still does.  I can GO.  I can GO.  It's like...a 20 minute walk.  So I decided to make it a Medieval Monday.  I woke up, got ready to go out, and started on my Medieval Monday adventure.  I walked down to Luxembourg Gardens, then down St. Michel, and ancient Roman thoroughfare, past the Abbey Cluny, now the Musée du Moyen Age, left on Blvd. St-Germain, and down, down, down the street until I got to St. Germain-des-Prés.  St. Germaine of the Fields.

I walked in.

Choeur Des Moines De L'abbaye De Saint Benoît Sur Loire – Fantaisie En Do Mineur

I wish you could hear my laugh.  The happy laugh I get when I walk into really old cemeteries.  That kind of laugh.  The "Yes, I really AM here," laugh.  Because the organ was playing.  It reverberated through the entire church.  I don't know if you know what that sounds like.  These old stone churches were made for noise: for singing, for the organ; for soft chattering.

Sometimes one of your senses takes over, disallowing any other from experiencing a space.  I'm fairly certain I was blind for a few moments after I walked into the church because my ears were taking in the surrounding.  But eventually my ears gave in to my eyes.  Not many people know that the ancient statues outside of the medieval churches like Nôtre-Dame and the old Greek and Roman statues used to be painted.  (At the musée du Moyen Age at the Hôtel Cluny/Abbey Cluny (Hôtel-->Hostel, just another word in French for Mansion, basically) they've got some of the heads of the old statues that used to be part of Nôtre-Dame before they were broken off and destroyed in the revolution, and the ancient statues still have red on the lips and cheeks, and green in the eyes, left over paint from long ago.)  In ancient-style, nearly every inch of Saint-Germain-des-Prés is painted.  The columns, the archways, the walls, the ceiling--everything but the floor.

(Cette image est tirée de

I didn't take this picture, and it is a beautiful picture, but it doesn't do the place justice.  The inside of the church is darker than this, so much darker.  And the light is not so soft.  It's creepier, somehow.  And yet still, the color comes through, not like a shine, or a punch, but a resonance, refusing to wear away, though it fades.  I have no idea how often they've restored the paint, and I have no idea if it looks anything like what it looked like when it was painted in antiquity, but the point is certainly gotten across.  No other church I've gone in to is painted this way on the inside, though it gives a good idea of what many of the churches must have been like before they were destroyed during the Revolution.

That's another thing to think about.  Here in Paris, the Revolution happened, but no one in particular started it, carried it out, or even felt the effects of it.  It is almost always spoken of in the passive tense.  "Destroyed during the Revolution," but not destroyed by whom?  Destroyed for what reason?  The Revolution is spoken of like a force of nature that came through Paris, destroying the things people miss most about how Paris used to be: the history, the age, the culture; but blame is attached to no one in general reference to the Revolution.  That's very interesting to me.  I can't tell yet, but will get back to you about whether I deem it shame, reverence, respect, a knowledge of happenstance, a statement of fact, or something else entirely as a reason why they speak of the Revolution this way.  In America we kind of think of the French Revolution as this interesting point in history.  Here...the scar isn't interesting, it's just a reminder of pain.  I'll get back to you on this.

Most of the abbey of St.-Germain-des-Prés was destroyed during the Revolution, but the little church still stands, par la grâce de Dieu, I'm sure.  This reminds me of St. Paul's Cathedral in London.  I do believe God saved that place from ruin; why not these churches in Paris?

So I walked in.  Organ playing, making the place creepier than it would have been in silence.  Entire inside of the church painted, making it darker than St. Sulpice.  Smaller than Nôtre Dame, but still with plenty of Chapelle's around the nave and transept.  Candles burning--I lit one in L'Eglise St.Etienne du Mont the other day, so decided not to light one here.  It's less crowded than Nôtre-Dame, or even St. Sulpice; it's easy to misread as a small parish and decide to walk past after seeing the likes of those other churches.  And I know I keep comparing these churches.  Here's why: they told me when we went to London that I'd get sick of going into the Cathedrals and churches, that after a while they'd all start to look the same, or feel the same.  I'm not saying I'm special or anything, I'm no cathedral-whisperer, but that's never happened to me.  They're all so different, they've all got a very particular feel.  Maybe it was knowing that St.-Germain was the oldest, but I think I could really feel it.  It kind of took me by the spirit and clenched its fist around my insides and didn't let go until I left.  I wasn't uncomfortable, but I was sad.  Does anyone else get that way in places with lots of history?

I sat and thought and wrote for about an hour before leaving the church and walking around the area, particularly down Rue du Four, which is a street that existed in Medieval times, despite the names of all the major roads (St. Michel, St. Germain, etc) having changed.  I decided to wander through some of the smaller roads, making my way back to St. Sulpice, and then returning to Abbey Cluny.

Abbey Cluny I have been more or less fascinated by for two weeks, since I first walked by it with Kate on Bd St-Michel.  Old buildings do that to me.  It was an old Roman Bath, I believe, then an Abbey, then it was destroyed, and made into an Abbey again, and destroyed and into an Abbey again, and then destroyed and built onto by some rich woman who bought the land.  (This is all very spotty history, so don't take my word for it.  It's just to give you an idea.)  I kept telling myself I'd go to the Museum, but didn't, and didn't.  Then it became Medieval Monday, and what do you know...there I was.

I had a somewhat successful conversation in French with the man who I bought my ticket from.  He treated me like I wasn't an idiot, which was preferable.  I asked for a student ticket, he asked if I "had less than 26 years."  I said yes.  He asked to see my ID and I said, I'm American.  He smiled and said, "Tarif Reduit" (Reduced Cost).  I said, "Parfait."  He told me there was an audio guide in the next room, and that I could get it in English.  I said, "Merci."  And then I went on my way.  My conversation with the audio guide woman was less perfect because she started speaking to me in English as soon as I asked for an audioguide "en anglais."  I was going to ask for it in French but decided I was really too curious about the middle ages in France to lose half of the information I could get by listening to it in French.  I'm working on it.

My camera died which wasn't even on the radar for me.  So here are some pictures (the ones I could salvage) from my phone, which hasn't died since I got into Paris, as it's got no SIM card and is on flight mode.  Glorious.  But the pictures aren't so glorious.  I'll go back to the Museum and get pictures of the outside, the pleasure gardens (if you want the explanation of that, you can ask for it, and I'll give it), and the Hotel du Cluny.

Roman foundation and brickwork:

The reason Roman buildings NEVER go away.  These bricks are slabs, so walls are more than a foot thick.  The Romans feared being forgotten and made sure they wouldn't be.

Roman ceiling.  Fascinating to me, but maybe not to you.

Hotel du Cluny, the Abbot had his personal chapel.  Here is the staircase leading up to it.

Here are my feet, standing on the floor of the chapelle.  I love floors and ceilings of old buildings best.

Two other things I loved about the museum.

Arms room.  Old weapons/shields/armor are awesome.

This sculpture carved of wood.  My favorite in the museum.

A common theme of thought for the day was that only the history of the rich is ever really kept.  I, of course, was very interested in all of the things I saw, listened to and read about today, but it was very apparent to me that I was reading and listening to the history of the rich, or of the church--which was rich.  There is so little written or recorded about the lives of the common people who lived in Medieval Paris, and that's something I'd like to spend some time looking into.

The man who did a lot of the excavation for Cluny III, the ruins of the third abbey of Cluny, was an American--Kenneth J. Conant.  He dedicated his life to Medieval Architecture, particularly that of Cluny.  I love that he made such a difference somewhere so far from home.  That he gave this place something they hadn't given to themselves.  I think sometimes it takes someone from the outside to remind the people on the inside of how interesting their history and their ruins are.  It takes someone from the outside to ask the questions that no one else thinks important to ask.  Can you imagine what else is under these Parisian roads and buildings?

The last time I wrote a post this long about the things I learned someone made a comment about it being too academic for them.  This should not have hurt my feelings, but it did.  I get that I've been in school for my entire life, but honestly academic??  This stuff is interesting.  So keep your mouth shut and don't relay this kind of information to me in the future.  If you're interested in me reporting on something else other than what I did while in Paris or something other than the fascinating stuff I'm seeing WHILE IN PARIS, then let me know and I'll be happy to oblige if you find a nice way to say it.  I'm the only me you've got, so take me or leave me.  (I'm guessing most of you will opt for the leaving me, oh well.)

I proceeded to come home and listen to Chants Gregorien late into the night while eating crepes and nutella, which I'm sure they did in the medieval ages, also.

Any suggestions about what Tuesday's theme should be?

Wednesday, May 9, 2012


Is it just the fact that someone told me once that the French find their families important, or is it really all over these streets of Paris—the truthfulness of that belief?  There are children everywhere, much more a part of the streets of Paris than I’ve ever recognized in London, or Los Angeles or even Provo.  In American cities and towns, children are hidden away at home; but Parisians live their lives and let their children be a part of them.  They take them everywhere, in strollers, and on walks, and they listen to their every word, and take them to play afterschool in the park down the street.  So attentive.  Parisian children are so very loved and encouraged in that love.

I watched a family walk toward me on Rue Vavin as I walked home from church.  A little boy, less than two years old, but walking, had a hand in each parents arm, and it was not the mother only who was attentive, but the father as well, as the opened the door to their apartment building, and walked him inside.  They let go of his hands for a moment, and he wandered between two decorative pillars inside the hallway and sat down between them, stuck in the crevice, smiling proudly.  His mother, patient and attentive, laughed at her son, paying him mind that he was clever, and she knew it just as well as he.

I see fathers in parks with their children always; children are not the woman’s responsibility, but a family responsibility.  At home it seems you only see American fathers with their older sons—when their sons are old enough to play a sport, be taken to the park.  This does not seem the case in Paris.  Rather, fathers take their daughters and their very young children out into the city.  Fathers have a place, even with babies.  And they are attentive to their daughters as well as their sons.  And older siblings too, play a very large role.  I sat in church today and watched a girl who was between seven and nine carry around her younger brother who was hardly old enough to speak.  He had a pacifier and attached to the pacifier was a rag he could hold onto.  He squealed when she put him down.  She was so very attentive to him, holding him and taking him where he wanted to go, reading him and his interests.  She taught him how to stick out his tongue, and she kissed him often.  “Ça c’est qui?” she asked him over and over of a picture of Christ.  “Jésus” she would answer, and he would repeat her with some semblance of sound of the answer.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Lesbians and their dogs

I've been in Paris for about a week and a half.  For the four days I had Kate with me, and for the next three I had a friend from school.  I walked around the city with them--mostly the parts of the city tourists go to see: the Seine, Notre-Dame, the Louvre, Jardin du Louvre et Jardin du Luxombourg, Champs-Elysee, Arc du Triomphe, le Tour Eiffel, and then back across Pont Neuf, and down St-Michel through the Latin Quarter.  So this is my second full day in Paris alone.

It's hard to get out of bed in the mornings, either because I haven't got a class to go to or because its cloudy out.  It could be both.  I think it will get better, already today feels better than yesterday did.  I'm getting used to being alone, though I know some days will be much harder than others.

Apart from classes which I haven't really started doing the readings for, I'm taking some notes, though not about anything specific to classes.  I'm trying to get all of the new information I'm soaking up everyday out on paper so I can start looking for specific things like Consumption and Waste or Attire and Adornment.  What most worries me is my French comprehension, so I'm deciding to do an hour of French listening a day either in film or podcast form (church also counts).  I'd sit and listen to french speakers for an hour, but I can't seem to eavesdrop on one conversation long enough to get enough real practice.  So, that's my attempt at making myself learn French.

Participation and Involvement - Entertainment
Yesterday, I wasn't sure I'd get myself out of the apartment to wander the streets alone, so I decided to go to a movie.  To kill two birds with one stone, I went to see a French movie called 'Intouchables' which did really well in the box office initially and was still showing at the cinema less than a block away from my apartment.  This is the first time I've gone to the cinema in foreign-language speaking country, specifically France so it'll take a few séances (that's what they call film shows) to be sure there is any trend to my initial notes, but here it goes.

Whereas in the États-Unis you can stand in line and buy tickets for 10pm at night at 11am in the morning, Paris ticket-offices don't sell tickets to a show until 10 minutes before the film starts.  Also, in the United States there is a particular etiquette in a movie theatre: you can talk during the commercials and especially before the commercials, but typically when the trailers begin, everyone is quiet.  So far, in my grand experience of one movie, this is not the case in Paris.  While there were a few people in the theatre who did not speak once trailers started it was because they, like me, were seeing the movie alone.  Everyone who had come to the theatre with a friend/date/family spoke loudly--did not even bother to whisper--all the way  up until the movie started.  As someone who goes to the cinema often, this was extremely annoying to me until I realized that they might not have the same reverence for trailers that I have--and then I didn't blame them, because reverence for trailers does seem a little strange.

I do have to say--I love that they call them séances, though I'm sure it doesn't even come close to having the same connotation in French as it does in English.  In French it just means 'session' or 'show' while in English it connotes some cultish meeting with the dead.  Regardless, that's interesting.

Well I watched the entire movie and didn't understand a single word of it, which I knew would happen.  It did get me thinking in limited French for about an hour afterwards, however.  At the end of the movie, whereas the lights come up immediate in the United States, the lights were dimmed for at least half of the credits.  I always stay for the credits--something my father always does, that I have continued in my own film viewing--so I felt a certain appreciation for the French who stay for part of the credits until the lights are at least brought up, though most of them stayed even until after the lights came up, until the credits were nearly finished.


After the film, I wandered St-Michel to find a MonoP* and Boulongerie to get some food.  So far I've been eating bread, goat cheese and tomato at almost every meal, which, while I realize is nutritionally problematic, is not being contested by my taste-buds.  I did have eggs yesterday...with tomatoes and goat cheese and bread.  Haha.  Well, I'll be working on that, trust me.  It's just that I'm so used to getting food in bulk and I'm used to having a microwave, or an oven.  So the amount of things I feel capable eating are limited.  I'm also quite the wuss.  I usually scout something out several times before I feel comfortable going in and then I get out as fast as I can.  I'm just getting used to my hallway, for example, which I now feel comfortable walking down in my bare feet.

I also hate looking like a tourist.  Because while I am a foreigner, I'm not exactly a tourist.  Also, I hate that I can't understand the things other people say to me.  It's not my inability to respond that bothers me nearly as much as my ability to listen, which I've always used far more often than my ability to speak.  So for those of you who think I talk a lot, imagine how much listening I must do to make up for it!  I do in fact listen to everything around me, as I am unable/incapable of ignoring anybody.  But when they're speaking in a different language it seems a lot easier to assume they're not speaking to me--but the catch is: they might be, I would just have no way of knowing.

Anyway, so I'm just going through some minor "OMG" moments trying to keep my ears and eyes open.  Which reminds me, I'll be walking around in Paris and hear the most bizarre coupling of words in French and think to myself, "Wow, I must have misunderstood that."  Then the other day I was walking by a café and overheard these two English girls talking saying, "...the lesbian and her dog..." and I couldn't help but laugh.  And I realized--I heard them rather clearly, she said "the lesbian and her dog," and I didn't think I misunderstood them, I just realized that I overheard a few odd words in the conversation.  It made me re-think what I was hearing in French--maybe the French are talking about lesbians and their dogs, also, and I'm just overhearding odd things, rather than misunderstanding.  This is why I've decided to listen to podcasts and movies rather than eavesdropping on conversations (though trust me, I'm trying to do that too) but I literally understand nothing.  So many different voices, and accents--its killing me.

Oh, but I have to remind myself, it's just day 2 on my own.  Kate was not speaking to me in Chinese and Jake was not speaking to me in Russian.  So I should cut myself a little slack.  I am getting better at recognizing the tourists: English, Indian, Italian, American, Chinese, Japanese, Russian, French, Spanish, German.  Though I can't understand what they're saying (except the Americans and sometimes the English) I can distinguish between their languages, which I'm rather proud of.

Back to the main point: I will continue looking for food I can eat.  I will continue going to films.  I will continue to eavesdrop on French conversations.  There's an update on the last week and a half.  I must remember to say 'Bonsoir' in greetings after 5pm.

Au revoir!