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April 2015

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Marais on a Thursday.

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Another spring day, 70 degrees and sunny. You envision the Marais, jump on the metro, emerge into the sunshine again and cross the bridge. There is the fantastic and beautiful museum of contemporary photography – you haven’t even been yet. In fact, you’d forgotten about it. The kids are out on vacation next week. You’ve joined three book clubs. You cross Rivoli and take pretty back streets. Step lightly into some shops feeling like stepping into someone’s home, the stores small and intimate, hushed. You have a conversation about the linen drapes. Washed out colors appealing, the feel, the way they hang. You make photos and walk around the shop imagining the drapes catching the breeze from the windows in your new apartment. You meet another American. She is visiting Paris. You live here? Wow. That’s impossible! You shrug and say, “it’s not always like this.” It isn’t, but that’s not entirely true either. You haven’t finished planning the vacation to Brittany. You wonder how to drive from Deuville to St. Malo. You’ve got to schedule a formal event for an organization you belong to, you can’t forget. You haven’t eaten all day. You must remember to not run out without eating or drinking anything. The little side street looks inviting, a handwritten sign, the bistro light and airy thru the window. Family is coming in this Sunday then you are all getting on a train to Normandy. Who is taking care of the dog? Your husband will be in Kiev. You are the only one here, but in a moment, the place will be full of people and the whir of conversation and the roasted potatoes in front of you are delicious.

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April in Paris: the movie.

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If you’re unhappy, sad, depressed…. come to Paris right now. Don’t bother with a suitcase – just jump on a plane, there are espadrilles, light blazers, scarves, everything you need is here. The play of sunlight on stone, golden greenness of new leaves, flowers blooming everywhere, unexpected gardens around the corner, people looking gorgeous sitting in cafes or looking gorgeous walking around eating ice cream is everything you need.  And probably, someone will be playing clarinet a few doors down in your apartment building. Get ready. You’re not going to believe how the beauty will entrance you on a late Saturday afternoon, as you walk home in the early evening light, the medieval church spires glowing in front of you.  

You’ll walk down rue du cherche-midi and see the stone buildings, variations on white… sand, cream, ivory, oat, like the colors of fields of grain in the sun… nature waving at the gods in the blue heavens and suddenly, you will crave good music, great literature, fine wine, good conversation and the bliss of creative accomplishment.  

And it might sound ridiculous, but you’ll be pierced by love and joy passing the shops in the 7th arrondissement near the Eiffel tower after you drop off your teenager at her creative writing group, seeing the displays of black and white postcards of Paris on whirly stands, the variations of Paris –  Hemingway’s Chanel’s, Piaf’s, Monet’s.

Because you’re making it yours too.

It’s walking swiftly through the Louvre taking your youngest to the Mona Lisa,  amused by the tourists facing away, taking selfies with the painting, no one looking at it. It’s walking out of the Louvre that same day, passing the dog sitter with 20 disparate dogs running around the Tuileries. 

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It’s sitting at the nearest cafe waiting two hours for your daughter in ballet class, the lady next to you keyed up and needing an ear, learning in 15 minutes more than you might have ever learned about your closest friend in college.  

It’s two seconds in on the metro, doors close, person in front of you, next stop, whole new crowd, eye contact with man in business suit, you both see the lady and man adjusting to the other on the small folding seats as she folds it down to sit, two second moment articulating human behavior. Smiles.

Put it this way: it’s as if Wes Anderson called up Cezanne and he agreed to do the staging and Picasso was there to shake things up, while Bonnard was in the background simply ignoring them all and getting right down to the work of painting the backdrops, while the children next door helped him and Wes, of course, Wes directed this movie while you had your head down trying to keep up with him while Miles jammed in the background. But he didn’t mind and while you wrote, Gabriel Garcia Marquez sat next to you at the cafe, saying, “You know, you’re not going to believe this, but… I’m kinda in love with…” 

Paris…. It’s not easy, but if you can do it, it can be the most beautiful thing in the world. 

 

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Moving into rue Jasmin.

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On Good Friday we rent a car, fold down the seats, pile a bunch of stuff in the back until the rear view is blocked, pretend it’s not raining chats and chiens, like it is, and maneuver out into the 8pm Paris traffic of the four day weekend to cross the city. That was after picking up the car at Montparnasse train station where half of Paris was leaving with roller suitcases. That was after walking the length and back of the Montparnasse buliding which might fit into 4 football stadiums, only to find out the rental agency had moved outside to the avenue. That was after the morning of the same day, when I had been an hour late to pick up the first rental reservation, a pleasant walk around the corner, and had been told that regrettably my full-sized vehicle had already been rented, however, they had a cute Smartcar I could take. I had to walk back to the apartment to tell Andrew that we had no car to move our stuff. That was after he had worked 12 days straight on a very large project and had taken the day off for the move. That was after the casual day I had taken a glance around the St. Germain apartment and said, “This will be easy peasy… There’s not much stuff. Half day for the move, then we go hit a cafe in the afternoon.” Ha.

Have you ever had suspicions that your partner might want to chop off your head. The stuff which had looked so meager, so scarce on the shelves, in drawers and closets turned out to be a movers load. You know how we all have talents and gifts… well, it’s clear now, I lack the gift of tallying up cubic meters of goods and effects. The next day, we drove 8 times across Paris with our belongings. To be fair, it was only 3 car loads. A lot of it books including library books from the Paris libraries, and books recently bought, the members of our household sharing the same addiction to media, books, or anything involving good stories. Maybe we’ve bought a few clothes since we’ve been here too…

Point being that even though good Friday was not the greatest, the traffic circles a bit mad, the rain a bit much, the day a bit long, it was another new piece of the Paris life. We had looked at apartments online and in person and had debated and researched and gotten input. This was the moment it was happening. We were moving in! Most of our house had been delivered the previous week. Darty, Ikea, Orange internet, it’d been a week of Paris retailers running up our rue. So, the beginning of this holiday weekend, we were exhausted and our apartment looked like a rummage sale, boxes, bags, clothes everywhere, we had to figure out where we liked the couch best. But by Sunday, the sun was shining on the terrace, we’d already been over to the Bois in the morning and realized its beautiful potential for family outings, we’d carried home some outdoor chairs, and were all sitting out with the wind blowing through the trees, a cat jumping along a wall, a few drawers and shelves already full of our things… there was still the issue of the guitar in the bathroom, no other place to put it, but still…

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