29 June 2014


I had a really great idea! Flying hippos! Wouldn't that be the best?

In other news, I think my New Year's Resolution for 2015 will be to draw a hippo every day because I could sure use some practice.

24 June 2014


This is my last week living in Paris so I'm getting in all of the last of my 'must do's.' I made a pilgrimage yesterday to see a graffiti memorial outside the former studio of my film idol. Though I've barely dipped a toe in the long list of films Chris Marker has made and worked on, it was watching his film Sans Soleil (1983) in my History of Documentary class that knocked me off my feet and brought me dreaming and gasping to a hopeful place. Here was proof that whatever is going on my my head and heart, the way I see: it has a place in the world. I drank that film desperately. I'm sure there are places where Marker and I diverge on visions and philosophies; I'll never be, never make things like him; but there are moments in his films that light little bursting fires of awe and delight and longing in my soul. Guys, instead of agreeing to the label "cinéma verité"––which is the name of a movement and style in documentary filmmaking which features an observational approach and lets the subjects of the film speak for themselves, the theory of the movement being that this would be a more truthful cinema (hence the name) than earlier documentaries with narrators who told you what was happening therefore controlling the message of the film. He liked "ciné, ma verité" or, in other words, cinema, my truth. Aren't you in love already and fainting in a 19th century swoon? OK, so you may be fainting because of my punctuation but whatever.

My Mom taught us an acre of lullabies and folk songs. When we're all together––Mom, sister, and I––we sing all the folk songs picking out harmonies, the lullabies are pulled out less often. I'd forgotten for a long time about one in particular...Bobby Shafto.

Bobby Shafto's fat and fair,
combing down his yellow hair.
You'll find him most anywhere,
pretty Bobby Shafto.

Bobby Shafto's gone to sea,
silver buckles on his knee.
He'll come back and marry me,
pretty Bobby Shafto.

I always imagined Bobby Shafto was the moon, you'll find him most anywhere. Which is possibly the first dream I ever fell in love with. That sketch doesn't do any justice to my dear Shafto, I need to extend my colored pencil collection or experiment some with water colors.

I was telling someone today they could extrapolate my family from me. Then I was talking about how my nephew, when he was two-ish, would sit amongst us, his family, and looking up at us as we sat around talking, he would circle his eyes with his hands so that he could see the world through frames as well. This was probably around the same time as when he would give us lectures from the giant paperback anthologies he kept carrying around. Sometimes he'd read to us from Washington Irvine, sometimes he'd pull up a cardboard box to act as his podium. Once he got a hold of Shakespeare and we played a game guessing what plays he was telling us about.

It's not as though we're a family of geniuses, hyper-intellectuals, nor do we pressure each other into ambitious pursuits. We're just odd.

My friend asked me if we were frequently giving each other lectures that little Nephew would learn this schtick. This is several years past my high school days when I had the affectation of only liking very large, long books, so can't be that. We possibly give each other some semblance of animated lecture when we've found a great book, YouTube video, or some delicious dish. This last week my Mom was passing along the tip to look up Lisa Stoll playing the alphorn.


18 June 2014


Even when faced with a Wednesday––ask any current or former au pair about Wednesdays––I was feeling particularly peppy this morning. I danced with the mop to my Bryan Ferry 'Jazz Age' album, let music shuffle all over the map. Some songs, albums, and artists are linked to particular times or people or places. Beirut came up, I was obsessed with this band the summer I turned 20. Then, like now, I was cleaning––I only kept that job for a month cleaning a quiet portion of the giant library on campus. I was in the back where the classrooms are, which meant projectors, which meant putting on TV shows while wiping down auditorium seating. It's how I watched that episode of The Office where Pam walks across coals. My coworker would put on some anime show, I'd join her asking her lots of questions but was never quite able to follow along. It was good to remember a job where everyone loved me. I made them waffles for my last day of work party and tried to get them all to recite poetry for me.

I don't think I tell you enough how precious this time has been to me. Sure sometimes I wish I could have a debriefing session with my documentary friends ("You did what?!" "I know! I betrayed the proletariat!") but I wouldn't trade all my lost rambles around winding, narrow streets or any crêpe or any morning doodling monsters in my notebook during French class. Not even one ™£¢∞§ load of laundry would I trade.

Anyway, if you ever visit Paris, especially in the spring, you should take an evening to relax in Parc Monceau. There are perfect, full leafy trees; dark, velvet trees; greek-ish statues; and plenty of people to watch––but not, I promise you, too crowded. Nor will anyone try to force a bracelet on you, sell you a mini Eiffel tower for a euro, and so far no one has tried to hook up with me or follow me home. 

I live here for a week and a half more. Then there's a month and a half of never being in one place for more than two weeks, stopping through five countries, and then I will actually be moved to Seattle, with a temp agency holding my hand, a floor to sleep on, a best friend down the hall plus another new cool person, and many more notebooks and journals to fill.

I'm dying to see my my parents again, to hug them tightly. To see my sister and brother-in-law. To cuddle my nephew to infinity and to meet another pretty little girl who won't claim me as her real aunt but I'll love her just the same.

If you happen to play the accordion, though, will you visit me? I'll tell you what it's like to sit on a stool playing La Vie en Rose while I stand across from you on our imaginary bridge. I'll look out over the Seine, surrounded by tourists taking photos of each other and I'll tell you what it's like to feel like you're exactly where you ought to be in that exact moment, feeling the soft air, carving your surroundings into your heart so they won't ever go away.

Life is very, very full.

13 June 2014


Sometimes I go through cycles where I'm kind of going crazy and can't sleep and I've got one page left in my journal and though I've got another one slotted to take it's place as an appendage to my body as I'm quite obsessive over journaling and documenting, sometimes to the chagrin of those around me––I can't write on that last page. Not tonight. Tomorrow morning, maybe, when I make myself wake up early despite the horror of it, the welcome fatigue that will invite me to fall back on my pillow––tomorrow morning I'll force myself into an early start with journaling and fresh air and then a large bowl of oatmeal with maple syrup.

It is hard to find oatmeal in France, not impossible, but you must hunt it down in the specialty sections in grocery stores. That was a surprise to me. What was also a surprise is that what they translate as brown sugar is really cane sugar and seems to never have had a whiff of molasses.

Another surprise was that all my training in French class of learning "Je m'appelle..." (my name is...) and "Je vous présente..." (Allow me to introduce...) has come to null. Was it silly of me to expect that as a strange foreigner showing up in a house full of people that I would be formally introduced to anyone? Instead, complete strangers would walk up to me, kiss me on each cheek and say, "Philip" or "Christine." It was hard to realize through the cloud of confusion that people were telling me their names. I wasn't sure at first if I was missing some type of greeting or casual small talk, all French was blurring together in the first few months here. You see, it's as if a stranger walked up to you, and while shaking your hand said, "Apple." Did they just say 'apple'? you'd think. Why? What does 'apple' mean? Did we meet once before and apples were involved? Are they asking if I want an apple? What do I say back? And it takes you a few more hours before you realize they said "Alice." It feels a little like that. Because people aren't setting the scene, giving context by saying, "My name is..." 

And then everybody is immediately all up in and kissing your grill.  I couldn't figure out where the line was drawn. I knew people kissed cheeks here but I'd assumed it was saved for friends and family but then it looked like acquaintances were fair game and there were employers kissing employees and my mind was whirling wondering if there was anyone we weren't supposed to kiss. After I'd been in France for only a couple of weeks, while we were still at the vacation home with a steady rotation of friends and family staying with us, I saw a man arrive––he was wearing a plain polo, khaki cargo shorts, and was carrying a large cardboard box. A close friend of the family did bisous with him, that's what the kiss-cheek greeting is called, and I thought, We even kiss the FedEx guy?!?! It turns out this was my boss's brother-in-law who was just arriving and just happened to be carrying something in a box.

Sometimes I can't handle it. Sometimes there are too many people and I know I'll never see them again, they're not close friends of the family and even though they're kissing everybody else I say "Bonjour" and remain at a distance. This is one of the Americanisms I'm most conscious of and can't quite shake. I used to believe that I was fairly pleasant in most situations, if somewhat dull or tactless at times, at least we could say I was fairly pleasant. But now I've seen how easily I can unintentionally be rude or even cruel and there was that time a few months back when I threatened to stab someone with a kitchen knife while holding said kitchen knife only a few inches away from them because they insisted on calling me Emmy. That is in no way my nickname. That's another E's nickname. Anyway, I don't always have to be pleasant.

Now it's time for me to watch a strange movie and then maybe I'll fall asleep to what will really amount to a nap. 

***UPDATE: Watched The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947). I would like my life to be a remake of that movie, I really really really love ghosts. Also, when I was done Netflix suggested I might like Jesse Stone: No Remorse. Make what you will of that.