Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Conversations with Kiki


Hi Mum.

Oh my Goodness it’s weird to be called that. I feel like a little baby myself!

Get used to it dude.

Ok. How are you going in there?

Good thanks. I’ve been doing a bit of dancing…

I can feel it! You’re not kicking quite so hard as you were before.  Not as... kicky.

Yep, over that, sooo mid November. No, I’m really quite enjoying this stretching feeling, wiggling and stuff. I’ve noticed if I stretch right out I can circumnavigate you like a belt.

Yes, that’s a very curious sensation.

You can feel it? Cool!

Yes. It’s extraordinary to feel movement on both sides like that. One end here, maybe a fist, one end there, maybe a toe. It must make you feel tall.

Yeah, it does. Ma?

Ooh, there it is again. (sheepish) Yes?

Will I be born in Paris then?

Yes. But it doesn’t mean you get an automatic passport you know. We researched it.


(sizeable pause)

Sorry Kiki.

Oh well, it’s still an adventure.

True.  Hey Kiki?

Yes Maman.

(teeth gnashing) What are you like?

Mum! Get off my back! You’ll have to wait and see!!

I know but it makes you so hard to name! How are we supposed to know what you’re going to be like? How do we find a name that’s going to globally encapsulate your entire journey, through all your stages and explorations, and not make you feel embarrassed at school while also making you feel unique?

Just give me something plain that adapts. Nothing stupid. And definitely not one of those long ones that you’ve written in the word doc on your desktop – PLEASE not Magnolia Florence Blaise Mistinguett Violette Marcelle Mae Davis. I know, I know, you want to give me lots of names so I can make my own choice depending on the stage I’m at, blah blah… But just make it plain, simple, strong – ok? Then I can just be myself and expand the name out to fit my contours. Like I’m doing with your tummy right now. Slowly, I hope you’ve noticed, so as not to give you stretch marks.

Thanks Kiki.

No worries.

Hey Kiki?

(sighs) Yes?

Thanks for not coming out of your room just yet. You gave us a big fright in the hospital.

I know. I was just excited. There is so much I want to see.

I know. But in three months time things will just be so much better. You’ll be able to see better. And smell, feel, taste. Can you just hang in there until March?

I’ll try. But Mother?

(shivers) Yes Daughter? (lip biting)

You could have made a bit more room for me in here. It’s squishy.

I know, I’m sorry. I’m trying. But you know what they’re saying, you're dodue.

What does that mean?

It means chubby. You’re growing to be a big baby.

Oh great thanks Mum, so you're saying i'm fat. Way to give me a complex.

No, you’re great and I want you to get really really fat. We’ll do it together. We can always go to bikram yoga afterwards. But for now we need to chub up.

Ok mama.

You’ll do that for me?

Yes mama.

Thanks Kiki.

Oh and Mum?

Yes Kiki?

Are you sure about the passport?

We’ll talk about that later. Time for sleep.

Artwork du Jour 80

Le Bonhomme il est Vert

Monday, November 29, 2010

I Love You so Much I wanna Bash You

Dad and the C-Bunny have bought a kitten.  His name is Claude Monet.  He is the most painfully cute thing I have ever seen.  The kind that makes you feel guilty for masturbating.


When I skype with dad and he gets Claude Monet on his lap and waves his furry little arms at the camera that are wearing grey sockettes on them I am glad we’re half a planet away because if I was near Claude Monet I fear I would scratch him or throw him or throttle him - he’s just that infuriatingly cute.

Have you ever had that feeling?  The cuteness just being so overwhelming it makes you want to GRRRRRR hurt something?  That wild, fist-clenching desire to roar, to deface, to destroy – like when you’re standing in a gallery looking at an incredible artwork and feel the urge to pick up a pole and start tearing into it.

Perhaps it’s just me.

A friend had twins a while back and bought them in all their precious prematurity to Bunny Sister’s birthday drinks at the Deco Bar and I remember the little girl one being placed in my lap.  She was the tiniest, most perfect thing I had ever seen.  A porcelain doll.  And I was terrified, mortified by the tourettes-like urges flashing through my mind:

I open my legs and SPLAT – she falls to the floor

I quickly WHOOSH my hands upwards from underneath her miniature body and OOP – SPLAT – she is pancaked to the roof

I can’t control my hands and scratch her face off

My hands are so strong I crush her body

Awful, terrifying images like this, and way, way worse.  Just terrible.  People clinked glasses and laughed and talked and here I sat amongst them, nervous smile plastered across my face, a murderer, a child-killer.  It was an awful, awful feeling and luckily I happened to be sitting next to a very wise also-recent mother to whom I could relay my fears and who refused to take the child away from my dangerous arms, saying ‘It’s normal, don’t worry, you just have to get through it.  Just breathe.  I know the feeling.  You’ll be ok.’  And I breathed and it did go away, though I still felt horrified at myself after, until I drank enough cocktails to forget about it.

When I relayed the story to Bunny Sister she nodded solemnly at me with wide eyes – she knew the feeling of finding something so cute she wanted to bash it. 

Bunny Sister and Baby Brother in the Car 
A Story in Point Form

·      Bunny Sister is four.  Baby Brother is a Baby
·      Mum parks the car, looks in the back seat
·      Bunny Sister is sitting, legs neatly crossed, looking out the window with signature pursed lips and delicately placed hands
·      Baby Brother is cooing gently in his baby seat
·      Mum sprints out to shop and buys milk
·      Mum returns to car forty-five seconds later
·      Mum checks back-seat
·      Bunny Sister is sitting, legs neatly crossed, looking out the window with signature pursed lips and delicately placed hands
·      Baby Brother is cooing gently in his baby seat, face covered in bloody scratches.  

Even now, Bunny Sister remembers exactly why she did it, exactly the feeling, exactly the compulsion.  He was TOO CUTE.  Arrrgh, she says, curling her hands up into claws and roaring, ‘I was just TOO MUCH.  I couldn’t STAND it.’  It seemed almost to be her way of getting closer to him.

I don’t even like domestic animals that much, but when dad sends me pictures of Claude Monet, I feel similar sensations described by Bunny Sister, I just NEED to ARRRGHHH grab him and GRRRR squeeze him sooooo tight. 

I must say, the destructive potential of the power of over-cuteness disturbs me slightly, particularly in light of impending motherhood.  But I comfort myself in the knowledge that this kind of adoration is generally reserved to the outsider, the admirer, the slightly removed.  You can't find your own child that cute, surely.  And anyway, as the mother sitting next to me that day with the twins calmly advised, those overwhelming sensations do lose power with time.  The teledex of horrific scenarios finally did run out that day and I could calmly look at the little thing, and even connect with her.

I suppose you just have to live these feelings through.  And don’t leave siblings alone in a car together, even for thirty seconds. 

And if you have an insanely, ridiculously, unbearably cute kitten, better make sure you live several continents away, and skype regularly before closing the gap.

Artwork du Jour 79

It's All Taken Care Of

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Hockey was Kiki

Oops! I had a Hiccup. Sorry about Suicide Bunny being my last post before dropping off the radar. I promise I didn’t put my little head inside the hole inside the bit with the circle cut out of it that pops out of the dvd player for you to put the dvd on. I didn’t then point my furry little toe towards the remote. I didn’t then close my eyes, gulp and push the little triangle and dash.

I didn’t.

I just went to hospital.

In French, to have the Hiccups is to have the Hockey. And though I was due to return to Australia on Friday, I’m still in France. So I had a Hockey.

The Hockey was Kiki. A bit like Algy and the Bulge.

Kiki saw the Hockey
The Hockey saw Kiki
The Hockey was dangerous
The danger was Kiki

We’ve recently been calling The Lady ‘Kiki’ because she is so kicky. She’s a very feisty young miss. So feisty in fact that she already has her own ideas about how and when she might like to join us out here in the outside world. She likes Paris, there’s no doubt – she gave us her very first kick on the day we arrived and ever since, through Berlin, and especially on our arrival back in Paris last week, she’s been in training to become the next Ultimate Street Fighter. There were moments sitting in restaurants when she was so excitable I felt she might just shoot out of me on to someone’s plate like a mis-pinched escargot.

She likes Paris. I know the feeling. So I didn’t think much of it.

Until I got the pain and that was pretty bad so after two full days of teeth-gritting I went to the hospital and luckily I did, as Kiki was actually, quite seriously, threatening to make her début on Earth at just five and a half months baked.

Menace d’accouchement prématuré.

Such an awful thread of words. Menacing. ‘Threat of premature delivery’. Early labour. Contractions and stuff. Kiki’s directions were all messed up. The little bun. The little fighter. She wouldn’t have even been able to pull a basic kickboxing manoeuvre for some time if she’d joined us now. She may not have even survived. Trust Kiki to want to hold her breath and dive bomb to earth just to see the Paris winter light. I can already feel she appreciates the lovelier things in life.

But she needs to spend some more time in the garden first, picking flowers.

So I spent nine days in the Hôpital Franco-Brittannique. My friends were so shocked to find me in a Paris hospital again they giggled – but fortunately this was no Salpêtrière, the nurses didn’t hide my buzzer or huff ‘Eh alors c’est quoi cette fois?’ when I called them, hands grumpily flaccid on their hips. The nurses were nice, especially Gwen the Irish one who bought me big cups of love-infused tea with a wink - sisters in anglo-hood. She pulled the folding barrier out to give myself and the lady in the bed next to me some privacy - a gloriously ripe Arabian lady called Gaby who looked like a big juicy grape in her slinky purple negligée as she ducked back and forth to the bathroom past her husband sleeping black as night on the squeaky vinyl chair. We talked through the divide and my morphine haze about péridurales and episiotomies and la ventouse and she told me how this was her third baby and she’d be having the works – beh oui, c’est normale - and then in the night she was wheeled out of the room and then back in at the same time as my breakfast with a perfect, silent baby boy called Kurdy in her arms. She smiled at me. And though the house of horrors images we’d discussed the night before had terrified me, I saw that it didn’t matter – Kurdy was here. He was an angel. He made a strange bird-like squeak when he woke.

Then they wheeled me into what I had been promised by Gwen would be a private room, alas it was the dark corner of a bleak double room featuring a massively pregnant black lady called Dee with a delight for loud, trashy French television and big bustly visitors. I defied the tears as they manoeuvred me into the corner, which just made them spurt out with more frustrating vigour and the more furious I was with my princessy-self, the more and more they came. I needed to be alone – to understand what had happened, to get better. Gracious Dee just kept watching her awful tv show until my selfish little tears ceased and we became best friends for the next two days. I didn’t shower or do a number 2, because I just couldn’t share that with a stranger, even Dee. It was her space. I just lay there.

And then finally I got my own room. I waved to Dee as they waved me out, feeling awfully guilty for being a primadonna and leaving her, and sorry about her diabetes and contractions, but comforting myself with thoughts that at least she’d get to be alone herself for a while.

My own room was great. It had a view over the street and a window that actually opened at which I could stand in the icy air and take weird pleasure in imagining the lunatic picture passers by must be witnessing at my ghostly, fluoro-lit appearance in the window, all wild hair, hospital gown and television-set IV pole with god knows what running through the plastic bags down plastic tubes into my arm. The nurses eventually took the tube out of the vein in my left arm and put it in my right, then they took that out too and my arms swelled up like Hulk, but that was ok, at least the dreaded things were out. And I lay back and devoured Franzen’s delectable ‘Freedom’ and puzzled over cryptic crosswords and The Love bought me dinners and the food ladies gave me frowns for not eating their questionable trays (which included such as camembert, smoked herrings and liver) and then I had a shower which was the loveliest thing I could ever have imagined and spent as much time in my own toilet with Vanity Fair as I wanted and then, after another week and lots of examinations and scans, they said that though the situation was extremely fragile, Kiki was stable and so was I and that provided I remain horizontal until she arrived and very very careful, I could go ‘home’.

Meaning Paris. I was absolutely forbidden to travel. Even to the shop. No cafés. No cinema. And certainly, absolutely, no Australia.

So Kiki had her way.

The Love knew how to deal with Insurance Companies and so managed to arrange for us a lovely apartment for the Horizontal Experience with lots of soft furnishings on which for me to float and now here we are, on the Rue Francoeur in the prettiest, quaintest little quartier on this side of the hill of Montmartre. In the taxi on the way here I could see all the dormant Christmas lights strung up in the trees of the little cobblestone streets, awaiting December 1 when they will all light up. I won’t see them. But at least I saw them dormant so I can imagine it.

And we’re comfortable here. And we’re safe. And Kiki’s still bouncing around in the pink cushions of her little Jeannie bottle. And there’s a kitchen with an oven. And we put all the lady’s awful African artworks safely away in a cupboard so it feels a bit like ours. There is a TV with lots of stupid channels. And windows that look out over the pretty street with people walking down it and into the windows of a kid’s play room with lots of jumpy little beans inside.

Like mine.

And like a good Incubator I will get horizontal with her and watch them play through the lovely big window. And maybe snow will fall. 

Artwork du Jour 78


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Milk, Masks and a Vast, Rotting Stage

It was opening night and we were backstage in an enormous theatre with rotting wood floors and dim lights in hidden corners.  My mask wouldn’t fit – it was too big, and I couldn’t see out of it.  I was panicking and tried to get someone to help but they were too busy buzzing around getting things ready for the show.  We were terribly underprepared.  It was Théatre du Soleil and there were thousands of people coming.  

I tried to look in the mirror – there were hundreds of them littered around the vast space.  But every mirror had something wrong with it – it was cracked, the light was too dark, or someone would simply pick it up and take it away from me as soon as I began looking in it. 

I squatted down and put my hands over my eyes in despair, throwing the rubbery mask in a pile of grotty clothes. 

Had someone swapped theirs with mine?  Someone with a big, stinking head?  I grabbed it and looked inside.  A big red texta dot, just like I had put in mine.  

It was mine.  

Someone came and tapped on my shoulder.  It was Justin.  We had dinner at his apartment in the Rue Vaurigard last night before the Dream.  He asked if I could stop worrying about myself please and take a crate out to the stage for a lighting check.  I picked up the plastic crate, it was one of those clear filing boxes full of old diaries and junk from under my bed.  It was heavy.  I carried it out on to the stage, feeling a trickling sensation down the insides of my legs.  I looked down and milk was leaking out of the bottom of the box.  It was sticky.  I was awfully irritated, but stood in the spotlight on the vast stage, holding it, as I knew it was our only chance to do the Tech rehearsal, and Techs are always tedious.  It’s your job to just stand still and obey. 

So I stood there, as lights focused and changed and went dark and flickered back on again, wondering what I was going to do about the mask – how was I going to perform?  

Why did it suddenly not fit like before? 

And the milk trickled down my bare legs and filled my shoes.  And when the shoes filled up they spilled over.  And when they spilled over a puddle of white formed around my feet on the vast, putrid stage. 

Pina Bausch 'Nelken'

Artwork du Jour 76

La Silhouette

Monday, November 15, 2010

Face of Atmosphere

We ate a late dinner with friends last night of foie gras and champagne at La Marine down on the Canal.  It was a lovely, wintry night and cosy inside the pretty French restaurant with all its candles and fairy lights.  Our waitress was grumpy but I did a spectacular order of raviolis aux truffes, which was clearly the order of the evening.  That is rare for me.  I’m usually known to be a Bad Orderer, the one who looks around the table jealous and upset because they just couldn’t identify exactly what it was they wanted.  Until they saw it on your plate.
Our friends were in town from NYC and didn’t know the area so afterwards we walked up the canal and pointed out the Bridge of Atmosphere, where I proposed to The Love all those years ago (two and three quarters, to be exact).
We decided to walk up.  And as we did, every detail of that night came back to me.
I had chosen the spot - The Bridge of Atmosphère.  It's not called that.  We named it that because it was opposite the little bar called ‘L’Atmosphere.’  In the Marcel Carné film ‘Hotel du Nord’, Arletty stands on one of these old bridges and cries "Atmosphère!  Atmosphère!  Est-ce que je n'ai pas une gueule d'atmsophère!" which I never really quite understood.  How can one have a Face of Atmosphere?  Anyway, we both loved that little bridge, often choosing to walk over it instead of the easier option of crossing at the Rue de Lancry.  It was nothing special.  Just lovely.

It certainly had a Face of Atmosphere, whatever that could be.

So I had decided to do it there, and by coincidence he had suggested we eat that night at a little bistrot he had discovered across the canal.  Perfect.  He would never suspect my cunning plan.  

As we reached the end of our street he said innocently, "Should we cross the Bridge of Atmosphère?" and I said "Yes" though as we mounted the rickety steps my knees got all knocky and I wondered if perhaps I should wait until after dinner.  But then I realised I couldn't possibly eat with this knot in my stomach and that would surely give it away.  So we mounted the steps and the sky was all wintry and that Paris not-quite-dark and silhouetted with the skeletons of knarled winter trees and a cool breeze was in our hair.  It had been raining so the wood was slippery under our feet and I prayed I wouldn't slide off or fall on my derrière

My hand fumbled in my pocket for the little green box and then I started to panic - did I knock the ring out of its little bed, was it crooked now, or still perfectly in place where I had so carefully nestled it hours before, still in the plane, the minutes seeming like days?  I couldn't pull it out now and fidget - it would have to stay where it was.  How was I supposed to present it?  Images of fairytale princes whipping it out and bowing solemnly ran through my head... Was I supposed to pull it out first and then kneel?  Was there a correct knee?  How to create maximum impact?  I wished I had rehearsed. 

When we reached the top of the bridge I felt under my worn-down boots the upside-down V and knew I had arrived at the Very Top.  This was the place.  I turned and stopped him.  He looked at me and smiled.  His cheeks were all flushed from the breeze.  He looked beautiful.  And completely oblivious to what I was about to ask.  I flashed back to Prague a few months earlier as we dined over a palatial Christmas lunch:

Rabbit (out of the blue) "Hey darling!  Let's not get married!"

The Love (about to propose) "OK!"

I kissed him and he smiled again.  Then I asked him the Thing and knelt down on one knee.  The knee wobbled on the ridge of the upside-down V and I battled to stay upright.  I took his slender musician's hand and pulled out the box and the silver shone in the lamplight and it was just dark enough for him not to see the imperfect presentation and my muscles were all mush and I could barely get up to see what his response was. 

His eyes shone with surprise. 

“Of course I will!” he said and he was laughing, the divine gap in his front teeth echoing the darkness of the water stretched out behind him.  The ring fit like a bangle but it didn't matter as we swayed headily down the other side of the bridge and all the way along the moonlit streets to dinner with lots and lots of stops along the way. 

The friends liked the story and up on the bridge we realised that when I proposed I had given myself the pretty view of the canal, and The Love the ugly view towards La Villette.  We laughed about that and took some photos.  And I turned The Love the other way around and got down on the knee to see if it would change The Memory.  It did, completely.  But I told him that if he’d seen the pretty view all the way down the beautiful tree-lined canal with it’s bridges disappearing one after the other from sight, perhaps he would have felt like he was marrying Paris.  He might have been so taken with the Face of the Canal Atmosphere he may not have noticed my Face down there on bended knee.  He concurred.  The Atmosphere I was creating was far more important than the View from the Bridge.

I got up off my knee and we walked back down the steps and past The little Atmosphère bar and I thought to myself – what a great thing that was to do on the Bridge that night.  I think it was the best thing I ever decided to do so far in my little pea-life.

Artwork du Jour 75

Morning in the Parc Villemin

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Jean and the Chicken

The bells are ringing because today is Sunday.  And I’m happy.  Because Sunday is Market Day. 
We go to the Marché Alibert.  It’s a tradition we began long before it got so bobo chic that the prices made you come home and rummage through your wallet after and think – but.  Hang on.  How?  Where… did it-?
We still go there because it’s good. 
And it’s tradition.
The Marché Alibert is a cute street market just off the Canal St Martin on the Rue Alibert.  Friends will meet us with puffy eyes and fluffy scarves for a café crème at the Carillon, the little café across the road from the market, where we will set ourselves up and will leave our stuff as we do little dashes to the stalls when the queues are short.  The Carillon was once known as a coupe-gorge (throat cutter – ie, dangerous), but now, like the rest of the 10th, especially the more coupe-gorgy bits – it’s ultra bobo-chicBobo means Bourgeois Bohemians.  The 10th arrondissement is full of them.  I guess we’re probably ones too, though we still like to talk about them dismissively.
At the market there are about twelve stalls selling all sorts of things, including: 
A big, jolly organic grocer who talks so much that we stopped going to him because it’s hard to talk so much on Sundays. 
A round, shy older lady with awful pastries that you sometimes buy because the boulangerie on the Rue de Marseille is shut on Sundays and you’re aching for a pain-au-chocolat.  You feel violated afterwards because they are just truly terrible.  But you’re glad you gave her some business as she looks frightfully lonely.  Her eyes are sad.  She has two little dogs that sit under her trestle table looking doubtful. 
A merry, ruddy-faced chicken man who sells divine, tasty chickens on a rotisserie whose fat drips down over potatoes.  They taste amazing for Sunday lunch with a good cider. 
A sleazy young dried-fruit-and-nuts man who calls me La Plus Belle and Ma Princesse and other flowery names.  I like his dried apricots.  But it’s not always worth it. 
A sweet-faced man and his sweet-faced wife who sell painfully good cheeses and they’re butchers too, hacking heads off chickens and legs off lambs before your eyes with big Sunday smiles.  They have a display case full of tongue and trotters and weird stuff like head cheese, which are intense to behold, especially on Sunday morning.
A lovely Asian man and his family who sell lovely, sparkling fruit and vegetables.
But we never went to him. 
We went to Jean.
Right down the other end of the market opposite the Carillon, used to be Jean. 
But Jean is gone.  Replaced by a fancy fruit-man and his fancy staff. 
They’re clean.  Not like Jean.
Jean was an older gent with blackened teeth and dirt all over his hands.  His produce had dirt all over it too like it had just been ripped from the ground.  He would roll in to the Marché Alibert very early on Sunday (I imagine) from goodness-knows-where, with his van and three daughters and a few of their loose boyfriends.  The boyfriends changed weekly.  The Jean family were all pretty rough.  We watched the youngest daughter sprout from a weedy 12-year old to a buxom 16-year-old with dyed hair, nose-ring and sloppy cleavage.  She was spirited and feisty that young one.  The Love and I would muse upon what she’d been up to the night before as we waited in the queue.  The term ‘fingered behind the cow shed’ was bandied around, which hurt it was so funny, though it was always too early in the morning for such talk. 
Barns and cows and grass and country air wafted from Jean and his family.  They reeked of a different France to anything I’d known.  You didn’t see rural people much around these bobo parts.
It took me about four years to earn Jean’s respect.  At first, I touched the fruit, which was a very bad start.  I slowly learned to ask for each item, using colourful descriptions when I didn’t know the name.  ‘Seven of those little orange cute things’.  ‘Des Mirabel,’ Jean would grumble, stuffing the fruit into a paper bag.  It irritated him to count, so I learnt how to say ‘handful’.  ‘Big handful, small handful.’  That worked better. 
Eventually I could say all the fruits and vegetables and ask for handfuls and bunches and ‘one to eat today and one for tomorrow and one for the day after’, etc.  After several years I just had to point and Jean would know what I wanted.  He even started to smile and say hello to me in the queue.  And then one day he told me his name.  He didn’t remember mine, but that was cool.
And then another, wonderful day I earned the greatest honour. 
It was summertime and the produce was extraordinary and I bought a lot of those heavenly gariguette strawberries and all sorts of fruits with pretty names and was about to say ‘Ce sera tout merci Jean’ when he leant over towards me and said,
“You want an animal?”
“Excuse me?” I said.
“You want an animal next week?  Hare?  Chicken?  Duck?”
I was stunned.  I looked at The Love.  “Chicken,” he whispered into my ear.
“Poulet,” I said to Jean and the corner of his mouth crinkled into a shadow of a smile and he put his finger to his cracked lips and tapped on his nose.
The Love whispered something in my ear again.
“Will you take the feathers off, Jean?” I whispered.
“Ouaisouais,” he grumbled and went on to the next customer.
The Love and I waited anxiously for the next Sunday to come around.  What would it be like?  How much would he charge us?  What would we do with it?  Would it be dead?
Sunday came and sure enough, once we’d bought all our luscious fruit and vegetables, Jean bent down in front of the counter to pull out an old crushed plastic Franprix bag.  He looked around as though we were conducting a drug deal, then handed it to me. 
The bag was heavy.  I handed it to The Love, whose eyebrows were high.
“Five euros,” said Jean.
The love and I looked at each other.  Only five euros?  We gave him the money and stole across to the Carillon like burglars.  Perhaps if Chicken man or Butcher Man saw Jean selling us meat there would be trouble.
We didn’t stay long at the Carillon - too intrigued to get home and examine what was in The Bag.  We invited our friends around for a chicken lunch and hurried up the canal.
At home, The Love took out the chicken.
There was no head, but everything else remained intact.  It looked different to any chicken I’d ever seen.  Like, an actual chicken.  Jean must have killed it that morning, and drained it.
“The heart is still here – everything,” said The Love from the sink.  “It’s been gutted and then all the organs put back inside.  Weird.”
“Of course,” I thought.  “Respect.”
But we didn’t know what to do with the bits so The Love took them all out and put them in the bin, though we knew any French person would kill us.  They would make something delicious with all those bits.  He stuffed what was left with garlic and lemon and thyme and rubbed salt and pepper and olive oil lovingly over the skin.  Then he put the chicken in the oven and we ate it with six friends in the pretty courtyard at The Récollets with roast potatoes and salad and a crisp Sancerre and it was the most delicious thing we had ever tasted.  As though we’d never eaten chicken before. 
And the best thing about it was that it tasted of success.  We were In.  Inside France.  Real France.  Jean had taken our hand and brought us to the Other Side.
It was an excellent feeling.
We went back to the market the next week and Jean smiled and we smiled back at him very very wide.  We waited for the offer of Animal, but it didn’t come.  Not the next week either.  Nor the next.
Then we went away for the summer.  And when we came back Jean and his carnival were gone; packed up and replaced by a clean man selling bright, shiny fruits and pimped-up vegetables.    
And Jean never came back.
I miss him.  It’s not the same without him. 

Robert Doisneau

Artwork du Jour 74

Sunday Quiet on the Rue de Chabrol

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Paris Heartbreaker

It was years ago.

School was over, my visa running out, I had broken up with The Frenchman and was broke.  I was miserable.  So I rode my bike up the canal to the MK2 to watch Paris Je T'Aime with an almond Magnum and four carambars.  The short films were mostly boring and I fidgeted through the whole thing.  But I had nowhere better to be.  So I stayed.


Because this was the final film. 

Afterwards I sat on the canal and wailed for ten minutes.  It felt good.

Then I went home.

14e arrondissement (Paris, je t'aime) from trolleys on Vimeo.

Artwork du Jour 73

Rue de Chantilly

Friday, November 12, 2010

Murder by Macaron

Today I died again by Macaron. 
I got murdered by Mandarin.  Poleaxed by Passionfruit.  Ravaged by Rosepetal.  Gashed by ganache.
I suicided.  I threw myself off the Divine Precipice.  I drowned in an ocean of swelling, agonising delight. 
It was Awesome.
Because Macarons are Deadly, in the most powerful Irish sense, and I could gladly curl up my toes with joy after savouring one single one.  

Today I had a rendez-vous at the Great Big Advertising Agency on the Champs Elysées, where I sometimes work as a freelancer. 
The Great Big Advertising Agency is everything you would imagine it to be – picture a Parisian Sterling Cooper forty years ahead.  Big glass windows casting Paris light across vast carpeted floors littered with stark white tables dotted with iMacs and proofsheets and people wearing trendy glasses and smart outfits.  A balcony with the top of the Arc de Triomphe so close you can blow the smoke of your cigarette on to it. 
It’s an advertising Mecca. 
And advertising can be tough.  So after every day I work there I reward myself.
With Macarons.
I never really liked the Champs-Elysées.  Ever since Bunny Sister got Goosed on Bastille Day back in ’98 by a group of scary ruffians I’ve felt weird about it.  The two of us marched up it anyway the night France won the World Cup but the feeling didn’t go away.  It has a weird, aggressive vibe about it.  Everyone looks anguished; from tourists desperately trying to feel something, to stressed-out fancy business people, to motorists trying make it up to the suicidal ‘Etoile’ roundabout around the Arc which no insurance company in France will cover you for, to aimless wanderers like me, trying to undo the stress of a day inside the Big Agency by peering in the window of Louis Vuitton and wondering if and how a day would ever come when I could justify spending 2k on a handbag.
It’s a funny street.  It’s not my Paris.  It’s an Icon, of course, but nowhere near as romantic as you’d think, especially if you have to get there on the RER A every day.  Of course it’s magical at Christmastime when all the twinkly fairy guirlands light up in the trees.  But generally it’s a street you want to get off as quick as possible.
While eating a Macaron.
Until today I was always a Ladurée devotee.  See me queuing with all the crazy people, enjoying the wait – all the more time to salivate and fantasize about which parfums I would choose.  Rose petal?  Orange blossom?  Pistachio?  Ah, the agony, the ecstasy.
Finally, at the counter, see me point at the adorable pastel green box, to be filled with eight choices that I would take home to share with The Love. 
And now see me getting a little sachet with two or three extras, usually a citron, a vanille, and a fleur d’oranger that I could daintily nibble and lick and devour all the way to the Franklin Roosevelt metro stop.  I say nibble and lick and devour because you can’t just hunker down on a Macaron.  They won’t let you.  They’re too delicate and rich.  If you scoff them they lose their power. 
But you have to have these few little Macarons separate from the others to eat de suite as you leave Ladurée because you will Never Make It Home with the pretty little box intact if you don’t.  Never.  Believe me, I’ve tried it.  You Must Have Separate Macarons.
The beauty of the Macaron is that it has a short life.  Like the most exotic flower.  It blooms, then it’s gone.  And the absolute best way to eat a Macaron is as you’re walking down the Champs-Elysées just after you’ve left Ladurée just after you’ve left a Big Agency. 
It’s all about immediacy.  The Macaron is the one thing in life that rewards your Impatience.
Or so I tell myself.
In fact, a Macaron can last a day, or even two at a stretch: they just become chewier as time goes by.  Harder.  And then they’re off.  So there’s really no sense in waiting. 
No, the eating of a Macaron as soon as purchased is an absolute requisite.  It’s one of the life’s sweetest sensations.
Today my friend from the Big Agency challenged me to give Pierre Hermé a go.  I was shocked. 
But I dared.
And I was rewarded.
Not only was there no queue, the flavours and unctuosity nearly killed me.  That’s the word my friend used - onctueux.  I don’t know what it means but just saying it makes me think of the texture of Macarons.
Onctueux.  Onctueux.  My lord.  They’re amazing.  Imagine this:
White Truffle and Hazelnut
Quince and Rose
Milk Chocolate and Passionfruit
Salty Butter Caramel
I positively died.  I am speaking to you know from my grave, a grave thick with walls of pure unctuous almondy delight. 
And it’s Swee-eet.

Odilon Redon 'Ophelia'