Thursday, December 24, 2009

Wishing you a lovely Christmas Eve, and a wonderful Christmas morning.

I must admit, one of my guilty pleasure Christmas Eve traditions is getting a slight toot on, then viewing Umbrellas of Cherbourg. And weeping copiously as the movie ends. It always seems like the perfect cathartic activity for the evening to me!

I've been off work all week and have enjoyed putzing around organizing art materials, spending time with family and friends and doing some photo shoots and videos for one of my performance persona's web presence. There's loads more to do before I return to work in January, so I guess I just need to make a to-do list and stay on track. The temptation is pretty great just to watch back-to-back movies from the couch with two sweet little dogs curled up beside me.

I have a canine houseguest! My younger child left her wonderful little guy with Buster and me for the holidays. He's beautiful -- part Pharoah hound and part something else, judging by his appearance. He has amber eyes and vocalizes a lot. He and Buster get along really well and I'm enjoying dog novelty!

I'm sending you my warm wishes for a wonderful evening and tomorrow. I hope you are well and happy and surrounded by those you love and those who love you tonight!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Got my 1940's glamour on...

including the seamed vintage stockings and went out for cocktails to celebrate my birthday. Now it's sleepy time. What a great day! Many thanks to everyone who puts up with me and my antics, and, more than that, loves me.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Yeah, today's my birthday.

Yep, it's my 55th.

I wonder what the day has in store for me?



Sunday, December 13, 2009

In a few moments it will be my fifty-fifth birthday.

Wow. What a year my fifty-fourth was. And it's nearly the end of 2009 also. 53-54 and 2008-9 will go down as one of the most intense emotional/psychically demanding years I've ever lived. 54 was really a landmark year for me. It was, without doubt, my most artistically productive year ever. I feel as if I found my voice this year without any artificial limits or constrictions imposed from outside myself. I felt as if I had nothing to hide, as if I were standing utterly naked in a fully-clothed world, and that's the position I made art from. It's been intense, scary and freeing. It's been the year I finally let my mother see what exactly it is I make, and that, too, has been quite intense and not without its own troubles.

But here I stand, on the edge of my fifty-fifth year, an utterly free woman artist.

At my hair-dresser's Friday I was reflecting on my own wild half-century ride. It is truly extraordinary, I think, when a person can say he or she has fulfilled every single entry on a lifetime "to-do" list, especially one written, like mine, when one was an adolescent and knew no limits practicality might impose on one's dreams. I was extremely fortunate to have crossed off every single item on my lifetime to-do list by the age of forty-four.

This last decade of my life has seemed improvised in a way the decades that went before it didn't. In a way, I've been drifting more than I ever did before in my life, swept along by the tides of life. I've been less goal-oriented and much more experience-oriented this last decade. In a very real way I've understood that my time now is limited, that I've certainly lived longer than I have left to live. And so I've consciously tried to pack more into each of my days, weeks and months. Not living with and taking care of others has freed me to pursue my own interests in a way I never, ever before was able to do. And THAT freedom, I must admit, I have enjoyed.

And in the final moments of my fifty-fourth year I realize that beginning tomorrow I will be closer to sixty than to fifty. It's like climbing a ladder that stretches up into the sky. When I glance down to assess my progress, I realize I'm breath-takingly high up now. So I won't look down. I will just continue my ascent.

What does my fifty-fifth year hold in store? I don't know. But I'm planning for it to be the year of a new drawing series I'll start over the holidays, a year of three dance classes a week, a year of more public performances, a year of launching new web projects, a year of dancing tango at milongas. Maybe it will be less emotional and less dramatic than was my fifty-fourth. Calm might be good, as long as it's not boring. I have been happier than I've ever been in my entire life these last couple of years, even with the profound setbacks from which I recovered.

That I may have the good fortune to enjoy another year of happiness and artistic productivity -- and good health -- is the secret birthday wish I make as I blow out an imaginary candle.


Went to my second milonga tonight

...after one of my fairy grand-daughters' birthday parties. Danced the tango for four hours. Learned to do ochos tonight, finally -- one of the "ornaments" you see women do with their feet that made you want to learn to dance the tango in the first place.

It's like a psychic kinetic chess game, dancing the tango. You almost have to have mental telepathy with whoever you're dancing with. But the man -- or whoever's leading -- gives his partner subtle pressure on the hand or the back that signals some things, I'm learning. It's like the collaboration between horse and rider. The subtle hand pressure is like what the horse feels on the reigns -- the tension, the change of direction that "steers" you. FASCINATING. Tango has all kinds of etiquette and culture I'm learning also.

I love it. I might have known I would. I always loved the music, but it's even more beautiful when you're interpreting it as you dance the tango. It has to be the most musical of all social dances.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

What I gave myself for my upcoming birthday...

courtesy of my loving mother, who is in Hawaii and so sent me cash before her departure to buy something nice for myself.

Silk stockings.

I've never owned a pair. Never made that splurge -- or investment, depending upon how one views it -- before. Not even when I could buy them in Paris and save the shipping. But the company in England I order my seamed nylons from was running a Christmas sale, and there was no VAT added, and, well...

They're made by Cervin, on the same looms they were using in the 1920's. They're the only company left in the world, supposedly, that does so. I ordered the white lady skin color daytime shade, not the sultry off-black you'd want for evening. They arrived today.

And, oh! Dear readers, they are exquisite. Sheer poetry embodied in ephemeral material. And, enclosed in the lovely packaging was a note from their manufacturer in French that went something like this: "My silkworms have made the silk for you. My looms have woven them into the finest stockings in the world, made in France as they have been for a hundred years. I believe that every woman in the world deserves to wear a pair of my silk stockings once in her lifetime."

I put them on, and suddenly I understand why women's legs photograph the way they do in the 1920's. Silk stockings have a sheen, they give off a glow that is nothing like nylons, even vintage ones. They are very, very stretchy. Although sized to one's legs and feet, immediately I see the little lines and sags of the exquisite, supple veil of silk. And my legs look exactly like Zelda Fitzgerald's and Norma Shearer's and Lilian Gish's in the mirror.

Paradise. I just want to go take a hot bath, shave my legs, put the stockings back on and rub my legs together under the bedsheets all night. They are like a veil of honey. They are so soft. And now I understand how flappers rolled their stockings down -- something I never had a true, kinetic feel for before, even with vintage nylons. I have insight into Fitzgerald's characters and into silent movies I never had until just now.

So, thank you, Mother, for the most exquisite, evocative, time-transporting birthday gift you ever gave me in my over half-century of living! I love them.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Weather is still miserable.

But I went and got a long, luxurious pedicure, manicure (red Christmas nails!) and massage to pamper my poor performance-wrecked body. If you know my performance identity, a few photos up on my professional sites.

And I just had to go out, brave the weather and buy a pair of sensible, weather appropriate shoes. All my boots are suede or metallic or some other impractical material, or else they have 4" heels for performing. Just got some adorable black patent leather spectator oxfords on a gum sole -- kind of like Doc Marten wingtips, only shiny. They should keep me up out of the puddles, I think. And I can wear them with tights and skirts. And I can wear them when I want to do my Marlene Dietrich drag clothes at work.

Yikes! My birthday is in a few days!

And I have to brave the weather for two dance classes this week, now that I've also started up tango. But I'm guessing there's some kind of two week hiatus planned between Christmas and New Year's?

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Saturday, November 28, 2009

This is pretty exciting.

I've been through every closet, drawer, shelf and box in my entire house today. I love to organize during holidays. And I find I have finally, at the age of fifty-four, achieved a goal I set for myself thirty years ago.


I am incredibly grateful to the universe for allowing me to achieve this goal! I am so fortunate to have arrived at the position in my life where this is possible! And I am so grateful to my family and friends who gave me some of my perfect objects as gifts!

When I was young, I was always irritated by having to acquire imperfect objects just to get a specific task done, for a special occasion, and so forth. You know, things like those plastic bowls you have to pick up at Target because you're having guests over for Thanksgiving. They aren't perfect, but you have to have *something* so you cave and settle for whatever does the job that you can afford at that moment. Then they hang out in your drawers or cabinets and irritate you with their imperfection for twenty years.

There is nothing left in my house like that. Every single thing I have, I chose because it seems perfect to me functionally and aesthetically. Every single thing is now exactly to my taste. And all of it works. Nothing is broken or needs repair. Wow! Do I get a lifetime achievement award?!

And the things I love most are my perfect tools: my 1944 Singer sewing machine, my 1930's Italian accordion, my expensive sewing scissors. I love my hammers. I love my Dremel.

In answer to the question, "What do you want for your birthday/Christmas?" here's all I can come up with that I want or need and don't have:
1. Elegantly designed bicycle tire pump made for American tires.
2. One of those vintage clear glass rolling pins that has a cap on one end you unscrew to put ice water in for making pastry. You can get them on e-bay. I don't want to make pastry with it. I have something else in mind.
3. A number 2 galvanized wash tub. The kind I used to use as a wading pool as a small child.
4. An Amish-style black bonnet -- the kind they really sew by hand out of organza and starch.

Am I not a simple woman?
That is, for one who is probably a hyper-aesthete (is that a word)?

Friday, November 27, 2009

Making Christmas ornaments to give as little gifts.

Organizing the costume closet for Sunday's costume and mask-heavy photo shoot.

Practicing for next Friday's performance for the first time with everyone else in the number. We have two more rehearsals, then technical. YIKES.

Seriously, I am more than just a little nervous. I know once I'm in front of a live audience I'll have a great time. But more than that, I did want my dance technique to be really good. But I can see we are not going to rehearse as much as would have been my normal preference. The other performers are just fine with showing up and basically just doing it. One said, "Usually I'm about 75% rehearsed and it's always fine." I replied, "Usually I rehearse about 70 times."

It's not my preference to work this way. But I just have to surrender. It's not my show, I'm a guest artist. I can't control them, and I need them in my piece. Let's just hope they get out of my way at the critical moments :) so I don't trip over them.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving. And the seasonal depression has begun.

I'm alone today on Thanksgiving, for the very first time in my entire fifty-four years. One child lives half a continent away and isn't coming "home," and the other and her entire clan accepted an invitation from her father and his wife to go there. He's never before made this invitation to host her, her partner and the grandbabies at his place and evidently felt snubbed that she has always spent Thanksgiving with me all these years. So I kept quiet, and let everyone else assume I was doing Thanksgiving with my family as usual and so no invitations to join another family or group of "orphans" were extended to me. Of course, my own mother invited me to her home, but having gone there only one time since I left home at eighteen -- on the heels of divorce, with small children in tow -- hers is really only a "ceremonial" invitation; she knows I won't actually accept.

And I must admit, I am sad today. But I'll take the dog for a long work, rehearse and work in the studio today. And eat just what I would normally, alone, this evening.

I went to Target yesterday for what I hope will be the very last time until after Christmas to get it out of the way because of the Christmas music that will now start playing there. I cannot listen to Christmas carols or songs on Muzak or on the radio. I have to avoid any environment where they will be playing. My heart hurts me, a lump rises in my throat and tears flood my eyes. It all goes back to my father's death in October when I was eight, and the Christmas following. I cannot "have myself a merry little Christmas." The holiday season is incredibly hard for me and I'm sad, usually, from Thanksgiving right through New Year's Day. Without small children of my own to make the holiday bright for as I did all those years, my true feelings surface. My heart hurts, literally. It's a time for me, always, of reflection and regret and longing. It's a time to wonder what might have been if the course of my own life had not been forever altered that fall long ago. The feeling I have is roughly equivalent to most people's emotional reaction to the ending of the movie The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. So I have to protect myself during the holiday season.

And then, the dreams start.

It's especially excruciating this year because of what my life was like at this time one year ago. I was madly in love, had just returned from my lover in Italy, and was preparing to return to him there for my birthday, Christmas and New Year's -- to live a fairy tale. I was buying him a million little gifts and wrapping them. He confessed he loved to sing Christmas carols around the house when no one was there, so I had even burned half a dozen Christmas music CD's for us to sing together while I was there. And I was able to tolerate the Christmas music, even enjoy it, because it was for HIM. My love for him enabled me to transcend the loss and sadness the music had always before triggered. My love for him inspired a desire for Christmas in me I hadn't felt in my heart since 1962. It had been too difficult. The hurt had been too great.

And here I am, one year later. Alone.

Last night I dreamed of him for the first time in many months. In my dream, I confronted him about how very much he had hurt me and confessed about the Christmas music CD's -- about how uncharacteristic an action that had been for me, how untrue to my own natural preferences, but how joyful a gift it had been for me to make them for him because I loved him so and wanted to please him. I told him he had no idea how much our love affair -- or how it ended, really -- has harmed me emotionally. I asked him if he has ever cried over me, as I have cried over him. He nodded his head vigorously up and down in a funny, childish gesture he sometimes makes. I told him since the ending of our affair early this year I've been all over the place psychically -- but the positive outcome has been that I have thrown myself into all kinds of experiences and creative activity as if chased by the devil. And then I lay face down on my bed, where my dream confrontation was set, and wept. He made no attempt to console me, and I woke myself up. Too painful.

Have yourself a happy little Thanksgiving and treasure those with whom you'll spend this day. Do not take it for granted. Even if you've been up cooking since 5:00 a.m. this morning, it's worth it. And say a little prayer for those who are all alone today, whether of their own devising, the twists of their own fates or by necessity. We were all born alone, and we will die alone. Some of us just start practicing early.

...and I miss you most of all, my darling, when Autumn leaves start to fall.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Masks are coming along very, very well.

It appears I am going to have to build an 18th century dress soon, however, for this project.

But we'll start on a more modest scale. And there is, of course, the Christmas holiday for making the dress. If I can just get my research done in advance.

I'm actually really excited about this project and my imagination is running wild with it.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Making Venetian masks

for upcoming photo shoot. Very, very happy with how they're turning out. Not making one of those velvet "bit" masks as in the Pietro Longhi paintings, however. But they are kinky. One can't speak while holding the "bit" in one's mouth. I read it was sometimes a button held between the teeth.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Thank you, Pietro Longhi.

I have to make more masks and costumes for an upcoming photo shoot. I love these paintings so much! Do an image search and look at them large. Sigh. So, so beautiful. I'm glad I thought about them suddenly, as they may also inform a drawing series I'll start over the holidays.

And thank you, Venice.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Birthday presents. Christmas presents.

Since my birthday and Christmas are both approaching next month, I find myself thinking on these things.

Because of the economy, my first Christmas impulse was to find out what intensely practical things -- although they might be quite inexpensive (Woolite for black clothes is an example) -- people wanted and give a Great Depression Christmas party. But I'll probably give gift certificates. I don't want to give any one anything they don't really need and want, so gift certificates or cash it is, it appears. What's the conventional wisdom? A "present" is something you have to give on an occasion and it's something YOU want to give that the recipient may or may not want. A "gift," however, is something the recipient wants and has already chosen and you just get it for them. In these hard economic times, it seems there's no need for presents. Gifts are what's needed.

One of my friends asked what I wanted for my birthday and that's not something that's easy to answer. I told her "services" -- meaning I'd rather have more dance classes paid for, pedicures, or massage. But it made me start to think about material possessions and what I have finally managed to acquire in my middle age. Most of the things I have that I wanted I had wanted since I was fourteen or so. And I've only finally had the means to get some of them over the last couple of years.

Some Things I Want or Wanted, A Checklist
1. A couch I chose myself, that didn't come from Goodwill. Check: at age 45.
2. A nice "Turkish" carpet. Check: at age 50 or so. And a very small one at that.
3. An antique armoire. Check: three of them at last count, in my 30's and the last one three years ago.
4. A Victrola. Check: at 40.
5. A good camera. Check: at 24, after a year of lay-away. And this year, a good digital camera.
6. Power tools. Check: a drill, a sander and a Dremel over the last decade.
7. A samovar. Check: at age 44.
8. An accordion. Check: at age 35, thanks to my second husband.
9. A bezel-set, diamond solitaire necklace in white gold. Check: this summer, thanks to me.
10. High quality pearl earrings and graduated pearl necklace, short length. No. Do not have $4K and have not won the lottery. And will not inherit them.
11. Missoni towels. Check: at 50.
12. A Waterman pen. Check: at 47, because of a small bequest when my grandmother died. Lapis blue.
13. Souleiado bedding. Check: at 53.
14. A Louis Vuitton wallet. Check: at 54. Still would like the vintage steamer trunk to match it, but that won't be happening in this lifetime. Hatbox for $2,500 is, I think, my only hope if I win the lottery.
15. A real Hermès scarf, purchased at the original Paris store. Check: last month. The others I ordered from them on-line, but all this year. Before that I bought (shh!) copies when I was in Europe.
16. Shalimar from the Guerlain Champs-Elysèes store. Check: when I was 45 the first time.
17. Kelly bag. No. And it won't happen in this lifetime. However, I do have a very nice alligator copy purchased when I was 40 that will just have to do. And even the copy is probably going to hold up the rest of my life!
18. Antique French opera glasses. Well, kind of. Purchased when I was 50 off e-bay. Mother-of-pearl. But the optics could be way better. Will have to try again. Cobalt blue enamel next time.
19. Duchampian French wine bottle drying rack. Check: this summer.
20. Jaeger-Lecoultre Reverso watch from the 1930's. Do not have $11K or more to spend on it. Will not happen in this lifetime.
21. Repetto Brigitte Bardot black calf ballet flats. Check: at 53.
22. Liberty of London Ianthe handkerchiefs, lingerie drawer fittings, etc. Check: in London at the flagship store when I was 50.

Bottom line: it looks like there's really nothing left I want in the entire world that doesn't cost upwards of 4 Grand. My desires are so simple, my needs are few. (Smile.)

Wait! If those nuns who sewed Rebecca de Winter's lingerie are still making it, maybe I want a teddy out of handkerchief linen or peach-colored charmeuse.

What an idle, ridiculous fantasy -- luxury goods -- to have when everyone's broke and the economy is in this sorry state. But it makes me feel better. Like watching a Fred and Ginger movie must have done back in those days.

There is great sorrow than to recall happiness in the time of misery.


Sunday, November 15, 2009


I love the music. Piazzola, Gardel, Tanghetto, Gotan Project. I play the music, even, on accordion. But I never danced the tango, because no one ever taught me how and I never had the opportunity. And I never traveled to Argentina.

But, tonight, all that changed. In four hours, with gentle, expert partners, I've begun to learn. I had no idea there was a tango underground culture here. I can do it. You close your eyes, you surrender, you wear high heels.

Yes, I'm into this. This blessed evening is definitely not the end of dancing the tango for me.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

I am really, really pleased

with this photo series I'm working on.

I am doing a whole series of souvenirs, memento mori, ricordi. They're cards. And emotionally a little tough.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Oh, my God. I need to start practicing.

I'm really premiering the burlesque act live December 4! In public! Oh, yes!

Oh, no!
I have to figure out what music I'm using!
I have to commit to a costume! And I have to be able to get out of it, while using the walker.
I have to practice daily!

It's a case of "be careful what you ask for; you might get it"!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Clues to possible previous incarnations. A matching quiz.

1. Red. With gold decorations.
2. Uncanny ability to find Russians in any city.
3. Paris.
4. Venice.
5. Dolls.
6. Romance and sensuality.
7. Rugs and tapestries.
8. Fishnet tights. Sequins.
9. High-quality consumer goods, mostly worn on the body.
10. Accordion.

A. The circus. Trapeze acts.
B. A tent.
C. A gypsy caravan.
D. A courtesan.
E. Tragic death in childhood.
F. A harem.
G. The Russian Revolution of 1917.
H. The Cult of Venus.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Weather change. Time change. Continent change.

All these have conspired, or inspired, dreams.

I often claim not to dream, since I can hardly ever recall that I have dreamed upon awakening. And when I wake up in the middle of the night because my doggie has shifted around in the bed or because I have to get up to go to the bathroom, I seldom am awakened from a dream.

But I've been dreaming a lot since I returned from Paris. After I travel I often return to the places I've just visited for weeks after I come home, as if my psyche wants to prolong the pleasant experience.

But I've been having strange relationship dreams lately. Not sexual, but just recalling old loves. For instance, last night I dreamed -- and from out of nowhere -- of simply lying peacefully in the arms of my second husband, my head on his chest, listening to his heart. My cheek recalled the texture of his skin, its living moisture, his chest hair -- and I even dreamed his scent. In those fleeting seconds I dreamed how it felt to be very much in love with him, lying simply and peacefully in our white marital bed, my head resting on his chest, our legs intertwined and his soft, sleeping breathing pattern.

Where did THAT come from? And then I was thinking inside my dream: I'm in his arms. And then in French: en bras. Embrasse. Embrace.

I always wonder when I dream so intimately of an old love if they are also dreaming of me and if it's not a clue that love is indeed a kind of transcendence. Do we simultaneously haunt one another, me and my old loves?

To live is to live a mystery, I think.

In any case, today my emotions are tender, sweet and not just a little sad. It's autumn.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Argh. The time change!

I hate it when the clock gets arbitrarily moved forward or backwards. It throws me off for days. This day at work has seemed like the longest on record. And it will be dark when I get home from work from here on out.

Boo. I don't much like it.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Off to go perform "Cabaret" at a party

But it's cold, and I'm wearing only the Liza Minelli get-up (vest, shorts, garter belt, stockings) with a kimono over it. A feather boa can be strangely warming, though...

Thursday, October 29, 2009

It is so difficult to settle back

...into my life in the States. I'm antsy, restless. I don't want to have to sit. I want to keep walking and photographing.

And I can't seem to settle back into my normal routine. My sleep patterns are off. I processed the photographs, but don't feel like starting my next drawing project.

But I did return to dance class last night. That's a first step toward "being here now."

But, sigh. I miss Paris.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Memorable Experiences: Paris, October 2009

1. Repeatedly being called after by small children in parks, "Maman! Maman!" And then the nanny, usually a dark-skinned woman, saying to them, "No, Madame is not your mother." But getting to see a lot of cute, well-dressed children in strollers as a result.
2. Dinner at Chartier: being fawned over by waiters. Being sat for dinner with a nice banker who looked like José Ferrer, also dining alone that evening. Having people ask to photograph us, telling the waiters they were sure we were "movie people." They just couldn't figure out who. Waiter: "Madame, I am sorry. They are sure you are movie star."
3. Same dinner at Chartier. Two-hour conversation in French with banker, who was born in Marseilles. I ask him if my French is okay. He says, "You're not Racine, but your French is just fine for around the house. It's like what you speak with your family." Then he asks me if I am married, I say I have been, but am not currently. He asks if I have a lover. I say, "Not since January." He says, "What a terrible waste!" We discuss the philosophical question, "What is Love, anyway?" at great length. We agree it exists for one's parents, siblings and children, but are not so sure anything else isn't really ultimately about sex. Then he asks if I am interested in staying in Paris and becoming his mistress. I laughingly tell him I have a life and career to return to in Texas. He assures me that should I ever be interested in a change of careers, being the mistress of a banker in Paris would be an option open to me. If not his, because I don't find him attractive, then any number of his colleagues in the banking industry who are in the market for a mistress. And then I, too, could be a beneficiary of the cunning little shopping bags I see carried by men in overcoats walking away from Rue Faubourg St. Honoré and Place Vendôme in the late afternoons.
4. Same dinner. We have been trying to figure out what language the young women seated next to us are speaking. We finally decide it's Dutch. My table-mate inquires, and we're right. One of the young woman says, "And you are Parisians." He replies, "I am a Parisian, she is a Texan." The young woman says, "But she cannot be an American! We have overheard you speaking French together for an hour and everyone knows Americans only speak English!"
5. Finally meeting Claude, my flickr photographer friend, in real life and getting on fabulously with her. Photographing Passy cemetery with her. Being invited for tea at her place afterward. Feeling as if I already knew her well through her photographs which I've followed for over a year now. And now she's off to India!
6. The Fellini exhibition at Jeu de Paume. We shall not speak of how I managed to get in before the show opened. But no photography allowed.
7. The Vionnet exhibition at Musée de Beaux Arts. But no photography allowed. Had to draw.
8. The conversation with Saïd I relate in the post below.
9. The unexpected three-day sales announced just as I arrived in town. Getting three blouses at Anne Fontaine for the price of one in Austin.
10. Hermès. We shall not speak of it much, except to say how very nicely I was treated by everyone. And that I did buy the scarf I have dreamed of an entire lifetime, after having a dozen tried on me by the nice saleslady, and conducted the entire transaction in French. I can't tell you how many times I've rehearsed the exchange in advance in my own head! I have zero buyer's remorse. On the contrary, I feel as if I've just been given a Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud.
11. Being asked for directions in Le Marais by a little old lady with a shopping cart.
12. Being asked where one could buy tights by a young woman in Mouffetard.
13. Buying a pendulum in an occult store in the Latin Quarter. Heading directly to Notre-Dame, concealing it in a handkerchief, then dunking it in the holy water fount, while making sure no priests were watching me. Pendulum should have plenty of mojo now.
14. English boys choir concert at Notre-Dame: unexpected pleasure.
15. Making a joke in French, and having everyone within earshot laugh. Buying stockings at a small stocking boutique in the 1eme arrondissement. Handed pen, it won't work. Clerk takes it back from me and hands me another, saying, "It's pretty, but it doesn't work." And I say, "Just like me." Everyone laughed.
16. Buying the new Benjamin Biolay cd La Superbe the day it came out in France. And for half the price it would have cost me to have it special ordered or to download it in the U.S. And it IS superb!
17. The Les Halles market early on Sunday morning.
18. Finding myself accidentally in the middle of a feminist demonstration at L'Opèra Garnier late one afternoon, traffic snarled up for hours and a crazy scene.
19. Having a Suze late one afternoon at Brasserie Lipp. Being told by my waiter that they were going to hire me to sit in the window because once I was sitting there, people started to read the menu carte outside and come in, rather than going to Cafe Flore or Les Deux Magots across the street. Getting a tour of the restaurant from my waiter and going on an adventure to find the really lovely toilette downstairs. All wood and brass and black and white tile floor. Really a handsome place! And the Alsatian sausages cooking smelled marvelous!
20. Just throwing myself out there and speaking French unapologetically and non-stop. People were incredibly nice and friendly to me. Many great conversations, including one with one of my Rive Droit cafè waiters about the photographer Doisneau and rockabilly music in Austin. And one with two nice young shop girls about what boys in Texas look like (they imagine Clint Eastwood and fringed suede jackets!) as I purchase a garter belt. It is a mystery to me why a bra costs 100 Euros, panties cost 60 Euros, but a garter belt costs 12 Euros in Paris. No, wait. Maybe it's not a mystery to me after all.

"I love Paris. Why, oh, why do I love Paris?"

I think that musical question was posed by Cole Porter, and it's Maurice Chevalier who sings the song in my head. Rather than writing a traditional, chronological account of my most recent visit, I'll attempt to answer that rhetorical question in this post.

It turns out my answer is important. I learned that when it was posed quite seriously to me on my final night in Paris by Saïd, a born-and-bred Parisian of Arab origin, at a sidewalk café on Rue du Bac. Saïd works there at "my" regular neighborhood Rive Gauche café and he sat drinking a pastis with me to pass the time until the bus that would take him home to Clichy arrived.

The first reason I love Paris came to mind immediately as I began to try to respond to Saïd's question. Paris, for me, is about language. I get to wrack my brain to summon forth everything I ever learned in Sallie Jones' high school French class in Texas, to put into play all the advanced, nuanced college French I learned from Madame Sanger and Monsieur Bleau, both native speakers, and to put to use the years of effort I've put in to keeping my French up by reading constantly in French and watching French movies with the subtitles turned off. Still, in Paris, I am always a foreigner deprived of her mother tongue. I am always a little at a loss for words in Paris. I, who, back home, speak a mile a minute and use vocabulary people complain sends them scrambling alternately for the dictionary or Wikipedia, have to slow down and respond thoughtfully, simplify my ideas, condense everything down to its essential meaning. And speaking French causes me, philosophically, to become a Zen master. Rather than work mentally through conjugating twenty verb tenses, in Paris I live primarily in the moment. Everything for me in Paris occurs in the present tense. The most complicated my own life story can become in Paris is simple past. In Paris, for me there is no "would have," "could have" or "should have." There is no "if this happens, then I will do that." I find that fact remarkably freeing. I'm always happiest in Paris and I am beginning to believe language is one of the reasons that's so. I leave so much mental and emotional baggage behind without language to describe past traumas, hurts and disappointments and without the stress of imagining things I cannot know or control that may happen in the future.

So, in French, I told Saïd I would try to explain why I love Paris, and what keeps bringing me back. I said, "It's the ambiance, the light quality, the architecture. Everything is new in Texas where I come from and Paris is so evocative of past times to me." He said, "Oh, all of that is manufactured. Paris was designed to have that effect on visitors. That's what keeps Paris solvent. So what is it really that you love?" I had to stop then, and think harder. Saïd was telling me, basically, that Paris is only a Disneyland for adults -- just as is my beloved Venice -- and that we visitors pay a price for admission. And I know he's right. Because I realize I am always drawn to cities that are all manufactured atmosphere and make good movie locations: Paris, Venice, New Orleans, Las Vegas. He's got me there. I love Paris, then, because of its calculated, self-conscious artifice. I am an artist, after all. Paris is successful in her artistic endeavors, for which she charges tickets. And I believe she is fully within her rights to do so.

I tried to defend myself a little by explaining that Paris is not Notre-Dame, the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triumph for me and that I always venture out into neighborhoods where tourists don't normally go. As an American, I love seeing how every quartier, every carrefour, every plâce, seems to be a tiny but completely self-sufficient city unto itself. Every neighborhood has its own bakery, cafés, bars, tabac, newsstand, market, pharmacy, shoe repair shop, dry cleaner, churches, schools, metro stop. It's easy to see how some Parisians never venture far outside their own neighborhoods during an entire lifetime. I love to see how these hundreds of neighborhoods differ from one another in color, texture, pace and atmosphere. When I explained this, Saïd said, "Oh, then you must have begun to be aware of the real people and the real problems of Paris."

And then he spoke eloquently to me about his frustration, as an Arab Parisian, at the lack of opportunity he's felt all his forty-four years. He says he finished school, but has spent his life working in cafés because of discrimination against people of Arab extraction. He spoke of the ethnic ghettos of Paris. He spoke of his life-long dream of moving to New York, where he felt his daughter would have the opportunities to create a better life for herself than he'd ever had in Paris. I knew my French wasn't going to be up to the task of taking on this issue with the dignity it deserved or telling him that many of the same issues exist in New York, so, instead, I told him a little about how it is in "my" Texas, bordering Mexico, and the issues legal and illegal immigrants face. Saïd seemed, however, to already be fairly well convinced that the U.S. is less racist than France and that people of Hispanic heritage in Texas face fewer challenges than do those of Arab or African origin in Paris.

And then, Saïd voiced the question a Texan in Paris always dreads most: "And what about YOUR George Bush?" To which I replied, "George Bush was not born in Texas. He was born in New England. He's not a true Texan." Saïd laughed. "Oh, I get it. Like Sarkosy, who's not a true Frenchman. He's a Hungarian!" He put up his palm so we could laughingly High Five each other. (And I thought, "Yes, and Ségolène Royal, who's 'really' French, wasn't elected because she's a woman, and when faced with the difficult choice between a foreign male and a French female, voters chose the man.")

Saïd pointed at his boss inside the café, a portly, pleasant fellow who's always very sweet to me. I find it fascinating that le patron is always wearing a really nice, probably cashmere, dark v-necked sweater, button-down dress shirt, dress trousers and nice leather shoes under his white bib apron as he holds forth in the kitchen and behind his bar all the long day. "He's probably not too happy with me for having a long conversation with you." I said, "Well, he's always nice to me." Saïd replied, "That's because he's a 'regular' Parisian and he views you as being a 'regular' lady. He wouldn't treat you so well if you were black or an Arab." Interesting. That thought had never crossed my mind. I had just been grateful that le chef had always been welcoming and tolerant of my French in all my interactions with him. I would have said he was kind. But I get it: not all foreigners are equal in Paris. It's okay to be the kind of foreigner I am, a stylish, blond, cultured, French-speaking lady. In fact, according to Saïd, Paris was made for me.

I won't relate all of our hour-long conversation here. Two or three buses passed by, headed to Clichy, in the interim. Saïd taught me a lot and definitely raised my consciousness a little about my beloved city. When my glass was empty, I told Saïd I regretted I had to go back to my hotel to pack and get ready to go to the airport at dawn, since I was leaving Paris in the morning. He told me he hoped he hadn't offended me with anything he'd said. I assured him he hadn't, and that I was grateful for his honesty. He told me warmly and, it seemed, quite sincerely, that he was truly happy we had crossed paths, that he had learned a lot from me about Texas and about how it really is to live in the United States. I wished him and his family all the very best in the future, and said I hoped it would someday be possible for them to move to New York, if that is what he really, truly wants and if it's what he's convinced is best for his young daughter. But in my heart I thought, "No, Saïd, please stay here in Paris. It's so beautiful and you have lived your whole life here. You'll find the very same problems you face in Paris in New York, and then your hopefulness, which you've somehow managed to retain, will be crushed out of you."

For Saïd, New York is unreal, a city of dreams, a mirage, just as Paris is for me. We are both, in a way, right to have our crazy, idealistic, impractical daydreams of exchanging countries. And it does hurt my heart a little to know Saïd's probably right in what he said as we parted. All that stands in the way of my moving to my beloved Paris and being absorbed into the city as a "regular" Parisian is money. If I had the money, all I would have to do is rent an apartment, and, voilà! I'm a Parisienne. Saïd was born in Clichy but feels he's still not considered to be a real Parisian. But I could be, easily, according to him, within the span of a year.

I think, perhaps, he's wrong, though. I know I would always be considered a foreigner in Paris, that I'd be a woman without a country. Even if I made French friends, they'd always speak of me as "Rachel, the Texan," or "Rachel, the American." But I know what Saïd meant. Visually, and in all the little everyday superficial interactions I'd have in shops, in cafés, marketing, I'd soon "pass for French." And he'll never have that opportunity, he feels, in the city of his own birth. He'll always be "Saïd, the Arab."

By the way, Saïd told me his name means "happy" in Arabic. And he said, "Rachel: c'est un nom juif, n'est-ce pas?" I said Yes. He said, smiling, "I don't mind."


Why I love Paris in Thirteen Reasons, and, Because I am a flâneur. (I don't think flâneuse exists, oddly.)

From Wikipedia:

While Baudelaire characterized the flâneur as a "gentleman stroller of city streets",[citation needed] he saw the flâneur as having a key role in understanding, participating in and portraying the city. A flâneur thus played a double role in city life and in theory, that is, while remaining a detached observer. This stance, simultaneously part of and apart from, combines sociological, anthropological, literary and historical notions of the relationship between the individual and the greater populace. After the 1848 Revolution in France, after which the empire was reestablished with clearly bourgeois pretensions of "order" and "morals", Baudelaire began asserting that traditional art was inadequate for the new dynamic complications of modern life. Social and economic changes brought by industrialization demanded that the artist immerse himself in the metropolis and become, in Baudelaire's phrase, "a botanist of the sidewalk".[citation needed] David Harvey asserts that "Baudelaire would be torn the rest of his life between the stances of flâneur and dandy, a disengaged and cynical voyeur on the one hand, and man of the people who enters into the life of his subjects with passion on the other" (Paris: Capital of Modernity 14).

The observer-participant dialectic is evidenced in part by the dandy culture. Highly self-aware, and to a certain degree flamboyant and theatrical, dandies of the mid-nineteenth century created scenes through outrageous acts like walking turtles on leashes down the streets of Paris. [1] Such acts exemplify a flâneur's active participation in and fascination with street life while displaying a critical attitude towards the uniformity, speed, and anonymity of modern life in the city.

1. The sidewalk cafés, wherein one sits at tiny tables on beautiful little woven chairs, and where one usually even gets a stool for one's purse or shopping bags. Where everyone is people-watching -- and the people-watching is world class in Paris. And they are all sitting at the tables outside on the terrasse smoking. Even in the winter. Even when the heat lamps aren't turned on. And because at night, there are gas lights at some of them. And because there you can get an incredible glass of wine or a champagne or a kir royale or an obscure literary/art liquer or apertif (Suze, Absinthe, Pernod, Chartreuse) for the very same price you can get an incredible coffee or pot of tea. And for the price of that one drink, you can camp there for the better part of a day reading or writing in your journal. Without snarky looks from waiters. And because many of the waiters are very friendly and some of them are really handsome. And some of them are wearing those long, white aprons that go all the way to the ground. And some of them are old and really, really charming. And because there you can rest your poor feet after hours of walking around Paris and figure out where you are now and where you're off to next. And because they have a toilette there. Usually là bas down a tiny curving stairwell. And some of them are tiled.
2. The shopping. Even when I don't buy anything at all, the "window licking" in Paris is my favorite in the whole world. Tiny boutiques. Tiny produce stores. I hate department stores, so I love these tiny specialty shops. Toys. Glasses and sun glasses. Bed linens. Perfume. Tea. New books. Used books. Graphic novels. Post cards. Jewels. Costume jewelry. Watches. Stamps. Paper and stationery. Fountain pens. Antiques. Lingerie. Stockings. Shoes. Handbags. Luggage. Top hats and evening clothes for men. Clothes for riding, or the hunt. Umbrellas and parasols. Gloves. Hair brushes and ornaments. Religious goods. Military medals. Pharmacies. Flowers. Boulangeries. Patisseries. Confectioneries. Designer ateliers, whose names alone make my head swim: Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Hermès.
3. The bread and the croissants. And the coffee. Breakfast in bed in my hotel. For the same price as going downstairs to the breakfast room!
4. The passages couverts, the few remaining glass-roofed shopping arcades from the 19th century, and their tiny boutiques, cafés, tea rooms and restaurants. I get a poetic feeling I can't even describe in words when I'm in them. I'm transported to another time and feel as if I'm living in a French novel. The light quality is sublime. I feel ghosts. I sense vampires lurking in vacant second-story spaces overhead.
5. The cemeteries. I never, ever get tired of cemetery haunting. I'm overwhelmed by a poetic feeling, not of sadness or melancholy, but of utter peace and reverie. I will never get tired of photographing the cemeteries and of reading tombstones and markers. I like to make up stories from the names and dates I read. The cemeteries are among the most beautiful places in Paris for me. Cimitière Montmartre is my favorite. They don't feel at all scary to me and I don't sense ghosts. They are like the most beautiful parks to me.
6. The Seine and all her bridges and quais. The boats moored near the Louvre and Notre-Dame. The Eiffel tower reflected in the water when it's lighted at night. The night reflections of all the monuments, in fact.
7. The statues. Sphinxes everywhere. Insipid ones at the Tuilleries. Historical personages at Hôtel de Ville. Random statues that pop up at carrefours. Equestrian monuments. I love how sexy many of the statues are in Paris. In Italy, the sexy statues seem to be inside churches. In Paris, they're outdoors.
8. The museums, but one time and only once. After that, they never again have the same punch so I've learned not to return (except to the Jeu de Paume and others which house only temporary exhibits). D'Orsay is my favorite museum, then Rodin. The Cinémathèque. Some parts of the Louvre. The doll museum.
9. The exteriors of churches, especially the gothic ones. The rose garden behind Notre-Dame.
10. The street markets for food. Mouffetard is my favorite. But I love stumbling on whatever market's happening in whatever neighborhood I happen to be walking in.
11. Flirtatious, Pepe-le-Pew men, who do not seem to care one whit that a woman is no longer young. Even the twenty-something men often don't seem to think it's inappropriate to flirt with a woman old enough to be their grandmother. And I like how the elegant men never seem to get too old to attempt to flirt. I never feel as attractive as I do in Paris, surrounded by attentive men who speak as if in old Charles Boyer or Maurice Chevalier movies. The best line I got this time was, "How long has it been since you have known love? You would find paradise in my bed." Spoken earnestly by one who was seventy, if a day. I always feel like a character from a movie set in Paris, some courtesan or mistress or can-can dancer or denizen of the demi-monde d'autres fois. I am fairly sure that's what I used to be.
12. Just looking at architectural details. The windows. The balconies. The Mansard roofs. The iron work. The doorways. The painted shop facades. Their color combinations and exquisite hues: cobalt blue, pistachio green, violet-grey. Black or charcoal grey with gilding. Window boxes. Staircases. Balustrades. Ascensceurs, like cages. Columns. Marble. Art Nouveau details. Why does everything seem so familiar to me, and why do I feel so much at home here?
13. VERDIGRIS. I have to return to Paris periodically to get my fix of verdigris. Rust and verdigris are among my favorite things to look at, and Paris has the best of both!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Paris photos up on my flickr

If a picture's worth a thousand words, I'll let them speak for me for the time being!

Still jet-lagged as all get-out, awake at 4:00 a.m., first day back at work yesterday.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Things I Miss about Home when I am in Paris, and Vice-Versa

When I am in Paris, this is what I miss back home:
1. My family, my friends and my precious little dog. I miss him a lot when I see all the other little dogs who get to come into bars and cafés in Paris with their mistresses.
2. My Ford Mustang. Because if I were driving it in Paris, I would be thought to be terminally chouette behind its wheel. Like in Serge Gainsbourg's song.
3. My own collection of ridiculous, impractical shoes. Because I am wearing trainers or ballet flats to hoof it across Paris ten hours a day when I'm there. And I know I have ridiculous shoes back home to rival any I see on passing fashionable Parisiennes. And I hate it that I can't wear the ridiculous, new blue suede gladiator sandals with five inch heels that I've just acquired in Paris until I get back home. Or whatever fashionable shoe monstrosity I've just purchased.
4. My black and white Converse Chuck Taylors. Should have brought 'em. Who knew?
5. Jalapeños
6. Netflix

When I am home, this is what I miss about Paris:
1. Baguettes
2. Croissants
3. Café crème
4. Street markets for food shopping rather than supermarkets
5. $4 French fashion magazines (as opposed to $17-$20 in the U.S.)
6. Monoprix and Prisunic for cheap French-brand cosmetics sold at Sephora here
7. Real French stockings
8. $4 glasses of spectacularly good wine or champagne, the strange apertifs of Europe
9. Artisan cheeses
10. Outrageously flirtatious/charming people
11. Bouquiniste stalls, used book stores, book stores in general
12. Cheap eateries representing the cuisines of the entire world
13. People-watching, eccentric and/or high fashion looks on the street
14. Beautiful shop window displays

What I never miss about Paris when I'm home
1. Rabbits on the menu, or skinned and prepped for cooking in the market stalls
2. Horse butchers
3. The metro
4. Beggars
5. Blisters from walking

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Home. Safely. Exhausted.

But deeply grateful to Paris for all her glories and all the adventures she always offers me.

Over a thousand pictures to upload and process.

New shoes from Paris. New stockings.

And a couple of really good stories. But not tonight!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Off to airport now

I hope it won't be a long, long, disappointing travel day. Heavy fog here, rain all over the South and I'm routed through Atlanta to begin with. With a very short correspondence for my trans-Atlantic flight. Keep your fingers crossed that all goes smoothly for me and I don't have delays or miss my connection because of the weather.

Over and out for me, and I hope I return with a whole new set of tales of adventure and discovery in Paris!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Packing light for Paris in October

Reader Gretchen asked me to elaborate on what I'm packing for Paris, since it will all fit into a large handbag and hopefully take me through ten days' activities without having to do laundry. I hoped to be able to photograph the contents of my carry-on and post it, but, alas! I've run out of time before I depart.

So here's the list, and the vendor, if it's new and I remember.
-- From J. Crew current season (I'm their poster child!), two pairs skinny leg corduroy jeans in light grey and dark, graphite grey; one pair I wear on the plane, the other I pack.
-- J. Crew: long, cardigan sweater, graphite grey, ruffle trim along v-front.
-- This season's J. Crew again, Tissue t, long-sleeved, deep v-necked, a kind of orchid/pink bright flower color.
-- Burgundy grosgrain trimmed scoop neck, long-sleeved J. Crew top.
-- Three racer-back tissue tank tops, to be worn under long graphite ruffled cardigan like a camisole or over jeans or with skirt: mauve (American Apparel), orchid (Urban Outfitters), hot pink (Urban Outfitters)
-- Black jersey pencil skirt, knee length with back vent, Boston Proper travel line
-- Black perforated (like eyelet) very sexy stretchy long-sleeved, button down shirt with French cuffs, Anne Fontaine 2008 season
-- Black racer-back tank top (American Apparel)
-- Black Hermès belt, narrow with silver hook buckle -- many seasons past
-- Silver Coach across-the-body smallish square silver metallic zip purse, this season
-- One striped, jersey, French Apache-dancer-looking mini dress by Make + Model from the lingerie section of Nordstrom, which I can wear to sleep in or as a robe, or as a dress with the leggings underneath or as a top over jeans: grey and navy stripes, lace-up bodice
-- Graphite Hue super opaque leggings, new this season
-- Black Repetto BB ballet flats
-- One pair herringbone crochet thigh-high black stockings purchased in Florence last winter
-- Nike trainers -- some kind of high-tech silver/grey mesh -- very comfortable; couple of pair socklets, which I'll wash out by hand.
-- One Missoni scarf in silver/grey/mauve/purple flamestitch (2006? season)
-- Silk flowers to pin on or wear in hair: purple, orchid, hot pink
-- One long string of pearls and earrings to match it
-- 3 pairs mesh panties to hand-wash; I'll wear a nude bra, pack a black one
-- Evening clutch, into which are packed the jewelery, my hairpins and elastics and my undies
-- Silver mesh travel umbrella
-- Driving gloves, tobacco colored (Madova, Florence)
-- Short, quilted black zip-front riding jacket, very trim-fitting although down-filled, purchased in Switzerland last season

On the plane I'll wear one pair of the cord jeans, one top, one of the belts, the Repetto ballet flats for ease of passing through security and wear or carry the jacket, and I'll wear my everyday silver jewelery: hoops, ring, bracelet and diamond solitaire necklace

How I'll put it together --
For high-end shopping, the opera, cocktails etc:
Black skirt+black tank+Hermès belt, low-slung = little black dress (jacket over it, Repettos and maybe textured black stockings)
For sight-seeing/museums/shopping: Black skirt+any colored top+long ruffled sweater+pearls/flowers, maybe belt on top of cardigan
For photographing: Cord jeans+any colored top+cardigan or riding jacket+scarf+trainers
If it gets cold: leggings under cords or with skirt, layer long-sleeve tops over racerbacks, or vice-versa
Other options: Black skirt+black Ann Fontaine blouse, or black skirt+colored tank+black Anne Fontaine blouse as a jacket instead of the cardigan.

If I were going to take one additional piece, it would have been black pants or dark wash jeans. But all this is enough. As it is, I'm unlikely to wear every single piece I'm bringing before I return. I find I start to get depressed if I bring only dark colors to Europe, and end up shopping for bright pieces at places like H&M that are redundant with things I have at home just to boost my spirits while I'm there. So we'll see if my more colorful strategy works this trip! If I throw one more thing in, it will be another big, long colorful scarf I'll wear to the airport. I'd prefer to pack the ballet flats and wear the trainers, but getting them off to pass through security is a bitch, so I just stuff them full of other stuff and pack them.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Great Granny P photo shoot today!

With a new dresser and wig wranger who I tried out. She worked out great, so it looks like the Granny Panty machine is now four! Edited photos up on the Granny P flickr site tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

I'm packed.

My little book into which I transcribe all the opening hours and metro information I need for my destinations is ready.

And as I plan, I wonder if I will return to all the places I last visited with X. And the answer is, of course, Yes. It was my city before I ever shared it with him. And I will return, even, to our hotel. And then the whole circle is forever closed for me, a kind of exorcism of the heart.

It's my city. I'll be damned if I give it up over a failed romance. And there are new places I'm going to explore by myself this time. And I'm not spending a single moment of my precious time in the infernal Louvre.

Paris, je reviens!

But there are still a million loose ends I need to tie up at school before I depart a week from today. There just isn't enough time. But at least I now have the proper iPod adapter to keep my music going in Paris and I won't have to ration it. I love having the soundtrack playing along with what I see.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Just as a lark, tonight

...I tried packing for Paris week after next in a large purse. And I can do it. Everything suitable for days of photographing and museums, to excursions to Hermès and the opera, and everything that could happen in between. I am kind of an expert on packing light after all the trips I took to Europe in 2008. And I don't have any eBay purchases to haul along now for one who wanted to save on postage on his end, which makes it really easy to travel light. As is my way.

But I will use a real carry-on bag. Because, God knows, I am likely to succumb to the irresistable impulse to buy one really, really impractical pair of shoes while I'm in Paris and I'll need to be able to haul them home. Really, in Paris as long as one has planned for foot comfort it's perfectly easy to bring a few pieces in black or dark colors and be done with it. But I made it a challenge on myself: grey, inky purple, lilac, dusty pink. A tone poem.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Granny Panty burlesque project continues

Seriously, it's like a machine, between costume making, photo shoots, two dance classes a week and trying to do the strength training I'm going to need to perform live on the walker in a few months. Plus musical research about what to set the numbers on, etc., etc. But I'm loving every minute of it! You can read Granny's blog by following the link in the sidebar of this blog if you're interested.

The semester is a killer. Some days I hardly have time to sit at my desk and read and answer e-mail because of all the meetings.

And I'm off to Paris, on my long-delayed "summer" vacation, in a couple of weeks. Whee!

Monday, September 21, 2009

I've been a poor blogger lately, haven't I?

The semester has been off to a hectic start, fraught with student-related dramas, some tragic. And I've been using what little time and energy I have left over for my own projects -- specifically, on Granny P -- which is going very, very well. I really enjoy being in a regular dance class again.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Uncharacteristically depressed today.

Perhaps it's the non-stop rain that meant no long walk for Buster and me this morning. Perhaps it's because I've still been feeling punk all week and not sleeping well, waking myself up coughing. In any case, I am blue tonight.

I've been sewing for over twenty-four hours and have lots to show for it: costumes for next weekend's photo shoot on my new project, costumes to perform in, various bits and pieces. I'm working on the final piece tonight, a virginal white batiste apron, like the nuns would sew. I should feel good about all this productivity and a whole new performance wardrobe.

I should feel happy because I love burlesque dance class, and because I have my first pole dance class tomorrow to look forward to.

But the iTunes plays French music, and Brazilian music, and it all seems to speak to me of melancholy. When it rains, I always long to be in bed with someone I'm madly in love with, making sweet, sweet love. Last night the rain was driving, melodious, so romantic. And I lay in bed and thought, "I'm not in love with anyone. I'm alone."

It will pass. Vivre sans vivre.

And, anyway, I go to Paris in a month. Once there, I can always run off with the Gypsies.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

September 2009 Vogue: Inspirations

Ever trying to save you time and money, here's my research on the September "big book" --

RED, black and white houndstooth and tweeds, wide belt waist emphasis, Forties look, purple (but not with brown like last season), purple and near fuscia with leopard print, booties, over the knee boots, crazy gladiator-type shoes, socks with heels (yay!), boots with suits.

Yep, I think that's about it on the trends that caught my eye.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Long time, no write.

You know how I am when I get obsessed with an art project. And my new granny burlesque project has taken over my life in the course of just three short weeks. Photo shoots, wig wrangling, wardrobe designing, burlesque dance classes, pole dancing class...

Every walker I pass I have to stop and look at, thinking, "Hmmm. Would this one be a better one for my act? Wonder what other colors it comes in? Is it more stable than mine?"

And I was a little sick last week, although I just tried to keep on working through it. I'm feeling nearly 100% again today, and will use what's left of my three-day weekend to clean up my living room-turned-photography studio. It looks like a stripper store blew up downstairs in my house these days!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Saturday, August 22, 2009

On to the next thing. Granny burlesque.

I am not joking. The walker is incredibly stable, and, as they sang in Gypsy, "You gotta have a gimmick!"

Friday, August 21, 2009

Poor, once-beautiful gardenia.

A little over a year ago he said, "I thought I detected a hint of fear in your voice, as if you'd realized our complicated logistics have the potential to do you much harm." And I answered him, "No, not fear! Only joy!"

Unhanging the show. Argh. I'm dehydrated.

It's no fun taking it down.
Why does it seem it takes longer to take a show down than install it?

But the video is up of my "vows" dance. It's a re-performance because there were too many people in the space when I originally performed it to video it. But that's what I was wearing. Except my hair was down.

Or here, if you prefer. I have more recent performances and archive videos up both places. The short ones are on youtube, the long ones on exposureroom.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Laughing: Ali and I evidently made the society page of the Sunday newspaper.

(A week later: here's another one taken that night by Jimmie)

If you consider Gadjo Disko at a bar called the Cockpit as something A-list in the first place. We're photo 15, me in the dirndl and Heidi hair. Photo 34 is one of Cindy's creations and models, 41 is Jimmie in one of Cindy's creations, 47 is one of Cindy's creations and models.

Fun times. Next time I go there I'm wearing a goth dirndl and a garlic-and-crucifix-necklace, and dirt on my face.

Anti(dote)Wedding Exhibition and Performance images up on flickr

Just back home from Gadjo Disko

...and a fashion show including four outfits my daughter-in-law made that were fantastic. However, it was so hot in the gay bar it all took place in that Ali and I had to leave after Cindy's pieces. I thought I was going to puke. So no Balkan dancing for me tonight, although I was rocking the dirndl and Heidi hair and have been dying to gypsy dance for days.

I am pretty exhausted now, after my own show last night. But tomorrow's Sunday, and I'm gonna chill.

But, folks: I see 1,000 hits on this blog as of this evening. I have no idea who most of you are, but thanks for reading!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

The Anti(Dote)Wedding

...was fantastic!

I'll put up a portfolio on flickr now that it's over and I can fully document the show. I had a blast afterward with everyone who came and the work was very well received. I flubbed my own dance a little because I was incredibly nervous, but I think the performance was really wonderful -- and Jimmie and Suze and Jack and Frankie and the little girls were all fantastic.

I do have the best friends in the whole world, since they actually helped clean up before departing in the wee hours. I'm a little worse for the pro secco this morning, but I'll drink a lot of water and should be feeling chipper in just a bit. My house is full of flowers and it smells wonderful. And I have an in-home massage at 3. Yay!

Wow. It's over. I really feel as if I've accomplished something meaningful with this show. And I know without a doubt the work in this show is the very best work of my entire life. And, hopefully, all of it, making the work, mounting the show, creating the performances, conveys the meaning to those who witnessed it that it is critical to use the events of one's own life, the really "stripped bare" stuff, as art supplies. No matter how painful.

Friday, August 14, 2009


Antidote Wedding Vows, August 14, 2009

It all seems like a movie to me, this crazy romance of mine that was to have culminated in a wedding this evening. Its seeds must have been planted five years ago in Vienna; we even went to Hotel Sacher, like in The Third Man. Then, as in David Lean’s Summertime, our love affair began in earnest in Italy, and, as in An American in Paris, it continued during a few romantic days there. During the next six months our romance often felt alternately like a Hitchcock movie and a Fellini film. For some reason, tonight the final scene of The Philadelphia Story keeps playing in my head. I feel like Katharine Hepburn’s character, Tracy Lord, apologizing to her family and friends who’d gathered for a wedding that wasn’t going to take place.

Instead of a wedding, tonight I just want to tell all of you how sincerely grateful I am. I want to thank you, my co-workers, family and dearest friends, for your support during those seven months I was madly in love. Thank you for taking care of things at school. Thank you for looking after Buster for me when I was away. Thanks for the rides to and from the airport, laden with luggage full of e-bay purchases and gifts. Thank you for keeping the doubts -- which you surely must have had -- to yourself as I embarked upon what must have seemed like a mad adventure destined to end in heartbreak. As you all recall, I was deliriously happy during the seven months I was in love, and I want to thank you for being happy for me when it seemed I had finally found the soul-mate for whom I have long searched. Thank you, too, for your support in January when the love affair ended miserably in the course of just one day. And thank you for reading the fictionalized account of the romance in my book and for viewing the nearly one hundred drawings that also tell the story of this past year. Perhaps now you have more insight into what was going on in my heart and mind those months of my grand amour fou.

I also want to thank he who was once my love, he who would have become my third and final husband tonight. Louis, I sincerely thank you for your affection and for the tenderness and intimacy we once shared. I am deeply grateful not only for your love, but also for your belief in me as an artist and a writer, which propelled me into one of the most intense periods of creative activity I’ve ever experienced in my life. It’s not often that I produce a hundred drawings, much less a 350-page novel, in the course of one short year. Thank you so much for the energy and inspiration you sparked in me. I hope, in this, at least, that you were not wrong – that my work is important. Thank you for believing that I’ve earned my rightful place alongside Artemisia Gentileschi, Elisabeth Vignée-Lebrun, Camille Claudel, the Louises Bourgeois and Nevelson, Pina Bausch, Frida Kahlo, Simone de Beauvoir, the Brontës, Anne Frank and Anaïs Nin.

I’m grateful to you for proving to me that my heart is still alive, still capable of loving and, evidently, still hopeful. I would not have believed it possible at my age, and with my past romantic failures, that I could once again love so deeply and with such passion as I loved you. I would be lying to you now if I did not admit I miss your intellectual companionship, the quirky, esoteric interests we alone shared, your hands and your kisses. I miss playing Anaïs Nin and Henry Miller with you. Even though we have no future together, tonight I promise to treasure the beautiful, rich memories of our time together. I realize we are like the movies: at the end, I still know so little about you that you remain a mystery, a shadowy character like one written by Patricia Highsmith for Hitchcock – like the talented Mr. Ripley. And I, probably, will remain in your mind your Madelyn from Vertigo: an ideal, an anima projection. When I became uncomfortably “real,” our time together had to come to its inevitable ending and I had to disappear. I am a photograph, removed from your wallet and thrown away. Still, I have no regrets. Everything has turned out exactly the way Fate meant it to for both of us, my old love. Louis, I wish you well. I’ll quote Rick in Casablanca: “We’ll always have Paris.” And to Paris I will return alone to reclaim my city, as an antidote honeymoon.

I had originally planned to perform this piece as part of my wedding vows to Louis. So, in the words of Tracy Lord, “as originally and beautifully planned” I will now do just that to “Face the Music,” sung by Fred Astaire, from his movie Follow the Fleet. As I recall, Astaire sang it to a suicidal Ginger Rogers on the deck of a ship as she contemplated jumping overboard.

12:36 a.m. That means it's my not-wedding day!

House is pristine. Floors are done and taped off for the performances. I'm totally rehearsed. Exhibit and installation have been totally installed for days. I think I'm going to bed early tonight, so I can get up and walk Buster tomorrow morning early before I have to go pick up the cake, flowers and do the food. There's a notice the hot water is off from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., so I guess I better get up and get a bath and shave my legs before then, in case it doesn't come back on by late afternoon. I was planning to take a disco nap about 4 before the performers arrive at 7.

Yes: I am excited. And a little nervous. But I feel really, really good about the work and I'm proud of the show. And I'm looking forward to spending a festive evening with my nearest and dearest. Although this place is going to be as packed as Holly Golightly's apartment during her cocktail party in Breakfast at Tiffany's. I hope no one's hair catches on fire, as in the movie. :)

And I'm looking forward to loads of barefoot dancing and drinking after 10 p.m.! And if I get really crazy, I may go for a moonlight swim to cap it all off. And I have an in-home massage to look forward to Saturday!

Someone said, in essence, "I think it's cool that you're marrying your art, not a man." And I thought: Wait. I may have divorced several men, but two things I've never divorced. My art, and an animal.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

One of my friends can't go to her twentieth high school reunion

...because of current work projects. I'm so sorry, since she was looking forward to it.

Then I was thinking: me going to my high school reunion (if it weren't just the sub-set of art and drama people) would be pretty much like asking Carrie to go to her high school reunion. Bad idea.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


Ali has done it again: resurrected a 1993 or 1994 "commercial" for Hard Women by Linda Montano.

Monday, August 10, 2009


The documentation of one of my most ambitious and largest scale performances, which I have for over a decade believed to be lost, has been, like Lazarus, resurrected by Ali White and all the digital gods and is available for viewing at the link below. "The Death of Orpheus," from Metamorpheus, 1990.

These have something to do with the next project I propose.

More news as it develops.

Hm. La joueuse/les joyeux. Les joueuses joyeux?

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Show's installed and labeled, including installations.

Furniture is moved. House is cleaned. I have four more stray labels to make, then it's completely done. My house looks like an art gallery now, and I kind of like it this way. I may never move the furniture back in, because I have loads of space to dance in now. Now we can ALL drink wine and dance barefoot to gypsy music after the performances are over!

I'm really, really excited now. We rehearsed this morning, and everything is coming along really nicely. Frankie is an excellent musician, but we decided I have to have a mic because the song I'm singing is really challenging to me, range-wise. No, it's not "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," but the first two notes are separated by an octave and it's a stretch for me. It may not sound so great except for Frankie's cello, but it will be profoundly heart-felt.

But the biggest cool thing that's happened this weekend is the choreographer I admire most in the whole world now that Pina Bausch is dead has expressed interest in coming, so I invited her and she accepted. I will be so nervous when I do my dance piece, but I am really happy she's going to be here because I am such a fan of her work. Maybe the whole project will give her some kind of big idea of her own. And, coincidence: drumroll, please. She'll be living in Italy until January.

All that's left for me to do now is DJ in advance -- load up my iPod and iTunes play lists so I've got appropriate music in the upstairs installation room, and downstairs in the gallery. And pick up the things I have to pick up, coordinate the food, get the cake and flowers. With any luck I can lie down and have a disco nap about 4:00, then get up and get ready before the performers arrive at 7:30.

Work is going to seem unbearable this week, with the performance looming...

Friday, August 7, 2009

Borsa is made, wedding sweets are bagged...

in their cunning little bags, flower girl bags are made, ring pillow is made, artist's book is made and reproduced.

Hell, yeah! This anti(dote)wedding exhibition and performance is going to have every lovely detail I wanted for the wedding. No way I'm going to disappoint my family and friends, who would have enjoyed all these little details. And I'm going to have the party I dreamed of, even without the groom. There's still so much for me to celebrate: the completion of the original book and the epilogue drawings, the fact that so many people love and care about me and are happy I'm still all theirs. It's been good for me to reflect on the events of the last year and realize how very grateful I am for everything, even the dismal ending of the affair. Steep emotional learning curve for me, but unbelievable artistic energy along with it.

I'm cleaning house tonight so that I can mount the show tomorrow and Sunday. But everything's ready to go: labels, etc. It really hasn't been that hard to do it all myself, since I started a couple of weeks ago. Now we all just have to practice our performances...

Especially me, since I'm singing. :)

Thursday, August 6, 2009

I am outraged! Deneuve booed in Italy. What were they thinking?

Deneuve booed in Italy for no Italian subtitles to accompany her French reading at a festival! My poor darling! I rush to your defense! We all know your Italian is flawless, anyway! This is inexcusably brutish behavior on the part of the crowd, and the organizers of the event were idiots. And you suffer from stage fright, anyway. Please, don't be traumatized!

I am so sad!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Sketch for the doll

...I started working on tonight, last piece for my upcoming show.

It's going to be kind of an engineering nightmare, but the head(s) is(are) done and drying overnight.

Monday, August 3, 2009

A seemingly random list of movies, and a space:

Some Came Running, Minnelli, 1958.
This Property is Condemned, Pollack, 1966.
The Fugitive Kind, Lumet, 1959.

Splendor in the Grass, Kazan, 1961.

You win if you can write the essay before I get around to it.

My Days of Heaven.

If we humans are lucky, during the course of our lifetimes, we'll have a few perfect days. These are mine: sheer Paradise on earth. And, perhaps, I have enjoyed more than my fair share of them. There were even more perfect days, but no camera to record them.