Monday, April 21, 2008


The table by the window hasn't been cleared so I hover a bit, je prefere le fenetre, s'il vous plait.  they clear it what seems reluctantly.  I ask for cafe creme, not American coffee please.... And the waiter in his beautiful grey suit hesitates for a moment as if searching in his data banks for the meaning of the words, and says "of course" that some how ends up sounding like, "you pain in the cou!"

Omlettes are prepared to order, the buffet is loaded with   breakfast selections familiar to the Engliah, German, American, and Italian guests. The window looks out on a grey day, threatening rain.  I see a white van, now a canvas for a graffitti artist- parked under a bridge.  Couples surround me, from all over the world, I see them all with the new eyes of a woman on her own.  What drives us all to union? What drives some of us to solitude? 

The waiters here are all rude in that uniquely professional and French way.

They bump into you without apology, bang down your drink, leave you the bill abruptly.  But they act like this to everyone and so... And so its ok.  I am not singled out for rude service today, I am in fact just like everyone else.  Even the French find Parisians obnoxious. 

The catacombs under the city are filled with neatly stacked femurs and skulls, all once warm, complicated people.  I wander in the dimly lit caves and corridors near the groups of silly tourists and serious artist, alone and conscious of my experience.  Too close and I am subsumed into their banter, too far and I am anxious, small, female, vulnerable.  The placards in Latin and French, quotes from Ovid to Rousseau, are easy enough for me to read.  I thank my mother silently for my education.

Above ground the rain spits a bit.  No one has yet donned their spring clothing, the boots and leather jackets are still in full view.  Another month I guess before the sparkle of color hits the streets. Still, the trees are in bloom and the birds sing sweetly; spring is on its way.

At the top of every Metro station there is a couple kissing.  Kissing is so acceptable here it is almost unacceptable not to kiss. Sweet goodbyes are said by couples parted by their routines, or obligations.  Prolonged goodbyes decorate the streets.

At night I listen to a German lady sing Spanish jazzy loves songs in a club called Havanna Jazz - out side Chicanos posture and grub cigarettes from their friends.  It feels funny to see the tough Chicano clothing and accent here, intermingled with French instead of English.   The club is dark and warm, the music well performed, the cello adding the classy softness to the sound.  I drink red vermouth on ice. 

My friends know a fine place to eat in the Marais district.  We sit and talk of culture and politics, corporate social responsibility, lingerie and of course the amazing food.  The tough looking waiter has a high pitched voice and misinterprets us many times.  He is impatient in a double whammy of gay and Parisienne.  We have a fine laugh, none of us French, yet comfortable enough being dissed by this fussy man.

The rain hurries us to the Metro where it feels safe enough, and wonderfully efficient at getting you anywhere.  My stop comes and I give them all "la bize" the cheek to cheek double kiss the French greet and depart with.    I rush of the car and make my way to my next train.  A short walk with not too much anxiety and I'm back at the hotel.  I text my friends to let them know I'm fine.

Tomorrow I leave for Boston, back to work, back to America again, back to the worries I put on hold.  I leave here feeling refreshed and conscious of that place in me that is at home anywhere and everywhere.  I pray my silent prayer of hope that dreams do come true, that we create our lives and loves and that here, in Paris, I picked up the right ingredients. 

Au revoir-

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Berlin: I wish I had a camera

I'm in the hotel lobby waiting for my colleague. It will be a while, so I make a call.  I see a man I wish I could photograph. 

He comes in a black mini hatchback Mercedes Benz; dressed entirely in black, there is an insignia on the car and as he approaches I see the same insignia on his shoulder. It is an upside down  broom in a flower of flames.   His hands are black with soot, he holds a black, plastic bucket, his cargo pockets hold tools in custom made holders, and atop his head is a battered but elegant top hat.  He is a chimney sweep.  His name is Herr Mager.

From his professional demeanor and his apparent lack of any embarrassment at  being so sooty and the way the hotel staff hurry to call the manager, this is a good job, perhaps even a great job. 

I read somewhere you have to be born into the business in Amsterdam, and perhaps it is similar here.  That hat could easily be a third generation family heirloom.   He disappears with his bucket and tools, and comes back a while later; if he is any sootier it would be hard to tell.  He gives me a brilliant smile, white teeth startling in his smudged face.  Jumps in his car and is off to another job.  Oh to have a camera to capture this icon, this handsome worker, this classic picture of a  profession.

There is something so proud about the workers here in Germany.  Their job  isn't who they are yet how they represent themselves is  who they are.  The elevator repair man inspires confidence that the Otis taking you to the fourth floor is well maintained  From his uniform to his hair cut to his tools neatly ordered in his carry crate, you just know he doesn't cut corners. 

We never seem to have developed this pride in America that every job is worth doing well.  I like to think as the world shrinks, and globalization spreads the good of these cultural differences will spill over and we will be wise enough to glean this good.

I have to tell you, if I had a chimney to sweep, I'd want Herr Mager to do it. ;-)  

Sunday, April 13, 2008


... Has two ATCT (air traffic control towers) and a big brand new terminal that is interminable. 

I arrive at 5:55 am after trying to sleep in the two cold too hot stuffy cabin atop the 747-  my neighbor is friendly and calm in an older professorial way.  Still just as I was truly asleep the microphone feed back that preceeded every announcement with an amazing squeek, woke me up.

Bonjour Madame et Monsieurs.....

At first the big clean terminal is refreshing, wide corridors and artistic modern bathrooms greet you, the walk toward the first information post is lengthy but well marked- head to 2D it says- there you can hop to Berlin.

A train takes you somewhere else, I follow signs (in France the down pointing arrow means 'straight ahead' ) toward a D - a 2- a 2D and hope I haven't just walked a half hour in the wrong direction- then I see the throng. There is a mass of humanity amidst the orange tape markers all trying to get somewhere beyond a passpoprt check point.  Sweet mother of God I'm only trying to get out of the country!

I squeeze in behind a mob in front of the distant 2D sign and edge my way forward, French, Spanish, German, Italian and African  voices are raised in questioning frustration, am I in the right queue? They all seem to ask-

A totally fit, competent looking man with a name tag on his rollie luggage identifying him as Bombadier Aerospace Melvin Woolman wearing all black and able to see above the crowd turns toward me long enough for me to ask if he too needs 2D - he answers in flawless French que Oui,  and proceeds to duck under the orange tape placing himself in the correct queue, I follow suit not minding at all if the grumpy crowd thinks I'm with him (ooh there's that male female thing again) as they might scold me but not him.  He wends his way throguh the line,, and I follow as tightly as I can.  Bombadier Buddy.  Ok. 

Making it through the blase boarder control I have to wallk another mile, at least, to the terminal that I immediately recognize as the one I've been to half a dozen times in the last couple of years.  Ok, coffee, pastry and a few minutes with Marion McPartland "Twighlight World" on the iPod before braving another security line.  The sound of male voices speaking French surround me, warm, husky, scoffing, intense, and I wonder about the space in my life for men. 

Like the odd harmoniously spaced notes of the jazz piano, my days float by in a melody that races and slows, hesitates and jumps to unexpected places with the sexy earthy beat of my heart following along reaching for the steadiness that love brings.

"Stanger in a Dream" -

I would I could understand how and why and what my needs are, and so go about fulfilling them, but they are to me a mystery.   And so I journey and think and write.

Friday, March 28, 2008


Florida can be gorgeous- sailboats docked in the sunset, pelicans, brazilian tunes, open air restaurants, little clothing necessary.

Spent the afternoon, after horrid chores and assignments, at the beach soaking up the last rays of the day.  The salty gulf calm and cool, clear - dolphins played off shore as birds swooped by - there must be a dozen different types of gulls here.

Big fat white families, skinny naked German kids, dark wrinkled Italians playing bocce on the sand, curvy teen girls and firm teen boys pose and point akwardly for each other on the fine white sand.

There is plenty to hate here too; unscrupulous alligator vendors that prey on the elderly, strip malls, mold, toothless dangerous backwoods types in their dusty pick up trucks and the leagues of under paid Mexicans polluting the air with the noise and fumes of the backpack blowers,  wild cats spotted and proud find themselves rotting in the sun after an ignomious death at the fender of a caddy.

Yet some strange confluence of energy occurs here.  Estuaries reconverge in wild color swamps with mangrove pillars and rosy color vaulted sunset skies.  Aged yuppies host second and third generation progeny at tennis and golf clubs, sail the gulf and give a taste of what life can be after corporate slavery or self employed drugery.   The sunsets over the gulf indulge themselves entirely in pinks too outrageous even for the English, purple too deep for prose, golden glows like Hollywood wished it could create.

It is tropical, and American and it has, after a decade of two week stints done twice a year, become strangely like home.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Japanese Toilet, note: control panel

This is the coolest. I have seen toilets all over the world, but this one my travelers is the best. Lift the lid and a subdued light glows from the back allowing you to guide yourself properly in the night. Flip the switch and the seat is warmed; it is best to do this in anticipation of that late night visit. One button cleans the bum, the other button cleans the entire underside, a dial allows this cleaning to be performed at different levels of water pressure intensity. The red button is "stop." Yes. I spent some time with this toilet. Fabulous.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

PRC - Still a closed place: careful travelers!

Fucking communists! I can't believe I was completely unable to access any blog or reach my own via Shanghai internet, p;rivate, public or otherwise.

Just a note, it may be full of big slick buildings, they may be making a lot of money, but this is still your grandfather's China, baby.

Pictures, impressions, thinking and loving to come!

"Beautiful people fish"
The Mermaid ~~

Saturday, February 23, 2008


A playful dragon rolls over in the sea and so Formosa is born. A big fertile, steamy island and then the Manchurians come, with their rescued treasures of jade and ink, bronze and pottery; their ideas of freedom, their gods and their ancestors.

I arrive midweek on the last day of the Chinese New Year, the full moon, a lunar eclipse no less, the beginning of the year of the rat.

After meetings and negotiations, introductions and and presentations, we make our way back into the street for our dinner with the office staff, so excited, eager to entertain the forgien guest, the parent company management.

Right outside the building a crowd lights incense, chants a cheer for the new year while a middle aged man holds a dragon costume loosly in his hands. Firecrackers go off and suddenly the dragon comes alive, the chubby man below ducking and twirling, possessed by the spirit of prosperity and good fortune.

We stop for a moment before our taxis come, watching the festivities, grown women wear rat ears and smile at me, as the dragon approaches I walk closer, smiling, excited I touch him, as the others have done, for good luck. They laugh and nod and welcome my participation, the taxis come and we are off to the center of Taipei.

101 is one of the tallest buildings in the world. We gorge ourselves on course after course of Thai cuisine, soups, salads, rices, meats, curries, more flavors than a tongue can keep track of. An Irishman (who is married to a Hong Kong born woman) tells me "you have to just stop eating and push back or they keep brining food.". I taste only a bit of each dish, still, I am so full and my mouth is so full of wonderous flavors that when the whole catfish is brought out I am convinced he is laughing at me. The final course will go uneaten..... But no! There is dessert, custards and sherberts and fruit, sweet, glorious, exotic fruit.

Sated, stretched, filled with smiles and laughter we make our way to the fastest elevator on earth. Hundreds of meters per second we rise up on the smooth aero dynamic lift, gaze at the constellation of stars designed into the ceiling and in just moments find ourselves in a hall, darkened inthe evening marked with maps that explain the amazingly lit city below.

Buildings compete in shape and color to be recognized from far above. It is a carnival of lights, a field of neon that stretches for miles, it is a teeming, blinking, shining game board of life on the eve of the festival of lanterns. If there is a light to shine tonight she is lit.

Such luck I have already, such fortune, such blessings are mine to be here on this day, to witness this evening, to see the tiny lanterns buoyed by warm flames, lift into the night, carrying happy prayers.

The moon shines above, the highest happiest of lights on this night- my world has shifted, I am physically high, spiritually open and learning thinking this other way, I am lit from without I am lit from with in, I am turned around and upside down, on the other side of the earth, I am so delighted, so awed, after so many miles, after so many cities after so many moons, after so many years to be as a child again, to be as new as the year waiting in the open anticipation of life.