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.