Further adventures in Paris

Posted on: March 23rd, 2012 by gretchen 4 Comments

It's been cold here, obviously.


Ann and I are living in Paris.  Have you ever been here?  It has a crazy layout.  It was not designed as a grid.  The streets all radiate out in angles and they change their name a lot.  Also, Blvd Saint-Michel is not the same street as Place du Saint-Michel nor Quai Saint-Michel, although they are all pretty much in the same location.  I tend to not pay attention enough.  I tried to figure out how to write that sentence another way that is more flattering to myself, but I can’t.  I just don’t pay enough attention to where I’m going and I get lost and confused and frustrated.  There is no 14th street followed by 15th street.  But there is Blvd Poissonniere which intersects with Rue du Faubourg Poissonniere, so don’t try to just remember the salient “Poissonniere” part because they are two very different streets.  So I am getting to learn about frustration and slowing down and paying attention and letting go.  Again.  And again.


After Stockholm I realized that I just needed to slow the hell down when I’m out walking.  What’s my hurry?  I’m already in Paris.  So, that has been a revelation.


Giant mushroom at the Pompidou.


Also, becoming a member of the Pompidou has been a revelation.  Again.  We were members when we were here eight years ago and loved it.  It’s so great to just be able to walk over to a totally interesting modern art museum and stay for as little time as I want because I’m a member and I don’t need to take it all in in one day.


Handmade books at the Pompidou.


The stuff at the Pompidou always gives me great ideas.  For example, eight years ago I saw these little artist’s books on display there.  They were by Kandinsky or Debussy or someone unexpected like that.  It inspired me to make a little book of my own as a project to occupy my time while in Paris.  I made up a bunch of copies and handed them out to my friends once I returned to the US that summer.  My pal Melissa York called me up after receiving hers and said that she had a vision that I should read from this book between singing my songs solo whilst wearing a black leotard and a white men’s button up.  And thus my solo show concept was born.  Inspired by a trip to the Pompidou.


Revolution, expensive cashmere style NOW!!!!


I am also very inspired, and I don’t know why, by the many prostitutes of Rue Saint Denis.  I googled that street and discovered that it has been a street of commerce and prostitution since at least the middle-ages.  Whoah. Whoah. Whoah.  Those women are out there all afternoon, standing in doorways and people are just bustling past them on the very narrow sidewalks, going about their garment district business.  There are mostly wholesale clothing stores on that street that display outrageously gorgeous garish clothing that Ann and I want to buy so badly but it’s not for sale to us.  But if these clothes are indicating what’s going to be in stores for spring this year, let me just say that I’m quite excited.  It’s one great disco outfit after another.  And I love how gaudy French fashion can be.  For example, I’m looking for a crockpot to cook in.  The water here is very hard and it takes forever for beans to cook.  And I found a tempting, bejeweled one.


Slow cooking in style


The people of Paris love to make out in public.  Doesn’t matter how old or young they are, they’re just  hot for each other.  Paris Is For Lovers and don’t you forget it.  They won’t let you forget it.  They will remind you every time you get on the subway, or wait in line for a movie or simply walk down the street.  Why is this?  Why are they so horny?  Is it because everywhere you go there are naked mannequins in the windows of stores?  I know this is a reach, but for real, check out a few of the photos I’ve snapped.  What is the purpose of naked mannequins in a clothing store window?  What are they selling?


Example 1


Example 2


Example 3


Example 4


Example 5


We have also been going out to hear bands: Wild Flag, St Vincent, Christine and the Queens and My Brightest Diamond.  I really enjoy Paris audiences.  Why?  They don’t talk thru the shows, for the most part.  They listen.  They sing along during the sing alongs.  They actually pay attention.  It’s a treat to be among them since I, too, enjoy being respectful of the artist during shows.  We need to be going to more French acts, too, not just the American ones.  There are also lots of International acts that come thru Paris and this is a great opportunity to see Kardes Turkuler, for example, who might not make their way to Austin.


Brave souls on the frozen fountain.


In general my enjoyment of life has improved since it warmed up a bit and I had my boots stretched by a professional.  They were too tight.  I have also been doing yoga on my own for the first time in my life.  Yoga in English is quite expensive here and my friend, Risa, introduced me to the notion of the yoga podcast which led me to downloading pose guides which has led me to just doing yoga on my own in my office.  Wow.  Maybe that’s why I’m here in Europe for five months.  To finally learn how to do yoga on my own.  I’ve been to enough classes.  Surely I can lead myself thru some stretching and release.  It’s been great.


What else is great here?  The cheese, the mechanical watches, the Roger Corman retrospective at le  Cinematheque Francaise, the flea markets, my neighborhood, dog shit aside, the number of dogs there are everywhere who are very well behaved and quite charming, cute Parisian kids with their adorable outfits and accents, ultra-compact paper towels made out of recycled paper, cobblestoned streets and history everywhere.  It can be overwhelming to me sometimes.  But now that I’m slowing down it’s making a big difference as far as taking it all in.


After the flea market.


I also love that there’s a karaoke style of busking here.  Someone just steps onto the metro with a portable karaoke machine on a cart and they burst into sincere song.  Usually it’s an evergreen like Besame Mucho or something mellow like that.  But I really wish that I had the guts to pursue my lounge side while in Paris and get myself one of these set ups and entertain the commuters with lounge versions of punk classics.  I think that would be so fun.


I Did It My Way


Did you enjoy the way I did it my way?


I’m excited to say that I have a couple of shows coming up here.  This great record store called Gals Rock puts on shows and they’ve been kind enough to work with me.  I have an in-store there on April 21 and then I get to do a big show with a band starring my beloved Aimee Norwich on June 1.  That will be at some venue that’s not the record store.  More information as it comes in.



Sights on the metro.


I’ve been doing a lot of drawing.  I bought The Dumpy Pocket Book of Nature because it was only 3 euros and who can resist that title?  It’s filled with little pen and ink drawings of animals and insects and plants and even the night sky.  I take my hot new Waterman fountain pen and badly recreate the drawings in this book and it gives me endless amounts of pleasure.  I miss woodworking, but it behooves me to work on my drawing skills.  So drawing is my new craft focus. Oh, and I bought this ‘60s French design magazine for 1 euro and am now making collages with my new little drawings of animals.  I’m thinking of making a set of cards out of them, or some such thing.


Busying myself with collage


I’ve also bought a couple of Scandinavian carving knives and I stole a piece of pine from a construction site and have been working on my carving, finger cutting and hand piercing skills.  Scary.  But addictive.





4 Responses

  1. Paige Schilt says:

    More, more! I would read about your adventures in Paris everyday.

  2. Jane Brooks says:

    Bonjour Gretchen,
    I’m really enjoying your writing and photos and collages. I’d love to see your carvings too. It’s inspiring to hear your thoughts and observations. Thanks for sharing. Love, Jane

  3. laurakellner says:

    hey i like that collage

  4. Cristi Delgado says:

    What a brilliant observation about the mannequins! More blog please, I totally enjoyed it, revving me up for my visit to Paris

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