I am retired from my first profession, am from Oakland, California, living in Paris, France. I love books and movies and watching everyday life in Paris out my window. Please enjoy my musings as I grow into the author others say I am.
In 2002, the Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoe, who was well-known for launching ambitious municipal events, decided that everyone has the right to go to the beach in the summer. Not everyone can afford to go to the Cote d’Azur or Brittany or the West of France. So beaches were brought to Paris. For four weeks, sand lay on the quai of the right bank of the Seine from Hotel de Ville to Pont Neuf. It was so popular that it was brought back the next year. By 2007, 4 million visitors were recorded.
This year, Paris Plages is lasting from July 7 (the first day of school vacation) until Sept 2. I walked down there today from Hotel de Ville. I didn’t see any sand but all the umbrellas were up and lounge chairs were out with people sunning and reading.
One of the reasons that the Paris Plages look different this year may be a political one. The beaches were built free of charge by LafargeHolcim from 2002 to 2017, when the city of Paris discontinued their contract in retaliation for LafargeHolcim’s proposal to build the wall on the Mexico-United States border promised by U.S. President Donald Trump. (Wikipedia)
I don’t think the sunbathers or the children playing with the above games cared one way or the other. School is out for the summer and they can all go to the “beach”.
In another part of Paris, at the “Bassin de la Villette” is another beach. This one has three different pools. Photos will have to wait until I return from Le Gers. From TripSavvy: Stretching from the Rotonde de Ledoux near the Jaurès Metro station to the former Magasins Généraux on Rue de Crimee, this is the beach to choose if you’d like to see a more contemporary side of Paris, and are interested in getting in the water. For water sports enthusiasts, the beach of choice will be at La Villette, where the Canal de l’Ourq affords participants a choice between a variety of relaxed water sports. Kayaks, pedal boats, sailboats, canoes, and more are open to the public at no charge until 9:00 p.m. with instructors on the scene to help ensure a safe experience. You’ll be able to glide along over 53,000 square feet of water, and after boating, a cold drink on one of the beach’s waterside cafes will be in order.
So those who can’t travel, summer at the beach has come to them!!!
My uncle Stan was born in the Bronx the youngest of three children. I never knew him until my family moved to Princeton, NJ in August 1963. He and Enid, his beautiful wife from Newfoundland, had moved from Detroit the year before. My father was a professor at the Woodrow Wilson School and Stan headed up the ROTC program and later Director of the Office of Personnel Services.
Stan and Enid were always StanandEnid. You didn’t refer to one without the other. Their e-mail address was ‘eandstan’. To me, as a teenager, they were royalty. They were Hollywood glamorous. They were Jack and Jackie Kennedy. They were young and fun and, though I didn’t spend much time with them before I left for college, I always knew that there were two “normal” people in my family.
Enid was the person who kept in touch. Whenever I was in Princeton, she would invite me to dinner. She loved to cook and would experiment trying her new recipes on me. Though I didn’t reciprocate much, she always was interested in what I was doing. There was never a doubt in my mind that she liked/loved me. In 2012, a year after she had died, Stan and his three nieces (Joan, Robie, Sara) with one husband (married to Joan) went to St. Johns, Newfoundland to pay homage to Enid and the Goodyear family.
As I grew older, I realised how much Stan loved sports. His true love was the Princeton men’s basketball team. He founded the organisation Friends of Princeton Basketball and served as it’s secretary for many years. I always thought of him as a Yankees fan mostly because he grew up in NY and I knew he wasn’t a Dodgers fan. He told me a story of being stationed in Detroit when he was in the Army Air Force and going to Tigers games whenever the Yankees were in town. Stan was a talker and very social so within a short time, they were waving him in and he would always go to “his” seat next to the Visitor’s Dugout. He got to know a number of the players esp. Hank Bauer. When he learned that he was being moved somewhere else, he went to the next Tigers/Yankees game to say goodbye. Hank Bauer came back 30 minutes later and said “Can you stick around? The team would like to take you out to dinner.” The first time he told me this story, his eyes got wide and he said “and there I was having dinner with Mickey Mantle, Phil Rizzuto, Yogi Berra…..”
Later into his Princeton years, the Athletic Department was having a search for a new director. Stan got ahold of the list of candidates and saw they were all white men. This was the end of the 1970s. Stan told the search committee “you can’t do that, you have to include people of color.” So they challenged him to find some good candidates. Stan decided to call Bill White, ex-Pirate ballplayer, announcer for the Yankees broadcasts along with Phil Rizzuto. He called the station and left a message saying who he was and why he was calling. To his surprise, Bill called back that evening. Not only did he help Stan find good candidates but they became fast friends. Bill and his wife would come to Princeton and dine with Stan and Enid. Bill also loved to cook and often went home with recipes. One evening during a rain delay, Bill turned to the Scooter and said he had a great recipe Phil should try. He proceeded to give him one of Enid’s recipes. Back in Princeton, Stan and Enid, listening to the broadcast were grinning from ear to ear.
They lost track of each other in the 90s and early 2000s until I thought I would try and use my love of baseball muscle and find Bill. I managed it and we all got together and slowly over the last 16 years they have gotten close again. In the last seven months, Bill has made the drive over from Bucks County, Pa at least once a week to sit with Stan and chat. As have many Princeton basketball players. As have a number of retired staff who worked with Stan and loved him. Stan was well loved and well respected.
Readers of this blog know that Stan fell and broke his hip November 17, 2017. I had already scheduled to spend Thanksgiving with him so I arrived two days later to find a very disoriented Stan still in Princeton Hospital. I’ve been told that once an older person falls, it is the beginning of the end. He was 93 and 1/2 years old. The surgeons only put two posts in his hip to keep the bones together. He was too fragile for major surgery.
For seven months, Stan has been varying degrees of miserable. He has been 100% dependent on others to get out of bed, to go to the bathroom and to be seated in his wheel chair. He did do Physical Therapy and was building up strength in his upper body. Every time I would visit, I’d ask “how are you, Stan?” and he was honest. “I feel awful and this is just awful.” According to two of his aides, he decided to stop eating and drinking and take matters into his own hands. My cousin Joan was there over the weekend and says he was somewhat delirious, often mistaking her for her father, his brother Bernie. She said it made her feel good that Stan thought his older brother was there in the end.
He passed at 6am on Monday morning.
I feel relieved. I hurt for him being so miserable. I felt powerless to change anything. I could only be there as often as was possible. I saw him towards the end of May and we both said “I love you.”
One thing you should know about Stan–he never got grey hair. Never!
From TigerBlog: the Official Blog of Princeton Athletics: “Stan, who was a month away from his 95th birthday, was a grandfatherly man to everyone at Princeton basketball. He certainly was to TigerBlog, who knew Stan for 30 or so years. TigerBlog is trying to think of anyone he’s ever met who loved Princeton basketball more than Stan, and if there’s anyone, it’s a very short list. Stan was a Jadwin Gym fixture for decades. He loved the players and the coaches and the game nights. He was a soft-spoken man, one who smiled all the time, hugged often, was polite to everyone and couldn’t get enough of watching the Tigers. They were very different people, Stan and Ock, with very different personalities. They were united by their love of basketball, and they have left lasting memories on a lot of people. Included in that group is TigerBlog, who liked them both very much. Jadwin Gym won’t be quite the same without Stan.”
Joan Baez. Just saying her name conjures up civil rights, protest marches, Bob Dylan, folk songs, social justice, Vietnam and on and on. Joan Baez is a National Treasure. I should say International Treasure. The Parisians adore her.
I was waiting for the metro one day last October and saw a huge poster advertising 10 days of Joan Baez concerts in June 2018. The poster said it was her Fare Well Tour. I called my friend Barbara to see if she wanted to go with me. Yes, indeed, she did. So I bought tickets, made her put them in a safe place (I was afraid I’d forget where my safe place was) and last Sunday, we went to the Olympia in the 9th arrondissement to see and hear her.
I was fifteen years old when I went to my first Joan Baez concert. My family had just returned from a year living in Geneva, Switzerland. Some new friends took me to an outdoor stadium in the suburbs of Philadelphia. She mostly sang folk songs then and played only an acoustic guitar. I had two of her records and knew every song. Halfway through the concert, she introduced us to a friend of hers she thought we all should know: Bob Dylan. That was the summer of 1963.
I bought a guitar and tried to learn without taking lessons. I grew my hair long so I’d look like a real folk singer. I had a good voice so my parents let me play a song at family gatherings even if I only knew three chords on the guitar.
Over the years, she came in and out of my life. When the album Diamonds and Rust came out, a relationship had just ended. I played that album over and over and over. I still can’t hear Diamonds and Rust without picturing myself in that small apartment in Berkeley, Calif crying my heart out for a boy I deeply loved.
She got herself arrested at an anti Vietnam march and met David Harris, Peace Activist, who she married and had her son, Gabriel, with. “I went to jail for 11 days for disturbing the peace; I was trying to disturb the war.” Joan Baez, 1967 (Pop Chronicles interview.) Her passion inspired so many of us. I probably went to two more concerts over the five years following.
Last Spring, I went on YouTube and watched a concert she had given herself for her 75th birthday (She is 77 years old now). So she was in the foreground of my mind when I saw that poster. I kept telling people that Joan Baez was my first ever concert and now here it was 55 years later and she could well be my last concert. It is amazing to think that for 60 years, Joan Baez has been a beacon of social justice in the world and she has done it a lot through music. I don’t think she has ever slowed down.
The Olympia is a lovely venue in the 9th. It reminded me of the Paramount Theatre in Oakland, Ca but not as pretty. There is probably not a bad seat in the whole place. I had gotten seats in the 2nd section of the Orchestra and we had tons of leg room. After opening with Dylan’s Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright, she played three or four songs I didn’t recognise. Then she sang “It’s all over now, Baby Blue.” Out of nowhere I got tears in my eyes and I couldn’t stop them for the rest of the concert. Every song from then on was an “oldie but goodie”. Some her’s, some Dylan’s, one Woody Guthrie and one Pete Seeger. I couldn’t tell you what I was crying about. Maybe the rush of memories when I had such a passion for social justice (I still do but can’t often show up and do the footwork), for marching in protest of Vietnam and segregation. And maybe a few tears because we had so much hope and nothing has changed, possibly it’s worse.
She sang two songs solo then brought out the rest of her “band”. Her son, Gabriel, a percussionist, and Dirk Powell playing so many different instruments, I stopped counting. Grace Stumberg, who has a strong country-like voice joined her for three songs and at the end for the encores.
Did I mention how much the Parisians love her!! I could see why. She spoke French as much as she could. With each song, she told the audience, in French, what it was about. They clapped at everything and, in the end, gave her a standing ovation making her come back out four times. All ten shows sold out and five more were added in February 2019 (this FareWell Tour could well last a very long time. No one wants to see her go). I tried to buy tickets when I got home and all five dates were sold out. I don’t think there is another city that had nearly this many performances.
I bought a good poster inside the Olympia then a cheapie outside on the street. They are now hanging on the inside of the bathroom door.
And for those of you who didn’t get to hear her but would love to, the Olympia has made it available to everyone. Enjoy and cry your own tears!!!
Is there anyone who hasn’t heard of the town of Giverny, 45 minutes west of Paris by train? Claude Monet, the only Impressionist painter who actually got rich in his lifetime, lived and painted in Giverny for most of his adult life, 1883 until his death in 1926. The gardens that he created are the most visited gardens in the world. It is estimated that 28,500 tourists visit his home and the famous water-lily pond every week during the seven month season that the gardens are open to the public.
I am lucky enough to be here for a week with the artist, photographer,writer and teacher Elizabeth Murray. Lizzie lives in the Bay Area. During the 1980’s, she visited the gardens, fell in love with them and furiously advocated to become a volunteer gardener. She was not only successful at that, by the time she left, she had nine gardeners working under her. After 30 years, she feels that she can now lead creative workshops here and give the gardens and the surrounding area the respect that this amazing place commands. She is able to talk and teach and transfer the love of every living thing here to her students.
What is extraordinary is that she has maintained her relationship with the Gardeners and the mutual respect allows us, her students, to enter the gardens at 7am each morning and stay until the Gardens open to the public. We then leave, go back to La Reserve, where we are staying, and have classes, work on art or writing or go for a visit to a nearby town. At 6pm, we again have access to the gardens and can stay until 8pm. This, of course, means that the thirteen people that make up our group are alone in the gardens with only the gardeners. This is more than a private time, it is a sacred time. The birds chirp happily away once all the tourists are gone but other than that, it is the quiet of nature. You can hear the flowers welcoming the morning or saying good night to each other. Many of them fold their petals back into themselves as they ready for a night’s sleep.
I am not a watercolorist or oil or pastel painter. When I was young, I thought it would be so romantic to live in a Paris garret and paint. I would have starved quickly as I don’t have the requisite skills! But I did want to capture beauty that moved me and I turned to photography. It was always a hobby. I loved it and, today, am loving the ease and quality of the iPhone camera. All these photos were taken with my iPhone 8.
Because we were present in the gardens in the early morning and again at the end of the day, we were able to appreciate the change of light, the very thing that Monet sought to understand and to paint.
I had originally thought that I would use the inspiration of sitting in the gardens and drinking in the beauty to write. Lizzie told us that to paint would force us to really look, to really see what was in front of us. We had to bring the commitment to be present. And though, I didn’t do anything extraordinary, I sat. I looked. The time would fly by. Over the five days and ten times that we were in the gardens, my hand got better at expressing what my eyes saw.
Not many people, even those that live here in France get the opportunity to live for one week in Giverny. And much less to visit the gardens twice a day when there are no tourists present. It is an experience that I will savour for a lifetime. The lessons are only just beginning to be apparent.
I can’t close without mentioning where home was for the week. La Reserve is a beautiful large country home of five bedrooms situated in the hills above the little town of Giverny. There is also a Gite, a cottage with three more bedrooms, a living room and kitchen. Valerie and Francois Jouyet, the owners and our hosts, are some of the loveliest people I have met in France. Valerie is the cook and,oh boy, can she cook! Francois was ever present with a huge smile. There were also Flaubert, the giant dog, 2 cats-one 23 years old and one 2 years old, five rescue donkeys and a rescue pig!
Once upon a time, if one had a reservation on the Eurostar to go to Paris or to London, you just had to show up a maximum of thirty (30) minutes before departure and all would be well. Three hours later you would debark in either London or Paris patting yourself on the back for saving all that time by not taking the plane.
Not anymore. Not in this era of Terrorism. The French and British may not have school shootings every week but both have suffered horrendous attacks authored by ISIS or those wanting to be connected to ISIS.
So the other day when I took the Eurostar to London, I knew to get to Gare du Nord an hour early. I immediately stood in a long line of travellers. First, we electronically checked in. Then we passed through French Border control. I handed the officer my passport. He looked at my name and photo. He went back and forth with a very serious look on his face. What was he looking for? I wanted to offer that I had a French residency card. I kept silent. It seemed the prudent thing to do. After what seemed like two or three minutes, he stamped my passport and I joined the snaking line of travellers moving slowly towards the UK Border Control. Everyone seemed calm. Some people chatted up the person in front of or in back of them. I heard some laughter but most people were like me, just wanting to get to the departures gate without bringing any attention to themselves.
Ten minutes later, having passed through Border Control without a problem, “How long are you staying?” and “Where will you go when you leave the UK?”, we had finally made it to Bag Security check. I didn’t have to take my shoes off. My titanium hip did set off the alarm bells. So I got the usual pat down.
I made it to Departures with five minutes to sit if I chose to before the snaking line formed again to descend to Quai 5 and board the train. People politely stepped on board, stored their suitcase and found their seats. Never did I hear the heavy sighs of impatience that one often hears in the US, the pacing up and down of people feeling entitled to be different. You can see the wheels in their minds churning in resentment of being made to move like cattle through all the check points. But, if something horrible should happen, they’d be the first people on the horn, complaining that the government should be doing something about those terrorists.
I’ve grown to be quite grateful for all that these officers do to try and protect their citizens, ex-Pats and many visitors. It’s not convenient that’s true but I’ll take inconvenience any day over the alternative.
So if you are coming to France, the UK, and now Brussels and Amsterdam and plan on taking the Eurostar, be forewarned. Arrive at least an hour ahead of departure and you will not feel stressed!!
A couple of days later: I have arrived at St. Pancras an hour and a half early to return to Paris. Trying to get information is not fun. The Brits working here are not nearly as polite as the French. But, as in Paris, there is a long snaking line of quiet people who, for the most part, are not stressed.
It only took me thirty minutes to get through to the departures room and so had plenty of time to eat my dinner before we left for Paris.
Jussi Adler-Olsen, author of The Washington Decree–a stand alone book, has written seven books in the Department Q series ‘starring’ lead detective Carl Morck (in Danish, that o has a line through it!). I reviewed one of them last Fall. They are definitely Danish Noir, gripping and full of social commentary. Often they are laugh out-loud funny which makes them real page turners in spite of the sometimes shocking murders. If you haven’t read them, I highly encourage you to read them in order but read them!!
The Washington Decree is Adler-Olsen’s latest social commentary and he takes on the United States and it’s government. In fact, it is an American horror story. Although the way things are going in the US, it sometimes felt too close for comfort.
In the Epilogue, he explains some of his motives for writing the book. FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) was created during the Nixon administration primarily to deal with the effects of a nuclear war but also meant to be useful in the event of any natural catastrophe. When I lost my home in the Oakland Firestorm of 1991, FEMA was the government agency that came in and created different organisations to help us survivors out. Included were three months of support groups for those that wished to attend. At three months, we were told the money had run out and we were on our own.
According to Adler-Olsen, FEMA has a huge amount of funds, enough to build underground facilities, internment camps, train personnel to take over duties of elected officials and, it seems, an entire non-elected governing system could be established with a shadow cabinet and a shadow president.
The Washing Decree is Adler-Olsen’s attempt to describe the quick journey from Democracy to Autocrocy should such an event happen. In this book, the event was the murder of the incoming President’s wife. If it weren’t for the fact that he describes in detail all that FEMA can do and the Executive Orders at FEMA’s disposal, this book would seem fantastical, thrilling and a wonderful read but fantastical.
The book opens with a trip to China that brings five very different people together and then-Senator Bruce Jansen. After the murder of Jansen’s wife, the book jumps sixteen years and Jansen is the Democratic contender for President. All five of the people on the China trip have stayed close and stayed loyal to Jansen. One of them, Doggie Rogers, arranges for Jansen’s victory party to be celebrated at her father’s upscale hotel. Jansen is re-married to a beautiful and very pregnant wife who has charmed the American public. During the party, Jansen’s second wife is murdered. Doggie’s father is arrested and awaits sentencing. Shortly thereafter, President Jansen goes on TV and issues a Law and Order Decree that becomes known as the Washington Decree. It takes away civilian rights and installs a police state. From there, life in America descends into chaos. The vice-president resigns in protest and the chief-of-staff becomes VP. Militia groups start hoarding guns and ammunition. People in Jansen’s cabinet are being murdered. With each new event, another executive order is declared. America shuts down, no one knows who is friend and who is foe.
This is a thriller with a very bad guy. There is also a love story. One at a time, the five friends from China start getting suspicious and wonder if Doggie’s father is really guilty and if not him, who? It is a huge jig-saw puzzle to put together and each one of them starts fearing for his or her life.
I found the book slow going in the beginning. But this is Jussi Adler-Olsen! I was very willing to hang in there. And after the scenes were set, the pace picked up and things moved rapidly as I turned the pages. And always in the back of mind was the question “Could this really happen with a bad guy in charge?” It is all the more upsetting now that we have an unstable man in charge of the country.
I have looked up several websites to learn when Adler-Olsen began writing this book or if there was a particular purpose or statement he wanted to make. I couldn’t find anything. Having read all his Department Q series and one other stand alone, it is no stretch of the imagination to write that Adler-Olsen has a lot to say about the state of affairs in the world today. I find him an acute observer, an elegant writer and possessed of an amazing ability to make up stories that go right to the heart of what is happening in the world today. I am already looking forward to his next book.
It started about three weeks ago when I was locked out of my e-mail account. I changed my password and twenty-four hours later, I was locked out again. This happened six times in eight days. I was so frustrated and felt so helpless that I decided to wait until I came to California, where I am now, to call the service company and find out what was going on. Then I got locked out of WordPress which is the platform I write this blog on. I couldn’t use my Vonage app to make calls to the United States. I suppose my antennae should have gone up but it didn’t. I was too busy being frustrated and feeling very isolated. It seemed that all my means of connectivity around the world had been cut off.
Yesterday morning, my first morning in California, I awoke to a text from my bank saying they were putting a hold on a credit card until I confirmed an expenditure. It turned out two credit cards had been hacked. Banks fortunately give you back your money. The sense of violation and fear that anything can happen, the bank couldn’t take care of. Today I tackled the e-mail account. What I learned was that my account was hacked and with the e-mail, the hackers had everything forwarded to another e-mail address. They must have gotten a lot of information as my PayPal account was breached, my Amazon account was breached and a couple of others. When they saw no money was involved, they just moved on.
May 21, 2018–I wrote that not knowing how bad the hacking had gotten. It involved many accounts. Fortunately all money was returned to me and my identity wasn’t stolen. But every call took 90 minutes as I was taken through hoops etc to secure my accounts. Microsoft was, without a doubt, the absolute worst company to deal with. Three times I had to call after I was told my account was secure but it wasn’t. They don’t even have a FRAUD department! MICROSOFT!! I couldn’t believe it. I am so glad I have had Macs all my life.
Anyway, it’s hopefully in the past. It’s five weeks later and I am on my way back home to Paris. They had gotten into this account also. Why? Sure beats me! But I can start up my blogs again. So dear reader, I look forward to greeting you from sunny and warm Paris.