Going on a Trip

I am leaving Paris for two weeks.  I’m going to California where I lived for most of my adult life.  It is a beautiful day today.  The sky is blue, the Seine is peaceful, sparkling and the Bateaux Mouches have begun their daily trips up and down the river showing tourists the sights along the banks.

 

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I have been grumbling about the weather most of the Fall.  It seemed that we went from summer to winter without passing Autumn.  In fact, we have had a couple of beautiful Indian Summer days and this seems to be turning into one of them.  I’ve turned the heat off in the apartment and I’m looking forward to a walk.  My iPhone says that the next week will be sunny and much much warmer than it has been.

 

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However, I’m leaving for Charles de Gaulle airport before the sun comes up tomorrow morning.  And like most of my “last days before the trip” Paris seems lovelier.  I seem to see it all much more clearly.  I look around my apartment as if I will never see it again.  I held Bijou, the cat, so close trying to make a physical memory of her furriness, her sweetness, the way she will suddenly look up at me with loving eyes that completely melt my heart.  I don’t feel this way about going anywhere else in Europe.  But California and another life seems worlds away from Paris and this life.

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Last January, when I took my trip to California, terrorists had just bombed the Brussels airport.  We had heard, though it hadn’t been confirmed, that the Brussels airport was second choice to Paris.  I had no idea what to expect.  I felt very matter of fact about it.  I called my lawyer and asked if I wrote out a makeshift will in pencil about all my belongings in Paris, would it be considered legal.  He said yes then added to please not worry, nothing was going to happen to me.  He couldn’t possibly know. The truth is, a place where terrorists have just hit is probably one of the safest places in the world.

I’m not worrying about terrorists.  I look forward to these long flights to California (but not to the jet lag). Once I get to the airport, get my bags checked, get through border control, I’m in No Man’s Land.  Soon my phone won’t ring at all, I won’t be able to receive any texts.  No one can bother me or demand anything of me.  I can watch five movies in a row and not feel guilty or lazy. I can daydream or read a book or write.

But that’s tomorrow.  Today, I’m walking around looking at everything as if it’s the first time and the last time.  I don’t feel anxious.  I don’t have a word for it.  It’s a feeling I’m sure everyone gets at some time or another.  Of wanting to imprint something in my memory that is stronger than just a memory.  I want to be able to touch it, feel it, take it with me.  When I’m sitting in my living room in Oakland, I don’t want Paris to feel so incredibly far away.  The memory I always default to is sitting in my armchair that I have facing the window.  The window that looks out on Quai des Grands Augustins, the Pont Neuf and the river Seine.  It’s an amazing view of one of the most beautiful parts of Paris that I look at every day.

 

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A bientôt,

Sara

I, Daniel Blake

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If you have ever walked by a homeless person and thought “There but for the Grace of God, go I”, go see I, Daniel Blake.

If you have ever listened to some of our well known politicians talk with utter contempt about the people using state systems to nefarious ends, go see I, Daniel Blake.

If you have ever felt complete powerlessness and building rage listening to Donald Trump talking about ‘those thieves and ingrates’ taking food out of his mouth, go see I, Daniel Blake.

Go see I, Daniel Blake

When I lived in the Bay Area, at Christmas time, I would get about thirty dollars in one dollar bills and give them out to homeless people until I ran out.  I stopped doing it here in Paris.  I was warned that many kids, big and small, were run by Russians and Slave gangs and it was all a con.  Many of the homeless are very aggressive and can be scary.  Many seem to have their “spots” where they sit every day.  These spots are won by the strongest and the fittest.  There is a man with a german shepherd who sits in front of the Monoprix every day unless it is pouring rain.  I rationalized my lack of compassion by saying that I saw an SDF (Sans Domicile Fixe) pull out an expensive iPhone.  I didn’t stop to ask myself if I, even with my iPhone, would ever sit on the sidewalk all day, summer and winter, hoping that some kind soul would put money in my paper cup.

 

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There is a moment in the film when Dave Johns, who plays Daniel Blake, says “all I want is my self-respect”

Ken Loach, the director, is 80 years old.  I, Daniel Blake won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival this past summer.  It was his second Palme d’Or.  It is a film that will touch your soul.  Daniel Blake is a 59 year old carpenter who cannot work as he is healing from a heart attack.  He is fighting to keep his benefits.  He is treated like a dog by state agencies and the  people who work for them.  He is uneducated and never had the need to learn to use a computer.  He is told over and over that he can find the information he needs on the Internet.  He befriends a young woman (Haley Squires) whom he tries to help in one of these state agencies.  The friendship of two souls trying to work within the system, starving and slowly being humiliated is touching and real.  Everyone in the movie could be someone we know.  There is no flash, no extremes.

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This is political filming at its best.  I challenge you to leave the theatre with dry eyes and unaffected.

Go see I, Daniel Blake

https://www.theguardian.com/film/2016/oct/25/i-daniel-blake-ken-loach-uk-box-office-trolls-top-spot2318.jpg

 

Going to the movies

Living in Paris is movie heaven! The Parisians LOVE movies. Shows start as early as 9am and the last show will often be at 10:45/11pm.  A matinée is a morning movie.  I made the mistake of asking for a matinée ticket for a specific movie at a Festival:                                       “Je suis desolé, Madame.  On n’a pas une matinée pour ce film”                                                              I pointed at the time and, quite nicely, he told me:                                                                               “Mais Madame, ce film montrera l’après-midi.  Il n’y a pas une matinée”                                         Lesson learned.

From my building front door, there are at least 50 screens within 10 minutes walking or 5 min by metro.  Some are current first-run movies, some are Indies and quite a few are old classics on the big screen.  Two of the companies, UGC and Mk2, have a Carte Illimitée.  For 21euros a month, I can go to any film at any hour at those two Theatres anywhere in France!!

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There are no dubbed movies.  That would be sacrilege.  A movie that has VF (Version Français) below the title is in French. One that says VO (Version Originale) or VOSTF (Version Originale sous-titres français) is in the original language with French sub-titles.  Children’s movies are dubbed until 5:30pm.  After that, original language with sub-titles.  Maybe they think, if you are old enough to go to the movies after 5:30pm, you are old enough to read.!

If I tell a french friend s/he should see a certain film, I won’t be asked who is starring in it. They want to know who directed it.  Even information on the TV about American shows gives the director of each episode.

This week, I saw Captain Fantastic with Viggo Mortenson–you see how American I am!  Name of movie plus the star!!!  The French would tell you “J’ai vue Captain Fantastic realisé par Matt Ross”  Ross’ name will be above actor credits.   I also saw Brooklyn Village.  The movie had started rolling the credits when I realized the English language name was Little Men.  After the movie was over, I thought it was too bad they changed the name as it had a double meaning for me.  So I asked a French friend if Little Men translated would have a similar meaning.  Les Petits Hommes means short men–far from the meaning for this film.  Un grand homme, however, can mean a tall man OR a very important man.  I now could understand the name change.

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Tomorrow morning, I will hop on M4, go 5 minutes to Les Halles where there are 30 screens and see another film.

 

 

 

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A bientôt,

Sara

The privilege of living in Paris

Periodically, a visitor will ask “Sara, How do you stay here in Paris?”                                           “Do you have to get a Visa?  Is it hard?”

If you want to stay longer than three months, yes you have to get a Visa.  Is it hard?  That depends.  Students can get a student Visa, workers get a worker’s Visa. Then there’s me! I’m retired and I just wanted to come live here.  So among other things, the French want to be very sure I could support myself.  They wanted to know I had my own health insurance and I had to prove I had an address to come to.  No sleeping rough!

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Since I lived in the Bay Area, I made an appointment at my closest French Consulate: San Francisco.  On the website was a long list of things I needed to bring to the appointment with me…..in duplicate.  I was warned to do exactly as it said.  The French like to dot their Is and cross their Ts.

It went very smoothly.  A week later, My Visa arrived in the mail.  Along with a piece of paper telling me to send it in to a Paris address within three months of arriving in Paris. That led me to the Immigration Office (which I described last week) for a physical and tuberculous test.  Passing that, I was good until my year finished.

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However, I realized after being here awhile that I loved living here and I wanted to stay. That meant I had to apply for a Titre de Sejour (a residency card).  At first the process was the same, make an appointment at the Prefecture (police) and bring in the list of things that were required…..in duplicate and translated into French.  By a certified French translator.  Everyone I knew said it was really hard.  I got terribly anxious.  I also got a lot of help.  I found a wonderful translator.  My appointment fell after the Visa had actually terminated.  I had visions of being thrown out of France.  Or not being allowed back in.

 

illus_demarches_459x305.pngMy day of the appointment arrived. It was hard.  The woman who looked at my documents looked at everything very closely over and over.  Then she finally wrote a list of things she wanted me to bring back for another appointment in about seven weeks.  Meanwhile she gave me a temporary card.  When that appointment came, she didn’t look at any of the documents she had asked for.  She told me to come back in two months to get my Titre de Sejour.  It turned out that almost every American I know was asked to return for a second appointment.  Maybe it’s a test of some sort

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Recently I went to the Prefecture to renew my Titre de Sejour.  I came uber prepared but I still expected them to send me back for some reason.  They didn’t!  I was in and out in 45 minutes. And I get to stay in Paris another year!

My understanding is that the card must be renewed two more times if I decide to stay here. Then I can apply for a 10 year Titre de Sejour.

http://ielanguages.com/cds.html

Photos are of actually docs but none are mine.

The American Library in Paris

I had been living in Paris four months before I learned about the American Library here in Paris.  How it slipped through this book lover’s observation is a mystery.  I love libraries.  I love supporting libraries as well as not paying for my own books!

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I had met an American couple while sitting in the immigration office waiting to get my physical that would allow my one year Visa to stay in France to start up.  The three of us were the only Americans in a room packed with people.  It was the first time I realized that I, in fact, was an immigrant.  We were shuttled from room to room just like I’m sure we do in the United States.  We had a long time to talk and get to know each other.  They invited me for tea about two weeks later and told me about ALP.

It is not free to go to ALP.  There is a membership fee.  For me, a single person, it cost 90 euros a year.  It may seem like a lot when one is used to free libraries in the States.  However, this library holds the largest collection of English language books in Europe.  I love mysteries and, so far, I haven’t been disappointed when I wanted to read a mystery that I had recently heard of.  The library also provides space and advertising for book groups.  So I signed up for the Mystery Book group! Of course!

The real treat that the ALP provides for the community is author, film and art events on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings.  Everyone comes to Paris.  Last month, I heard Jane Smiley talk about and read from her trilogy of the 20th Century.  Wednesday evening, just past, I saw the brand new documentary about Dr. Maya Angelou, And Still I Rise.  The reading room was overflowing with people wanting to learn more about her and many of us left with tears.

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Facebook has this post on it’s Maya Angelou Film Page:

“Today is Friday, October 14, 2016, the day that the award-winning #MayaAngelouFilm opens at select AMC Theatres across the country!! Here are the ticket and showtimes links that you’ve been waiting for. Take a friend with you to see this moving documentary. You will be inspired! #BringTissue

NEW YORK: http://bit.ly/mafnycmetro

LOS ANGELES: http://bit.ly/maflametro

SAN FRANCISCO: http://bit.ly/mafsf

Talks like these events would cost $100 or up in the Bay Area where I lived before Paris.  I consider 90 euros a bargain.

The library underwent a huge renovation and was closed from mid- May through the end of August.  It now has great security measures.  The city of Paris no longer allows a slot where one can drop books that are due.  We all got new library cards with electronic keys in them that open the doors into the library and also make taking out and returning books very easy.  Both for the reader and for the staff.

If you live in Paris, stop by the library.  Come to one of the evening events.  Look on line for more information:   americanlibraryinparis.org

If you are visiting, come to  10, rue du Général Camou 75007 Paris

See you at the library!

Diamonds and Rust

A friend posted a copy of Joan Baez singing “Diamonds and Rust” on his Facebook page.  He said he had heard it in the Arrivals Lounge and couldn’t get the song out of his head.  I clicked on the link and was immediately transported to Berkeley, California and my tiny little apartment on Spruce St.  It was 1973.  I was the ultimate Joan Baez groupie–had been since I was fourteen years old.  I tried to learn how to play the guitar because she did.  I didn’t have the discipline or the passion.  I loved her choice of folk songs and equally loved it when she crossed over into rock and roll.  She seemed to be able to do anything.

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When Diamonds and Rust came out, I was heartbroken over a relationship that I had ended but hadn’t really wanted to.  Don’t ask me to explain, I was 26 years old and very crazy.  I would sit in my little living room and listen to the album over and over.  And now as I listened to the song, while looking at the Seine and the Pont Neuf, I had a strange feeling in my stomach.  The past trying to edge it’s way in maybe.  I’m not one to sit around regretting the past, it is what it is.  However there is something about music that grabs me and hauls me backwards in time so fast I could almost believe in a time machine.

This is the same nostalgia that Ms. Baez writes about in the song.  It feel almost like the lip of a deep hole that you could fall into.  The older we get, the more we look backwards. It’s how we look backwards that makes the difference.  I have such a wonderful life today.  There are times I wish I’d known this kind of happiness back then.  But I didn’t.  Do I have regrets about decisions I made–yes, I do.  At the same time, the decisions that I did make led me to today–which is a wonderful day.  Funnily enough, almost all the YouTube links I’ve been listening to were recorded and/or filmed in France.  I think the French must have loved her.

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Joan Baez celebrated her 75th birthday this past summer.  I learned that piece of information trolling through all the YouTube songs.  I’ve been following and listening to her for over 50 years. Now sitting here looking out my window from my life in Paris, I thank you Joan Baez for all the wonderful songs and memories you’ve given me over the years.

Happy Birthday, Joan Baez

The man down the street

This morning, hurrying down my street, Git-le-Coeur, I found myself behind a very determined French woman.  She had large strides.  An older dog was following but she never turned around.  I kept looking at her, at the dog, wondering did they belong to each other, should I do something.  Suddenly she stopped.  She began tying black calla lilies to a grill at a store front.  I walked up next to her and suddenly realized which store front it was.

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“The owner, he is alright isn’t he?” my french is a bit stilted but that’s how it came out.

“He died Saturday.”

“How?”

“Cardiac arrest.  I feel black so I bought him black flowers”  and she strode away with that determined manner that only the french seem to pull off.  The dog, whom I had forgotten about, ran after her.

I started to cry.  I didn’t know the owner.  Yet almost every day for the past two years I’ve walked down Git-le-Coeur on an errand.  Every day I passed him and said “Bonjour Monsieur” or “Bonsoir monsieur” if it was after 8pm.  He always nodded and softly greeted me.  When friends would visit, we would walk past and I pointed out my beat friend that I’d never met. He always wore black.  He was always outside smoking a cigarette and reading.  If it was a hot day, he was across the street sitting on the curb in the shadow.  If it was a cool day, he would bring out one of those carrying sit-stools that has 3 legs and he would lean against it.  The windows of his store front were covered with bande-déssinée covers.  Animated stories that look like cartoon books but aren’t are the rage in France, always have been.  There wasn’t one empty space, even the door knob was a photo or a book cover.

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He must have lived above the store.  If I happened down the street at the right time, I would see him leaving the entrance to his apartment building which was next to his shop.  I’m guessing his apartment was right above the store. Colorful decorations that ranged from plastic flowers to pails to almost anything hung from the balcony.

I never knew his name.

There is no center of Paris.  Every arrondissement has its own neighborhood and each arrondissement has four quartiers.  I’ve lived in this neighborhood long enough that I know many of the characters.  I see the same homeless people every day.  I know all the cashiers at the Carrefour.  These people have become my people.  I never considered that one of them might leave…..permanently.  It was always going to be me leaving, returning to the United States or moving to another arrondissement.  I couldn’t get my brain cells to wrap around this piece of information.  My friend had left and wasn’t coming back.

I was late for a luncheon date with some classmates so I went to the metro thinking about him.  I had been pondering a little gift for him when I returned from California next month.  Now I would be pondering what I would have brought him, now that I know him better.

When lunch was finished, I hurried back to the store to photograph what was there. I read everything taped up or left by the front door.  I just couldn’t believe I would never see him again.

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His name was Jacques Noel.  He was very well loved.

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M. Jacques Noel when he was a young man.

http://www.iconovox.com/blog/2016/10/02/la-mort-de-jacques-noel-libraire-passionne/

http://cqfd-journal.org/spip.php?page=pages_mobiles&squelette_mobile=mobile%2Farticle&id_article=1509