So…I may have inadvertently auditioned for someone yesterday…
I’m not even entirely sure how it happened, other than it was somewhat organic. I was technically at the venu in question after a colleague in Boston put me in touch with the woman directing the show that was meant to be put on that day. I say ‘meant’ because due to some issue with the technician (as in: his lack of being there), the show could not go on because no one else knew how to run the tech board (small team; it happens). After chatting with said director for a bit about my work, the subject inevitably moved to whether or not I still perform (answer: when I can/have time), and soon she was asking me if I had anything I could show her.
Thank goodness I had my monologue from my Shakespeare class ready (as well as some text from last spring’s Le Siège de Calais)!
I don’t think this audition – if that’s what we want to call it – is going to lead to anything, but sometimes it just feels really good to share your art with someone, especially another art maker (something I don’t encounter as often as I would like anymore). To add to this, the managing director of the theatre, who also watched my ‘audition’, loaned me a copy of a collection of plays by one of their former resident writers. Naturally, I had to go to a café to read some of them. La Fontaine de Belleville ended up being perfect for the occasion.
Today was relatively chill with the majority of my time spent in the library reading more newspaper archives – although this time, they were dated from before the riots around the play I’m looking at now started, and I cannot tell you the level of dramatic irony that hit me every time I read something to the effect of ‘Oh, maybe all our worries about violent outbursts and reactions were unfounded’. The weather, however, was decidedly not ‘chill’, but more late summer pleasant, which made staying inside very difficult. Thankfully, I did get a good amount of walking in while on my way to a tutoring session with a student.
You know what’s fun? Reading through archived newspaper articles from fifty years ago detailing the very violent reactions against a certain play you are studying, and realizing that you could replace any number of the outraged comments with a certain orange man’s tweets and no one would be the wiser.
My, how little things have changed.
It seemed only fitting, then, that drinks on Friday night involved going the Illegal Mezcal popup at Red House, where there were various iterations of the following image:
The weather has been rather…unseasonably nice lately, so this morning when I woke up, I was determined to walk from my apartment to the Comédie-Française where I was seeing a matinée at 14h. It took about an hour (so, a bit over twice as long than if I had taken the metro), but given that the show was scheduled to last for two hours, I didn’t want to risk not getting any sun time. As to the show itself…I honestly don’t know what to write because I’m still kind of speechless.
I say kind of because although there were elements of this show that really blew me away – the sound design in particular, especially the way music transitioned from Bach/Strauss-esq melodies to what I think was Rammstein, or if not, something like Rammstein, was especially on point – I think I am slowly coming to the realization that I don’t like the architecture/spatial dynamics of the scène à l’italienne (i.e. your basic stage setup with a proscenium, box seats, balconies, etc.). Something about the way the seats curl into the stage space makes it seem so constricting, which can be a detriment when, particularly in a show like this one that harkens back to the tragic familial downfalls of Classical theatre, you almost feel as if you want the stage to be invading your space, rather than the other way around. One of the closing images involved a character who, after having bathed in the ashes of his dead relatives, strips down, takes up a machine gun, climbs onto a platform upstage and shoots out into the audience while strobe lights flash and machine gun blares louder and louder. Knowing that the original production of this show was staged in Avignon in 2016, I can’t help but wonder if the openness of the Palais des Papes would have made that moment more impactful (not that it didn’t leave an impression because believe me, mentally juxtaposing that image with what happened in Paris two years ago definitely left its mark).
For those who are familiar with his films, yes, this play is based on Luchino Visconti’s The Damned (1969), which was itself nominated for Best Screenplay in that year’s Oscar ceremony. The premise revolves around the Essenbeck family, steel industrialists – loosley based on the Krupp family, themselves still based in Essen, Germany – who, after the Reichstag fire, choose to begin doing business with the Nazi Party, despite the reservations of the family patriarch, himself a holdover of the former German order. As you can perhaps guess from the title of the play, things do not exactly go well for them. Indeed, once all the machinations, backstabbing, betrayal, incest and walking-on-a-tightrope nervewracking paedophilia (I honestly have no other way to describe how unsettling this particular scene was), the family is but a shell of what it once was, a monster ready to openly weaponize the Third Reich. And really, there is no point in which you see this people as anything other than damned. A key element of the staging were cameras that followed them around, projecting close-ups of actors’ faces on a screen upstage as well as small screens on the sides of the proscenium, sometimes in real time, sometimes integrating pre-recorded footage (during a depiction of the Night of the Long Knives, two male actors dance on stage while behind them, their virtual selves, as well as the virtual bodies of other men, embrace in a frenzied orgy), sometimes using a stylized filter. This latter element in particular, what with the usage of mise en abyme, turned these actors into more like disjointed bodies, especially when there was a slight delay between the movements of the physical body on stage to its ‘real-time’ projected image. There was no mistaking the fact that we were in a hellscape. Sometimes video elements can be overkill. Here, they worked just fine.
But of course, with the weather being as nice as it was, I needed a bit of a pick-me-up after all that intensity, so my last stop of the day was to Montmartre for one of my favorite Paris events : the Fête des Vendanges!
This is an annual celebration organized around the grape harvest in Paris’s last working vineyard (pictured above). Throughout the four days of the festival, the neighborhood organizes exhibits, concerts, talks, tours, workshops all with the aim of both celebrating Montmartre as well as wine/food in general. Honestly, it’s probably one of my favorite events of the year, and it serves as my annual reminder of why I love fall (although, you’d think it was late summer with the weather…).
I started my afternoon with a visit to the Musée de Montmartre to check out their exhibit on Montmartre on film, as well as take a stroll around the gardens before the museum closed. The expo itself was very well organized and extensive, featuring clips, posters, props and memorabilia from various Montmartre-set films. This one, for instance, might be familiar to some:
I’m glad I set aside some time for strolling around the garden as well, because I managed to catch the tail end of this little choral concert near the museum café:
I’m not sure if I’ve really gone into detail as to how things have changed regarding security measures in the city since the events of two years ago, but I definitely noticed a difference between this year’s Fête and the others I’ve attended. Previously, the food and wine stalls around the Sacré Cœur were open access, and crowds could just flow in and out as they pleased. This year though, that area was fenced off with two security checkpoints, one for entry, one for exiting. The downside of this – other than the disruption of the normal crowd movement – was that people tended to bottleneck up near those two points, making navigating the area a bit cumbersome at times. I have more thoughts about the État d’Urgence measures, but I’ll save those for another time.
Fortunately, even with the bottlenecking, I was able to find the two friends I was meeting up with, as well as snag a commemorative wine glass:
As we were not too keen on spending the whole evening crammed amongst the crowds, the three of us pooled together to purchase a bottle of white wine (only 8eu I think!), as well as some Comté cheese, cured ham and bread, and then made our way to the back side of the church for our apéro-picnic. As I had not had anything to eat since my bowl of leftover butternut squash soup at lunchtime, let’s just say that I thoroughly attacked that cheese with all the muster my plastic knife could afford.
So, a week ago, during one of my (thankfully rarer) low points, I decided to download this app called Mend, which labels itself as a kind of personal trainer for heartbreak. Given the ‘cleanse’ style of this first week on the app, I think the idea is to download and start using it not long after a breakup, but honestly, sometimes three-ish months (holy shit) after is better than nothing.
Using the app has been alright. Sometimes the ‘training’ it provides can feel a little too…simplistic? Surface level? I’m not sure how to describe it because it’s clearly designed in such a way that it can be applicable to a variety of situations, and which can kind of leave you feeling like you want to probe deeper, while knowing that you can’t because you’d be talking to a recording.
Anyway, what I have liked about the app are the journal prompts. I’ve started refocusing my thoughts more on myself than solely on the breakup and all that came with it, and although I’m still not quite where I want to be mentally/emotionally speaking, I feel like I’m slowly getting back there. The key word being slowly.
As I had finished the first week of using the app today – and as my mood was a bit shaky from all the wandering my mind inevitably does when I’ve been reading/studying for a while – I decided to take up the app’s prompt to ‘treat myself’ this afternoon. So I got an ice cream cone from Berthillon.
I’ve mentioned before how much I like black sesame, so you can bet that when I saw it listed as one of their available flavors, there was no way I was changing my mind. And yes, I am aware the scoop is a bit on the smaller end, but you’re paying for quality here. For a treat, I think it did just fine.
I actually could have treated myself a bit more as well, had I left the BNF a bit earlier, but fortunately for my wallet, the bouquinistes were closing up shop for the day by the time I got to the Île St Louis/ Hôtel de Ville area.
Overall right now? The ups and downs still happen, but slightly less. At times it gets hard being alone – especially when you’re so used to having someone around to share your day with -, but I’m readjusting I think. And when the days get particularly hard, all I have to do is go outside and see this : And remember that I’m here.
I know I’ve talked before about the perks of walking in this city, but I just want to take a moment and add this…gem to that list :
With some determination on my end, I did manage to get up early enough to get a workout in and have time to hit the market early. This is the same outdoor market I visited before, but I think after today, I might designate Wednesday rather than Saturday as market day.
I mean, look at how not crowded it is :
I didn’t take a picture of it, but I made a pretty excellent butternut squash soup with some of the produce/herbs I bought today (including carrots that were some of the sweetest I’ve ever tasted). Unfortunately, being somewhat of a klutz at times, I kind of bumped my thumb on the top of the oven when putting in the squash and carrots for roasting, so now I’ve got quite the scar forming. I did not, however, have a breakdown while cooking (like what happened last week when I tackled another post-market cooking project), so I’m still chalking this one up as a win. Baby steps, after all. Baby steps.
So I think I underestimated just how exhausted I was from this past weekend because yesterday I slept in until noon. This threw somewhat of a wrench in my study plans (as well as my grocery-shopping plans), but I made up for most of that by going to FNAC and buying a book that I think is going to kick my ass (hello again Merleau-Ponty…). I did manage to get a bit of reading in over a pot of tea at La Fontaine de Belleville – as well as a new bag of Belleville coffee…finally -, so I’m not about to call the day entirely wasted.
Today though brought my reading experience to a whole new level.
Pictured above is the reading room of the Institute Nationale de l’Histoire de l’Art (INHA) at the Richelieu site of the BNF. This is actually the site where the original national library was located before moving over to its current location in the 13th, but as it has been under extensive renovation for the past few years, I wasn’t able to stop in here until now. Most of the people who come to study/work here are art/art history students – as evidenced by the kinds of books on their desks -, but I and my small yet very substantial philosophy book felt very much at home. The downsides of this reading room, however, are that places are first come, first serve, and I can’t exactly request all the materials I need to be delivered there, considering they are either 1) housed in the main library, or 2) housed in the collections of a specific department, and thus cannot be transferred out of said department. Ah well. I don’t doubt that I’ll be coming back to work here again, though. The pull back is too strong.
In any case, now that I’m finally caught up on all my sleep – which, yes, I am aware that such a thing as catching up on sleep doesn’t actually exist – , I’m going to try and make it to my local market tomorrow morning (bright and early!) before getting started with whatever else I plan on doing. While I’m on the subject of food shopping, it’s crazy how much I miss having someone around to bounce ideas off of in terms of what to cook for dinner that night/week. Normally, cooking projects are things I look forward to, but lately I’ve been feeling kind of meh about the whole process of cooking in general. Maybe a market trip will help. I certainly hope so.
This is going to be short and a bit scattered, but I think I only slept a total of 6 hours the past two days so bear with me.
Friday was relatively low-key, as I wanted to make sure I got a decent night’s sleep before waking up at the crack of dawn on Saturday. Due to staying on a skype call/meeting longer than I should have (yes, I take full blame for this), I did not get to sleep until around two, giving me only to hours before I had to get up and get myself ready to head to the train station.
That’s right everyone. I got up at 4am.
‘But, Effie,’ you, being a reasonable person are probably asking, ‘why the hell would you need to get up at the ungodly hour of 4am?’ Good question. My answer is that the train my friends and I were taking left from Massy-Palaiseau, not from one of the many, many TGV/SNCF stations within the city. Massy-Palaiseau for those who do not know, is south of the city on the RER B commuter line, aka at least an hour away from me. As I had to be there thirty minutes before my scheduled departure time of 7:30, the 4am wake up seemed like a reasonable idea. And it was. Except for the not sleeping thing.
I’m not going to talk about the train ride because I spent the whole 2.5 hours of it attempting to sleep. Needless to say, my breakfast of a croissant, tartine, orange juice and café crème upon arrival in Bordeaux (all for the low price of 6.50eu, the first sign we weren’t in Paris anymore) provided a very welcome burst of energy.
The plan for the day was, after eating a quick breakfast, renting a car and making our way to a few sights in the Bordeaux area. As we were lucky to have a sunny, pleasant day to work with, we opted to go by the sea – because really, how many more chances would we get before fall/winter chills really set in?
First stop was Arcachon, a seaside town about 45 minutes away from Bordeaux. If it weren’t for the light breeze in the air and the occasional sweater sighting, you’d think the summer season was still in full swing. Everyone was enjoying lunch en terrasse when we arrived, and as it was the middle of lunch time, we parked ourselves at a table at one of the many restaurants lining the seashore and tuck in to some fresh, and very tasty bivalves.
Afterwards, we strolled along the beach for a bit, and I found a few more specimens to add to my shell collection (although I do wish there was some sea glass around as well):
It was a good thing we had a satisfying lunch (yes, we ate things besides just the oysters) because our next stop would pretty much exhaust all of our energy.
Behold, the Dune du Pilat:
This is the tallest sand dune in Europe, and naturally draws a lot of visitors, given its close proximity to Bordeaux and Archachon (only 10 minutes or so from the latter). Although there were clearly visible stairs we could have taken to reach the summit, we opted instead to trudge up the old fashioned way. The view from the top, however, made it all worth it.
In case you were curious, yes we did climb down to walk along the shore, and no, there were no stairs to help us get back up to the top again (which we had to do in order to get back to the entrance where we parked the car). As we wanted (well, I wanted) to get back to Bordeaux before the sun fully set, and as our legs were all already exhausted, we chose to abstain from walking the entire length of the dune, although this was something a few other groups of people seemed to have opted for.
Alas, even with our careful planning, a traffic jam on the road back meant that daylight would pretty much be almost gone by the time we dropped our things off at our hotel. I was a bit disappointed by this, as I only had one day to see Bordeaux, given I had to be back in Paris by noon today, but I did manage to get a couple of decent-ish looking photos.
After a late dinner and a quick stroll by the river, we headed back to our rooms to turn in, whereupon my two girlfriends and I (who were sharing) found a rather…interesting design feature on the bathroom door
This morning, I was up again at 5am, and after a quick shower was on my way back to the station to catch the 7am TGV back to Paris and my Shakespeare monologue class. And let me tell you, working on Shakespeare while only partially coherent is a rather…enlightening experience.
I of course rewarded myself with food. First, a croque monsieur and noisette coffee at Ten Belles :
And then with a black sesame éclaire from Boulangerie Utopie:
Any guilt I had about consuming these (especially the éclaire) was immediately assuaged by the fact that I walked from my class to Ten Belles (so Opéra to Canal St Martin), Ten Belles to the boulangerie, and then the boulangerie back to my place (and this bit involved going uphill).
I think to give my body a bit of a break, I’m going to forego setting an alarm for tomorrow, and just spend the day reading at home (oh and grocery shopping). We’ll see how that goes.
Another marathon study session – this one in the reading room of the Arts de Spectacle department at the Richelieu site of the BNF – another burst of energy that must be walked off.
I think one of the things that really cemented my love for Paris was how easily walkable it is. Now, some people after hearing that I don’t really mind regular crosstown walks tend to look at me like I’ve lost my mind. After all, why would anyone choose to walk when there is an extensive metro system?
My thoughts tend to clutter me though, especially after several hours of thinking. Rooms start feeling stuffier, and with that comes an almost uncontrollable itch to clear out, find something more open and just let a part of me other than my brain do the heavy work.
One thing about my walking habits has changed recently, however. Normally, if you see me walking down the street, I’ve got headphones plastered to my ears, listening either to a podcast or one of my many Spotify playlists. As much as I have mentioned regaining a sense of ‘ownership’ over the media I consume post-breakup, music has, so far at least, been the one thing that has evaded me. It’s not just the (very strong) memories associated with almost every song that comes up that affect me; it’s just all too orderly. Too rhythmic when I want the sounds I take into myself to be as random, disordered, chaotic, scattered as my current state of mind sometimes is. Besides, I like taking in the city more, and not just all the traffic noises. Yesterday, for instance, I walked past a nondescript building and heard a woman praticing an aria a few floors above me.
I closed out my walk with a visit to Shakespeare and Co, partly to browse around the theatre section, partly because I’m still getting over a cold and needed to find somewhere a bit less damp for a while. Having not been inside for a couple of years, I was a bit lost initially, given that they moved the theatre section from where I remembered it was, but in the end I was able to get a decent bit of browsing in (honestly, the fact that I went into a bookstore and resisted buying something is like a new record for me).
I know that popular opinion still hails Paris as one of the food capitals of the world, but sometimes I wonder if maybe we need to rethink that…
My favorite thing about this is that little reminder to practice regular physical activity written at the bottom of the ads. It’s cute.
In other food-related news, today was one of those days where sitting at the library reading for longer than my usual 4ish hours was just not going to happen. Coupled with a somewhat sour mood that has been nagging at me for the past few days – this may or may not have something to do with the cold I’m currently getting over, as well as the general feeling that can only be described as a screaming ‘blegh’ that comes with the realization that the partner that would normally help care for you is not there and you have to make soup for yourself while dealing with the sinuses from hell -, I felt like I deserved a treat. After all, it’s Wednesday, the middle of the week, and sometimes it’s nice to make yourself feel a little good.
So I trekked over to Blé Sucré, a boulangerie I usually stop at for a croissant or kouign aman if I can get there early enough in the morning (seriously, if you ever get the opportunity, get the kouign aman. Buttery, sweet, sugary goodness. I get cravings just thinking about them). As I arrived just after 4pm, the majority of the viennoiserie were gone, but thankfully a small stack of cookies in the display case caught my eye.
Originally, I thought this was a chocolate chunk-macadamia nut cookie, but after taking a bite, realized that what I thought were macadamia nuts were really almonds. It was a nice surprise, though. I love almonds.
Of course, I’m not planning on making these cookie trips a regular thing (granted I did walk pretty much all the way across the city after eating this, so I’m not too worried about it ‘going straight to my hips’ or anything). But I’ve started to readopt a habit I first cultivated when I was doing my masters here, namely, putting the books down and letting myself be in the world, allowing myself to enjoy a little of whatever indulgence without feeling guilty about it. One of my professors when I was at Reid Hall made a point to tell us at the beginning of the year how important it was to ‘go outside’, even if the work we did regularly confined us to the inside of libraries. With all the walking I do, I guess you could say I didn’t need much convincing in order to adopt the idea.
And because it’s always good to end on a positive food-related note, this evening, I had some delicious bibimbap in the company of good friends. I’ll save those strange pizza/burger/things for another day.
A question to think on : Que perdrait-on si l’on perdait le théâtre? / What would we lose if we lost theatre ?This is the question that’s been nagging at me for ages (thanks Genet…), and will probably continue to nag at me for the rest of my life. When Genet first posed this question in his essay L’étrange mot d’… / The strange word urb[anism]…, theatre was up against film and television, and consequently, just as painting did with the advent of photography, had to adapt, reassess itself, find what it was that made it…theatre. I wonder though, with the popularity of virtual media and all it encompasses in terms of spatial/communal dynamics, if theatre still has a chance for renewal, for a redefinition of its necessity, or if those of us who practice it only continue to defend it so ardently in part due to sentimental reasons or attachments.
Anyway, these are things I think about after reading Derrida in coffee shops.
Honestly, with the amount of speakeasy bars that seem to pop up every five seconds in Paris – and always with a line of patrons waiting to get in -, it’s a wonder that the term can still mean something.
Granted, that doesn’t mean I don’t still enjoy going to them because while the ‘speakeasy’ concept has surpassed its origins as part of the underground of Prohibition-era America, the cocktails at these Paris bars are usually rather good. And, yes, sometimes the concept behind the bar itself can be kind of cute.
Last night, I met up with a friend at Lavomatic, a speakeasy bar hidden within an actual working laundromat (hence the name). As we arrived during apéro hour, the wait wasn’t too terrible, although we unfortunately did not get there in time to score a table with a swing for a seat (of which there are, I believe, two). Laundry-themed decor dots the interior of the small – yet very cozy – bar, and the noise level didn’t get too crazy while we were there, even with the cramped space. As for the drinks, I really enjoyed my cocktail, and I’m curious to go back again and try some of their other creations as the menu changes seasonally. Price-wise, they run anywhere between 9 and 13 euros, with most coming in at either 10 or 11 (they’ve also got some wines by the glass on offer for a cheaper price, think 5/6 euros).
Also, they’ve got some rather amusing bar stools :
After finishing our drinks, we headed over to Boca Mexa for some tacos – and, for me at least, some actual mouth-burning spicy salsa, yay -, and I was once again left pleasantly satisfied by how much easier it is to find good Mexican food here now than it was when I first studied abroad in 2011 (hell, when I came back again to start my M.A. a year later, El Nopal was still pretty much the only worthy place for tacos in town).
Today was, theoretically, going to be a day of traipsing about outside, considering it was the annual Journée sans voiture (day without cars) *, but the light mist hanging in the air all day made the thought of staying outside for prolonged periods of time a bit less appealing. Not that this stopped me from walking to my Shakespeare monologue class near Opéra this morning.
The class runs at the somewhat awkward time of 12 – 2, so it’s a bit too early to eat lunch before going, and then a bit too late to be thinking about lunch when class lets out. Normally, I would have headed home to have some leftovers, but the cozy potential of the grey sky was just too good to not take advantage of in a café somewhere. Unfortunately, I forgot that it was fashion week, meaning all the usual – tiny – places I would hit up for my hot beverage fix were filled with folks in town for the big event. So I ended up just going to Wild & the Moon because 1) it’s bigger, and 2) I figured I could get a specialty coffee for my pains.
Really though, no one should be surprised that I chose something black.