Archive for July, 2010

A Wednesday Wander

Opinion poll: Does this look like fun – or your idea of a nightmare?

Inflatable fun? Boy in the bubble

If you can’t tell what’s going on, look a little closer. There’s a child inside that big bubble. Just rolling around.

Maybe it’s just me – motion-sick claustrophobe that I am – but the last thing I’d want as the sun beats down on me is to be trapped in a plastic bubble. (Not complaining about the sun, though; it’s been raining way too much here. Welcome, sunshine!)

Boxed water (better than boxed wine?)

Despite my reservations about this activity, the kids seemed to be having a ball (literally). I do love how there’s always something on at the Hotel de Ville. (Nearby there were also badminton courts.) As a symbol of the city of Paris, it’s great that there are so many free activities offered to the public. (I’ll be going to the free indie rock concerts on the weekends, me thinks).

I noticed a new public service, too: water fountains. Good idea! I sure hope they’re permanent and not just here for the tourists.

Which speaking of….Aie.

I momentarily reconsidered crossing the Pont D’Arcole bridge as I saw the hordes of people swarming in both directions. But I had a purpose! I was a resident with business on the other side!

The crowds increased as I came to Notre Dame.

This Paris Tuk-Tuk driver awaits willing tourists:

We have Tuk-tuks now?

My business was small: pick up a book I had ordered at the Abbey Bookshop.

There are lots of English-language bookstores clustered around this area, but I appreciate this little Canadian outpost. It’s obvious that it’s the owner’s baby. (Plus, Brian will offer you free coffee).

San Francisco Bookshop rivals the Abbey Bookshop for cheap used books, but I’ve never formed the personal connection there (but I certainly love finding good books for 3 euros!)

The Abbey Bookshop also organizes activities some of you might be interested in: randonees and a Cine Club. Can’t say I’ve tried either, but I always mean to. Both the hiking and the films sound good.

I fought the crowds back across the bridge and wondered just who would want to come to Paris at the height of tourist season.

But as I walked along Paris Plage (the “beach” along the Seine) and found a quiet place to read, I thought, well, we all have our different ideas of fun.

And just about any of them can be found in Paris if you look hard enough.

Reclined reading at Paris Plage

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Existential French Cat

Hi y’all. I’ve entered the grad school fog; it’s throwing havoc on my blog posting schedule. So let me just set it straight: there is no schedule.

Instead, I take many mini-breaks in between the reading/writing/thinking/pacing/despairing/aha-ing and laughing at funny clips like this:

I’ve always loved cats. And been sort of jealous of their lifestyle. Of course, I’m just sitting around most of the day, too, but my back hurts, I’m battling carpal tunnel, and my writing may never see the light of day. So, I still think their version is better.

What if they felt the full emptiness of it all, though?

What if a cat, were, (gasp!) actually an existential French cat?

Note: Subtitles in the video. And the person narrating is not a native French speaker. FYI. Enjoy!

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More Subway Shenanigans

If anyone liked the idea of the subway party I mentioned last week, here’s some more inspiration from Improv Everywhere:

The troupe staged a reenactment of a scene from Star Wars, complete with Storm Troopers, Darth Vader, and the Dummies Guide to Galactic Rebellion as prop.

This event went live on Bastille Day, though obviously it has nothing to do with France. I apologize for my random non-Paris postings of late, but you’re probably picking up on the fact that I’m partial to anything goofy – regardless of location.

I do have enough hair for the Princess Leia do should we decide to stage this here, but I think a black Princess Leia might confuse some people.

What scenes would you want to see reenacted on the Paris metro? Any idea what might work for a French audience?

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Slimfast Smokes

Spotted today on Boulevard Charonne: French man in full workout attire – white T-shirt, running shorts, and tennis shoes – alternating swigs from his bottled water and drags on his cigarette.

Sorry I didn’t have a chance to whip out my camera before he bounded away (I guess his lungs are still doing ok – exercise cancels out the smoke?)

I would not recommend such a regime to anyone, but it still made me giggle.

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Summer’s Sunny Scowls

I was given a key to New York City! True! (Maybe story later)

So much for bringing a smile back to Paris (see last post).

Delayed plane back to Charles de Gaulle. A half-hour of fruitless searching for the 351 bus to Nation (thought I’d try something other than the RER train into the city. Should have skipped the adventure).

Chocolat chaud at my corner cafe where they usually are nice. Uh-oh, the scowling summer staff has arrived. My server didn’t acknowledge that she had heard my order, feigned incomprehension at what a carafe d’eau might mean (um, water?), and threw my change down on the table.

Please say you’re just filling in while the nice people are on holiday? (Please?)

Deluge. Rain.

Fortunately, the transition has been eased as one of my dear friends (and former writing mentor) Sarah Van Arsdale is in town. We laughed off the bitchy barmaid together, but Sarah couldn’t help wondering, “Sion, just how do you live here? You’re such a smiley, happy person. And no one here seems to smile!”

Funny you should mention that, Sarah. This is at the top of my mind these days.

On the metro later, I thought someone might be joining my crusade. In a sing-songy voice the conductor of the line 2 train invited us to do something different – to turn to our neighbor, say bonjour. Why, we might even smile! he ventured. Why not? It was Bastille Day, we’ve had a day off, what can it hurt to smile?

Yes! I think, looking around. What could it hurt to smile?

No one’s taking the bait, however.

One older gentleman had already had enough as the conductor repeated his plea at the next station.

Fermes ta guele! the man yelled at the conductor. Shut your piehole, in essence.


Now I’m not saying the New York subway is a party. But actually, sometimes it is! (Witness video evidence below).

On a Friday night after a great Mexican meal (Mexican!), I stumbled into the 2nd Avenue subway stop on New York’s Lower East Side. Something was definitely up as the platform was packed to the gills. When the V-train rolled into the station, enthusiastic applause commenced. Lucky me, I had happened onto the last ever V-train before the city discontinued the line.

Revellers dressed in the line’s trademark orange to celebrate the V’s victorious last run. Some pleaded for the city to reconsider. Some just wanted to mark the occasion. All made a ruckus.

Joyful V-train rider pleads for her line to stay

I try to imagine a similar scene on the Paris metro. Forgive me, I cannot. A Facebook friend informed me that a metro party did happen on the line 7bis once. To that I say, the 7bis? Like the shortest, most random line in the whole Paris system? Bis, for god’s sake?

But I would take the inferior train line, no complaints. Though I kind of think the police would get involved, somehow break the party up. Imagine a united horde of people suddenly converging on any metro stop in Paris with boom boxes and festive wear, determined to fete the ride from end to end. Perhaps my imagination fails me; I don’t see it.

I happened to be on the 7bis last night, as it crawled its slow, (one-)way up the hill. Yes, this sad little train could use a party. Yes, this city could use more smiles.

Perhaps we should form a Paris Smile Brigade and plan a subway bash? Anyone, anyone?

Actually, for all this talk, I need to go back into hiding (already!). My first deadline for the MFA program is in 2 weeks. No time to plan metro madness – I must get to work!

On a completely different note: Happy Birthday, mom! Love you!

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This American Life

Palm trees in the city: a view from Governor's Island

The April I first vacationed in Paris – the one where I lived in a Sorbonne professor’s top-floor apartment near the Gare du Nord; the one where I met a Frenchman and experienced a coup de foudre; the month, that really, changed everything – I told a friend that I felt I had just lived an entirely different life.

You have, she said.

I feel kind of like that now.

It would be impossible to encapsulate over three weeks back on home soil, but I can tell you I feel different. There are reminders of who I used to be here, pieces of myself I’ve lost, aspects of my personality I want to regain.

As beautiful as Paris is, and as much as the (mostly invented) image of the bohemian writer may appeal, it is really here that I feel free.

Washington Square Park in bloom

I’ve appreciated having my loud laugh celebrated, rather than scorned, random smiles from strangers on the street. I saw a 70-year old man tattooed from head to toe, made friends in line at Trader Joe’s.

Paris has become home, but it wasn’t until I stepped back here that I realized I’ve actually been holding my breath, that the discreet city has quieted me. Sometimes you have to leave the country of “c’est pas possible” for the land of “yes we can.”

99 cents: the American dream?

Perhaps I’ll provide little snippets of my adventures over the coming weeks, because really, it’s hard to sum up. New York embraced me. Vermont invigorated me. From the buzzing city to a little hotbox of creativity, I am nearly full to bursting with inspiration.

Today New York celebrates its version of Bastille Day on 60th Street.

I think I’ll wait for the real deal on July 14 when I will just have arrived back to Paris.

Despite what I’ve been saying here, I’m looking forward to going back. I’m packing my smile and renewed strength with me, though. I prefer who I am in America. Can I be that American in Paris?

Belleville in Brooklyn

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paris (im)perfect?

Sion Dayson is paris (im)perfect. Writer, dreamer, I moved to France on – no exaggerating – a romantic whim. As you can imagine, a lot can go wrong (and very right!) with such a (non)plan. These are the (im)perfect stories that result.

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