Friday, July 29, 2011

Beach days in Paris

I just returned from the beach in Paris.

Yes, you read that right.

But Paris is landlocked, non?

Oui.

So where is the beach?

In the middle of the city along the river.

But there is no sand along the river.

Right.

So where is the beach?!

Don't argue with me. This is my blog.

Explain.

Each summer, the city of Paris carts truckloads of beach sand and palm trees into the heart of Paris. They close the road that runs along the river and dump out the sand and trees to make a beach.

They make a beach?

They make a beach.  

They cart in a lot of sand. They arrange it beautifully as the French are wont to do. They add activity areas. They even add a library where you can check out a comic book and read it right there on the beach! 


According to About.com, the beach is the brainchild of Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoe who is "well-known for launching ambitious municipal events. Paris Plage, which was initially criticized by some as costly and frivolous, has become a permanent fixture in the Parisian summertime scene."

Ya, it's a permanent fixture in the summertime scene. Because it's awesome. It's a dozen truck loads of awesome good times is what it is. 

Adding the finishing touches onto a little sand castle I whipped up. (That's my noggin' in the bottom corner.)
What is in that crate?!?! Oh the French... they think of everything.
My favorite part was not the swimming pool they erected. Nor the tai chi area. Nor the yoga zone. No no no. My favorite part was seeing the Red Cross patrol the area on their bicycles. When they got a call, they raced their bikes down to the end of the beach, blowing their whistles all the way.

They looked like giant children. Very serious giant children.

And who were they saving? A kid who had fallen off his bicycle on the dirt bike track. They put a bandaid on his knee. Together.

How cute is that?

After erecting my giant sandcastle, I had an ice cream and caught a few rays.

Paris isn't Cannes. But it'll do.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The French are nice if you let them be

I am sporting a new French look. 

And with my USM necklace, I'm bringing the sexy to Spiritual Psychology. 




Ooh la la.

Why the new French look? Because I got my haircut.

I should have had a cut six weeks ago but it took me that long to muster the courage and feel confident enough in my language skills. It's my hair.

First, I walked up and down my street stalking various salons. I was looking for one that seemed friendly, lively and reasonably priced. But mostly friendly.

Second, I consulted Google Translate on how to ask for what I wanted. I memorized my line. When I walked into the salon, I smiled, took a breath and asked for a coat.

"Coupe! Pas couche!"

They made an appointment for me anyway. I was to return in two hours.

Back at chez moi, I Skyped my mom and practiced how to communicate my wishes with my hair. I used a lot of hand signals.

"Oh dear," she said. "Be careful. You might walk out of there with a pixie cut."

The idea of walking out of anywhere with a pixie cut has horrified me since grade six when I actually walked out of a salon with a pixie cut. It wasn't me. AT ALL. My mom loved it.

"I can see your beautiful face now," she said.

But it was grade six and hiding signs of puberty on my face trumped exposing it.

Since then, whenever Meg Ryan has a short hairdo, I hear about how cute it is from my mom.

At the appointed time, I returned to the salon to meet my coiffeur.  

I explained that my hair was too long. "I want it long but shorter. See here? I like this but cut it to here. And this? I like this, too, but trim it to here." I said it all in French and I used plenty of hand signals.  


He worked at an alarming rate. I thought, Shit he better not be giving me a pixie cut. He even talked a little and I talked back in French! 

He asked if I was American. 

No, I'm Canadian. 

He grinned widely.  

Thank Christ for my Canadian heritage. It helps with getting decent haircuts in Paris. That bilingual country thing really pays off.  

As he was blowing my hair dry, I realized that he had cut my hair as if he'd cut my hair my whole life. 


It was perfect. 

It was better than perfect. He took the hairdo I like and made it better. 


This is very French. To take something and make it more beautiful. To bring out the essence of itself. Not improve it, which implies something is wrong with it and it must be corrected. But to take what is there and make a lovely version of it. 

The same kind of thing happened when I recently purchased a dress in the 6th arrondissement. Here's how it goes: 

First, you walk into a clothing shop and say Bonjour to the merchant. No sheepish smiles. No bonjour murmured under your breath. Only a bright, big Bonjour! will do. Even if they detect your accent, they know you know the local rules so they better not be pulling any of that snooty turned-up nose shenanigans.  

Second, you grab a dress to try on. You inform the sales lady. She nods and asks if you will permit her to make a few other choices for you. 

Absolument.  

Then she zips around like a kid in a candy store grabbing dressed left and right. She leads you to the change room and waits for you outside like a good girlfriend. 

Third, almost everything fits you. See, she sized you up the moment you announced yourself with your confident Bonjour! and she knew your size without having to be told. 

Fourth, you model your clothes for her and discuss together what looks best. See, she's not trying to sell you everything. She's fitting you. There is a difference. And she's not trying to improve you either. She's not trying to make you look younger or thinner. She's not trying to take a problem area and hide it. She's taking what's there and making it the best version of itself. She has already taken into account your body type and the pre-approved outfit you walked in with and matched it with the clothes in her store. 

You walk out with a dress that is so you but better. 

That's the French. Like I said, it's not about improvement. It's about enhancement. For the French, there is no problem to solve. There is only a chance to make something even more beautiful. Walk into any store in North America and check out the shampoos. They are all touting some problem to solve. Oily. Dry. Extra body. Less frizz. But here in Paris? Pick the flavor that smells best to you so you can enhance your shower experience.

("To take a shower" in French is "prendre une douche" which I can't even say without blushing or snickering like a ten year old. Bruce Springsteen said once that he is convinced that his only #1 song EVER, Blinded by the Light, made it to #1 because people thought the lyrics were "wrapped up like a douche," not "revved up like a deuce," as in little deuce coupe. More on that here.) 

Anyway. Friends have warned me that the French were not kind. But if you let them be, meaning if you let them do their thing, and trust that they take national pride in making everything more beautiful, you'll end up being more beautiful yourself. The reason you see so many beautiful French women of all ages is because they have teamed up through various divisions of labor to make everything and everyone a little more beautiful—from top to toe.  

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Paris Story

This is what I get up to in a day.

First I awake to the smell of coffee. Christophe brings me coffee in bed. I attempt to keep up a conversation, bleary eyed. He leaves for work and weird thoughts enter my head. For instance, yesterday's morning thought was, "I should wash the duvet cover and make cookies today." Who is this domestic version of me who thinks these things? The duvet cover became a wrestling match on the bed with the duvet insert. And the cookies were a dismal failure. Burnt or raw? Which do you prefer?

I light a candle. Having a candle flickering feels like there is a dog sleeping on the rug next to me. A lovely, calm presence that doesn't shed or poo. 

I catch an episode of Scooby Doo. In French. I'm trying to catch the language but it still floats on by, talking to itself. Frustrated, I turn to the English news channel. Frustrated because the news annoys, I turn to the gardening network and watch people plant, pull and primp their gardens. The French love to prune. I dream of having my own garden one day. For now, I have this lovely acre of cyberspace to cultivate and it suits me just fine. I also have geraniums spilling out of my windows in this Paris flat. Geraniums are big blossoms of red heart-shaped petals. They make for nice company during the day. Nicer than the TV. I turn off the TV.

I read my English library books. Once I get the flow of literature running through my brain, I write my morning pages and hope I can cultivate something useful from them that I can turn into something. I try not to stress about the something.

I do yoga. Not enough to sweat. Just enough to work out a few kinks and connect to the Divine.

I shower. Showering is interesting. There is a constant monitoring of the shower curtain. If it is not schlicked against the wall on both sides, the bathroom floor could flood. Then there is that to sop up.

I open a word document. I sigh. I breathe. I check my current word count. I wonder when enough is enough. I realize that it's never, ever going to be enough. Like Scrabble or Sudoku. The moment it's done, I'll start a new one again. I primp my paragraphs, pull a few and plant a few more. I do this until my body says arrêt! Writing is more physical than you may think. The body monitors how long I can write in a day. By this time, my hair is dry.

I check my map. I decide on the shoes based on how far I'll walk.

I wander. Some streets are more colorful than others. And the evening's work by graffiti artists make the less interesting streets more colorful.


Something is always happening in Paris. An impromptu street concert or an art gallery opening. The other day I came across Jesus at a gallery show in the park.
Jesus seems so authentic here. As if to say, "This is who I am." So good.
Artist: Christophe Charbonnel

I stop at Sephora for a midday primp.
This is who I am after a particularly long walk in Paris.
I return home for a late lunch with Christophe. Sometimes he brings home weird meat things. The other day he brought home boiled eggs that were wrapped in ham and the whole concoction was floating in a brown gelatin. The French love to fool with food.

I sit in the park to read. I'm still on a Hemingway kick, but now I'm reading a version with English on one side of the page and French on the other. I do this until my brain hurts or some weirdo comes by to inquire about a quick tryst in the bushes. 

I meet a friend for drinks. Sometimes it's Melanie, who is spontaneous, geographically-desirable and always good times. A perfect trifecta. Sometimes it's a Meetup group, which is... effort but a good thing. And sometimes it's Christophe at the bar up the street. The bar has the best, most wonderful feature: Canadian bartenders.

The day ends with dinner. I've given up on the sausage wrapped in turkey that is wrapped in bacon and opt instead for hummus and veggies.

As I drift off to sleep, I wonder what I'll do the next day. Sometimes I get uncomfortable with this thought. It's interesting to recognize new snags in soul. Every day is open, which I never expected to be scary. But if I don't keep myself occupied and amused, depression could rear it's ugly head. And that can be a slippery slope if I let it. If I get depressed, I get overly concerned about shit that doesn't deserve as much mind space. And I've already lined every corner of the apartment with mouse traps so that's done. To be the my own social activities director each and every day takes a lot of flipping through my Paris guide book. I'm my own Julie McCoy and my apartment is small enough to be a room on The Love Boat. (The Looooove Boat...)

Sometimes I get bored.

First I judge myself for being bored in Paris and how can one be bored in Paris when there are so many things to see, do and explore. Then I remind myself that boredom leads to creativity so I just wait out the boredom until a string of sentences flows into my cranium that I write down. And usually boredom just means I'm tired or ate something weird and my body needs to deal. There is a reason I forgo the sausage thing.

Then I begin it all again the next day.

So that's what I get up to in a day.

That's the Paris story.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Things you don't expect to miss



I arrived at the hotel and called from the lobby phone.

"Mason, I'm here."

"I'll be there in a minute."

I hung up the phone and thought about his phone voice. I spent four years hearing Mason's phone voice. And I spent most of those years having this exact conversation. Before today, it was in reference to a post-it he'd left on my desk that read, "Client changes. Call when you're back." I'd call. He'd come over. We'd go through the client changes.

I didn't realize until this most recent call how long it's been since I heard his phone voice.

It's amazing. The things you don't expect to miss. But there I was at a hotel lobby in Paris, very aware of how nice it was to hear his voice.

As I sat in the lobby, I thought about the other random things I miss from my old life that I don't get in this new Paris life, beyond missing friends and family, of course.
  • Whole Foods couscous... always done to perfection
  • My parking spot at Peet's Coffee
  • Staples pens aisle... mmm the Uniball
  • Lester who did cool dance moves when he walked by my office
  • Angel cards and angel card readings
  • Kirtans by Daniel Stewart at yoga studios around town
So I've got to get on that. Adding reasonable facsimiles to my daily life. Finding another Lester will be tough.

Mason soon bounded down to the lobby with Charisse, his blushing bride. They are here in Paris celebrating their one year anniversary.

As we walked around the 6th, looking for dinner, I remarked on how nice it was to see them on their anniversary. I couldn't go to their wedding. Hadn't accrued enough vacation days. All that crap. But now, I am free of such drudgeries and am able to roam freely beyond the borders my old office space and human resources rules and regulations.

When Mason and I started working together, he'd just started seeing Charisse and I was just ending my Master's Degree program. Five years later, here we were in Paris, traipsing around ordering drinks and food and talking English. It was fantastic!

These days, I get really excited to go out for dinner with people who speak English.

I miss that, too.
Happy anniversary!


Sunday, July 17, 2011

Bastille Day fashion show


The French go ape shit over Bastille Day.

And I understand why.

They have a long standing love of military. They've got Napoleon sleeping in a tomb on one side of the city and a bunch of kings sleeping here, there and everywhere. They've got statues of military leaders riding horses into battle.

There have been historic battles of celebration and of woe. Heroic soldiers have fought and died defending the country. And they've done it for a very, very long time.

I zipped over to the Louvre to watch the planes fly over. Then sat at a café with my friends to watch the tanks drive by. That was followed by walking the streets of Paris with thousands of military men in uniform.

Be still my heart.

Fashion doesn't end on the runway here in gay ol' Paris. It makes it's way to the military, too. After the parade, the soldiers stormed the bars so we could get up close and personal with the latest military trends.

Tassels!

Watching the helicopters parade overhead. Um, I wasn't watching the helicopters.

The kids like the feather hats, too.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Ratatouille: The sequel

Turns out, the store shown in the film Ratatouille is real. And it's next to a café.

But then again, every shop in Paris is next to a café.


Let's get a closer look at what they are looking at, shall we?

You just can't make this up.

As you may have read, I've had a few unwelcome house guests. And since I laid out the gooey traps, which are said by many store keepers to be the best, I've had to replace two of them. In one case, the trap and the victim just disappeared. Now there is a mouse traipsing around Paris with cardboard glued to it's back. In the second case, I was in the bedroom reading when I heard a screech. Yep, the writhing beast that had landed on my trap. Just then I heard Christophe coming up the courtyard. I yelled down to him from the bedroom window.

"Christophe!"

"Oui?"

"Be careful when you come in the house."

"Pourquoi?"

"Ummmm..." I didn't know how to explain in french about the mouse. "It's the war."

"Je comprends." I understand.

He came in, saw the writhing, saw me standing on the bed, picked up the cardboard, took it outside and... ended the misery for all of us.

So that resulted in days of unrest in my bed and in my soul.

Since then, there have been two more mouse sightings. One of which happened when we were watching TV. I looked up and saw a mouse staring down at me from on top of the cupboards.

I screamed. It ran. Christophe sighed.

There had to be another way. I don't want to kill things but I also want a furry-free environment. I'd prefer to make my environment inhospitable so they don't come in it at all.

"I had a furry little friend once," says my friend Alison. "I poisoned him."

Apparently, there is poison that, when ingested, dehydrates les souris so that they go outside to find water and then die outside. Or if they don't make it outside, they dry up so there is no smell.

Sounds like a horrifying but effective solution. The problem is that there is a constant drip in my Parisian flat. There is a bucket that gets emptied once a week. I won't go near it, of course, because it's in the dark closet and now I'm afraid of the boogie monster, which in my mind looks a lot like a giant mouse.

So if I dole out the poison candy, I could have a herd heading to the water hole that is the bucket in the closet, splashing around and drinking water until they... well, you know.

Then I'd scream again and Christophe would sigh again. 

I had to go to the experts. I went to the famous Destruction des Animaux Nuisibles as shown above.

Inside the store, you'll find many products that will help you unleash the seven circles of Hell on disease-carrying critters. They have poisons, traps and many other deterrents for rodents, pigeons and any matter of vermin you'd like to eliminate from your life.

But one solution caught my eye.

The Ultrasonic Pest Repeller. You plug this thingamajig into the wall and it emits an unpleasant sound to unpleasant intruders of the vermin variety. Humans can't hear it, but the vermin can't handle the noise so they pack their little valises and look for another wall to live behind.

No dead bodies. No writhing. No screeching.

I'm in.

I brought it home and plugged it in. Then I listened for scurrying behind the walls. I imagined a lot of confused mice running around, which wigged me out, so I scurried myself out the door for the afternoon. You know, to give them privacy while they pack their things.

I went out to buy more traps. Why? Because I like to test my theory.

I returned home and placed a trap into every known mouse entrance. More as a deterrent than anything. More for me than for them. Two layers of protection. Like sunscreen.

With Hell successfully unleashed, I slept better last night than I had in the week since this saga began. And now as I sit happily in an apartment that even feels more silent. No more scurrying. No more writhing. Not even buzzing because the Ultrasonic Pest Repellent works on bugs, too.

Silence rules. And now in my apartment, I rule, too.

I'm shocked at just how on edge I was during this episode. Now that I feel some semblance of security, my belly is relaxed and I feel more comfortable in my own space. It's emotionally draining not feeling comfortable in the place where you hang your hat. I wonder if that's how the mice feel now. Maybe they were trying to repel me before and I reversed it with my little pest-repelling plug in.

Ah revenge. Sweet silent revenge.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Scavenger hunt for famous people in Paris

I didn't expect to have a star sighting in Paris.

But that's Paris for you. Full of magical moments.

I was walking around Père-Lachaise cemetery and lo and behold, there among the plots of famous writers and painters was one of my favorite comedians. Alive. Not dead.

I left her alone, of course, because when you've lived in LA, you know the rules. You leave them alone and let them have their own lives. And you certainly don't blog about seeing them. They are in this cemetery to hunt for famous (dead) stars. Not to be hunted down themselves.

We were on the same route so I kept running into her. Leaving her alone. Letting her be. But I wanted to say, "I love your HBO special. And when you were on The Ellen Show, you were funny as shit, girl. And oh my God I can't even think of you without thinking of how you yell at Larry."

So we met up at Oscar Wilde's grave and someone shrieked with joy at the sight of her. She was nice. He got his photo taken with her. Jealousy coursed through my veins. There was slight buzz. I stood by, polite LA person that I am.
Oscar Wilde's grave.
"It is the spectator, and not life, that art really mirrors." -- Oscar Wilde, preface to The Picture of Dorian Gray
But then the crowd dispersed and I was a little more brave since we had been at a bunch of plots at the same time already. I lean over to her. "I knew it was you but I lived in LA and I know the rules."

She laughed, understanding what I meant. We chatted. WE CHATTED! And she was funny as all get out in the middle of Père-Lachaise cemetery just like she is onstage.

She asked me what I did. I told her I'm a writer. Her eyes perked up. She's a writer. An Emmy award winning writer. I said I was here in Paris doing my own Hemingway thing. I arrived last month. She said she was on vacation with her friends.

And this is the point where I failed me.

I was sheepish about saying I was a writer. I was standing between her and Oscar Wilde. Both of whom are/were Live Out Loud writers. Why the hell was I sheepish?

We walked on, dispersing and meeting up here and there to report on famous graves we found. She helped me find Edith Piaf. I told her I couldn't find Gertrude Stein. She asked what I was working on. I said I was doing my own Eat Pray Love thing, but it was more like Write Walk Sleep. She laughed. Understanding what I meant. Writers do a lot of walking and sleeping. She asked my last name and said she'll look for my book in a couple years.

I beamed.

We laughed over the ridiculousness of the guard at Jim Morrison's grave. "Acting like he was Jim's manager or something," she said. Her friend took my photo. I bid them farewell. We parted.

For me, total thrill. But in looking back, I had an opportunity to be more myself. If she wasn't who she was, I probably would have been my usual funny chatty self when meeting another english-speaking traveler. But I toggled between being chatty and leaving her alone, even though she seemed open to chatting and meandering between graves.

She was nice. 

I could have had a better pitch about myself, too. I could have said, "Girl, I was working too hard in Woodland-Effin-Hill, making my pile of strategically-sound junk mail, and I thought, WTF. I am sick and tired of this. I've got to be writing something else. Contributing my talent in a better way. What is the point of this legacy of garbage?

Even if my point is just to come alive myself and inspire people to come alive.
Even if it's just to make people laugh.
Even if it's to bring a smile to their dreary 9-6 office lives.
Even if it's just to dare them to dream.
Even if it's just to amuse myself.
Even if it never amounts to anything,
I've got to NOT be writing this marketing crap.

So I got the hell out of dodge and started traveling. Now I'm a nomadic blogger and I'm writing what I want to write and it's funny and great and makes me happy. And I think it makes other people happy, too. And Paris is a perfect place to do it, except for the mice. I've got a vendetta against the mice."

But I didn't say any of that.

"I'm a writer doing my own Eat Pray Love thing." Sheat. I'm an effing cliché.

Next time, when I run into someone famous and start chatting it up, in the words of one of my favorite comedians, I'M A BE ME. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Italian stallion vs Butcher that'll knock your block off

Ludicrous. And I'm not just talking about the price.

Maybe I would have considered it if he had more teeth.

So I'm in the park today trying to shove my way through writing my three journal pages when a man sits down next to me. He has a suitcase and an Italian hat. I know it's Italian. I'm a girl that knows things like this.

He asks me the tried and true travelers question, "Where are you from?"

Canada.

He's from Italy.

He asks in french. I understand him when he speaks in french. This is exciting. This is my downfall.

We talk a bit. He's on his way to Geneva. He has a late train. Yadda yadda. He muddles through his french and I muddle through mine. I find it easier to talk with other learners of the language. We all talk like five year olds.

Where do you live? What do you do? Do you like Ricky Schroeder? So do I?

Shit like this.

Anyway. He asks if I'm here alone.

That's the second traveler question.

"No I'm not," I say. I have a copain. And he's just up the street at the butcher shop so lay off, Guido.

"Are you happy?"

"Yes I'm very content."

"He must be very happy with you, too." Then he proceeds to go on in all the french words he knows about my belle body and my belle face. All this is fine and good, I suppose. Hey, I like compliments. Hey, I get that we both have a limited diction and we say what we can with the words that we have. Hey, I get that we're all just trying to get through our days and he's looking to put in time before his train. Hey, I get it. I'm down with it. I'm cool. I follow.

But then he goes on to ask me if I want Italian love today or French love. And then, because I looked at him like I didn't understand, he used HAND GESTURES to convey his meaning.

This is the point where I did not follow. But I knew what he was saying.

Are you kidding me with this, Guido?

And because of the time it takes to figure out the language, I probably looked like I was considering this option when really I was just piecing together what he had said.

Non merci. Non merci. Je suis content.  Non, non. Merci, mais non.

Then I had to bid him farewell in a strange Franglishitaliano flutter of words.

I just don't know how to navigate the flirtatious dudes here. And by here I mean Europe. This language barrier makes it more problematic. As I got up, he was asking me what the problem was. I was very beautiful, after all, why shouldn't we have a roll in the hay? (And by roll in the hay, he repeated the hand gestures.)

Seriously, dude. Vraiment?!

How about BECAUSE I DON'T WANT TO AND YOU HAVE NO TEETH. How about that? Is that a good enough reason for you because it sure as shit is a good enough reason for me. I don't even need a butcher boyfriend up the street who'll knock your block off to know that I don't want your Italian lovin' this afternoon. Okay buddy? Okay!?!?!?!?

But I didn't say that. I walked on and swiftly to the door of my building and shut it tight behind me.

And I love Italians. No. I love my Italians... well, my Romans. These two and this one. But I don't love you, Guido.  Non. Non merci. Non. Absolument non.

Fer eff sakes.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Alligator Pie to Crêpes

Happy Independence Day U.S.A.

My independence started with Alligator Pie. And it was solidified with a crêpe.

Expliquer, s'il vous plaît.

Yesterday, I was ordering a crêpe next to a guy who was also ordering a crêpe. I heard his English accent and asked the universally accepted traveler question, "So, where you from?"

Phoenix. He's American but his partner is French. They live in Phoenix half the year and Paris half the year. He's retired. She works. But more important than all this? They live in my hood.

Geographically desireable English-speaking friends? Yes, please.

She arrived and we three walked down Rue Mouffetard, eating, walking and talking. As we walked by the bibliothèque, they asked if I ever go to the library. I told them I didn't even know how to go about getting into the In Crowd that has the coveted library card for the Bibliothèque nationale de France.

I figured I needed some proof of residency, like a utility bill or a license. Or knowing the French, a birth certificate with proof of pure French blood at least 3 generations back. But I had none of these and was too shy to go through the process of asking and explaining to the librarian in French.

"I will go with you," said my French Phoenix Fairy Godmother.

"And I'll show the English section," said my Crêpe Compadre. 

We walked in and up to the librarian's desk. They spoke in French and the situation was explained. There was a lot of talking and hmmm-ing. Finally there was nodding. She turned to me, "You have a passport?"

Yes, back at my apartment. Is that all I need?

Yep.

I sprinted back to my apartment to get the passport. I didn't want to wait hours before the librarian changed shifts and I'd have a new librarian that didn't know my situation or would change the rules.

When I returned, I slapped the passport on her desk like it was the last item in a Scavenger Hunt.


"J'ai mon passeport," I huffed, hands on hips. As I caught my breath, she filled out a paper form. Then she filled out the form on the computer. Why two steps? I don't know. I don't care. Then, to my delight, she handed me my card with my own name on it and spoke very slowly in French, explaining to me how many books I could take out and for how long. 


I skipped out of the library with Eggers, Kingsolver and Hemingway. As I walked to the park to salivate over my books, I recalled my first library card. It was from the Tillsonburg Public Library. 

I was 7. I shyly approached the librarian and quietly asked how to get a library card. 

"You need to fill out this form and I can help you with that." 

I don't need my mom's signature or anything?


"No. At the library you are your own independent person." 

I had never heard anything so marvelous in my entire life. I am my own independent person. 


She helped me with the form and explained the borrowing rules. When she explained the late fees I almost wanted to bring my book back one day late so I could responsibly pay my own fine now that I was entrusted by the library to be capable of doing so.


I borrowed Alligator Pie by Dennis Lee.
Alligator Pie was my favorite book of poems and my favorite poem in the book was Alligator Pie. I walked out of the library with my nose in the book and I didn't take it out until I memorized the poem. 


Good thing, too, because years later I went to see Dennis Lee. He was doing a talk at a pub near my apartment in Toronto. After his talk, I told him that I had hoped that he'd recite Alligator Pie, even though this talk had nothing to do with Alligator Pie.


He asked me if I knew the poem.


Does a fish like to swim? 


"Let's do it together," he said.


So there I was with Dennis Lee reciting Alligator Pie:

Alligator pie, alligator pie,
If I don't get some I think I'm gonna die.
Give away the green grass, give away the sky,
But don't give away my alligator pie.

We went on to recite what would happen if we didn't get Alligator Stew and Alligator Soup (I don't know what I'll do, and, I think I'm gonna droop, respectively).

I bought Lizzy's Lion, another of Dennis Lee's children's books, and he inscribed:
I hope this slakes your cravings for Alligator Pie. 
It was a great moment.

Thank goodness for public libraries and for kind librarians, for generous authors and for nice expats with kind French girlfriends.

Now I have an entire city of linked libraries, each of which has their own English book section. I have the freedom to roam all over the city and borrow books. Why? Because here in Paris, I'm my own (library card carrying) independent person.

Let freedom ring.
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