Paris, Day One

Saturday, February 15

F5E21414-6138-4CFE-9891-3426E2E46EC4                                     My first flowers: Centre Culturel Irlandais

I’ve been busy proclaiming my intention to write a book.  Staying at the Irish Cultural Center in Paris often means people “want to know,” that is, what are you up to?   Not only does the Center have artists in residences, it attracts fellow travelers: writers and would be writers.  I explain to those who ask that I’m working on a “project.”  If more is required, I describe the book I aiming to create.  “It’s an exploration of my grandparent’s experience as immigrants, background history of the times, anthropological theory, and fiction.”  This idea sounds ridiculous to my ears let alone theirs.  But I say it none the less.  As I told one of the administrators who politely inquired, “I admit to what I’m doing as a way of keeping my feet to the fire.”   To another inquisitive writer, I lamented that since the book encompasses vast amounts of material, the notion of sorting through it overwhelms me.  She described her approach as plowing through and seeing where it leads.  I agree.  What choice do I have?

I managed to avoid my nemesis, the blank page, by searching for a set of glasses: one for flowers, one for drinking, one for toothbrush and toothpaste, one for pens and pencils.  But this is Paris where like stores often live side by side: book stores, furniture stores, plumbing stores, sock stores.  I thought I was up to locating the street of houseware “magasins”: this is not my first foray.  But after several turns around the neighborhood, no success.  What to do?   I knew the Monoprix on Boulevard Saint Michel didn’t have them.  Been there, done that.  Then, I remembered the outlet or overstock stores catty corner to the Luxembourg Gardens.   I purchased two which fit the bill and was able to buy L’Official, the weekly bible of goings on in Paris, at the kiosk.  Now I can avoid that blank page by perusing all that Paris has to offer.

Having walked five miles and been awake for 36 hours, I made it home, had a long nap, and, then, a very good dinner at my old stomping grounds, La Méthode.

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Finishing with an impressive cafe gourmand.
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Then, a walk home.  Pas mal.
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On My Way

February 14 Friday


Today, I’m starting on the long, tortured journey of writing a book that perhaps no one will read but may take years to complete.   I’m terrified, scared shitless.  To keep on target, I’m writing this blog, exposing to many or no one this quixotic enterprise.  Quixotic indeed, as it can’t be categorized: part memoir, part fiction, part exploration of sociology, history, anthropology. gender, race.  A sprinkling of French.   My grandmother and her sisters insisted they hailed from France.  Really they emigrated from Saint Lucia.  In their determination to hide all traces of African blood, they wiped out large swaths of their history and denied the rest in order to pass, in order to be taken as white.

Can I pull it off.  Who will care?  Is it of any value?

Ann Patchett in her memoir, Truth & Beauty, about her friendship with the writer, Lucy Grealy,  after waitressing all day, after being divorced, and living at home once again, reveals her own doubts about writing:

I was starting to wonder if I was ready to a be a writer, not someone who won prizes, got published, and was given the time and space to work, but someone who wrote as a course of life.  Maybe the salvation I would gain through work would only be emotional and intellectual.  Wouldn’t that be enough, to be a waitress who found an hour or two hidden in every day to write?  If Lucy was struggling to find her way under the burdens of surgery, surely I could find it in the comfort of my mother’s guest room.  I made my resolve to work for the love of the work, to write for myself, but it didn’t have to last for long.  She got a fellowship to the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown which gave her 7 months to write with some money and an apartment.

I’m hoping for this type of resolve as unlike Patchett, I won’t be rescued.