Paris Day Five

Wednesday February 19
I spent a few hours keeping track of myself in this blog and then, went to Mokonuts for lunch.  A good 2.5 mile walk over the Seine to Bastille.  Approaching Pont Sully, I noticed a lone house at the end of Ile Saint Louis.  Was I in a Flaubert novel looking at Madame Bovary’s house or riding along the Seine in Sentimental Education?
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In order to get to Mokonuts, I had to go around Bastille to Faubourg Saint Antoine, a good street for window shopping.  As expected, Mokonuts was full.  Luckily I had grabbed the last 2 o’clock lunch reservation.  And as usual, the food was delicious.  Although I had sworn off dessert, I couldn’t resist the blood orange cake.  When I went up to pay the bill, I discussed  the changes in Manhattan with one of the owners.  Since I’ve been using French everyday, I kept switching back and forth forgetting she was from Brooklyn.  A hefty price for lunch; 46 Euros for a main course of chicken with spinach, dessert, two glasses of wine, and coffee.  Twice as much as the dinner at La Methode.  Yet, I must remember to use nasturtium leaves in salad.  Not as pretty as the edible flowers but tender and delicious.
I returned home, again in the rain, and in time for a get together arranged by one of the artist in residence which she called a “pow wow.”  A military historian gave a presentation on the books he’s authored , then the audience (only 3- 2 resident artists and me) asked him about his work and his process.  Most of the discussion revolved around Irish politics which could have been heated but differences were respected.  They told me the town of Dundalk on the border of Northern Island was called El Paso: during the troubles, members of the republican movement stayed there before going on missions in the north.
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The Dundalk Christmas Bombing by the Ulster Volunteers 1975
As he is very prolific, we were intrigued by the historian’s routine. He tried to
sideswipe the question but, finally, he relented.  He gets up very early, 6 or so,  and writes a bit before breakfast.  After breakfast, he writes until 1, has lunch, and may take a nap, then back to writing until dinner.  He does his reading in the evening.  A monk’s life. And this is almost every day.  Sunday’s he does go to mass and does a bit of socializing but mostly his nose is to the grindstone.  We talked about finding a balance while being in Paris.  Easy to just play given these environs.
Although we started at 6, it was 11 before we finished.  The conversation ranged from working to ecological grieving to captialism vs. socialism to Sinn Fein.

Return to Paris Day 16-17

April 16 Tuesday

A day spent reviewing my options.  If Capecia didn’t write the novels, she did live that life, so the depiction of Martinique could represent some similarity to my grandmother Germaine de Jorna’s experience.  In Je Suis Martiniquaise, she describes a young girl free to wander, to explore a paradise of sorts:

“On arriving at our chosen destination, we undressed and bathed in the nude, boys and girls mixed, but with no thought of wrongdoing.  In the distance, we could still hear the washer women beating their clothes against the rocks.  Our spot was filled with moss, ferns and giant palms that rose like strange birds when the wind swirled them about.”

and later as the group decides to go on an “expedition,”

“Young bamboo shoots adorned the mountain with a soft green velvet; palm trees beckoned to us, bending and undulating with the suppleness of a serpent as they danced among the giant ferns.”

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Northern Forest, Martinique

Perhaps, my grandmother had moments such as these, but maybe her life was closer to the character’s sister, Francette, sent to live with an aunt who restricted her freedom in order to be “proper.”   In Caribbean households that held themselves above the “fray,” young women often stayed indoors, sewing, reading, changing their clothes morning, afternoon, and evening to fit a social protocol.  According to my father, his mother also changed her children’s clothing three times a day.

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Germaine’s daughters

Perhaps, Germaine was cocooned behind closed doors in Saint Lucia, imprisoned as was Francette.

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Morne Coubaril Estate, Soufriere, Saint Lucia

Her sister Yia, my great aunt, imposed similar restricitions on their niece Adria who lived with her in New York.  When guests came to the apartment to visit, to play cards, Adria was hidden behind the closed door of her bedroom,  lest she betray her colonial mixed race roots.

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Adria de Jorna

Late afternoon I visited the San Francisco Book Store on Rue Monsieur Le Prince looking for Jean Rhys that other creole.  I found two books, a collection of short stories and Quartet.  On my way home I walked past Librarie du Cinema du Pantheon Cinelitterature next to Cinema du Pantheon on Rue Victor Cousin.  A bookstore specializing in film, they had original copies of Cahiers du Cinema for 10 euros and less.  I bought one from February 1964 with reviews by Godard and Truffaut and another from June 1963 with a discussion of Jean Rouch, anthropologist, filmmaker, and a founder of cinema verite.

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I finished my outing with a cafe alonge at Cafe du Nouvelle Marie.  This time I was greeted warmly and understood the necessity of an additional container of water.

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April 17 Wednesday

The restaurant Mokonuts was on the agenda.  On my way, I crossed in front a small square which last year held a statue of Rimbaud, but he’s gone, replaced with greenery as at Bastille.  As I continued on Avenue Ledru-Rollin, I noticed several books on a building’s window sill, free for the taking, one by Annie Ernaux, considered France’s memoirist extraordinaire.  Relevance is fleeting.  How could Rimbaud and Ernaux be discarded?

Mokonuts fed me well: a delicious lamb stew with fresh peas served by the charming owner who runs the front of the house.  When I commented on her excellent English, she retorted that she had better be able to speak her native tongue.  She hails from one of the outer boroughs of New York.

My way home took me to Pont Sully from where I could view the back of Notre Dame: she’s not herself, reduced and darkened.

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