My apologies for being out of touch –
has that effect on me. Today, I shall post an omnium gatherum of bits and pieces of news from Paris . Tomorrow, I shall broach a large and very difficult question that has bothered me for some time now. Perhaps it will stimulate some interesting discussion. Paris
The big news from my little copropriété [which is to say “condo”] is the cave vouté or vaulted cave discovered right under our bathroom when workmen dug down to prop up the seventeenth century building [which was starting to show cracks in the outer walls.] It is a rather large space, apparently. I immediately announced dibs on any treasure discovered, but the engineer hired by the syndic that manages our building opined that it was probably part of an old septic system. Pretty disappointing. On Tuesday, at eleven in the morning, there was a gathering outside our French doors, at the hole, which narrows the access to our apartment. The space is unusable, even as a wine cellar, because of the humidity, but it poses a threat of flooding since we are only half a block from the
Seine. The only good news is that since no one knew the cave existed, it is not mentioned in the legal documents forming the copropriété out of three buildings around an interior courtyard, so instead of charging only the owners of the apartments in our building for work dealing with the cave, all fifteen apartments will be charged. Not equally, of course, but in proportion to their usable floor space. Our tiny apartment is 2.77% of the total floor space, so we pay 2.77% of the repair costs.
Meanwhile, the really bad news in Paris is that the little weekly magazine, Pariscope, that lists concerts, movies, art exhibitions, and everything else happening in Paris, is on strike, so we are left to scrounge for places to visit. On Wednesday [the day movies change in
] Susie and I walked down to Place de l’Odéon to see Killing Them Softly, the new Brad Pitt movie. I thought it was a brilliantly powerful political commentary on contemporary Paris , with the last speech by Pitt an excoriating debunking of mainstream political rhetoric, but then I read America Anthony Lane’s review in The New Yorker and discovered that I am an ignorant boob. I think I will stick to the Critique of Pure Reason. Film criticism is too sophisticated for me. Next Wednesday The Hobbit opens. I shall not attempt a commentary, lest I embarrass myself.
Today I went to the market to shop for dinner for tonight and tomorrow. I got half a rabbit cut up [without the head], and some hazelnuts for my signature “rabbit loins with hazelnuts, five spices, and curry” dish. Asparagus and mushrooms should go nicely.
An observation about small cultural differences between the French and Americans: In a café, the French bring their dogs with them to the table but sit their children at an adjoining table so they will not interrupt the adult conversation. Americans bring their children with them to the table and leave the dogs in the station wagon.
The parvis Nôtre Dame, the large cobblestoned square in front of the grand church at the bottom of our street, is almost totally occupied by large stands and other structures that have been erected to celebrate Nôtre Dame’s 850th birthday next year. Nôtre Dame took so long to build that the great grandchildren of the original workmen did not see it completed. It remains, to my untutored eye, the most beautiful building in the world.
Susie and I dropped by Shakespeare and Company, the well-known English language bookstore, to find something to read. They are asking for patrons to contribute recollections of the shop, especially in its earliest years, for a forthcoming volume. I spent a good deal of time hanging out there in the Spring of 1955, when it was still Le Mistral, and not yet Shakespeare and Co. I shall send them an email with some reminiscences.
And so to bed, as Samuel Pepys liked to say. Tomorrow, serious stuff.