Thursday, January 26, 2006


Yvonne in Skif

Have you ever been so weary you want to laugh and cry at the same time? (Kate probably knows this feeling, trying to juggle one young son, a new baby daughter, and a writing career.)

I'm back from San Francisco and except for one sunny afternoon when Helen and I rented a car and drove to Sausalito to see one of our favourite clothing lines, San Francisco was all work and little pleasure.

But there were moments like this one that were fun:

Mario shows how a skirt should be worn

Mario works for Neetu Malik who reps for Cynthia Ashby and both are wonderful, delightful, professional, and a pleasure to work with. Neetu is always more than generous with her time and advice and feels like a friend. Although a number of reps know I am a writer, she is the only one who has asked to read my writing. I sent her a selection.

Tonight, after a meeting, I stopped into visit my parents at my sister's house. My father mentioned my blog and also noted that I sometimes used unsavoury words. How strange. I didn't know he read me. I sent the link at the beginning of my public writing and since I heard no comment, thought he couldn't connect or whatever. I don't invite comment on this public journal because I don't want to worry about who is reading me. I don't want to edit myself for approval. I want to write from the heart, from the gut. I want to tell my truths, whatever they are. I don't want to sugar coat anything. I believe if we can tell the truth, or the truth as we see it at the moment, that our truths will change, that we will evolve, become more compassionate, even more intelligent human beings. Why is this so difficult?

My sister asked me, this evening, if I ever felt like a loser? I said yes. She said that it was foolish but that's the way she feels right now. I hugged her more than once. Useless to tell her that she was far from a loser. Her husband stepped in and said: "How can you feel like that? Just look around you." Her three lively children were playing games. And they are beautiful. But she is tired. I remember especially the time in France, when my children were little, and Rob was still working in Canada, when I was exhausted after a day of care-giving, and I would sit on the steps with a glass of wine. My neighbour, Monsieur Aurel, told me that the villagers thought I was courageous. I love Europe still because you are not reminded of your blessings when you are low. You are allowed to feel what you feel.

I am tired. And yet, I know that I have to keep on going. I have to prepare several orders from the market before I leave for Seattle on Friday, where I will look at more damn clothes, and then settle down and try to finalize all for summer in the store. It's a hell of a responsibility. Am I over dramatic, I ask myself. It's only a store, only clothes. Is it important what we decide to put on our bodies? How important?

Am I thinking crazy thoughts? A friend told me that, through my buying for the store, I feed the idea of beauty. I want things beautiful. Interesting, to me, that I keep returning to this theme.

Hopefully after this stint of work is finished, I will have time to relax, enjoy, write. My aim is to be more balanced.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Today, my eldest son will fly into the heavens and land in Vancouver this evening. Tomorrow morning, my parents will fly into the heavens and land in Vancouver mid-day. Tomorrow, early morning, Helen and I will fly into the heavens and alight in San Francisco for the summer market. I am afraid of flying though Rob tells me that more people are killed each year by donkeys than are killed in plane crashes. Even so, I say a prayer, though I'm not religious, when anyone I love or I fly.

Since I've returned home, I've spent nearly all of my energy on the store. I did get my raise so I should be happy. I am but it was a struggle. I would like to be calmer, more self-assured. I know that I work hard, that I am good at my job. I surprise myself on how much I know about retail and how clearly I think. I always examine a situation in terms of self-interest and ego. Am I doing this, saying that, just because I want to be right or because I believe that this is best for business? This pleases me. So why do I become so offended when someone who is not so thoughtful, queries me? I think that whoever should trust me, know that I come from an objective self. One of the nicest parts of my fight for recognition and a raise over the past few days, has been the support I have received from the women I work with. They tell me over and over how valuable I am ... but then I worry that I think too much of myself. Is this true? I roll my eyes. Of course, someone else could do the job as well or better than me, but it would take some time to train her or him.

So for now, I shall work and try to be calmer and more methodical about my work in the sense that I will try for a better balance. My ideal would be to spend a third of my waking hours doing retail and earning an income, a third writing, and a third enjoying life - time alone for walks and ruminating and time in the company of those I love, giving them my undivided attention.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Home Again

I am still too stunned and travel weary to think straight let alone know how I feel being at home after Paris though I admit that rushing hot water, heat that turns off and on with the turn of a dial, a big washer and dryer that doesn't take hours to complete cycles, and a house in the garden that's all my own, are heaven. I feel as if I'm in the lap of luxury though by North American standards, we lead a modest life.

Yes, I am more appreciative of the comforts of home, though since arriving back Wednesday evening, I have worked at the store three days - Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday...

At this point, I paused in this writing, feeling so exhausted, I couldn't put another sentence together and went back to bed. I slept over two hours and had the most intense dream about a Body/Soul Intensive that included men. The nice thing about afternoon dreams for me is that I remember them.

And so I have worked three days out of the four I've been home... and really I enjoy my work, enjoy the women, enjoy making a pay cheque; but buying for a store is difficult enough without being criticized for every item that doesn't sell and this is what the owner has been doing since I returned. On Sunday, I told him that I had had enough of his negativity. He stopped and laughed, said he would never understand women and clothing. I have asked verbally and today, in writing, for a substantial pay raise though, I feel, a fair one (being ridiculously underpaid) and I have stated clearly that if I don't get in, I'm leaving. Given my boss's present state of mind, I may find myself without a job. In some ways, this would be a relief: I give too much time and energy to the store.

And I do WANT to write my novel. While I was away, I read Susan my "Shitty First Draft" and she laughed and said it is good, very good. And if you know Susan, you know that she never praises unless she feels whatever is praiseworthy. I keep thinking of Sartre saying "We do not do what we want..." and I ask myself why? And am I a stubborn enough Irish woman to prove this intellectual wrong?

Oh dear, I feel a little lost at the moment. I do so want to be able to continue the routine I began in Paris - the roaming without a destination, the following of whims, the pausing to write in cafes, the following threads of thought. I want to teach myself self-discipline, glue myself to a chair, and write no matter the outcome.

And here my thoughts once again turn to beauty and Maisel's question "are you afraid of beauty?" Are you afraid of creating something that is not beautiful? Are you afraid? Always and forever.

And so these are my muddled thoughts. I think my New Year's resolution will be to do what I want.

Oh, before I sign off, I received an email yesterday from a woman, a writer, a lover of poetry, and I think her live journal well worth reading. Here's the link: "East and West at every turn...".

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Paris au revoir,

For now. Rob says he would only come back for a week at a good hotel. I'll come back for longer and I think now, if
fortune allows, I'll come back alone. It's not that I don't love the man I'm with. It's not as if we tied each other down but
Paris, I think, is a city that one can lose oneself in thought for days and nights on end only if one is by oneself (though I wouldn't be against one week with Rob and we did have some spectacular moments together.)

I feel as if I have only begun to know Paris, have only begun to find a routine that works for me. But realistically, to live here, even simply, costs a bundle unless you're willing to work hard, like Gill, for a song but with a small apartment, room really, and some meals thrown in.

I don't have time this morning to continue about beauty as I said I would in my last entry except to mention the beauty I/we were with last night. My/our daughter. She towers over me. She walks straight and tall and is often thought to be much older than her nineteen years. She's a thinker, a nomad like me. She loves to laugh. She writes with an openness that steals my breath. She is tough and determined: she will fulfill her contract for a year as an au pair even though it is much harder work than she imagined.

I know I irk her at times, especially when I suggest how she can solve a problem or two. She tells me that she has all under control. And she does. She is more willing to stand up for herself and fight her battles than I have even been. This trip has
shown me that she is a grown up, that she no longer needs me for the day to day. But we can talk and I can mention a writer or poem and she gets it. We can spend hours in a lingerie department and ask each other's opinion. We can walk down the street arm in arm, or even holding hands and feel loved and supported. Oh dear, I feel like weeping. I am going to miss my blond beauty.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

In my last entry I said that Paris has been a disappointment. I take that back. Paris is absoutely breathtakingly beautiful. I just have to look up at its massive, gold-gilded, iron balconied buildings. Or wander aimlessly to receive a history lesson: the other day I was walking down a street and passed a building that said Marcel Proust lived here from... to... (I can't remember the dates, great scholar that I am.) And I wandered further and found a park that a young architectural landscape artist designed over two hundred years ago with a pint-size pyramid, smaller-than-life coloseum and Greek columns. Yesterday I visted the Cemetary of Montparnasse and came across the gravestone of Sartre and de Beauvoir. She died six years after her long-time lover. How do they do that? Bury her on top of him? Or leave a space beside him?

I came across a museum that I didn't know existed and saw a Jean Louis David exhibit. The picture of Marat, dead in his bathtub remains with me though there were Rembrants and Botticellis and a number of works by other famous chaps.

Another day in the metro, a young man entered my car and started reciting poetry and then offered a manuscript of poems (a self-published bundle in his hand) for 12 euros. I would have bought one if I had understood and liked his poetry. And several times muscians have entered and played a guitar or accordian and if I like their music, I put an euro into their hat.

This whole trip has been a series of ups and downs and often I find myself moaning... Oh how I hate doing this. I will not let the negatives outweigh the positives. Brendan caught me once and said how can we complain when we are the envy of our friends. We are in Paris. (Reminds me of Marlene when one of us would stop mid-step and tell the other the same - We are in Paris - and we'd both grin.)

I love Paris most of all because it keeps me thinking... Maisel says somewhere in his little book that Paris is a city of ideas and that is where the writer should put his or her energy - not in visiting monuments and storing up a load of useless facts. "throw yourself into a week-long, month-long, or year-long exploration of some striking idea."

And so I carry around the little book I mentioned in an earlier blog, "On Beauty and Being Just." It continues to be dense and convoluted but every once in a while something appeals strongly to me like the idea that beauty, be it a picture, poem, or person, brings us alive. Reminds me of: "Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet confinement of your aloneness to learn/ anything or anyone that does not bring you alive/ is too small for you." (David Whyte) There is also the notion by Scarry, the author, that beauty equates to fairness - its double meaning - and fairness to justice.

Usually, at least once a day, I take myself to a cafe, order a cafe creme, and sit and read and write notes in my journal. Depending on my mood, I read Scarry or Maisel. One day I am reading Maisel and he mentions beauty! And I am taken by this particular quote: "Beauty puts reality in stark contrast and sets the bar very high. If you are not writing, it is therefore important to ask yourself the question: Am I afraid of beauty?"

to be continued...

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

I wrote this entry early morning in a small cafe:

I am in a state of nerves, the same state that I have been in since we got off the subway at Chateau Rouge with its noise and crowds and litter - I don't feel safe - and head to find our rented apartment.

Rob finds the street, the entrance, and we look at each other. We are both hoping what lies beyond the second door is better than the scene before us. The person who is supposed to meet us, give us keys, and show us the apartment is not there. We wait fifteen minutes and I leave Rob to find a phone and call the agent. I get an answering machine and leave a message before returning to the dismal doorway. I guard the luggage while Rob goes to find sandwiches and make another call to agent. He is more successful. She will arrive within the hour.

We stand at the door munching sandwiches waiting. A born-again-Christian Frenchman leaves and questions us. "This happened several months ago," he tells us, before launching into a monologue about the sad state of the world.

The agent finally arrives and shows us through the doors, across a litter-filled courtyard, up five flights of stairs, and opens the door. The apartment is clean, Ikea furnished, but miniscule: there was supposed to be a separate bedroom but the bed is tucked into an alcove with sliding rice-paper doors. The bathroom is so small that one has to manoeuvre around the shower base (with mildewed curtain) to reach the toilet.

Brendan and Gill are not so disenchanted. In fact, Gill would love to have an apartment this size.

We stay two nights, two sleepless nights, and know that we have to leave, that we can not live in such restricted space even for a week. I email the owner in Australia and tell her that we aren't comfortable, that her advertisement was misleading. No response.

We move to a hotel near Gill while we wait to hear from the landlord. She finally responds and offers us less than a third of our money back. She also said that her advertisement didn't say "seperate bedroom" (spelled wrong). I cut and paste the sentence from her ad and request more money. (I don't want to antagonize her because something is better than nothing so I don't include pictures Rob took of entrance and courtyard.) She is sending a cheque to our home address.

In the meanwhile, I telephone about another apartment. The French woman says that we can inspect it the next day (yesterday) that her daughter, who is a student in Paris, is staying there but can stay at her boyfriend's place. Rob and I arrive at the appointed time and are greeted by Anais (a sweet young woman who resembles our niece Sarah) and she shows us the space. The living room is larger than the other apartment. There is a good size bedroom, full bathroom, and gourmet kitchen. It feels like a home. The building is old but elegant French and there is a lift. Across the street is a small park. We agree to take it the next day for the last week of our holiday.

I hate to say it but Paris has been a disappointment. I know my view is coloured by the robbery and the apartment problem but still, it is so damn expensive and there are too many damn tourists. Perhaps my mood will improve tomorrow when we are finally settled.

During the day yesterday, before the apartment appointment, I walked along the Seine, stared at houseboats that reminded me of Anais Nin's stories about living on the river. I kept walking with my despair bound in a tight little knot in my stomach. I found myself across the river from the Grand Palais. I paused. My first thought was to keep walking but I forced myself to cross the river, to go to the museum. I had been reading Maisel earlier and a quote from Sartre stuck in my mind: "We do not do what we want, and yet we are responsible for what we are - that is the fact." I had wanted to see the "Melancholia" exhibit at the palace since I arrived and more, I wanted to prove Sartre wrong. And what could be better for wallowing than viewing others' despair.

The museum is closed Tuesday. I was near the Champs Elysee so I walked that broad avenue that reeks of affluence, stopping for a meal of moules et frites, and another chapter of Maisel.

Every where I go, I peer in hair salon windows, still wanting my sassy French haircut. I have decided that I when I find a place where I like the haircuts of the hair cutters, I will make an appointment.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Happy New Year, every one. May we all have a wonderful 2006. May we be healthy and happy, wealthy and wise.

I know I will be wiser. I won't let the little things that bother me slip by. I will fight my insecurities. I will vocalize my discomforts. And I will dance and sing my praises and pleasures.

On New Year's Eve, we moved apartments - out of the swanky 16th arrondisement to the more folksy 18th. Don't be deceived by the closeness in numbers. The two areas are very different. And I might feel more comfortable in the 18th if it weren't for several problems.

But first let me mention New Year's Eve. After a spicey dinner prepared by our sweet daughter, Rob and I climbed the steps and hill to the Basilique du Sacre-Coeur. The streets were crowded and the restaurants and bars full. Rob stopped for a rum crepe from a small stand before we followed the crowd to the church. The hills in front of it were full of people gazing toward the city. We found a spot and gazed too, not knowing what we were looking or waiting for. Most people had glasses and bottles of champagne. Alas we didn't bring ours. Numerous young women in tiny little glittery tops and bare arms wandered in the cold cold air, high on happiness and alcohol. Midnight struck. The crowd cheered. The champagne bottles blew their corks. And everywhere couples hugged and kissed. And then the fireworks began - shooting stars of coloured lights filled the sky. I felt happy. Rob and I walked down the hill, arm in arm, went back to the small apartment and opened our champagne and toasted the new year.

On New Years day, Rob and I went to a small brasserie and had a perfect brunch. We took the metro to the Louvre but alas it was closed. We walked to the George Pompidou and explored the exhibit called "The Big Bang" - that represents, to my mind, the major shifts in art in the art world. One of the first rooms we walked in, for instance, featured several of Picasso's cubist works. Another room had a number of paintings by the Abstract Expressionists and Surrealists, such as Jackson Pollack, Ellsworth Kelly and Kadinsky. And then there many rooms filled with the incomprehensible to me - florescent light bulbs, vertically placed on a back board (haven't a clue about its meaning but being a good student of art history I know that, at this point, I should pull out my history books to find out what was happening and read up on the artist, etc. etc. but I am not curious enough. And then there were rooms about sexuality that should have intrigued me but were more repulsive than erotic. A nude couple, for instance, mannequins complete with pubic hair, stood gazing at each other but not with looks of love or lust but with anger, perhaps even hatred. I suppose the installation is making me think...

Afterwards we wandered around the Marais, ate Italian ice-cream, stayed out as long as possible before heading back to our pocket-size apartment... don't think I want to get into my list of complains. I will say only that I will never never ever again rent an apartment from the internet unless someone I know recommends it.