Tuesday, July 29, 2008

I walk down a cobbled street when I notice a beautiful woman winking at me. She smiles and beckons me over. Another woman, more beautiful than the last, is also enamored with me, she too winks and smiles. I should probably mention that they are both standing in storefront windows and wearing only their underwear. Being from the Midwest, I give a short, embarrassed wave and look anywhere but at her body because that’s how we roll.

Welcome to a small part of Amsterdam and watch out for the vomit ahead. It looks like banana vomit, which makes sense, across the street, is a bar called The Banana Bar where 45 euros buys you 1 hour of drinks served by naked women. You can, if the fetish is within you, pay extra to have a banana served in any way you’d like.

Prostitution is legal in Amsterdam. Each woman is her own small business. She rents the storefront and is probably a member of the Red Thread Union. She pays taxes and is heavily monitored by the government and health officials. Even with the seemingly legitimate feel of prostitution one still thinks, “Surely, there’s something else these women could be doing.” But the simple truth is that there is money in sex. A good prostitute can earn 500 euros a night, which is about 10 clients. If we assume a 5 day work week, that’s 130,000 euros ($208,000) per year. The down side is…well, you’re a whore. The other downside is the guys shelling money out aren’t Robert Redford in An Indecent Proposal, but shaven-headed drunken English hooligans that probably just vomited up a banana.

Amsterdam is so much more than the Red Light District for which it is so well known. It is probably one of the most beautiful European cities that I have visited. It is quiet caf├ęs along tree lined canals. It is friendly, approachable people and a laid back atmosphere. There are 100,000 Dutch Elm and Lime trees, 1,200 small bridges that cross 100 canals. It is winding streets, bicycles and electric trams.

Late in the evening I stood on a bridge admiring the view and catching the breeze that makes its way down the canal. I commented to Dutchman near me about the marked different between the majority of Amsterdam and the Red Light District. He had to think about it for a moment- the Red Light District seems to be almost an afterthought for him. “The drunk hooligans come for 2 weeks and never stray from a three block radius, they never see the real Amsterdam and that’s fine with us.”

I sit at the cafe enjoying a late night espresso and watch the bikes go by. The caffeine is a bad idea at 10 in the evening but even after many miles of walking aimlessly through the city I have no interest in sleeping, that's the life of the flaneur. Let the drunken tourists have the their three blocks, I'll take this particular corner at this particular time.

Monday, July 28, 2008

I just returned from Amsterdam and was reminded that Catherine Sanderson was reading from her new book, Petite Anglaise, at Shakespeare and Co. Despite the heat, she had a good turn out. I was amazed that I knew 3 people in the crowd- granted I don't know them well but it's nice to recognize people in this rather large city. I also lined up a possible petanque match. I believe the women sitting next to Ms. Sanderson, is Sylvia Beach Whitman the daughter of the George Whitman who opened Shakespeare and Company in the 1950's.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

I'm finding it harder and harder to post. Maybe it's the weather or I have finally run out of things to say. So I'm just going to plow forward and try to kick start the postings again.

I'm finishing up Anne Frank's diary- I don't think I had ever read it before; I saw the movie version with Melissa Gilbert but never actually sat down to read the book. It's amazing. He father censored the originally published book. He felt, and it's true, that it was very critical of Anne's mother but I suspect that all early teen girls have battles with their mothers. He was also uncomfortable with her discussion of sex. The latest edition has the entire diary. I highly recommend this book- I was absolutely blown away. It does bother me that this 13-year-old girl is smarter than I am but I'll get over it.

I began reading her journal because I'm off to Amsterdam this weekend. A friend is in Geneva and we are meeting there. Apparently, there is more to do in Amsterdam then smoke dope in cafes- who knew? So I'm reading up on my history and hunting down the bookstores on-line. Any suggestions once I'm there?

Last night I went to a friend’s apartment for dinner and afterwards sat in a cafe until 12:30 with the New Zealander talking. We agreed that it's good to be in Paris on a cool July evening. I just barely caught the last train home and stayed awake until 3:00 AM re-thinking the late night espressos. I made the terrible mistake of buying a pack of cigarettes and smoking- hmm 3 years of abstinence. Oh well- life goes on, just maybe not as long as one would hope.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Parachutes and Petanque


They begin to drop from the sky.




Some land not as softly as they would like. A metal of valor will be issued




The young niece knows that form is eveything.



Someone's gotta school these suckas- might as well be me.




A competitive bunch, each boule was measured and remeasured. Fights ensued, only a dance-off could keep blood from being shed.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Another Day In Paris

I had a horrible beginning to my day. I try not to burden others with my pain but lets just say as an ARTIST- I feeeeeeel more than the average person and yet, as a John Wayne. stoic type, I keep that pain locked away. It will, of course, one day express itself by forcing me to a bell tower with a high-powered rifle but for now it makes me a relatively low maintenance friend.

To lift my spirits, I wander out to get a coffee at my corner cafe where the barman loves me but when I arrive he act as though he doesn’t know me. This is odd. Just a few weeks ago we shook hands and laughed like school girls tormenting the fat girl. Where’s the love? I've been tossed like yesterdays grounds. I keep a stiff upper lip and I try to engage the other waiter in friendly banter just to get a little jealousy going- That always worked in Junior High but doesn't play well in the sophisticated City of Light. Oh hang one…he’s a waiter in a coffee shop- what do I care?

As I step out of the cafe I bumped into Jenna Fischer, who plays Pam in “The Office”. She is with her alleged boyfriend, James Gunn. (see update) I don’t recognize anything he’s been in but in some movie he plays “The Insane Masturbator”- so I think we can agree that Jenna probably footed the bill for the Paris trip. Most of you might feel this was just a chance encounter between Jenna and I but in my journal she is stalking me.

Across the street two models were also caught stalking me- models make lousy stalkers as they tend to get dizzy from lack of food and topple over on their high heels. I managed to get a photo of them just before they fell to the ground like wounded pheasants.


Update:
There was a sudden, angry surge of readership (ok...9 people) from the Watercooler , a discussion board about "The Office". regarding my running into Jenna Fischer. From the message board I learned several things.
FACT: James Gunn is rich and can afford to take a trip to Paris if he wants.
FACT: James Gunn is Jenna's ex husband not her alleged boyfriend so chances are it wasn't him. (I still think it was)
FACT: Misplaced in the Midwest is weird, doesn't know what he is talking about and might have been smoking crack during the encounter.

Note: They did not dispute my claim that Jenna is stalking me...now where's my crackpipe?

Saturday, July 05, 2008

I took a long stroll through the streets of Paris. I ended up buying a small Cuban cigar. I quit cigarettes a few years ago but I’ve felt this constant pull to smoke again. I kid myself that if I don't inhale I wont be lead back to a pack a day habit. I end up along the Seine next to the Petit Pont- near Notre Dame. This is where it all began for me- this fascination with Paris. I was taken aback by this encounter with the city- I felt the endless possibilities and I associated that freedom with Paris. Sitting in this spot years ago, eating an apple, watching the Seine and thinking to myself that I want to live here. I’m back where I began but not at all the same. I sit there quietly, watching the boats go by, smoking my cigar and kidding myself.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Today is a little cooler than it has been. I stroll down to the American Library to continue my masterpiece- ready to remove the bodies that have littered the front porch. My backpack contains my lunch and my computer. My intention is to walk right into the library and begin editing; instead I pass the entrance and make my way to the Champs de Mars. Near the base of the Eiffel Tower, in the very slim shadow of a sickly tree I eat my lunch. An impromptu picnic with a cast of hundreds providing the entertainment.

A young American couple are taking pictures of each other in front of the Eiffel Tower- being from the midwest, I offer to help.

Misplaced: Do you want a picture together?
Couple: Thank you! We are on our honeymoon.
Misplaced: Congratulations.
(I take the camera and the guy explains the basics)
Misplaced: One Two Three. (snap)
Couple: You speak English very well.
Misplaced (confused)....Thank you.

All and all not a bad way to spend a Thursday.
A friend of mine just had two very successful art shows in New York. Check out his work "Marais Reflection" was inspired by the view from our apartment in the 4th on Rue Des Francs Bourgeois. Demetrius is a perfect example of a guy pursuing his dream.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

If you’ve wandered through the square in front of the Hotel de Ville you may feel as though you’ve taken a wrong turn. Suddenly you will find yourself in a beautiful garden complete with a mini-lake, grass, trees and plants. Welcome to the “Ephemeral Garden” another green space brought to us by Paris mayor, Bertrand Delanoe.

Over 6,000 plants and trees have been installed in a 31,000 square foot area. The purpose is to offer a little nature in the middle of the big city but also to show how urban gardening can change the feel of a city. It is meant to encourage people to take an interesting urban gardening. The exhibit is temporary; it will be dismantled in early July and replaced, interestingly enough, with a mini-golf course for the remainder of Paris Plage. Maybe next year they can replace it with a mini-housing development.