Monday, August 29, 2011

Cave a Vins~ Missing Paris Day

This shot is the back side of one of my favorite little places in Paris:
La Reserve de Quasimodo (past post here)
And after a somewhat tense weekend worrying about friends and family on the East Coast,
I'm wishing I was here now. What I wouldn't give for a plate of their Rillette de Sardine, 
the Foie Gras Tartine and a view of the Hotel de Ville across the Seine.

In the heart of Paris with affordable French favorites
and their very own little wine shop in the next room,
the building is also known as the Oldest Bar in Paris,
 serving since the 13th century. 

And for those of you letting out a collective sigh this Monday morning after Irene,
am sending out a whooping holler to those who went unscathed
and a prayer for those who didn't. 

And Bonne Nuit, Irene.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

30th Reunion~ A Gift

Recently I went to my 30th High School Reunion of which, in the last few months, I had helped on the planning committee. I mentioned to someone that I hadn't connected with a lot of people in high school (too shy, self-conscious and insecure-- like most of us were) and really wished I had reached out to more people.

In high school, in social class terms, I didn't feel on the same level. Most (or at least many) of them had parents who worked regular jobs and had 'normal' homes and lives. Throughout most of my early school years, we moved every few months so I was perpetually the new kid, the outcast and even worse, "The Hippie Kid" (which meant never having new clothes and feeling a little like a zoo attraction).  Back then, I felt we had so little in common (and again with the lack of self-confidence), I would never have struck up a conversation just to be friendly.

So to be able to connect with people based simply on our school history and shared memories (most of my high school years were finally all in one school)  felt like a blessing to me. These days there are any number of hooks on which to hang a conversation: 30 years of life experience, school, travel, kids and present locations. And what a world of difference a little life-experience confidence can make.

This past month, our class had three wonderful days to catch up on all topics starting with a casual Friday night gathering at a local steakhouse. Eighty to a hundred of our peeps literally took over the bar and nearby diners sprouted eyes wide as cup saucers as they relinquished all attempts to talk to each other over dinner, decibel levels making that a sheer impossibility. The big bash Saturday night at the top of the Hilton offered gorgeous views and dresses, great music and food and speeches by our old principal and a favorite teacher (mine anyway), her basic message touching on the importance of connecting and finding the joy in your life. Sunday's barbecue, back to casual fare, was light, fun and easy and enabled more catching up with some of those possibly missed earlier in the weekend.

Someone (planning a 35th reunion for another school) told me that the 30th is much less about the inevitable "And what are you doing?" question (the inflection on any one of those words changing the tone and its perceived meaning) and much more about "How very lovely to see you!", "What's new with you?" and "Let's stay in touch!" And after a full weekend of my 30th, I can resoundingly say I found it to be true.

At our 10th reunion, one of the 'popular athletic types' in high school approached me, asked what I did and when I told him I was bartending after having just graduated as an English major and wanted to write, he promptly turned and walked away without a word. I literally could have caught flies, my mouth hanging to the banquet-room carpet  as I watched the God-like back I'd sat behind in Mr. B's class walk away from me, his handsome features now approaching a cute nearby blonde sporting a tight miniskirt and blazer who clearly looked like she commanded more money, more respect and more prestige out in the world.

The 30th (without certain jocks) was a lovely affair with joyous, smiling faces, truly happy just to find each other and spend time together as well as throngs of screaming, jostling hugging old friends reunited, so excited they literally jumped up and down. Social class no longer mattered. What was truly important were the hugs, the memories, learning new things about old friends and new stories about old times.

Helping with the reunion, I think, was a way for me to connect now as I hadn't back then. Did I know that when I offered to help? I think I knew I wanted connection but didn't really put it all together until later. Coming down off the high of so much fun, so much reuniting and so many truly open arms and loving hearts, I felt accepted in a way I never allowed myself to be in high school. And I feel grateful and proud that these people are a part of my past, my history, making up a piece of the mosaic soul montage that I am now.

Connecting and joy!
Who knew the 30th could do all that!?!

(Photographs copyright: Kirsten Steen)

Monday, August 15, 2011

Shakespeare & Co. and Midnight in Paris~ A Respite

On one of my last trips to Paris,
I spent a day going from cafe to church to bookstore to write.
And the bookstore was none other than the famous Shakespeare and Co.

...which feels a little like a place of respite in Paris.
After a day of struggling with the language,
it's refreshing to step into a world of books in English
and young salespeople speaking it.  

Though I know it's not the original location,
it still makes me think of the writers of the 20's who spent time at the original store:
James Joyce, D.H. Lawrence, Ernest Hemingway, Ezra Pound, T.S. Eliot, Thornton Wilder,
Andre Gide, Gertrude Stein, Man Ray and so many more. 

George Whitman (rumored to be the grand-nephew of Walt Whitman)
opened it as Le Mistral in 1951. According to one blogger (Talkin Travel),
before her death, Sylvia Beach, who started the original S.& Co. called George's bookstore,
"the spiritual successor" to her store. 
She willed many of her books to him and after her death, he changed the store's name. 

~My writing spot~

 Shakespeare and Co. is a respite in Paris much the same way 
the film 'Midnight in Paris' is a respite to our lives. 
A jaded writer gets to travel back in time (in an antique roadster)
and do exactly what so many of us wish we could do:
meet the writers of the 1920's, share a drink with them, 
talk writing with them and hear about their lives and their stories. 

The film touches on a universal theme of the human condition:
wanting what you can't have.

Though I'm not sure I would want to stay permanently in 1920's Paris,
what I wouldn't give for a visit (or two) and access to those conversations.
And although I myself tend to question writer/director Woody Allen's personal motives 
for the gorgeous jewel he has bestowed on his audiences,
he does offer us his fantasy
of the chance to have both that visit and access!  

(Shakespeare and Company photos copyright: Kirsten Steen)

Monday, August 8, 2011

The Setting Seine~ Missing Paris Day

This shot in Paris was taken after a long afternoon of walking
as the sun shone dying ember rays on the ancient buildings along the Seine.
A perfect summer-like day in spring,
throngs of people in every neighborhood enjoying
the unusual shorts and t-shirt weather in late April.

It fits my nostalgic mood today as I've just returned 
(to my regularly scheduled programming, ie. Life)
 from my 30th High School Reunion and am working on a post about it. 
(Yes, I'm surely dating myself...
.....but please don't call me shirley. Sorry, couldn't help it even with all the nostalgia.)

My mind is joyously cluttered with 3 days-worth of new memories
of people with whom I shared most of my high school years.
And I promise to share soon.
For those of you contemplating an upcoming reunion, don't miss it. 
Like those high school years,  the memories of old and new connections 
cannot be recaptured or replaced. 
As the recently retired teacher who spoke at ours said,
it's all about connecting. 

Bon Lundi a vous! 

Monday, August 1, 2011

Wonderous Courtyard~ Missing Paris Day

I love finding these old cobblestone courtyards in Paris,
wondering how long the moss has been growing here
and just how many well-dressed footsteps have traversed over how many centuries.

They leave me wondering how many artists
 have endeavored their craft behind these walls and windows,
laboring and rejoicing over their work,
stirring the creative melting pot to see what words, what colors,
what stone features arise to the surface and beg to be let loose in the world.

Paris inspires creativity
though I find I can barely write while I'm there,
too many courtyards like this one calling,
too many sights, Parisian street sounds and smells working on my senses 
to do anything but absorb them. 

These courtyards leave me wondering
 about the gardener or concierge who tends to them,
watering new buds or plucking old, bruised and wilted flowers,
scrubbing walkways and polishing sills,
wishing their neighbors 'Bonjour' or 'Bonne Nuit'.

They also leave me wondering 
 how many ways a photo can be sweetly 
posed and framed into slightly new incarnations. 

A lovely new week to you!
And hoping your creativity can find some fresh, new colors 
through which to see it. 

(Photography copyright: Kirsten Steen)