Chasing Matisse: The Book
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December 15, 2002
Technology May Kill Us
Jim's laptop quit working. A blank screen was staring at us no matter what he did, and he simmered up a minor meltdown. Not like it could've been, not like I expected, not to the extent that I probably would've lost it with our technological setbacks and the stress that has generated. Our wits aren't wired industrially. Oh maybe, if we really tried they could be, but that would be excruciating too. The point is that attempting to get our European "theater of operations" up and working has eaten us alive.
The lone Parisian activity we've had any time for are long walks down the boulevards and rues, exploring our neighborhood while looking for just the right dinner setting. This, of course, is one of the great joys of Paris. We walked in Little Rock for fitness, not to travel from one place to another or as a pursuit in itself to enjoy, not to find another architectural beauty or scene we hadn't laid eyes on before, not to savor the city's life. We could've strolled and appreciated our own surroundings, even if they weren't Paris, but didn't. That was a decision we made in how we lived our lives.
I don't believe this is as true in France as it is in the U.S., but we live in a culture of cars where people would rather ride than walk, not exert themselves. In some ways it's ironic that the city dwellers are the ones who stride through their concrete worlds. People who live in smaller communities get in their automobiles and drive, foregoing the pleasure of their neighborhoods. (Growing up, our daughters wouldn't have considered walking four or five blocks to the video store. Too embarrassing.) We do not see what we have. We're too busy driving by it.
There's also the matter of instant gratification, time and how we perceive it-speed and slowness. Milan Kundera, one of my favorite authors, addresses these ideas in his novel, Slowness-how human beings think and feel, act and respond. Time is a trickster, and it is part of our challenge here. We're being killed by the technology, but we must have the immediacy of the Internet for our communications network. And the most interesting point in this project, for me-the learning to see-is about slowness.
One afternoon after we'd been to BHV, our answer for Target (my favorite all-round store), to buy more electrical and business supplies, we met Ruben and Patricia Konigsberger at the trendy Le Fumoir to connect, apologize for our tardiness the other evening (and lost opportunity), to buy them a drink. Patricia, an American who has lived in Paris for more than 20 years, has a Ph.D. in Philosophy from the Sorbonne. She is a freelance producer, artist, and takes whatever job she must to make ends meet. Ruben is Argentine and has been here something like 12 years. Patricia talked about what a tough city Paris is but how great the quality of life. It's been my contention for years that artists are not supported in the U.S.-financially, culturally, individually or as a group. Art and the creating of art, which is a great equalizer and connector-the enjoyment of it is available to anyone in any class-is generally not valued. Respect for art forms, which enrich our spirits, life condition, and society is dismissed. Ruben and Patricia discussed how hard it is to survive as an artist in Paris, but Patricia agreed that artists are better thought of here.
Being here really is different this time. We're not tourists breaking our necks. We're working, trying to get set up and organized. We haven't even made the pilgrimage to our favorite haunts on the Left Bank (except one drink at Deux Magots). The weird thing is we don't even care. In the past, we usually couldn't make ourselves cross the Seine to this side.
In the meantime, the phone that we were so proud to have we couldn't work. Oh, we could dial a number, but we couldn't retrieve messages or do other basic functions. We couldn't even hear it ring. We'd chosen the "polite" tone, which I then changed to "espionage." It startles me when I hear it.
After a maddening and draining, couldn't-make-anything-work day, we strolled down the rue des Archives on our evening ritual. Several shop windows entertained us with their displays of S & M accessories (can't think of one in Little Rock). Standard or French couture? The boy crowd was spilling out of one of their favorite bars to hang, bald heads and hard bodies clad in leather pants and vests, they had an urban, polished/rough edge, or they could've been in a musical. I told Jim I might ask them how much they'd give me for him. Gay men always love Jim, which he should take as proof-positive that he's still got it-looks great and sexy. But that isn't enough for him. He still longs for hair, especially with color.
We came home and burned up the printer.
Thank God, we'd happened on to a computer store, W3. We ventured in with Jim's laptop, and it was a life-saver that Olivier Silber spoke English. We'd found Mecca on the rue de Turenne! Unbelievably, he called us later that afternoon and told us they had fixed it-merely a problem with the battery connection. What good news! $165 but it worked. Olivier also explained French electricity and the gizmos we do or don't need to go with our machines. Adaptors are not the same as converters, and surge protectors don't help either at all.
Back at home, we heard from Europe By Car about a model to lease when we get on the road, and that was exciting! All the choices were interesting-a little station wagon with a huge sun roof that opened riders to the sky, a large sedan with a GPS system, or a little van that could hold Our Stuff. Ooh, this is good. (We leased a brand new station wagon from Europe By Car four years ago, when we were here six weeks, and loved the car and the ease of dealing with this company.)
For the first time this trip, we saw two little dogs trot into our restaurant with their owners, which pleased us much, made us think of our Snapp at home with his grandmother. Somehow, by the end of the day, we'd made a leap. We felt like things were going to change and go more smoothly. Or as Hemingway said, "Isn't it pretty to think so."
Heard on the Rue: "Every saleswoman at the Chanel counter thinks she's Coco Chanel."
----Patricia Konigsberger, on the French ego.
posted by Beth on December 15, 2002 | View All Diary Entries
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