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Matisse, France, Travel, Creativity, Adventure, Expatriates, Dreams, Reinvention


Chasing Matisse: The Book

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Matisse, France, Travel, Creativity, Adventure, Expatriates, Dreams, Reinvention

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December 18, 2002

Hunting and Gathering

Jim is still sick, which drives him crazy like a caged animal. No French lesson, no exercise (beyond walking). I'm still trying to catch up from all the technology troubles of which there are more and require an almost daily trip to W3. Jim's computer is working, but the battery's not charging. Olivier has now ordered him one for $160. Another trip to BHV was also due for art and organizational supplies, and Jim is not the kind of hunter and gatherer that I am. He'd rather pay more than look, and when I rat around to find exactly what I want in style and price (or even buy too many groceries), it drives him up a wall. Shopping then becomes an ordeal. Today, even though he felt bad and wanted to take his canvasses and leave BHV, he stayed with me and did not have a breakdown. He could've and who would've blamed him in the hot store and milling crowd. He acted like a grownup in these poor circumstances.

Afterwards, he went back to Perche, and I headed on for more hunting and gathering, this time for food. I stopped at the Rotisserie Man's shop and looked over his birds-roasted chickens, turkeys, quails, and some sort of charcuterie layered with bird, bacon, and sausage with a center of sauerkraut. I had to check it all out but decided on the latter. At the supermarket, I bought broccoli that, when I cooked it, tasted incredibly tender and fresh. We don't get it that fresh at home. I bought a crisp ficelle and some brown bread for toast from La Fougasse. Dinner at home was delicious. The other major meal we've cooked included a chicken from Rotisserie Man and roasted brussel sprouts of our own.

The last few days my uniform has been aqua pajamas and flowered silk robe. I've been working long hours, and I don't get dressed till it's time to go out. Jim says he's going to paint and sketch me in them. I'd been counting on time for self-reflection, to think and act in my new life with a fresh view, to take care of myself. So far, there's not been much time for that. We're still in survival mode. But I hope this rhythm will come later-wake up, exercise (like yoga or these tricords we brought), have coffee and take notes, work part but not all of the day, actually get out and look around.

But I'm happy here. I love being in a city. I love being in Paris. I love: walking, riding the metro, the life around me, the choice of restaurants, the beauty you happen upon, the narrow cobblestone streets, carrying home bags of delicacies, all the specialty shops, the care taken with every small piece of cheese they wrap in elegant paper, the flower shops, the window displays, reading menus in windows, inexpensive wines, old French women out in the world and dressed up. I love Rotisserie Man too though I doubt he loves me.

I got my first telemarketing call, but not speaking the language was a real boon. He said goodbye and hung up. Some things don't change. I burned the toast.

I talked to Mother who's keeping our dog and cat, Snapp and Cleo. They're wearing her out. Snapp wants attention and rubs his back on her bedskirt, but he's jumping up on her couch and chair which he hadn't done at home for months. I knew he knew we where leaving and hated it. Was this a sympathy ploy, or is he feeling new life at his grandmother's? Cleo scratches Mother's drapes so she'll open them in the morning. Cleo wants to gaze upon the world out Mother's bedroom window. What can we say? They're spoiled. Mother's an angel for keeping them. They're our two youngest children who we left at home.

Before Jim went for his first art lesson, he was nervous and scared like a schoolboy. He didn't know about these lessons, if this was the right atelier where he should be taking class. I offered to walk him, but he was afraid he might cling to my skirt (or more likely pajama tails) like Bret used to. The really nice part was that he came back so pleased with himself. He once had a dream that he was in prison, and the only time he could get out, was when he was painting. He enjoyed class, and the class enjoyed him.

He felt so happy, he wanted to go out. We thought about a jazz club where Django Reinhardt's son used to play. Who knows about now? It seemed too hard to find, so we walked to Bofinger, a famous Parisian brasserie where we'd never been. It was packed with people like a casserole of snails, the French and tourists. Two men outside cracked open a huge trolley of shellfish with good cheer. I thought I wouldn't like this eatery, but I did. The atmosphere and diners were all festive. The bartenders and waiters bustled, and the coat check woman took mounds of outerwear up and down the stairs. I ordered roasted duck liver, and it was a treat if you're a liver lover like I am.

Another first. We took a short stroll to the Place de la Bastille. My advice now is to go and see the scene. Tons of people-mostly students-were hanging out, sitting at cafés, bringing their energy together. Maybe there is a constant revolutionary vibe in the air or an internal magnet on that piece of ground. I felt a spark of the revolution myself and want to bring Blair and Bret back here too, to see if they connect with the young people their ages, to see if they feel the groove.

The girls are coming for Christmas soon. It will be our first Christmas away from Arkansas, our first Christmas in Paris. It will be our first Christmas by ourselves. What all will we do?

Heard on the Rue: "It's over when the whistling starts."
----Jim Morgan, after watching a French movie on TV, understanding the action but not the words.

posted by Beth on December 18, 2002 | View All Diary Entries

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