This morning I didn’t feel like practicing. I did the Sunday crossword puzzle, ate a proper breakfast, showered, puttered around a bit, and then decided that as the sun was shining (and I say it’s all right!), I would go for a nice long walk and take pictures for my adoring fans in the blogosphere.
So I walked my usual route, along the #21 bus line on Rue de la Glacière, all the way to St. Michel. Which is a pretty long walk.
(doesn’t have quite the same ring in French, does it?)
And here’s our favorite couscous place, by the light of day:
I love the colors. So much of Paris is sort of an off-white stone color, which, while beautiful, gets old. There’s also a kids’ bookstore along this route that is painted a fantastic lime green.
ABBEY: It was in the newspapers. I’m sure you read about it.
BABISH: I read Le Monde. Was it in Le Monde?
ABBEY: I don’t know. I don’t read Le Monde.
(Also known as, hey look, the Le Monde headquarters is in my neighborhood!)
I think, without knowing much about the architectural concept behind Paris, that the city must have been designed to make the sky the main focus. The buildings are all cut just so, so that you have this incredible contrast between buildings and sky. When the sky is blue, this makes Paris the most beautiful city in the world, and at night, when you can see (some of) the stars, it’s nothing short of miraculous. When the sky is gray, however, Paris becomes incredibly depressing, because all you can see for miles around is gray sky.
It all began the day I found
That from my window I could only see
A piece of sky.
I stepped outside and looked around,
I never dreamed it was so wide
Or even half as high!
Even more truck graffiti!
About as French as any façade can possibly get. (I’ve just remembered now, and for the sake of authenticity will insert it here, that my initial intention in taking aforementioned long walk was to find a Taiwanese restaurant that I had noticed on Rue Gay-Lussac, with the expectation that it would probably be closed–it was, indeed, closed.)
At the intersection of Gay-Lussac and Rue St. Jacques (I believe), one of my favorite visuals in the whole city. It’s hard to tell from this picture, but the street is a bit of a hill, and you can’t see what’s on the other side, so it looks like the cars are coming from nowhere.
And then I made it all the way to St. Michel, hurrah! By this point I was hungry, and my brain said, “FALAFEL,” but I decided to wander around and see what else I saw.
This made me laugh:
“Nous cherchons un bon restaurant français, typique et charmant…”
In the end, falafel won out. I went to Maoz, which is a tiny tiny vegetarian falafel place with only a few options, and no kebab (I like my kebab, don’t get me wrong, but when you’ve walked past about twelve of those enormous slabs of mystery meat slowly turning on a spit, it starts to get a little unappetizing). I got the falafel and eggplant pita, with tomatoes and cucumbers.
I don’t know what they do to that eggplant, but it’s practically ambrosial. I think I could live on roasted eggplant from one of these falafel joints (because I’m sure it wouldn’t taste as good made at home, just like Ella’s hot sweet potato in All-of-a-Kind Family) and mango lassis for the rest of my life, and be quite content. Except that I like other kinds of food too much–I’d get bored!
The guy at Maoz asked me if I’d been there before, which I had. I was sort of surprised that he remembered me, as I’m sure they get their fair share of tourists in and out. He said, “American?” I was like, am I that obvious? Apparently it wasn’t that, it was just a lucky guess, but I still felt compelled to explain to him that in fact, I’m not a tourist. As a matter of fact, you wouldn’t believe how long I’ve been living here!
Anyway, I took my falafel over to Notre Dame and sat on a bench, from which vantage point I watched a woman feed the pigeons that were sitting on her head/arms/lap (ewwwwww), and a tourist go by looking like this:
She looked like she was regretting her outfit choice in a huge way. Plus her boyfriend was wearing sneakers and jeans. As Christine Lavin might say, “What was she thinking?!”
And then I took the train home, where I tried and failed to take a nap, which led me over to the piano, where–get this–I actually PRACTICED the piano. I don’t think I’ve practiced the piano like that since way before I quit the piano, at age twelve. But I just couldn’t get up the energy to have a productive singing practice, so I printed out a couple of Satie Gymnopédies and “Knight Rupert” from Schumann’s Album for the Young (which I’m sure members of my family remember from my first tortured experience with it).
I sat there for an hour with the Schumann, actually playing the right hand first, then the left hand, then putting them together slowly, drilling them over and over, until I could more or less play the whole piece.
And you know what? It was really fun. I’m glad I have a secondary instrument (which was actually my first instrument) for the times when I don’t want to sing but I still feel like making music. Banging around on the piano is incredibly satisfying, and it’s a totally different kind of coordination. On the one hand, it’s a comfort to know that if a piano is in tune, the note you hit will be the note that sounds. Every day, rain or shine, hot or cold, no matter how you’re feeling, even if you have a cold or laryngitis or something more sinister. But on the other hand, I haven’t focused like that on playing the piano in years–I’ve been kind of plunking out accompaniments to my Mozart recitatives and ensembles, but I haven’t done any kind of intensive work. And I am a determinedly right-handed person. When I have bags to carry, I carry them all on the right side, even if I’m tilting sideways because everything is so heavy. My left hand really does virtually nothing in the scheme of things, except type half of every blog post. So working my left hand up to the strength of my right hand on the piano is going to be a challenge–but hey, that’s why I’ve got a piano in my room, right? Might as well take advantage of it.
And then I felt my motivation to sing return and I practiced for a while, then attempted another nap…to no avail. Had a clementine and a couple of prunes (you scoff, but oh man, they are so delicious), and then got down to the business of blogging.
And that is how you find me now, blogosphere, a member of your shy lot.
P.S. Totally forgot about these pictures. I wandered around by the Seine for a few minutes and found this:
And the river, which is stunning at all times.