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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Liss means smooth in French

I already knew that Liss meant smooth, from previous trips. Actually, from shampoo and conditioner bottles. Yesterday I saw one that said Easy Liss, and almost bought it, even though I don't need any shampoo. At home, in the dispensers in the showers at the Y, it says GoJo, and I have to say that every time I take a shower there I feel a slight nudge of encouragement. I even gave this blog, originally, the adress GoJo, with an 08 at the end for the year. But then I felt I had to change it with the change of year.

The Liss thing makes me wonder if French speaking people notice when they hear my name, and think anything of it. And that somehow reminds me of the French woman named Prune in our project. Did I already mention her here? It's so hard to remember what I have actually written about, and what I have merely thought about.

Prune, in French, means plum, not prune! So it is actually quite a nice name, although an unusual one, as Prune told me. In the same vein, raison means grape, and raison sec means raison.

At this rate I will never get to relating any of my wonderful experiences here in the last couple of days, much less the ones in Germany I haven't told you about. So let me move on.

For a nice transition, let me talk about figs for a minute. Which I thought were called figues in French, but which everyone here seems to call figs. They are one of my favorite foods; the fresh ones, that is, not usually that available, and expensive when they are, in my neck of the woods. Every day I have been buying a half kilo, about a pound, and then gorging myself as I walk around the city. What could be better than walking the streets of Paris, you name the neighborhood, eating fresh figs?

Yesterday was my museum free day in Paris. I thought all the museums were closed on Tuesdays. I later realized I was wrong, but that was okay. I probably needed a museum break; I had been visiting one, sometimes two, a day all the days I was in Germany, not to mention the several museum visits during my previous three weeks here.

So, I set off for Clignacourt, the area where my previous chantier, four years ago, had taken place. Some of you might recall that I had worked on designing a garden space in an apartment develôpment. We had philosophized and made models, but did not actually execute the design; that had been planned for the future. In the four ensuing years, I have never found out if the garden actually was created. I had been in periodic contact with Seyhmous, the husband of Naima who runs the organization Compagnie Resonances, with whom we had worked. He worked with us part of the time, especially working with words, as he is a poet. The concept of the garden was to reflect human rights. And my part of the concept was to have mosaic steppingstones in the garden, using tiles we had retrieved from the Paris Mosque, when we visited and they were redecorating and throwing the old blue, white, and gold tiles away.

I came to the organization office, on the ground floor of the building where the garden was supposed to be built, peered through the window, saw no one. I walked to the end of the block, returned to the office door, and was about to sit down to write them a note, when, like an apparition, I saw Naima, Seyhmous, and a third person inside. They had been there all the time, just in an inner part of the offices. I was elated, and even more so when they took me to see the garden. It was planted with all kinds of fruit trees, strawberries, rasberries, lavender, and more. Best, though, were the mosaic steppingstones under a tree. Not from the mosque, but I didn't care ( although I did hope they had saved those tiles, but didn't want to ask.) I had always thought the garden had never been realized, but I was wrong.

Seyhmous showed me what else they had been doing in the community, and explained their further plans. I asked if they had thought of doing any additional international workshops. They had, but had been so busy with other projects that they hadn't had time to pursue it. Naima asked if I'd come if they did another one. I told them about my recent project and gave them Giselle's contact information. Wouldn't it be amazing if I helped connect the people from both of my projects for another community art project? Anything is possible.

Naima was busy with a staff meeting, and apologetic that she didn't have more time to spend with me, but I was ecstatic about having met up with them, and especially seeing the steppingstones, and assured her I was so happy already that it didn't matter. So we shared a few of the French-American red white and blue covered almonds that I had brought for them, from Marshall's of all places, even though none of us is very patriotic, French or American. And Seyhmous and I went to a café nearby (notice I am finally getting around to using some of the accents!) to talk a bit more. He asked me if I was still writing, and I said I was keeping a blog. He told me he had read some of it. I'm very honored, Seyhmous, that a prize winning poet is reading my blog, just like I was honored when you read my poem at the community dinner at the end of our project!

Seyhmous asked me where I was heading next. I told him the métro, but I wasn't sure after that. He made some comment about the life of freedom, which I guess is true for the moment.

I chose to go, again, to the Marais. It keeps calling me back, partly because of the Jewish history and the plaque I saw there four years ago about the children taken away from a school to Auschwitz. But partly, too, because of its artiness. And the contrast between the orthodox Jews, the young North African Jews, and the probably not Jewish trendy shoppers and restaurant goers. I walked around for an hour or more, peering into store windows looking for something to spend my mother's Mother's Day gift on. "Spend it on something you would't buy for yourself" she always says, and I always try. She also usually suggests that clothes or jewelry would be nice. And I usually try to spend it on something special and let her know what it is. And what better place than Paris to do so!

I entered a store that looked interesting and had a sale sign on the window. A large number of the items were 70% off, they were designed by the store owner, and made on the premises. I eventually chose a dress, skirt, and jacket, for a total of 90 euros. The saleswoman was delightful, friendly but not pushy (although she kept saying 70% off, can you believe it?!) and not the least bit hauty, despite the neighborhood. I hope you approve of my choices, Mom!


Last night, to cap off an already perfect day, I ate at the restaurant at the hotel. I would not even have known about its beautiful garden if I couldn't see it from my window. I have not been eating whole meals, usually breakfast, then a crepe or other snack, and then a large salad or soup and dessert, as I did last night. The soup was gazpacho, excellent with a lot of lemon flavor. There was a drink called ginger punch, which I asked about. She said it was strong, not sweet, just rum and fresh ginger. It was strong, and good. To round off my nearly all liquid meal, I had a dessert that was called mi-cuit chocolate, in other words, half cooked chocolate cake. As I had imagined, it was a chocolate cake with a molten center. Tres riche, tres bon!

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