March 31, 2009


Malou's 90th

This weekend we went to Lyon for Xavier's grandmother's 90th birthday. Her name is Malou. It was a big gathering of people since there are 7 children in Xavier's dad's family, probably even overwhelming for Malou. So, she would often rest in her room, but then would appear at the door of the living room and perform. Everyone would quiet down and grab cameras and then she would sing songs recalled perfectly from her childhood and life. The room would be silent while she performed and once she was finished, she would turn around and return to her repose only to reappear 15 minutes later. Thus, the event was effectively peppered with delight.

The Joly family are a bunch of radiating folks. They are beautiful and funny and warm.

Xavier and his dad.

March 26, 2009


I love the way your hair catches the light.

March 24, 2009

Travel Observations

Whenever Xavier travels for work (often) he sends small observations my way. I received two today. I love them:

March 23, 2009

Water Reflections

in le Marais on this building. Gawking. Me. At this.

Not just light. Promise. Water light. But where on earth was the water? Are there mermaids floating under the cobblestone? What was I missing?

My Hat

Last week, I received something in the mail. At first, it was just a little slip of paper in my mail box telling me a packaging was sitting, waiting for me at the post office (remember, a place I generally steer clear of). Then it was a box. A good size brown box with my name and address on it from some man in La Rochelle whom I could not identify (I don't even know where La Rochelle is).

I was puzzled. I started hacking the box open by poking my fingers and hitting the box (which was only marginally effective). Once my fingers had punctured enough holes in the box, I squinted into the darkness. All of this while walking down a busy Parisian street with French gawkers looking on. I was shaking the box, peering inside; basically I was a kid trying to guess her present. With frenzy, I finally succeeded in opening one of my holes big enough to see color. Light blue. Light blue felt. Breaching the last hole and more of the box, red and gold. Gold trim, red top. It was a hat.

I squealed like a pig. It was a hat like the one my military men were wearing, remember that? When I finally tore the box open to see the full hat in its splendor, I was panting with delight. Who on earth would have sent me such wonderment? Who would search this out and send this to me unannounced and so whimsically?

I called Xavier to thank him for such a surprise and felt like he really understood me to have sought out such an item. Negatory. Wasn't him. Hmmm. Then I thought and thought and there is only one person that sensitive and that thoughtful: Cindy. Thank you Cindy. That was a moment of pure rapture.

March 21, 2009

Parc des Buttes Chaumont

We ventured to the Parc des Buttes Chaumont on this perfect first day of Spring. It is in the 19e arrondissement and it was romantic beyond my romantic dreams. And I do mean 'romantic' here in the pure sense, in the sense that I felt like I was walking in a Corot painting.

The park was built for the Universal Exhibition in 1867, a date which marks the tail end of Romanticism as an intellectual movement. As we moved through the park, I was struck by the dramatic cliffs (the park was built on what was once a gypsum quarry), heights towering above broad stretches of grass and trees and plantings and which led up to a mini-temple fashioned in classical style. All around there was water - horizontal lakes and vertical falls, all of this mixed with the signs of industrialism - railway tracks and bridges - the mark of what was on its way when the park was built.

The park was part of Napoleon III's remaking of Paris, with the help of Haussmann, of course (whom we can all thank for making Paris the city of grands boulevards and picturesque promenades during the 19th century). This particular area of Paris (the 19e) wasn't part of the city boundaries until 1860 and so the park was a way of ceremonializing the new area of the city. The park's almost savageness juxtaposed with the city hovering around on all sides is strange, almost uncanny. But it was at this moment in the history of ideas that nature was glorified and glorified precisely because for the first time there was a heightened appreciation of nature because of the presence of the city.

For a city dweller today in postmodern Paris, I am with the romantics; I love this space.

We had a picnic and soaked in the Spring sunshine.

Someone next to us took it the next level. This dude had the most active suntanning stance I have ever witnessed, almost like he was commanding the sun to focus its vigor on him. And, just to clarify, it was not hot. It was temperate, but by no means hot. Maybe 55 degrees.

A really great book on many praiseworthy city parks is Alan Tate's Great City Parks.

How fiercely, devoutly wild is Nature in the midst of her beauty-loving tenderness!--painting lilies, watering them, caressing them with gentle hand, going from flower to flower like a gardener while building rock mountains and cloud mountains full of lightning and rain.

John Muir, The Yosemite

The Electric Grandmother

Remember this film from the 80's? It was actually based on a Ray Bradbury novel and she was the robot grandma who could squirt orange juice and hot chocolate from her fingers. That movie was a long time ago in my memory, but it so happens that the old robot pops into my head frequently.

This will be a short series of bizarre confessions: things I do and have continued to do since I was a kid to entertain myself. So, the first was inspired by that movie. After watching that movie when I was little, I realized that in the shower if I positioned my hand just right while the water poured over it, it would look like water was squirting out of my fingertips, just like electric grandma. I was doing this in the shower this morning genuinely for my own entertainment. All of a sudden I realized what I was doing (and my age) and then I snickered.

This realization did not stop me from another little ritual I perform before jumping out of the shower in the morning. I cup my hands and let them fill with water. Then I dip my nose into the little pool and snort in a lot of water while closing my eyes and pretending I am at a swimming pool. Then when I open my eyes, I still have the impression I've just gotten out of the swimming pool - you know that feeling at the back of your nose/throat that feels like a grimace because you got too much water up there? Yeah. It is not that refreshing, for example. But it does trick me into thinking I was just swimming along (which I love).

My final and perhaps most bizarre form of self-regalement is my dentist. This is the guy who lives in my mouth and is constantly fretting over my teeth. He came alive when I was about 12 years-old, sitting perched on our bathroom countertop, facing the mirror. My mouth is big. My tongue is even bigger. And that day, my tongue was running along the surface of my teeth and I realized what it was doing: it was checking all of its patients, its teeth. Watch, you will see. Focus on the tip of my tongue, watch how it sways back and forth frantically, worried about each tooth, and you will immediately get the picture.

March 19, 2009

Happy Birthday Stephena!

27 years old. Glorious Day. I love you.

I thought of you when I saw these flowers today. It was like they knew it was your birthday:

I also thought of you when I saw him. He knew too and his name is Tango:

March 18, 2009


How the Seine sparkles in the bright Spring sunshine.

How Marguerite's crazy smile sparkles in the bright Spring sunshine.

How this miniscule homeless kitten (her owner is a homeless man) sleeps peacefully on a busy Parisian street at midday.

(Clarification: most homeless people in Paris own an animal. For companionship, of course, but also because there is a French law that states that the police cannot pick up homeless people for being on the street if they have an animal. The logic - alright, there is none - but if there were it would be something like, 'How would the state take care of those animals if the person were no longer able to?' The result: a whole lot of homeless animals).

Sitting under the big, brightly colored Printemps dome with Emma and snapping a photo of ourselves reflected in the mirror of the table.

The big, brightly colored Printemps dome.

Oh, and oh, Joyce - my sister Julie's.

March 16, 2009

A Very Funny Series of Emails

My cousins Jill and Alisa are coming to Paris in April. We can't wait to have them. In preparation, Jill recently sent me this email:

I thought of one more question....stupid, but important. Will my flat iron work there? I heard somewhere that your oulets aren't the same. My hair is impossible without a flat iron. Do you have one if mine won't work or do they have adapters or something? Just have to know. Thanks again.

I wasn't quite sure about how to respond technically, since we had had a mishap this summer with my mom's curling iron. So, I asked Xavier about adapters and he wanted to know what for. I told him, with a bit of hesitation, that it was for a hair thing. His face lit up with a smile. Les Américaines! he proclaimed and volunteered to take over from there.

Here is his response (I was falling off the couch laughing):

Hey Jill,

Emilie forwarded your last email to me, she was not sure that we had a practical solution for your hair straightener dilemma...May I jump in the conversation at this technical juncture.

First, I went on a website to educate myself about these devices:

Then, I realized that most of these "cosmetic" appliance devices use a range of 25W to 80W which is too much for our little (
although cute) power converter. Rosie already blew it up once trying to approach hair styling in France in the same way...

Last, let's just be honest here: do you really need a hair straightener, Miss America? I am not sure...but if so, I can suggest the following American alternatives:

Classic: Hair Sprays. Hair spays are used to stiffen hair and hold a hairstyle in place. They are made up of various polymers that provide hold, reduce moisture, and increase water resistance. They are generally weaker than hair wax or gel, but are gentler and less damaging to the hair. They are sprayed from aerosol cans and are usually scented (good).

2. Less common but far more in fashion:
Hair Relaxers (relax your hair, relax your hair, Emilie would say...) which straighten curly hair to make it more manageable. They work by softening the hair so that it remains straight when stretched. Their effects are usually temporary to semi-permanent (just what we want, right?), depending on the application and the strength of the chemicals (we will rely on you for this).

Hair relaxers use mild depilatory chemicals – the same ingredients used in hair removal – to thin and soften the hair. These chemicals can damage the hair and skin when not properly applied. Although hair relaxers may be applied at home, experts recommend having them applied by professionals to prevent the chemicals from damaging the hair, scalp, and surrounding skin.

3. Traveler friendly:
A Wig. A wig is an artificial head of hair that can be made of human hair, horsehair (that sounds good, Melanie will be delighted), or synthetic materials (but environment friendly). It consists of a hair cap woven or injected with strands of hair. It is worn on the head for fashion, role-playing, disguise, cosmetic enhancement, and other stylistic reasons including religious and cultural observance. It is available in different colors, hairstyles, and lengths.

I hope this helps and I trust that you will look stupendous regardless of what you choose from the options above; I really look forward to seeing you guys in Paris, even more so now...


Classic. Xavier has reconfirmed all of his ideas about American women's hair.

One last thing though. Every morning after Xavier's shower, I hear the sounds of a blow dryer in the bathroom. Xavier?

Finian's Rainbow

I was excited to go to Ireland for two main reasons...which can be boiled down to one main artifact from the past: Finian's Rainbow. You see what I mean. My mom, the brilliant woman that she is, trained us in old film classics like this one and I still go around singing Look To The Rainbow thanks to her.

My memories from the film include Irishman Finian and his beautiful daughter, who have stolen a pot of gold and sing a whole lot about it, a mute girl who dances instead of talking, a guy who gets turned black, and of course, a leprechaun. Somehow, from my perspective now, I think there must have been a bit of political satire in this one, but as an 8 year-old, there was mostly just that dancing lady, Fred Astaire and the leprechaun.

Well, Finian's Rainbow made me dream about Ireland. This weekend I finally got to go and I asked the Irish people, "How are things in Glacca Morra. Is that little brook still leaping there?" Turns out it isn't a real place. But there are Killybegs, Kilkerry and Kildare.

You'll never grow old and you'll never grow poor if you look to the rainbow beyond the next moor.

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