January 31, 2011


Perhaps my favorite place in Paris is my sister-in-law's apartment. When I walk up the winding wooden stairs, there, waiting for me are two or three suspended heads. They pop out just at the moment when I've rounded the corner for the final round. And the heads are just as nice when I get inside.

And, I've said it before, but I'll say it again because it becomes more and more that way - Marie's apartment is her atelier. Her life sort of happens around where she does art. Her dining room table has been appropriated as an artists' desk and now the family eats around the table in the next room, everyone sitting on cushions or the floor or holding their plates on their laps. Last night, she explained how she does not want people to have their 'places' at the table - how it wreaks of sexism - the woman closest to the kitchen, etc (well, in this family, Fabien, my brother-in-law, does all the cooking) and how she likes when even dinner stays spontaneous. I love it. Not very French, this one's approach.

Here, Marie explains her magic and her next inspiration. Marie loved me before any other French person (except maybe Marguerite, but she was so little she didn't count as French yet and, of course, Xavier, who came very first). She let me in and she's kept me in and I love her and even France for it.

January 30, 2011

Back. Bizarre.

Being back after being away is odd, to be sure. I've been saluting many things walking through these streets again - details that I learned to count on through dreary winters - on buildings and doors that lifted me up when the sky was gray. My hotel is in the 8th arrondissement, an area I used to avoid entirely when we lived here for its hoity-toity-ness. I don't think I've ever taken so many photos of the Eiffel Tower - it is right here and it beckons.

(This one is in Emma's honor - door fascination carries on).

On Saturday, I even had to go back to our apartment, even though someone else is living in it at the moment. That someone else is going to move out, so the process of finding new renters has begun. Xavier is clever enough to manage the entire thing from an ocean away, but since my appearance in Paris fell right at the moment the new renters had to be chosen, I was somewhat obliged to show up. So, I walked up the curvy five floors to our apartment in the 10th arrondissement and my stomach did a few turns with the stairway. I walked into the apartment (muddled with the things of someone else), walked to the center of the living room and just stood there for a minute. There were seven people staring at me expectantly, waiting for me to do something. I didn't mind until the broker said, "Emilie, voilà - les gens qui aimeraient louer l'appartement." (Emilie, these are the people who would like to rent the apartment). Snap back. Looked at everyone. Big smile. Sweeping arm gesture in their direction: "Vous êtes tous très beaux et vous avez l'air très gentil. Allons-y." (You are all very beautiful and you all seem very nice. Let's do it). All the French people laughed and thought I was crazy. I was pleased. In the end, I decided that I should be not be tasked with this sort of thing (I think the broker agrees - sorry, Xavier).

January 28, 2011


(some views from the Paris office)


The birthplace of this blog. Going for a couple of weeks for work, not play - but I hope to get some of that in too.

January 27, 2011

When I woke up this morning.

I opened my eyeballs and out the window was the same church as before, except that it was under a snow spell.

And the same spell was everywhere - from all the windows.

January 26, 2011

Project # 226.



Since the day we moved in, Xavier's bricolage belt has been a permanent fixture around his waist. He has been perpectually project-ing and every project introduces new projects - layers of them. This time, we chose our bedroom.


(Remember the part about doing projects creating even more projects...well, in the sanding/cable removing/paint peeling, etc. the molding up there by ceiling revealed that it also required an unanticipated paint job...more regalement to come).

January 25, 2011


And on another floor in our house lives my brother Marc. This is the part of the house that needs the most work done, like everything. It is the highest floor and it is really unnecessary at this point, so Marc is taking advantage of that. He doesn't mind the disrepair (and, in fact, he'll be part of the solution). He is content to sit, chew gumballs into perfect globose forms and wrap them in bandaids. He's an artist and this is, one-day-very-soon, going to be an installation in a very famous gallery (details forthcoming).

For this project, he purchased 18 pounds of gumballs. Traveling from the various places he has called home this year - one thing was constant, his backpack full of pink gumballs.

My jaw is getting tired, he said last night very seriously.

Do you think they read as candy? (also very seriously).

It was like he had an assembly line going - laid out on the bed with his computer propped up on the chair in front of him so that he could watch Extras while doing his work: bandaids/bandaid wrappers to one side; opened bandaids hanging in a line on the chair in front of him (for ease and efficiency); the big plastic bag of gumballs; a plate with perfect round, chewed balls and then the final product. Awesome.

January 24, 2011


New York is so cold right now. So cold. The steam has more vim and the light is scintillating.

January 21, 2011


I never knew what this building was and really wanted to know because of its Art Nouveau/tangled Gothic style - and - those faces. It sits right next to the office building where I work and I am on the 44th floor, so the view out the windows on one side of the floor directly confronts these faces. Directly. I love the view. I walk over there all the time just to take them in. So, I found out what the building is (thank you, Paul). It was the RCA Victor Building (Radio Corporation of America), built in 1931 and is, today, the General Electric Building. The building is described well by Robert Stern, when he said, it "continued the mood and tone, if not the specific vocabulary of...St. Bartholomew's church, which it overlooked...evoking the dynamic energy of radio transmission to suggest a cathedral for the age of crystal sets." (Quote taken from Robert A.M. Stern's New York 1930: Architecture and Urbanism between the Two World Wars. New York: Rizzoli, 1987 - thanks again Paul). St. Bartholomew's church and the base of this building is featured below. Took these this morning after a nice snow sprinkle.

...It is a good thing that the locus of my working world harbors such great visuals, otherwise these pages might start to bore. I used to have intriguing dreams at night - chocolate shops in Paris with kooky characters or schooner rides on a lanky river. Now my dreams are nightmares about disarranged outlook invitations and mislaid documents. Eh. Got to keep the inspiration trickling notwithstanding. Thank goodness for monkeys.

January 17, 2011

Went for a walk.

I went for a walk this afternoon. Winter has the unfortunate effect of keeping a lid on certain urban adventures, but despite the cold I wanted to probe. As you may remember, our most prominent view from the house is of a certain neo-Gothic tower - City College's. I had not yet gone and seen the rest of the campus, which is consistent architecturally and dates back to 1906 here in Hamilton Heights. The style fits with a cold winter day, if you ask me, so my timing was right on.

Continuing on, just meandering around the streets right around our house, you find other houses with a whole lot of character. Their colors and shapes make me smile.

And then there are the churches. Harlem is like the French countryside; spires materialize at every turn. They are often right next to each other - two faiths abutting, sharing walls even. Church attendance in Harlem is higher than anywhere else in Manhattan and unlike some churches in the city, these buildings are active and full of their communities.

Our Lady of Lourdes | Venetian Gothic Style | O'Reilly Brothers | 1902

German Evangelical Lutheran Church of St. Matthew Parish House | Neo-Gothic | John Boese | 1908

Mount Zion Lutheran Church and Parish House | Gothic Revival | Joseph Wolf | 1889

Convent Avenue Baptist Church | Neo-Gothic | Lamb & Rich | 1899

Hamilton Heights is a landmark district. You know because, well, first, the buildings tell you they must be and, second, because the streets signs are brown. In Manhattan, most street signs are green - but any landmark area gets the special brown color. Look for it - you'll see (thanks, Joyce for pointing that out).

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