A letter from Mme. HISTOIRE
A January Sunday Morning in Paris. The bell in L’Église St. Jean continues to ring and it’s over five minutes. Place des Abbesses is crowded with people, baguettes in hand, shopping their déjeuner. It’s warm like spring, but gray and moist. Paris definitely has a split personality! Douce mais dûr! (sweet but hard!). On Tuesday, a 24-hr. Métro and railroad strike! It’s not for nothing that fierce Dijon mustard is universally served – it burns out the sinuses and clears the head! Getting things done here is devastatingly difficult, but character building!
Well, back in New York here’s the story. Seven of us, good friends, came together for twelve days, to see in the New Year and to live my dream life chez moi à Montmartre, where for 13 years I’ve had a place between La Place des Abbesses and le Théatre de L’Atelier, around the corner from MICHOU’s cabaret and down the street from great big, white Sacre Coeur. The seven us traversed Paris. Shared mornings of cafe au lait and fresh croissants from the boulanger in my building and nightcap chats over a bottle of wine and memorable meals in delightful restaurants.
After we were no longer seven, Ted and I began the task of completely re-doing the place. My concierge says it hasn’t been touched in more than 20 years. The project snowballed. Came home the 10th on the last possible day without buying a new tx. Ended up doing over the whole place *(will actually put photos of every thing on the web before long so check it out in a while – WC new toilet + chasse d’eau (water chase), hot pink seat, lavender carrelages (floor tiles), new faucets all round, carrelages on the tub and floor (used to be carpet everywhere!). New kitchen sink with snappy new Groehe faucet. Turns out the old sink, like everything else in this building, is “tres ancienne “. Buried in the wall, cemented into a plaster wall and covered with indestructible cement tiles they don’t even make anymore. So new carrelages over the old. Might as well tile the floor while we’re at it. Etc. etc. etc.!)
Doing it in French worked and great fun. Everything sounds better in French! Ted and I were a great team; he measured, I talked. Might not sound like much but what a great adventure. Living in a war zone, searching, choosing, buying – in francs and installing. LOTS of talking. A variety of accents casser la tête< (to break the head!). And, no matter what the task, yet another gorgeous corner of Paris. Searching a new bed began with a couple of big ads in les pages jaunes; I set off down the hill to Pigalle to the <Metro, the end of line #2 and eastern Paris, Nation Literie. There, at Place de la Nation, 3 of the 20 <arrondissements (semi-autonomous neighborhoods each with own Mairie (Town Hall) come together, and there is this gigantic monument to the Republic, and a neighborhood a local paper calls “bourgeoise, populaire et branchée“.
House-bound with the renovation, I did a lot of radio and TV. My ear got really good. I try everything – interview shows, game shows, political discussion and debate, comedy, French pop music, French movies. Dubbed shows in English and German shows go mercifully slower. The French squeeze more words into a breath, and a mile a minute! Plenty mumble. I actually watched an episode of “Loving” so I could watch for Mike Renzi’s name to go by on the credits. I sang at a couple of parties, one with two extraordinary musicians (guitar and clarinet), at the home of a charming lady whose grandfather founded Gibert Jeune, the ubiquitous chain of bookstores in the 6th. Arrondissement. They were wonderfully enthusiastic in that wonderful French way. And I sang in a basement club near Le Bastille using tracks from my CDs . In Paris that’s a routine alternative to accompaniment.
Back in June to sing in the Montmartre Jazz Festival and several concerts. So I’ll sign off with the promise of more letters from Paris.
à bientôt – Cynthia Crane
Coming soon! More Paris…the neighborhood and the personalities.
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