15 December, 2008

final thoughts on Paris, France (for now)

  • How is it possible for a city so old to always be new? Walking through the streets is like writing a mind-map; Paris will never make sense. Within the périphérique, wander and wonder are one of the same.
  • This remains true, as well.

11 December, 2008

Is a Spiral a Fractal?

Because I don't think Paris ever ends.

Today I was at the Saint-Germain-des-Prés metro stop around lunch time. Lucie was late, so I ducked into a magical tobac. The barman was named Jean-Pierre and the gentleman to my left was the best. I never caught his name, but his breath was filled with sweet beer. He immediately struck conversation with me while trying to count on his fingers, with mesmorizing difficulty, how many beers he had drunk. I suggested infinity, which must be close to the French word because he laughed and said, "Oui." We kept talking while I drank my espresso.

And by talking I mean he was basically shouting and using wonderfully theatrical body gestures to describe the deepest secrets of his universe to me (I presume). He also kept shaking my hand and saying, "Merci beaucoup, monsieur." We must have shook hands twenty times in the fifteen minutes we knew each other. It didn't bother him at all that I didn't speak enough French to be any sort of conversation partner. In fact, he was having such a great time, I'm not even sure he noticed that I don't speak French.

After I finished my espresso I told him, "J'ai un rendezvous avec une jolie fille, monsieur*." Once he had thoroughly sifted through my accent, the man's face lit up. He paraded me around the bar as if I were his son and had just pitched a no hitter, or had just gotten home from fighting in some heroic war effort. He kissed each side of my face and gave me a hug before allowing me back into the world outside the exceptional orbit of Jean-Pierre's bar.

Later I was in San Francisco Book Company -- doing some shopping -- when I overheard the customer at the counter mention to the teller she was relocating back to Michigan. The teller asked if she was moving to Detroit, but she said no. Then I butted in and said, "Detroit? I heard they have a Robo-Cop there." No one even got that it was a joke, and unfortunately it sparked a twenty minute conversation about crime and policing that I had to listen to.

On the metro ride home I got excited while thinking about space exploration. I hope I live to see the day when they start making movies on the Moon, or on Mars. How strange of a film scene we've yet to see, and not even begun to imagine.

I want it to always be like this. It's only 5:50.

*Please pardon all of my grammatical mistakes, both in French and English. I'm trying my best, typically.

04 December, 2008

"2 Reason I'm Excited to LIVE in Portland, Oregon"

Last night while falling asleep it hit me that I won't be on winter break this Christmas; I'm going to be unemployed. This is a big first for me. Technically, I have no prospects. No job offers. No place to live. Nothing doing. Fortunately I'm an endless optimist, and all this translates to the world being my oyster. One thing I'm particularly looking forward to is my big move to Portland, Oregon coming up in January. It will mark the first time I've lived in a city where everyone speaks English. I like that. Nothing against the Parisians for speaking French, but its impossible to count the times I've wanted to strike up conversation with the interesting strangers surrounding me on the metro: What do you think of that book? Where did you get your shoes? Are you interested in drinking wine? Do you want to share my i-pod with me for the rest of this ride? Do you like outer space? Language barriers! I could have been friends with so many people. . . But, in Portland I can ask these sorts of questions, literally, because I know how to speak English and so will everyone else.

To get myself excited I started a list in my notebook called "Two Reasons I'm excited to Live in Portland, Oregon." But when I wrote it out, I originally wrote "Move to" rather than "Live in." It just didn't work. To talk about moving somewhere made me feel like a statue, like I was going to be uprooted from Paris and set up in a in a museum rather than a city. Fuck no! I'm going to live there. I'm going to be fluid. I'm going to have ideas, make friends, put stuff on! Find nooks, and discover crannies!

Earlier this fall I watched Woody Allen's Hannah and her Sisters, and it affected me a great deal. On the metro ride home from the Filmotheque I wrote this into my notebook: "I'm really starting to feel like my life is something. Not because I'm "doing" things, but because I exist. Everything is icing. I get to be part of all this." I am assuming by this, I meant the waltz; life moving by means of comings and goings, hellos and goodbyes, old friends and new friends, projects and downtime. I just finished my final lecture of the semester, and I feel fantastic. I've embarked on a new feature length screenplay, and I've never had so much love for a project. It takes place in outer space, and confronts intimacy with the infinite.

The other night my friend Maggie brought me to an invitation-only party for the unveiling of the new limited edition Coca-Cola Light bottle. It was at the designer's studio, and was not only ultra-chic, but also way swank and super mod. Imagine the party from I'm Not There during Cate Blanchett's portion of the film, take away the excessive drug use, but keep the white space, and that's the soiree. I credit the event as my first real-life adult party, and Maggie and I definitely felt as though we were at the kid's table. Setting out to prove our rookie status for everyone, Maggs and I obliviously found our way into the VIP room to enjoy our free champange. To seasoned adult-party goers, a secluded room with overstuffed leather sofas and diamond encrusted Coca-Cola bottles would probably be enough to signify that this was not a room for normals, but we were just bushy-tailed kids trying our best! Of course we sat down and partied for a while. (Incidentally, while sitting on these sofas we hatched our plans for the rest the evening post-party, which mostly involved eating candy bars.) Eventually the actual VIPs showed up, resulting in an awkward moment where social status, etc, had to be explained. After cracking some wise that fell on deaf ears, we graciously left and headed again for the free champagne bar.

We giggled, and we didn't stop giggling for some time.

Being an adult is the best.

29 November, 2008

23 November, 2008

Journey to the Center of the Birthday

The night began with a great deal of deliberating.

Actually, I should start the story even earlier in the day when Greg and I picked up Stef on platform 5 at Gare du Nord. After saying how happy we were, hugged, got over how weird it was to see each other in Paris, and we were walking toward the metro, I told Stef, "You couldn't have timed your arrival in Paris any better; tonight we've been invited to an illegal party in the Parisian Catacombs."

But, when I told Stef that we had been invited to this party, what I really meant by that was my friend Emily had been invited to a party in the catacombs and that she had extended the invitation to us. So we (Stef, Greg, and Ciara) met up with Emily (and several more of our American friends, both mutual and otherwise) and her Frenchie friend outside a metro stop near a secret entrance into the catacombs. The Frenchie, who was familiar with these sorts of underground parties, told us to "Get ready to get wet." Surprisingly, only the people from Bellingham laughed at this unintentionally funny remark. Eventually we stopped laughing and began weighing the situation. The deal was that in order to get to the party inside the catacombs we had to trudge through small, cramped passageways that often had dirty water depths of around thigh high (a thigh for Ciara, a knee for me). None of us were dressed to get wet (maybe to party, but...), or were too enthusiastic about staying out past last metro, or hanging out in a cave with wet pants and socks. A few people from our group said that the night just wasn't for them and left. We said the same thing and began to leave. Fortunately my friend Andrew stopped us. He told us we were being [dumb] and what were we thinking, etc. So we decided to stick with it, and started walking toward the secret entrance.

About halfway there Ciara and Greg and Stef and I started being dumb again and decided to not go in. Let's just go drink in front of the Eiffel Tower, we said. That's a fun thing to do, we thought. You can only do it in Paris, justifying our cowardice. So we started walking back to the metro.

But then something changed. The crux of our argument was that even if it took 3 years for us to look back fondly on this adventure, it would still be worth it. Plus, even the idea that we were already regretting not going told us a great deal about the situation's potential. The four of us, even Scaredy-Cat Ciara, ran and caught up with our friends, had a sports ball roll up to our feet, stopped it with our foot, looked at our friends and said, "Let's do this thing," bought a bottle of whiskey, and fucking went for it.

First we had to walk through an abandoned train tunnel for nearly twenty minutes. It was dark. What made it especially creepy and like a scene from a nightmare was that it was pitch-black but also enclosed with a vanishing point; we had to keep walking further toward the darkness into a looming abyss.

Eventually our guide told us we had made it to the hole we were to climb into the earth from. This is when I stopped being nervous. All of a sudden there were several groups of young people, all smoking and drinking and laughing. Most important to me was their laughter. If they were having such a fantastic time before going inside the earth to get wet and cold, inside had to be a pretty special place.

Outside the Catacombs in The Cave of Darkness. Long legs = Birthday Boy.

We drank the whiskey. We did some other stuff. We climbed into the hole. Here are some pictures documenting the event:

Walking through the cavern.

Greg inside the Catacombs, taking a time out from the party.

This girl was explaining to me that it was also her birthday. Note even mid-conversation I'm n. 1.

This picture demonstrates the party's lighting well.

Other moments of note include:
  • A performance piece put on by three Frenchies. They tried to explain how we all have one foot in the grave even though we're indeed not dead. I think my favorite part about the performance was the part where I got to hang out with my friends in the Catacombs.
  • I was kissed by a very pretty Danish girl.
  • Ciara met a boy named Tank Top.
  • People loved us!
  • I turned 23 without noticing it right away (because we were using Stef's time judgement, and she was an hour behind on London time).
  • Some people sang me "Happy Birthday," but not everyone, which is how it should be. I don't care much for the idea of strangers telling me something they don't mean.
  • Greg talked to a lot of people and felt good about that.
  • The party was lit entirely by candles; the flash pictures from inside the catacombs make it look a lot different than it actually was.
  • No parents allowed.
  • People were dancing to a battery-powered boom box.
  • I've never seen Stef shine so brightly. At one point I questioned whether or not Jules Verne had written my birthday, and on cue Stef proclaimed, "Journey to the Center of the Birthday."

Stef, on fire.

We left wanting a little more (the only way to leave anywhere, really). Our coats were dirty. Our shoes would never be same. But then again, neither would our hearts. We walked back out of the Cave of Darkness just the four of us, no guide, no flashlight. We reached the city and were blown away by how sensitive our eyes were to light. Even our cornias had been transformed by the journey.


We got into a taxi cab and headed home, cementing my theory all perfect evenings in Paris end with a taxi ride.

The next morning, Greg and Stef and I brunched from 11-3 and my actual birthday began.

Ground Zero, best year of my life.

20 November, 2008

developing...

I can say that without exceptions, my twenty third year is the most death defying, dirty, slightly illegal, and memorable year I've had yet. I won't go into the details, but please allow me to say this: I got so wet tonight.

19 November, 2008

Today I saw this dog.


He was loving the big city life! Drinking cigarette puddles, letting his hair poof out, probably just got done chasing a cat around, and more likely than not upped on goof balls -- and why not! The dog's just looking for a good time in Paris. Who isn't?

17 November, 2008

"There's Never Any Time!" -- Jessie Spano

Blogging has taken a back seat to applying for higher education. There's just no time to write about anything interesting or otherwise these days.

But, Ciara and I went to the Louvre last Friday. It was the first time I had been back since the summer of 2007. If you ever stumble into the Louvre, I highly recommend skipping out on the bull shit and heading straight to the Northern Renaissance wing. Look how together they had it back then.

Jesus and the Marys + John the Evangelical.

Easily the coolest crucifix I've seen.

Artwork.

And then these things happened a while ago:

On a beach about a month ago I did yoga for the first time.

Ciara doing her best Belle and Sebastian album cover impression.

Favorite festival poster to date.

This was the night Barack Obama was elected President of the USA.

11 November, 2008

Unexpected Points Awarded to America

Well, over here in Europe we all live under rocks, and my messenger pigeon did not arrive until this morning bearing for me the news that Barack Obama was elected by the citizens of the United States of America to be their 44th President. It is my understanding that this is rather historic: Never before in the history of the United States (or world?) has their been a Marxist-Socialist-Muslim-Terrorist in the oval office, nor has there ever been a Marxist-Socialist-Muslim-Terrorist ever, in general, in existence.

Big week for first evers, I guess...

At any rate, this article from The New Yorker is probably the most interesting article I've read concerning the upcoming Obama presidency. Here's a teaser to whet your appetite:

The real problem with partisanship, Obama believes, is that it’s no longer pragmatic. After decades of bruising fights in Washington, it has become incompatible with effective government. “I believe any attempt by Democrats to pursue a more sharply partisan and ideological strategy misapprehends the moment we’re in,” he writes in “Hope.” “I am convinced that whenever we exaggerate or demonize, oversimplify or overstate our case, we lose. Whenever we dumb down the political debate, we lose. For it’s precisely the pursuit of ideological purity, the rigid orthodoxy and the sheer predictability of our current political debate, that keeps us from finding new ways to meet the challenges we face as a country.”

I'm jealous of everyone in America who got to go and celebrate in the streets after the election was called for Obama. My favorite anecdote I've heard is from Bellingham via the Dear Tracy Reilly. While running through the streets she yelled to a police officer blocking off the traffic, "Thanks!" To which he replied, "You're welcome! I'm just glad to see everyone so happy!"

Even the police get it. What sort of America am I going to be coming home to?

The answer: Clearly a much more adorable one.

04 November, 2008

voted!

After a perfectly terrible voting performance in 2008, I finally managed to make my voice heard. I just got back from the post office where I dropped off my voter's ballot. What I like about this election is that I got to vote for a candidate I believe in and share ideas, values, and hopes with. I like that the future seems near, and that it's optimistic despite the obvious difficult circumstances at hand.

Before going to the post office, I made this neat lapel pin:


Heads up to my Uncle Jim (the Original Uncle J!): I hereby declare my Presidential vote as a foil to yours, and I dedicate it to all of our political discussions over the past four years that I treasure and value endlessly. Also, I wrote you in for the Whatcom County Auditor. I hope you don't mind.

Tonight I'm going to the Democrat's Abroad party. With any luck at all it will become a victory party.

To pre-funk for this evening I'm going to go watch W., which I assume I won't enjoy.

Earlier today I encountered one of the most bedazzling women I have ever seen. She smiled and winked at me and said, "Bonjour, monsieur." I thought I'd die. Her eyes were more like fishbowls than eyeballs, and her freckles were everywhere.

-----

Update! Turns out I didn't see W. Turns out it's 129 minutes long. Turns out I hate Oliver Stone. Turns out Barack Obama is the President-elect.

Go! Vote! C'mon!

Run, comrades!
The Old World is creeping in!

Further! Vote! and Hope!


Young Americans.

01 November, 2008

through line: my dear mom

I was completely in the dark on the topic, but as it turns out my mother has a cult-following in Europe. At least among the demographic of those likely to graffiti a name onto a wall.

Pula, Croatia. August, 2007

Edinburgh, Scotland. October, 2008.

It's a strange through line with my traveling, to have my mom keep popping up in written form in various alleyways. Maybe all of those times I told her she's the best Mom in the World I was actually onto something, and in reality she actually is recognized as the champion. And maybe, just maybe, she has hooligan mom fans scattered across Europe who defiantly write her name onto walls to make her that much more immortal.

Dear Mom,

Congratulations. You did it!

Love,
Jimmy

26 October, 2008

movie night in paris (with update!)

La Monde du silence
un film de Jacques-Yves Cousteau
cinématographie de Louis Malle
1956 Cannes, Palm d'Or
1957 Academy Award, Documentary Feature


The documentary takes its name from the enjoyable memoir Cousteau wrote in the 1940s based during the period of his life when he invented SCUBA diving and pioneered underwater research. I read it three years ago when Doug, Sean, and I were taking SCUBA lessons and lived on our own at the Sea Bear.

I have been trying to see this movie ever since then, but the film just doesn't exist in America. Which blows me away. I don't understand how it's possible. To begin with, it's an Academy Award winning documentary by Jacques-Yves Cousteau, inventor of the aqua-lung, fighter of the French Resistance, and romantic-extraordinaire; easily the most recognizable name in oceanography and underwater-exploration. Secondly, the film's cinematography is by Louis Malle, famed predecessor to the French New Wave, and cinema-icon-at-large. If you wanted to sell me on a film, all you'd have to say is, "Louis Malle underwater," and I'd be there. And that's what this film literally is. Cousteau, Malle, beneath the ocean and sometimes on a boat. I'm very excited. It seems like Criterion would have put this out years ago. What's the deal?

The most memorable moment in the book The Silent World, the one I played over and over in my head while diving, was when Cousteau confessed that the flying dreams he had throughout his life ceased after his first dive, never to return. Even though I never dove deeper than 60 ft., I remember being down there near the bottom, looking back up at the sky and not recognizing it. It was a shade of blue I did not know, and the sun looked fractured, appearing both big and small, and also very white. It was a pleasure to be able to identify my world and in the same breathe not recognize it. It was the closest my waking life ever came to matching my dream life.

See you tonight at the Cinematheque francaise.

When one man, for whatever reason, has the opportunity to lead an extraordinary life, he has no right to keep it to himself.
-- Jacuqes-Yves Cousteau

The movie was incredible. I wasn't expecting it to be shot in color, and it was. The photography was breathtaking. I've never seen underwater photography done in such artful shots; at times it felt like I was watching a Cocteau film rather than a Cousteau. The photographers utilized being underwater perfectly, creating camera movements and compositions a director could never accomplish in our world, even with the most elaborate cranes. The whole thing was so unexpected. And they killed so many fish! Some with harpoons, and others still with dynamite, hammers, guns, knives, by complete accident, axes, fishing poles, or by shark. They harassed turtles on land and in the sea. It was the best. It was so much fun to watch. I wish there were more documentaries being made where the filmmaker sets out on an adventure.

I couldn't find any screen shots of the movie, so instead here is a picture of me doing my best Jacques Cousteau:

Halloween '04.

23 October, 2008

bees

a bee pollinating.

To begin with, I don't actually like nature. In fact, I'm currently writing an essay titled, "In Defense of the Cigarette-Stained, Spray Painted Sidewalk," where I present my argument as to why urban space is superior to the "great outdoors." Mountains, lakes, meadows, trees: snooooozers. At this point I'm really only interested in torn fliers plastered onto rusty dumpsters and stencils on unsuspecting corners that ask, "mais, porquoi?" I get it: Nature's pretty. But, in the end, I don't care for it. Anyway, it lacks charm.

Regardless of my prejudices against nature and apathy toward animals, etc, I do have a concern, and that's that Honey Bees are going extinct. Today I saw a business report on CNN that discussed how the Honey Industry is in a serious decline. Not because people have somehow found a superior product to honey (because that'd be impossible), but because Bees are disappearing. Without Bees, Big Honey just can't produce; so it's the lack of output that has economic analysts concerned, not the profit margins. Soon, they fear, you won't be able to find Honey in every grocery store.

If the Honey Industry tanks, fine. No sweat off my back. I'd be doing less Honey Hits with Karl, but I could survive. But, what I'm not so sure about is if I could survive without Bees. Or if any of us could. Or nature. Or basically all living things. Not to put too much pressure on the Bees, but they are in charge of mostly all the pollinating that goes on in this world (only 10% of plants can do it without animal assistance). And it seems that few other critters are rising to the occasion, either. Plants have to mate, and it's the Bees who are in charge of facilitating the romance. If the Bees aren't out there collecting that sweet, sweet pollen, then flowers will stop growing wildly. What happens then? Vegetation, and admittedly I haven't fact-checked my liberal sources on this, is important to the ecosystem. And the ecosystem is... um... I guess, also important.

I'm not saying it's going to happen, and that we're all doomed; and I'm not counting out the Bees, either. They're resilient, especially the American ones. I'm just saying, on October 23rd, 2008, we all became the Honey Industry.

20 October, 2008

top of the pops

I'm not way into music.

It's okay, don't get me wrong, but I just don't care about it as much as some of my friends do. I like it, I think music is typically good. I listen to it pretty often; regularly, even. But I don't keep up with it. I don't read music reviews. Wolf Parade came out with a new album recently? In all honesty, I bet it's terrific, but I'm still probably going to keep listening to Hunky Dory, and I probably will continue to do so for the next several years. That's more or less what I'm trying to say. I'm just not as with it as some people. And that's fine. We're all doing the best we can. With that said, at the risk of not knowing how to write about music, I'm going to give it a shot.

As a long time admirer of the pop song, I have always been susceptible to the quick and easy emotion the medium is able to reveal. So much so that I vividly remember throughout junior high and high school constantly submitting to the urge to copy my favorite lyrics onto the back of my notebooks and homework assignments. The words lived in my heart, moving me like the Holy Spirit. My senior year of high school I must have written "Mercy's eyes are blue" on a million different pieces of paper.

The truth is, things have changed very little. Only I've become too embarrassed to go through with my old habit of scribing out verses. And it's not actually the habit of rewriting lyrics that would embarrass me, the actual labor of it, but rather the lyrics themselves. Typically, even with my absolute favorite bands, I wouldn't want to be accused of having written the lyrics. But that's what I'm saying! This the paradox! How can these words that I'd be uncomfortable taking credit for move me so much?

This is what fascinates me about pop music: The dynamic marriage of overwrought, melodramatic lyrics that are sung and and performed in profound sincerity. When I am listening to the song "Saltwater" by Beach House, and Legrand sings the lyrics:

Love you all the time
Even though you’re not mine
Love you all the time
Broken faith and a broken way

You couldn’t lose me if you tried

I am absolutely right there with her. I'm thinking to myself, You're goddamn right. This woman is a prophet. But then when I look at the lyrics written out, I am taken back quite a bit. The words on their own lose their aura. "You couldn't lose me if you tried," punches me in the gut when it's sung, but in noiseless form, it becomes a little silly. But that's just it, the genius of pop music, or what I love about it, and what moves me the most, is the naivety it possesses. The medium, when it's at its best, is dedicated to fascination and wonderment. It taps into the 14-year-old romantic in me that would have died to have a girl write him a note that said, "You couldn't lose me if you tried." Or when My Bloody Valentine ends "Blown a Wish" by saying:

Fall apart my bleeding heart
Nothing left to do
Once in love
I'll be the death of you.

Saying "I'll be the death of you" is so absurdly romantic that I can barely handle it. It actually doesn't get more dreamy than that. If my soul were a notebook, I'd surely have this inked in repeatedly. It highlights the world's ultimate vice of tragic romance. I'd weather any amount of heartbreak to hold hands with a girl, with her eyes full of mischief, and see her mouth the words, "I'll be the death of you." I'd chase her around the world and back. I'd chase her to the moon. I'd marry her on the ring's of Saturn. We'd honeymoon in the Big Dipper, and grow old everywhere. That's more or less what I think when I hear those words sung. But they're such frivolous and coy words. I'd feel so dumb to say that.

Strangely, what inspired this not-too-interesting blog was the song "Hide Your Love Away," by the Beatles, but more specifically the music video (I say strangely because this is sort of a departure despite that the line, "How could she say to me/ Love will find a way?" is perhaps one of my all time favorites):



This video comes all the way from 1965, but it's contemporary aesthetic is uncanny. The level of cool that this video reaches, more importantly without even breaking a sweat to get there, is the tops; no post-production flash and gimmicks, just clever filming. The production design is incredible. The single colored walls, furniture, and appliances reminds me precisely how I want the mise-en-scene to look in It is Sweet and Right. They flatten everything. Look at the shot at 1:25. The image looks like two different planes smooshed into one; there's no need for temporality. And that slow push in at 1:02, followed by a series of close ups. Give me a break! It's so good.

Not to mention George Harrison is a serious dreamboat, especially when whisteling along with -- what is that a clarinet? I'm not sure. Again, I don't actually like music that much.

19 October, 2008

At the All Star Game

I've been eating breakfast in bed more than usual lately, and by breakfast I mean chocolate covered biscuits. Be that as it may, I had the most unusual dream last night. I was playing baseball in what appeared to be a late 1980s All Star Game. Maybe I wasn't playing, but I was at least on the field in a uniform running around. The tone of the dream waffled between hyper-nostalgic, childlike aw and slapstick humor. I remember standing near the pitcher's mound, spinning in slow circles, taking in the enormity of the field and stadium, completely acknowledging how lucky I was to be on this field where so many great players had played before me. I was playing on the American league team, and while playing the field, near third base, a young Sammy Sosa hit a huge home run deep into the upper deck of left field. Though I can't be too sure, and there's no way of confirming this, but I'm nearly positive that the character Sammy Sosa was being played by a young Sammy Davis, Jr. He trotted around the bases, his hair flowing from beneath his hat, shiny with oils.

It was at this point the dream started picking up the pace with the slapstick humor, also fusing in little bits of historical irony like they do in bad movies. (For example, in the beginning of Titanic when Rose is having all her art work brought aboard, and one of the pieces is clearly Picasso's Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, and the Dick-Fiance says something snide like, "I don't know why you bother with such grotesque artwork. Who's this by?" And Rose, in a tone that all but says, in-fifty-years-you'll-look-back-on-this-question-and-realize-how-stupid-you-actually-are-because-even-the-dumbest-people-in-the-theater-right-now-know-who-Picasso-is, she says, "Oh, it's a Picasso." To which the Ass Hole-Fiance replies something like, "Oh, well, I doubt he'll ever catch on." Irony Spoiler alert: He did!) Anyway, my dream last night started relying on that kind of humor, maybe because I had unconsciously figured out that my dream-me was producing a period-piece -- a huge pet peeve of mine. Still and all, while Sammy Sosa was trotting around the bases, the announcer, completely befuddled that this up-start and outsider Sammy Sosa would just walk into an All Star Game and hit a dinger like that, says over the loudspeakers, "And that's a home run by Sammy Sosa. Huh, I wonder if we'll be seeing many more home runs out of this guy in the coming years." (i.s.a.: we did!)

The next inning my team was up to bat. Ken Griffey Jr comes to the plate and nails it into the right field corner. Only, instead of running to first, to second, to third, etc, The Kid starts running to the pitcher's mound and back to home plate repeatedly, like he had mistaken this All Star baseball game for a game of cricket. Griffey Jr then runs to third base from the pitcher's mound, only, there's already a teammate on third base! Well, the dream breaks into a Charlie Chaplin style film where Griffey and this other base runner aren't really sure what to do, so they both start going back to second base at the same time, but that won't do, they can't both go back to second, so they both head back to third base at the same time, only, they're in the same situation they were in before! So they try going to home plate, but alas! they timed their moves to be at the exact same time once again! There was a lot of hands at the waist, smiles full on, head shaking happening on the field at this point. Boys!

A little bit later into the dream I threw a metal bat at Lou Pinella. It didn't hit him, but he got heated all the same. He charged at me, but despite this angry old man coming to kill me, I couldn't stop laughing. By the time he caught me and noticed I was laughing, he realized that he had been part of a goof. So he started laughing in the way a Grandpa laughs at a joke made by a young person that doesn't make any sense to him and his old-fashioned ways, and took me under his arm. We went for a walk down the right field line. He was managing for the National League team, but I forget who he was managing during the regular season. He asked me where I was from, what I was up to, and all that. I told him I was from Seattle.

"Seattle?" He looked off into the distance, "What's it like in Seattle?" I told Lou Pinella all about the wonders and marvels of the Emerald City as if I were some sort of Modern Day Marco Polo just back from the Orient. Finally, letting out a big sigh, Lou looked at me for a second, examing my face to make sure it was earnest, and then set his gaze back to distance, looking like a sailor remembering that one golden sunset he saw in the arctic that lasted well-nigh ten hours, and said, "I wonder if I'll ever end up in Seattle."

Irony Spoiler Alert: He did!

15 October, 2008

during the past couple of weeks things have been pretty fun, and interesting stuff keeps happening

A few weeks ago after lunch Ciara and I took a stroll through Luxembourg Gardens, and to both of our delights, we were greeted by autumn. The leaves were all of a sudden stale and brown, and the air demanded coats, if not scarves and hats. It’s a wonderful feeling to see such an intimate season like fall as a foreigner, like being privy to a big secret; the city whispering from over your shoulder: Yes, it’s actually like this here. Ciara and I discovered a secret fountain and reflection pool where we sat watching falling leaves plop onto the pool’s surface. The leaves, we noticed, fell decidedly toward the water, and splashed with an air of finality. The blooming and the budding from spring were only the means to an end, and the waves inching away from the leaves in a series of colliding circles, it seemed, had been the hidden goal this entire time.

I’ve learned two truths about Paris: The best things always happen directly after lunch, and the most exceptional nights always end in a taxi ride. For example, several Thursdays ago after Ciara and I had met Ludmilla for a Thai lunch near Hotel de Ville. Afterwards we went over to one of Ludmilla's friends' apartment, only a few blocks from where we ate. He, S., had made his return to Paris from his summer holiday in Italy the night before. While on holiday he had decided he no longer enjoyed books. In his top-story apartment he had four large-moving boxes teeming with books. Through my experiences I've learned that boxes of books marked to move are typically reserved for the softcore romance and military-thriller titles. But S. shattered my preconceived, gotcha-media, notions of boxed books. Ciara walked away with titles like The Master and the Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov, La Chute by Albert Camus, and Jacques le fataliste et son maitre by Diderot, while I was fotunate enough to add Nadja by Andre Breton, The Professor and the Madman by Simon Winchester (which Karl has been recommending to me since 2003, incidentally), and Les Paradis artificiels by Charles Baudelaire to my collection. (Granted, this last title is in French, but I decided to take it just in case. One never knows which language he'll be speaking in a decade or so.) Then we sat around eating pastries and drinking beer, all the while talking about Frederic Jameson and Jean-Francois Lyotard and the unraveling of the metanarrative.

Later that weekend Ludmilla took Ciara and me (officially joined at the hip) to a party at this fantastic art squat in Montmarte. Finding a place to begin describing the squat is difficult because it was so overwhelming and inspiring. There were artists of every medium and background creating in this old converted office building. Some making fashion, some hand pressing books, others painting, and others yet constructing multimedia work. And it was like a maze. You couldn't escape creativity. It's what an art school dorm would look like if it exploded and then got put back together by actual artists. But this isn't the point I'm trying to make at all, the point is that we were all dancing. I don't know how many glasses of wine I drank because they were all free. I don't know how many cigarettes I smoked because I never closed my pack.

I do know at one point I felt the inspiration to make a documentary about the squat. In one of the back rooms I approached Michel, an old man and book designer who seemed the most likely to be the resident sage, with Ciara as my translator, and asked him if it would be possible to make a documentary about the squat. Why? he wanted to know. Hundreds of shitty documentaries had already been made on the squat, what could I, he wanted to know, add to the conversation? I had Ciara explain to him that I didn't want to put the artists on show, but instead try to investiagate what it means to create in 2008. What it means, in a world where revolutions are increasingly impossible, to make art? What it means to be a leftist in a world which resoundly rejected leftism 40 years ago in the failed '68 protests and revolutions? Is leftism just an aesthetic? Doesn't the creation of art just add to the discourse of private property and bourgeois ideology? Michel looked at me for a second, and then spoke to Ciara for maybe ten minutes using animated body language, often times employing obscene gestures, before Ciara was allowed to turn her attention back to me to say, "He says you can make your documentary here."*

Feeling on top of the world I finished my glass of wine and struck a new cigarette just as "Love Will Tear Us Apart" by Joy Division came over the speakers. I excused myself, as I most prefer to, by saying, "Okay, well, I have to go dance to this song right now," and then ran to the dance floor, weaving my way in-and-out of Frenchie hipsters and artists. Once on the dance floor I had a rendezvous with the party's birthday girl and resident-clothing-designer Lucie and her cousin Samuel, whom I had nick-named Straight Man Sam. While swaying her hips, shaking her knees, and jabbing her fist toward the air, Lucie shouted at me, "It's my birthday! You have to drink champagne!" So Lucie and I shared in debauchery while Joy Division warned us about love.

I danced, most likely, with my eyes closed.

At three Ciara and I left with Ludmilla. The three of us shared a cab, and I held onto Ciara's arm like my life depended on it; crossing Paris at the speed of light.

*I don't really want to make the documentary anymore. I mean, I do, but I've been writing about it, and I can't make it be anything but indulgent on my part. C'est la vie. Any suggestions?

highlights from Florence, Italy: Post Script

Huge shout out to Dino and AnneMarie for graciously hosting stinky-Ciara and me during our stay in Florence. They treated us like we were family*; inviting us into their adorable apartment, helping fill our tummies with gelato, and indulging us in all the wonderful culture one can experience in the period of a weekend.


Dino and AnneMarie, you're the best. Thank you for your friendship.

*i recognize that this joke is still only sort-of funny.

09 October, 2008

highlights from Florence, Italy

Florence, or, The Fire City, as the locals call it, is an enjoyable city with lots of culture and fun. Here are some pictures I took, as well as some observations I made, while spending this past weekend in Tuscany.

  1. I found out that the Tuscan Sun which provides the light for the city is the same Tuscan Sun that has been in the sky since the Renaissance. Some scholars maintain, however, that the Sun has been around since perhaps as early as the middle ages. All scholars seem to agree, though, that since the Sun's miserably realized restorations during the early 20th century, the Sun has lost the unique style and look that Vasari had so passionately written about. Most historians say that the Tuscan Sun we see today simply seems cheap, lacking the original's splendor in both color and heat, as well as geometric perspective.
  2. The Giotto Tower (to the right) was home, and I swear I'm not making this up, to the first ever Olive Garden restaurant in 1514. Now, Giotto only started the tower, naturally, and it was finished well after his death. Ironically, scholars have unearthed evidence suggesting in fact Giotto was more of a Sbarro's man, and would have rather the tower never of been built, presumably, had he known it would turn eventually into an Olive Garden.
  3. I realized that looking at a girl with blue eyes makes me sleepy. It's fantastic. It's like standing on a dock and peering into the water. But brown eyes kill me. They're endless.
  4. While looking at paintings at the Uffizi, I had a strange memory come back to me: One time when I was 7 years old, I had a slight nervous breakdown after looking at a painting. The painting had depicted a group of young women picnicking in a forest, wearing dresses that exposed their staggering cleavage. I thought that they were the most beautiful women in the world, and became terrified that these women no longer existed, and that the world had been robbed of their beauty forever. I was sure that the beauty in the painting could never exist again on this earth. If I didn't throw up, I know for certain that I hid under a table for a long while.
  5. My fourth favorite part of Italian Renaissance painting is when the Holy Spirit is depicted as a bird being shot down theatrically from Heaven by God to the Virgin Mary. The typically sharp and diagonal line it creates destroys the perspective of the painting, creating a flatness to the image. I like this, because it keeps me from going inside, like a velvet rope. I couldn't be part of that world if I tried. Outstanding.
  6. I proposed to Ciara ontop of the Duomo. Spoiler alert: She said yes!
  7. I stayed in the Fire City one day longer than Ciara. She delivered my favorite lines of the entire weekend with absolute beauty and grace. While boarding the train, on the top step, she turned back to me with endless care and affection in her eyes and said, "Don't cheat on me while I'm gone." The girl knows how to woo me.
  8. I ate so much gelato. I really did. At one gelato place you could have your dessert come in a cone, a cup, or a pastry. I chose the pastry. I'm not one for decadence, but this dessert was like eating a solar system of Heaven. I dedicated the experience to my good friend, ally, and longtime roommate Nick Bild, due to his ineffable adoration for all things novelty.
  9. On a not-about-Fire City-note: Yesterday in Paris while Ciara and I were drinking espressos on the patio of a tobac on Boulevard Auguste Blanqui, we saw a man moving furniture (an arm chair) by way of unicycle. What was most interesting about the event was the way that no one else around us seemed all that impressed. As if they had seen this man move a grand piano the day before, and a family of elephants earlier that hour. In fact, people seemed more taken back by my yelling, "Bravo!" than by this unicyclist's extraordinary feat.
  10. Finally, changing the subject back to Fire City, I know that the Italians are at least familiar with the idea of bicycle thievery. So what struck me as the most impressive aspect of the city -- more than the architecture, more than the painting, more than the Tuscan Sun -- was how the entire city of Florence uses the honor system with their bicycles. They don't attach the bicycle to a pole, to a deal, or a grate of some kind, instead they opt for the chain around the frame and front tire method, and let the kick stand do the rest. And it's not just these isolated incidents that I'm presenting via photographs: it's a city wide habit. And everyone's just fine with it. Unreal. Absolutely the best. Probably my favorite part; easily the most charming, at least.

06 October, 2008

a palace in the fall

Two Saturday mornings ago Ludmilla, the kids, and the wife and I hopped onto a train heading from Paris to Château Fontainebleau. On the train Ciara and I split an orange. Oranges, I've discovered, are the fruit of friendship. To watch a friend trudge their way through the orange's peel with their fingers and nails, picking off the rind, only then to delicately tear apart the fruit into equal pieces like a surgeon would, careful not to puncture the thin layer of film protecting its innards, all for you, is to watch somebody love you, absolutely.

It was a perfect Saturday for discovering a palace dating back to the French Renaissance. Clouds didn't exist, for example, and the air held in the sun like old glass. Before going inside the Château, we picniced alongside a canal and listened to Ludmilla deliver an inspired lecture concerning the history of France, the Monarchy, architecture, wars with Italy, and the stealing of the top Florentine thinkers and creators. Château Fontainebleau was realized under the rule of King Francis I, who had an uncanny knack for culture. Northern Europe and Italy were already into their Renaissances, and Francis I essentially brought his kingdom up to speed by importing in artists, and created an architectural and decorative style unique entirely to France.


Ludmilla explaining everything that could ever be explained, all at once.

Sometimes you have to take the edge off. So what?


After seeing these swans take off for flight, I interupted Ludmilla's lecture by asking, "Do you think I'll ever fly?"


German Kings looked like this.

French Kings looked like this.

The inside of the Palace can only be described as bombastic. My camera's batteries lost all fidelity just before entering, so my photographs of the interior are slim. Instead, I'll give you the snapshots I took with my journal. Here we go:

Château Fontainebleau, as well as other palaces I've seen by now, don't encourage you to live. Their brassy and decorative noise beat you into submission. You no longer feel human, but a subject. Recently while reading various May '68 slogans I found one that said something along the lines of, "How can one think in the shadows of the Church?" I imagine the author of this quote was addressing the device of architecture as an imposition of values and ideas. In a Gothic Cathedral, how could you not feel the burden of life being lifted off your shoulders toward the high, vaulted ceilings, as you can actually see God enter through the stained glass windows? At Château Fontainebleau, as with Gothic Cathedrals, the question isn't how could you question the authority of the King, rather, it's how could you even conceive the idea of questioning the authority of the King. The palace leaves one no space for genuine contemplation with its ubiquitous intricacies, craftsmanship, gold, paintings, tapestries, etc; one is beaten into the submission of marvel.
**
While touring Château Fontainebleau, we were in this old private sancutary, and Ludmilla was explaining the room's history to us, clearly our tourguide, when this happy-go-lucky American in a red sleaved baseball t-shirt came up, smiling of course, and asked, "Hi, excuse me, but do you know what this staircase is for?" He pointed into a corner that had a blocked off stairway leading up. Amidst all this splendor and royal decadence, what this man was most interested in was what the staircase was for. My heart nearly died I thought it was so earnest and childlike, and wonderful. Childlike in that it was precisely the type of question I wish we had all asked, rather than be distracted by all the bombastic aesthetics. Christ-- The staircase. I wish I were that clever, or at least sincere.

France is attempting to energize the public's attitude toward modern art (or condem it?) by juxtaposing contemporary pieces in antiquary settings. For example, there's a Jeff Koons exhibit occuring right now at Versaille that I'll be checking out later this week. But at Château Fontainebleau, there are several pieces on loan from Palace de Tokyo, and in my opinion, they truly enhanced the space. I managed to take these to pictures (as well as the picture that's my new "banner" up top, holla!)

We came across these two pieces at the very end of the tour, and I could actually feel myself come back to life. Try and picture that climactic scene in Apollo 13 when they reenter the atmosphere, and you can see all the ice melt off the module while flames engulf them, and they're shaking, but confident, and then they hit the ocean and YES! They made it! WAHOO! Everything's going to be okay! It was an incredibly similar experience.

Outer-space, as per usual, is the proper analogy, as the artist of the elephant was creating what it would look like to see an elephant balancing on its nose where gravity doesn't exist.

The elephant's absurdity finally gives one space to feel something. The juxtaposition of the balancing elephant and the King's Library create a vacuum that sucks away the elegance and order of the King's architecture, delivering the person from the relationship of power-submission. The King, the Palace, social heiarchies, Ideas, and upside-down elephants: all constructions balancing on their noses; none natural, all historical. Fantastic.

The afternoon was wonderful. The sun was just on the horizon during the train ride home.

30 September, 2008

f.c.

Today in my Creative Workshop, to help my students better understand the varying creative processes of film making, we made collages of lo-fi, self-made-materials. I called the assignment Severely Pseudo Film Making in Four Movements. I had them conceive an idea in their imaginations (a setting and an object), then write out a description (simulating, at least, the idea of a shooting script), then film it (or, as it were, color pieces of paper, and cut them into shapes), and finally edit it together (in this case, glue it to paper). The assignment was a success. It got the point across, anyway, that film making is a series of creations, rather than just one, ie: drawing, or photography. The students made spirited efforts, and it was exciting.

When I use the terms lo-fi, home-made-material collages, what I mean is that rather than using mass produced images, or pre-dyed construction paper, or any other materials I typically use in my collage work, our only materials were white paper, markers, scissors (no razor baldes), and glue sticks. A stipulation I set was that if the represented object had two tones, like a tree would (green tree part with a brown trunk), one had to use two pieces of paper, coloring one green, one brown, to make a tree; to edit the tree together.

I promise a real exciting post soon about my past weekend and all the things I saw, including one of the most incredible parties I have ever had the pleasure of being invited to. But in the mean time, here's a collage I made this morning with my students. I've titled it F.C., and I've given it to Ciara as a gift. It's of a little fox lost in a big forest, but not really minding it.

In fact, the fox might even be having the best time.

24 September, 2008

ciara and i rode bicycles in paris, and it was fun. also, i like cigarettes?

(pre script: The title to this blog was originally "saturdays=youth," a reference to my Tuesdays=Youth blog post from last June, rather than a direct reference to the m83 album. i'm sure all of you die hards, the Run Just For Fun Heads, would have gotten that reference right off the bat, thinking: oh! cool! jimmy's making a neat-little call back to that one riot of a blog post about eating dirt dogs at the M's game; rather than, oh, this post will probably be about that recent m83 album. i didn't want to risk all my rookie readers completely fouling up a such an easy reference, and subsequently getting discouraged in themselves, second guessing running just for fun all together. so instead, i settled on a more straight forward title which I'm sure you're familiar with by now from the top of the post.)

Saturday:

To begin with, fall flatters Paris in unbelievable ways. Secondly, the only way worth traveling through this old city is by bicycle. On Saturday morning Ciara and I were out of bed, up-and-at'em, by 11, and had figured out how to rent the city bikes by 11:30. (Please, pardon the shitty map, but it may help to make use of it throughout the paragraph.) Ciara and I mounted on our bikes outside her apartment up near Pere Lachaise. We biked down the hill all the way to where the 20th meets the 12th arrondissement. There we ate an absolutely terrific breakfast of crapes, one savory, one sugary. Delicious. We hopped back on the bikes, traversed northwest up to Republique. To get there we spent most of our time cruising Boulevard Voltaire, pedaling past cafes, beneath tall trees as high as the buildings it seemed. The sun fell through in leopard spots. Once we got to Republique (smooshed between Garde de l'Est and Centre Pompidou), our bicycle journey was abruptly haulted by a Techno Parade. A what?

A Techno Parade is something rather special. During the middle of the afternoon, gaggles upon gaggles of young Frenchies were parading through the streets, quite literally dancing alongside converted-into-mini-discotheque-semi-trucks, just inching along, blasting jams. Each truck was equipped with its own DJ; some had fog machines, others had theatrical douche bags hyping up the crowd by chugging Red Bulls. Additionally, every portable discotheque had its own distinct archetype of individuals: the club kids, the no t-shirt dudes, the always-Halloween people, the robots, and my personal favorite, the not-having-very-much-fun estate. This last group's truck was basically just painted black, like a half-assed haunted house at a state fair, and the party people were standing around looking bored, not dancing, not liking being on display; it looked like some were on the phone asking their cooler friends when they were going to show up.

Then, I actually saw an honest-to-God dance off between two gangs of teenage boys. The two contenders danced ferociously, showing off their hottest new moves. In the end, the two rivals won each other's respect, hugged it out, and declared dance as the true victor. No one could argue with either of their moves.

Once Ciara finds a camera cord, I'll be sure to post some snap shots from the event.

We got back onto our bicycles and headed toward the Seine. By now the sun was beginning to slump down into the horizon, making Paris seem like it was surrounded by forest fires, or at least made of unrefined gold. We were Eiffel Tower bound. We rode alongside the Left Bank in the shade. On the otherside of the river the Louvre was glowing and looked warm, an architucure more similar to s'mores than stone. The Seine sparkled! The air got cold. And then out of no where, all of a sudden, the Eiffel Tower appeared. Incidentally, I had no idea until I arrived in Paris that they even had an Eiffel Tower here.

What's most amazing about the Eiffel Tower is how audacious it is. The way it has no actual purpose besides its boldness. It's thrilling, really. At any rate, Ciara and I ate vanilla soft serve and watched kids ride around in little go-carts, the tower as our enormous backdrop.

Here's the kicker of the entire day: As it turns out, I actually am addicted to cigarettes. I didn't think I was because I never crave them, just enjoy'em, but by the evening I had this real gnarly head-ache. Ciara, being the milk to my honey, pointed out that I hadn't had an espresso or a cigarrete all day long. Well, by the time we had realized this most of the tobacs were closed, and in Paris they don't have a Shell station just down the alley like they do back in Bellingham, so I had to have a glass of wine to take the edge off. It worked, but then I was just thirsty and sleepy. Bless her heart, Ludmilla joined us for dinner, and afterwords guided me to a late-night tobac, and my-God-did-I-enter-flavor-country.

Entirely besides the point, I've started really making an effort to answer all questions asked of me by saying (comedic pause, lip smack) lipstick.

ps:
i don't think i have any readers in San Francisco, but, regardless, this is something to get stoked about: October, 5th, 2008, Sangati Center (San Francisco's Indian Classical Music Art House), the world premiere of Sa Vidya Ya Vimuktaye: Knowledge is that which Liberates. This is the documentary Chad and I edited together just before I skipped out for Paris. The website has all the information you need to know about it. October 5th! Try and be there, let me know how it goes!

walking the turtle

It's been just about a week since my dream where I met gravity, formally, for the first time. Earlier this morning I gave my first lecture on the course I've titled, "An Introduction to the French New Wave." This course is structured quite differently from my "Introduction to the Creative Life" course, in that it's academic and I'm a lecturer. In my creative workshop, things are very loose, and I'm letting the structure form itself; academia is quite different. We're discussing ideas and philosophies, I'm using the term "cinematic apparatus" probably too often. I did not know what sort of lecturer I was going to be, but as it turns out: Rather similar to Tony Prichard. This was, of course, a terrific reveal.

Today in class I outlined the course objectives, we briefly went over an essay that explains the French New Wave as an historical movement, and then discussed Jean Vigo's Zero de Conduite. To help explain the auteur theory of the New Wave, I was constantly making reference to early avant garde painters, ideas by Walter Benjamin, and technology and economics. Like Tony Prichard, I taught the entire time with google open, bringing up images by Henri Matisse, Andy Warhol, Morimura, and Edouard Manet. I did my best to explain the avant garde as a love relationship between the past, present, and artistic materials. I did my best to explain distracted viewing in a narrative setting by analyzing Matisse's Red Studio. Then we went over a gaggle of clips from Vigo's film, and discussed how Vigo is not only critiquing authority and dominant culture, but subverting the device of dominant cinema. Vigo is critical of everything, which is why his films are so wonderful, but also powerful, and honest. (favorite line delivered during lecture: Vigo acknowledges his medium as if to say, I love you.)

Right now I have three projects in embryo; two movies, one written journal of sorts. If I can get all three projects done and get my applications for graduate school submitted by December 1st, I will be to the moon. The movies: The first is about a boy and a girl and their relationship in Paris. It's about the ways time bends for affection. The relationship takes place in 6 days, but I want it to have the dramatic arch of a ten year relationship: break ups, loneliness, get-back-togethers, and of course, moving on once the other has found someone else. I realize that this is going to come off farcical, or at least absurd, given the 6 days of the film, and I hope it does. But more I hope it's tender. It will be narrated all through the film, with occasional dialog. This will allow me to have more filming locations, more spontaneity, and freedom in genearl. The other film is about two American roommates living in Paris. Ciara O'Rourke and Stefanie Warmouth are slated to star. Before the film starts the roommates were in some sort of argument that has put their friendship on the rocks. As the film takes place, Ciara's character Lou Lou tries to win back over the heart of Stef's character Mary. It will showcase various locations in Paris, and will hopefully blend documentary and narrative a la bagels/snafu. The journal is going to be a journey into literature. Inspired by my dream about gravity, I'd like to blend together poetry, the essay, and the short story in a surrealistic portrait of my imagination. I'd also like to include drawings and sketches. I think, in the end, it will be a charming and nice chapbook to include on all of my friends' coffee tables.

I agree with you that this post is a little too impersonal, and a little too strictly business. The next time I get the urge to blog I promise it will be about something fun. Like how Ciara and I biked all across Paris, from the eastern suburbs to the Eiffel Tower, got caught in a techno parade, and ate soft serve vanilla ice cream. Or something. Maybe I'll explain what walking the turtle means. But it will be great, I promise. I'll see you then.

17 September, 2008

the secret lives of gravity

I have a very close, intimate relationship with gravity. It sustains me, gets me through the hard times. Sometimes I can feel it on my skin, spooning me, cooing me through the sound and fury; it's absurd for me to feel alone on this Earth (gravity: it is tenacious). But, I'm also aware of gravity's relative indifference toward me; it doesn't feel like we do. Rather, gravity is a machine, fulfilling its various programmed duties, ambivalent to the ways its verbs affect me.

Last night I dreamed I was at the Large Hardon Collider where scientists were conducting their experiments searching for The God Particle. The scientific instruments and gadgets were thrilling with their colors and size. But what was most remarkable about my dream was the discovery the scientists made while I was present: That gravity was alive. The joy on everyone's faces! On a large monitor, magnified perhaps to a googleplex, I could see the active particles that were gravity, alive, moving, and interacting with one another. I looked at my body clinging to the ground, and understood for the first time I was grounded not by a mechanical, unfeeling force, but by the weight of an invisible ocean of life.

How unexpected, I thought. All those times while lying down, feeling my body sink toward the floor, I was in fact being cradled by the brilliant doting of invisible existence. I wondered next if they knew my name.

15 September, 2008

success!

All of my dear friends of Bellingham, WA will be pleased to hear that since moving to Paris, I have upgraded my teeth brushing skill level to expert mode:

ugly ugly carole

(note: The "ugly ugly" bit is taken from an imaginary girfriend of my old roommate and best friend Nick Bild. The joke would be that while I was pining over some sweet sweet girl, Nick would be spending time with Ugly Ugly Carol, which Nick was "just fine with." This Ugly Ugly Carole, it should be understood, is in reality, far from being ugly ugly, as I'm sure Nick's would have been if she existed.)

(incidentally: Nick Bild is funny.)

Let me tell you how I met Carole:

I was finishing up on the toilet (explanation: since arriving in Paris, I’ve given up that vegetarian bag and have returned once again to a more omnivorous diet), when the doorbell rang. During my one week in the apartment no one had yet rang the doorbell, so in the john, I was quite startled. I quickly and embarrassingly gathered up my things, flushed down what needed to be flushed, and ratcheted my belt during my hustle to the door as the doorbell rang again. Through the peephole I saw a remarkable looking young woman and for a split second stopped breathing, quickly recovered, and opened the door.

She was tall and slight, and walked in as though she and I had been friends all along. All of a sudden, I was in a new wave film. While retracing the hall I had just hurried down to greet her, she explained she just needed to pick up a few things. “Has someone been here to clean? The cats have made a mess of this place.”

“No. I’ve heard someone was supposed to be here, but these bastard cats have taken over completely,” I said in response, feigning charm, “One of them puked on the couch today.”

“They were doing that last week, too. I had to clean the couch once a day, nearly,” she said as she walked into my roommate’s bedroom. She reappeared moments later holding a big blue bag. “Do you mind if I have a quick snack?”

She sat at the dining table, plopped her bag onto the table, and pulled out a bottle of carrot juice and a small package of goat cheese; her own portable continental breakfast. I asked her if she’d enjoy any of the stale bread I had sitting in the kitchen, but she declined and pulled out her own.

I should mention that before she asked permission to have a snack, I had asked her out already. I’ll write it as if it were a play to give it a little bit more affect:

Carole comes back into the main room lugging a large, blue suitcase. She wears a large knit cardigan that looks more like a robe than a sweater, undone, with a white linen tank top beneath; blue jeans. Sun enters through the window. Jimmy stands and observes.

Jimmy
Do you think you would like to get a drink sometime?

Carole drops the suitcase to the ground, opens it up, squats down and puts a large white shopping bag inside. While squatting, looking at the bag, Carole considers the proposition.

Carole
Um…

Redirects her attention to Jimmy.

Carole
Sure, why not. But it will have to be next week, I’ll be in Seville until then.

As I was saying, we began to snack and discuss the most interesting topic for anyone in his or her young twenties: ourselves. Carole, also 22, recently got a degree from La Sorbonne in Art History, and starting next year, she’s going to begin studying to become an architect. Her mother is British (which explained why she was speaking perfect English, with a British accent no less), and her father is French. Indeed, at this point, Carole could have asked me to betray the entire world and I would have at the very least seriously considered it.

I did my absolute best to sound interesting and charming. I laid it on as thick as I possibly could without making it look like I was trying; or, rather, without making it look like I was desperately in love with her.

I had to meet Ciara at one, and at this point in my life with Carole it was 12:30. While she was wrapping up her snack I told her I had to go and meet my dear friend near St. Paul. “Oh,” she said, “I’m going that way, too. Here, I’ll travel with you.”

Together we walked to the metro at Place d’Italie. Now, to you rookies back in the States, the number 5 line begins at Place d’Italie: there are two sides to the platform, but the trains go in the same direction on either side. When we arrived the sign read that the next train would be leaving in six minutes. Carole and I stood, leaning against a rail, and talked about the pleasure in making art and thinking in images. What felt like six minutes had passed, and I looked at the sign again, this time it read a flashing 00, meaning that the train we had been waiting for, the train that we had our backs toward this whole time, was leaving. Behind us and the rail we were leaning on, I could hear the doors shut on the metro and the train take off.

I wasn’t actually disappointed, as one could probably imagine, but instead amused, if not thankful. Oh, Carole, I though, this will be quite the tale to tell our children someday. At any rate, we laughed. The sign once again read six minutes.

Carole asked me if the friend I was meeting was French. I explained to her that Ciara and I were friends from home, and that she too had the good fortune to spend the fall in Paris. I asked her the same question. She laughed (I could have died!) before she dropped the bomb on me; before she hit me over the head with an anvil; before she put hemlock in my wine: I’m meeting with this sort of new boyfriend I have.

Acting like I knew all along, like who doesn’t have a boyfriend, why would I be surprised or completely destroyed over that; I told her that sounded fun.

She was very sleepy. She, like me, had been homeless for the better part of a month, not being in any one place for any extended period of time. We climbed onto the metro. I was carrying her bag for her by now. We sat on a bench together. The gentle rocking of the train, accompanied by the accordion being played by someone on the other side of the car, put her to sleep. The train surfaced from below the ground and crossed a bridge over the Seine. The Parisian autumn sun spilled in. Everything was warm.

Right before I got off at the Bastille to transfer lines, she woke up.

“Do be sure to call me next week.”

“Of course,” I told her, “Have a good sleep.”

Dear Lord.

To be continued, obviously…

10 September, 2008

Marco! Polo!

The attendents on my flight from Seattle to London were beyond dreamy. The Spanish one captivated me most of all, and looked as though she could have effortlessly existed in a Julio Medem film. Her jaw had such an elegant line to it, and her cheek bones had such unusual definition. This description makes her face sound bony and unpleasent, but it was everything but. At several points during the flight I contemplated interupting her work to confess my undying love. Alas, no.

For dinner I was fed veggie raviolis which were prepared in this anti-freeze/battery-acid-green pesto sauce that somehow tasted fantastic.

I'm waiting for my flight from London to Paris. The Frenchies around me are already making me feel underdressed.

I feel a lot better than I did 24 hours ago. Sometimes, I suppose, one just needs to hop on a plane and see where it goes.

---- my notebook, written in Heathrow International, Terminal 5.

Travelling was a breeze. Everything went smoothly from the moment I left Yakima, WA, to when I fell asleep à Chez Ciara, as she lullaby'd me by reading aloud the Catcher in the Rye in French. In fact, it was almost astonishing how smooth it all went (especially in comparison with last time). I spent a great deal of time on the airplane fretting and creating stories to tell the French customs officials as to why I was going to be in Paris for four months without a visa, etc. But when it came time to face the music, the woman at customs asked to see my passport, glanced at it, and nodded me through -- the type of head nod typically reserved to indicate back there -- and I was in, literally no questions asked. Voila.

Continuing with the throughline of breeziness: the journey from the airport to my apartment, which I had also been fretting over (explanation: while my roommate did give me our address, front door code, and the floor in which the apartmen resides, she did not inform me with the actual apartment number. What's more, she's out of town until the 14th, so my key to the apartment was with my neighbors, whose apartment number I also never received). I got on the RER train at the airport and was launched into Paris proper, connected directly onto the number 6 line, three or five stops later I was in front of my apartment. I didn't even have to buy a metro ticket; the gates to all the entrances kept opening themselves, announcing me the most charmed person in Ile-de-France.

When I was inside my apartment building, on the floor I was sure I lived on, I took a chance and knocked on one of the three doors available. Swish. A beautiful girl named Eva greeted me, already familiar with this Jzee-mee who stood in front of her, and presented me with the key to my apartment, next door to hers. She was even kind enough to give me a tour of my new home, and introduced me to the cats.

I made my bedroom home, took a shower, and then hopped back onto the Metro to say hello to my friend, and most recently boss, Ludmilla. She was, without a doubt, wonderful to see again. However, by this point in my day I was more or less worthless. I had not found any sleep on the airplane rides, and was exhausted by the time Ludmilla and I began picnicing in her garden beneath all the stars. Her three year old daughter was with us, and was agog by the roaming satellites, exclaiming, "Jimmy! Regarde!"

From Ludmilla's I called Ciara. It was this moment I had been looking forward to the most for weeks, if not months, if not forever. We made plans to meet at her apartment. In my delusionally-tired state, I penned down her address, metro directions, and left Ludmilla's to find my dear friend in this nice city.

I found her apartment, I found her floor, and as I was too tired to deal with a potential mishap this late in the day, so instead of guessing which of the apartment belonged to her on the third floor, I whistled my patent whistle, and like a bee to a flower, Ciara was in my sleepy embrace before I knew what was what.

Today is my third day in Paris. So far things have continued to go fairly well. I had a neat idea for a short film yesterday that I need to do some journaling over later this afternoon and decide if it's worth persuing. I'm going to be productive while I'm here, damn it, no matter how alluring reading in the park may seem.