Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Recently, I lashed out at someone with whom I'd gotten close. With whom I'd felt warm, excited, strangely safe, beautiful, not just a woman (though that was wonderful), but a whole person.

On the other side of things, I was getting scared, too. I said some ugly things to him, things I'm embarrassed to think about. I objectified him, forgot that he wasn't some sort of thing in my past or an institution that I resented. Forgot that he's a man with his own history, pains, feelings.

Why the hell did I do that? I can't take the words back, and I don't think that there's any way to make amends. I wish there were, though. God, I wish there were.


Survival Instinct.

A few nights ago, in half-sleep mode, my mind was going over all the events of late. In frustration, it asked itself what could be done to get me out of my current state. From somewhere the answer came: you'd not have to worry about any of this if you were dead.

I woke up immediately.

One thing about me is that I absolutely do not want to kill myself. The only other time in my life when a similar feeling came to me was maybe 10-12 years ago. I was living in another part of town, and felt myself getting hypnotized by the train on the tracks (much like Garbo's Madame Bovary in that awful but poetic last scene). I immediately found myself help and started therapy.

I used to tell my therapist that during times of great pain, my heart would begin to glow, heat up, spread a light throughout my body. This, mein Stern, as I call it, has kept me from throwing myself in front of trains or cutting my wrists. She told me that it was my life-force and that it was a good thing to have.

My current therapist calls it a survival instinct and says that I have a very strong one.


Why am I up so early? Had another angry, frustrating dream with my mother in it. Oh, the rage I felt.

I have a lot of these dreams. They've evolved from the serial nightmare I'd had since the attacks began of being alone, frightened, threatened with death and with no one to help me. I guess that feeling anger in my dreams is an improvement, anyway.



I used to joke that they were all like Tintin. Actually, they're all like my dad: smiling, agreeable, pleasant. I think they love me; I know that I do them. They're all just so distant, uncommunicative.

If someone comes along who isn't like that, generally I try to toss them out as soon as possible, as they are too dangerous. I can't allow myself to be touched, to be vulnerable, as that always leads to pain.


One of the symptoms noted by my counselor was the inability to look towards the future - of seeing one's self in a career, of having children, of having lasting relationships.

I've never wanted children, nor have I ever, ever ever seen myself in a wedding dress or with a life partner. After the music company closed (I'd been there for 10 years), I'd just take mid-level administrative jobs, moving from one to the next when I got bored or stressed out. I've picked up some good, marketable skills, but haven't really looked towards cobbling this stuff together into (perhaps) a career.


The post traumatic stress diagnosis was both a surprise and not a surprise; I think I'd probably suspected it all along. Dealing with conflict always feels like that old wheel of samsara: fighting the same battles over and over again. But how to disengage one's self sufficiently to resolve the conflicts like an adult? I'm not the child being beaten over the head or locked in the basement anymore. I'm not the teenager being taught to please a man by one of my mother's dirty-old-man boyfriends anymore. I'm a woman halfway her third decade, in another city with another life. How do I break through all this past that's got me stuck and get to the task of living, of being productive? Of deriving benefit from being a benefit to others?


For years, I just thought I'd had some sort of chronic, low-grade depression peppered with anxiety attacks. The anxiety affected a couple areas in my life: didn't want to perform in public and at a certain point, wasn't able to take the train because I was passing out on the platforms. What to do? Adapt! I switched specializations from a performance one to a more academic one and walked a lot, thus losing weight. Didn't think about any of this too much, just did what I had to to go on.

Recently, extreme stress on my side of the family (death of my grandfather, aunt's illness, cousin's admission that she'd been abused by my step father, my mother's falling off the wagon again), and on H's (his mother's mental and physical illness), from the job and from the relationship with H, started becoming unbearable. I couldn't work, I couldn't sleep, I couldn't eat. The nightly glass of wine became two, then three. Finally, I found a counselor. After that, I broke up with H, started having less contact with my family and then put myself out on medical leave.

Where does this all leave me? I'm not sure. Not quite a month and a half into my leave, I find myself still not feeling all that great. What should I do? Should I get out of bed? Should I take a walk? Should I call my shrink? Should I bother my friends? It's always been very difficult for me to reach out to others, as I'm afraid that I'm going to be left hanging. A valid concern, yes, but one I need to get over.

(From Grimpen Mire)
Real Simple.

Every day, he'd sit in his office for a bit perusing the Financial Times, Courrier International, Marianne.

In my little corner, I'd read through back issues of Foreign Affairs, Commentary and the Weekly Standard.

At one point, we exchanged. A neck muscle began throbbing as I read some snark about President Bush in Marianne and I could feel the heat rising from under my collar as I flipped through Courrier's cover story on "Palestinian Voices." ...mais "discrètement, elle se tût."

He didn't fare much better with my choices: declared that horrible things would happen to me for the awful things I was reading. To be honest, I don't know which he thought was worse: the Weekly Neoconservative mouthpiece, or the Jewish one.

As a sort of peace offering, I offered him a copy of my Interweave Knits, which he did enjoy. (It's more or less the same format as his Fine Woodworking, so I figured he might like it.)

After that? Real Simple. His response? "If that's a periodical for women, they certainly did get the title right, anyway."
Was I a citizen diplomat?

Granted, I'm only one person who came into contact with a few individuals, but my experiences in France a couple weeks ago fly in the face of the "unprecedented anti-americanism" that is the result of George Bush's "unilateralist and arrogant" policies.

Of course, it is largely the media stirring things up: I didn't have much desire to return to France based on a lot of what I've read, so I can completely understand a lot of reticence on the part of many Europeans given the garbage that's printed about us there. How to get past this, though? How to get people to read beyond the "news," learn a bit more about their world, and engage?

I tried, and I was charmed by the warmth of welcome. Hopefully the feeling was mutual.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Around the Cathedral.

There's not really much I can add to what's been said already about Notre Dame de Paris, so let's just take a quick tour around the building:

Long ago, when I was a sillier, younger thing, I climbed up to the North Tower (on the left). After the harrowing experience that was the stairway (narrow, crowded, circular with grooves worn into the stone from hundreds of years of footsteps), I spent most of my time clinging to the wall behind me, not daring to look down. Eventually I was convinced to come forth, take a look and maybe some pictures by a particularly handsome Italian tourist. Silly female I was, I got all clumsy over his gorgeous Italian-ness and dropped my camera overboard.

Mercifully, I don't believe it's possible to climb the towers anymore (but I could be wrong). Safe on terra firma, the only thing to worry about was my guide teasing me over Italians and cameras.


The rose window, from the south bank of the Seine.


Detail from the rose window: Not everything in the tacky souvenir shops around Notre Dame is tacky or awful. I found this nifty card tucked in among faux Cluny tapestries and guaranteed genuine Limoges porcelain bric-a-brac.


Notre Dame is a Gothic-era cathedral, but some areas are Gothic Revival. This steeple was built at around the mid 19th century.


In this closeup of the steeple, note the figure of the man at the base: that's a "self portrait" of Eugène Viollet-le-Duc, the architect who directed the restoration.


Flying Buttresses have always fascinated me: how do these relatively ethereal structures support the tons of material that make up arches and the vaults? My guide remarked that, as their construction required a fair bit of complex calculation, often they were built by trial and error. Meaning: construction was fairly slow, so if one buttress started to buckle, stuff would get shored up until they rebuilt it.
Judgment Day.

Some door arch details at Notre Dame:

In the upper portion of the arch, The Lord, with scales and attended by angels, hands down judgment. Below that, damned souls are carted off to Hell.


All around Him, saints in attendance.


I was particularly interested in the demons, however,


as I'm pretty certain as to where I'll end up when my time has come.

Monday, July 24, 2006

La Grève!

A grève is a river bank. It's also a strike or voluntary work-stoppage. In the early 19th century, laborers would gather at Place de la Grève (near the Hôtel de Ville, or city hall) to protest poor treatment on the job. Nowadays, one can "faire la grève" just about anywhere.

During our walk, the young couples holding hands and smooching outnumbered anyone else, and that certainly wasn't cause to protest. Perhaps cause to be a bit rueful or misty-eyed, but that's about it.


The Palais du Justice and the Préfecture de la Police: mon ami mentioned to me that this was where prisoners were held before their executions during the revolution.


Occasionally, the Seine swells and floods the quais. I couldn't get the marker for the 1910 flood in the picture, as the waters were so high. Right next to Pont Double (the copper bridge), carved into the wall is a more permanent memorial to the 1910 flood.


A very impressive character at the bow of what looked like a pretty ritzy restaurant boat.


I loved that this fireboat, just like many of the restaurant- and houseboats, had a garden on board.

Two of my favorite poems are inspired by bridges: one grandiose and awe-inspiring, the other a quiet, rolling, almost lullaby-like introspection.

Along the Seine, we certainly had our choice of bridges to cross, marvel at, dream on. Here are a few that we managed to pass during our walk that day:

La Passerelle des Arts: this small steel and wood structure crosses the Seine between the Académie Française and the Louvre. In the evening, on our walk back home, we were happily surprised to find it filled with picknickers.


Pont au Change: note the "N" medallion between each of the spans; this bridge was built during the reign of Napoléon III (second empire). In the background is the Préfecture de la Police.


Pont Neuf: despite its name, this bridge is probably one of the oldest, if not the oldest on the Seine. Rather than span the river, it crosses over to Ile de la Cite.


Pont au Double: probably my favorite on this walk, due to its copper covering which shone in the sun. That's Notre Dame in the background, by the way.

Friday, July 21, 2006

It's taken some time, but I'm starting to feel as though my body's coming around again.

The turning point? Five magic words: May I hold your hand?

Nobody had ever asked me that before; they just assumed that they could.

(From Grimpen Mire)
And how was your day?

This is what I'm told's been eating at me lately. All I could respond with was, "but I was too young for Vietnam."

(From Grimpen Mire)

One evening we decided head over to the palace grounds at Versailles to get a walk in:

There's just no way for a photograph to convey how immense this place is. I think I must have stood for a good couple minutes on the steps to the palace, bouche bée, staring out in amazement at the gardens, the woods, the Grand Canal.

The park is dotted with hundreds of topiaries and scores of marble statues, representing figures in classical mythology, great thinkers, symbolic references to other parts of the known world. "L'Amerique" was my favorite: loved the hairdo, loved her pet.

Wandered in the woods for a bit - was surprised to see all the chestnuts. Also noted two sequoia trees that mon ami told me Benjamin Franklin brought along as gifts during a diplomatic mission. Just past all this were two smaller palaces - the Grand Trianon (Louis XV's "getaway" palace) and the Petit Trianon:

The Petit Trianon was built for the Marquise de Pompadour, Louis XV's mistress and confidante. Though not of noble blood (she'd received her title from the king), she was reknowned for her grace, intelligence, aesthetic. Amidst all the grandeur of Versailles, I found her demeure a little gem.

Being a (naturalized) Bostonian, I do have somewhat of a fascination for antique colored windows. The copper in the French glass provided a pleasant change from the usual Beacon Hill purple.


After dinner, we took a tour around the city. In spite of all the little soccer yobs running around, draped in the either Portuguese or French flags and hooting, it was actually quite a pleasant walk. Came upon a memorial to a local boy who done good for himself:

and passed by the Church of Our Lady:

All in all, a wonderful way to spend an afternoon and evening.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

In Today's News:

Weird sightings of a toothed hen and pigs flying over Somerville.

Yes, Be finally got broadband as it was cheaper than dialup. How do the fine folks over at RCN do it? Really, I love them and can't recommend them highly enough.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006


We were right on the outskirts of Paris - with the Bois de Boulogne separating us from the Big, Bad City.

This is about as close as I ever like to get to the Eiffel Tower. Not an unreasonable distance: mon ami lives about as far from it as I do the Bunker Hill monument.

Right behind where we could look at Paris is the American Cemetery, a largely World War I monument with a memorial to the Unknown Americans killed in World War II.

Beside this is the Eternal Flame lit for those hostages killed in WWII by the Nazis in retaliation for attacks by the Résistance.

Some Suresnois rooftops. Nothing major or breathtaking, just pleasantly different.

The Lady of the House. I'm ruled by cats; my host takes his directive from a small, fifty-year-old tortoise named Corrina. I really enjoyed getting to know her.

Located perhaps 1/3 the way between Paris and Versailles, DKGE's neighborhood was close enough to the city to be convenient and far enough away to not feel crowded. Blackbirds, turtledoves and nightengales serenaded us constantly from the overgrown secret garden in the back; Madame Corrina monitored our comings and goings (along with the status of the plums ripening on the trees) in the front of the house. It was a wonderful place to come home to after a long day out.
I'd not flown overseas since before 9/11/01, so I really wasn't sure as to what to expect. Security wasn't that bad at all, though I guess it helped to keep a sense of humor about things like having to take off one's shoes to go through the checkpoint, etc.

Summertime for me usually means going around barefoot, so I don't have the prettiest of feet. I apologized to the guard who took my shoes, stating that if I'd have known what was going to happen, I'd have gotten a pedicure for his benefit. Don't know how many times he'd heard that one, but he gave a big smile anyway (it helps to be blonde and cute) and let me pass through just fine.

The rather sullen-looking Frenchman ahead of me in line didn't fare so well: he had a couple confiscatable items in his bag, so was detained for a bit. I was kind of thankful for that, as I didn't much like the way he stared at my toes or me, and kind of wanted to lose him.

We actually boarded the plane on time, though had to rest on the tarmac for a bit for a failed attempt at repairing the air-conditioning. Happily, no one near me wanted to chat, though the sullen Frenchman was placed in front of me. As he decided to push his seat all the way back, I made darn sure to knee his headrest as many times as possible during the flight.

De Gaulle was as it ever has been: big, concrete-y, a bit confusing. I don't think I'll ever get over the sight of the soldiers - young ones - boys actually - patrolling the airport, mitrailleuses in hand. I don't think that anyone would actually use the weapons in a crowded airport, at least I hope not, anyway.

I'd forgotten about the tendency towards crowding, rather than lining up, and since I was too busy paying attention to the boys with big guns, I found myself almost crushed between a family of Chinese and my sullen Frenchman. I could ignore the Chinese, but the Frenchie decided that he really wanted to talk about Boston with me: property values, infrastructure, etc. Asked me if I'd ever been to France before (oui), and how much time I'd spent in Paris (aussi peu du temps que possible). Recommended a couple exhibits to me, but that's all I really remember, as I was overwhelmed by crowds, lack of sleep, the heat, the air quality, getting through the douane and finding My Frenchman.

How happy it was to see that familiar face again once I got past the sliding glass doors that separated no-man's-land from the rest of the airport. A cart was found for my giant aubergine (My suitcase is pretty unmistakable, as it's purple with a bright green truffle on it. Told all the folks around me at baggage claim to keep an eye out for it. They did gladly, and a couple people laughed aloud when they saw the violent color combination.) and I got the hug I was hoping for before being whisked off to Suburbia in what seemed to be the very lap of luxury (wow: legroom and air-conditioning) after the cramped, overheated flight over.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Back Again

The Eiffel Tower as seen from an obervatory in suburbia. Paris seemed almost harmless when viewed from a distance and with the Bois de Boulogne separating it from us.

with some good coffee, a couple books, a very expensive bottle of perfume (we all have our indulgences), and a good number of memories to make a girl smile quand elle sera bien vieille.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Voyage à Paris

Ah! la charmante chose
Quitter un pays morose
Pour Paris
Paris joli
Qu'un jour
Dut créer l'amour.

-Guillaume Apollinaire


Will be back in a couple weeks, perhaps. (We'll see. Haven't been particularly inspired to write, so, who knows.)