74 – 75

There are always those points when researching a (major, defining, all-consuming) project where you feel stuck.

 

Overwhelmed

 

 

Blocked

 

Unsure of where to go/what to do/what happens next

 

 

Feeling as if you’re not doing enough of what you should be doing. That you’re not reading enough – or worse, that you’re reading the wrong things for what you eventually want to produce. So would all that just be time wasted?

 

 

My project went through a bit of a much-needed house cleaning when I was in Boston, and while I am incredibly happy for that, there’s that unmistakable rush of stepping back into the wide expanse that is ‘research’ that is staring me in the face. I want to read everything but almost don’t know where or what to start with. I’m casting off some things – or actually, a certain writer – that have been my ‘anchors’ for a while, but maybe it would be more accurate to call them ‘crutches’.

 

 

Sometimes I do wonder about my capabilities to do this…thing. Whatever it ends up being. Then I remember that these sort of crises are normal – I experienced at least one during both years of my Masters programs as well as right before my Generals last year. Somewhere in the bowels of the BNF is the book/journal/text I need that will relaunch me on one of my reading ‘kicks’. I just need to find it.

 

 

Until then, there are walks at night, tacos for dinner at Candelaria (because it, unlike many other places, is actually open on Mondays) and conversations that get you to probe back into your thoughts, rehash them, remake, refresh them, bring them back into process.

 

 

I am a lioness. Hear me roar.

Happy Birthday to Me (70 – 73)

In the spirit of relaxing/recharging/recuperating/renewing, I decided to take a break from things for my birthday weekend. Well, for the most part anyway. Sure, I found time to read one or two articles, but other than that, I decided to devote the majority of the weekend to ‘treating myself’ in the fullest extent of the term.

The exception to this was a tutoring session on Thursday (aka my actual birthday), but on the plus side, this afforded me some extra pocket money that I used to buy the rest of the ingredients I needed to make a pumpkin pie (because honestly, I’m not going to be home for Thanksgiving this year, and finding pumpkin pie in this city is almost like finding a needle in a haystack…with rare exceptions). Oh and also a bath bomb and bubble bath bar from Lush.

I don’t care if my tub was momentarily stained by golden glitter: if any evening deserves a bubble bath accompanied by bourbon (my other gift to myself), candles, and Christmas music, it’s definitely my birthday evening. Plus, it got cleaned up the next day anyway. Along with the rest of my house.

Yes, that’s right everyone, I spent Friday cleaning, something I have not done since a bit before I left for Boston. Call it a need for a fresh start on my first day of being 28 – or, if we’re being honest, an understandable reaction to spilling flour on your floor while making a pie crust – but at least I’m starting this year off on a high note. 27 was…interesting, tumultuous, kind of shit at points quite frankly. I’m determined to make 28…not that.

And anyway, it wasn’t all about cleaning. I ended my day with a night at Red House celebrating my birthday with friends (as well as with…an undisclosed number of Old Fashioneds…because my friends are wonderful). The fact that a good number of us ended up staying until the lights came on to announce last call was, I think, the surest marker of an evening well-spent.

Of course, this did mean that Saturday ended up being a day of resting, sleeping, and in general doing nothing.

Rounding off the weekend was a late lunch at Pho Banh Cuon with an old friend who’s in town for the week, followed by a walk along the Seine just as the sun was coming down. We’re in the tail end of fall now, and the last golden leaves are still just hanging on to the trees (which, I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned this, have a dark, almost black trunk that contrasts beautifully with the bright yellow leaves, especially after a bit of rain). This also means that Christmas decorations are going up, signaling the start of one of my favorite times of the year. Really, I just cannot get enough of twinkly Christmas lights.

69

So I think the general lack of sound sleep I’ve been getting these past few days (ok fine, this past week+) finally caught up with me: I slept until 10 this morning.

It might not sound too crazy, but considering I went to bed at around 11:30ish, it definitely far surpasses the amount of sleep I usually get.

And plus, I figured that since my birthday is tomorrow, why not get an early start on the whole ‘treating/pampering myself’ thing with a late, alarm-less morning? Thankfully, I didn’t have anywhere to be until 1, so the good vibes continued with a quick morning workout (because endorphins are always good) and small breakfast before I headed out for my lunch meeting with my former grad advisor when I was at Reid Hall back in 2012/2013.

I don’t know if I could ever put in words how amazing this woman is at what she does, nor how great it is that we have kept in touch even after I finished the program. Crossed schedules kept pushing this meeting back for a while, but better mid-November than never. Lunch was at an Asian-fusion place near Reid Hall, and over abundant bowls of stir-fry we caught up on one another’s lives/projects, and reminisced a bit about that year in the program (honestly, I still never get tired of the fact that, almost every time we meet, she recounts how surprised she was when, on the first day of orientation, I, this petite girl with big brown eyes, said matter of factly that I study sadism and masochism. I think it must be this false layer of ‘innocence’ I put on haha).

After lunch ended, I decided to stay out and walk around a bit before heading over to my theatre class at the high school, so the ‘treating myself’ trend continued. First was a stop at Pierre Hermé for a couple of macarons:

I know what you’re thinking, but no that’s not sesame. That’s actually a black lemon macaron on the left. On the right is date+earl grey

I know what you’re thinking, but no that’s not sesame. That’s actually a black lemon macaron on the left. On the right is date+earl grey

And here’s the view I had while eating them:

Saint Sulpice

Saint Sulpice

Then it was off to La Grande Épicerie to pick up my birthday gift to myself (more on that tomorrow), as well as balk at the fact that they charge 8.90eu for a can of pumpkin purée (for the record, Thanksgiving, an American épicerie near Saint-Paul, sells the exact same can for 3.90eu). Oh, and to marvel at the still inexplicable to me wall of too-expensive waters:

Though I will admit, the effect of the light shining through them is pretty awesome

Though I will admit, the effect of the light shining through them is pretty awesome

I know I said I’m treating myself a bit this week, but even that has its limits.

Choices… (67 – 68)

Today I want to talk about choices.

We all make choices. Sometimes they are simple choices – what to have for lunch, whether to wear one shirt over another. Other times they’re spur of the moment choices – choosing to check in your suitcase, for example, after the gate agent suggests that it may or may not have to be checked anyway, only to remember at the last minute that you’ve got a plastic case of Trader Joe’s dark chocolate peanut butter cups as well as a cardboard canister of oats in there that you were really counting on not getting squished and now have to slightly agonize about it until you pick up your bag again (thankfully, all was well).

And then there are choices that, in retrospect, seem absolutely inexplicable. Like going to see a show on the day you arrive after a transatlantic flight.

But more on that in a minute. First, Boston.

Overall, everything went fine. I won’t lie and say it wasn’t a bit odd being back at first, but I’m not sure whether that has more to do with the lingering memories of the breakup this place holds, or if it was simply a result of not being able to go back to the apartment I lived in while I was here. I will say though, that whether consciously or not, I did not go back to Central Square, nor past the apartment. The closest I came was the Dumpling House on Mass. Ave, where I met up with a couple friends for dinner.

But in sum, no breakdowns, no backtracking. Maybe this was in part because I was just so busy all the time, but I’m just going to attribute it to general healing and progress.

And now back to the topic of today’s entry: choices.

I’m not entirely sure what the sequence of events was, but at some point, my brain told me that yes it was a good idea to go see a 21h (9pm) show – a two hour 9pm show – on the same day that I arrived back from Boston. Seeing as how I have a really hard – read: impossible – time falling asleep on airplanes, I think it was just the challenge to stay awake in and of itself that motivated me to not try and exchange the theatre ticket for another night.

And so last night I returned to the Théâtre de la Bastille to see a performance of Des Territoires (…d’une prison l’autre) the second in a three-part series of plays by Baptiste Amann. The general gist of it is ‘what would a 21st century revolution look like’, and it explores this through the mise en scène of a family of four – three brothers and one sister – just returning home after burying their parents. Upon entering their house, they are accosted by two acquaintances, who inform them that outside a rebellion is brewing and getting closer. The cast is rounded out with the arrival of Louise Michel (yes, as in named after the Communard and 19th century French Anarchist Louise Michel), a sort of ‘anachronistic’ element that not only anchors the rest of the characters within their own time, but also draws them back to the Paris Commune of 1871.

I’ll be honest, I spent the majority of the first half of the play trying not to nod off, so I think I missed a lot of…well…everything, but there was a point towards the final third where a loud, sharp sound cue announced the start of something between a dream sequence and a flashback. Paris, 1871, the tail end of the Commune; the Communards have reunited, and one of them, Théophile Ferré (who was played by the same actor that played the mentally disabled brother of the sibling quartet), is marked for dead. So begins an examination of the nature of revolutions, of who they sacrifice, who is left behind, and in all this, where – and how – the human can be found again.

Given my lack of complete coherence, I think what stood out to me most were the technical elements, especially the sound design, which used the cavernous nature of the space to create an immersive and almost pressingly present soundscape.

Of course, by the time the play ended, I was about this close to falling asleep on the sidewalk, so I didn’t necessarily take the time to note my post-show reflections either.

As such, today I took things a bit easy: after an 8am (yeah that was a reallllly smart idea) meeting with a student, I rewarded myself with a brisk walk for a bit before heading home to buy some groceries and do laundry.

And now my eyes are getting heavy again, so I’m just going to end this here.

It’s good to be back here again.

Overhear Paris, and other pre-conference activities (64 – 66)

Will I ever get tired of fall foliage? No, no I will not.

I think by now it should be relatively obvious that any time I do a post on a clump of days like this, it’s because I’ve been reading all day. Of course.

Last-minute prep for Boston has been contributing to this as well. Before anyone asks: yes, it feels weird to be going back. No, I don’t necessarily think I’m going to break down. But who knows.

In any case, today, at least, proved a good final distraction before conference prep, editing, and packing got in the way.

Visions in red.

First, a visit to the Palais de Tokyo to check out the expo Medusa bijoux et tabous (Medusa, jewelry and taboo) before it closes on the 5th. As the name suggests, the primary focus was on jewelry, but more specifically, the different ways in which jewelry is used or appropriated by the wearer not only to create, affirm, or subvert an identity, but also establish or undermine cultural norms and values. I’ve never really given much thought to how my own choices in jewelry are/can be seen as a reflection of myself – as my style/preferences have changed frequently throughout the years –, but maybe next time I’m getting ready in the morning, I’ll take some time to examine what it means to have so many pieces shaped like triangles.  

No lie, would probably actually wear this if given the chance.

The evening’s second event was more in line with my usual wheelhouse of artistic interests, namely experimental/experiential theatre. About a week ago, a friend posted a link to It’s Not a Box Theatre’s Overhear Paris project, a theatrical experience advertised as an interactive walk through part of Nation, punctuated by periodic performances. The first night of performances was this evening, and, as I have been doing for pretty much every show I end up going to and as this would be my only chance to see this, I pretty much said, why the hell not and signed up for a slot.

The way it works is that you show up to a designated meeting spot (in my case, just outside metro Avron), where someone from the troupe will meet you and hand you a phone – having a good set of headphones is a plus for this, but they can provide those as well – with a preloaded app open and ready to guide you along your journey. At your start time – only one person can take the walk per slot – the app is launched, and a recording starts guiding you along the designated route. Every so often, you come across a performer, who also has a phone with the app preloaded, and when you do, your phones pair up, and their narrative starts playing as they in turn – through dance and gesture – perform their story in front of you. It’s a strange sort of intimacy that happens when you have a situation like this where two people, seemingly isolated with their headphones on, are in fact connected via virtual and corporeal transmission of a narrative. In any case, there were moments where I couldn’t help but also watch some of the passerby who stole sometimes intrigued, sometimes confused glances at what was going on.

The theme of the show was on immigration, expatriation, generally, leaving one’s home to move abroad, and the trials and tribulations that come with it. At the end of the show, once you turn your phone back in, the team asks if you would like five minutes to share your story. Which I did.

If anyone reading this is currently in Paris, the show is still on for a few more performances. I highly recommend checking it out if you have the chance.

Food-ventures (63)

Mornings in Père Lachaise

The things I do for food.

I wanted to keep riding my emotional high for a bit before reading and travel-prepping roped me back in, so I decided to give myself a food quest today partly because I haven’t treated myself to a meal out in a while (yay constant stream of leftovers resulting from big-batch cooking!). It was also a good excuse to get out of the house instead of lazying around all day, although I probably should have paid a little more attention to the weather before leaving my apartment without an umbrella. Mist – which briefly turns to actual rain – does not make for the greatest of umbrella-less walking conditions.

Croissant at Blé Sucré

After cutting through Père Lachaise, my first stop was Blé Sucré, where I had hoped to snatch a kouign amann, but unfortunately had to make due with a (still excellent) croissant, seeing as how they had run out of the former by the time I got there. So much for showing up at 10am instead of 9 like I had intended. Ah well.

I had a bit of time to kill after that, so I decided to take a little stroll along what was the inspiration for the Highline in New York: the Coulée Verte. Stretching along a former elevated metro track, this promenade runs parallel to ave. Daumesnil, and drops you off a little before you reach Bastille. There were quite a few joggers up there this morning, though I’m not sure I would have felt safe running along some of the more slippery surfaces (seriously, there’s this wood – or at least, wood-like – material that’s used on some surfaces here…literally the worst thing to walk on when there is even a hint of moisture).

You really can’t beat the fall colors though…

My next stop was actually the primary reason for this walk, as it had been quite a while since I had been to this place, and I figured that, given the sudden drop in temperature, a visit would be well warranted. Plus, I was just really craving a nice bowl of ramen.

Of course there’s a line, but when you’re one person, lines become more or less meaningless

I didn’t take a picture of my ramen to share with you lovely people, but quite frankly, it was because I was too busy devouring it the minute it was placed in front of me. In my defense: mist and no umbrella. Fortunately, the rain actually started to let up after this point, so I was able to finish up my walk in peace. First, a walk up la Rue des Martyrs to walk off some of my lunch:

Rue des Martyrs

Then it was over to the canal, where once again, I was left mesmerized by the peaceful beauty that is Paris in the fall.


I will never get over how much I love this.

And it was here that I made my final stop at Ten Belles for a noisette and, because I had walked around 3-4 hours, a chocolate-caramel brownie.

This definitely makes up for leaving my umbrella at home

Both of which proved to be helpful fuel for the walk back home:


How I know I’m almost home

A post on affirmation (60 – 62)

Cocktails last night at Le Capsule

First things first: I finally finished writing that conference paper (hence the lack, in part, of posting here).

Second, I’ve been wanting to post something like this for a while, but wasn’t sure how. Partly because I didn’t quite have the words yet to fully express how I am feeling right now, partly because I felt almost self-conscious about it.

Let’s backtrack: not that long ago, I wrote about how I hit another low point in my recovery, a post which ended with a sort of affirmation of my presence here, and why that more than anything was pushing me along this strange, winding road to recovery.

In theatre, we often talk about catharsis, this purge or cleansing of emotion that often occurs in the midst of tragedy. Well, I don’t know if the travails of my personal life can compare to those found in classical drama, but to be completely honest, ever since that day, I have been feeling increasingly better, more myself, about everything.

The reason why I’ve been hesitant to talk about this, though, is that I feel sometimes to say that I am genuinely doing fine – actually more than fine, I feel pretty great right now – would be interpreted as doing a disservice to my past relationship, as though I hadn’t mourned enough. But if part of my goal with this blog is to be honest both about my journey through the dissertation nonsense, as well as my recovery process, did I not owe it to myself to embrace this happiness, this self-assuredness, this confidence that’s steadily and strongly been coming back to me? Everyone heals and recovers differently. One person’s timeline does not necessarily equate another’s. And to be frank, I think the reason I’ve been feeling this strong confidence is because I have – before and since the move – actively put myself in situations where I had to make choices about what I wanted to do because I wanted to do them. I can spontaneously buy that ticket to that show I want to see, for example, something I haven’t done in a long time, least of all here, because before I had a language-barrier issue (not mine, the ex’s) to take into consideration. The choice for me personally to be happy was right in front of me, so, since I have the privilege to make this choice, why wasn’t I taking it?

So last night when I met up with a friend for drinks and she asked me how I was doing, instead of doing my usual rundown of “yes, I’m doing alright. It’s been difficult. I’m getting by, etc.” I just flat out said that I was doing great. And it felt pretty fucking good because I meant it. And I understand I am very lucky to be able to say this and mean it. But I think the point I want to try and make here is that it is absolute shit that anyone has to question their recovery story/process, whether it be slow, fast, or somewhere in between. There is no right or wrong way to do this; it’s just a matter of working to a point where you can let yourself be honest (and what the hell, a little selfish) about what you want, what you need, and damn the rest.

Picasso (59)

I have a tendency at times to get a bit restless. The downside of this is that in moments where I’m hitting a block mentally, my mind tends to race in about as many directions away from what I want to focus on than I can possibly imagine. Normally, when a situation like this hits (like it did this morning when I was staring at my conference paper draft that I knew I needed to add…something to, but could not put my finger on what), I tend to seek solace not just in my usual walks, but in something more intellectually stimulating.

Like art exhibits.


The Picasso Museum in Paris is currently hosting an exhibit titled Picasso 1932, année érotique (Picasso 1932, an erotic year). There’s been a bit of good buzz around the exhibit, so I figured that, since studying erotics has been, if nothing else, at the background of a lot of what I do, why not spend some time around a thing that is both familiar yet has absolutely nothing to do with the paper I am currently blocked on.


And, as these things usually go, I think that may have worked.


I’m not an art expert by any means, but even I can say that the praise surrounding this exposition is not entirely unfounded. The whole thing is laid out like a sort of calendar/journal tracing Picasso’s life and art in the year 1932, with letters, newspaper clippings, posters and personal photographs interspersed amongst the paintings themselves.

And I’m not sure if this had anything to do with why I left with such a good impression of the exhibit, but I couldn’t help but freeze momentarily when, after stepping into one of the exhibit rooms, I came face-to-face with this :


If you are familiar with Hokusai’s “The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife”, maybe you’ll agree that there is something about this piece that harkens very strongly back to it. Or at least, I thought so. There was just something about the way the female body has become so refracted, so broken down, reshaped and manipulated that it regains a sort of animalistic quality as it reaches back to envelop the head in repose that I could not look away from for what seemed like the longest time. In any case, I think that somewhat snapped me out of my tailspin because I went through the rest of the exhibit with an almost clear head (let’s be honest with ourselves, my mind is never not racing on something, but better one or a few things than a hundred).

The rest of my afternoon before my 5pm tutoring session consisted of stopping by the FNAC to pick up a book recently recommended to me (a French translation of an Icelandic novel) and then grabbing a quick snack before having to stop myself from getting too far into the book too quickly. Yes, this is a legitimate problem.

Fall weather walking (58)

Sunny days have finally started to give over to the grey gloom of fall. 

You really think a bit of rain would stop me from going on insanely long walks??

Confession time: I’m kind of into visiting old cemeteries. More specifically, visiting old cemeteries in the fall (something about the juxtaposition of the changing leaves against the cool grey of gravestones, especially just after it rains…). As a tutoring session I scheduled with a student near Montmartre got pushed back fifteen minutes, I figured I’d kill (ha) some time by walking amongst some grave stones. 

Instagram (@effie143)

Instagram (@effie143)
The Indian summer has been nice and all, but I’m glad fall is finally creeping in (and just in time for Halloween too…though no one really celebrates that here).
Hello lil’ red leaf!

55-57

Yep. So slow.

Friday. Reading. Reading and realizing I need to actually write this presentation for a conference in New Jersey in a couple weeks (literally) that I’ve been putting off. Eeep.

Saturday was much more fun though.

It’s always such a delight to me to meet up with friends/former classmates/former students (still cannot believe I can write this last one) when I’m in Paris, and yesterday was no exception. First up was coffee with a former student (who herself was also a grad student during her time in the course I was TFing, and yes, before you ask, that is a very strange thing to encounter) at La Fontaine de Belleville, which is quickly becoming my favorite spot in the city if for no reason other than the live jazz on Saturdays. I’m also kind of determined at this point to go there enough times that they start to recognize me and can predict my order of a café noisette with optional sablé cookie right away. Will update if/when that moment ever happens.

After enjoying the music for a while, we headed out for a bit of a stroll, during which we stumbled across what I am starting to consider as the new manifestation of the theatre of the absurd.

A suitcase was abandoned near rue Montorgeuil. Seeing that the state of emergency that followed November 2015 – and that Macron has pretty much signed into law – is still in full force, this seemingly innocuous navy blue object was treated with all the care of a live land mine. There was the cordoned off perimeter – which, let’s be honest, would have been about as useful as a paper umbrella in a blizzard if there actually was anything dangerous in the suitcase –, policemen announcing that passerby were to stay back, and a little robot poling and prodding the offending object, confirming what the exasperated crowd of onlookers already suspected: there was nothing inside. I think though what solidified the theatricality of the whole thing was what happened immediately afterwards. As pedestrians were allowed to move freely again, a small crowd of people gathered around the suitcase to stare at it, poke it, turn it upside down, take photographs of it, simultaneously elevating its status to ‘sacred object’ while debasing and destroying it even further.

Hyper-security can produce such strange spectacle sometimes.

Later that evening, I met up with another member of my cohort who is also living in Paris at the moment, and I finally tried Da Vito, the pizzeria that’s a front for that one speakeasy bar (Moonshiner) behind a fridge that I think I have written about here before. Honestly, not bad at all.

And finally, today was the last day of that Shakespeare monologue workshop/meetup I signed up for a few weeks back. As it was the final class, it mostly consisted of everyone presenting their monologues, getting a bit of feedback, and then heading out to a pub for some drinks to celebrate the end of the course. I think I’m going to try and keep a foot in this group somehow, if not just as a good resource to refresh some of the more ‘classical’ elements of my technique a bit (plus, it’s not like I’m actively hustling for auditions anyway).

The weather has started to turn a bit, and soon I think my walking habit will be tested. I’m going to try and hold out as long as I can. Wish me luck.