San Francisco Again

We’re heading to San Francisco, CA again! Work stuff brings us back almost a year to the day we were there last February. I didn’t take that many pics last time. This time around I’m going to take a lot more. I’m also going to make sure we get back to this restaurant in The Haight. Definitely plotting some Spring clothing purchases…maybe a visit back to Wasteland. The best store for used and vintage designer clothing I’ve ever visited. I went in there on a lark while killing time during our last visit and was pleasantly surprised by the ridiculously low prices. I’m definitely bummed I can’t buy anything this time from Bettie Page clothing. Last year James bought me TWO beautiful dresses from this store because it was almost as if they were made for me. This time around I will be sporting a 5.5 month baby bump! No form-fitting rockabilly dresses for me until (here’s hoping) mid summer.

First Drafts: How Sam Abell Makes a Photograph

Since 1970, Sam Abell has worked as a documentary photographer, shooting primarily for National Geographic. Over his 40-year career, he has depicted Aboriginal Australians, Montana cattle ranchers, and the Imperial Palace of Japan. Here, in an exclusive video interview (via our bud Ross McDermott and the Atlantic), he recounts his year-long quest to find the perfect image of bison skulls for an essay on American painter Charles M. Russell.

This documentary was produced by Alex Hoyt and filmed and edited by Ross McDermott. 


Around this time of year I start to have a major beach craving. With the weather getting cooler I feel such nostalgia for the warm weather and the time I spent at the ocean during the summer. (Some of you might notice that I tend to mention the beach alot on here). I do like Fall and the changing season, but feel sad at the same time with the thought that I might not be at the beach for a while. Earlier this week I spotted these great photographs of a beach in Portugal by artist Christian Chaize on 20×200. His photos document a small stretch of coastline in southern Portugal and just jumped out at me. I love the composition and palette. I can almost smell the saltwater and hear the soft muffled chatter of other people as the waves break and slap on the wet shore. Makes me miss the ocean all the more…

So I made a quick mix this morning with songs that convey a longing for the sea and posted it on 8tracks. Click to listen.

Home (Coming Home)

Back home and it feels good! The journey home seemed to take forever. At some point over the Atlantic Ocean I discovered “Bridget Jones’ Diary” for lack of better options and out of boredom. All along I thought it was a trite romantic comedy, but its actually quite clever and hilarious. It got an 80% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, James! (He rolled his eyes about 5 times while I was watching it).

One of our first orders of business once home was to get a massive amount of take-out szechuan food from our favorite take-out place; Taste of China. We ended the day unpacking. It was glorious to catch up on the much needed sleep in our own house. Yesterday I got our photos printed at Kinkos and filled up the photo album purchased at Papier +. It is the perfect little booklet.

I’ll post some photos of the book and some of the pretty things purchased in Paris, soon. Next up: Top 10 lists from our trip.

C’est fini

It’s officially turned to autumn here. The morning chill hasn’t burnt off the past couple of days. Rainy and gray. Feeling a little blue that our time is over.

I can’t decide if going back to a warmer clime will be nice or not. I think I’m ready for fall to stay. And that’s not just because I want to show off my new purple scarf (très chic).

Back to our standby Café Panis for brunch. We’re trying to beat the rain and see a couple last things; the Montparnasse Cemetery (and maybe the tower) and see the stain glass at Ste. Chapelle. Hop on the Metro to head south, and end up going the wrong way on the yellow line (again). Only line that has given us any trouble; I think the subway here is waaaaaay easier than say, NYC. We find the right train eventually.

Its grayer when we finally emerge on the Blvd. Edgar Quintent, where the Cemetery gates are. I’ve read that the maps for this one are free, unlike the ones at Père Lachaise, where you have to buy one from a street vendor. As we enter it starts to rain. I see the notice that they aren’t distributing free maps until October; they are being updated currently. Great. I scurry up to a small sign giving the location of the “notable” occupants. The map on the sign is small and the locations of several tombs I want to see aren’t on there (Man Ray and Susan Sontag) or are in obviously hard places to find. Maps here are terrible!

I sketch a rude layout of the plan, mark a few graves, and we try to find them. Its cold and wet; she finds the excursion a little macabre and I have no sense of direction. Steph says, “This is true love,” as she helps me navigate.

We visit Jean-Paul Sartre and Simon de Beauvoir, Samuel Beckett, Charles Baudelaire, Serge Gainsbourg, and after a long search, Emil Cioran. I had mainly come to visit him. William H. Gass called Cioran’s work “a philosophical romance on the modern themes of alienation, absurdity, boredom, futility, decay, the tyranny of history, the vulgarities of change, awareness as agony, reason as disease.” His writing was strangely calming and supportive to me during some tough parts of my life, and, even though I don’t share his gleeful pessimism or identify with his alienation from society anymore, I greatly admire his passion and lyrical, original writings. It was very moving to visit.

Steph asked me why I like to visit cemeteries; see graves of people I admire. I like visiting them for the quiet and respectful air, an often pretty walk, and getting a helpful reminder that life is short. And what is a grave but a monument to someone’s life? I really don’t think its too morbid.

[ From Steph: I don’t think cemeteries are morbid, but today it was a little creepy what with the cold rain and giant crows cawing (wish I had gotten a photo of one of them!). But I’m really glad we went. The visit also led to some great conversations. Also, somehow, the weather really fit the excursion! ]

I didn’t get to see everyone I wanted (missed Baudrillard, Durkheim, Cortazar, Ionesco and Maupassant) but we didn’t want to catch cold, and they aren’t going anywhere.

We sped to the center of the Citie afterwards, and the weather was too wet and we too tired to wait in line to see the stained glass at the chapel. We promised each other it was first on the list for our next visit.

All packed-up now, back to Le Grenier de Notre-Dame for dinner and then our last night for this trip. We’ll update next from C-ville.


We are afraid of the enormity of the possible.

Emil Cioran, A Short History of Decay (1949)

Relaxing in Paris: Friday

Wow, what an amazing time we’ve had on this trip! I can’t believe that tomorrow is our last day here. The week just flew by.

Yesterday, after what has seemed like a long week of traipsing all around the city we decided to take it super easy and sleep in, get an early lunch and visit a store that I’ve been looking forward to going into called Au Petit Bonheur la Chance (some photos and more info on the shop here). We had also planned for an early evening get-together with our friends Marianne and Chris and their friend.

We headed over to the Saint-Paul Village of the Marais district. After eating a delicious lunch of duck confit, haricots-verts, sauteed potatoes, petit salade and cafe au lait, I was feeling good. I have been eating quite well on this trip but it is bittersweet since most of the places we have to choose from do not offer meatless options. James has been eating a lot of bread, cheese and omlettes. Tomorrow we are planning on having dinner at the excellent vegetarian restaurant in the latin quarter again, since the food was so unique and delicious!

Anyhow, on our way to the kitchen store we stumbled upon a small vintage jewelry shop where I found some presents for friends and a gorgeous cocktail ring with a white rock crystal. Then we popped over to the small kitchen store I had heard many good things about. It was incredible!! Packed to the max with french linens, vintage kitchen wares and school supplies, notebooks, stickers, etc, etc. I found some amazing stuff. We had a very funny encounter with the shop keeper and chatted for a little while with her. There are things about Paris that I just adore so much and it stings a bit to think about leaving when I just now feel like I’ve begun to love it.

image of au petit bonheur la chance by “this is naive”

image of au petit bonheur la chance by “this is naive”

James and I walked around and then ended up in a cafe near the Louvre where we were meeting Chris and Marianne. We enjoyed a snack and coffees and then popped into a bookshop nearby while we waited for them. I found three vintage Vogue prints which I plan on framing when we get home.

We met up with the Hacketts and their very nice friend Declan from England. He is a Doctoral candidate studying French in Paris for the year. We all found a bar, ordered some drinks and chatted for a bit. We had such a great time we decided to continue on to another place for dinner.

After walking a few blocks, we chose a place that seemed good. Unfortunately for me it is hard to tell what is going to be good and what is going to be very bad. The spot we chose turned out to be a pseudo tapas restaurant. It was decided amongst our group that we would order the special which was some kind of sampler plate. We got two of them and James ordered a big salad. The platter included some quite funny little items and was a bit of a culinary stretch for me. Most of it was deep fried: deep fried baby-bells with chives, deep fried tuna “poppers” (forgive me for using the term “popper” but…really…that’s what they were!), deep fried calamari, and a big pile of deep fried whitebait with eyes, tails and all. I ate a few of them. They weren’t so bad. But I left hungry. James thought they were gray fried meat of some sort and didn’t know what they were until I showed him up close.

Despite the strange delights we were having a grand old time telling stories and talking. There were not many other people in the restaurant and by Parisian standards it was not late (probably about 8pm). There were about 4 people sitting at the bar and a couple ordering dinner in the back of the restaurant. Other than that, the rather large dining room was empty. Suddenly, without warning, the lights dimmed, the music was turned up to 11, and the room was turned into a dance club with some kind of crazy 70’s disco funk. A man in all black stood on a small ladder and flipped a switch on the ceiling. The lights went lower (but not very) and a contraption dangling by a cord began to sway and pulsate with rainbow lights creating a disco-ball effect around us. We all burst out laughing. The rest of the meal was spent shouting / talking.

After dinner, Marianne left to babysit her landlord’s children and Chris, Declan, James and I went to another place for a beer. We were on a street called the Rue de la Banque since there is a huge old bank building there. The restaurant was very chic and had a beautiful black and white photograph of a bank safe on one wall (see pics below).

Afterwords we headed back to the Hackett’s to hang out with Marianne a bit more. They have a really great set up here, renting an apartment just north of the Louvre. Their landlords live across the hall and Marianne is babysitting on a regular basis for the children. I hung out with her for a while across the hall and we talked about their time here in Paris and caught up. Their landlords have an amazing two-story place with a large balcony overlooking a gorgeous view of the city. It is really magical. The guys were across the hall talking about modern minimalist sacred music and the catacombs. When I went back over to the other apartment we got to chatting about some of the posters on the wall that the landlords had hung (the Hackett’s are renting a furnished place). Many of them were from some of our favorite French New Wave films. It turns out that their landlord is actually a huge film buff and has written a lot on French New Wave cinema including a biography of François Truffaut! Of course we were impressed with that because we are both very big fans of Truffaut.

We had a lovely time chatting with Chris and also meeting Sue 2.0. The owners of the apartment have a very pretty tuxedo cat who looked a whole lot like Sue. We were told the way the French call their cat is to say “whoosh whoosh whoosh” so we called him and both felt bowled over by how much we miss our Sue. Sue 2.0 did not compare. Also, he had a small blotch on his face and James cracked me up by saying something in a high pitched sweet voice like “Awwww you are like a flawed version of my Sue”…Ha!

After a very late walk home through the busy neighborhood of Les Halles, we got home and ended yet another wonderful day in Paris.

P.S. Somewhere along the way, James stepped in the largest pile of p*** I’ve ever seen in my life. What is UP with all the piles of p*** everywhere here? Barbaric!