Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Who Are They?

Driving through an industrial area of Oakland we came across these enormous sculptures in an empty lot.  We couldn't get close enough to tell what they're made of but my best guess would be heavy guage metal wire.  The squatting figure must be over 15 feet tall and the standing women easily 20 to 30 feet.

The group below seems to be praying or performing sun salutations.  I don't have any information about the sculptor but would love to know.  Does anyone out there have any information?

Monday, September 19, 2011

Birthday Blessings

It's always been my belief that a birthday celebrated away from home doesn't count towards the years piling up quickly in one's wake and so for the last decade or so I've celebrated most of mine in Paris.  However this one in spite of my best efforts is happening here in Berkeley, although as a friend pointed out, now that I live half the time in Paris, maybe birthdays don't age me in either place...or maybe in both.

In any case, it turned out to be a gorgeous sunny day here at Chez Hilgard, the house where I'm lucky enough to be recuperating while its owners go to Paris instead.  Much as I love our little Parisian apartment, I'd move this place to St-Germain des Prés in a minute; beautiful and comfortable, it's the perfect place for someone alternating between napping, pill-popping and staring at the view of the bay.

From what I can tell, I've also gotten the better deal in terms of weather, sunny and warm, a lazy afternoon spent with my sister, whom I miss like crazy when I'm in Paris, and dinner shared with F. and M. at the much talked about Cotogna in SF, which was at least as good as any Parisian bistro I've tried in a while.  Life is good.

At the same time, friends in Paris are keeping us up to date on what they're up to so we can imagine we're there with them.  I was touched today to learn from L., who visits our favorite Au Comptoir du Relais religiously on her Paris visits, that one of our favorite servers there was so happy to have news of us that she served L. a glass of wine on the house.  How sweet is that? Or maybe it was because of how sweet L. herself is. (I suspect that bolt has been shot, by the way; I wouldn't imagine any more freebies for anyone else dropping in to say hi from Shelli and Gene, would you?  Clever L.)

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Vicarious Paris

Since I'm not there myself, I'm going to be living vicariously.  I mentioned that several friends from Berkeley will be spending much of the month of September in Paris for various parties, events and incidental excitement.  Their calls and emails are the IV connecting me to what's going on way over there.

Today I had tickets for the Theâtre du Chaillot at Trocadero to see the legendary Mikhael Baryshnikov starring in "In Paris" described in the New York Times review as "a stark, experimental theatrical adaptation of a 1940 short story by Ivan Bunin, the first Russian to win the Nobel Prize in Literature... 'In Paris' uses music, song, mime, video and poster-size images of old Paris postcards to create a somber world in black and white."

Apparently the audience had hoped for something else.  Baryshnikov, looking for the bright side, was quoted as saying "They didn’t boo!...Someone told me, ‘They didn’t boo, and if they don’t boo, that’s good.'"

Of the three friends who saw it, two used the always lukewarm descriptor "interesting" while the third called it "creative and interesting".   I have no way of judging the work or the performances myself, but it does raise the question of expectations: if you decide to see a performance because Mikhael Baryshnikov is in it, what do you have the right to expect?  Dance?  From a 64 year old genius?  Not likely to be at the top of his form anymore.  Acting?  From someone whose performance in the last season of Sex and the City was painful?  Even less likely.  Creativity?  Absolutely.  And that seems to be, if the reviews are to be believed, what the audience got.  Not a bad payoff.

Baryshnikov financed a large part of this production himself, claiming it as a labor of love, one that allows a synthesis between his Russian self and his international self, formed of necessity after his defection from Soviet Russia in the early 1970s.  He was in his mid-twenties when he made the decision that changed his life.  It doesn't seem out of order for him to be reviewing that life at this point in it.

I wish I'd seen it, despite the dismal reviews.  And oddly enough, it will be mounted in Berkeley next year, so I might get to see it after all.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Back in the Land of the Living

The coffee at Coutume in Paris is so good and so pretty it needed to have its picture taken last time I was there.  And although I wish I were there now, looking at that crema and recalling the taste makes me happy, particularly since I will be there soon.

The miracles of modern medicine never cease to amaze me.  Years ago I was a lawyer representing people who had been injured in accidents, many with back injuries that they were told required surgery.  In way too many cases major surgery delivered minor relief and sometimes made things much worse.

So when my doctor told me that I probably needed back surgery my first response was an unequivocal no.  I would wait, I'd have therapy, I'd get better.  Besides, I was leaving for Paris in a few days.  By the time I got results from the MRI it was the night before our departure and I was all packed to go when a call from my brilliant retired doctor pal made me rethink that decision.  Early the next morning my internist managed to get me in to see a neurosurgeon (thanks for pulling whatever strings you pulled, Dr. CK) just hours before we had to leave for the airport.

The surgeon told me I could fly and there was maybe a 70% chance the problem would resolve on its own.  But if not, I might be left with a foot drop that would accompany me to my grave.  Since I hope that's going to be a long time I really didn't want to have that companion for that long.  So just like that I decided to take the 100% fix option, even if it meant no Paris that day.

And guess what?  Here's where the miracles of modern medicine come in. Things have changed enormously in the years since I last noticed.  This was no major deal; micro-surgery, a one-inch incision, a bit of scraping, and back home the same day.  Good drugs although very little need for them, a good night's sleep for the first time in a couple of weeks and looks like I'll be good to go very soon.  Go where?  Guess.  That coffee is calling my name.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

A Minor Change of Plans

The world doesn't always go along with our plans and this week, mine haven't been working out.  I should be in a plane on the way to Paris tonight and instead I'm in Oakland, hoping that the herniated disc in my lower back will stop pressing on the nerve root so I can avoid the surgery scheduled for next week.  Whether that happens or not, we won't be returning to Paris this month.  We've changed our flights to go at the beginning of October instead.

Much as I will miss the wonderful month of September and the bustle of the rentrée, I'm saddest about not being able to attend the major birthday party of my friend E., a festivity we and all the other guests, many coming from the US to help E. celebrate in her second city, have been looking forward to with pleasure.  We'll also be missing the 2 week visit of my dear friend B.  I feel rather guilty about convincing her to come to the party and spend time with us now that we won't be there.  Oh well, at least she'll have Paris.

Our planned visit to Venice and Asolo will also be off the calendar, although it's possible we can reschedule that if Easy Jet is feeling generous.  A medical excuse doesn't get you as far as it once did with airlines.  This should teach me to buy travel insurance.