Thursday, November 19, 2015

Paris, and Change

I’m not a fearful person, generally.  I’m afraid of heights, and there was a time when I was afraid to fly.  But both of those things are normal, no?  I’m afraid that bad things might happen to my children.  There’s cancer, of course, and when I was single, HIV.

That’s the limit of my fears.  Well, OK, I also fear that I will die before I’ve made anything important of myself, but I suppose that’s normal, too.

I’m an American, and to some extent, I’m desensitized to random violence.  I’m that bitch who rolls her eyes and mutters “C’est la vie” and has another glass of wine.  My husband lost coworkers and a best friend in 911, and he watched the whole thing happen from a few blocks away.  So forgive me if I say things like, “Get back out there” and “Don’t show them we’re afraid,” and “Damn straight, let’s take back our terraces!”

I’m so brave.

But let me tell you what it’s really like.  I’ve carried a Navigo card for two years.  For seventy euros per month, I whiz past all of you tourists at every Metro station and think to myself, “They must think I’m a Parisian.”  I’ve read entire books in a few days’ time just sitting on trains.  The Paris Metro has transported me from Saint-Germain to Montmartre to Batignolles to République, Bastille, So-Pi, Le Marais, Passy, the Latin Quarter, Beaugrenelle, and everywhere in between.

A week ago on Friday, a truly evil thing happened in Paris.

When I get on the Metro now, it’s only after I’ve forced myself to be so late for an event that the only way I’ll make it there on time is to take the Metro.  On Monday morning, I actually took two buses through rush hour traffic before I realized I would miss the whole first half of my French class, forcing me to abandon the bus and make a mad dash for the Metro.  Today, I avoided the Chatelet station by bailing at Palais Royale/Musée du Louvre because I had gotten a text warning yesterday that Chatelet was temporarily closed for a suspicious package.

I’m not alone in my thinking.  The Metro has been eerily quiet this week.  I almost always find a seat.  Instead of their noses buried in their phones, commuters look around the trains.  They make eye contact.  They stare at your bag.

And where are the tourists?

I hear sirens constantly.  I’ve been hearing sirens constantly since I arrived in Paris two years ago, but the difference is that now I hear sirens even when there aren’t sirens.

When the police or the gendarmes or the military walk past me, traveling in teams of three, toting machine guns and wearing camouflage, fear finds a little home somewhere between my esophagus and the back of my tongue, and I have to swallow to wash it away.  I remind myself this isn’t new.  I just look at it differently now.  I wish I didn’t have to look at it differently.

I need to memorize my husband’s mobile phone number, my son’s mobile phone number.  I keep forgetting to do that.  I wish I didn’t have to do that.  My husband is on a train right now that will go through the Chunnel in about thirty minutes, and I’m thinking about that.  Usually, I don’t think about that.

I haven’t changed my life since Friday.  I’ve logged dozens of miles this week.  I’ve traveled to the city center every day.  I’ve sat on a terrace with friends drinking champagne when I should have been at home cooking dinner for my family.  I’ve jogged in the Bois de Boulogne and the Parc Monceau.  I’ve walked around the Arc de Triomphe and under the Eiffel Tower.  No, I haven’t changed my life since Friday.  Not much.

But this life - life since Friday - has changed me.  It’s changed everyone I know here in Paris.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

November 14th (in Paris), 8530 Words Toward NaNoWriMo, Not As Sane as Before

At this rate, you probably think I can’t write every day.  But guess what?  I do.  I’m very, v e r y  S L O W .

The Eiffel Tower from The Trocadéro - Bare Trees - That was fast, Autumn!

I’m finishing Act I of my outline, where my young protagonist finds his father in a precarious position and must decide whether or not to let go of the past.  This is The Point of No Return.  Although it doesn’t feel like anything special, I’m hoping I’ll perk up here.  Gain some momentum.  Abuse my keyboard.

But not tonight.  Tonight, I passed the 8500 word mark, and I’m kinda chill like yeah.

Then there’s this thing that happened in Paris yesterday.  It’s not an excuse whatsoever, because during times like this, Keeping On is, well, très nécessaire.  But The Hubs and I were up until 2 AM, struggling with our Wi-Fi (Ya feel me, Paris?), and hanging onto every word we could capture from the news.

Morning in the Bois de Boulogne

Yesterday, I went for a morning run in the Bois de Boulogne with a friend.  She brought her dog.  It was chilly and windy with a hint of sunshine.  I completed 5.5 miles and felt like a million bucks.  I used the rest of the day as a NaNoWriMo catch-up opportunity, meaning I carried a laptop around my apartment, from the dining room table, to the kitchen counter, to the living room couch, editing and writing and emailing NaNo buddies in France.  I made barely a dent in my word count, but it felt productive nonetheless.

Normally, The Hubs and I are out and about on a Friday night.  Montmartre, Le Marais, The Latin Quarter, Pigalle, Saint-Germain, So-Pi… Canal Saint-Martin, Belleville.  Last night, our 8th Grader had a Sleep-Over with a friend at our apartment, rendering The Hubs and I homebound.  Which was perfect, because it had been a long week at work for The Hubs, and a long week for me too…

Paris Café Culture :)


Saint-Michel, Paris

We walked with the boys to the movie theater at Palais des Congres, where we found 007 still sold out - Come on, my French friends, you are not that starved for entertainment - so after a McFlurry pit stop at Mac Doe’s, we returned home and rented Return of the Jedi.

Heee-eeeey Bestie, let’s take a brief reprieve to remember 1983.  This is the year we entered 7th grade.  It’s the summer I was run over by Sam Glick, ‘member that?  Weeks and weeks of Barbies on my mother’s sunporch.  My GAWD, you saved my sanity.  If I say anything else about this, Ima cry and, well, my mascara.  I love you, lady.

Anyhoo, by the middle of the movie, our boys concluded that special effects and plot lines were sub-par in 1983, and they retreated to the Man Cave, where they imbibed in Grand Theft Auto for the next several hours.  In the mean time, The Hubs and I put the movie on pause (who am I kidding, our Wi-Fi crapped out), and while we were standing in the kitchen smooching pouring wine remembering 1983, we got our first text message.

“Are you OK?”

I can’t imagine how many text messages were sent and received last night throughout Paris with those exact words.  Ça Va?

The next few hours included a deluge of phone calls, emails, texts, Facebook messages.  Phone calls took precedence, of course (our children in the USA), followed by emails from our Paris friends…

“Is everyone OK?  At home?  Kids?”

Then came the WhatsApp from my friend in Southern China (from Singapore) when I realized how many people I’ve met here in Paris over the past two years, how many people have become so important to me, from every country and every culture, tout le monde, and…

Our Babysitter

Well.  I couldn’t respond to you all, and for that I apologize.  Between shitty Internet and obvious priorities, I think we all understand.

Today is a Saturday.  We had stuff to do, yanno?  Like most Parisians, we ventured into the world, carefully, cautiously, but confidently.  We brought our visitor home, attended a wine tasting on a boat in the Seine, ate crepes in the 15th Arrondissement.  Life goes on.

To the people of France, thank you.  You are brave and kind and resilient, and you have taught me more than I thought possible.  To my NaNoWriMo friends, thanks so much for your support and encouragement.  I’m making forward progress, a little at a time.

Statue of Liberty, Paris, France

Sunday, November 8, 2015

November 8th, 7001 Words Toward NaNoWriMo, and Still Sane

I should be over 13,000 words before I go to bed tonight, but screw that.  Today, I walked four miles in The Bois, where I witnessed the natural harmony that exists amongst joggers, bikers, equestrians, and prostitutes, and I thought to myself:  Meh.  NaNo can wait.

Did I mention it was 70-ish degrees in Paris today? Fahrenheit?

After my walk, I baked delicate salmon filets in pure maple syrup, cinnamon, and cayenne pepper, while I roasted fresh root vegetables in a culturally imperative, très cher, cast iron oven.  I topped everything with fleur de sel and witnessed The Hubs and my youngest son gobble it up before I realized that yes, I was procrastinating, and yes, I should continue working toward this NaNoWriMo goal.

I can’t lie about it:  I’m behind.  The NaNo website tells me at this rate, I will finish on Christmas Day.  That’s unacceptable.  I want one of those little virtual “Winner” badges, dammit.

Crap.  How’s your NaNoWriMo going?

Saturday, November 7, 2015

How I NaNoWriMo

There are two tricks to NaNoWriMo.  First, create habits.  Write every single day.  Skip one day and you’re screwed.  No wait.  You will definitely get back in the game, but it’s hard.  Don’t skip any days.  Write one paragraph, then two, then three, and move on.  This is really fucking hard.

Thanks to NaNoWriMo, I’ve just completed 6,300 words toward a 50,000-word first draft of a novel.  We’re at the one-week mark.  Today is November 7th, and I’m totes under goal.  Merde.  In the meantime, Trick Number Two -- this outline -- is helping me stay focused.  If it helps someone else, that'd be nice, too.


1: Opening conflict
2: Protagonist in daily life, before a transformation
3: Opportunity for change


4: Resistance to the Opportunity
5: Point of No Return - Opportunity Accepted
6: Entering the New Situation
7: Meeting Friends, Enemies, Romance, Transformative Experienced
8: Problem Brings Them Together
9: Problem Drives Them Apart
10: Crisis Hits


11: Horrible Secret Revealed or Attack Starts
12: All Seems Lost
13: Self Sacrifice or Symbolic Death
14: Final Showdown
15: Conclusion: Wed or Dead

"Good luck," she says, staring at her curser, procrastinating, wine in hand.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Haiku from Paris

Fuck NaNoWriMo
Is Holding Me Hostage Now
I Need More Coffee

PS - My latest rejections have come from such prestigious literary publications as Willow Springs and Digging Through The Fat.

Happy Fall, Y'all :)