Tag Archive | Montmartre


Abbey Road 45 years later

Abbey Road 45 years later

Something about seeing that Pattie Boyd turned 70 yesterday made me feel – not old, not nostalgic, not sad – grateful? Happy to have lived when I have?

Pattie Boyd, my childhood idol and living Francie doll.

Pattie Boyd, my childhood idol and living Francie doll.

Can’t quite put my finger on what that something is, so I’ll blog it out. She’s the girl about whom George Harrison wrote, “Something in the way she moves attracts me like no other lover …,” from Abbey Road (across which we walked on our recent trip to London). She’s the same girl about whom Eric Clapton wrote the tortured “Layla” and the adoring “Wonderful Tonight.”

She’s the girl on whose every (ghost)written word I hung as a 9-11 year old when she had a beauty and advice column in 16 magazine. Her hair and makeup tips were memorized by yours truly, amusing considering I couldn’t touch cosmetics until I turned 13.

She married a Beatle, for heaven’s sake.

Jean Shrimpton was my favorite model in those days, for sheer beauty, glamour and – just look at her.

Her highness of beauty, Jean Shrimpton

Her highness of beauty, Jean Shrimpton

But Pattie was a regular girl, accessible, with an attainable look and darling clothes. (Or so she seemed, despite marrying George, then marrying Eric and having those songs written about her.) She transcended glamour.

As frivolous as it might seem, I’m glad I was affected by her.


A few people have asked me to write about our trip, but that’s not something I really feel like doing at the moment, other than to mention the books I read on our trip – and one inspired by our trip that I ordered the last night we were in Paris.

I told myself I could not take Michael Chabon’s Kavalier & Clay with me – it weighs too much and I’d waited all these years to read it and another week wouldn’t hurt me. Kav&Clay

I was about halfway through and could finish it when I got back, I told myself repeatedly – and I already had a beat-up used copy of Special Topics in Calamity Physics, by Marisha Pessl packed – I’d been saving it for the trip since Julia told me I must read it immediately.

But the day came to leave and I couldn’t leave my comic-book-creating boys behind. I stayed up late nights on our trip to finish the tale Chabon wove so well. I won’t give anything away, but if you like World War II history, comic books or just excellent writing in any form, read it.

CalamityPhysicsBookCoverBut I didn’t let myself start Calamity Physics until our very long return-travel day – made do with magazines after the heartbreak of finishing K&C. I almost finished CP in that one day – what a great, weird book it is. After we got home and real-life ensued, it took me a few days to finish the little bit I had left.

Can’t tell you anything, really, except you’ll never read anything else quite like it. Pessl blew me away with her first novel. The first-person narration, by a college-age girl, is accompanied by self-annotation, a fascinating device and not distracting at all from the top-notch mystery that the book really is.

Just as I finished it, the book I ordered from our hotel room in Montmartre arrived. (Stayed up late the last night of our trip to find a good used copy of a 2013 book, which took some digging. I feed my addiction with used books when possible; my iPad is loaded with classics, travel books and books for work, but turning pages is part of the experience for me.)

thepaintedgirlsI’d read about The Painted Girls, by Cathy Marie Buchanan, a while back and thought I’d probably read it when it came out in paperback. But after seeing Little Dancer, Aged 14 at the Musée D’Orsay, then talking to a very nice lady from Port Arthur, Texas, at lunch at the D’Orsay (she and her husband, a retired firefighter, were at the table next to us and accents required chatting), I revised that to “I’ll read it now.”

She brought it up and said she was back at the D’Orsay to visit the statuette after reading the historical novel, based on ballet dancers near Montmartre, including Marie van Goethem, who modeled regularly for Edgar Degas and was captured in Little Dancer and many paintings.


Degas’ “Little Dancer, Aged 14”

The book is good, not life-changingly great, but solidly good and very interesting historically. Buchanan craftily weaves two true stories into one –and it was cool reading about events on the streets we’d walked and hills we’d climbed. I’m very glad I read it.

Montmartre and Sacré Coeur from one of the clock windows at the Museé D-Orsay – the setting for much of

Montmartre and Sacré Coeur from one of the clock windows at the Musée D-Orsay – the setting for much of “The Painted Girls” and where we stayed our three nights in Paris. (Taken with an iPhone, I might add, which did better than our Canon aim-and-shoot.)

their_eyes_frontBut now I’m reading Their Eyes Were Watching God. Once I got used to the dialect, I find it hard to put down. I started it to fill a gap in my English-degree reading. Thank heavens I did!


One last something to write about, in the photo department – and some things I noticed: My passport is expiring, so I had to go get a new picture made. Things I noticed: I often have the non-drunk drunk eyes Daddy had in many photos, and they show up well here. Ten years age you a lot. Passport photos have gone up quite a bit – 10 years ago, I think it was about $10. Yesterday it was $16+ with tax.

And check out the hair – mainly the bangs. Sixties’ influence much? Some things never change.

Pattie Boyd, Jean Shrimpton, I feel your bangs.

Pattie Boyd, Jean Shrimpton, I feel your bangs.

Wild night 1

Kim's cool photo near the scene of the crime.

Kim’s cool photo near the scene of the crime.

After leaving the story hanging for many months, I’m finally ready – compelled – to tell the story of the wild nights my little traveling band of students, sister-in-law, Kitty, and friend Kim (mostly friend Kim and moi) had in Gay Paree on our EF Tour in 2009.

I hinted at what was to come in the post called “People Are Strange,” so if some things seem repetitive, forgive me, please. I mentioned that we accidentally lost a 12-year-old with a heart condition after her mother went in search of some goth lovebirds from their group of Texans who decided to disappear in the deliciously seedy area around Le Moulin Rouge.

That’s near Montmartre, where John and I are soon headed for our 10th anniversary, which is one reason it’s on my mind.

Kim caught me taking a photo of the Metropolitan sign. Can't wait to be back in that very spot.

Kim caught me taking a photo of the Metropolitain sign. Can’t wait to be back in that very spot.

Kids are pretty much all the same in how quickly they’ll fold if their friends are in danger – after the honeybuns missed roll call and their sponsors were mildly panicked (tour guide Kathy must have been, too, though she always seemed unflappable), it was no time before the rest of the Texas teens snitched them out.

At the gathering spot, just before head count and all hell breaking loose.

At the gathering spot, just before head count and all hell breaking loose.

They’d planned to run away in Paris. Oops. Their sponsors had other plans and said they’d comb the area until they found them. We should take our tired selves back to the suburbs, to our very nice but oddly out of the way hotel. All the mother of the young girl asked was that we take care of her daughter.

Of course, of course, I assured her and did all but hold her hand.

Let me interrupt to add that, a while back, while looking through photos from the trip, I noticed the future disappearance artists in the corner of a photo of our Little Rock group that Kim had taken. I’ve wavered on posting it, but what the hell.

EF Tour guide, British but fluent in French Kathy Pickus in bright green, gives instructions/directions of some sort to Andrew, Nick, me, Kitty and Ali – while the escape-plotters photobomb us before that was even a fad.

Our EF Tour guide, British but fluent in French Kathy Pickis (in bright green) gives instructions/directions of some sort to Andrew, Nick, me, Kitty and Ali – while the escape-plotters photobomb us at right before that was even a fad.

Anyway, we left en masse as it was getting dark and arrived at the packed-to-the-stretching-point Metro station. Kathy explained that getting on board would be tricky, with the lateness and the crowds, and that no matter what, we MUST STAY TOGETHER. When the car doors open, leap, she stressed. If you hesitate, all is lost.

We were ready. I had the little girl right beside me and had been coaching her, as she seemed mildly freaked out, about sticking with me and moving quickly. The train screeched to a stop, and the group leaped into the car as I said, “Now,” and jumped, too. I turned around to see the doors close, with the child still on the platform, eyes wide and beginning to fill with tears.

“KATHY!” we all screamed. “We lost her!”

As we all began forming retrieval plans/thinking what we’d say to her mother, Kathy told us to GO TO THE HOTEL – she’d hop off the car, run to a bridge across the track, go back the other direction, and, if the fates were with us, find the little girl still frozen to the spot.

She was. Kathy brought her back safely. Even though the Texans had been the bane of our trip, that night we joined hands and sang “We Are the World.” Well, no, but some of us were never so relieved to see a kid we didn’t know.

At a happier moment, beautiful mother and daughter duo, Kim and Ali, stand right in front of the darling girl we lost, albeit briefly. I'm so sorry, little darling.

At a happier moment, beautiful mother and daughter duo Kim and Ali stand right in front of the girl we lost, albeit briefly. I’m so sorry, little darling.

At some point in the night the sponsors returned, runaways in tow. Don’t remember details, don’t know if the police were involved.

But I do know the wild night Kim and I shared will have to wait a bit longer. Computer’s being clunky and I’m cooking dinner.

Shiny, happy people (or, Julia and I make soap, part 1)

Julia and I were sudsy, happy women today during and after our first independent foray into making organic soap.  We’d attended a workshop by Ashley Ralston of Folded Flower Soap, but this was our first solo foray.

All in all, it was a splashing success, though one batch was a bit dicey for a while. We might have invented a new technique on the white soap – hand-kneaded, hand-pressed – but it worked out well.

Julia and I made quite a mess, which was pretty easy to clean up – we’re talking soap, after all. Bubbly lather reached rather high when we washed utensils between batches, which we took as a good sign. We also kept washing our hands with soap, which struck us as rather inane, but habits die hard.

I can honestly say my hands don’t feel any drier than usual after having them in soap or soapy water for hours, so I’d say the emollient factor is about right too.

And Julia and I loved our soap-making venture. (

Soap chillin’ on the porch.

We had a ball and our soap is a pure delight. We may have created a squeaky-clean monster.