wheels of fortune

Saturday, Dec 17. 11 § Leave a comment

the musee d’orsay is beautiful like an old train station. the halls were navigable, and i saw most the museum in about four hours. some famous paintings by van gogh, monet, renoir, degas. also, manet, toulouse-latrec, rodin, seurat, klimt. there was a delightful exhibit called ‘beauty, morals, and voluptuousness in the england of oscar wilde”. some deliciously vile work by aubrey beardsley. this era was known as the rise of the Aesthete which was lead by oscar wilde, a kind of fuck you to victorian society. i particularly enjoyed george frederic watts, frederic leighton, julia margaret cameron.

the exhibit lead me to think about how
we repeat ourselves.
the japanese aesthetic is coveted.
the past is recycled.
every exotic has its fifteen minutes of fame.
beauty is temporal.

the next morning as i was drinking a cappuccino i had an epiphany about belonging.

here i am trying to discreetly pass as french. in the states i am clearly not american. i don’t easily identify with the country written on my face.

i have no country.

i’m a little bit of this and a little bit of that. i dress a little like this and a little like that. i speak some of this and some of that. i know some things, and i don’t know many, many other things.

i try really hard even when i pretend i’m not trying.

i pretend.

for shelter.

to belong somewhere. under some category or classification. by association.

it occurred to me in a way that it hasn’t before that it was okay not to have a country.

i started to feel a little freer. i felt myself mis-belonging in a way that felt more honest than i’ve felt in a long time.


as these thoughts were forming, i had lunch at au passage in the marais. in a hidden alleyway, you’d never know it was there unless you knew. for 19 euros i had a four course meal and a glass of wine. and i saw the other australian james who is the chef here and the one arash mentioned that day at kooka boora. the appetizer was brandade which is mashed salt cod that looks like mashed potatoes. it had an egg on top that had been cooked for an hour.

seared tuna with greens, cauliflower, gratin

the next day i visited shakespeare and co and spent a lot of time and money in the crowded bookstore, negotiating space with others in narrow corridors that lead from one section to another.

after a tea at le fumoir, i found my way back to the marais where i found the unassuming candelaria. it appears to be just a little taco stand.


i sat at the counter for a couple of carnitas tacos. the two girls behind the counter were speaking spanish and it felt so familiar to me. vanessa had a gorgeous feather tattoo along the gape of her neck. i told her so. and then arash came in from the mysterious door in the back.

hi! i said, my hand in the air.

you’re back, he said.  in my life, i mean.

the bar is a lovely secret. warm and cozy with wood panels and candles everywhere. the owner and designer dj’d at the other end of the bar. young hipsters, no surprise.

arash made me a guepe verte which translates to green hornet. tequila is the juice, and there’s a serious spiciness that arrives at the end of a sip.

i had two of those. meanwhile denis kept me company as i watched him whip up some mad cocktails.

and then he made me the velvet beat – spiced rum made in-house, a different kind of spiciness to warm the heart.

made a couple of visits to the loo.

and before leaving in time to catch the metro back to montmartre, arash offered me a shot of mezcal for the road. a pleasant smokiness…


this morning i woke up feeling pretty ok, considering. i decided to try le bal cafe which has a bookstore and gallery attached — the gallery requires an entrance fee, if you believe that. the breakfast was delicious, but i didn’t like the cappuccino as much as kooka boora’s.

all in all, i’m feeling very comfortable navigating paris. i understand better the lay out of the city. i’m feeling more settled just as my trip is coming to a close…

i tell people i came here to get lost, to be lonely, make myself uncomfortable. and i’ve accomplished all of that for sure. some intense moments of it. and i’ve survived it. and i’ve learned a few things. and i think i have a sense of what it would feel like to live in the city of lights.


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