Saturday, June 21, 2008


First day back. Ed and I run errands. The Law School first. I run into a friend.
That’s a French blouse, isn’t it?
Uh-huh. I’m keeping France alive in small ways.

Car shop next. Here I am, very Wisconsin, in spite of very French blouse (from a little nothing store in Normandy). No, no. I'm not into coke. That's a café crème in my hand. Okay, a latte, but I can pretend.

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At Ed’s place, I survey the progress on the Writer’s Shed. Not for long though. The mosquitoes are vicious. Hi, Wisconsin. Thanks for the reminder that you’ve got bugs.

Evening time, I am on the rooftop of my condo building. Big puffy clouds against the downtown, a sunset over the lake. Sigh... I’m wondering how the art show is going in the little carriage house somewhere in Paris, on the River Marne.

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In the morning, I am at the Westside Community Market. And now I feel I am home. People who read Ocean ask about the trip (so sweet). It feels warm and welcoming to run into friends.

And the vendors – here my heart goes out to them. Such a spring! Too little sun, too much rain and now the awful mosquitoes. Oh, but you weren’t here last Saturday. We had hail! The tiny apples, they couldn’t take it!

I feel the French vendors have it too easy, at least compared to our guys. The produce falls from crop, to the hands of willing and ever present buyers, at prices that make me wince. And this year has been normal there (weatherwise). Our guys are having a second tough year. The flooding has ruined May young crops. I am told the strawberries aren’t as sweet due to the absence of sun and that the peas are, well, not great. And that such staples as tomatoes and corn may not be abundant.

And yet, here they are, delivering the bad news and the stories of a tough month with a smile and with fistfuls of good things. I buy garlic scapes, peas, baby potatoes, tomatoes, oyster mushrooms, basil flats and a hanging basket of flowers for my patio. And more tomato plants. Only in part because I like the family of sellers (Ed and I have already planted 30 tomato bushes, but Wisconsin weather has made them... fragile.)

So, our market...

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garlic scapes

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grown in tough times, sold with a smile

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good, but sourdough

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for the condo balcony

No, it’s not a French market (where are the multiple varieties of cheese???). But its simplicity is beguiling. It’s like the little company that tries so very hard, that you want to put your heart and money into its efforts. Because you know they’re doing it right and against all odds.

In the afternoon, Ed and I plant roses. Bagatelle roses. Olivier and Aurore roses. Well, not either, really. Ed roses.
Nina! – Ed is calling me in France. They’re selling roses at a $1 a plant! Should I get some? They look dead, but still, so cheap!
Get some. I am dying for roses back home – climbers, grandiflora, floribunda, hybrid, any and all, mixed in, in abundance.
How many?

Ed buys twenty and they do indeed look dead. We work with awful clay soil, improving it as best we can. It may be futile, but it’s the American way, no? Bad soil, mosquitoes, and these bundles of paralyzed sticks that would make a Frenchman shudder. But it’s what we have to work with. And the deer will eat them and pests will invade them but hey, we will plant again and maybe the next time it will be better.

Look, I’m trying.