Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year's Eve

The end of a calendar year. I lock up the little shop on the corner and walk home. As I prepare to spend an evening with a person who chooses not to celebrate what he would call Hallmark events (did the Romans or the Mayans worry about Hallmark?), I give some thought to why it is that I do celebrate the flip of this calendar page.

New Year’s Eve. We think we’re giving festive encouragement to the year ahead by eating well and drinking bubbly stuff the night before. Fine, but we’re doing it at the tail end of the old year. To properly herald 2010, our first meal, not our last, should be the festive one!

[I plan to scramble eggs, reheat a baguette and pour bubbly stuff into freshly squeezed o.j.]

But speaking of food, what about tonight? Well, my occasional traveling companion and I held firm: lobster meat for me, a chicken and bean burrito for him.


My concession? Defrosted lobster meat (none of this fresh stuff, flown in from Maine and cooked on my stovetop), dressed and served with corn on the cob, along with a toasted baguette. From my favorite baguette place (I reserved one – they sell out early these days).


[Note to commenter: a lobster subway, right?]

Ed’s concession? He’ll eat his burrito at the same table, at the same time, and we’ll both not needle each other about our choices in life.


And then maybe we’ll watch a movie. With a macaroon for dessert. From Dinan.


No, no partying. At least we’re in agreement there – neither of us functions well in crowded places, even if such places are at the homes of friends.

I’m guessing (and I am good at this!) that Ed’ll fall asleep well before midnight. And that his first words in 2010 will be these, spoken when I wake him to say Happy New Year: What? What?? Oh, thank you.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

comfort zone

It is definitely true that my comfort zone does not overlap perfectly with the comfort zone of my occasional traveling companion. And here’s another truth: the older you get, the higher the brick wall gets around that comfort zone.

Mine and his are pretty high.

It’s lead to an interesting discussion as to what should happen this year on New Year’s Eve.

Since I don’t know when, I’ve celebrated the end of the year with a dinner that is special. In leaner years, much saving took place so as to support this meal of all meals. It was an evening for the best – the evening when I first ate at L’Etoile in Madison. We would take daughters and when midnight came, we’d almost always be licking the last bit of flavor off of a plate, totally content.

This has not been Ed’s path. New Year’s Eve? A Cousins sandwich – two for $5, preferably.

For the first time, I am not eating with daughters this New year’s Eve (they’ve flown the coop so to speak) and Ed and I are trying to find a way to solve the New Year’s Eve quandary.

Let’s get burritos from Chipotle, he tells me.
Let’s not.
Okay. You want to go out somewhere that’s not fussy?
No. I don’t mind the not fussy, but it needs to be special.
We really haven’t had Chipotle for a long time. It’s special.
Let me buy a lobster and make lobster rolls.

Two stubborn people, with very high brick walls. Where will be the opening? I’ll let you know tomorrow.

In the meantime, I find myself at an unlikely place today. True, I am in the neighborhood. But you don’t usually find me wandering into Henry Vilas Park. To glance down at him, with the mustache.


I have very mixed feelings about zoos. But somehow today I have warm thoughts about animals, even if they are, unfortunately, in captivity. Maybe it’s because I am having all these musings about comfort zones. Because surely these two, nuzzling away at each other, are outside theirs.


Though I later read that Bactrian camels -- the two humpers – actually can handle snow covered terrain. And here’s another thing: most every camel on this planet is domesticated, so I have to shed my images of herds roaming deserts in the wild.

So maybe these nuzzling beasts aren’t outside their comfort zones after all. Maybe it’s just me. Struggling with middle ground.


Tuesday, December 29, 2009

conversations (where the goal is to clear the head)

We should take a walk today. Sun’s out. I need to get moving again. It’ll clear my head.
Maybe we should cross country ski...
Okay... Want to cross country ski?
Too much hassle.
Do you want to hike around Blue Mounds?
Too far... I have work to do.

(Later, revisiting the same theme, but in a slightly less contrary mood)
Let’s head out somewhere anyway...
(My occasional traveling companion waits, because it’s pointless to offer ideas, knowing they are mere targets for a “shoot ‘em down” session)
Maybe the Arboretum is a good compromise for a busy person like me. Even as I know that you’re less busy. Hardly busy at all. No, actually quite unbusy. (I did say slightly less contrary)

We head out.


It’s bright as can be, but that clean angelic sky is deceptive: there is the bite of a deep freeze. But is everything frozen solid? I’m not sure...

Should I cross over?
Want me to?
That’s pointless. I’m lighter. I’ll take the risk.
I don’t really think there is much of a risk, but I want to sound gallant and brave.


I cross and, like for those who have crossed before me, nothing happens. Ed follows.

And now we come to a place in the forest where birds congregate.

I'm losing all good shots! They're too quick and too hidden in the thicket.

Do a manual shot.
I can’t see without my glasses!
Again, you can’t win with this one. Eventually, Ed mutters the equivalent of "huh.”

One lovely little robin, undaunted by the cold, appears intrigued by the sound of my camera (it squeaks when it tries to focus). He comes a little closer and settles on a relatively unobstructed branch.


Thank you, robin.

More birds. Big ones. Turkey birds. They huddle around a large feeding tray.


Long shadows of the afternoon. Too cold to sit down now and contemplate life. But, the head is clearer now. Work can proceed, life can go on.

Time to head back.


Hey, thank you.


Monday, December 28, 2009


No one can make me laugh like they can.


And although I have grown used to their quick arrivals and unwelcome departures, this time, the transition is too sharp and too complete.

The tree comes down, the house is tidied and off they go. My living space is suddenly too orderly, too immaculate -- stripped of their spirit.

I look around, confused. Wasn’t it just a minute ago that the room was fragrant with pine and cluttered with bright lights and cool wit? Didn’t I just have to nudge someone to move over and make room on the couch? Why isn’t there a half finished Klarbrunn (our beloved local fizzy water) in the fridge? And why isn’t anyone putting out plates of food for us to snack on while I fix dinner?

Abruptly empty.

And cold.

Inside and out.

Lake Mendota, slowly freezing over

Sunday, December 27, 2009

last night

I would count this as a tough day, posting wise. It’s not that I stayed home and had no occasion to use the camera. From early on, the camera was out and clicking.


And we did go out – my daughters and I. To lunch, to shop, to the movies – conventional mother-daughter events, no?

Sure. But it’s always a wrenching day, that last day of their winter visit. How can it be otherwise?

The air is brisk, cold now. The sun appears for a minute at a time, no more than that.


Eh. Not interested in photographing anything really. Until a daughter nudges me – see that? Buried cart?


Yes, that one feels right. Buried. With only one wheel poking through.

One last dinner of favorites (never cook new things for daughters returning home; they only want the old things, again and again), one last night together, one last night of them passing through...

And then there will be the tough days. Not yet, not until after the Christmas tree comes down. Tomorrow.


many happy returns?

I was prepared, at the shop, for a day of refunds. Of disappointed recipients who wanted anything but what they got. The miscalculated present. I was expecting those.

But I got none of it. You could posit that the returns came before my shift, or that maybe I was sleeping on the job. You’d be wrong.

In the alternative, you could suggest that we, at the shop, listened well to buyers' queries and gave good counsel in return, or that the shop product is so excellent that only a fool would want to return it.

Better. That’s better.

I was thinking today how life is so often a guessing game and how we are forced to predict outcomes with very little information.

rosé at Brasserie V

It’s the day after Christmas. What I really need is for a big clean-up truck to roll in and pick up the debris after yesterday’s celebration. One that could sweep up and put things away and one that maybe would be capable of erasing thoughts of anticipation and replace them with thoughts of reentry into the real world.

Very late in the day, I had a holiday relapse: I baked another four dozen cinnamon rolls, in case daughters, in the last day and a half of their visit here developed an insatiable yearning for the smell of yeasty dough and cinnamon breads baking.

It’s well into the next calendar day before I make it to bed.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Day

What better way to start the day: light the room with the colors of Christmas bulbs, eat warm yeasty breads with cups of frothy but strong coffee...

And of course, the music: always there is the music. Choirs from England (a favorite – from Clare College), and more jazzy sounds and more playful ones – Muppets included. All day long, there are songs.

I sit before the tree now without a thought of what needs to be done tomorrow or next week. All that needed to be done by today is behind me. Only the hens have to make it to the oven. My cooking marathon is near an end.


One daughter naps, the other reads. Their dad has come and gone.

Outside, there was rain, then there was snow, and finally a snappishly cold wind put an end to all that talk of a mild winter.


Gifts opened, admired, loved. One person’s everyday needs and desires recognized and translated into a package wrapped in paper with snowmen. All that's left now is imagining how that gift will follow the recipient through days of work and play in the cold winter that still is very much before us.

The everyday is a holiday Ed is here. If everyday is a holiday, then surely today deserves holiday treatment. He works on a puzzle, then stirs the pan juices that will be incorporated into the chipotle gravy.


We’ll eat our dinner early and head out to a show late and maybe upon returning, we’ll have a second slice of the bouche.


I thought about Ocean and Ocean readers more than once today. Thank you, those of you who wrote messages and cards. And thank you to those of you who, through coming back, demonstrate the same need to find some small grain of pleasure in the ordinary. I hope your holidays were splendid and delicious.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve

The house is quiet. They’re all out. I could start on the cinnamon rolls. All that yeast work.

No, not yet.

I should finish wrapping.

No, wrong moment for that.

Indeed, part of me, that childish part, wants to walk over to the tree and give a shake to a box or two already there.

But I wont.

I’ll sit quietly for a minute and watch the eve of Christmas Eve take hold.

The day was busy. Of course. Picking up foods to make tonight and tomorrow was itself a huge task. So there wasn't much time for taking stock. Enjoyable, sure it was a thoroughly enjoyable day. And very pretty, in an icy sort of way.



But busy. Now, for the next hour, I need not be busy. I can wait. And listen. O Holy Night from Carla’s Christmas Carols is playing on a daughter’s iTunes. Jazzy. Lovely.

So much of what is around me is simply lovely.



winter holiday

The snow comes down furiously. Chased out of the clouds. Amazing how calm it becomes once it touches the ground.

The holiday ebb of shoppers at the corner store where I work has slowed because of the snow. We’re in the midst of a winter storm warning. How many storms will it take to get us through this season?

I restock shelves, depleted after days of rapid fire selling. Except for the jazzy holiday music, for now, it is quiet.

Winter holidays. What a great thing they are! They put me in a trance that then pushes me through December as pleasantly as if it were June. Even though really, it’s not even full blown winter yet, storms outside notwithstanding.

Did you notice, for example, that the lake here isn’t frozen?


Downtown, anyone can tell that it’s winter break. State Street is empty. Alright, except for my daughters.


And now it’s evening. I finish my final preholiday turn at the shop.


I tidy up, close the register, blow out the holiday candle and face the furious and wet flakes all the way home.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

moon light

Christmas is, in my mind, woman’s work. Not everyone does great heaps of holiday work, but when it is done, it seems to me it is done by women. Work that falls on top of regular, nonholiday work. And even though separately, components of work may be enormously pleasurable, when heaped, they can knock the wind out of even the hardiest.

Last night, I closed the shop after one of the busiest evenings ever. Oh, women have been coming in with lists for weeks. They’re finishing up now. Picking up the small items. Lots of stocking stuffers. Men, on the other hand, are fresh on the job. And they’re spending a very long time contemplating whether she will prefer lavender or rose. It’s a new worry, a worry of a novice. Men navigating the holidays are babes in a forest.

But I didn’t need moonlighting in the retail world to understand this. I’ve had years of stuffing stockings (sorry – of helping Santa do this; you know Santa – the CEO of Christmas) and planning menus and buying trees and making sure the tree stand is large enough.

When I first met Ed, I was not surprised that he, the man who wears guy shoes day and night, would have none of it. Christmas leaves him cold. Oh, he’ll tag along and he’ll help me saw off the trunk of the tree if I ask him, but the other stuff, the “girlie” stuff of shopping, decorating, wrapping, of figuring out when the yule log goes in after the cinnamon rolls come out, but before the hens need the oven, of nurturing, worrying, planning – that’s not for him.

Christmas is scary, he’ll tell me, even as I remind him that he hadn’t been terribly scared of it as a boy. (Like so many New York Jewish families that I knew, Ed’s was comfortable navigating the secular aspects of mainstream holidays. I suppose you could say that I came to enjoy holidays in the same backdoor way. The curious thing is that Ed and I passed each other by. My childhood Christmas – modest that it was, became a springboard for drawn out holiday festivities in adulthood. Ed, on the other hand, was happy to leave it all behind.)

In the dark hours of the early morning, I look outside to see fresh snow. I know there would not be time to play in it today, but that’s okay. I allow the noise of the plow out in the lot to slowly wake me up...


Over the years, I have become methodical, organized. As the plow rumbles and scrapes, I think to the day ahead. It’s well practiced choreography. I know what needs to be done.

The snow continues to fall – delicate snow, lovely snow.


By late afternoon, I am back at the shop, helping the men figure out if she likes lavender or rose.


I am at the corner shop. It’s not my evening to work, but the scheduled salesperson called in sick and so there I am.

A young teen comes in. He’s not looking to buy anything; he asks if he can use our phone.

Of course.

He spends a while on the call. He’s obviously upset. He gives back the receiver, then asks for it again.

The shop is full of customers, but I am curious and a little anxious for him and so I strain to listen. I catch phrases about being left behind. About being alone and wandering into a shop to seek out a phone...

He hangs up and goes outside where he sits, slumped in the cold against the wall. I think he’s crying.

The phone in our store rings. His family. I call him over. They confer and then the boy goes out. I see a man walking to him -- surely his father -- and I see him give the boy a great hug, and then another and anther.


My daughters arrived tonight. Reunited with family, with Madison.

Earlier, Ed and I struggle with putting up the tree. It’s always a struggle. One year it was frozen and snowcovered. Another, it was too fat and stubby.

This year we have one that sheds sap and grows sticky, but size-wise, it’s just right.


In the evening, after my work, my daughters and I put up the decorations. One at a time. With care and lots of happy smiles, until all the boxes are empty. The lights go on.

You're the perfect Christmas tree, we say. You can be no better.


We sit back and study the way our favorite ornaments catch the light.


Monday, December 21, 2009

few days before

Isn’t it the truth that for those who love holidays and fetes, December divides itself into the time before, and the time after Christmas...

The days after are the letdown. The days before are festive, sentimental and sweet.

Most every evening, I am working this year at the corner shop and on so many of these evenings, I feel mighty content with the world. Tired, but content. Take today: I’m there at the shop, knowing that my daughters are traveling (finally and safely) out of DC and to the Midwest, I’m listening and humming along to the holiday tunes on the store CD, and out the window, I watch a few flakes prettifying the otherwise drab streets and alleys. Who could complain...

Not being raised in a household that was much into holiday festivities (at least not after us kids got to the double digit ages), I’ve sometimes thought that I adopted Christmas in the same ways that I have adapted to life in the US: I am a stranger to both, but I jump in with enthusiasm, even as I know that the fit isn’t at every turn perfect. Us strangers and aliens – we never worry about cracks and incongruities. Our reality allows us to be tickled if we fit in any way at all. We know that nothing is (or should be) perfect.

So these then are my wonderful days of just before Christmas. With glorious and familiar elements making their comeback year in and year out. You'll recognize them, I'm sure. The routines, the photos, the traditions.

Today, I smiled in appreciation at the sight of the guy at the edge of the gas station. With his tree stand. In three days he’ll be packed and gone. For now, he invites you to stop in on the way home to pick up a tree. Kind of gets you (you – who love holidays and fetes) in the back of the throat, doesn’t it? Buy a tree, any tree, they're all beautiful, even the scraggly and uneven. All green, all as perfect as you're going to ever get in this world of rough edges...


Saturday, December 19, 2009

think small

It struck me that when you write a blog about the everyday, you are (or at least I am) constantly assessing your day from how another might look at it. You create a social moment by selecting something from that day for others to see or read about.

It is not remarkable, therefore, that when I travel, I share more of the minutia. Not only do I think they're inherently more interesting to present, but I feel myself to be far away and I like the feeling of creating more social moments.

So, what if you want no social moments at all? What if you feel yourself to be wanting a pajama day, where you never leave the protective bubble of your own self?

That has never happened to me. The closest I came was back in June of 2005, when my now ex and I concluded that divorce was inevitable. For a week or so, I wrote here in a fake voice of another. It was me, but it was me pretending to be someone else. I know. Weird. It was a confusing period in my life.

But it is also true that there are days that are more “socially quiet” only because they consist largely of people and places that are outside the scope of Ocean. For instance, of my work associates – both at the law school and at the shop. And of course, days that spin around my immediate family. Oh, the stories I could tell about my daughters' attempted travels from D.C. (the place of the snowstorm of historic proportions) to the Midwest today! But it’s not my story, it’s theirs.

And so, at times like this, I reach for the small things to write about – a photo, a thought, a recollection. A dish prepared, a walk taken. Even if it is taken (as it was today) to the mall down the hill. (I know, how quickly we reclaim the customs of our homeland upon returning from abroad!) In normal times that warrants no mention, but on this pre-holiday weekend, it was made colorful and fun by the seasonal bursts of loveliness: a vendor describing his fruitcakes to a customer, two boys choosing their favorite gingerbread house, a mom helping her girl decorate a cookie, two parents using their cell phone cameras to capture the moment.





I’m entering a spell of just those kinds of stories and photos. Ocean readers who like the shorter posts and the daintiness of small thoughts will like Ocean now. Others? Well, life’s a balance. Ocean can’t be any more than what I can call forth as ripe for inclusion here. So, sit back and relax. It’ll be a gentle ride for a while. And that is, I think, a good thing.

Friday, December 18, 2009

looking down

I left Ocean dangling in Paris. Maybe that’s a good way to end the story of “my winter vacation.” [I do have another vacation soon, but it’s not over the ocean. And it’s not fully a vacation, as I have to take work along. But before, we have, of course, the holiday of holidays. If I get too lost in work, will I forget about Christmas? Not likely. That day is pure joy – with daughters, and lots and lost of good food, exceptionally lovely music, and a beautiful tree to smell and admire... Oh! But where is the tree? Waiting a few more days to make its way up into our living room.]

Had I written at length about the day I left Paris, most likely I would have inserted an unreasonable number of “sighs” into the post, even though it was not a terrible day at all. Well, not terrible once we swallowed the reality of having to take a cab to the airport. One reason to love out sweet little Parisian hotel is that is very, very close to the RER train for the airport. But Paris is having RER train issues at the moment. Sigh... (see??)

Our driver had a GPS gizmo, which allowed her to see traffic patterns in the city. We zipped through in good speed. Good-bye, Paris. Sigh... (oh dear.)


You’d think I would want to complain about the series of flights we had chosen for our trip back: Paris – Amsterdam – Detroit – Madison. No, not at all. All were very pleasant. And flying into Holland is always interesting: it’s so green and wet there (what with all the canals)!


...As opposed to flying over Canada to our upper Midwestern state. We’ve switched now to a blue and white world. That’s Canada for you. [I’m sorry: I do understand that Canadians hate American stereotypes about Canada. Something to do with our continued ignorance about any country anywhere, even one just a step away. But really, Oh Canada: you do have lots of snow covering a vast portion of your territories!]


At home now. The blizzard snow of last week is yesterday’s news. There’s a frozen crust out there that tells me the snow needs a fresh dusting. Either that, or it has my permission to melt and not come back until next December 10th. Foolish thoughts. Sigh... (oops! I didn’t see that one coming!)

Looking out my window I do note a combination of greens blues and whites, but it is most assuredly a drab world out there today. Not blue enough, not green enough, not even white enough.


Here’s where I end the post. Otherwise I’d get to the next in a series of “sighs.” Even though truly, I’m happy as anything to be home for the holidays.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

I'll at least have Paris...

Tuesday. I wake up at 2 in the morning. I’d been out a couple of hours, but I note that Ed is still up.

Let’s pack up and drive to Paris now.

We were to leave in the morning, but not this kind of morning, not when the sky is black and still has five hours of blackness before it.

Now? – Ed is trying to decide if I’m serious.
Yes. You haven’t slept. You might as well sleep in the car. I’ll drive and we’ll rest up once we get to Paris.

The issue for me is now my old elusive friend: time. We leave France early Wednesday morning. That’s coming up very very quickly. If we sleep through the night and drive to Paris Tuesday, that wont leave many hours for my most favorite of all cities. And I have a list of holiday shopping that I would like to do. And stores close in Paris, as in Dinan, at 7. None of this late night shopping. Late night is for food, for love, for anything but the mad flying from place to place with oversized shopping bags.

And so, in the middle of the night, we finish cleaning the apartment in Dinan, we pack, we leave a note for our landlord and we are on the road by 3 a.m..

At first I think this is a good idea. All is quiet. Empty. I have the night road to myself.

But at the same time, I’ve added hours to the trip. I avoided the highway and chose the slower roads, because the highway is so incredibly boring. But it is easy to get lost on the secondary roads. For the first few hours, Ed stays awake just to navigate us from one village to the next.

Moreover, there are relatively few gas stations in France (compared to what we’re used to in the States) and most of them close for the night. The rare one that stays open requires a European credit card.

But, I am optimistic. We are better off having left early, I say to myself.

...Until we hit the outskirts of Paris and the morning rush hour traffic. And now Ed does sleep, because there’s nothing to be gained by looking at the line of cars in front of us.

I do have an idea – why don’t I drive to our hotel and call the car rental agency? Last time they let us drop off the car in city center. It’ll save us a trip to the airport (where we’re scheduled to leave the car).

We pull up to our tiny but sweet hotel by the Luxembourg Gardens. The hotel clerk calls the rental agency. Yes, yes, drop off the car anywhere in Paris. She writes down the address of the closest agent at the Gare Montparnasse (the railway station on the left bank).

We unload the car and head for the agency. I’m a little apprehensive. I’ve dropped off any number of cars at this station and it’s never been easy. And I’ve not rented from National before. I’m not certain where to leave the car. (The address is of the office, which is not the same as the drop off point.)

I’ll spare you the uninteresting details of the next two hours. Suffice it to say that we spend this amount of time searching the boulevards and streets and cavernous innards of the Montparnasse Station. We have no cell phone (we’ve been using Skype on our computers for even local calls) and we have no card for the public phone. The street address clearly belongs to some office inside the complex maze of shops and bureaus that surround the station. We cannot find National.

We are about to return to the hotel and start from the beginning, when one lonely mechanic does remember that National has garage space four levels down, in the bowels of the public garage just up the road. Who would have known! We locate the stalls with relief, leave the car and now search the streets on foot for the agency's office.

There must have been signs of distress on my face because a woman, some Parisian person who obviously has compassion in her soul, comes up to me and asks if she can help. She lends us her cell phone so that we can get directions. And she leaves us her phone card in case we run into further trouble. Please, do not pay me. It’s nothing. She smiles, wishes us bonne chance and walks off.

Her kindness saves the day. By 12:30, we are rid of the car and keys, and we are walking back to our hotel. Life feels easy. We stop for a substantial lunch (or is it breakfast?) at the packed Café du Metro. Squeezed at a table to the side, I think how soothing it is to be doing this! Yes, travel time into Paris took nine hours instead of five, but so what – we are here and we’re eating hearty and honest foods (a peasant salad for me – with tomatoes, bacon, Catalan cheese and a poached egg) and the people watching is magnificent.


So soothing is it that I see Ed is ready to fall asleep. We return to the hotel and I know that it is better for him to stay put... I shower, take a deep breath, forget about the fact that my eyes feel dry from lack of sleep and set out to face the shops of Paris.

But not immediately. I make a small detour first to the Luxembourg Gardens. If I had to choose a favorite place in Paris, I’d have to say I love these gardens best. Though this isn’t a day to contemplate life or much of anything here, from the chairs sprinkled throughout. It is brisk outside! And here, take a look at the fountain. Did you note that half of it is covered with a thin layer of ice?



So, no takers for the chairs? That’s not entirely true. Off to the side, I see that a young woman and her partner are oblivious to the cold. Did I say partner? He is now that. He’s just handed her a small box. With something in it for her finger. Look at her reaction. Meanwhile, he’s popping a champagne cork. Good luck you two young things! May you always have time on your side.



But they are the exception. Mostly, the park is in a state of waiting. Until Sunday. Until a climb of just five degrees. The chairs and benches will fill again, children will send boats sailing at the fountain.


I’m in a hurry now. I move from one favorite store to another, selecting, rejecting, returning to the original selection. At one favorite little shop, I ask a clerk to hold an item or two until closing. That’s four hours away. I’ll be passing here before that. A bientot!

And all the time I am mindful that it is quite cold. Enough to keep the dog inside. Or at least to leave him waiting for your return.


(Then there are those who shop without ever setting foot in a car; myself, sure, and others who move around on foot, by metro, or by motorbike.)


Finally, I think I am done. As I walk back toward the shop with the held items, I notice that someone is locking up her store. Those French! Always closing earlier than they should. But then I see another doing the same. I glance at my watch. Seven. How did it get to be so late??


Ed and I eat dinner at a place that I love for many reasons: it’s fantastic food in casual, artsy surroundings, it’s stuff I could never find back home, and finally – it has a big window between the dining room and the kitchen. Each time I’ve eaten here, I am able to watch the chef. He always looks up, he always catches your eye, and he always smiles. It is an extravagant meal -- far more so than our usual choices, but it is a warm and funky place too. Ed can wear his black t-shirt and jeans. He wont stand out (except for the fit of the jeans; what can I say -- Farm & Fleet, $19).

In a Parisian variation on the Brittany theme, Ed and I order (for an appetizer) the seafood (oysters, clams) in a ginger broth. Hello, Brittany, once again.


I had wanted to go to the Eiffel Tower after dinner. But it couldn’t be. I am too tired.

We take a few steps toward the river -- not the Rance anymore. We're now by the Seine. Still, it's beautiful. Brilliantly so. I'm thinking -- rivers are so very memorable.


I take the arm of my occasional traveling companion and slowly head back, away from the river, to the little hotel by the Luxembourg Gardens.