Archive for the paris Category

I heart Cary Tennis.

Posted in paris with tags , , , on January 9, 2013 by ana

Cleaning my computer I came across one of his columns saved many, many years ago. Given the decisions (going to New York) and the changes (a fresh new set of uncertainties) ahead it seemed apropos to post it below.

Dear Pond Jumper, 

Isn’t it strange how you can fly somewhere and suddenly that’s where you live? We just end up places. It’s the modern condition. I don’t think we’ve adjusted yet, as a species — the way we’re wired, that is. Yes, there are bureaus and agencies to administer the shifting accounts of nationality and wealth, of telephone number and e-mail address; yes, the you@your.e-mail.abode is a borderless fiction of zero gravity that moves with you nearly at the speed of light. But what we used to call a person — not so much the body itself, which can move in and out of its cultural crosshairs, but the location of the being defined by intersecting lines of family, history, soil, trade, the sets, unions and subsets of attributes and proclivities, the smells you smelled as a child and the smells your grandfather smelled as a child, all that: It was thus for so long a given that maybe we didn’t even think to place a high enough price on the geographic and temporal circumstances that define who we are, and then our easy, automatic sense of rootedness, of connection, of belonging, slipped away so quietly and so fast we couldn’t quite remember what it was supposed to feel like. And now we move to Paris and what we say about the view is, it’s the view that you saw in that movie. 

I’m always getting the question wrong. I wish that were part of my charm. Maybe if I were French, it might be part of my charm. But I’m American and I’m afraid my obliqueness comes across like a failure of manhood, something maybe they have a pill for in the drugstore. Besides, you’re not looking for some faux-Gallic take on things, are you? You’re looking for good-old fashioned American advice. 

Well, OK. How do you organize your identity now that you’re in exile? The best way, it seems to me, is by defining a purpose and a duration for the accomplishment of that purpose. Why are you in Paris? What do you mean to accomplish there? Is it only to have lived there? Is it only to smell the bread every day, to eat the food, hear the music of the language, feel the exquisite lightness of an ancient civilization and emulate it, absorb it, take it in like a culture vitamin? So how long, would you say, would that take? A year? Two years? Five? Put a time on it and then say, “This is what I am doing in Paris.” 

You need to construct a narrative. You need to be able to say something like, “I am living in Paris with my boyfriend but I only plan to stay here three years, and I will visit my family every year for two weeks.” Or you could say, “I am living in Paris because I prefer the pain of France to the pain of America, especially the delicate little pastries.” 

There are various reasons to be someplace. They don’t all have to be well-thought-out. You could say, “I like the air in Paris and for that reason I intend to remain, at least until the air in America improves.” Or you could say, “I am only here for an adventure; my home is in America, where my family and friends are, and where I grew up, and I intend to return there before the decade is out.” 

Do you see what I mean? You need a mission statement, as it were, so you can explain yourself to yourself and to others. Here are some other possibilities: “I am enjoying Paris, but since I cannot work here, I do not plan to stay indefinitely.” Or, “I am going to return to America for an education in international relations, after which I hope to return to Paris as a special attaché to the diplomatic corps.” Or, “I plan to stay here and study, raise a family, marry my boyfriend, and become a French citizen.” 

I came to San Francisco on a whim and stayed for the air and the beer. 

Perhaps Paris is for you like one of those things one must do before dying. If so, when you have done it, you will have to figure out what to do next. That can be a tough one if doing the next thing involves leaving the boyfriend. But that’s the way life goes. (That sounds at least a little French, doesn’t it?)

 

Covered in butter with a light dusting of flour

Posted in baking, paris with tags on December 11, 2012 by ana

My French is now a at a first, perhaps second, grade level. A very solid step forward from my kindergarten French. Everything is still in a time delay. It takes me 5 or 6 seconds to understand what someone has said but I’m no longer translating word for word what I hear. I actually understand. This is huge, satisfying, and down right exciting. I still feel shy at times about speaking but each day less and less.

School started two weeks ago. They were not kidding when they called it basic intensive pastry. I’m in school between nine to thirteen hours a day six days a week. I love the intensity in the same way that I loved being a busy waitress. You have to stay present but with your peripheral vision in the next step or two ahead. You can’t think about the past except for, again, peripherally keeping track of time. As in, I  put my cake in the oven twenty minutes ago. Any further thinking about events past will only trip you up. If you messed up your tart dough (as I am known to do) or a table you waited on was rude or annoyed at you. You can not dwell on it too much, you can only remedy it and move forward.

When I’m at school I like to imagine Julia Childs there even though I’m pretty sure the Cordon Bleu she went to was in a different area and building. I like to think her spirit and that of the fictional Sabrina roam the halls, much like Wim Wender’s angels roamed the library in Berlin, and watch over me. There is something very stodgy about the school and all the recipes we are learning, cakes made with flavorless candied fruit, tarts filled with too much cream and tinned pears but it’s a base and I’m learning. I’m learning that I have so much to learn, and in making yet another variation of a pastry filled with almonds and raisins or syrupy cherries I am tightening a lot of loose screw in my skills. It’s not the filing but the container, and thus my pate sucre and my laminated doughs are becoming truly mine. There is something about the blandness of the sweets that is making me explode with ideas. For so long I didn’t know who I was. I often felt like dormant, errant potential, and now it no longer feels that way.

Some days I think I want to do another chunk of time there and others I want to step out and learn another way. I’m torn about signing up for the next level. It’ so expensive. A big decision is coming up for me. If I don’t do the next course chances are I won’t be able to stay in France for the time being.  I have been putting off thinking about my visa. I told myself I would wait until January but January is here. Before I know it I will need to figure out what is most important. I always wanted to live in Europe. Now that I am here I feel it suits me but, BUT I have some very big decisions ahead of me. All of them are good and exciting and all of them involve giving something up to get something.

I don’t know where I am going or how I am getting there but I feel a sureness in my steps that I have never felt before.  I feel that things have unfolded exactly as they needed to. This is a very recent thing, this feeling of confidence in the face of the unknown. I keep thinking of this scene in The Golden Child. My brother and I used to watch that movie all the time when we were growing up. In this scene Eddie Murphy has to step into the abyss and if it turned out that he was indeed the chosen one in the void a path will appear. Right now things feel that way. I have no idea where I am going but as I keep following the direction that I feel I am meant to the path is appearing. Out of the not knowing a clarity is emerging. This may sound ridiculous but I feel now, at 39, that I have finally grown up.

 

 

 

Land ho!

Posted in paris with tags , , on November 19, 2012 by ana

For a long time I felt like I had cast myself off from the shore in a small boat and was drifting at sea. In Spanish there is saying- hay que dar le tiempo al tiempo, which translates to you have to give time time. When my relationship was just starting to fall apart Elle said to me, you have to wait until the tornado passes and see where the pieces land. Then you can start from there. I feel like I have been walking in the rubble for a long time. At times I found things that delighted me, small treasures among the debris, and others I saw only destruction.

How long does it take to get over someone? Who knows. I’ve known people who cling to relationships that lasted a year, and I’ve seen people walk away from nine year relationships relatively unscathed. My friend Bree says fully getting over a relationship takes half the time you were in it, and I always thought you had to live each season and holiday spent together apart. Whatever it is everyone has their own timing. It can’t be rushed. You just wake up one day and feel different or maybe, like me, you just feel like yourself again.

There have been so many lovely, fun, downright magical moments these past two years that to say I have been depressed almost feels like an insult to them. I couldn’t have been depressed all the time. Yet, there was often a layer of sadness under everything. It’s still lingers but more as a memory than anything else. More as a feeling of whoa, what did I just emerge from!

All this time I have thought I am one lucky girl to be in Paris but I didn’t exactly feel it-until now. These days I sit in my French class, look out the window and feel ecstatic to be here. Paris is just so pretty. The ornate balconies and windows of the buildings across the street from my classroom literally make my heart sings. I walk around truly, finally, feeling that I am here.

In observing the city I find myself thinking a lot about acting. Specially, when I am on the  metro. Watching people’s gestures, postures, and expressions brings me back to acting class over and over. Both to what I loved about it and the places where I held myself back. It is so interesting to explore different mediums but some just aren’t quite the right fit even if they fascinate us. Those classes, Los Angeles, they feel distant but ever so present. There was so much that was idyllic.

In the past weeks I’ve started to see that in part I left because of heartache. Even if the main reasons for moving where my vagabond spirit, my desire to live abroad, and a strong gut feeling that moving to Europe would be very good for me. I also just needed a clean break.

And it is finally, truly, starting to feel like new beginnings. The future feels like it is rushing forward even if I have no idea what is going to happen. It feels like everything is coming together somehow and in the right way. In French class the other day, as part of an exercise someone asked `a quel âge devient-on  un adulte?, and I thought 39.

I start school tomorrow, not classes, actual school with an orientation, a proper first day, and exams. I am excited. I feel confident and inspired, grounded and expansive, and it is a feeling that spills into everything. It is going to be crazy hard, a pastry bootcamp. Three months of school condensed into five weeks. I hope it is everything I want it to be. Maybe it won’t be as I imagine but it feels like the best next step.

 

39

Posted in 38, paris on October 21, 2012 by ana

Today I woke up and instantly felt anxious about money, finding an apartment (again!!!), the French language, and the near future. The near future being the day I have to renew my visa. I’m craving a clarity and stability that are not meant to be mine right now. So, I find myself thinking, over and over, about Rilke’s quote:

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions.”

 

October has been one emotional month. The whole year has been a roller coaster. Something is changing. I don’t want to feel sad any more. I feel a desire to take care of myself, to feel pretty, to be joyous. These things were never completely gone from my being but it has been months since I felt 100% myself.

This morning I focused on the awesomeness ahead to shake off the hunger for answers, and I really felt it. That awesomeness would be pastry school and my birthday. I’m turning 39 in a day. I’m excited for a new year, and I’m feeling satisfied with difficult, brave, tear-filled, confusing 38. For so long I have been swimming in a sea of Bon Iver fueled melancholia, and now it feels like I’m shedding my skin. I’m starting to feel fierce again.

It’s crazy to think that two weeks ago when my mom came to visit I was a hot mess. I went to pick her up at the airport and cried on the RER all the way there. As soon as I saw her I fell into her arms crying. I was so sad and also incredibly happy to see her. Across a lengthy part of the airport and all the way back to Paris I expressed through the tears how angry I felt that things hadn’t worked out with with Leo. How frustrated I was with life. How guilty I felt for not enjoying Paris to its fullest. How ashamed I was for always loving deeply, and how stupid I was for making myself vulnerable in Italy.

Hashing all my troubles with my mom was calming. She spoiled me. We went to the Louvre. We bought perfume. We bought pastries all over town and had a little tasting party. We laughed. We watched stupid movies. We went to a strange and beautiful circus.

One day my mom said two things that I really needed to hear. She told me that my brother had brought up my break up and had said to her, I don’t know how she did it. Conjuring all her strength and with a lot of difficulty was her answer. It made me so proud that both my mom and my brother saw me and got me. So many people in my family have brushed off my break up by simple saying, he wasn’t right for you, which given how hard the decision was for me, how in love I was, and all the rest is incredibly belittling and disrespectful.

At one point I was telling her how much I missed our life together and she pointed out how much my life had changed for the better. Not because he wasn’t in it but because of the experiences I had had on my own. Being on my own I was going after things that I had never had before. If you would have stayed in your relationship, she said, your life would have been throwing dinner parties, collaging, going to acting class, and sometimes collaborating with Leo. Now you are actually working towards something. You found baking, you traveled to Italy, you moved to Paris. You would never had had any of that. She is right. My life would have been sweet but it would not over the years have felt fulfilling not in the way it does now.

The day my mom left my dad arrived. I guess it was family month in my life. Last christmas one of my sisters pointed out that the men I was usually crazy about were intelligent, interesting, charming, generous, and unavailable. By unavailable she meant not completely there for me. Then she asked me who it reminded me of. I knew she was right but here in Paris I saw it so clearly. I saw the loveliness that my dad brought to my life but also the ways he had failed me as a parent over the years. How ridiculously critical he was in unnecessary ways among other things. I noticed how much I drink when I’m around my dad, how I never want to disappoint him, and how he never sees me. To a large extent my dad has no idea who I am even though I have never kept from him anything about myself.

Ever since the summer I had been feeling these waves of anger that are unfamiliar to me. The time with my dad, though at times fun and wonderful, unleashed some very old rage. It was painful. I don’t want to feel angry towards my dad. I still feel a little shell-shocked from the visit but it reminded me that I have to accept people as they are not as I wish they were, and that those who get me, get me, and those who don’t, well, that’s their problem. I don’t want to be a people changer or a people pleaser. It has taken me 38 years to arrive at all of that and often I forget. It is almost as hard as learning to live with the questions.

 

This afternoon, I was on my way to pick up a pretty dress from storage when I had this sudden feeling of well being. The metro was curving around the top of the canal. It was raining a little. I was listening to some of the cheesiest Spanish pop the nineties had to offer, and I felt such a deep appreciation for my life, for the bangs and the bruises, the moments of sorrow and unease. I don’t know what changed but suddenly the heart ache, the sadness for the hoped for but not attained, seemed miles away. The anger is still there but I hardly ever feel angry. I’m going to guess feeling angry right now- probably a good thing. More than anything what I’m starting to feel is clarity. Clarity!!! I’m on an adventure! Great things are happening. Great things have happened. They do not need to be perfect, fuzzy, or wrapped in bows. They can be crooked and have edges. Ha!

 

All the world is made of faith, and trust, and pixie dust. ― J.M. Barrie

Posted in Italy, paris with tags , , , on September 13, 2012 by ana

I’m packing for what will be the first of two moves this month. I have been home from Italy for two weeks but the trip feels like it was a few months ago. All in all, the trip was wonderful, and so much of it is engraved in me. There were sweet parts and sexy bits. There was silliness and sadness. There was restless sleep, afternoon naps, tanning in the garden, and lots of iced tea. We spent hours reading cookbooks and watching British food shows on dvd. There was pizza and french fries at a beloved pizza parlor, cooking and dancing in the kitchen, and a five am bottle of wine, and toast with butter and honey for me, one night when no one could sleep. I tried to stay light but failed often.

My first time in Lecce I was so present.  This time I was often in my head; many times without even realizing it.  It was, all at once, refreshing, fun, inspiring, relaxing, and difficult to be there. But I wouldn’t change it. There is something magnectic about Lecce that feels very grounding to me. I think it has to do with the stones the old city is built from. The way they hold the dry heat. The walls feel like they are holding you.

The first night I was there, last summer with my mom, neither one of us knew what to make of the place. There was something  simple but also mysterious about it. We lost ourselves in the maze-like streets of the old city, which have no sidewalks. The streets were still packed at midnight, and it reminded me of something my friend Trish had told me was one of her favorite parts of living in Eritrea. She said that in Asmara people went for walks at a certain time of the evening to greet each other and convey messages.

In so many ways Lecce steals my heart. This time as I walked around I kept telling myself, just breath all of it in and  bring it back to Paris with you. I returned home inspired and excited, and then a week later it all went to shit. The guy in Italy is lovely in so many ways but there is something missing; an emotional vulnerability. It’s like it is almost there but not quite, not ever. Ours is the dance of the constant mixed signal. Both from me to him and him to me. Face to face it is lovely.  Apart it is wretched. That coupled with the search for a new apartment, a dwindling bank account, and the natural fear of starting a new business I just felt completely miserable last week. The night before we found our new place, I looked out the window at the Paris skyline and just freaked out. I felt alone and scared. I just kept thinking, this has to work. I’m taking the good kinds of risks. My heart is in this. It just has to work.

I wrote Stevie an email and said, just tell me everything is going to be okay. I just needed some reaffirmation and a little transcontinental, transatlantic hand holding. When I was in LA freaking out about Paris I realized that what I needed was to create my life in Paris. To create a routine- yoga classes, Sunday markets, morning meditations.

After Steves wrote back, I woke up the next day feeling a bit more grounded but still pretty anxious. Then in class it occurred to me that the next part of the Paris puzzle was to create more stability. A lightbulb went off, and I did what every good New Yorker does. I got myself some storage space. Words can not express how much peace a tiny closet with a padlock has brought to my life.

Then, of course, shortly after an apartment was found. A really nice place, albeit for two months, but it has a pool right across the street and really high ceilings.  It’s not available until October, thus the two moves in one month, but it will be perfect for fall.

With that all sorted, the Italian guy and all the emotions I feel about him came back to rattle me. I think there is so much of what I want in a man in him. It’s like a carrot that gets dangled in front of me and it makes me crazy. But the answer to this part of my journey is the same answer that has always been there. This is about me and making for myself the life of my dreams. Italy is like Neverland. So, I guess that makes me Wendy. In the end Wendy leaves Neverland and decides to grow up. I think it is the same for me. It doesn’t change how I feel about him. He has been incredibly catalistic in my life. And that has to be enough. How can that not be enough? That is huge.

My last morning in Lecce I had breakfast with a friend before my flight. He picked me up at five am and drove me to the airport. It was still dark, and he talked about his sister and his mom. At the airport we happily ate shitty pastries and talked about Game of Thrones before saying goodbye. I love that in this small city so far from anything I know live people that I adore. That is amazing. I dislike that I try to hold on to it, change it, posses it. I hope to one day  make peace with that  because I want to be that kind of person. I want to love with out trying to posses or change.

The last part, that I have figured out so far,  of creating stability in Paris is taking better care of myself. The last two years have brought long streaks of being in self-destruction mode. Not self-destruction in a super terrible way but in that way that heartache can make you drink too much, smoke too much, and either eat too much or not at all. I think there is a time and place for that kind of living but I’ve had my share of it and it is time to be done with it. I’m turning 39 in a little under a month and a half.  I want to feel better than I ever have, and I want a baby.  It took me so long to figure out what it is I want in my life but it is so clear to me now. I want a business, a child, and a partner. I think for a long time I looked to making my life with someone as an extension of what I wanted to make of my life but I don’t think that is now the case. In truth I don’t think that would ever make me happy.

love letters

Posted in paris with tags , , on August 12, 2012 by ana

I’m back in empty, hot, sometimes breezy, Paris. In a new apartment that is large and sunny. I love it here. I only have the place until mid-september but it doesn’t matter. Right now it’s perfect. The neighborhood reminds me of non-hipster Brooklyn. On the street you hear a lot of other languages, not just French, and that kind of makes me feel like I’m home.

I spent the last two days in Beaune with Iris. She came out to help me move back and to have a little belated birthday getaway. It was a nice way to close my six weeks there- cooking, plotting the next moves in our lives, walking around and taking in the picturesque wine town.

The day after I got back my sister came to visit. A two day stop on her way home from a whirlwind vacation that took her to Spain, Greece, and Germany. I barely got to see her when I was last in LA, and it was good to reconnect. She’s moving back home to PR. I love that we shared LA. That she came to be a part of my life there. I loved having her here. We ran around looking for perfume, picnicked, walked along the river and the canal, drank Champagne, and ate at Fish and Candelaria. My favorite part of her visit was running slightly buzzed, after two Guepe Vertes from Candelaria, to the Pompidou as the sun was setting. We laughed and gossiped and talked about our favorite Gerard Richter paintings. She was the perfect welcome back to Paris treat.

The long days in Burgundy, the swims and the walks were really good for me. It feels like I’ve turned a page.  I feel inspired and centered by my projects. It feels like solitude helped me garner some momentum. I loved being in the country. I needed it but I’m happy to be back. A city is where I belong most of the time. Paris, like New York, is a place that people want to visit, and that makes living far from those you love easier.

 

I talked to my step-brother yesterday. It had been a year. He just returned from one of his voyages. His voice was clear and bright. He spent some time filming the aurora borealis this year, which blows my mind.  My lovely, dark, sweet brother was so beautiful an encouraging on the phone. He asked me if I planned to stay in France. I told him I was living life without a very concrete plan. That I wasn’t sure of what came next except for language classes in the fall, pastry school in November, and starting my cookie business.

Sometimes it’s hard for me to acknowledge how big and brave and exciting the decisions I am  making are. When I was in LA. I was such a hot mess. When I told Stevie that I felt so lost she said, you moved to France. That’s huge. Of course it’s going to be hard at first. Something clicked when she said that. Where, oh where, would I be without my friends. I have my own personal gang of cheerleaders and baton-twirlers, and I ‘m so, so grateful for them. I’ve had so much encouragement in emails from Willa, and Rami, and Noah, and Vee, and Anouk these past few months. And Stevie and Mario and Cleo who constantly give me their unconditional love.

My Walter Mercado horoscope, fondly referred to as the Liberace horoscope in my apartment in Paris, said I would love and be loved, and of course I instantly thought it had to do with a guy. I will find love in August, I thought. But that’s the thing, right. I am loved and I love. There is no lack of love in my life. I have so many people who love and adore me. More than most people. I am really lucky, and I often take for granted how easily I am able to connect with people and make friends, good, loyal, loving friends.

A few weeks ago, in one of our transatlantic, early morning for me, late night for her, conversations Cleo said to me when you are doing your own thing, you shine. Every time through out your life that has always been the case. She’s right and Burgundy brought that back to me.

 

On the phone, my brother said, I think it’s great what you are doing. All your plans…

My little Parisian adventure, I laughed.

Ana, he said, I think it’s more than an adventure. If it was just an adventure you would have come home already.

You are right, I said. It’s kinda scary

To which he replied, Anita, don’t be afraid of being scared.

That is very good advice.

Burgundy is slowly and steadily stealing my heart.

Posted in Burgundy, paris with tags , , on July 12, 2012 by ana

I should say France is stealing my heart. So far, Baune has been a dream. I have to pinch myself. So often we worry about the unknown. I know I have devoted a lot of anxious minutes throughout my days to the possibility of loss, failure, and pain but if we are going to worry about the obstacles and clouds that life inevitably brings at the very least we should devote equal time in awe of the sweet surprises, lucky breaks and magical coincidences that occur.

I have been here two weeks. Most days I’m in bed by ten. I think I’m making up for my horrible jet-lag. I wake up do yoga, drink coffee, then head over to the school. I love the women I am working for. They are sweet and generous, love food and wine, and have an adventurous spirit that I always find attractive in people. The days are long but lovely. The space we spend most of the time in, the atelier, is light-filled and pretty.

Last Thursday I was off for the day and met up with an old High School friend who was in Burgundy. He took me to a rehearsal for the final concert in a music festival a couple of towns over. We sat in an old building that could have easily been at one point a church or some sort of barn or armory and watched as musicians from the Met and from all over played Mozart. I have never seen a rehearsal like that before. When I was a kid I would sometimes go with my mom to the rehearsals of the small theater company she helped run. Later, in acting class, my weeks were filled with rehearsals for our scenes. Rehersals are so interesting. They are labs. This one of course was completely different. It was at a completely different level, and the energy was so interesting. I started to sort of see what it is a conductor really does and wondered what it would be like to hear the world through any of their ears. A mezzo-soprano sang twenty-feet away from me and it was amazing to hear voice and see how the music flowed through her body. She had the confidence of being an instrument.

My days in Burgundy are so different from my days in Paris. I work for ten hors or so then I’m off, alone. I have no internet connection in my apartment, and it’s really quiet here at night. I am really enjoying the solitude. The world right now revolves around food, reading, and sitting with my feelings and thoughts. Before I left Paris Bree said to me, “If this was your Eat, Pray, Love then I think you are about to step into the pray part of the program.” I think she was right. There is a lot running though my mind these days. I think about how to temper the indulgent side of me with discipline. I think about balance, about finding a middle point and not going so back and forth in extremes. I have a feeling that that is how I will always be, and I think about the best possible ways to make peace with it.

I was in Paris this past weekend moving my things from one apartment to another. I am loving Burgundy but I also love Paris. It was wonderful to return. To walk around and stumble upon gorgeous chocolate stores and flower shops. My cousin Carolina was visiting and we ran around Paris eating one delicious meal after another. It was raining most of the time but it didn’t matter. I bought patchouli, violette, and opopanax votives at diptyque, and violet, and smokey earl grey teas at Kusmi. I’m having a romance with all things violet right now.

My new apartment is on the 20th, which feels so far away but I like the neighborhood and the apartment is full of windows. It’s on the top floor so there is a great view of the neighborhood’s rooftops, and the trees tops at Pere Lachaise. At a distance you can see part of the Eiffel Tower.

Just as it was before I left, I felt a sadness I couldn’t quite shake. This is going to sound ridiculous because how much can you care for someone that you knew for a month or two but that French boy still haunts my heart. It catches me off guard. I’ve tried to make sense of it. I’ve tried to figure out how someone could swoop in, shower me with exactly what I needed, then swoop out. How someone seemingly wrong could step in and fill my heart for just a moment and then be completely gone. When he left I felt sad and his departure highlighted all the loss of the last years. There is a part of me that feels that I’m really truly over Leo. That I have fully stepped by myself beyond the self that I grew into being when we were together. Of course, I suppose, that you never truly get over anyone until you fall in love again.

I think the French guy came in to show me some things I wasn’t seeing. And I think there are people in your life that for whatever reason change you. I have had this experience with men and women. It has nothing to do with sex or attraction or romance. There are people, sometimes this can even happen with strangers, you see something in them and it changes you and you never forget them. It happened to me on the train back from Paris. I was watching a boy, who was maybe twelve, with his grandmother. His face was so animated and sweet. There was something very proper and kind and wholesome about him. It was easy to see his expressions translating into his twenties and thirties, into his seventies as well. Whatever essensce was inside that person captivated me. Sometimes something as simple as a boy on a train can leave a mark in you.

I think all the cooking and solitude of the next weeks will carve something interesting in me. I’m feeling inspired. I’m so enamored by nature, by the mid-afternoon hail storms, and by the wildflowers and golden fields with bails of hay. As I write this I’m sitting behind my apartment on a picnic table. Butterflies and bees flutter and buzz around me.

I think this is the perfect place to be right now. I feel ready to let go of the past and step into this world of food that calls me. It has always intrigued me but I now can put it more clearly into words. I am closer to defining what it is I want. I see the nourishing, the sensual, the communal, the political, the celebratory, the textural, and not just the taste. It is exciting beyond words. It is a new world that has always been there.

jet-lag, thunderstorms & Burgundy

Posted in Los Angeles, paris with tags , , on June 25, 2012 by ana

I’m back in Paris. I had the worst jet-lag when I returned and couldn’t fall asleep until 5 or 6 in the morning for most of the week. During one of those sleepless nights there was a beautiful, raging thunderstorm. I sat by the kitchen window watching the sky light up and sound as if it was cracking open. The storm made me excited about the summer. I love thunderstorms.

My trip to LA was both lovely and hard. It felt like I hit true rock-bottom after a year and a half of banging myself against things. It felt horrible but in the end something about it felt very grounding, like I was finally touching firm ground not some ledge on the way down. For the past month in Paris I had been dancing with my demons, and when I got to LA it became a full on brawl. I felt like my confidence was full of holes. I felt extremely vulnerable and shy, and then on the other side of that I kept beating myself up about it.

I drove around asking the same questions I had been asking myself in Paris. Was I so lost that I had to loose myself even more to find myself? What had I done moving so far from home! There were moments in LA were I felt desperate to find some answers. Moments when I felt old and like I had strayed from my path. There were also lots of moments where it was wonderful to be there. To see the people I love. To witness my best friends get married and see all our old New York friends at their wedding.

At some point towards the end of my trip when I was feeling lower than low something clicked. I thought- you are such a shit. You are surrounded by so much love. You have such good friends. You live in Paris. Why are you looking at all you don’t have and not celebrating all you do have. You are the only one that is judging yourself. And as soon as I thought that something switched, and I thought, what if everything is happening exactly as it needs to. What if everything is perfect just as it is. I don’t think I have ever internalized that thought as I did at that moment.

 

The whole time I’ve been in Paris my friend Karina’s words have rang through me. When we were 23 she said to me two things that I still think about all the time. One was, never forget who you are. The other, I think the key word right now is perseverance. For as much as I think about her words I forgot, for a moment, who I was but in forgetting I found a clearer version of myself.

I got on the plane with a plan and a Kinfolk magazine. My plan was to do a French intensive for the month of July, look for work as soon as that was done, and then go to the Cordon Bleu in November. On the plane I read my magazine. After reading an essay about an American woman who had moved to Burgundy and opened a cooking school I decided to email her. I told her I had been inspired by her story and asked her for work.

I got back to Paris with a renewed sense of self, with my curiosity back at it’s normal level, and feeling excited about this here adventure that I am on. Somewhere in the past week I remembered just why I had decided to move to Europe. I felt that feeling in my gut again that pushed me to it. I started to rejoice about being in Paris. It started to hit me that I live here.

Then I heard back from the school in Burgundy, and so it is that I now find myself packing to go there tomorrow. I will be there for the next five weeks cooking, gardening and being, as Brie put it, the all around kitchen au pair. I will be their intern in exchange for my own apartment, meals, and a bicycle to ride to work. I am beyond excited. Who knows what will happen next. The French intensive is still a priority but it will have to wait. Off I go! Small town, country roads, vegetable patches-I have been craving thee!

 

 

 

“She must find a boat and sail in it. No guarantee of shore. Only a conviction that what she wanted could exist, if she dared to find it.” ― Jeanette Winterson

Posted in paris with tags , , on June 3, 2012 by ana

Because my life isn’t very structured at the moment time feels like it’s moving at a different speed than usual. Things that happened four weeks ago feel like they happened months and months ago. Even things that happened a week ago seems further away than usual. This leaves me with the sensation that I have been feeling one particular way or another for a long time when in reality it has only been a short while.

I’m on a plane flying back to LA for Stevie’s wedding. I’ve been in Paris three months now. It feels like I have been there longer and at the same time this trip, which once felt so far away, arrived quickly and just when it was needed. It’s been a long time since I’ve lived like a student. The last month was intense. I feel neglected. I desperately need a haircut, a mani/pedi, and a scrub at a Korean spa. But that’s not the only way I feel neglected. I have been excessive and have neglected myself. Today, at the airport, I realized how much that excessiveness undermines my confidence.

It’s time to really dive into my life in Paris. This trip home feels like a perfectly timed interlude. So, lets just say these last three months were the prologue. I have seen and explored a bit of Paris but I need to do more. I need to drink the city in. Not literally, as I have been doing but indulging in its beauty and magic. It is time to make Paris my home.

Last week I went to see the Eva Besnyo exhibit at Jeu de Paume. Coming in from the Paris heat, into the cool and quiet space that smelled of traces of glue and wall paint, I remembered how often museums have felt to me like a church.  Specially if you find yourself alone in a room taking in something that speaks to you. As I walked through the rooms looking at her photographs I realized that until recently I had never taken a picture because I was seeing something. Most of the photographs I’ve taken I have taken with my my head more than my eyes.

After Eve Besnyo, I went upstairs and looked at some videos by Laurent Grasso. I thought the two exhibits played beautifully off each other. I sat in a room all by myself and watched a video about a hawk and its flight. I sat there and watched it twice and thought about the relationship between deep self-acceptance, inspiration, and expression. I sat there and thought about how beautiful and strange and difficult and lovely life is. I thought about the things I know I want in my life- a business, a baby, a man, and how the intense desire to expand creatively, to grow up creatively trumps all of it.

 

 

For whatever we lose (like a you or a me) it’s always ourselves we find in the sea ~ ee cumings

Posted in paris with tags , , , on May 22, 2012 by ana

Lost in boy thoughts I yell to my roommate from the kitchen, “tell me not to write!”

“Tell you not to write?”

“Yes,” I say, “because I was doing fine but now I just want to write him.”

The moment passes. The desire to say I miss you, to say this is harder than I thought it would be is shut down by fear. This is a good thing. Staying away is a good thing. Doubt comes in the form of – what’s the point, to what end, and if I did write would he hate me a little for not letting it go? The next thought that follows is he has forgotten me and then maybe it meant more to me than him. But then I think I am too much in my head. I’m being such a girl.

All of this because as I walked up the stairs an image, an imagined image, popped in my head. Out of nowhere in my mind I saw him walking up the stairs to my apartment the first time we had sex. I sprinted up the stairs. I tried to leave the thought behind but it caught up to me as I read an ee cumings poem on someone’s blog. And then I remembered  walking home from the metro that day. The play between being excited and staying present, telling myself that there was plenty of time for the list of things I wanted to do- shower, brush my teeth, tidy the apartment, find music and have a few minutes to kick back and relax. Now that I’ve written it down, all those thoughts have lost their power and become a lovely moment and nothing else. Writing is amazing that way.

In the past couple of days the work, language, money panic has slightly subsided and I’m feeling more like myself again.  It still feels like I’m in the middle of a mid-October leaf storm or on the white water rafting part of the program or the free fall part of the jump but I’m starting to think, I can handle this. I’ve remembered a crucial bit. Sanity is always found in returning to myself. Somehow that got lost in the last month and a half of late nights, out-of-town guests and farewells. That has always been the answer or at the very least a big part of it.

It is also true that I would be lost with out my friends- the ones I can reach out to in the middle of the night if necessary. Still, the answer, my answer, is always the same- read, write, cut images and glue them on paper, cook (and now bake).  There has always been behavior, in my part that is less than healthy when things feel shaky. And it is also true that when I’m almost at the edge I find my way back to a healthier day to day. Yes, there is often now a sadness in the morning when I first open my eyes. That has been there since almost two years ago next July. But I’ve always been good at shaking it off with my first cup of coffee.

It’s raining in Paris. All month long brief stints of sunshine seem to promise summer but not yet, not yet, not yet. Things are slowly changing. French is opening up to me a bit. My ear hears words and my brain understands them without translating them to Spanish or English. More and more I feel trepidation when I write because it feels more exposing than it ever has. I suspect that is a good thing. I must be getting closer to what I need to be doing if it feels scary. And as Lili pointed out the other day lots of small changes add up to some big ones.

“At this time last year,’ she said, “you didn’t know what you wanted to do. You hadn’t decided to move to Paris. You hadn’t taken your trip to Italy. You weren’t even baking. Think of all the incredible things that happened in one year.”

And except for that momentary staircase flash and the minutes after, I’m having a pretty good day. Thanks in part to a Sam Shepard interview in the guardian, a commencement speech by Neil Gaiman, an essay by Anne Lamont, a paragraph about cake batter in Michael Rhulman’s Ratio, a bit of a conversation with Angelo Badalamenti about the sound of Twin Peaks that I listened to on Nicolas Jaar’s essential mix for BBC radio, two Mark Strand poems, a kitchenaid mixer, a batch (finally!) of really good dark chocolate cayenne cookies that leave behind a mellow heat reminiscent of a first kiss, and the realization that if all I want is just beyond my hand’s reach maybe I just need to put down my arms and walk towards it.