December 24, 2009


Paris repairs. Consider The Hôtel de Ville, city hall, in the 4th arrondissement, a giant sand castle fantasy that dates from 1357 and is still the working center of the city. At night it sparkles like a dream come true.

Take the Metro to the station of that name or simply walk Rue de Rivoli. Start in Marais and follow that road all the way to the Louvre or further if you are going to eat at Le Zimmer.

Take the Metro to George V: Don’t miss the Champs-Élysées at Christmas.

But walk this city.

The repairs will startle. The lining of my heavy black coat, its hem that touches the top of my boots, got caught on a boot link: separated and frayed. I could have walked into any dry cleaners along the streets of Marais and gotten an excellent repair. But it was Sunday. So I pinned the hem with safety pins and walked to the open market at Bastille: fresh food: roasted beets (yes, they roast them for you), cheese, meat, fish, a rabbit for dinner (Yes, I cooked it. See the recipe below.) But I also found needle and thread and so could do the repair myself. I am not the seamstress my mother was, nor as good as anyone in the Parisian dry cleaners, but the satisfaction of the needle and thread in hand healed.


Paris dreams. For at night we repair through sleep and dreams. Parisians do not balk at movies and books with dreams. In Paris it is safe to dream. It is safe even to write about the dreams. Hélène Cixous wisely advises, “Crossing the frontiers to the other world without transition, at the stroke of the signifier, this is what dreams permit us to do and why, if we are dreamers, we love dreams so much. It’s the cancellation of opposition between inside and outside . . . .”

I go into the closet, hear a noise, perhaps the neighbors, I think, and lean closer to the wall to listen.

This is of course absurd in the way that dreams are.

From inside the closet, from the wall something touches my breast. I’m unable to move or see.

Paralyzed the way we sometimes are in dreams and in this case also blind.

I try to open my eyes but can’t. And still I see. I am no longer the center of the picture. I am the observer. Someone else goes into the closet in the light and finds a box. In it is a large crude oddly shaped oboe. A musician decides to try to play the instrument. It is difficult at first but then he wets the reed with his tongue and the oboe responds to his mouth, his touch, and the sound becomes more compelling, the playing more necessary.

But then the oboe is lying on a bureau. It waits for him—like a demand: When will you be home? When will you play me?

I was hidden.

I lay alone in my bed in Paris and knew this: To be absent was how I dealt with D.’s inability to connect. “Only connect . . .,” E.M Forster tells us in the epigraph of Howard's End. How often I have read that line, spoken it. How deeply I thought I had understood when I had not. Yes, D. left me, but where was I?

When the light came late in the morning as it does in Paris in December, I walked the streets of Marais. There I stood somewhere in the 3rd or 4th before a repair shop for clarinets and oboes and saxophones and flutes. . .

If only I could paint this. Perhaps I will for the dream that moves from the wound to become something other than itself reinvents, repairs.

More to come on dreams. . .without transition: hat trick, bedtrick, mind trick.

Here is Melissa Clark’s wonderful recipe for Mustardy Braised Rabbit with Carrots.


  1. I've just caught up on your sojourn in Paris, my favorite city in the whole world. I've never been there by myself and wonder how I would do alone. I'm sure the food and the scenery would be quite adequate companions. I wonder if I would have the nerve to pick up a "guide"? Enjoy your stay.

    Eat some pousse-pieds if you get a chance!

  2. Barbara,

    I thinks I saw these pousse-pieds (readers click on Barbara's link above--how did she do that?) at the open market Sunday at Bastille. But, as I note on your site, I did not have the nerve or the French to ask what they were. The rabbit was enough of a trial (the head was even included). Do you know how hard it is to get rabbit in the US: You have to order it, wait for the dear thing to be born, grow and then three months later you get one. I couldn't do it. Working up nerve though. Paris repairs and teaches!

  3. The mute clarinets in the window, elegant, waiting to be played, to be held. But only faithful practice develops the proper embouchure. Daily care is needed. She (or he) plays for you and you for him or her.

    And so after many years I brought my fine wooden Buffet to K.'s music store, in Hartford, where Stanley A. taught me the Jerome Kern songs he played before Glenn Miller was lost and Stanley lost his job with his Army band.

    Not worth repairing,said Mr. K. You haven't taken care of it. Keys rusting, cork rotting. What do you do, bang the pieces together wih a hammer? You twist them gently, you polish and clean it. Like this. You think this is a tin trumpet? Get a new one. I'll give you $50 for this.


    Easy to say, hard to do. I learned a lesson. In Hartford, insurance capital of the world, everything is safe, underwritten. At 16 I didn't know you had to take care of things you cherish.
    So my Buffet and I started over.

    Trade it in. Easy to say, and even harder to do in Paris, city of dreams, of oboes and such. (And Buffet clarinets).

    Your wondrous and moving prose brings outside in and out again, with no seam, that one-surface loop. You're repairing the seam yourself. Along that realdream seamline you will meet a man moving through his own interior toward the border, the seam. He will see a good and lovely woman: my prediction and wish for you in 2010.

  4. Boswell,

    What a beautifully written and moving comment. You give me courage.


  5. Thank you. Pesce has moved and cut back its menu. So I follow Mary's fish, who swim bravely upstream.

  6. Mary - riveted and moved beyond words by your poetry, I spent hours tonight reading your tale from the beginning...or at least the spot at which you chose to begin. I have subscribed to your updates and cannot wait to turn the next page.

    Would that I were a REAL artist (aka one who draws) and/or lived near your downtown. I work with color and texture and surface design on cloth and yes, I travel.

    Your Paris is my Paris -- I should never have left. Stay as long as you need to: in Paris, everything is possible.

  7. "In Paris it is safe to dream. It is safe even to write about the dreams."

    "Yes, D. left me, but where was I?"



  8. Rayna,

    Thank you for this moving and deeply encouraging comment, both on my writing and my life. Yes, in Paris everything seems possible.

    I hope we can meet. I love your blog and plan to make the two wonderful soups you have there right now!

    And your work is stunning.

    I have been sketching and painting--and will continue. Keep in touch please.

    Readers: see blogs I am following: go to my profile.


  9. Anonymous (Phil),

    Things that age well, a man said to me in Paris are: wine, cheese and women. I added: all need self-discovery. He said, That doesn't make sense. I had to agree that the rhythm was wrong, maybe the sense, but then who knows? Maybe the wine maker and cheese maker do experience self-discovery. One thing's for sure: Women who age well ...


  10. Ah - the disorderly process of invention! I know it too well. And the process of reinvention, when we are dealing with ourselves, is even more disorderly. But somehow,it is rewarding. This is not what I started out to say, but linear thinking is not my strong suit! (enjoy the soup, before I wander off in another direction).

    Thanks for your nice comments about my work. Truthfully, it is easier for me to write than to create visually; hence the blog. It started 5 years ago as a way of thinking out loud - process about process. Took on a life of its own but I think it was more interesting 3 or 4 years ago than it is now. Time to reinvent myself?

    I envy you your voyage of discovery. Amusez-vous bien en route!

  11. I love the notion of mending a tear in a coat being a way of healing oneself inwardly.

  12. I had never thought of the beauty of the word "repair" until I read this passage. "Re-Pair."'Repairing oneself before one can re-pair. Lovely.

  13. Mary, I am riveted!

  14. Thank you, anonymous, whoever you are! Your encouragement joins me in my search.

  15. I loved the Paris pieces. I was just there for a day last month, but you made me miss the place already. I used to stay at a hotel in the rue Malher in the Marais back in 2000 and 2001 and a favorite walk was the rue des Franc Bourgeois. My only disappointment was the piece entitled "Doors," which I had hoped referred to the life and death of Jim Morrison of the Doors in these very streets in 1971. He lived in the nearby Rue Beautrellis and frequently strolled about the Place des Vosges. But it was a fine piece anyway!

  16. If you had not been told beforehand that Paris was the city of love, would you know it upon arrival? Or is that knowledge something like the Placebo Effect?

  17. I lived on the very street where that clarinet repair shop is. That photo brings back such fond memories!

  18. David,

    Oh, What is the name of the street in Marais? Was it Rue de Temple? I am kicking myself for not writing down the name of the street. Thank you for commenting!


  19. Mary,

    Thanks for the vacation!

    “To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub; ..” To finally awake within the dream, there’s reality.

    Regarding the repair of oboes: “…Call me what instrument you will, though you can fret me, yet you cannot play upon me…” It takes a sincere hand to finger my stops. But don't ...


  20. York, What a gorgeous addition to my writing!


  21. Dreams have permeable membranes like the structures of your writing. I love the echoes of the different repairs.
    You make me want to walk in Paris. The writing of it is delicious.

  22. Is the rabbit a symbol for running? Are you taking into your body, accepting, becoming one with, the running, as part of an awareness that may lead to a new way of being?


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