"One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture
and, if possible, speak a few reasonable words. " ~Goethe

~ also, if possible, to dwell in "a house where all's accustomed, ceremonious." ~Yeats

Monday, July 28, 2014

The Front Porch of My Life

A HOUSE WHERE ALL'S ACCUSTOMED, CEREMONIOUS
Illustration for May Day from A Time to Keep
by throw - back American illustrator and writer
Tasha Tudor (1915 - 2008)

After eight weeks of travelogues (Berlin, Philadelphia, Hanover, Paris), here is a change of pace. Where is one of the best places to spend a good deal of the summer? Why, Out on the Porch, of course! So many happy memories of sitting in the rocking chairs at dusk; swinging -- sometimes precariously -- on the porch swing, playing in the miniature sandbox, building a fort or setting up a dollhouse, preparing the garden vegetables, waiting for the mailman, hoping for a friend to drop by or running over to someone else's porch and ringing the doorbell, perusing poems about front porches, reading -- maybe even writing! -- the great American novel. Cliches?

The Drama Critic Warns of Cliches
1
"When the curtain opens
on a front porch," says the critic,
"I walk out," meaning
I suppose those ubiquitous
rocking-chairs, an old grand-
ma or pa, the usual cataclysm
of ho-hum raw emotion,
plenitude of gnats, fireflies, and
wisteria at dusk.
Let me not omit
from this banned semiology
of porches, my own front porch
on the Maryland corner
of First and Anson, almost blotted out
by a scrim of rhododendrons
fanged with pink blooms. . . .

2
"Even worse," the critic continues,
"someone's mother always has cancer." It's true,
my mother does have cancer;
it's a cliche, a convention, you can hardly
blame her. Probably
I have cancer too, almost certainly;
perhaps it has already leaked down,
down to my two daughters, killing
each other so innocently there on the porch.
Perhaps the clear scrim of blood
is already transformed, the understudies
already warmed up
and taking over. . . .
. . . Surely
this is my front porch for life.

by Evan Zimroth (b 1943)
contemporary American novelist, poet, professor

Detail from The Old Checkered House, 1944
by renowned and unique American folk artist
Grandma ~ Anna Mary Robertson ~ Moses (1860 - 1861)

"All this was before the big supermarkets
and shopping centers and affluent subdivisions
with no sidewalks and the monster highways
and the innocence lost.
It was even before there was television,
and people would not close their doors and shut
their curtains to watch the quiz games or the comedy
hours or the talk shows where everybody talks at once.
We would sit out on our front porches in the hot,
serene nights and say hello to everyone who walked by."


from My Dog Skip (p 6 - 7)
by endearing American author and pet - lover
Willie Morris (1934 - 1999)

***********************************

A few of my odd little front porches:
1979

1980

1981

1990

1994

2001

2011

SEE YOU IN TWO WEEKS FOR MY
Next Fortnightly Post
Thursday, August 14th

Between now and then, read
THE QUOTIDIAN KIT
my shorter, almost daily blog posts
www.dailykitticarriker.blogspot.com


Looking for a good book? Try
KITTI'S LIST
my running list of recent reading
www.kittislist.blogspot.com

Monday, July 14, 2014

Travelogue 4: Paris

WHERE ALL'S ACCUSTOMED, CEREMONIOUS

My Father
[sung by Judy Collins]

My father always promised us
That we would live in France
We'd go boating on the Seine
And I would learn to dance

We lived in Ohio then
He worked in the mines
On his dreams like boats
We knew we'd sail in time

All my sisters soon were gone
To Denver and Cheyenne
Marrying their grownup dreams
The lilacs and the man

I stayed behind, the youngest still
Only danced alone
The colors of my father's dreams
Faded without a sound

And I live in Paris now
My children dance and dream
Hearing the words of a miner's life
In words they've never seen

I sail my memories of home
Like boats across the Seine
And watch the Paris sun
Set in my father's eyes again

My father always promised us
That we would live in France
We'd go boating on the Seine
And I would learn to dance

I sail my memories of home
Like boats across the Seine
And watch the Paris sun
Set in my father's eyes again


words and music by Judy Collins (b 1939)

Storybook Edition, illustrated by Jane Dyer

I can never hear Judy Collins sing this song without also recalling the poem "As Children Together" by Carolyn Forché (b 1950). As I wrote last year, the closing lines tell you all you need to know. They tell you that going to Paris can change your life:
If you read this poem, write to me.
I have been to Paris since we parted.

[To hear a recitation, to order The Country Between Us, to learn more.]

When I visited Paris in 2002, my friend Vickie -- the best personal
travelling consultant that a girl could ever hope for! -- sent me a suggestion list that I carried with me every where I went!

Vickie in 2001, at the grave of Colette, in Pere Lachaise

Gerry had been making occasional trips to Fontainebleau but had not been inside the city for twenty years; and I had never been before, so it was an exciting time for us. We couldn't do everything but did as much as we could. I accompanied Gerry to a couple of the conference events, particularly the opening night dinner at Versailles -- so opulent, with a harpist, and a fingernail moon hanging in the sky above the formal gardens. Now why didn't I remember to take my camera? Gerry spoke at the 7am Technology Breakfast, which was well attended, considering the early hour (and the lateness of the previous evening at Versailles). Each night, we stayed awake until 1am, when, from our hotel window, we could see the spot light go out on the Eiffel Tour. Now why isn't it lit up all night; wouldn't that be the American way?

In between official commitments, we walked along des Champs Elysees -- no shopping but did have french onion soup, salad Nicoise, and some sidewalk cafe novelty drinks: The Diablo for Gerry and the Kir Royale pour moi; also drank a lot of Perrier ($4 per bottle) and splashed out for some ice cream at Berthillion ($4 per scoop). Inflated prices? No! Non - tax - deductible contributions to the preservation of Paris? Yes! Living in downtown Philly taught me to be tolerant of the tourist trade as a steady source of revenue for keeping cities vibrant. I appreciated all the happy visitors riding in the horse - drawn carriages along Pine Street, right past my front door, keeping Philadelphia alive and well; after all, because of them the surrounding streets were always clean!

We went to see le tour Eiffel but declined to stand in the very long line for a ride upward. Same with Notre Dame, Sainte Chapelle, and the Musee D'Orsay -- next time! It seemed that since we were there for such a short time, it was not worth waiting hours for any one attraction. Instead, we just took in whatever we could by strolling the lovely grounds, a great tourist activity in which to indulge without young children who may not yet consider aimlessly walking around any city to be a pleasurable vacation activity. However, it's what Gerry and I enjoy most, in London as well as Paris. Also on our strolling - but - not - stopping list were areas like the Place Vendome, Palais Royal, l'arc de Triomphe, Tuileries, and Centre Pompidou.

We got to Louvre at 9am before the crowds and spent hours in there on Saturday, admiring Winged Victory, the Mona Lisa, and so on and so forth. To read on the plane, I took along Girl With a Pearl Earring and Girl in Hyacinth Blue, in light of which, I had hoped to see Vermeer's Lace Maker while in the Louvre, but that wing was closed. Worse luck. I thought of Ben and Sam in the basement of the Louvre which was excavated in 1985 to reveal the foundations and the moat of the old (12th C) Louvre Fortress. There is also an incredibly detailed scale model of the Louvre Castle (as seen in the Duc de Berry's "Tres Riches Heures," October):


In search of lunch, we passed a couple of interesting looking Irish Pubs: The James Joyce (near out hotel) and Kitty O'Shea's (near Place Vendome). We considered Harry's Bar but in the end decided on Cafe Le Sarah Bernhardt before taking the Metro out to Pere Lachaise Cemetery. On the way out we used the Pere Lachaise Metro stop, which was fine; but on the way back we used the Gambetta stop and found that to be a really charming area. At the cemetery, we paid our respects to Colette, Heloise & Abelard, Proust, and, of course, Sarah Bernhardt and Oscar Wilde:


It was all very romantic and restful. We wandered along the Seine, and Gerry bought a Van Gogh knock-off from a street vendor, his birthday present to himself. Pretty cool to have your birthday in Paris; for proof, see date on above photo! My birthday present, a week early, was a bottle of L'Air du Temps that I have used sparingly over the years. Although Paris is often listed with all the world destination cities -- London, New York, Rome, Tokyo, etc. -- I certainly did not find it to be an in - your - face bustling metropolis. Not that I've ever been to Rome or Tokyo, but I do know what it's like trying to make your way down the sidewalks in London or New York, and even Philadelphia on a busy day. Paris was nothing like that. A few crowded Metro rides, but otherwise, incredibly calm and mellow. We had a wonderful time. The flights were tiresome, but we suffered only minimal jet lag on the way over and none at all coming home. Now why haven't we been back? My L'Air du Temps is nearly finished . . . then we absolutely must return for more!

For daily updates on contemporary Paris,
check out these fun pages
where my friend Rozena C writes & translates:
Messy Nessy Chic & My Little Paris

~~ HAPPY BASTILLE DAY! ~~


SEE YOU IN TWO WEEKS FOR MY
Next Fortnightly Post
Monday, July 28th

Between now and then, read
THE QUOTIDIAN KIT
my shorter, almost daily blog posts
www.dailykitticarriker.blogspot.com


Looking for a good book? Try
KITTI'S LIST
my running list of recent reading
www.kittislist.blogspot.com