The Midas Touch

IMG_3222   There are two benevolent kings in Paris; Arnault and Pinault. One owns nearly half of the luxury fashion industry through his group, LVMH, the other owns nearly half of the luxury fashion industry through his group, Kering (formerly Gucci). Without knowing either gentleman, nor having done any kind of research into their relationship, it is easy to imagine that there is a bit of rivalry between the two.

IMG_3118Both men collect contemporary art and at some point they both thought it would be great if they shared their collections with their neighbors. Generous, indeed, with a bit of ego involved and probably some tax benefits to sweeten the deal. Monsieur Pinault, who has the richer collection, aimed his sites towards the abandoned Renault factory on Ile Seguin in Boulogne. Easily accessible by Paris metro, it seemed like Eden.

But the Mayor of Boulogne started setting up road blocks and things got crazy in a uniquely Parisian kind of way until M Pinault had enough and took his art elsewhere. The wildly popular destination museum Palazzo Grassi in Venice, to be exact.

IMG_3192Not to be out done, his rival, M Arnault started plans for his own museum, insisting on the great architect Frank Gehry and coming up with an ingenious plan to build his monument within the Jardin d’Acclimatation in the Bois de Boulogne in Paris. I won’t go into the specifics, by putting the museum inside of the Jardin’s concession, the project avoided alot of red tape and was given a green light.

IMG_3187The result is Master Gehry’s Magnum Opus, the stupendous Fondation Louis Vuitton. It is a signature Gehry piece, looking very much like the crumpled wads of paper the architect uses for inspiration. But here, his twisting curves are supported by warm, wood covered beams and dressed in a light infused glassed; a poem of contradictions. The upper floors are a maze of terraces, playing with the scenery beyond. At one moment the pushing, pulling turn of frame have the visitor feeling propelled into the woods beyond, while also feeling that the woods have risen to join them on the deck, embraced by the building and the environment just beyond. It is breathtaking.

Inside, the spaces are random and disconnected. The first thing one sees are the architect’s articulated fish floating the swanky mod restaurant, Le Frank. Sbove Visitors either love or hate the Olafur Eliasson grotto below street level, but nobody is left indifferent by the diagonal fountain that flows from the Jardin d’Acclimatation to the grotto. The waves of water are irresistibly enchanting as they flow across the wide, even steps. And the auditorium with seats that fold down into the floor and an Ellsworth Kelly back drop, is so welcoming, you look forward to your next excuse for a visit, before having left for the day.

My favorite piece in the collection; Where the slaves live by Adrian Villar Rojas

My favorite piece in the collection; Where the slaves live by Adrian Villar Rojas

 

You may have noticed that this review is about the building. Disappointingly, it is the best reason to go. The art collection itself is, uhm, well, rather thin… I was blown away by a Gerhard Richter room that had disappeared by second visit, as had a rather amusing set of old fashioned telephones that played famous people reciting an eclectic collection of poetry. On this visit? Well, the Giacometti sculpture is impressive and I was amused, if not totally blown away by the Olafur Eliasson exhibition, which is surprising, because I particularly adore this artist. But the pieces chosen were not his masterpieces.

I hope the museum gets a serious curator in there who know how to put on a show. But until then, it is still an extraordinary addition to the Parisian landscape, well worth an afternoon.

 

Language lessons

Screen shot 2015-02-10 at 4.38.13 PM

A grease stained pizza box in an art exhibition years ago.

Bobo, boho, and now, ipstairs… the trendy young French of each generation. They were bourgeois bohèmes the affluent dressed as hippies, looking to escape traditional French esthetics, without sacrificing their creature comforts. As time lapsed, they grew more and more nomadic, discovering New York and falling under the charms of SOHO, adopting an even chicer look that doesn’t pretend to turn a back on the fashion world, but embraces it.

Last Friday, Mr French played hookie and after a fruitful day running errands under sub-zero blue skies, we had stopped to reward ourselves with a Hotel’politain from Le Bar. Originally the Love Pavilion, Oscar Wilde lived and died here, Dali hung his hat and Liz flirted with her beloved Richard Burton in the rooms above. In the early 2000’s eclectic design Jacques Garcia gave the place a face lift with a funky blend of violet silks in velour green foliage. The bobo’s loved it, the boho’s were not far behind and now, the hipsters have arrived wearing his and her matching fur trimmed military coats, the obligatory plaid flannel shirts and Fonzi slicked hair.

Unexpectedly, some girlfriends from the neighborhood walked in for a little joy juice and I joined them to let Mr French review the emails he’d missed while giving me his undivided attention all day.

The hipsters were busy chatting away.

– What’s a VeuBo? I heard her ask.

– A guy over 50, who wears colored pants, listens to LP albums and drives a sports car.

I glanced at Mr French in his tomato red pants, the bag of albums in the chair facing him and I shot him a grin.

–It’s your sports car, he hissed, referring to the company car that was parked at home.

I couldn’t help laughing at the joke we’ve become, living caricatures, of the microcosm we live in, like the painting on the back of a grease stained pizza box.

A la mode

IMG_3066Why yes, please. I’d love that with some ice cream.

That’s what happens when you live here too long. Silly little things turn into abstract bi-lingualisms that are funny to one and no one else. The ultimate inside joke.

IMG_3100

NOTE// no photos were allowed, but I was feeling a little criminal, so a stole a few. Enjoy!

IMG_3098 A craving for frozen sugar & fat isn’t what’s put me in such a giddy mood, it’s fashion! Yesterday, I headed to the Art Deco-glorious Palais de la Porte Dorée Musée de l’Histoire de l’Immigration, which is a really long name for a very cool museum on immigration to France. They’ve got artifacts and fish. Yes fish. Because there is an aquarium, too. We didn’t have time to visit it, but my museum date, Karen, started wondering if maybe the fish were all imported, making them immigrants of a sort, too.

We were at the musée to see their latest show, Fashion Mix; local fashion from foreign designers.

Lately, pundits are bemoaning that French ingenuity is dying, or has emigrated to London (the French are calling it the second largest city in France which is funny/tragic on so many levels…). Financial crisis, Charlie Hebdo, an extended “Sales” Season. Paris is going through a time of Existential Angst. But then the pundits site the fashion industry, naming all the foreign designers leading the great French Fashion houses; Lagerfeld at Chanel, Elbaz at Lanvin, Simons at Dior, Slimane at YSL…. the list does seem to get depressingly long very quickly. We’re doomed!

Fashion Mix sets that logic on it’s ear, celebrating the art and creativity brought to French fashion houses since fashion went retail. The show starts with a reminder that the man who first took dressmaking from the lower classes and made it high class was Charles Worth. Vurt? A Frenchman would pronounce, awkwardly. It is rather a mouthful for a Français, because Mister Worth was très, très anglais.

Mr Worth was in Paris working for drapers, but made dresses for his co-worker/wife on the side. Clients would see her gorgeous garb and ask for one of their own. Their French bosses were not impressed and didn’t think it was a very good idea when Worth suggested they go into dress making, so he found a Swedish investor, started dressing Princess Eugènie and a multi-billion dollar, Parisian industry was born.They show Elsa Schiaparelli’s request for citizenship, Cristobàl Balenciaga’s official Basque documents, passports, and papers from designers that have flooded French fashion from Europe, Asia and Africa.

The show goes on to display all the great French fashion designed by passionate Francophiles. It is the ultimate cocktail party with Comme des Garçons dancing by Ann Demeulemeester, Jean Dessès taking a spin by Mariano Fortuny. Old mixes with new, the traditionally staid with the avant garde.

IMG_3101

Creative entries in the guest book show I wasn’t the only one inspired by the show…

After the show, we’d planned on finding a charming café nearby for some serious girl time, but the Palais was so 1930’s beautiful with mosaic floors and mural dressed walls, we didn’t want to leave. And we didn’t have to because they have a perfect little salon with an excellent tea by Thé des Ecrivains. Sat there chatting, watch the snow flutter by, dreaming of the summer when we’ll be back to appreciate their lovely terrace, over looking the entrance to the Bois de Vincennes.

The party goes on until May 31st, so if you happen to be in Paris, put on your party shoes and cha cha out to the surprising Palais at the Porte Dorée.

Gold star for Mr French!

Screen shot 2015-01-30 at 1.34.03 PM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Or not. He has been away. First it was Beijing and now Atlanta, eating crab cakes and making my mouth water with jealousy. He came home to Paris for the blink of an eye between the two trips and instead of celebrating our reunion, I was laid up in bed, over thrown by la grippe. It is going around these days and everyone is blaming it our time marching for Charlie Hebdo. Even those who are laid up, but didn’t attend the rally are blaming it on the event. Sorry Charlie.

With a free Saturday on his hands and a sick me at home, Mr French decided to make himself useful and did the grocery shopping, a task I usually fit between lunch breaks when working from home. I had been working in house at an agency all week and in bed in between, so the cupboards we beyond Old Mother Hubbard bare.

Not being a man for doing things like us mere mortals, Mr French treated himself to cart at the Grand Epicerie de Paris. Em and I felt like princesses for the rest of the week, coming home each night to gourmet meals made easy. So what are the rich and famous cooking up at home these days? Probably nothing, but here is what the Grand Epicerie is offering them.

Screen shot 2015-01-30 at 1.50.41 PMWe’ve been starting our mornings with these unctuous delicious sheep’s milk yogurts from the Basque region. We first discovered them while on our annual holiday in Hossegor, so they are not only delicious, but they taste like vacation to us! At the Grand Ep’, you’ll find them in blueberry, chestnut, cherry and fig.

There is a basket full of Jaffa tangerines from Israel for snack time. Having studied the subject extensively, we find this label firm, tangy and practically perfect.

Mr French didn’t forget that Em also love her Pink Lady apples, a cross bred cultivar of Golden Delicious and Lady Williams from Australia, grown in France.

And then there is dinner. Mr French stumbled upon bowls of pre-prepared veggies that I never would have touched because they are expensive and the packaging wasteful and not at all organic. But they made the most delicious meals, so I am going to have to re-think my think. Veggies, nothing but beautifully prepared, carefully selected, raw veggies by C Zon, ready for the wok. 8 minutes, high heat and you are done. They were so incredibly good that I didn’t have remind Em to finish her greens and they even inspired this post. If you are in Paris, looking for a quick gourmet meal to enjoy in your home kitchen, this is the way to go. There are several different combos, so you can mix it up and feel like you’re having something very different every night of the week. Adding a splash of teriyaki sauce, a dash of Mexican seasonings, a splash of paprika and you’ll never get bored. Hopping, happening, and healthy!  Just add a grilled meat if you need meat, et voilà everyone is thrilled.

I think that now would be the appropriate moment to mention that this is not a sponsored post. I have never done a sponsored post and I am not interested in doing a sponsored post. These veggies were paid for, full retail, by Mr French. Now you know just how very, very excited, I want to scream if from the Parisian zinc roof tops, Californians can get about their greens.

Screen shot 2015-01-30 at 2.11.10 PMAnd for the nights I really could not cook, there were prepared meals, proffered by a company called Cooked by. Mr French had gotten some dishes created by a Carribean chef Suzy Plantain. There are no additives, preservatives, or even stabilizers in these meals. The fat count is low, the flavour count high and they were another life saving hit as the flu hit harder.

Screen shot 2015-01-30 at 2.14.26 PMI am a nuke-ophobe. I have never had a microwave before moving into this  flat, and I only own one now by default, so I was particularly thrilled these meals can be heated with a simple bain marie. No nukes!

Finally, la pièce de resistance. Chocolate bars by François Pralus, perhaps the best chocolate bar manufacture in the world today.

Mr French returned this morning and I sense a terrible cold coming on. Something so violent he will have to return to hunter gather mode for just one more appetizing week.

long live the king.

Screen shot 2015-01-21 at 2.12.19 PM

The 12th day of Christmas is the Epiphany. I don’t know much about the Epiphany and I could Google it if I cared, but all I really care to know I have learned in French bakeries/ The Epiphany has something to do with the 3 Kings, who I had always thought were wise men, but I am sticking with kings in this story because in France we celebrate this holiday with Kings cakes. Cookie Monster can have his way with sawdust disks, me like Kings Cakes.

In Paris the Galette des Rois is a disc of puffed pastry stuffed with almond paste. David Lebovitz claims their easy to make in this blog post. For now, I am taking his word for it. Not because I’m lazy, but because the only thing I like about Parisian Kings cakes are the tiny porcelain prizes hidden inside, and the crown. I love wearing the crown for the evening.

You’d think that would be a major relief to a girl looking to reduce her waste line (that’s a pun,not a typo, for a change), but the crafty guild of Parisian bakers have another Kings cake to tempt aimless souls like my own. In southern France the Galette des Rois, becomes the Couronne des Rois, the Kings’ crowd. A simple brioche, perfumed with orange blossom water and studded with candied fruit is shaped into a crown, baked and dressed in sugar crystal diamonds. A girls best friend indeed!

After 3 months of living without wheat flour, yesterday I could not resist this scrumptious treat and splurged on a little individual bun that was sitting in the window at Eric Kayser, immediately facing the metro exit I use coming home at the end of the day. I didn’t even make it home, sneaking (and savouring!) guilty bites while picking up some fresh fruits and vegetables for the house. It was truly fit for a king.

So divine that I have had an Epiphany of my own; Time to change metro stations!

Je Suis Juif

Screen shot 2015-01-16 at 2.56.41 PM

Since the Charlie Hebdo massacre I have been reporting on what I see and hear in Paris. Next week I promise to return to more entertaining subjects. Until then, there is so much going on; cyber-attacks, an apology from the US, and the distribution of 5 million copies of Charlie Hebdo as France rallies to support the right to freedom of expression, even if they were never big fans of the publication. It is horrific that journalists and police officers were killed for what they do, but even more unsettling are those who had no choice. Jews who were killed for what they are.

Its not easy being a Jew in France today. In 2006 a young man, Ilan Halimi, was kidnapped, tortured, and murdered because he was Jewish. In 2012 a Jewish school was attacked: 3 children, 1 adult and 3 soldiers died. Last month a couple was robbed in their apartment in Creteil and the wife was raped, because, according to the criminals, they were Jewish. Then there was Hyper Casher…

When I am asked if France is antisemitic, I still answer with an emphatic, “No”. These acts were committed by Extremists. Extremism is not just a French problem. It is a global issue, that has even the Israeli government scrambling to protect its population.

After the attacks, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls declared, “Antisemitism is not an opinion, it is a crime.” and legally that’s true. French law defends free speech until it incites hatred. Saying that the holocaust never happened is illegal and it has been for a very long time. It is legal for the illustrators at Charlie Hebdo to draw an image of Muhammad carrying the “Je Suis Charlie” sign because the message is tolerance. By the same token, comedian Dieudonné’s* joke about wanting to deport a Jew incites hatred and is illegal.

M Valls also declared that without Jews, France would no longer be France. Jews are an integral thread in the cosmopolitan fabric of the country and the population thrives. Last year’s Nobel Prize for literature is a French Jew, Jews are prominent in national politics, and fashion designer John Galliano has been a pariah in the French fashion world since making antisemitic comments. The French government is doing what it can to protect the Jewish population, most recently deploying 10,500 soldiers to protect Jews and their establishments. Therein lies the problem. Many are asking themselves if they want to live in a country where they need military protection. It is scary knowing that not very far from my front door, there are gangs of people who would not mind seeing me dead simply for something I did not choose and can not change.

Locals news has been asking Jews how they feel living in France. The overwhelming consensus is that they are not afraid for their own safety, but they are very worried for their children. Passing armed soldiers, going through a metal detector, and being pat searched to enter a house of prayer is intimidating. Seeing soldiers, their hands on their weapons as parents take their children to school, feels like war. It is heart breaking.

Jews have not gone into hiding. Religious Jews are still on the streets wearing kippot, shopping in kosher markets and heading into synagogues. That is what Jews do, go on with life, defying those who would end it. Hopefully this defiance will remind the world of the words of Franklin D Roosevelt as he united a country shortly before the Second World War: “We have nothing to fear, but fear itself.”

*Dieudonné is a local comedian who is often in trouble with French authorities for his antisemitism. It strikes me as tragically ironic that his name translate to “God Given”

After Charlie

Screen shot 2015-01-14 at 12.21.40 PMAll of France is asking itself a question today. What happens after Charlie?

Before Charlie there was Ahmed. Ahmed Marabet, a handsome Frenchman in his 40s: a policeman who had been passing nearby on bicycle when he saw the terrorists. Ahmed Marabet just happened to be Muslim and he was slaughtered along with everyone else last Wednesday.

Screen shot 2015-01-14 at 12.21.04 PMAfter the massacre, the world cried Je Suis Charlie, in honor of all the victims of the attack. Almost instantly, Muslims started posting Je Suis Ahmed. This was not in denial of the loss to our nation nor was it meant to belittle the attack on French liberty. This was a cry, “I am Muslim. I am not an Extremist terrorist, I am a French(wo)man ready to die for my country.” It was a reminder that we can not confuse Muslims with Extremists who represent a miniscule percentage of those following Islam today.

This weekend Monsieur Marabet’s family held a press conference to deliver the message themselves. They are French. They are also Muslim. Like all French citizens, they believe in Liberté, Fraternité, Egalité. The terrorists, they made clear, were insane and in no way represent Islam or their beliefs.

Screen shot 2015-01-14 at 12.28.06 PMMustapha Ourra, another Muslim, was one of the employees at Charlie Hebdo killed during the massacre and there are no reports on how many of the 10s of 1000s of law enforcement officers who brought an end to our three day nightmare were also Muslim.

The family of the terrorist who attacked Hyper Casher also came out publicly. They apologized profusely. The had been estranged for years because this coward had gotten lost in Extremist hatred. They had not raised him into this insanity and his dogma in no way reflects their beliefs.

One of the heros of the Hyper Casher attacks is a Muslim employee who was able to hide six people, including a 1 month old baby in the freezer. He cut off the lights and the cooling system, ensuring their safety before risking his own life to run to the police. He was a moving target to both the terrorist and the police who suspected him of being the terrorist. Eventually, he was able to advise them on where the hostages were and the store’s layout.

Screen shot 2015-01-14 at 12.21.14 PMSince the murders, several mosques in France have been attacked. This is counterproductive in a country that needs to unify. And it is a tragic example to the rest of the world. Muslims are not the problem. Extremists are the problem and this is true across the globe.

Thankfully, experts are coming on local news shows to defend the Muslim community. We are reminded that the biggest victims of these Extremists are, by far, other Muslims. In France, most Extremist hatred is being taught to disenfranchised men in the prison system. It is being taught by criminals who never studied Islam. They just take what they find online and use the most destructive bits to rally a crowd of violent people, giving them a target for their anger.

Prominent, educated Muslim leaders, like the Imam of Drancy, Hassen Chalghoumi, have been working with the French government to find a solution for years. Screen shot 2015-01-14 at 12.21.21 PMHis projects unite Muslim, Catholic and Jewish leaders across France and have even included a visit to Israel.

As an individual, who is neither a political nor a religious leader, I can not make a significant difference in this convoluted mess. But I am a writer, dedicated to the power of words.

Those animals? Those terrorist who dressed their hatred in the words of the Quran? They were not Muslims. They were Extremists. I am now committed to making this vital distinction every time I speak, write or think about the Islamic faith. Muslims are not Extremists. Extremists are not Muslim. Je Suis Ahmed.

Solidarité

Screen shot 2015-01-12 at 10.31.39 AMThe itinerary for yesterday’s march was no accident. Beginning at th Place de la République, we were marching with ancient Greek republican values to the Place de la Nation. A poignant reminder of who we are and what we believe in as a country, regardless of our race, religion or personal history.

Screen shot 2015-01-12 at 10.19.13 AMWhen we first heard about the march on Wednesday, Mr French mentioned it may be a good idea to attend. I had already attended that evening’s rally, and was happy that we’d be returning to show our support together. But my parents are visiting right now and I was torn about spending time with them or at the march. On Thursday evening I told them that we may possibly want to attend the event and asked if it would interest them. They had been horrified by the murders and were not against the idea, but were not entirely sure either.

Screen shot 2015-01-12 at 10.25.42 AMBy Friday evening we were at home, glued to the television watching French police storm Hyper Casher and it was no longer a question. We’d be attending the march together. The terrorists had attacked our liberty. Now they had hit fraternity and equality, the pillars of French culture.

By now, you may have read that 1.5 million bodies filled the streets of Paris, nearly 4 million people marched the streets of France and an estimated 100,000 showed their support in cities across the globe. More than 40 world leaders attended, including the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The president from Mali was there beside the leaders of Great Britain, Spain, Germany and Italy. The democratic world was by our side, acknowledging that not only France, but across the globe, freedom is under attack.

Screen shot 2015-01-12 at 10.20.40 AMWe met for lunch then headed to the metro at 2pm, a full hour before the march. Public transportation had been made free for the day but that is not why the train arrived packed like a sardine can. We waited for a second train, then a third. By the fourth train we decided to go for it. In the metro car, the mood was calm and understanding, everyone cooperating, but I was worried that the quais at Strasbourg Saint Denis would be packed and convinced Mr French we should get off two stops early, at Etienne Marcel.

Screen shot 2015-01-12 at 10.27.46 AMWe stepped out of the metro and were immediately part of the march, standing shoulder to shoulder with thousands heading to the Place de la République as one. We were of every age, color, religion and background. We were immigrants, ancient families, visitors. People came alone, as a family, with friends or co-workers. Normally, it would have been a brisk, 12 minute walk. Yesterday, we were blocked in an surrealistically calm traffic jam of humanity. There was none of the stereotypical French Screen shot 2015-01-12 at 10.20.19 AMpushing, and shoving. Everyone was kind and polite and there in solidarity for the values of the republic. It didn’t matter how long it took, being present was enough. There were no cries or chants. Occasionally crowd would break out into a spontaneous round of applause for a police officer or when emergency vehicles would pass. Egos dissolved, frustration dissipated. After two hours, just 100 metres from our destination, police turned us away. The Place was saturated. Typically there would have been cries of disgust or at the very least, people trying to sneak through. On Sunday, the crowd just held their signs up higher and headed back they way we’d arrived, looking for an alternative route. Screen shot 2015-01-12 at 10.19.43 AMOur group headed into a pastry shop, taking a very welcome break before returning to the streets and finally making it to the Republic.

The sun had set, the march had moved on, yet thousands remained lighting candles, brandishing colorful flags from across the globe and singing the Marseillaise in the name of democracy for all.

Click here if you’d like to more photos of the event on my Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/FindingNoon

Screen shot 2015-01-12 at 10.20.05 AM Screen shot 2015-01-12 at 10.18.07 AM Screen shot 2015-01-12 at 10.21.05 AM Screen shot 2015-01-12 at 10.21.20 AM Screen shot 2015-01-12 at 10.30.33 AMScreen shot 2015-01-12 at 10.31.22 AM  Screen shot 2015-01-12 at 10.32.18 AM Screen shot 2015-01-12 at 10.34.18 AM Screen shot 2015-01-12 at 10.34.07 AM

JE SUIS CHARLIE

Screen shot 2015-01-08 at 11.33.22 AM

There are no words. That is the cliché. But, there have to be words. That is what yesterday’s attack was about. Silencing our words. Now is the time to cry out. Those who believe in the freedom of expression must shout that we will not be silenced. Mosques across France are calling out for prayers of peace.

 

Screen shot 2015-01-08 at 12.46.41 PMThere are so many words about yesterday’s events and the world we have created. But today I want to bring you with me to the Place de la République last night, where 35,000 Parisians gathered to show their profound respect for those assassinated and their beliefs.

 

Getting out of the metro, the quais were disturbingly deserted. I had Screen shot 2015-01-08 at 12.46.49 PMbeen expecting a crowd. There was just the regular scene of commuters. Until I got to the exit, where armored CRS officers were directing everyone to use the exit at the other end of the station. That is where the crowd began. A person jam at the sortie, up the stairs and spilling on to the Place.

 

Screen shot 2015-01-08 at 12.47.00 PMScreen shot 2015-01-08 at 12.48.52 PMScreen shot 2015-01-08 at 12.47.42 PMIt had been very cold earlier in the day, but by evening the weather felt almost mild. The sky was an elegant dove grey with amber lights radiating form the buildings in gentle arcs. At 18h37 the place was packed but not quite a sardine Screen shot 2015-01-08 at 12.50.58 PMtin. I startScreen shot 2015-01-08 at 12.47.27 PMed in the near a kiosk where five people were on chairs, each holding a human sized poster of a black and white portrait of the four victims who had been identified, the fifth person in the middle with a CharlieHedbo sign.Screen shot 2015-01-08 at 12.50.45 PM

Weaving through the crowd, I made my way to the statue in of the Republique. There was a reason we were meeting here and not the Champs de Mars or the Hôtel de Ville, or an other large space in the city. We were not honoring war, or government, we were there in support of republican ideals, the ideals founded in ancient Greece, the French Republic established after the revolution.

It was a muted crowded, gathered for a minute of silence. As 19h approached, it was like having cotton in one’s ears, with only muffled conversations wafting by. Then there was silence. At 19h01 posters were unfurled from the statue and the crowd broke out into applause before shouting “Liberté d’expression”. These were quiet shouts. An oxymoron, and hard to describe, but most people had come to grieve and mourn and show the terrorist we were not terrified.Screen shot 2015-01-08 at 12.49.33 PM

There were women with tears streaming down their faces, a young group holding electric panels spelling out “Not Afraid”. While we could not shout, there was a collective need to share a gesture. A group had brought paper lanterns that they lit and released, golden warmth soaring up to the heavens. People started pulling out their pens, Screen shot 2015-01-08 at 12.51.12 PMholding them in the air, shouting in silence, “We are all Charlie”.

Today there is a call to light a candle in our windows for Charlie Hebdo. There is another gathering at the Place de la République, this time being held by the Mayor of Paris. And just now there was a moment of silence. I am writing this from my local café. The owner turned the lights off and the TV on to news station broadcasting the chimes of Notre Dame, ringing for the full 60 seconds as the chef stopped cooking and we all stood, honoring the words of Charbo, “I’d rather die standing then live on my knees.”

TScreen shot 2015-01-08 at 12.13.27 PMhe names of those who were assassinated yesterday defending our right to freedom of expression.

words

Screen shot 2014-10-14 at 12.09.43 PM

When I was not writing about Monaco these past few weeks, I was putting together the 7th edition of LUXE Paris. My world has become limited to words. By the time my family comes home at the end of the day, I have a hard time putting two of them together to start a sentence. It has become something of an obsession lately. And not just for me, but the whole country was talking about some choice words last week. The words : Madame le président.

Those were the words used by an Assemblyman when addressing the president of a meeting in the French congress last week and the masculinization of her title was so shocking it resulted in a formal reprimand. A rather serious one that included the loss of 1/4 month’s pay. There were regular blurbs reminding us about the slur on every channel. When I asked Em what the fuss was about, she asked what fuss I was referring to. Mr French had heard the reports, but even he had no idea why it had caused such a scandal. In fact, a lot of native French speakers were at a loss to understand what was so insulting about the term.

It is no exaggeration that French is a tough language to master. Beyond the titles, some nouns mean different things depending on the gender. Un oeuvre is a porfolio of somebody’s work, while une oeuvre is a piece of work, like a painting or sculpture (or do I have that backwards? You see how hard it is?) A memory becomes a memoire.

I was actually quite relieved to learn that I am not the only one who struggles with these little details that seem to make big difference. Not only do I feel like incompetent, but it forced Le Figaro newspaper to print an article in French explaining to the French why Madame le présidente is such a slur. Assemblywomen, it would seem, would like their jobs feminized. Just to make things less clear, female government Ministers do not request the same priveledge, so Ségolene Royal is indeed, Madame le Ministre. This is the formula preferred by the Academie Françaises, the official body whose soul existence is to monitor the French language. Quebec, Belgium and Switzerland beg to differ, asserting that by feminizing career titles we are contributing to equality.

And now Sweden has gotten involved introducing the word hen to replace him or her, in the hopes gender differences disappear for good. An idea that would cause a revolution in France!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...