Sunday, March 21, 2010

Indoor Mania

Even though being in this condition is a perfectly good excuse to sit around and get stoned, so as to not lose my mind with every thought under the sun bouncing against the walls of my apartment, I need something to do right now. My focus is oozing out through all four million plus pores in my skin and I admit to feeling pulled in each of those directions. I could stretch, scrub the floor, clean the shelves of the refrigerator, vacuum, scrub the oven, individually sterilize each little rock in my bathroom sink, study French, read Garcia-Marquez or Flaubert or Steven Pinker or Dhiravamsa, practice piano, practice singing, memorize music, learn new music, watch videos of people singing the music I need to learn, find old recordings of the music, research the libretto or poetry of the music, double check my translations of the music, organize the shelf behind my bed that keeps piling up with crap so that everything is within reaching distance, finally decide what to do with the two boxes of CDs I have no room for ::::breathe:::: or write. I have been laughing all day about the first moments I physically got up and went to fill the ritual kettle with water so it would be on its way boiling after I returned from the salle de bains.
I'm sure my family doesn't want to hear this, but I thought I'd give fair warning; I rarely wear a stitch of clothing at home and never to bed. I love living alone (well except at the moment, as leaving the house is quite a feat). So, when I arrived in the kitchen and took the kettle from the window sill, filled it with water and turned on the stove I had nothing on but my cast and suddenly surprised my new neighbor across the way with my birthday suit. It was a common occurrence with the last neighbor, as that apartment's bathroom window is directly opposite my kitchen window. At times he'd be getting out of the shower as I'd head to the kitchen and although sometimes we'd wave, we simply became used to each other's nudity like an old married couple. This morning (or noonish) I saw a girl with a ponytail who was hanging a curtain - an idea that has eluded the rest of us apparently. My only reaction was: huh, new neighbor. That led me to wonder about my lack of reaction. Why hadn't I tried to cover up or worry if I'd offended her? Ultimately it just made me laugh at my own priorities. I remembered that I don't care about such things and then I thought well, I am in France as the stereotype goes, but it's not the same in the north as it is in the south. It is colder and a bit more prudish than one might expect when it comes to such things.
Personally I am not offended by nudity. Perhaps it's because my parents (especially my mother) regularly partook in clothing optional practice around the house. Dad would at least grab his bathrobe in the mornings, keeping his exposure to us children very limited - and we thank him for that. I suppose it is hard being a parent trying to get three children out of bed, showered, dressed, fed and driven to school all the while needing to do those things for yourself. Clothing must have just been low on my mother's priority list. I don't blame her. I see the appeal. Anyone who has hung out with me in summertime knows that the main staple of my wardrobe is skin. This has mostly to do with muggy New York summers that make every thread of clothing stick to you while feeling as though you're breathing under water, therefore making any sort of cloth related insulation a terrible idea. However, I am starting to see the downside of around the clock nudity. Depending on one's mood it can distort what is seen in the mirror. Some days all I can see are stretch marks, dry skin, extra padding in the tummy, areas that used to be naturally buff, but somehow decided to go on strike, and a myriad of other self-criticisms that would rival the catty panel of America's Next Top Model. Other days (which usually include boredom) there are moments of posing, arching and the distorting of one's figure to satisfy some egomaniacal thirst that one is still appealing. As for the rest of the time, acceptance of whatever is there tends to take precedence. No use in wanting to change things that can't be fixed, or whining about what could be if one is not willing to do anything about it. I have never been a tiny person, nor would I want to be. If I were really thin I would waste money on tiny designer jeans to increase the bootyliciousness of my backside anyway. Having one built in is much less expensive, and creates a lovely cushion of absorption should falling be a regular habit.... The lack of clothing in combination with too much physical inactivity is starting to give me what the Catholics might confess to their priest as "impure thoughts" about.....well everything really. I can't exactly get out to meet anyone, nor was I seeing anyone before this happened, nor would I be inclined to want to be with someone while in a cast (feeling sexy just isn't in the cards when you know you have 7 inch ingrown leg hair) and also don't want to run the risk of someone who prefers the "gimpy girls" and could end up breaking my other leg to appease his particular fetish. Is it twisted that I can imagine the conversation between such a disturbed individual and myself? "Sweetheart, but you look so beautiful hopping on one leg. If we simply break the left one, then the right one will have time to grow stronger, keeping you from feeling out of balance." Then he would probably have the nerve to break-up with me once I had rehabilitated both legs and was back to being a normal homo erectus. Jerk.
While I'm on the subject of dating in France I would like to take this opportunity to dispel the rumor that French men are the best lovers. I was chatting with a friend of mine yesterday about her experiences with men while living here in Paris and we arrived at the same conclusions. I will not lump the homosexual male populous into this argument, but I gladly speak with full confidence from a female's perspective. These men are all about the chase. I know there are several self-help dating book authors who would say that about most men, but the French take it to new heights. They spend so much time in their game of pursuit, flirting, teasing and taunting us women until we finally give in, but by that time they are so ready to pounce on you that they move through the entire love-making experience with such haste, it usually ends with some sort of equipment malfunction, making us wonder why we indulged in their ridiculous little game in the first place. This country is not known for its valor, so why would one expect that from its men? (Although, courage and bravery rarely describe anything in the modern world, aside from a skewed view of military heroism). It also baffles me how little these men appear to be. I feel as though I could hoist their waif-like bodies over one shoulder and nearly snap it in two if not careful. One day I'll write a book entitled, "Whomever said French men were the best lovers....was a French man." I think the photo below should be on the cover, but I'd swap out the beret for a cigarette to adhere to accuracy. In the interim I shall research all the Scandinavian churches and non-French rugby game locations throughout Paris in hopes of a better dating pool.

I have been out a few times and stayed with friends for a couple of days here or there, but I'm really at the mercy of my physical limitations and it's pissing me off. I was depressed and not talking to anyone, stewing in an unbathed sanctuary while doing nothing but watching movies, but now I'm just annoyed with it all. Having the option to do nothing versus being forced into its throes does not have the same effect. Yes, perhaps I'm supposed to be thankful for the ability to do other things and feel all inspired, but really it's overcome with impatience. Wanting to get back to my life where I wasn't participating as heavily as I should have been is really starting to take over. The second week out of the hospital I really needed to do something that felt normal, otherwise I was liable to start cutting up books and sheet music in a collaging frenzy on one of the four walls I have been forced to stare at recently. I hadn't really done much singing since all of this happened, but I had been looking through my repertoire, as I have a new found love for some classical French music that I've never taken the time to learn. A friend of mine here in Paris who is a baritone called me up and asked if I would be interested in collaborating on a small recital at the home of our Pianist. It would be an intimate evening with some friends at minimal cost to us. This gave me plenty of ideas which inspired the outing to the pianist's home for a program discussion and rehearsal for the three of us that weekend. I coordinated with my friend to pick me up at 2pm (or 14:00) so that we'd have at least an hour to get there via bus. The metro is still out of the question unless I'm going to sit down on the stairs, slide up and down, exposing my hands and bum to any number of atrocities that might be lingering on the bottom of Paris's feet. There are not as many options for elevators/escalators as one might hope in this scenario. It seemed easy enough, two buses, one transfer and eventually let out 2 blocks in front of our destination. To begin Sylvain was 20 minutes late....he is always late and I should have known better by now than to give him the exact time to arrive. We missed the first bus and had to wait another 15 minutes for the next one. Getting on the first bus was ok with the crutches, and people were quick to offer their seats for me which was admittedly kind of fun. Almost makes me look forward to becoming an old lady. I might walk around with a cane and ugly shoes on purpose just to make people give up their seats to me or let me ahead of them in line. The second bus however, was where the day's catastrophe began. The transfer between the two buses was much further than it indicated on the map and this was the first time I had walked more than a block on crutches. We arrived at the second bus stop and of course it was in the middle of a busy shopping area with no bench to sit on. I toughed it out pretty well while dealing with the cold and less than ideal circumstances. One bus comes toward us, but of course it was not the one we wanted, then the next and the next and the next.....we must have stood there for almost half an hour before our desired bus number came along. We were late, I was cold, in pain and frustrated to no end. Fighting back tears, I stood on my numb left foot with the crutches digging into my underarms in the cold air until the bus finally arrived. I let everyone on before me, and hopped toward a seat, but before I was able to secure myself, the ever so considerate bus driver took off into traffic and I went flying. Luckily there was a giant pole which killed my momentum, allowing me to catch myself from falling. A whole slew of multi-lingual expletives came flying out of my mouth in the odd order of "Sheisse! Puta-mierda-pinche-cabron, you fucking asshole; MERDE!" After an uninspired apology, he informed the bus that due to a "manifestation" (or event) at one of the plazas, we would not be making the scheduled stops....I was about to go postal. Then somehow dispatch came through to give me a break and we made it safely to our stop. It took a while to settle in and regain circulation in my left leg, but by the time it was my turn to sing something interesting happened. In the past I've often had a hard time getting out of my head and being in the moment when it comes to singing (or living for that matter). Since being in Paris I have had to go directly from very emotional experiences straight into rehearsal. I admit I had never been good at not becoming affected vocally under such circumstances, but one day I just decided to breathe into the uncomfortable feelings and embrace them as opposed to compartmentalizing and pretending they didn't exist. I couldn't believe that it worked. This day, I was overcome with a lot and rather than dauntingly approach the obstacle I just sang as though I had not a care in the world....and it was good. Like...really good. For the first time since I left school have I felt that I am actually capable of succeeding as a singer. It's interesting because this past year was also the first time I had thought about giving up this dream completely. It's the first time in my life I haven't allowed the definition of my persona to revolve around this talent, or worried what I would be like without the display of this gift. I don't know how I feel about destiny or if we have one. I do know that the sound of the instrument that was built inside me is truly beautiful, but I don't know if it's supposed to be for the world or just for me. I don't know if it's a heavenly gift that is my cross to bear as I toil to make it heard in the world so it can share the light of God. Maybe I don't want to fight. Perhaps I have spent so many years trying to make peace with myself that struggling for the rest of my life has lost its appeal. Could I be happy spending my life on a beach, with land to tend, drinking in the sun, writing all day and singing at night in a little cafe off the coast of Mexico? The more time I spend in large cities with tons of people the less I feel like being an active member of a metropolis. These could be the rants of a crazy cooped up woman who has just survived her first Parisian winter, but it could be worth pondering.

For your entertainment I give you Robin Williams's interpretation on French cliches......