Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Day 1: Pack, close it up, and Jack

Today's tasks: Take Jack to the vet for his meds and airline checkup, close up the apartment, and run all those last-minute errands that pop up. Ugh. Y'know: mail, dry cleaner, prescriptions, etc.

What I'll do on Day 11 & 12: ride out to Versailles for an evening of Handel opera and an afternoon of royal garden palaces.

Already running: setting up  last meeting, calling London for theatre tickets, editing the manuscript. Must run!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Day 2: Friends & Family

Today's task is to clean out refrigerator, see local friends in Memorial Day party, check in with family and Super Shuttle, and clear the decks. Continue cleaning, continue pre-packing, continue class preparation.

Today's discussion: Cooking in Paris. Cooking in Paris is a delight because the markets are filled with fresh vegetables and dairy. And summertime is the Super Food Time. Now that there is organic, or bio, everything is even better. The supermarkets are much better than they used to be in competition, but the fresh markets this time of year serve up everything a cook needs for soups, salads, and simple main courses, without much preparation or fuss necessary. In fact, with the purchase of some yogurt, eggs and cheese, some vinegar, olive oil and fresh butter alongside the fruits and vegetables and one roasted chicken from the market, I'm ready to go. And everything in France has 200% the flavor of what you can buy in the US. I eat less and it tastes better. No sugar/fructose corn syrup in everything, no processing, no hidden fat.

What I'll do on Day 10: Back to archives.

Day 3: Cleaning, washing, and packing

Today's task is starting the top-to-bottom cleaning of the apartment prior to leaving for nine weeks. Ugh. I mean, hurray!

Today's discussion is exhibits in London. Yes, I'm buying tickets to London exhibits and programs as well. On my one night off, should I see a string quintet at St. Martin in the Field doing a predictable program of Baroque favorites (Vivaldi, Handel, Purcell, Pachobel) in what will undoubtedly be a fine concert and cheap, or get a ticket to Long Day's Journey into Night, the summer tourist version with David Suchet and Laurie Metcalf, 3 hours of O'Neill suffering? Should I plan a loooong day at the Victoria and Albert with lunch in the Morris Room (a favorite and always delightful) or branch out to 2 new, small museums? Ah, questions, questions.
What I'll do on Day 9: Well, we're back to the Sunday market at Richard Lenoir. Probably followed by some Tuileries action. I love to spend Sunday afternoon in the Tuileries with a book and some picnic items. A little walk through the allees, a sit by the pool to read and people-watch makes a perfect afternoon, unless it's raining.

It's also a great time to figure out the plan for the coming week, what I'll focus on in which archives.  Or just walk a new arrondissement.

Posted late!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Day 4: Errands and Printing

Today's tasks include printing out more items (I ran out of ink at home, so have to go to the office), picking up books at the office, and picking up dry cleaning. Also: laying out what I plan to pack and editing. Ferociously.

Today's discussion has to be Versailles and the Handel festival this summer. I plan to buy a ticket to one of the Handel operas being performed in Versaille's opera theatre, and then spend the following day visiting the Trianons and Marie Antoinette's ferme. Two days, with an overnight in a hotel in Versailles.

Why? Never seen an opera at Versailles. Never visited the ferme or the Trianons. Been inside the papalce multiple times... I can forego another visit, but this seems the right moment to make the rest happen. Did it, got it... ticket to Alcina by Handel (in the gods!), hotel room, ticket to gardens for the following day--Done!

What I'll do on Day 7 & 8: go back to the archives. The whole thing about working in the archives is that I have figured out that working no more than four hours is the smart move; any more time than that working ina second and my brain becomes mush. I have a translation project on hand for the down time, so I can certainly find things to do outside of the necessary research: translate the play, finish/edit/submit the second novel, write the paper I'll be giving in Exeter, prepare my Oxford course. LOTS to do... not including visitng cafes, museums, monuments, and shopping.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Day 5: Getting out of the House

Today's tasks: Visits to the dry cleaners, to return clothes I bought (wrongly!), to buy a recording of The Pirates of Penzance, and to pick up my prescriptions for the summer.

Today's discussion: Riding the Metro. Nothing simpler--especially now that they have machines in all stations. One can buy a carnet (10 tickets in a bundle) so easily it is ridiculous. The Metro is a great invention and a great practical way to see Paris on a different level.

It goes everywhere.

You see people from all classes, areas, walks of life.

It is relatively safe and easy to negotiate.

It is terrifically urban and modern and Paris, once you think about it. Especially the stations in the 18th, in Montmartre, which is where we are. It is, in its own way, historical and 19th-century, rather than contemporary and 21st century. After all, by now shouldn't we have invented something better than trains underground? Like personal jet-packs or flying cars or molecular transportation rays? The Metro is rather linked to the heyday of Paris culture prior to WWI...

But I do love it, in fact, because in Paris people read on the subway. Newspapers, books. Most people aren't pecking along on a phone or iPad but reading. Using 15th-century technology, in fact. Wow. How do they still exist as a country?

What I'll do on Day 6: Go to the Centre Pompidou and see the exhibit on Henri Matisse. I have tickets for the show already (bought online earlier this week). I'll also probably check out their bookstore (where I first saw postcards of the works of Gerhard Richter--bliss!) because I cannot resist a bookstore.

I am a bookstore 'ho'. Not even ashamed of it.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Day 6: Powers That Be

Today's task involves letting everyone who should know, know that I am "leaving town."

Today's discussion involves guidebooks for Paris. Not the kind you buy here, but the ones I buy there. Or have bought there, and carry with me everyday.

Pariscope: This is a cheap little weekly magazine that lists all the plays, all the exhibits, all the movies, all the places to eat and see and go and their times/locations/access points. Something like .35euros per issue, it can be read with basic French and is more portable than any website. To be bought at any newsstand.

Paris Classique, L'Indispensable: THE book of arrondissement maps, plus Metro map, plus bus routes, plus suburbs, plus RER. Plus everything else you've always wanted to know about how to get around in Paris. Cheap ones can be bought at any newsstand and are great for a two-week trip. For the long haul, however, I have a red plastic-covered version the size of a 3x5 card and 2/3" thick. I am never lost in Paris because I can always find anything in this book. This is my second; the first one busted after twelve year's worth of hard usage. I also have a cheap newsstand version that I loan out to students planning a trip. Yes, it's in French too, but you can figure it out.

What I'll do on Day 4 & 5: get up and go to the archives. Start re-familiarizing myelf with the process of entering Tolbiac, getting the materials I need, working for several hours, eating lunch in a little break room... and then heading out to end the day, knackered from working in a second language for several hours. Oh, and I'll probably buy myself some pencils: the pencils from the BnF bookshops are one of my favorite things.

It's not all glamour, toots.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Day 7: Prepping my class

Got the tickets bought and either printed out (Paris exhibits) or waiting in Will Call (London tours and show). Huzzah!

Today's Task: outlining the Oxford course and prepping the syllabus. I've taught this course 5 times already, but this time I changed the list of plays, slightly. I've got to organize a day-by-day approach, including my Week #1 absence (for Exeter) and our Week #3 London trip.

I've also decided to provide handouts for each day-trip with information relative to our course and pictures/tasks to do. Something for them to think about.

I will also be emailing my students and introducing myself, while giving them tasks to do prior to arrival in Oxford. Good thinking: get them intrigued and involved ahead of time.

Discussion, Paris: Bibliotheque Nationale de France. The group of archives where I work, from Tolbiac to Arsenal to the archives in the Opera Garnier. I'll be spending time at Tolbiac and Arsenal during this visit, putting in more work on both the paper for Exeter, the entries for Cambridge, and my own work on French actresses. I rarely work at Richelieu any longer, because the theatre collections isn't here any longer, but it is probably my favorite of the spaces. I have fond memories of the lines, the bureaucracy, the twisted hunt for information... Tolbiac is so organized and polite after the snotty labyrinth of the old reading room. Like the difference between the airport in Frankfurt and Hogwarts.

What I'll do on Day #3 in Paris: Get my BnF card on Rue de Richelieu.

So much easier in the New World of the BnF than it was in 1996 when I first stepped up to the office, my papers clutched in my hand. Need the card to get access on-line and in person to the collections. For old time's sake I'll have a cup of machine coffee in the BnF lobby--literally, some of the best machine coffee, no coffee, I've ever had and cheap. Ridiculous secret! And you don't need to be a BnF member to enjoy it, but I shouldn't be spreading the secret. I'll also check to see what changes they've made to the old building: they were in the middle of a huge backside re-do in 2010, when I was there last.

In that neighborhood, I can also visit the Comedie Francaise and one of my favorite cafes on Place Colette, the Palais Royal gardens, or the Opera Garnier, one of my favorite cafes on l'Avenue de l'Opera, and possibly stroll in the Caillebotte exhibition area, on Bd. Haussmann.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Day 8: Getting tickets

Today's task: getting tickets for Oxford and Paris exhibits ordered and paid for
  • One Man, Two Guv'nors in London, which I'll see with my students (12 tickets)
  • The backstage tour at the National Theatre, also in London (10 tickets)
  • The huge Matisse exhibition at the Pompidou Center in Paris (1 ticket for me)
  • The Musee d'Orsay and its exhibit on Degas (1 ticket for me)
Discussion: The Sunday market at Richard LeNoir. It starts at the Bastille but it truly is the best Sunday market I've ever seen. Organic produce and dairy and meat, and not. But all gorgeous. I've also bought tableclothes (real Provencal-style in washable oilcloth), trinkets and kitchen goods. I like to start every Sunday morning there.

I can literally buy the best roast chickens in Paris from a vendor at that market. I buy two.
What I'll do on Day 2: my favorite Sunday activities. I'll go to breakfast in the Place des Vosges at Ma Bourgogne, then to the Richard Lenoir market and buy 2 chickens as well as fruit and vegetables for the week. Then it's possible that in the afternoon I'll simply walk up and around Sacre Coeur and click pictures in the neighborhood, take a book and read in the gardens behind Sacre Coeur.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Day 9: Printing the travel docs

Task: printing all travel documents. I've got to print the Chunnel stuff, the insurance stuff, my flight information. Documents for the trip.

What I'll do on Day 1 in Paris: meet landlord and move into rental apartment; get euros from bank machine; go to local Monoprix for health&beauty goods and dinner/breakfast.
Eat dinner out.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Ten days till lift-off

Each day I am assigning myself a task to complete prior to leaving town.

Each day I plan to discuss something I will be doing, seeing, to stocking up on while in Paris... just to enjoy myself in a pre-emptive manner.

Today's task: cleaning out the car and clearing off the back porch.

Today's discussion: FNAC. This superstore with the lowest prices is located on two levels of Les Halles and features books (in French, English and everything else), music on CD, films on DVD, and all manner of electronic marvels, including batteries, phone supplies, computer supplies, camera supplies, and video games.

What the BHV is for home housewares aand papergoods, FNAC is for communctions electronics.

I go to FNAC every year to shop for:
  • the newest French scholarly studies in my areas: French history of the 17th and 19th centuries, theatre, biographies, and arts
  • French-English dictionaries and grammar books (yes, I have them at home but usually buy a cheap one I discard in the apartment I rent: saves me luggage space and weight)
  • CDs of French/European opera and classical music (much wider selection), French cafe and pop music, French jazz, world music (all CDs work in American electronics)
  • any or all computer supplies: computer mouse, thumb drives, USB cables, etc.
  • cheap paperbacks in English (apply when necessary)
FNAC also has a ticket bureau for concerts, operas, and other events.

Why do I love FNAC? Because I can find the studies I need as a scholar side-by-side with CDs by world artists and French pop singers that I have a decided weakness for. I always find something new that I need or simply want.

Like the BHV, this store is a must-know resource for anyone who needs a camera, a phone, or anything like that or its accessories and doesn't want to drop mega-euros in tourist spots.

Sidenote: do watch your pockets and purses on the escalators and open spaces. Pickpockets cruise here in large numbers because it is on the edge of one small red light district and always filled with teens (shoppers, skateboarders, hanging out), and tourists looking for the fast foods of McDonalds, Starbucks, KFC, and others that some American tourists and all French teens gravitate to.

Don't eat in Les Halles or its square. Cross over to the cafes by the Centre Pompidou or the Place du Chatelet for better choices, prices and views. Five to ten-minute walk and so very worth it: the food is 200% better for fewer euros and the bennies of the view and staff attitude will make you blissful.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Following up the follow-up

In the spirit of "good news, bad news":

Yesterday I spent a dee-lightful lunch with a colleague (not that one) at her home. We ate outdoors by her pool, surrounded by Texas wildflowers and her potted succulents. We congratulated ourselves on individually successful years and accomplishments, and chatted lightly about students graduated and on-site. I met her cats and dog, we ate enchiladas she made and apricots I brought around.

Altogether a nice, happy, laughter-filled lunch. Oh, and totally missing the b.s. of last week's encounters.

Both of us have grown and come through a difficult patch in our personal lives but also our professional lives. Like me, she works on many projects outside the department (as well as in) and generously gives her time to students and professional colleagues. She's found a better way to continue working--lots more energy here, frankly.

We're talking about partnering on a project next year. I think it will happen, if I can get the script translated.

Then I spent the evening with another colleague at a meeting where I am a new member. Whee! Okay, the meeting was too long and confused, but she and I had drinks after and caught up. She's had a recent disappointment that I spent some time convincing her was, in fact, a weird kind of blessing. And it is: cat's out of the bag, she's off the hook, etc. Two years on the school's dime (with benefits) to develop her own projects. Go for it.

Yet another pleasant, open, honest conversation. Wow.

And then... "bad news":

Apparently a recent email of exchange of mine sparked hurt feelings for another colleague.

No, I didn't talk about him to someone else, or to him about himself. What I did was talk to a third party about a program that I might have some interest in, sharing my opinions about what I'd like to see (after prompting by third party) and stating that I wasn't aware of what was being developed.

Apparently, this is a case of letting people know "the right hand doesn't know what the left hand is doing," which is bad form. Ironically, MY bad form, according to my colleague... who never told me anything or asked me to participate. Well, shut my mouth, you big baby. You don't share, but boo hoo because I make you look like you didn't do your due diligence? which you didn't? boo hoo hoo.

And you slapped me in front of my chair, my dean, and the head of international programs? Oh no you din't.

Wasting my time.

Monday, May 14, 2012


Sadly, things between myself and my colleague have not gotten better. I spent time with him this weekend during our graduation ceremonies, and was disturbed to see that he spent most of that time using what he and I had talked about on Friday as background to suck up to the the shared colleague he badmouthed all Friday night.

Realization: he's doing the same thing to me on the few occasions he says he wants my input or conversation. I mean, acting "as if" he's my friend and shares my views, when what he really wants is to stroke my ego and get me to do something for him. Make me think he is my ally. Probably, then, he is badmouthing me to others, pretending he is in sympathy with them, when he is really just using all of us.

I know what he wants from this colleague, and if that person's ego is needy enough or self-focused enough, he'll probably get it.

And yet my original colleague seemed genuinely surprised when I complemented him Friday night about his management and leadership over the last decade--which was genuine on my part. He seemed shocked that anyone had noticed, complemented him out loud, or supported him. He didn't seem to know what to do with it--and one thing he did not do was return the complement.

Which should be some kind of signal for both of us, I think, that there is something intrinsically wrong in the way he handles his collegial business. If no one is complementing you, no one is noticing or celebrating your work, perhaps something needs to change. If you never notice, complement, or support your colleagues without an ulterior motive, perhaps something needs to change.

"Be the change you wish to see in the world," Gandhi said, and I agree. Starting now.

Friday, May 11, 2012


Finally, it's raining outside, which should wash away all the pollen polluting everything the eye can see (and the nasal passages can inhale).

It's a fitting feeling for a Friday night, because I am more disappointed in someone, a former friend, than I can remember being in quite some time. In some ways I guess I am grieving a relationship that I now think I imagined, rather than experienced. And this "friend" seems oblivious not only to the disconnect in our interactions but to his own dialogue. For instance:
  • He shows up twenty minutes late for a drink date he made, then says he has to leave in less than a hour to meet someone else across town. No apologies for late show.
  • He bad-mouths a colleague, then tells me the same colleague is setting him up/supporting him through a conference call-for-papers and he intends using that influence.
Sadly, after talking about his recent retirement from a position, there is little exchange of support from him to me. And he wants to talk about a "demonstrated lack of respect" he feels.

I've known this person as a peer, colleague and (I thought) friend for over two decades. I realize it's a lot of show and too little substance, which is terrifically painful somehow.

Don't get me wrong: I love the rain. Would move to Oregon or Washington in a heartbeat... but rain is fitting for this nasty post-meeting sadness.

Sadly, I've already come to expect nothing from this person. So why does he continue to disappoint me, hurt my feelings, break my heart? Perhaps because he is so very oblivious to everything, including what a great friend and colleague I am. Somehow I think he thinks we have a relationship, that I am unaware of his lack of respect or genuine friendship (so he must really think he is clever and I am stupid!).

Perhaps the good news is that I do have hope that he might want a genuine--instead of fake or non-existent--relationship. His loss? Yeah. My gain, by far.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

May 3, Day 3

Yesterday was productive, although I was still sick and still tired. I dropped off the car, which needs a new horn and something to fix its bad oxygen emissions. That was the morning.

The afternoon was writing, cleaning out paper clutter, and email. Watching mama and papa mockingbird feed their babies. I count two definitely, maybe three.

Today is picking up the car, writing and printing the students' evaluations, then distributing them. Then my own work: writing, paper clutter, walking.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

May 1: Fate

The best laid plans... as Robbie Burns said.

Yesterday I figured out that I was going to spend part of this morning getting my car horn fixed and my failed inspection status fixed. Last night I figured out that I needed to replay my intention of seeing three short student plays after I started feeling bad after a pub dinner out.

Today, I cancelled my class (the last one of the year!) because my innards were still queasy and uneasy. I also cancelled the car repairs and the student plays.

Despite my good intentions, I spent the morning taking care of emails and writing, then crashed. I slept all afternoon on the couch, until about thirty minutes ago. Wow. I guess my body figured out that the semester was over, hence both the digestive reverb and the nap. It happens, fairly predictably.

I did manage to take care of the following:
  1. posting on my blogs
  2. emailing thanks to last night's guest plus notes to friends
  3. editing current ms.
  4. reallocating one retirement account's assets and transferring another's to a different type of account
  5. recheduling dentist, doctor/gyno, and vet checkups for Jack and me
  6. watching mama mockingbird in her nest
  7. taking the trash out
  8. washing dishes
  9. hardboiling eggs and making lunch out of a big salad with one of them
  10. making a shopping list for the drugstore or Target
Pretty good for Sleeping Beauty. T'morrow I have to be at the mechanic by 7:30 am, ready for a couple hours in a coffee shop with the laptop--no napping allowed.

Knowing the cost of things

A recent post at The Vivienne Files on "The price of a manicure" sounded very familiar.

Oh, wait.

I've been thinking the same thing, given my plans for the summer and my hopes to buy/build a retirement home in the next five years.

So what have I cut back on, without much thought?
  • cable TV
  • expensive skin and hair products
  • new books
  • manicures and pedicures
  • meals out
  • Starbucks and coffee cart coffee
  • household goods
Cable TV: I work Netflix and DVDs I already own like crazy, take advantage of My U's library rentals, and occasionally buy iTunes for obsessions.

Expensive skin and hair products: I have learned to resist the lure of magazines and ads, and to use sites like www.beautypedia.com for advice about worthwhile products and www.drugstore.com for sales and discounts. Luckily I don't have to spend money or time on my hair, and with the purchase of my Clairsonic my skin has so improved.

New books: I buy eBooks at a decent price, "books" at a half-price shop, and use a library for everything else. Again, the bennies of My U. I also sell back books I buy.

Mani-pedis: Use to get superb ones from a place nearby at a great price. The woman I always asked for moved, to another shop under the same chain but closer to her kids. None of the other operators were as good, and I also realized I could easily do my own mani-pedis for free. So I do.

Meals out: Favorite restaurant closed, partner in crime moved away to another job. The result is that I eat out rarely. Less than once a week, in fact. I'm cooking and eating at home, which is truthfully a pleasure since I can better control my calorie intake. Eating out is more about meeting friends, and eating in will allow me to put the Pantry Challenge into play.

Expensive coffee: Yeah. At $2/cup it is better to use the Senseo in my office or the hot water kettle for tea. Or carry in a thermos from home, along with snacks and lunch.

Household goods: Since decluttering my house, I have no desire to re-clutter it. So I am paying attention to what I already have and love, not buying new stuff. I do need to buy another set of sheets, but that's it.

What do I want to spend my money on? At least one trip per year. This year: Paris for a month. Good jewelry. Maybe a Hermes scarf or two.