Friday, May 30, 2008

Mmm, pictures.

Reviewing my pictures from our trip, I see that there aren’t a lot of good ones. Most of the time I forgot I had a camera with me; we were having such a good time it just didn’t occur to me to photograph it.

So what do we have here.

Our first day in Paris, we were exhausted from a long day, night and next morning of travel (remind me next time to book a direct flight), so after depositing our bags at our hotel we ambled down to the river and hopped on board a tour boat for an hour’s ride up and down the Seine. R. was so tired that he actually fell asleep standing up; that was fun. Here’s a view of Notre Dame as we passed it by:

This was kind of cool: there’s a famous private residence in Paris called the Glass House, built by Pierre Chareau in 1931. We thought we would wander by to see it, not focusing on the fact that most apartments in Paris are entered into from a courtyard closed off from the street by an imposing, locked door. When we found the address, which was not much to see since it was just the aforementioned closed door, we were a little disappointed. All of a sudden, though, the door opened and a woman lugging a trash can appeared. We craned our necks to see behind her, and could just glimpse the house’s glass façade. She asked what we wanted, and we said we had just come to see the house. She told us nobody was home right now, but then for some reason swung the door open for us and let us into the courtyard. I think it would be much more impressive at night, all lit up from behind (see the link I posted), but nonetheless it was pretty cool to be able to see it:

Other than that, as I said before we pretty much just strolled and drank in Paris. Here’s a view from our perch at one café in the artsy sixth arrondissement:

And here’s some other random photos, such as the street I lived on when I was a kid and me pretending to be getting ready to have my head chopped off at the Conciergerie, the city prison where prisoners, including Marie Antoinette, were held temporarily before being taken for execution. Cheery!

I took even less pictures of London, if that’s possible. Here we have R. in a cab, a sunny day in Green Park, and our hotel room and view from its back window into the garden and the Sainsbury’s car park. Glamorous stuff.

In other news:

Since we’ve gotten back, I have found myself in the throes of yet another career crisis. You would think that since I have the same one every six months I would get off my ass and do something about it, but somehow I allow myself to remain paralyzed. The truth is, even though I don’t despise what I do for a living, and even have an aptitude for it, I know I would be happier doing something else. I’ve been working in the corporate world for 12 years and I have never, ever EVER cared about corporate stuff. Who’s merging with whom, bottom lines, money, money money. Well, I care about that last one, but only to the extent it’s mine.

When am I going to take the hint from myself that this isn’t satisfying work and not how I should be spending the most active years of my life? I am so tied up in the need for my sizeable paycheck that I can’t allow myself to dream about other careers because nothing pays as much. And honestly, I feel like I’m letting myself die inside every day that I allow myself to perpetuate this waste of myself. Surely there is something else I could be doing that wouldn’t feel like an endless ticking off of the hours until the times I can be doing things I like again. This all feels especially sharp since having the baby; it pains me to sit behind my desk all day doing something unsatisfying just to have the money to pay for the day care that keeps him for too many hours while I am at work.

The lament of many working women, I am sure; only a few are lucky enough to have found something that pays the bills and satisfies their souls. My mother is one of them; she genuinely loves being a lawyer, I think. Everything about being a litigator suited her perfectly, especially being able to completely immerse herself intellectually in the minutiae of a lawsuit. She’s who the whole career was made for. I, on the other hand, have tried a few areas of the law now (litigation, corporate and now commercial) and while each has had its interesting points, none has really satisfied me long term.

Why do I always feel like I am having a mid-life crisis? And here’s something sucky to think about – I’m 39 now, which means I actually AM having a mid-life crisis! It’s not even a joke anymore.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

A little recap.

Today finds me back at work after a long and bank account-depleting week abroad. It’s always such a joy to pick up the thread of one’s life after a week away from it, don’t you think? Well; it is nice to be back in my own house and my own bed, and unbelievably nice to see my small baby again, but dropping back into work and the routine right where I left of is kind of a drag. That’s why it’s a good thing that today is the first day of my writing class. If I can stay up past 8:30 tonight, maybe I’ll even begin my first assignment which is titled “The Window.” Or then again, maybe I will sit around and second guess myself instead.

So, yes, we are back from Paris and London, both of which were wonderful if you can forget about money being an object. I hate to sound obsessive, but honestly, you wouldn’t believe how bad the exchange rate is. Of course I knew it in advance, but somehow prices seem to have gone up exponentially since I was there a year ago and the lousy dollar makes it that much worse. We didn’t have a dinner for much less than $200, and breakfasts and lunches routinely cost $50 - $75. And that’s for nothing special other than the atmosphere. I didn’t even buy myself anything too crazy – some books, a couple of forks in my green toile pattern, a shirt. Eeyore, on the other hand, racked up; it’s a lot easier to justify a bunch of small expenses, especially for someone you’ve abandoned so soon into their time on earth.

But anyway. I think R. really loved Paris; it would have been hard not to. We had perfect weather for walking around, which is what we did all day, every day. We saw a lot of sights, and strolled endlessly around the neighborhoods where they were located. We covered a large chunk of the center of the city on foot, which in my opinion is the way to do it. That way, whenever the mood strikes, you can sit down at a café and fortify yourself with a coffee (if you must) or a delightful glass of champagne with framboise (my preferred restorative, thanks). We had lovely dinners almost every night (one or two were duds complete with condescending waiters), always with a bottle of wine to wash them down. Yes, we drank like fish on this trip, but for the first time in 9 months we were also able to sleep in, so we did.

Just as a travel tip for you, if you are looking for a restaurant to try next time you are in Paris, make it Le Timbre. It turned out to be such a lovely, lovely little place that we thought about going back a second time while we were there. It’s just one small room with the chef in his little work space at the back, with one waiter, but they are turning out such delightful food and service that it was one of the nicer dining experiences I’ve had in Paris for awhile.

We were in London for such a short time we didn’t do too much other than walk around, but we did manage to make it to the Paul Weller concert I mentioned previously. It didn’t quite live up to the 20 years of hype I’d built up in my head, but it was still pretty great. Also, and unexpectedly, in the first encore Roger Daltrey wandered onstage and sang “Magic Bus,” while after that Noel Gallagher moseyed out for a rendition of the Beatles’ “All you Need is Love.” That wasn’t a bad re-entry into the world of concert-going.

There you have it. Not the travelogue you were expecting, I’m sure, but work has beckoned all frigging day long. I’ll upload some pictures tonight so there will be something to look at…

Friday, May 16, 2008

Bon voyage to me.

I poached this off of Libby’s blog.

1. There is absolutely NO way you can get me to skydive!
2. Green trees everywhere reminds me that summer is almost here!
3. I cannot live without my La Perruche brown sugar cubes. Talk about yuppie cheese.
4. Being married to R. until I die and writing a book are two things I'd like to try.
5. When life hands you lemons please don’t juggle them. Juggling is queer.
6. Baking Christmas cookies with my mom when I was very small is one of my favorite childhood memories.
7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to packing and eating takeout, tomorrow my plans include flying to Paris and Sunday, I want to ride a bateau mouche so R. can get a beautiful introduction to the city! And then have dinner at my favorite brasserie. Not a bad Sunday, really.

So, yep, tomorrow’s the big day and I am feeling completely unorganized. The house is a mess, there’s not much food in the house, I’m not packed, and I’m leaving my 8 month old baby for the first time and it’s for EIGHT DAYS. I’m trying not to think about that last one, but every time I look at his open little face it pops into my mind. However, we’ve gotten web cameras for our computers so that while we are gone we can hopefully chat with Eeyore and his grandmother. I hope that doesn’t freak him out.

Despite the lack of recommendations from you lot, I managed to cobble together what looks like a delightful gastronomical experience in Paris. I’ve got reservations at Brasserie Balzar, which is totally overrated but which is nonetheless one of my old favorites, a couple of “bistrots gastronomiques,” which are the newfangled bistros typically owned by upstart young chefs, and one classic French restaurant, Allard. One night I want to try Café Constant, which is a café/bistro owned by Christian Constant, a well-known chef who has an haute cuisine restaurant, Le Violon D’Ingres.

Besides all the eating, the plan is to have a good, old-fashioned sightseeing trip. Because I lived there for some time and have gone back reasonably frequently, I often spend too much time shopping and not enough time visiting the sights. R. has never been there, though, so I think that seeing some of these places with him will be a lot of fun. And of course, despite the crappy-ass dollar, I still intend to do plenty of shopping. And quaffing of wine.

We’re also going to London next weekend, where we are there for such a short time that I plan pretty much just to stroll and… shop. One very cool thing we will do, however, is to see Paul Weller in concert Friday night. Now, some of you whippersnappers might not be familiar with the “Modfather,” as he is known, but he is one of my all-time favorite musicians. He started out in The Jam, and was later in the Style Council before becoming mostly a solo artist. Wild Wood and Stanley Road are worth your time if you want to hear why he is a living legend (at least in the UK). I never thought I was going to get to see him play live, so this is really quite a treat for me. Not to mention – and this is pretty sad for someone who used to go to shows regularly – this is the first show I will have been to in a year and a half. I hope I remember how to look suitably blasé…

So that’s the plan. I’ll take pictures!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

I hate this fixation.

Lately my head has been too full of morbidity to write. Because R. and I are leaving for Paris on Saturday, we’ve had a mad scramble to complete our wills and make sure our affairs are in order before we leave. Obviously, the odds are small that anything will happen to us on our trip, but there’s always the possibility and it would be irresponsible for us to go without making arrangements for the care and feeding of young Eeyore. Well, guess what – focusing on a bunch of documents concerning my death and/or incapacity is really fucking depressing. Not only that, there’s something sort of weird about it which feels like a jinx – like thinking about it so much and planning for it means it’s going to happen.

I’ve never really given any thought before to what happens after I die, other than thinking in the abstract that it would be awful for my mom since as we all know, we’re supposed to die before our children. Frankly, I don’t enjoy having to give it more thought than that, and all of a sudden it’s the topic of the day, every day. I’ll be glad when we get the papers signed this afternoon, stick them in our files, and move away from the topic and back to things like retirement and college funds and wishing we were going to the beach this summer.

Other morbid thoughts are about the earthquake in China and the hurricane in Burma. I fear that it’s a sad cliché, but ever since I had a kid I get so much more emotional over any event where there’s been harm of any kind to children. Like, really emotional. Yesterday I was looking at some photos on the New York Times site and I had to turn away when I saw one of a mother grieving over her dead child. I got that awful, tight feeling in my throat which presages tears, and then there they were. I don’t really understand it; kids died and were abused and all sorts of awful stuff before I had a kid, and I could think in the abstract “that’s really awful” but now it hits me viscerally in a way I could never have imagined before. I guess that’s some type of growth on my part, but I can’t say I like it.

Tomorrow or Friday I’ll write about how excited I am for my trip so as to assure you all is not a giant bummer around our house.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Paperback writer.

After that morose entry yesterday, I realized I have to take this matter a little more seriously, and so today I am signing up for a writing class. I have no idea how this will pan out, but I opted for an online course instead of anything local. I would have preferred to take something live, but one of the downsides of living in a city where I’m not likely to die from a terrorist attack or a natural disaster is a strange dearth of writing classes. Perhaps the smug complacency that comes with knowing we’re the ones who will be left standing to carry on the human race isn’t an appropriate breeding ground for creativity, but I couldn’t find one introductory class to save my soul.

So the “Gotham Writer’s Workshop” it is. I had a tough time deciding between a fiction class and non-fiction, because even though when I think “writer” I think fiction, I’m not sure that’s where my interest really lies. After all, “Kate” is, or at least was, probably what you’d call creative non-fiction, and that’s what has seemed to flow most easily for me. But maybe that’s just a novel written in the first person; who knows. They even have a humor-writing class, which sounds very cool but which might be a bit ambitious (not to mention presumptuous) of me. Finally, I chose “Creative Writing 101,” since I really am starting at the very beginning and so I might as well go straight for the basics. I’m pretty excited about it; anything to get me off my ass!

And to add some color to the page, some recent pictures of the fam:

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Impending mid-life crisis.

I suppose you’ve noticed I don’t blog anymore. What’s the point? I am in a cycle of endless repetition that doesn’t make for interesting reading. My head feels almost thick with the 5 or 6 things that fill it; they’ve expanded to take up more than their fair share of space until there’s no room for anything new or creative. I have a vague memory of a time when everything about me was thinner and lighter; neither my head nor my body felt like these immutable objects, rooted in permanence.

None of that is to say I am unhappy; quite the opposite, overall. I’m happy in my marriage and watching Eeyore learn and grow is indescribably wonderful. But beyond those two things, which granted are extremely important and make up the core of my existence (as I want them to), I’ve got NOTHING going on. Evenings are spent making dinner, watching an hour of TV, then reading for half an hour or so while R. studies for his architecture exams. This is certainly time I could be writing the Great American Novel or even a blog entry, but after a mind-numbing day at the office and scrambling to bathe and feed Eeyore and get him to bed, I can’t think of one thing to say that anyone would want to read. And so I elect to listen to or read somebody else’s words.

I’m hoping that this trip to Europe will somehow remind me of who I am; stimulate a need to find a creative outlet for myself once more. Something has to give sometime.