"All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players."  --William Shakespeare

Entries in cafes (20)


A Few Things I've Learned from Living in France, In No Particular Order





  1. To wear skirts again.

  2. Fifteen ways to wear a scarf.
  3. To embrace cold weather.
  4. To pay attention to seasons for various foods.

  5. To commiserate with French women on the terrible spatial organization of most large markets in Paris, and the remodel hasn’t changed a thing.
  6. To weigh vegetables and put little stickers on them before going to the cash register.

  7. To walk and walk and walk.
  8. And to sit in cafes, enjoying the theater all around you.

  9. To live (quite easily) without a car.
  10. That when your melancholic man says there is only one thing that prevents his happiness and it is having to drive everywhere, and that if he lived in Paris and could ditch the car, all would be well, you should believe him.

  11. That when you tell him you cannot live without your entire library, and that giving away 2/3rds of it will simply mean that you’ll have to replace it all after you move, he should believe you.

  12. To say goodbye to Marley, and accept that no other cat will do.
  13. That your greatest fear about living in another country, losing touch with family and friends, is easily solved by airplanes, phone calls, e-mail and Facebook.
  14. That having international friends is a good idea.

  15. That the street art scene is the most alive visual art in France now, and perhaps in most of the western world.
  16. That it is possible to understand a French washing machine by living with it for three years, consulting a plumber twice, and having a Darty technician come to your home and explain that two soap tablets in the tray are appropriate for a regular wash, but only one can be used for a delicate cycle, and must be placed, not in the tray, but in the machine, and then the water will not leak all over the floor.
  17. There is no cure for the French dryer sounding like a jet airplane taking off.

  18. There is no cure for the French love of bureaucracy.
  19. It takes a year to stop sampling all 365 French cheeses before you can respect your arteries and get a grip.
  20. You can laugh at your doctor when she laughs at you for suggesting that sugar might be bad for your health. After all, she is French.

  21. You can finally listen to your L.A. healer, Dr. Mao, and substitute green tea for coffee and still write.
  22. You can write through grief, you can keep working in spite of losing the woman with whom you are closest on earth, your sister, Jane.

  23. Socialism is fantastic for mothers and families and anyone who is vulnerable (let’s just say, most of us), but it’s not good for entrepreneurs.
  24. But the French are right, you need to take weekends off and you need to, regularly, get out of town.
  25. There are cultures where literature is so important that you can hear it discussed by writers and critics every night on TV if you want.

  26. Ancient is beautiful, and living in a modern city in harmony with the beauty of the distant past increases the power of a place.
  27. Paris is our city, but the U.S. is our country. We can see our own country more clearly from afar, its craziness (guns, greed, hubris and politics), but also its beauty (energy, resourcefulness, freedom of expression, warmth).





If I Were King. Or Queen. An Invitation to the Surrealist Café

Street art (c) 2103 Fred le Chevalier

Okay, time for another gathering at the Surrealist Café. This time we'd like you to invent your own government, with YOU as the leader, and to pick your nickname. E-mail your game entry to us by Friday, October 18, 11:59 p.m., Paris time, and we'll post it on Saturday's Paris Play.  

Here's how this topic evolved: A few weeks ago, my cousin and I were talking about that dashing French king, Henri IV, le Vert-Galant. Hank wondered if there were other names besides his namesake, Henry, that French and English kings had in common. 

I looked up French and English kings and found one other: Charles. And was struck by two things: how many English queens there have been, how few French queens. And that what the French lack in gender equality, they (sort of) make up for in amusing nicknames for kings.


Street art (c) 2103 Fred le Chevalier

Kings of France

The Franks:

  • Clodion- the Hairy (c. 400-447)

 The Merovingians:

  • Childeric III the Fainéant (the Do-nothing) (714-743) 

 The Carolingians:

  • Pepin the Short (715-751)
  • Charles I the Great (or) Charlemagne (742-768)
  • Louis I the Debonaire or Pious (778-814)
  • Charles II the Bald (823-840)
  • Louis II the Stammerer (846-879)
  • Charles the Fat (839-888)
  • Charles III the Simple (879-929)

The Capetians:

  • Robert II the Pious (972-1031)
  • Louis VI the Fat (1084-1137)
  • Louis VIII the Lion (1187-1226)
  • Louis IX or Saint Louis (1214-1270)
  • Philippe III the Bold (1245-1285)
  • Philippe IV the Fair (1268-1314)
  • Louis X the Haughty (1289-1316)
  • Jean I the Posthumous (1316-1316)
  • Philip V the Long (1293-1316)
  • Charles IV the Fair (1294-1322) 

The Valois:

  • John II the Good (1319-1364)
  • Charles V the Wise (1338-1380)
  • Charles VI the Mad or Beloved (1368-1422)
  • Charles VII the Victorious (1403-1461)
  • Charles VIII the Affable (1470-1498)
  • Louis XII the Father of the People (1462-1515)

The Bourbons

  • Henri IV Green-Galant (the gay blade) 1553-1610)
  • Louis XIII the Just (1601-1643)
  • Louis XIV the Great (1638-1715)
  • Louis XV the Loved (1710-1774) 

It started sounding to me like a Surrealist game. Just like the governments of so many countries lately. So many of them seem to be tumbling down, or to be, at best, shaky.


Street art (c) 2103 Fred le Chevalier

Last week, I read Plato’s The Republic again for a fictional classroom scene. Plato discusses four kinds of government, and how they evolve or devolve into one another:

  • timocracy (the government of the best, of honour);
  • oligarchy (a government in which the rulers are elected for their wealth, in which the rich have power and the poor man is deprived of it);
  • democracy (where freedom and frankness prevail);
  • tyranny (slavery). 

And I wondered, if we gathered together next Saturday right here at the Surrealist Café in Paris Play, what would those of you who join us want to include in your ideal State? Which three things—values, or services, or goods—would you deem most important for a humanitarian kingdom?


Street art (c) 2103 Fred le Chevalier

And what would you like your subjects to call you, what nickname that summed up your life as head of state would please you?


Street art (c) 2103 Fred le Chevalier. Ravaillac was the assassin of Henri IV.

And, even more telling, what would your detractors call you? We're sure Nixon would have wanted to go down in history as Richard the Diplomat, but probably history will remember him as Dick the Tricky. Then there's Slick Willy, Gerald the Bumbling, and Bling-Bling Sarko. 

Albert Einstein wrote that "Combinatory play seems to be the essential feature in productive thought." In other words, creativity arises from putting unexpected things together. Isn't that the essence of Surrealism?

Einstein knew the power of play. So does every child. Which I suppose means that none of us are ever too “important” or “unimportant” to play.

Maybe we can dream up some more effective government on this planet by playing together. Or at least have some Surrealist fun, the way we did as kids for hours and hours a day. Once again, use this link to E-mail your game entry to us by Friday, October 18, 11:59 p.m., Paris time, and we'll post it on next Saturday's Paris Play.


Street art (c) 2103 Fred le Chevalier



Le Café des Chats


On Saturday, we heard a third mention of Le Café des Chats from yet another friend. 

What else could we do but go there on Sunday?

A café where you can eat, drink and talk to cats: the idea originated in Taiwan in 1998, and quickly spread to Tokyo, where there are now over fifty cat cafés. Weeks ago Le Café des Chats opened in the third arrondissement in Paris.

We walked from Shakespeare and Company where we were compelled to find one or two or eight essential books, then on to 16 rue Michel Le Compte in the Marais.

Standing in front of the window, you could see cats nestled in cat tree nests, and one curled up beside a young woman on a couch.

At the reception desk we were instructed to use an antiseptic lotion, to protect the cats from our germs. But since the cats were adopted, some abandoned, what was protecting us from germs they’d picked up in the streets?

We found one open table at the back of the room, and watched as young felines wandered here and there and down the stairs to the cave below.



I popped downstairs to see the cat situation there. Two French women sat in a room at the back, one stroking a white kitten with orange and buff splashes, on her lap, and a tortoise shell grooming himself on a third seat at their table.

We chatted. The two women lived in apartments too small for cats, but loved them, bien sûr. They beamed with joy, and the cats looked content. 

A Japanese girl expertly captured the attention of a mature black cat in the top nest of a cat tree with red feathered lure attached to the end of a supple pole. The cat had the head of the Egyptian goddess Bastet.

Back upstairs, Richard and I had a salade italienne and a tarte aux épinards et chèvre avec salade. Good!

A tiger cat wandered over and seemed to be asking for something. I picked her up and felt her heart beating so fast, I quickly put her down. Some of these felines may want to be held, but some might just be looking for food, or escape. This one jumped up on a ledge behind us and gazed longingly out the window. A dense screen stopped her from leaping out.


At the next table were three Italian couples from Bari. They spoke no French, but a few knew some English.

We talked a bit about our respective crazy governments. Berlusconi and Boehner—both nuts.

Were they all cat lovers? No, only one of the women who’d brought the other five along. Two of the men and one woman had dogs, one woman had a parrot, and one man, a rabbit. All animal lovers, they respected this woman’s need for a cat hit, even on vacation.

And why were we there? Need you ask? We miss Marley, whose meow we still hear months after his death. After being out in Paris, we come home and listen for his paws padding across the old oak floor, his voice raised in complaint that we had left him, even for a short time, and we can’t quite believe that he is gone.

Judging by the number of people stopping enchanted at the window, and the full tables, we are certain that this café will soon need to move to a larger space.


Le café des Chats
Open every day from Noon to 10 p.m.
16 rue Michel Le Compte 75003 Paris
Metro Rambuteau     09 73 53 35 81






Surrealist Café: Sensual Surprise


Painting, Pussy 2, (c) 2013 by Philippe Lardy


Last week we asked friends around the world to "Send us a paragraph or a poem or a photo or a drawing of absolutely anything sensual—food, love, beauty, dance—that you experience, observe, dream or imagine that takes you by surprise."

This week, from France, from Switzerland, from Vietnam, from Norway, from Washington, California, Arizona, Pennsylvania and Ohio, from around the world, your responses. Thank you for playing with Paris Play. (All texts and images (c) 2013 by the various artists.)


Cassandra Lane: Excerpt from her manuscript, Seed of Strange Fruit

Our obsession with food eventually moved to Jay’s kitchen. A trained chef and winemaker, he sautéed scallops in the finest of butters and wrapped their plump bodies in caramelized onions. Placing his creations strategically on stylish plates, he drizzled a creamy red wine balsamic sauce across the scallops and the saucers—a dazzle of color. “Let there be light,” he joked. We placed each scallop whole into our mouths, where spices awakened my taste buds and my flesh. 

Chilled glasses of white wine—always sweet, despite that Jay preferred red— refreshed our palates.

He drove me to wine country, fingered grapes while waxing poetically about their complexity, and introduced me to his winemaker friends, who offered me sip after sip of reds and whites. At a cottage restaurant, we shared a goat cheese soufflé and port-glazed figs, and I told Jay about my fascination with figs, rooted in the fig trees that grew in my childhood backyard. In its raw state, the purple-black skin is the sweetest part of the ripe fig. When you peel away the outer layer, you’re left with the milder, milk-white surface underneath. Not as sweet, but pliable and swollen, a lactating breast. One gentle nip releases its cool red ovaries, and here is where the fig’s sweetness returns, trailing the tongue.

I was drunk on our love. We were bound, Jay said, by a soul connection most people would go to their graves not knowing. We reeled each other in with our words—whispered words, written words. In emails and letters, Jay poured words into me that seemed as whole and fresh as the juice of a mango. I would read them out loud, holding the syllables in my mouth, believing them with my entire being. Somehow, I had forgotten that everything is skewed in the first stages of romance. Add to that an illicit love affair, and the sparks of distortion turn to flames. Reading astrological charts and Sabian symbols, I tried to confirm that this man was my soul mate, that we had not—could not have—destroyed our lives for naught.

At least, I could not have.


Nancy Zafris

I doubt you'll find a more sensual or appetizing food photo than this -- Ohio State Forest deep in France...


Photo (c) 2013 Nancy Zafris

Scott MacFarlane: Excerpt from novel-in-progress

Maybe my malaise went far deeper than this current contaminated mess.  Hell, I didn’t understand my own chronic alienation, except that now, without a doubt, the old model was badly cracked.  Even the morning wind through the firs sounded weary to my ears, and the late August sun burned dry from above the Cascade Range to the east––a deep red ball shining through a pallor of dark gray inversion.  The remains of Vancouver and Seattle still smoldered.  The murk settled over the Skagit Valley like an omnipresent reminder of collective doom.

“As fine she’s looked all year,” I heard Uncle Harley say in his smoker’s voice when he turned the Sheriff’s attention away from his barn and toward the river.

“Are you talking about Signe or the Skagit?” Bucky asked, with his eyes downhill.

“The river,” said Uncle Harley.

I continued unloading boxes while the two men in their 60s watched my mother on the sand bar step from her violet, silk kimono and into the cold, slow eddy in the small slough where it entered the outermost bend of the Skagit.  All but my mother’s white bun of hair submerged as she followed her daily, ritual meditation.  Hers was a cold water baptism that I had observed for decades whenever the river turned clear––summer, autumn, winter, or spring.  It was August, so she remained in the river for minutes instead of seconds.  I remembered how Derek and I, as naked lads, used to join her in the ritual.

“Do you think she minds us watching?” Bucky asked my uncle, shifting uneasily from foot-to-foot when Signe emerged from the river.  

Droplets glistened on her long naked body like morning dew.  She closed her eyes, slowly stretching and lifting her arms away from her side.  She faced the sun and seemed to bow.  I couldn’t tell if her expression was happy or sad, but she looked centered, almost serene, when a slight smile curled at the corners of her mouth.  

When her eyes opened, I wondered if she only pretended not to notice the men who watched her bend, then slip so smoothly into her kimono.  Thinking of my mom as still flirtatious bothered me more than her lithe and natural nakedness that had always been commonplace during our sporadic sunny days here in Fish Town.


Mary Duncan: Pillow Gifts

Photograph (c) 2013 Mary Duncan

On her wedding night, a virgin bride found a beautifully wrapped small gift on her pillow. She gently took off the gold ribbon and unfolded the soft, silk gold cloth. She laid the box on her lap and let it nestle in the soft folds of her white embroidered gown. 

Her groom, dressed in a luxurious blue robe, sat quietly on the side of the bed.
As he touched her hand, he said, “Please open it.”
Perhaps she expected a piece of jewelry or a small ornament for her hair.
She hesitated and then did as she was told.
A slight gasp, a blush. Inside the box was a small, ivory, two-inch hand-carved figure, showing a man and a woman entwined. The bride and groom had barely touched until this moment.
The gift of the netsuke (net-su-ke) or (net-ski) was the beginning of her sexual education and could have occurred in Japan in the 1600’s, long before The Joy of Sex was written. In China and Japan, gifts of erotic illustrations and netsukes, were how wealthy families educated young brides.
Not all netsukes are erotic. Animals, people and abstract objects are also highly prized. Japanese men used them to tie their sashes and used them as toggles on small sacks to carry their money and tobacco.
Eventually the netsukes fell out of favor because their sexual positions became too tangled, complex or controversial. When animals and multiple partners were introduced into the delicate erotic carvings, they were temporarily banned.   
Today these intricately carved, erotic netsukes are collected and shown in galleries and museums. They are made from ivory, bone, wood, amber and whale's tooth. In modern times, a combination of resin and ivory dust is also used. Be careful that your gift doesn’t encourage the killing of elephants for their ivory tusks.
Prices vary depending on the age, material used, the artist and origin of the netsuke. Before purchasing or investing, talk with an expert and do your homework. Newer ones are on the market and are far less valuable than those from the 1800’s and earlier.

Netsukes can be the perfect gift for a lover, male or female. Surprise the special person in your life with a gift on their pillow. Hopefully, you’ll both be pleased with the results.


Suki Edwards: Yang of Sensuality

Photograph (c) 2013 Suki Edwards


Gayle Brandeis: Flora

I've always liked the term
"lily-livered."  I know it means
cowardly, but this is how 
I see it:  the liver, sleek
and wine-colored, bursts forth
with lilies; petals drift
and ride the streams of blood.
Think of it:  the body
opens into flower, turns orchid-
spleened, jasmine-lunged, breath
tropical, humid with scent.
Poppies bloom between the legs,
wisteria vines wind
up the spine, each bone filled
with pollen and sweet nectar.  The heart
is a rose, of course, plushly
blossomed, and inside the skull,
with each new thought,
a tulip unfurls
in the brain.


Jane Kitchell: Red Bird Woman 

Sculpture and Photograph (c) 2013 Jane Kitchell


Eric Schafer: Excerpt from his short story "Married," from his collection The Wind Took It Away: Stories of Viet Nam

I have always loved Miền Tây, the Mekong Delta, one of the loveliest places on Earth. Blue rivers, sometimes mocha with rich silt brought all the way from Tibet; gold-green rice fields; high, clear skies that are almost green with the intense reflection of the rice fields at the start of the day and turn reddish cream at sunset; golden brown rice drying on the roads and green-pink thanh long fruit growing everywhere; hundreds of thousands of coconut trees; red-dusty roads, women wearing nón lá and plaid shirts, gracefully pedaling bicycles; schoolgirls in white áo dài with black trousers, little children running, laughing, shouting back and forth along the side of the road; the scent of fresh air and sweet fruit; the red clay earth running into the rough green grass...


Bayu Laprade

Image (c) 2013 Bayu Laprade

Ren Powell: Sensual Surprise (Dissonant Seduction)

We are taxiing on the runway now. I’m flying to Oslo to swear that I no longer want to be an American citizen.

For it to be real, I have to say it out loud. And someone has to hear.

There is nothing supernatural about oaths and prayers and curses. They are waves in the physical world. They move us, just as the sea moves the shore: imperceptibly and absolutely. Events as solid, as physical, as the moment of held breath before a kiss.

I swear.


There is a beauty in physical ease: dance, the smooth gesture of a master carpenter’s hand, the whispered words of a lover that ride the breath - measured carefully and given over. With ease.


Language is the core of identity. The physical world clings to itself. 

The juxtaposition of diphthongs and fricatives reveal everything. It is an unavoidable intimacy of push, of pulse.  

And I will never pass as Norwegian, regardless of my appearance or papers. The second generation Somalian, whose broad vowel æ resonates without an edge, proves that the visual is trumped by the sensual. Appearances deceive, but the breath can not.


There are so many vowels I cannot sing. Cannot measure.

And though these sounds I make are not beautiful in themselves, they gesture toward something - toward the kind of beauty that is evident in a dissonant chord: the charm of an accent.  A necessary contrast, a drama –


May the waves of my breath, and the surrounding silence, penetrate your chest cavity and finger the hollowness there. May I make you aware of the disruption of molecules – which is heat, after all.


Rachel Brown

Image (c) 2013 Rachel Brown


Daniel Abdal-Hayy Moore: Cobalt Blue



Cobalt blue! Whose
very name alone would
make me a believer, but whose
color in transparent glass
against light from a window

lifts the mind to a fantasy of
deep darkness, of
sea-depths, undersides of
sunken hulls, treasure,
deepsea tropical caverns,
night. But

night with a holy radiance,
cloisters, Mediterranean
monasteries, Greek
bottles on high walls overlooking
the brighter blue sea -- 

cobalt blue glass!

Shadowy translucence!

Sexual celestial!

During the day:



Nice Art One

Image (c) 2013 Nice Art



Diane Sherry Case

The first spot of sunlight after my sister's death fell on the peach tree outside my front door. I had not perceived life in color for months. And suddenly there was my favorite fruit, abundant, as many peaches as I could eat. My favorite hues of sunset and the texture of velvet. I sat on my porch and let the sticky juice run down my chin and mingle with tears of grief. I made primal sounds like a famished baby and devoured one luscious peach after another, amazed, simply amazed that life goes on, life goes on.



Nice Art Two

Image (c) 2013 Nice Art


Bruce Moody: With Elephants

With elephants everything

A cascade of cliff,
on four limber pillars.

A fog of stone
always slowly
moving west.

A strolling Niagara.

Wearing a wardrobe
of loose-fitting determination,
she looms 
her great sweet 

You have felt their stone-tough, 

It snouts around like the foot of a snail. 
until it clamps the morsel of crackerjack,
which it, 
like an undersea thing, 
and confidently
and insouciantly
and speedily
into its heart-shaped maw.

Bad for the tusks?

Well, elephant dentists and nutritionists say
Elephants must eat 
for their health and satisfaction,
every day,
of popcorn,
a silo. 

So who am I to lecture an elephant – 
vegan as she is – 
about weight-loss?

Elephants remember
to diet on whole savannahs. 
And toss their mighty heads about,
making gales with their ears

and, with their Cyrano noses,
announce ––



Nice Art Three

Image (c) 2013 Nice Art

Rachel Dacus

Nissa speaks in kisses.
A dog’s mouth isn’t made for English, 
so she sounds her vowels with swipes 
of tongue – that best pink instrument. 
She covers the face, the lips 
from which my voice emerges
and patiently investigates
the curves, tasting the salt 
of meaning behind my ear, 
pressing on the place
that looses my giggles,
which I am sure she knows
as her real name.


Nice Art Four

Image (c) 2013 Nice Art



Sensual Surprise: An Invitation



My friend was late. We both grew up in the Sonoran Desert, and were trying a new Mexican restaurant. I didn’t like the looks of it—on a noisy street, noisy inside, the menu so-so. I called her to suggest we meet at another one several blocks away.

Oh! But she thought our dinner was for next Wednesday.

I had hardly been able to bear to break away from the writing earlier. But I was out in the world now, and hungry. My friend and I caught up on news as I walked towards Shakespeare and Company.

I picked up James Salter’s Burning the Days at the bookstore, and talked with Ben, whose literary taste is book for book the mirror of mine. I also bought Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey.

The second Mexican restaurant had white tablecloths. That usually means slightly too stuffy for my taste, and overpriced.

I opened Daily Rituals and read. The serving of guacamole in a Oaxacan pot was huge, but it was tasteless.



There were three people at the table in front of me, a beautiful woman with a high forehead and short hair, her husband whose back was to me, and their male friend. The friend was deconstructing the difference between pleasure and joy. The woman laughed abruptly, an odd laugh, a warm smile, and then the man kept lecturing on and on, and her smile disappeared. This was the Preacher’s table.

A table to the far right was filled with young French women drinking margaritas. More and more margaritas. Their volume rose and rose until they were shrieking with laughter. This was the Drink and Be Riotous table.

Directly to my right was a French couple in their late 30s. She was wearing a dress with cardigan, hair pulled back, reserved. A very thin, boyish man sat across from her. They ate and talked in low voices, discreetly. This was your Married Couple table.

I ate my enchiladas verdes. Is it possible that enchiladas can have too much cheese? These had too much cheese. Almost every writer whose work I love writes six days a week for two or three hours, first thing after breakfast. That works best for me, too.

At his table, the preacher was killing the other two with boredom.

I glanced to my right. The reserved married woman was sitting sideways on her husband’s lap. She'd removed her sweater, revealing a sleeveless, low-cut dress with big polka dots like flamenco dancers wear. Her arms were raised to her prim bun, and she slowly released the rubber band and shook out her hair. As she did so, she wiggled, wriggled—shimmied!—on her husband’s lap. He didn’t seem to mind a bit. This was the table of Sensual Surprise.


Okay, friends.  It’s time again for the Surrealist Café: Sensual Surprise. Send us a paragraph or a poem or a photo or a drawing of absolutely anything sensual—food, love, beauty, dance—that you experience, observe, dream, imagine that takes you by surprise.

Send it to us by noon, Paris time, on Thursday, May 2, and we’ll publish it Saturday, May 4. We've played this game before; this is the fourth worldwide Surrealist Café we’re creating.