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

Entries in Paris (20)


Paris Encounter


How she intrigues me!

With her orange hair,

a fringe of ragged bangs

high on her forehead,

‘90s punk rocker style,


she sits in a corner,

leaning against the window,

gazes out at me

with such intelligent eyes.

She doesn’t look away;


she blinks, still holds my gaze.

What is this look?

I wouldn’t call it happy,

nor is it sad. Just aware.

Thoughtful. Musing.


She doesn’t seem to mind

my standing close to the window

talking to her in a low voice, enchanted.

She touches the glass with one horny finger.

Her breasts are gray over several folds of belly.


A shaggy orange cape, draped

over her shoulders, covers her long arms.

She grins wide, shows her sharp teeth,

and turning towards the glass, kisses me.

She glances up, looks away, shy,


gazes back at me.

There are giant branches of driftwood, dead trees,

thick rope and black tires in her house,

but none of that interests her.

She sits by the window, yearning.


I’d like to take her home, but everyone would object.

The gardienne would throw up her hands in horror;

our good bourgeois neighbors would be alarmed,

call a special meeting of the syndic[1];

even Marley le chat would be incensed.


Anyway, our ceiling is too low. In her native land,

she sleeps in a nest of branches she builds

65 feet from the ground, sometimes with a roof

to protect her from the rain. She’s a solitary

acrobate des arbres[2]athlete of the air.



[1] Syndic de copropriété, a board that oversees common property in an apartment building in France. Like a Coop board.

[2] Acrobat of the trees


Mama Said There’d Be Days Like This


At last! After a week crowded with workmen in the apartment, Giovanni painting, Marcus re-plumbing the shower, Richard’s first week of French lessons at l’Alliance Francaise, and the rush to meet our journal deadlines, tonight we have a date. Going to the Sufi dancing and dinner last week was so pleasurable that we decided to make it a once-a-week ritual.

Marcus will be here at noon to finish up the shower in Richard’s office. It should only take a couple of hours. But where is he?

I make a late lunch, omelette with onion, tomato, zucchini and mushrooms, with steamed broccoli and spinach on the side, and raisin toast, olive oil and almond butter. Just as I finish cooking, at 1:45 Marcus arrives, almost two hours late. He has brought his brother, Christian, who helped us the week before to unpack our boxes.

I want Christian to have a copy of our journal, The Numinosity of Things, since he is mentioned in it, so I print it out. The printer runs out of ink. It’s new, an unfamiliar Canon, and I don’t yet know how to put the ink in. Richard is out.

Just before Marcus and Christian finish their work, Richard returns. He replaces the ink in the printer, and I try again. It prints out half the pages and stops. Marcus and Christian wait, but we cannot figure out what’s holding up the pages, and we don’t want to hold them up.

Richard studies his French homework. I answer e-mail. Then we’re free to saunter over to the Jardin des Plantes[1]. Every once in a while, we crave the company of animals, lots of them, and there’s no place in Paris with a more wonderful assortment from around the world.



It’s so warm outside, 75 Fahrenheit and humid, I don’t even need a cardigan.

“Spring is really here,” I say.

Richard knows a short cut, past La Baleine Café, into the Jardin des Plantes.

And then we see—the combination of its being a weekend day and the first really warm day of spring has brought out half of Paris.

We pass the wallabies and stop.

“Look! They’re hopping around with babies in their pouches.”

“It IS spring,” says Richard.

At the entrance to the zoo, there is a line of at least 100 people.

We glance at each other. “Too crowded.”

“Let’s go to the Natural History Museum.”

But there, too, the line is too long. We meander into the gardens. There is the first display I’ve seen this spring of a uniquely French way of planting flowers, long beds of taller, bright flowers, in this case, pink and purple tulips in one; yellow, orange and white poppies in the other; alternating with long beds of lower flowers, small and white. The French pay attention to beauty, and this is truly beautiful. Couples lean down to get close to the tulips and look them in the eyes. Men and women take close-ups of the blooms. Richard joins them.

At the end of the long beds are flowering cerisiers[2], and a large tree with dark pink blossoms. Pelouse interdite[3] say the signs, but no one pays attention. Children laugh and run on the grass. Tourists and natives walk up close to the trees to look and to take photos. One cerisier is so thick with white blossoms that dozens and dozens of bees dally inside its branches.

We meander down rue Mouffetard. Let’s go check out a new restaurant a Parisian friend recommended, Dans les Landes, I suggest. We turn around and walk in the opposite direction down rue Monge. We pass Violette’s flower shop, and there she is, looking like a red-haired Colette, out in front, talking to friends.



At the restaurant, we find seats outside. The waitress asks us what we’d like to drink; we ask for the menu.

“Oh we don’t serve food,” she says. “Not till 7 p.m.”

It’s 5:00. Thierry, an excellent furniture maker and antique seller who sold us an armoire last week, highly recommended this place, but it won’t work for our date tonight. We cross over to rue Mouffetard.  

Here’s a health food store that might have the vitamins that we’ve run out of. A trim French woman helps us find the best prices for each thing we’re looking for. We usually speak French with the French, but sometimes, when it involves looking for things like turmeric or 5-HTP or Ester-C, we revert to our native tongue. Better to be sure of getting what you want than to practice French for five more minutes.

A man wearing black leather and shades, a solemn caricature of an American film hoodlum, waits to speak to this woman. He begins speaking English, and we hear that he’s mocking us, as if we’re the kind of Americans who never bother to learn the language. I’m surprised. It’s not like a French man to be this openly mocking. Grouchy maybe, but not this style of rude jeering.

After the woman has finished helping this man, we have one more question, whether there’s a better buy of Ester-C capsules than the one we chose.

Oui,” she says, and zips over to another shelf.

“He was mocking us, wasn’t he,” I say.

She nods. “He’s Belgian,” she says, as if that explains everything.

The man passes us on his way to the cash register.

Blagueur. Moqueur[4],” I say.

He doesn’t respond.

At Delmas, where we usually have the best galettes in town, we sit in a corner. It’s early and there is only one other table of six young Italians near the door. We don’t need to look at the menu. We wait.

And wait.

And wait. No waiter appears. Finally a group of four men, dressed like Mafioso, come from another part of the restaurant and sit down to eat. One seems to be the owner or manager.

We tell him we’ve been waiting 15 minutes. He turns to go look for a waiter, but we say, “That’s all right. We’ve waited long enough.”

Everywhere we go today there seem to be obstacles. This is beginning to intrigue me. Some Saturnian spirit of obstruction seems determined to block us at every turn.

So let’s go to Picard Surgelés. This is a store that we passed often when we first started coming to Paris. It’s one of those words that is misleading for English speakers. Like traiteur, which sounds like traitor, but means “catering,” surgelés sounds medical. We’ve cleared that up, and heard from numerous French people and Americans how exceptionally tasty and high quality the French version of frozen food is.

The store is simply rows of freezer bins, well marked: soups, pastas, fish dishes, desserts, as antiseptic as a hospital. (You probably could perform surgery here). We stock up on pastas and soups, and leave.

Walking down rue LacépèdeRichard accidentally bangs my heel with the bag of frozen food. It feels like the back of my foot has been scraped off.

“You have no spatial sense,” I say. “I’m walking behind you now.”

(We are well-matched, we agree, he without a sense of space, I without a sense of time.)

He says he’s sorry, but it sounds perfunctory to me, a “man apology,” which by female standards, sounds like no apology at all. I’m in pain!



I, wanting a sense of empathy from him, ask for same. A small matter of tone, which women recognize instantly; men, not so much.

He gives a positively grudging apology. Now it sounds like self-defense, as if caring he’d hurt me was the last thing on his mind.

Being a woman, I point this out.

He begins to sing, "I'm Sorry," an old Brenda Lee hit.

It sounds like mocking to me.  I say so. “Just say it like you mean it,” I ask.

He, being a man, explodes.

I shrink from his yelling in the street in horror. Sacré Bleu! Quelle horreur! In my family of origin you don’t shout in the street. You don’t shout, period.

Without a thought, without making a decision, my feet lead me straight across the street, as far as possible away from him. The date, it seems, is over.

But I want a date. Hmmm, who can I go out on a date with? Someone who is good company, someone who won’t yell at me. I know—me! What would she and I like to do tonight? Dinner? Or a movie? Well, why not both?



I meander down rue Monge to rue Lagrange, and Blvd. St. Germain, then right on Blvd. St. Michel until I come to Place St. Michel. There are French break dancers performing on the sidewalk in front of the fountain where Saint Michel vanquishes the dragon. I wish I could vanquish my own dragon, this passionately allergic reaction I have to what I perceive as callousness.

To me it seems so easy: you hurt someone; you didn’t mean to; but at least you can communicate to the other that you’re sorry. Nothing is more instantly soothing. And for me, nothing is more galling than when that generosity isn’t given.

I check the theaters along Blvd. St. Michel and Blvd. St. Germain. I’ve seen “Les Yeux de Sa Mère.” The others are lightweight French concoctions and heavily violent American killer-thrillers and action flicks. I muse on the question, “Do violent films inspire violence?” Of course they do. Wherever callousness is acted out or depicted, it increases the acceptance of unkindness, lack of empathy, cruelty.

I keep walking. Maybe that theater on rue Serpente will be showing a good film. Yes, they are, but neither starts for an hour. Do I want to see a Spanish film about a photographer who sees the picture of a woman who died before her marriage and who then falls in love with her image (yawn), or The Fighter? I’ve heard raves about the latter, so even though it won’t give me my daily French lesson, that’s my choice.

I walk around the rue St. André des Arts area, looking at menus. Nothing appeals. Back on Blvd. St. Michel, and there is a Boulangerie Paul.

I order a tourte chevre courgettes[5] at the counter.  The Asian proprietor heats it up.  I take it to a table outside.  The tourte is half cold.  I don't want to take it back to be re-heated, or I might miss the movie.  It's one of those days. 



Five minutes later, the proprietor is outside, shooing away a group of three women who are seated, eating. He noisily stacks the chairs while people are finishing their meals. This is so un-French I’m shocked. I know of no other country where it is a national right to sit in a café, having ordered only a café crème, and read, write and converse for hours without being pressured to leave. He hurries a young African-American woman away from finishing her sandwich. I’d spoken with her at the counter and learned that she was from New Orleans, and yes, the town is healing but it still has a long way to go.

I gobble down my tourte and leave.

At the theater I buy a Perrier.



I find a theater seat, but all during the previews everyone is talking as if they’re in their own living rooms.

Finally, the film starts, and it’s worth watching. Christian Bale is such a strange actor. A former boxer, now addicted to crack, he plays the role as a charming, self-destructive fuck-up.

I’m thirsty, but the bottle of Perrier won’t open. I almost break my hand trying to open it. It’s that kind of day.

After the film is over, I ask the guy at the concession stand if he can open it. After a struggle, he does. But don’t I want a cold one? He fetches a key and opens the drinks machine and puts a hand around several until he finds one that’s cold. Oh, how sweet is this gesture!

Having walked a couple of hours, I head home down Blvd. St. Germain. I begin to think about this weird day.

All we wanted was to go out together and have a good time. And all day long it’s been one obstacle after another, an unusual number.

At home, the lights are off and Richard is asleep. So is Marley.

I remember what the psychiatrist, C. G. Jung, used to do when he was baffled by the seemingly insoluble problem of a patient. He would cast their natal horoscope to see where the knots were. Not to predict anything, rather to see what the pattern of stars were at their birth. He did the same for moments and periods of time.

This makes no rational sense whatsoever. But the synchronicity of far and near, (or as the ancients said, “As above, so below”), is perfectly understandable from the perspective of intuition.

I open our astrological calendar, and look at the position of the planets. Oh, of course. It’s the New Moon today, with Sun and Moon in Aries. That’s action. A day when you want to go out and experience life, walk around, go somewhere, spend some money. Or it can be anger. Aries is the warrior, the fighter. Yes, the day had that kind of energy. And what better film to see than The Fighter?



There are two more aspects and they couldn’t be any more difficult. The moon in Aries is square Pluto in Capricorn: Anger. Volatility. Blow-ups. Pluto, the god of the underworld, the dragon.



The moon in Aries is opposite Saturn in Libra: action, anger is fighting with obstacles in the way of keeping one’s balance. I think of Athena, goddess of Libra, and her Medusa shield of snakes. She is usually the one with the cooler head, allowing peace to prevail over war. But with Saturn in Libra, there are obstacles to this peaceful approach.

Mama said there’d be days like this, there’d be days like this my mama said.” And maybe they’re written in the stars.


[1] The Garden of Plants

[2] Cherry trees

[3] Keep off the Grass

[4] Joker. Mocker.

[5] Goat cheese and zucchini pie (a small tart, really)


The Numinosity of Things


Great wars of liberation are being fought all across North Africa and the Middle East. Lesser wars of liberation are being fought in France, too. Here in the fifth arrondissement of Paris, we battled the forces of French bureaucracy to liberate our household goods from Le Havre customs.

We valued most of the fifty boxes at $50 each. Many contained books, writing supplies and journals. Many contained art. How do you assign such things a dollar amount? Customs was suspicious. ALL were the same value? Were we smuggling precious objects to sell in France, without declaring them, so we didn’t have to pay taxes? Or forbidden items?

The struggle to release our stuff took forty e-mails, twenty phone calls, 300 euros and three weeks, but we triumphed.

One week ago, the boxes were delivered to our door. The man who drove the truck three hours from Le Havre carried some of the boxes down to our cave[1], most of the boxes to our apartment, and with the help of a Romanian worker named Christian, he carried my maternal grandmother’s heavy wooden trunk up five flights of stairs, since it wouldn’t fit in the ascenseur.[2]

The truck driver, a shy, florid man in his 50s, who looked as if his favorite pastime was eating, seemed ready to pass out as he entered our living room. Christian, younger and fit, was smiling, unfazed.

The driver accepted a glass of water, but would not take a tip.

Christian stayed all afternoon, helping us slice open boxes with sculptures and paintings inside. He broke down the cardboard boxes for recycling, while we greeted beloved works of art as if they were old friends who’d made a long journey across the country by covered wagon, then a voyage by slow ship across the Atlantic, only to be held unlawfully in jail for nearly a month.

Are objects alive? Of course. How else to explain the numinous quality, the spell cast on us, by the things we unpacked?

These things spoke to us! They told us stories. Sometimes one would break into song.

Time or space won’t allow me to tell you every single story we heard in the several days of unpacking, but here are a dozen:

1) The trunk. The big, round-backed, dark brown wooden trunk belonged to my Norwegian-American maternal grandmother, Esther Moe Heimark. Esther was a poet and playwright who also bought antiques, which she sold in the small Minnesota town where she lived with my grandfather, Julius, and their three children. This trunk is the perfect size to contain the following:

i) My grandfather’s accounts of his parents crossing the United States by covered wagon, farm life in Minnesota, and leaving the farm to become a doctor.

ii) Copies of my uncle Jack’s Heimark family history, with photos.

iii) Genealogical books about my Kitchell family ancestors, Puritans who fled religious persecution in Kent and Surrey, England, and arrived in Guilford, Connecticut in 1639.

iv) My own oral history interviews with my parents, transcribed and bound as a gift to my family. How strange and heart-breaking to read it and hear how lucid my father was, just a year or so before his dementia began.

 2) A bentwood chair, also of dark wood, from my grandmother Kitchell’s apartment in the Sequoias assisted living apartments in San Francisco, where I and my cousins Kit, Mark, Liza and Hank visited her often in the two years before she died. She was always warm and nonjudgmental towards my then-boyfriend, Gary, a wild and wooly bohemian painter. An American blueblood herself, I never saw one instance of snobbery from her.



3) Dana Point, a painting that Gary painted, shortly after we left the schooner, The Flying Cloud. We had lived on it for two years, renovating it to go around the world. The painting has three levels: landscape, woman’s body and bird. It is surreal, like the work of Salvador Dali.

4) Celestine, a papier mâché bear and two tree branches that my sculptor sister, Jane, made to honor our father. I first saw it in her art studio in Boulder, and bought it half a year before her nearly sold-out art show at my brother, Jon's, and his wife, Leatrice’s, art gallery in Phoenix, Arizona. Celestine stands in the non-working fireplace of our living room, leaning forward eagerly, just as my father did in life.



5) The soft wool blanket with bears and men and women holding hands that my mother knitted and gave to me. I told her I repaired a couple of holes Marley had made in it while kneading me as I read in bed.

“Oh, that was the worst thing I ever knitted,” my mother said.

“But it’s beautiful!” I said.

“I mean, it was the most difficult of anything I ever made.” 

6) A painting by Kathleen Morris, Shrine for Couple #3, from my Santa Fe years when I earned a living as a traveling art dealer, which brought me to Los Angeles. I stayed in a suite at the Chateau Marmont in the late ‘80s, a very good time for selling art. I began to find the excitement of the city more appealing than living in the country in Santa Fe, and moved to Los Angeles in 1990. And there I met Richard.



7) Books by friends. Richard and I met at a 1994 poetry reading at a bookstore, Midnight Special. Later, with three friends, we started a poetry reading series at the Rose Café. It lasted three years, and exposed us to all the rich work of the poets of Los Angeles, and later, from other parts of the country and beyond.

8) The photo of Carolyn Kizer reading her poems at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. She was the first person to read at our series at the Rose Café, and became my poetry mentor and friend. Later, we bought the Paris apartment she and her architect husband, John Woodbridge, owned.

9) Prayers to the Muse, the cross that my sister, Jane, made for me when I received my M.F.A. in creative writing at Antioch University, Los Angeles. It is made of red leather book end papers and dry wall mud. Antioch gave me more friends than any other experience I’ve had in my life. Six of them joined me weekly for a fiction reading and editing circle at our house in Playa del Rey for years, which continues now with us Skyping between Los Angeles and Paris.



10) Charlie the marble. I opened a well-wrapped package and out tumbled Charlie. Charlie, a photographer, was married to my great friend, Polly, with whom I lived in two communes in Berkeley in the late ‘60s. Richard and I loved visiting Polly and Charlie in their warm, art-filled Berkeley home over the years. Charlie died several years ago after a liver transplant. A glass artist whose work Charlie photographed took his ashes and made 300 glass marbles out of them as gifts for his friends. Richard and I each have one, which we keep on our desks and play with. Richard wrote a sonnet to him. We talk to Charlie. He’s so pleased that Polly’s painting and sculpture are being shown in various galleries, well reviewed and selling well.

11) My sister, Jane, made a modern Kachina, The Minotaur, for Richard. He is a Taurus. It captures his Bull spirit, and now raises its arms in the goddess salute of ancient Crete in the nonworking fireplace in his office. (We were married in Crete, since our personal myth originates there.) The heavy stone at the base made it very difficult to ship to Paris. But we found an art packer, Jorgen, at Box Brothers in Santa Monica, who devised an ingenious way to keep the stone from breaking away from the papier mâché figure, and this totem figure arrived intact.


Page 113, The Red Book

12) C. G. Jung’s The Red Book. Richard and I saw a show at the Armand Hammer Museum in Los Angeles of this magical book of mandalas that the great psychiatrist, C. G. Jung created as a vehicle for his own healing. This may be a universal method of healing; drawing a daily mandala was my way of healing, too. For my birthday last year, three of my siblings, Jon, Ann and Suki, gave me a book certificate. I bought this book with it. It is so numinous that I can’t read it yet. But at the right time, I will.



[1] Storage units in the cellar of the building for each apartment owner. The caves are ancient, eerie and cold. You can imagine Edgar Allen Poe setting one of his stories here.

[2] Elevator.




Genius and Generosity, a (Sort of) Book Review

Rereading the restored edition of Ernest Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast has got me thinking about the nature of genius and of love.

This memoir about the American fiction writer’s years in Paris during the twenties is chock full of many of the things I most love: writing, reading literature, Paris, the café life, artistic community, an intimate, supportive marriage.

When Hemingway and his first wife, Hadley, first came to Paris in their early 20s in the early twenties of the twentieth century, they lived on rue du Cardinal Lemoine, just before it opens out onto Place Contrescarpe. Though the name meant little to me when I first read the book in my twenties, now that Richard and I live on rue Cardinal Lemoine, the mention of the street on page two enchants me.

Speaking personally, what more could I ask of a book?

Well, as it turns out, one thing. Rather a big thing. More on that later.

Let’s begin with what is admirable, even breathtaking, about this book. What a model of devotion to the craft of writing Hemingway offers.

Hemingway had just quit his work as a journalist in order to make his way as a writer of fiction. This I admire. In order to find one’s genius one must listen to one’s genius.

Richard and I prefer Plato’s definition of genius in the myth of Er in The Republic to more recent conceptions of genius. Plato tells the story of Er, who, after dying and coming back to life, reveals what he learned: that each of us is born with a genius, a daimon or twin soul, who remembers what our purpose in life is even when we forget, and who is constantly dropping hints to us: not this, not this—yes, that. One’s genius, or purpose could be anything: artist, doctor, builder, business person, homemaker, mother or farmer. But unless we follow what our genius knows we should do in this life, we can’t find fulfillment. Hemingway had the courage to follow his.

Hemingway had impeccable discipline, impressive for a young man in his twenties. He arose early every morning and mounted the steps to the room he rented high in a nearby hotel (the hotel where Verlaine died). The room was so cold that if he left mandarines[1] there overnight, they’d freeze. From the window he could look down and see the goatherd come up the street blowing his pipes and a woman in his building come out onto the sidewalk to buy milk that the goatherd milked as she waited. (Oh, why can’t goats still wander the streets of Paris?)



Courage he had, and discipline. And another thing: luck. He happened to arrive in Paris at a very good time for Americans. The exchange rate was such that a writer, whose advance for a first book of short stories was $200, could, by living frugally (buying no clothes, no paintings, sometimes skipping meals), afford an apartment for himself and Hadley, a hotel room in which to work, and spend winters skiing in Austria, summers at the bullfights in Spain.

What he learned about writing:

“I always worked until I had something done and I always stopped when I knew what was going to happen next. That way I could be sure of going on the next day.”

“I would stand and look out over the roofs of Paris and think, “Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now. All you have to do is write one true sentence, and then go on from there. It was easy then because there was always one true sentence that you knew or had seen or had heard someone say.”

“It was in that room too that I learned not to think about anything that I was writing from the time I stopped writing until I started again the next day. That way my subconscious would be working on it and at the same time I would be listening to other people and noticing everything, I hoped; learning, I hoped; and I would read so that I would not think about my work and make myself impotent to do it.”

And then there were people. Not Hadley. People. He warns us: “The only thing that could spoil a day was people and if you could keep from making engagements, each day had no limits. People were always the limiters of happiness except for the very few that were as good as spring itself.”

Of course in Hemingway’s world in the Paris of the twenties, “people” meant Gertrude Stein and her companion, Alice B. Toklas; F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife, Zelda; Ezra Pound; James Joyce; Ford Madox Ford; Wyndham Lewis; Sylvia Beach.

And here is where my enjoyment of the book cools. Hemingway describes Gertrude Stein’s generosity to Hadley and him. F. Scott Fitzgerald’s warmth to him. But his portraits of them are, ultimately, scathing.

From the night he meets Fitzgerald in one of Hem's favorite Montparnasse hangouts, the Dingo Bar, he is sizing him up. From instantly preferring Scott’s friend, the famous Princeton baseball pitcher, Dunc Chaplin, to him; to a head-to-toe physical appraisal: legs too short; wrong kind of tie; a faintly puffy face, to the most damning thing Hemingway can say about a man, that there is something female about him (“a delicate long-lipped Irish mouth that, on a girl, would have been the mouth of a beauty…the mouth worried you until you knew him and then it worried you more”); to how Fitzgerald praised him too much and asked questions that were too direct; to how his face was like a death’s head after a few glasses of champagne. All this in contrast with Hemingway’s portrayal of himself as manly, composed, able to hold his liquor, admirable in most other ways.

Later when Scott invites Hemingway to join him by train to Lyon to pick up a car that Scott and Zelda had had to abandon there because of bad weather, Scott misses the train. Hemingway is unable to reach Scott in Paris, so he goes to the best hotel in Lyon (though he’s worried about spending too much money), where Scott finds him the next morning.

They pick up the Renault at a garage, where the garage man recommends new piston rings, and Hemingway uses the opportunity to display his superior manly knowledge of cars, and Scott’s lack of good sense.

Hemingway notes that Fitzgerald has been drinking when they meet up in the hotel, so Hem suggests stopping in the bar for a whisky and Perrier. They set out on their road trip. Although he’s well aware of how sick alcohol makes Fitzgerald, and that he’s probably an alcoholic, at Macon, Hemingway buys four bottles of excellent wine, which they drink from the bottle as they drive. Another chance to point out how feminine Scott is. “I am not sure Scott had ever drunk wine from a bottle before and it was exciting to him as though he were slumming or as a girl might be excited by going swimming for the first time without a bathing suit.”

By that afternoon, Scott is worried about his health. In the hotel room that night, Hemingway observes Scott’s hypochondria and again dramatizes the slightly older writer’s foolishness to underscore Hemingway’s good sense.

An invitation to Hemingway and Hadley to lunch at Scott and Zelda’s apartment gives Hem the chance to criticize Zelda’s appearance and the meal. And to wonder at Scott and Zelda’s seeming to think that the two men’s road trip from Lyon had been great fun.

In contrast to Gertrude Stein’s generosity to him, Hemingway describes covertly overhearing a lovers’ spat between Gertrude and Alice. “That was the way it finished for me, stupidly enough…”

Having recently read Hemingway’s third wife, Martha Gellhorn’s Selected Letters, this is richly ironic. She describes getting the journalist’s assignment of a lifetime, being one of the only women allowed to cover the European front lines in World War II. Hemingway, at work on a novel at their finca in Cuba, tugs on her to return home, whining about his loneliness until she makes the fatal decision to come home early. He and his drinking buddies have trashed their home, he calls her every vicious name a man can call a woman, then secretly steals her Colliers Magazine assignment and goes off to the front lines himself.

And he’s willing to toss his friendship with Gertrude Stein out the window over one conversation he overheard her have with Alice? Hemingway had four wives. Gertrude Stein and Alice were together till the end. They are now buried side-by-side in Père Lachaise Cemetery, with Gertrude's name on the front of the headstone, Alice's on the back.

I have no idea why Hemingway so hated the English writer Ford Maddox Ford, who apparently was so generous to him.

Or why he savaged the English writer/painter Wyndham Lewis for wearing the “uniform” of a pre-World War I artist, and watching Hem teach Ezra some boxing tricks in a competitive spirit (pot calling the kettle black?). He describes Lewis as having the eyes of a “frustrated rapist.” It’s certainly a memorable phrase.

However, a more treacherous husband or friend I can’t imagine.

Yet, in the descriptions of Hemingway working, or spending winters in Schruns, Austria skiing with Hadley; in short, whenever he’s describing physical life—action, he is magnificent.

It’s when he describes “friends” that I wince. The final portrait of F. Scott Fitzgerald is in a dialogue with Georges, the chasseur[2]later the bar man, at the Ritz Bar, who doesn’t remember Fitzgerald, though the novelist spent many evenings there.

“Papa, who was this Monsieur Fitzgerald that everyone asks me about?.... But why would I not remember him? Was he a good writer?” And “’I remember you and the Baron von Blixen arriving one night—in what year?’ He smiled.”

“He is dead too.”

“Yes. But one does not forget him. You see what I mean?”

Hemingway contrasts how memorable he himself is, and how unforgettable Baron von Blixen, Isak Dinesen’s first husband, was, with how Fitzgerald has simply disappeared from the chasseur’s memory.

Hemingway assures the man that he will do a portrait of Fitzgerald and then the man will remember him. But Hemingway’s portrait has already served its purpose: to demolish Fitzgerald as a man worthy of remembrance or admiration. I suppose one does with one’s friends exactly what one does to oneself. Hemingway killed himself a year after the book was completed in the spring of 1960.

If genius is the pinnacle of human achievement, then Hemingway served his genius well.

But love? Perhaps love is generosity—towards oneself, other people, and life itself. Our parents give birth to us. They care for us (or most do) from birth to adulthood, and sometimes beyond. We are alive on this beautiful earth, surrounded by mysterious objects, people, adventures, the sweetness of love and the challenge of work. Shouldn’t we return the favor with generosity towards life in all its many forms?

If generosity—love, really—is the pinnacle of human relationship, Hemingway was a sad specimen of humanity.

[1] mandarin oranges

[2] a hotel employee who takes care of outgoing mail, and retrieving theater tickets.




Café de Flore. It’s late.

We sit and plan our Book of Dreams.

In our carnet de croquis[1], we’ll draw or collage our wish

on the right hand page, and when it comes true, note it on the left.


When I say “Soupe a l’oignon,…non, un omelette fromage[2],”

the Asian waiter, a professional, gives me the look:

Don’t I know what I want?

Richard orders soupe a l’oignon, a décafé crème.

Then we get down to the business of the night: watching people go by.


A flock of fast-talking British girls in short spangly skirts.

Short stolid couples stroll arm in arm. An elderly gent

with a blond beauty, a young Gena Rowlands.

Quick-walking tall and thin young Frenchmen.

A dark-haired couple and son— maybe Israeli—take the next table.


The single smoking blonde to the other side leaves. Hooray!—

we can breathe. Two French guys sit down and talk of Chet Baker

while do do do wopping sounds to one another.

The waiter brings us food and drink. We eat and drink.

I tear my place mat into the size of a carnet page. 


A car parked in front of us tries to leave

but is blocked by the double-parker.

Richard says, “There’s a note on the windshield.”

“Let’s bring it to his attention,” I say.

Richard runs over and hands the man the note. It’s a ticket.


Everyone watches from their sidewalk seats. The blocked driver

is out of his car and playing to the crowd. Two men lounge

beside his car, smoking. One looks like Alain Delon with that boyish

French face, Levi’s and dark blue shirt. He knows where to stand

to be observed. Everyone conjectures. Where could the driver be?


A young woman dashes out of the Café, long tangled hair and jeans,

slips into the car laughing, pulls up, waits till the blocked driver leaves

and expertly backs in. The two young men chat her up.

Pretty and breezy, she laughs and disappears. Everyone approves.

She’s good looking, and handled this with style.


The air musician next to me says, “Tout est bien, qui finit bien.”

We get up to leave, the drama over.

“How do you say in French,

‘All’s well that ends well?'” Richard asks.

“That’s just what the guy next to us said!”


The next morning I read in Baudelaire:

“Elle croit, elle sait, cette vierge inféconde

Et pourtant nécessaire á la marche du monde,

Que la beauté du corps est une sublime don

Qui de toute infamie arrache le pardon.”


She believes, she knows, this infertile virgin,

—Who still is necessary to the world’s parade—

That beauty of the body is a gift sublime

Which can extort forgiveness for the basest crime.[3]   


Charles Baudelaire 

[1] sketchbook

[2] onion soup…no, a cheese omelette

[3] (113 * ALLÉGORIE) “The Flowers of Evil & Paris Spleen; Poems by Charles Baudelaire,” translated by William H. Crosby, with a few tweaks by K.K.