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

Entries in surrealism (4)


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.





Before I Die...Paris Play #100



To celebrate our one-hundredth edition of Paris Play, we've created our third Surrealist Café, our virtual gathering place where readers/friends contribute, and we curate.

Last week, we asked you to fill in the blank: Before I die I want to ______________.

This week, your heartfelt, soul-deep replies; we tried to honor them each with the best illustration that we could create.

Thank you, everyone who played. You make our lives so much richer with your depth, and your willingness to participate in community. When we first arrived in Paris, we worried about isolation from our loved ones. Hah! Not a chance.

May all your dreams come true before you die.


Kaaren and Richard


Ted Tokio Tanaka


Before I die I want to feel comfort to move on to after life.


Porter Scott

Painting by Ku Gao (c) 2012

Before I die, I want to tie the ribbon on my life (or come full circle) by signing all of the paintings of my youth and selecting all of the best photos I’ve taken over the years; thereby leaving my small visual mark on the world as my most satisfying accomplishment!




Before I die I want to marry someone rich to take care of me.


Anna Waterhouse


Before I die I want to see God, preferably in Italy.


Ann Denk


Before I die I want to welcome more grandchildren into our family.


Malika Moore


Before I die I want to be ready, as in Hamlet's saying, "All is readiness."


Polly Frizzell


Before I die I want to see my beloved sisters Kaaren and Jane in the flesh many more times.


Jon Hess


Before I die I want to be free to trust in love.


Aline Soules 


Before I die, I want to know that I've lived completely.


Suki Edwards


Before I die, I want to explore Scandinavia and New Zealand.


Hope Alvarado


Before I die I want to go on an African photo safari.


Sojourner Kincaid Rolle


Before I die, I would like to have a poem that I have written acknowledged for its timeless perfection and, as its composer, be recognized in the history of our time as a Poet.


Marguerite Baca


Before I die I'd like to develop a green thumb, if that's possible, and grow an abundance of vegetables and herbs to share with friends and loved ones.


Joanne Warfield


Before I die, I want to love as I've never loved before with every cell of my being until I turn back into stardust.


Daniel Abdal-Hayy Moore

Street art by Jérôme Mesnager 

Before I die, I want to breathe eternity's air, die before I die in the sweetest sense, and swim in its light.


Larry Colker

Street art by Pole Ka

Before I die, I want to hold my great-grandchild.


Vivian Beban


Before I die, I'd just like to host a fantastic party for loved ones and friends, especially those I haven't seen in years, with a live band (my son-in-law Jeff being the leader, of course) and the best caterer money could buy, in a natural setting or a beautiful winery, and I'd want it to go on for a whole day and evening just like in the old movies.


Bayu Laprade

Street art by ME Paris 

Before I die, I want to achieve great joy, success and mastery in a creative realm.


Sab Will


Before I die I want to know I made a difference.


Carol Cellucci


Before I die I want to stop working and travel.


Craig Fleming


Before I die I want to whirl like a dervish on the razor's edge, entranced yet all the while fully awake.


Ebba Brooks


Before I die I want to get my novel published.


Kari Denk


Before I die, I want to know that my daughter is and will be strong, independent, happy, loyal, charismatic, loving, and an all-around good person.


Bruce Moody


Before I die, I want to bring my work before folks on line and clean out my basement so my daughter doesn't have to do it then.




Before I die, I want to...document every last piece of urban art in Paris.


John Brunski


Before I die, I want to go surfing as much as I did as a kid, or at least as much as my son does now!


Eric Schafer


Before I die, I want to have my book published.


Ren Powell


Before I die I want to grow very, very old slowly; to pass through my days like an outward-bound trip, seeing the new every moment.


Anne Reese


Before I die, I want to walk as I used to, or I want to walk well.


Connie Josefs

Create to create

Before I die, I want to finish and publish my work.


Nancy Zafris


Before I die I want to spend an afternoon with the Loch Ness Monster.


Dawna Kemper

Street art by Fred Le Chevalier

Before I die, I want to see a smart, soulful, progressive woman in the White House (as President, not First Lady; we thankfully already have the latter).


Kaaren Kitchell

Before I die I want to bring forth what is in me,
to transpose vision and memory
into literary works of art.


Betty Kitchell

Street art by Sardine Animal

Before I die, I want to do…nothing!  I've done it all!




Surrealist Café Two: La Vie Avec Les Animaux

On today's menu, the results of our second Surrealist Café community collage. Readers will recall that we asked you to walk into a cafe (or a spot that animals frequent) precisely at 1 p.m. on Saturday, October 29, and record, in whatever medium you chose (poetry, prose, drawing, photography, etc.), your interchange with an animal. We suspect most of you didn't follow the rules about time and space, but nonetheless, these contributors seized the time, and amazed us with their devotion to les animaux. All contributions are (c) 2011 by their individual creators.


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Suki Kitchell Edwards, passing through New Orleans, USA:


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Scott MacFarlane, near LaConner, WA, USA:

“Bear Box”

Can replica serve as artifact?  The Northwest Indian bentwood box––with stylized bear design wrapped around four sides––hides in the clutter beside the register at the Rexville Grocery.  Those pens sticking out the top were not native but reinforce how functionality was a trait of this rich art form.

Down the road from the Swinomish tribal casino, this is the prehistoric land of the Northwest Coast Indian.  The red-and-black design with tertiary ovoids portrays a bear.  The little ears differentiate it from an Orca design that would display stylized flukes. 

A half-dozen miles from here as raven flies, killer whales swim.  However, this totemized design––Tlingit perhaps––derives not from here, but from the tribal turf we now call Southeast Alaska.  This design style was more formalized than local Salish art.

When I entered the Rexville, three aging hippies sitting at the counter glanced up and resumed talking.  The pencil holder had caught my eye.  Thirty-three years earlier at the Burke Museum on the UW campus, I had helped touch up these boxes, really a diminutive replica of a native bentwood artifact.  Clear cedar had been silk-screened, notched, bent and assembled just down the hall from Bill Holm’s office in the basement.  Holm was the non-native who devoted years codifying the principles behind Northwest Coastal Indian Art.  He wrote the book. 

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Stuart Balcomb, Venice, CA, USA: 



The vet allowed me to hold her
during the injection.
She was deaf, blind, very much in pain.
I know she could sense my heart beating,
her nose against my chest
as her last few pulses faded into memory.
Wife and child couldn't bear to attend,
so I did the deed,
then carried the lifeless cargo back home
where I laid her to rest, deep in the yard,
and toasted her eternal gifts
with a teary glass of Beaujolais Nouveau.


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Joanne Warfield, "Birds, Flights of Fantasy," Venice, CA, USA:  


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Jennifer Genest, Long Beach, CA, USA:

The Foal
You were part of an outline when I was trying to understand something called, “character need.” Back then, your birth was merely a point in the plot, the thing all the characters moved toward.
I was taught that an animal couldn’t carry a story—not as a character. But you’ve been underneath this one, gestating, being my little ticking clock. I admit it, you were used; the situation of your impending birth provided a way for characters to do and feel all sorts of things. Things, maybe, that horses don’t care anything about.
You arrive at last on page 268, dark and wet in the straw, and I am overwhelmed with affection for you. But once again it is a human character that takes the stage, trying to breathe life into your still, newborn body. 
And here I am, greedy in this tender moment, using the opportunity to move the story forward, trying to decide whether you will stand to nurse or never stand at all, and what that means for each human involved, and I am hopelessly stuck, at least for now, in mourning every possibility, in honoring you, in trying to pull off a story that only unfolds when I feel all of this at once.


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Walt Calahan, Westminster, Maryland, USA:


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Bruce Moody, Crockett, CA, USA:

     Les Animaux

 (for Amanda Sidonie Moody on her birthday)


There are always animals about.

Here, there, up, down,

always about. Wild.



Butterflies mating in front of everybody.

The squirrel taking over the roof.

The bird you failed to notice

or identify if you did

overreaching all expectations in the sky.


Consider their quiet absolute presence

like a fur you wear and have become accustomed to.


Consider the tortoiseshell cat next door

and the grey one.

and the other.


They are as impervious to us

as we to them.

We live in concourse with them

as we make our ways

cooperatively like folks on crowded streets


Neighbors we never notice.

Neither talking to one another nor to you.


They are indifferent to us as a species

to our names and souls,

dismissive of our wishes,

as we of theirs.


But they abound,

they abound all around us.

In the walls.

Underground as worms.

In the fields as unseen moles.


Ambitious for and seeking, ever seeking,

as we,



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Amy Waddell, Santa Monica, CA, USA:


Walk Lobster

Gérard de Nerval died on January 26, 1855 at the age of 46. That's not to say he did not enjoy a full life. A man who befriends a lobster, names that lobster and has the patience to walk said lobster every day has reaped life's riches in my book. Every day Thibault the lobster and Gérard the poet took air, as it were, in the gardens of Palais Royal in Paris. Sometimes their walks found them skirting the edges of the Seine. It is not clear if the blue silk ribbon that extended from Thibault's craw to Gérard's was necessary, or whether lobster or man determined the course of the walks. It is only sure that man and lobster walked together, sans pincer or boiling water-induced screams, for some years in old Paris.

"I have a liking for lobsters. They are peaceful, serious creatures. They know the secrets of the sea, they don't bark, and they don't gnaw upon one's monadic privacy like dogs do." 

--Gérard de Nerval.



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Edith Sorel, "Day of the Iguana," Key Largo, Florida, USA:



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Richard Beban, Aquarium Tropical de la Porte Dorée, Paris, France:




Surrealist Café Opens!

On today's menu, the results of our first Surrealist Café community collage.  Readers will recall that we asked you to walk into a cafe precisely at 1 p.m. on Saturday, July 30, and record, in whatever medium you chose (poetry, prose, photography, etc.), what you observed.  These contributors seized the time, and amazed us with their originality, fecundity and talent.  All contributions are (c) 2011 by their individual creators.

This post is dedicated to the memory of our friend, mentor, role model, and surrealist creative, Jane Winslow Eliot, who died at home in Venice, California on Sunday, July 31.


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Margo Berdeshevsky, Starbucks, Rue de Rivoli, Paris, France:


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John Harris, Les Deux Magots, Boulevard Saint Germain, Paris, France:

Hemingway would have called her "a well built woman," meaning sturdy and with a good shape. Her long hair, cascading in multi-colored curly strands reflects light like the leaves of Paris' majestic plane trees. She is reading Sartre's Nausea in French, and I know she is French because she wears her clothes well, and not the other way around--as with many chic American women. If there is a "seduction" factor in France that goes deeper than sex, it is here in the café, where Hemingway and his women float through like ghosts, making my heart beat faster.


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Diane Sherry Case, Starbucks, 26th and Wilshire, Santa Monica:

I wanted this to be playful. But in came a girl with a bashed-in face. Her remorseful boyfriend spent the night in jail, bloody fists and bloodless heart. He remembered their love way too late as his fist flew toward her face and he just couldn’t stop it, he just can’t stop it. I wanted this to be fun. But here she is, her lips caked with blood. Her son came home all hyped up and wired, swearing, You stupid bitch. Then out flew her truth. I never wanted you to begin with, I was sixteen years old. I just wanted to be playful. But here she stands with a bruised green nose. Plastic surgery, what are credit cards for? A new nose, some pouty lips, as if men will come running with hard-ons for her, a hundred hard-ons, she could choose. She picks up her purse, afraid to be seen, and leaves, as the kid with the derby stands there calling her name, Stella, chai latte, Stella, chai latte. 


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Janelle Balnicke, mobile sidewalk cafe, Worthing-on-Sea, England, UK:

See Worthy Widow Walking by Worthing-on-Sea, Saturday July 30th 1PM



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Tara Ison, Steve's Espresso, Tempe, AZ, USA:

A chalkboard whiteboard blank-parchment fresh-drywalled neck nape, this faceless fetus-soft young boy sitting there back to me, young man man-boy, spread sheet of buttered filo leaves asking to be rolled stuffed baked tasted swallowed whole, a new-shelled pink abalone steak slab smelling of weed and salt and waiting to be licked and nipped by wolves, sniffed and gripped by some mean old bitch who has gone from buttery young flesh herself to crusty dry talon’d owl, who who who is she anymore to taste wet plump tongue and will he leave flee finish his coffee and leap upon his hyped-up hipster sneakered feet and buoyant himself away, will the back of his young man boy neck escape so easily my horned veined crepe’d hand before I am over and done? 


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Stuart Balcomb, Rose Café, Venice, CA, USA: 

TEN CITIES: See how the scene and circumstances change with each new location:

Los Angeles: the Player, in his requisite Hollywood black, pitching a script to a hot, young actress.

Seattle: art dealer in Pioneer Square, lunching with his gallery assistant.

Buenos Aires: metal sculptor in La Boca, tourists from Florida at next table.

Boston: jazz club owner, discussing his lease with landlord's wife.

Seville: meeting his daughter-in-law for the first time, his only son having died last week.

Perpignan: owns four fishing boats, wants to sell one.

Albuquerque: Hitman, flown-in to find former mob member, now in the Witness Protection Program.

Munich: Belgian tourist, imploring his estranged niece to stay and have a litre of Hefeweizen.

Palm Springs: retired airline pilot, moved here for his asthma condition.

San Francisco: bartender on his day off, lunching with waitress he secretly loves, but won't ever tell her.


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Scott MacFarlane, The Bunker, Mount Vernon, WA, USA:


One o’clock      
     from the inferno, from her      
     duodenum raging            
          like Der Führer concussed in his bunker, 
          like a pickax impaling the blue iris of her mortality,
          like stillbirthing.

“I can’t live like this.” Woe and tears
     drip of drugs
          end her Third Reich of agony,
          extract the axe
          resurrect the old her,
          peace of 


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Ann Denk, Café Inconnu, Newport Beach, CA, USA: 


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Joanne Warfield, Rose Café, Venice, CA, USA:  

Little Kenzo

Ahh, little Kenzo, full of pure joy,
What’s to become of this four-year-old boy?

A rocket scientist or a priest yet to be?
What lies in his future, the world will soon see.

There’s hope, I do glean, in his backpack of books,
and in the kind eyes of his mother’s sweet look.

With all of our children so gently embraced,
This surely would foster a true state of grace.


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Steve De Jarnatt, Food, Pico Boulevard, West Los Angeles, CA, USA:

A familiar face.  A face that feeds me. On the Westside now. But it had given sustenance mid-town for years. It all came back one day. Judy, Judy – Judy’s.

I’m a regular — tri-salad to go, meatloaf from heaven. Comfort. FOOD. And idle, always interesting chat. The Eames—ADD—locavores. Today I go by ruled by time, on an expedition to capture a moment. But she’s not in today far as I can see. I scour the faces. Families picking crusts like any other, the solitary ones who homestead a table for the day—the Gort glow of their MacBooks winking. Nothing to write home about. Or to Paris.

There she is — in the kitchen. Judy’s reddened mug. Overseeing something emerging from the oven? Crying. With someone else who’s crying. Through the portal square, framed beside The Specials. String hair down from the bun. Moving from the frame, off stage—unknown.


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Suki Kitchell Edwards, 8100 feet up Animas Mountain, Durango, CO, USA: 


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Dawna Kemper, Pat’s, Topanga Canyon, CA, USA:

Bright yellow bandana-print muumuu fringed bottom smocked bodice you keep pulling up to cover the bikini top with the cacophony of black and white letters pressed against each other. What do they say? (I can’t tell without staring.) Speaking Spanish to the waitress to your husband to God. Unruly waves of dull brown hair pushed free of your face by a wide stretchy black band bold in your pockmarked makeup-free beauty. Flip flop dangles and falls from your pink lacquered toes and stays off, foot dangling free naturally expressive the hands, too, painting words while you speak chopping smoothing waxing the air in front of you. You eyed my boyfriend’s plate when it arrived, then back to talking niños with your husband hands still moving pausing only when your own plate of eggs was delivered, latching hands with your man to offer up a whispered rezo a Dios.


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Bruce Moody, Café Inconnu, Crockett, CA, USA:

The Crimson Jumper

She walked a hundred miles in one week, once. From a disappointment in love. She didn’t know where she walked. Those old roads. Her head down. Just walked. Until love fortified itself in her, and dropped off its silver lamé of being duped. Now she sits guarded by her garments, which are unremarkable, which fit, which are comfortable and offer neither disguise nor invitation. She bends over her gadget. It does not mean anything to her, but it works for work. This is a strong woman, the air around her declares. Or a stronger woman. Stronger than before. She does not trumpet it. It is just in the air, like oxygen is in the air. Useful. Wiser. Benevolent.


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Lorie Adair: Steve’s Espresso Café, Tempe, AZ, USA:

He scratches behind an ear, cups his chin in a hand pale as a fish. He speaks to a friend; his mouth is thin, teeth the color of dishwater. Reaching into his pocket, he shifts to stand. At 6’ 3”, his thin legs poke from blue scruffs. He removes an I-Touch, rubs his fingers along the screen. He listens to his friend, grunts, holds the Touch 8 inches from his face. He sets it on the table, nods at his companion then lifts the screen again. He tilts it; a background beat of Soul. He stands, signals the barista. “Another to go.” He flips open courier bag, placing Touch in its pocket, angling laptop in its slot. Humidity like sex. Later, he reaches for the Touch, scrolls through the list, his forefinger sliding along glass. Caressing black space, he forgets the color of her eyes, the brand of lipstick she wears.


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Patrice Bilawka, Café Literati, West Los Angeles, CA, USA

Dusty Brogues

The Stranger strolled into the café and took his place across from me. Every day, same time—10 a.m. Just like me. He rarely looked around, but when he did he would sometimes cringe. His eyes were a blue, watery abyss. We never spoke. But I thought, “Maybe today… yes, maybe I should say hello.” Would I smile, or nonchalantly stammer a quick greeting? I would just do it. And whatever came out would be fine. I was looking at his shoes. Dusty brogues. Then I brought up my glance, and…the Stranger disappeared. He didn’t get up and leave, or switch to a different chair. I looked around to see if anyone else noticed. No. But he was gone. Do crazy people know they are going crazy? Do they keep things to themselves, like seeing people disappear? That was 7 weeks 2 days and 4 hours ago. The Stranger has not returned, and I have not seen anyone vanish since.


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Jon Hess, Café Literati, West Los Angeles, CA, USA:

"We close in five minutes," says the cricket behind the counter at Café Literati. Her fabulous gold hoop earrings sway, patting her neck. Her freckles are peach colored. "Well?" Her smile is nice -- her sadness deep. Her guitar is waiting for her in the trunk of her beat-up old Honda Civic. Chairs are put on tables. I'm the last customer. I wanted to tell her that I came here to write about her for my friend's blog "Paris Play." But then the seductive mystery of not knowing would be shattered and she would no longer be a stranger. Then I want to tell her to never stop singing, because her music heals her. The room is quiet for a moment. Minutes later, I step onto the LA street and imagine Paris.


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Richard Beban, Café André Breton, Paris, France: