Tuesday, November 30, 2010

an adventure in personal hygiene

Pedaling past Notre Dame, I noticed a dusting of snow that covered the small park behind the flying buttresses. The cold air blew a deep freeze over my fingers as I made my way along the Seine towards the public showers. Minutes later, I wrestled the key away from the frozen bike lock and headed inside, my backpack loaded with soap and a change of clothes.
This particular bath house opens at 7AM, so when I strolled in close to 10:30AM, after opening up the bookstore, I could hardly be frustrated at the line that had formed. A collection of men, some cold, others dejected, and still others who smelled as though they could use a good washing stood just inside the entrance patiently waiting for a Frenchman to summon their presence towards the next open stall. I noticed a police officer searching the contents of a plastic bag which looked to belong to a man standing next to the sinks.
As orderly and clean as these public facilities are, there still exists in me an underlying sense of distrust with the men who frequent them. My eyes wandered around the tiled surroundings as I stood waiting. I made brief, unintended eye contact with a man seated on the bench. His shiny bald head was lined on the sides with greasy strips of hair that had been brushed forward from behind his ears. In the millisecond that was traded between our eyes, his mouth curled into a rather creepy smile.

A minute later a frumpy Frenchman in a royal blue one-piece mechanics suit called out the opening of two showers upstairs. Without hesitation I stepped towards the offer and, much to my discomfort, so did smiley. As I walked down the row of shower stalls, barely wide enough for one person, I turned shoulders with a younger looking man, I glanced at him, sensing his stare, and saw a slight smile followed by a quick wink. At which point I by-passed my benefit-of-the-doubt-everyone-is-just-happy-to-be-getting-clean approach to these odd smiles and bolted for the nearest open stall, spun around and flipped the latch of the lock shut as fast as the fastest cowboy in the history of western gunslinging duels.

Stepping back out into the frigid air I felt refreshed and warm from the hot water. When the weather turns, for many men and women who live on the streets (or at a bookshop with no shower), a stop off at the public bath house is the surest way to escape the cold.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

7,800 pipes with a smokin sound.

I dont know jack about organs and how they make music but my friend Dylan's excitement and knowledge about the subject was contagious enough for me to be seated under the massive vaulted ceiling of Notre Dame listening to the (free) weekly organ concert today. 7,800 pipes started to sing, and I listen for what Dylan says is humankind's great effort to crunch the complex sounds of an entire orchestra into one magical instrument.
I am certain Dylan ears were more intent on picking up the finer points of one of the world's great organs than mine were. My ears were busy tripping flashes in my brain of sitting at funerals as a young boy, riding the carousel, and watching the Phantom of the Opera. Funny how music triggers dusty memories in our minds.

An hour passed, then the pipes fell silent. Dylan and I made the cold three minute walk back over the Seine to Shakespeare while taking in the view of Christmas coming to Paris.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

lots of little feet shuffling through Shakespeare

20 eight-year-olds from a bilingual school toured the bookstore yesterday. The older a person gets the harder it seems to imagine what the world looks/feels like through eight year old eyes, but as I stood in front of them, speaking briefly about how I sleep upstairs, living in the library, their eyes went wide at such a thought.

That moment energy, with their young minds spinning and imaginations running wild, captured what I often miss sight of on any given day here at Shakespeare and Co, forgetting that such an existence, viewed through the eyes of a child, can evoke some of that same magic that one finds from those tall tales told by Lewis Carroll or E. B. White or Shel Sliverstein or, or, or.
The kids wrapped up the stairs, past the beds and the books, gathering in the library, where my friend and fellow Shakespeare inhabitant Dylan and I took turns reading from “THE GRUFFLO” while the other half went to the top floor to say hello to George, who opened the bookstore in 1951. He will turn 97 next month. -Now- I can only imagine what that experience was like for those little minds.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Indoor inspiration on a rainy Sunday.

I bumped and nudged my way through a crowd of fashion forward photography fans, bright colored sneakers, thin sweater vests paired with facial hair growths of different shapes and lengths, the quintessential camera draped over the chest. iPhones rang with various house ring-tones, foreign mouths practiced their English skills in this very international setting as I took in the view of some amazing photographs.

I was underground near the Louvre getting lost in a massive photography exhibition entitled Paris Photo, thousands of photos some modern some very old were on display for the weekend. Paris becomes photo friendly for the month of November with outdoor exhibits across the city.

One minute I was staring at an Elk's head on a table, a clean cut, the head sat upright on a pristine white table in a snow covered background, a minute later I was replaying the debate I had recently read about regarding the authenticity of Capa's “Falling Solider”. I stood staring at the print for a moment amazed at the image itself and the controversy that surrounds it. And glancing down I was equally amazed at the € 22,500 price tag.

Having spent a few hours wandering, I walked back out into a rainy Sunday in Paris feeling inspirational overload. It was great to see such a wide collection of images, both in terms of challenging one's own eye and appreciating those who have created something beautifully original.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

PHOTO ESSAY: The view from Sacre Coeur

So my Paris postings seem to be pulling from the same story line -Brad finishes shift at Shakespeare- notices the amazing light that comes around about once a week- Brad then slings a camera over his shoulder- jumps on his bike, and speeds off into the unknown, exploring some new corner of the city-

The photos that follow were taken when Lester and I toured the 1st, 2nd, 9th and 18th arrondissements, making our way towards Sacre Coeur (on top of the 18th) in time to catch the sunset. Perched on the highest hilltop in Paris, Sacre Coeur is popular among tourist as it provides a great view of the city and is home to a small group of artists who sell their creations in a square next to the Basilica. Berets and canvasses fight for space among the tiny square that is lined with brightly lit cafes and restaurants. The weather and the view made for a great ride.
A slice of light caught my eye as I made my way along the Seine

A view from Pont du Carrousel

Boys playing football in Jardin du Carrousel

A view of Palais-Royal Musee du Louvre

The view from Sacre Coeur of the Parisian skyline

Sacre Coeur at sunset

I think this shot has been taken a time or two...

Thursday, November 11, 2010

PHOTO ESSAY: Cimetiere du Pere Lachaise

Lester was kickin' up water on my pant legs from the rain soaked streets of Paris in early November. With some sizable sun breaks the other afternoon we rushed towards Cimetiere Pere Lachaise, an old, large, and rather famous cemetery in the 20th arrondissement.
Walking through the massive entrance, I thought of the many who passed through the same entrance fondly remembering loved one(s), now laid to rest, of course many came without such heavy thoughts but rather there to pay respect to the legend of Oscar Wilde or the countless musical pilgrims, visiting the grave of Jim Morrison. I was there because i was told it was a beautiful setting with elaborately designed headstones
Every corner of the cemetery was covered in big beautiful leaves. Having shaded the deceased during the hot summer months they now gather among the graves, having run their own cycle. Resting in peace... until a Frenchman comes with a loud blower and rounds them up.

Grave of Jim Morrison

On my way through the cemetery I walked past several crows. The way they hopped, swopped, floated and danced from grave to grave I couldnt help but appreciate how much they seemed to belong there among the dead, dressed in black, a chaotic procession of wings.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Paris through a pinhole.

From my perspective, Pat Bognar has perfected the pinhole photo. Pinhole refers to photos taken with a camera (or small box) that uses a hole no bigger than a pinhole to capture an image. Giving how small a pinhole is, this method of taking photos requires long exposure times under lots of sunlight.

Not pretending to know what I am doing I have recently entered the world of the pinhole. First, I acquired a small box which was sold as a kit. The kit is the camera and has everything one needs to take and develop pinhole photos inside. From start to finish, from photo paper to developing solutions. This small box, old-school shall we say, is awesome but slightly time intensive considering it works one exposure at a time, as in each piece of photo paper has to be removed and another replaced in complete darkness, under red light. I have yet to set aside a day (or two) to undertake this endeavor but rest assure I will update you on the outcome when that day comes.

However, my friend Terry, who works at Shakespeare and Co made me a digital pinhole “lens”. Meaning he took a simple lens cap, cut out a small hole in the center, then took a piece of tin and covered the small hole, then, you guessed it, poked out a tiny, tiny pinhole in the center of the tin.

I stuck this digital pinhole on my Nikon D70 a few days ago (the last few days in Paris have been on par with fall weather in Portland...) and came to find it makes for some interesting albeit blurred images. I haven't had much time to play with it but enjoy the practice before embarking on a journey with my little black box in hand.

Search This Blog