Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Louvre—Again

Géricault began studying formally in 1808 with Carle Vernet, a French painter who specialized in horses. His son, Émile Jean-Horace Vernet was a close friend. The two of them had studios on Rue des Martyrs, Géricault at No. 23, Vernet at No. 11, but the gardens of the two studios were connected by an off-street path.

Vernet is another of those characters who I was ignoring, but who now seems to provide potential "glue," connecting my characters. This is a self-portrait of Vernet, painted in 1835—I'm pretty sure that's not tobacco in that pipe. I say "glue" because, like Louise Farrenc and her brother Augustine Dumont, Vernet was born in the galleries of the Louvre.

The Louvre housed artists during the French Revolution. Vernet was a third generation painter. His father was Carl Vernet; his grandfather Claude Joseph Vernet. I'm planning a scene in the Louvre with Louise and Augustine, now I believe Vernet must be part of that. He was older than the Dumont children, born in 1789. Augustine and Louise were born in 1801 and 1804 respectively. Vernet held David and neoclassicism in contempt. He had a particular hostility toward David who had done nothing to prevent Vernet's aunt from the guillotine when he could have. He and Géricault were both rivals and friends.

Vernet became famous for his contemporary battle pictures, which include a number that I've been using to study the revolutions of 1830 and 1848.

Vernet and Géricault were about the same age. When Géricault began studying with Vernet's father Carl—young Vernet was 19. The scene in the Louvre that I've been planning is of Géricault copying one of the masters. (Louise and Augustine finding him there while out playing.) Now I'm thinking that Vernet's there too; that he's the one who took Géricault there and showed him around.

So all of this is really about a decision to be made. I've got four artists to consider: Delacroix of course, who modeled for Géricault's Raft of the Medusa and was deeply influenced by him; Ary Scheffer who painted Gérucault on his death bed and lived in the neighborhood and held famous salons some years later that were attended by Chopin, Liszt and Georges Sand; James Pradier, the sculptor I was writing about in my last entry; and Vernet. Each one of those men has a role to play in the opening scene where Géricault is being brought home on a stretcher from his third and final fall off a horse—the final injury that, in essence, killed him.

And I'm still searching for images and information about what the Louvre was like during the Revolution when the families of artists were living there. This is a picture from 1824, the year Géricault died. This is one of the Academy's Salons—the most important art event of each year. The Raft of the Medusa was shown in the 1819 salon. The artists were forced out of the Louvre by Napoleon who turned the Louvre into an official museum for the first time. It was, however, a museum, really, from the time of Louis XIV.

I just have this image in mind about what it must have felt like to be a child in the Louvre, running, maybe even barefoot along the marble floors, free of any real authority, other than the adults living there. What an amazing childhood experience. It's quite caught my imagination. My intention is to let Louise remember it and to draw the reader into that memory.

And yes, I've been writing chapter one —that's how this whole thing about Vernet came to my attention. I originally sent him after the physician so he wasn't in the scene. Now I'm thinking maybe someone else should go, or he should return in time to be part of things. That's the task for today: to rework that section. This has been prep, so to speak. The picture is Géricault's courtyard today.

Friday, December 18, 2009

The Satyr and Bacchante

I'm feeling excited this afternoon. I finally have some new material for The Appassionata. It's not the very, very beginning, which will still be a prelude woven into the fabric of Père Lachaise. I'm not ready to write that piece yet. But what I am able to write is the opening action —in time—in Paris. Originally the book opened in 1830, but since going to Paris I've known it had to start earlier. The Appassionata now opens in 1824—the year Géricault (and Lord Byron) died.

It opens just after Géricault falls from his horse and is being carried back to his studio on Rue des Martyrs. And now I know who is there with him. The scene takes place just south of Rue Bréda, which is the street where the prostitutes worked.

What's got me excited is I've found the connection between this new material and what I've already written. It's through a young Louise Farrenc and Mademoiselle Juliette Drouet, Victor Hugo's soon-to-be mistress. Juliette was an eighteen year old model in 1824, working for the sculptor James Pradier. Pradier is famous for his sensuous erotica that was mostly sold to private clients. He was, however, well-trained and has work in the Louvre. His Satyr and Bacchante is especially respected—something for which Juliette modeled.

Pradier was Juliette's first lover and there's even evidence that she may have been attempting to get close to Hugo at Pradier's request in order to help his career along. Hugo met Juliette at the staging of one of his plays—a couple of years after Hernani and after The Hunchback of Notre Dame had made him incredibly famous and quite powerful.

I've placed Juliette at the scene of Géricault's fall—which happened at Place Pigalle, right near the top of Rue des Martyrs. Several things make this reasonable: First of all, Juliette lived in the area. Secondly, there was an informal arts market at Place Pigalle where artists went to look for models. Juliette would likely have spent time there looking for work or just paling around with other models. It was a step above prostitution although there was cross-over. And Pradier, who paid for Juliette's apartment and paid her expenses—what all these young women were hoping for—had his studio in Nouvelle Athènes. That's the connection I was looking for and just found.

Pradier had a reputation as a dandy. There's a quote about how he got up every morning to head for Nouvelle Athènes and returned home every night by way of Rue Bréda. He was married and also the father of Juliette's one child, a little girl named Claire who was born about 1827 or so, about the same time as Louise's daughter Tori, in fact.

Which brings me to Louise Farrenc. Louise is also on Rue des Martyrs the day that Géricault falls from his horse. She's 20; Juliette is 18. Louise is already married, but Tori won't be born for two years. Aristide is just establishing his publishing business, Éditions Farrenc. They live over the publishing shop not far from Rue des Martyrs, but in a better part of town, closer to the Grand Avenues and the well-established wealth of Paris.

Louise has been on Rue de la Tour des Dames at the home of Mlle Duchesnois giving her daughter a piano lesson. Louise promised Aristide she would not walk home. The area is not one in which a woman of her position should be walking, especially alone. But Louise is intimidated by this celebrity who has money and fame, so rather than push Mlle Duchesnois to provide a carriage ride home, she walks.

And in so doing, crosses paths with Géricault. He's being carried on his cloak, which is being used like a stretcher by Delacroix and Pradier. This is Géricault's third and final fall. (He fell three times over the course of about two or three weeks and then, really, never walked again.) Louise has her nose buried in the piano music she's carrying in her arms. In fact, she's composing a piece of music in her head, thinking grand thoughts about being a composer when she rounds the corner and basically collides with Juliette Drouet who is gingerly leading Géricaults high strung Arabian stallion.

The music flies in the air. The horse rears brakes lose and races down the street. Everyone stops in confusion. What happens in the middle of all this is that Pradier recognizes Louise. Not because she's a composer, but because she's the little sister of Augustin Dumont, Pradier's peer, yet another sculptor. Géricault too, has seen Louise before—in the Louvre. She came with her brother to the Salon where The Raft of the Medusa was exhibited. Géricault is conscious, and when Pradier and Delacroix go after his horse, he calls Louise to his side and asks her to perform what is an almost impossible favor. He asks her to get word to Alexandrine of his injury.

The reason it's almost impossible is because Alexandrine's husband has forbidden any contact between them. Alexandrine has given up their son to adoption and she is sequestered in her home near Versailles, forbidden even any news of Gericault. If anyone recognizable tries to get word to her, they will be stopped. Louise has a chance because she won't be suspected. He begs her to use stealth and find a way to have a private conversation with Alexandrine. Louise is stunned by the request, but, in spite of all her misgivings—including the fact that Aristide will never allow her to undertake such a task—she agrees to try.

Scene One; Chapter One. I have my new beginning.

A couple of final notes: Géricault also created some of that "private art" for private clientele. Pradier found him the clients. He, like Liszt and Berlioz, actually took to the streets during the 1830 July Revolution. And finally, in one of those little sign-post things—Pradier is buried at Père Lachaise. So he's in. Basically, I'm weaving together the stories of several women here. Louise and Tori are two of them. It's not clear to me yet how large of a role either Juliette or Alexandrine will have, but they're both part of the glue. Hugo will have a larger part, and clearly Delacroix's role has grown.

My biggest challenge is going to be keeping the material under control. I've got enough story for several books—but I only want to write one about this time period, so I've got to make some choices. This opening is the first. It limits Géricault's presence, but allows him into the story.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Turkey Trot & Other Delights

I took myself for a walk today and took my camera with me, something I've never done before, except of course, traveling around Paris. I thought, why not? For one thing, there's a bunch (what does one call a group of turkeys?) of wild turkeys making their home in the neighborhood.

Earlier this morning I saw deer and then the turkeys. That is, of course, one of the things about my home that I love, the wild animals that I occasionally see around my home. I've even seen a fox. So I thought if I go out with my camera, maybe I'll get some interesting pictures.

That's a little different than my thought process when going out in Paris, but it's related. I'm having a difficult time making the transition back to what I suppose I must think of as "reality"... that is life now that I'm back in the United States.

So, yes. Turkeys. I didn't get close enough to get a good picture. They were only semi-tolerant of my presence. I walked down the road that runs from my house to the ocean. It's foggy out this afternoon and very damp. It's been raining pretty much non-stop since my arrival home last Friday, or so it seems.

I do intend to continue this blog. I'm not sure what it will turn into, not pictures of Mendocino, but for the moment it's part of the transition, I think.

I've been reading about Paris this last week. Just before I left, I went back to Shakespeare and Company and purchased a book on the history of Paris. I've been reading it—so far from the Roman beginnings to the reign of Louis XIV. It makes sense to me on a number of levels. First of all, I usually have a sense of where things are now. Almost everything I'm reading about has some sense of familiarity. And it's exciting because I'm seeing the roots of some of what everyone takes for granted about Parisian culture. For example, I've read all about the roots of the Latin Quarter and the way academia developed in Paris in the middle ages. I've also read a lot more than I had a about the café culture.

It makes sense that now that I can't walk out the door and into the world of Paris, I'm finding other ways to keep myself connected. Books. I've also been reading about the literary community, Hugo and all the others that were around in the early hours of the Romantic movement. I've been delving much deeper into Hugo's story and his influence.

All this because I'm about to rewrite the beginning of the book. I've even made one sweep over the terrain in the last couple of days. I'm not satisfied, but I'm closer. I spent about three hours drawing out a map of the area that the main thrust of the book takes place in—the 9th arrondissement from the Grand Boulevards in the South the Montmartre border in the north... from Porte Saint-Denis in the east to Rue Blanche in the west. This is where I lived and where I walked the most. In fact, I covered almost all of it by foot. Almost everything I read about, I've seen. I've gathered more background since coming home, from the Paris history and from several of the books that I couldn't take with me when I left for Paris, that are now of new interest.

So. It's probably going to take another few days or so before I figure out how to make the transition, especially here, in the blog. But that is my intention. I do have a book to write. And I intend to use this format to help myself along.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Strangely Home

I'm home in Mendoncino and was in fact writing this blog last night just about this time when my loyal laptop bit the dust in a drama of inappropriate behavior. I've tried to revive it, but with no luck. I believe the hard drive that was its brain is no longer. I'm not sure what is lost and what is saved. That's a topic for another time.

If it had to go the way of all artificial intelligence, I'm glad it had the wherewithal to wait until I was home. I suspect it was the journey that is to blame. Something about the journey was slightly askew, although, the universe was so good as to keep the plane ride simple—no turbulence, no drama. I'm most grateful for that.

But Friday morning, as I drug two very heavy suitcases out of my apartment along with my purse and a small cloth carry-on that had my computer in it, the elevator, that I had patted and thanked and prayed over for three months, chose to rebel. It would not come when fetched by its button. There was a taxi downstairs waiting to carry me across town to the 13th arrondissement (the FIAP building, which is a youth hostel where my classes were held and where most of my fellow travelers were housed). There a bus waited to carry me to the airport where a plane waited to carry me to San Francisco where a friend was waiting to drive me home. None of these conveyances would wait for long. I had to go down a flight with half my luggage and then back up it for the piece I'd left behind, the biggest of the bags and bring it down. Floor by floor, up and down, up and down, all five floors.

It's was like some kind of last laugh on the part of all the staircases (of which I had admittedly complained) in Paris. In any event, I imagine that it was during that unexpected exertion that I did not attend to my laptop carefully enough. I probably banged it on the staircase. It was not packed for such a journey. I had expected to use the elevator.  Such is life. I don't believe the elevator answers to a call on the fifth floor. Perhaps that's the issue.

I had been prudent with the words I wrote, saving them. But all the photographs that I downloaded onto my laptop—alas, I never backed them up. I even thought about it and ignored the thought. I have not abandoned my belief that some technological genius will rescue them, but that remains to be seen. Meanwhile, not only am I home. My routine is entirely altered by the fact that I cannot use my laptop.

It turned on courageously on the plane. It even turned on here at home, but once it had been on for awhile at home it froze and made what can only be described as a most unnatural noise. That was that. The end.

I am writing this at 2:30am Mendocino time, which is 11:30am Paris time. My body's clock is still in Paris. I'm wide awake. Furthermore, I just finished the last fifty pages of Stendhal's The Red and The Black. What an amazing book. It has left me in this odd mood however and is responsible for the voice that is seeping into my blog entry. Poor Julien Sorel. He dies. In fact, he is executed for a crime of passion, he attempts to murder the woman he loves. It's a long story, and Stendhal was able to move me from amusement to despair with ease. His political and cultural insights are exceptionally interesting to me. I feel like he has educated me to the mindset of Paris in the 1830s. He manages to communicate the travesty of class division and the plight both of women and of the common people, however well educated.

I'll have more to say on that subject in another blog. I'm writing tonight to say, yes, I'm home in California. Yes, it is strange to be home. Yes, I miss Paris. Yes, I will return, yes. I say yes. I will, yes.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Au Revoir… Adieu… Good Bye

It's about 3:30pm, on Thursday. I've been out. This is probably my last entry from Paris. I decided to do one last piece of research. I went to the address of the Farrenc publishing house on Boulevard Poissonniere. What I found was well worth the journey. First of all, the building was the original. Secondly, I was able to get into the courtyard that's behind the storefront and I found shop doors back there that felt like the business wrapped around the courtyard, like it was a place for delivers or something.

I feel like I got a sharp clear sense of what it was like and it's quite different than what was in my head. So. It's good I came. The more I sit with everything, the more I'm convinced that this is where the Farrenc family lived, where Tori grew up. It especially seemed so after seeing it. Nothing else really makes sense. If they'd had so much money they could own a publishing business and own a hôtel, they wouldn't of had a publishing business. They would of been aristocrats. It would have been beneath them to earn a living.

Furthermore, it just looks like a they lived there—or maybe the word is feels. I don't know exactly how to explain it, but there's something about the place. It's kind of like seeing the Versailles stables and realizing that the whole second floor was living quarters for the people who staffed the place. That's what this feels like—like the second floor is for living in. It fits the picture I had somehow too. It's the courtyard, I guess. A carriage could have, and would have come into that courtyard.

It's a little courtyard, but when I stood in the middle of it, looking up, I felt like I could see Tori up there in the window, looking down. Just like I wrote it. It made sense. I fit. It made me happy. And the windows above Tori's, in the eaves—that's obviously where their serving girl, Bette, lived. This picture is taken from the courtyard, looking north, away from the street front.

From there, I went to this covered passageway that is just a couple blocks from the publishing shop. It's a covered shopping street, 19th century style. I think even then they might have called it a mall. It was, and is, full of shops, very narrow, for pedestrians only. Passage Des Panoramas, it's called. All of this was just south of where I walked last Saturday.

What makes Passage Des Panoramas so interesting is that it was built in about 1800 and had gas lights by 1817. The Stern's Engraving's sign in the photo has been hanging there since 1834 (a restored version). The shop only recently changed and now days in Paris when shops change, for historical reasons they leave the old signs up. I really like that. Apparently a lot of the wood paneling has been restored as well and the glass ceilings are mostly the originals. This is one of the few passages that as survived more or less in it's original.

I stopped for lunch at a delightful little place that looked like it had the original woodwork and "decoration." It was one of those places where the tables are so close together, it's like you're sitting at someone else's table. Paris is this incredible blend of extremes, from the huge palaces to these tiny little shops.

Anyway, it had ceiling paintings along a panel on an overhang outside. It was remarkable. I didn't get a very good picture of it, unfortunately, but I was sitting right under these wonderful 18th century-looking paintings, kind of Rococo. The bright light is the heaters, which were nice because they made it cozy. I had an excellent salad.

And then, I stumbled on to my extra credit reward, a carved horse. For anyone who has read any of The Appassionata, they know that Tori has a rocking horse in bedroom that plays an important role—and there it was, right in front of me, Tori's rocking horse. The look in its eyes is so wonderful. Horses are a motif—and there it was again. Tori's horse.

I ended my day by going to L'église Sainte-Marie-Madeleine where Chopin's funeral was held to a performance of Mozart's Requiem Mass. I lit a candle. It seemed a fitting good-bye to Paris.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

City of LIghts

The tests are done, the papers are written. In fact, my bags are mostly packed. I have one day left. Paris is ending.

I spent the evening on the Left Bank, near Place Saint-Michel. The fountain is one of Haussmann's creations, built in 1855. I read the statue was originally going to be of Napoleon, but there was enough anger at Louis Napoleon (Napoleon III)—who had only recently declared himself emperor—that it didn't happen. I'm not sure how that worked. I mean, if Louis Napoleon was emperor, it seems he could have insisted. In any event, the fountain features St. Michael and his dragons. I like the dragons. In fact, I like the fountain, it's big and dramatic and looks like Paris.

Protesters gather here. They have for centuries. That's why I saw demonstrators here the day I purchased Stendhal's The Red and The Black. Remember? The Paris Commune made a stand here in the 1870s, and so too the students during the May 1968 riots. Les événements, (The events) they're called. One of our speakers, a wonderfully articulate woman who summed up several hundred years of French politics, was part of those riots. She got me thinking that book four, that's set in the sixties in San Francisco, might have a taste of Paris too...

I like the Latin Quarter. It's one of the places I keep going back to. There's a little church there, Saint-Julien-le-Pauvre, where I've gone several times to hear piano concerts. I'm contemplating spending my last night there, in fact, because there's a Liszt and Chopin concert.

It starts at 8pm, so I don't know. A taxi is arriving at 6am Friday morning to pick me up. My plane leaves at 10:30am... It's so strange, or maybe it's not strange at all, but I can't believe I'm going home. I couldn't believe I was coming and certainly couldn't believe I was here. So I suppose it makes sense that I can't believe it's ending. I keep swelling with emotion. I'm very sad to be leaving.

Paris at night is all alight. It really is. And where it's not alight, everything goes all soft and romantic. It looks like some old Cary Grant movie. The pictures: the bicyclists and the alleyway are from the walk I take to school. In the daylight it's a mostly modern, less than interesting trek through the 13th arrondissement. At night, voilà.

I sat in a cafe and drank a glass of wine. It seemed like the right thing to do. The weather has warmed up and I was sitting near one of those outdoor heaters. It was cozy and wonderful, except for the bill. It cost me 8 Euros for a glass of wine!

Still, it wasn't enough to suck the romance out of my evening. Since I'd paid for my table, I sat there for a good hour or so, writing, watching people and reading, yes, Stendhal. I'm almost done with the Red and The Black. I've read it on the Metro. It's absolutely excellent, the politics are fascinating and the book is full of footnotes—anything the translator figures a modern English reader wouldn't know. It's a treasure trove.

It was written in 1830 and right now, Stendhal is talking about a secret meeting of a bunch of Royalists who are hoping to get foreign governments involved to keep the people from trying to overthrow the king. This is right before the July Revolution of 1830—which is central to my book.

And speaking of books, I made a last pass by Shakespeare and Company, Hemingway's bookstore. It's a great bookstore, crammed full of books and overflowing. I shouldn't have gone in, but I did. I shouldn't have gone in because it meant that I walked out with another book. I don't know where I'm going to put it, but it's a history of Paris. Again the pictures: the blue lights are on Rue des Martyrs. The carousel disappeared last weekend and the lights went up. Shakespeare and Company is in the Latin Quarter near the cafe where I read Stendhal. I mean, really, where else does one read Stendhal?

Monday, December 7, 2009

Commonplace Becomes Precious

It's Monday. I leave Friday. Today I went to school and took the hardest of the art history finals. It was alright, but I'm glad to be done with it. It was a tense morning with Line B of the RER, which is a commuter train (faster than the Metro) I take south. It has been the most problematic of all the lines the whole time I've been here. There was a strike on the line (or something like that) for about a week. I never did understand how a strike could just take out one line. So I don't know. Anyway, when it's not working and I have to get to school, it takes me an extra twenty to thirty minutes, depending on whether I know ahead of time.

This morning I didn't know ahead of time. I was heading south to take my final and I boarded the RER. I wasn't running late, but I didn't have any excess time, either. The train just sat there and ... sat there ... and then there was an announcement and I thought it said we'd be leaving in a few minutes, but then we sat some more... and clock was ticking. Outside on the information screen, it said something about "une problème matériel," which I think means a problem with the equipment. At that point I split and walked all the way to the other side of Gare Nord to catch the regular Metro (Line 4) south. I got to class about five minutes late after a lot of very fast walking. No coffee—I had planned on having time to have a café crème at school where they are good and also cheap. No such luck. I took my final sans caffeine.

Coming home, I found myself reduced to taking pictures of the common place. Like the guy who stands at the top of the stairs at the Pigalle Metro and roasts chestnuts. He's there everyday. I see him every time I ride the Metro. These are the kind of pictures I have not been taking because it seems rude. It makes me feel like a tourist. Now that I'm so close to leaving my nostalgia is overriding my resistance. The commonplace has become precious.

The chestnut seller just smiled at me when I took my pictures. I've never spoken to him. But maybe he recognizes the people like myself who use the Pigalle Metro on a daily basis. I mean, this is the Metro stop that I use whenever I go anywhere. It has an east/west line that goes toward Gare Nord and the RER that tripped me up this morning, and it has a North/South line that takes me up into Montmatre or down the east side of Paris where, for example, I transfer to get to the Louvre. One thing I feel pretty familiar with at this point is the Metro.

I'm still trying to build up my nerve to take pictures on the Metro. It does seem to be the height of touristy behavior, almost an invasion unless I happen to see musicians. There haven't been as many lately. I think it's cause it's winter and there aren't as many tourists. So. I walked home, and on the way, stopped to pick up a few things at my neighborhood supermarket.

I sneaked my camera out and snapped one or two pictures of the most mundane of the mundane—my grocery store. This woman is using the little scales that everyone uses to weigh their vegetables and fruit before paying. If you look at the picture closely, you'll see that the basket is sitting on a little wheeled contraption. You grab a basket and one of these wheelly deals and put them together yourself. They're pretty hard to steer, but they're small and so are most of the grocery stores. This is one of the larger stores, though I've read that there are some super big ones out near and in the suburbs.

Back in the beginning I tried to buy my vegetables without using the scales. It was my first time in a grocery store and I hadn't noticed how things were done. It was not at this store or at a store this big. The clerk, as I reported, was unimpressed. It was one of those, "oh wow, Paris is confusing" days. I think about how many things I've learned to take for granted. I can almost always get doors to work these days and my first day out, I couldn't figure out to push the door downstairs. I panicked because it didn't pull open. Jeeze.

So. I made it home in one piece my supplies in hand and yet again, as I do every time I come home, I tucked myself in to my tiny elevator and, ignoring the duck tapped numbers, pushed number 3 so the elevator would take me to floor 5. I no longer pray every time I get in the elevator, but I still thank the critter most of the time as I exit. Superstition, I suppose, but I am extremely grateful that it has held up so well, duck tape and all.

All in all, I'm in a much better mood this evening than I was this morning. I'm really glad to be done with the test I took today, and happy to realize that the one I have Wednesday is not going to be that hard. I'm pretty prepared. I'm finishing up a final paper—what I should be doing right now instead of this. But, while riding off to school this morning, I figured out the missing link—so I'm pretty sure I can finish it tonight. My plan is to spend my study time tomorrow in my favorite local café and, if I can squeeze it in, I'm still hoping to head up to Montmartre one last time and get portrait painted—and who knows, maybe I'll even buy a roasted chestnut.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

La Nouvelle Athènes

It's getting dark. I just came in from my long walking day in the neighborhood. I had a wonderful time and my health seems pretty good. I took a ton of pictures—this is one of my favorites. Apropos of nothing—just life on Rue des Martyrs.

I turned off Rue des Martyrs and headed west on Rue Clauzel, the street that used to be called Rue Bréda... where all the call girls plied their trade. How interesting the street looked as I applied that lens. No balcony seemed innocent.

I had studied the map before I left and thought I knew what I was doing, but one wrong turn and I was veering north instead of south. The reward was delightful... can you see it peeking out from the top of the street? The Moulin Rouge at a distance?

I came back later, at the end of my walk and sat down in a café that looked right at it. I don't know if the windmill blades are original, but they're very cool looking. I'm pretty sure Ary Scheffer could see the Moulin Rouge from his house—that would have been before it was the Moulin Rouge, the Toulouse-Lautrec famous night club, but still.... Scheffer was famous for his salons. It's where I have Tori playing piano. They were attended by Georges Sand, Chopin, Liszt, Delacriox, et al.

At the top of my agenda was Square d'Orleans where Georges Sand and Chopin lived. I'd gone looking for it way back when I first arrived but the double doors leading to it were locked. I'd read it was open on Saturdays, and yes! Square d'Orleans was open.

I'm so glad. It's huge, not at all what I expected. Pictures are hopeless in there because it's like a subdivision of something. The word subdivision is way too crass, but there are three courtyards and one little street and three covered passageways. Georges Sand's home was in one of the covered passageways.

Chopin and Sand each had their own home. They ate meals together. In fact, it was a kind of community. Alexander Dumas, the author of The Three Musketeers lived their too and the opera diva Pauline Viardot—and they all ate together. I'm not sure how big the communal group was, but there were nine numbered homes, all connected and then there was this little alleyway street with a dead end.

It was very narrow with old cobbles and this wonderful balcony with a balustrade. I couldn't find any numbered apartments on the street. One of the public places there is a small French library. I'm going to try to find out more about it online. But mostly, I think people live in the buildings. They aren't offices or businesses.

All of this is in a private world behind tall doors. When you're walking down the street and the doors are closed—like they were the first time I came by—it just looks like doors that ought to open into an apartment building.

Paris doors are simply amazing, actually. There must be a book out just about them. If there isn't, there should be. Each door is a piece of art. This beast is the door knob to Square d'Orleans.

Anyway, I'm so grateful that I got in. It's one of those architectural structures that is simply impossible to understand from pictures. I sketched the layout to make sure I remember how everything fits together.

When I left Square d'Orleans I headed up to the famous Rue de la Tour des Dames, the street where all the neoclassical hôtels were built in the 1820s, mostly for rich actors and actresses. I'd read there was a bridal path going up to the street. It brought me to the back of the most unusual of the hôtels, the one with the concave curves that belonged to Mademoiselle Duchesnois.

I like this close-up; it's an old lamp post in the back. The building curves on both sides. It's a totally wonderful-looking structure—shaped sort of like a crescent moon.

Joséphine Duchesnois was the daughter of a horse merchant—which is how I think she knew Géricault. She was living there when he died. She had three illegitimate children. It seems to me she could have been someone that Géricault or Alexadrine might have confided in. She was about ten years older than Alexandrine, and might have been a kind of mother figure.

I like following the horse mantra, but Joséphine— like just about every incidental character I'm writing about—is also buried in Père Lachaise.

And it may be just "one of those things," but I stumbled onto a New Age bookstore today. I'd given up on the idea of finding Madame Lenormand's tarot deck in Paris. Well, today, low and behold, I found it in my neighborhood.

So, that coincidence got me thinking that the connection between Madame Lenormand and Géricault is Joséphine Duchesnois. Such an interesting looking woman— I believe she's costumed as Phèdre in this painting. Not sure who painted it. She played the role in 1802 and Napoleon was so smitten, he had an affair with her. So, she and Madame Lanormand have Napoleon in common. I don't know what to make of that.

My glorious walk ended at the Hôtel Royal Fromentin, once known as Le Don Juan Cabaret. Yes, I made it to the absinthe bar. I'm very proud of myself and it was totally cool. They brought me the absinthe in a glass, the sugar and one of those silver absinthe spoons to hold it, and they brought a huge goblet of ice water that has a little silver spigot on the side—you can barely see it in the picture.

It smelled like fresh anise. The waiter explained that it's a matter of taste how much sugar and water one uses. I took one cube and put it on the spoon and opened the spout. The water comes out in drops. Drop. Drop. Drop. And as it falls, the sugar melts. I can't believe that my little camera caught a drop falling, but it did. Look at that!

As the sugar dissolved, the absinthe turned milky. It was never green. I read that the color of absinthe varies, that it can even be colorless. This was definitely more yellow than green.

It made me happy and I've been happy ever since. The waiter, who seemed amused, wanted to know if I liked it. He smiled when I said yes. I laughed and said I was writing and that this was research—at least that's what I think I said, since I were conversing mostly in French.

I'd had about half of it when I decided I had to write something down, you know, reporter-on-the-scene style. I wrote, "How clever of me! The tang is sharp, the spoon silver. It tastes of elegance and danger." Obviously inspired, wasn't I? A few minutes later I wrote, "I feel a tad bit silly, which probably means, I'm a tad bit drunk. I'm a tad impressed with myself too—and pleased."

So there you have it. When I saw the reflection, I went for it. Not bad, eh?