Friday, September 25, 2009

Le Marché

I stayed close to home today, spent much of the morning in a café writing and watching people go by. I'm really in a moment of rethinking everything about my book, probably the first of many. I sat at a corner café that looks up toward Montmartre. Busy. Lots of traffic on the main street at the top of Rue des Martyrs.

I was thinking about how to include Madame Lenormand. I like the quirkiness of who she is. She dressed in a turban and wore lots of gold rings and was trained to read fortunes by the gypsies.

They told her she would become rich and "famous" essentially, which she did. I'm not sure where or how she will cross paths with my characters, but that's what I was exploring this morning, mostly making notes and looking for connections that seem plausible and substantial enough to carry the story forward.

The key to getting the book "right" lies in getting the opening "right," and the book opens in the cemetery of Père Lachaise—in a dreamlike state. Tori is wandering among the graves, out of her body, on the verge of her own death. She encounters ghosts and guides. There's no reason why Madame Lenormand could not be one of them. She is (coincidentally) buried there.

Madame Lenormand was very much alive in 1830, which is when the in-time action of the story begins. Tori is four years old and Victor Hugo is staging Hernani at Theatre Francais. Madame Lenormand could easily be in attendance and encounter Louise Farrenc, Tori's mother, and involuntarily see Tori's early demise. In fact, Madame Lenormand could remember the scene at Père Lechaise the reader has just been told. She was famous for her ability to see death coming. She accurately predicted Robespierre's death, which got her in a heap of trouble.

If Madame Lenormand becomes a voice in the story, than the tendrils reaching back to the Revolution become suddenly stronger. I've made a small nod in that direction in the character of an old revolutionary who encourages nineteen-year-old Liszt to stop moping, and as a possible explanation for some of the correctness that defines Tori's papa, as if to suggest that both he and Louise are somewhat spooked by the scars of the Revolution. Aristide was old enough to have witnessed the "Terror," as the political upheaval of all those guillotinings is known. (I learned yesterday our contemporary use of the word "terrorism" comes from The Terror of the French Revolution.)

So, anyway, I spent the day thinking—first at a café and then, later I wandered over to the park at Place Anvers. It was filled with school children, young people, business people, toddlers and their nannies, old people and little dogs. People had come to eat lunch. It felt very local. I don't know if there were other foreigners there, but I didn't see evidence of tourists. It really felt like the neighborhood doing what it does.

The birds were busy too, little ones, chickadees perhaps, or something that looks like them with little brown bodies and chocolate brown heads. They were begging for bread crumbs, coming right up to me. I didn't have bread, but I watched them get fed by plenty of soft-hearted folks. Very cute.

I stayed through the lunch hour and watched the market set-up. That was my big adventure for the day, shopping at the open-air market. It didn't actually open until 3pm, stays open until 8:30pm, which makes sense. That's kind of the way the day goes. It runs late for everyone, it seems. Parisians frame their time differently than has been my pattern.

The market. Once it got going, I screwed up my courage and gave it a shot. I bought one of the roasted chickens I'd been thinking about since last week, plus a gorgeous artichoke, about the size of a small cantaloupe, and a huge cauliflower, also some asparagus and two chipotle sausages. I considered a lot of other things, but, to be honest, each time I bought something, I had to calm down afterward before I could do it again.

I did just fine. I didn't forget how to count and I seemed to ask for things with enough of an appropriate sound that I was understood. I stumbled over the asparagus—asperge—get a little thrown by "g" which is usually nasal. But I pointed too. It worked. People were nice. I remembered to say bonjour monsieur and au revoir monsieur. I'm just very shy, that's all.

I contemplated some amazing looking shrimp, but decided to wait until next week, and I would have bought green beans, but I felt a little confused about how many to buy. A half kilo seems like too much and I wasn't sure what the next size smaller would be. I forgot to look over my French notes before I left this morning, which would have been smart.

The one thing I haven't had in my first two weeks of being in Paris is bread. I know that sounds crazy, but those who know me, know I've been eating a radically low carb, no gluten diet since January. I'm still contemplating the whole bread thing, and what to do about it, how much to bend, how much to tow the line.

Bread. Hard to believe anyone in Paris would not eat the bread. It looks so glorious, especially in the market. Well, it probably looks glorious in the boulangeries as well, I just haven't been in them yet.

The market has one beautiful bread display that drifts into a pâtisserie. I found myself checking it out very attentively. I learned yesterday that there's a limit on what a baguette can cost, that in France even the poor must be able to afford bread (and health care. Oops, didn't mean to go all political, but honestly, from here the US looks like a third-world country with a bunch of rich people throwing a let-them-eat-cake hissy fit.)

Today was a simple day, satisfying, relaxing, fun. (In the spirit of full disclosure: the batteries in my camera went dead; most of these aren't my photographs. The first and last ones are.) This is Rue des Martyrs with Sacre Coeur in the background. That's how it looks walking up the street from South to North, nearing my house. Quite lovely.

No comments:

Post a Comment