Thursday, December 25, 2008


A Dose of Christmas to come. 
Fearing no solution for my inevitable eviction, I married an investment banker and we moved to Greenwich  Connecticut. It was Christmas Eve. The house was full with friends and neighbors dressed up for a movie set.
They were all so rich. It was terrible.

My husband kept saying, "And she's such a good cook."
 I had tears in my eyes. I couldn't see Nina. It was snowing outside. I didn't know where I was. 

The phone rang.
It was Iris. "How do you make your cranberry sauce?" She asked, not realizing she had brought me back to Paris.

Merry Christmas to every one - Connecticut, California, Nantucket, _____ it, Uptown, Downtown, Green, Red, laid-off, paid-off, Madoff, and the English lady upstairs who doesn't speak to me anymore. merry merry, Christmas.
With love, 

Sunday, December 21, 2008


T'is the season for nostalgia. 

HO. HO, HO - On y go! 

 FAUCHON AND THE HARD HATS  written 1993 - revised today

I wasn't making a fortune with my Paris painting post cards at five francs a shot, but it was a catalyst to get commissions. Gérard, an ex-rugby player, who owns a wine store on rue Gergovi
seemed very interested.  He wanted to offer a Christmas gift to a friend who was a big wheel at Fauchon. Could I make a painting of the store? 

A few years back, Gérard had bought a watercolor from me. It took him forever to pay me. Big man. Small pockets. I raised an eyebrow when he proposed a deal. He assured me that he was serious. 

Fauchon on La Place Madelin is the Rolls Royce - Tiffany's of all food stores in the world.  I visited and observed it as a victim for my next work. The building was not very attractive. Worse. There was a construction site nearly in front with cranes dangling high and wide.

Not inspired, I decided to window shop. I gazed at their strawberries. Jewels. 
The vitrine marked CHARCUTERIE was exquisite. Nearly no one was able to pass with out pausing to admire all the gems en gelée. That was going to be my next painting.

I returned the following morning equipped to begin. The doorman saw me setting up and inquired if I had authorization. I nodded. I was still tightening the bolts of my easel when the floor manager approached me.

"C'est pour vôtre chef. " I announced straight-faced. "Christmas present."

" A bon?" he replied.

Then added sheepishly, "It's a surprise."

He asked me if I needed anything. "Only water." I told him and pulled out an empty tin can from Leader Price marked "haricot verts".

He gestured for me to follow him. I was dressed to paint and stay warm not to visit Fauchon. The salesmen were all in tuxedos. The clientele in fur.  I was led to a back room where there was a not-so-pretty sink. He told me to help myself when needed .

I thanked him and returned to the sidewalk to work.

"I am an abstract painter with an abstract mind who paints outside, for the experience." I said to myself as I tried to construct the composition with blocks of color. My water  become murky. I dumped it and meekly entered the store.

The overly slick haired salesmen who had been observing my struggle from their warm interior gave me a friendly nod. 

"There are human beings behind those penguin suits." I thought.
 One, white gloved, slender and handsome serving  champagne  to the fancy clientele offered me une coupe.

"I'm not a customer.' I told him.

"Neither am I ." he replied and handed me a glass.

I placed my tin can on his mahogany bar and began to sip the vintage bubbly. The fortuneteller in the Par Har Gange Bazaar came to mind.
"You are a lucky girl." he had crooned to me with his dark glaring eyes many moons ago.
I thanked White Gloves and offered him one of my post cards.

Yellow cranes, a blue sky and part of l'eglise Madéline were all reflected in the store front
window. I was trying to work on the play of color between the exterior and interior. Meanwhile, "Pa ra pum pum," The Little Drummer Boy and other Christmas Caroles amplified from a lamp post.  Ra ta ta ta behind me from the construction site melled with all the languages of the world passing by.

The barrier between the construction site and the Fauchon valet parking collapsed splattering the privileged cars with mud. Pa ra pum pum. Ra pa pum pum.
A tuxedo came out of the store and was greeted by a hard hat. There was a discussion. No shouting. Another tuxedo. Another hardhat until there were at least twenty men clearly divided by profession and physical make-up looking, pointing, and discussing the mess. Out came the sponges. The cars were washed and polished immaculately.

The following days were less dramatic. Many people asked me if my painting was for sale. Regrettably, I told them "no".

Finally finished and signed, I brought it over to Gérard.

"But I wanted the whole store."

"The whole store would not have been a good painting."
He said to come back in three days. He was working.
"You don't think this is work." I shouted.
I walked out slamming the the door miraculously not breaking the glass.
When I got back home, I began searching for the address of an American lady who wanted a painting of her building. To my great surprise, I found it and gave her a call. She invited me over.   

Thursday, December 4, 2008


With the dankest December in many years I decided to plant my easel inside. I came across a canvas that I had started this summer and was surprised that it seemed much better than when I had put it aside. Perhaps because there was more light in it than the whole Paris sky. 

I worked on the oeuvre  gently yesterday and first thing this morning trying to resolve the composition. It reminded me of a water color I had made in the eighties which I had entitled "La Gare Saint Lazare" and had sold it to a couple in New York.  

I  have painted that rail station from Le Pont Europe several times. So has someone called Monet I learned later. 

I adore seeing words on paintings  (I like words period) so decided to paint "St Lazare" on the work. So pleased, I signed it. 

Then told Nina, who had sneaked up on my bed, it was time for a walk.

I was feeling quite good. I bundled up and headed for Le Café de Thêatre to see Marie and have a cafè.  She was in the middle of a delivery and in a bad mood. I waited patiently for the counter newspaper, Le Parisian, to be free, but was disappointed to learn that there was a big scare of rat infestation tailed with a disease at the famous Gare Saint Lazare.

The Chinese fortune teller came to mind, who told me I was going to have badruck this year.
I asked him what was badruck.
He said, "You know, Good ruck. Bad ruck."

Friday, November 28, 2008


I visited my friend Iris yesterday. She lives in Boulogne just outside of Paris.She called to tell me that she had a surprise. Something about a coat.
The surprise was really an old drawing I had made in 1975  that she had recently dug up.
Iris is a "sentimental saver" and her walls show it. 

Some people throw away flowers when they are limp.  If a good friend has offered her a fine bouquet she will not dump it until each petal is brown and moldy.  She is that way with objects and photos... and friends.

The drawing, made on  a shirt cardboard with a scratch pen was of a scene on La Place Clichy.  I was living in a maid's room near by at the time on la rue Amsterdam completely focused on my abstract water colors.

I made it for someone who was looking for someone to illustrate his children's book  series. 
It didn't meet with his approval, but he added with his rejection. "You'll never get anywhere with this crap (my water colors) why don't you paint clowns?"

What  astonished me about seeing this drawing was how it revealed "life on the bench" in 1975.
The man is opening a can of sardines. At that time a special key was necessary and 
most clochards possessed one. The pigeon friendly woman, I later learned, was breaking the law. It"s a crime in Paris to feed pigeons.
And the working woman on her lunch break would no longer be reading Le Figaro

Time has passed and I have yet to paint a clown.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


Spring a year ago.  Doom on the horizon.  I was on the brink of loosing my studio -lodgement. The last thread of hope was a delay at Le Palais de Justice the following month. Not only was I about to lose the place where I hung my hat and my paintings - my Montmartre neighborhood ...and what would happen to my animals? Nina, pink-nose- bearded collie -terrier- beagle. Kiki - no name because I was only going to watch him for the night fourteen years ago, and little Lucy the noctonbulle.  Every time I passed someone sleeping on a cardboard box, a shrill ran up my spine. I gave Iris, my longtime friend, a call to confirm that  I was coming for a visit.

"Tiens, Tiens" she began. "Do you remember my neighbor Marie Ange who owned the flower shop next to me?"  I had a vague recollection of a blond lady with a little dog whose shop was in my painting of la place where Iris lived.
"Well we crossed paths this morning." Iris announced.
"And I told her that she had a sad face." Iris'es franglais.
"Yes." she admitted that she was upset." I will be losing the guardian of my country house at the end of the month and I'm very worried."
"I may have someone for you." Iris assured her, thinking of my dreadful plight." She will be visiting me this afternoon."
Marie Ange arrived minutes after I walked up the  steps  at Iris's house.
with an airiel veiw of her chateau in her pocket. I had imagined a cottage.

There was a small farmhouse on the property. That's where I would live
and I 'd take care of the colombiere or birdhouse. There were also a few hens and a rooster of course, and I would have to gather the eggs, and bail the hay for her two donkeys.
Iris,who has known me for thirty years, glared at me as I nodded.
Madame la florist Marie Ange was going there the following week-end and I could come along in the car. I didn't know the region. It wasn't far from Orleans two hours south of Paris.

The transportation  plans changed. I was to call Claude who was one of her guests for the week-end. He and
 his wife lived close to the boulevard Saint Germain des Pres. I offered to meet them near Les Deux Magouts, but he insisted on picking me up.
I told him that I lived au  pied de Sacre Coeur. The rendez-vous was set for 11 o'clock.
I guess because they were high class, they thought I lived on the top of the hill and not in le Marché Saint Pierre  by saying "at the foot"... had always worked. There was some confusion with me running up the twelve flights of steps, and Claude running down then up again, but we finally found each other and to his car. 
I met his lovely wife Chantal and a beautiful old black Labrador both planted in the back seat. We were then off to My New World. Finally out of Paris he alerted Marie Ange by mobile phone that we would be arriving a little late which lowered the stress.
I normally prefer speaking French as accented as it is to French people, but Claude's English was perfect. We had good chats  and we knew people in common.  He had a law degree from Yale. I was impressed.

We arrived  just as others  were coming back from the market. All hands we busy preparing lunch which was on the patio.  We were twelve. All of us in our early sixties.  
There was a second Chantal who occupied with the table settings. She was an expert decorator she told me and was worried that the table clothe did not match the tableware, but had placed some flowers strategically to balance the disproportion.
Lunch was leisurely and conviale. somewhere between a Claude Leluche screenplay  and an Oscar Wilde script. They had known each other since adolescence and the sometimes not so nice joking showed it.
Marie Ange did not let on why I was à table,  which made the scene more surreal.
Then it was time to  and see farmhouse and visit the property.
"You can find some boots under the stairs." 
"I think these shoes will be okay. looking down on my e
arth brown walking shoes..
"They won't protect you from the snakes."
I found my size and slipped into them. My head was buzzing. 
She got his dog and put him on a leash. A very big German Shepard. He pullled Marie Ange across the field.
I met the guardian along with  his wife and children. Their dog, a springer spaniel, had been condemned to his cage.
Marie - Ange was furious that tiles from the birdhouse  roof  were becoming detached. There are too many. She caught a fat white pigeon  and squeezed
ed it from the back of the neck - I watched his mouth open very wide, then his neck slumped over  She lay him down and then found another unlucky roof dweller. "I'll freeze them she announced after she had made a pile. Then, she ordered her guardian to take cafe of it, and we were off to the woods to see how the treehouse was coming along.

"Oh that'd be a good place to live", I thought," if I could manage all the prickles." . 
Far ahead of me by now, she announced regret for not having brought her machete.  
I agreed.
She was pleased on arriving at the tree house and immediately tested the ladder.  It was her cache for hunting season. Maybe, she get a moose.
We walked around the etuve (the small lake) and heard a goose wooing.
"Not the season."
Then the answer. "The gander."
"Oh le pauve." He had been killed by a fox or some roving night animal.
Marie Ange promised the wooing goose that she would buy another one for her on the quai next week.
"The goose loosing her gander." 
I certainly knew that story.

We separated into groups and walked long and told tales about each other along the way.
By the time we got back to the house I was beginning to understand the strange events that had brought this entourage together.  Circumstance and tragedy.

Some of the couples rested while I helped Marie-Ange  prune her rose bushes and weed a bit. She complained often about picking up small pieces of fur. The owl on the roof was a persistent night predator. He regurgitated what he couldn't digest. 
"Oh my Lucy", I thought and imagined her being swept up the first night.
Marie Ange was basically prepared for the dinner. Either she or Patrick, her companion had prepared a ragout. It had been marinating since morning. 
"Where were the other dogs - the old lab and a white fuzzy-"
"They didn't get along with hers."
 Another account was that he had killed at least three dogs.

Other guests began to arrive. I encouraged Marie-Ange to change or at least take off her boots.
She told me to go to to the living room  and talk with the others.
I'd do my best.
There was a gentleman across the room who could have posed for The New Yorker when it was hyper WASP. Combed Vaselined hair perfectly parted. The ascot. Good posture as he held his glass. When our turn came to talk and I told him that I was an artist, his whole demeanor changed.
"You see," he revealed, " I am a bourgeois" (which means more like - I'm from a rich family. if you say it in French.
"When I was young, I use to love to draw. I wanted to be an artist, but, I looked at the numbers.
I chose banking and promised myself that when I retired I would paint. "Well. two years ago, I retired and set up a studio. And I learned...It's not so easy."
I nodded. The week-end was splendid. When I got back to Paris, I was very happy for what I had and felt determined to keep it.

Monday, November 10, 2008


I found this translation from a Japanese magazine printed a few years back and thought it would fill in until I finish my present story. I am surprised at my own enthusiasm.

 A Visit to Mary Blake’s Studio

Situated between the historic Basilica Sacre Coeur on the top of the hill in Montmartre and the lap dancing sex shops of Pigalle, we visited artist Mary Blake’s atelier.

Outside rue Tardieu. thousands of people stream by.

Mish mash of languages. maps and guides. Inside the artist’s courtyard, we find a calm serenity.

Two very serious cats observe our arrival.  A shaggy dog greets us tail wagging - offering a broken tennis ball – want to play ?  We knew we were safe.

Mary Blake’s doors, arched, with tinted yellow glass  greets us with a big smile.

“Don’t worry about Nina.”

“We’re not going to play with your stupid ball." she explains to her canine friend.

Nina’s tail stops wagging. Reluctantly, she retreats to her bed and rolls up like a donut. One eye open.We  enter. Three steps down. The “atelier” is twenty feet high. Paintings  full of color from floor to ceiling.

AKO “This place is great. How long have you been here?”

M.B.“Ten years this month.”

Ako: “How did you find it?”

M.B.: The grace of God, some charm and a lot of luck. Nobody wants to rent to an artists these days.

Mary Blake invites us in with a big smile.“Wine, fresh orange  juice or green tea with mint?

Her studio  is a cocoon of colors and shapes.

AKO :  “You like color.”

M.B.  I am color. I think color. I dream color.

AKO What inspired this  fascination?

MB In 1973, I visited a small village in Italy. The landscape was nice, but it was the laundry hanging between the houses… Beautiful. I stared at it until it was dry.

Then in 1977 I visited India - a country intensely  saturated with vivid pigments. Their colors became my palette. I can still see images. The train ride -yellow fields - the bright green canaries- the purple saris and the Bengali pink turban - all at the same time!

The earth in Goa looks like it comes from a Gauguin  painting. Morning in Agra  with  gentle contrasts  of blue. I woke up in a rose garden across from the Taj.

Or was it heaven?

AKO: What inspires your style?

M.B: I just begin - with a line - a color – Then, it’s the canvas that talks to me.

For the moment I’m in an abstract period, but they all have order and honesty. When I say.

“This  water- color is Gurjurait.” No one doubts it.

 “Oh yes Gurjurait.” I hear.

Ako:When do you work best?

Mary: After I’ve brushed my teeth. Early in the morning if I’m home.

Ako: How do you start? Do you have a plan?

 M;B. I  Just begin. The paint is in front of me. My colours  begin to whine.

"Me first. Me first."

After the first stroke- The other begin.

"Why not me? Have you forgotten?"                                             

I like the colors that are patient and wait their turn.

Friday, October 24, 2008


Showing my work  is a kin to psychological testing.  The most reserved, conservative, methodical  collectors  are attracted to the wildest of my creations. I am often surprised when Mr. Macho is drawn to a delicate pastel. Then, there are those who like a certain painting because they relate personally to where or what it is."Oh, I've eaten there." The most often asked question while painting this butcher was "Where am I?" That was easy to answer
 More men than women have offered to pose for me. I always say, "Yes, but I only paint nudes." The conversation usually stops there. 
I'm often taken with a work of art by the mix of colors. Some people look at  art to go somewhere and some don't look at all.

Sunday, October 12, 2008


The festival Vendages Montmartre kicked off last Monday at the movie-house Pathe-Wepler. A double feature - "French Can-Can" and the more recent, "Moulin Rouge" with Nicole Kidman.
I've seen the Renoir film perhaps five times, but, it's been thirty years since it was offered to me on the silver-screne.  My memories were the cinematographic mix. This time - my wonderful nights at The Moulin and the scenes from my neighborhood. My landlord's office is in the same building of that historic landmark.  Years ago, I had the privilege, of having a front row seat every night to sketch the dancers. Later, I would return home to modify my pastels. I swear that there was not an occasion that I didn't get into the Can-Can joy. 
I remember, my first evening sitting in awe of the beautiful filles on stage. Then, my conscience asked, "Would you really rather be there?" I was in my place she decided.
To watch the film again was a joy. Jean Gabin's family was present, as was the mayor, Daniel Vaillant. To create joy is an art.

Saturday, October 11, 2008


 The Montmartre Fête des Vendanges officially corked off this morning on the gentle hillside behind Sacre Coeur. The vines were golden yellow and The Republician Montmartois were in costume. At moments, traditional songs blocked other traditional songs and finally, the mayor, Danial Vaillant, spoke and the cacophony  stopped.
It was a beautiful autumn  morning and we were all happy to be there. For the tradition. Not the wine - an elusive cru. Up the hill, there were many stands set up for degustation of wines, cheeses, saucissons and other temptations.
The parade is this afternoon from the Mairie down to rue Lepic enough time to walk it off.

Saturday, October 4, 2008


The Fête "Nuits Blanches" will celebrate its seventh all-night festival tonight in "the name of art".
Brilliantly initiated here seven years ago by Paris's mayor, Bernand Delanoë, it is a good excuse to stay out all night - in the name of art. One year, all the museums were free with a musical event at many. A painting at the Musée d'Orsay got slashed. The program the following year got changed.
This year, it's les gares et les églises.

In Russia, there will be ballets and concerts galore. Toronto is gearing up for a feast also.   
I first learned the term les nuits blanches as a translation for insomnia. I believe the earlier expression dates back Dostoevsky.

At any rate, this is an international night for celebration - in the name of art.

Sunday, August 31, 2008


The French have returned to Paris en masse.
The pale, comatose tourists drinking liter mugs of beer on café terraces have been replaced by Côte d'Azur tans and enthusiastic chatter.  It has always been an exceptional moment in this grey city of light.

While cooped up in a hospital for ten days this month, I heard this question asked on a noon-time quiz show.
 "Combien des Francais"  are on vacation this August?"
The reported response was fifty million. 
I took my own trips with my sable
brushes,  Windsor Newton water colors, and Arches cold press  300 gram papier


Great place to visit...

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


I had come within a hair of loosing my live-in atelier in Montmartre. Then got a reprieve until next April. I decided this was not the moment to paint a merry-go-round. I got my gear together and took the 85 bus down to the Cathedral Notre Dame.

After surveying it from different angles, I decided to attack it face on.  I saved the flying buttresses for another day.  I set up my easel then mused at the notion that I was going to render this mammoth edifice onto a 46 by 55 centimeter canvas. Of all my Paris paintings, this was by far the most daunting. It was so big.  The bells chimed Ave Maria before announcing the hour.I began blocking out the composition.

"Well, I guess the hunchback is gone." I heard from behind. Blasé  or sentimental?  To think of the thousands of sculptors that chiseled their lives always to create this gem and it's a writer who immortalizes its name.  A great writer at that.

It must be noted in some American tour guide that the birds in front of Notre Dame are people-friendly. Sparrows fluttering around  bread basket hands seems to be a favorite among the camera poses.  A slight and delicate looking little girl arrived prepared with a baggie full of snack crackers. A pigeon swooped down to snap up her first offer, then perched on her arm. Another lit on her shoulder as a dozen or more surrounded her on the ground.  Alfred Hitchcock  came to mind.

"Honey, give me the bag." her mother said softly. Then shooed her feathered friends away.

The weather was iffy the next few days, but I was lucky to get a couple of hours work in between the showers. Unlucky one day when I arrived on the scene only to realize that I had left my painting on the bus. I headed back to the Boulevard Saint Michel.  I knew that the 85 went up as far as the Pantheon, rested for five minutes and then came back down the boulevard. The bus stop serves seven other lines.

I stood in front of  the electric waiting time sign.
 Autobus 85 .........7 minutes.  "That could be the one I had just gotten off of."
 Then, .....6 minutes.  I had had a "Do-you-think-it's going-to-rain?" conversation with a nice girl in the back of the bus. I was certain that she would have given it to the driver when I got off the bus. 

5 minutes. I should pray all the same. I was searching for the right saint to ask for help. Thorton Wilder!  He must be in heaven. 

Concentrate. " Thorton. Do you remember me? I told you  when we were at The Harborside Bar thirty nine years ago that your writing had changed my life.  You told me that if I wanted to be an artist.  I must have vitality.  Please make my painting be on the bus."

2 minutes.  I saw a bus arriving, passing Le Musée Cluny.  Not mine.  Nor the next. 

Finally, the 85 arrived.  I boarded the bus, and even with all my painting gear the driver did not make a sign of recognition.  I didn't see the painting.  My heart sank.  I told him the story.  He reached under his seat and handed it to me.  I sighed, "Merci". I turned when I got off the bus and bowed with appreciation.

I returned to my painting spot. The bells chimed.  "Ave Maria", I thought.  Yes. Ave Maria, Ave Thorton,  Ave the girl on the back of the bus.

photographs Damien Boucher


Wednesday, August 6, 2008


Once upon a time, there was a Sex-Shop (former café) on La Place Pigalle that was as cute as a cottage from Hansel and Gretel. I never passed it without marvelling at its unusually pointed roof and the odd shaped buildings behind it. The forms intrigued me as did the name - NARCISSE. Shabby and vain, I thought. It was there for me to paint. Pigalle is a pretty hot district.  I thought if I set my easel up across from the famous fountain that once separated Paris from La Commune de Montmartre I wouldn't be bothered. Almost immediately, I was surrounded by a group of cops who were stopping motorists randomly to check their papers. They didn't ask me for mine. At the time, I was sans papiers. The police were ravi with my tableau. I was not and decided that it could only work if it were a night scene. I finished the painting by street lighting after sundown.
Narcisse is still on my wall. This site historique had a hell of a fire. It was torn down to make way for a super sleek structure with a slight resemblance to the prior form.  The super elite restaurant the first tenant  had in mind never got off the ground. There is a penthouse with an enormous balcony facing north.No flowers. Trees. Weeping willows. I recently learned that on this very spot, the cafè, was where many  great painters and poets hung-out at the beginning of the last century including Monet, Bonnard, Appolinaire, and Toulouse-Lautrec. Degas's famous "Absinthe" was painted there when it was called Café de la Nouvelle Anthène.  I was amazed by the number of artists who have painted on this very place. The list is long. I'm on it.

2014 Presently it is a well functioning organic grocery store

Monday, August 4, 2008

George Whitman’s Wall

I found the bookstore Shakespeare & Co. in November 1972 after renting an apartment on the rue Galande, a narrow ally street just behind the store. Some of my newly found bohemian friends introduced me to George Whitman, the celebrated owner. He seemed indifferent to me until I told him that I had just returned from Martha’s Vineyard. George loved Cape Cod and each time he saw me we talked about clams. That was my pass to get upstairs to what they called the reading room or the library, but most of all it was where we hung out, told stories, drank wine, and dreamed of fame. Being poor was part of it all. It seemed to have a poetic air. By spring, when it was really la fin des hairicots,  I was  sleeping on a shelf at the store.

I remember the day a real dapper strolled in.
“ I’ve just docked my boat on the Seine next to Notre Dame”.

George was sitting at his enormous desk drinking his tea staring out the front window.

“That’s nice” he replied.

“I’m looking for a book on yachts. I can’t remember the name, but it weighs about 20 pounds.”

Still monotone, George murmured, “I’ve got a 16 pound book on trains.”

“No! Yachts. Yachts.”

“Sorry.” George replied still staring out the window.

The next day George announced that I was not leaving for New York. He had found a job for me.

I remember the words. "Chateau. Editor for Le Monde and Colette".  He sent me down rue de la Bûcherie to visit Colette. Still stunned by this order, I returned and told him that she wasn’t home. He said to knock harder.  She was probably sleeping. Which was the case. I rescheduled my plane ticket and was off two days later to what I imagined would be a glorious experience.

I didn’t know at the time that  a parc naturist was a nudist colony, that I would be a nanny on my own for three brats, and my place in the château was the attic. I heard the rats, but never saw them. I managed through the episode. It did change the course of my life.

When I did return to New York my apartment had been cleared out and I had lost my lease. A friend put me up for three months.  I worked my way back to to Paris to paint for life and that was it.

I met many people through Colette. She was very pretty. Men never stopped falling in love with her. She died young  and broke many hearts.

Thirty-five years later I’m still in Paris. And still painting.  George has passed the bookstore on to his beautiful daughter Sylvia. She does a good job, and order is her tour de force.

I stopped by the shop last  September and saw that they had lost their kitty cat two months ago. Hopeless it seemed.

Nina had just had 3 puppies. I went to the next Monday night reading, and asked her if they would be interested in having  a puppy.

Sylvia seemed enthused, but said that she would ask her Dad.

I had not seen him for a few years. I got a call the next morning.  "My Dad said that if it’s Mary Blake’s puppy, it ’ll have character. We have to have it.”

When the puppies were six weeks old, George and Sylvia  came up to Montmartre for a visit.

When George entered my courtyard,  Nina greeted him with her ball. He laughed. He didn’t say much to me, like "nice to see you" or "your paintings look great", but watched the puppies play with my two cats. 

I put Coco Bean in his lap. George barked at him. Coco Bean fell to the floor.

"Daddy." Sylvia pleaded. "You scared him."

Colette, the first-born and only female, had caught his fancy. She was already promised, but I placed her in his lap anyway. 

I visited George a few days later. "What a wonderful life you must have" he said sitting in his PJ's amidst a sea of clutter. His bedroom walls were covered with photos of the greats of the last century who had visited his shop. Who was not on George's wall? Mic Jaggar perhaps. Jean-Paul Sartre, Laurence Durell,  Jacqueline Onassis were as well as Lawrence Ferlingetti and on and on. There was a color photo copy of me and Colette above his night table. "Well George, I've finally made it.  I'm on your wall, even if it did take a dog to get me there."

Colette is now at Shakespeare & Co. Almost a year old.

She is not the mascot.

She is George’s dog and he calls her “Kitty”.

I heard that Kitty got into his birthday 94th or 95th  cake last winter and demolished it. George thought it was funny.

They are in love.

Saturday, August 2, 2008


"La vie est belle" I thought when  I found my sublet on rue Ravignon fourteen years ago. I'd step out in the morning and see all of Paris before me, then walk Ruby down to Le Cafe Saint Jean after finding my Herald Tribune.
The landlord's pitch, when I was searching, was that the apartment was near rue Lepic (my favorite market street in Paris), and that Max Jacob had lived across the street at number 7. 
"That's great!" I said, though I didn't know who he was.  Eventually, I learned that Max Jacob was the son of a Jewish tailor who came to Paris from Quimper, a small village in Brittany, at the end of the 19th century. Not happy with  his studies, he temporarily became an art critic and met Picasso. They became buddies. He also hung out with Modigliani, Gauguin, Apolinaire, Matisse, and the other artists and poets who lived up the street at the famous Bateau Lavoir.  In fact, he was the one who gave that famous shack of creativity it's name. 
He was a poet and painter himself and had a reputation for the art of conversation.

A few years later while living up on rue Gabriel, he had spiritual visions and converted to Christianity. Picasso was his godfather. After many years of monastic life, he returned to Paris, and soon after was denounced and deported by the Gestapo. He died at Drancy two months before its liberation.

He mysteriously reappears running in my Bateau Lavoir painting.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


Paris was  virtually, historically, and sadly, sunless last August. Then la lumière  de septembre made Hollywood  stage lighting dim. Everyones's mood changed.  Approaching La Place des Abbesses was frappant. The turquoise of the carousel and the orange brick of the l'eglise Saint Jean spotted  with the shining  near New England yellow leaves scattered on the pavement U-turned me as I started down the Metro steps. 
I returned to my studio, canceled my appointments, got my gear, and set up my easel in front of the Metro sortie.
It was 3 o'clock and the sun was shining directly on the famous  METROPOLITAIN art deco insignia.  
Of course, I was the patsy for all the tourist looking for looking. That was okay.
I loved the group of Japanese back-packers who
pulled out their compases. Luckily they found The North. I  helped a little pointing upwards.
Two oil evangelists artists from the quartier sat on a bench behind me and  scrutinised my method of mixing my acrylics with my new found Golden mediums. "Not bad." they remarked. That was the best complement they had  given me  in ten years, so I was grateful.
Then along came Gigi, who has been around the 'hood for years and  has invested his life savings in amplifiers. He began his interpretation of Jimmy Hendricks. One note  at a time.
I was in agony. I tried and tried  to ignore the pierce, but finally packed up. 
The rains came. Two days later me and the sunlight returned to La Place.
There were  less leaves, and a young accordionist to highlight the atmosphere..
The instument was small and repeated a sound rather than song.
The girl was cute as pie, but off tune if tune was what she had in mind. 
Tourists surrounded her. She overheard my annoyance and approached me.
"You don't like my music?" She asked.
"No" I said, not looking up  from my tableau.
"Your sounds are driving me crazy."
"They're my  compositions."
I felt bad, until she told me that my painting was ugly. Then she left. There is a God, I thought.
Sunday and sunny, I returned to find a great jazz  duet a piano and sax- both very good.
A crowd had surrounded them and there was great applause.
My spot was in the middle of their circle of admirers.
I shrugged meekly and pointed to my pavement paint stains. 
 The musicians were not amused, but when the rains came they took off.
It was not a Gene Kelly revival.
I stayed, because it was a light rain  which really doesn't hurt my paint.
Then the  African  juggler arrived.
He's quite incredible and works  with two goldfish on his head in a bowl of course.
He's asked me if I'd put him in my painting - juggling and looking at my painting at the same time.
"Your coulers are not in my palette."
He laughed. I had the impression that the fish would have preferred to be home. 
They're not social animals.                                                                                                                                                    


Ruby chez la princess from