Saturday, January 31, 2015

Madame de Guiche and her Daughter Appear at Night Before the Artist in Prison by Armand de Polignac

Now that's a title.  Grabbed me for a couple of reasons.  I came across this painting while looking for another.  Why everyone isn't fascinated by 18th century France is a mystery to me!  What more do you people want?!  There are thousands of intriguing angles to consider and characters to research.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Don's gift of our mother in the Tuileries Garden

My brother, Don, painted a portrait of my mother, based on this shot of her posing for my father's camera in the Tuileries Garden in the late 1950s.

My father's empty chair beside her; a rose bush with seven roses; the airplane overhead; ironing board and iron; church in the background are among the symbolic images that make the canvas one of my favorite possessions.  Don gave it to our mother at her 80th birthday party and he gave it to me last month.

Don sculpted this bust in college.  It was among my father's estate items and I asked Don if I could have it, but he'd already given it to Jerry, so he gave me Mom in the Tuileries Garden.  I'm more than happy with the substitution.  Although, I may campaign for Jerry to give me the bust, too.  :)

Don and me at our father's 80th birthday party.  

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Times, They are a Changin'

I went to a high school basketball game tonight.  It brought back memories of watching David play and reminded me of the picture in the bottom right section of this collage he made as part of his W & M application when he was a junior in high school.  Basketball required a sense of humor.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Shaking My Head in Wonder

Photographs in a post on the extraordinary blog Messy Nessy Chic have fanned the flames in my head. I can not imagine what it must be like to have the honor of unrestricted access to Versailles and to the time to build one life around researching French history.  The Messy Nessy Chic post tells the story of a photographer who had just that privilege.

Salles les Princesses Royale

Grand Cabinet du Dauphin

Marie Antoinette's la Meridienne bed

Thursday, January 15, 2015

My Favorite Poem

Poetry goes completely against my grain.  Way, way too few words employed.  This one, though, found in a small notebook that belonged to my mother, speaks to me.  It perfectly expresses a priceless and intangible element in only the rarest of friendships and one for which I yearn.

I framed this one for such a friend.  (Don't worry, siblings, I haven't absconded with the original. This is a copy.  It's for Tricia.)

My photograph renders the poem illegible.  Add good, new camera to the list of items I can't find. And, my credit card.  It's a replacement card for one I threw away at Burger King last year.  And, my driver's license has been expired for almost a year.  I'm sort of a bumbling, careless fool.


Oh, the comfort - the inexpressible
comfort of feeling safe with a person, 
Having neither to weigh thoughts, 
Nor measure words - but pouring them 
All right out - just as they are - 
Chaff and grain together - 
Certain that a faithful hand will
Take and sift them - 
Keep what is worth keeping - 
And with the breath of kindness
Blow the rest away.

Coveting My Neighbor's Chateau

Following the progress of the restoration of this French chateau is just plain masochistic.   Ugh.  
           Plenty of envy producing pictures at: Chateau de Gudanes restoration website

I know, in the way that one virtually knows people they've met once and are friends with on fb, a gilding and historic restoration expert whose resume includes, no kidding, the restoration of the rail separating Marie Antoinette's bed from mere mortals.  Among other credits.  Now all I have to do is raise the million plus euros to buy one of the plethora of available chateaus scattered about the French countryside.


My French sister-in-law sent this to me last year and I was happily surprised to find a profile of Laurent Hissier, the craftsman who took Elissa and me behind the open areas of chapel in Versailles a couple of years ago.  She had connected with him on Facebook and called him from the gates of the Chateau from her cell phone and he came down from his office to show us around. Now he and I are fb friends and he's gracious enough to respond to my occasional stalker-like communications.

I have no idea where I got this picture!  Now I really feel like a stalker!  I put his name in an Search box in IPhoto and voila!  Maybe I took it from his fb page and forgot about it.  If so, it's the only one I lifted, because it's all my search revealed.  

Oh, except this one, but Laurent knows about it.  I 'fessed up long ago on that cowardly, opportunistic shot I snuck while he was showing us around Versailles.  He even posted a comment on my blog about it.  Okay, this is just shameless name dropping now.  That's enough.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Brought to You by Mail Chimp

I considered, "I've got a monkey on my back, as a post subject line, but it just seemed weird.
I'm addicted to

which is sponsored by Mail Chimp, though, so it could've worked.


Serial is a podcast that investigates the case of a Maryland high school student, Adnan Syed, who was convicted killing his girlfriend in 1999.  It's a true story, the only kind worth listening to, investigated and presented by a woman named Sarah Koenig who does a bang up job.  The investigation is comprehensive, the presentation of facts is clear, and Ms. Koenig's delivery seems like that of an acquaintance puzzling over the ins and outs of a case, trying to figure out what really happened.  It feels like chatting about trial at the office water cooler.

It's good stuff.  Five million ITunes downloads can't be wrong.  The most popular podcast in history.

You can listen to Serial free here.  Also, the website has photographs of evidence, timelines and interviews, all kinds of information about the case, etc..

Or view this BBC report,

this news clip of Hae Min Lee,

this fake last episode,

or any number of other parodies, analyses, reports on Youtube.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Chapter One: Comte Axel de Fersen

Fitting that "The Flight of Marie Antoinette" should begin with a biographical sketch of Axel Fersen. He, at the minimum, was one of the best friends Marie Antoinette ever had.  I've had one foot in each of the two were-they-or-weren't-they? camps for years and, wrack my brain as I might, can't commit to either.  It's impossible to know for sure if their close relationship was platonic or not.  Not only is it not possible, but what I think doesn't matter in the least.  But, just for fun, let's examine the question by way of G. Lenôtre's and Mrs. Rodolph Stawell's "The Flight of Marie Antoinette" with collaboration from Fersen's diary.

The opening sentence of the book, "The name and mould of a hero of romance, regular features, a sensitive mouth, an expression half tender and half bold, a slender figure, and the immense advantage of belonging to that Scandinavian race whose prestige was so irresistible - such, with his eighteen years was the equipment with which in December, 1773, the Comte de Fersen made his first appearance in Parisian society." seems to set a romantic tone even for words written in 1906. It may've been hard for lonely and vulnerable Marie Antoinette to resist that!

In searching for a portrait that might depict Fersen at eighteen, I skimmed the pleasantly concise Wiki article about Fersen and wondered if maybe I should just put a link to it instead of writing it all out myself.  And, miss all this fun?  Hell, no!  I could do this every day, all day and be completely content.  I don't need anyone to read it.  As Steve Martin said, in his album, The Jerk, "I could do this show alone.  I often do."

Sorting Hat Results

Speaking of Harry Potter, Micah mailed her overdue taxes (according to those tightwads at the agency) to the IRS with a Snape stamp.  She's a funny girl.

I started to do a post about what one should expect if they go to Paris with me.  People claim to want to, but they need to know what to expect.  I'm a pretty easy going person.  Flexible.  Accommodating to a fault, I've been told.  But, not so much in Paris.  The trip means too much to me, and is too expensive, to spend it with anyone who isn't interested in seeing what I want to see and doing what I want to do.  That's why I've gone alone the last two years.  I get to do exactly what I want, when I want to do it.  I'd love to have someone join me, if they want to do what I want to do, but my plans are too big a deal to me to substitute galavanting around, wasting time, looking at pretty gardens and shopping.

In 2005, I went to Europe with a school group that included my daughter. (This was before I became obsessed with French history, back when Paris was a vacation spot not a pilgrimage.) One night, we were all sitting around in a hotel room and they decided to have a Sorting Ceremony or whatever it was called in Harry Potter when they tried on the hat and it was determined to which House the incoming students would be assigned.  When my turn came, they shouted, more emphatically than necessary, that I'm a Hufflepuff.  I was, and remain, a little insulted.  Clearly, I'm a Gryffindor.  I'm still good friends with two of the students from that trip and, inexplicably, they still call and want to see me when they come to town.  That "inexplicably" isn't a put-down to myself though such observations are inevitably seen as such, resulting in lectures about how I shouldn't put myself down. It's not putting myself down, dammit.  I'm just saying I don't understand what they see in me.  I think I'm pretty amazing and am my own favorite companion, but most of my likable qualities aren't evident to others, but rather trapped in my head.  I just don't get what it is about me that makes other people, especially my children's contemporaries, want to hang out with me.

For whatever misguided reason, there are people, including Che and Courtney, whose friendships, mystifying though they are, I cherish.

Anyway, here's a picture of my daughter, Micah, and our friend, Courtney, in Paris 2005.

And, here they are last week when they were both home for the holidays.  Courtney told me that night that she wrote a paper about who she most admired, in college, about me.  I can never live up to her version of me.

And, here's Che and me in Paris, 2005

And, Che, last week, when we had coffee as he passed through en route from CO to VA.  He told me I need to "throw a few 'bows" sometimes.  Basketball parlance for throwing an elbow - asserting oneself.  I'm capable of that.  Go to Paris with me and find out.  It's all about me, baby.  See "Follow Me" post for my travel partner requirements.