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Poetic Life in City of Light

Omar, owner of Chez Omar in the Marais in Paris
Omar, owner of Chez Omar

Last night we were at Le Coude Fou (“The Crazy Elbow”), one of my favorite restaurants in the neighborhood, having a “tête-a-tête” at a tiny corner table in the window, desperately trying not to inhale the smoke from the young guy’s Marlboro just adjacent, and vying for more attention from the server (usually more efficient!). Gypsy-like poet, teacher and mentor Cecilia Woloch, sat across from me with her wild wiry hair haphazardly piled on her head looking as selflessly aware, but stunning, as she always does.

We met within the first months of arriving in Paris and although we had both lived in the same city of “La La Land,” we hadn’t known each other then. Our crossing paths was one of those synchronistic tales I often talk about once we discovered how many people we actually had in common. She is a regular visitor/resident of Paris and often hangs her hat and plugs in her Mac Chez Leeds.

This past weekend, she phoned from Pisa, said she wasn’t sure if her Gypsy blood would take her to Istanbul, London or Paris that day, not knowing where she’d be sleeping that night…so with one word, “come,” she hopped on the next plane and landed at my doorstep.

With our busy lives, even sharing a desk, a coffee and an apartment, we rarely get the chance to seriously exchange news. Over dinner and delicious wines, we discussed the sagas of our families, my recent experiences in India and the difference between life in Los Angeles and life in Paris.

We tossed around the pros and cons of life in both cities. It is an endless and amusing discussion often had between Expats, to compare the two worlds, to justify our existence here and answer the questions about why it’s so easy to feel so at home in a strange land.

There was no dispute — while we both love the paradisiacal weather of L.A., the beach and certain creative freedoms it allows, not to mention our long-standing friends, we agreed that life there could be intensely lonely. There life is contained in what feels like a “bubble” — you move from a home bubble to a car bubble to a retail bubble to a friend bubble — finding it difficult to meet extemporaneously with friends or communicating with fellow humans on any regular basis. The car becomes home while traveling between destinations, and the responsibility of driving is stressful and dangerous. I personally never found my work very satisfying, not at all as challenging or as rewarding as here.

In Paris, it’s so simple to walk out your door, people watch at a corner café, strike up a conversation with your neighbor, make a date for a drink with one friend before heading off to dinner with another. There is an endless stream of things to do, places to go, people to meet and there is never enough time in the day to do and see it all. The day had been intensely filled in a productive way…having just come from our monthly coffee gathering (Parler Paris Apres Midi — read all about it!), followed by a session of Parler Parlor where we had a chance to exchange lots of information and conversation with friends and new acquaintances.

We agreed that the “construction” of life in the City of Light puts sanity and security into our lives and loneliness like we might feel in Los Angeles is left behind. Cecilia has a plum job in L.A. teaching intellectually bright and creative studen

ts at USC (University of Southern California) which affords her time to direct workshops at Idyllwild every summer and perform workshops in Paris. Her poetry struck me as a bolt of lightning when I first heard her read in 1994 at the Tea and Tattered Pages used book store near Montparnasse and have enjoyed her students’ writings resulting from the many workshops she’s given here over the years.

She’s about to give her 7th Paris Poetry Workshop…this coming May 13 – 18, 2007 and she’s taking reservations now. If you’re a poet and don’t know it, or a poet and know you can improve, or not a poet at all, but are willing to open your mind and heart, you will love the five days you’ll spend with Cecilia and her friends, as I have done every single year. The spaces are limited, so have a read at /frenchproperty/conference/writing/poetry_paris_2007.html before it’s too late to join in.

A la prochaine…


Adrian Leeds

Editor, Parler Paris

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P.S. Last minute offerings: Stay in Le Florentin or Le Medieval available from March 10 to 22 — reserve one or the two together at a discounted rate!:

* Le Florentin at 95€ per night (normally 125€)
* Le Medieval at 125€ instead of 180€
* Both for 2 couples or 1 couple with children at 200€ per night
* minimum 4 nights for all bookings

Visit /parlerparis/apartments or Email [email protected]

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