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Stepping Up to Keeping Calm and Carrying On

A shipment of my daughter’s new books (“Nue York: Self-Portraits of a Bare Urban Citizen”) arrived yesterday morning from Italy…unannounced. Six boxes, each one weighing way too much, were on a palette. The delivery man wouldn’t entertain the idea of mounting my 70 stairs with his “diable” (dolly), leaving me stranded alone with the stack of boxes.

 Nue York by Erica SimonePreviewing Erica's Nue YorkPreviewing Erica’s Nue YorkThe Rolser 6 wheeler cartThe Rolser 6-wheeler cartAdrian's DoorAdrian’s DoorLisa Anselmo on "greige"Lisa Anselmo on “greige”Emily Borel at Parler Paris Après MidiEmily Borel at Parler Paris Après MidiEmily BorelEmily Borel

This was one of those moments I wished I’d had an elevator. But instead of panicking, I decided this was not insurmountable. In the back of a closet, not used all that often since I rarely cook and therefore rarely market, was the six-wheel Rolser marketing cart I purchased not long after moving in. It jumps the stairs with little effort, however, I can tell you that the weight of the books was quite a challenge. It took two trips with three boxes each, one step at a time, being careful to distribute the weight evenly and not hurt this old tired back. With determination and endurance, the mission was accomplished.

The first time I saw these six-wheel carts was in Venice, Italy, jumping the steps of the hundreds of bridges with ease! It was found here in Paris at Dujardin Quincaillerie (71 rue Montorgueil, 75002 Paris), but it can be ordered online as I did for “Le Matisse” which has almost as many steps. It’s a godsend for living effectively with stairs.

The cart will get another excursion soon — for the annual purchase of artichokes — a dish I make for a select group of friends in celebration of an anniversary ‘of the heart’ (pun intended) on February 2nd. This year it will take place one day earlier, but it’s the 19th year of making artichokes. (Stay tuned for whole story!)

Once the books were happily installed in the closet, I couldn’t wait to open one and see it for myself. In it are images very familiar to me and others she had done more recently that were new to me, too. My favorite one is the first in the book (on the subway)– but there are so many others equally as fun from which to choose. The official book launch and exhibition is taking place Thursday of this week in New York and of course, the proud mother is not going to miss it.

The first time visiting the apartment I live in when it was a mere rental, I counted the stairs: 70. For someone coming from the land of ranch houses and elevators, it seemed like too big an effort, but over the years, have come to appreciate and adore them. Every now and then, such as yesterday, the stairs presented a challenge, but the benefits have outweighed the inconvenience. There is no doubt that I am stronger, healthier, more muscular and thinner as a result of climbing the stairs on a daily basis. I have confidence that I will live longer as a result, having the stairs to thank for longevity.

This stairwell is particularly pretty — a wide 17th-century circling stairwell that flows differently on each level, narrowing at the third level which ascends to what were the servants’ quarters — and where my apartment resides. The stairs are oak, the railing is iron and large windows on one side overlook the courtyard letting in a lot of light. The courtyard has just undergone a complete “ravalement” (resurfacing) and is freshly clean and bright, reflecting even more light into the stairwell. It’s quite a pleasant ‘voyage’ up or down them, except that everyone complains they are treacherously slippery. (I have only slipped once in 18 years.)

Old buildings in Paris simply don’t have elevators…or if they do, they are wedged in to the existing stairwell. I’ve seen some elevators in Paris as tiny as coffins — worthy of just a marketing cart and little else. To install an elevator in an old building, the owners must vote to spend the money — and yes, it’s expensive! Those who live on the lower flowers are loath to contribute. It’s not uncommon to see the elevator accessible with an electronic key to which only those who paid have the right…but this is penny wise and pound foolish — as the value of property with an elevator, at any level, is greater than those without.

Our stairwell went from classic burgundy trim to “greige” (gray/beige) when it was repainted in 2009. I went into shock and dismay that the other owners would overwhelmingly vote for such a de-personalization of the building. The all greige front door of my apartment was so distasteful, that I promptly ran out, bought a can of black paint and painted the molding to give it some hint of life. Fortunately the door is on an alcove, as this is absolutely against the rules and the other owners would have forced me to repaint it. At a homeowners meeting shortly after the painting, I dared them to do anything about my door and suggested they all do the same…but of course, the words landed on deaf ears.

With the ravalement came the same vote to remove any sign of life and color, so now all the courtyard doors are “greige,” too. I’d give my eye teeth to have the burgundy back, but one lone proponent of color isn’t going to have much influence on the masses. All of Paris is turning more greige with time, as evidenced by Lisa Anselmo’s recent article, “Paris in the Greige Zone.” Her complaining friend was, of course, me!

At Parler Paris Après Midi, Emily Borel taught us all how to Keep Calm and Carry On. She’s an American who is a Shiatsu specialist certified at the Ecole de Shiatsu André Nahum à Paris, working with clients for the past 13 years. She is also a Conseillère Agréé en Fleurs de Bach from the the Bach Flower Foundation in England, and was initiated in the three levels of Reiki. Emily knows how to keep you calm and that’s exactly what she did!

She had the entire group on their feet and doing exercises that put us all into such a state of relaxation that we forgot what time it was and stayed long after 5 p.m. By the time we were saying our good-byes, my body (and mind) had forgotten about the six boxes of books I’d carried up the stairs!

(Read more about our afternoon with Emily Borel)

Note: I hope to see many of you in New York Thursday evening at Erica Simone‘s book launch/signing and exhibition of “Nue York: Self-Portraits of a Bare Urban Citizen” at the Castle Fitzjohns Gallery from 7 p.m. If you can’t be at the opening and wish to have a copy of the book, I can sell some of my stash for $50 each. Email me at [email protected].

A la prochaine…

13 1 16Adrian from 2 2 15 bastille market 3Adrian Leeds
The Adrian Leeds Group

(with the trusty Rosler Wheeler)


Respond to Adrian



Linda HervieuxP.S. Mark your calendar for February 2nd when Linda Hervieux will be speaking at the American Library about her new book FORGOTTEN. “Forgotten: The Untold Story of D-Day’s Black Heroes, at Home and at War” (Harper USA, October 2015) tells the story of the only combat unit of African Americans to land in Normandy on June 6, 1944. (See the video) They were part of a segregated Army that considered them second-class soldiers, and even lesser men. It is the story of this battalion’s journey through Jim Crow America, to unexpected freedom in Great Britain and, finally, to war. History has neglected these men: D-Day movies do not show them and most history books do not mention them. This is my personal recommendation for a fantastic story that has truly been ‘forgotten,’ but brought to life by Linda Hervieux’s extraordinary storytelling. The event begins at 7:30 p.m. Learn more by visiting The American Library in Paris. And make note that she will also be the guest speaker at Parler Paris Après Midi on April 12th!


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