This was our very first Après-Midi on Zoom!
And it went exceptionally well! So well, that we’ll be doing it again in June (with Talia Carner) and again in July (with Ella Dyer)…likely not starting back to being live at the Café de la Mairie until September. Just prior to launching the meeting, I had passed by the café to discover it under a bit of renovation (likely to prepare it for social distancing), but the owner telling me that he didn’t expect to reopen before Bastille Day. August is our month off from the monthly coffee gathering, so we’re setting our sights on September to be “back to normal”…whatever that means.
One of the things we learned from the Zoom meeting was that 3 p.m. Paris time is not convenient for people on the West Coast of the U.S. to participate. Overwhelmingly, the poll among the participants (almost 100 of them!) concluded to move it to 6 p.m. Paris Time, 9 a.m. Pacific Time in order to give everyone a chance to Zoom in. So you can mark your calendar now for June 9th at that time when author Talia Carner talks about her novel, Jerusalem Maiden, half of which takes place in Paris in 1924 during the avant-garde era. It is the story of a young Jewish woman’s struggle between her religion and her passion for art.
It took a few moments to settle into the meeting and deal with a few technical issues. It turns out that bandwidth is limited when the whole world is on the Internet at the same moment. And we were all so new to it, many on Zoom for the first time and it being our very first venture into holding the coffee gathering designed to introduce people and provide information and entertainment virtually. As people joined the meeting, we allowed everyone an opportunity to say hello and tell where they were in the world. We had people from all over France, all over the U.S. including early risers on the West Coast and even Australia. The limited number we can accept is 100, and we almost broke that record. For an Après-Midi, it was a record!
Kathy Borrus, who I met in the late 1990s while she was writing The Fearless Shopper, has since authored multiple books including Five Hundred Buildings of Paris, One Thousand Buildings of Paris, and Stubby, a children’s picture book. Her writing has appeared in The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, PurpleClover.com, Fits, Starts, and Matters of the Heart, Art Business News, and FranceGuide among others. Her latest endeavor is Notre Dame de Paris: A Celebration of the Cathedral about which she spoke and made a PowerPoint presentation. Kathy attends Après-Midi whenever she’s in Paris, which is normally about once a year for an extended stay.
For this appearance at Après-Midi on Zoom, Kathy talked informally about Notre Dame, how she came to write and research the book, and the stories that fascinated her about it, all outlined in her presentation provided by “screen sharing” it with us. She provided an inside look at the historic monument that touched our hearts as it went up in flames just one year ago. I had passed it just this past Sunday, as I had many times during the course of confinement on my daily walks, often to the river, the city’s lifeline.
We talked about the documentary, “Sauver Notre-Dame,” that had been filmed beginning from the day after the fire that illustrated the immense effort that has gone into securing the structure. You have a very short window through which you can view it online as it won’t be available after May 14th! If you’re in not in France, then you will want to use a VPN (a Virtual Private Network — a service that allows you to change or ‘spoof’ your IP address another location, in this case, France) to watch it and you can add subtitles to make it easier. Click here
At the end of her presentation, a Q and A followed. Lots of people had comments and questions, in “chat” and live. James Kigin shared a beautiful photo he had taken of the cathedral just days before the fire. Many shared their thoughts about confinement and deconfinement, too. Many people are already missing confinement in a weird way, for all the wonderful things that came out of it.
My favorite was Pat Le Blanc’s comments, who summed it up so well when she said that during confinement, when the streets of Paris were empty, she felt she had the whole city to herself, that it was hers and only hers. I understood exactly what she meant and I must admit to having felt the same way. Now that I can hear the newly returned traffic on the streets, the smell of the pollution from their exhausts, the hustle-bustle returning to the sidewalks making it hard to avoid people…it’s lost the tranquility.
As I write this, I can hear work resuming on the street and in apartments that until now, didn’t exist…and wishing the silence would return.
You can watch and listen to all two hours of the Après-Midi meeting by clicking here