Wednesday, February 28, 2007

HRH and other important things

I'm all moved out of my flat...all my possessions, boiled down to two suitcases, one box and my backpack. Now. If I could just remember where I put everything...I am very sore from cleaning and also lugging suitcases around. Can barely clamber into the tech box at the Finn (in manner vaguely reminiscent of some ancestral sailor, except instead of carrying a knife in my mouth it's usually my mobile...).

Meanwhile, I was shocked to discover life continued apace in the City on the river...apparently Prince Harry (that's the younger one--not the heir, the spare) is going to Iraq. Well, his regiment is, and he is going as well, although with some special agents to "mind" him. Naturally the British public is outraged that they're going to be footing the bill to pay for a set of babysitters, but I think it's great. I'd rather have trained killers being paid to protect royalty by using their skills than sitting around getting bored. Tony Blair has announced that Britain will be decreasing their troop presence in Iraq signifigantly, bowing to some public pressure, at last. I'm slightly cynical that Harry going to Iraq might be the best PR move the royal family has made in the past decade...although I shudder to think what the outpouring of grief might be like if he actually doesn't make it back.

Also a good week for the royals because Helen Mirren, who played The Queen in the movie The Queen (which is really good, btw, go see it), has been invited to the palace to take tea with The Queen. The real one. Not "meet" her, not have her photo taken with her, but TAKE TEA WITH THE QUEEN. Sweet hell. How cool would that be? I would love to take tea with The Queen, just for the opportunity to feel like and idiot as I fumbled with my cucumber sandwich, making an idiotic remark about Nelson (as I am wont to do) whilst spilling the beverage of the Nation on my neatly pressed skirt. I definitely think The Queen (the movie) has done more for The Queen's (The Queen) image than anything she's done for herself lately, even travelling on commuter train. Lucky Dame Helen!

Monday, February 26, 2007

How to Vanish a TV

1. Discover roommate has left you her TV to deal with.
2. Hire cab to take offending TV, bag of clothes, bag of kitchen items, slightly-less beloved books, etc to charity shop.
3. Donate bags of stuff. Discover charity shops do not take electrical equipment in Britain.
4. Bring TV back home.
5. Place TV on curb. Affix sign that says "FREE."
6. Wait ten minutes.
7. Voila! TV is vanished.

David Copperfield, eat your heart out.

I told Lisa I would clean the house if she wouldn't charge me for the internet--fine. But when I got up this morning, I discovered that she had left her duvet, pillows, bedding, bags of clothes, kitchen stuff (including jars of Chinese spices in the fridge--all of which had to be washed out before recycling), and TV in the house. Needless to say, I was not happy. I spent all day today re-arranging STUFF just so I can be in some sort of position to clean tomorrow. I have arranged for a shipping company to come and pick up my beloved books Wednesday, but even so I've decided to part with another five: all my history books are going to get sold down Charing Cross Road tomorrow. Tears! Acid Tears! I feel like someone's cut my arm off. (no--Nelson is still coming home, although Wellington didn't make the cut. Wanker.) I also went through all my theatre programs, which was emotionally challenging. So I've spent a lot of the day alternately mad, upset, sad, cranky and also very tired. At least I've been eating well--hey, someone has to clean out the freezer. I took a suitcase (my big suitcase, the one you could fit a person into. No, really, I'm actually not exaggerating) down to Waterloo and gave about half my wardrobe to my friend Deb, who's lost nearly 150 pounds and is now just about my size. Why, you ask? Books, my dear Watson! I can always buy new clothes...besides, everyone knows that it's minus twenty in Wisconsin, I'll just be sitting around all day in my Canada sweatshirt, in a fug. I know y'all will find it hard to believe that I have my possessions down to two suitcases and one box, but there it is. I just wish I didn't have to.

For the record, if anyone is looking to buy me a birthday present next winter, the books I'm missing are:

"Freedom Just Around the Corner"
"His Excellency George Washington"
"Wellington and Napoleon"
"Rights of Man"
"Our Musicals, Ourselves"

Saturday, February 24, 2007

they say the meek are gonna get what's coming to 'em!

I hate packing. I'm never moving again unless I can throw everything into a car and take off. It takes me forever too, because I have to sit there and go through everything and relive all the memories. It's exhausting. This morning I recycled my Representative call book, old drafts of my thesis and took down all my photographs and postcards. Exhausting. Luckily there is a marathon of "House" on tv so I can sit and recuperate--oh, yeah, and they're turning off our TV and internet tomorrow. Durrr. I hate moving. I'm having a packing box delivered on Monday so I can ship it home on Wednesday, so there's not much else I can do right now except sit around and wait for four o'clock to arrive so I can go to the theatre. I took a small (5kg) box of books to the post office yesterday to mail home, but it would have cost me £65, so I brought it home again...I know I have a lot of stuff, but I'm getting rid of an entire garbage bag of clothes as well. Ironically it's mostly the clothes I brought here: they're too big for me now. See, if I could throw everything into a car, I would keep them for when I get up to my fighting weight again, but now they're all going. I'm trying to see it as not getting clingy about personal items, but that doesn't really fly when you consider the only reason I'm jettisoning clothes is so I can bring home Vincent's thousand page biography of Nelson. Well, everyone has priorities. I'm just proud that I haven't bought a matching bio of Lady Hamilton yet.

I'm going to be moving to a flat in Blackheath for three weeks. A friend of a friend, both of whom are theatrical persons, is going to be moving to Bristol to assistant direct up there for a month, so he's letting me have it for cheap. Blackheath is right near Greenwich. I'm so happy I'll be back south of the river, and right near one of my favourite places in the city. It's going to take me an hour to get to the theatre still, but...the fastest way there is to take one of the river boats. Bliss.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Jekyll and Hyde is a crap musical

Not even, but the lyrics are so terrible that I can't bear to listen to it. Why do I do it then, I hear you ask? Well, I've decided to give some of the more neglected shows in my collection another far I've mostly confirmed my resolution to not listen to them. Although, J&H does bring back good memories of painting in Point when I had my CD player (old skool!) strapped on, trying to stay out of everyone's way as I completed assignments. Speaking of Jekyll and Hyde, does anyone remember a bad movie call "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen?" It had the potential to be such a cool film and then the movie makers had to ruin it by turning it into a vehicle for Sean Connery when, let's face it, his only vehicle at this point should probably be a Rascal. There is some kind of sub-genre out there about ninteenth century people who have somehow managed to accomplish great thing scientifically before it was technically possible. See "League" also "Wild, Wild West," "Brothers Grimm," and there was one other one...anyway, "League" was on the other night, and I was watching it, fascinated, because the CGI in this movie was so bad. It was early days, after all, but even by those standards it was baaaaad. The guy playing Jekyll and Hyde was quite good though. When o when will filmmakers learn that there is still no substitute for the real thing? Also no substitute for quality acting: "Wild, Wild West" may get zero stars out of five, but it's still a joy to watch because Kenneth Brannagh manages to bring something real to the comedy bitterness of his character, even with a ridiculous beard and southern accent.

Speaking of Southern accents, when is Manhunt going to be made?! And more importantly, who's going to play John Wilkes Booth?!

All right, I confess, I'm just avoiding cleaning and packing. Now that I have all this free time I don't know what to do but sit around and surf the internet. I did send out another five resumes least I think it was five, I kind of lost count after awhile. I do have a job offer in California, near where "Sideways" took place. Money-wise, it's about as good as I can expect, and the contract would go through December, potentially. So what's stopping me? Well, at first I tried to put a brave face on leaving London by saying, bracingly, "No, it will be good to go home and be near family again!" but now I am sincerely looking forward to going home and being near family...and I suddenly don't want to go away again. Of course, the image of me floating around wine country and walking my dog on the beach compared to me slogging through two feet of snow is appealing. There is a sort of unwritten rule in theatre: never turn down paid work so I can't believe I'm even considering saying no when the only other option would be temping unless I heard back from other theatres,'s very uncool and old-fashioned to say that you'd like to settle down, have a family, be stable, especially when you're in your early late twenties, but I feel a lot older, what with all the traveling and moving I've done. Stability would be a nice change, which is why I keep harping on about the damn dog. I'd like to move into a place knowing I'd be there in a year, invest in all the little condiments that you only use once in a blue moon that hover in the backs of cabinets for years, things like that which don't happen when you have to move every six months....oh, that reminds me, I must go consolidate the onion powder and onion granules into one shaker. :P

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The TV is talking to me

If London Underground's response to someone writing "Eddie Murphy thinks it's okay to make fun of large women!" on a Norbit poster is to remove said poster from the platform...they're not exactly encouraging people to stop making political statements on movie posters. Is all I'm saying.

Speaking of vandalism, I read an article about how when the Hitler waxwork went on display at Madame Tussauds in 1933 it was promptly splashed with red-paint by some far-seeing Communist. It was removed, used as evidence in the subsequent trial, cleaned up and put back on display...where it was promptly hit with red paint and tomatoes again. Eventually Madame Tussaud's put it behind glass, but even then they had to clean the glass daily because people spit on it. The figure was eventually "liberated" in 2002, and is now the "third" most hated figure in the collection, behind Osama bin Laden and...I forget the other guy. I haven't been to Tussaud's yet, but I think I'll go in the window between the show closing and me leaving. Looking forward to seeing all the historical waxworks--I'm more interested in the fact that Hitler was paint-bombed and survived a direct hit during WWII than looking at some stupid celebrities. Also they have a Nelson figure. I feel bad that Hitler's only the third most hated figure though. I mean, historically, he's caused a bit more caos than bin Laden. Maybe I should take some paint along and show that all is not forgotten.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

on and on and on...

The show is great. We had first preview tonight and it looks great. Everyone was positive about it, which is really nice after all the long nights I've put in recently. Must get a picture of the set up. It's amazing--especially the floor moulding, which was cut and screwed by yours truly. But it has been very stressful. I'm not sure why since everyone was very prepared for this show and tech went smoothly. We techies have a common ancestry with sailors (maybe that's where it comes from) and all I'm going to say is a captain and crew need to trust and have faith in one another. Is all I'm saying. I'm glad the show is up, on its feet and getting laughs. Makes it all worth it. I only got one minor injury this time, and I'm embarassed that it's a wussy, British wound: a steam burn from the kettle as I made tea this morning. I'm so tired I've forgotten how to speak British: I was talking about cilantro yesterday for ten minutes before I realised the sound designer was giving me a weird look for not saying "coriander."

I think I may have also gotten a job offer in California...but I'm too tired to process words right now and emails are just beyond me. Bed, here I come.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

passive agressive backpack

I'll admit it, occasionally when some "stand on the right"-er is leaning into my "walk on the left" zone as I'm zooming upward, in a hurry to get home, I'll turn my shoulder slightly so they get the brunt of my backpack. Call it escalator rage.

So it's only twenty after midnight and I'm home. Load-in went very well. I think it's because we all knew each other and had fun, and the set didn't weigh seven thousand pounds. Also it was not ninety degrees in the theatre. I am absolutely knackered though. The only reason I'm writing now is I turned the heat on so I can have a heated towel for my post-load in shower. Ah. Crap, I meant get-in. We're in London, so it's load-in...oh, I'm going to have to ask someone how the "five minutes, places" thingy goes again. Whatever.

I skipped out for a couple hours to go see Chinatown since today is Chinese New Year. Happy year of the Pig! I even wore a red shirt to load in. This is the way to celebrate New Year's: overpriced Chinese food, eaten standing up, while being buffeted by thousands of other people. There were several "lions" parading around Chinatown, Lisa explained that if businesses gave the lion money, they would have good fortune that year. So these teams of dancers, a few in the lion costume, drum players and flag carriers, go from business to business, dancing for money. Only the business doesn't just hand out cash, they attach money in a red packet (red is good luck) to a bunch of lettuce (not sure why lettuce), then dangle it from the end of a pole out the first (American second) floor window, so the lion has to jump up and get it. Then the lion eats the money and spits the lettuce back out at the business--spraying anyone who happens to be nearby with leaves. Once we were so close I could see the dancer drop kick the lettuce back up onto the roof of a restaurant. It was well cool. I'd love to see how those costumes worked from the inside. I bought a little pig pendant for happiness (figured I'd hang it in my car if I get one) and a little paper dragon, for good luck. I promptly tucked the dragon in the back of the set--I just hope that it doesn't get noticed for the first time when someone is preparing to go on and they're startled out of their wits!

Friday, February 16, 2007

Free newspapers

I never take the free papers, but I do read them when they're lying on the train. I also like to intimidate the vendors when they shove them in my face saying "free! free!" by screaming back, "but what does it cost the EARTH?!"

Today the news has been about three shooting deaths in Peckham, the borough next to the one where I used to live. Used to go see movies there, it was about a 20 minute bus ride. It's one of the poorest areas of London, and police are thinking these deaths are all gang related. Now all the free papers have screaming headlines like "Gang Uses 12 Year Olds as Gun Couriers!" and "Gun Deaths on the Rise!" I'm concerned about the violence, naturally, but I compare it to the gun violence in NYC or, for that matter, the psychos with the closets full of rifles in Wisconsin, and I think the police are lucky that they are just now having to put together gang and gun taskforces. I can't believe how much the atmosphere has changed since I first came to London. Then I didn't see any armed police, now they are regularly patrolling around Trafalgar Square and Westminster. 'Course the first time I came I had stars in my eyes...and no one had yet attempted to blow up the Tube.

It's also Fashion Week! in London and the drama!!! is all about the Fashion Week! directors not! banning SIZE ZERO models!!! Which is disgusting and we are totally against super-skinny models! We support HEALTHY models! Not size ZERO! models--like this woman! And this woman!!! and here's a few more pictures of models that we totally find disgustingly skinny!! So I'm feeling fat. I ate a big bowl of (haha, almost typed "hate" there) of steamed vegetables for dinner tonight, but now my stomach is eyeing me up suspiciously going "what is this? Is this plant matter? Is this...broccoli?"

And I've realised that recently all my theatre-going choices have been based solely on star appeal and not actual artistic content. Wicked? Idina Menzel. Bent? Alan Cumming (a-- ---- -- ---e). Love Song? Cillian Murphy. I justify it by saying "well, hell, when am I going to get to see these people again? I could always read Bent, but when am I going to get it onstage? Pfff." Today I was smucked in the face by this image going down the Tube and I realised I was going to have to go to the theatre again. Yes, that's Daniel Radcliffe in Equus. And yes, yes, he gets naked. (and yes, there's more to that picture--bless google) I'm not sure how I feel about this. I can remember being 18 and living in Door County and carefully scrutinising the new Harry Potter and giving my grudging approval. Now that he's trying to make a legitimate theatrical name for himself, I am just all a tizzy. And not sure how to feel about an actor that up until very recently I thought of fondly as I might a young brother. Naturally, in all big sisterly concern, I must go see this show and make sure that he is capable of giving a good performance. I hope I will be able to give an unbiased opinion in face of any...distractions.

Thursday, February 15, 2007


Damnit, I was all galvanised to start my own theatre company and now I'm getting interviews for SM jobs all over the country. Curse my experience with London shows! Although, some of the places are local "community" theatres, so it will definitely be a watch and learning experience. Oh well. Finally some good news for a change.

Meanwhile, more proof that God loves us:

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Love lies a-bleeding

"O, man, let me plant your bleeing heart within my garden,
Let me nourish it with my laughter and water it with my tears.
O, my garden, full of light and joy, o my rest and beauty
You are grown so dear, ever full of blossoms, peace and thorns."

Love you!

Tuesday, February 13, 2007


Like a tin pail, I have suddenly become galvanised about the future. I know, I know "Again?" I hear you cry. It all started when I got an interview for the Bristol Renaissaince Faire, and I was talking about it with Niki, our director. It would be cool! I said, but she asked me if it would really help me in my game plan. Overall, that is. Well, I don't know, I said, I'm not sure I have a game plan. What do you want to doooo with the fuuuuture? she asked me. Well, that's easy, I want to start a theatre company. So then she started asking me more questions about what kind of theatre company and I started talking about all the potential in places like Green Bay, but how they were lacking...dedicated, professional theatre people (me, basically, if I can say so in all humilty) to take amateur productions to the next step. Also there is never any new drama. But as I was talking, I started to listen to myself for the first time. I sounded like a three year old jabbering about her new pony. This isn't the first time I've talked about starting a company "when I grow up." And then I realised, as I listened to how excited I was sounding that maybe...maybe the time has come. I keep thinking about the potential for starting a company the right way, not some "lets do a play in a warehouse" or crappy St Nobby's summer stock, but real, new drama, but a proper company with a mission statement and a three year plan. I'm going to get some books on starting a small business and start reading about getting funding and grants so that I can start a self-sustaining company that will feed my ego. No, seriously, I've seen enough good/bad/inbetween theatre to know what I want to do, now all that's left to do it. Before, as Niki pointed out, I've got to start paying a mortgage or having babies. And think how nicely a dog would fit into the picture if I was working for myself.

I went to see "Love Song" tonight--had a fish 'n chips and ale then off to the theatre, I LOVE london!--because it is literally a now or never situation, as the show closes on Friday. Oh, it is a good play. Such a good play. I could really relate to it--the dialogue and all the scenes were like snapshots lifted out of real life. Cillian Murphy is a genius. He was so good I forgot he was Cillian Murphy. I walked out of the theatre feeling uplifted, but a little sad for the main character--it's a play about love after all, but he ends up alone. I think I'm impressed the tweeners sitting next to me though about my comment about "my friend? who works at Steppenwolf? In America? Yeah, she saw it and she said it was really good." That's what I want to do--start the next Steppenwolf. hmm....

Monday, February 12, 2007


For only the second time since I started writing, I've taken some content off my blog. One of the associate directors at the theatre (a friend of mine) called me up and asked me to delete all references to the show I'm working on. Reason being, if you google the theatre, my blog comes up and it doesn't look very professional if the stage manager is complaining about the actors. It never even occured to me that people other than those of you whom I have given my address to would read this, so I was shocked when I suddenly realised total strangers, seeking information about the theatre might suddenly come across my whingy rants. (and they have been whingy lately--I have not been at my best, have I?) Naturally I took down everything about referring to the theatre. Now I'm just positively horrified at myself--reading back over what I've written. How unprofessional have I been? I should have confined myself to a journal or a sympathetic ear, in private. I've forgotten about what a public forum the internet can be. I'm embarassed and ashamed, and going to be keeping it in from now on. Durrr.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

How many people does it take to buy costumes?

Three if you're this production. Billie, Niki and I went shopping by committee in Camden, which was fun. We bonded and found a great costume--not sure how period it is, but the actress is happy with it, the director is happy with it and I'm happy they're happy. Now all I have to do is return the clothes I bought to Topshop and try to resist the siren call of this well cute little hat I saw when I was in there last week. I was unable to fight off the temptation today when I went past a bookstore today--I bought a book of photographs of Trafalgar Square. Four pounds! 'course it's going to cost me about twice that to mail it home, but come on! It's Trafalgar Square! Four pounds! A book! I have a legitimate addiction! I also found out our director's birthday is on October 21st, which is, of course, Trafalgar Day and the Day Nelson Died, as commemorated by countless paintings and etchings: Sudden Death + Instant Glory will be the title of the painting I'm going to do as soon as I get my hands on my art tank. It will be...ironic. I think I made Niki smile though as we were wandering around Camden Market and I kept muttering under my breath: "Fat people don't have discretionary income! Why would we make fun dresses in bigger sizes? Fat people don't want to wear fashionable, fun clothes! Your money is not welcome here, fat people! It instantly loses any worth it might have because you're fat, fat person!!" Although, I don't think I would be comfortable spending money in Camden anyway: most of the clothes are the product of third-world sweatshops and probably cost about two cents to produce. But, overall, a productive day.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

"from now on we will travel in TUBES!"

...Does anyone know that Tenacious D song? "Two Kings?" It's really funny, except for that line, which is not so funny when you actually do spend a large portion of your time in tubes.

I went to see the William Hogarth exhibit at the Tate Britain. I love that the Tate has chosen this image as their poster image, the image that says "THIS IS WHAT THIS EXHIBIT is ALL ABOUT!" and the one that a stuffy board of directors sat around debating: "hm, what will get people in to see this exhibit?" "I know, how about a picture of a bored playboy johnny-come-lately and his drunk, cheating wife whose boyfriend may or may not be in the next room?" "Genius! I love it!" Hogarth was a painter/engraver in the early mid 17th century, whose "speciality" were series of paintings, usually on some moral topic or another. This painting comes from my favourite series "Marriage ala Mode" where a poor aristocratic woman is forced into marrying a rich young man and they end up spending their lives by drinking, gambling and cheating on one another until the husband catches his wife in the arms of his laywer: the lawer kills the husband and is then sentenced to hang, at which point the wife kills herself in despair. I love it. It's got everything: Sex. Wine. Syphllis. Murder. Dogs. (Hogarth loved dogs: not sure why.) Until this exhibition opened the four paintings from "M ala M" were hanging in the National Gallery, another favourite haunt of mine. I'm glad I paid £8 to see them in the Tate Britain, but my one complaint was the huge number of people, all squashed in to see these very small and very detailed engravings. I think the Tate needs to either have less paintings or spread out more. Also it was very hot in there, but I guess when you're a famous painting you can refuse to be shown if the temperature is under 80. Then of course there was the tall jerk in the suit who kept huddling in front of the paintings, prompting me to mutter under my breath "hey, don't bogart the Hogarths!" which was funny.

Afterward Sarah and I went out for sushi until we realised the restaurant was a dim sum place. So I got bao and dumplings instead. Mmm. I'm all cultured and stuff. Now Lisa has made some soup, so I'm going to curl up in front of the TV and finally get rid of this cough I've had for the last week.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

The Paris Post

Hello true believers! I'm back, safe and sound, both feet firmly on the ground. My trip was uneventful, but I'm tired and sore from walking all over Paris for the past three days.

I flew in on Wednesday evening and met my friend Sarah at the airport. Sarah went to Goldsmiths and worked on "Hedwig" with me, and she was kind enough to offer me a place to stay whilst I was in the City of Light. She also showed me around, translated menus for me ("what is cafe au lait? ...oh, wait.") and ran interference if one of her six cats decided to make friends with me. The first day I wanted to go see Napoleon's tomb, so we went to Les Invalides ("Le On-vahl-eed") via the Arc de Triomphe.
Practically all roads lead here--during the 1840s and 50s, Paris was torn up and laid out again in a pleasing, sensible geometrical pattern. Easier to get around, but harder for revolutionaries to build barricades. Most of what I thought of as "Paris" comes from WWII movies when there's tanks everywhere. I was struck by how same everything looked: neat sandstone buildings with ornate ironwork balustrades and doors. It gives a city a lot cleaner lines, but it got confusing after awhile where I was.
My reaction to anything in Paris was this: "Wow! Wow! That's amazing! Wow, that's...a lot bigger than I thought it was." When we first saw the Arc de Triomphe I was blown away by the scale of it. It's HUGE! I guess I was thinking about Wellington's arch in Hyde Park, but this is more on the scale Can't think of anything. Anyway, it's huge.

We finally got to Les Invalides, which is a (huge) hospital built by Louis XIV (the Sun King) for his veterans. Which was nice, until you consider the fact they were only veterans because HE declared war. Anyway, now it's a huge museum for France's military history. I was keen to see the parts on the Revolution (the first one--there were several) and First Empire--both of which were CLOSED for refurbishment!!! Dar!!! Disappointing! Sarah and I wandered through the other exhibits, but we weren't really interested. (I may be biased, but I feel like the National Imperial Museum in London does it better: more civilian stuff alongside the war stuff) Then we went into the chapel where Napoleon is buried. I say "buried" but he's actually in a huge sarcophagus that's sunk into the main chapel like some kind of massive red boat. This picture doesn't do it justice: really, it's massive, like ten feet by four feet by six feet. When Napoleon's nephew decided to become Napoleon III he turned his uncle into a hero and the First Empire into a little cult, and brought Napoleon's body back from St. Helena. While we were there, a whole pack of French soldiers was also wandering around (there are other war heroes buried here) resulting in this picture. I can't imagine what having this guy in your national history must do to your psyche as a soldier. If I was a drill sargent in America, I would pound the lessons of G. Washington into my pupils heads, but here they learn about this short megalomaniac who ruled most of the known world. Hmm. (remind me to ruminate sometime on why I'm so obsessed with military history...)

This is the church where Napoleon is buried:

After that, we hopped on a bus and went to Monmarte, to meet Sarah's boyfriend for coffee. Jean-Pierre is a a communist philosphy student who's working on a doctorate in polical science. (well, this is France) We waited for him in a very existential little coffee shop populated by thin glamourous women who were smoking cigarettes and drinking red wine and making dramatic statements about the world. (at least, I assume they were.) Unfortunately JP could only stay about five minutes because he had to work, so we decided to wander amongst the shops and get some dinner. This being Monmarte, the bohemian setting of "Moulin Rouge" I immediately began to drink absinthe and conduct a tumultuous love affair, before we stopped for pizza for dinner.

The next day we went to Versailles. Which defies description. For starters, the house, the chalet, the main building, whatever, is HUGE. Louis the 14th, who built it up, had about twenty rooms for his personal use, and the queen had about ten and so on and so forth. Huge. Just beyond believeable. And every room was an art lesson waiting to happen: paintings, tromp l'oeil, sculptures, bas reliefs. It looked like a set for a movie. Every surface available was covered in marble, and if that wasn't convenient, it was gilded. Or covered with miles of exquisite embroidery. It makes your eyes hurt. Truly. I kept thinking about the ridiculous clothes people wore back then against the ridiculous wallpaper and began understanding why women were always passing out. None of the pictures I have does it justice, but I did buy a visitor's guidebook which you are all welcome to take a look at when you come visit me.

Again, we were thwarted by "conservation activities:" the Hall of Mirrors is being conserved for the future, so half of it is covered up by scaffolding and screens, the other less impressive because of this. Inside the tunnel in the scaffolding they blew up an etching of a night at Versailles and put mirrors on the other side, which led to this kind of fun picture:

On the way home, Sarah convinced me to stop and see some actual touristy things. I agreed, since we hadn't had much luck with Napoleon (although I did get a small plastic figurine to go with my Nelson), and we stopped off to see Notre Dame. This was actually smaller than I expected, but more beautiful. It was recently cleaned and it gleams quietly on it's little island like a pearl.

Then, of course, there's the obligatory shot of me in front of the Eiffel Tower (or "Tour Eiffel" or "Le Dame Fere"). Again--Eiffel Tower: WAY bigger than I imagined! I thought it was, you know, some piffy little metal thing, but it's huge! And divinely displayed again the black sky lit up like a copper penny.

The next day we were both a little drained, so we didn't get going until after twelve. We missed getting the boat tour because I was buying rechargeable batteries for SOMEONE, but I didn't mind too much because the street we were on had pet shops, so I got my dog fix for the day. Then I had an idea: why don't we go see the Opera? My thirteen year old self immediately declared this was a great idea! so Sarah (poor Sarah) and I set off down the road. Soon we come to a huge, imposing grey building and she says "well, this is it." My thirteen year old self tells me this is not "it" but at the same moment I realise she (Sarah) means the Louvre. The mother and father of all museums. And it is (you've probably guessed it) HUGE. I mean, when you say art museum, I think of the National Gallery, but square foot-wise, this probably covers all the National Gallery, the Portrait Gallery, Trafalgar Square and probably Leceister Square too, for good measure. (or, for my GB readers: the Ashwaubenon mall, including the blocks on either side that have Best Buy and JC Penney). And it's four stories tall. "Can we go in?" I say. I was expecting it to be free, but it's not. I totally take that for granted in London. Sarah has a suggestion: we were going to meet her dad to watch rugby, but since I am clearly in sightseeing mode, we agree to part ways. I'll do the Louvre, see the Opera and meet her back at her house. She hands me a train ticket, gives me vague directions to the Opera metro (somehowe we both forgot a map), pats me on the back and wishes me luck before disappearing into the crowds. I am very excited: there's so much stuff here! And I only have two hours. Well, if I showed you on a map where I went you'd say I saw a lot, but the only reason for that is because I started walking and I didn't stop. You can't stop and read all the plaques--and not just because they're all in French--because there is SO MUCH to see. I saw the Egyptian exhibit, French paintings up until 1820, De Brun's "Life of Alexander" series, then veered toward the large-scale paintings, passing on my way the Mona Lisa (which is hanging by itself on a wall surrounded by bullet proof glass), the Venus d' Milo (who gets her own room--it's in her contract) and La Victoirie, which was really cool.

Also really cool: Napoleon's coronoation picture, which is, I swear, taller than my parent's house. I passed through the 1700s and 1800s display (I love furniture) at a leisurely pace--this area is almost totally empty, unlike the crowds arond Ms. Lisa) and run into Napoleon III's state apartments which are GORGEOUS. The height of Victorian splendor, all red plush and gilt and mirrors. Completely alone now, I felt like I was walking through a memory, I could almost hear the waltzes and smell cigar smoke and hear taffeta skirts and wine glasses tinkling. Unfortunately by that point it was time to go, but it was fantastic to be able to just react to art and objects like that. usually in a museum I have to stop and read everything--but when it's in French that's not possible, so all I could do was have an honest emotional reaction to pieces of art. Of course, then I come out and this is what I'm greeted with: reminding me that all Art is but an imitation of Real Beauty.

After all that walking, I decided to treat myself to dinner at a bratisserie--roast duck with garlic potatoes. The waiter was horrified I didn't stay for desert.

I was afraid I wouldn't be able to find the opera, but there it was: bobbing and peeking out from behind street signs like a low-flung moon. It's very squat and quite low inside: I was grinning like an idiot as I made my way up the stairs, and the guy who was checking bags gave me a weird look. But it's the opera house!!! Like where Phantom of the Opera took place!!! And not the stupid movie or the tired old show in the West End, but the real, heart-stopping piece of musical theatre that captivated me when I was younger and got me started on all this. It was quite a moment--after all that history to have a moment alone with my history was nice. They didn't let me past the main foyer without a ticket to whatever was going on, but I could see the grand staircase with all the candelabras and mirrors, and I was very happy.

So that was Paris. There's lots of other fun stories, like the nice Americans who we met on the train coming back to Versailles who kept asking us about who this king or that emperor was, and the bad Americans like the ones I was listening to as I consumed my cannard last night whine about "how I don't want to be a suburban mom but I want my kids to be American!" I like Paris. I feel I could be quite comfortable there, if my heart didn't already belong to another city. I would definitely go back.