Feed Your Head (continued)

Just another day in Paris…From journal entry, January 2016: “Heather raved about the Palais de Tokyo when she was here (with An American in Paris), couldn’t believe I had never been, so I was excited when Vava said she wanted to go while she was here…Took the Métro to Iéna, a street market in full swing, even in the rain…

DSC02430Just after 12 on a Saturday, perfect time to arrive. No line, no crowd. It’s France, people are still having lunch. The cashier told us a “secret” tour of the LASCO project was about to start: collection of street artists invited to tag and graf the cinderblock stairwells and emergency exits in the basement.

Our young guide had a very heavy Quebec accent, kept talking about “graffards” (like “cafards”) and I thought it was a new word for street artist. Took me a few minutes to figure out this was his cool French Canadian pronunciation of “graffeurs.” Explaining how important this exhibit is for the museum, he insisted these artists aren’t vandals (like the ones who spraypaint trees in my neighborhood), are graduates of the elite Beaux Arts. Yet most are very loyal to street esthos and adamant about the ephemeral quality of their work. Case in point: Philippe Baudelocque’s fragile swirling constellations in powdery chalk:

DSC02443Also loved Cleon Peterson’s “Power” murals:


and Vhil’s pocked, jack-hammered portraits:


Then backtracked to the more official museum “La Vie Magnifique” exhibits. Ragnar Kjartansson’s installations about poetic repetitions of clichés in modern life: looping gif films on huge screens (a house burning down in the woods, a woman swimming laps while a small dog runs barking beside the pool, Nordic children in period costumes playing around a gazebo, couple dining in a restaurant, couple making love) and a life-size vintage French village stage set, authentic to the last detail, reminiscent of Jacques Tati decors, with live actors miming a failed romantic encounter:


While Vava checked out “snow” flats simulating a mountain scene, I wandered away to a dark room with pillows on the floor and a series of films by Thai artist Korakrit Arunanondchai, juxtaposing saturated images of ancient spiritual traditions and modern decadence: temples, hypnotic Naga snakes, trash TV, garbage dumps, drones filming people filming drones…

Then a group expo of ultra-realistic portraits, people and their genitalia… Then a slide show of theaters all over the globe…

By this time we were starving. Asked a guard about the Monsieur Bleu eatery mentioned on the museum website http://monsieurbleu.com. He pointed to a mirrored wall at the very back of the dark lower level. We walked over and saw only ourselves, reflected in the glass, so went back to ask him again where it was. He looked at us like we were nuts and said, “Can’t you see it?” “No.” So he grudgingly slid off his stool, walked over, and opened the hidden door for us, into another world, a 2 or 3-story space flooded with light, tall bouquets on a burnished brass bar, tables with design place settings, all overlooking the Seine. Everything screamed, “Very Expensive.”  Vava said, “That’s why we couldn’t see the door. You have to be in a higher income bracket.”

Our blinking amazement delighted the energetic Maitre D, who showed us to a table with a stunning view of the Eiffel Tower, backlit with bursts of winter sunlight.

Looked at menu and tried to choose wisely, so as to enjoy the rare moment with Vava, splurge a little without emptying my bank account. Impeccably groomed waitress frowned when I asked for a “carafe d’eau” so I ordered a glass of white Viognet la Violette J-L Colombo (I rarely drink at noon) Gambas Poivre et Sel and  Salade de Papaye Verte:


Vava ordered Pâtes Fraîches aux Truffes and a Salted Caramel Tart with Apple Sherbet…DSC02450



Need I say these were edible, very ephemeral works of art?




Didn’t want it to end, but we were determined to see more of the museum, so we finished with coffee and reentered the other world, back through the mirrored door, finding our way to a large white-walled space with enormous hanging Chinese lanterns and destroyed white latex furniture, by Mélanie Matranga…

Finally, the main exhibit, ground floor, was devoted to John Giorno, a beat poet, activist, creator of Dial-A-Poem, and Warhol model (“star” of his film Sleep), unknown to me. First a room with a montage of B&W films of him  performing his poem “Thanks for Nothing” at the Palais des Glaces, barefoot in a tuxedo, in honor of his 70th birthday, shot from different angles, close ups, long shots… Then a mind bogglingly gigantic room, completely wall-papered with 15,000 fluo photocopies of his archive, notebooks of family photos and memorabilia on tables…DSC02451

a room of large paintings and digital displays of his aphorisms (“Just say no to family values,” “God is man-made,””Life is a killer,” “Prefer crying in a limo to laughing on a bus”) then a resin replica of his NY loft fireplace, where he performs Tibetan Buddhist purification ceremonies for the New Year, and his tall personal altar, covered with gorgeous silk brocade from Benares India, surmounted with a brocade Thangka…DSC02453

…not to mention glass cases of sacred Tibetan artefacts on loan from the Musée Guimet up the street… Quite a contrast…

Felt I had taken a very long trip, because I had…”

V. said it was the best museum she’d ever been to…Design shop and cafeteria next time…


“Feed Your Head”


From “White Rabbit,” a powerful old song by Grace Slick and the Jefferson Airplane…”Remember what the Dormouse said, feed your head…” (With a name like Aliss, I identify with Through the Looking Glass,  especially with a psychedelic spin)…. Sorry to hear about Paul Kantner’s passing…

So many ways to feed your head in Paris…have you been to the Palais de Tokyo? There’s a new show to see and food rituals to enjoy…Above is the view from Monsieur Blue, access through a rabbit hole in the basement to a view on the Seine and the Eiffel Tower. Before I describe it, let’s whet our appetites with some inspiration from Julia Cameron. Here’s a link to her suggested “Artist’s dates”:


On her blog about The Artist’s Way

To be continued…

Scene from a Café

DSC02480Recalling David Whyte’s poem, “Lost”…

“Stand still. 
The trees ahead and the bushes beside you are not lost. 
Wherever you are is called Here, 
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger, 
Must ask permission to know it and be known. 
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers, 
I have made this place around you, 
If you leave it you may come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven. 
No two branches are the same to Wren. 
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you, 
You are surely lost. Stand still. 
The forest knows where you are. 
You must let it find you.”

There’s a presence in the streets, bridges, parks and waterways of Paris… Something that speaks to us, that we try to capture in words and pictures, watching the world go by from our windows.

To be continued…xxxx Aliss

Next Steps


My fortune for the New Year: “A winner is a dreamer who never gives up.”

Stepping into our dreams is like planning a road trip. First, come questions… Where am I now? Where do I want to go? When? Why is it important to me? How will I know when I’m there? How will it feel, look, sound? What’s my first step? What can I do every day to make it real? How can I lay out a road map? Who can help me along the way? How can I energize myself? Who else will be happy when I get there?

To be continued…





Something About Angels


Saturday morning I was invited on a tour of the Madeleine church near Place de la Concorde. Our guide, a jovial Irish-American priest from Salem, Mass., beamed with pride as he told us stories about the monument’s history, architecture, and artworks, recounting Mary Magdalene’s role in the Christ story (with no mention of Dan Brown or the DaVinci code). He went on to describe the rescue center in the basement where those in need can wash their clothes, get new underwear and socks,  and a 1€ meal ticket to the Madeleine’s underground lunchroom, serving the neighborhood since the days when Coco Chanel had 4000 seamstresses working for her on nearby rue Cambon.  Pointing out the wiremesh Nativity scene by contemporary sculptor Pauline Ohrel, he explained how including  long-necked giraffes behind the manger scene honored the rebirth of all creation at Christmas.  Couldn’t take my eyes off a diaphanous star of Bethlehem and cloud-like angels floating above the cavernous nave.  By the way, said Father McCarthy, angels are neither male nor female… I had heard that before, but it took on new meaning as more and more people are questioning gender roles.

Late the next day, David Bowie passed away and I woke up to the news with the rest of the world on Monday morning. To fill the emptiness, I read posts and shares about his 700 songs, his impact on music, fashion and politics, his love story with Iman, how he designed his own death as an ultimate artistic gift. Many speculated on his sexuality: was he bi or transgressively straight? I kept thinking about angels, how every sacred tradition around the globe mentions spirit messengers between the Infinite and humankind, wondering if David Bowie, now more than ever, might be some sort of Pop angel.

(Pauline Ohrel’s Nativity, “Revelations” is on display at the Madeleine until February 2nd, 9:30am – 6pm)

Let Them Eat Art


House-marinated salmon, Japanese carrots, radishes, fresh dill, crispy arugula, lemon, pepper corns, by Chef Éiji Doïhara,  Le Sot l’Y Laisse, Paris XI http://lesotlylaisse.over-blog.com

Scroll down for more pictures below 🙂

A year ago this week, I was horrified and shaken after the terrorist attacks on Charlie Hebdo and the Kosher superette, but also inspired and energized by the energy at the march from République to Nation.

I want to comment on a piece by Maya Vidon in USA Today about how Paris has changed since last January, how the holiday festivities were a fragile façade:

Dear Maya,

Thank you for your heartfelt article, so full of love for our city.

I came here from the US as a student years ago. As much I loved Paris, I had a lot of questions. Why were Parisians so hostile to visitors? Why was it so hard to order and pay in cafés? Why did the French distance themselves from their emotions by turning everything into an art form to be endlessly analyzed? Why did they seem so cynical and depressed? Why were there no flags except on official buildings? Why were there so many political parties? Why did all their movies end tragically (or not end)? Why the love/hate towards the US (calling us “cultural imperialists” while devouring our fast food, music and movies)? Why did the French assume we were stupid because we smiled “too much”?

The love of my life, my French husband, made light of all this to our US friends and family: “It’s not that the French don’t like Americans…They don’t like anyone, including themselves…” As I learned more of the backstory, I tuned in on the Parisian worldview and rethought my outlook. I became a French citizen, but every trip back home was a breath of fresh air: I really missed American friendliness, optimism, creativity, and spontaneous off-the-wall humor.

Fast forward, January 2015, like you, I’ve been thinking about the past year and noticing differences.

We’re on alert again. Stores and transportation have been targets before. This isn’t the first time we’ve had soldiers guarding Jewish schools and patrolling the streets. But this year the terrorists struck even deeper.  They want to create a climate of fear, to destroy our economy and social fabric. Yes, we are afraid.

And yet, in my every day conversations, even with strangers, I find people more open emotionally and strangely empowered. I wonder if France is awakening from a long breakdown of national self image, finding a new consensus aligned with the philosophy of the Enlightenment?

On January 7th, anniversary of the Charlie Hebdo attacks, I was invited to lunch at the Sot L’Y Laisse in the XIth. Each dish was an exquisite work of art. The wine menu  reflected a thousand years of taste and savoir faire.  Revelation: enjoying a beautiful meal is now a sort of mudra* for ourselves, struggling restaurant owners, and French culture, a way to celebrate the living world: 

House marinated salmon (see above)
Gilt-head bream, risotto with mushroom purée, fresh arugula:


Montblanc (meringue and chestnut cream pastry, with black current sorbet, bouquets of fresh red currants, whipped cream, mint leaves and chocolate decor):


Café “noisette” (expresso with a splash of steamed milk):


Le Sot l’Y Laisse, 70 rue Alexandre Dumas, 75011 Paris, M° Alexandre Dumas, Tel: 01 40 09 79 20

*(see Wikipedia, mudra: a symbolic or ritual gesture, a spiritual gesture and an energetic seal of authenticity)

I will be blogging more about exquisite restaurants in the interest of French civilization and the world… (It’s a tough job, but…)

Sincerely yours,


We The Magi

Winter sunset along the Loire


What rivers of longing are carrying us forward? What inner star are we following? What questions pull us through the night like the tail of a comet? What do we really want to manifest? Why are we here?

Could every day be an epiphany… As small as a china figurine in a king cake, as infinite as divine love shining in a new baby, as unexpected as random humans giving their time for a wounded animal…

Clues: what were our favorite games of pretend and day dreams when we were children…

Cool listening, some of the wonderful interviews by Krista Tippet for her program On Being:


to be continued xxxx Aliss


DSC02424Yesterday late morning I was walking along the Bassin de la Villette thinking about the word “Epiphany,” wondering how it relates to us now. When I was almost home, I came across a puzzling scene. Between the trees on the sandy gravel beside the canal, a big swan was huddling with its head under its wing and a fashionable bald gentleman in black was standing nearby, worriedly talking to someone on the phone about it.

I stood there for a minute trying to figure out what was going on and between agitated phone conversations, he started telling me the story. At 6:30 am he was walking his dogs and noticed the swan. He dropped off the dogs and came back to see two larger swans scrambling out of the canal. They began flapping their wings and trying to push this one back into the water. It wouldn’t go and curled up on the ground again. At first the man thought they were fighting but realized something was wrong and started trying to get help. He walked to the canal authority building a few minutes away and was told they couldn’t do anything but he could call the fire department… That’s what he was doing when I arrived.  The fire department told him they’d sent someone earlier who reported there was no emergency but the man could call the national vet school in the south suburbs and take the swan there himself. I looked at the swan and couldn’t imagine myself trying to pick it up, much less schlepping it to the vet school hours away… On the metro? In a taxi? Not an option. Another woman walked up. She’d seen the whole thing from her window and called the Swan Protection Association. They said they didn’t have the means to send help and that we shouldn’t get too close because it could break someone’s arm with its beak… Long story short, we all started making phone calls. The fire department agreed to send a contingent to check the scene until the special animal unit could get there. DSC02426 (2)Meanwhile, several of us stood at a safe distance so dog owners would keep their pets away…Two more firemen pulled up in a red van. They put on heavy gloves and expertly examined the mysterious victim, then carried it gingerly to a containment cage in the van and drove it off to the vet school:

DSC02429IDSC02428It felt strange to mobilize 8 firemen for a wild bird, but we were all grateful they came. With sighs of relief, everyone said thank you and goodbye, hoping the vet school could do something.

Late this morning, the parent swans were there again, watching and waiting on the water.DSC02455 To be continued….