Paris/COVID: Hark the Herald

Mother of pearl angel with harp on our tree

This time of year my solar plexus is usually bubbling with excitement like a toddler waiting for Santa. Instead there’s an unfestive ache. Decorating our place felt like performing a musical in an empty theater. This is the first year I won’t be getting together with anyone from my birth family, in a long long time.

Homesick, searching for holiday spirit:

Can’t go where I’d usually go, no museums, cafés, restaurants or concerts. Bright side: retracing steps from previous winters, got some cool surprises. Walking across the Marais with take-out cappuccino from Carette Place des Vosges, I saw dark storefronts, but a renovated Musée Carnavalet will reopen in the Spring with restored gardens and a chronological path across Paris history as seen through art. People queueing for falafel and pastries rue des Rosiers reminded me it’s Hanukkah week with its miracles of light. A secret passageway I never saw before, opened through three courtyards between the Place des émeutes de Stonewall (didn’t know this existed)

Was this here before?

and the cheerful, spacious BHV department store with six floors of abundance and enough shoppers to feel lively but not crowded. Cosier than the Forum des Halles, just as upbeat as Galeries Lafayette Haussman and Bon Marché, but less pretentious and pure heaven after sedentary internet browsing. No identity ordeal to set up your millionth online account with your millionth password. Added incentive: picking out gifts and ornaments in person has a new dimension this year, potentially saving the French economy.

Outside the main entrance, in front of the Hôtel de Ville on the Seine, no skating rink for 2020, but two free merry-go-rounds and a series of wooden cabins with big display windows full of nature scenes for the little ones, skies are mostly gray, but lots of lights and carols playing.

Looking across the river towards Notre Dame

It took ages to get home. No more spontaneous zigzagging across the city! Getting around is a slog unless you’re on foot. (City biking is not my thing) Option one: crawl through traffic by bus or taxi on technocrat-reorganized street grids blocked by ubiquitous construction. Option two: brave the metro, risky and time-consuming because I hop off and wait for the next one when it’s too crowded to social distance.

Bright side: I love my neighborhood more than ever with it’s sparkling garlands overhead, variety of merchandise, florists, book shops, food vendors… Most items on my 2020 gift list come from local small businesses.

Other changes:

No big French family dinner with 20 relatives around the table at midnight on the 24th, sniff. Bright side: won’t get home at 3am and be bleary for our US-style Christmas morning the next day.

No long-distance travel this year, sniff. Bright side: no packing, no jet lag.

No family visitors, sniff. Bright side: don’t have to clean guest room and guest bath twice, before and after. (Would jump at the chance, if only.)

Other blessings:

Thankful I didn’t Marie-Kondo my home before COVID so have stuff to sort through, rediscover and repurpose, like the mason jar of “pumpkin butter” found in my pantry, a ghost from holidays past. Contrary to its name, it doesn’t contain butter, just pumpkin, sweeteners and spices. With some eggs and evaporated milk, this transformed into a gorgeous pie for decadent cold snacks right out of the fridge that take me back to feasting on leftovers as a kid.

Work is slow, time on my hands, can volunteer more: mentoring opportunities in scouting community, Sandwich Ministry food distribution for the needy at the American Cathedral.

Private, low key holidays might also leave thought space to prioritize neglected projects on my I-hope-someday list?

Maybe I’ll do something really radical, like cooking up edible presents for friends?

Most of all, processing two major events:

-My mom has moved from a large assisted living facility on a busy city street, luxurious but sometimes impersonal, to a small family-run elder care home in the countryside near my US relatives. After being isolated for nine long months, she’s in intimate surroundings with dogs, cats, greenery and warm human contact. Hats off to my heroic sister and brother-in-law and to my mom for her endurance. A weight has lifted from heart.

-Our teenage son just completed a four-week full-time internship among adults in a professional kitchen as part of his lycée culinary program. Coincidentally this was also in a retirement home (where food preparation doesn’t shut down even during a pandemic). He didn’t catch COVID and neither did we, his chef was very pleased with his skills and wants to help him make contacts for after-COVID. Good omen. Hats off to him for making it through and to us for getting him there every morning in spotless chef’s jacket and apron (a story in itself).

Nearing the winter solstice and 2021, reasons to celebrate: we’re well and vaccines are on the way. Sit back, relive happy memories and imagine a future together again.

Let there be music! Let there be color! Rejoice and stay safe!

xxxxxx Aliss

Paris/COVID: The trip that almost wasn’t (4)

IMG_1538              (Clouds this morning over lush French farmland)

Doubly COVID negative, we were able to board our flight and are now safely back in Paris, but what a gruelling experience…

In case this can help other travelers from NY state to Paris (or make you laugh), my family and I have personally tried three of the testing options recommended by the NYC French consulate:

A – The French gynecologist who meets you in a parking lot in Mount Kisco, NY

B – A Lab in Edison, NJ where he sends the sample or where you can go directly to be tested

C – Another French doctor in a health clinic in Larchmont, NY

And the ONLY winner was …. C: Dr. Philip Heinegg, 1890 Palmer Avenue, Suite 304, Larchmont, NY, 914-834-9606, info@larchmontmd.com, Monday-Friday 8am-3pm.

We made an appointment, it wasn’t crowded, they didn’t bullshit us, the results really arrived by email in a few hours AND it was free with a NY ID thanks to the COVID fund. Apparently there is a lab nearby that delivered results in a matter of hours. BUT!!! We were among the last people to benefit from this and it has been removed from the French consulate website…BECAUSE the lab they used can no longer guarantee a delivery time for the results, due to high demand (more about this below).

Still, do not bother with A and B, unless you have no other choice.

A is a lovely man who will charge you $60 per person to take the sample and send it to the lab, but trash your carefully typed paperwork so that the lab can’t read it and will not be able to contact you. He will also misinform you about the 72 hour time limit: “It’s fine to take the sample on Friday evening for a Tuesday evening departure!” (Not) AND not give you a receipt.

B will give you different information every time you call, will tell you they are not open on Saturday (they are), that the date of the sample will not be on the email with the results so you can have the test on Friday for a Tuesday departure (not). B will ignore the email address you gave them directly and use the illegible version hand copied in chicken scratch by A so that the results bounce back to them, meaning that you don’t get the results of your Friday test until Monday afternoon and only after many tense phone calls. Oh, and they will charge you $130 per person for this “service” which will be rejected outright by Air France. AND when B was first recommended by the consulate, they were charging $100 per test. A few days later they had upped the price by 30%, what nerve.

Fortunately we played it safe and scheduled our second test, with C, on Monday morning. We got the results Monday afternoon, which fell within the 72 hr limit. They were accepted by Air France and enabled us to fly.

So what would have happened if we had trusted A and B and shown up at the airport with results from a sample taken outside the 72 hr limit? The AF agent we spoke to said they have fail safe options: a testing center in Brooklyn and one in Queens where you can rush with your baggage at the last minute by cab and IF you are COVID negative, possibly arrive back to JFK in time for your flight or get on a later one. Fine, but can you imagine the stress? And why do they keep this information secret?

Maybe everyone is keeping their particular partners confidential because many labs are now swamped with testing for school reopenings and even the fastest ones can no longer get the job done quickly… For info, when we called C‘s office to thank them for saving our butts, they said that they are no longer on the consulate list because they no longer have a reliable fast lab. We gave them the Brooklyn and Queens addresses we got from Air France, hoping that might help, because they have people coming all the way from Ohio and Pennsylvania to whom they have to explain all this, cancel their appointments, or use the expensive lab in NJ… Imagine the dialog!

Anyway, we are COVID neg, showed our results from C at the airport, filled out our required statements, got our temperature taken on both sides, wore masks, had a smooth flight, and made it back to Paris. We didn’t have to have another test at CDG.

We did it! But it was a really close call.

For more precise names and addresses, PM me.

To be continued!

Aliss

 

 

Paris/COVID: The trip that almost wasn’t (3)

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Week 4 of our time in upstate NY:

Right now we’re in a sweet spot. There are very few cases of the virus here and it’s good to be away from Paris where cases are increasing. NY Families are debating how to start the school year. We can pretend we don’t have that problem for a few more weeks.

I’ve been able to reconnect with my US family and my mom. She and I have settled into a comfort zone across our window screen. This afternoon will be our 6th visit (that’s 6 x 160 miles), first time together outdoors, 45 minutes with no physical barriers, but we have to stay 6 feet apart and there will be a staff member monitoring us. We may be able to play scrabble on my Mom’s board, with me keeping my distance and hand sanitizing my every move for safety. More good news: her residence has reopened their dining room, organizing two sittings per meal to allow for spacing, so my mom is seeing people again and moving around more. Hopefully things will continue to improve and she’ll be able to visit my sister at her home soon.

Meanwhile, we’re being very careful. Everyone’s wearing masks even on hiking trails. My son has been going to an outdoor day camp wearing a mask, distancing, washing hands. The camp is still COVID free, vive New York.

Our moment of truth is looming. In a few days we’ll have to be tested for COVID in order to return to France, we still don’t know where or how. We have plans A, B and C, just to be safe. NJ lab with result in 48 hrs if they decide to open on Saturday (which we won’t know until late Thursday or early Friday morning and they don’t give appointments, it’s first come first serve)? Otherwise appointment with French doctor in Larchment, NY on Friday evening with 48hr results? And just in case, appointment with another French doctor in White Plains, NY on Monday with results in 2 hrs? It’s very Catch 22 trying to schedule the test less than 72 hours before boarding our flight, over a weekend, in a place where thunderstorms can knock out power grids for days and given conflicting info from consulate and AF about how the time is calculated (from sample or from delivery of results?) If one of us tests positive how will we arrange to stay here? Suspense.

BTW: apologizing for the delay, Governor Cuomo’s office finally replied to my email query sent 5 or 6 weeks ago. The message informs us that yes, we should quarantine for 14 days (now that we’ve been here over 3 weeks) and once again provides the NY state virus hotline number where they told me and others the contrary. Are these contradictory signals due to the fact that numbers are now up in France? Who knows?! This is where we’re at now, no one knows anything for sure, we just have to roll with it.

Whatever happens, I will be forever grateful that a brief window in time opened for us to be here and recharge before the next episode. We don’t know when or how we will can come back.

xxxxx Aliss

PS, Funny update: We’re meeting a French gynecologist wearing a hazmat sit in a parking lot an hour from NYC for one of our COVID tests 🙂 You can’t make this stuff up, sounds like Madlibs…

 

 

 

 

Paris/COVID: The trip that almost wasn’t (2)

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Waiting for my window visit…

Upstate NY, 10 days in. It’s taken this long to get my bearings, start to unwind and feel like I might be on vacation. The dark circles under my eyes are fading a little and I’m getting some perspective. In my mono-maniac haste to get myself here and tell the story,   I left out important stuff.

Last week a tropical storm moved up the coast causing power outages and closings. Long distance driving was complicated. I’ve now been able to see my mom twice, the first time we were almost too emotional to talk, but now we’re having real conversations, catching up, planning more visits. I took my computer and through the screen, showed her a new music video I’ve been working on, based on family history, very close to our hearts. More about that in a future post, but meanwhile:

The rate of infection continues to decrease here. Mask wearing is the new normal, social distancing and hand sanitizing a way of life. Parents are waiting anxiously to know Gov. Cuomo’s decision about school openings. Many businesses are shuttered, others are cautiously open. My son’s outdoor camp is operating at 50% capacity for added safety and implementing strict health precautions. So far, there have been no COVID cases and he’s enjoying camaraderie with staff, new responsibilities, worship from younger campers, and even being tired when he comes home. Can’t think of a better way for him to spend these weeks. My daughter is coming to stay with us soon, not sure how. Masks? 3-6 feet at all times? Hmmm….

The big news is that COVID testing is mandatory 72 hrs before boarding flights back to France (and elsewhere). The NYC French consulate has concluded an agreement with a lab in New Jersey and several doctors in the area:

http//newyork.consulfrance.org/-English-

Additional information on Air France website:

http://www.airfrance.fr/FR/en/common/page_flottante/information/engagement-sanitaire.htm?fbclid=IwAR0USmNxZH3nd9dys6u5nidifgJWc-uv50-ZrsKN5BYF7OdXZZKIaicuYSQ

This is pretty challenging for people like us who aren’t in the Manhattan area. The Friday or Saturday before our Tuesday departure later this month, we’ll have to drive to the NJ lab to be tested if we want to be sure of a fast turn around before our flight. The results are valid for 72 hours after we receive them by email, $100 a pop. We could make an appointment with an approved doctor in the city or White Plains, but that adds a step, plus traffic, and is just as far to drive. You’d think AF would send an email? But no. Thank you Betsy M for informing us!

Recent transatlantic travelers have confirmed that airports and flights are almost empty.  Surgical masks are mandatory, marriage certificates a must for bi-national couples, testing being done at CDG on arrival… Good news, airlines upgraded their air filtration systems after the SARS epidemic so the in-cabin environment is safer, as long as no one spits in your face.

Important:

I want to thank everyone who helped me make this happen:

First and foremost, my stoic French husband, who overcame justified misgivings and threw the full power of his physical presence, financial acumen, and sharp mind into the journey. Not only did he make and pay for all the travel arrangements and accommodations, including extra health insurance, but when I was still very jet lagged, he volunteered to drive the three of us from JFK to our small town NY base up the thruway, and later that first week to visit my mom, a 160-mile round trip. Meanwhile, he moved furniture and made repairs in our AirBnB for our comfort, since the managerial staff have their kids with them 24/7 due to the virus and are not on the ball.

He fills the car with gas and checks the oil, co-organizes grocery jaunts and other shopping, drives our son to the bus stop for camp, helps fill water jugs at the spring, does laundry, makes margaritas on special occasions and provides quality beverages for happy hour, among other attentions. Reading my other posts, you might get the idea that I’m a lone warrior facing the world. The truth is that when I first met my husband, I was so bowled over that I more or less lost the use of the pronoun “I” in favor of “we” or more often “he”. Regaining the use of first person narratives is a major event for me, has come about through writing, and is to be celebrated. Sometimes, though, credit must be given where credit is due. And… although he’s not the type to gush compliments or descriptions of his feelings, he’s actually relaxing, listening to music, enjoying fresh Hudson Valley produce, spring water, my cooking, naps, and drives on gorgeous green country roads.

My US/French info network: AAWE (Association of American Women in Europe) a gold mine!

http://www.aaweparis.org

USAGSO Paris (American Girl Scouts Paris, wall of moms, wall of generous friends)

http://www.facebook.com/usagso30paris

BSA Troop 112 (American Boy Scouts in Paris, wall of caring dads and moms)

http://www.facebook.com/BSA.CSA.unit112ParisFrance

The American Cathedral Friday Mission Lunch teams

http://amcathparis.com/covid19

My writing community, especially dear friend Sylvia Sabes, travel writer

http://www.instagram.com/sylviasabes/

Paris peeps, US family and all who keep us in their thoughts, you who are reading this post and giving feedback….

Thank you!

My heart goes out to everyone struggling, especially the people of Lebanon.

To be continued.

xxxxxx Aliss

 

 

Paris/COVID: The trip that almost wasn’t

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I’m writing this from upstate NY. Everyone I talk to asks, “Where are you?” “Why?” “They’re letting people fly in?” “Are you quarantined?” “Did you have to go through testing?” Here’s the story:

As an American living in France, married to a French guy, with most of my relatives in the US, I try to get back here once a year, end of July through August is the easiest time for us to get away and yes we take off 4 weeks as is the French custom (Vive la France). To get the smoothest deals, we start planning our annual migration for family time and US cultural immersion 6 months in advance, my ultra-organized male counterpart has it down to a science of frequent flyer miles, credit card points, membership rewards, the whole shebang, and this year was no exception. In early February, the virus was surging in Italy and Spain, but not yet in France and confinement seemed unthinkable (ha ha). Dealing with a lot of issues familiar to parents of teens, we needed to imagine ourselves and him in a less stressful environment. So we lined up flights, AirBnB dates, car rentals, and filled out day camp applications. Then the three of us got very sick with serious flu-like symptoms. A doctor on a house call asked if we’d been to China. When we said no, she told us to stay home, drink fluids and take paracetamol, which we did.  It was rough, but no hospitalisation, no test.

The rest is history: confinement, lockdown, borders closed, people dying. I gave up the idea of traveling. Managing day-to-day was the priority as you can see in my previous posts. When Hertz went bankrupt, that seemed a clear signal. We’d say goodbye to that fee. Other cancellation and reimbursement policies were unclear. Would we lose our airfare and AirBnB deposit? Camps were out of the question. Nevermind, the only thing that mattered was surviving.

Over the next few months, step by step, France flattened the curve.

One of my biggest fears was that I’d never see my mom again. Retirement homes were a disaster everywhere. Governor Cuomo switched the state of NY into high gear and my mom’s residence applied stringent precautions. They were 100% COVID-free for the next 4 months, but my mom was confined to her small apartment with no visitors all that time. She was amazingly resilient but very lonely. I called every day to check in, sometimes reading her funny articles or recipes, singing songs, telling her about our daily routines and how we were staying sane.

Gradually, France deconfined and NY state coped. Every day, I monitored statistics on the NYT

 

and French government websites:

http://www.gouvernement.fr/info-coronavirus/carte-et-donnees

In June, Governor Cuomo said outdoor day camps could open that month if they observed strict CDC health guidelines. Not only that, but my son’s Counselor In Training application was accepted and he could attend free of charge!

Then Air France cancelled our flight. Another sign? The email gave instructions to request a new reservation on their website, which of course had no information about this. All AF phone lines were saturated, with long waits just to be cut off. Not surprising since the whole industry was in jeopardy. On a hunch, I sent a message via FaceBook and unexpectedly received a new reservation within 24 hours. Doors seemed to be opening.

Activating my Franco-American info network to the max on social media and conversations on FaceTime, Zoom, and now occasionally in person, I threw out all my questions and concerns, harvesting ideas.

My son and I could still go to the states even though Trump banned travel from Europe, because we have US passports, but what about my French mari? US State Department website said yes. American women reporting on recent travel from France to US said they took their marriage certificates with them and all was well. OK!

But was there any point in going if we had to quarantine for 2 weeks? No recent info on State Dep’t site. Old info said yes, quarantine. CDC site said yes, quarantine coming from France. But is NY a special case? NY is quarantining people from states with outbreaks. What about France? Call Gov Cuomo’s press office. Press secretary gives me NY state virus hotline number: 1 888 364 3065. Nice woman gives me list of US states on quarantine list, but says no quarantine from France!

Another American expat friend sends me a link to Ann Swardson’s blog with pictures taken on July 21st of empty CDG, no lines for security, empty flights.

http://anneswardson.com/going-the-distance/

Could traveling be a possibility?

Suddenly receive news that a staff member at my mom’s retirement home has tested positive for COVID. Jeez, is this the beginning of an outbreak?  Even if I’m able to go, will I be able to see her? Via Zoom, the Residence director keeps us informed.  No new cases. No residents ill. Window visits are still possible and if they stay COVID-free, I might be able to have a real visit during our stay in the US. Dare I hope?

About this time is when news reports show seismic activity in Iceland and announce imminent volcanic eruptions! I get slightly hysterical. Then that dies down… But everyday there’s some kind of new uncertainty. A shock arrives from an unexpected quarter:

Exactly 1 week before departure, my husband says, “I have to talk to you. I’m not going. I can’t sleep, I’m having cold sweats. I’m afraid of getting or giving the virus, not being able to get through immigration, getting sick or stuck there, and I can’t wear a mask for the 12h trip door to door, and our usual health insurance doesn’t cover COVID expenses.”

Somehow I don’t freak out. Instead of emotional blackmail or manipulation, I ask him to wait a day or two before making a definite decision, so we can talk it over. “OK. I’m not going to try to convince you. I just want to show you all the information so you can make the best decision.” I realize what an exhausting year it’s been, we’re both nervous wrecks, we haven’t communicated about the trip at all. I remember what my friend Sylvia Sabes told me about the trauma expert who spoke to her husband’s co-workers: we’re all on a virus-induced PTSD timeline. It’s normal to be anxious and extra careful.

We set up a time to talk. I show him the blog pix of airports and planes, read him the thread on FB about Franco-US couples traveling CDG-JFK, evolving situation on French news platforms about getting back into France. There are fewer cases in upstate NY than in Paris. We should be OK returning as we all have French passports. We can research and purchase extra health coverage. I ask what will our son do if he can’t go to camp? I reassure that we can take off our masks on the plane to eat and drink, that will give us a break. I offer to treat him to a one-hour massage at our local Yves Rocher institute to help him relax, he accepts. There is hope.

Hertz stays in business, AirBnB doesn’t cancel. Camp says my son must quarantine for 2 weeks, then I send them NY virus hotline number, they get back to me and say son can come to camp after all.

Up until the last minute, uncertainty and stress. We pack, put on our masks and set off for the airport. Very few people, quick security checks, AF agents take our temps before boarding, we show them our French and US marriage certifs, fill out forms. Easy flight. 5 people in our cabin, AF staff very happy to see us. Meal and beverage service, inflight entertainment.  Disembark at JFK. Temps taken and long wait at immigration due to computer glitches and checking documents.

Drive upstate.

Friday July 31st, I was able to visit with my mom though an open window, wearing masks. We “touched” fingertips across a wire screen and both cried, tears of joy. It was enough just to be together again. If all goes well, we’ll be able to be in the same physical space before I have to go back to France.

So, a work in progress. We’re social distancing, hand washing, wearing masks, grocery store shopping. We had one restaurant meal seated outdoors 3-6 feet from our NY family. I wore a mask to an outdoor pool, no changing or showers, and swam socially-distanced laps. My son rode a yellow school bus to camp this morning, in an assigned seat, windows open, interior disinfected before departures, temps taken.

It’s a miracle to be here. Not easy but worth it.

To be continued

xxxxx

Aliss

Harvesting Truth and Denial

Originally posted October 2, 2017

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For several years now, I’ve been spending summers in Ulster County NY, about 2 hours northwest of Manhattan. To attract tourists, the Hudson Valley often refers to itself as the US equivalent of Tuscany, quite a stretch of the imagination, but justifiable in terms of natural beauty and abundant local produce and wines. As a fan of history, I’ve enjoyed exploring the area’s heritage.

When I was there this summer I visited the Mathewis Persen House in Kingston, NY, a site recently excavated and opened to the public. DSC03682

The house stands a block from Main Street at the “Four Corners,” the only place in North America where four pre-Revolutionary houses face each other across an intersection. This part of town is called The Stockade because the first European settlers built a fort here to contain and protect their dwellings. It was burned down twice, first by the Esopus tribe and then by the British. The house itself is made up of five different constructions, from the original stone walls built by a Dutch apothecary in the 17th century to more modern additions used as an inn and then for municipal offices. Student interns guide visitors through the different spaces, pointing out building materials left exposed to tell the story through architecture, century by century.

As a child, I loved learning about Early American history and imagining heroic pilgrims seeking freedom of conscience in the New World. When slavery was mentioned at George Washington’s Mount Vernon home on the Potomac near where I grew up, or when we drove by the statue of a lone Confederate soldier called “The Thin Grey Line” in front of the courthouse in my first home town on the Mason Dixon Line, I was able to file it all away in the back of my mind as vestiges of a past that no longer defined our country. When I visited the Huguenot Street historic site in New Paltz NY, as an adult, I was touched by the rough hewn homes and church built by French-speaking refugees fleeing religious persecution. DSC02879

A mention of slaves sleeping on the stone floor of a cellar in one of the 17th century stone houses was chilling, but wasn’t it a reminder of how far we had progressed now that our First Family was African American?

Here in Paris in July 2013, I attended an evening with author Ta-Nahisi Coates at the American Library. Mr. Coates had planned to talk about his memoir, The Beautiful Struggle and his move to Paris, but as he told the mostly white audience, following the recent acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s killer, he had changed his mind. Instead he would describe his research and conclusions about how White Supremacy was woven into the very fabric of our country’s institutions from the beginning and had never been erased. All through his talk, I kept remembering how ecstatic French political commentators had praised America in November 2008 for wiping out 400 years of karma overnight by electing Barack Obama. When other voices here foresaw a devastating backlash down the road,  I was disgusted by their cynicism. Obama’s reelection in 2012 seemed to vindicate my pride in my country’s evolution. Now it was as hard to listen to Mr. Coates as it was to read the headlines and watch smartphone footage of young black men being shot down over and over in our streets…but I refused to despair, focusing on what I wanted to believe.

Then Trump was elected…

During the Mathewis Persen house tour this past summer, we climbed up to an attic-like second story and our guide showed us a small room near the master bedroom where slaves were thought to have slept. Neo-Nazis and Klansmen had just marched through Charlottesville. The word slavery could no longer be brushed aside. Clearly it is embedded in our collective consciousness, as deeply here in “The North” as in “The South”.

At the end of the tour, I slumped down on a bench in front of a film about Ulster County history. It was very moving. I learned Sojourner Truth was born into slavery in a Dutch-speaking household just a few miles away. She was freed as an adult, but according to the heartless custom of the time, her children remained slaves. When her son was sold illegally to a plantation owner in Alabama, Sojourner Truth brought suit with the help of her employers and was the first African American woman to win a case against a white man. (For more on her life story and slavery in Ulster County, see links below, worth your time!)

Another sequence showed how a few decades later, volunteers in the 120th Infantry regiment from Ulster County NY fought for the Union at Gettysburg. Hundreds were lost, half the recruits, plunging the entire county into mourning.

A few steps away from the Four Corners, a monument to Sojourner Truth stands in front of the old Court House where she won her case.DSC03687

Across the street at the Old Dutch Church, an angel honors the 120th and their fading banner is displayed reverently on a wall inside the sanctuary. DSC03683DSC03685

It’s not over. We are still harvesting evil and courage, denial and truth…

To be continued xxxxx Aliss

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sojourner_Truth

http://hudsonvalleyone.com/2013/11/15/long-closed-new-paltz-burial-ground-welcomes-remains-of-a-huguenot-street-slave/

http://thelittlerebellion.com/index.php/2011/02/slave-burial-site-in-new-paltz/

http://www.hrvh.org/exhibit/aa07/about.php

Paris/COVID: What now my love?

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Take out survival strategies at local restaurants

Recently, this meme popped up on my FB feed:

“At this point I’m about 97.5% feral and won’t be able to be integrated back into society.”

Yep! Covidophobia or Covidophilia?

Many people I talk to are either refusing to deconfine or dreading the prospect. I admit, I have to force myself to go out even on a beautiful day and I hyperventilate when swarms start forming or people get too close, probably not a great idea right now even with a mask…

I’ve never been a crowd person. Arriving in Paris from US suburbs, with limited big city smarts, I avoided large groups from the get-go, especially on public transportation. Until the day a respectable-looking businessman wagged his limp member at me through his open trench coat when I was sitting at the deserted end of a Metro car, where no one else could see what he was doing. This was horrifying in itself but even worse because his organ resembled a bald, dead turkey neck and I was too young and scared to know what to do. Ever after I chose to surround myself with other humans whenever possible, betting on safety in numbers. I bit the bullet going to work at rush hour, squished between shoulder bags and backpacks. I baked in 2-hour lines 5 deep at Disneyland Paris without complaining  just to see the thrill on my kids’ faces once we got on the ride. Tried out the huge stadiums for concerts, but prefer more intimate venues. Jostled and prodded through countless grocery store check-out single files, I developed ingenious personal space strategies. You see, France is not traditionally a place with the same queuing etiquette as the US, not to mention hygiene (with excesses on both sides I grant you). So for me, social distancing is literally a breath of fresh air. Thank you COVID. Thus far I don’t miss mass transit, but I do miss air travel. How else will I return to the States to see my loved ones there? No way I’m getting on a boat.

Other things I don’t miss: the factory atmosphere of industrialized education, with kids in quadrants of 20-30 (and more), formatted by age, herded along as if on conveyor belts with productivity  quotas and evaluations administered by too few overwhelmed adults, and little one-to-one attention. As long as we’re starting over, how about getting rid of factory farms?

Things I’m glad to “get back” to: recycling and composting, street cleaning. Things I can’t wait to experience again: cafés and restaurants, museums, open parks and swimming facilities (but what will they be like?). For info, the Mayor of Paris is installing the fresh water swimming area on our canal (will it be mobbed?)

Will I miss the cheek-brushing French air smooch it took me so long to get used to? Will it come back?

Confinement has been a crucible for relationships, making them or breaking them.  Are some of us turning into plants?

Maybe not such a bad thing? Whatever the case may be, this video is gorgeous:

Can we learn symbiosis?

Forward into uncertainty!

xxxxxx Aliss

 

Paris Unlocked?

May 2017

(A May evening before the pandemic)

One week since deconfinement started. At first the prospect seemed like light at the end of the tunnel, but the closer it came, the more I wondered.

Where we are: Paris is in a “red zone” where the virus is still very active. Middle schools and high schools are closed, non-essential group gatherings are discouraged, remote working encouraged. Restaurants, cafés, movie theaters and parks still off limits, all cultural events cancelled… But, we are allowed outside without a “permission slip” as many times a day as we wish, can move around freely if we stay within a 100 kilometer radius of our home. Public transportation is running at 75% capacity,  masks mandatory, social distancing requested. 

Pollution is down due to fewer commuters. We can still see the stars. Our street has filled up with parked cars and some drivers, not everyone is wearing masks or keeping their distance in stores and on the sidewalk. Hordes of people have returned to the banks of the canal.  75% of those polled believe we will be reconfined.

So, yes, more freedom of movement, but greater risk of contamination outside, continuing uncertainty, and negotiations with our teen, whose peers seem to think that closed high schools are an invitation to zip around Paris and party.

Our family is staying semi-confined until Paris is a “green zone” with less risk. Working from home, home schooling, not socializing, only going outside when absolutely necessary and then with masks. 

Some confinement highlights…

I loved my rhythm: Working in the morning, working out every afternoon, first time in years! Highly recommend Dance Cross Fit with Becky, Cardio Sculpt with Judy, Dance it Out with Stephannie and more:

http://ymcaulster.org/virtual-class-schedule/

http://www.unisonarts.org/dxf

-Teaching myself how to work Final Cut Pro software. Two new videos up on Youtube about visualization:

https://thankyouparis.wordpress.com/2020/04/18/paris-lockdown-turn-on-your-inner-tv/

How to use our imagination as a time machine to build the future. For more inspiration see this article about Astronaut Scott Kelly’s year in outer space:

 

Newest Final Cut project, a video for my most-streamed song, “Brooklyn” (cover image only on YouTube for the moment)

 

This required sorting through hundreds of family photos, with I never would have done without confinement..

To be continued…

Aliss

How to make Christmas last forever (or at least until the end of January…)

DSC04092

This is a post from a previous Christmas, just as relevant now 🙂 ” This year’s darkness hasn’t been due to the weather but many other things… “As a native of more southerly latitudes, I had to learn to ignore Parisian weather to survive. If I had known before I moved here that my birthplace near Washington, DC, is comparable to Madrid and Rome in terms of sunlight, whereas Paris is comparable to Montreal, that lack of sunshine depresses the immune system and dampens the spirits… I may not have come. Then one day I was ranting about the gray skies to a French friend who said, “Il y a d’autres soleils à Paris” (There are other suns in Paris) and that was a turning point. I learned to love rain even when it falls every day for months as it has this winter, one of the darkest in 30 years.

Living in Paris has made me think that Christmas and Hanukkah lights are Northern Hemisphere responses to winter sun deprivation, and this year they are more vital than ever. So here are my strategies to make Christmas last forever, or at least until the end of January and the gradual approach of Spring…

  • Virtual fireplace on flat screen TV (DVD’s available and now streaming on Netflix!)
  • Epiphany galettes (King cakes) still on sale in the bakeries (collect prizes, wear crowns!)
  • New Year’s cards can be sent until at least the end of the month (and received!)
  • New Year’s resolutions boost energy and project us into the future, especially if updated and tracked
  • Skype faraway friends and family to open presents they sent by mail
  • Sort pictures, print some to send with New Year’s greetings
  • Play with presents: make a list of who gave you what and what you will do with each one in the new year, include thank you’s in New Year’s cards
  • Keep a log of good times over the holidays, in your appointment calendar, and relive them by journaling: funny things people said, conversations, realisations, issues to clear up?
  • Food memories: recipes new and heirloom, to share in New Year’s messages
  • Food continued: bake cookies and send to older and younger loved ones
  • Keep the tree and decorations up even as the tree folds inward like a shriveled umbrella and begins to look like a biological equivalent of Miss Havisham’s wedding cake (in Great Expectations)
  • Make un-decorating part of the holiday, set aside lots of time, enjoy treasured ornaments, as mementos and promises of future holiday celebrations
  • Keep the music playing: all the oldies you didn’t listen to when it was really Christmas, laugh at Bob Dylan and Elvis holiday albums, discover Yuletide gems by Lynerd Skynerd, Louis Armstrong and the never-obsolete Frank Sinatra. If that’s too much, fall back on instrumental “Winter Solstice” and “Celtic Christmas” collections from Windham Hill and others…
  • Recycle your tree in any of Paris’s parks until January 28th (and beyond), knowing it will become fragrant mulch for gorgeous spring landscaping…
  • Hibernate without guilt, perhaps with the help of a carefully selected winter virus, just severe enough to keep you on the couch in front of the “fire” with herb teas and soups,  but not requiring antibiotics or ER trips…
  • Continue your creative and professional work when the fog clears
  • Start thinking about Valentine’s day…”

Merry Christmas!

To be continued, love xxxxx Aliss

 

 

Summer Reset

Minnewaska

Minnewaska

What I look for in summer, refilling my inner lake… Time with family and friends, time in between without appointments of any kind, let my thoughts wander, let ideas come to the surface, let synthesis take place, and source new energy…

Food for poetic thought, an image from the I Ching:

Tui

I Ching Hexagram 58 – Tui / The Joyous, Lake

Hexagram 58
Above Tui the Joyous, Lake
Below Tui the Joyous, Lake

The trigram Tui denotes the youngest daughter; it is symbolized by the smiling lake, and its attribute is joyousness. True joy, therefore, rests on firmness and strength within, manifesting itself outwardly as yielding and gentle. The Joyous. Success. Perseverance is favorable.

To be continued…

xxxxx  Aliss