Tag Archives: writing

Paris, je t’aime. More than ever.

Makeshift memorial near the Bataclan concert hall.

Makeshift memorial near the Bataclan concert hall.

“Do you know where you are?” the young woman who stopped me on Paris’ Avenue Parmentier asked, her voice edged with worry. A resident of the neighborhood, she was on her way to her boyfriend’s apartment when armed attackers started firing on nearby restaurants. There were rumors of continued shootings in the Paris area, and she couldn’t understand what I was doing outside.

She asked me again: “Madame, do you know where you are?”

I knew where I was. It just no longer bore any resemblance to the Paris that I know and love. Reporting on the terror attacks, I had rushed over to the city’s 10th and 11th Arrondissements shortly after word got out about explosions at the Stade de France and gunfire at several restaurants and bars.

As I made my way toward the besieged Bataclan concert hall, what struck me most were the empty streets. Off the beaten tourist path, the city’s vibrant and ethnically diverse eastern neighborhoods around Canal Saint-Martin and Place de la République draw a range of fashionable, young creative types. On Friday nights these areas are usually packed with revelers looking to kick off the weekend in the neighborhoods’ numerous bars, restaurants and clubs.

However, last Friday these areas were virtually deserted. Bistro owners hastily locked down their establishments, heavily armed police patrolled the area ordering everyone inside, cordons were set up, and all around me the shrieks of emergency sirens cut through the brisk November night.

Read more at Bustle.com

Warsaw’s cafe nostalgia

I am currently working on a short story partly set in inter-war Warsaw, and found this beautiful compilation of images while doing research.

The music is a slow foxtrot performed by the famous Henryk Gold Orchestra that played in Warsaw’s most well-known nightclubs during the 1930s.

One of Gold’s biggest hits was titled Tęsknota, which is Polish for nostalgia, or longing. Fitting, don’t you think?

The Week’s Worthwhile Reads

The United States of Haiti?                                                                    Newly back from Haiti, Pooja Bhatia draws parallels between the beloved “dysfunctional little country” she left behind and the direction her homeland appears to be heading.

“…ensconced back home in the U.S., the Land of Plenty, I see reminders of Haiti everywhere,” Bhatia writes in an article for the Daily Beast. “Our infrastructure is crumbling. The able-bodied and quick-brained can’t find work. The chasm between the super-rich and everyone else has so widened that our elites seem to inhabit a different country.”

Overstated? Perhaps. But she raises some good questions. And I’m always pleased to see pieces that spotlight Haiti–a rarity since the earthquake-induced reporting frenzy died down and the majority of journalists moved on to other crises du jour.

The Amanda Knox Case and Journalistic Neutrality                                Speaking of media frenzies, the wrap-up of the Amanda Knox appeal and subsequent acquittal of the accused had more than 400 reporters descending on poor Perugia, which just wants to go back to being known for its chocolate. More interesting, is the polarization within both the public and the media over Knox’s perceived guilt or innocence. Shades of gray are all but nonexistent in the sensationalized murder case: the Seattle student is either a duplicitous, sexually-charged killer or the the victim of a sexist, arcane legal system.

Oddly, such polarization has crept into some of the media coverage, specifically within the reporting of two high-profile journalists. Rome-based Barbie Nadeau who has covered Italy for Newsweek for a number of years sides with the “guilty” camp, while Nina Burleigh, who moved to Perugia to write a book on the case, believes that Knox was a victim of misogyny at its worst.  

But where is the line between reporter and advocate? asks the New York Times. And to what extent should a journalist allow her opinions to bleed through her reporting?

Snuff, Barf & Amusement Parks: Scenes from the Real Afghanistan 

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On Love, Loss & Travel

World Hum recently ran a beautiful piece by Jeffrey Tayler that examines a bittersweet, often-overlooked side of travel–the roads not taken and the loves left behind. For me, it evoked the transiency inherent in human relationships; a transiency that is felt more acutely for us vagabond sorts.

The natural cycle of friendship unfolds faster for the wanderlust-prone. Intimacy and separations can occur suddenly, and those bonds that form so quickly on the road are often severed with equally jarring swiftness. Itineraries change. Alliances form and shatter. People dance in and out of your life. You share moments or weeks or months with someone, only to move on to a different city, country or decade; the relationships left behind gradually fading in the corner of your memory like postcards you forgot to send.

Over time, those people who played central roles, however briefly, in your daily life recede from your thoughts, occasionally reappearing as flickers of landscapes left behind. Friendships cultivated during my own trips abroad in my teens and early twenties will surface in an abbreviated jumble of sensations: A languid summer meal with Isabelle V. at Sormani in Paris, a dim train compartment en route to Calais with Ineke S., the sound of Marc G.’s buoyant tread on the staircase in a weathered Swiss chalet, the coconut-honey smell of Joey L.’s sunscreen as we lounge on a pebble-clotted Hydra shoreline.

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Thirsty for the marvelous


Monday would have been Anaïs Nin’s 108th birthday. I remember reading her diaries as a teenager and yearning for transatlantic crossings, opium masquerades and rollicking affairs (just not with Henry Miller who, literary stature aside, I found rather trollish).

Mostly I remember being awestruck by her remarkable talent, insight and intense passion–for beauty, for creating and for living.

This passion is evident in much of her writing, but particularly so in this excerpt from her diary:

“I am an excitable person who only understands life lyrically, musically, in whom feelings are much stronger as reason. I am so thirsty for the marvelous that only the marvelous has power over me. Anything I can not transform into something marvelous, I let go. Reality doesn’t impress me. I only believe in intoxication, in ecstasy, and when ordinary life shackles me, I escape, one way or another…”

Well put, Madame.