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Posts tagged ‘Denver’

Finding Color: Paris’ Most Painted Street

Now that I have one foot in Colorado and one foot in France, I am able to appreciate things about both places that I previously took for granted. For example, back in the States I have come to realize how much I have missed color while I was living in Paris full time. Paris can be pretty dark, from the weather to the clothing to the mood. There are some days when I feel like the City of Light is the original 50 Shades of Grey, and that a sea of black has tempestuously wet washed the entire metropolis.

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On the other hand, Golden, Denver and Boulder my tri-city community is awash in color.

Colorado Welcome Sign

Three hundred days of the year, the weather comes in three flavors: sunny and cold, sunny and warm, and sunny and hot. The rest of the days we may have snow or some cloud cover, but mostly we get a lot of blue sky. And under those blue skies, the people are dressed in rainbows. I live in the fittest state in the union where people mindfully reside because outdoor recreation is their number one priority, so you can image that the workout-clothes alone are a kaleidoscope of color. Sunshine and physical activity, like the smell of baking bread, inspires happy and contented people. Residents are friendly and courteous, and quick with a greeting. Jewel-toned moods glimmer and gleam.

Strolling through the Marais last weekend, being nudged and knocked by Parisians cloaked in black and eager to play sidewalk games of “chicken”, I found myself shoulders squared and tense (dressed in black!) and ready to stare down the on-coming traffic. While in Colorado you purposely catch someone’s eye to smile and say “hello”, in Paris I find eye contact to be a territorial marker, a penetrating moment of snap judgments or criticism. You very rarely catch a twinkling eye or friendly wink.

photo: news-ninja.com

photo: news-ninja.com

With the eternally sunshiny Kitcat in town, and the weather steely and dull, we decide to search for the tints and hues and blushes hidden among the gloom. We were delighted to find them in Belleville on Paris’s most painted street, rue Dénoyez, an original alfresco art gallery. Here’s a glimpse of some blazing graffiti and mosaics. Profitez!

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photo credit: timeoutfrance

No. 309: The Herbs on my Windowsill

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To understand how much I love the herbs growing right outside my kitchen window, you have to understand the climate, weather patterns and wildlife from where I use to live. It is a big misnomer to think of Colorado as the freezing cold, snowy state in the U.S. While we do get our fair share of snow (much less nowadays with global warming), Colorado is the state that boast 300-days of sunshine every year. I’m not even sure Florida can say that.

So you would think that with that much sunshine, I would be able to have a pretty awesome herb and vegetable garden. Mais, non. Where I live in Colorado is known for the wild Chinook winds that howl through the foothills and end in rowdy microbursts in my backyard.

…our backyard...

…our backyard…

To give you an idea of what that means, we once lost a 2-ton industrial play structure one evening while out to dinner. The wind funnel simply picked it up and tossed it a hundred feet into my neighbor’s yard. We have lost several barbecue grills, wrought iron chairs, swimming pools filled with water, too many trash bins to count, a slide, and a couple of windows. A neighbor had the terracotta tiles completely stripped from her roof and rain down all over our lawns. Quite different from the kind of showers we have in Paris.

In Colorado, we constantly have to rework our dinner parties and meals based on the blazing sunshine and the wind. I’ve learned always to have a backup plan when it comes to parties that involve outside grilling. Fun fact: a grill will not stay lit in 60-100 mph winds…for that matter it won’t even stay on your deck. On really windy nights, our iron bed with both of us in it jiggles on the carpeted floor and the water is sucked from all the toilets.

So imagine a pitiable petite stalk of basil or tarragon trying desperately to beat the elements. Almost always my much-wanted herbs cry “Uncle” a week or two after I plant them, succumbing to those tenacious gusts and the stifling temperature.

If they do manage to get a foothold and green up, the elk and the deer are more than happy to stroll through the cul-de-sac and boldly have a light snack at dawn and dusk. If the big brown quadrupeds don’t happen to be hungry, the greedingl and antagonistic squirrels are delighted to add some seasoning to their nuts. And then of course there are the mini, but mighty, grey voles and our crazy neighbor’s skeletal hound that pees a fountain on everything, herbs and my own dog included…

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…so this is why j’adore my hardy and healthy herbs à Paris. To me, my four window boxes of herbs are nothing short of a miracle….

…Thai basil chicken tonight, lamb with tarragon and thyme tomorrow, and fresh mint tea daily. Yippee!

No. 183: Friendships, Mannequins and Some Parisian Inspiration

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Not that my dear friend Suzanne Heintz needs any more publicity. She and her unusual family have finally gone viral over the last few weeks. But as I get her daily updates of who is featuring her story moment by moment (currently our Latin friends at BBC MUNDO), I got to thinking that this might be a story my readers would like.

It’s a story of friendship, faith, fate and a lot of stick-to-it-ness, with just a little bit of inspiration thrown in from this beautiful city I call home.

source: suzanneheintz.com

source: suzanneheintz.com

I met Suzanne nearly 30 years ago when we were working at the circulation desk at Norlin Library at the University of Colorado, Boulder. With Jeanne and Mary, we were four best friends, creative and funny, with the absolute belief that we could do anything we set our minds to. Nothing could stop the Four Musketeers. To this day, I think if you asked any of us, we would tell you without batting an eye, that working at Norlin Library was the best job we ever had. Those were the days of the Beautiful People of America (our tongue-in-cheek anti-sorority club), practical jokes, major crushes on our dishy coworker, John Duane, and keypunch computer cards.

circa 1992

circa 1992

After graduating from CU with Robert Redford in 1988, we all headed our separate ways, and tried to hang on to our devil-may-care attitude. I went on to study in Germany and Washington, D.C., married Superman, lived in Indonesia, moved back to Colorado to raise our girls, and eventually landed in Paris. Mary went on to New York and became an Emmy and DGA award-winning television Director and wonderful maman. Jeanne headed to the Peace Corps first and then onto Chile with her husband and daughter and eventually became a professor and Director of Political Science, at the Universidad de Concepción. And Suzie, well she went on to work in television and media as a Designer and Art Director.

The Beautiful People of America…later known as Beautiful People International

The Beautiful People of America…later known as Beautiful People International

We all had our outside passions and dreams, and for Suzie it was photography. After a straw-breaking confrontation with her mom about her continuing “spinsterhood”, she decided to combine her love affair with the camera with her outrage at being expected to conform to societal norms. For almost 14 years now, Suzanne has been “satirizing the idea of conforming to a universally accepted way of life, married life”, that is. As you can imagine, the energy of battling the “external pressures of culture, and the internal pressures” she put on herself “to fit into the expectations” of society, built up over time, and thus her defiant project: Life Once Removed  was born.

source: suzanneheintz.com

source: suzanneheintz.com

This is not just a project photographing her mannequin family in comedic real life situations, this is a photography project and performance art piece with teeth and a valid point. Just take a look at her short, Playing House, recently screened at the Women’s Film Festival in Denver.

I have been lucky enough to dip in and out of this art project over the years. Sometimes helping her stage and photograph her fabulous family Christmas cards, sometimes brainstorming the next great shoot, and most recently hosting her (and her inflexible family) in Paris for the family vacation of a lifetime.

source: suzanneheintz.com

source: suzanneheintz.com

This vacation was a real labor of love and a true test of our friendship. Let’s just say mannequin wrangling is NOT for the faint of heart.

source: suzanneheintz.com

source: suzanneheintz.com

It was two weeks of constant dragging, assembling, dressing, re-dressing, salvaging broken digits, murmuring from my frightened guardienne, arguing with the gendarmerie, and stealing secret footage when they looked the other way. It was hours of holding heavy light kits, managing wardrobe malfunctions, retrieving lost batteries, applying bright red lipstick and too much hairspray, and dazzling smiles. Our nights were filled with foot massages, good wine, tears, aching shoulders, late night soul baring, and booming disagreements, followed by hours of laughter and lots of fine dance music.

My Paris girlfriends stepped up to help my outlandish and unknown friend. From chauffeuring to snapping shots and learning new skills, to translating and dealing with some stubborn French authoritarians, to recruiting family members to help out and standing for hours in the freezing June rain, to all of the above at once, I will always remember how this group of women came through in a pinch to help another women realize her dream. Chapeau! Chère Nicola, Emily, Julie and Catherine…and, bien sûr, Superman and my girlfriends’ hubbys too.

Cafe Constant source: suzanneheintz.com

source: suzanneheintz.com

And now after almost a decade and a half of doing the creative work, and nine months since our unusual visitors departed Paris, Suzie is finally having her moment in the sun. Hallelujah! It is so wonderful to see.

Chin Chin to you Suz! Thanks for reminding me that our devil-may-care ways of old are still the key to happiness and success, and that art is both important and hard.  But most importantly that it’s (also) kind of fun to do the impossible!*

 

Vocabulaire

Chapeau! Hats off! Congratulations! (and in my case, merci beaucoup mes amies!)

Chin Chin! Cheers!

gendarmerie: police

guardienne: caretaker (usually of an apartment building)

* it’s kind of fun to do the impossible! – Walt Disney

 

No. 158-159: Better than the Stock Show & Martinique Revisited

I know I have some diehard rodeo and cowboy/girl readers in Colorado and the West, so please don’t be offended, but I have to say, I enjoyed my day at the Salon l’Argiculture this past weekend more than I have ever enjoyed the Great Western Stock Show in Denver. Please don’t throw any rotten tomatoes my way, but I had a heck of a time standing slack-jawed eyeing the fine bovine, porcine, and ovine of France, in, of all places, the Paris exposition hall.

I don’t know what I was thinking it would be like. I tried not to read any blogs or adverts ahead of time so I would be surprised by the French interpretation of a Stock Show. And surprised I was—mostly by the fact that these huge, prize-winning animals were holed up in gay Par-ee. I know France is a country in love with their food, and their high quality ingredients, so it makes sense to showcase them all in their capital city. It’s just that I don’t normally associate the City of Light with livestock.

Now, in a state with a blazing-eyed, 32-foot high (9,000-pound) electric blue, anatomically correct, wild mustang welcoming visitors as they land at their airport (i.e. Denver, Colorado), I find it much easier to make that association. Denver and livestock, they go hand-in-hand.

source: DIA-promo.com

source: DIA-promo.com

So I was very surprised to see this “little” guy, when I walked into the first expo hall at Porte de Versailles

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…along with all his friends and competitors.

There were of course the adorable intertwined piglets and baby goats…

…and a few lessons on where our cuts of beef come from…perhaps I should become a vegetarian?

A whole hall dedicated to cats and dogs…hmmm…I don’t want to be eating those.

….hmmm…don't want to eat those...

….hmmm…don’t want to eat those…

And of course, my favorite part, the halls full of artisanal and farm fresh agricultural products.

There were some lunch options you most definitely would NOT find in Denver…

…and I’ve never seen olive oil being pressed or liqueur made from cèpes (mushrooms) in my hometown either.

Nor the cheese, glorious chèvre! There were even milk bars serving both cow’s and goat’s milk.

Et enfin, we were able to revisit Martinique, the French department in the Caribbean where we were lucky enough to create some very happy Christmas memories.

Alors, Yippee-Ki-Yay! Or as we say back in Colorado, “Howdy Folks! Welcome to Golden Paris. Where the West Lives.”

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