Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Mornings in Paris. And Women With Big Eyes.

Mornings in Paris; Exchange St., Portland ME
 Roman goes to school three mornings a week, and lately I've been feeling really dissatisfied with my lame use of the precious 12 hours of me-time I am allotted each week.  I started feeling embittered each time I found myself mopping floors, pairing socks, or even cooking when I could have been basking in the Autumnal sunshine or reading War and Peace (which Matt currently is) instead.  Being a woman of infinite self-possession and determination, I decided to take matters into my own hands and simply force myself to go and interact with the world (as Matt had constantly encouraged me to do) rather than sit at home and be faced with the never-ending list of chores that, no matter what I do, is absolutely always there waiting for me.  Finding things to do outside of the house that don't involve grocery or unnecessary-random-stuff shopping is sometimes difficult for me to do here in Portland because I feel a little disconnected knowing that we'll be leaving next year.  I haven't made many friends because I don't want to deal with short-term attachments, and truth-be-told, being a pathetically warm-natured person I can't bear the thought of being outside in weather that's below 75 degrees now that it's Autumn and around 40 degrees every day. :)

I find myself nostalgically dreaming of my European jaunts - traveling alone, reading and writing at will.  Stopping for an espresso here and there in off-the-beaten-path cafes full of old-world charm and strangers.  Indulging in angst-ridden moments of romanticism and self-over-analysis and eating delicious food way-over my student budget simply because I couldn't do without it.

Luckily, when Carla visited me in August, we discovered a wonderful little cafe on Exchange Street in Portland.  It is called, much to my delight and infinitely appealingly, Mornings in Paris.  It is just the perfect combination of European charm mixed with large-mugged
Cafe Au Lait-zy
American-style-wannabe-French coffee.  They sell delicious Macarons, croissants, my favorite banana bread and, of course, Maine Potato Donuts.  It takes all the self-control I have to only get a medium Cafe Au Lait everytime I'm there (but I've promised myself I'm getting a donut next time).  The place is charming, has wonderful warm morning sunlight and despite the questionable choice of ochre yellow and black decor and the sometimes angsty barista, I find it highly aesthetically pleasing and welcoming.  The owners are French so there is a semi-legitimate row of European-style bistro tables lining the wall facing the coffee counter, looking out on the passersby of Exchange St.  All the seats are labeled with Parisian street names and I've chosen to sit at the same one each time - Place de La Concorde.  Right next to Notre Dame, fittingly.  Sometimes it's taken by the Japanese tourists that seem to flock to the French-themed locale, but I usually just bide my time and then move once they've left.  The music is hit or miss - this morning it was Willie Nelson followed by some kind of Radiohead-esque intense rock, but other days it's all Edith Piaf-Billie Holiday greats.  I don't mind that too much because it's pretty and I can get parking right outside of it at that time of day - after the breakfast rush but far before lunch will begin.

It has become my new morning haunt on days when I am Roman-less, though I don't think I'd be considered a "regular" yet - something I aspire to.  I love the coffee, the people-watching and the shamelessly indulgent aspect of being able to do nothing, or at least not anything of great productive value with regards to la vie quotidienne.  These days my "nothing productive" has come in the form of two things: knitting a sweater for Roman to work through my stash and reading a book.

The Book is called Mujeres de Ojos Grandes or Women With Big Eyes.  It is a series of vignettes that take place in Mexico, each about a different woman (the author's "Aunts"), presumably with big eyes.  This particular edition includes the English and (far superior) original Spanish text, which I am completely obsessed with.

The book was a gift from a co-worker in the English Department back in my teacher days in Upper Manhattan.  I discovered it a couple of weeks ago after almost 5 years of lying dormant in our book collection with a criptic but appealing inscription on the inside: "for you with the big eyes from Me."  I guess it's one of those happy coincidences - the book didn't appeal to me in the least when my friend gave it to me in 2006, but today it's exactly the kind of read I was looking for.  Easy to pick up, easy to put down, and yet absolutely engaging.

Besides being about Mexico, the book is beautifully written in a style that is both humorous and touching.  I've found myself so utterly absorbed in some of the stories about these women in the early 20th Century - imagining somehow that they are similar to my own Mexican grandmother and her sisters - that I've laughed too loud and cried too openly for being in a public place and haven't cared one bit.  The stories evoke childhoods I never had, and Mexican memories I never made, having left the country of my birth very early on in life and rarely going back anymore these days.  It's an easy way to romanticize a part of my culture and my family's heritage without digging into ugly truths or unpleasant realities.  In short, I am thoroughly enjoying it.  
It's just the thing for a girl with big eyes and her Mornings in Paris.
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1 comment:

  1. love you big eyed girl, maybe sometime I'll have to borrow it and read it in a quaint cafe without a worry in the world. :) Enjoy your beautiful days.