Saturday, June 23, 2012

stoop bombs, bathing suits, carousels

Three things:

1. dog shit
France does not have any laws or cultural expectation that one should clean up after their pets. Therefore, I've become familiar with all types of dog shit: neatly piled logs made by large and polite dogs who shamble away from the mess they've made, haunches swaying slowly: shy hershey squirts created by nervous little dogs who don't look back; aggressively messy dark brown patties humming with flies: delicate little nuggets caramelized by the sun; horrific stewy puddles tracked up the street and around the corner by a car; and the crusty poo-pies with a single footprint stamped in the middle.

I've quizzed people who are French or who have lived here a long time, asking them to give me insight into the heart of a culture that so values beauty, yet allows dog poop to accumulate on the streets. And not on side streets, but on the major boulevards of cities like Paris, Cannes, Antibes, and Nice. Not to mention the smaller villages that boast beautiful walkways and cobblestoned streets, their quiet beauty punctuated by a pile of dog shit smack in the center. Many theories, few answers. Some would say that is very French.

It's not unusual to see deposits directly in front of doorways, or on the stoop, and you really have to wonder about people who are okay with leaving that behind for their neighbors. On the other hand, I can think of a few of my own neighbors in Oakland I would love to stoop-bomb with some dog shit. One afternoon, craving a moment of outdoor relaxation, I went to a little park nearby to curl up with my book.  I carefully picked my way through a minefield, looking for a clear spot where I could lay out my towel. I found a bare spot up against a large and leafy tree.  People walked by and looked at me like I was crazy. Stubborn, I stayed for a good 20 minutes before the smell drove me away. Who can read when there is a pile of dog shit in your site line that is so large, it actually has a presence? Unfortunately all outdoor spots in the little town of Vallauris where I am staying are like this. Thankfully they do not allows dogs on the beaches.

2. bathing suits
Vallauris is on the Riviera, which is perfect because I like the beach. The humanity splayed across the sands of the Riviera is an education on what my body will look like someday. Also, what my body used to look like. I'm in that strange middle age, where my youth and seniority are in almost equal play, and I can take great pleasure in committing to neither.

But let me back up and tell you about the bathing suit I bought this spring: for the first time in my life, I bought a tankini. I have worn a bikini my entire life and for me, a tankini is a half-assed attempt to spare witnesses of my slow decline. I refuse to wear a one-piece, which I've always believed makes me look like a squashed fruit. A tankini is the halfway house of the bathing suit world. I'm willing to be more modest, but I still want the option to flash some belly.

 In France, even if the bod is not as tight as it as 50 years ago, that is no reason not to show off as much of it as possible. The beaches are covered with old people wearing next to nothing. I saw these 75+ year old ladies hobbling across the sand in the little bikini bottoms and no top on at all and I thought, "fuck this tank." It's way too much suit for the Riviera, and way too much suit for me, period. Witness my slow decline, because that's what we are all doing, together. Declining. I bought a teeny bikini top at the Monoprix for 15 euro for those moments when I feel like wearing a  top.  I may be 41, but I can still rock it, especially when I stand next to these old Riviera ladies

3. carousels
Old-fashioned merry-go-rounds are in almost every city I've visited. These are elaborately crafted carousels that can easily be over 100 years old with hand painted images and beautifully stylized details. I have a deep attraction for these carousels. My love for them are a symptom of my overall love for the embellished details of Europe.  Homes that look like cakes, the delicate filigree of the iron balconies adorning apartment buildings, the vaulted and faceted ceilings of ancient cathedrals, the colorful scalloped edges of awnings pulled over sidewalk cafes everywhere you go. It's like nothing is too small, nothing is too mundane to deserve some extra attention and beautifying. It's living the beautiful life.

I was thinking about these carousels as I made a stack of cake stands that I made in the shape of cakes.  I did not even begin to go as far with it as I could. There's always a part of me that wants to restrain myself if I start going for insane embellishment. I don't want to seduce with eye candy. I like to seduce with perfect form and function. Thats why I'm very hard to pick up in bars, or at least I was back when I was a single girl.  I don't want people coming on to me because they think I'm pretty. I want people to come on to me because they think I'm smart with a great fuckin' personality. This always leads to conversation that kills any chance of anyone getting laid.

What does this have to do with my work? Everything, really. I want my pieces to be pretty, but also be intelligent and functional. What does this have to do with carousels? I will let you know as soon as I figure it out.  .