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Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Paris Day 26 - snowed in

I've had terrible nightmares here at the monastery, something I first attributed to the population of ghosts hanging out here following the building's stints as hospital for incurables, then for the wounded of two world wars and France's own national nightmare in Algeria. But for the most part, the dreams have been benign since I started wearing earplugs at night. My theory now is that I was waking up thinking someone was in the room about to kill me because when my neighbors walk around their studio - something they do compulsively - the floors creak in such a way that it sounds like they are, in fact, creeping up on the bed, hatchet in hand. To wake up of my own accord in a virtual sound vacuum is to wake up in celestial peace, by comparison, and yesterday the effect was enhanced by a special quality of light coming in through the west windows, reflected off overcast skies and snow falling through the air and collecting in courtyards, on cars and on rooftops.

Parisians have told me repeatedly what a rare thing it was to see snow on the ground on my arrival nearly a month ago, and I believe them, so what I really wanted to do with yesterday's snowy morning was get on my bike and take pictures of white-dusted Paris. But the challenge of being at an artist residency in the center of Paris rather than, say, in the woods of New Hampshire or the wilds of Wyoming, is resisting just such a siren call and so that's what I did, I contented myself with taking a few pictures from the window and then I sat down and opened the novel and stared at the blank screen until beads of blood formed on my forehead - just as I did the other night after walking around the Marais and seeing that outdoor cafe table full of hot sparkly French kids, two of whom were making out across the table (it seems to be a favorite pastime for the gays of Paris), just as Sunday, approaching the Beaubourg, I resisted the 19th century French harmonies (Duruflé?) luring me into the St. Merri Church, just as now I feel like it's time to start bringing this diary entry to a close so I can get back to the Internet-free desk, the No Talent Show, the beads of blood.

The work these days is harder and yet the time goes faster, much faster, and my endurance is about twice what it was when I was working on the notes and outline. Before, 90 minutes was a good max. This morning I went from nine to noon without noticing the time, and yesterday, in the afternoon rain that erased the snow, I sat at that cafe on the west side of Gare de l'Est, "Au Train de Vie" (a suspected pun I haven't quite gotten a handle on despite having possession of Martin's Robert-Collins CD with a page of entries for
"train" expressions) where everything is salvaged from old train cars, including the most comfortable imaginable cafe seating, inside and out:

To get to the cafe, you climb these stairs -

...and you have this view southeast, toward the monastery (hidden by the Gare de l'Est facade):

Tomorrow: Death to Frankie Goes to Hollywood; the bedazzled sledgehammer.

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About Me

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Paul Festa’s first film, Apparition of the Eternal Church (2006, 51 min), captures the responses of 31 artists to the apocalyptic music of Olivier Messiaen (with Justin Bond, John Cameron Mitchell, Harold Bloom; screenings: Grace Cathedral, Barbican Centre, Library of Congress; “Remarkable”The New Yorker; “Stunning”Chicago Sun-Times; “Sublime”Globe & Mail; numerous awards). Festa performs the Tchaikovsky violin concerto, opposite members of the San Francisco Ballet and The Cockettes, in his award-winning second film, The Glitter Emergency (2010, 20 min), a silent-film drag ballet comedy (“Enormous visual and musical inventiveness…full of pleasure and joy...Festa gives a bravura performance."—Film Threat). He produced, wrote and edited, with director Austin Forbord, and was chief archivist, for the Emmy-nominated documentary Stage Left: A Story of Theater in San Francisco (2010, 80 min: with Robin Williams, Bill Irwin, Peter Coyote; screenings: Geary Theater, KQED; “Intriguing...entertaining...a valuable record”—Variety). Performances as violinist and actor: ODC Theater, Center for Performance Research, Kunst-Stoff, TheatreFIRST, North Bay Shakespeare, Albert Fuller's Helicon Ensemble (Merkin Hall, Weill Hall at Carnegie Hall, Alice Tully Hall). US, Boston, NYC, SF, LA and DC (Coolidge Auditorium at the Library of Congress on the “Betts” Stradivarius) premieres of Messiaen’s Fantaisie for violin and piano. He is the author of OH MY GOD: Messiaen in the Ear of the Unbeliever, based on Apparition of the Eternal Church, and several anthologized essays, and has written for The Daily Beast, Salon, Nerve, and The New York Times Book Review. Current projects include a novel and Tie It Into My Hand (2014, ca. 80 min), a documentary feature that has screened as a work in progress at the Cannes film market and at ODC Theater in San Francisco (with Alan Cumming, Gary Graffman, Peter Coyote, Mink Stole, Robert Pinsky; "A fascinating exploration of the artistic life, as rollickingly entertaining as it is insightful and stirring."San Francisco Bay Guardian). Education: Yale (B.A.; prizes, honors, distinction), Juilliard (Cert., Adv. Cert., scholarships). Residencies: Yaddo, MacDowell, ODC Theater, Centre des RĂ©collets.