Everybody said Dad was a genius.
It took me a while to realize that just being on the move wasn’t enough; that I needed to reconsider everything.
Everybody said Dad was a genius.
It took me a while to realize that just being on the move wasn’t enough; that I needed to reconsider everything.
What Gjoni was doing was both complicated and simple, old and new. He had managed to crowdsource domestic abuse.
…the Internet is experienced completely differently by people who are visibly identifiable as a marginalized race or gender. It’s a nastier, more exhausting Internet, one that gets even nastier and even more exhausting as intersections stack up. It’s something to keep in mind, particularly since media narratives of the “worst” kinds of harassment rarely feature people of color.
People will never stop being horrible on the Internet. There will never not be garbage. But in a functioning society, someone comes to collect the trash every week. If private platforms are to become communities, collectives, agoras, tiny new societies, they have to make a real effort to collect the garbage.
Re-entry has been tough, because apparently all I really want in life is sunshiney France, steak frites, gelato and endless hours with my kids to swim and read frivolous novels.
Now I am back to my mundane life of sunshiney Northern California, high-stakes venture finance and show-jumping.
Me: Heather wants to borrow Little Poppies so she can paint Big Poppies. Yay! Go Big Poppy!
Alain: Is that a sports thing?
Jeremy: Yeah, maybe baseball?
Alain: I know as much about baseball as you know about cricket.
Me: What, nothing?
Alain: We lost the Ashes!
Jeremy: That was careless! Where did you have them last?
Alain: Not me, the Australian team.
Me: Can they retrace their steps?
Alain: By the way, you have leprosy.
Jeremy: From when we went bike riding.
Me: I was pulling off these sheets of skin and offering them to Jeremy.
Me: He said: “Thanks! I’ll make a – No, I won’t say it.” I said: “What? A tiny me? A tiny penis?” He said: “I don’t want to say.” I said: “I will love you no matter what!” He said: “A lampshade.” I said: “EW NO BAD NO UNSAY IT.”
Jeremy: So now it’s been said again.
Me: “YOU ARE BAD AND SHOULD FEEL BAD GET OUT.”
Alain, to Jeremy: You should have gone with the Mini-Me.
Jeremy: A tiny wife!
Me: Poor Little, Poor Little Rachel.
Jeremy: Like Keira Knightley. Remember what Patrick said about her?
Me: “She is so wee!” You could keep her in your pocket.
Alain: Lose her in your pocket lint.
Me: How careless! Can you retrace your steps?
Opinions are divided over who left the five remaining Laduree macarons in our beautiful little apartment on Rue de Seine. Certain people have held the contentious position that I am principally at fault; I, contrariwise, maintain that the responsibility for commonly held macarons is itself collective, and that everyone ought to have done their part.
However the disaster came about, the fact remains that the macarons were left behind, and the Pole Sud macarons purchased in Lezignan, while undeniably delicious, were considered no substitute for the real thing.
We caught the TGV back to Paris yesterday and there was some talk of ducking out for replacement macarons, until we established that there were Laduree outposts at CDG itself. As we checked in this morning, our gate agent told us there was one such outpost just inside security. Jeremy dashed all our spirits when he reported that Google said it was closed.
Fie upon you, Google! It wasn’t, and almost our last act in Paris was to replace the Earl Grey, menthe, vanille, abricot and yuzu ginger macarons that had been so tragically lost. Since this story has such a happy ending, technically it is now the comedy of the macarons. Goodbye, Paris, we love you and hope to see you again soon.
A busy week! We are in Villerouge with the girls’ grandmother and uncles. On Saturday, Christopher and Alicia drove up from Barcelona with their puppy, Tosia. We walked the puppy up to the ruined castle and ate blackberries warm off the bush. We had a lovely dinner together (tomatoes and basil from the garden, grapes warm off the vine) but our visitors had to leave the next morning. We see Chris about once every five years for 24 hours. It’s not enough. I didn’t cry when they left but it was a near thing. Afterwards we all went to Annette’s for a swim.
On Monday I was hell-bent on visiting Carcassonne at last. It was extensively rebuilt in the 19thC by Viollet-le-Duc, who also restored Notre Dame. Carcassonne is only thirty-odd years older than the Eiffel Tower but the Tower looks forwards and Carcassonne looks backwards. It’s a gaudy, inauthentic fantasy that is said to have been an inspiration for Disney. Visiting felt like I imagine Disneyland, which is to say crowded and hot, until we got through to the old keep itself and the crowd thinned and J and I looked at each other and heaved a sigh of relief.
On the way home we visited Lagrasse, a village nestled in a wild limestone gorge. I needed a bathroom, Claire wanted ice cream, J hoped that there might be cassis sorbet and Julia wanted to swim in the river. Lagrasse granted all our wishes in our first five minutes there and has thus endeared itself to me for life. Like Cacassonne, it is a funny melange of old and new. Half its famous Abbey belongs to the state; monks restored and moved back into the other half in 2004. You have to pay to visit both sides but it was worth it – the state kept the spooky medieval parts, but the monks got the cloister and the garden. The garden was fragrant with rosemary and thyme and I missed Skud very much.
Tuesday we rented bikes and rode the Canal du Midi, another thing I’ve wanted to do since I first came here in the ’90s. We rode an 18 mile round trip and the girls were magnificent throughout, each winning their own private Tour de France. Me to Jeremy as we set out: “When did we become the sort of family that does this kind of thing?” J: “About ten minutes ago.” For dinner I roasted a chicken with parsley and rosemary and thyme from the Villerouge garden, and we were all so hungry that we ate up every scrap.
Wednesday was supposed to be a quiet day but the markets in Lezignan were even more crowded than Carcassonne. I bought hats and sundresses for both girls and we went to Jill’s for a swim.
Today J, Claire, Barnaby and I had a road trip out to the Millau Viaduct. Good lord.
All of which sounds frenetic but there have been long quiet spells, driving through the red-earthed vineyards under the limestone cliffs, sitting in the garden listening to the cicadas and the cuckoos. There are moths here big as your thumb, with long probosci to sip nectar from flowers. The insect version of hummingbirds.
Yesterday was a lovely, lazy day full of serendipity. Our regular breakfast cafe had a broken coffee machine so we strolled on until we found La Rose de France on Place Dauphine and had a breakfast so splendid and beautifully presented that we fully expected it to be ridiculously expensive, but it came to less than ten Euros per head. I mean seriously, Julia’s pyramidal tea bags alone should have cost that much.
Then we visited Notre Dame, which was beautiful and creepy, and then we had ice cream from Berthillon as everyone had urged us to do and how very right you all were, and then we wandered through the Marais until we stumbled across Au Petit Versailles du Marais again, so we had lunch there and the baguettes brought tears to my eyes, so soft and sweet were they. We revisited the Centre Pompidou and went to the cat cafe and then Jeremy went to the Corbusier and Mona Hartoum exhibits while the children and I bought sandals and found ourselves passing La Dernier Bar avant la Fin du Monde, which Ada had strongly recommended, so we went in there as well.
It was all delicious and happy until we got back to the apartment and Liz texted me “Rach – are you ok -” and I had to sit down because nothing good ever starts that way.
We braved the Metro (Jeremy deftly blocking a pickpocketing attempt) out to Parc de la Villette to visit the Cité des Sciences et l’Industrie, which according to Wikipedia is the biggest science museum in Europe. It is pretty big! We bought tickets to all the temporary exhibitions, which was a bit of a misstep because the permanent exhibitions were exquisite and we didn’t get to spend anywhere near enough time with them.
As we were touring the Argonaut, a decommissioned submarine, I got mail from the neuroscientist in London who is writing the case study about Dad’s blog. We had hoped to move Dad’s brain to a brain bank for further study but unfortunately this won’t be possible. The neuroscientist reassured us that although Dad’s brain has already been embalmed and used to train surgeons, the resulting anatomical report will still be very helpful in establishing the diagnosis of fronto-temporal dementia.
Dad used to take us to the Observatory and the Australian Museum and the Powerhouse and its precursor, the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, all the time. He took us to Taronga and Western Plains Zoo and Tidbinbilla and Parkes. His factory built fire control systems for the Collins Class submarine. He would have loved the Cité. I feel a space where grief should be. Proposed Site for Grief. What happened to Dad is so huge and terrible I can’t even get there yet. All I have is these tiny, inadequate glimmers of what he was. Of all that we have lost.
A cool change blew through on our first night, thank the gods. The jetlagged girls couldn’t sleep, so I went out and lay on the sofa bed with them until the “Mama Bear is here” signal overwhelmed the “STRANGE ROOM” alarm in their reptile brains. Then I couldn’t sleep, so I climbed back in with Jeremy and his “Papa Bear” signal overwhelmed mine.
Saturday we found Kirsty outside the Louvre Pyramid, exchanged many kisses and saw the Nike of Samothrace (better than I ever dreamed), the Venus de Milo (quite lovely) and the Mona Lisa (whatevs.) I adored the Roman Egyptian mummy portraits and we all loved the Islamic art. I decided that Christian art is mostly sentimental rubbish. Jeremy says I’m going through a phase.
We had an insanely delicious lunch at the Bistro Richelieu. I had the confit de canard. It was the best thing I have ever put in my mouth.
We only see Kirsty every few years but on each occasion it is as though no time has passed.
Dinner at Vin et Terroir with Kirsty’s friends Justin and Peter. I had the lentil soup, which was the best thing I have ever put in my mouth. Sunday we did a little more Louvre, swung by the Musee d’Orsay and the Orangerie (Monet is amazing) and crossed paths several times with the end of the Tour de France. Hurrah for the sportspokes! Dinner at a City Crepes, where the grownups became perhaps too merry upon cider.
Today we walked across Ile St Louis to the Centre Pompidou.
Jeremy first went there when he was Claire’s age, and last time we visited, pre-kids, he said that if he ever did have children, he wanted to take them there.
They loved it. Renzo Piano also built the Cal Academy, their favorite place in SF, and Jan and Richard’s house was always full of bent wood furniture and Matisse prints, so it must have felt like home. Jeremy went into a full-on Art Dad fugue state and we stormed around for hours. (Matisse is amazing.)
Then we went to Au Petit Versailles du Marais for Kirsty’s farewell meal, which, wah. I wish London was closer to San Francisco. Saying goodbye is boring.
Julia ordered, and I finished, the Pyramid, a structure of passionfruit mousse with an apricot center and a macaroon base. It was the best thing I have ever put in my mouth.
At the lowest point of last year when I could think of nothing whatever to look forward to, I decided rather clinically that the kids needed to be taken to Yosemite, Paris and the Grand Canyon. We crossed Yosemite off the list last fall, and here I am in a fifth floor walkup in the 6e arrondissement, listening to the children chatting and singing in the next room, and marveling at the fact that I actually managed to pull this off.
We are all jetlagged to hell but managed to get out of the apartment for lunch at Deux Magots (the others had baguettes, but I had foie gras), macarons from Pierre Herme (the rose and grapefruit was celestial) and a walk through the Jardin du Luxembourg. It is overcast and hot, and the city is every inch as dazzlingly lovely as I remembered.
The children are stellar travelers, really: troupers about the long flight and willing to try new foods. They unfolded the sofabed together and Julia said: “If I were an only child I would have the bed to myself, but on the other hand, I would not be able to unfold it.”
This is not a low point. Thank you, thoughtful former self.
1. A recycled Twitter joke: I posted this last Tuesday and my friend Matthew asked whether the Kaiju were under water, so I said that they were, and that this picture was taken from Jeremy’s and my Jaeger, the Frock Advisory. Seriously, though, look at my beautiful city.
2. My big brother Alain arrived on Thursday and is now an essential member of the household and may not leave. We went out for margaritas with a bunch of folks on Saturday and all got thoroughly roaring and ordered Pizzahacker on the way home. Danny converted Al to the cult of Ingress and now he is part of the Resistance, firing energy weapons into interdimensional portals as he walks around the Mission. (It cracks me up that every technolibertarian and privacy activist I know is in thrall to this sinister surveillance weapon of a game.)
3. Nick-the-horse and I had a lesson with Colin in the Grand Prix arena and, in between very embarrassing refusals, jumped up to a meter ten. It’s the very lowest level of jumping that anyone takes remotely seriously, it’s my goal height and it scared the living crap out of me. But we jumped it. It turns out that my snuggly goober Nicky Boo Bear is an imported Dutch Warmblood from a stallion line that has produced (notoriously badly-behaved) Grand Prix horses in both jumping and dressage. A frog prince.
4. Jeremy and I went to NASA Ames to wait for the New Horizons spacecraft to phone home. That’s us in front of the beautiful Hangar One.
I love NASA as I love national parks and missile silos converted into marine mammal rescue centers, which is to say, immoderately. They kept describing the spacecraft as the size of a grand piano, so now that is how I picture it, a golden Steinway hurtling through the dwarf planet system, exploring strange new worlds, boldly going. A scientific instrument.
5. Ta-Nehisi’s new book is amazing.
Maybe 2000 or so? Sarah guesses Mt Coot-tha, ’97 or ’98. That’s Original Dad for sure.
when I looked up and out the sea was, well, wine-dark as Homer puts it. The sea was a deep dark blue of precisely the same reflective luminosity as rich red wine.
I knew what death meant now. It was conversations cut off.
I kept trying to be less unjust, but did I ever really improve?
She sighed. “Everything is complicated and compromised.” “It is,” I said. “That’s the nature of reality.”
I was older now. I didn’t know whether I was wiser.
Happy birthday, America! I love you for your Steve Rogers, Bree Newsome, health care, marriage equality and Oz Farm.
I rode Colin’s favorite horse this morning and it was incredible. That would normally be the high point of the day, but today was in no way a normal day.
First, marriage equality. I married Jeremy in 2000 because I had secure visa status in the US, and he didn’t. The fear of him being deported was untenable. It was the vulnerability of migration that opened my eyes to what marriage is; it is forcing the state to recognize your found family. That definition of marriage was the gift of the people we lost to AIDS, whose partners were sometimes barred from the deathbed. Legal marriage means that your love matters, that it must be taken into account.
It’s hard, maybe impossible to convey to my own children just how staggering it is that we are here; how many people fought and died for this.
And even that wasn’t the high point of the day. The murderer of the Charlston 9 wanted a race war, not the occasion of maybe the most profound and beautiful moment of Obama’s presidency.
Grace is the unlooked-for gift, the undeserved kindness, a green shoot growing in the desert. Amazing.
Media Gulch likes to cosplay as Rome:
And the Community Music Center as, I don’t even know, some kind of solarpunk Utopia:
Jules is making new friends, as is her wont:
Good coffee has made it to a sunny courtyard near my office in Palo Alto:
Alice and I share a fondness for sunbeams: