A pink taxi

A pink taxi

November 30, 2011

Make Up Queen

The first time I had a make over was the day the first Charlies Angele's cousin got married. The red head bride didn't come to the mall. It was the brunette and the blond (me) and my sister (who was still in her teens). The brunette was in charge. She took us to MAC. She convinced me to buy my first make up brushes that day. Eye shadow brushes I still own today, some 17 years later.

It is fun to go to the department store, choose your favorite make up brand and ask a professional, or at best a sales-lady to apply make up, especially if you are off to a do. A few days ago, I went to Dubai Mall MAC counter and asked a make up artist to draw some cat eye style around my eyes and some crimson lipstick. It was my brunette cousin, one of the Charlie's Angeles who recommended the foundation.

When I buy make up, I usually hire her expertise and she comes with me. I remember when Burjuman mall, SaksFifthAvenue was still the in thing to do in Dubai. We went to Nars and she bought me a blush called Orgasm! Then we went to Harvey Nickols and bought from the Armani line. She is the cousin who understands me if I stray towards the TomFord counter and buy lipstick instead of going to the monotonous Carrefour food shopping.

I used to be a no-make up girl. Make up was for festive occasions only. I had a rule never to dress my eyes and lips at the same time on any given day. I thought make up was pretentious and that it was even bad for the skin. But a dermatologist told me that make up is actually protective from the sun. At age 41, I have my daily make up ready next to my toothbrush every morning. Even if my day is about Starbucks, golf and pilates.

Somehow red lipstick is mood enhancing. It looks cool in blackberry self portraits (lol) and the Lancome waterproof kohl really works. It doesn't smudge if you cry over a Gotye song!

Confidence in wearing make up comes from one person: the birthday girl, my lovely cousin!

November 29, 2011

Graffiti with Punctuation

When a friend smsed me a cinema quote from his movie chair, while watching Contagion of all films, that negated blogging as writing, but rather as "graffiti with punctuation" I couldn't agree more! I take it as a positive.

I have always told my children that the sprayed illegible letters, the tagging, the abstract disordered painting that only spells anarchy that they discover on walls in Geneva, is an art form. We have smiled at the psychedelic, always dynamic representations that are sprayed in underground tunnels and behind train stations.
My son and I have found a larger concentration of graffiti on our bike trips as we visit all sorts of neighborhoods and cycle in many backstreets.  I explain that it is an expression of counter culture, like certain musical genres are. Geneva, the ultraconservative, the sleepy town, has its disobedient and alternative youth and they express their creativity with paint spray.

Last October, in Beyrouth, when my cousin drove us around, I came upon a personally ground-breaking graffiti that spelled "fi qalbi salam" which translates literally as "in my heart is peace". I was moved by the optimistic and poetical message and leapt out of the car to take a picture of it. Ofcourse the message meant more to me, and by extension to my cousin, because Salaam happens to be our family name, thus making the slogan sound like : in my heart, our surname. A month later I henna tatooed it on my arm. Tatoos certainly are part of the graffiti culture.

The very talented Nadine Kanso, designer of jewelery and a funky clothing line, photographer and artist extraordinaire, has also caught onto the grafitti of Lebanon and has immortalized an otherwise temporary street art into a collage photo series, depicting a juxtaposition of sloganed graffiti, each carrying its loaded message, with contrasting illustrious festive Lebanese night scenes. My own pictures of graffiti pale in comparison to hers, but I have saved them to make a distinction between the swiss graffiti and the lebanese ones.

These days my blog writing has developed into a different style, one my father qualifies as "lost in the desert". I remember being rejected by a newspaper in AbuDhabi under the simple pretext that I was not allowed to submit a text about "why I loved to hate bikram yoga". They just wanted a straight forward "I love bikram yoga" article. Like a graffiti artist, I twist my writing to my own disposition and inklings. Like graffiti, my blogs are sometimes ephemeral because as light as a song, or a children's anecdote.

Yet, I do believe that Basquiat was a graffiti artist as is Bansky. I also love the art by Leila Shawa that represents graffiti. With Nadine Kanso, these artists celebrate the powerful beauty of graffiti.

As I do, every time I add my comas to my writing, every time "I punctuate my graffiti" on the blog.

I dedicate this post to one of my two closest male cousins: a twin brother, only 2 weeks junior. A blond baby with caramel skin they always plopped next to me in baby photos, the one who used to tape the sound of shooting in Beyrouth 1982 and mail it to me, the only guy who was allowed to drive my car in Boston! Looking forward to more cruising in search of graffiti. Its your birthday: you are now my age!

November 28, 2011

Monotony or Harmony?

My friend challenged me by calling my daily routine monotonous. Monotonous?

She stirs awake at dawn and fumbles for her blackberry. News from the Americas. She reverts to her blogger dreams. Less than an hour later, she is waking her broad up, either with music or with the allure of sunrise. "Look, the sun over the flamingo pond!"

The family descends down 43 floors in the elevator to a brand new day. School for some, pilates for other, or coffee with her better half. Circuit training, lifting weights, fitting a morning nap, blogging under a palm tree.
Loads and loads of homework, of ballet classes, of golf, of horseback riding, of swimming. And the constant: radio and coffee to fuel the day. The evening falls, she escapes to bikram yoga or to an art opening. She then slows down, with a novel, her beloved, outdated, folded to the right article, LeMonde and her blackberry loaded with hundreds of pictures: family, silly selfportraits, palm trees, cityscapes. And she falls asleep.

Aren't we all creatures of old habits? Don't we feel comfortable with the predictable? Don't we enjoy the Swiss lifestyle because it is reliable? Don't we learn best with repetition in ordered days? How can there be monotony in a day full of education and sports, intellectual and physical stimulation? Isn't there always an attempt to learn new and more things? To urge your body to perform a new record? To discover more art?

In routine, I find poetry. It is harmony not monotony! Yet post scriptum obliges me admit that routine isn't always as good as I claim because you can fall into complacency. My yoga instructor did advise tonight: "pull yourself out of routine".

November 27, 2011


I was going to get my monotonous coffee, write a monotonous blog, run a monotonous circuit training...when I got intercepted by a school geology excursion that kidnapped me without ado to Jebel Faiyeh?????????? "On n'en finit pas!" (It's never ending) remarked a friend that I informed.

This is how it happened. The phone rang from school. I picked it up with haste, I had just dropped my broad minutes ago. My 8th grader asked me to u turn....and I returned to school with a fait accompli. "Get into the bus!!!!" It is called emotional black mailing: "the other mother cancelled. We can't go without another adult. We would have to cancel the trip altogether." Puppy eyes. In French its called Chantage!

This is no Canvas magazine 5 star led school trip. It isn't the great opportunity to visit a Saadiyat Mesopotamia show with an Art History teacher either. This is all the geology classes I had bypassed, levitating in dream land whenever I took a high school class. Here I was holding an 11 page science syllubus and force fed geology! My brother bbmed me live: "Wait, u went today to the geological search for the ruins of the Pirates of Persia?" It was more like a scene from the film 148 hours!

I was all clad in lulu lemon thinking I was going to the gym! Wearing Nike sneakers luckily. I called the trainer who remained in disbelief. I had never cancelled last minute but "being kidnapped into the desert" was an excuse he had never heard before.

This was a very appropriate trip at the eve of the 40th National Day of the UAE. I always recommend that we leave our cities, go to the heartland, the desert, mountains and distant beaches of the UAE. It may have been a forced trip but I love nature and am happy to discover it. In this case, in much geological details.

And then I fell asleep on the bus all the way back....I had been kidnapped BEFORE the coffee. This blog was reported LIVE. My attention span for the geology lecture lasted 5 minutes.

November 26, 2011

The Mother of All Battles

I am satiated. I had the mother of all parties, in analogy to recent history's "the mother of all battles".

Who ever said mid-life was a crisis? It is a celebration! I can describe it as a renewal of energy, a search for self fulfillment and a realization that life is too short to be taken all that seriously: let loose, give in to instinct and live by your own philosophy. If you don't at 40, when will you be fit enough to do so?

With this in mind, and because the friend who gifted me a pink ipod replete with cool tunes, offered in hospitable friendship, a beautiful venue for me to celebrate my 41th year: a spatious veranda overlooking DIFC and royal Zabeel, we threw a party for my 41th birthday.

Statement I had to make so I wore a leopard Versace skirt, from my Club Nicole nights in Boston. A skirt so vintage it dates from the late Gianni himself. To accessorize, I went for color uncoordinated turquoise blue nailpolish, stilt heals before the dancing and a henna tatoo down my left arm.

In sending pictures of the calligraphy of Beyrouth in Arabic in henna I got a few remarks: you gotta add Tehran to the other arm, or you are phony! And to top it, my brother in law in NewYork emailed, as he was reassured: "Ok. If this is your mid life crisis this isn't so bad ;)". Why does he think its a mid-life crisis?

Finger licking Indian buffet and DJ Jean in the house set the tone, but the party's energy came from my friends and family. My eldest son can attest, we had a blast!

I may have the renewed energy of a twenty year old, the romantic outlook of a twelve year old, but I know I have had more fun than anyone and that I it is now enough of celebrating me!

November 25, 2011

PinkTaxi's Dubai

The day begins and ends on Sheikh Zayed Road, the urban. Home is where the heart is and she has selected the white high rise as her castle. Then the pendelum trips begin.

On any given day, the pinktaxi zigzags the streets of Dubai. I believe she has the most frequent driver miles with Salek, the toll for bridges and roads in Dubai. She drives as far as Hatta Road for horseriding and has crossed AlGarhoud bridge more than 6 times on a given day: we golf at the Creek club, don't we?

She parks in the usual spots, at Oud Metha and Rashid Port; but her car can be found in front of any random Carrefour, in any random neighborhood, in front of any random Starbucks in need of coffee, at a random free beach in search of zen.

Under the blue pyramid at Wafi, around the clocktower in Deira, at the iceskating ring at the Hyatt Regency (remember old Dubai?)Up and down AlWasel Road on a given day, up and down Jumeirah road on another, sometimes visiting twin boys near Burj Khalifa or triplet girls in Um Suqueim.

And a deliberate effort to avoid the malls and to visit zoos and parks instead. And always, she looks out the windows of her cab and marvels at dynamic Dubai.

November 23, 2011

Chris Martin's Oldies

This blog is soaked in yoga and golf talk , it is fresh with family stories, it smells of Dubai sunshine, it obsesses with art, it folllows Roger Federer, it sings to ColdPlay!

But the blogger has to admit: she only encountered Cold Play in 2010 with Viva La Vida. My brother reminds me of that, he tells me I am no different from the Eurotrash that only picks a band when they go mainstream.

The friend who was so thoughtful to gift me the pink ipod crammed it with loads of happiness and poetry. More than 50 songs by ColdPlay that I have just discovered like a treasure box full of gleaming precious stones.

I have listened to WHAT IF a dozen times now. And in the same way I once analyzed a Depeche Mode song at the onset of this blog, I will take the literary initiative to do the same here. I reiterate it loud and clear: some pop songs belong to the repertoire of our contemporary poetry and I thus elect Martin Gore and Chris Martin as my favorite poets. Martin sings:"No poem or song coud put right what I got wrong".

The single "What If" (from X and Y) is sang in the conditional tense. There is a French expression that says "with an IF, you could put Paris in a bottle" (avec un si on peut mettre Paris en bouteille). The love song is about a poet who feels rejected by his lover, as he gives her the choice to decide and the freedom for her to imagine living with him. Yet he urges her to try, to take a leap. It is a song that defies time and ideals. It sings of fatality and risk."Every step that you take can be your biggest mistake. It could bend or it can break. But that is the risk that you take."

And always his perfect idiom: "no reason or rime". His melodious voice on piano. The final oooooohs in crescendo, in refrain and the accompanying signature electric guitars.
As always the single belongs in a thematic album, X and Y. It develops the idea of love as a courageous feeling, an intrepid step, a mixture of trepidation and fear. Chris Martin sings of things broken, an attempt to fix things. His voice lingers in a song called Fix You. It is romantic because he says: "when you loose something you can't replace...when you love someone but it goes to waste".

Cold Play is more upbeat today, as the band sings of heaven and optimism. Yet listening to their oldies, no matter how sad, was appeasing. In the song Talk he has a quirky image, full of hope: " you can climb a ladder up to the sun".

When my mood swings low, I can always listen to Chris Martin!

Here are the lyrics of WHAT IF:
What if there was no lie
Nothing wrong, nothing right
What if there was no time
And no reason, or rhyme
What if you should decide
That you don't want me there by your side
That you don't want me there in your life
What if I got it wrong
And no poem or song
Could put right what I got wrong
Or make you feel I belong

What if you should decide
That you don't want me there by your side
That you don't want me there in your life

Ooh ooh-ooh, that's right
Let's take a breath, jump over the side
Ooh ooh-ooh, that's right
How can you know it, if you don't even try
Ooh ooh-ooh, that's right

Every step that you take
Could be your biggest mistake
It could bend or it could break
That's the risk that you take

November 22, 2011

Guys' Talk

I have always had guy friends. In graduate school, as an after-shock reaction to three years spent in a women's college, my only friends were guys.

I grew up as a tom boy, loved karate and hated ballet. In boarding school, I hung out with the coolest guys. These things matter in high school!

In the family context, I was very close to my father, grandfather, my two brothers, my two male cousins, my uncles. I got teased, bullied, climbed mountains.

I love tennis, soccer and golf. I adopt champions and defend teams with passion. Girl friends don't want to hear any of this!

Things have changed since I have married. I now have made very good girlfriends, have intensified my relationship with my sister, have made a deliberate effort to become more feminine in my role as a mother.

But there always be a few buddies, my cousins, my uncles I can relate to, to do some guy talking. And always, my sons, my brothers and especially my husband!

Guys are so cool!

November 20, 2011

Dreaming of Blue

Green will always be my favorite color. You just can't trade colors midway through your life. But I feel the pull of blue. I have worked on an art project with children this September and have studied the various shades of blue. How hard it was for us to attain turquoise!

My sister has the bluest eyes, as U2 would sing. My nephews, her sons, have different hues of blue scattered in their big green eyes. My youngest son will ALWAYS opt for light blue when coloring. Don't children tell you they love you as much as the sky or the sea, which are blue.

Lately, I have spotted blue everywhere: in the illuminated swimming complex in the middle of the desert, in a lone blue fisherman boat on the beach and especially in Art! Have I not pondered the blues of Picasso to sound cliche, the single precious Blue of Yves Klein, the various shades of blue of Farhadian and the signature blue of Youssef Nabil? My fascination with blue thrives on my conviction that Chris Martin serenades me personally when he sings "the sky is blue!"

I will never forget a painting of tiger and hunter by MF Hussein at the AbuDhabi fair a couple of years ago. This year, at the same fair, I had another love at first sight experience with a work of art, that I will never forget.

My husband may say that there are as many Damien Hirst butterfly compositions as there are polka dot paintings by the same artist. He may denounce the fact that hundreds of assistants scurry in his atelier to produce these works and I don't care. I beg to differ. I still believe in the pop effect of the polka dots and the magical feel of collaged butterflies.

I visited a superb Damien Hirst show in Monaco last summer and what impressed me more than the preserved shark, the accumulated diamonds, the beloved polka dots, the medicine cabinets and the blinged skulls, were the butterflies!!!!! He has made the subject of a doodle, the most basic feminine artistic cliche, the butterfly, a precious artistic subject!

I have visited a few live butterflyramas, humid and tropical green houses with a flurry of various butterflies. In my father's Mediterranean garden, I catch butterflies with my eyes like scattered opportunities that nest in flowers.

But I cannot imagine how Damien Hirst finds the largest collection of blue butterflies, how he delicately cuts them, matches them and creates a large circular kaleidoscope for me to discover.

As soon as I caught a glimpse of the butterflies at AbuDhabi, I zoomed closer, attracted by its beauty, its familiar signature, its stained glass quality. I urged my father to take a picture of me for memories sake, like a fan does with her favorite pop star. I came back to it again and again during my short visit to the fair, attempting to memorize the poetry of entomology.

"I will dream of blue
Butterflies in the white of
These free verse were composed once upon a dream of Damien Hirst butterflies

November 19, 2011


My son is five and a half and he is in a hurry to learn how to write in cursive. As the youngest, he also wanted to read 
as soon as possible and he took it upon himself to speed the process. He learned how to read on his own!

In a day and age when we all type, including myself on this blog, handwriting has become an obsolete skill, together with looking up a word in the dictionary and calculating mathematics without a calculator. Do you remember the 80s Casio watches with calculators?

Yet, the French curriculum is very attached to its calligraphy courses. They call pre-handwriting "graphisme" lending it an artistic, design character. French students write on various types of note books and end up with a very checkered one to insure very precise calligraphy: the style is called Seyes, and I enjoy writing on the very smooth Clairefontaine Seyes paper, till this day. French students are also encouraged to use the old style ink pens: they don't carry ink bottles though! Everyone in primary school must write in cursive. That goes without saying!

It was a challenge for me to write nicely in Arabic; in that culture it is even more important to have a distinguished writing.  Arabic calligraphy is an art. Till this day, my Arabic handwriting is influenced by my Western calligraphy: I don't seem to write in a flowing way, but take it a letter at a time. Only when I took Farsi classes as an adult, when I made a deliberate effort to re-learn the Arabic script, did it improve slightly. But some may argue that I have "urdu"ized my Arabic script. It certainly is a lost cause!

When my cousin got married, she remembered me and my handwriting skill and requested that I write the addresses on the invitation envelops. Our close friend offered the assistance of her husband because she claimed he had perfect penmanship. And so we watched with utter curiosity as her husband scribbled a doctor's handwriting of a note. He was delegated to stuff the envelops without further ado!

November 15, 2011


Upon my request, I received a parking sticker as a Valentine gift last year. It was the sort of V. gift ( at 1000 dirham or 300 dollar, it appears like a hefty price for parking). But it lasts a year, and it facilitates the life of a pinktaxi tremendously. This means I can park ANYWHERE in Dubai, for free. No need to worry about coins, sms, renewals, tickets.

Before my Valentine gift, I had learned the ingenious way of smsing my plate number to a central parking phone number with the location I was at too. Because I frequently park in the same neighborhoods, it even became a trick of cut and paste. But it also meant I was paying larger phone bills because of all the hop-parking, drop one child, pay parking, go after another, pay parking, go back for the child, pay parking again, get some coffee, pay parking.....

I actually failed my driving license the first time in Springfield, Massachusetts because I didn't back out in Reverse out of the parking space, but kept the car in drive out of nervousness. I eventually became an expert parallel parker, able to squeeze my car in the tightest parking spaces. My dad says its genetic and it comes from his side of the family.

My husband isn't a very patient at parking and so he is gifted with parking karma which means he will always find a parking right in front of the restaurant or library or store. This was particularly relevant in Boston where you would otherwise freeze in your walk from your car to your destination.

Parking in Boston and its neighboring Cambridge was always difficult. I never valet-ed my car (except at the night club) and always arrived a good half hour before my class, the film, the step aerobics class, the brunch date. I drove in circles looking, or I would strategically double park and wait for someone to release a parking space. This is probably where I listened to a lot of radio and grew fond of the habit.

I jammed the parking meters with precious quarters that I would save and collect just for that. I never gave any quarters away at shops and saved them in old camera-film plastic containers that were designed the size of a quarter, in my car. But still, the meter ran out even though I would rush to its ticking last seconds, and the parking warden, all decked in winter gloves and hat would be writing a ticket or would surprise me with its fluorescent color envelop, just thin enough to fit the numerous checks I would write to the City of Boston or Cambridge.

My sister just got a ticket in NewYork for Blocking the Box. She laughed at my ignorance of the infraction and emailed me a photo of the sign. All I know is the danger of being towed, an experience I only had in my wildest nightmares.

But my favorite parking related sign is one I found in Beyrouth recently, calligraphied in an almost handwritten form and obviously composed casually. I translate it literally: "Pharmacy: one second parking".

November 14, 2011

Swiss Retreat

I remember when the few Jesuit priests that were left at my gradually secularized boarding school used to take their Catholic students on retreats. They were supposed to isolate themselves for prayer and meditation. I selected Geneva for a ten day "academic" retreat from the hustle bustle of Dubai: my faithful children followed, ready to slow down and take it easy.

Every so often, my blackberry will ring to remind me that there is golf, pilates, arabic, violin, swimming.....but I ignore these reminders because I am miles away from "all that".

On a different continent, on a short vacation. I am glad it was short. In fact, I felt so isolated and worked so hard that "short" felt long! The weather was milder then we had expected it to be in November so we spent much time outdoors. The children even took their bikes out and cycled around the lake.

The trip was worth while because we visited two different libraries, borrowed 50 children's books and read them all. It was worth while because we took two train rides to Lausanne and visited two museums. It was worth while because we sat at home for hours and caught up with our studies. We even finished a whole series of home schooling and mailed them: what a relief!

The trip was worth while because we feasted Eid on a splendid Indian summer day, ran to a huge tree by the lake, and ate fondue for dinner. The trip was worth while because my children became more familiar with Henry Moore and got acquainted to Howler. It was worth while because they helped around the house, loading the dishwasher, making their own beds, taking the trash out, and even vacuuming!

The whole trip was worth it for the view I encountered from the gardens of the Elysee Museum of Photography in Lausanne! Travelers cross the world to encounter the reflections of the Alps (in this case the Evian Mountains) in the Swiss lakes.

But a retreat with three children for ten days was a strenuous time and I am not ready to repeat it for a few years! I can't wait to pinktaxi them to school again ....

November 12, 2011

The Incipit of 1Q84

I didn't read about it in LeMonde! A friend was intellectually generous and offered me the hard copy print out of the NY Times article about Haruki Murakami. That after he had read his non fiction piece, "What I talk About When I talk About Running"upon my high recommendation.

I flirt with the idea of beginning a book that attracts me strongly. I enjoy its power of seduction. The book, unbought, sitting in a bookstore waiting for me to snatch it. I start by asking around: has anyone read it? Does anyone want to read it with me? This time, I didn't get a reaction. But the craving grew stronger, the attraction more powerful. I succumbed to the purchase. Relished the quiet time I would find at the end of a maternal day to discover my new book.

I opened the book knowing about its first chapter. However, the New York Times article just could not bottle up the essence of those opening pages: the incipit.  A waft of Murakami perfume drifted from its first paragraphs. I immediately imagined the scene in Manga animation, as if I were watching a precious movie by Hiroyuki Murito.

The first word of the novel is RADIO. The second sentence is about the music! The setting is a taxi caught in traffic. Isn't that a metaphor I use in my blog? Don't I obsess about the music I listen to on the Radio? In this case, it is classical music. Even here, I can identify for having heard the Japanese virtuoso, Seiji Ozawa, lead a concert in Geneva this summer.

I feel exhilirated because I am in tune with this Japan, mangas, music and author. The setting is exotic yet familiar.  That is when I allowed the book to kiss me! I was enamored!

November 11, 2011

The Last Quarter of My Fortieth Year

And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.
Steve Jobs

Last year, at this time, with a milestone birthday looming, I was surprised not to feel any different. The thirty ninth year passed, smoothly, on the track of comfortable routine. The first three quarters of the fortieth year carried the same rythm as the year preceding it: I pink-taxied with good will and enthusiasm, attended my sports and arts activities with stride, studied and read attentively.

Then September came. I felt the summer air change under the cedars in my favorite park in Geneva and I tasted the melancholy of the native Genevois, Jean Jacques Rousseau. Perhaps, I sensed that time was fleeting, that summers did end and the children's academic year loomed ahead. I left for Dubai.

I started off slowly....I didn't over-book my kids or myself. We focused on our priorities, which are swimming and golf for the kids, and pilates and golf for myself. But gradually we added the indispensable ballet, yoga, judo, aikido, violin, climbing, squash, Arabic lessons. Who doesn't want to go ice skating or to the beach? The art galleries attracted us, the auctions, the parties. I went back to circuit training and my whole lifestyle became akin to a circuit: wake up almost at dawn, run, run, run, till late at night, when I fit my blogging and reading.

Now, the routine became an energizer. I frequently skipped my savasna-naps. I preferred to babysit my nephew or spend quality time with loved ones. I always appreciated music, but now music became an obsession. With my musical ears tuned in, I began to see the world in techni-colour. It was an Avatar like experience. I walked a different stride. I wore lipstick and mascara daily. I became hyper-aware of everything around me. My blog entries became more whimsical.

I could easily say that Dubai's ambiance has intensified this degree of energy. But I travelled to Lebanon and found good karma there even though I was visiting for a sad circumstance.

In November, the month of my birth, my energy levels dwindled by a fraction and I recognized my dire need for a rest. We travelled to Geneva, wondering why we were leaving when the Dubai weather was at its best. Geneva's Indian Summer took me by surprise and energized me further.
Thus, the last quarter of my fortieth year became a turning point. The moral of the story is that milestones can never be timed! At the prime age of 41,  I came up with an adage:

Live your life. Live by your own philosophy.

Every moment is an event!

November 9, 2011

The Myth of Robinson Crusoe

As if it was yesterday, I remember reading Michel Tournier's Vendredi ou la Vie Sauvage (Friday or the Savage Life). But it was 1982 and I was in 8th grade, as is my son almost thirty years later.

I have read exerts of the book in the last years because it is inevitable; the novel is a French classic. Yet, reading the book again today is a novel experience, not just because of my developed analytical skills and my grown curiosity, but because my son found it interesting to listen to the audio of the book, a first time literary experience for both of us. I didn't object in the least because the writer himself, Michel Tournier, is reading it and because I thought it would be a perfect way for us to read simultaneously.

And so we sat, at half hour intervals, listening to the writer read! What an extraordinary experience. I have always wondered how a writer lives his fiction, how he relates to his creation. I question Atiq Rahimi, the Goncourt laureat, every chance I get. I have even had the chance to gaze at some text, when he randomly opened "Maudit Soit Dostoevski" before he gifted me a book.

Today, we listen to Michel Tournier, the author I discovered 30 years ago, read his own text, emphasize his own words, react to his own narrative. This is the narrative I keep quizzing my son about because literature reading at the age of twelve is all about understanding the story. The language and the style are luxuries you attain to after years and years of reading and literature classes.

Rich with that experience, I pondered the myth of Robinson, remembered the late Edward Said's interpretation of "the civilizing mission", questioned the Western man's desire to control nature and others, but pondered the personality and dilemna of Crusoe. Should you give in to the beauties of life and nature or should you exercise a strict disciplinarian lifestyle (that seems useless on an uninhabited island) that keeps you well grounded and civilized?

In 1982, the inevitable essay was assigned to us: Imagine you were on a desert island, what single thing would you want to take with you?" I was intrepid enough of a teenager to admit to encountering the boy I had a crush on then. I earned the best grade in the class! I remember composing that essay as if it were yesterday. Memory of a blogger!

November 7, 2011

A White Elephant of a Museum

Le Musee d'Histoire et d'Art stands in the heart of the old city of Geneva, in its XIXth century monumentality. The museum does play a social role in the life of the Genevois, to a certain extent. The University uses its auditorium for its lectures. I used to climb the hill twice a week for the Art History lectures that were dispensed for the hundreds.

Yet the museum's collection is poor, perhaps a reflection of Geneva's priorities. Geneva has never tried to compete with cultural Basel, or rich Zurich or proud Bern. Geneva has never pretended to be artistic. Its museum collection is overwhelmingly Beaux Arts, an era I could easily describe as the worst in Art History because of its overemphasis on classicism, its restrictive rules and its recourse to plagiarism. Everything was painted "a la maniere"!

Room after room in this large monument are full of huge canvases by obscure XVIII and XIXth century painters that depict Antiquity, legends, some religious art and landscapes. We traversed these rooms briskly.
I took my children on a rainy fall day. It was the first time as I had visited the museum on my own before and always thought a walk in the park in the summer would be more educational than visiting this museum.

But my children were more indulgent than I was. With them, I admired the works of Ferdinand Hodler, smiled at their enthusiasm for a few good pieces by Cezanne, Picasso and Monet. The highlight of my visit was the discovery of the portrait of my favorite Genevois, Jean Jacques Rousseau. This was the portrait I knew from every literature text book.

As we departed, the youngest gave me a sly smile and remarked: "that was a cool museum, it was such a short visit!"