Sunday, August 2, 2015

Tal Days. Remembering Our First Trip to Paris

August 1st. Pop's Birthday.

So yes, today I've been thinking about him. He would have been 81.

I've been walking around Paris with Helene N. She is almost sixteen and thinking about making fashion her future path. We were looking into how you research and come up with ideas and directions. Out in the world, bookstores, libraries, museums, collections of this or that, watching people in the street, noticing details of architecture in the street, leaves on a tree, a group of pebbles...stopping every so often to note something down or take a quick snapshot.

Because that was what Pop taught me, worked on with me. A long stream of consciousness, back and forth discussion together or just with ones self. Sleeping on the harder problems. Awaking to the next day's answer.

I made my first trip to Paris with him when I was sixteen ! Back then I was a serious 24/7 dancer but he said I was going to need a fall-back job. Why not fashion he said ? So I started filling notebooks with some kind of "designs", started making and transforming my own clothes. Developing a "look" personal to me. Started thinking about color. Experimenting with plant dyes...hunting for lichens, collecting onion skins from the school cafeteria.

He supported all of this. Even tho it was way outside of his own experience and interest. He looked into this new world with me. And taught me that fashion doesn't exist in a vacuum. It was all part and parcel of any culture. Fashion was influenced by literally everything happening around it. Architecture, theater, music, performance, sculpture, all fodder for fashion's insatiable appetite for the new.

Our trip to Paris was one of the few times when we went somewhere without Mom. Pop had been invited by the Herald Tribune to take part in the first kite festivals in Paris out in the Bois de Vincennes. In those days, you were not allowed to fly kites in Paris proper.

We stayed first in a hotel next to the Madeleine on the Right Bank. Ate delicious baked potatoes stuffed with bechamel and bits of ham at Fauchon "au comptoir' (wasn't the fancy spot it is today) and I had my first mini macaron. Then we moved across the Seine to the Left Bank and stayed in a place on Rue de Seine.

During the two weeks of our trip, I think we had three "normal" meals : one with the lovely lady from the Herald Tribune and her family at La Coupole. I had melt in your mouth lamb and creamed spinach with fresh nutmeg liberally grated in it. Gosh that was good ! Another dinner we had at Jackie M's house and met the most incredible woman there : an elderly Meret Oppenheim all dressed in black like a very large bat. She was someone that I idolized as an artist. And she definitely had her own "look" going. I was VERY impressed

The third dinner Pop and I had venturing into a restaurant on Rue de Seine near the hotel. Catastrophe ! I had no French thinking I recognized the word for "lamb", got "rognons d'agneau". Lamb kidneys ! I'd eat them today with great pleasure but back in those days seeing one on a plate was quite a surprise ! Pop ordered Boeuf Bourguignon and said "I'll take care of dessert !" he ordered an Ile Flottante for two !

So what did we eat ? Pastries ! Five or six times a day. I don't remember having anything like a crepe or a croque monsieur or anything other than those baked potatoes and sweets. A special Tal diet.

Pop's favorites were giant billowing meringues. In fact that is all he ever chose. I, on the other hand tried all manner of chocolate cakes, lemon tartes, chestnut puree anythings, and those incredible macarons. My favorite thing, from a place on rue Moscou was a chocolate genoise with mint chocolate ganache, dark chocolate mirror glacage and one crystallized mint leaf on don't see pastries like that anymore!


We walked everywhere. From one end of the city to the other. Pere Lachaise to Cimetiere de Montparnasse. We spent a lot of time in cemeteries. We visited the grave of Brancusi. And the grave stone he made for a young girl. From the Gate of The Kiss in Tirgu Jiu.

We spent hours sitting in the faithfully reconstructed Brancusi's studio at the recently opened Centre Pompidou. The experience I imagine was something like praying in church. yes ! Just sitting there! For hours! Surrounded by multiple versions of Endless Columns and the Birds in Space. Watching the light move around the room(s).    

We ventured into a theater (Theatre de Variete)  without a ticket (something you will all recognize as typical Tal behavior) watching from the peanut gallery unable to follow the plot beyond the idea that a chamber pot was something very funny especially if it as to be found in the living room when guests arrived.

Getting bored with the stage stuff, we went down into the empty rooms of the entr'acte bar. Red velvet and floor to ceiling.mirrors. I danced around for awhile. Felt like something out of Toulouse-Lautrec which we had seen at the creaky floored Jeu de Paume (long before it became a gallery for contemporary work) That was one of the only times I remember Pop looking carefully at any "painting'. The Monet haystacks. He loved those.  

Visiting the Louvre, we were very surprised to see the little etruscan statues that Giacometti's sculpture greatly resembled. Seemed a little too similar...He loved the case after case of the Egyptian shabti. I don't remember us seeing the Mona Lisa or indeed any of the painting. Long discussion in front of the Winged Victory of Samaranth. Pop was certain she was much improved without the arms.    

Hours were also spent in and around, up and down via elevator as well as walking, the Eiffel Tower.

Pop gave me a found treasure from that day which I still have. he swore he found it at the base of the west leg.  

 Ooo did I say it was all very exciting, every day ?

A heady time. Those Pop days in Paris.

- Lissa