Volume 5 of Raw Forming: 1965-66 September-September  work & days: a lifetime journal project  

photo by Bill Volk














I flew to Europe in October of 1965 thinking I would spend the school year at the University of Strasbourg. I had earned enough over the summer to buy a ticket and to live very cheaply in Strasbourg for maybe a month, after which I thought I would have student loan money. When that plan didn't work I got a chamber maid job at the Hotel Sofitel until January and then hitchhiked to Rome where I lived while my money lasted. Then took a ferry to Athens where I knew there would be governess jobs for English-speaking girls. In early summer hitchhiked further: to Istanbul, and then through Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Austria and Germany back to Strasbourg, then to Paris where I knew someone working with Amitie Mondiale Inter-Jeunesse. Flew back to Kingston for the beginning of the school year in September.

The record for this year is quite patchy. Journal writing in the first months in Europe was scant, scraps on bits of paper. I started a regular journal in January 1966, and it recorded the months in Rome and Athens and on the road. I left that journal in a packsack in Paris when I hitchhiked to Provence for a week and wanted to travel light. When I returned it was gone. Went back to notes on scraps until starting a new volume back in Kingston. Have interpolated passages from letters home where they survive. Part 1 at the University of Strasbourg. Part 2 seriously broke. Part 3 am fired from the Sofitel for being seen leaving by the front door with a client. Part 4 Rome and Athens. Part 5 Paris and the south.

Mentioned: Frédéric Conrad, Peter Dyck, Madame Degen, 8 Rue des Hirondelles in Neuhof, Rick Behrmann, Earl and Melvyn Hyde, Mitchell Bornstein, William and Dorothy Volk, Madame Matter, Michèle Guillot, Jean-Jaques *, Mademoiselle Ziechelmeyer, Darinka and Hamit Derguti, Lucia and Lellie Stathatos, Alain Oliveau, Jean-Jacques Gaté, Merlebach, Oberkirchen, 22 Avénue de l'Opéra, Amitié Mondiale Inter-Jeunesse, Barberousse (Michel Maurice), Wieland Lemke, the Pax Christi auberge in Vézelay, Atelier de Jacques d'Aubres, beach campground near Frontignon, Patrick Déchanet. de Beauvoir La force de l'age and L'invitée, Luigi Tenco, La nausée, Paul Klee The Magic Fish, Picasso The family, Georges de la Tour Nativity, Belle des Nuits, Henry Miller About Miracles, Le grand Meulnes, The Magic Mountain, Brassens, the cathedral at Vézelay, Les Baux, Tolstoi La sonate à Kreutzer, Chateau du Roi René in Tarascon.

[Summary in 2010]


Lumembourg, early October


I look up from a book, and suddenly, the clouds are gone and as far as I can see are fields and houses, the Continent! Europe! Green and brown fields, irregularly spaced, with clumps of houses held in place by crooked webs of roads. Hills covered with dark green evergreens and many-colored tweeds - fall colors.

We've begun to lose altitude as we cross the border from Belgium into Luxembourg - the sun is shining slantwise over the fields and the glow of the countryside is partly the sun, and partly my enormous excitement. I keep smiling hugely at the stewardess and falling from one side of the airplane to the other in an effort not to miss one village or road or field or stream. They become detailed as we drop toward them. The thrill of seeing the country from high up and then drifting down into it is overwhelming - unreal, mysterious.

Oberkirch, Saturday 23 Oct

I'm sitting crosslegged on the wall of an old chateau-fortress, eating bread and cheese with cold fingers. My sleeping bag and poncho are drying from the dew in a very feeble early-morning sun, and my feet are drying after an expedition down through the gatehouse, over the drawbridge, and around to the ivy-hung door of the outer walls - to steal a few bunches of still-green grapes for breakfast.

Yesterday morning, Friday, after an arid class and after trying with no success to squeeze a little human companionship out of Peter, I went home very sad and lost - and decided, in desperation, to bootstrap myself out of this clinging desolation, to pack my bicycle and follow the first good road I found into Germany for the weekend. So I bought a cheap bottle of red wine, and some camembert, packed the rucksack and tied it onto the back of the bicycle with bread strapped on top, and told Madame Degen "Je pars pour l'Allemagne. Je ne reviendrai que peut-être demain, peut-être dimanche, peut-être lundi. Donc, pas de petit déjeuner demain!"

"Vous n'allez pas seule?" she said with a visible effort at minding her own business. "Oui."

A narrow road out of Kehl, skirting turnip fields and half-timbered German village houses where the large trucks going by barely had room to pass me (I was carried along in the aftercurrent of those going my direction and swamped by the wake of those passing from the front). Soon, a forested hilly country with the village of Nussbach at the bottom of a slow apple-tree-planted curve. Just outside the town, a roadside crucifixion with the inscription "Aus Dankbarkeit für den glucklichen Verlauf der Ruhrepidemie im Jahr 1973 errichtet." A small church with the inside whitewashed except for a wonderful handcrafted and painted ceiling. Blue hills, sun fading in the fog, gardens with kerchiefed women and men in blue denim burying huge piles of turnips (I saw a field belonging to a convent being cultivated by two nuns and an ox), apple trees nearly bare but studded with small hard apples, a long slow descent into a wide valley filled with vineyards and a village - Oberkirch. Best of all, across the valley nearly at the summit of a steep vine-covered hill, were the ruins of an old castle. By now I was thirty kilometers from Strasbourg and it was late afternoon. So - up the hill to the castle, barefoot, sweating with the effort of dragging the heavily loaded bicycle nearly a half mile uphill, stared at by many eyes in the farmhouses beside the road, thrilled by my resolution to live in the castle for the rest of the weekend. [The castle was the fortress of Schauenberg.]

Finally the top of the hill and the memorable picture of my bicycle with the packsack and loaf of bread tied onto it leaning against the ancient stone gate hung with centuries' growth of ivy, framed by a Gothic arch built in 1170. A running exploration: two corner towers still standing five stories high but without a roof, one long narrow roofed crypt, a covered gatehouse in excellent repair with an ancient fleur-de-lis carved into the entrance doorway, an underground room with a wooden door that can still swing shut, a circle stairway carved in stone, which once let to a now-vanished room above the crypt, and a wide stone wall with narrow arrow slots built into it enclosing about as much area as half of Sexsmith High's gym.

Then supper sitting on the west wall watching the sun dissolve away in a bank of fog across the valley; bread torn into chunks, smeared with the soft camembert, with the very rough unpleasant wine ­ which nevertheless put me nearly to sleep. Bed was a pile of dried leaves in a corner of the walls. But not much sleep: the struggle to keep warm and many half-thoughts, half-dreams kept me awake through countless tollings of the Oberkirch cathedral bell. Dark massive walls all around, stars through the branches of a beech tree overhead, surely a pocket of warm air somewhere, Olivia, Joyce Detweiler, Charles, Danny, Frank, Mother I dreamed a dark young man was climbing the corner wall with a knife unsheathed in his hand, and when I had struggled with him and take then knife away from him, I saw it was Paul. And when I looked around, the castle was full of people camping out - and there was Mother: I tried to tell her what strange dreams I had been having Don, Rasheed, Father, Susie Simone de Beauvoir dry leaves creeping into the sleeping bag Peter, Janeen a cold haunch; and finally morning - even colder, and wet.

But the sun cut through the fog finally and began to pick out red tile roofs in the village and the many-colored trees on the hillside behind the castle to the east. A warm corner among the moss on the east walls, grapes for breakfast and the smoke and stirrings of the farmyard below to watch. Men going out to the vineyards with baskets on their shoulders, another man digging a pit and filling it with turnips which he covered with straw and then buried. A child ran all the way down the hill swinging a pail and calling to a dog which was already far ahead of her. Not ten minutes later, the dog came back up the hill with a bent old woman, following the exact path the child had taken down - it startled me (what Balfour Gallivan would call a "metaphysical shudder") and I was relieved when the child finally came back half an hour later, running all the way uphill as well as down.

Spent the rest of Saturday morning talking to the farmers, and the afternoon talking to German tourists and writing journal, wrapped in the sleeping bag, lying on the broad west wall in a patch of sun. Slept much better that night.

Tuesday after Toussaint, 2 novembre


Ferdinand: his bare clean room full of jazz records, his sweet vermouth, his butter bread for lunch, the old courtyard outside his windows and the clouds scuttling (Oh Frank!) across the sky above the ragged tiles. Ferdinand with the holes in his clothes, Ferdinand with his burning burning black eyes and his curling black beard, with his mouth ­ Ferdinand and 'blues' and Luigi Tenco tearing our hearts out of our bodies.

The beautiful tu of the French language: "Je veux être tres honnête à toi, tres bonne à toi. Je peux t'aimer un peu ­ pas tout à fait, mais un peu. C'est assez?" "Sincèrement, tu m'aimes?" As honest and good as a child ­ Ferdinand. "J'ai peur. J'ai peur de t'aimer trop." "Quelle sorte d'entente pouvons-nous avoir? Nous resterons toujours des étrangers?" "Tu est la? C'est toi?" "Je suis un homme, je suis pauvre, je suis un être faible. J'ai peur de te faire mal."

Tuesday night: "Et tu apporteras ta chemise?"

8 novembre, Monday

The fact that Peter finds Giroudoux's Intermezzo pointless ("I've come to the place where I think any damn fool can write about death")(and Baudelaire "a spoiled brat who thinks that he can make himself important by spending the rest of his life talking about death in terms of stink, shit, pus") makes me realize how little my judgment is cerebral - in literature as in all art, and for that matter in relationships of all sorts, my appreciation is nothing more than an expansive affection. And I'm beginning to like France and to want to understand it.

Tuesday 9 novembre


I promised last time to tell you about Frédéric Conrad. He says he is thirty seven but he looks older, with the thin sharp face and large clear eyes of my imagined Sherlock Holmes; he is very tall and thin, with long thin fingers and large bones, a high forehead (receding hairline), a ridgy nose, high cheekbones, and a very delicate mouth. His eyes are his most remarkable feature because they are very straightforward and intelligent. His personality is many contradictory things: both cunning and childlike, both tough-minded and incredibly generous.

He tells stories very well and doubtlessly he exaggerates a little, but even without exaggerations his life has been very interesting. To begin with, his ancestors were Huguenots, early French Protestants persecuted by the Catholics. His parents lived in Germany from the time shortly after his birth, however, and he speaks only German. His family was extremely poor and he left school at sixteen to go to work. Then at seventeen the war took care of his education: he was in Hitler's Luftwaffe until, when the war was nearly over, he was captured by the Canadian forces and held prisoner on an island off the coast of Germany. Among the work the prisoners had to do was the netting and dismantling of the mines which floated into the area just off the German coasts - extremely dangerous work. To supplement their diet the prisoners dug a sort of shellfish and, with 'sea roses' they cultivated and ground to a paste, made a gourmet special of the mussels baked in a shell of dough. One day, however, Frédéric decided he was fed up with risking his skin by rescuing mines, so he ate a whole lot of the mussels - caught in July, one of the months in which the shellfish spawn and are poisonous. His comrades assured him that he would be very sick but that they would call a doctor for him in time to prevent his dying. It all happened according to plan and he was transferred to a hospital in Germany proper, locked in but unguarded, taken care of by German personnel who had more sympathy for him than for his Canadian captors. As a result, as soon as he was strong enough, he escaped through the window and fled, traveling only at night and eating only the sugar beets left in the fields.

After several weeks he reached his home town and lived in hiding there until he managed to get some false papers. The war was over, the country was devastated, no one had any money and there were no jobs. He and his brother set out to seek their fortunes, first by hitchhiking about Germany and France picking up jobs wherever they could, accepting a meal as payment. Then one day they came upon a man with a truck, stalled in the road, trying to fix his engine. At that time petrol was extremely scarce and many people had converted their trucks to steam by building a wood-burning steam engine on top of the cab and stopping every once in a while to pick up fuel in a forest. After he and his brother had helped the man, the German, formerly a farmer, told them he could give them both jobs if they were willing to work for food and lodging and whatever else he could spare. They were glad for the offer, stayed on with the man, and eventually bought the truck from him. With the truck they set out again, traveling as far as the Netherlands and Austria. When they met refugees carrying all their possessions on their back or on crude sledges they transported the belongings for the refugee families, for payment in jewelry or watches or whatever the refugees could manage.

Eventually the brother married into a wealthy industrial family and now commutes to New York every week. But Frédéric's luck was running the other direction. About six years ago he met a young German girl, eighteen years old, pregnant by an American, a GI, but unmarried, full of high spirits and very pretty. He fell in love with her, paid her medical expenses, bought her a fur coat and himself an expensive car, and got himself badly in debt in the process: he managed to pay the bank by selling most of his property, but because of the many private debts he had and couldn't pay, he fled Germany for France. Not long afterwards the girl, whom he intended to marry, ran away to Germany with a boyfriend, in his car, which contained about $2000 in savings; worse, he discovered that she and the boyfriend had been using his car for a marijuana smuggling operation over the border from Germany to France. ("Den Jung hette ich irh erlaubt; ich war verliebt bis über die Ohren. Aber noch dieses ...") So there he was in Strasbourg with twenty francs in his pocket and his car and money gone. And exiled from Germany once more, not only by his debts now, but by the gossip and scandal mongerings of his old friends and his family.

At the present Frédéric is building up a business for himself, one he invented by himself and has tailored to his need for freedom and his love of travel: called Euro-Contact, it is an agency for making contacts between various countries. For instance, if a German firm needs a French-speaking agent to travel to France, Frédéric looks for the Frenchman and arranges the rendezvous, for a fee if the deal goes through. He lives in a tiny room five stories above a bake shop where he eats with the family. He renovated the room himself and so gets it very cheaply. We understand each other well - or seem to - and are mutually useful since he can take me with him when he travels about the region on business (he loves castles, woods, and the French villages and countryside as much as I do and likes to have appreciative company) and give me a good meal in a Strasbourg débit once in a while; in return, I can help him with his English correspondence. He's witty, wise, and excellent company.

Tuesday 9 novembre

I've just posted a very fat letter to you but haven't run out of words yet.

A few snippets of news:

I'm taking Spanish in night courses, with instruction given in French, learning two foreign languages at once.

Last night, coming home on my bicycle in the dark and the fog, my light stopped working and I who hardly ever see a policeman was stopped by seven. All of them reacted differently. One was hugely amused by my efforts to speak French to him and even more amused by the fact that I hadn't ducked into an alley when I saw him. "You don't avoid policemen in Canada, then?" he said, and winked, and told me I should walk my bicycle until I was out of sight. "And if you turn the next corner, you'll be out of sight sooner," he added as I walked away. The policeman nearer to Neuhof wasn't quite so young or quite so French - he had a very German accent and a very earnest manner. He didn't know what to do with me so he kept looking at my identity cards with his flashlight and saying "Hm, canadienne, hmm." Then he took me to two other police, thrust my cards at me after looking at them once more, and left me with them. Then they demanded my cards, asked me how old I was, and told me to walk the rest of the way home. (I walked to the next corner.)

I find that if I take two old tea bags, saved from some afternoon's tea-date, and boil them violently in a small saucepan, the room is filled with a wonderful smell of roast chicken.

Saturday 13 novembre

With your letter was the one I've been waiting for three weeks now, the answer to my Canada Student Loans application. - But before I destroy your suspense I'll tell you another story. I have three centimes left - three fifths of one cent. I'm out of meal tickets. My rent is due on Tuesday, 120 francs. To mail this letter I need 65 centimes. It's begun to snow today and I haven't any boots. My green stockings are falling apart. At the end of the month I'll owe 30 francs more for breakfasts. I haven't bought any books yet, and haven't even an exercise book to make notes in. - And my letter from Mr Passey of the Canada Student Loans Plan says "Dear Miss Epp: From the information provided you are not a resident of Ontario. You should therefore apply to the appropriate authority in your own Province, which is ..."

It is Saturday afternoon and I've just done all my laundry in the bath water and am drying it on top of the oil stove. As soon as I smell the scorching I know it's dry and take it off; better than an automatic dryer with a buzzer and just as fast. And I've discovered a way to take showers for free whenever I like to. If I sneak up the back stairs of Gallia, the woman's residence here, I can take a shower in their shower rooms and sneak back out in peace.

I must finish telling you about Ferdinand. He's astonishingly poor: his room costs him 50 francs plus heating and electricity, per month. That is about ten dollars, or a few cents more. He eats at student restaurants at 26¢ per meal or buys a bit of bread and coffee for other meals - butter is for the real occasions when I come to see him on a Sunday afternoon and we feast on a 10¢ package of soup I've brought, with bread and butter and a little sweet vermouth from a bottle he's hoarded for a month. [Cinzano Rosso] We both enjoy these feasts enormously - we 'relish' them. Sometimes we even have a candle stub!

His room, in spite of its meagerness and cheapness, is quite large and he keeps it very clean. He got it cheaply because when he came it was uninhabitable. But he papered it and scrubbed it and furnished it with various sizes of boxes, and now it's very nice. His one luxury, and really his only luxury, is his record player (connected to an old cheap radio for stereo effect) and his collection of jazz and blues records. The covers of all his records are tacked up on the walls together with clippings of Dr Schweitzer, of photographs he likes, one or two cartoons and postcards - like me, he creates a sort of exposition of his life on his walls.

He has very few clothes - I've seen about two sets - and they are in a very motley state because the French laundromats tear holes in them. He patches all of them, no matter what color, with thick white thread. In spite of - or because of, in his case it's possible - all this poverty, he is a wonderfully joyous person. He dances to his records, has a tiny glass of cognac on Sundays, makes enough money in the garage where he works to pay his rent and have three meals a day, works until midnight every day on his beloved mathematics, puts two lumps of sugar into his coffee, argues African politics with swarms of friends (I keep meeting new ones - he calls them all, not amis, but frères), laughs at me when I stare into pastry shop windows, is offended when I refuse to borrow meal tickets from him.

It's snowing today, mushy big flakes that fall in sticky piles on the evergreen branches, outside my north window. It's beautiful but I'm glad it won't stay long.

Friday, 26 novembre


Ennuie: I have never suffered from ennuie as much as I do this year, in France: I am ashamed more than disappointed, and I cannot admit it to anyone, but I am tired of being here. I dislike the cold and wet, the continual lack of money, the half-friendships, the bad, unhealthy food, the lack of purpose in myself, the isolation of Neuhof, the inability to live as I live naturally, in a room which is me, eating what I like, dressing as I like rather than revoltingly and humiliating according to necessity, the Americans I know, the inability to live Strasbourg and explore Strasbourg, the financial disappointments, the inability to go anywhere or even to afford concert tickets, my appearance, the lack of hot water to bathe and the inability to dry clean my clothes, my peculiar disturbing health - all of these are petty trivialities, material mostly, that make me feel ugly and lumpy and charmless. My morale is usually very low except for bursts of joy that do still appear. How can I change this year to something memorable? Without money? When it is too cold to travel? If only my money would come! It may never come: I haven't found a job yet.

Monday, November 29


Mr Passey of the Canada Federal Loans has just written again to inform me that I am so a resident of Alberta because the $200 I marked down as from my parents makes me officially a dependent and therefore - now I have to write to Alberta for application forms, I have to fill them out, send them to you to sign, send them back to Alberta, wait for a reply. But I'm seeing about a job as femme de chambre in Strasbourg's biggest hotel this afternoon.

December 2


Hôtel Sofitel: "Tiens, nouveau!" from a passing garçon in the corridor (cap and apron!).

The dark, blue streets of 7:30 this morning, with massive clouds moving quickly: cathedral tower, a concentrated sun in one small spot between clouds, steep tiled roofs in succession to the cathedral. Madame Matter, with her fat face become thin and flabby, her small child's eyes and mouth, her vast chest and dwindling hips, her word and laugh for everyone, her tears and her childish way of wiping them away with her elbow, when she spoke of Charles (who died of poisoning from eating Wurst: the dog died eight days later: Mitchell says this is funny even if it does happen to people), "Pour moi, on m'a demandé trois fois si je vais me marier, mais je ne peux pas, je ne peux vraiment pas, j'ai trop aimé mon mari. Il etait bel, cet homme, o la la!" Her joy, her philosophy, her religion, is his grave and his memory: vases, flowers, statues (le bon Dieu avec les moutons, c'est tres joli"), trucs, visits to the cemetery at six a.m., "Dors bien, Charles."

[aergramme continues]

I am working eight hours a day six days a week in the Sofitel, wearing a blue uniform and a little white cap and apron. When the guests get up in the morning I grin obsequiously and say "Bonjour, Monsieur," in my sunniest tone. Where the hallway is narrow I say "Pardon, Monsieur" (for existing in the same atmosphere my lord). I'm careful to put the ashtray at the angle calculated to make the guest read "Sofitel" on it at first glance. I know that the foot end of the bed must be tucked in first, I believe it with all my heart, although I can't understand why. In short I'm a dedicated chamber maid. I have to speak French all day (but my accent is going to decay because hardly anyone at the hotel speaks French French: Darinka who works with me speaks pigeon Yugoslav French; Jean-Jacques the chef's boy speaks Swiss French; the Algerian patissier who told me I had eyes like stars speaks Algerian French; one of the garçons speaks Austrian French - and as for the guests, they're Russian, German, English, Greek ).

I can shower every day, I get breakfast free, fifth floor has a view of the cathedral at sunrise when we do the first room at 8 a.m., the croissants that guests leave on their breakfast trays are delicious. I'm planning to work a month or so if they keep me, and if I haven't a loan by then or if I give up trying to get one, I'll go to another city or another country and get a job there.

I began work yesterday morning: Mademoiselle Jacqueline, who is the Gouvernante in charge of all domestic personnel, is a very girlish and very sympathetic thirty - looks twenty: it was she who got me the job and it was she who handed me over very gently to Madame Matter yesterday morning. Madame Matter is the fairy godmother of the hotel, half fairy (bottom half) and half mother (top half): the reason for the line of demarcation is that Madame Matter was quite stout not long ago but has lost thirty nine pounds. Peculiarly she lost it all from her hips and abdomen. She's fifty two (she asked me to guess, so I guessed and subtracted ten, and said fifty two, and I was right). Madame Matter is full of jokes and joviality: every morning she says hello to every one of the personnel both in the basement among the pastry shops and kitchens and on the five floors. Every evening she kisses the older cleaning women on both cheeks and shakes hands with everyone else. She is the "première femme de chambre," first lady of the chamber maids, both by self election and by the fact that she was the first to arrive when the hotel was opened. When she meets a guest in the hall she is full of good will and solicitude: Did you sleep well sir? How are you this morning sir? I'm afraid it's going to rain sir.

Often she refers to herself not as "moi" but in the third person, as "Madame Matter." When she forgets something and has to go back for it, it's "Imbécile, Madame Matter" and when she is explaining why she is so careful to get the last sniff of dust from under the bed, she says "I get so anxious, what if I should get sick and another chamber lady should come and find some dust? Madame Matter, Première Femme de Chambre."

The one thing in her life which is more important than her Hotel Sofitel is her husband Charles. "You see these two rings? You know what it means? It means my husband is dead, yes." Later in the afternoon we were vacuuming and a petite panne d'électricité gave us a break she showed me her wallet full of photographs of Charles and of her German shepherd dog.

I'm a very happy chambermaid (this is Sunday). Who'd have thought I would enjoy making beds and scrubbing bathrooms 48 hours a week? I do. I love the perfectionism of the Hotel Sofitel, I like the broken French camaraderie of the personnel. I like the play acting, I like the physical work. Today was especially good because there's little work on Sunday. First of all I get up at the cracka, or slightly before, and ride to work while the sky turns pink. There's Jean-Jacques all smiling in the staff dining room. When I arrive he gives me a large bowl of café au lait and I help myself to bread and jam while other staff arrives and says bonjour or "gouda Morgja" which is Alsacian. The room is small and bare with a television on a high shelf, four small tables, and auditorium-like wood and steel chairs. The Alsacians all tear their bread to bits and put it into their bowls of coffee and slurp it up, but I don't like soggy bread! So I put lots of butter on it and luxuriate - the crusts are very thick and very hard. Our bread arrives in loaves about 3 feet long and we chop off several chunks for ourselves with the chopping knife. The funny little janitor with a floor-length apron tied around his middle says "Good morning, good morning. Iss very fine day, very fine." He was once in Montreal for a winter and so is proud of his "very fine" English. However, "good morning" and "very fine" are the limits of it, the outer limits. Usually some of the garcons are eating breakfast at the same time and have something witty to say. Madame Matter (not Marterre, after all) arrives and is hailed by everyone. She's the hotel's queen. After she has said her round of hellos she comes over to me, shakes my hand, and says "Hello Nelly" - or sometimes "Hello Lilly," "- Ca va?"

Then we climb the stairs to the next floor and say hello to the gouvernante, Madamoiselle Jacqueline. Then the elevator to cinquième. Uniforms - wish you could see me in my uniform: blue short sleeved dress, large white apron, white cotton caplet; pockets bulging full of sugar packets rescued from breakfast trays, and scrap paper from waste baskets, and huge bunches of keys. It is not at all unbecoming, worn with a high chignon (and in my case the four pairs of stockings I wear for driving to work!) and, on Sundays, earrings! Sundays are slow days because most businessmen go home for the weekend, so we remind each other, "doucement," "langsam." The other femme de chambre on the cinquième étage is Darinka, a Yugoslav who speaks very little French but has invented a jargon composed of several French and Alsacian nouns and several verbs which she knows in only one person and one tense. From her, we've picked up the world "polarko" is Yugoslav for "Take it easy," the phrase I taught her in exchange. Polarko, doucement, langsam, Takiteasy all mean "If we want to have something to do until quitting time, turn on the radio and rest a while." This Sunday the radios which are built into all the rooms were broadcasting opera: we were can-canning in our stockinged feet. The early morning views over the Strasbourg rooftops toward the cathedral and over the courtyard of Saint-Pierre-le-Jeune.

Our clients are often interesting - the Greek ambassador to the Council of Europe whose 'seat' is in Strasbourg, a little Englishwoman who translates for the Council, a funny Englishman, crazy I think, with a flowing moustache and a wine-colored striped jacket who after he left sent me a postcard from Paris. A journalist, honeymooners, a raucous American woman from Ohio, a dear little Irishman who said "Good morrrning, Ellie," to me every morning of his stay, Germans, Italians, Scandinaves, Chinese. I snoop, naturally.

At eleven o'clock we go downstairs for lunch in the staff dining room - I gulp it, and run back upstairs for the rest of my noon hour to read and write for a little while. In the afternoon we've usually finished early so we work slowly and sit for a while in the bathroom and gossip. Darinka tells me her life story in patois. Or else Madame Matter tells me of her and Alsace's war experiences, her romance with her husband. Or she gossips. She likes me very much for some reason and I adore her: every evening she kisses me goodbye, one on each cheek in the French manner.

Five o'clock comes eventually, after we've had our showers and washed a few clothes and read the magazines we've confiscated. Many goodbyes to people hanging around the service door - "Salut Jean-Jacques, à demain!" Then the bicycle ride home or a ride over to the university to have dinner with Peter or Richard or a group of students who happens along. And time for a little De Beauvoir before bed .... Next morning, the alarm clock early, ouch!

Sunday night, December 5


The world becomes more strange. I long for wisdom and I long to know what to do with my love of it, and I long to know what to do with my love of its people. I long to know how to speak to people that I love, I long to be able to take them with me to a rock where we can overlook the world and speak real speech.

Le 19 décembre, Sunday night


Christmas in Strasbourg: the old streets are hung with white lights; all the squares have Christmas trees; Place Kleber, downtown, broadcasts Christmas carols by loudspeaker; the Cathedral is just as it always is, but needs no decoration for Christmas because its dim long nave and its candles always remind me of Christmas; all of the long-familiar shop windows along the route to Neuhof are transformed and in one of the small squares near the chestnut seller boy's place, an old man in a long muffler is selling sapins de noël, Christmas trees; Place Broglie is like a fairground and I love to promenade between its rows of stalls. The place is a long square with the high-pillared Opéra at one end and imposing municipal buildings flanking its two long sides. In the square, an avenue of booths has been set up, surrounded by silvered Christmas trees, and at the end of the square just under the opera house, a dozen tree-sellers have set up a forest of evergreens with inspection paths running through it. In the stalls, ropes of tree-decorations swing and glitter with the wind and piles of candy lie in paper cones under alluring signs advertising the candy-coated hazelnuts and the halvah. One stall is a gaufre stall: rows of steaming irons bake waffles while the custom waits. In another stall a man in shirtsleeves and a white apron stands twisting cotton candy very gravely onto a stick while his wife stands beside him, hands folded proudly over her abdomen, and crowds of children watch. Carols come thinly from Place Kleber; the cheap toys and swinging bundles of mistletoe and holly reflect colors among the candy and the boxes of geometrical ornaments; there is a whiff of evergreen with the steam from the waffle irons.

Michèle is my French girlfriend. We met one day in the restaurant across the street from the hotel, where Jean-Jacques [the patissier's boy] and I go every evening after work for a coffee. The tables were all full, so we sat down next to an Algerian-looking boy and a long haired girl with large eyes and little pointed face who sat with their chins in their hands not saying anything. They listened to our conversation for a while and then the girl couldn't contain herself and joined it: we began talking about going barefoot. When Michèle said, in French, "I go barefoot all summer. If I could I'd go naked too," I knew I liked her, and when I told her I was studying child psychology, she knew she liked me, and that was the beginning of my first friendship with a French girl. On Friday night we made a rendezvous at the same restaurant and walked arm in arm through Place Broglie (brilliant after rain) eating chocolate bar sandwiches and candied hazelnuts out of a cone and catching up on talk. She's invited me to her place to stay for New Year's Day, which I have off.

Last Wednesday the first time I had money for a very long time. Did I pay the rent first? Did I pay off my debt to Peter first? Did I buy a pair of shoes first? Nope I bought four paperback books and a bottle of Tosca perfume and a pair of lace stockings, and I spent nearly a dollar in a classy patisserie.

So many other things: a Bach concert in an old, dim, church; coffee in little restaurants; French movies; a "petit verre de vin blanc" in the old quarter of Strasbourg; discussions, visits, walks at night; the beautiful morning rides to work before the stars disappear; window shopping at pastry and lingerie shop windows; books and music; a growing knowledge of the real, non-academic, working France; and Christmas almost here.

Jour de repos - mercredi le 22 décembre


Simone de Beauvoir - "une journee blanche" - "meme sa curiosite manquait aujourd'hui."

29 decembre, mercredi jour de repos

Saint Paul's on a hazy day in which the sun seems to be misted onto objects rather than to have come through the haze: contrast of blue shadow and pink brown stone, seen through the fine, trailing branches of a leafless tree.

Is what I've called dépaysment what Sartre calls la nausée? "Les mots étaient évanouis, et, avec eux, la signification des choses, leurs modes d'emploi, les faibles repères que les hommes ont tracés a leur surfaces. J'étais assis seule en face de cette masse noire et noueuse, extièrement brute et qui me faisait peur." My reaction is different: fear sometimes (this summer, fear of a word in my Spanish text) but usually more a lightheadedness, a wonder, a euphoria.

"Faces stop showing what they crave / In my attempt to see"

Mr Volk, Bill Volk, engineer, twenty and fifty two, sophisticated and pure in heart (his jokes with waiters, his happiness and his desire for goodness) - his young, young blue eyes, grey-brown stiff beard, body becoming flabby at the centre - his smacking goodnight kiss, his longing to dance up stairways after seeing a ballet! He doesn't become embarrassed by himself, he doesn't request posturings from me, he's a representative middle-aged professional American, cultured, democratic, informal, full of the love of good and beautiful things but without snobbery and without oneupsmanship.

"Good is the conscious enjoyment of beauty" - George Moore quoted by Mr Volk. "Death doesn't exist. Being dead isn't being."


Snowfall in Strasbourg.

After I came in from the ballet with Bill Volk, I was lying in bed 'thinking' and half asleep when a knock on the door jarred me and I fumbled the door open to find - Peter. [He'd lent me his hotel room centre ville while he went to Spain for the holidays.] We opened his packages, read his mail, cut an end off the Christmas cake from his mother, drank beer from a glass and then lay together on his bed, under the eiderdown, and talked in the dark until I fell asleep. It was sweet to have him there, looking so shaggy with his hair long, so tired and so warm with his arm around me all night. In the morning I dressed in the washroom and found my things without turning on the light, said "Dors bien, je te laisse," to a hand rather than a face.


On Friday night I met Michèle outside of the hotel, we went across the street to the Restaurant de la Bourse and ordered a martini, and then I ran out to find Mitchell and Rick. By the end of the evening I was furious and desolate because Mitchell was so unfriendly ("tired") and Michèle so charming.

I waited forty minutes for the bus. I hated Mitchell sourly, I tramped and limped all over the bus stop island, and there on the service station next door was the large blue trade name in neon lights, with the top letter shot out: HELL. I was cheered up by it.

But I got up as miserable as I'd gone to bed. In the bus I looked around dully and thought how everyone was sealed in plastic capsules that they couldn't see through. Sneaked to Place Kléber instead of the earlier stop which was all I could afford by squashing myself between a group of tall Alsacians going to work. In the bathroom of 524, burst into tears because I felt deformed and ugly, cried all morning, wallowing in admitted weakness ("Mais tu as toujours du courage" says Madame Matter, but I'm weak - no I'm not. I show weakness in order to prove that I do not live by even my own laws, to prove strength. It's an argument.)

It was a good move because it brought Madame Matter to tell me the sad stories of Jacqueline (who is so lovely and no longer trusts men) and Mademoiselle Ziechelmeyer ("Elle n'a plus rien la-dedans" with a gesture of sweeping all of the contents of her abdomen into a basket on the floor) and then to cry herself when she told me about her romance with her husband and about her 'boyhood' as a little devil. We were sitting across a table from each other as I ate the dinner she'd brought for me. She said suddenly, "Quand j'avais ton age à toi, j'étais un jour assis juste comme toi, en face d'une dame qui s'appellait Matilde, et elle a pleuré en me racontant son histoire et je m'ai demandé si une fois ça m'arriverait et voilà. Un jour, si tu te souviens et si ça arrive aussi à toi, te peux penser à moi. Elle doit être morte, ce Matilde."

Wednesday, 22 décembre


Peter was leaving for Italy so I stopped in to see him late one rainy evening after work - there he was, a bit pink-faced after having drunk the whole bottle of champagne some friend gave him for Christmas by himself, writing a letter, a bit lonesome but his usual loveable self - he greeted me with a hug and a glass of quetch and we had a good long visit in which he said that since he was not going to be home for some weeks, and since he had paid the rent anyway, he might as well let me have his room until he got back - it's close to the hotel where I work and would save me many rainy half hours riding in the morning. Consequently I've been living in his very pleasant room next to the most beautiful church in Strasbourg since the next morning! With his radio! (One evening I was listening to the Messiah and The Magic Flute at the same time - both because I couldn't bear to miss either and because the radio kept drifting from one station to the other.)

December 24th, Christmas Eve

During the day Jean-Jacques confided that he was not going to go home for Christmas at all because his parents are indifferent to him and he prefers the streets to them on Christmas Eve. (Madame Matter later confirmed what he had said.) He was so wistful that I immediately invited him to spend Christmas Eve with me. After he'd finished work, he arrived chez moi with a wooden checker board and two bottles of mousseux (a bubbly sweet ginger-ale-like wine) under his arm. We poured the mousseux into my toothbrush glasses and he beat me in checkers because the rules are different in France - a king can move great leaps in all directions. When it was time to go back into the rain for the Midnight Mass at the cathedral, we discovered that the courtyard gate was closed and locked - so with great relief we went back into the warmth. We had lit all the candles Madame Matter had given me for my Christmas 'tree.' I had picked up a branch of evergreen in the Place Broglie one night and put it into a chianti bottle: it is still trailing tinsel on the table, with its one silver ball and its sprig of mistletoe at the crown. We opened the windows and looked at Strasbourg's early a.m. with its light reflected in irregular squares by the wet cobbles of the courtyard, the fresh sky moving rapidly, the shining roofs, the cool air blowing into the room. We went to sleep (I chastely in bluejeans and J-J chastely in a chair [actually we lay side by side in our clothes] with a blanket and pillow I'd given him) listening to the rain, feeling very close and sentimental and both very happy with our funny Christmas. The first thing Jean-Jacques said when the alarm woke us to go to work at 6 a.m. was "C'est la premiere Noël que j'ai dormi. Je suis merveilleusement heureux." Me too. When we walked to work the streets were empty except for a little man waiting for a bus, Saint Paul's was dim, the river Ile was flowing rapidly and unevenly between the quais, the old old church of Saint-Pierre-le-Jeune hulked in shadows behind the garish orange lights of the Sofitel marquee, the air was fresh and we walked quickly.

Christmas morning: there is little work. Darinka and I sit listening to the radio or lean our elbows out the window as the wind blows the sound of the city's bells across the rooftops to us in gusts. Dinner is a marvel today. The cook served up his turkeys with élan: seizing them by both feet like a baby about to be powdered, he hacked them in half with his cleaver. Hack: both legs are off. Hack: the drumsticks are brutally chopped in two. Six hacks and the breast is in slices. With the turkey we have roasted potatoes and stewed chestnuts, and frozen oranges stuffed with sherbet. (In the evening there is the bûche or 'log,' a rolled cake full of whipped cream.) Then there is red wine and the men get cigars - Jean-Jacques has 30 in all because the chambermaids give him theirs. At the other tables the chambermaids are in an uproar: Georgette is roaring out Christmas carols, old Marie is smirking, and Sorka is dancing with her stockings rolled down below her knees. Afterwards Sorka explains. Her face is still flushed and she looks at it anxiously in the mirror of the room I'm vacuuming. Her stockings are still rolled below her thick knees, her strawy hair is standing up in back-combed wisps. She jiggles as she tells me in pigeon German-Yugoslavian-French, "Nichts essen heute Morgen, spät, nichts essen. Zehn Uhr, Flasche Vermouth. Gros' Glass, alle femmes de chambre, Badezimmer, trinken gros' Glass. Moi nichts essen." She hops on one foot and slaps the other, then slaps her head to demonstrate, "Oh viel' schwer' Füsse, schwer' Knopf."

January 2

I've come upon an unexpected sugar-daddy. Mr Volk of Princeton New Jersey. The Volks were clients on fifth floor for two months before Christmas: Madame Matter adopted them long ago, gave them other people's flowers, washed their socks, brought them cookies, changed their linen oftener than the other clients', and kissed them goodbye when they went home for Christmas. Now Mr Volk - a research engineer working for a French plant here, at home a lecturer and the author of a university textbook in maths - is back alone for several months more, and since I'm nearly the only person he knows in Strasbourg who speaks English (and his French is dreadful) he invited me out to dinner. So we went to the Coq d'Alsace, a beautiful little restaurant full of polished wood and dried flowers, with gleaming white tablecloths and wine goblets, and handsome waiters in white jackets and bow ties ... a 'martini' to begin with, sweet orange-colored wine with a floating strip of lemon peel. Then consommé, clear tea-coloured soup with a sharp onion flavour, served in a thick bowl which was served on a plate which was served on a slightly bigger plate which was served on a slightly bigger plate ... then the entrée, a sort of appetizer: Mr Volk had a blue trout (really blue and very pretty) served whole with head and tail intact and half a lemon for color contrast; and I had a dozen escargots: snails. They were served to me in their well-scrubbed shells, each one rocking in a slight indentation in their silver platter. The waiter gave me a tiny two-pronged fork and a walnut-cracker (or maybe it was a surgical forceps of some kind?): eh bien, now what? Eating snails is a complete ceremony: you take your large silver soupspoon and lean it across your plate. Then you pick up a snail shell with the forceps and put it gently into the bowl of the spoon (no, you don't crack it). With the little fork you poke around in the entrance of the shell and pull out the snail, very small and grey and chicken-liver-like. Then you pick up the shell with the forceps and tip the juice over the snail: the juice is green and salty and looks like swamp water. Then you eat the snail: he's good: and you drink the juice: it's even better. ...

Then the poussin which we had ordered without knowing what it was. The waiter brought a covered platter to the table, and before our eyes pulled out two very small chickens roasted golden brown with their feet still attached and squeezed into claws: the waiter chopped the legs off deftly at the knee, then cut the chicks in half along the middle of the breast bone, and gave us a chick each. Good! Halfway through the meal a funny little woman came along and swept our pile of bones onto a little saucer, then disappeared again without a word. Two minutes later a waiter appeared with two shallow silver bowls, each of which had a slice of lemon floating in lukewarm water. "What's that for?" I asked Mr Volk in all naivete. "Fingerbowl." And then he went on, "There were these two middle-aged Jewish New Yorkers who decided to go out to dinner one night. At the end of the dinner, the waiter brings these bowls of water with the slice of lemon. 'What's that for,' says one of them. 'I dunno.' 'Do you drink it?' 'I dunno.' 'Ask the waiter.' So he asks the waiter, and the waiter says 'It's to wash your hands in.' 'See,' says the first guy, 'you ask a stoopid question, you get a stoopid answer.'"

... After the poussin, cheese with bread. Then dessert, glace: Mr Volk had an orange frozen and stuffed with orange sherbet, and I had a lemon. During all this, the waiter had been solicitously refilling our goblets with riesling, the most famous white wine of Alsace.

For the classic ending of a classic French gourmet meal, tiny cups of bitter black coffee.

It is amusing to think that the cost of this one meal was nearly half my weekly wage: I live very oddly on these two financial levels, working for a low labouring class wage and going out from time to time on a high high-class splurge. And since I've had Peter's room for the holidays, I've spent my days playing femme de chambre and then come home to a room that's been polished and a bed that's been made by my femme de chambre!

January 4, Tuesday

Tonight Darinka invited me for supper (the writing is queer because my hands are cold): Darinka is the Yugoslavian girl who works with me and Madame Matter, twenty-eight, small-boned, pretty with her black eyes and the bushy knob of a bun on the top of her head. She speaks very little French and only three or four words of German and so when I began a month ago she spoke to me hardly at all but just stared out of her round eyes and went on with her bed making. But during the Christmas holidays when M.M. was away for ten days, Darinka and I spent our abundant free time sitting in some bathroom we were cleaning, telling stories. She told me about her family at home in Yugoslavia: she quit school to help on the farm at the age of eleven, and worked as a baby-sitter in someone else's home from that time on. Two years ago she escaped illegally into Switzerland, I think, and after staying there with Yugoslavian friends for about a year Hamide (an Albanian Muslim) asked her to marry him and go to France. When she arrived in Strasbourg she was put into jail for several months, but in the meantime, Hamide, also a political refugee, and other Yugoslavian friends were arranging for her papers to be taken care of, and now she's been working at the Sofitel for nine months. All of her adventures in prison and crossing borders illegally were recounted in animated pigeon French. If I speak normal French she doesn't understand me so I've learned her pigeon and we rattle along at great speed and enthusiasm. I enjoy these conversations, no matter how trivial the subject, because they are a game requiring enormous inventiveness both in expression and understanding.

Anyway, Darinka led me into her room on the second floor of an old house, where she and "moi Monsieur" live with one bed, one dresser, a table, one wooden chair and one striped canvas deck chair, a radio and a record player - Darinka set about making meatballs and macaroni and soup in the kitchen. Since it was cold before the heater had properly started to burn, Darinka poured us both a little glass of schnapps to warm us up and cure her toothache (she and her monsieur have a glass of schnapps first thing in the morning to cure any ailments that might arrive during the day). Then she poured us another. Then her monsieur arrived from his job at the Kronenbourg Beer factory, still dressed in his bright blue overalls and red shirt. Hamide is forty-four, small and thin, with a large head and black eyes. His face is full of wrinkles and the top of his head is bald, he looks like a friendly dwarf from Snow White because his face is so warm and good. He and Darinka have a warm and affectionate relationship in which he is definitely boss, but a kindly considerate boss. We had a hilarious meal, all three talking pigeon, discussing Albania and gypsies and Yugoslavia, teasing one another, telling stories, grinning over our Kronenbourg beers through the haze of Hamide's American cigarettes. When I left they stuffed my purse with Kronenbourg beer bottles, bonbons, oranges and dates until it wouldn't close any more. Hamide shook my hand and said very seriously that I should come back anytime, that he'd lived alone for eighteen years and that he knew the situation, that I should consider them my family, and would I come tomorrow night? It was one of the pleasantest evenings I've ever spent in France.

- The French have a habit of wishing Happy New Year by kissing everyone once on each cheek. Though it's past New Years I still meet people I haven't wished New Year's happiness to, and the kissing begins again.

13 January

His face is so beautiful and when it is relaxed it has a slightly sad look, with his soft, long, well-defined mouth, his Hamlet beard, his blue eyes lost and grey. When he smiles his face shines. (Blessed are the pure in heart.) His hair is grey, and it musses over his forehead in a shock, a very crisp cowlick.

24 January

A martini and two pieces of pastry with a large, fat, British MP called Mr Richard who gobbles and hums, and spreads his legs wide when he sits, and loves the Welsh (he's Welsh) because "they're Dylan Thomases, all of them, great eaters and drinkers and letchers, and all with such a sense of sin."


Tuesday again, and I am sad and raw again, and happy because of Bill Volk. I am sad because of a deception of Madame Matter, raw because of my confused love of Darinka and her, because of the way Jean-Jacques stood shivering outside the hotel waiting to tell me that he knew I'm in trouble, "C'est grave, regard comme je tremble pour toi." "Tu rigoles, Jean-Jacques?" "Je ne rigole pas, c'est grave."

I am so confused, perhaps it is from the wine we drank with dinner, perhaps because I realize that so many things are ending here in Strasbourg, I think of Jean-Jacques with his hair so long, in his white tunic looking so young and beautiful, like a Da Vinci angel with soft eyes and a delicate, delicate face, shivering, his hands in his pockets as far as they could go, his face turned sideways toward me. Raw because I feel again the overwhelming largeness of the world, where I find books, pictures, faces that overwhelm me by their beauty and vitality, where I can run up the hotel corridors with the laundry cart because I am bursting with fierce energy and then drag through the hallways sad because I should not have trusted someone.


When I leave for Italy with Mitchell on Tuesday I'll take along the bottle of B&B from Bill Volk and we'll drink it as a toast to the giver. I come home every evening happy because he's so beautiful, because he talks to me and I talk to him - because he is excited to find me and I am equally excited to find him. ("Do you know the story of Van Gogh cutting his ear off and giving it to a prostitute? They said he was mad of course, but for the first time I thought I understood it today. He was poor, his pictures weren't worth anything she wanted, but he wanted to give her something of himself so he cut off his ear" in his quizzical, humorous New York accent, "I'm incoherent, but it's like our situation. You won't let me buy you a sweater but I want to give you something." We were sitting side by side, very close, at the draughty corner table in an old Elsasser restaurant where first three old men ("original clientele") and then a blond young woman who looked like Catherine Hepburn sat across from us and smiled and nodded. All of the tables were occupied by groups of family and friends who sat talking and joking over their wine, or playing cards - and there was a kind of curiosity and warmth shared by people in neighbouring tables.

[journal Strasbourg-Rome]

Rome, February

An hour later, perhaps, a truck stopped. The two drivers changed places; a young man with a tight dark face was in the driver's seat, Mitchell had the other seat, I was in the narrow leather sleeping bench with my back pressed against the body of the truck, and the older man sat on the engine. We started off in the hill twisted countryside, Toscana I think, where trees seem not to lose their leaves but only to turn a rusty color among the evergreens. The farmhouses are older, they're made of rock and seem built into the rocky hillsides as a kind of eruption: they have none of the solid geometrical separateness of the Lombardy farmhouses from their plains and the rows of trees that surround them.

I had little time to reflect on this because the older truck driver was playing footsies with his elbow along my abdomen ­ I thought at first it was the jolting of the truck but it became more and more definite. After he took out his handkerchief and blew his nose industriously he put it back into his side pocket, but his hand wandered between my knees and I clamped them together hard, squashing him I hope. My back was freezing because the window was grande ouverte in order to allow the driver to spit out. The other man now began to stroke the side of my face: I tried ignoring him, I'd frown slightly to indicate my unwillingness, finally I said "Mitchell would you turn around and say something to me once in a while?" "Why, are you falling asleep?" "I'm having trouble fighting him off. And I'm having a hell of a time keeping from laughing, I'm biting the inside of my mouth." After that, no trouble from the older man, who sulked at me whenever I dared to look at him. I was half asleep when they turned off and stopped. Mitchell turned around and barked at me, "Do you want to get off here or go to the entrance, hurry and decide." Stunned. His conversation in Italian became confused. The driver began to speak in French. Mitchell was confused too. "Are you going to Rome? Marvelous! You're not? You want to be paid? We have nothing to give you." "No, no, don't want to be paid." The two Italians had an argument in which the driver repeated several times "protegere" or something similar. I said "Tell them we'll get off here." Mitchell said, "No, no, I don't understand," and to them, "What do you want?" The driver, apologetically, "La donna." "Well, no the donna. You won't reconsider?" The two men had an impassioned discussion of which I understood only that the young driver, who seemed on our side, said "Shut up, you fool, he understands Italian" to the older man. But by then we'd gathered our junk and bolted up the highway, where we were picked up just as a policeman had turned his motorcycle to chase us off.



Remember the sun on the Spanish Steps! I sat on the wide stone balustrade high over the steps, while three gypsies in long floating skirts flirted and begged from the tourists, played with their baby brothers, sang, drummed. The women going up and down the steps were often beautiful. (My bluejeans, my boots seem a liberation from all forms of social constraint. I can eat bread from a paper bag, lie flat on my back in the sun like the Italian boys, whistle, put my hands in my pockets - yet I know that my face is pretty and my neck is very feminine. I'm content.)

16 February


Rome delights me. I've decided to stay for a month, until the 10th of March when my rent runs out, and not work until I get to Athens. Financially this is even a feasible project because it is possible to live extremely cheaply.I notice a sign, "Affitisi Camera" - room for rent - and think, "Nothing is lost in looking, I need a room, the neighbourhood looks cheap enough," so I ring the doorbell of an apartment on first floor. The bell grates somewhere inside. The window beside the door, an almost blind window looking out into the dim hallways, is opened. An apparition looks out at me from a completely dark room. I can make out an old woman with grey hair straggling around her face. She seems to be wearing a nightgown, then a slip, then an apron, then a shawl. She says "What do you want, Signorina?" I say "Cero una camera." She backs up in the darkness and turns on a dim light. "This is the room" she says.

It is about 6' by 9', with a bed, a dresser and a wrought iron washstand. There is no other window. What I can make out doesn't look very clean. "How much?" "Come in, venga, Signorina," she says, and I follow her into a dim hallway - no light - full of stacked anonymous packages covered with newspaper. Somehow she finds the door of another room. This one has a window and more newspaper-covered piles. "10,000 lire" she says. That's cheap enough, but it's a horrible room, I'll see if I can bargain her down. There's no budging her. She tells me about her dead husband, her feeble-witted daughter (whom I see sitting like a bloated statue in an armchair), the taxes to be paid tomorrow. I tell her my story (all in Italian). Still she won't budge. She says "You take it, then?" I say, "How much, 9,000?" She says "10,000." I say "9500." She, "10,000, why quibble about 500 lire?" I say, "9000. Why quibble about 500 lire?" She says, "10,000. You take it, then?" I, "Okay," with a long pained sigh for her benefit. Ten thousand is cheap enough and maybe she does need that thousand. She must be about ninety and her daughter is a mound of vegetable matter. Okay, Signora. As I leave, promising to move in tomorrow, she calls after me "Venga, Signorina, be sure to come back! Venga, venga!" And all the way down the stairs I call back "Si! Si!"

When I arrive next morning she's half-promised the room to somebody else but since the ten thousand was burning a hole in my hand, she said "Well, too bad for that other one, it's yours." Relations with the Signora that day were quite sweet. They have not been so sweet since - see the story of the Lampidina Battle later in this letter - and she no longer calls me cara, "dear".

So I'm living at 238 via San Giovanni in Laterano. The kitchen, where I wash in cold water, is without doubt the foulest, smelliest, dankest room I have ever seen or smelled or felt crawling over my skin. More piles of newspaper-covered bundles. A floor of paving stones, filthy especially in the corners and between the cracks. One feeble light bulb on the high ceiling. No windows, but a set of narrow wooden doors leading to a balcony onto which a small gabinetto, toilet closet, has been tacked among more strange dirty bundles and a washline, all this above the square courtyard where fifty other balconies display each family's spare junk.

Back to the kitchen - piles of pots and pans on the floor, no clean dishes to be seen except for two cups and saucers. Two shriveled lemons cut a week ago and not used since. Clothes lines. Heaps of objects which are so crumbled in my memory (due to their age and dirtiness and the lack of light) that they seem half-decayed - impossible to make out. Garbage spilling out of a cardboard box on the floor. A stone sink into which water drips incessantly. Scraps of soap, shreds of steel wool.

When I back up into my room I always lock the door to keep out the detestable yellow 16 watt light and the newspapery bundles. But you know me: I'm thrilled at last to be living in utter romantic squalor.

My room is dirty - she didn't bother to change the bed linen for me - and at first I was always itchy just from the thought of the bugs who might be gnawing at my scalp. But there are no bugs and I've swept out the spider webs. I've also torn down the blind doll from her dusty velvet shelf and put the picture of the Virgin under the bed. My books are on the mirror shelf, several twigs of apple blossom are in the ashtray, two really lovely Botticelli portraits are on the dresser and - there is a 40 watt light bulb in the dangling socket.

And this is the story of the Lampidina Battle.

The day after I moved in, my bulb burned out. I told the Signora, "No light!" She said, "No problem, Signorina. You just go down the street and buy another lampidina." I said "Me?" in astonishment and she said "Si, si" with all possible serenity.

Oh you witch you, I know how to fix you for making a poor student buy her own lightbulbs! So I bought a forty-watter, installed it, and went off to spend the afternoon walking with Mitchell.

When I came back at ten p.m. there were the Signora and the Daughter sitting in front of the door waiting for me. They'd forgotten their key. And the Signora was furious. "La sua lampa è troppo forte," mutter, mutter, in the rasping Italian of all fat old Roman women. "Si, si," I said, pretending to understand nothing and closed my door "Good night Signora! Sleep well!" At midnight, when I came into the kitchen to wash, both women were asleep beside the kitchen table, elbows among the newspapers, leaning together like two vast statues, heavy and rounded in the half light. The daughter, who is about forty but ancient as a mountain, was propped against her mother with her hands under the Signora's heavy breasts. Both were stunned by the sound of the door opening. "Signorina, what time is it?" the Signora managed to say - they have no clock, they have no sense of time, they sleep until ten or eleven, sometimes until one thirty in the afternoon, I think because the mornings are cold. Then - "Oh, Signorina, Signorina, lampa sua è troppo forte, è troppo forte, è troppo forte" as I vanish behind the door.

Next day, I come home in the evening, nobody's home, but she has switched my bulb! Where's my 40 watt dangling bulb? I stamp around looking for it behind bundles, in cupboards, in the garbage. It's vanished.

Next day, I buy another 40 watt darling. This time, when I leave, I take it with me and substitute the other in the socket. We'll see how long it is before she discovers the trick.

Thursday, 17th of February

Rained this morning, rewarded myself for getting up by a cappucino and doughnut at the caffé four doors down on Via San Giovanni in Laterano, where the bar tender in his white jacket always shakes a little extra cioccolato onto my cappucino, and does it with such a smile!

The city of Rome is one palace, church, statue, stairway, fountain, bell tower, cupola, after another, all set amid the odd clumps of marble and brick which are anonymous ruins. The spaces between monuments and assorted junk are green: wonderful parks, palm trees, laurels, flowers, lawn. All of the city's peach and apple trees are in bloom, irises have appeared in the parks. Some, a few, of the buildings are moving - the Colosseum where I sit and read high in the fifth tier of the old gladiator arena when it's sunny, bell towers, the Spanish Steps with their flower sellers, the fountains of the Naiads, where water has stained the sculptures a deep rusty yellow and the central jet moves and glitters with the wind. There's much I haven't seen. My Italian is improving, I can almost talk in sentences. I try to spend three hours a day on it.

An important subject still uncovered - FOOD. Oh Italy! Pizzas, with mushrooms, with onions, with potatoes, with sardines, with olives, with eggs, with artichokes, with any kind of covering, crisp, oily, cheap, delicious. And spaghetti! Cheap. And filling - for the coils slide into every corner of the stomach and pack it tight. Bread - just down the street is a paneteria with a large window. If you stop and stare into the room behind you see three men in what looks like white flour-sack pyjamas tossing dough into rolls; putting the rolls onto a long, light plank; opening an oven door and flicking the plank into it so that the rolls stay on the inside surface and the plank comes out clear; opening another oven door and thrusting in a large flat fork; pulling the fork out full of freshly baked rolls and dumping the rolls into waiting baskets. They know me by now, and always look up to wave and say ciaou to the peculiarly dressed Americana.

And the market... Near where Mitchell has his room is a large rectangular park, all around which are set up the canopied tables of the vegetable and fruit vendors, the meat vendors, the Friday fish vendors, the flower vendors, the pens of live chickens, the stacks of merchandise. You walk between the stalls, scuffling through lettuce leaves and wrapping paper, while all around you the vendors shout invitations to buy "lovely pears only 160 lire for a kilogram!" Some even reach out to touch your sleeve, "Venga Signorina, venga, venga, è buono." Fruit's often cheap, especially pears and oranges and dates or figs exported from Africa (which is nearby, really). You can buy a large paper cone of chopped salad greens for three cents, or a lot of raisins for seven and a half. Carrots are cheap too, and vegetables like onions and artichokes. All the Roman housewives come with their string bags. First they buy salad greens, which are put into their bags without wrapping, then three kilos of oranges, dumped on top of the greens, then more until the bag is full.

In the meat stalls, unskinned rabbits hang from hooks, sides of beef, pork legs smoked to a grey stony hardness, chickens who still have their necks and heads covered with feathers. In cages, ducks and hens squirm together, beautifully colored pheasants trail their long tails. On top of the cages a live rabbit sits motionlessly, tied to the cage by a string on his leg.

Real gypsies with long skirts and tangled hair scream back and forth to each other: they're as dirty, ragged, and graceful as the romanticized storybook gypsies. Bums of all types sit on the park benches eying the food. (On Saturday night when the stalls are packed away onto pushcarts and the rubble is swept up, you see them and quite a few respectable housewives poking about for a lettuce leaf or an orange that's not really spoiled.) The cats of Rome sit near the meat stalls, casually waiting around. They're all big and sleek, the thousands of them that live in the ruins, the immense black toms, the tabbies, the wary white aristocrats.

Roman beggars do not fare as well as the cats. On a sunny day you see them sitting on a sidewalk along a church wall displaying their amputations or their crippled limbs or simply their bony faces. On the Spanish Steps, gypsy children pull at the coats of tourists, laugh at them, tease them into giving 100 lire. Often a fat old woman will stand at a corner and, as you pass, wordlessly poke her cupped hand out at you with a shy and almost imperceptible gesture.

The streets are full of hawkers of all kinds - Somalian bananas, postcards, guide books, addresses of pensiones, black market radios. Often, at night, a family will burn wooden packing cases against a pillar for warmth and stand calling out the names of American cigarettes they're selling at black market prices. The police don't seem to notice.

Traffic is generally mad, rush hour steadily from seven in the morning until midnight. Pedestrians cross streets by simply stepping out into the flow and darting between cars, who pass on both sides like water in a stream, furiously and often without slowing. It is exhilarating - I enjoy it, especially when the street is a point of influx for five or six other streets, and the traffic turns in all directions.

It's midnight, the hallway outside the window is full of voices and footsteps until late at night. The Signora and her daughter are asleep in the kitchen again. Tonight is Carnivale, and the streets are full of confetti. All evening families paraded their children among the crowds downtown, for they all wear costumes. Thousands of little girls in lacy ballgowns with silver wigs in the style of the seventeenth or eighteenth centuries. Tonight there were grand balls all over Rome. I've just come in from a walk along the medieval walls - huge buttressed masses of stone with crenellated tops. It was pouring rain. The sky was full of reflected light.

Next day, 18th of February

Up at 6:30 this morning to watch the market unpack and the sun rise over the Forum from the Campidoglio. Breakfast was rolls still hot from the bakery oven, with butter, eaten on a park bench. It's noon now and I've found a sidewalk café where the cappucino is cheap. Hot sun! A view across the Forum ruins! All afternoon to write and study Italian and eat bread and butter for lunch.

Priests or students at Catholic seminaries walk by in pairs, all wearing long black gowns that make them very tall, very graceful. A Negro boy just passed in one of the black robes and a cape - beautiful.

The elder Italian women who go by are not beautiful. Nearly all are fat with hostile, wary little black eyes. Older men are aggressive - like all Romans I've seen - but not ugly. They cannot pass a woman without speaking to her, whistling, hissing, trying to catch her attention. It's irking.

Any mail mailed before or about the 25th or 26 goes to c/o American Express, Piazza di Spagna, Roma, Italia, and any mailed after that to c/o British Consul, Athens, Greece.

PS Do we know anyone in Saint Paul Minnesota? I've just picked up a 16 year old called Andy, who escaped alone from Rumania three weeks ago and is being sent to Saint Paul as a political refugee by the American Embassy.

March 14


Am in Ischia, the small Italian island off the coast an hour's boat ride from Naples, waiting to take the ship Appollonia to Athens on the 16th, a three day voyage. Am here with my friend Jerry and we are camping out in the closed campground, where we have to climb a twelve foot gate to get in. The sea is blue, purple, green, turquoise, all at once, choppy, still cold. We spend most of our time sitting on the sheltered sun side of a wall eating bread and reading.

[picture of Jerry]

[Jerry, Mitchell and me the day of the excursion to Ostia-Lido]

[Andy, the Self-Made Man]

Athens, 18 March, Youth Hostel


The man who answered my ring at the British Consulate this afternoon was a furry-haired little Briton who said "Oh, we are closed, yes, but for mail ..." and gave me all the letters under E. In gratitude I promised him all the stamps on all the letters and then ran across the street to read them while two guards reappeared from time to time to see if I were still at it, and try to read over my shoulder. (A female in bluejeans is an even greater curiosity here than in Rome.)

The ground seems to sway like a ship (still effect of the Appollonia).

The hostel dining room is full of bearded boys writing or talking, only two girls at the moment, both long haired and bluejeaned and beat looking - yes, me too, all this time my hair has been getting longer and bushier and dirtier. And as for the bluejeans - you know what happens to my bluejeans' zippers Mother, they're all kept together with pins. With one pocket over a hole in the seat and the other over a knee, they must hold now or else.


Money - again, a couple of miracles. Listen: left Rome with just enough money for the boat ticket, plus maybe a dollar and a half to live on for a week and to get me a job once in Athens, and to live while finding the job.

The day before leaving, Jerry, in his usual state of intoxication with the sun in Rome, invested 400 lire in a box of colored chalk. Early in the morning we bought a loaf of bread for 70 lire (10 cents), a bottle of wine for 160 lire (23 cents), two pounds of raw carrots for 50 lire; I put on my hoop earrings, and we trudged across the city with the carrots in a plastic bag slung over our shoulders, to the Spanish Steps, where we sat and gathered our courage. Took the dog skull out of the carrot bag and set it on the pavement where the cement was smoothest - a crowd gathered immediately, and we were committed. They asked what the skull was - "Ma, è mia madre," we explained and showed them the inscription. That caused a bit of a laugh - we had the crowd's sympathy, mostly teenagers with long hair.

The first chalk line was a little circle, with the inscription above it saying "For the sustenance of life" in English, French and Italian. To illustrate, we set the skull beside the circle, with its wire eyeglasses, and stuffed ivy leaves into the eye sockets. We had a slug of wine "per corragio," for courage, and scattered the chalk and began to draw. While Jerry did some abstracts I did a madonna and child in rich bright colors - something for everybody. By this time, one of the Spanish Step loungers, a young man dressed flashily in a cheap suit, had appointed himself business manager and barker, and was exhorting the kids not to stand there gaping, give these talented starving artists something. Some good-looking gang leader, with a large gesture, threw in a couple of tinny 10 lire pieces which rolled neatly into our circle. There was a rain of them as the gang followed his example. We were giddy from so much sun and adventure by now, had taken off our shoes and jackets, and grinned brilliant thank you's at the kids; this brought another laugh, because it was "thank you for nothing" - 10 lire is a penny and a half. But we'd picked up the spirit of recklessness that sidewalk beggars need, and began to ham it up, chomping carrots hungrily, gulping wine, offering it around, making eyes at the spectators and fools of ourselves, joking in Italian, drawing with flourishes and concentration. The crowd was changing, older people and tourists passed. I scribbled the SUPA slogan "Make love, not war" and a passing tourist said "With that slogan you'll win the war" in his long Texas drawl. We began to get a few 100 lire pieces. A photographer walked all around getting nearly forty shots from different angles. Mitchell, who had been sitting on the wall watching and pretending not to know us, told us later that he'd looked like a newspaper reporter, but we never found out. Then an American woman with a little girl stopped - the little girl was at our level and extremely interested. Jerry tossed her a piece of orange chalk and she joined us, to the delight of her, us, of the crowd, and even of her mother, who didn't care how full of chalk she became. She even refused the sponge we offered her afterward to wipe off the baby's hands; "Doesn't matter."

By now Jerry was doing cubistic wine bottles and oranges and voluptuous Coke bottles and I was doing a caricature of Ursula Andress next to the Virgin. There was a loud chink on the pavement - someone had thrown in a 500 lire piece! I looked around to thank the donator but was too late, because the American woman was already hurrying away, with her skinny neck bent forward and her grey streaked bun very tidy, and her iron ankles jerking in their heavy oxfords. We just gaped after her. After an hour, when the circle was full of small coins and Jerry had just finished a portrait of Gino our grinning waiter (and put a wreath on his head) labeled "Cesar," and when I'd come to the end of my artistic repertoire, and when the wine bottle was empty, we saw a large shadow fall over the drawings. Two pairs of thick Italian blue-clad legs, policemen! "Can't do that here," they said. "Non è permiso" they said, but with grins. "Okay" said Jerry, and shoveled the chalk and money together with a magnificent disregard. We joked, the crowd joked, the policemen joked. (But there was a long-faced Italian girl who didn't joke - she told us mournfully, "When I tried that the policeman took all the money.") Enough work for one day. We ran off to the Borghese Gardens and ate the rest of the carrots and gloated over our earnings - 2030 lire in all. Those three dollars kept us for the days in Naples and Ischia before the ship sailed, so I still had the original dollar and a half.

[Was in Athens from mid-March to the end of May but only two scraps of journal remain from this time. Unrecorded are a room near Lycabettos where Jean-Jacques Gaté lived with me when he was stranded, a morning job governessing two young children for an Athenian judge who took me to Agrinion to his family's home for the Easter week, an afternoon job governessing Lellie and Lucia, the two daughters of Harry Stathatos and his wife, who I think were running a garment business, weekend hitchhiking excursions with French friends, loss of my passport and money on a hitchhiking trip to Delphi.]

[random photos Delphos, Alain Oliveau, a Greek house]

[undated scrap]

Downstairs room in the Athens Youth Hostel, the long dark room on the right side of the corridor, where I had a bed next to Chrisusa's and lay in my bottom bunk looking between the iron bedposts at Isabelle undressing across the room in front of the windows. I would lie staring at her abdomen because her face and legs were cut off by the bed and the top bunk - her huge pregnant belly stretching her white slip, when she had taken off the corduroy jumper and the cotton smock and hung them over one of the iron cross-supports at the head of her bed. Then she would lie down awkwardly in bed, and lie immobile until she slept. One evening Isabelle wasn't there, and I wondered. Next day I rushed out to tell Alain, Jean-Jacques, Fernando, that she was gone, and it was true - she had a baby girl. Lellie and Lucia and I picked flowers for the baby on a forbidden hilltop which we found, behind the stadium, when Lellie stubbornly pushed her way through the bars - wild iris on delicate stalks.

Istanbul Wednesday June 8


I'm sitting in a café eating yougourt and drinking something exotically Turkish called Koka Kola, writing a postcard to you which shows the scene that I once saw on a travel poster of Turkey and which made me decide to come, listening to the conversation of three American beats with shoulder-length hair, looking out to the Blue Mosque. I got here after leaving Jean-Jacques in Thessalonika, meeting a South African millionaire sitting on a rock in a beautiful village called Kavala, drinking coffee with a Greek van driver in Turkish-Greek Xantia, sleeping near a vegetable truck near the Turkish border, walking two kilometers over the border, and getting a 240 kilometer ride directly to Istanbul with an Iranian truck. The mosques and minarets are very beautiful. My hotel is near Hagia Sofia.

[undated postcard]

Kotor, the village you see, is strung out along both sides of a fiord of the Adriatic where the water is clear green, warm. And in the hills high above the town, I know of a cherry tree ­ this bohemian life and way of travel gives me much contact with the people ­ one of my favorite memories is the night spent with a family of happy-go-lucky Turks in their hovel. I stopped to ask for a drink of water and they gave me six glasses of it, shelter from the rain, supper, a baby to hold and some potatoes to peel, a pair of old bluejeans because they find mine too rotten, a bed for the night, breakfast and goodbye kisses. A beautiful family. The mother twenty six with five children of whom the eldest is thirteen, was really stunning. The granny, toothless but grinning in her red Turkish trousers, was a coquette.

Further on, a morning in a Yugoslavian high school. In Bulgaria, also a night with a family.

[undated postcard]


I've just spent several bemarveled hours at the art museum here and now, as I pass the concert hall on my way to the auberge, the Schumann Concerto in A Minor coming down through an open window in a rehearsal room.

Left Wien yesterday in pouring rain and got here at midnight in pouring rain too late to get a bed in the hostel - they grumpily let me sleep on the floor - there's the second movement now - I'm writing this on a wall.

[undated letter]

Are you haying? Everywhere in Europe, everywhere I was, people were haying beside the road, often with sickles and forked sticks. In Jugoslavia I saw one old woman walking along the edge of the sea with a haystack tied to her back with bailing twine. Other places the Jugoslavs were piling hay into narrow boats. Many hay wagons were pulled by oxen. Often the hay is piled on a pyramid of sticks to keep it off the ground, but in Austria it is tucked between and over the branches of slim trees.

I'm in Strasbourg, keeping Bill Volk company until he goes home and until I go to Jean-Jacques in Paris for Bastille Day on the 14th. I live in a convent where my curfew is sometimes 9 p.m. I have magnificent dinners with Bill every evening and last night - in pigtails and sneakers - I went to a diplomatic reception at the American Vice-Consul's with him to celebrate the 4th of July.

The sisters here smile a lot - my room has hot water, an eiderdown, grey-flowered wallpaper, blue-flowered drapes, red-flowered bedspread with one red-flowered cushion, and an orange-flowered tablecloth, with another orange-flowered cushion; a view into a courtyard where an old woman in downtrodden bedroom slippers talks in loud grumbling Alsacian to her cat while she cleans fish. It rains a lot. The sunny days are beautiful, now that the grass is green along the canals where the little boys fish. I read and write and sometimes go to the country and walk and windowshop and wait anxiously for supper because it's my only meal!

9 July


I've just come from Darinka's wedding and I'm burning to put it on paper. Madame Matter told me yesterday that Darinka was to be married at the Mayor's office at 8:30 this morning. On the way I stopped and bought a bouquet for Darinka with the five francs Bill gave me to buy fruit for lunch, a mixture of spring flowers in reds and yellows and blues. In the large reception hall a woman in a white uniform stood holding a bouquet of roses and a camera. I looked through the keyhole of the door with the red-dyed welcome mat before it. A group of people were signing papers ­ I couldn't see Darinka. In panic, I asked the woman holding the roses whether the weddings were already finished. She said I could ask, and led me in. Three or four groups stood or sat in the plush-carpeted antichamber, some of the brides wearing cheap veils, some in long dresses. And there against the wall sat Darinka, looking pretty with her hair in a French roll, a stern white suit with a sterner white blouse, her hands folded in her lap, looking intensely nervous, on the edge of tears. I grabbed her hand, "Darinka, ça va? You're pretty!" and thrust the flowers at her. She was confused - "Ellie! Ca va? Ca va?" Hamit was sitting on one side of her, smiling in his dark suit. "Ca va bien?" He looked composed - his face is small and wrinkled, almost bald, with an indescribably wise and affectionate pattern of expressions.

Only then I realized that Mademoiselle Ziechelmeyer was sitting on the other side of Darinka - in a black hat and suit, black gloves, black shoes, shriveled and bent, her small eyes red-rimmed, her large lower lip quivering a little. I was uncertain - the last time I saw her had been unpleasant. We'd both been upset. "So you see me after all?" she said. "I'm so .." I began and held out my hand to her. She didn't take it. "What are you becoming?" She seemed on the verge of tears. "What am I becoming?" She awkwardly accepted my hand now. "What are you doing since you leave us?" she repeated in English. As I opened my mouth to tell her, she leaned forward still more to look at me - "How can you come here? In torn blue jeans - aren't you ashamed?" "No." "What would your parents say if they knew you were running around in torn jeans like a beggar? Would they approve?" "Yes. They know." "You aren't sérieuse. I can see you aren't sérieuse. You weren't sérieuse when you were at the hotel either. You weren't studying," and in English, with a shaky laugh, "you were making romances." I explained that I was coming back to university in September but she hurried on, "Don't you have a needle?" "Yes, but ..." "Everybody is looking at you. You're making fun of everybody here by coming here like this." "It's not that I'm making fun of them, I just don't care about them." "And you don't care about the opinion of an old woman like me, you don't care about that either," this in a perfectly level tone. "I do care that you have an opinion different from mine, and that is why I want to explain to you, but it is difficult. I am sérieuse, but in my own way." She was rushing on again, "They won't let you into the wedding room like that, there's a man who'll stop you - but it was good of you to come, you wanted to wish Darinka well because you love her." She turned to Darinka, "Darinka, it was good of her to come wasn't it." Darinka jumped, coming back from far away, clutching the bouquet, confused, near tears. "Oh yes ..." But Mademoiselle Ziechelmeyer jumped back at me, "You're a rebelle, you want to say to everyone that you're different." "Yes, because ..." "Don't you have any self respect?" "I have a great deal of self respect, and ..." "Then it's false self respect. The way you keep yourself shows how you are inside." "Mademoiselle Ziechelmeyer, this is all I have here." "You should work." "I find it more important to travel at the moment. I find ..." "You have your own system." "Yes and I find that you pay too high a price for respectability, to be bien rangé."

Darinka was far away again, her face was too carefully held. Other brides were coming in with bouquets and veils. Mademoiselle Ziechelmeyer had her hands clutched together, "It makes you an outsider," using the English word, "do you want to be an outsider?" "Yes, I am, and ..." "It embarrasses me to see everyone staring at you. It embarrasses me to speak to you, you should go, they won't let you in anyway." She was near tears again. "You'll see in twenty years, that I'll have six well-raised children and two books published ..." and I smiled and took the hand she'd offered me because at last I'd understood that she loves me, and that she loves me for what she disapproves of. With a sudden, trembling, smile she said all in a rush, "I believe you're a brave gosse at heart, you're really a good child underneath."

Paris, 13 July 1966


[page missing, which described visiting Domrémy with Bill, then starting out next morning to hitch to Paris and being picked up by a young businessman in a sportscar]

So I find myself sitting in a restaurant terrasse overlooking the fishermen on the River Marne, with a headwaiter and two garçons hovering. He's a charming conversationalist this Parisian, he seems to have character too. We begin with a plate of little fishes served whole, fried fresh from the river, served on a paper lace doily. Then we have runions - kidneys served with a brown gravy which makes them delicious. He talks about Pascal, his house at Versailles, his dogs, his horses, his factories, his war experiences. He smokes a slim cigar. He has nice eyes. There is something steely about him, I wouldn't want to be a business rival of his, but at the same time there is something wise and even kind. For dessert we have fraises des bois, wild strawberries. (I sneaked a look at the price list - dessert by itself costs $1.20.)

"If this is the first time you've come to Paris, I must think of the most beautiful entrance route. You should have a good impression," he says, and the silver sports car dodges through the traffic under his expert hands. We enter a deep woods and pass a vast castle with a zoo. It's the Bois de Vincennes. A lovely introduction indeed - then he's driving along the Seine smiling at my enthusiasm as I get my first glimpse of Notre Dame and the quais of the Island, interposing in his self-assured but half-sincere way that it's a good thing he won't see me again because he would be sure to fall in love with my "belle bouche"! This spot of gallantry (Mother) is not a gambit - ie he doesn't want anything from me but he has cultivated the French art of savoir-vivre and it is at its best in men like him. Savoir-vivre is an art of appreciation I think.

After a short tour le monsieur leaves me near my destination and is off with a wave and a discrete roar from the Aston Martin's sleek motor.

A wide boulevard full of people, Avenue de l'Opéra. Jean-Jacques has given me the address of his office, I'm excited about seeing him again - I'm breathless, in fact, when I ask the girl at the reception desk where I can find him. "Oh, he's on a boat bound for Israel," she says coolly, and I fold up inside like a punctured rubber mattress. "He's taking one of the student groups there and coming back on the next boat," she adds. I'm broke as usual, this time completely, and I'd counted on J-J to dépanne me as I'd dépanned him in Greece.

So I walk to J-J's parents' place, beside the Seine, overlooking the railway station where Mr Gaté worked until his retirement - a good hour's walk. I push a doorbell, and the little flutter inside turns out to be Mrs Gaté. "Ah, Maurice, c'est Ellie qui est arrivée." Well at least J-J had the goodness to tell them I'm coming. I'm led to a living room chair, given a lemonade and tactfully left to read my mail. Mrs Gaté is little and pretty. She tells me how her adored son came home on Sunday, read my letter, announced that he was being sent unexpectedly to Israel. "I said to him, 'She'll feel lost if she arrives in Paris and there's no one here' and he said 'She can take care of herself,'" Mrs Gaté explains.

I'm invited to supper. "Where are you staying tonight?" asks Mama Gaté. I have think fast. "At the office of course" I say. So after supper she puts on some lipstick and we all three go back to the Place de l'Opéra to see the lights. Tomorrow is the 14th of July and everything is lit. The boulevards, those famous boulevards, are wide, lined with trees, lined with fabulous shops. At the office (the travel organization is called AMI - Amitié Mondiale Inter-Jeunesse) we meet a young man with circles under his eyes: I gather that this is Wieland, the young man who began the organization and has directed it until now, and who at the age of 24 is responsible for thousands of teenagers spread throughout the world from India to Mexico, and a budget of incredible numbers of francs. When the Gatés shake hands and go home I ask if I may sleep on a little corner of floor at the office - a normal request since everyone sleeps on the floor there - and do a bit of work. We climb three flights of narrow stairs to a set of tiny offices piled high with papers. I'm set to work addressing envelopes by a boy called Barberousse.

At 2 a.m. when the addresses are finished Barberousse suggests we go home - what, people don't sleep on the floor anymore? It seems not because I'm taken through a maze of streets back to the elegant Avenue de l'Opéra. Barbu pushes open a door twelve feet high and we go through two mirror-chandelier-glass-cream-and-gold foyers before arriving at the elevator, a sort of wrought iron lace birdcage. But we take the service elevator - it's better. Barbu opens a large opaque window and steps outside through it onto a ledge. He tells me to wait around the corner in the hall. Suddenly a door opens and there's Barbu in the doorway of a room. White walls, high ceilings, a green carpet. Against one wall, two low benches pushed together for a table and covered with dirty dishes, paper cartons, empty bottles. On the floor are three air mattresses tossed in half-deflated heaps among the magazines and crumbs and clothes and boxes. One low cupboard. No other furniture. Jar lids full of ashes and butts. In the adjoining bathroom there's a shower, a bidet, even hot water, but the garbage barrel has overflowed and wet wash cloths cover the shower rods, the soap's on the floor and everything is filthy. Well. I spread my sleeping bag in a corner and lie down in my bluejeans. Barberousse says a very amiable goodnight and goes to sleep on a child-sized mattress; two telephone books are his pillow and he's covered with a wooly bath towel!

At dawn, I'm awakened by someone else stepping through the window (the hall window and ours are kitty-corner, we can easily step over the four storey drop from one ledge to the other - no one knows who has the key). He finds himself an air mattress and goes to sleep on it under another bath towel - in the morning when the telephone wakes us, the stranger, who is big and handsome, says "Bonjour Mademoiselle" as if he were being introduced at a reception, all French formality even flat on his back with a bath towel around his flanks. Barberousse gets up and goes out to buy some bread and butter, then he makes coffee.

It's the fourteenth of July and the day has a holiday feeling. Sun's shining.

The boys go off to the office to work and I can't resist powdering the whole bathroom, camp stove, dishes, smelly floor rags and all, with Ajax, and then I turn the shower hose on it. Then I take the carpet sweeper over the rug like a lawn mower, picking up pounds of crumbs and lint.

At noon I'm invited to dinner at the Gatés. They are just the two and me and a tamed Paris street bird but we have a ritual dinner according to all the best laws of savoir faire, savoir vivre. First an apéritif, vermouth with ice, and olives as appetizers. Then radishes. Then chicken, then peas, all with wine, then salad, then cheese, then fruit, then ice cream, then coffee. Nothing is served until the former item is finished and the plate wiped clean with bread. Radishes are eaten with butter.

We look at photographs, I admire their antiques, they listen to the Tour de France.


And now I'm settled. It's Monday. In the morning I get up and make coffee and go out, like the Parisians, to buy my baguette for our breakfast and fetch it home unwrapped, swinging under my arm. We sit on the floor, slice the baguette lengthwise, spread it with butter and jam to make a 'tartine', and dip it into our coffee, which we usually have in empty big Maxwell House jars because our glasses aren't big enough and we have no cups. 'We' is Barberousse and me, sometimes Serge, sometimes Popaul, sometimes Thierry - whoever works late at the office and doesn't want to go home.

We pile the dishes in the shower and the mats in the corner, then we go off to work. Cathi is in the downstairs reception office. Up three flights of steps are the four cubicle offices, piled high with papers, typewriters, telephones, files, stencils, stamps, old clothes (there's a pair of bluejeans in the corner that I recognize by the patch I put on them in Athens), scraps of paper, record player, photos on the wall covering all the places where people have gone through it.

In one of the back cubicles I address envelopes, put stamps on envelopes, write lists of addresses for future envelopes, wrestle with the French typewriter, sort passports. In the evenings we work late, radio and record player howling jazz, Beethoven, Bressans. Nobody in the office plays at being "des grands personnes" - adults. The boys are bearded, everyone is penniless because even the people entitled to a salary can't get at it when there's no money in the pot. At 2 a.m. we go home and fall into bed - but not everyone because someone has to be there in case of long distance telephone calls from India, Mexico. Sometimes when we crawl in the window at 2 a.m., through the rain, taking good care on the slippery ledge, we've got shop to talk and this lasts until three - then come a series of long distance calls from Mexico, Canada, India, Egypt. Somebody, one of the Mexico AMI representatives, is in jail because he wrote a food cheque for which there was insufficient money - and the rescue funds sent by l'AMI in Paris haven't arrived yet, and we have to be careful not to let the story leak out and someone remembers something, just after the light goes off for the last time - "Hey, Popaul, did you get Cathi to type up those Israel lists for you?" and we start again.

July 21st

Jean-Jacques is back. Unforgettable: last night, walking back from the student quarter after a dinner in a 'dive' where the floors are covered with garbage from previous diners, perfectly medieval and in keeping with the ancientness of the city, it began to rain; colored lights reflected all down the Seine from the edge of the quai where we leaned on our elbows to look. Lights inside the trees along the boulevards, making the wet leaves glitter, brilliant green. The peculiar deep shade of night-blue caught in glimpses of the sky between trees on the Boulevard des Italiens.

The boulevard in animation at night - shooting galleries, and candy stalls with the smell of hot syrup; demonstrators with their portable tables, hawking vegetable grinders, magic tricks, glass cutters; cafes open to the sidewalk with an orchestra on the balcony playing Strauss waltzes; a street musician standing in front of sidewalk tables playing an Eastern folk song, his face so sad and so proud that I'm sad too and want to make some movement toward him but can only stare at him until he picks up his shapeless leather bag and walks on to the next café; the gilt statue of Joan of Arc with a ragged banner; a tiny woman asleep on the warm-air grill under the arcades, curled up so we could not see her face to tell whether she was young or old; the 'beatnicks' along the quais of the Island, sitting against the wall with their guitars and sleeping bags, mouching cigarettes from passers-by, singing American freedom songs or Bob Dylan translated into French, young mostly, dressed (a long haired boy singing "We shall overcome") in the shabby green US Army surplus jacket that is the universal stamp of beatnickism - I have one too. The Paris 'kikis,' cheeky ragamuffins who've seen too much for their age, arrogant and tough, but full of humor, children like no other children, teasing old ladies on the street, puffing at cigarettes. Equestrian statues all over Paris - the good king Henry IV covered with sleeping pigeons.


[undated journal]

Is happiness sitting at the studio window wrapped in a sleeping bag, with a storm roaring overhead among the angles of seventh-floor walls, reading aloud, full of pâtes à la sauce tomate, body tense with coffee and the silent current of my longing for Jean-Jacques? Apprivoisé then, but now shut up firmly into himself. I've lost completely the "visage du p'tit matin." But once or twice - lying side by side on the green carpet after Barberousse had turned off the light, we would wait until our breath deepened and quickened, and then he would put out his hand to find mine (curved above my head) and then we would wait again, and then I would move so that my hair fell against his arm, and then he would kiss me through the hair fallen over my face and we would struggle to find a way through taste of hair in our mouths not wanting to move our arms already wrapped around each other moving. I can't think of his body without intense emotion, the thin chest and back (brown - he always wears Sagittarius on a metal chain), the delicate shoulder bones and fine smooth skin, the long torso and flat cul. Moving and separate from me, or still and focused against me I love the form of his body and adore fragments of lines of it - wrist or neck or mouth, casual ankle and insouciant hip.

undated letter

The last news you've had was from Brussels so you're far behind. I hitchhiked back to Paris after a week. Immediately after my return to the AMI office we went broke, abandoning several thousands of people in various countries without money and disappointing several hundred more who wanted to leave and had already paid. In the chaos which followed an order of bankruptcy from the Paris police headquarters, the offices were filled with complaining customers and anxious parents and policemen and inspectors, and we were all on the verge of nervous collapse, shock, etc, especially those who've made AMI literally their life for nearly twenty four hours a day.

Wieland, the boss, went into hiding, trying frantically to find some money before turning himself over to police headquarters, where complaints of abuse of confidence and cheques without provision as well as journalistic suspicion of swindle were waiting for him. No one knew where he was, the police issued a warrant for his arrest, hundreds of people were anxious to get their hands on him. Then at midnight one night when I was at the studio alone the telephone rang. I answered and it was Wieland, calling from his hideaway in the apartment of a friend. "Can you come right away?" he says. "Of course," I say, and he gives me the address of an apartment building in a far quarter of Paris, telling me that he will wait for me to pay the taxi as soon as it arrives. So I run to catch a taxi and go humming through the strange dark narrow streets, not knowing what he wants, not sure he'll really be there to pay the taxi, craning my head anxiously to see if there is a police car following. He is there to pay for the taxi, and no, the police weren't following, and I'm still not sure what he wanted me for, but I think generally he needed to talk to someone. When the telephone rang a particular ring or the doorbell sounded three short rings, one pause, two short rings, I answered. And I listened as he explained what had happened to the finances (no swindle involved) and then we tried to sleep on the sofa covered with coats. He was so frightened that he trembled and so I held his hand.

For breakfast we had a tin of beans that we found in the cupboard. Then he set to work writing a letter explaining the situation and its reasons to the participants and the parents, pleading for help to patch the association up until the participants could be brought home. When the doorbell sounded its secret ring and I opened the door to find our two friends also from the AMI office, he sent us to make a stencil of the letter and send copies of it to all the parents. I typed the stencil, and then we licked envelope flaps and stamps until three in the morning. The letters are mailed, we reported back to Wieland and all went walking in the deserted streets of Montparnasse until we found a café still open, and then we ate supper. Home by four thirty a.m.

At one the next afternoon, I had just gotten dressed when there was a knock at the door and two men flashed their badges at me. "You are Mademoiselle Ellie Epp? We are looking for one Wieland Lemke." "He isn't here." "Do you know where he is?" Silence. I knew he had a one o'clock rendezvous at a certain café. "Was it you who typed the letter that was sent out last night?" "Yes." "Have you seen Lemke?" Silence. "Well them Mademoiselle would you come with us to the station please."

We arrived in a set of dingy fourth floor offices near the cathedral in the oldest part of the city, magnificent sunny day, excellent view from the windows. Two inspectors set out to question me. When I explained that for the moment I intended to say nothing because I wanted to give Wieland a chance to do what he could to straighten out the affair before he handed himself over to the police, they both began to roar like detective inspectors in the movies. They told me I could be held in jail for the night unless I was willing to cooperate and that I would quite possibly be deported straight home. I was overjoyed at the thought of both these possibilities, but hid my pleasure as well as I could, not wanting to spoil their fun.

Then they sent me off to another room where I was guarded by not one but two policemen who gossiped to me about marriage in France, and whom I amused by singing and doing exercises and writing poetry for several hours (they also pointed out the various monuments we could see from our window) until the moustached red-faced inspector stuck his head in the door to tell me with malicious pleasure, "Ah, Mademoiselle, we have someone in the next room whom you know very well."

Not five minutes later, the other inspector stuck his head around the door to announce with the same malicious joy, "Mademoiselle, Mr Lemke has been arrested." When I was taken into the other room again to sign my papers of release, there was Wieland looking white but composed. He sent me a sad wink, and then I was released to the custody of Barberousse who was waiting in the hall. I found, then, that Wieland had not been arrested as I had been told, but had come to the office himself after coolly telephoning to the commissioner himself. The two inspectors, when they found that he was coming to give himself up after evading their best efforts for nearly a week, were livid with rage and chagrin.

Monday July 29th


I'm back in Paris after a week's vagabond into the south of France. (There's nothing to eat in Paris; the trip was an economic necessity.)

[then enclosed a journal with attached explanatory notes]


I took off my shoes as soon as I'd crossed the street from 22 Avenue de l'Opéra; and it was raining a warm rain. Joan of Arc was on her high horse at the intersection, the Tuileries stretched out toward her, the Louvre was misted over, each section fainter and more mysterious than the next, all diffused into mysterious outlines with the Carrousel arch darkest against the far transverse wing. Grass wet, geraniums brilliant, the strong young women alone and black among the flowers, all of the city beautiful against the low sky. Almost dusk at four o'clock; transmuted, dissolved, vaporized, the bank of trees and the arches of the Rue Rivoli falling back; the obelisque almost invisible; the round pond deserted.

At five o'clock I came out of the Louvre and the sky was lighter. When I passed near one of the strong young women, someone had put a branch in her open hand. The gravel soft underfoot; wrought iron chairs abandoned among the water and floating leaves among the trees, the blue and red flower beds more brilliant than usual. The Place de la Concorde from the balustrade above the Impressionist Museum. A small girl with her mother. A wonderful long puddle with water higher than my knees. A flower at the foot of beautiful Joan and home to read and cook more pâtes à la sauce tomate and at 3:30 sit bolt upright to talk to Barberousse who can't sleep because he's thinking of naked girls. I can't because I'm thinking of Mitchell and Jerry and Alain and Jean-Jacques; I explain that they are phantômes more real than reality because of this year of dépaysage. Now it is quarter past five and I want to go back to my phantoms. This reminds me of crazy what-was-his-name in Athens who wrote everything in his little notebook.

Monday morning

Porte d'Italie dazzling in the sun, why is it so wonderful and fresh? Space - I've been a city dweller for a month now. Wet lawns and glittering tall buildings, Forêt de Fountainebleue, standing under the trees thumb out.

Two kilometer walk through farm fields, a bushy hedge on one side, a young boy on a bicycle singing with his transistor, the tiny farm hamlet of Les Tuileries, where a woman washes her clothes on the edge of a low stone trough in her water shed, muddy henyards full of flowers. A roadside garden - carrots and beans washed in a puddle! I'm tempted to steal a tomato from a windowsill, but it is too light. I feel like a troubadour with my dufflebag slung at an angle over one shoulder, watching for berries that might be edible or magic, looking down at the woman pounding her clothes.

A boy on a scooter smiles under his helmet and shouts back with the wind, "Le moto, vous aimez ça?" "J'adore!" I run after him. "Vous etes quelle nationalité?" "Je suis canadienne." "Mois aussi, je suis canadien ­ francais!" Handshake. Burgundy countryside, wooded round hills, drift of smoke and scent from a pointed roofed four-chimneyed railroad hotel. Peaked spruce and stratocumulus darkening.

Vézelay. I wander into the Pax Christi auberge and am taken to a bed under the rafters. Everything is wonderful: faces, voices, me, the guidebook I've stolen, the fact that supper is in an hour and apparently one doesn't pay. I've taken the chance because I can't pay. I have two Metro tickets, but no money. We eat dinner elbow to elbow at a long table, soup and bread, ham, large chunks of potato, cheese and bread, plums. Afterward we go to a low room with a fireplace and sit around the fire on benches as a young priest, emotional but not at all articulate, tells us about his walking pilgrimage to Le Puy. He tells us of his feelings of increased sensitivity toward himself, toward others, toward nature. He says that sometimes he spends the day praying, singing, talking to le Seignieur, full of le Seignieur to the feet. Another priest talks about the expérience spirituelle and expérience humaine. I'm excited because I recognize that my year is as much a pilgrimage as his and that to me the expérience spirituelle and expérience humaine are absoluement pareille. "Je ne suis ni catholique ni protestante, plutot agnostique, mais c'était pareil pour moi," I blurted when the priest asked me about the two expériences. And as for his joie, I have had it today.

Black sky; stars for a change. Light sheets on narrow walls; street lamps on the trees and wall creepers; cobbles everywhere as if the village were molded in one piece; deep cellars; Middle Ages arches, steps, stones; walls all fused together. Complete emptiness of the streets.


From Avallon, a Marseillais truck driver with a large tank trailer stopped for me before I'd even put my thumb out. He talked steadily or roared his radio, was going all the way to Avignon. Miles of Burgundian countryside green fading to blue across wide valleys with red roofs; the colors making me think of Cézanne. Night - casse-croûte beside the road. Not far from Avignon he stopped to sleep and I rushed out with my sleeping bag to spread it in some stiff aromatic grass, but he came along and made a little attempt, which I repulsed, whereupon he announced that I was not gentille and that he was leaving, good night, but he turned around to say rather sadly, "Les hommes sont tous pareils, eh?" He has never made love to a femme honnête but prostitutes repulse him and he se sauves as soon as possible. "Mais pourquoi pas, vous ne voulez pas un petit bonheur? On perde la tête pour un moment et ..." "Non ça m'intéresse pas du tout!" "Je vous dégout?" With your round soft beer belly pushing your belt down, yes, but ... "Mais non, il s'agit pas de ça." So he said goodnight rather grumpily, and, this morning, roared the motor to wake me. He had something of good in him, tho' ignorant and sad.


Les Baux. Pile of chalky white rocks with a castle at the top, broken down to a few flat walls; small tourist souvenir town, disagreeable because of the junk displayed and the no entry signs. I climbed the hill opposite and unrolled my sleeping bag on a ledge in the half-egg hollow of a shallow cave. From my ledge I could see the castle and beyond it other masses of white rock, and beyond them the flat blue valley stretching as far as the sea? I climbed through the thorn bushes to the top of the rocks and sat among the lavender reading the books I took from the youth hostel this morning, La sonate à Kreutzer by Tolstoi, Villon's Poèmes and Eloge de la folie.

Restless sleep, a dream of talking to Jean-Jacques, smell of lavender crushed under the sleeping bag; all night the same scene framed by the rough unbalanced black oval of my cave's walls; the stars visible through the opening of a window in the cave.

At dawn, a cold wind and the sudden vision of a pink light on the castle. Then brilliant sun. Walk down full to the valley. Fields radiating from the road; olive trees flashing silver because of the wind; the vines' heavy underbelly of grapes. I lay in the grass beside a vineyard that was particularly lush, eating purple sweet grapes until I was sick, and finished the Kreutzer Sonata.

Lunch - grapes. Walked to the next village, four kilometers, in the sun among the rocks and vineyards, with the white walls of the mas. An amiable coffee-delivery man in his wonderful-smelling van, making a detour north of Tarascon to a potato chip factory. The bag of potato chips he gave me as we drove back through the fields of pear trees and tomato vines was fresh from that morning, delicious!

One more ride, very sympa, who deposits me on the beach among the dunes and tenting families along the marais near Frontignon. I make a tour into the bushes nearby and - an abandoned field of grapes, overrun by donkeys, children, and bushes, but full of grapes at the peak of ripeness.

Back on the dune a big-eared big-eyed little boy, nine years old, Patrick, comes to join us, then Patrick's little sister Cathi. Then Cathi's young mother with the remains of their supper (wine, tinned octopus, bread, potato chips, chocolate, yougourt). Then Cathi's father, young, handsome, with a warm smile and wonderful smiling eyes who insists I come for breakfast next morning. All the kids help me find a sheltered place to sleep among the reeds.

Next morning they come to fetch me to their trailer for breakfast, and there's a grandmother too! By then everyone is in bathing suit and we get into the water as soon as possible. Sand ­ white and fine. Water ­ turquoise. I'm invited for lunch. For supper. We make an expedition and bring back pounds of grapes. Brilliant red sunset among the refinery lights on the other side of the marais.

But at night the atmosphere becomes heavy and rank, I'm suffocated among the dunes, and there's something else wrong too. At the first drops of rainfall I realize that I'm violently sick to my stomach. The Déchanet family has told me to sleep under their tent-porch if it rains, so I move, but oh misery, I'm terribly sick, my stomach's wrung dry but I'm still heaving, the rain is crashing down now, thunder and lightning, mosquitoes - suddenly a huge puddle forms under my sleeping bag and I'm soaked all night.

Then it is Sunday and time to go back again. The Déchanet family saying goodbye with more warmth than relatives show, running to get the half bar of chocolate that was left over. "Et il y a Patrick qui pleur," said Mr Déchanet as I went off clutching half a saucisson.


As I'm sitting on the opera steps at noon a very young-looking Herald Tribune paper boy comes up the steps to ask whether I'd buy a paper - "But I'm broke, I haven't one centime!" "We're in the same condition, then, shake!" he says - he's English. "Oh, and I'm reading a great book, by Orwell, Down and Out in London and Paris," he says.

Evening: I've just discovered that my packsack has been stolen. A few clothes, paperback books, my papers and letters. My journal is gone and I'm sick at heart.

undated scrap of journal

Tonight a fattish, fastidious business man who stopped for me on the road to Luxembourg. Near dark, outside Longwy, past the curved sculpted black stacks and the sulphur smoke, past the ladle pouring out its fire into railroad buckets, the dung-colored houses without grass in their front yards, the dirty children ("Tu vois, c'est une fille! Tu vois!") and the long grinning stares.