Roni Beth Tower - Psychologist, Educator, Author "Paris from a Personal Perspective"
Roni Beth Tower is a clinical, research and academic psychologist who taught at Yale and Columbia Teachers College. After retiring, she turned from writing science to memoir. Her award-winning book, Miracle at Midlife: A Transatlantic Romance (She Writes Press, 2016), describes the two years preceding her mid-life move to Paris in 1998.
Right about now, normally around March 15th, I'd be replanting my geraniums, but not this year. The hearty plants survived well throughout the winter and continued to bloom, which can only be explained by rising temperatures...climate change.
With the onset of higher temperatures, I asked an expert to come over to assess the viability of installing central air conditioning in my apartment. Almost immediately, with one look at the "garde manger"* in the kitchen window that sits on a "courette"**, shook his head and sadly said, "Non, madame. Ce n'est pas possible." Ugh. This means that if I want to AC the apartment, I'm relegated to using portable units and have a vent cut into the window for the evacuation.
Every year I've avoided it, as the AC units simply aren't very elegant, nor have I wanted to cut a hole in the window...but I've succumbed to the idea now that I've seen the geraniums survive the winter...it's a sign that if I don't bite the bullet and prepare for the worst, I'll be very, very unhappy this coming summer if it gets as hot as it was last year.
* A "garde manger" is a food pantry that exists in many older buildings in Paris. It sits outside the kitchen window, and was a clever method of keeping foods cool, just by exposing them to the outdoor temperature. With refrigerators, their usefulness declined, but they often make a perfect place to hide a compressor from the sight of the neighbors!
** A "courette" is a small courtyard, but in this case, it's really just an air shaft.
Another Drawing by Jeremie Garcin
Ashley and Redon during the taping
Adrian Wearing Desigual on a House Hunters International Episode with John Garland Jones
Ashley and Redon taping
I've stopped giving the "bises" (kissing on both cheeks) or even shaking hands, and am washing my hands even more than usual with the Coronavirus hitting too close to home. It's a relatively simple thing to do to prevent contracting the deadly virus, but the habit for the French to NOT kiss at every occasion isn't so easy. I'm learning that it's not so easy to stop touching my face. Just becoming conscious of it helps, but clearly I'm not the only one with this problem — in fact even the New York Times has recently written about it.
Living in a city where we are in the public every day, touching things like Métro poles, door knobs, or even the fork and knife on the table of a restaurant, makes us more susceptible to unwanted germs. I've never been germaphobic in the past (like Donald Trump), but maybe it's time to start.
The Times article gives us four tricks to stop the habit of touching our faces, but becoming aware of how often you do that is the first step towards success. And having clean hands is essential. When I was on the train back to Paris Wednesday, there was a maintenance man going through the cars cleaning the buttons that open the doors. I suspect we'll be seeing more of that and hand sanitizer sales are sure to rise, along with disinfectant spray!
UNEQUALED HOUSE HUNTING AGAIN
I'm in the midst of taping House Hunters International episode #43 as I write this...the third this year, with others on the horizon. This is a couple who met in the camera department of FNAC — she's from Atlanta, Georgia and a fashion designer with her own special handbag collection. At the Marché aux Puces here in Paris, where she buys antique fabrics for her products, she had her phone stolen and needed something with which she could take photos. He was the sales person and within moments, he fell in love with his customer. Two months later they were married. She moved to France and the rest is history that we'll be talking about on the show.
Speaking of fashion, my biggest challenge taping the shows is...wardrobe. What to wear, what to wear!? There's an image to uphold! And that means never wearing the same thing twice and making sure it follows the rules of good camera etiquette as well as being memorable or impressive. (I'd never want to be considered "boring" on camera.) The camera hates white, patterns that vibrate, clothing that "rustles" and we're not allowed to show off any logos. The directors also prefer we stay away from black or too much jewelry that clinks.
My favorite clothing to wear on the shows is made by "Desigual." The name, in Spanish means "unequal" or "uneven" and that says it all. Headquartered in Barcelona, Desigual's designs are characterized by patchworks, intense prints, graffiti art, asymmetry and bright colors...all things right up my alley. Besides the fun and colorful design, I am a fan of the great way their garments wash and wear (I have to wear the same outfit three days in a row and that means washing in between) and coordinate so that my closet ends up to be a mix and match bonanza.
No, I am not being paid by Desigual to admit to this! I'm just that big of a fan.
WOMEN'S MARCH FOR MAYOR
It's apropos considering that yesterday was International Women's Day 2020, that three women are in contention for the position of Mayor of Paris. The race in Paris is down to the wire — taking place on March 15th and 22nd (rounds 1 and 2) alongside other French municipal elections. In 2014, Socialist Anne Hidalgo was elected as the first woman mayor of Paris following Bertrand Delanoë's term who was the first gay mayor of the City of Light. She won with 55 percent of the vote in the second round after Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet (who the press calls "NKM") had won the first round. Yes, the term is six long years and for someone like me who is not so fond of Madame Hidalgo, it can seem like an eternity.
I'm not the only one unhappy with her handling of the city. Motorists are at the top of the list as a result of her aggressive campaign to pedestrianize the city by massively reconstructing the roads to accommodate bike lanes (8,000 projects were in full force at once!). These efforts meant to reduce pollution actually resulted in the reverse — ozone levels heightened. My personal complaint goes beyond the traffic problems, to the way she has handled the housing issues and there is no doubt that the city is dirtier than I've ever seen it. Crime was up by more than 10 percent last year, on top of it all.
From Left to Right, Anne Hidalgo, Rachida Dati, Agnès Buzyn
Hidalgo's biggest rival this time around is conservative Rachida Dati (a former justice minister under ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy), representing the Republican party. Analysts have said that Dati has a good chance of "bringing the French right back from the dead in the City of Lights." (France24.com) She wasn't as much in the lead a few weeks ago as she is now, now that President Macron’s La République En Marche (LREM) lost his best candidate, Benjamin Griveaux — who dropped out of the race after an explicitly "personal" video tape came to the public's attention.
Dati's message is about pro-business policies and is talking a lot about housing issues, plus a tough on crime approach. It's a traditional message for the right. Macron's replacement for Griveaux is Agnès Buzyn, the third woman vying for the important political position. She was a health professional before turning to politics and with the Coronavirus looming over our heads, that might prove to be useful.
Even if Madame Hidalgo should lose this campaign, we can be assured that at least a woman will be in charge in the City of Light!
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