Saturday, January 17, 2009

Today was mostly focused on tonight, as I had been invited to join some 85 others at a dinner to celebrate the recent 60th birthday of Martine Landy, (we have mutual friends from San Francisco) who issued the invitation and hosted the affair. It was held away from the center of Paris in a Tudor-styled hall apparently available for rent for such occasions. Martine had asked that I join her friend Philip Serre, for transport. Philip is as interesting a man as I have met in some time and I joined him for introductions in his 5th-floor apartment very near the Eiffel Tower. (The use of the word apartment to describe these elaborate places atop centuries-old buildings with views across much of the city is certainly not meant to diminish the domicile and may be inappropriate. I will check on that). I was immediately struck by the tasteful, somewhat eclectic, assortment of art which accented his collection of antiques throughout. When he noticed me getting a closer look at several pieces he was pleased by let me know that the little piece I was viewing was a Pisarro. “Just very small and not real important,” he noted and I said that the last Pisarro I had seen was just down the boulevard at the Musee d’Orsay and that I had not bumped in to very many Pisarro pieces in anyone’s private home. When I mentioned the Rosa Bonheur I had been so taken with at the Orsay, he said that he, too, loved that painting, and that his mother had a really beautiful Bonheur on her wall. So the comfort level for conversation was easy from this point onward. He and his friend Paulo, obviously mindful of the Indian motif mentioned on the party invitation, were dressed for the evening, making me think I should have brought my Nehru jacket! Philip asked if I had spent much time in Paris and I let him know that I stayed about a week back in the 1970s in the Royal Monceau Hotel, a really gorgeous place near the Arc d’Triomphe and he responded by saying that his family had owned that establishment for more than 100 years and he had been born in #711, where he lived for some 25 years until his family sold the place.
The affair was a lot of fun and I have to note that most folks were dressed more like I was than Philip and Paulo. In fact several people asked me who those gentlemen were with whom I had arrived. I had a picture snapped with Paulo and Martine. Good conversation starters, they were. Martine had thoughtfully alerted several guests that I would be in the crowd and many of them came by to say “allo” and “bienvenue”. A British friend of Martine’s for 30-plus years, Jill Almvang, who now lives in Oslo, had come for the party the day before and was to leave the next day. Now that is a real friend! Jill (wearing glasses with the big smile and pictured on my left) was especially gracious. The other very attractive woman, Suzanne, is from New York state but a Parisian for many years. She popped by with greetings and we had much in common for conversation. Jill guided me around with appropriate introductions and knew where my place card was (at her table) and so there never was a moment where I felt awkward with the language or anything else. I was seated between Mabel, a full-of-life-and-conversation cousin of Martine (on my right), and Claude (“my grandmother’s name was Rosemary and she hated Rosemary’s Baby and so she named be Claudemary;” this in response to my observation to I had not met a lot of lady Claudes along the way). The menu, served from a bounteous buffet, was Indian, as were most of the competent, helpful and very attractive staff.
It was just a marvelous evening and I know I am quite fortunate to have been included. Martine and I have made tentative plans to meet as soon as she recovers from this weekend.

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