Anyone else would likely sweep them into the trash, but for me the scraps of paper scribbled with my handwriting that cover the horizontal surfaces of my office (i.e. my living room) are potential treasures.
Still, something has to be done with them, so two weeks ago I set the end of the year as my deadline do something with these pages torn from different size notebooks, these partially legible Post-its and other bits and pieces, odds and ends and scraps and fragments of text.
It was easy enough to clear the brochures and press kits that lie about the room (to the garbage for most), but some of this may be gold dust.
Late at night—always at night—I’ve been filing, processing, digitalizing or trashing them: knickknacks of ideas, pieces of intended articles, wise phrases that may or may not be mine, descriptions without objects, analyses without context, dialogues without place, places without event, restaurant reviews set aside before the waiter arrived, notes from interviews that fell flat, daydreams from the rails (I like writing on trains), conversations heard and overheard, half-finished vignettes.
A friend came over the other day. Can you tell the difference? I asked. He looked around the room. Well, it looks like you made piles.
But the piles then shrank, and now, the new year almost here, there’s only one small pile left. Only a handful remain.
June. Standing on my balcony. A couple seated at the single table on the terrace of the restaurant across the street. A man scrapes his plate repeatedly with his forks. He then switches plates with what must be his wife and starts scraping hers. “Hey,” my neighbor Mme C shouts from her window. “can’t you eat normally? Eat some bread if you’re still hungry.”
At a party I go into the kitchen to look for a corkscrew. The hostess is in there putting a pie on a plate. “Get out of here,” she says, truly distressed. “I hate having men in the kitchen.”
M’s restaurant recommendations: Ratapoil, rue de Faubourg Possonnière; KGB, rue des Augustins; (illegible), rue du Faubourg St Denis; Pierre Sang, rue Oberkampf.
Walking with a long-lost friend around Chatelet-Les Halles looking for a place to have lunch. We pass a bistro where I have a vague recollection of a fun evening at a table by the stairwell, though I can’t recall with whom and whether the food was any good. I suggest we go there. We have a great time catching up, but the food is horrible. I have a limp and chewy steak with greasy fries. He has tasteless duck. We share a small carafe of teeth-staining rotgut. I now remember the last time I was there. The food was horrible then too. I was with A. and G. We’d laughed about what a poor wine choice G. had made and agreed that I should choose next time.
Metro. A man holding a large can of beer tells a story to himself about the time his protagonist was accused of not paying for his coffee. In his story there is a Chinese man, an Algerian woman, a fat bartender, a man lying on the street. “He’s tired. He slept on the sidewalk. You almost stepped on him. He was by the side. You could see him.” As he speaks, the man’s eyes are fixed on the shoes of a fellow standing nearby, who then moves his feet to escape his stare.
Sully-sur-Loire. 1 of 27 chateaux Sully owned. Copy of tomb here, original in Nogent. Bombardment by Italians in 1941, by Allies in 1944 (to destroy the port). 80% destroyed. Joan of Arc was here. Ark of the Covenant, Germigny.
“Strasbourg mon amour” press conference. Strasbourg is now promoting itself as a Valentine’s Day destination to copy its own success as a Christmastime destination. Christmas Market dates to 1570. Massacre of Jews in Strasbourg on Feb. 14, 1349.
Everyone looks old at a funeral.
A 15-year-old boy hugs me at the end of a week-long tour I’ve been giving to a school group. “I love you,” he says. I’m touched and embarrassed and glad that the accompanying teachers didn’t hear. Then a giant of a girl, 16, hugs me and says that she loves me, too, and several others, mostly the girls, do the same. Saying they love someone is apparently their thing. The oldest of the boys, 18, laughs. “How come you don’t love me?” I ask. “I don’t need to tell you,” he says, “you know I do.”
There, done, the final scraps of 2014 have been processed… with you as my witness.
I am so looking forward to sharing 2015 with you.
Dec. 30, 2014.