Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Being Tom Denney

Dedicated to my Brother who wonders every day what my daily routine is like.

As the cool air circulates through the livingroom/kitchen/my bedroom (the couch) I fumble around for my cell phone as it chirps every few seconds, and I can never seem to remember exactly where on the floor I put it the night before as I fell asleep. I only remember it was somewhere least likely to get stepped on or kicked if I got up in the middle of the night. It's 6am and the sun wont be up for another hour or so, and the horizon which I look right out over the rooftops at, is just starting to turn blue. I always notice the clouds, they will usually disappear with the arrival of the sun as if somehow being warmed by it turns them translucent. Walking to the bathroom, I turn on the light and feel the humidity of it's ill ventilated tomb-like atmosphere. Everything is finished and shiny sealed concrete, even the counter tops. Inevitably whomever took the last shower never remember to turn the valve closed on the shower head and as I lean in to turn the water on I remember this annoying fact just as the cold water steams down on my head. FUCK! Every morning! The rest of the time is spent finishing bathroom stuff, with the exception of shaving, that's only on the weekends.
I quietly get a pot of water going on the stove and try not to make to much noise as Patrick is still sleeping we share the livingroom/kitchen/bedroom (he has an air mattress). I finish getting dressed and as the water starts to boil I pour it into the french coffee press and remember I don't have any baguette left from yesterday so today I will just have to get one on the way to studio and fore-go the butter and jam. I'm out the door by 6:45am; Keys, wallet, sketchbook, living on the 7th floor requires this check. I hope there is no dog shit in the first block, as this is where I will step in it if there is, still not totally awake. Half way to studio there is a bakery that just reopened a week ago. They were on holiday the first couple of weeks we were here. The lady knows all I want is a petite baguette and also knows I cant understand when she say cinquante-cinq she is telling me it's E0,55 (that's about $0.65 in English) so she always turns the display on the cash register and smiles pointing to the price. It's still warm and chewy as I take a bite on my way out the door. The streets are quiet and only a handful of people are out, but all the bars are open with a few people sitting inside sipping their cafe, having the first mornings smoke and talking to the bartenders. One morning I'll get up the nerve to go inside one and have my cafe with them, I just don't know if they would understand or enjoy listening to me babble about the two new mosquito bites I got from sleeping with the windows open last night.
Arriving at studio is always the same: a dark hallway leading back to that scary-ass elevator I got stuck in that first week. Why do I still have the urge to jump up and down in it, WHY! I actually have to restrain myself from bouncing up and down as it ascends the 3 floors. Opening the door the studio is warm. I walk around opening windows like an innkeeper getting ride of the piss stench left from the previous nights drunk boarders. I finally get settled at my desk, computer booting-up, baguette in hand. I promise myself to only eat half of it so When my stomach starts to growl around 1 or 2 in the afternoon I can satiate my appetite until dinner and be proud I only spent cinquante-cinq for breakfast and lunch today. I check my email replying to those who have sent me emails, that takes about an hour. If I have just returned from a trip I go through the 100's of photos (no those 6-8 I put up on the blog are not the only ones I take). If it's the middle of the week I start to doodle and write in my journal, copies of which will be available in December for only $39.99 + $9.99 for a DVD containing all the photo's from the semester abroad.
By this time any one of the others have shown up and we discuss the next weekends trip and strategies for optimal site visits along with what we have to show for studio today (doodles and enough reading to have 20 minutes of conversation). 10am Prof Roesch arrives and wants to know if which ever straggler is not there will be there shortly. We go back to doodling on trace or in our sketch books. Peter (Prof. Roesch) prefers sketchs instead of looking at computer images. I am wishing the weather here wasn't so hot, having the windows open is a constant distraction as scooters are always whizzing down the street below, and with the building across the way so close it seems to amplify the noise up. I am beginning to wonder why do they need to have mufflers that make that much noise, it's gotten to the point where it is more annoying then the dog shit everywhere. I'm tempted to keep a box of rocks next to me and start chucking them out the window. As quick as the thought enters my head I begin to think "How American of me, someone else annoys me so my first reaction is to throw a rock." Can you have diplomatic relations with 10,000's of scooter riders and ask them all to get quieter mufflers? Maybe I'll try next week.
By 2pm things are beginning to break-up at studio, each of us is secretly planning the rest of our afternoons so as not to let anyone know where we are going, as that might give away some cool new secret place in Paris you get to explore on your own and then come back and tell everyone how cool this new area was you went to. By about 6 I'm sweaty enough and thinking about dinner and start to make my way home. I put a quick menu together in my head...4 people for dinner, Sara always brings the bread, haven't had pasta in a few days, and the tomatoes are always excellent at the Fran Prix Super Marche. The egyptian guy next door has 30 barrels of different olives. Today he also has huge fresh figs, and I have honey in the pantry back at the apartment to pour on them for a nice simple dessert. I get home by 6:45 or 7 and take a small glass of diet coke out on the deck as my evening 'cocktail'. I start dinner and preparing it all only takes as long as boiling the pasta, the rest of the ingredient are cut and simmering by the time the pasta is done. A quick toss in the pan and I'm turning it out onto plates. Patrick takes a picture, like every time I cook dinner, to tease his friends back home about the fact he gets to live with a former chef in France for a semester. As the sun light fades about 9pm it signals time to get a little more work in for the day, back to studio or reading for a few hours. As we break they ask how much was dinner tonight...E2.00 each will cover the total cost of the meal and I break even with only my experience and time spent.
The walk back to studio is uneventful. Looking in the window of the bar with the Stella Artois sign reveals the same french faces and the young Mediterranean owner/bartender. I try to convince myself that tonight will be the night I will go in if he is still open when I am walking home from studio. Why should I be afraid? I will bring a book, I tell myself, feeling like it will be a well deserved reward for only spending cinquante-cinq on breakfast and lunch. I spend a few hours doing research, scibbling some design ideas for the Les Halles project, throw them in the garbage, embarrassed to show them to Peter. At midnight I start to close up the studio and head home. I see the lights are on in the Stella bar as I approach, the first stool is occupied, then the next and the next, the small bar is full, I couldn't even pass the people lined up to get to the only open stroll at the back. Oh well maybe tomorrow night. I yawn wide as I pass the window making sure anyone caring enough to look out will see I am to tired to bother with their little hole in the wall.
I ride the elevator up and emerge into the pitch-black hallway. All the lights in public areas of buildings are on timers and after a few minutes they turn off so lights in hallways arn't on 24-7 like in the states. You have to hit the switch to illuminate the area you are in. Going inside, I undress. I take the cushions off the couch and put my cell phone, which now acts as my alarm clock, on the floor somewhere least likely to get stepped on or kicked if I got up in the middle of the night. As I drift off to sleep I think of my wife, tomorrow is out 10 year anniversary and I would love to be able to kiss her.


Debby Murtha said...

I feel like I am there! The fresh baguettes, the bakery, the doggie presents, and the ROAR of the Vespa [or whatever the French equivalent is]. Kelly, I am sure, wishes she could be there too, but what a lovely thought to end with.

Janet Irons-mom to TL said...

I think this is all so terrific. I CAN'T BELIEVE HOW everything sounds - and you make me feel like I am really there. I especially love your shout out to Kelly.
Happy Anniversary. Mom

Nick said...

Tom, I can't tell you how much i love to read these blogs and this one definitely takes the cake. I just finished reading some FLW essay for history and it seems that all great architects have a talent for writing. You're on your way my friend. I'm growing more jealous reading each sentence... i could almost taste that pasta dish. I wish i was there. Enjoy it while you can and i assure you i will be first in line for that journal.