Saturday, September 3, 2011

A Moveable Feast

I took this photo in April of a man sitting under some blossoming trees beside Notre Dame
as I wandered around  Paris lost in every moment of adventure and discovery...

I just re-read Hemingway's, A Moveable Feast after thirty years. I was motivated to revisit his expatriate experience of the 20's in Paris after visiting the Steins Collect Matisse, Picasso, and the Parisian Avant-Garde exhibit at SFMOMA as well as the Gertrude Stein exhibit at the SF Contemporary Jewish Museum.

As an artist and writer, I would have enjoyed living the expatriate life in Paris during the 20's and 30's. Reading the book was a much different experience this time than three decades ago. But, the last paragraph rings as true for me today as it did in the late 70's:

"There is never any ending to Paris and the memory of each person who has lived in it differs from that of any other. We always returned to it no matter who we were or how it was changed or with what difficulties, or ease, it could be reached. Paris was always worth it and you received return for whatever you brought to it. But this is how Paris was in the early days when we were very poor and very happy."
                                                                                Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast

In Memory of Deborah Nourse Dubs

Escape from Dubrovnik

Journal Excerpt - June 17, 1976

This day will remain in my memory forever. The four of us had the whole day to play until we had to catch the boat to Dubrovnik. Wine flowed like a waterfall; eating peanuts on the dock and Jim surprised us with sugared donuts from the bakery - to my amazement they had holes in them! In Greece?!? After awhile, time started moving faster - souvlaki, more wine, and ouzo! Time unimportant but so important! The boat would leave at eight o'clock. Rushing around getting passports stamped; buying more peanuts and wine. And, yet the hilarity was only beginning. Jim and Joran came on the boat to say their goodbyes but little did they know that they were going to Yugoslavia along with us and had left their passports back in the tents on Pelekas Beach. Perhaps, it was the ouzo or Jim's half-assed statement that he would need to be more intelligent than the woman he married that pushed the boat off for Dubrovnik without so much as a second announcement. We barely heard the first! The only horns blowing were in our heads as the docks of Corfu slowly began to crawl into the distance. What an adventure! It must be such spontaneity as this that is the fruit of life. Running frantically through the boat's corridors in a futile attempt to find a room while trying to hide from the authorities. Finally, Jim and I spending the night in one of the lifeboats hanging over the Adriatic as we sailed towards the medieval town of Dubrovnik on the Croatian coast.

Our boat docks in Dubrovnik - June 18, 1976

Mood - a bit on the nervous side contemplating our friends escape from the Yugoslavian police - communist state; all somewhat dramatic in my own mind. We disembarked without Jim and Joran after giving them a location of where we could meet and saying our goodbyes one more time. The authorities checked our passports twice and then we walked over to the exchange office for money and waited. After about an hour we were coming from the Tourist Bureau when I looked across the street to see Jim and Joran walking carefreely and smiling wide - free!

Sometime later I received a letter from Jim explaining that he and Joran had been captured by the communist police and imprisoned. He then went on to describe how he had made a guitar out of the bedsprings in his cell. I was upset to hear that he and Joran had endured such difficulties, especially in a communist country from which they might not escape. After our return to the states I received a letter from Jim. He was back home in Woodland, Washington. I was so relieved that he was safe! Later, he called me in San Francisco and admitted that he'd made everything up. At the time, I was angry and our brief relationship ended. But now, decades later, I realize how foolish and gullible I was back then and but will always have great memories of that adventurous time.

Corfu (Kondokali)

 Journal Excerpt - June 13, 1976

There's been a full moon these last couple of days; and I'm feeling, as usual, a bit restless, tense, irritable, excitable - an intense bit of everything. Looking forward to Dubrovnik and, of course, today. Left Corfu town for the youth hostel here. Our first night was crazy. Lots of young people dancing beneath a full moon. I could see the reeds of grass shadowed before the sky - old moon making silhouettes of my friends. Switzerland rode his bike all the way here. And, to India. The French girl was so nice. Suggested Montpelier for art school, said Aix has a lot of cultural events but now is mostly bourgeoisie and students. I'll just have to see when I get there.

Yesterday rented motorbikes and explored the island. So incredible! Ahhh, yes...Shakespeare, you had it right when you wrote the Tempest. I commend you ever so highly. Here's to Prospero and here's to Ariel! Olive trees, cyprus, and lovely ferns. The water, crystal clear. Rock like a God jutting out into the indigo depths. I felt so like a bird winding down around the mountain paths - at times it was a bit rough. I loved it! The beauty assaulted my senses; my senses gave way and I could breathe, at last, the sweet breath of freedom.

          "...take off these clothes, leave your boat for the winds to play with, and swim for your life
           to the Phaeacian coast, where deliverance awaits you."
                                                                                           Homer: The Odyssey, Book V