jeudi 27 août 2009

Futur (proche) lieu de vie

Quelques photos de Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, ville où je vais vivre pendant un an...

Ville industrielle, avec certains monstres de bâtiments maintenant inutiles, mais fascinants à photographier.

Un effort concerté pour donner un deuxième souffle à la ville après le déclin de l'industrie lourde d'acier.

Et enfin, petite photo inaugurale du théâtre dans lequel je vais travailler...

I'm starting to get really excited about this year. An odd sense of calm, now that I saw the town, the theatre and the house. Things are going to be ok.

Day off

I was itching to write in French, but the keyboard I'm using does not have the useful accents needed for the French language. And writing without the accents makes my skin crawl. So, English it is, for now.

I'm in DC, taking the day off from travels and activities. Taking the day to do what I do so well, and that is... not much besides keeping myself entertained with writing, reading and perhaps watching a dvd later, if I feel like it. I realise many people aren't like this. It seems like a lot of people don't necessarily need "low times". Or maybe they do, but don't realise it. When my mother left the appartment, she asked me what I was going to do, and suggested that I could go to the pool (my uncle and aunt live in a complex where there is a pool and many other fancy things like a gym and even a coffee shop). Yes, I guess I could. But that would defeat the purpose of having a day off, having a day when you don't do things just for the sake of doing them. A day when you just hang out with yourself. Perhaps, if I actually enjoyed going to the pool, I would feel like going. But, really, I don't, so it most probably ain't gonna happen!

Instead of swimming and getting exercise, I'm reading the book Eat, Pray, Love which was so sweetly sent from New Orleans by my sister. I'm enjoying it very much, but Elizabeth Gilbert, the author and narrator, gets on my nerves, a little, sometimes. She's a bullient, chatty, sometimes self-absorbed (or overly self-deprecating? I'm not sure which yet) American in search of spirituality. The subtitle of the book goes like this : " One woman's search for everything across Italy, India and Indonesia". And indeed, it does seem like Liz Gilbert is looking for everything, namely peace and purpose and a sense of feeling complete. In order to find those things, she stops by Italy to find pleasure, India to meditate and find Peace -or in her words : God - and Indonesia to try and combine worldly pleasures with transcendance. It's an ambitious project, and a worthy one, too. That may be why I would like her to write in a slightly less pedestrian way. Call me old-fashionned, but if I'm reading a book about praying, I don't expect and necessarily want to be so entertained. Eat Pray Love is an entertaining read, but not a profound and deep one. I don't think it will transform me, although it has instructed me on Yoga practises and the ways of meditation. But Gilbert's writing is too chatty. It still wants to seduce. She wants to be loved through her writing, instead of just saying things without fear of judgement. I haven't finished the book yet, so I might be surprised to see that Gilbert's writing has more impact on me than I'm willing to admit. And it is reassuring to hear such a fresh voice candidly sharing her turmoil and quest for calm in her life. But I'm pretty sure that she's one of those people who has difficulties taking "low times" just to chill. She actually admits it, blaming in part her American culture :

"Generally speaking, though, Americans have an inability to relax into sheer pleasure. Ours is an entertainment-seeking nation, but not necessarily a pleasure-seeking one. Americans spend billions to keep themselves amused with everything from porn to theme parks to wars, but that's not exactly the same thing as quiet enjoyment. [...] Americans don't really know how to do nothing."

Of course, I can find Americans who know how to relax. By generalizing, without giving hard evidence for her claim, Gilbert is weakening her argument. But, on the other hand, I see what she means. Having been raised in France, I know how to enjoy a meal. That basically means eating delicious food, talking with friends for endless hours, and not doing much else than that. Such times are beautiful, deeply cherished moments. And I'm really really not sure that I would know how to thoroughly enjoy a meal if I had been raised in the USA. In fact, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't.

Have I ever mentionned that I'm very happy being Franco-American? Well, I am! Best of both worlds, if it weren't for all that water between them...

mardi 18 août 2009

carrot soufflé entre autres souvenirs

J'avais le projet d'écrire une entrée de blog pour tous les arrêts de notre road trip... mais la voiture roule plus vite que mon inspiration, et nous voilà déjà presque à la fin de notre périple, sans que je n'ai documenté chaque minute. Tant pis, tant mieux.

Ce que je peux dire, in retrospect, c'est que j'ai vraiment le sentiment d'avoir voyagé aux Etats-Unis cet été. D'avoir échantillonné des ambiances, d'avoir mangé de nombreux plats différents venus de cuisines originales... je retiens le "carrot soufflé" mangé au black art festival à Atlanta, ainsi que le gumbo de chez Stanley, et le alligator po'boy à New Orleans. Tiens, je me demande si je ne peux pas trouver une recette pour ce carrot soufflé... here it is:

Because this dish contains no beaten egg whites, it is not a true soufflé the name is derived from its light airy texture. Similar in color and flavor to sweet potato casserole, it pairs well with ham or turkey.
8 servings (serving size: 1/2 cup)
7 cups chopped carrot (about 2 pounds)
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup fat-free sour cream
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
Cooking spray
1 teaspoon powdered sugar
Preheat oven to 350°.
Cook carrot in boiling water 15 minutes or until very tender; drain. Place carrot in a food processor; process until smooth. Add granulated sugar and next 7 ingredients (granulated sugar through eggs); pulse to combine.
Spoon mixture into a 2-quart baking dish coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 40 minutes or until puffed and set. Sprinkle with powdered sugar.

mercredi 12 août 2009

Lower Ninth Ward, New Orleans

The streets lost their names.
Avenues, drives and alleys,
Martin Luther King and Pinetree
clashed in the wind.
Quicker than one, two, three,
New Orleans' lower Ninth Ward
was unashamedly robbed
of its identity.

But did that really matter
in the end,
when the levees broke,
when the waters took,
The hood lost its houses.
Houses lost families.
Armchairs, tables, cars and bodies
floating in the stream.
So survivors fled
away from the flood.
All is gone now but lonesome foundations
left to rest in the shrubs.

lundi 3 août 2009

Montgomery, Alabama

As we meandered our way from Atlanta to New Orleans, we passed through Alabama. We actually stopped in Montgomery, the state capital. That's where Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white person in the bus, and by her act of civil disobedience, sparked the bus boycott. That's also where, in 1965, civil rights activists and black citizens of Alabama marched from Selma to Montgomery in order to demand that black people be able to register to vote in local and federal elections (they had the right to vote, but white administrations wouldn't let them register).

(these engravings graced the walls of the Rosa Parks library)

The Dexter avenue King memorial baptist church is very close to the Alabama State capitol, and that's where Martin Luther King jr preached from 1954 to 1960. People were just coming out of church, and it was nice to see the elegant ladies chatting as well the kids running around.

We were there on a sunday, early afternoon, so the streets were deserted and all shops closed. The downtown part of Montgomery is economically depressed : stores boarded up along mainstreet. But there's also a certain grandeur to the city, with elegant state buildings and fountains.
Montgomery isn't the kind of place tourists come to visit. But it's one of those stops that gives you the feeling of travelling. The sort of travelling that brings you to another place, outside your comfort zone, your usual routine.



Home of Margaret Mitchell, the Braves (a baseball team), CNN and ... Coca-Cola!
Although I had already been to Atlanta when I was 13 or so, it was important to make a stop at Margaret Mitchell's house again. Since then, I had met Scarlett O'Hara and Rhett Butler and was eager to see where those two fantastic characters had been conceived. Margaret Mitchell had an appartment in a large house and apparently referred to it as "the dump". But she nevertheless wrote big chunks of Gone with the Wind there, so I guess bad standards of living don't have a negative effect on brilliant fiction writing! Here's a photo of the dump:

The city of Atlanta seems to be proud to be the home of Gone with the Wind, which can easily be branded as the model of the Southern epic/romance/war novel. I can't thank Juliette enough for having given me that book for my birthday last year!

Now, on a less intellectual - but nonetheless very cultural - note, here's a glimpse of the Coca-cola footprint in the Atlanta landscape:

Not such an inelegant building, might I add, if it weren't for that coke bottled encased in its very own tower. I mean, really?? In this building, there is - of course - a Coca-Cola museum (which we had visited when I was 13, and decided we remembered it well enough) and a huge gift shop. There's also the founder of Coke who is there to greet visitors, or to force them to drink the brown stuff, I'm not exactly sure which:

I guess every civilisation has its own set of inspirational characters...

But this blog entry might be showing Atlanta in a slightly derivative light. It's actually a very enjoyable town, with pretty parks and many valuable cultural institutions. We were there during the Black arts festival and were greeted by a jazz band. I was also struck by the beautiful sculptures scattered around the central part of the city.

samedi 1 août 2009

Small town USA

Oxford, North Carolina was a little gem of a road trip stop, in the end. Fortunately, Stephanie had to stop by a post office, so we went to Main Street Oxford and didn't limit our visiting to the motel. Very cute little town, with pretty stores and people who all knew each other. We were propelled in small town USA!

Noticing a cute café, we went in and were served by a young high school girl who seemed to come straight out of the latest cheerleading movie, except that she was actually smart and friendly, with a singing southern accent and dreams of becoming a model, going to Paris and Rome. Then comes in this young high school guy, with a computer under his arm and a tee shirt that has some computer joke along the lines of "who reboots your hard drive?". He was just coming into the café to hang out and chat up the pretty girl at the counter. So, we ended up talking to him too. He didn't seem too happy about the new Wal Mart being built in the outskirts of town, fearing for local business and community. I was quite impressed to hear a teenager talk like that, since most of the american kids I had spoken to before, when I was a teenager myself, were all very excited about wal marts, rather than worried. After nice conversation and copious amounts of coffee, as well as a nice bagel with cream cheese, we were on the road again, direction Atlanta.

Here are a few photos of Oxford: