A Message from the Co-Directors
NWPL co-directors, James Slowiak and Jairo Cuesta, address the how the company is dealing with the impacts of COVID-19 in Akron, Ohio. (03.19.2020)
Braving New Spaces
Thoughts on performance spaces and communities during the statewide shutdown from Kyra Kelley, NWPL ensemble member and program development coordinator for The Center for Applied Theater and Active Culture. (04.22.2020)
Ask Congress to Support Arts and Nonprofit Workers
Please feel free to share this important information regarding the fourth package of federal relief in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. (05.27.2020)
Jim’s Musings from Paris Blog #1, July 10, 2021 Blog #2, July 17, 2021 Blog #3, July 24, 2021 Blog #4, August 21, 2021 Blog #5, November 17, 2021 Jim’s Musings from Paris: Blog #1, July 10, 2021 It’s been one week since we (Jairo and I) arrived in France—Paris, to be exact—our newly adopted … Continue reading
April 2022 Jim’s Musings from Paris One year ago, NWPL premiered Al otro lado del rio (Across the River), Jairo Cuesta’s solo performance, at the Balch Street Theatre in Akron, Ohio. Since that performance closed in April 2021, I have not set foot in a rehearsal room or participated in a production meeting; I have … Continue reading
February has come and gone and we are nearing the Ides of March. With February’s departure, peace in Europe also skipped town. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine abruptly changed the atmosphere of life in Paris. Yes, the reverberations are felt even this far away from the shrieks of artillery and human agony. Dinner conversations now are … Continue reading
Taking a Walk January 2022
Last time, I was in a state of contentment. Then the holidays happened. Wait, what? More holidays? This time I’m talking about Thanksgiving and the Winter Solstice holidays. I have a lot to say about celebrating Thanksgiving in Paris, as well as the joys and excesses of the French Noël, but I also wanted to discuss our entry into the French medical system, some of my takes on the films of the past year, books I’ve been reading, reactions to the Omicron surge, and, of course, Emily in Paris. Where should I begin? I took a walk this evening…
It still thrills me to walk through the three doors of our apartment building (push, push, pull) and find myself in Paris. The nights come early this time of year and they lock the gates of the park across the street at 5pm now. It happens like clockwork—the locking and the unlocking of the gates of the park—at sunset and sunrise. This small, neighborhood, park receives a lot of attention from the city workers, as well as a group of volunteers. It’s always getting a manicure or a face lift with branches trimmed, lawns reseeded, and walkways washed. One day some students from the elementary school on the street marched over and planted a huge bed of pansies that should bloom all winter long since the temperature seldom dips below freezing in Paris. (Except for this morning, it seems). Another day, a worker tilled a small plot of land and filled it with colorful English primroses. I like the fact that there will be flowers to enjoy during the gray blitz of January and February. At least, that’s what I’m anticipating.
Our street is very quiet. Few cars pass during the day; they stay on the busier thoroughfares at either end of the street. Our apartment building stands between the elementary school I mentioned and a Korean Protestant church. Other businesses on the long block include a ceramics studio, several woodworking shops (apparently this neighborhood used to be the center for woodworking in Paris), a social center where you can find everything from yoga and tai chi classes to capoeira and salsa lessons, offices devoted to a variety of kinesiotherapies, and a small theatre space. One end of the street boasts a French bistro and an Irish pub and the other a small café with a German theme. There are also several storefronts on the street whose purpose I have yet to figure out. Over the holidays, a jewelry store popped up in an empty storefront and one street over a gourmet chocolate store appeared overnight. The Paris landscape is always transforming.
Tonight, I turned right and walked past the German café where folks were enjoying their apéro, a beer and a pretzel. I turned left and looked in the door to say bonsoir to the guys at our “local” shop. They stock locally grown, fresh produce, meats, cheeses—everything is from within 200 kilometers of Paris. These kinds of markets have sprouted up all over Paris these days, along with a variety of “bio” (organic) stores. We are lucky to have a local store just a block away from the apartment and it’s become my “go to” place for in-season fruits and vegetables. I discovered here our favorite French apple, the rubinette, and the varieties of French pears that, as our grandson Léo put it one day, are très succulentes. The big, outdoor market in our neighborhood, Marché d’Aligre, works for less local items like citrus and tomatoes or more exotic fruits like pineapples and bananas. Aligre, which is open every morning except Monday, is also an excellent place to find fresh olives, hummus, and tapenades, and there are several Middle Eastern/North African stores on the street for some of the spicier spices that you don’t commonly find in French shops. The “local” shop closes Sunday afternoons and Monday mornings, but it opens at 5pm on Monday evening for a few hours. When I poke my head inside this particular Monday evening, I regret not bringing my shopping sac with me. The aroma tells me that they have just restocked the bins and the earthy smells of onions, garlic, leeks, and mushrooms dominate the small space. Tonight, I’m just out walking, and, while I’d love to stock up on some fresh mushrooms or fennel, I bid the “local” guys bon soirée.
I continue walking past the patisserie/boulangerie of the popular chef, Cyril Lignac. There is almost always a line outside his shop and tonight is no different. We usually skip his place and go to the boulangerie down the street where the wait is never so long, and the baguettes are just as fresh and craquantes. However, during the holidays we splurged several times at this Paris landmark and carried a delicious Cyril Lignac brioche in a polka dot box to Jairo’s sister’s house near Fountainebleau for New Year’s Eve and the next morning’s breakfast. We also shared one of the patisserie’s Gallette des Rois with family members on Epiphany, January 6. I gallantly tried my hand at baking my own gallette des rois. How did it compare to the famous M. Lignac’s version of the buttery, flaky, creamy, almondy pastry? I’ll just say it’s easy to see why Parisians tend to purchase desserts at a patisserie rather than bake their own. I had much better luck with David Lebovitz’s recipe for French Apple Cake. https://www.davidlebovitz.com/dorie-greenspan-french-apple-cake-recipe/ It’s definitely a keeper.
Speaking of David Lebovitz, I just finished reading his book, L’appart: the delights and disasters of making my Paris home (2017), about buying and renovating a Paris apartment. I also have his cookbook, My Paris Kitchen, which is full of stories and recipes as well as hints for how to set up your own Paris kitchen. I’m enjoying Lebovitz’s take on life as an American in Paris and have subscribed to his newsletter and follow his blog. He’s funny, a tiny bit vulgar, in love with Paris and his French boyfriend, and full of useful information for surviving in the City of Light and navigating the twists and turns of French culture and cuisine. He colors his observations of Parisian life with a healthy dose of American sarcasm (much different than French cynicism). I especially like how he patiently educates his French friends about the fact that we don’t all only eat fast food in the US, but many of us buy locally sourced food and participate in community supported agriculture (CSA) programs, like Akron’s Crown Point Ecology Center. https://www.crownpointecology.org/
As I continue my evening stroll, I turn down a narrow brick alley that runs next to another park. This street is always a bit dark, and I wonder why I don’t feel the same sort of fear walking in Paris as I do in New York or even in some Akron or Cleveland neighborhoods. A garbage truck has stopped up ahead and a young man is walking his unleashed dog. Suddenly, a barrage of insults and vulgarities, in English, erupts back and forth between the young man and the two sanitary workers tirelessly emptying recycling bins into the truck. I don’t know what provoked the conflict. Startled by the intensity and violence from both sides. I’m also laughing at the absurdity and humor of the situation. I inch past the garbage truck, muttering a respectful greeting to the sanitary workers. I am in awe of the Parisian sanitary workers, and I don’t want to do anything to piss them off. (I’m allowed to use that kind of language because the French president used it recently to refer to what he plans to do to unvaccinated individuals in France. Emmerder. Literally, wrap them in shit. Or piss them off by making daily life exceedingly inconvenient for them). The French sanitary workers are the heroes of the city. All day long, every day of the week, garbage trucks roam the streets of Paris controlling the massive amounts of trash and recycling generated by the inhabitants of the city. Just this morning as I am sitting here writing, at least three or four different garbage trucks have come down our street—the recycling truck, the trash truck, the special trash truck, and the glass recycling truck. It’s amazing, really, to observe how this city functions and the people who work every day to make the lives of others more comfortable, not emmerdées.
It’s getting late. I will continue the description of my post-holiday walk through Paris later. This posting is already too long. I almost succeeded in checking off all the topics on my list: the French holidays, Omicron, and current reading. Navigating the medical system deserves its own posting. But I will leave you with my top ten film list. Note that I have still not seen several of the top-rated films of 2021—Belfast, King Richard, Spencer, and The Eyes of Tammy Faye are streaming, but I haven’t seen them yet, while Licorice Pizza, Spider-man, Nightmare Alley, and Macbeth haven’t opened yet here or are already in cinemas but, with Omicron lurking, we prefer to stay at home right now. These are the movies that have stayed home with me. They haunt me, inspire me, and pervade my thoughts and dreams:
- The Power of the Dog
- Drive My Car
- The Lost Daughter
- West Side Story
- The French Dispatch or Being the Ricardos (Either one could have this place).
- Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised)
- Tick, Tick…Boom and Don’t Look Up (This one’s a tie).
Oh, and what’s with Emily in Paris? It’s like watching a train wreck. It’s so bad, but I can’t look away. Help me!