Tuesday, December 17, 2013

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

Central Park 12/14/13
Meanwhile in sunny Southern California my house is getting ready for the Holidays as the spirit moves me to be creative.

Santa Claus and reindeer have joined the gifts from the sea on my coffee table.
Cabbage, Red Coffee Beans and Red Roses from Trader Joe's Become a Christmas Bouquet
A few crabapples in the floral arrangement and some reindeer and toy soldiers join fireplace mantel for the holidays.

The tree, cupid and some greens and berries adorn the hearth.

Poinsettias and Bows accompany the Menorah on the Buffet

And after all this fun stuff, a little late night writing.   My monitor propped up by several coffee table books, the little speakers plugged into my Ipod and I'm ready for another kind of creative endeavor.

Battend down for the night, Herman Miller and I await the muse to tap my shoulder.
Songs out of tune, the words always a little wrong...Canzoni Stonate

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Paris - Day Six - French Lingerie and Restaurant Allard - (Post dated 11/22 /11 sitting in Drafts, never published.)

After our late night dining last night, we slept in on Wednesday.  Welcoming nicer weather and having a very relaxing morning catching up with e-mails and other things, D expressed a desire to get serious about finding some nice French lingerie this day.

Keeping in mind that we had dinner reservations at 8:00 p.m. and that we were getting a late start, we made a few stops and finally found ourselves at Emilia Cosy.

Welcomed by a very charming, English speaking French woman, D had finally found some things she liked and picked out two pretty sets by (panties and bra) by Chantal Thomass.  While I loved her choices, I felt the outfits would not be complete without garter belt and stockings.  Men love them and while the more practical D was hesitant at first, I talked her into trying them on.

When I offered to buy them for her, that cinched the deal.  She paid for one set and I for the other, stockings and garter belt included.

With that settled, the very savvy shop owner turns to me and says in her very charming way, "And you, madam?"

Well, what is a girl (at heart) to do but pick out a black netting and silk  bustier that I later learned was from the Tourbillon Nocturne line and one of the more expensive pieces to boot.  However, it turned out to be a perfect fit and I had to admit it was very sexy.  "Not too bad for a woman of ___, is it ?" I said to the owner.   To my gratification, she looked floored and said..."Well madam, I congratulate you because you look wonderful.  You should never tell anyone your age!"

After those flattering words, I was forced to purchase the bloody thing, not to mention the matching, very frilly knickers (well really a thong).  We walked out the door with our purchases all boxed up in pretty boxes and tissue, lighter in spirit and heavier in debt.  I never told D, but when I got home I ordered the matching thigh high stockings.  One must present a complete picture, after all.

We stopped by a few other stores, where D bought a cute nightgown and then noticing the time, headed back to our apartment to freshen up and catch a cab to our dinner reservations at Allard.

D had dined at Allard on her previous trip to Paris several years before with a man she was dating," and liked it.  It was small and usually crowded, but very French and she thought I would like it.  On that trip,   a "celebrity" acquaintance was also dining there with her French boyfriend.  She figured that gave the restaurant a little more cachet!

Well, by the time we were ready to go, we stood in front of our building trying to flag down a taxi, but to no avail.  We stood there almost 10 minutes and even though it was cold, we were warmly dressed and started walking....all the while keeping our eye out for a vacant taxi.  She remembered vaguely where it was and had the name of the street, but we were walking so rapidly (in high heeled boots no less) that we got a little turned around and arrived at the restaurant breathless and almost 25 minutes late.

The entrance to the restaurant is a narrow corridor facing a half wall where you can peer into the kitchen.   The reseveration stand was to the left and a very French gentlemen (who we later figured out was one of the owners) was attending it.  After taking care of several persons, we finally got to him and apologized for our tardiness.   He looked us up and down, looked at our reservation and said "Come this way."

We were seated in the room to the left (there is another dining area to the right and we squeezed  into a small space on the wall where we had an excellent view, she of half the room and I of the other.    I moved my chair a little in order not to bump heads with the person sitting behind me and thanked the fates that the French were not as sticky about time as the Americans.  I ordered a short campari and soda and some flat water and D had a Martini.

As we picked up our menu's, I smiled at the party about five inches to our left (yes, the tables were that close together).   They were a party of three, a fifty something couple and a twenty something young guy.  I also noticed that across from us on the wall was a party of three Frenchmen and two Japanese males, who seemed to be having a very nice time, although I recognized the sceneario...the Frenchmen were playing hosts to the CEO and perhaps the second in command of a Japanese company and ending a day of negotiations with a lavish dinner.  I'd been party to a few of those with my husband many years before and they are easy to recognize.

I picked out the CEO easily.  He was the fifty something male who had shed his coat and rolled up his shirt sleeves.  He had a very nice face with long salt and pepper hair pulled back in a stylish ponytail.  he was slim with good athletic looking shoulders.  They were all drinking champagne and working on appetizers...when Mr. CEO looked up and our eyes met.

By now I started relaxing and looked over the wine list.  I took a chance and picked out a Corton Grand Cru (Burgundy), which the waiter praised as a very good selection.  The wine list was extensive and this wine was moderately priced at $104 euros.   After tasting it, I was glad I had paid attention to our lovely French waiter at Raoul's in Soho,  who gave  D and I a very thorough but friendly dissertation on the differences between French and California wines and what to look for in the French ones.  I'm not a wine snob, but I like a smooth wine that goes down easily without it bothering you later on.   With wine, as with a few other things, you really do get what you pay for most of the time, even though the mark up in most restaurants is quite substantial.

I love it when I take a gamble and it turns out well.  The wine was delicious.

As D and I tackled the menu, our three "almost dinner partners to the left" did likewise.  We discovered they were American and had little idea what to order.  What became obvious was that it was a case of parents visiting their son, who was working in France.  The young man's French was not very good but he tried to guide them a little.  In the meantime, D and I decided on our choices and were discussing the day's events, when their appetizers arrived.  They seemed a little confused by their order, but good naturedly dug into their salads.   The husband was drinking a cocktail and the mother and son, wine.

D and I talked about our day and purchases and how she planned to spring the lingerie on her new man. They had been dating for 2 1/2 months and I suggested she cook for him, open up a bottle of wine and then after dinner, excuse herself and model her purchases for him.

I happen to look up and noticed that the CEO of the lively table  (who I will call Toranaga-san...after a character in one of  my favorite James Clavell novels) was again looking at me with fairly intense interest.  Our eyes met and I demurely lowered my lashes and turned back to my conversation with D.  Next time I looked his way, he was still looking at me with the same intensity.

Ours was table to the right, but separated and pushed against the wall with view of Toranaga-san's banquette table. 

"So that's how it's going to be?" I smiled inwardly.  We were going to play the oldest game in the book.  I was game if he was.   Not skipping a beat, I continued talking to D as our first course arrived.

Not a little time and many looks later, I noticed that someone else was tuned in to our little flirtation.  The father of our threesome next to us, who had, by this time had several drinks, seemed a little agitated and started complaining about something to his wife.  It had to do with the prices and what he was eating.

D and I were engrossed in conversation and our respective entrees but we both took note of the building tension next to us.   At the same time Toranaga-san's dinner companions were becoming aware that their guest was not paying much attention to what they were saying because his attention was mostly focused elsewhere,  as one by one they turned around and smiled knowingly in my direction.  How I wish I could have been a fly (with linguistic skills, obviously)  on that table to hear how this French/Japanese conversation was going.

It was delicious!
What I did get from the knowing smile on the Frenchmens' faces, was that, at that point they gave up trying to sell Mr. Toranaga on whatever they were trying to sell him, and promptly ordered another bottle of very expensive wine, leaving him to his pleasure as they welcomed another course in their banquet and basked in the comeraderie of their fellow males in a subject that unifies males of all nationalities.

By this time, D and I were both starting to feel embarrassment for the female "almost table mate" to our left (D's right).  It was apparent by now that her husband, who had imbibed a little too much alcohol, was getting very vocal about a few things, namely the prices of the items on the menu, the food they had ordered and just his general dissatisfaction with his life, as he watched our little comedy unfold.  Suddenly  he blurts out to his unsuspecting son, that he and his wife had been living apart for some time  and that this trip to visit him is all a charade.

Now really embarrassed for the poor woman, who had been trying to put up a good front for the son and remain dignified at this very awkward moment, the man turns to me, a perfect stranger,  and says "Well, it's the truth....why hide it anymore?"

I literally wanted to pull an invisible lever and send the man to hell for his boorishness.  How dare he presume we were interested in his little drama and make us witness to the mortification of his family?    The wife promptly buried her head in eating her food and the son smiled at us apologetically, trying to steer the conversation in another direction to spare his mother.

D and I closed our ears,  leaving them to work out their problems and continued with our own conversation, which had drifted to her new boyfriend's 24 year old ex, who still constantly texted him.  My motherly advise to her was not to be insecure over the situation.   After all, it was he who came after her in the first place and as they got closer and more secure in the relationship, the situation would remedy itself.  I firmly believe that once D had stated her initial objection to the practice, to keep doing so would only make her look needy... and, to me, I think there is nothing that chases a man away faster than a "needy, clingy, insecure woman."

Model your sexy lingerie.
Meanwhile, Mr. Toranaga and I, more discreetly, but no less eloquently, continued our visual game of chess with each other....his bold looks were matched by my now humorous ones...in acknowledgement that his dinner partners were in on our little game of mutual admiration.

Funny, when something like this happens it makes one wonder a big philosophical why?    All we know is that someone who has caught our attention responds to us immediately on a very primal level.  The more logical explanation we give ourselves is that we are two human beings, attracted by something in the other that needs to be marked or acknowledge in some way.   No matter the reason, if done with a sense of humor and a certain amount of discretion, it is a mostly harmless, delicious thing to engage in.

One very enjoyable dinner and bottle of wine later, I noticed our Frenchmen were settling up the bill at about the same time we had asked for our own.  It was then, I decided to visit the ladies room for a quick touch up before we hit the road.  The Powder Room was in the other wing of the restaurant and I had to traverse the narrow hallway to get to it.    As I was returning  down the narrow corridor to our own little dining room,  our party of Frenchmen and Mr. Toranaga and his translator or second in command, were coming the other way towards the door in the center.

Unsure of what to do, I was forestalled by him as he stopped and literally "growled" two sentences to me in Japanese, then bowed deeply and smiled at me.  The Frenchmen were grinning and  I simply tilted my head to the side, acknowledged him with a smile and bowed my head and lowered my eyes in a return salute, a cap to our evening's foray into the mystery of attraction.

One last look at each other and they continued on there way and I on mine.

As I sat down and signed the check, D took the opportunity to visit the ladies room and I sat with a smile on my face, having a premonition that Toronaga-san and his hosts were now headed to some expensive gentlemen's club where the 2nd act of the evenings flirtation would play out...probably some place in Pigalle, and wishing I understood Japanese so I would know what he had said to me.

As I thought of this, I was taken back in time to me being a month shy of my 15th birthday and on vacation with my parents in Cuba and thinking that not much had changed between this exchange and the youthful earnestness of the then twenty-something boys clamoring for attention.   Their display of ardor could only be played out with intense looks,  the surreptitious touching of damp hands and, the sensuality of the dance floor during the slow melodies, where those same bodies, hard and urgent, conveyed their feelings under the watchful eyes of the crowd and the older couples who were there to make sure propriety was observed.

What was apparent to us all back then, because it was so blatantly observed and kidded about by their friends, was that that same ardor would be given release elsewhere, in their case, the red light district of our small town.

As I did then, though blissfully unawares that it was what I was doing, I had given myself over to live happily in those delicious, secretive moments that come much too rarely between humans and need to be acknowledged when you are in them.

Tonight, while so much else was going on around us... Mr. Toranaga-san and I gave ourselves over to our mutual admiration, recognizing that the art of flirtation is good for the soul as well as the body...two people who touch each other, without ever touching.

I walked out of the restaurant that night feeling serene and beautiful and embraced by the enchantment of the city of love, so very secure in my powers as a woman and reminded that youth has nothing on age....where the dance between the sexes is concerned.  Another place, another time, we might have taken it further, but this was Paris and a crowded restaurant with much company...and Mr. Toranaga-san was probably a very married father of three....who tonight was letting his imagination work its magic and perhaps recapturing a moment of his youth when the possibilities of these types of encounters were endless.

D and I had the restaurant call us a taxi and we returned to our "home away from home"... tired, but content, after spending another wonderful day in the City of Lights, where to me, the sin would be not seizing the moment and going with it.

Songs out of tune, the words always a little wrong...Canzoni Stonate