Letter from Paris: Doris Day Lied to Me
It’s April in Paris and I’m cold.
This is not what I was promised.
When I was a mere slip of a boy, Miss Doris Day (may she rest in peace) bewitched my infant mind with the idea of April in Paris by singing the song “April in Paris” in the 1952 Warner Brothers film April in Paris.
Maybe you’re thinking Doris was playing someone named April who goes to Paris, but no; Doris was playing someone named Ethel S. “Dynamite” Jackson (not making this up) who goes to Paris and falls in love with Ray Bolger (not making that up, either).
April in Paris was filmed in Glorious Technicolor. If the movie were about January in Paris, they could have made it in black-and-white and nobody would have noticed, because let me tell you, one thing Paris ain’t during the winter is colorful.
The city is built on, and out of, a really elegant tawny-gray limestone that I assume must be beautiful in the sunlight. When I see Paris in the sunlight, I’ll let you know.
I’m sure the sun must have come out here at least once since I arrived, but I can’t remember. Mostly, it has rained. The gray sky has rained gray rain grayishly upon the gray limestone.
Everyone–including my Parisian friends, and Miss Doris Day, and Mister Yip Harburg who wrote the lyrics to “April in Paris”–told me that winter in Paris is the tax you pay to experience April in Paris. When April comes, I was assured, everything will change. When April comes, I was assured, you will forget winter in Paris.
Mister Yip Harburg wrote:
… April in Paris, chestnuts in blossom
Holiday tables under the trees
April in Paris, this is a feeling
That no one can ever reprise
Well! You don’t want to be late for something like that!
I spent half of March getting ready. I bought floral cottons for new shirts, and took a frank look at my straw hats. I considered whether I am sufficiently supplied with jackets and waistcoats in lighthearted colors. You are not going to find me at a holiday table under a tree in a schlumpy wool cardigan and a sad ski beanie.
Everyone (my friends, Doris, Yip) was half right. The weather did change on the first of April.
It was, I have since learned, the coldest April first in Paris since 1947. I cannot tell you how jazzed I am to have been here to experience it in person. Yippee. Or as they say here, albeit infrequently, youpi.
I am not writing this from a holiday table under a tree, I am writing this from the kitchen table watching the rain flatten my geraniums. The Radio France weather lady has just informed me with an audible cruel smile that tomorrow we have a sixty percent chance of sleet.
I liked her better when I had no idea what she was saying.
In the Shop
At least I’m working on the best kind of project for weather like this. The kind you can hide under.
Remember how in my last letter I talked about nesting, and about how I’m expressing my nesting urge through the medium of crochet? Well, I’m doing it again.
The storage situation here is dire. I have too much stash. That’s always the cue for people to say, “Oh ha ha ha, there’s no such thing, ha ha ha” but those people have never lived in a Paris apartment. My refrigerator is the size of an American knitting tote. Space is limited, is what I’m saying.
I kept tripping over a box full of yarn that I’ve been saving for at least ten years. It wouldn’t fit under the bed and the cupboards are full. Something had to be done.
Now, back in the fall I bought this cute armchair from a brocanteur (vintage dealer) and I love it,
but it looks a little naked. so I thought–let’s use up this yarn and get this box out of the way. Let’s make a throw. Box gone, chair dressed, everybody happy.
I am making granny circles inside granny squares, thanks to expert guidance from Edie Eckman’s Connect the Shapes Crochet Motifs which is still one of my favorite crochet books ever. The colors slowly shift, square by square, according to principles I’ve picked up in large part from studying the wisdom of the Fair Isle knitters.
It’s the colors that got me through the end of winter and that are sustaining me in spite of the deferred promise of springtime. I see flowers coming up in the parks, I see buds on the trees along the boulevards. My sopping geraniums are down, but not out. Meanwhile, the yarn in my lap, at least, is in Glorious Technicolor.
I’ve woven in all the ends, which turns out to be a great way to not stare at the rain. I’m blocking the squares on my improvised apparatus (four DPNs and a layer cake of clean styrofoam filched from our building’s trash bin).
After each row of squares dries, I join it together.
When all the squares are joined, a border. And then maybe a second border. Possibly a third. The box of yarn is still not empty, and I intend to keep growing this Blanket of Defiance until the wool disappears or it stops raining. We’ll see who blinks first, the crochet or the weather.
How’s April where you are?