Jewish Book: Saving Myself, a Los Angeles Childhood
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Jewish Childhood Blog

"This blog carries the voice of my memoir, past and present, into the future. Feel free to fill out the form with a question or comment. I look forward to a dialog with you."

  —L'chaim, to life, Jeanne

A Los Angeles Childhood –Jour 6 Eva Besnyo, The Sensuous Image Part 2
Saturday, 23 June 2012 09:19

Many of the photographs in the Eva Besnyo exhibit elicited such emotional impact that I found myself ready to take a break and yet so spellbound that I had no choice but to continue. A film in a sectioned off area gave me a chance to sit and watch Eva as she goes through all of the archived photographs and her process of choosing photos for a retrospective and having others carefully and tenderly packed up to transfer them and give them as an endowment. They show her, an old woman toward the end of her years going through over 70 years of photographs, signing some with multiple copies, making comments on which were her favorites and which ones she’s not sure she took. I am deeply moved, getting into that experience, thinking that I am going toward that point and thinking of what I shall do with my body of writing. Mortality be damned I decide. I’ll figure that out when I get back from Paris.

The next section of the exhibit which documents Besnyo’s involvement with Dolle Mina, the feminist movement that gathered both women and men, mainly from the student protest movement. This was the 1970s where all around the world we were marching, taking to the streets, demanding equality. How many images have I seen from the States, the documentary of Gloria Steinem, remembering Bella Abzug, her out methods of insisting on equality. And here in the middle of Paris I am again reminded how universal this movement was/is. She took responsibility in the Netherlands for sending out images daily, like a press agency.

In 1982 at the age of 71 Besnyo has her first retrospective, “Eva Besnyo –‘n halve eeuw work” at the Amsterdam Historical Museum.

A Los Angeles Childhood – Jour 6 - Eva Besnyo, The Sensuous Image
Friday, 22 June 2012 12:55

Imagine my delight when I saw an ad for this exhibition at Jeu de Paume. Each time I have been to Paris in the past several years, the museum has either been under renovation or not photography particularly meaningful to me. So when I saw this exhibit advertised I knew I had to go.

After two bus rides I arrived at Place de Concorde and walked down and up to the left to Jeu de Paume. If you went to the right, you would arrive at l’Orangerie, the museum that was built in particular for the Monet Water Lilies.

Eva Besnyo was born in Budapest in 1910. She was the daughter of a Jewish father, a lawyer, and a Jewish mother. She served a photographic apprenticeship from 1928 to 1930 in Budapest with Jozsef Pecsi, an internationally renowned portrait and advertising photographer.

A Los Angeles Childhood - Jour 5 - The Day of Rest
Thursday, 21 June 2012 15:08

It’s Saturday already and I decide to sleep in. When I finally get up, it’s 10:30 a.m. I make a French press coffee, check email. It is an ordinary Paris day with an excuse to just ease into it. After all, this is not an endurance race to go to a museum a day.

I take the 38 down Boulevard St. Michel to find the kiosk for the tourism department. I am bound and determined to get to the Musee D’Orsay. When Pat and I tried to see an exhibit 5 years ago, we waited over 2 hours in the rain and finally gave up. This time I decided to take the smart way and get a regular ticket at the office and then pay the surcharge to see the Degas Nudes as all totaled comes to 12 euros. No kiosk. So Notre Dame, too long a line. Shakespeare and Company. They’ve sold all but one of my books for which as I mentioned earlier, I’ll collect for next time in Paris. So the only choice left to go to rue de Pyramides to the main office and get the ticket.

Although I was supposed to have dinner with my friend Dorothy Polley of Dorothy’s Gallery in the Bastille this evening, we changed it to Sunday.

A Los Angeles Childhood –Jour 4 – Bob Dylan L’Explosion Rock 61-66 Part 2
Tuesday, 19 June 2012 12:04

In 1987 or 1988, my friend, Marie and I went in her limo with her driver Matthew out to Orange County to a Dylan concert with the opening act Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. As we got out of the limo, we realized we were in a line of limos, the people exiting each limo about the age we were. It was the 60s again.

Now I was at this retrospective. There were high school students, most of which didn’t speak English but seemed to understand this universal language of music, of poetry, and when I asked one of them what he thought of Dylan, he pointed to his heart.

But to this wonderland of the past, it’s not just about Dylan. It’s about our relationship to him.

I spoke with one of the guards, a bass player 54 years old. He has been playing music he tells me, since very early on. He tells me of the young kids, that they “get it”. What the words mean. What it means to not be alone.

A Los Angeles Childhood –Jour 4 – Bob Dylan L’Explosion Rock 61-66 Part 1
Monday, 18 June 2012 12:30

I have just taken an hour bus ride on the 75 Bus to what seems like the outskirts of Paris. I arrive about 6 blocks from Cite de la Musique, a large modern structure. I pay my 9 euros entry fee for the Musee de la Musique, vendredi 16 Juin 2012, 16h00.( The halls are lined with photographs of Dylan with various other performers. There are rooms off to the left/partitions –the feeling of rooms. There I find high school yearbooks, Robert Zimmerman, Hibbing, Minnesota.

I go into one dark room with one other man listening to a very young Bob Dylan singing about Medger Evers. I think of Natalie Goldberg, her film, Tangled Up In Bob. Oh we were all so young and so idealistic. Before Kennedy was shot. When I was in my first relationship and we bought the album, ‘Freewheelin’ because we thought the photo was one of the cutest women we had ever seen, tore open the cover and listened to Bob. We were all freewheeling in those days. I played his songs and sang along with him, strumming on my Baby Martin guitar. I got the mumps and stayed in bed instead of going to the Monterrey Folk Festival with Sue, and bought a 1964 MGB because I felt so sorry for myself.

A Los Angeles Childhood – Jour 3 - My Visit with Berthe!
Sunday, 17 June 2012 10:19

I have long been an admirer of the Impressionist painters and in particular Berthe Marisot. She was one of the six painters whose first exhibition “scandalized and fascinated Paris in 1874. She was the only woman.”

The museum, Musee Marmottan Monet is across the street from a beautiful park, Jardin du Ranelagh and not far from Bois de Boulogne, the setting of some of her paysages/landscapes. I tried to imagine what it might be like to live there, in the suburbs of Paris. It could work for me! Only two buses, the 38 and transfer to 75 to the end of the line. A long ride and so well worth it!

What I can most say about the retrospective is that it took my breath away. I had seen a few of these paintings when my sister Pat and I visited the museum in 2008.

I especially loved the portraits of her daughter, Julie, with palm trees, with her dog, a greyhound, and also a fluffy white dog, origin unknown, but again with Julie.

Her landscapes, the larger scale with which she was not afraid to work, are exceptional. The subtleties between the three larger paintings with two women picking cherries were beautiful.

A Los Angeles Childhood –Jour 2 – Pairs and Series – Matisse at the Pompidou
Friday, 15 June 2012 14:14

I slept until noon. No dog to walk or feed or sing to – just silence save the slight roar of a big city street. The day, overcast with the threat of rain. But of course, anyone who saw Midnight In Paris knows that’s when this city of light shines.

It’s off on the 85 Bus to Centre George Pompidou and Matisse with an added treat of Gerhard Richter and panorama.

This is my first stop after getting my ticket in the automatic ticket machine. My smart pill that guided me through the Internet hook-up at the apartment, must have been a long acting one. I ascend the escalator with the outside view so I see Paris as she gets higher up and higher up. Soon I’ll be equal to the rooftops. I stop on the 5th etage to see the permanent collection of modern with the addition of several pieces new to the collection. One of my favorites Louise Bourgeois had a sculpture in marble, Clouds. She’s the one who also has the wonderful bronze hands in various gestures, which grace the Tuileries.

Here was another interesting artist, George Brecht, who had three assemblages. It noted that he studied with John Cage in the 50s and the influence of music and balance and order was there without spelling in out.

A Los Angeles Childhood. Jour 1/Paris 2012
Thursday, 14 June 2012 13:40

No, you have not missed one. I slept on the plane, came to my apartment at 3pm. And I just chilled out.

What I did to get there: I must begin on Saturday because that’s when a filling fell out and I called my dentist, Haley Ritchey who returned my phone call (she’s a saint) and we set a date for 8:30am on Monday, the day of my flight to Paris. When I described my mishap as the Gila cliff dwellings, caves between two areas of rock she said that was exactly what it was. Tooth on bottom. Tooth on top and in the middle, a missing filling. Within 20 minutes she had repaired it. So it was off to town with my sister, Pat, to take the Sandia shuttle to the airport. We had a great latte at my favorite bookstore, Collected Works, on Water and Galisteo Streets and at 10 I caught the shuttle. Before that, Dorothy Massey the owner of Collected Works, told me they had a new family member, a miniature black poodle who took the place of that sweet puppy, Pippin. I, of course, am partial to terriers, having one myself named Alice B. and yes, it is after Toklas whose middle name was Babette, as well as in memory to my birth mother Alice Esther.

A Los Angeles Childhood - Getting Ready for Paris
Wednesday, 30 May 2012 12:35

Some things on my wish list for my Paris trip: Bob Dylan, the Rock Explosion 61-66 at Cite de la Musique museum. Photos. Also, Hibbing Minnesota yearbooks, Robert Zimmerman. There are family photos, sheet music, recordings and a large screen extract from "Don't Look Back”.

It should be interesting to watch the Parisians' reaction to the exhibit.

Other exhibits I will go to are Kiki Smith, Eva Besnyo, and Henri Matisse at my favorite museum, the Pompidou.

At the Musee D’Orsay, there will be a large exhibition of Degas and the nude.

Musee D'Art d'Historique Judaism will have an exhibit of Orientalism and the Jews, and at the Grand Palais, Animal Beauty.

Don't worry. I will be blogging about all of these as I go to them.

A Los Angeles Childhood - In Marilyn Monroe's Footsteps
Tuesday, 22 May 2012 19:35
Here is an opportunity to read the second most popular blog posted on my website. I really hope you enjoy it.
I'm on the ground at Grauman's Chinese Theater, placing my hands and feet where Marilyn Monroe pressed hers. She and Jane Russell. Have you been there, to Hollywood? Who was your favorite star memorialized? There are 246 celebrity hand and foot prints, 4.5 million visitors and on March 17, 2011, St. Patrick's Day, I was one of them. What began as an accident in 1927 when Norma Talmidge stepped in wet cement, began what Sid Grauman must have known was a great marketing scheme. And so it continued.
It could have been a quiet day at the beginning of summer, a day when I was still at school. Perhaps in French class in 1951 with Mrs. Ament. And Marilyn Monroe pressed her hands and feet in the cement, thinking of how she had changed her life, a young girl who had always wanted to be a movie star.
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