Dr. N.A.N.'s Blog

News, views, and how the world skews from San Antonio, Texas

Archive for December, 2007

Art on Everything

Paris Pastry ShopPARIS – Today we took a long walk in search of a particular patisserie that was recommended to us on Rue Monge. The day was picture-perfect. While crossing the Pont Sully, the backside of Notre Dame was visible, there were house boats on the river, pigeons everywhere, bicyclists (seems like everyone rides them now) and zillions of scooters. (Scooters have become a mild interest of mine because I have friends who both have Vespas.)

in Paris avec pereThe bakery was about 2 miles from our apartment, and since we hit it early afternoon, it was teeming with people. Some of their specialties include small rolls stuffed with bacon and smothered in parmesan cheese. They also offer a number of “escargot” pastries (snail-shaped) featuring chocolate or cinnamon. I was finally able to feast upon a sandwich au camenbert–yum. On our way home, we stopped at another bakery whose store window practically demanded we come in–the number of unique pastries and tartes and cakes were overwhelming.

And each one of them was a work of art in miniature. How do they make this stuff? My mother and I “discussed” various cooking techniques but couldn’t agree!

I ended up with a “chunk” of almond cake, a chocolate macaroon (for those of you who still think the traditional macaroon has coconut, think again) and some other heavenly confection exploding with more chocolate.

I really shouldn’t be eating with such abandon. I will pay for every calorie when I get home!

We also stopped at an Italian deli where we picked up some gnocchi stuffed with truffles, a mushroom (cepes) salad and a salad of fava beans, parsley and olive oil. (Anybody have any chianti?)

When will this gorging end? I can’t seem to stop and I am here for 8 more days. It’s as if I have been programmed to try everything within my grasp. And if it isn’t within my grasp, I just move a little closer….

Packing, Eating & Appreciating Art

sacre-coeur basilica

I hate to pack. So much so that I always wait until the last minute and than inevitably leave something at home.  (Ask me later about a passport incident in 2006).

I think the reason I don’t like to pack is because it means I’m leaving the comforts of my little hovel.  New bed, new shower, no kitties, waiting in line, smokers, limited email access–lots of things that can undo somebody without a lot of  fortitude.

I will admit that I was looking forward to going to Paris. My father is French and therefore has lots of relatives in France. My family and I go at least once a year to visit my relatives, many of whom are distant cousins….

Actually, very few distinct Narboni families exist. There might be 3 worldwide. So, even my extended family is very important to us all. We’re also here to celebrate my parents’ 45th wedding anniversary.  You can bet on a party filled with champagne and lots of good food!

I have several traditions that I must carry out every time I come to France.  Visit specific monuments, eat specific food and walk the streets. I must go to Notre Dame,  in part to light candles for all of the creatures I love; visit the Basicilica of Sacre Coeur for the view: eat a sandwich au brie ou gruyere and a crepe avec nutella, and do a lot of window shopping.

crepe nutella

Several years ago, someone came to UNL to lecture about art and the contemporary world. His message was that we should all strive to include art in everything we do. I guess that means everything from the way we set the table to the way we address an envelope or play and teach the piano. I think the French, in particular the Parisians, exemplify the “Art in Everything” concept. I have yet to see an ugly shop window. If I buy something, it is always beautifully wrapped (even a sandwich or une baguette comes in some lovely paper twisted with an attractive knot!)

I firmly believe that art keeps us from going over the savage precipice. I realize that this is NOT an original thought but I recognize the truth of this statement. Sometimes I struggle with my career choice only because I’m not sure if I’m making a difference in this world. Would I not have had a bigger impact on the human race if I had gone to medical school? Perhaps. But, I can’t imagine doing anything besides playing the piano.  Oh sure, lots of hobbies and passions but nothing touches my core like music.

My First Competition

pc2.jpegWhen I was 14, my piano teacher encouraged me to enter a local piano competition. First Prize was a performance with the community orchestra. None of us (family members included) thought I had a snowball-in-San-Antonio’s chance of winning, given that the age limit for the competition was 25 – and I was all of 15. So, given the college-age competitors, I decided to work up the first movement of Beethoven’s Second Piano Concerto. By the time the day of the competition rolled around, I was nervous…but determined to play well regardless.

After my performance, I went outside with a friend to blow off steam while the jury made their deliberations. We got caught up in looking at storefront decorations (remember those?) so we lost track of time. Next thing I know, my father is walking briskly in my direction. I steeled myself to get chastized for for disappearing! But all he said was “Contestant #3 won.”

I thought for a second, “Ummmm, wait a minute, I’m Contestant #3!”

The rest, as they say, is history…

My First Taste of Beethoven

beethoven.gifThe first time that music had a physical effect on me was when my father took me to an orchestra concert at Jones Hall in Houston, TX. I was in fourth grade. I don’t remember the piece being played but I suspect it must have been Beethoven, because his music continues to move me to this day.

I think I was just sitting there, sort of listening and looking around. I got caught up in a tune and it must have taken a strange turn like a deceptive cadence or moved to a flat-sixth or maybe it was just one of Beethoven’s 3-hour long codas. Not sure. However, I do remember hanging on the suspension and being so satisfied when it finally resolved. Whoa. To this day, certain harmonic progressions have this effect on me. It can be any composer but it happens more often in the music of Beethoven. A mere coincidence? No. I consider Beethoven to be my musical God. So, there you have it. Thoughts?


Hi, I’m Dr. N.A.N.  Welcome to my corner of the blogoverse…..