Well this thesis isn’t going to write itself. I’m aching to just sit down and write it, but between the hours in the car, learning a new language each time I step out of it, scrounging for some crones or schlubbys to pay for a toilet on the road, finding dog food in yet another city, and tracking down our Airbnb host, there’s not much energy left for organizing my wayward thoughts.
After the 24 heures de Tallinn-Berlin, it’s clear that an intervention is needed. Alrik cuts through the noise. He rents me a blank room with wifi and a desk in front of a window overlooking green gardens in deserted Nancy, in the Lorraine. I have ten days to write the remaining thirty pages. I know I can do it. I’m ready, eager, and exhausted. But no more excuses.
It’s time to work, and that calls for solitary. I’m allowed a two-hour walk in the woods each morning to clear my thoughts and circulate the humors. I’m aware that boars are watching us from the shadows. Tibby smells them all around us and the woodland paths are ploughed muddy by their snouts. Idea associations bolt out of the leaves that I’m shuffling. Panting through the undergrowth, I blather the possibilities into my cell phone’s voice app while a befuddled Alrik and Tibby listen. I go home and transcribe. This thing is starting to take shape.
The thesis is about what ballet companies can change to be more welcoming to African American dancers, and how to make ballet relevant to racially diverse audiences. Ten days of reading, mapping, summarizing, editing, and one day, it’s done. I’m proud, satisfied, relieved, doubtful, and sad.
I want to celebrate with a night out for the best tarte flambée in or outside of Alsace. Place Stanislas, named after its beloved Prussian benefactor, father-in-law to Louis XV, gives Versailles a run for its money. The huge square is filled with thousands of spectators on a night of lights projected on the baroque architecture. This form of installation artertainment is gaining in popularity. We’ve seen it in the Quartier des Spectacles, Montreal, to enliven chilly winter nights; at Akshardham Temple, Delhi, to remind the faithful of their myths; and in Rome, as a stand-in for a visit of the ceiling of the overburdened Sistine Chapel. But, I’ve lost track of the days: we’re leaving tomorrow. No time for a visit to Baccarat’s crystal factory, or to the caves de Champagne. We’re due in Brussels by 3 PM.
Instead, we stop by the baguette vending machine a few times. A built-in bread oven and dispenser pushes out a smelly, delicious, warm loaf for 1 euro. It can bake up to 200 loaves a day on your street corner. Don’t you want one in your neighborhood? That’s because you don’t have a boulangerie. Half the French love it for the convenience, and half of them hate it because it threatens the local baker. Which brings me back to food as cultural heritage. I haven’t given it up. It’s my long-term plan, when I have a sense of how this cultural industry thing works. I'll be an advocate for dancers first, then I'll evangelize the cheesy gospel later.