we just received the latest Requests from the Los Angeles County Library – one is an old favo(u)rite – Simone De Beauvoir’s America Day By Day, her diary of four months spent in America (as you Might have guessed from the Title although it was just the USA bit – not South America, Latin America or the bit of North America that is inhabited by those nice Canadians – however, we digress) in 1947.
the pictures are ours.
it is the story of what happened to me, neither more nor less. This is what I saw and how I saw it. I have not tried to say more. [xviii]
Hollywood Boulevard follows the contour of a hill; sitting at the bar, we look through a large bay window and see at our feet the spread of houses where the first lights are coming on. Little by little Los Angeles is transformed into a large, glittering lake. [p.111]
Hollywood, as everyone knows, is where the studios are. The stars live in Beverly Hills. To see their houses, you have to enter an artificial park humming with neither the muffled life of the countryside nor the feverish life of the city; the luxurious villas are surrounded by a false solitude. [p.110]
At midnight we are alone on top of a hill. We sit on the ground and smoke in silence. Los Angeles is beneath us, a huge, silent fairyland. The lights glitter as far as the eye can see. [p.122]
We go shopping for dinner. This is the first time I’ve entered one of these big stores. It looks like an agricultural fair: oversized, smooth and polished, the fruits and vegetables all have the slightly false luster of perfect greenhouse products, unmarked by the vagaries of rain and sun. N. grabs a little metal cart from a corner and pushes it in front of her; we walk down the aisles and gather up whatever we like. There is such a profusion of meat, fish, and especially canned goods that the choice is very difficult; our needs and even our desires are not up to such magnificent abundance. [p.124]
The house, hidden among orange groves, is surrounded by an overgrown garden full of trees and flowers – no hedges or walls; no bolt on the gate, although no one would be there. [p/124]
Over there in the night, a vast continent is sparkling. I’m going to have to become reacquainted with France and climb back into my own skin. [p.390]
there you go.
a whistle-stop tour through Simone’s (may we be so familiar?) recollections of America.
we left out a lot.
she gets stoned in Harlem (the idea!) and doesn’t care much for Chicago, has very Odd Ideas about the American Woman, gets snotty because a French waiter in Manhattan refuses to answer her when she orders in English (what did she expect? n’est ce pas cherie?) and quite frankly was a bit dismissive of California as a whole.
but you wouldn’t know that from the passages we chose.
and the pictures we decided to take to accompany her words.
because that’s how we roll.
edit out the bits we don’t like and illustrate the moments we really do.
such a truly delicious way to live.
sure, it might be a Tiny bit naive.
but we’ve lived long enough to know it’s quite the nicest way to spend one’s time day by day, in America, or anywhere else really.
don’t you think?
btw, as the young people say, did you notice the cat on the wall?
here he is again.
amazing what one might miss if one doesn’t take the time to stroll down a side street with a light chiffon (blue, naturally) scarf around the neck and a camera in hand.