Alysa Salzberg

Alysa Salzberg
Paris, France
December 31
Writer, copy editor, translator, travel planner. Head servant to my cat.
A reader, a writer, a fingernail biter, a cat person, a traveller, a cookie inhaler, an immigrant, a dreamer. …And now, self-employed! If you like my blog and if you're looking for sparkling writing, painstaking proofreading, nimble French-English translation, or personalized travel planning, feel free to check out


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MARCH 13, 2012 4:12PM

Two Loves

Rate: 29 Flag


In 1930, Josephine Baker, one of my heroes, stepped onstage and sang, “J’ai deux amours, mon pays et Paris.” (“I have two loves: my country and Paris.”)  Parisians knew American and resident performer Baker exclusively for her exotic looks and frenetic dancing, but the song soon became one of her other signatures.

Here in 2012, signs have started popping up around the city.  Written, not in the Art Deco lettering of Josephine’s heyday, but a currently stylish electronica-type font, they read, simply: J’ai deux amours.  Additionally, a poster for an exhibit called "Paris en Chansons" (Paris in Song), tracing the history of songs about the city, features a photo of Josephine holding a microphone and smiling, perhaps singing her famous tune.


(image source)  


Spring has come to Paris.  The streets are more crowded.  Every type of Parisian can be seen on the sidewalks, seeming to linger in in this new, gentle warmth: perfectly-coiffed bourgeois women, smelly bums, cane-bearing seniors hobbling slowly but happily along, kids just out of school, people-watchers sitting smoking at café terraces, grinning dogs, city workers trailing their green plastic street-sweeping brooms as they take in the view.   Buds are blooming on the trees, and in the hours before dawn you can hear sparrows’ sweet twitters in the midst of pigeons’ throaty coos.   There’s a new, fresh smell in the air, and monuments and Haussmannian buildings shine soft gold in the slightly stronger sunlight.

It’s hard to leave when the city is like this.  It’s always hard to leave Paris, in fact.  But as I prepare for a two and a half week trip to the States, those posters are strangely fitting.  They remind me that I also have two beloved places in my life.  America is where my family and childhood friends are.  It’s where I can eat some of my favorite foods, connect to my history, catch up with loved ones.  It’s a place where I can walk down the breezy streets of New York again and feel that incredible energy mixed with nostalgia for my college days, when friends were like family.  It’s a place of easy comforts, air conditioning, cheap mani-pedi’s, and free bathrooms in just about any big store.

I don’t love America the way I love Paris.  I love America for who and what is there, but I love Paris in its entirety.  Josephine Baker had her ties to her home country, as well, but she loved France with a fierceness I can understand.  During the Second World War, Baker slightly changed the lyrics to her famous song.  Now, it became “J’ai deux amours, mon pays c’est Paris.” (“I have two loves, my country, it’s Paris”).   

Paris is my beloved place and my country.  I’m happier here than anywhere else in the world.  But those posters’ bold colors stand out in the pastel air of early springtime, drawing my eye.  J’ai deux amours.



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I'll be in the US from March 14-30, and probably won't be able to get online much. I can't wait to meet those of you who are coming to the meet-up, and for everyone else, have a great couple of weeks!
I like the subtitle for the contemporary exhibit, "immigration is not a passage but a transformation".

Thank for being willing to share something from the heart.
Two Loves!! I love this and wish you well on your trip.
you have found your place.
alot of us don't. we wander hither and yon
waiting for the Spirit of Place to plant us, but
we are too worried about our basic needs,
shelter especially,
and thus make compromises with our soul.
Our soul yearns for just the right place, in order to feed.
I have been nowhere . i live 2 miles from where i grew up.
This place is mine. A suburban monstrosity, certainly.
Suburb to the ugliest city in America, Hartford
(where wallace stevens found his place)
but ...
my family came in 1947.
those are the roots i plant.
places where dad said, "oh, it used to be different , etc"
or the old silk mills (Manchester =the silk capital of the world!)
where he supplied candy to the workers' candy machines
("I was the candy man!" he boasted)
in the mills, now yuppie apartments.

America will always be here for you to come home to.
But Paris has stolen your Light, alas!
You make me love Paris too Alysa - the way you paint with words. Cannot wait to meet you Thursday!
Safe flight, Alysa! (And I verified the Cooper's Tavern reservation.)
See yez all at Cooper's Thursday night.
It's springtime in Paris annnnnnnnnnnnnnd you're going to New York. Nonetheless, Je comprends. Have a great trip.
This is so wonderful, Alysa. I "get it" from your writing. Have a wonderful trip, so wish I could attend the meet-up!
Alysa, you never know...a little time spent back in the U.S. and you may be hooked in an entirely new way from what you have experienced before!
I hope you and the others of this community have a safe and memorable gathering.
I was in Paris for a little less than a week but it blew me away. A pleasure to see that you are living your dream.
I am embarrassingly excited about this meetup. You better have a safe trip, Alysa! I'm too proud to beg, but beg I must: Please, take as much pictures as possible and urge all the lovely others to do the same. Text and video also pleeeeeeeeeze.
SO can relate!! I think you were born to be in Paris as I was to be in Joburg.... lovely writing, as usual.
I think you are just where you need to be! Hope you have an enjoyable visit stateside, safe journey.
You are so lucky to have found your place and to be able to make it your home. You make me fall a little in love with it too every time you write.

Have a great time on your trip back to your maiden home.
Have a safe trip and a fabulous time reconnecting with your loved ones and NYC. I hope the OS meet up is a blast! Say hi to everyone for me!
Wish I could be there to meet you maybe one day..:)
There will always be Paris!
Lovely! I hope to experience Paris someday. Hope your NY stay is an enjoyable one.
Lovely sentiments about your adopted hometown. Bon voyage and please give everybody at Cooper's my personal regards. I do so wish I could join you.

Good lord, how I wish I had a connection to place like this. Nick Carraway said it best I think.... "Sigh."
It's nice to have a place to call home.
Bon voyage, Alysa! Have a safe trip.
Jospehine Baker rocked! I don't know whether I'd be able to love Paris as the two of you do/did (I was there once, briefly, as a small child). But I do sympathize with the two loves; one's city and one's country. The fact that my city is in my country seems almost incidental. I love New York City and the USA for different reasons. But I do love them both.
See you in two days, Alysa. Wow!
Beautiful! Paris gave Josephine Baker her freedom.
J'ai Deux Amours - Paris et San Francisco. Only reason I'm not pining for the first this spring is that I had the second.
My friend illustrated a children's book about Josephine Baker (and others). She's still ubiquitous.
I totally understand your love affair with Paris. I also love the way you incorporate your understanding into your beautiful writing. R
Paris is calling...
Vraiment une belle histoire sur Josephine Baker! Il y a quelques années, Josephine Baker était une belle chanteuse...
Thank you so much for your kind words and good wishes, guys! I got to the States all right and just got back a few hours ago from the Manhattan meet-up. For those of you who weren't there, I hope we'll get to meet in real life someday, too!
Always lovely to read your descriptions, Alysa. And while the specific emotion you talk about has to do with everything the city of Paris is, and everything it means to you, I completely get the idea that immigration can make you love two places at once, but in very different ways. It can make you think of both as home, but because of very different reasons.