Tuesday, February 3, 2009


Man Yung and I bought several of these "Rhodia" notebooks from the top floor stationery section of "La Samaritaine" department store on our trip to Paris in 2004.

I didn't really like them. The glaring orange cover and the uncool, rustic logo (what are those? mountains? pine trees?) were completely unappealing to me, especially since I had been a big fan of stationery by the always refined Clairefontaine* since my first trip to Paris in 1993. I always felt that having the right kind of (European) stationery connoted the right kind of cachet - and set the stage for real creativity! Bland, boring Rhodia didn't quite make the grade.

Man Yung used the Rhodia notebooks to take notes while he was reading, but I didn't even think about the Rhodia notebooks until just before our first trip to Buenos Aires in 2007. I realized I needed a small notebook so I can write down the addresses of places we needed to go to for easy communication with taxi drivers. So out came "Bloc Rhodia No. 11", with 80 sheets of 2.9 x 4.1 inch "Papier Vélin Supérieur".

This notebook is tough. Since I didn't particularly care for it, I certainly didn't treat the notebook with kid gloves. I have bent it, ripped pages out of it, spilled water over it. I have scribbled in it using markers with ink that go right through the paper. It has been crushed along with all the other junk in my handbag and tossed around.

Short of being stomped on or set on fire, this notebook has taken a lot of abuse. And it doesn't even show the slightest sign of falling apart.

Some people have eye-popping "publication worthy" travel journals with pithy observations, photos, drawings, and collages of receipts and ticket stubs. I have a tiny Rhodia notebook with addresses of places I remember (Bragado 6875 - Glorias Argentinas; Arenales 1239 - what else? Comme Il Faut) and addresses of places I don't quite remember (Arribenos 2137? Suipacha 259?). There are email addresses of people I still regularly write to, and email addresses of people I will never see again.

The wittiest thing I have written in the entire notebook would be a toss up between "7:45 am" (crossed out with double lines) and "Tuesday 12:00" (not crossed out). Not exactly earth-shattering. Nevertheless, I have become quite fond of my Rhodia. Not only has it followed me twice to Buenos Aires - it has also taken me everywhere I wanted to go.

As a contrast to my tattered old Rhodia, I have quite a few really beautiful hardcover Clairefontaine notebooks that have stayed completely and pristinely blank since 1993. It just shows that life isn't all about fancy appearances (although being beautiful and elegant is certainly nice). It is how it's lived - that's what really counts.

* I had no idea at that time that Rhodia and Clairefontaine were produced by the same company. By the way, it surprised me to find out that Rhodia is currently "cool", "relevant" and "hip" - and sold by American Apparel in online and in stores.


Anonymous said...

This just might be the most beautiful post you've ever written, Irene. Indeed, beauty is not everything. Not by a long shot.

Or alternatively, Clairefontaine is Rhodia's inner goddess.

Irene and Man Yung said...

Dear Johanna,

"Clairefontaine is Rhodia's inner goddess"

I wish I thought of that!

I hope that no matter what notebook I have (even the Hilroy's and the Chinatown dollar shop ones), I will be able to "live" in them as fully as I can!

Thanks for your comment,


Anonymous said...

As long as you bring your own brand of humor to life, I'm sure you will write reams about it, even if it's on TP.

Unknown said...

It's pine trees.
Love your blog.

Irene and Man Yung said...

Dear Caroline,

Thanks for the clarification and your comment!

All the best,


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