Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Grammar Thugs

Only in Paris do strange men feel entitled to correct your grammar while simultaneously accosting you in the middle of the sidewalk.

In the wee hours of last Saturday morning, I was traipsing through the streets of the Marais looking for that rare Parisian luxury—an empty cab. This is a recurring, if futile, exercise in my life here.

Suddenly I felt another familiar recurrence coming on. Ah yes, drunk guys. Two of them approached me and kind of hugged me and asked me where I was from. I said New York because it's an easy answer, it intimidates French people, and I also couldn’t remember where I was actually from. After some nonsensical banter, I decided to extricate myself from this little exchange by saying “je m’en va,” after which I immediately realized I had used the incorrect form of the verb Aller. It was careless; I will admit. The drunk guys burst out laughing.

“Je m’en vais! I meant to say je m’en vais!” I promised meekly.

Wait a minute.

How did this turn from an attack by two sleazy guys into a lesson in verb conjugation? How had the formidable French language once again reduced me to a humble apologizer?

How French: drunken aggressors stop, mid-harassment, to hold the harassee grammatically accountable.

And the adventure continues.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Cult of Quality

Mediocrity is for idiots and Americans. It is not for the French.

The other day I was walking up my street when a particularly agitated French woman came charging out of a little cheese shop. She was PISSED. When I got close enough to hear what she was griping about, she uttered the phrase:

"C'était tout à fait médiocre." It was completely mediocre.

She was talking about the cheese, or maybe the entire shop. Whatever it was, it had greatly offended her, and she uttered the word "mediocre" as if it were the most vitriolic insult she could possibly conjure up. Mediocrity—the ultimate shame.

This incident is indicative of a larger theme that pervades French culture, particularly when it comes to food. In the United States, bigger is better at all levels of society, ranging from who has the biggest T-bone to who has the fastest private jet.

Conversely, France is a country that values quality and moderation over quantity and excess. If it's not good, vendors do not sell it, people do not buy it, one does not eat it… or wear it… or tolerate it.

I have drawn a little chart to help illustrate relative tolerance levels:

Notice the difference in the size of the "Acceptable" zones on these spectra. Notice the American “Go For It!” attitude, in comparison with the French commitment to “Only If It’s Worth It.”
Maybe that's why French people are so svelte. The quest for excellence breeds thinness. They would rather starve with dignity than survive on canned cheese.

Of course, this is not true across the board. Crappy products are available and in-demand in all economies of the world. But in general, French people are more discerning. Now that I’m in Paris, I try to be too. Although sometimes I still get an urge to shove my face into a vat of peanut-butter. Artisanal peanut-butter, obviously.

Monday, December 1, 2008


I think this merits a little post.

Apparently I ruffled some feathers with my blog post about wolves in Paris! I'm relieved to know the "literal police" are on patrol, and this is what they have to say:

"False alarm.

1) This appears to be an Alaskan Malamute - not a wolf.

2) Another reason I know it's not a wolf: No one could casually walk a normal wolf (even a "tame" wolf) around big-city streets on a leash. A wolf is an extremely wary and timid animal, and it would soon panic at the noise, traffic and crowds of a city street.

I worked with wolves for some years."

"yes ma'am this is not a wolf i may be just a kid but i have studied wolves you 8 years.
its face is small and if you look closly you can see the difference in the size face.

go to this link and see.
please i mean no harm don't be upset.
thank you"

Good news all around!
First of all, I have random readers?
Second of all, I'm safe from wolves!
Third, people are so wonderfully crazy!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

New Drinking Record Set

I've always been impressed by Europeans' ability to start drinking first thing in the morning, as if it's no big thing. Get up, brush your teeth, walk the chien, consume booze.

I recall an early morning layover in the Munich airport with my mom. The airport was sterile and deadly silent, save for the clinking of beer mugs and the satisfied post-sip sighs.

Likewise, when I studied abroad in Prague, many pubs opened around breakfast time so that people could have a drink before going to work.

This all seems reasonable enough to me, but yesterday, I think a new early morning record was set. I hauled myself out of bed to go for a run / walk / limp before work. Just before 8am, I passed by a typical café and witnessed a middle-aged couple--seemingly normal in every aspect--devouring the morning paper while boozing it up. Beer for him; rosé for her. Now that's dedication.

Go France?

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Vive Obama

It suddenly just got a lot easier to be an American in Paris. I don’t know what this means for the future of my blog, but I suppose the future of the world is more important.

This post is going to be less snarky than usual because since Tuesday, my equilibrium has been thrown off. The sarcasm and cynicism that generally guide me have subsided, and my heart has been flooded with unfamiliar feelings… warmth, genuineness, humanity, hope and…. could it be… patriotism? As patriotism is a feeling I have never before experienced, it took me a while to recognize it. I never realized how badly I wanted to like my country until, at long last, I kind of do.

When I first moved to Paris, I felt that my non-Frenchness attracted a lot of attention—both negative and positive—that I didn’t necessarily want. One early acquaintance asked me if I owned a gun, which was kind of funny except that he wasn't kidding.

So just when I’d learned to blend in a bit more and spent hours working on my French scowl, Obama went and turned the tide of history. I threw a little Gobama soiree on Wednesday night, and when I was shopping in my neighborhood, I couldn’t help but gush to everyone I encountered… the wine guy, the cheese guy, even the saucisson guy. I’ve never been so thrilled to announce my citizenship and to declare Il faut fêter! (“We must party!”) They concurred and were equally eager to share their opinions about the election.

Here’s the thing: French people care about American politics. The opposite is not always true. For many Americans (Sarah Palin included), their knowledge of the French political landscape extends no further than Carla Bruni’s evolving wardrobe. But from what I can tell, your average French person is informed and invested in American politics. Most of the French people I know were following the election as closely as I was, which leads me to the reassuring conclusion that French people want to like the United States; they just need a good reason to do so.

And now they have one!

In the mayhem following the announcement, I was a little sad not to be in New York to celebrate with my compatriots, who pranced through the streets like a pack of wild squirrels on the loose. One friend wrote, “Union Square last night was a big hippie party with drum circles and thousands of people chanting ‘yes we can.’ I think you would have enjoyed it.” Friend, what are you implying?

But in all seriousness, it has also been amazing to experience the election from abroad, where its potential global impact is truly tangible.

Last night, I was walking with a friend and two girls asked us for a lighter. Then they asked us where we were from. A week ago, I would have said “Canada.” But last night, we were excited to say “We’re from the States,” and after we did, the first thing they said was “Vive Obama.”

It was an incredibly poignant moment—almost too poignant—except that it was completely genuine. We chatted a bit, and they went on to say how impressed they were that the U.S. had elected a black president—a possibility they felt could not happen in France anytime soon.

In a state of stupefied joy on the day after the election, I agreed to be interviewed (in French) on RMC, a French radio station. I’m sure I made no sense, but I didn’t care. After eight years of darkness and shame, it was amazing to be able to speak openly, freely, and happily about the (now very real) concepts of hope, change, unity, teamwork… and a new puppy in the White House! I told the crazy French talking heads that I’m finally “not embarrassed to be American,” and I think I meant it... for now.

So I may continue to have trouble opening various doors around Paris. And I may drop my shoe into the Metro tracks once in a while. And I may be conspicuously not-French…

But I did help to elect Obama, and I’m going to assume that counteracts my past and future faux pas.

Vive Obama.

Click here for Radio Podcast

I come on about 1/3 of the way through and ramble for a couple minutes.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Crazy, Creepy or Just French?

Today I would like to play a game I have invented called “Crazy, Creepy, or Just French?” I realize that these categories are not mutually exclusive, but for the sake of the game, we will try to draw some sort of distinction.

If you disagree with my conclusion, you are free to weigh in with comments. In fact, I insist you do. (Not you, Mom). The best comment will get some sort of prize… probably in the form of an e-card or some type of artistic work that I create using Paint.

So, here we go…

Last week, I was running an errand for my boss. It was sunny; I was feeling kind of cool because I just bought some new Ray-Bans and they make me look a bit French. (Real French people would probably disagree). As I approached a group of people outside of a café, one of the guys in the group sort of stepped in front of me and refused to let me pass until I agreed to "faire la bise" with him. (The double-cheek kiss that you do if you’re (1) European, (2) in Europe and interacting with Europeans, (3) are a nightclub promoter in the U.S. and want the world to know that you’re a total sleaze). I found this quite cheeky, perhaps even shocking. But even more shocking? The fact that my first instinct was to comply and to ask "Comment ça va?"

How's it going? Maybe I’m the creepy one.

Anyway… Crazy, Creepy or Just French? My conclusion: Just French (and maybe a bit drunk).

Then there was the old lady in the metro. She was looking a bit worse for wear, and she approached me and asked for a Euro. I searched around in my wallet and handed her a pile of coins, which she promptly sifted through and then gave me the most hateful look I’ve ever been given, accompanied by a soft and venomous growl. What? Maybe I had just fallen short of a Euro... it couldn’t have been less than 90 centimes... GIVE ME A BREAK! I’m a struggling wannabe writer and the dollar is not so hot right now. But whatever. I coughed up some more change. She gave me another look of icy disdain, and moved on, having thoroughly put me in my place.

Crazy, Creepy, or Just French? My conclusion: Crazy… and quite French. And definitely drunk.

Speaking of the metro…. On my way home from work, I have come across the same woman three or four times, and her behavior leads me to believe that she is quite short-tempered indeed. Each time I have observed her, I have been reaching the platform just as she is fleeing it, SCREAMING: “Putain! J’en ai marre de ce merdite metro! Je m’en fou! Je m’en fou! Je m’en fou!” (“Whore! I’ve had enough of this shitty metro! I don’t care! I don’t care! I don’t care!”) Whoa, lady. We all know rush hour is rough, but calm down and have a kir.

Crazy, creepy or Just French? My conclusion: Incredibly French.

I live on a noisy street. A few nights ago, a very rowdy group of French kids passed by my window. How did I know they were French? Because they were all singing in English: “I’ll be there for youuuuu…..alalaalaala (they didn’t really know the rest) lalalaa”… Yes, the theme to “Friends”…. every French person’s favorite show of all time. Maybe not every French person’s, but the vast majority, for sure. If you ask a young French person if they’ve been to New York and they haven’t, they say “No, but I’ve seen ‘Friends’.” (This is supposed to impress you).

Crazy, creepy or just French? My conclusion: Just French…. And drunk, of course.

I was in a cab a few weeks ago and, per usual, got into a deep discussion about something nonsensical with the driver. He asked where I was from and what I hated about Paris. At first, I couldn’t think of anything. Then I realized, yes, there is something. I hate that you can never find a cab after 2am.

It is the one thing I really miss about New York: the heavenly vision of the yellow taxi in the night, emerging from the darkness to take you home, no matter where you are, what you’ve done, or where you’re going (unless you’re going to Brooklyn and then they start whining and saying things like “You didn’t look like you were going to Brooklyn").

This Parisian cab driver, though, seemed astonished that one would have trouble finding a cab. “You just have to put your sexy finger in the air,” he said, demonstrating with his own sexy finger. “Just take your sexy finger, and put it in the air, and every car will stop.” Fair enough. When I tried it later that night, however, my sexy finger proved completely unsexy and ineffective. And while I was unsuccessfully trying to lure cabs, I dropped my sexy cell phone against the window of an already occupied cab, and the whole ordeal was incredibly awkward and decidedly unsexy.

Crazy, Creepy or Just French? My Conclusion: I don’t know anymore. But hopefully not drunk.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

(False) Idol Worship

Another Prominent Parisian ad campaign. I wonder if they've begun rethinking this one.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Guess I Didn't Really Need That Shoe After All

Now I’ve done it. This is probably a story I should bury in the “Secret Annals of an Awkward American in Paris.” But what fun is public humiliation if you can’t share it with your friends?

Yesterday was beautiful. When I woke up, there was literally a small French child singing “Frère Jacques” outside of my window. I ran a few errands and then made afternoon plans to wander around the magical Jardin des Plantes before having tea at the Mosquée de Paris with a friend. This day was perfection, and I was in happy-daydream-mode as I waited for the metro.

I quickly exited happy-daydream-mode when I stepped into the metro car and realized that something was not quite right. I looked down. Ah, yes. One of my shoes was missing, and I was standing in the middle of the train with one bare foot. Quite strange, really, because this foot had had a shoe on it not two seconds earlier... I was sure of it. I turned around just in time to see the little bastard slip into the gap between the platform and the train—plummeting to its death on the tracks below.

I didn't need to gasp in horror because everyone around me on the train had already done so. So I just froze in a state of stupefied shock. Luckily, there was a go-getter next to me who pulled me back onto the platform and immediately started scheming about ways to get the shoe back. In the meantime, the conductor noticed the commotion and turned off the train, which, as you can imagine, made me quite popular with the hundreds of metro-riders within.

My shoe was down there, but it could not be reached with the train in its current position. My friend gave up (apparently not such a go-getter after all), and the conductor told me to wait there. The authorities were coming. Il faut pas descendre. Do not try to go onto the tracks. And like that, they were gone.

The platform was now deserted, save for me and a dazed homeless guy on a bench. The platform across from me, however, was full of people who seemed equally perplexed and amazed at the sight across the way: me... a poor man's Cinderella... but dirtier and more forlorn.

So, I waited on the bench next to the homeless guy; we made quite a pair. He covered himself with a bag and fell asleep, and I tried to look as blasé as possible, as if wearing one shoe had been a carefully calculated fashion decision with which I was entirely comfortable.

I sent a few text messages to alert some friends about my loss of shoe. One response read: “Guess you didn’t really need that one.” Guess not.

A few trains came and went, with passengers eyeing me, some in disgust, some in pure awe. I considered trying to jump into the tracks, either to retrieve the shoe or to put myself out of this misery; but I decided that the mortification of losing a shoe and electrocuting myself would be simply too much for one day.

Still, no assistance came, so I strategically positioned myself at the end of the platform so that I could speak to the conductor of the next incoming train. As he pulled up, he seemed unsurprised to see me standing there. I knocked on the window sheepishly.

“My shoe fell in the tracks.”
“Yeah, I heard about you,” he replied. “They’re sending someone.”
Oh good. The word had spread.

I returned to my perch next to my homeless friend. As the next few trains passed, I noticed the conductors watching out for me with that unmistakable look of amused disdain. Finally, one of them got out and yelled, “The girl who lost the shoe?”

Yes, that’s me. How could you tell?

Finally, I spied two RER workers slowly approaching me from the opposite end of the platform. They were in no rush, nor were they amused by the havoc I had caused.
They looked at me.
They looked at my shoe on the tracks.
They left.

A few minutes later, they came back with a broom to fish the shoe out. No luck. One went to get another broom.

His partner stayed, and I decided it was a good time to make awkward conversation.
“Does this happen often?” I asked.
Then she told me to go sit down.
I obeyed.
Then she conceded, “Well sometimes people lose phones. But not shoes.”

Finally her counterpart came back and embarked upon an elaborate shoe rescue endeavor. While the woman watched for oncoming trains, he used the two brooms in a “chopstick-like” manner and eventually succeeded in lifting my shoe from the tracks below. It was frightened, but intact.

“Thank you so much. I’m so sorry about this,” I giggled, immediately realizing that I shouldn’t be giggling.
He sort of smiled.
She didn’t.
They left.

I looked around the platform for someone to share in my joy—or at least in the absurdity of my shame—but, strangely, no one wanted to associate with me, not even my homeless guy.

The next train came and I hopped on, both my foot and my ego thoroughly soiled.

As the train pulled away I wondered, “How would a cool French girl have handled that situation?”

It’s pretty clear. A cool French girl would never have been in that situation because (1) she would not be a complete spazz, and (2) she would have been wearing cool French boots, which are what I intend to wear for the remainder of my time in Paris.

Once again, bravo l’Américaine.

The culprit.

*P.S. Today I took my shoe to my special secret fountain to cheer it up because it was ashamed.

Monday, October 13, 2008

A Loincloth by Any Other Name...

I am very much indebted to a friend from the U.S. who, while visiting Paris last week, made an incredibly important discovery. While at the new Jean Nouvel-designed Musée du Quai Branly, she came across a loincloth on display.

Clearly, this is an exciting event in and of itself, but it became even more exciting when she read the French translation for the object: a cache-sexe. I’m not going to translate directly because this is a civilized blog, and the French term is quite graphic indeed. In fact, it makes "loincloth" seem downright puritanical.

Later that day, the same friend re-discovered another important term: lèche-vitrine. Literally, someone who "licks windows," a.k.a. a window shopper. But just as the French have better shopping, they also have better shopping descriptors. So after a day of window-licking and loincloth-admiring, she scurried home and reported her linguistic findings via mass email to a group of friends.

One particularly sassy friend sent a response that read: “lèches ma cache-sexe, biatch.” He’s a regular contributor to Elle Décor and thus has quite a flair for language.

Anyway, just food for thought. You might want to try out some of this new vocab next time you’re in Paris. Personally, I have sought to introduce the topic of loincloths into many of my recent conversations, and I’m pretty sure it has won me significant respect and admiration from anthropologists and strippers alike.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

In Celebration of the French Tongue

In France, language is taken very seriously. There is an ongoing debate here about how to preserve and protect the French language—both from its own organic evolution/desecration and from the English words that, little by little, are weaseling their way into French dictionaries. After watching a TV show on which an assortment of French politicians, academics, media personalities, and writers lamented the devolving state of the language, I realized that the situation is grave; this issue keeps people up at night.

And, evidently, it’s not just the French language that is at risk. Dozens of Parisian metro stops currently display this ad:

Stop massacring English! And yes, that’s a picture of a bruised and bloodied British policeman, the implication being that it is unacceptable—even violent—to speak English improperly. Hear that, French people? Get yourselves to a language school RIGHT NOW before this situation spirals completely out of control.

These ads make me laugh because, 1) they’re ridiculous looking, and 2) I like to daydream about a reciprocal campaign being launched in the US. “Stop massacring the French language!” I feel like many Americans’ first question would be… “What’s French?”

Anyway, it’s no surprise that language is important to French people. French is awesome. It is fun to speak—or to attempt to speak—and there are a whole slew of words and concepts that I find very amusing.

The verb flâner, for instance, is a classic. It basically means to wander aimlessly, pensively, with no firm destination in mind, simply to take in one’s surroundings and to ponder life’s questions in an unrushed manner, maybe while strolling along the banks of the Seine or while watching skater punks show off their skills outside of the Palais de Tokyo, for as long as one wants because, why not, we have free healthcare and lots of vacation days, but we also have a president whose gaudy Rolex is simply too much and it’s very déclassé and we should take an afternoon to stroll and reflect upon these things.

Yes, the French have a word for this concept, and they’re not joking.

But as wonderfully expressive as French can be, my favorite French words of all time are the awkward, “modern” ones—those that seem to have been made up, on the spot, by a really confused person who needed a name for something… fast.

We have a two-way tie for first place:

Talkie-Walkie: You guessed it. It’s a walkie-talkie. But we’re not just using the English word, you see, because we’ve switched the order of the words, therefore making it French.

Babyfoot: Known to the English-speaking world as Foosball—a game I always hated, until I started calling it Babyfoot. Now I can’t get enough.

*By the way, if you want to say “we’re tied” in French, you simply say égalité. Equality. Succinct, straightforward, it is exactly what it claims to be. And just so you know, I learned this expression while playing Babyfoot.

For an Anglophone in France, things can get awkward when you are speaking French and need to use an English word that has been adopted by the French. Do you pronounce it correctly? Or do you adopt a faux-French accent and pronounce it as the French would? I have a friend who struggles with this dilemma everytime she tries to order a muffin. Starbucks is surprisingly popular in Paris—as is the muffin—or as the French call it, the “moo-feen.”

Anyway, I’m having a lot of fun here when it comes to language. As some of you may have noticed, I am losing my English. And I wouldn’t say I am gaining proper French, but my franglais is improving at a rapid rate. It’s sort of refreshing to be in a language-less limbo for a while… a rebirth of sorts… or should I say, a renaissance? (Pronounce as you wish).

I was speaking to a French guy a few weeks ago about the adventure of learning another “tongue." (Langue, the word for language in French, also means “tongue”).

“That’s so good that you have come here,” he said in English. “And you enjoy learning the French tongue?”

I let him know that he might want to be careful when throwing that expression around. But, fundamentally, he’s right. Learning another language is endlessly enlightening and amusing, and in my opinion, you can’t get better than the French tongue.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

L'enfer, c'est l'immobilier

Remember in my last blog when I talked about the wonders of Parisian real estate? I take it all back. In terms of real estate, this week has been one of soaring highs and devastating lows. Most recently, lows.

But let's start with the highs. This past weekend, I spent a paradisical 48 hours at the chateau of a baron that I happen to know. Two barons, actually.

We went for walks, picked blackberries, played croquet, drank 25-year-old wine, built fires, played dress-up, cooked lobsters, hula-hooped, rode motorcycles, and admired D'Artagnan's signature (I jest not).

As we pulled away from the chateau on Sunday evening, doom was in the air. Not even our artful rendition of "There Must Be More Than This Provincial Life" could dispel my mounting certitude that something dark and dangerous awaited me in Paris.

And I was right. Back in my little studio, I was greeted by the familiar smell of hot, old cheese (I live above a fondue restaurant). A few moments later, I was also greeted by a very angry man pounding on my door. He looked more Armenian than Savoyard to me, but before I could accuse him of falsifying his heritage for the sake of his fondue enterprise, he accused ME of flooding his restaurant. And, as it turns out, I had! Or at least, my apartment had.

Apparently a pipe had broken—or had never worked in the first place. According to him "there was water everywhere," "his clients were leaving," "the old people were sliding and they were scared" (what?), and "I had cost him everything." Whoa, buddy.

I considered slamming the door and cowering in the corner but thought better of it. I was to the flood what he was to the gruyere fumes: undeniably culpable. And more importantly, he knew where I lived. There was nowhere to run.

So what to do? First, whiskey. Next, call for help.

And now, three days later, having been thoroughly educated in the rhetoric and subtleties of French plumbing, I am still not allowed to shower in my apartment. I am FILTHY, and part of me thinks I deserve this filth. Things had been going well… too well… suspiciously well.

Ah, life! One day, it invites you to a chateau; the next, it sprays you with dirty shower sludge.

In Paris, as anywhere else, pride goeth before a fall.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

4 Reasons to Move to Paris Right Now

I’ve been in Paris for over two months now, but sometimes I am still struck by little cultural differences that remind me why I have chosen to live here. I’m not just talking about things like delicious cuisine and stylish people and universal health care and blah blah blah. That stuff is important, I suppose, but this is why I REALLY love Paris:

1. Getting harassed on the street here can be an absolute pleasure. (Let me preface this observation by saying I am not trying to imply that I’m particularly harassment-worthy. Almost all women probably experience this treatment from time to time, and it has less to do with the physical appearance of the harassee than it does with the sleaziness level of the harasser). That said, harassment can be downright poetic in France. The comments I get most frequently are “Vous êtes charmante” and “Mais, que vous êtes ravissante.” Charming! Ravishing! This is a vast improvement from the comments I used to get in New York, where a homeless guy once followed me through the subway calling me a “garbage bitch.” Part of me enjoyed this comment, but I must say, it was not very polite. Vagrants in Paris really know how to romance a lady.

2. Bars here have caught onto the idea of “Happy Hour”... sort of. There seems to be some confusion surrounding the concept. At home, happy hour is a gimmick to make people start drinking at an unhealthily early hour (“Really gross $2 mixed drinks from 3-5pm!”), and in New York, no one can leave work early enough to take advantage anyway. In Paris, I’ve noticed that many happy hours last from about 6pm-midnight which, to me, seems like fairly normal drinking hours… just cheaper. I’ll take it! I guess in a culture where it’s acceptable to drink at all hours of the day, the concept of happy hour is fairly obsolete. In Paris, it’s all happiness, all the time. Digression: is anyone else confused about New York's current "speakeasy" trend? I was under the impression that prohibition was over, but apparently the joy of drinking in an underground cave persists. In Paris, you can drink in the street and you don't even have to brown-bag it. This is what I call living.

3. While the nightmare of apartment hunting transcends cultures and continents, my experience thus far in Parisian real estate has been surprisingly delightful. I had one broker tell me to “take as much time as I needed,” as choosing a temporary sublet was a “big decision.” In New York, if you don’t sign away your first born the minute you’ve seen an apartment, you’re screwed. You might as well just set up a cardboard box and become a freegan. And while New York’s Craigslist is rife with disgusting and cramped apartments described as “cozy,” “charming,” and “jewel-box,” a lot of Paris Craigslist ads tell it like it is: "come see my tiny apartment!"

And then you get ads like this:

"Are you coming on holiday or to study, i can offer a fouton in my lounge for females only, i have a separate bedroom. In exchange i need this person to keep my apartment clean, do laundry, grocery shopping and water my plants when i go on holiday in october for 2 weeks. Only responsible people please, not people that are here to party and make a mess. I am a smoker and it,s not negotiable whether i can smoke in my own apartment or not. No weirdo,s or sex offers please, this is a genuine offer that i will give to only one person"

Please let me be that person!

4. In Paris, we don’t scoff at philosophers. I have encountered more than one person here who, when posed with the age old question “What do you do?” responded by saying “I’m a philosopher.” In New York, this would not fly. If you responded in this manner, it’s likely that whomever asked the question would spew their vintage cocktail all over the table and then write you off as a complete spazz. Same goes for being a novelist. If you go around New York telling people you’re a novelist, they’re going to wonder what you’re really up to. Here, since I don’t really know what I “am,” I tell people the truth—I'm working on a novel—when they ask me what I do. The first few times I did this, I braced myself for rolled eyes and public ridicule, fully expecting to have a glass of Bordeaux thrown into my face. To my amazement, no such thing happened. People nodded their heads respectfully and responded by saying things like “How wonderful. Is this your first novel?” Apparently I’m the only one who thought my being a novelist was completely ridiculous. Oh, you’re a novelist… no big deal. Oh you’re a philosopher… sounds good to me. Oh, you wander the streets and look pensive for a living? Nice. If there is judgment in the air, I cannot sense it.

Paris, you're delightful. 

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Since When Is It Ok to Have a Wolf as Pet?

A brief thought on pets in Paris. 

There are a lot of Jack Russell Terriers here. Strangely, there are also a lot of wolves being passed off as "dogs." As a resident of Paris, this concerns me. 

Just because you put a leash on that thing does not mean it is a dog. It is clearly a timber wolf that is ready to bite peoples' faces off at any moment. That thing belongs on the pages of the inappropriately dark Brothers Grimm fairytales that ruined my childhood; it does not belong on the streets of Paris. 

I am all for rescuing animals that need homes, but the WEREWOLF at the end of your leash does not need a home. It needs a forest and a deer to devour. 

Then again, if you have a wolf, maybe I should have one too. It's kind of like the SUV syndrome that swept the United States a while back. People thought they needed big cars to defend themselves against all the other big cars on the road. And before we knew it, every other housewife was driving an Escalade, and all the kids wanted this for Christmas:

Do we really want the Wolf War to escalate in the same way? Don't make me get a liger, people.   

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Feeling Lucky? It Might Be Your Face

For the past three weeks, I have been feeling really lucky, and not just because I get to live in Paris and write blogs all day long. I know that I am lucky because a random guy on the street chased me down to say, “Excuse me. Do you know that you have a lucky face?”

Oh do I?

This was a few weeks ago. I had taken a long walk that took me from the Bastille, along the Seine, all the way to the Champs Elysées, where the Tour de France had just ended that afternoon. The Champs Elysées was still buzzing with people and shards of glass and the sweet smell of Carlos Sastre’s victory, so I ducked onto swanky Avenue Montaigne to avoid the madness.

But even greater madness awaited me! As I ambled down the street, gawking at very pretty clothes that I will never own, I was approached by a semi-sketchy guy. (This is a daily occurrence for me in Paris… no need for alarm…) But his status leapt from “semi” to “completely” sketchy when he told me I had a “lucky face.”

He was speaking English, but surely something had been lost in translation. It was the creepiest compliment (insult?) I had ever received—from a stranger at least. I think he wanted to keep chatting, but my fight-or-flight instincts were beginning to kick in and, being a coward by nature, I fled. Past Dior, Chanel, Louis Vuitton, all the way to the Plaza Athenée… safe. Safe and lucky!

The other night, I was walking past the famed spot on Avenue Montaigne, and I recounted my story to a friend. Lo and behold, the exact same thing had happened to her in the exact same spot. Impossible! Paris only has room for one lucky face, and it’s mine!

But no. Apparently the world is crawling with lucky faces. Multiple Google searches have taught me that the “lucky face” line is as old as time itself. Apparently it’s some fortune-telling gimmick that dudes on the street use to lure you in so they can make predictions about your life and then ask you for money.

I’m not big on having my fortune told, but I am big on having “lucky” body parts. And I look forward to a lifetime of attributing all good luck to my face.

Person A: “Thank God we didn’t miss the plane.”
Me: “Why don’t you just thank my face?”

Person B: “It looks like the weather is going to clear up for Oliver’s wedding!”
Me: “Well then Oliver is forever indebted to my face.”

And so on and so forth… for the rest of my life.

Megan and I comparing lucky faces. 

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Bourgie Smart Car Rebels Outside of Hipster Fête

It’s official. Hipsters are intent on world domination, and they are reproducing at a frighteningly rapid rate. It’s gotten to the point where I occasionally pass by a reflective surface only to realize that—to my horror—I am involuntarily dressing like one. The shame!

Spinning out from the epicenter of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, hipster enclaves have emerged and are thriving in locales as diverse as Buenos Aires, Berlin, Montreal, and (my favorite) Providence, Rhode Island.

And Paris is no different. Here, many hipsters make their happy home in Belleville (in the 20th arrondissement), and it was there, stranded on a curb, that I ended up two Saturdays ago at 4am.

You might ask why, and what does this have to do with a Smart Car? Well, as you know, Smart Cars are tiny, cute, and environmentally-friendly. But they’re also opinionated and elitist. And when forced to drive to the wrong side of the Parisian “tracks,” so to speak, they act out. To contextualize, the Smart Car in question hails from the 16th arrondissement, (Paris’ Upper East Side, if you will).

To give you an idea of the class tensions at work, I will refer back to my favorite show (and moral barometer) Gossip Girl. If Gossip Girl were set in Paris, Serena van der Woodsen would live in the 16th, and Dan Humphrey would live in Belleville. In TV time, that’s a 30-second commute, but in real-time, these neighborhoods are on opposite sides of Paris—both geographically and metaphorically speaking.

My friends and I were in Belleville to attend a party that, for all intents and purposes, made me feel like I actually was in Williamsburg (except with more rosé and a view of the Eiffel Tower). Who knew that American Apparel and black skinny jeans would ultimately become the unofficial uniform for (slightly) alternative youth throughout the world?

Anyway, when it came time to leave, we discovered that my friend’s Smart Car would not start. At first, we thought the problem was mechanical, but in retrospect, it was clearly socio-economic. She was pissed off about being parked on the fringe of society, and she was going to make us pay. After an hour of coaxing, she still would not move. When we realized she was smarter and more determined than we were, we taxied home.

The next day, when my friends went to retrieve her, she started instantly. Her point proven, she high-tailed it back to the 16th for some foie gras and Sauternes.

Monday, August 4, 2008

All the World's a Runway

Fashion is fun, but even more so, it’s funny. Exhibit A.

I’d like to say I never worry about what I’m wearing, but that would be a blatant lie, and I am not a liar. I worry a lot—it just doesn’t pay off.

On a good day, I imitate what my cool friends are wearing, and I end up looking OK. Not great, but acceptable enough to be let out of the house. On other occasions, when I become bold and do my own thing, then we begin to have problems.

In Paris, mercifully, there are plenty of stylish French girls around for me to emulate—though I doubt I’ll ever really get it right, as last week’s shopping incident confirms.

I was strolling around, “researching” some potential purchases when I came upon an H&M. Ahh, my old friend. These days, I’m generally trying to avoid anything that isn’t 100% cute, authentic, French, and preferably passed down from generations past, but sometimes I give in to the forces of global commerce. And my inner sociologist wanted to do a little compare-and-contrast exercise to see if H&M is the same here as it is in New York.

I was delighted to find that, in Paris, H&M is in fact quite different. Once inside, I was instantly drawn towards a section of drab-colored, confusing, shapeless dresses. Très French! I’ve noticed there is a marked difference between the shape of clothes in Paris and the shape of clothes in New York. Here, things are looser, more billowy, more open-to-interpretation. Read: Parisian girls are less slutty and more creative. In terms of cultural It-girls, think Lou Doillon vs. Lindsay Lohan.

So I was mesmerized by this section of amorphous dresses that seemed to say “Wear me with Ray-Bans and a scowl.” 20 minutes later, having tried on a few, I realized that there was something decidedly off about these clothes. Not even my favorite belt—“winged glory”—would be able to make sense of this situation, and that’s always a bad sign. Is it possible that even these dresses knew I was American and, therefore, unworthy of wearing them?

And it was at that moment that I realized I was shopping in the maternity section. To be more specific, I was in the “Futur Maman” section. Yes, I had been ogling over-sized, prenatal muumuus, imagining myself strutting the streets of Paris.

Sometimes I amaze myself. But to be fair, since when does H&M have a maternity section? Seriously, come on. When you’re pregnant, are you still scrambling around trying to find cheap knock-offs of up-to-the-second trends? Apparently in France, yes.

No wonder W wants to hire me... or not.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Watch Me As I Faukxe This Cigarette

Let’s chat about smoking for a minute. Despite a recently passed no-smoking-in-bars law, tobacco continues to reign supreme in Paris. And while I’ve never really had any interest in being a smoker, it has become exceedingly clear that you won’t get far very in this town unless your lungs are lined with filth.

Listen up, Americans. Despite what your 3rd grade D.A.R.E. counselor may have told you, smoking is cool and, yes, it kind of makes you look like a movie star. I wish I could pull it off, but there’s a problem: smoking literally makes me feel like I’m going to die. Not so much in the moment, but more so the day after when I wake up wondering if I’ve swallowed a cauldron full of battery acid.

I also never really got into smoking because of a little “challenge” initiated by my father. When my eldest brother became a smoker at the tender age of seventeen—he fell victim to Euro peer pressure while traveling in Spain—my dad made a deal with my other brother and me: if we reached age 21 without becoming smokers, he would give us $1000. Sweetness! I think he’d had a few too many bloody marys when he issued this challenge, but so be it.

Anyway, 21 rolled around and my lungs remained, for the most part, unscathed. (I inhaled a butter-rum Lifesaver once). Curiously, the $1000 never materialized, but then again, neither did a smoking addiction. So I guess it was a win-win. False promises save lungs.

And now, while I would like to get really self-righteous about the importance of not smoking, my non-smoker status is less a responsible choice than it is a biological necessity. So my conundrum: what to do during the numerous cigarette breaks that inevitably occur over the course of a bar-hopping evening?

Option 1: I can stay inside the bar and hang out with the loser non-smokers.

Option 2: I can concoct a strategy that will afford me access to international smoking circles without sacrificing the sanctity of my lungs.

Option 2 it is. I’ve come up with a clever little trick: faux smoking… “fauxking” if you will (pronounced foh-king). I know it sounds sexual, but don’t get excited—it’s not.

Fauxking: the art of pretending to smoke (ideally in a highly pretentious, blasé manner) without actually committing the filthy act.

I first began to understand the concept when Bill Clinton famously admitted to fauxking marijuana, and I have since adopted the strategy and tailored it to my own social needs.

Word to the wise: fauxking takes determination, intense focus, and hours of practice. You can’t just go for it without proper training. As you might imagine, getting caught pretending to smoke is a LOT less cool than having refrained from smoking in the first place.

There is a time and a place. Let me explain.

Appropriate use of fauxking: Friday night, I fauxked my way through two cigarettes outside of a bar because I was with a friend who needed a smoking buddy. I was discrete, and therefore successful. The trick is to take a small amount of smoke into the mouth and then CALMLY shoot it out the side in one smooth stream. If you are making a chipmunk face, you are doing it wrong, and you are likely making a true ass of yourself.

Appropriate use of restraint: Later that night, I ended up at Le Baron. Luckily, there were no Olsen twins in sight; otherwise I would have been turned away like the riffraff that I am. But on this night, we triumphed; and then came time for the requisite smoking session outside. I considered fauxking for a brief moment, and then the terror of being caught in the act outside of one of Paris’ ultimate cool-kid establishments made me reconsider. Visions of being confronted—“Qu’est-ce que tu fais avec cette cigarette?”… “What cigarette… oh this cigarette? I’m smoking, see? I’m smoking, I promise.”—saved me from what could have been the ultimate shame: the fauxking call-out.

Then again, sometimes when I’m with people who already know how weird I am, I’ll just announce, “I really want a cigarette but I’m going to fake inhale, ok?” If they judge, then maybe these are not worthwhile friends. And if they go with it, I know they’re the real deal. In this sense, the art of fauxking doubles as a social barometer.

Ok… this is spiraling out of control. Just know that if you don’t want to smoke, there’s always the option to fauxke. Or, if you’re normal, I suppose you could do nothing at all.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Bravo, L’Américaine

I live in Paris now. I know this because every morning when I wake up, I experience a brief moment of panicky, delighted confusion… I have no idea where I am! 

I remain disoriented until I ask myself the following questions:

Question: What are these sharp things in my bed?

Answer: Baguette crumbs. They were probably stuck to my face when I fell asleep.

Question: Are there alien babies in my room?

Answer: No, just French babies in the courtyard, their voices glittering in the morning light.

Question: Is this butter-infused air I’m breathing?

Answer: Actually, yes. There’s a patisserie next door.

Ahhh, and it all starts to make sense. Once I’ve determined where I am, the day begins; and because this is Paris, every second of every day is poetic and beautiful, obviously.

First, I put my contact lentils in my eyes. I’ve started calling them this because that’s what the French call them—lentilles optiques—and I’m going with it. Then, I am almost tempted to eat Corn Flakes simply because they are so beautifully labeled here:  Pétales de Maïs Dorés au Four. Corn Petals made Golden in the Oven. Seriously? Leave it to the French to make Corn Flakes sound like something that might rain down on you in heaven if you're lucky (as opposed to say, something that falls off a mangy dog that's been digging around in the dumpster... Corn Flakes, indeed).

But, beautiful name or not, Corn Petals are not appropriate. It’s a lot more fun to go to a café where I can drink coffee for a mere 8€ and try to look pensive and mysterious. And so on and so forth throughout the day. You get the idea…

Basically, I’m an idiot who is, little by little, living my way through the romance and stereotypes of Parisian life because I know that… sometime very soon… Paris is going to become real to me.

In fact, it sort of already has. Somehow—don’t ask me how— the wily French have figured out that I’m not Parisian. No matter how many berets I don, or baguettes I eat, or accordions I play, or little dogs I put in the basket of my Vélib, somehow they know.

For instance, the other day, I was struggling to open a very tricky door that involved a button and, well, it’s far too complicated to explain. Two French guys were watching me from the other side of the glass, amused and incredibly unhelpful. Five minutes later when I finally figured it out, I proudly burst through the door to hear them snarl “Bravo, l’Américaine” in between long, blasé drags of their Gaulois. Wait a minute… how did they… you mean to say… just looking like a door-confused idiot gives me away?!?! And I’m half-Canadian, goddamn it! But fair enough. This is all George Bush’s fault.

Don’t worry. I’m not discouraged. I’ve navigated most of the doors here with great success. And I’ve learned that some French people are actually nice, like the cheese man at the local market who, upon seeing me for the first time, ordered me to “Mangez!” And I did. I’ve always been good at taking direction. And he let me eat as much morbier as I could (which was way too much).

Or the other nice guy in the Jardin du Luxembourg who told me I looked like a statue and asked me if I was Swedish. OK, he was a little too nice, and now that I think about it, he didn’t have teeth.

Clearly, I’m still figuring things out, very slowly. I’ve only been here for three weeks, and I think it will take me at least three more to perfect my F*ck-You-I’m-Parisian glare. But I will succeed. That’s why I’m here.

Friday, June 20, 2008

In Defense of the Lo-tech Lifestyle

I just realized how much I hate technology. This realization developed slowly over the course of the day, and it began when I woke up from a TERRIBLE nightmare in which a Blackberry was stuck to my face.

Roused by my own frantic facial-clawing, I was relieved to remember that I don’t even own a Blackberry. But that doesn’t mean that they don’t annoy me on a daily basis. Also, I used to own one, until it was stolen by a little Brazilian kid in Rio. Sucker! He has no idea what that thing is going to put him through.
Technology—and Blackberries in particular—are really offensive for three main reasons:
  1. With technology comes obligation (in myriad forms).
  2. With technology comes a tendency to think that technology makes you important.
  3. With technology comes oblivion—a state of never-being-in-the-moment because your technology is always connecting you to other moments. I know that’s mesmerizingly profound… bear with me.
First, let’s talk about obligation. A lot of recent graduates are all excited when their new bosses hand them their first Blackberries. They think they’ve “arrived.” (I did). If arrival means never being more than a few tiny-baby-keystrokes away from your boss, then yes, you’ve arrived. But your personal life—not to mention your soul—is in great peril.

The culture of obligation also extends to regular cell phones, email, Facebook, etc. If you are connected, you are expected to respond, promptly and wittily. I much prefer the days when communication happened either face-to-face or by Pony Express. If it took you six months to respond to a letter, who cares? You could just blame it on the pony. Nowadays, there is nary a pony left to blame.

Ok, now onto the whole technology-as-status issue. Just because you walk around with a goofy Bluetooth thing attached to your head doesn’t mean you can hold up the “Just a sec” finger when I try to talk to you. By the way, you look like you have a little alien feeding off the side of your face. It’s ridiculous.

And finally, the technology-induced oblivion. It’s the anti-Zen. It’s like never really connecting to your immediate environment because you’re always wondering whether JoJo has gotten your Facebook poke. But let’s think about this. What’s more interesting: sitting on the subway watching some reality show on your iPod’s tiny screen? OR, sitting on the subway and watching some crazy person deliver a religious diatribe? For me, there’s no contest.

And let’s say you’re waiting to meet someone at a bar. You’re alone. You’re feeling kind of awkward. To combat this natural alone-at-a-bar awkwardness, you foolishly decide to catch up on text message correspondence. Or maybe you just gaze into your phone as if there’s something really important in there. Or maybe you have a fake phone conversation in which you tell a lot of jokes. (I have firsthand experience with all of these strategies). While you’re doing these things, however, you’ve failed to notice that the bartender dropped your lime on the floor before putting it into your drink. Also, the guy in the corner has no pants on.

I’m done ranting now. But this is more than a rant; this is a call to action. I move for a return to good old-fashioned landlines, snail mail, telegrams—the works! If you must be hi-tech, you can go for something like this (with Zach Morris on speed dial). None of this Blackberry-holster-on-your-belt stuff!

Some of you iPhone-loving whippersnappers might have a problem with this post. If so, respond below and I’ll get back to you when I feel like it. My carrier pigeon has polio, so it might take a while.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Jury Duty: How I Learned to Lay Down the Law

Last week didn’t go as I had planned. I thought I would spend it packing up my apartment and doing my daily Facebook “research,” but I ended up serving as a juror on a homicide case in the New York State Supreme Court. An interesting twist of fate.

I’d never been summoned before, and I arrived at the courthouse feeling incredibly important, visions of Law & Order dancing through my mind. We all know that jury duty has a bad wrap, but despite the prevailing wisdom—“You never actually get picked” and “If you do, it’s probably for some taxicab accident”—I was curious to see what it was all about.

Two days later, my body and mind numb from waiting in a giant, communal holding pen, one hour away from being released from service, a case rolled in—and my name was called along with about 80 others. Over the next few hours, the judge meticulously vetted this group—and I was chosen to be one of twelve jurors. How this happened I’m not sure.

I suppose I do bear a striking resemblance to Lady Justice… the blindfold, the toga, the scales, etc. And I do like to think I exude an undeniable aura of righteousness and fair-mindedness. But in the end, I was probably chosen because, being unemployed, I didn’t feel right about blatantly weaseling out of it. Others did, offering a variety of bafflingly creative excuses: “I have A.D.D.,” “I’m a bleeding-heart Liberal,” “I don’t trust lawyers,” “I live on the Upper West Side.” Ok, whatever. Scram.

And so there I was, and as it turned out, this was not just some taxicab accident. This was manslaughter. This was a giant knife plunged into some guy’s ribs. This was the real deal. At the risk of sounding completely overdramatic, the next week would be one of the most interesting, difficult, and heart-wrenching of my life thus far.

  • First of all, I learned a lot—from how to dust for fingerprints, to DNA analysis, to autopsy protocol. I also learned that mamabicho is Spanish for c--ksucker.
  • Second, it’s dramatic. Lawyers really do “badger” witnesses. They really do get angry and yell “Objection!” In fact, they do it all the time! And the judge gets angry too! Although this judge didn’t do nearly enough gavel-banging in my opinion.
  • Third, it can be kind of funny. One particularly sassy witness grabbed the judge’s arm to demonstrate a point, and the prosecutor noted: “For the record, the witness is grabbing the judge’s arm to show…” The judge looked a little surprised, but he rolled with it.
  • Finally, it’s a fascinating process. Don’t get me wrong; I’m no patriot. I’m basically an anarchist. I certainly don’t feel encumbered by a need to “serve” my country. Nonetheless, to experience the judicial system firsthand was unexpectedly powerful.

At the end of the trial, we spent a full day locked in a room, deliberating. By the time we reached a verdict, I felt completely drained…not to mention claustrophobic. Never before had I been put to such a tangible test—ethically, intellectually, emotionally, existentially. The experience was rife with the stuff that comprises the human experience: morality, compassion, confusion, indecision, comprehension, disbelief, judgment…

I won’t go so far as to say justice; there’s no such thing. But even my stone-cold cynic’s heart was moved by the fact that I’d been entrusted with such responsibility over another person’s future.

It was intense, to say the least. I left the courthouse feeling like I wasn’t in my body anymore. I wandered around, observing people and thinking about the intersection of lives in a city as dense as New York. An hour of crying and 3 glasses of port later, I leveled out and stopped being so melodramatic.

But in all seriousness, being a juror is some of the most interesting and important work I’ve ever done. So next time that summons arrives in your mailbox, think twice about dodging it. It can be an experience of great consequence. And, yes, you get to miss work, too.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

On Quitting a First Job

Despite what many of my friends may tell you, I did not get fired. After spending the past eighteen months in a cubicle, I finally decided to quit my job and, as it turns out, to roam the streets of New York humming the theme to “The Greatest American Hero.” Not a bad way to spend a day.

I’ve quickly learned that unemployment—it’s my eighth day—is a true delight. In fact, I imagine this is what it must feel like to roll around in a field of fruit salad—an experience I hope to have someday soon. Clearly, I’m not talking about the chronic unemployment that cripples economies and leaves people poverty-stricken. I’m talking about the (hopefully) temporary kind… the kind that says: “You’re 24. It’s ok to feel a little lost. Let’s go get a milkshake! What… why not? It’s not like you have anything better to do.”

To back up a bit, the recently abandoned job was my first out of college. I fell into it completely randomly and stayed for a year and a half. It was a great job and it was a terrible job, and the decision to quit was not easy. A semi-wise person once told me, “It’s better to leave too early than to stay too late.” In trying to decipher whether I was premature in leaving or already well past my prime, I weighed a number of pros and cons.

Things I liked about my job:

  • In general, my boss was cool. One time we were at a dog food company to do a research presentation. I attached my laptop to the projector, only to remember that my wallpaper was a picture of a dog whose jaws were clenching the head of a terrified baby cat. The boardroom of Purina employees didn’t see the humor in this scenario, but my boss thought it was pretty funny.
  • I worked on an op-ed we penned for Wyclef, so now I get to make statements like: “I think I can speak for Wyclef when I say there are no unstylish fanny packs, only unstylish people…”
  • I was once sent to Boston dressed as a superhero to “surprise” a prospective client. I said I would only do it if I could be referred to as “The Instrument.” We didn’t get the business, but I did get a free trip to Boston—and a cape!
  • I had business cards, and with business cards came the right to pretentiously hand them out, unsolicited, to anyone who crossed my path. Ideally, I would wink as I handed the cards over.

Things I didn’t like about my job:

  • The work/life balance (or lack thereof). A manager at my company recently said to an entry-level employee: “You’re not thinking about work enough when you’re not at work. Take me, for example. I think about work when I’m in the shower.” Gross.
  • In lieu of normal food, my co-workers used to eat things like egg whites—micro-waved in Styrofoam cups and then doused in Splenda.
  • My boss regularly responded to seemingly reasonable queries with the words: “You can be replaced.”
  • Marketing/office lingo really corrodes the soul. I knew I had to leave my job when I could hear (and sometimes use) the following phrases without flinching: “Buzz building.” “Can I pick your brain for a minute?” “Let’s touch base.”

Well, the job was replaceable as well. So I’ve embarked on a new phase: temporary unemployment, followed by temporary homelessness, culminating in an eventual move to Paris within the next two months.

Some think quitting one job without having another is a huge mistake that only generates angst and a patch of irremediably scorched terrain through the otherwise chronological resume. Well, worse mistakes have been made. Serena van der Woodsen killed someone, for crying out loud. Speaking of which, I need to plan the menu for my Gossip Girl-themed dinner party next week. See, unemployment does not come without responsibilities.


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