Saturday, December 12, 2009

Adrenaline

Travel rush! There's nothing like the thrill of hitting the "Finish" button when booking plane tickets online... especially when said tickets will send me back to Paris for a month! My fingers are still trembling...

I must admit, though I'm loving life in New York, I am always--quietly and not so quietly--pining for Paris. It's the little things that I really miss: pas trop cuit baguettes (crunchy outside, soft inside), sunsets over the Seine, vodka pomme on command...

It's not that you can't find fresh bread in New York, it's just that you have to put in some effort to do so. And recently it has become abundantly clear: I am lazy. I will eat a jar of peanut butter for dinner if it's the only thing in the cupboard, which it often is. Whoa, I'm gross and lazy.

Anyway, this Moveable Beast can't wait to get back to Paris (where I will probably start pining for real peanut butter as soon as I arrive). I guess the grass is always greener. But from here, the Parisian grass is looking really, really absurdly green...

Monday, December 7, 2009

No Shame in a Little Vodka Pomme



I picked up a little trick when I lived in Paris... a little trick known as the Vodka Pomme. It's smooth, not hangover-inducing, makes me happy, and is totally non-controversial. Yes, it's vodka and apple juice, but it never felt juvenile... at least, until I came to New York.

Since I've been back, I've attempted to order the Vodka Pomme multiple times to no avail. Last week alone I was shot down by three bartenders. I suppose the problem is that I often lead with, "Do you have any apple juice?" which usually inspires raised eyebrows, if not blatant disgust.

When I posed this question on Friday, the bartender responded, "This is a bar for adults." It didn't help that my friend had just ordered red wine in a "normal glass," which was tantamount to asking for it in a sippy cup. Apparently, it's not acceptable to request drinks that evoke memories of the sandbox. It's all dirty martinis and Maker's Mark and everything else that is just soooooooo cool.

I'm not deterred. In fact, I'm more determined than ever to find a New York bar that will make me a proper Vodka Pomme without judgment or fanfare. Until then, I'm going to carry a flask full of apple juice at all times. I have no choice.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

In Celebration of Pants

5 pants

Last week’s headline in The Telegraph read: “A decree banning women from wearing trousers in Paris is still technically in force, it emerged on Monday, making the laissez-faire French capital theoretically stricter than hardline Sudan in the fashion stakes.”

The article went on to describe the origin of this law and its evolution over time.

  • 1800: Law stipulates that “any Parisienne wishing to dress like a man ‘must present herself to Paris' main police station to obtain authorization’”
  • 1892: Amendment to the law states that trousers are permitted “as long as the woman is holding the reins of a horse"
  • 1909: An extra clause is added to allow women to wear trousers when "on a bicycle or holding it by the handlebars"

Despite the fact that this law is still in place, it's safe to say that pants (and the women who love them) are alive and well in Paris. Thanks to icons like Coco Chanel (who did her part for women's lib by championing sportswear as a viable—not to mention stylish—wardrobe option for women in the early part of the 20th century), today’s Parisiennes can be seen strutting the streets in styles as diverse as the uber-chic “skinny jean” to the borderline-laughable “harem pant.” And they wear them well, albeit defiantly---very few of today’s pant-wearers can be found holding the requisite “reins of a horse.”

coco

But illegal or not, pants are here to stay. Here’s the proof (photos: thesartorialist.com):

black pantsplaid and pantsriding pants


Saturday, November 14, 2009

Verre Volé--Tu me manques!

Reminiscing about drunken afternoons and evenings at the Verre Volé...

Monday, November 9, 2009

French Unicorns


From http://blog.theblakewright.com/

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

My Family Hates Me


A new annual event has started occurring in my life in recent years. It happened for the first time when I was a sophomore in college. I was stuck on campus over Columbus Day weekend, probably holed up writing a paper on the genocide presided over by Columbus (or something equally ironic given the occasion). I took a break from working to call home to gripe a little bit, to have my parents confirm that their empty nest was totally boring, and to bask in a little praise for being such a dedicated scholar.


Instead, I called to discover that my family was celebrating Thanksgiving—without me. And not just any Thanksgiving—Canadian Thanksgiving, which happens to fall on America’s Columbus Day weekend. I'm not sure why the Canadian version is so much earlier than the American. Perhaps it's because, by late November, Canada is already buried in snow and there's nothing left to be thankful for.


My parents had recently moved from Connecticut to Montreal. They were retired and, more importantly, fed up with the Bush administration, so they migrated north, lured by the promise of level-headedness and poutine. We are dual citizens, but I’m not a real Canadian, and we had certainly never celebrated any Canadian holidays.


“Is that you, Tor?” my mom asked, her voice drowned out by something sizzling in the background. “We’re just about to sit down to Thanksgiving dinner.”


I stared at the desolate screen of my laptop, which glowed with a slow, cold, silver indifference. “Excuse me?” I said in disbelief.


“What?” My mother asked, sounding innocent but pressed for time. Perhaps there was gravy to be stirred.


“You’re having Thanksgiving, and you didn’t even invite me?”


My mother laughed. “Oh come on! You’re too busy to come up here.”


Too busy to stuff my face with pie? Let’s get serious, here.


I imagined my family crowded around the turkey without me. For the record, none of us actually get along that well, but in my vision, they were all rosy-cheeked and grinning, patting each others' shoulders and exchanging self-satisfied winks as they anticipated the feast to come.


I asked if my brothers were there. My mother confirmed that they were, as was my uncle, his lady friend, and some neighbors. In other words, the whole crew... plus some extras.


“Sounds like Thanksgiving to me,” I said.


“Mmmm,” my mother made a distracted noise, and I heard some kitchen tool being tapped against the side of a pan.


“We are talking about Thanksgiving, right? The third-most important holiday after Christmas and my birthday?” I asked. “I’m thinking of the right one, right?”


“Oh, Tor,” my mother said, “we can do the American one later, if you want, but you can’t do it all. You’re in college and you’re bi-national. You simply cannot do it all.”


I reflected: if doing it all meant eating two giant feasts every Fall, I was pretty sure I could, in fact, do it all.


You do it all,” I retorted. “But apparently I only get invited to half of it. The stupid American half.” Suddenly Canadian Thanksgiving sounded so much more delicious and rugged than the American version.


“Oh please,” my mother replied, her mouth full of something. “We’re about to sit down. Study hard, and we miss you so much.”


You do? I thought. Because if you missed me that much, you might have thought to invite me to Thanksgiving. I ate a bowl of Cheerios, finished my genocide paper, and fell asleep beneath the icy glow of my laptop.


* * *


I had no idea then that being excluded from secret Canadian Thanksgivings would become a recurring theme in my life. Each year, I managed to forget about the Columbus Day / Canadian Thanksgiving link, until I would call home to ask a question or to check in, only to discover the family—once again—living it up without me.


It happened again the next year when I was studying abroad in Prague, the next year when I was back at school, the following year when I had my first job in New York City, and two years later when I lived in Paris. That was the year my mother said, “We miss you so much but this year we put butter under the skin of the turkey and I really need to focus right now.”


It became a running joke among some of my friends that my family had turned Canadian without telling me, and it was funny—I guess—because it was completely true.


It happened again this year, when I called home to ask if my mother knew where my squash racquet was. No, she didn’t, but she knew exactly where every other member of my family was: crowded around the dining room table with visions of tryptophan in their eyes.


I laughed, amazed at how this cycle had become so reliable. Not many other factors in my life are fixed right now: my address changes every few months, my freelance jobs are “shady,” and no one really knows what I do all day (including me). But if there’s one thing that we can all count on, it is that I won’t be invited to my family’s Canadian Thanksgiving. At least, not until I give in and become a real Canadian. But that’s not happening anytime soon. I’m Parisian, remember?

Sunday, September 27, 2009

NY - Paris - Montreal - NY



I am living every Parisian's dream, i.e., I am living in New York. After over a year in Paris and a few months in Montreal, I am back where I began, albeit with a much different perspective on just about everything. Since getting back, I've been delighted to find that you can't go too far in New York without hearing some French. I find myself aggressively eavesdropping on French conversations I hear in the subway and lingering a little longer on corners where French people are chatting, just in case they need my input on the matter at hand.

Part of me expects that they will see me and just sense that I've been in Paris and that, therefore, I get it--whatever it might be. I was stopped in the subway the other day by a French woman who wanted to take a photo of my book (Save the Cat) for her friend, Cat. I obliged with delight.

Friday night, I attended Le Fooding d'Amour at P.S.1 with Lizzie, an American whom I met in Paris. At a certain point, we were both overcome with a familiar feeling: uncoolness. Even on this side of the Atlantic, Parisians have the ability to make me feel totally maladroit, and for this, they have my undying respect.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Montreal: Crazy Exists Here Too!

I always think it's really funny when Americans talk about how Montreal is so "European." I understand that a year spent in Paris does not give me the right to be snooty about Quebec, but I do have a bit more perspective than I used to, and I must tell you, Quebec is not France.

Yes, people speak French, but it's not like any French I knew on the other side of the Atlantic. This morning, it took 5 replays of a voicemail message for me to grasp that something we ordered "has arrived" and "have a good day." I still don't know what we ordered, where it has arrived, or what I'm supposed to do about it. Despite having been exposed to it from an early age, Quebecois French still sounds crazy to me. Vowels get stretched in strange directions; syllables appear where they need not be; the language has its own counter-intuitive rhythm. To me, it sounds like normal French, but drunk... and on a trampoline.

But language aside, there are plenty of other reasons why Montreal does not equal Paris. Namely:



And:



You will not find these things in France, which is probably for the best. And there are plenty of French things that you will not find in Canada. This is how it should be. One France is enough. One Canada is enough.

There is overlap, however. For example, yesterday I was at a stop light in Montreal. I heard a quiet, high-pitched voice begin to chirp from the car next to mine. It started low, and then got louder and more persistent. It wanted attention. I tried to stay focused and ignore whatever madness was going on beside me, but I finally gave in and looked over. It was a taxi driver, and he was on a roll. Delighted by the attention, he began to coo with even more zeal... it was a mysterious melody that blurred the line between classical opera and reggae. And then it happened... I experienced that old familiar thrill I used to feel in Paris when I was harassed by a crazy person, or when a drunk guy singled me out on a crowded street. It felt amazing.

So, no, I'm not in Paris anymore. But the good news is, crazy guys are a global commodity, and absurdity is a universal truth. I'm sure Montreal has its fair share of both of these things, and I can't wait to uncover them... one taxi driver at a time.

On a different note, who do you think would win in a fight between a Parisian Roller-Cop and a Canadian Mounty?

Monday, July 6, 2009

Paris---> Montreal

After a splendid year in the City of Light, I have traded Paris for Montreal (the Paris of Canada). This has been a slightly traumatizing experience.

What I've lost: cheap delicious wine, bridges, parks, sunset at 10:30pm, interesting street style, tiny dogs everywhere, daily interactions with insane hobos, fondue-peddling neighbors, Velibs, cultural refinement, green markets, cobblestones, cigarette smoke, joie de vivre.

What I've gained: rugged Canadian attitude, "quality" time with my cat Sprocket, coniferous trees.

If anyone is still reading this, I can't believe it, but thank you! Moveable Beast is not necessarily done forever, but it will be changing forms.

My quarter-life crisis may be on the move but, luckily for you, it's still going strong!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Cat Love

These anti-animal-abandonment ads are all over the metros. This is obviously my favorite:


In reference to being adopted by his owner, this cat (Sasha) says: "I don't know what came over him, yet I loved him."

I want a homeless cat to say that about me! Although despite being adopted, it sounds like Sasha still has some self-esteem issues. 

Friday, June 26, 2009

Good-bye Scuba Cop, Roller Cop, Gas Mask Cop...

I'm leaving Paris on Tuesday--for the summer, for the for-seeable future, maybe forever. 

Why? 

There are plenty of legal, spiritual, psychological, and unexplainable factors involved. Mostly, the law is weighing heavily on my soul. My international reputation is in peril. All year, the sight of a police officer has given me a little jolt of excited terror. And, oh, the variety of police officers here is unparalleled...

There is a tribute to all of them on the side of the prefecture de police on the Ile de la Cite. So here is my tribute to that tribute:







Tuesday, June 9, 2009

It Will Never Be Normal

I've been at a loss for what to blog about lately. For a moment, I started to think my life here had become too normal to write about. But as usual, I was wrong. I have simply become accustomed to the absurdity of it all... and now, the absurdity itself has become normal. 

I need to remember that the frequency with which absurd things happen does not make them less noteworthy. 

Last weekend, I was caught far from home sometime between 2:00-5:30am... I don't know when exactly, but the point is, the metro was closed. So I caught a taxi and, as often happens, was treated to the wisdom of the driver on the way home. Upon pulling up to my door, the taxi driver noted its discreet appearance. "You're smart," he said. "The only way to live happily is to live in hiding."

I'm still trying to figure out what that means, but apparently I'm doing something right. 

This past weekend, the strange encounters continued. On Friday night, I made the responsible decision to go home early but, on my way, I was lured into what I can only describe as a vampire's lair. It was actually the fondue restaurant below my apartment, but it was all dark and the proprietor was looking more Draculesque than ever. Contrary to what I had previously thought, he's not really from Transylvania, nor is he from Armenia, nor Greece, but from Albania. Tricky! Many glasses of wine later, I'd learned more about Albania--and the fondue business--than I ever thought I would know. We even reminisced about the flood, which had threatened to sabotage our neighborly relations when I first moved into this apartment 8 months ago. Apparently fondue heals all wounds with time.  

And finally, on Saturday night, I was waiting for the metro when I heard a lovely little voice coming from across the tracks.... yes, a drunk person. He was dancing and singing a song that went "C'est le weekend, c'est le weekend, c'est le weekend..." I can only assume that he was not only the performer, but the composer of this song. There was a free-form dance that went along with it, and whenever anyone acknowledged him, he would stop both song and dance--letting the anticipation build--until finally giving in and resuming the act. As the train came, I considered letting it pass just to marvel a bit longer, but no need. If I've learned anything in Paris, it's that there is always another crazy person waiting just around the corner.

C'est le weekend indeed. 

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Feral Girl

I am back in Paris! 

Since I've been away, my hard drive exploded, causing me to lose all of my data--including all writing. As you can imagine, I now feel incredibly technologically "unencumbered." What's a year's worth of work, anyway? 

In other more important news, a few friends have implied that I remind them of this recently discovered "feral siberian girl."  I am honored. 

Speaking of which, that cat I used to hang out with never comes around anymore. Maybe I'll look for him tomorrow. 

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Spring in Paris Makes You Lazy

Hence, the recent Moveable Beast hiatus. I'm a bit blogged out... what with all the writing for other blogs:




I'll be back at some point. 

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Roller-blades at the Ready

As the owner of a pair of roller-blades, I can confidently say that there is nothing less cool than  roller-blades. I am still conflicted about my own. Many years ago (back in the U.S.), I used to wear them around my neighborhood while kind of pretending I wasn't wearing them. Oh these? They're just my shoes. I could never reconcile my desire to roller-blade with the self-loathing that it inspired. 

Parisians are not conflicted on this front. When it comes to their status as bladers, ils l'assument. They own it. It amuses me that a demographic that is generally so put together can throw all that style to the wind when it comes to roller-blading. 

MC hammer pants (preferably denim)? Check. 
Whatever shirt I happen to be wearing (even if it's a blazer)? Check.
Perhaps some type of strange head garb? Check. 
Blades? Of course.

Good to go. 

Now that spring is here, those who spent all winter long looking totally normal (walking, can you imagine?) have been reborn in all of their bladed glory. It's like monarchs emerging from cocoons.... no, it's like phoenixes rising from the ashes. And it is a sight to behold. 

Where I come from, you can't really be a self-respecting citizen and a roller-blader. In Paris, it's quite the opposite. Take the roller-cops for example:



Blades = Respect

All this roller-madness reminds me of an encounter I had last fall. I was walking down the Rue de Rivoli and found myself crossing a few intersections at the same time as a roller-blader. Eventually he sped off, but then circled back and asked me if I wanted to have a coffee. 

"Not with those things on your feet," I thought. 

Foolishly, I didn't know then that roller-blades were the height of Parisian style. Live and learn.    

Monday, April 20, 2009

Best of All Worlds

Since I moved to Paris, a few of my friends back home have labeled me an America-hater, or more specifically, a New York-hater.

Not true and not true!

I am tired of being accused of urban infidelity. I refuse to choose. I am content to be an urban swinger if it means I can enjoy the best of both worlds. Are we not allowed to love two cities at once?

People who try to make me pledge my allegiance to a single city annoy me almost as much as people who insist that I choose between cats and dogs, which I've always thought is totally nonsensical and unnecessary. (Apologies to certain readers that I am inevitably offending). But just so you know: neither dogs nor cats are going anywhere. You can enjoy them both forever.

When I first met Renee and Theresa, two of my most glorious Paris friends, we had an epiphanous moment when we realized we all saw eye-to-eye on this issue. Dogs are fun. Cats are nice too. The world balances itself out. We don't have to choose. We became fast friends. (They get it.)


For me, the dog-cat-balance also applies to cities. If anything, my time in Paris has made me love New York even more, if only because I now objectify it in the same way I used to (and still often do) objectify Paris. And why not? There is no clear line between the reality of a city and your own image of it. A city is what you believe it is. Like a cat is what you believe it is-- a nice friend.

So, yes, when I visit New York in May, I will likely complain about the dearth of worthwhile bread, cheese and affordable French wine. My blood pressure will rise. I will roll my eyes at the newest speakeasies to hit the "underground" bar scene. But secretly, I will really, really like it, and I will remember why all Parisians think New York is soooooo cool.

Yesterday, I sat on the bank of the Seine for a long time, watching the sun get lower in the sky. It was quite pretty, but I found myself really, really wanting a black and white milkshake from Shake Shack. For a moment, I sort of wanted to be in Madison Square Park. But then the sky did this:

Someday, maybe I can have an apartment in both cities... and I will fill the apartments with puppies AND kittens, roquefort AND milkshakes, baguettes AND bagels. I choose to have both.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Band of Traveling Minstrels

My neighborhood in Paris is decidedly uncool. It is historic and charming, but it is not an area where any self-respecting Parisian fashionista would settle. If a neighborhood can be awkward, mine is; and obviously, that's why I like it. 

Case in point: last Sunday I woke up, threw open the windows (as I do with an overly dramatic flourish every Sunday morning), and noticed there was a bit of a commotion going on down the street. Sunday, market day, is always chaotic, but this was clearly something special. 

When I finally made it outside, I came upon this: 
  

No need to be alarmed. Just a band of traveling minstrels. 



Rarely do I come across a scene that inspires me to SPRINT home for my camera, but I didn't have to think twice about this one. 

Blogging Update

I've started writing Paris-related posts for a few other blogs as well. You can read some here:

The Selby at Colette for Dossier Journal

Foodie Paris for HiP Paris

Paris' Best Blend for HiP Paris

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Don't Let This Fool You Into Thinking I'm Cool...

You all know I'm not!

But to read a little profile of me on UncleEmpire.com: Click here  

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Baguette Injury Inspires Poem


Feeding Frenzy

I hurt myself with a baguette today.
While I was eating it,
shards of crust stabbed my lip.
It felt delicious.

I only want to eat like this, from now on.
I want the food to fight back.
It tastes better that way
and makes me feel more like a shark.

Take the mighty blowfish, for example,
who can kill a man
with poison, long after it,
itself, is dead on a plate.

who must be drowned in Armagnac
in order to taste just so,
obviously, of course.

No more insipid bagels.
Only food with dignity 
will pass these lips
scratching, kicking, biting, stinging.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

One Summer In Europe -- Audio Essay

I contributed an audio essay to the "One Summer in Europe: Paris" podcast (available on iTunes and at www.onesummerineurope.com). 

To listen to the essay, click here, and if you're the impatient type, I come on at -23:22 mins. 

Also, why didn't anyone ever TELL me that I have a lisp?!?!? WTF.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Feline Invader

There's a large and aggressive cat that lurks in the stairwell of my apartment. Obviously, I am obsessed with it. 

I call it Capucine, which is a girl's name, even though I think he's probably a guy cat. Whatever. Capucine is a pretty name and I like the fact that it is totally inappropriate for this massive animal. 

Capucine regularly busts into my apartment and hangs out for as long as he wants, regardless of what I have to say about it. Needless to say, I thoroughly enjoy him. 

I wrote a poem about our evolving relationship that was published on my friend Kate's blog, Poetics. You can read the poem by clicking here: Obese Stray 

Thursday, March 19, 2009

French Ad Campaign Redefines Rugged Chic

Though I am loathe to admit it, my Paris eyes are not as fresh as they used to be. When I first arrived in Paris, it seemed that everything I saw begged to be appreciated, mocked, blogged about, or all three. 

Recently, it took a visiting friend to call my attention to an ad campaign that has changed my life. I still haven't forgiven myself for not noticing it on my own. And when you're blind to something like this...

... you know it's time to wake up. On our leisurely walk around Paris, we stopped for a good five minutes to analyze the flowing mane, the furrowed brow, and that far-off look that makes you wonder whether he is going to seduce you or club you to death with a blunt rock. Part-man, part-wildebeest... we had to know more. 

Once we were on the lookout, it seemed he appeared everywhere. On the corner near the Bon Marché, outside of the Institut du Monde Arabe, in countless locations throughout the Marais. At one point, we were gazing at his countenance only to see him pop up on another rotating billboard just meters away--this time in a car advertisement. It was like a dare to see who could be manlier: him... or him. Surrounded by his image, we vowed to get to the bottom of this mystery. 

We later found out that this magnificent specimen is, in fact, Sebastien Chabal--a major French rugby player. But to me he will always be, quite simply, a caveman. 


I'm not sure what Caron is thinking. If there's anyone you probably don't want to smell like, it's Sebastien Chabal. Whatever cologne he's wearing, I'll take the antidote please. Unless of course I want to smell like a saber tooth tiger after a daylong hunt.

So, I am much indebted to Ben for calling my attention to this campaign and bringing the light of Chabal into my life. How could I have been so blind? I suppose 9 months of attempting to become a blasé Parisian has made me just that... blasé.  But if assimilating to Paris means I don't instantly laugh at something like this, I'm not sure I want to be Parisian after all. 

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Uncle Empire

You should definitely know about Uncle Empire, edited by the brilliant Brendan Flaherty. He actually publishes my diatribes, which I appreciate. Click the following link to read: My  Dirty Parisian Romance 

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Tory and Atchoum: A Story of Mutual Tolerance

Spring is springing in Paris. How do I know? Because Atchoum—my French boss’ dog—has just gotten his spring fur-cut and is looking more like a Westie and less like a filthy rag. That said, he’s still filthy, and I go well out of my way to avoid touching him.

I can’t help but recall my first week at this job, when I woke up with what I initially thought was a tumor, only to realize that I had been bitten by a flea. Hypochondria quickly turned to disgust. Atchoum never owned up to it.

Since then, Atchoum has spent many days slinking around the office and throwing up in strategically inconvenient places. There is an unspoken expectation that I will clean up this vomit. I refuse, and thus my dignity remains intact—at least on that front.

I always know when Atchoum will throw up because his tiny stomach gives a Mastiff-sized growl in the moments preceding the upheaval. When I ask my boss about this bulimic behavior, he says “That’s just what dogs’ stomachs do to clean themselves.” Ah.

Then there were the long, dark winter afternoons when Atchoum would discretely curl at my feet and, before I knew what was happening, would hump his way up my leg. Thank god for tall boots.

And finally, there is the dreaming. Atchoum, like me, has vivid dreams. He scrambles; he snores; he scratches the floorboards. Each time this happens, my boss chuckles and says, “He must be dreaming about some wonderful bitch.” Indeed.

In addition to the spring fur-cut, Atchoum has spring fever… big time. I just got word that my boss might mate him with a “bitch of about the same age.”

The idea of puppies would usually inspire delighted squeals from me… but Atchoum and I have a relationship that is tenuous at best (although we are friends on Facebook…literally).

I am wary of his future spawn. Then again, who am I to stand in the way of canine romance? Especially in the spring… especially in Paris in the spring…

I wish Atchoum and his bitch all the best.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Paris Hitotoki

I wrote a little piece a long time ago that was recently published in the Paris section of the Hitotoki website.

HITOTOKI-- a Japanese noun comprised of two components: hito or "one" and toki or "time," and is often translated as "a moment." In common usage, it can be used to describe any brief, singular stretch of time.

When I read it now and think about my early days in Paris, I am amazed. I was like a newborn Paris baby. Now I'd say I'm more of an awkward pre-teen.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Garibaldi's Excellent Adventure

It feels good to be back in Paris. I was a little disoriented at first, but after a few hours of roaming the streets while listening to Europe's "The Final Countdown," I felt right at home again.

And after hearing about Friday's runaway horse incident, I know there is nowhere in the world I'd rather be. I suppose a horse could escape and go on a rampage in almost any city, but the fact that this was a Parisian horse, bolting along the quais of the Seine, makes it that much more awesome.

I like a horse with audacity, and it is quite evident that the horse in question—Garibaldi—does not lack for it. On Friday, he took off in an "It's Paris! Who cares!" kind of way that resonates strongly with me. He spent the morning sprinting through traffic and terrorizing tourists, despite the fact that he is “a normally highly-disciplined chestnut stallion aged 15." I totally relate. I, too, am a normally somewhat-disciplined chestnut something-or-other, aged slightly older than 15, and sometimes I, too, act rashly in public spaces. C’est normale.

And considering that he has put in "10 years of loyal service" as a police horse, can you blame him for wanting to do a little freewheeling? Go for it, buddy!

Maybe the Central Park horses can take a lesson from Garibaldi. For now, I’m happy to live in a city where (even normally disciplined) horses flip out from time to time.
* * * * *
And before winter melts away, some Paris imagery taken by my very talented photographer friend Ali...












Photos: Alexandra K. Kourides

Sunday, February 15, 2009

No, YOU'RE Acting Dump!

Again, my previous post on "wolves" in Paris has incited lively feedback from a wolf enthusiast somewhere in the world. I must share this:

"Forgive me ms., but you're just fooling yourself with all this crap.

First of all, it's clearly not a wolf. You're afraid of something you even don't know..

And besides, did you still fear "the big bad wolf" from those childish stories? I just can't belive it..

I've got an idea for you. Learn more about this animal you fear so much, maybe you'll realize how dump you're acting right now.

Good day to you."

And good day to you, sir! 

Friday, February 6, 2009

Outrage at Le Pain Quotidien

I used to be a fan of Le Pain Quotidien, the international Belgian bakery/restaurant. I know it's both a chain and a yuppy mecca, but it's also delicious and the bread is good (pas mal in Parisian terms).  

But I am a fan no longer. Pain Quotidien: You F'd up. 

I was there with a friend last week, feeling very happy and slightly Euro as we chatted in the little garden of the branch on Lexington and 65th. The stoned waitress creeped me out a little bit--she brought us 2.5 glasses of water--but all was well, until...

Horror of horrors. I looked at the menu only to find that they listed the CALORIES next to every item. NOT OK. That is a decidedly un-French, un-Belgian, unaccetpable thing to do. Way to take ALL the pleasure out of eating. This is the antithesis of what "daily bread" is all about. 

I understand why disgusting and sneaky calorie-cramming chains (McDonald's, Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts) are obligated to do this kind of thing. But Pain Quotidien? Pourquoi?!?!?!

So I protested loudly. I enjoy protesting loudly in the U.S. because it feels really good after expending all my energy trying to stay quiet while I'm abroad. A sampling of this week's proclamations:

--I DON'T WANT TO KNOW HOW MANY CALORIES ARE IN THIS! WHY ARE THEY DOING THIS TO ME?!!??!
--BOSTON IS THE STUPIDEST CITY EVER! IT'S UNLIVABLE!
--THE STATE OF AMERICA'S INFRASTRUCTURE IS DESPICABLE! THIS COUNTRY IS DOOMED! 

But back to my point. America has an eating problem. Just eat, people. Don't eat too much. Don't eat things that contain crazy chemical ingredients you can't pronounce. Don't eat too many times per day. Everyone, CALM DOWN! 

And please do NOT tell me how many calories I am about to consume unless you want a diatribe on the virtues of French food culture. 

There, I feel a little better. I wonder what my friends are eating in Paris... 

Monday, February 2, 2009

Shhhh.... The Economy Is Sleeping

After seven months in Paris, I am finally back in New York for a brief visit. Despite my tendency to glorify Paris--for good reason--New York is pretty glorious as well.

I knew I was back when I stepped off the plane and instantly felt my blood pressure skyrocket. I am too excited. I cannot sleep. I've been walking REALLY fast. I've been talking a lot (English is so EASY!). I have probably eaten more high-fructose corn syrup in the past week than I have in the past seven months in France. It tastes good but feels disgusting; and to me, the good-disgusting balance is what America is all about.

I now feel entitled to make constant comparisons between New York and Paris and to regale my friends with such profound observations as:

"The sidewalks here are so cracked..."
"The New York metro---oh, sorry I mean the subway-- system is FILTHY..."
"The clothes here are UGLY... where are all the black shapeless frocks?"
"Why is the food so big?"
"Why are there so many mysterious ingredients in a Saltine?"
"Why are the waiters here so RESPONSIVE and FRIENDLY?"

When the self-righteousness subsides, I realize that it's not just New York and Paris that are different. New York itself has changed. When I left in June, people still had jobs. Restaurants were annoyingly crowded. $45 million for an apartment seemed like a pretty good deal.

Now, everything feels quiet and, dare I say, humble. I walked down Madison Avenue yesterday, and, to my great dismay, there were barely any ladies lunching. At noon on Saturday, both Sant Ambroeus and Extra Virgin were looking unglamorously empty... apparently even the see-and-be-seen brunch crowd is at home eating Cheerios. Nothing wrong with that. I love Cheerios.

I guess we didn't really need those $6.50 cappuccinos after all? Shocking. They were delicious, though, back when we were all rolling in money that wasn't actually there.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Inauguration Day in Paris

There are a lot of drunken, indiscrete Americans on this street (rue Mouffetard)... a LOT. Usually, I look out of my window and shake my fist at them like the crazy old French person that I aspire to be.

But yesterday, I stopped being ridiculous and started embracing my Americanism... Obama just does that to me. In celebration of the inauguration, a very clever friend suggested that we all go out and "get Mouffetarded"--an excellent idea.

All day leading up to the broadcast, I had a familiar giddy-idiot feeling... Oh yes, it was the same one I'd had on election day back in November. That was the day I stood in the metro with a crazy look on my face, hoping someone would ask me what was wrong with me just so that I could declare, "I helped elect Obama!" Sadly, no one asked, but it still felt good. And yesterday felt just as good, as if the world was tilting towards sanity.

So I got together with my American friends. We pranced up the cobblestones of rue Mouffetard and finally settled in a cafe on the Place de la Contrescarpe. I felt like a young Ernest Hemingway, minus the talent and the desire to shoot big game.

It was pretty radical, though, to feel the history happening.

And it was fun to do so with a group of really fun, sane, interesting Americans who, in another time, might have been part of Hemingway's "génération perdue," but who are now, as far as I can tell, feeling much better about their place in the world.

P.S. I got published--and called a luddite!--on Businessweek.com: click here. 

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

It's True Because They Say So

Happy New Year! A list of resolutions might be in order, but I think it may be wiser—and more thematically appropriate—to begin the year with a list of French Old Wives’ Tales. You know, just a few perfectly logical rules to live by.

When I was preparing to move to Paris last summer, a friend who had once lived here warned me to beware of certain "rules" that govern the behaviors and attitudes of most, if not all, French people. While the French are notorious for their skepticism, their cynicism, their avant-gardism, there are certain "codes" from which they will not deviate because, if they do, they will inevitably die. Take heed: if you break these rules, utter disaster will ensue. We don't know why this is true, but we know that it is, because it always has been.

Here’s to a happy and healthy 2009:

1. Never eat cooked butter in the morning. Cooked butter is the reason that Americans are fat. It is fine to slather raw butter all over your tartine, but—God forbid you try to fry an egg in a pan with butter—you will die, or at least become instantly obese. After noon, of course, feel free to eat as much rendered fat as you wish.

2. If you are pregnant and want to tell if the baby will be a boy or a girl, do not waste your time going to the doctor. Simply string your wedding ring onto a lock of your hair and hold it above the pregnant stomach. If it swings in circles, it's a boy. If it swings like a pendulum, it's a girl. And if you don't have a wedding ring, I guess you're screwed. Stop contemplating the gender of your love child and brace yourself for some serious Tsk Tsk-ing from your French grandmother. The good news? Pregnancy--legitimate or otherwise--does not preclude drinking.

3. Never put food that is still warm in the fridge. You. will. die. It is fine, however, to leave it uncovered on the counter—or, better yet, outside on the windowsill—for days at a time.

4. Salad “cleans your stomach.” It doesn’t matter how much foie gras or camembert or eau-de-vie you consume… a few sprigs of lettuce will undo the damage. (This only holds true after noon… see rule #1).

5. You must wear a scarf at all times. If you go outside without a scarf, you will not only violate the rules of French fashion, but you will also risk your life and the lives of any children you may plan to have someday. NB: scarves cure not just the common cold, but nearly all known ailments.

6. Exercise is for foreigners and the misguided. If you must do it, be sure to wear ridiculous-looking, non-supportive clothing (denim is encouraged) in order to give the impression that you are not actually exercising. Look disinterested, as if this was not your idea. Note: many believe that sitting on a gyrating plate for half an hour twice a week is more than sufficient.

7. If you are a girl, try to marry a doctor or a lawyer. They look nice and know how to take care of themselves. Engineers are pale and filthy and should be avoided.

8. My friend’s grandparents say: if you drink beer before 2pm, you are a brute / ivrogne (drunkard). Obviously, wine, pastis, or champagne are perfectly acceptable at any hour.

And a friend said she regularly encountered these during her years in France:

9. There is great suspicion surrounding air-conditioning… it is to be avoided at all costs. Anyone who has suffered through an August night in a Parisian garret can attest to the fact that the French take this rule seriously.

10. There is also substantial fear about the likelihood that lightning will break the television.

So there you have it. I suggest we all begin 2009 by aligning our lives with these--and any other--codes, and by the end of the year we will inevitably be... more French.

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