Saturday, December 12, 2009
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
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
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.”
But illegal or not, pants are here to stay. Here’s the proof (photos: thesartorialist.com):
Saturday, November 14, 2009
Monday, November 9, 2009
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
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
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.
Friday, September 18, 2009
Monday, July 13, 2009
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:
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
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
Friday, June 26, 2009
Thursday, June 11, 2009
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
Thursday, May 28, 2009
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
Saturday, April 25, 2009
Monday, April 20, 2009
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
No need to be alarmed. Just a band of traveling minstrels.
Tuesday, April 7, 2009
Sunday, April 5, 2009
Thursday, April 2, 2009
Sunday, March 22, 2009
Thursday, March 19, 2009
... 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.
Sunday, March 8, 2009
Thursday, March 5, 2009
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
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
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.
Sunday, February 15, 2009
"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."
Friday, February 6, 2009
Monday, February 2, 2009
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
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.
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
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.