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:


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.


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