Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Live from New York

When I'm not in Paris, I'm stalking celebrities on various red carpets around New York. Here's some recent work for New York magazine:

Marc Jacobs

Elle Fanning

And you can read all of my NY Mag work here.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Winter in Paris: Pleasure or Pain?

I'm beginning to understand that I'm a bit of a masochist. I'm bored by things / people / places that make life too easy, which is probably why I like ornery cats, most fictional villains, winter and (if I'm being honest) the French.

To clarify, I have nothing against Golden Retrievers, damsels in distress, summer or ... who's fun and non-controversial?... the Swedish. It's just that I also like a challenge. I like to be initially offended but ultimately won over. I like things that don't care if I like them or not.

And thus, I love winter in Paris. It provides a dark, dismal, unapologetic, multi-month challenge that pushes you to your breaking point, but offers various olive branches along the way—pretty hanging lights, vin chaud, chocolat a l'ancienne, and a great excuse to drink serious red wines and then crawl into bed.

Philosophically speaking, Epicurus saw pleasure as the absence of pain, and Descartes considered the two to be linked on a continuous spectrum. I have to agree. Getting caught in a freak hail storm a few weeks ago (while wearing ballet flats) made arriving home to our cozy apartment on the Ile St. Louis that much more of a triumph. And going days (weeks?) without seeing the sun makes me feel totally justified in my decision to devote entire afternoons to the following "indulgent" activities:
Because making pleasure out of pain is the best way to beat winter at its own game... especially in Paris.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Top-Secret Paris Séjour

Musee de la Chasse et de la Nature.

Surprise! I made a super-quick trip to Paris earlier this month. I only told a handful of friends that I was going, since I had just 6 days to do what I do in Paris: which is nothing, blissfully. Or at least, nothing planned.

Per usual, I didn't look at my watch (my figurative watch... I don't actually have one) the whole week. I floated around and remembered how much I love Paris in August, because it's quiet and empty, and it feels as if the city is resting, breathing and lying in wait. At night, you can walk and walk and walk and not see a soul. There's a stillness in the air—a non-energy—that makes me feel like I've entered an alternate Paris. It kind of feels like that scene in Disney's Sleeping Beauty where everyone around the castle is dozing (I love Disney... but only the old-school, politically incorrect stuff).

The fact that many of my go-to spots are closed in August also led to two seriously huge discoveries. The first was Aux Deux Amis, a wonderfully understated neighborhood wine bar and resto that embodies everything I love about eating in Paris. The regularly-shifting menu is written in chalk, the waiters offer candid advice about what's good and what's even better, the place is full (but not annoyingly so), and we left feeling healthier, happier, and somehow lighter (the paradoxical effect of good French cuisine).

Discovery number two was the mind-blowingly awesome Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature (Museum of Hunting and Nature). I really have no excuse for not visiting earlier: The moment I stepped inside, I felt like the place had been constructed, designed, and curated for me and me alone. Its lavish interiors are filled with taxidermy animals of all shapes and sizes (fox! polar bear! owl faces on the ceiling!), ornate weaponry and other "curiosities." And you can touch things! I've been accused of saying this too often, but it's my new favorite place in Paris. For real this time.

So as usual, I returned from Paris with the renewed feeling that planning nothing is the perfect way to uncover an abundance of unexpected awesomeness.

Around now, I'm sure the energy of la rentrée is palpable in the Parisian air, and the French are returning from their summer retreats, oblivious to what they've missed. Let's keep it that way.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Paris Broke My Heart Again

I'm back in New York, suffering from a particularly agonizing bout of Paris withdrawal. And the question that keeps rising to the surface of my mind is: "Why do I keep doing this to myself?"

But no sooner do I ask it than I know the answer: Because I'm in love. Unfortunately, I'm in love with an abusive city that looks shiny from the outside but is—behind closed doors—deceitful and cruel. Paris will charm you one moment and then disparage you the next, but once you've lived there, you know that you will never cease to be lured back. Because from a distance, you only remember the charming parts. So you allow yourself to be manipulated, because you kind of like it, because a little Paris is better than no Paris, because you're American and your Paris obsession is as American as apple pie (but a lot more delicious).

Nonetheless, my heart feels dead, and I think it might stay that way until I plan my next séjour.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

I'm in Paris, Planning My Staycation

As often happens when I get to Paris, I forget all of my responsibilities and spend the first five days (at least) sitting in parks and cafes, doing absolutely nothing—but feeling quite productive doing it. It seems like New York doesn't exist anymore, but apparently it does. And apparently the publishing industry is still churning, so here's my latest from Time Out. When I get home from my real vacation, I think a French staycation will be in order.


Saturday, May 22, 2010

Cycle of Cultural Confusion

When I'm in France, I write about being an American in Paris. And when I'm in New York, it seems logical to write about being French in New York (Time Out article to come in a few weeks). I've managed to ingratiate myself with a good number of French restaurant / shop owners in New York, and it's almost as good as being in Paris. (Except not at all).

So I don't really know where I fit, but seeing as I'm both a faux Parisian and a faux New Yorker, I have become quite comfortable faking my way on both sides of the Atlantic.

Anyway, I'm gearing up to head to Paris this week, but in the meantime, here's a recent post I wrote for Hip Paris—as usual, not to be taken too seriously.

How To Be a Parisienne: Ten Golden Rules

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Nolita = Little Paris

Sea of Euros at Cafe Gitane.
I think all of New York is conspiring to send me back to Paris. It seems I can't walk five feet in this city without running into a French tourist, or a French family, or just a French person who has claimed New York as his / her own. It probably doesn't help that I spend most of my time in Nolita and the Lower East Side, where all of transplanted Europe seems to convene to walk around looking painfully stylish. Cafe Gitane has a way of making me feel like an out-of-place foreigner in my own city, so obviously I am obsessed with it and have vowed to go there as often as possible until I have sufficiently "assimilated." Plus, their avocado toast is out-of-control good.

But seriously, New York is awash with French people, and many of them are inexplicably enamored with Abercrombie & Fitch (they don't know it's not cool, which I find endearing... like the one chink in their otherwise intimidatingly sleek armor). But as I was saying, if you stand at the corner of Mott and Prince Streets, the English evaporates and you might as well be standing at the corner of rue Vieille du Temple and rue des Francs Bourgeois.

Every time I find myself next to a French speaker, I want to tell them all about how I used to live in Paris, but then I realize, they're French and they don't give a f*ck—which makes me like them even more.

But the fact that French people are as obsessed with New York as we are with Paris seems to provide some kind of cultural reckoning—or at least mutual affirmation. As maladroit as I sometimes feel when I'm in Paris, it all balances itself out when I see a perfectly nice looking French boy sporting a hideously branded A&F t-shirt here in New York. It's not OK, but since you're French, I'll let it go.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Impulse Buy

Winter sunset in Belleville.

I've done it again: bought a plane ticket to Paris in a fitful moment of impulse-romanticism-instinct-recklessness-happiness. (I know better than to try to disentangle those emotions by now). They're all part and parcel of a larger force that keeps pulling me back to Paris. This is the third time in the past two years that I've found myself buying a ticket in the middle of the night, and it's looking like it won't be the last. In fact, I'd be quite happy to think that this adrenaline-fueled, late-night ticket-purchasing habit will become a regular occurrence in my life. Better than sleep-walking out of a window, right?

It's inevitable really, seeing as my heart is a magnet and Paris is its polar opposite. Or maybe my stomach is the magnet, and St. Marcellin is its polar opposite. Or maybe my closet is a magnet, and Le Bon Marché is its polar opposite? Who cares.

No matter, I'm going back to Paris a month from today. I wonder what kind of outfits the Parisian dogs are sporting this season, and when the peaches and cherries will start rolling into the markets, and what time the sun is setting these days, and what kind of random, cracked-out adventures await me. Rest assured, I'll keep you posted.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

My Local Drug Dealers

Ever-changing graffiti near my Belleville apartment

As much as I love my current neighborhood in New York (the Lower East Side), it doesn't have nearly enough drug dealers for my taste. There's something about having a stable crew of pushers outside my door that just makes me feel secure, and this winter in Paris, I had just that.

I realize it might sound strange to admit that I derive comfort from knowing that there is criminal activity occurring a stone's throw from where I sleep, but if you simply think of the dealers as unofficial doormen, it's really quite nice having them there.

The Paris apartment I'm referring to was in Belleville—not a dangerous neighborhood by any means, but certainly well off the bourgeois map. Let's just say, I can imagine the face my mother would have made had she seen my block which, luckily, she never did. But, as is exemplified by the fact that I lived there, Belleville is quickly gentrifying, so check it out ASAP if you haven't already.

But back to my local drug dealers, they were there when I came home in the evening, when I went back out for the night, and when I came back late night. They tended to take the mornings off, understandably; none of us can work 'round the clock.

After about a week, they got to know me. They would say hi, they would part like the Red Sea to let me through, they would push each other out of the way if one was blocking my door. Dare I say they were gentlemanly? I could call it an arrangement of mutual tolerance, but in fact, it was more than tolerance (at least, on my side). I think I loved them.

On the rare occasions when I came home and they weren't there, the silence on the street was deafening. Well, maybe not deafening, but noticeable. I had grown to like them and to count on them. And I knew that—unless one of them killed me—I was extra safe for their presence.

So now you understand why it's somewhat boring to come home to my building in New York—it's so sterile, so yuppified, so free of loiterers. It makes me think about my doorway in Belleville, where I know my dealers are still keeping watch, doing their thing, night after night.

I guess it's a bit unsettling to think that the reliability of those drug dealers was one of the more consistent elements of my recent life, but voila, there it is. As we learn again and again, life works in mysterious ways.

Monday, April 5, 2010

The Rolling Dog of Place Monge

When I lived in the 5th arrondissement, it was hard for me to go five minutes without laughing. Everything from the shop owners to the school kids to the traveling minstrels made my day. But there was one particular discovery that really pushed me over the edge— into the realm of pure, unadulterated elation:

A real, live dog on wheels.

These specimens had long existed in my imagination, but to find one in my neighborhood was almost too much excitement for one person to take. In addition to being... how can I put it nicely?... "infirm," this dog looked quite down-n-out. To his credit, he didn't seem to know it.

He wheeled around Place Monge like he owned the place, which maybe he did. Who am I to know? I'm just an ex-pat interloper. This is clearly his terrain.

This winter, I was retracing my old steps, when whom did I see? None other than my dog on wheels, zipping around (ok, plodding along in little jolts), just like in the good old days!

How refreshing it is to learn that I can leave, move across the world, come back and find that Old Mr. Wheels is still charting the same daily course across the Place.

My excitement soon gave way to calmness, to a settling of my heart rate, to an organic feeling that things are in balance, that there is order in the world. If this ratty little dog strapped to a mobile harness contraption doesn't symbolize something good, I don't know what does. All I know is: everything's going to be ok. I have rolling proof.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Picnic in the Metro

I can't sleep, and on nights like this, my thoughts naturally turn to Parisian vagrants—one of my favorite topics. It's not that I take homelessness lightly; it's just that Paris has such a distinctive and wily set of street-dwellers, I can't help but be amazed, amused, enthralled... whatever you want to call it.

I'm recalling a particular evening about a year ago when I was darting through the Metro and came across a woman who had set up camp on a tiled ledge. She had the usual accoutrements: sleeping bag, clothing layers, a few plastic bags full of stuff. But more importantly, she had set up a little picnic that (among other things) included a glass of rosé. Not only was it in a proper wine glass but, upon closer inspection, seemed to have some kind of garnish going on. Wait... wait a minute... yes... two elegant and very fresh-looking raspberries bobbed in the lovely glass. For a moment, I was genuinely jealous.

Then, reality check. I think it's time for my Paris-goggles to be adjusted when I literally start to envy the cocktails of people who live in the Metro. But she did have quite a spread, and those raspberries...

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Where to live...

Karl Lagerfeld shooting a Chanel ad on Orchard Street last week

It's disconcerting how often I think of Paris (every 15-20 minutes), even though I've been back in New York for almost a month. Everything that strikes me here leads to an automatic comparison: "That would never happen in Paris," "That's sort of like what happened in Paris, except..."

I think it's time for me to give New York a break. And Paris a break, for that matter. Tonight, over drinks (Cote du Rhone... duh), a friend said to me: "These are not boyfriends; they're cities." And it's true. I talk about both New York and Paris as if I'm dating them, as if they're supposed to be living up to some expectation, accommodating me somehow. The truth is, I'm lucky to have lived in either place. I'm lucky to have jumped between them. And whatever comes next, it's safe to say, I'm lucky to experience it.

That said, if I had to choose a city as my boyfriend, it's Paris all the way. Sorry, New York.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Paris 2.0

Photo: Robert Doisneau

I've been in Paris for five weeks and have (clearly) totally neglected Moveable Beast. It's inexcusable, but part of the reason is because I've been doing a bunch of writing for other outlets. You can check out some of my recent posts here:

"Fables - Photographies" for Dossier Journal

Readjusting to Life in Paris

De-Coding French-isms

Robert Doisneau's Paris

Street Art in Belleville

Macaron War Rages On

Mini French Street Style

Why I Love February in Paris

Packing for Paris -- The Anticipation Builds

L'Institut du Monde Arabe


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