Day 109: Go to the U.S Open!

I have been to the French Open but never to the U.S Open. (Bad American!) So when my mom told me that she had tickets for the Murray v.s Devvarman game, I couldn't think of a better way to spend my last week in New York than at The Open. Yes, 'The Open'. La classe! To play the role of a total bourgeoise princess bitch who I call Whitney, I wore a white pleated skirt, a yellow summer cashmere sweater, a navy blue and white striped cardigan that I obnoxiously wore over my shoulders and cat-eye sunglasses that were probably a bit too avant-garde for Whitney but they were a gift from her friend Marc Jacobs.

The Open is sponsored by my two favorite wine and spirits brands Grey Goose and Moët, so the crisis of choosing which bar to go to was as overwhelming as deciding between Birkin and Bardot. I know, life is hard sometimes. Both bars looked so appealing and being a sucker for visual merchandising, I was torn. The little French flags waving over scenic illustrations of geese soaring over frosty glaciers from the Grey Goose bar pulled me towards them but then the pristine gold Moët bar that featured lined up flutes of sparkling champagne spilling over in bubbly bliss pulled me back to Moët. Clearly, this was the decision of a lifetime but as they say, money talks and the 22 dollar glasses of champagne lost miserably over the 13 dollar Official U.S Open Cocktail called the Grey Goose Honey Deuce that came complete with a commemorative glass. I'm also a sucker for gimmicks particularly ones the rhyme and free stuff. Step it up next year, Moët... 

We got to our seats up in the third tier and settled in for 'the match' while slurping up on our Honey Deuces. Staying in character, after every good play, I insisted on gently clapping and looked left and right with pursed lips. My mother was going to murder me. Watching the ball go back and forth was hypnotizing, drifting me off into a Grey Goose haze and thinking about what I have to deal with when I get back to Paris. Irritating thoughts of my subletter wafted in and worrisome potentials regarding my carte de séjour and then, of course, there was work, or rather lack thereof. With all of these thoughts scattering my monkey brain, I started to stress myself out. Just as my eyes were drifting off and my thoughts were going deeper into the piles of things I needed to do, I heard my mother laughing, screaming and pointing. I looked up and there I was on the screen. The camera had panned the crowd and there I was on both big screens and I looked just awful, a mix of bitch face and looking constipated. Wonderful.

After Murray creamed Devvarman, we had the option to stay for the next match but I was anxious to get back to my mom's house to Skype my old roommate Charles-Henri for an apartment update. I called him just as he was letting himself in where he found my place left in total squalor. "If there were animals hoarding in here, it would be comparable to 'Grey Gardens'!" he said. "Ça pue!" He continued describing the condition of the flat where there were broken lamps on the floor, cigarettes in the sink, crust in the toilet, dirt of the carpet, shredded linens, rotten food in the fridge and the stench of vomit in my little chambre de bonne. What the hell went on in there? Did Pete Doherty who lives up the street stop by to say what's up? I'm surprised she didn't throw my tv out the window. 

I'm enjoying my last days in New York with my family, friends and doing 'New York-y' things. As annoyed as I get here in New York, I have to remember Paris is just as annoying - if not more sometimes. Today is about appreciating my last few days in town, realizing that my vacation is coming to a screeching halt and that it's September, la rentree and back to the real world. I just never imagined the day when Paris would feel like my real world. 

Day 107: The Perfect Storm. Part II.

At around 5 am, I peeked my head into Kitty's room to see if her fiancé who is a New York City cop came home yet but because of the heavy rain making it impossible to drive, he had to stay at the station. She was awake because the wind was getting aggressive and was worried about João,  so I climbed into bed with her and we listened to the thrashing rain hoping that the windows wouldn't get smashed in on our faces.

The following morning after barely getting any sleep, we came downstairs for a breakfast of Caldeirada, a traditional Portuguese fish stew that we enjoyed while watching Claudio's zucchinis and carrots that he didn't rescue from his garden yesterday thrash against the sliding glass door. Claudio started retelling his about hunting victories, particularly sharing about my roommate, the stuffed turkey that slept next to my head and how he didn't want to die and was trying to escape his destiny. Claudio picked up on how shocked I was as I was looking at him with wide eyes and a mouthful of fish stew. "What do you think happens before your Thanksgiving feast?" he asked me in his thick accent with a raised eyebrow. "What do you think they do? Cuddle him into submission before it's placed on your plate for you to devour?" Point taken.

Kitty's fiancé finally came home and the three of us stayed in drinking mimosas and watching trashy wedding shows where the brides only have 2 thousand to spend on a wedding but want a Tiffany themed reception with Hermés china and Vera Wang gowns. Insanity. 

The hurricane must have passed over where we were because although the winds were high and there was a lot of rain, it wasn't as bad as we had anticipated. Unfortunately, for other parts of Long Island, New Jersey, and the East Coast, they were hit harder and will be dealing with some major clean-up next week. Upon returning to my mom's house, she had a new lake in the backyard that wasn't there yesterday, trees have fallen over and there branches everywhere. Our next door neighbor's car was totaled by a 50-year-old oak falling on to it and roads were blocked off due to knocked down power lines. It looked like a disaster scene. 

The sun is starting to peak out and it looks like Irene is gone. I didn't have much planned for the evening because I was preparing to be locked in with no electricity and candles. So, I had no choice but to make myself feel like an old lady and watch the MTV Video Music Awards. The last time I watched the VMAs was when Weezer and Spike Jonze won 'Best Video' for Buddy Holly. Glory days...

East Coasters - I hope you are all safe and that the cleanup and damages aren't too extreme. I send my best to you all. 

Day 106: The Perfect Storm. Part I.

Illustration by Golly Bard.

The hurricane is said to be a lot worse than I was giving it credit for and staying home alone at my mom's house in the woods that would soon lose electricity was sounding less and less like a good idea. Per Kitty's insistence, I fled with her to her future in-laws house in Queens for the night - her Portuguese in-laws. I closed up my mom's house, taped up the windows, packed up my cats and headed off to enjoy a cultural experience and take a glimpse of her future life.

Driving through the suburbs of Long Island, all of the shops were closed and windows were covered with layers of tape. There was a sense of urgency as everyone was shuffling to their destination. We pulled up in the driveway and Adalia; Kitty's mother-in-law was bringing in potted plants, lawn chairs and the porcelain nativity scene that stays out year-round before the storm struck. The baby Jesus is now safely stowed in the basement next to Claudio's taxidermied animal collection.

"Claudio is outside in the rain." Kitty informed Adalia, "Good." Adalia said dryly while pounding chicken cutlets with a mallet, "I hope he gets his head blown off." Claudio was outside in his garden preserving his cucumbers and tomatoes and putting them in plastic bags for dinner. His head was fully in tact. 

While we prepared dinner, Adalia put on Jorge Ferreira and Kitty and I dancing around the kitchen while Adalia insulted Kitty's future 'wifing' skills. "I hope you take care of my son.", "You're too American.", "You don't know how to cook." and "Your bridesmaids dresses are ugly." were just a few of her greatest hits. I guess we all have our problems whether were single girls, engaged girls, married girls. It looks like we're still going to have to pay our dues in order to stop being treated like little girls who are useless.

Aurelien called on Skype to see how I was doing and if I was in a raft floating upstream in a Queens suburb. While talking to him, it was an international delight at casa Perreira with Adalia speaking Portuguese to Claudio, me speaking French to Aurelien and Kitty speaking "Sloth" to well, no one - all in a small space. Every so often, Claudio would smack Adalia's butt and which Aurelien managed to catch through the webcam. This is going to be a long 24 hours. 

Watching the news, one reporter advised us to not go out drinking, as tempting as it would be to say that you partied during Irene, it just wasn't a good idea. Who the hell was he talking to? That didn't sound tempting at all. Going to a bar out on Long Beach and getting washed up by the shore and/or electrocuting from a knocked down power line doesn't sound like anyone's idea of an adventurous Saturday night. Kitty and I were nestled inside with wine, Adalia's comments and On-Demand tv. It was perfect.

I slept with one eye open in the Perreira guest room as the wind speed increased, the windows rattled, with the power going in and out - all next to a large stuffed turkey who was watching me. The storm was certainly a-comin...

Day 105: Run For Cover!

Illustration by Andi/Spork

Hurricane Irene is coming and I am sitting in my mom's kitchen drenched because I waited too long to put her patio furniture away. I was out there when the sky opened up and poured its love down on me. I felt like Rachel McAdams in 'The Notebook' but there was no Gosling, no baby blue 1940's dress and no amazing following scene. Just me, my kitties and a Dunkin' Donuts iced coffee that I ran out to get before all hell broke loose.

Today is about staying inside, curling up with one of my many books I have been meaning to read and enjoying a quiet house. 

For all of you on the east coast, be safe! For all of you in Paris,  Vous me manquez! 

Day 102: Get Royally Screwed.

I knew this was going to happen. I knew it, I knew it, I knew it. Before leaving Paris in July, I decided to sublet my flat for the month of August and as my departure date out of Paris was getting closer so was my desperation to get someone in there. 

My first choice was Vienna, a male grad student from Switzerland who fit the perfect profile of a sublet: quiet, responsible and smart but unfortunately, he had to back out at the last minute leaving me to sublet to Katie, a party girl from Long Island who came to Paris to fulfill her dreams of becoming Brigitte Bardot. She claimed to be moving to France and needed a starter apartment while she looked for something more permanent. While she wasn't the exact fit for who I wanted to take my space while I was 3,000 miles away, I was desperate and thought, "what's the worse that could happen?". Ha. Ha. Ha. Famous last words... 

I settled her in, introduced her to some of my friends, took her out to dinner and gave her guest passes to my gym. In the history of ex-pats, she received the best welcome an American in Paris has ever gotten. 

Fast forward a few weeks later where I was in New York, having coffee with my mom when I received a message via Facebook from Katie confirming that she would be leaving a few days earlier and wanted to know what to do with the keys. I asked her to let me know what time she was leaving so I could arrange for Aurélien to pick them up and do a walk-through. A day went by, no response.Four days went by, no response. A week went by, no response. I emailed her again. Another day went by, still no response, four days went by, no response. Once again, I tried to email her back but this time, I was unable to respond. I was unable to respond because not only had she had deleted me but she had blocked me from Facebook. Shady. She was already paid up until August 30th and I had her deposit, so this sent me into a panic. What was the girl hiding? I called the local Long Island cell phone number that she gave me and she picked up. "Hello? Katie? This is Lisa from Paris." I said. The girl on the other end fumbled with her phone before hanging up on me. I called back. This time a young man answered, "Hello, may I please speak to Katie?" I asked, "This ain't her number no more." the crass voice on the other end responded. Not her number, my ass. "Oh, ok, well she changed her number in a matter of weeks and her carrier already issued the number out to a new customer? Highly unlikely." I bit back. I don't like being messed with. "Look lady, it ain't her number. You wastin' my time and if you call this numba again, I'll call the police for harassment, cunt!" he responded. Okay, now I was getting worried. What the hell did this girl do that she is going through great lengths to avoid me and having some Jersey Shore cast member threaten me and call me the ghastly c-word?

I did a google search using her name and voilà! was able to find her mother's address and phone number. Wanting to sound rational and sober, I decided to wait until the next morning. The following day, I had a nice conversation with her grandmother who informed me that Katie was back from Paris and had stepped out at the moment. Interesting. I left my phone number with the hopes that she would get back to me. 

That night, I had dinner with Simon and my grandparents and came home to find an email waiting for me from a Katie. It read:

"Hey, I heard that you called my great-aunt who I haven't seen since I was 5. She's crazy and doesn't know me. You shouldn't speak to her ever again. I was kicked out of your apartment and am now moving to California. My mother is getting evicted and everything is crazy. I left the keys in your apartment."

So my keys are left in my apartment in Paris which means my door is now unlocked, I'm in New York, she didn't bother to tell me, cut off communication from me and what I can assume is that the only reason that I am now hearing from her is because she was found and that I have access to her family. Again, what the hell did this girl do to my flat?!

Never in my wildest dreams did I think that a one month sublet would go so horribly wrong. A month? 4 weeks? That's nothing in 'rental time' but I guess it's enough time to do damage. I am still in New York and have to find a way to manage this before going back to Paris. I have no idea what had become of my flat and needless to say I am extremely concerned. I will keep you all posted... 

I'm biting my nails right now....a habit I kicked a few years ago. What is going on?

Day 100: Reflect.

Illustration by Kristina

Wowie Zowie, it's been 100 days already! Wow, let's see what I have accomplished. Absolutely nothing. Well, sort of...

-Met someone new. Never a solution but never hurts.

-Have a long term goal that I cannot reveal for another 2 months. Sorry guys. But trust me, it's a good one! Update: I applied for Grad School in Paris and got in!

-Have another long term goal that I cannot reveal until inception. Seriously, how annoying am I? Update: I actually don't remember what this was. I got distracted with goals from the Barbara Roy robbery.

-After 3 weeks with my family, by comparison, realize that getting dumped is not so bad.

-Met wonderful new friends. 

-Reconfirmed the beauty and stability of old and even older friendships.

-Will be turning 30 soon...not really a goal, but certainly a milestone.

-Despite 'Bouncy Betty' and my Spanx comments, I have toned up quite a bit and am motivated to continue 'working on my fitness'.

-Am 95% out of my break-up depression and feel refreshed and ready to start the next decade of my life. Something that seemed completely unattainable not too long ago.

-Accepted that Monsieur Flaneur
is not the one for me.

-Entered 'Tales' to be nominated in The Cosmo Blog Award contest. If you are bored and can't think of any other blog that should be nominated under the Relationships category, why not give Auntie Ella a nod? Update: Nothing came of this but it was excited to enter in a contest.

-Finally am back to being back to myself; a complete pain in the ass. I think my friends preferred when I was the walking dead

-Have amazing readers who send me e-mails and write comments. Thank you. Each note is truly appreciated because at the end of the day, we've all been there and it's the compassion and strength of others that get us through it. Again, thank you so much!

Not bad. Let's see what will become of me in the next 100 days which will be about taking action and seeing goals through. I have the strength and the support and with the fall season upon us, which in my opinion is the true 'New Year', it's time to get this party started! Allez-up!

Day 99: Lose Your 90's Butt.

Illustration by Madeleine Stamer

It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon making it a perfect day to borrow my mom's car to run some errands as a I count down days before heading back to Paris. I took pleasure in one of my favorite hyper-American activities, a trip to the holy grail; Rite Aid. Pharmacies in France are exactly that; pharmacies where you buy medicine and health related products. You hear that? Health related products. The French think it's absolutely insane that we can buy medicine, cigarettes, candy, a barbecue grill and why not? - a compilation mixed CD all in the same place, no less a 'pharmacy'. Me? I think it's genius. 

After my Rite-Aid bliss, I picked my mom up at at the gym who was still in her Butt Lift class, so I sat in the waiting room reading the excessive Fall Issue of Elle when I heard a perky voice greet me, "Hey there!" I was being yanked from my Miu Miu glitter heel euphoria and looked up to see a twenty-something year old girl wearing a tank top that read 'I Date Your Husband!'. Unacceptable. "Hi" I responded, slightly disturbed while slurping up the last of my Dunkin' Donuts iced coffee. "Do you want me to read your BMI?" she asked with too much excitement. "Not really." I dryly responded. She made a faux-sad face and cocked her hip out and rested her hand on it. "Pleeeeeease?" she pleaded. "It's part of today's promotion!" she continued. "No thanks, really. I'm just waiting to pick my mom up. I'm not a customer." I said trying to make her think that I was doing her a favor and that she can go back to liking people's statuses on facebook. She looked at me and then perked up as if an idea popped into her head. "I'll give you a free t-shirt!" she said with desperation. "What color?" I asked. "Bluuuuuuuuuue." she said as if she was tempting a child with a fudgesicle. Hm, well, I could use a new t-shirt. "Ok." I accepted with a shrug. 

I walked over to her little station where she instructed me to stand on the scale. As if I wasn't already feeling bad about myself. I was 10 pounds heavier than I thought I was. Awesome. With a BMI index above average. Double awesome. "Looks like someone's been having a good summer!" she said while looking and smiling at me from the corner of her eye. "Why? Because according to your machine I'm overweight? Maybe I have been having the worst summer of my life and I'm eating my blues away." I offered a tad sharper than I had intended to. Feeling bad, I rescinded my aggression. "But thank you for taking the time on your otherwise busy day." I said as we stood in the desolate lobby. "It's my pleasure." She then reached out to touch my shoulder with compassion, cocked her head to the left, "Look, there is a little tiny you underneath all of that who just dying to come out!" Her big brown eyes stared back at me with 'understanding' as her hand stayed rested on my shoulder. I looked at it and looked back at her while absorbing her words, "Like a Russian Matryoshka Doll?" was the only response I could muster up. Bouncy Betty looked at me like I had just asked her to explain the heliocentric theory and froze up. "Forget it. Where do I sign up?" I succumbed.

Bouncy Betty had talked me or rather bullied me into signing a 2 year contract for 20 bucks a month. Now I have a gym in Paris and in New York. Unfortunately, just joining doesn't make me lose weight, I have to actually go. I got home feeling absolutely horrible and stared at my naked self in the mirror. I turned around and realized that I have 90's butt. The way butts looked in 90's mom-jeans; wide and long. Back in the gilded age when skinny people were thin, not disgustingly emaciated. 

Tomorrow starts my first day at my New York gym and hopefully, I will tone up before getting picked up by my Aurelien at CDG in two weeks. Silver lining: At least I'll understand the instructors better than I do in Paris. Side note: I hate Bouncy Betty.

Day 98: Torture Yourself.

I woke up this morning slightly hung over, not too bad but found myself loafing around the house and in a desperate need for purpose. I contemplated going on a run but that would be too labor intensive, then thought that maybe I should clean but that would be too productive, so I chose to go back to bed and indulge in some good old American television. Perfect.

Flipping through the 100 stations that my mom has, most of the offerings were sports, reality shows of either bored dramatic housewives or drunk dramatic lowlifes, Food Network shows but after ten minutes, I was getting hungry, so I turned to the movie channel and tortured myself with "Made of Honor", "27 Dresses", "The Proposal" and "Bride Wars". I guess I was more hungover than I thought because I sat through all four films. I repeat, all four films, only getting up every so often to nosh on baked tortilla chips and hummus. 

Believe it or not, I was proud of myself, it was an improvement from the last time I found myself face-to-face with a RomCom. My mom had come to Paris a week after the break-up and we planned one of the days to hibernate in my apartment watching t.v, sleeping and drinking wine. Since she doesn't speak French, the only movie in English for us to watch was "Father of the Bride" and I cried during the entire time while clutching my pillow like a loser and thinking of Monsieur Flaneur. This time, the "new and improved me", made it through four wedding movies (sober!) in one afternoon and didn't feel one bit forlorn (bravo!). But annoyed? Oh my, absolutely! In each of these movies, there is some crisis where the wedding is called off and more often than not, in front of the guests. Give me a break. Weddings are expensive, the planning is grueling and people very much care what the guests think, so no one is going to just bail in front of 300 guests due to a change of heart. 

Could you imagine someone busting in on a horse at Josephine and Angelo's wedding, who would then start making out with Josephine in front of everyone's family, and then trot off into the sunset like in Made of Honor? Nor can I imagine a bride giving up her 'big day' and forking it over to her best friend who did nothing short of sabotaging her wedding a la Bride Wars and laughing it off in the end. People stop speaking to each other when they are sat by the kitchen, so I can only assume that playing a 'Girls Gone Wild' video of the bride during her collage years during the ceremony would be the cause of some permanent damage. I swear, these characters are based on aliens whose emotions memory span to exceed beyond the following scene. Normal people, especially New Yorkers (where most of these crocks take place) would not do any of these things.

Saying that, whose the real idiot here? The one who made the films or the person who watched them for almost eight hours including commercials. Someone made some serious cash on my hangover. Today is about realizing my progress, looking to the future and laying off those damn Skinny Girl Margaritas! Hopefully tomorrow will serve more of a purpose....

Day 97: Celebrate Your Best Friend's Birthday!

Today was Kitty's birthday and she had a backyard bash at her mom's house. She pulled out all the stops for her big 3-0. There was a snow cone and cotton candy machine, cases of Skinny Girl Margaritas, beer pong and....a bouncy castle. It was a Kitty Carnival!

The first to arrive were lovely girls all adorning sparkling rocks on their left hands with their spouses in tow. Being sober, no one wanted to talk to the single girl who lives in Paris. It would be too far out of the realm of comprehension. Saying that, I spent most of the early part of the evening talking with Kitty's Uncle Roy. Kitty saw me chatting it up with him and quickly came over. "Be careful of him," Kitty warned me, "He looks like an innocent old man but he gets perverted after he's had a drink." Nice. I was disappointed because Uncle Roy didn't deliver the goods and kept the conversation to luke warm topics like pension plans and tax deductions. I must be getting old if even Uncle Roy isn't interested. Dis.

I found the single girls of the party, some of Kitty's other bridesmaids and spent the evening with them; dancing, drinking and hitting on Uncle Roy. The bouncy castle was taken over by the children of some of the guests and as mature adults, we let them play in it for the majority of the party. Once it got dark and the children were woofing down ice cream cake and after our many rounds of Skinny Girl margaritas, maturity went out the window and we decided that it was 'Adult Hour'. We climbed into the castle that now had a faint smell of vomit and jumped for 'joy'. After  about 2 minutes, we were all out of breath and completely short-winded. The last time I was on a bouncy castle was circa 1993 and I remember being able to jump for hours and hours on end. Tonight, I couldn't even jump for 5 consecutive minutes without stopping for air. I was feeling my age. The children must have heard sounds of joy and fun from a afar because they took this as their cue to came in and attack us. Within seconds, I had three tiny miscreants screaming at the top of their lungs while pouncing on me. I was truly terrified and gasping for air as the children were piling on top of us in the corner of the castle which almost tipped over. We were desperately trying to escape on hands and knees when one of the fathers came over to the castle and told us to be careful of his kids and to act our age. Us be careful?! We were being accosted by tiny tots! I hate parents.

Breathless, I walked over to the dance area to find Kitty skipping around clicking two spoons together to "Love Shack" while screaming like Chunk from "The Goonies". We may be 30 but we still act like we're 12. Killer children and creepy engaged girls aside, it was one of the best nights of the summer and I'm so glad that I was back for at least Kitty's 30th bash because I have missed all of her pre-wedding celebrations; along with everyone else's. I can only go back and forth so many times and feel that reserving travel for the actual wedding is a fair compromise. If her birthday party is a light preview of what her wedding will be, it will be the celebration of the year and I can't wait! Happy 30th Birthday, Kitty! 

Day 96: Sing Your Blues Away!

Last night, I went to a local townie bar with a girlfriend from high school, Jessica to catch up over a glass of wine. The last time I saw her was in Paris last summer. She was studying in Barcelona and flew up to Paris for the weekend where Monsieur Flâneur and I picked her up from the airport. With the annoying 'help' of Facebook, she knew what had happened and was sad because the last time she saw me, I was very much in love, almost to the point of making her sick, to the present, where I don't even speak to said provider of happiness. It's so sad when someone who was once your life, 'the lead role' is suddenly not even an extra. 

Just as I was about to bring the house down with my tales of lost love, an MC announced that it was karaoke night! Thank god. Anything to bring up the mood and not make Jessica feel that she had made a mistake by calling me up for a drink. Flipping through the 10 pound catalogue, I was disappointed that they didn't have "Celebrity Skin" by Hole or "Mother" by Danzig; my two 'go-to' songs. I was left with Plan C; "9 to 5" by Dolly Parton which is a harder song to sing than it sounds. Its been years since I've sang it and was out of breath by the chorus and couldn't reach those high pitches that Mz.Parton hits. It was a mess and hopefully no one in the bar was on their first drink. Following my screeching, Jessica did an equally painful version of "Whoop! There it is!". 

After laughing at how horrible we were and took comfort in the fact that we're not supposed to be good at karaoke, the cute blonde bartender went up and did an award-winning, American Idol worthy, killer version of "Black Velvet". This girl had pipes and Jessica and I sat there with our mouths open feeling ridiculous over our rinky-dink little songs. We ordered another drink.

Jessica is going through a break-up with someone she loves as well and between the two of us, we had enough to talk and sing about. Both being single, not close to marriage while watching all of our classmates get married and still figuring life out; our similarities are endless. To let out our frustrations, Jessica and I 'treated' the bar with a horendous version of Alanis Morrisette's "You Outta Know" which always baffles me that it's about Dave Coulier. What possible goods to he have over Alanis? It just doesn't make sense.

After we sufficiently tortured the bar with our singing, we called it a night and stubbled out in good spirits and walked home imitating each other. I've been told that there is Karaoke in Paris but getting someone to go with would be close to impossible. Karaoke is just not cool. Especially in Paris. 

Tonight was about letting loose, enjoying the company of old friends and thinking about Dave Coulier in compromising positions in 'the theatre'.

Day 95: Get Your Zumba On!

It took a full day to cure my wedding hangover. I didn't realize how much I drank. Simon and I tried to do the math and we figured we had about 3 drinks per hour for almost 12 hours. That's a lot of booze and I'm in definite need of some physical activity. Between that, our big family dinners and the pause of my Body Attack class, I'm feeling less svelte that I was a mere few weeks ago. I was in need of a work out.

It was almost as if the Gods were listening to me. A neon pink flyer with a photo of an attractive girl with defined abs who appeared to be dancing showed up in my mailbox. Bouncy bubble letters above her head read 'Zumba'. It was an advertisement for a Zumba class for 5 dollars at the neighborhood VFW hall. I asked my mom if she wanted to come and in a burst of excitement, she agreed to come. "I've heard of that! It's all the rage in the city." she  said, "I read about it on page 6!" All the rage scares me...

The class was taking place that evening, so we canceled having dinner with my grandparents to go Zumba! We arrived and no one resembled the girl on the flyer. It was filled with adorable bite-size old women all wearing little sweatpants who were all standing in clusters around the room. After signing up, we had a cup of the complimentary coffee offered and my mom started gossiping with a woman named Shirley who was wearing a faded 1986 New York City Marathon t-shirt. Rumor has it that jazzercise had been canceled and replaced by Zumba and there was some community concern regarding the bold change. This was the first class and there was buzz on what to expect. The VFW men were lined up, sitting in the back of the room on nylon woven beach chairs. "The flyer is very sexy." Shirley said with wide eyes, "I think that's why the gentlemen are here."

Moments later, the 20-something year old teacher who introduced herself as Cynthia walked in holding a boom box and wearing yoga pants and a sports bra. "Are you ladies ready? Woo!" she asked with exaggerated enthusiasm. She got up on the stage and did a quick run through of the moves we would be doing during the class. She gave each move a little name so we'd remember, names like "Holding Candlestick", "Lift your dress up", "Booty Pound" and my personal favorite "Rump till you dump". "Seriously, what are these names?" my mom whispered to me. My guess is that my mom didn't want to rump till she dumps, whatever that means...

The music started and the instructor started warming up by shaking her lower body to Marc Anthony while encouraging us to follow. There was an air of skepticism in the room as the women looked at each other in horror. As the token youngster, I followed Cynthia while shimmying closer to my mom. "Get the hell away from me!" she said while shooing me away. All the other women followed suit and the class had begun. I made eye contact with an old man wearing a visor who gave me the thumbs up.

"This is pornographic!" one woman said before storming out. The other women in the class tried their best to keep up with Cynthia who apparently was unhappy with our performance because she turned the music off to go over the moves again. "Maybe we need a refresher course of the moves that I taught you 5 minutes ago." she said with exasperation while placing emphasis on 5 minutes ago. "I can't move like that!" a crotchety woman announced as Cynthia was swiveling her hips and running her hands through her hair. "Me neither!" another woman cried out. Cynthia gave up trying to get us to do the moves perfectly and proceeded with the class with less enthusiasm as she had started off. We managed to get through the hour without pissing her off too much and without a doubt entertaining the vets in the back of the room. 

My stomach is sore as if I did 500 sit-ups and not so much from Cynthia's class, but from laughing so hard. We all looked like idiots but it felt great. I will definitely be going back one more time before I leave for Paris. 

Day 92: Go To A Wedding.

Today is Angelo's wedding and it is pouring rain. Rain shmain. Rains got nothing our tough Italian family, plus it's good luck. Saying that, I wish them all the best and look forward to seeing mon petit walk down the aisle.

Although, my wedding was supposed to be the first in my family and was planned to take place this week in Paris. Today is about realizing that life throws you curve balls. Sometimes really awful ones but everything happens for a reason.

Now I am off to suck my fat in the 2 packs of spanx I bought with a Lord and Taylor's gift certificate. Bon dimanche!

Day 90: You Are What You Nail Color Is.

If you're an American and/or diva living in France, you'd know that it is nearly impossible to get a quality manicure or pedicure. Even if the salon boasts that they specialize in 'American-style' manicures, it's misguided and will not be at all what you're expecting; quality, reasonably priced and a massage at the end while you dry. In Paris, a half-assed pedicure costs 35 euros where you are charged an extra five euros for colored nail polish. Seriously, who puts clear on their toes?! Having experienced one too many unsatisfactory salon trips, I either have to do them myself which is a disaster, or do nothing. Now that I'm in New York for the month, it's time to take advantage of these New York delights.

Six months of climbing up many flights of stairs in my building, my morning commute to the Champs-Élysées  in worn-out ballet flats and high intensity work-outs at my gym, you could imagine how banged up my feet look, and are in desperate need of some TLC. In preparation for my cousin Angelo's wedding, I went for 'manis and pedis' with my mom...on Long Island. Exhale.

Upon taking off my flats at Pink Angel Nail, my mother looked down and shouted, "That's disgusting!" Her face was scrunched up as if she was looking at her tax return. Pure disgust. "Why are your feet so crusty?" she continued. I looked down and while I wouldn't say they were crusty, they didn't look great with chipped and faded polish from January and uneven nails from my botched up clip job. 

Over by the selection of colors, my mom was looking ferociously through all of them, turning them upside down, reading the names and then slamming them back down. "What are you looking for?" I asked in amazement at her fury. "Suga Daddy. I like Suga Daddy," she said while holding several shades of pink in her hand, "And hey, I could use a real one too, so if ya know anybody." she joked in a faux-mumble while looking left and then right, clearly amused with herself. Ew but noted. I started to help her look for Sugar Daddy when I stumbled upon and fire engine red color called "Red Thong In Divorce Court" and handed it to her. "That's more like you, Mom". I told her teasingly and knowing that she'd react. She took it, pulled down her glasses and read it out loud. "Red Thong in Divorce Court!" She looked up at me over her glasses. "They didn't make thongs back when I took your fatha to divorce court. Panties were 'French Cut' back then. None of this thong business!" Mind you, we were not the only ones in the salon, we were on the guidette mothership and they were all ears. "I want Suga Daddy. It matches my dress and my glasses!" We finally found Sugar Daddy and she went over to see her 'girl' Sue. As for myself, I ended up doing "Not Just For A Good Time" on my toes and "Careless Whisper" on my fingers. Although the shade of "Basket Case" would have matched my dress better, I refused.

Today is about seeing how deep a visit to Pink Angel Nail can be and that your nail color is not just a name. It means something.

Day 87: Recycle Your Prom Date.

So the wedding is quickly approaching and the dilemma of what to wear has arrived. What to wear on my back and who to wear on my arm. After my grandfather made a toast at dinner last night that ended with "I hope we are alive when Lisa finally gets married" with all engaged eyes peering at me as I awkwardly smiled holding a can of spiked whipped cream; I had to bring someone with me. I needed protection from this ridicule! Monsieur Flâneur was supposed to escort me to this wedding but he is off in Paris being a bastard and very much not escorting me to this wedding. Connard.

As good timing would have it, I received an email from my high school boyfriend who lives in Bali saying that he was going to be in New York for a month, and wanted to have dinner with my family. Well, of course,e he can come by and see my family. It's just that the setting won't be my grandmother's house, it will be on a farm upstate New York and the occasion won't be family dinner, it will be a wedding. Details. I invited him to the wedding up and he said he would be more than happy to be my date. The last time I saw him, we were eating noodles in Kyoto, Japan and watching Geisha jazz shows in Kanazawa. It will be nice to see him on American soil for a change.

He had also heard about all of my shit and advised me to make a declaration that it was no longer up for a dispute before "farm party time" otherwise I'd upset the animals. Because, you see, they can sense turmoil. I told him that I had already done that and that he won't have to worry about a goat chasing him around the grounds. 

After finalizing date details, my mom and I were going through my closet, fishing through a sea of vintage dresses that I have been collecting since the age of 13, old baby dolls from the Delia's catalogue circa 1995, embarrassing low-cut mini dresses that would make great 90's Jennifer Lopez costumes and the perfect dress. A simple navy blue Armani cocktail dress with taupe accents and asymmetrical straps. The dress was perfect for a Sunday afternoon wedding on a barn in upstate New York. "Wear this! It's gorgeous!" my mom squealed. And it was. Except for one thing. It was my prom dress. I was already recycling the date, but the dress too? We have to draw the line somewhere. And because my cousin is marrying a girl we all went to high school with, the guests would roughly be the same from prom night. It would be a portal into 1999 and I didn't want to further facilitate that by looking exactly the same as I did the last time they saw me, just fatter. Next! Sadly...

The hunt for the dress continues. I'm looking for something elegant yet simple and something that it's okay to not be married, damn it. That should be easy, right? 

Day 86: Protect Ya Tings.

The vacation has come to an end, my tan is golden, quality time has been spent and now it is time to head back up to New York.

In the cab, on the way to the airport, I saw the best billboard for safe sex. It read: "Protect Ya Tings! Use a Rubber Everytime!" which caught my grandfather's eye as he announced it as we passed. "Protect Ya Tings!" he declared with his thick Italian accent and hands waving above his head. "Ella, what does 'Protect Ya Tings' mean?" he asked as he strenuously turned around from the front seat. "Dolly, its obviously Bahamian slang that we're not yet accustomed to!" my grandmother impatiently intervened. Not having enough sleep after tossing and turning all night and it being 7 am, I didn't sugar coat it. "It means where a condom, Grandpa, wear a condom." I said dryly. There was a slight gasp before my grandparents realized who their audience was, me, their spinster granddaughter. "That's good advice! Goooooood advice." he said nodding in agreement with the public announcement. Indeed it is. 

Arriving at Nassau International Airport, going through customs and immigration was breeze, mostly because we arrived at the airport at quarter to eight for a 1:30 pm flight. My grandpa and I stopped at a Dunkin' Donuts in the terminal to get a cup of coffee to kill the five hours ahead of us. Standing in line, we planted ourselves in front of a mother holding her screaming child which was in direct ear shot of my grandfather. His good ear. We ordered two coffees which took about 15 minutes longer than necessary while the baby continued to scream at the top of his lungs. The mother was completely oblivious and looked on as if nothing was going on. "I hope she isn't on our flight" my grandfather tried to whisper in my ear but ended up announcing it to the entire Dunkin' Donuts clientele, including said oblivious mother. 

We got back to the gate with coffee for my grandmother to sip on and we recounted the lack of efficiency and screaming baby to her. Hey, we had nothing else to do. "I wanted to talk to you about that." my grandmother said with a mix of concern and disgust on her face. "Talk to me about what? My coffee intake?" I asked, ready to agree with the fact that I drink too much of it. "Well, you are getting up there in age and it will become more and more difficult to have children," she said as if she is filling me on the 8th mystery of the world. I don't even know if I want children. I'm just trying to get through this week without committing suicide and/or homicide. Upon telling her this, her throat tightened up and with pursed lips said "Well that is a personal choice every woman makes and it doesn't mean you are a freak." She then took a long exaggerated breath and flipped a page in her magazine, "How does this young gentleman, Aurélien feel about your movement against children?" The movement against children? I just never fantasized about having something the size of my skull pushing out of my 'itty-bitty' and then fighting with the man who had no problem in contributing over finances because let's face it; kids are expensive and I don't attract men with money...I never had, so financial burdens will certainly come with the package. But in regards to Aurélien, let me get passed the first month of dating and try not scare the guy too soon with his plans for children. 

We boarded the plane where I sat in between an overweight child and a father who refused to give his son the window seat because his son got it on the way down to The Bahamas. I offered to switch seats so he could be closer to his son who responded with "I've been with him all week, you can have him now." Having children sounds awesome. 

I nestled into my seat with my headphones watching the amazing Kathy Griffin show and sipping on a Bloody Mary when I heard in my right ear "Poppy!" and again.."Poppy!". Naturally, it was the miscreant sitting next to me. "Poppy!" he screamed louder and closer to my ear. "Poppppppppy!" I exhaled and turned to him where we were face to face. "Get my poppy!!" he demanded me while he slammed his hand down on the armrest. Ok, I will get your poppy, just please, shut up. I tapped Poppy who looked at me like I was insane for touching him and I gestured to his son where their communication sorted itself out without any further assistance from me. I ordered another vodka. 

Throughout the flight, there were several more requests for Poppy while he sprayed cookies and chips out of his mouth and on to my face as well as the objects that were being passed over me, between Poppy and child. 

We landed and I met up with my grandparents who looked just winded from the flight. It has been a long week for everyone. It's good to be back in New York and focusing on getting my things together before returning to France, which is looking like sooner than later. A relaxing month with the family has been anything but and felt more like the Salem Witch Trials but you can't change others, you can only change your perspective. Today is about focusing on your own happiness regardless if others think you are shrewd and a hopeless spinster; and if you're not ready for kids or diseases, 'Protect Ya Tings'.

Day 84: Home Isn't Always Where You Come From.

"Dolly, guess who asked about you?" my grandfather asked my half-asleep grandmother at 8 in the morning at the kitchen table. Not having taken the first sip of her coffee, she just looked at him, waiting for him to tell her who. "Dolly, you have to say 'who'." he insisted. "Who was asking for you." Irritated, she said "What?" forgetting his explicit instructions. "No, you have to say 'who'." he teased. "Who? Dolly, who?" she finally gave in. My grandfather looked left and looked right with a mischievous grin and said "No one! No one was asking about you!" while slapping his leg over the victory of annoying my grandmother at 8 in the morning. It was awesome. A feat that isn't difficult to achieve. She gave my grandpa the 30-second death stare over her mug of coffee. He didn't care, he was too amused with himself and even I snuck in a few chuckles. 

After coffee and exhausted by grandmother stressing about all of the things we needed to do before leaving on Tuesday, which in reality is nothing. I headed out for my run which I regretted letting my grandfather tag along. Trailing behind me, he kept chanting "Jiggla! Jiggla!" while I was struggling with my run on the soft sand. Can he not refer to my backside as jiggla, especially when I'm in motion? I know that its jiggla, jiggla but I don't need it announced when I am trying to remove said rumples of fat. 

We returned to the villa where a letter was waiting for my grandpa; a bill of services rendered while we were staying in the villa. He opened it up and a look of confusion swept across his face. It was a 300 dollar phone bill. For one week. Because my grandparents are in bed by 8:30pm and the internet only works outside of their bedroom and can't make skype calls, bored, I made phone calls to Phil in Chicago, Kitty in New York and Terry in Los Angeles. I immediately confessed to the phone calls and said that I had no idea that my calls would add up to 300 dollars. My grandfather, who was clearly disturbed by this bill was ready to lock me down for a lecture about wasting money. Offering to just pay it instead would not be an option. "Are phone calls freeeeeee in Par-ee?" he launched into the lecture. A fine question to start off with and the expected answer would be no, but the thing is that overseas phone calls from landlines with telephone company Orange are in fact, free. I didn't expect these calls to cost nothing but 300 dollars for four 30-minute phone calls is insanity. I would have never imagined that and felt terrible. After enlightening him that phone calls are free where I have been living for the past two years, the discussion surprisingly came to a close. There wasn't much to say afterward. He accepted my mistake, much to my shame, paid the bill and it was never brought up again. I'm so embarrassed because I'm supposed to be a grown adult here. I am only proving everyone's point that I'm reckless and need to be rescued from myself. 

As hurtful as my family has been because I'm not engaged, I don't live in New York and am not leading a 'normal' life, it has been nice to take a Parisian break to appreciate that my life abroad is pretty special. Incidentally, I am more understood in another country where I don't speak my native tongue and have adapted to my new culture after years of ups and downs. Sometimes taking some time away makes you realize that home is where you plant your new roots. No matter which continent...

Day 83: Expect the Unexpected.

Illustration by Trumpetvine

After my morning jog on the beach, I headed back to the villa to have lunch with my grandparents. I walked in and enjoyed the cool blast of air conditioner that contrasted the blazing 100 degree heat that I was previously exercising in. I quickly rinsed off, slipped on a sundress and helped set the table with my grandfather whose duties went from helping to singing and twisting in slow motion with the pepper shaker. My grandma set a steaming dish of her creamy mushroom risotto on the table and issued portions out. My grandmother brought up the topic of Aurélien. She was curious about the new gentleman who contacted me last night and wanted to know if we were talking dirty. My family always thinks I'm talking dirty when I speak French. I filled my grandmother in on surface details about Aurélien and added that since it was so new, it was too soon to tell and didn't want to offer too much. 

Ignoring my vague answer, she then asked me if I had been intimate with him. Not one to be terribly shy when it comes to forward questions but chose not to sit this one out because I'd get a lecture either way I went. I'd be accused of being too easy if I said yes or accused of not being modern and following the times by not putting out, if I said no. So in my family, saying nothing is always the best option. She didn't seem to notice my non-response because before I knew it she was sharing with me that she has only gone down on my Grandfather four times. She didn't enjoy offering that 'service' because it made her gag which posed a problem because my grandfather 'just loves it'. Oh come on! I swear, I am being tortured for this free vacation. If I am not being criticized for my off-beat life choices, I am hearing about my Grandparent's oral sex life. My grandfather who doesn't hear very well just looked over and me and nodded his head in agreement. I slowly moved my dish of risotto away from me.

After lunch and wanting to shake off my grandmother's over-share, I walked down to the beach after stopping at the pool bar for a 'Goombay Smash'; a fruity concoction of coconut rum, triple sec, pineapple juice and a splash of the official soda of The Bahamas, Goombay Punch. I was definitely getting Goombay Smashed because I saw nothing wrong in rolling around in the sand with the waves crashing on to me imagining myself as the little mer-creature in Madonna's 'Cherish' video. Families were looking at me but being deep in my Goombay haze and I didn't care until I felt an overwhelming stinging sensation. On my right boob. I got stung by a jellyfish on my boob! The stinging was excruciating as my right boob was throbbing from the sting. I ran up to the villa to do - I don't know what- but anything was better than feeling the salt sting my boob more or the little kid building a sand castle pointing and laughing at the lady screaming and holding her breast. 

Upon, entering the villa, in a frenzy, my grandmother handed me a cup and shoved me in the bathroom. "Urine will take the sting away! No one is looking! Here! Do it in here!" In the bathroom, I took my bikini top off to reveal a red, swollen and a cup size larger than the left. He could've at least gone for both tatas. I didn't urinate on myself per my grandmother's instructions and just let the pain subside. The Goombay smash helped. Once, I was back to functioning with hands off my right breast, I used the free hand to call Kitty who was working in her office in New York and who didn't feel a drop sorry for me. At all. "You're drunk off of something called a Goombay Smash, I'm sure your tan is sick, and you're somewhere called Paradise. Getting stung is a casualty. Deal with it." Click. Thanks, Kitty.

Every day is a surprise here in Paradise where I don't know what's going to happen or what piece of information will be thrown my way but that's what makes each day more interesting than the next. This was supposed to be a quiet vacation of reflection and healing but I guess you can't plan everything, so senior citizen bjs and horny jellyfish will have to do.  

Bonnes vacances.

Day 82: Remember Your Little French Macaroon.

Illustration by Samantha Hahn

I was just about to sit down to dinner with my grandparents when I heard my skype phone ring. I looked over to the screen to see that it was Aurélien. Finally! Someone French and normal! I must be spending too much time with my family if I'm finding relief and normalcy in the French...

I leaped over the couch to my computer to pick up. I didn't want to miss regaining a morsel of my life, where Paris isn't looked upon as another planet. It's Paris, not Mars. People do live and function there. "Bonsoir" Aurélien's deep and groggy voice said as he turned the video on. Since it was 3am Paris time, the video revealed a half-asleep Aurélien, sitting up in his bed, hair sticking up in 4 different directions wearing his thick pre-contact glasses. I lit up at the sight of him, I wanted to jump through the computer and eat him. I filled him on the veil drama, careful to not express too much disappointment that could lead him to believe that I was planning on a wedding him in said veil tomorrow. As for the veil, it was a matter of principle. My mother wore this when she married my father and it was just offered off with no consideration for my feelings. I did get some satisfaction recounting the story to him in French, where no one understood. A bit evil, but so was pawning off a family heirloom to n'importe qui

It is moments like these that I annoyingly miss Monsieur Flâneur. He knows my family and noticed before me even influencing him, that my cousin and his fiancée were always treated specially. He would have completely ate up this family gossip, that this girl was given something that was saved for me and would have reassured me that I wasn't being crazy. I was tempted to call him but must force myself to cut him off and give someone else a chance to think that my family is completely off the wall. Bienvenue Aurélien

After I finished my 'visit' as my grandfather called it. There was a knock on the villa door. It was a local Bahamian. He apologized for disturbing us during dinner but was stopping by looking for any donations that we would like to make to the local church. Normal people would either say yes and pull out their checkbook or say no and slam the door but my grandfather welcomed him in and proceeded to asked questions about the church and their 'mission'. Delighted with my grandfather's interest, the man took this an opportunity to display photos of the gospel choir singing in unison during a mass, hurricane relief initiatives, Sunday school 'action shots' and the church's quarterly donation revenue. We had to stop him when he pulled out a DVD. This went on for 40 minutes and we couldn't continue eating because we didn't have enough for him nor were we expecting him in the first place. Our food was getting cold and my grandfather continued asking further questions about the staff, the soup kitchen and how many 'worshippers' they get per week. "Dolly! We're going to starve over here! Wrap this up!" my grandmother finally intervened. Ok, starve is a little dramatic but bored? Yes, I'd say we were getting bored. My grandfather finally sent him off with a box of food for the parish. Pasta e Fagioli, 5 boxes of penne, 2 jars of olives, a speared branzino and a 3 gallon can of olive oil. You know, 'The Staples'. Clearly, the man was looking for a donation more in the form of cash because he did not say thank you and walked away disgruntled while carrying a ton of Italian paraphernalia. Lesson to him, never knock on an Italian's door when you want something quick, free and easy. I thought everyone knew that.

Despite certain oversights, I am enjoying the time spent with my family, but the longer I am here, the more I realize that my life and home is in Paris. As challenging as this year has been, it's going to take a lot more than a broken relationship and mundane job to get me to move back to New York where every choice I make is up for discussion. At least I only have to hear twice a year that moving to France was ridiculous and that I am wasting my life away. I know a handful of people who would disagree. Vive la France!

Day 81: Love Your Grandparents. They Mean Well?

Leave it to my grandparents to meet an Italian couple from New Jersey to add to my senior citizen getaway and invited them to our villa last night for Broccoli di rabe and orecchiette, a traditional Barese dish. Only Italians make Southern Italian cuisine in the Caribbean. Grandpa made us Jack Daniel Manhattans for cocktail hour while my grandmother prepared dinner and complained that the kitchen has no soul and the refrigerator wasn't big enough. Now going on 2 years in Paris, nothing in North America will be deemed as too small to me. The loud 'beats' of a Bahamian band playing reggae covers of Elton John love songs down by the pool set the soundtrack for our dinner. You haven't lived until you've heard a calypso version of "Tiny Dancer".

The couple arrived and the husband Frank looks exactly like Richard Gere. He told me was that he was 72 years old, but it's just not possible. He looks better looking than Richard Gere does today. I have never checked out a 72 year old man in my life, but this guy was just ridiculous. Miam, miam! My drooling got interrupted when, during dinner, my grandmother casually mentioned that she had offered the veil that my great-grandmother made and that my mother wore to my cousin's Angelo's fiancée for next week's wedding. The veil that was being saved for me but since no one thinks that I will ever get married and that I choose the wrong men, she thought that it should go to use to someone else. Awesome. Whenever I come home, I become a walking chick flick. Next week, I guess I will watch my veil that I was supposed to wear, get married to someone else. 

To add to my isolation, my grandmother thinks that this whole 'Paris Thing' is stupid and wanted to know if I got it out of my system yet. Why would I want to be 'home' where the fact that I am not married, attached to a man, live in a studio and my non-plus 401k is frowned upon. In Paris, I'm spared these details and am in a city full of other expats who are just as lost and/or adventurous as I am. Paris is well worth taking some setbacks before finding the perfect niche, which can mean staying single a little longer than everyone else or having a less than lucrative job; a concept that most people don't understand and that's fine, we don't push our values onto others.

My lifestyle isn't parallel to my family and the people that I grew up with and it always becomes more obvious when I return. I know that I could have stayed in my apartment in Brooklyn, my job in Fashion and continued going out with single girlfriends who were desperately seeking Mr. Right where going out for a drink was some strategic ploy to 'meet someone'. Beurk! I wanted to challenge myself and it's not always understood here. Today is about not giving in to what people think, and what they expect of you. Including family, since no one considered that me watching my Mother's veil that she wore to marry my late-father George, get married would be painful for me. Again, good to be home...