connect!

Day 171: Meet the Parents. Part Deux.


I have never had a meet the parents story quite like this before in my life. God bless the French. It's moments like these that I love being a foreigner.

Before heading to the Loire, we stopped at Aurélien's father and stepmother's home for Friday night dinner and to pick up the car before heading out on our 3-hour drive on Saturday morning. This would be my first time meeting his dad whom Aurélien has told me he is closer to than his mother whom I already met in September. I was nervous. It's always more pressure meeting the closer parent.

Having done the 'meet the parents' thing here in France several times, I was ready to answer questions about American healthcare, my opinion of the Obama administration and what my plans in France are. Current events and politics from my American point of view have always been common points of interest when meeting the parents here. At work, before heading to Gare de Lyon to meet Aurélien, I brushed up on my answers and armed myself with some juicy and insightful answers.

Gilles picked us up at the station at Fountainbleau and something told me that everything was going to work out just fine. Papa Aurélien was leaning against his convertible Renault wearing tight black jeans, a leather jacket, smoking a cigarette with rock music blasting from the car. He introduced himself and was immediately warm and welcoming making me feel comfortable as he grabbed my bags to put in the trunk.

After a 10 minute drive through the little village, we pulled up the driveway to their quaint stone house that was covered with vines in fiery autumn shades of gold and red. Aurélien's step-mother Françoise opened the door wearing black leather go-go boots, textured tights, a fitted black sweater dress cinched at the waist with an elastic belt that had a leather heart closure. The black of her ensemble contrasted her amber red hair reminding me of a fabulous French Peggy Bundy. "Hello!" she said with a smile and an American-style extended hand, "How are you?" Appreciating that she wanted to greet me in my language, I resisted my new instinct to go in for the double kiss and awkwardly shook her hand. "I'm well, thank you. And yourself?" I said, absolutely charmed and delighted by her effort. Gilles shuffled by with our bags, "Françoise has been trying to find hip American expressions all day and this is all she could find!" he said with a huff as he was trying to balance our heavy bags on his shoulder. I assured them both that they need not speak English but to beware of the whoppers that I was sure to make at some point during the evening in French.

After offering them the bottle of champagne that I picked up at Nicolas on my lunch break to thank them for having us for the night, I was given the tour. What was ahead of me, no one could have predicted.

The main living room where we were having our apéro was shabby chic with quilted throw pillows, sheer curtains, unfinished wood tables and navy blue étoile print covered couches. Through the living room was a laundry room that was converted into a bar with rustic shelves stocked with vintage champagne coups, flutes, highball and shot glasses, martini glasses, shakers, stirrers and all the accouterment for a functioning bar. The kitchen was typical French country in shades of cream, deep red complimenting the dark oak wood finishing. Françoise had a room of books, teddy bears and jewelry while Gilles' room had wall to wall DVD's (categorized in alphabetical order), vintage vinyl and rock concert posters. The rocker girl and girly girl in me identified with both rooms.

We continued on to their bedroom that had sexy nude photos of Françoise wearing nothing but lace masks and pearls posing in 'playful' positions. Oh, my. I tried my best to not look at the pink elephant in this small room where my eyes met Aurélien's who looked at me with concern. I squeezed his hand to assure him that I wasn't shocked and in truth, I wasn't, I myself was hardly raised in a typical home. Were there nudie photos of my mother in our house? No. But some would find the fact that she used to garden in crochet bikinis and work boots a bit bizarre. 

Through the bedroom, we were lead to the costume room that had a Marie Antoinette costume displayed on a dress form, pirate puffy shirts, Jesus costumes, wigs, capes, sunglasses, make-up, a working jukebox stocked with all of Gilles' favorite picks and why not? A stripper's pole. Now I was positive that questions about the upcoming presidential election were not going to come up in conversation. Anytime soon. Thank God.

Gilles prepared an offering of handmade Indian samosas, curry birdsnests, poulet tikki masala, tandori lamb and homemade nan that we enjoyed while listening to his iPod mix of Brit Pop, 90's grunge and the newest Indie Rock that I'm sure is not even played on Nova yet. I asked Françoise if she cooked and she said that she puts out the cocktail peanuts and toasts bread. Super! We clinked our champagne glasses to that. During dinner, we talked about everything but politics, visas and the future and while I can hold my own in these topics, after a trek in from the city after a day at work where everyone was in such a terrible mood, it was nice to keep things light.

After several glasses of champagne, wine, an after dinner cocktail and mini dance party to Gilles' NRJ 2011 Mix CD, we were wiped out and had to retire early before our drive in the morning. While Françoise was giving the tour earlier, Gilles had quietly brought our bags into the spare room that apparently was saved for us to see later. 

These are just some things that were set out in our room with a bed that was sprinkled with silver metallic heart-shaped pillows under a pink feather canopy.






After the shock of our love den wore off, we hit the hay to recharge for our drive. Being used to nights in Paris where there is always the sound of a scooter zipping by and the shadow of the street lights that tint the room with a hue of blue, the complete silence and pitch black darkness on Halloween weekend in the country gave me the chills and falling asleep took longer than it should have. Aurélien, on the other hand, was out within 10 minutes.

The following morning before getting into the shower, Gilles had stopped me in the hallway while holding a pot of coffee and asked me if I liked dance music and Jennifer Lopez. Given the setting, time of day and coffee pot in hand, this was not the question I was expecting but I responded with a yes and yes. He nodded his head in approval and padded back towards the kitchen. Ok. Several minutes after soaping up in the shower, steam shot out from a jet above my head, disco lights flashed from circles that I thought were just an aesthetic detail in the tiling, strobes began flickering and a disco ball started turning giving the room a spectrum of polka dots to the surround-sound beat of French dance music followed by J.Lo's Singles Remix album. I was in Studio 54. Naked. In 2001. Showering will never be the same. If my next apartment doesn't come with a damn disco shower, a conversation will be had.

Our evening with Aurélien's family was special, extraordinary, génial! I have never fallen in love with parents on the first visit (un coup de foudre!) and I have the impression that the feelings are mutual. Gilles sent Aurélien a text while we were driving up to Langeais that said: "Ella est ravissante, pétillante, sémillante, charmante et jolie. On pense que t'as trouve une bonne femme!" He showed me the text which made me blush. His response to his father was a simple and calm 'I know'. It has been a long time since I have received a testimonial that kind and it's been a long time since I have been with someone who appreciates and notices my good qualities and effervescent spirit without trying to break me down for not being skinny enough, successful enough, supportive enough, smart enough, artsy enough, whatever 'enough'. Damn, I've dated some real jerks. Putain...

Stay tuned for our magical weekend in Loire!

postcards from loire part one



Nothing strange here, nothing to see, move along...



I didn't see this man peeking through 
the window at me when I was taking this photo.
Creepy. 







Dear Paris, 
Please get on board with with 1€ glasses of 
wine to support my 'interests'.
Merci mille fois
Ella





Day 167: 'Don't Judge A Book By Its Cover'

 Illustration by Fifi Flowers

It's Halloween weekend in Paris! Woo Hoo. Which means only one thing: Nothing. My boss looked at me like I was an idiot when I asked him what him and his children were doing to celebrate. But that's fine, I'm going away this weekend and nothing is going to break my festive spirit! Not even Clémence who made a mistake by giving me the wrong address to send a package and told the client that me, her 'secretary' had misunderstood or the fact that I found a nasty long strand of blonde hair on my dress that belonged to the shady sublet who stole and thought that she could get away with it wore my clothes this summer or that the fact that the photocopy machine refuses to acknowledge its job function and make copies! Ok, I give up, this Friday kind of sucks.

At least this week I've satisfied my need, scratched my itch if you will with classic horror films like Halloween (1979), Dawn of the Dead, Psycho and my favorite The Rocky Horror Picture Show. 

Let's put sadistic copy machines, thieves and co-workers who should know that no one under the age of 50 (like her) should use the word secretary behind us and flashback to a happy time; it was a cold and rainy October night in 1992, I was heading to my dear friend Belle's house for the ultimate Friday night activity when you have braces and no Bat/Bar Mitzvah parties to go to: a sleepover! Life was so simple.

In front of Belle's house as I was getting out of the car with my overnight bag slung over my shoulder, my mom screamed out the window of her Pontiac Grand-Am, "Wait, I almost forgot!" she said as she reached in her bag and pulled out a blank VHS cassette. "I taped this on t.v last week, you girls are going to love it for Halloween!" I took the mysterious cassette out of her hand, knowing even then that my mom was cool and that whatever it was, it was going to be good - or at least interesting. "You'll thank me later!" she said as she was driving away down Belle's long cobblestone driveway.

We microwaved some Ready-Pop with melted junior mints, grabbed our Raspberry Snapple Iced Teas and planted ourselves amongst pillows and piles of Sassy Magazines in the room of her cool older sister who was away at Northwestern. Withing 20 minutes of the film, we were blown away with shock, laughter and loving that we were doing something completely different than what most of the girls in our class were most likely doing on this spooky autumn's eve. Leave it to my mother to send suggest a Rock Opera with transvestites, drama, blood and men in garters to 12 years old girls. Thanks, Mom. "It's a classic!" she always says, defending herself in her thick Long Island accent whenever I mention how inappropriate (yet amazing) it was that she saw this film fit for pre-teens.

I introduced this beauty to Aurelien last night who now loves my mother even more. And rightfully so.

Happy Halloween et bon week-end à tous!


Day 166: Ask Questions?


One of my favorite movies to curl up with a hot cup of tea and a cozy blanket is I Heart Huckabees, a movie that I saw on a whim at the Arclight back in L.A many moons ago. I was such a wild child. 

Recently, I had asked Séb if he had seen it and was pleased with the fact that he hadn't and that it was going to be me who'd expose him to this clever, off-beat comedy. What is it about sharing movies and music that feels so good? It's like that feeling you get when you see your food coming out of the kitchen in a restaurant. Pure bliss.

In brief, the premise is Jason Schwartzman's character is looking for the meaning of his life and wants to know if certain events are coincidences so he hires existential detectives played by Lily Tomlin and Dustin Hoffman to look into his 'case' who believe that everything in life is connected and that we're all part of a puzzle. He doubts the method when it is challenged by French thinker (leave it to the French to contest everything!) played by Isabelle Huppert who thinks that the world is cold, human drama is inevitable and that everything that happens is random. I see myself on both sides of this argument where I find comfort in both.

Not having seen this movie in years, it took on a different meaning this time around given the events that have taken place this year. Everything did seem connected where it was as if I had pushed a domino in February and everything that has happened was a result of what had happened before. Not one event stood on its own, but do they ever?

An existential detective certainly would have come in handy back in the spring when I was overwhelming myself with questions that I couldn't find the answers to. I was alone in Paris and didn't know what I was doing here, why had my friends stopped speaking to me during a time when I needed them the most and wondered if I was destined to be alone forever because I never seem to make a relationship work (No one ever said that I wasn't dramatic). The definition for existential crisis on wikipedia is: "The sense of being alone and isolated in the world....during a hurtful experience that leaves one seeking meaning." That was me.

Joking around, I had asked Séb if existential detectives existed, at least in France. In the States, I feel like everything exists. He took it upon himself to call Duluc Detective on Rue du Louvre and asked if they did this sort of thing. I really think I have met my match, he is just as nuts as I am.

"Do you investigate on existential cases?" was his opening question after his polite Bonjour Monsieur. He went on to explain that the problem was that the case would be from the spring as the crisis had already passed but his girlfriend would like some answers wanting to know if everything is connected and what the meaning was. So not only did he ask if they investigated these kinds of cases but did they investigate them in the past. He also went on to explain that I have a blog with a lot of evidence of my past state of mind that would serve as a useful tool. There was silence on the other end and an exaggerated exhale. "Excusez-moi Monsieur mais je ne comprends pas ce que vous me demandez." Séb tried to explain again, this time more clear (if that's even possible) which he was promptly transferred over to the dial tone. No dice.

"Did you just prank call that mysterious detective place over by the Louvre?" I asked in shock. "You wanted to know if this existed in France, then I wanted to know if it existed in France, so I called." he said frankly with his piercing blue eyes staring back at me. Oh, in that case. "You know you can get arrested for prank calls in the States." I said trying to sound serious but secretly loving the fact that my boyfriend really did call and ask about my former existential crisis. "Americans! You are so cute with your little laws." he said while google searching his next victim to call. We're not cute, we're serious. Pff!

So if you were wondering if Duluc Detectives in the 1st investigate existential crises, the answer is no, so don't call and ask. What would you guys do without me?

In all seriousness, I know that a detective is not what I needed to find meaning and answers, what I needed was time. I can see everything so much clearer now that I have stepped outside of that state. The answers are so simple. I am in Paris because I love it here, my friends stopped speaking to me because someone told them I had said terrible untrue things about them and will I end up alone forever? That remains to be seen. Life is a chain of events whether they are connected or not, it's still the same stuff just a different day, and perhaps the search for happiness is more important than the search for answers.

Day 164: Be A Slut for Halloween.

Illustration by Angéline Mélin

Last night, we were with Aurélien's friend Hélène at her place up near Père Lachaise for wine, cheese, and chitchat. She's one of Aurel's friends I absolutely love. She is just full of joie de vivre and always have a good giggle with her. After settling into the night, I pulled out my laptop to check my Facebook, which I don't usually do when I'm with other friends, it was just that I was waiting for a message from my cousin who was going to be in town soon.

As Hélène passed by to open another bottle of Bordeaux (because one is never enough), she couldn't help but notice the computer screen. "Is that porn?" she asked as she grabbed her reading glasses. I looked up at her with a confused chuckle, "No, this is a Halloween Party photo album of a friend of a friend in the US," I said with a nonchalant shrug. "These are just costumes."  The look on Zoé's face of confusion and horror was priceless. "Costumes?! What costumes? Elles sont nues!" she said in genuine shock at the fact that they were all naked...and drunk. If you haven't picked up on the accents in her name, but Hélène is French and her suspicions that American girls being total whores on Halloween were instantly confirmed. These are the cultural differences and stereotypes that I just thrive off of.

Hélène insisted on seeing the rest of the photos after topping off our wine glasses. I took great pleasure in showing her slutty French maids (which got a huffy oh là là là), a slutty Snow White doing shots, a slutty cat who appeared to be dry-humping Luigi from Super Mario Brothers and her two personal favorites a slutty naked bear surrounded by a crew of whored-out beer cans. "Un ours pétasse!" she shrieked at the site of the naked "bear". "Rabbit, I understand. Cat, I get but slutty bears and beer cans? Non, c'est pas vrai!"

After fishing around the album a bit more and reading the comments, we had discovered that the "slutty bear" got the memo wrong and was supposed to also be part of the slutty beer can posse. I don't remember the last time I laughed so hard that it hurt. "Americans mix up beer and bear often?" Hélène sincerely inquired, wanting to know if we were being unjust to this poor girl who fell victim to drunk girls in Paris stalking her Facebook page. "No, no we don't! Never!" I said with tears of laughter streaming down my face.

I needed a good laugh like this. This was the first time this year that I had a really good one and it felt great. Due to the fact that I'm going away to the Loire, I will be missing out on the Halloween 'fun' that is non-existent in Paris, but I plan on dressing up for work on Friday. I'm torn between slutty tax office assistant or bitch from New York. Tough call.

Happy Halloween everyone!

Day 163: See France.


For my birthday, Aurelien had given me a postcard with three destinations in France to choose to go on a weekend away with him. The choices were going to the sea during an off-season in Nice, a weekend in the vineyards of Burgundy, or a tour through the château in Loire. Wanting to go somewhere new and since I had gone to Nice with Monsieur Flâneur that was crossed out, I also had gone to Burgundy with my first Paris boyfriend Lucien. Lucien who used to tell me to run around the Eiffel Tower to lose my "hips and thighs fats" [sic], would take the food off my plate and place it next to my thigh to show me where it will go next, and would accuse me of grazing during the day because I eat a 3:00 goûter of fresh fruit and some nuts before a 9pm dinner. Goûter is a French word, no? He was so gross. So Loire Valley it is! 

The last time I went on a vacation with a new boyfriend, it didn't go as well as I had imagined. Flashback time. It was about a month into my relationship with Monsieur Flâneur and he had invited me to go to Nice with him for a week. The relationship was new, it was summer in France and I was in love. It was a dream. I couldn't find a reason not to go even if I tried. I was finally going to live out my fantasy and be the star of a Serge Gainsbourg song Sea, Sex and Sun. Famous last words.

The story is a drop long, but for my girls nursing a broken heart, I urge you to read on and for the rest, enjoy the worst vacation horror story in the South of France. Bear with me here.

We arrived in Nice at around 8am after a 12-hour drive from Paris and it was pouring rain. We were so tired it hurt, we could barely keep our bloodshot red stinging eyes open. We let ourselves into our vacation rental, a lovely three bedroom apartment equipped with a full kitchen, dining room, living room and balcony filled with flowers in colors of magenta, rose and violet. It was perfect. I had made the bed in one of the bedrooms for us to sleep in and because of the rain, there was no point in trying to recover the day. Just as we were settled in after our shower and I was putting out some viennoiserie to eat before nestling in when the doorbell rang. It was MF's friends from the neighborhood whom he hasn't seen in over a year. "Ok," I said to myself. "I'll make some coffee and perk up because these are his friends from when he used to vacation here as a child and would hate it if I was deprived of seeing my friends because my new boyfriend was tired." Working on an hour of sleep and their thick Niçoise accents (which have different inflections than the Parisian accent that at the time I was only just starting to understand), I struggled. 

After coffee which turned into lunch which turned into 3 bottles of Rosé and them sharing funny stories with me about their summers spent on the beach, I was truly wiped out and secretly wanted them to leave so I could just take a cat nap and start fresh the next day. My secret wish had been granted and just as they were leaving, coming up the hallway stairs was MF's family. His brother, his Catalan girlfriend, his mother and his father. MF greeted them as if we were in Paris and they were just stopping by, 12 hours out of the way. This wasn't a coincidence, this was planned and MF had just told me that they were vacationing with us. Now the other two bedrooms had made more sense. He swore up and down that he told me but while my French at the time may have been shaky, I surely would have understood "Ma famille vient." Ok. Not that I didn't like his family, but after only a month of dating, a vacation with the family speaking your newly acquired second language can be overwhelming to say the absolute least. Essentially, I was on vacation with a bunch of strangers who I wanted to like me. No pressure. 

I bucked up and said to myself "I can do this, I'm Italian, we invented the art of breaking down boundaries and comfort zones." I was armed with my Becherelle should I come face to face with a conjugation crisis now that his parents were there and the formal vous would need to be spoken. 

MF ignoring my request to sleep, had planned for us to go to a discotheque that night after his friend Caroline who also happened to be in Nice came over with more Rosé to bitch about her on and off relationship. Her emotionally abusive boyfriend was flying into Nice that night and she didn't know what to do. Don't see him? Easier said than done though. I get it. 

Why didn't I just go to the other room and sleep? Because MF's mother took the sheets off our bed to wash them, which was very sweet but also robbed me of the option to sleep. I am not my best when I am hungry and/or tired (like most people, no?) and the big joke between MF and Caroline was how awful and tired I looked. It was so funny. Really.

The following morning, it was bright and sunny and blowing off the argument MF and I had over the stupid ass discotheque that I refused to go to, we were starting fresh and happily went to meet a girlfriend of mine that I knew from Paris and who had moved down to Monaco for lunch. I felt like France was becoming my home because on our little vacation, I too had people to see and was proud to bring MF with me to meet one of my friends. 

We went to the open air market in town for salads, and MF and my friend really hit it off! So much that my friend claimed she didn't speak English anymore (okay, so how were we friends then?) as she hung on every word I tried to understand. This lasted for four painful hours where they didn't speak to me, only every so often to explain something slower because I didn't understand "fast French." This chick wasted no time in adding him on Facebook an hour after we parted from the lunch from hell. At the time, I wasn't even friends with him on Facebook. 

The following day, we went to have lunch with his other female friend, Nicole. Nicole enjoyed saying things to me in English so MF wouldn't understand. Goodies like "You don't have to be jealous of me. MF doesn't like girls with large breasts" or "Make sure to keep him happy otherwise he will always have me to fill his emotional void. Before you, we used to talk on the phone for like 5 hours a day."  

We met her at a café on the beach where it was sprinkled with topless sunbathers (Europe!), Nicole joined in on the fun and greeted us, boobies and all. We went to her cabana for drinks...where she remained topless. We went to get a light lunch...where she remained topless. Honestly, I struggled here. I didn't know where to divert my eyes because they were just so right there. For the record, I'm not prude, I sunbathe topless too but if a guy friend of mine is coming to meet me with his girlfriend, I'm not going to sit there and nonchalantly sip on mojitos while strategically letting the glass rub up against my bare chest allowing the condensation to drip off my cold nipples. Call me old-fashioned. Because I was trying to be the "cool girlfriend," you know, the one who has no opinion and is never irritated because she is just so coolI left them at the beach café to catch up while I went to get a blow out at a nearby salon. The plan was to meet them at the brasserie in town two hours later which should have been enough time for them to catch up. 

I arrived at the brasserie feeling fabulous and refreshed with my thick curly hair blown out in bouncy beach waves, nothing was going to bring me down. Since MF and Nicole hadn't arrived yet, I ordered a coffee and chatted with the barman who had been serving us all week. They arrived shortly after and MF couldn't resist commenting that he preferred my hair curly, and Nicole said she didn't notice a difference. But none of it mattered because I was buzzed off the fact that Nicole was leaving soon to go to Cannes to meet up with her boyfriend for the rest of the vacation. Bye Nicole!

My buzz came to screeching halt when MF ordered: "Un café pour ma chérie, s'il vous plaît!" The server who certainly knew we were a couple was confused, who was chérie? Certainly not me in this context, I for one was already drinking a café. The barman looked at me and then at Nicole who looked satisfied as if she was a cat who just pissed on her territory and said: "C'est pour moi." A coffee for his sweetheart?! His baby? His darling? I know in France this word is used more loosely than it is in the States but on top of everything that was happening, I was reaching my limit. 

We got back to the house and 'Chérie' came too where I could no longer hide my frustration. Fuck "cool girlfriend." I was done. Done. He then told me he was driving her back to her hotel. 

"How did she get here?" I asked, tightly. "And where is her boyfriend?" 

It was only 5pm, the sun was out, she had gotten to the beach on her very own and I didn't feel like lending my boyfriend out anymore. They already had their beach romp. Ça suffit, now. With a slight acknowledgment to my discontent, he gave me French shrug and left me in the apartment...with his family whom I barely knew or could communicate with. 

His brother and girlfriend were taking a nap, as was the dad who was sleeping on the couch in his underwear and his mother was out grocery shopping. I sat on the bed in our room and tried to read a book but just looked out on to the balcony at the waving palm trees wondering if I was being too sensitive or if he was being completely inappropriate this week. I didn't know anymore. Was I this insecure chick who couldn't get it together on a trip to the South of France?
What was wrong with me?

I later found out that 'Chérie' took the car ride as an opportunity to tell MF her concerns about me, and that I was not normal, and MF said he would have to agree. 

Breathe...

I'm not normal. I'm not normal because I don't want my new boyfriend calling another woman baby in front of me. I'm not normal because I don't want to be called dramatic when I am exhausted after driving for 12 hours overnight. I'm not normal because I don't want to go clubbing on zero sleep. I'm not normal because I don't like to be ignored at a lunch of three people when I'm the person in common. I'm not normal because I don't want my boyfriend flirting with my friends in front of me. I'm not normal because I don't want to be left in an apartment alone on our vacation while she feeds him tales on how I am not normal? Again, where was this girl's boyfriend? 

MF came back four hours later when I was quietly having dinner with his family in the tiny kitchen. Four hours? Where was her hotel? Italy? I was pissed, he knew it and he loved it. 

It took me a long time to realize that he is so insecure that he needs a fan club of females vying for his attention to make him feel worthy. The same reason why after we broke up and he was angry because I didn't cause the dramatic scene that he was expecting and wasn't showing enough grief. What a piece of work.

He got away with it because I was in love and I defended him. I had the problem. I was sensitive. I was dramatic. I needed to work better on being the cool girlfriend, I remember thinking. It's easier to just let everything be my fault because I could control me much better than I could control him and if it's my fault that I can change the situation and make myself "better." I thought if I was nicer, more understanding, happier than he would stop doing these things.

I have all the faith in the world that none of these stupid things will happen this weekend in the Loire with Aurelien because with him I don't need to work so hard. It's not a struggle. A relationship should be the bright spot of your life, not the agony. Why is it taking my 30s to understand this?

Day 162: Get Spooked!



For waking up at 11:45am today, I did and saw quite a bit today. Dedicating the day to do things that I never do during the week and to get into the festive Halloween spirit on probably one of the last warm and sunny days Paris will see in a while, Aurélien and I decided to profit bien and enjoy the day to its full potential.

After our tradition of American Sunday brunch (minus mimosas...sadly) of bacon, eggs, and English muffins, we watched my favorite slasher; Halloween where I screamed like a stupid girl at the same scenes I have seen over 100 times, took a Vespa ride to Vincennes for a leisurely stroll through the forest that was infested with screaming children - I mean that was sprinkled with blessed little angels - stopped for a Nutella espresso La tête à Toto in the 12th and rubbed elbows with zombies in Place des Vosges. Quoi?

That's right, Zombies. In observation of the annual 'Zombie Walk', a congregation of bruised, bloodied and beaten looking folk walked from rue Saint-Martin through Bastille and up to Place des the Vosges, leaving the streets vulnerable to witness blood, guts, and gore. Aurélien and I, ignorant to what Paris had planned on this otherwise quiet Sunday afternoon, parked the Vespa in The Marais to pick up a few things at my apartment before heading back to his house for dinner and nearly went into shock when we were face to face with a man who had a crusty, bloody lip, lesions all over his neck wearing a ripped up shirt and holding a bottle 1664. It was terrifying. His 'costume' wasn't extreme enough for us to think it was on purpose and his lack of sobriety lead us to think that he was a residual from a rough Saturday night. It wasn't until we were presented with what looked like the cast of 'Evil Dead' that we realized something was going on. We're a little dense sometimes.

Enjoying our abstruse surroundings and comparing whose blood and sunken eyes looked more real while I was singing 'Thriller' in Aurélien's ear in a deep alto tone caught the attention of a Gothic couple who approached us. Why not? We found ourselves in a pleasant conversation about the gorgeous day, the Zombie event, Halloween and asked them about their costumes that were velvet, lace and adorned with crosses, their faces pancake white with eyeliner detailing around their eyes and cheeks. "We're not wearing costumes." the girlfriend said bluntly and clearly offended by our misguided observation. There was silence. The boyfriend looked at us like we were idiots. I should have known better, my best friends in high school went goth for most of 1996 but like I said, we're a little dense sometimes.

For a city that is known to disregard Halloween as being uniquely American, what we witnessed was close enough if not parallel to what happens in the States. Mission accomplished! I was scared and certainly saw things that I never see during the week. It's one week before Halloween and I hope everyone has at least one good scare. Mwuhahaha!

Happy beginning of the week, everyone. Grr. I'm so fierce, right?

La Tête à Toto
270, rue du Faubourg Saint-Antoine
75012 Paris

Day 161: Double Date!


My range of music taste is broad to say the very least. I truly like everything. And that even includes some metal and country. My father who was a jazz drummer and a roadie for a big rock band back in the 70's was listening to Chick Corea, Coltrane and early Genesis, while my mom who brings out the dance girl Gaga in me, was listening to Madonna, New Jersey freestyle and disco. To honor both creators de moi, I have an appreciation and fondness for both sides of this music spectrum with a few of my own personal finds tucked in there. One being that I am a psychedelic/progressive/garage rock/vintage music nerd. In layman's terms, I love most music made in the 60's along the lines of The Zombies, The Yardbirds, The Castaways and Lou Christie. Well, I thought that the cheese stood alone on this one, especially in Paris, until I met May who has the same fondness for mini skirts, 'daddy' Dutronc, liquid eyeliner and vinyl. Chouette!

Nothing stopped me from my burst of excitement when May messaged me last week to let me know that 60's electronic band who were light years ahead of their time, Silver Apples were coming to Paris!

The plan was set on this chilly October night, it was Séb, myself, May and her new man, Ben whom she also met on the French dating site that I had met Séb. Running through the motley crew of attendees in my head, it hit me, we were going on a double online date! Ah! Trop mimi! "Stop reminding me, please!!" May pleaded at the obvious cheese factor that we imagined would be curdling over the night. My precious little May. What she doesn't realize is that we are success stories and we could be a commercial for the 30-something set trying to find companionship on-line! Can't you just see it? No? Yeah, me neither. The truth is that the marketing team would water down the pureness and obscurity of our date where we'd be at a brasserie in the 7th and Séb and Ben would be all wearing black and scarves, chain smoking and saying sleazy things in French where May and I would have highlights, wearing lip gloss and giggling. Fail.

The show was at an arts center in Boulogne-Billancourt and to say the crowd was eccentric would be like saying learning French is tricky, an understatement at best. "Where are all these people during the day?" Séb asked in amazement at the sight of a man in his 60's with short hair except for about hand full of long greasy strands that were tucked behind his ears who was asking obscure questions about the vinyl printing to another man wearing jeans, an old sweatshirt with grey hair twisted up in the most impressive chignon I have seen since last year's Golden Globes Awards. 

We found Ben and May who had the same giddy look of amusement on their faces at our surroundings and we walked into what looked like a high school auditorium and took our seats to watch the opening electronic band Zombi. The music was excellent but there was nothing interesting to watch and since we couldn't bring our cocktails inside (for real) the four of us sat in our cushioned seats and watched two guys play around with synthesizers and theremins on a bare stage with its makeshift 'light show' of strands of icicle Christmas lights that hung from a rafter that only twinkled during high intensity musical crescendos. None of us could help but grimace at the 'spectacular' before our eyes. If we were all teenagers, we would totally be making out, but now being in our 30's we can and/or have to control ourselves. Unfortunately. 

May and I couldn't take it and had to sneak away to get a drink at the snack bar that only offered hotdogs and champagne or coke. I love Paris. Before downing our last glass of bubbly that we were drinking like little girls trying to get drunk, the boys came out to let us know that Silver Apples were going to come out soon and they had found us better seats. 

Silver Apples, a duo from New York City whose 1968 album cover fashions young men with big hair and bangs wearing patterned tops posing in a spaceship are now just Silver Apple. Singular. The single living member, Simeon who is well in his 70's was rocking a purple turtleneck with ruched detailing on the sleeves, glasses and was managing his vintage keyboards and equipment as if no time had passed since the release of the classic 'Contact'. He played a fantastic set and I'm grateful to have seen his performance. Back when I found the record in my father's house, I never thought I'd actually see it performed live which added another dimension to the night's festivities.

If that wasn't enough, there were groupies who they themselves looked like they had gotten off a spaceship coming from the year 1965 were dancing on the both sides of the stage with their bangs and maxi dresses. One woman took it to the next level and was head banging while ferociously beating a speaker that was innocently set on the stage, a large drunk man who kept shouting appreciations in English while the rest of the dancers just looked like extras in a party scene on Beavis and Butthead. It was amazing. 

Our boyfriends deserve gold stars for taking us out on -for lack of a better word- an eclectic night in Paris. I couldn't help but think what this night would have been like if I was still with Monsieur Flâneur. For starters, he wouldn't have come and if he did, we'd be 3 hours late, he'd be chain smoking outside and complaining like a little bitch the entire time. Séb and Ben on the other hand, just looked at each other and their happy little American girlfriends who were enjoying themselves, laughing at how off-beat this double date was, shrugged their shoulders and said 'Ça va, elles sont heureuses!' Indeed, we were very heureuses as we introduced them to a completely different side of Paris.

Day 160: Shock A Parisian.


Because I have been working part-time, I have a few days off during the week that allows me to go to the gym during the day and beat the after work crowd. Yesterday was a brisk and sunny day and I was off to an afternoon butt and thigh tone-up class that was being taught by the bad-ass instructor Amina. Amina, who reminds me of someone in between Kelis and Dawn from En Vogue, has the most solid, toned pair of legs I have ever seen. She shows them off by wearing tiny shorts that display her ferocious lion tattoo that roars on her upper thigh. She is my inspiration for going to the class but between you, me and the lamppost (as my grandmother says when she wants to gossip), my legs will never look like that. The truth being that I'm too lazy and drink too much wine. 

While Amina is definitely fierce and fabulous, I'm also scared of her and try to not to wimp out when she has us in a squat that hovers a mere 2 inches above the ground for 4 minutes straight. I normally can't walk for about a day after an Amina class.

Taking longer than usual to haul myself out of my apartment, I got to the gym about a minute late and saw that the class had already started and the students were lying on their mats stretching with their legs up in the air and spread apart. There was no sign of Amina whom I assumed was in the 'back' changing the music so I quickly grabbed a mat and set myself down next to the other students and joined them in the inner thigh stretch. 

As it turned out, I actually joined the last few minutes of the class before that was running over schedule and suddenly from the backroom Antoine emerged. Merde! I haven't seen him since our last sleazy incident and here we were reunited where from his point of view, I had magically appeared in his class and was posing spread eagle. Great.

"America can't wait to move her body," he said with his hands on his hips and a warm smile, "The next class is starting in 5 minutes, ma belle." The rest of class chuckled, I meekly apologized and me and my little mat went to wait on the benches by the door. 

Three minutes later, the class had ended and I took my spot again and tried to look athletic by stretching with a serious look on my face. I normally take Antoine's hyper-aerobics class where there are about 35 people to blend in with but today it was just 5 of us where I could feel another episode looming. Normally, these booty classes are taught by women. And rightfully so. Where's Amina when you need her?

During class, Antoine, whose eyes sparkle like La Côte d'Azur in August couldn't resist 'adjusting' me during each exercise as I was in compromising positions wearing my embarrassing bottom-of-the-barrel pink sweatpants that say 'Juicy' on the butt. I tried my best to mirror him in order to prevent him from coming over to 'help' but apparently I wasn't doing anything right because he was all up in my business. His touch on my hips was giving me visible goosebumps and made the hair on my neck stand up which he had noticed. Damn him. "Vous avez froid?" he asked wanting to know if I was cold as he positioned himself behind me while I was on all fours. No one in the class seemed to blink an eye over our offensive position and the fact that if we were naked we could easily be having sex. Mortified, I started laughing out of nervousness and kept saying 'ok, c'est bon' as a hint to shoo him away. Seriously, it's fine, I'd rather do it wrong. And to answer his question, no I wasn't cold, I was the exact opposite. 

His charm is so annoying because every time I leave his class, I feel like I just cheated on my boyfriend who by the way gets a kick out of the Antoine stories. "Horny French!" he always exclaims when I share my tales from the gym. I'm glad he is more entertained than I am while I feel like the American guinea pig who is being tested on how much vulgarity she can take.

The next time I see him, I am going to do the unspoken. Something deemed as direct by French standards. Something so unheard of that would make any Parisian gasp in shock and horror. I'm going to give him a good old fashioned American hug, like one of those tight bear hugs that can linger on for a minute or two and pull him out of his comfort zone a bit! See how he likes it. 

Bon week-end tout le monde!

Day 159: Be Immature.

 Illustration by Kelly Smith

This post is not for clean-minded, mature folk. So if you are this, I advise you to check back tomorrow. Me, not being mature, having the mind of a 10 year old boy who will always see the dirty side to a joke, take great pleasure out of things like this.

Let's flashback 6 months where Monsieur Flâneur and I were having one of our final "conversations". It was an annoyingly cheerful sunny afternoon in March and he had helped me move into my new apartment in the Marais. After all was done, we stood awkwardly in the hallway where his default was to launch into his speech that he didn't know what he wanted and needed time to sort things out - alone. Emotionally exhausted from his played out excuses for ending things, I faded out and set my eyes on the banister while feigning interest in his words in order to hide how hurt I was. When my eyes came back into focus, I couldn't help but laugh at what I was looking at.



Can you see it? If you see something other than a wrought-iron curlycue banister then it's not just me. I can just picture the blacksmith who was casting this, laughing his ass off while making it. This is so on purpose...come on.

"Why are you laughing?" MF asked confused why I would suddenly make light during our "deep" talk. Wanting to just change the subject for the love of God, I just came out with it, "Doesn't the design on the banister look like lined-up penises?". After the words came out of my mouth I bursted out into laughter while pointing at my new offensive stairwell railing. MF looked at them it and then at me, called me crazy and said that he'll call me later that week to see how I was 'doing', meaning was I going to hang myself because he decided he didn't want to marry me anymore. Please.

Coming home from Franprix last night with Séb, as I was fumbling with the keys, he had set our groceries down on the hallway floor, squinted through his thick Buddy Holly glasses and started laughing, "Why are there dicks on your banister?" he asked with the grin of a 12 year old pleased with his new discovery. "You really are a coquine!" I looked at him and smiled. He might just be the perfect guy for me.

Dick-designed banisters, only in France, only in France...

Day 158: Embrace Change.



On my usual commute to work this morning, I passed the botanical body shop Aesop where I normally take a squirt of the vanilla lotion sample bottles they have set against the building's facade and to my delight, I found that the floor inside was completely covered with real fall leaves! Fall is here and apparently, I'm not the only one excited about this! How incredible is this? That's taking visual merchandising to the next level.

I remember during one of my many post-break-up late night phone calls to my aunt Terry out in L.A she said to me "I promise that you are going to have an amazing fall," in her attempt in trying to comfort me during another sleepless night, "And you will get through this. Please believe me." I didn't believe her. I was convinced that I was destined to feel awful for the rest of my life. I know, ridiculous but I was convinced that I was going to stay heartbroken and not notice the foliage just like I didn't notice the spring flowers and the longer days. I felt like the change was somehow mocking me because I wasn't evolving but everything else around me seemed to be. 

Fast forward 6 months, I am noticing the changes and am embracing them and not just in the weather. 


Aesop
64, rue Vieille du Temple
75003 Paris

Day 157: Make an Autumn Playlist.


Smell is the strongest form of sense memory but following that is sound and every fall I make a playlist, a soundtrack for the season, if you will. When I hear these songs, it sweeps me back to autumn seasons gone by, whether I was driving up Santa Monica Boulevard in my beat-up Volvo, spending a lazy Sunday in Brooklyn noshing on brunch while reading the NY Times Style Section or stopping to have a noisette at a brasserie on Avenue de la Motte Picquet, autumn has always had a way of giving me a sense of calm and comfort like no other season.

I started making these mix tapes (which turned into CDs, then iPod playlists to now youtube mixes) in 92 but to spare you Color Me Badd's "I Adore Mi Amore" or Jeremy Jordan's "Right Kind of Love", I'll just recap my favorite tracks from the past 10 years, along with this year's new additions.

Happy Autumn.
 
2000 Miles Davis - Autumn Leaves
2000 Rufus Wainwright - Greek Song
2001 Shuggie Otis - Inspiration Information
2001 Zero 7 - I Have Seen
2002 Paul McCartney - Vanilla Sky
2003 Si*Se - Slip Away
2004 Stereolab - Need to Be
2004 The Shins - Saint Simon
2005 Colored Shadows - Life After Love
2006 Blur - Tender
2006 Regina Spektor - Hotel Song
2007 Feist - I Feel It All 
2007 Cat Power - Willie
2008 Coconut Records - It's Not You, It's Me
2008 The Weepies - Riga Girls
2009 Matthieu Chedid - Le Roi Des Ombres
2010 Matthieu Chedid - Onde Sensuelle
2010 Nouvelle Vague - Week-end à Rome
2011 General Electriks - The Spark
2011 Benny Sings - Brown Eyes
2011 Feist - You Never Go There 
2011 François and the Atlas Mountain - Les plus beaux

To listen to the playlist in its entirety click here

Enjoy!

Day 155: Pardon Your French!


In an effort to soften the blow of not going to cousin Vinny's wedding, Aurel and I went to a birthday party of a friend of his friend Thomas who lives in one of the high-rise apartment buildings along the Canal St. Martin. The view of Paris with the almost half moon sparkling along the canal was beautiful but not enough to forget that I was missing a very important event. That's what the wine is for.

After a few drinks at a party, what normally happens is that my French becomes Franglais. It's little things where instead of saying appareil photo, I'll say camera or instead of baladeur, I'll say iPod. Whatever. Changes that hardly make the conversation unbearable, just a drop more Anglo. 

There was a chick who did the most unholy thing I can think of by nixing Madonna for songs from the Sister Act 2 soundtrack. What was wrong with her? So I made a remark about the movie and the girl with her faux-rockabilly style and sour pout that she kept making whenever she'd pass a mirror, looked at her friends for approval before slowly turning to me with a smirk and said, "Non, le movie." This induced her friends to start cackling like witches at my "mistake." Sorry, le film. What struck me as ironic was that they were only playing music in English and trying to sing the lyrics. So seriously, who was laughing now? 

Later in the night, I heard the birthday girl ask Aurel why he brought some stupid American girl to the party with a terrible accent who can't even speak French. Now that hurt my feelings. I do speak French damn it and I really did try to be nice to everyone, especially this girl where I even wrote her a cute little note in her birthday card. While my formal French can use a tune-up, I can certainly hold my own and blend in at a party where topics are pretty fucking basic. In her weird defense, she also fell down on the floor with her skirt up revealing her thong while holding the bottle of Ricard that was glued to her hand all night after saying this. Being drunk is never an excuse for being mean, but it was her birthday, so...

If this dumb girl thinks that my French is bad now, she would have died if she knew me when I first came here. Let me share with you the biggest blunder I have ever made here. Brace yourself.

Picture it. A Parisian suburb. Christmas Eve dinner. 2009. Chez mon ex-fiancé. Getting old comes with new problems or 'kinks' as my mother calls it and one of them is my new found allergy to beets. I had eaten some the day before Christmas Eve unknowingly and woke up the following day looking like a beet. My skin was red, itchy and peeling. I called Monsieur Flâneur who was already out at his grandparents and told him that I had eaten something weird (not knowing the word for beet) and that I was going to look a little "raw" at dinner. "C'est pas grave." he said blowing off my concern and just wanted to know which train I was going to take out to Chaville. At the time, he was madly in love with me so I could do no wrong or look ugly. I was perfect. Funny how quickly things changed but anyway.

Trying to cover up my red face with pounds of mineral powder that was doing nothing short of making me look sick, I sucked it up and headed to the métro for my first Christmas in France. He picked me up at the RER station in Chaville and since it was dark out, he didn't see the severity of my face. "Ça va." he said while giving me a kiss on the nose. Ok, ça va, maybe it wasn't so bad. Because we were running late, we got to his grandmother's house and went straight to the table where the family was waiting for us to eat. Under the light of the dining room, my face was revealed. His grandmother looked at me and asked if I was ok as I looked like I was getting a chemical peel at the table.

"Je suis allergique aux 'beets'" I announced to the table feeling ill at ease over the fact that I looked so awful. There was dead silence as his grandmother, grandfather, father, mother, cousins, aunts and uncles looked at me. "Chérie, pourquoi t'as dit ça?" MF asked me wondering why I would say such a thing with intense concern, his eyes turning black as he looked into me. Confused, I brushed it off and continued, "T'étais là quand j'ai mangé des 'beets'. Tu te souviens pas?" His eyes widened and his little cousin spit out his Coca upon hearing me say this. 

Let's take a few steps back. When I don't know a word in French, I'll sub it with a word in English and just say it with a French accent. 9 out of 10 times, this method is quite effective. But not this night because the word for beets is (what I know now and will never forget as long as I live) is betterave and the word beet when said with a French accent is slang for penis. I announced to his entire family that I am allergic to cock and that my boyfriend, their son was present while I was eating it. Oh yes, this in fact happened.

"Americans are out of their minds!" his grandfather said jovially with a full mouth of salmon fume. "Oh là là, desolé mon fils! Tant pis pour toi!" MF's father said consoling his son. Fortunately for me, his family is cool and they broke out into laughter once they realized that I am not allergic to their son's zizi and more importantly, wasn't disrespecting them. His little cousins spent the better part of the night chanting "Je suis allergique aux bites! Je suis allergique aux bites!" using me as their excuse to scream profanities while playing with their new toys.

This week has been colorful in regards to my French. I have never had malentendus like this before but all I can say is thank god the incident with the girls didn't happened when I first moved here otherwise it would have really discouraged me. I know that I have come a long way in my progression and while yes, I just recently sent an email to my professor saying that he can lick me, these moments truly are few and far between and I don't have sexual tourrettes in French. I promise! There will always be mistakes, bitchy girls, missed events but that's what makes life, life. Nothing is a 100%.

Saying that, here's hoping for a better week.