Day 201: Write a Guest Blog Post.

Illustration by Nan Lawson

On a late night google search hunting down other blogs to discover, I stumbled across the fabulous Simply Solo: Single Girl Starting Over. Sound like anyone you know?

After reading several posts, a favorite being a dissection on why Mr. Big from Sex and the City is a bad influence and in short is kind of an asshole, I simply had to e-mail the author Catherine to offer my praise! Catherine promptly wrote back and after taking a peek at my blog, offered me to write a guest post for her site.

Frankly, I was a little nervous to submit an article to another blog. Being the editor-in-chief, art director, copy-editor, proof-reader, research manager and assistant, publisher and intern gives me carte blanche over the material published here at the world-renowned Tales from the Chambre de Bonne where I'm aware of my audience and am able to experiment. I haven't written my experience for anyone else before and what if she hated what I wrote?

I decided to throw caution to the wind and do what I know how to do best and write from the heart. Here's what I whipped up:
Getting Dumped in Paris

Thank you, Catherine for including me in your empowering blog! I wish I found you back when I was in the "thick of it"!  

Merci mille fois.

Day 200: Be a Winner.

Isn't winning such an awesome feeling? I particularly like winning a prize in a raffle drawing. Something about being chosen and rewarded at random as being more special than the people currently surrounding you who by cruel default are losers can secretly brighten anyone's day. I won a raffle contest once and fought the urge to feign modesty and that I thought someone else deserved it. When it comes to raffles, it's fair and square where winner takes all, or at least all that's being offered. I've always loved the feeling of hoping to win something but after this weekend's experience, I will never enter my name in a drawing again. These life lessons are really kicking in before the new year, leaving no stone left unturned.

So the first time I won a raffle was at a Franco-Soiree in New York where the prize was an imported French cheese platter. While I was delighted with my three week's supply of cheese from select regions of France, the commuters on the the J/M/Z subway failed to share my joy. I was dumb, I should have taken the L Train where the hipsters would have appreciated my Euro-initiative and probably would have pretended to know which region each cheese came from after proclaiming that they spoke French "un petit peu". The passengers on the J/M/Z, a more authentic BK ride weren't impressed with my non-pasteurized authentic gems from France and weren't afraid to vocalize their disgust. Something about the melange of the pungent smell of the Brie de Meaux, the equally aromatic Camembert and the force not to be reckoned with, Vieux Boulogne warranted a "Yo, that bitch stinks!" comment from a young boy who went by the name, Little Papi. How did I know that was his "name"? Little Papi spoke in third person. Seriously. I raised the volume on my headphones to block out the comments of Little Papi whose second concern after his disgust for my cheese platter was complaining to his "dog" that he needed a bag of chips because he was 'mad' hungry. If he was nicer I would have offered him proper sustenance that I was clearly in abundance of. Tant pis pour lui! My roommate Claire also didn't appreciate the platter that stunk up our entire apartment for the proceeding weeks. Life was hard being a Francophile in the hard, cold neighborhood of Southside Williamsburg. There was just no love. 

My second direct raffle experience was with Aurelien this weekend. We went down to Fontainebleau for a 30th birthday celebration of Davide, a friend he went to high school with. This would be my first time meeting Davide because while him and Aurelien have been good friends since childhood they seldom see each other in their adult lives. Ca arrive. We arrived at the catering hall and Davide attentively introduced us to each guest during cocktail hour. It was overwhelming. Let's do the math here, 50 French people times one kiss on each equals 100 kisses, add 12 more kisses for the group of Swiss extended family who gave three kisses, minus 4 for the Germans who don't kiss at all and add 16 more for the expressive Italians who gave 4 each, totals to about 120 kisses. I had to listen in on their accents to forecast where my mouth was going to go after the initial introduction. After the kiss fest, I was dizzy and in need of a drink. Me needing a drink? What else is new...

The theme of the party was black and white where there were white candles set on black tablecloths, white drapes hanging from the rafters decorated by black balloons and the guests were in one color of the other. This was a little detail Aurelien failed to remind me of and not only was I not wearing black or white, I was wearing a bright Marc by Marc Jacobs plaid dress. A dress that is cute for the day or a ride through the pumpkin patch in Upstate New York but ridiculous for a themed black and white gala in France. It was actually the first time I was pissed at him because I stuck out like a sore thumb. Leave it to a guy to neglect dress code details.

After cocktail hour, we were invited to find our seats for dinner. I was thankful to finally sit down because my bright purple wool dress in a sea of sleek black and white made me feel like what I can imagine reality stars feel like when in the company of accomplished and celebrated A-list actors; ridiculous and out of place. Not even the wine got me out of this one. Davide's uncle who doubled as the DJ and referred to himself as DJ Uncle Bou Bou came around with a bag to collect the place-card settings for a raffle drawing that would take place later in the evening to win cash and/or prizes. With confidence that my luck had worn out with the cheese platter victory of 2008 and the number of guests present, the probability of having my name drawn would be close to inconceivable. I was more than happy to sit this contest out, I didn't need any more attention drawn to myself.

After dinner and making "party-friends" with a sweet couple from Lyon who was sat next to us, it was time for the contest. DJ Uncle Bou Bou pulled a card out of the bag and my name was called. My name?! Come on. There was a table of fun prizes like bottles of champagne, wine, mini Christmas trees and ornaments that lured me in to accept my fate. I smiled, mouthed 'merci' to DJ Uncle Bou Bou and walked over to the prize table to collect my winnings. 

Not so fast, Missy! Unfortunately for this round, the prize was not offered at the winner's table. The prize was to give a speech in honor of Davide; the birthday boy. Are you kidding me? I had to give a speech?! In a room full of close to 70 people. 70 people that I didn't know. Give a speech - in French?! I saw the gates of hell open before my eyes. I hate giving speeches. I hate giving speeches in French even more. I took a public speaking class in high school in an attempt to improve projecting my voice before a crowd but walked away with a lazy C- and never thought about it again.

I looked at Aurelien who told me that I didn't have to do it but when the room started chanting my name and tapping their wine glasses with their knives, I felt that I had no choice but deliver what the people wanted. I'm a shameless people-pleaser. So it was decided, I was going to give a speech on behalf of someone whom I've known for an hour and 45 minutes and it painfully went something like this: "Thank you for to have me invited at your beautiful party. The food is good. I hope you will all have the best night of your life. Davide seems kind. Your town is special. Happy Holidays. Thank you. Thank you very much." I sounded like an idiot. The speech would have gone like this even in English. I can't blame this one on French being my second language, it was just ten times worse with my horrible accent and shaky voice.

"Ma chou!!!Aurelien said with his arms out as I went back to the table feeling like an idiot. I didn't exactly feel as cute as a little cabbage but accepted my boyfriend's affection. As it was later revealed, the first drawing was supposed to be for Davide's father who was dressed in a tuxedo and had prepared a speech for his son but DJ Uncle Bou Bou had a few too many glasses of Sancerre during dinner and forgot that he was supposed to grab the card hidden in the interior pocket of the pouch to rig the contest for the speech. Of course, he pulled my name at random out of the bag.

Because Davide's family felt bad about what had happened, they sent us home with two bottles of champagne with their sincere apologies for DJ Uncle Bou Bou's drunken oversight. Sincere apologies? Damn, my speech really was that horrific.

I learned two things this weekend: 1. Sometimes winning sucks and 2. Purple plaid doesn't translate after 5 pm.

Day 198: Evolve!

As December is creeping up on us, little by little the Christmas lights are finally being illuminated on the street casting a dreamlike essence of this already beautiful city. Unlike in The U.S where once the lights are put up in, like, October, they are also turned on. Here, they wait a bit where after the lights have been put up they won't be turned on until weeks later.

Anticipating the illumination of the lights along the Champs-Elysées that over the past 3 years have kicked-off the holiday season for me, I have to say that I am disappointed with this year's design. In lieu of last year's twinkling blue lights that were more traditional and appeared to be dripping off the trees that line the famous boulevard, this year is an eco-friendly conceptual design that's reminiscent of something out of 2001: A Space Odyssey. Not very Christmas-y, if you ask me.

While nothing turned out how I had planned and if I had a glimpse of what my life would become this time last year, I'd probably have fainted from total shock. But again, everything happens the way it's supposed to and change allows us to evolve and grow. Even the Champs-Elysées is moving on to a new era.

Last year I made this video of all the Christmas lights in Paris from The Eiffel Tower to Oberkampf for my Aunt Terri who was suffering through an L.A heatwave. Enjoy this super cheesy time machine back to 2010.

Bon week-end!

Day 197: Embrace the Holidays.

Don't hate me for reporting this but now that Thanksgiving is over, the Christmas season is officially here. Wow, where did this year go? And how am I going to survive this holiday season being so broke?! Chaque choses en son temps...

Before heading to our work T-gives dinner yesterday I went to the gym to burn some pre-feast calories. I made the mistake of telling Antoine, my inconveniently attractive aerobics instructor that it was Thanksgiving and explained that I would be stuffing my face this weekend. He took into account what I had said and severely kicked not only my ass but the rest of the students in a double class of Body Attack and Taille/Abdos/Fessiers.

In my entire French fitness career, I have never heard any of the other students groan from the pain except for yesterday where the complaints were a-pourin'. "C'est pas possible!", "C'est pas vrai!", "C'est horrible!", "Aye! Ca fait mal, putain!", "C'est méphistopholique!" It's Mephistopheles-esque? It's evil? Ok, that one was pushing it. It hurt but not like a cone biopsy in the caverns of hell hurt. When we got up from our 500th leg lift that was made excruciatingly more difficult with an elastic band around our ankles for resistance, the class wasn't just annoyed but they were pretty pissed. "It's not Thanksgiving for us!" one woman shouted. "Why should we have to suffer!? We're not American!" another woman added in agreement. Dressed brazenly American in an old Minnesota Twins t-shirt and embarrassing Victoria's Secret yoga pants that read 'Pink' on the butt, I kept my eyes glued to the floor because I had a felt the heat of everyone's eyes on me. They really weren't joking, they were pissed. 

At the end of the class, as everyone was putting their mats and weights back, Antoine commented that while the class did a good job, it wasn't exceptional and that he would be expecting more work from our bodies than our mouths next week. He wished me a Bon Appétit and through the mirror, I caught a woman roll her eyes. My uncomfortable encounters with Antoine never cease to exist and now the other students were picking up on it.

Today is Black Friday, Aurel point-blankly asked me if people were going to die today in America. I told that I hoped not but if the sales were good enough that it might be a possibility. He was horrified by my answer and I thought it would be best to shed light on why fatalities have occurred over Christmas sales in the past. I explained that the stores will mark select quantities of items on sale which creates a sense of urgency or chaos if you will. For example, I remember one year only 100 Sex and the City: The Movie DVDs were marked on sale for $9.99 which reeked havoc at Best Buy because everyone just had to get their hands on the blockbuster smash turned perfect stocking stuffer but wanted nothing to do with it at its normally marked price of $19.99. He was still horrified. I love shocking the French.

To celebrate Black Friday here in Paris, I'm going to get buzzed on vin chaud sold at the Christmas vendors along the Champs-Elysées and walk down Avenue Montaigne and daydream about beautiful things that I can't buy. At least I'll be pompette on cheap, sugary hot wine. The trick is to go to with an empty Starbucks cup and pay an extra euro and bat your eyelashes to have it filled up or buy two and dump it in the cup yourself. If nothing, I'm resourceful. Now that the holidays have officially started, I refuse to skip my holiday songs on my iPod which means Mariah, The Waitresses, Wham! and of course, Elvis will be ready to rock around my mini fake Christmas tree with me!

To my all of you in The States, stay home and go shopping next week and my friends in Paris bon week-end!

Also, thank you all for your warm Thanksgiving wishes!

Day 195: Merci.

Illustration by Fifi Flowers

Gobble, gobble tout le monde.

It's Thanksgiving! Which in Paris which means that I'll still be going to work tomorrow, there will be rush hour on the métro, all of the stores will be open and no one will care because it's not a national holiday here in France.

But I am still American therefore I must give thanks for all of the incredible gifts I have in my life.

Today I'm reminded to be thankful for:

- My fantastic new friends who inspire me as well as my solid gold oldies. I love you.
- Meeting Aurélien.
- My family...well most of them at least.
- Living in the most beautiful city in the world.
- For being able to finally recognize that everything in life happens for a reason.
- Taking on the challenges of this year with humor and becoming a stronger person from this experience.
- Cheap wine options in Paris to help cope with aforementioned challenges.
- That Monsieur Flâneur dumped me! Thank God!
- This blog. This is what saved me.
- And for my amazing readers who "listen" to me bitch and moan day in and day out as I sort through the "Lifetime: Television for Women" movie that has become my life.

Happy Thanksgiving et merci beaucoup!

Day 194: Make a "Casse-Toi" Playlist!

I recently received an e-mail from Monsieur Flâneur. I know, what is it now? Apparently he saw photos of Kitty's wedding and wanted to tell me that I looked beautiful.

His e-mail was nice but it's about six months too late.

I admit that the message warmed my heart and opened some old feelings - for a hot, fleeting second before I was swiftly brought back to reality and thought about everything that has happened since the break-up in February. 

I do forgive MF...but from a distance. If it wasn't for this experience, I wouldn't have overcome challenges that have helped me grow into who I am now; someone stronger, wiser and more aware. I also wouldn't have met the new friends in my life who support and inspire me where before I was surrounding myself with toxic, negative and judgmental people. Whenever I doubt my decision to emotionally move on or if I soften up after getting a little attention from him, I listen to this playlist that reminds me that we just weren't meant to say the very least.

Lady Gaga - Marry the Night
Marianne Faithfull - Why D'ya Do It?
Liz Phair - 6" 1'
Amy Winehouse - In My Bed
Carrie Underwood - Before He Cheats
Madonna - Sorry 
Lunachicks - Don't Want You
Christina Aguilera - Slow Down Baby
Faith Evans - You Gets No Love
Maroon 5 - Makes Me Wonder
Aerosmith - Cryin'
Brigitte Bardot - Ne me laisser pas l'aimer 
Scandal - Goodbye to You
Sheryl Crow - Don't Hurt 
Duffy - Delayed Devotion
Jennifer Lopez - Ain't It Funny (Remix) 
Sebadoh - Ocean 
Rolling Stones - Under My Thumb
Britney Spears - Stronger
Linda Ronstadt - You're No Good

To listen to the playlist in its entirety, click here

Day 193: Be a Voyeur.

After yesterday's mini-Gainsbourg tour, I decided to continue my little rive gauche vacation since I'm never on this side of town for pleasure and hunt down a glass of wine and something to nibble on to curb my hunger before dinner. I have a habit of staying in my nook of the 3rd, 4th and 11th and neglecting what this city has to offer outside of "Boboland".

I was planning to go to one of my favorite left bank haunts, Les Editeurs, when I walked by the darling little wine and cheese shop La Crèmerie that was just begging me to come in. I couldn't resist, I had always wanted to go here back when I was frequenting this neighborhood but was too shy to take on what seemed like an authentic French establishment and feared that my communication skills would have been inadequate.

I walked in and was practically hit in the face by the delicious smell of fresh, farm-raised, unpasteurized cheese and nestled in the only available table in between two groups of American tourists who also had the same idea of a late-afternoon snack. 

I was enjoying a festive glass of beaujolais nouveau and a goat cheese plate drizzled in seasoned olive oil and being alone, I couldn't help but listen in on the conversations of my neighbors. I miss the days when Paris through my fresh eyes was exciting, funny, weird and exhilarating, so I enjoy the observations of visitors.

I'd like to say that this is my first time eavesdropping on American tourists but having spent a lot of time alone here and having an addiction to coffee, wine and books, I have done this before where without fail there are very specific profiles mixed in with your everyday traveler.

There's the pretentious one traveling with his thirty-something group of friends and who took French in high school or perhaps studied abroad his sophomore year of college. He insists on upstaging his friends by speaking in broken and out-dated French while they carry on efficiently with the server who is fluent in English. 

There's the loudmouth who speaks octaves above everyone else who compares everything to back home; the service, the prices, the decor. These people are typically New Yorkers where the comment "If we were in New York, this guy would have been fired!" always manages to come up in reference to the slower service. 

There's the teenager who is tapping away on his iPhone and would rather be playing Call of Duty on Playstation than enjoying a cultural vacation with his parents who have maps, cameras and tour books sprawled out on the table. He's usually with his sister who is wearing pounds of make-up and wants pictures of herself taken in front of the Chanel store to be uploaded immediately as her facebook profile pic. 

There's the single girl who seems terrified of the menu and the waitstaff and fears that if she doesn't speak perfect French then she will be slaughtered alive. She speaks in whispers so no one knows that she's a tourist which then makes the exchange even more uncomfortable when she has to repeat herself. This profile used to be me and sometimes still is. 

And then my favorite, the boyfriend who is taking his girlfriend to Paris as a romantic gesture because she's always wanted to come here. He's too big for the teeny brasserie chairs and has the expression on his face reads: "I don't get what the big deal is with this place. Everything is small, we keep getting lost, I'm still hungry after we eat and all the dudes here seem gay." 

Like all places, after a couple of years, Paris has become my home, part of the norm where I'm desensitized by the town's little nuances. Lately I have been reminiscing about my early days where this place could do no wrong and everyday was an adventure not a struggle. 

Séb recently asked me if I regretted leaving my stable life of a good job, salary and apartment in New York to coming here, learning another language and taking many steps back. I admit that I find myself asking this question from time to time and more often than not, the answer is no, not at all. This experience has added another facet of who I am. Like the Fellini quote "A different language is a different vision of life."

9, rue des Quatre Vents
75006 Paris

Day 191: Visit Serge Gainsbourg.

When I try to describe Serge Gainsbourg to my American friends who aren't familiar with this French icon, it's difficult to sum him up with a quick comparison. He has more range than Sinatra, more than madness than Cash, more vulgarity than Jagger and more charisma than Elvis. His sound ranges from his early days of jazz and pop to spoken word, experimental, reggae to his final days of electroclash and dance. His lyrics are poetic yet sleazy, clever yet simple and saturated with metaphors and obscurities that would make any new French student whose desperate to understand crazy from the double entendres. I'm talking about myself here. Séb always chuckles and nods at his lyrics that go right over my head. Most of them do, but not all...

"Et ses seins, deux spheres, entre lesquelles, J'abandonnais deux mois de salaire, Pour y rouler mon pauvre joint." J'adore. C'est tellement cochon...c'est tellement moi...

I decided to have a theme day on this gorgeous Saturday afternoon and visit Serge's grave and his home wearing my white Repetto jazz shoes, no socks and jeans. I thought I would have visited his grave when I first arrived in Paris but ended up waiting two and half years later to visit one of my favorite songwriters. Bref, on top of being a coquine, I'm a terrible procrastinator. Today, I crossed one more thing off of my France To-Do list.

Serge's family grave at Montparnasse Cemetary

 Chez Serge

The contrast between Serge's home and the bourgeois 6th arrondissement is absolutely incredible. The neighbors cringe at the eyesore located in this otherwise upscale rive gauche neighborhood where they rallied up and painted over the graffiti to find that it was tagged up again by fans and unfortunately vandelisers days later.  

The house is still owned by Charlotte and everything inside is exactly the way it was when he died in 1991. The ashtrays are full with his Gitanes, his shoes and clothes are where they were when he last took them off as well and as his collectibles, art and photographs which are precisely where he had set them down. Nothing has been touched, just the exploded cans of food and perishables. Understandably so.

Je t' non plus.
A sketch outside Serge's home by Joann Sfarr 
the director of the incredible Gainsbourg biopic; La Vie Héroïque

Serge has been a big part of my French life; from being the new girl in town in my first apartment at La Motte-Picquet, experiencing dating in Paris, weathering the trials and tribulations of new and often fleeting friendships, getting engaged then getting dumped to now starting over and loving life again in Paris. There has always been a Serge song to match my emotional climate, be it Gainsbourg or the less attractive Gainsbarre....  

Day 189: Kvetch!

By default, Friday posts are turning into me kvetching about annoying things that happen at work followed by a French pop song discovery. Being a creature of habit and generally not having enough time to write out a proper post because Fridays at work are chaotic, I thought I'd stick to old faithful until further notice.

Today as I was taking my lunch break in the kitchen, away from the madness of up-coming deadlines peppered with poor communication and reading the incredibly entertaining Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris, Clémence stomped in. She felt completely entitled to interrupt me mid-bite and sentence to ask me why the stamp machine is off balance. How annoying. I get 30 minutes to breathe and I intentionally eat in the kitchen to be away from the phone and my desk to fully enjoy my meal in peace. I passive-aggressively chewed my sandwich while answering her question that could have easily waited another 15 minutes since the mailman wasn't due for another three hours. I made sure to mention this with a full mouth of lettuce. 

I feel bad for writing this but I find Clémence unbearable. Somewhere between her falsely referring to me as her secretary, almost slicing my neck when I opened one of her envelopes by mistake or the fact that without fail she always changes the settings on the copy machine where I find myself collating 200 pages of paper. By hand. She manages to consistently irritate me. But maybe I'm just grouchy on Friday...

...that's why I need French pop, to pull me out of my funk and get ready for the weekend! You guys just might kill me for getting this stuck in your head because I promise, it will stay there for a while. This song started as a joke between Aurel and me as being one of the most annoying songs currently played on French radio but as with most annoying songs, I surrender to the cheese and end up liking them, if not loving them after several listens. I can't help it, it's just so damn catchy! And please, for the love of god, look at the redhead dancer who incidentally looks like my landlady to the right of Inna. She is the music video. 

Bon week-end! 

Day 187: Hazy Shade of Winter.

 Illustration by Fifi Flowers

I'm back in France and it's official; winter is here. It's gloomy, bone-chilling and damp. The vin chaud vendors and Christmas cheer is what's keeping me from feeling slightly wistful since I just came from golden autumn scenic bliss to now grey gloom and doom. I'm trying to fight the jetlag which is always tough when going from the States to Europe. Being six hours behind is so much worse than being six hours ahead where I feel like all I want to do is sleep.

The flight over was seamless and was pleased that there was an available business class seat where I could try to sleep the entire trip in the hopes of jumping right into Paris time. I arrived at seat 3J and someone was sitting in it. I hate when this happens. It seems nitpicky to have the other person move, especially when both seats are on the aisle, but unfortunately, I have been in this predicament before and have regretted it. It was a flight from LAX to JFK and a girl about my age was sitting in my seat, I told her to just stay in it and I'd take her seat, the one behind her. No big deal, right?

This girl was an absolute horror to the flight attendants referring to them as stewardesses, asking how the meat was prepared and if there were organic options, sent her food back not once but twice, insisted on tasting each wine on the cart and pressed the flight attendant call-button several times during the flight for inane questions, one being if any of them had seen the movie Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous (yes, she said the title in full) because she didn't want to start it if it wasn't good. Behavior like this, in general, makes me cringe, even more so on planes because I would hate it if someone treated my mother like this and even more so when the person being abused thinks it's me because we failed to tell the flight crew that we had changed seats. Per their paperwork, this high maintenance princess was me, daughter of a flight attendant who was traveling on a Family Passenger ticket and acting like a complete ass. 

The following week, my mother received a note in her work mailbox from the purser telling her to review Family Passenger travel rules to her entitled daughter. My mother wanted to murder me for not telling the crew that we had switched seats.

Eight years later, I am in the same situation and now know better to just tell the flight attendant that we switched to avoid identity confusion as well as plucking a sweet elderly woman out of her seat. Pleasingly, the outcome was different and I wished I hadn't told the flight attendant that we had switched because I wished I was her! She's what I hope to be when I'm of that age. We started talking from across the aisle and I learned that she was in town for an annual ice-skating event in Bercy, that Gossip Girls [sic] films on her street in New York and thinks that the actresses dress like "total hos" and that she received a degree in web programming when she went back to school at the age of 68. She was sassy, smart, sharp and thought that I was 16 years old. God bless her. I'd like to think it's because of my youthful good looks that she assumed this but have a sneaking suspicion it's because of the zit forming on the tip of my nose that led her to believe I was a teenager.

The woman next to me was also a pleasure to talk to. We enjoyed watching Bridesmaids together, drinking champagne and talking about relationships, love and starting over in life. So much for getting that full nights sleep that I was banking on. One of the lines in the film stood out as ironic to me: "There's much more sense of community in coach." referring to one of the characters not being able to afford first class like her friends. This made me chuckle because if anything it's the exact opposite. It's always in the premium class cabins that I chat up with my neighbor after several glasses of wine. I've had conversations about divorces, horrible boyfriends, cheating wives, new relationships, quitting jobs, French and American politics, wine, fashion and food with complete strangers in business class. In coach, especially on an overnight flight, I always manage to sit next to the person who is pissed off because they couldn't get an upgrade, complains to me about the flight attendants, doesn't share the armrest or the absolute worst, faces me while sleeping with their mouth open. It's always an adventure when traveling. Please know that I am fully aware of this privilege thanks to my mom, and should the day I have children know I will no longer have access to this because non-rev babies aren't allowed in the premium cabin, so I'm milking it now. 

After immigration check, baggage claim and a delightful and intimate RER train ride from CDG to the city during rush hour with a suitcase the size of me, I was finally back at my apartment. As it turns out, my landlady who had been in and out of my flat for repairs had completely rearranged everything. She stripped my bedding, leaving me to make it after arriving on an overnight flight at 6:30 am, stored my toiletries in the back caverns of my cabinet having me search for ten minutes longer than I would like to for my face wash, my mugs were moved and little things one would need immediately after a long flight were out of place. She left a note saying that I would be held responsible for damages done by the shady sublet and that we would have a meeting later in the week. It certainly wasn't the warmest return back and plan on dealing with it after a long rest.

Tonight I'm going to torture Aurélien with a gourmet dinner of Kraft Mac n' Cheese with cut up weenies inside (for protein, obviously) and if I never mention his name on this blog again, you'll know why. It will be because he left me after I offended his refined palette with my poor taste in American cuisine. It feels good to be back in Paris.

Day 186: See The Girl Who Robbed You.

Illustration by Garance Doré

Since August, there hasn't been a week that has gone by without a sublet robbery story. I swear, I'll be 90 years old and still be dealing with her as she gives me back the things that she stole in piecemeal. As aforementioned, I realized that she had more of my things and unfortunately, I had to meet with her to collect them. Having her mail them would only buy her time, and naturally, some crisis with the postal service would occur, preventing her to return items that never belonged to her. You hear that crazy subletter  - items that never belonged to you. Why is this concept so difficult for you to grasp?

After her canceling on me several times and changing the time at the last minute, my mother and I were finally able to get to honor her commitment and met her on a gloomy autumn afternoon in Albertson. We pulled into Da Vinci's parking lot and there she was, waiting in her car to hand over the hot items. This is the first time I had seen her since the summer. The last time we saw each other was in Paris where we were having dinner with Monsieur Flâneur at Le Chinon in the Marais where I was completely oblivious to the fact that I was breaking bread with two morally inept sociopaths, or as my mother simply calls them; total a-holes.

Approaching her in the parking lot, I tapped on her car window and she rolled her eyes at the sight of me as if it was me who was inconveniencing her. N'importe quoi. She got out of the car and handed over a garbage bag that contained my grandmother's black long cashmere sweater, a chunky Anthropologie cardigan that I bought back when I worked there in high school and the only designer item I own that was paid retail; a navy blue J'Adore Dior t-shirt that my mom bought me for my 20th birthday at Harrod's on her first layover in London. 

My mother, of course, couldn't resist adding her two cents, repeating my questions and backing me up as if I was Diana Ross and she was one of The Supremes. "What were you thinking?" I'd ask which would then be followed by, "Yeah, what were you thinking?", "Do you have a soul?", "Yeah, do you have a soul?", "Is there anything else?", "Yeah exactly, is there anything else?". Thanks, Mom. The subletter couldn't give a straight answer, only excuses and frankly, she couldn't care less. She was bored with us. While my mother wanted answers, I just wanted to leave. My strong distaste for her is obvious and no longer have the energy to make snarky comments, I just want her to be gone.

The sublet claims that she will pay me back for the apartment damages and made sure to make her best puppy dog face feigning concern and regret over her bad decision of robbing me - it was all so embarrassing. She's not upset that she completed the third installment of the trifecta of my 2011 hell, it's obvious that she's upset because she got caught and exposed. Next time, crazy subletter, don't mess with a crazy Italian chick who has had a bad year.

It'll be a while before I wear these returned items because they smell like low-class trash and taking everything to get dry-cleaned at once would cost a fortune. Is this story coming to an end? I have no idea, I hope so. It seems to be the story that keeps on unraveling. Have I learned my lesson? Certainly. With this whole mess, it's no wonder that I'm having problems opening up to my current boyfriend. After everything that has happened this year, who can you trust? 

I'm just waiting for the latest discovery. She's already stolen my pants, perfume, and panties, what could possibly go missing next?

Day 185: Become a Mafioso.

A few weeks ago, Aurélien and I were having dinner with his best friend Matthieu and his girlfriend Anne-Laure and the topic of winter came up. They were complaining about how they weren't looking forward to the freezing season that lies before us all. After experiencing three winters in Paris and coming from New York where winters are bitter, icy, cruel and the wind blasts you in the face, forcing icicle tears, I'm not fearing the upcoming Parisian winter. At all. Winters in Paris are like winters in Seattle; cold, wet, gloomy yet manageable.

This conversation reminded me that I still had things left at Monsieur Flâneur's apartment. Oy vey, he has my snow boots, scarves, hats and doudoune (my puffy coat). These were things that I didn't need back in April when I was moving out of our apartment as the trees were irritatingly blooming their buds and summer kicked off earlier than usual. It's now November; the heat is on full and if this winter echoes last winter than I will need these frosty accouterments in approximately 3.5 weeks.

I made the mistake of bringing this up over dinner. I explained that I didn't want to see MF or subject my innocent friends to the long overdue 'collecting of the things' exercise and figured that the best person to do the job would be Eric, my uncle's driver. I know how weird and shady that sounds but allow me to explain; my uncle, who works in the food business comes to Paris often and his driver who has become a friend of mine and knows MF, would be more than happy to help me pick up my things.

Aurélien and Matthieu were clearly not listening to me and instead of hearing me say that 'my uncle's driver Eric who is in Paris' they heard 'my Italian uncle Richie who is in Paris' which then snowballed into a mafia scene of "Uncle Richie" showing up at MF's flat, speaking like The Godfather and holding out a gun saying "Gimme the puffy coat, gimme the puffy coat!" while scratching his chin before blowing him away with an AK-47.

The two of them entertained themselves for 20 minutes with this fabricated mafia scene that included gunshots, blood, dead ex-fiancés and the feathers of my puffy coat raining down MF's apartment in Oberkampf like glitter at Studio 54. Good Lord! Anne-Laure and I left them to their Coppola trilogy fantasy and went into the kitchen to make coffee. 

Apparently, their story continues and has moved from the big screen to HBO: this is what I found in my e-mail inbox this morning from the two of them:

Happy Monday mes amis!

Day 183: Make An Entrance.

Illustration by Garance Doré

Weddings have certainly evolved over the past fifteen years where the simple concept of dinner and dancing is deemed too casual. Invitations are now detailed with satin, cut-velvet and lace and could compete with interior decorating, limos are replaced with Bentleys and party buses, the food options are so abundant that you have already eaten four courses before your appetizer even arrives and entrances are more than just walking in and saying hello with a smile and wave, they're now an experience.

After an afternoon of mimosas and primping with Kitty and the other bridesmaids, staged photos, the mass, the party bus to the banquet hall in Brooklyn and cocktail hour, the reception was finally starting. By this point, I was exhausted and all I wanted to do was to sit down for ten minutes with a tall glass of cool water to regain some energy. 

I tried to sneak away to the banquet room with the other guests to fulfill my dream when I was stopped by a man whom I learned was the MC that used my bridesmaids dress as a tracking device to instruct me to line up with the rest of the bridal party for something called introductions. Introductions, I forgot that this is a staple in New York weddings where the MC introduces each member of the bridal party to the other guests like we're on a game show. I hate this tradition. I hate it not because I have problem being introduced to a crowd of strangers, I just have a sneaking suspicion that no one cares who I am and I can imagine that the forced merriment only makes it worse. The guests are there for the bride, groom and the booze - not the bridal party, a concept that the other self-centered bridesmaids who had two make-up trials and hair consultations done before the wedding were unable to grasp. I took evil pleasure seeing their faces call when reminding them that only the bride would be getting attention on her day.

My groomsman, who overall was a nice guy asked me what we were doing for our grand entrance. What were we doing? What did he mean? What more was there to do than walk out? "When we go out and have the MC announce us, what are we going to do?" he asked me again. "I don't understand the question." I honestly answered. It was true, I didn't understand what he was asking of me. I thought it was simple, we're announced, we go out, smile, add a few claps and proceed to our table, right? Apparently not.

As I was explaining my ration to my partner or the fact that I was unaware that we were supposed to provide entertainment, I looked around and saw that the other bridesmaids were rehearsing their entrance bits with their partners. Some girls were being twirled by their partners, another was wearing her partners tie while he was wearing her necklace while he fist-pumped around her in a circle, one girl had climbed on to the back of her partner while swinging an imaginary lasso, another couple was practicing the fox trot and I swear I heard someone say the word cartwheel. Seriously. I looked at my partner who was clearly disappointed that he got stuck with me; the dud bridesmaid who was useless to the bridal party.

"Ok, let me make this simple," he said trying desperately to get me to understand, "The last girl I did introductions with walked out alone like she was a supermodel and stood in front of the guests with her hip cocked out with her hand rested on it, then I came out, she saw me and smacked me in the face," he continued with heightened glee, "So I walked away like I was defeated and then at the last minute, I turned around on my heels, ran and belly flopped on the floor, through her legs and her dress and started palpitating on the floor while she stepped over me! It was awesome!" So he wanted me to reject him, assault him and ignore him as he appeared to be going into cardiac arrest in front of the entire reception hall at my best friend's wedding? "I'm not doing that." I said dryly.

I started to feel bad and wanted to be an enthusiastic participant in Kitty's wedding, I came up with a compromise that I thought my partner would appreciate. Really. "Let's go out like flesh-eating zombies and pretend that you haven't eaten a victim in weeks and attack me and then we'll bust into the Thriller dance!" I said with feigned excitement trying to meet him at his level. I even included the signature Thriller dance move (you know which one I'm talking about). He looked at me as if I had asked him to go out there and pull my tampon out with his teeth in front of everyone. "Why would we do that?" he asked me with his head tilted to the side in confusion. Clearly we weren't on the same page. I can't believe Kitty tried to set me up with this guy two years ago, he was kind of a jerk.

Due to our lack of compromise and comprehension, our entrance consisted of my partner wearing sunglasses, solo-moshing and head-banging while he held my hand which in turn had me flailing around the dance floor as I tried to look like I was having the time of my life but really looked like a confused bitch. Why couldn't we just go out there, smile and clap? What was so wrong with that? Are weddings so over the top now that even walking into a room happily isn't enough and is considered old-fashioned and dull? Or maybe I'm old-fashioned and dull? I don't know anymore.

"Yo, that French girl is weird." I overheard the groomsman's friend say to him as I walked by during coffee hour. This made me chuckle. Clearly this was coming out of the mouth of someone who has never been to France. While I can admit to being a weirdo, anyone who knows French culture would know that I am light years away from being a French girl and would have appreciated if he left France out of his insult that was directed towards me. France gets enough slack.

I'm happy to say that the first wave of important weddings are now over and it's officially the holidays. I'm going back to bed now. Weddings are exhausting and I'm not sure if I will commit to flying home from Paris again for another wedding. Wake me in 2012?

Day 181: Make A Decision.

Kitty's rehearsal dinner last night was lovely and she looked ravishing in a lilac ruched chiffon cocktail dress. I can't believe my little Kit Kat is getting married, it's becoming so real now. I haven't seen her wedding dress yet and since I've waited this long, I don't want to until she's wearing it. She is going to be such a vision tomorrow.

To look alive for last night's dinner, I treated myself to an American mani/pedi, a Long Island girl blow-out and pulled out my M.A.C makeup to cover up my red nose and sunken eyes. I wore a vintage Chanel black cap-sleeved sheath that I got in a vintage store on Fairfax in L.A many moons ago, threw on a pair of Givenchy Maryjanes, took down two shots of Dayquil and I was ready to go. For a girl who was on her deathbed a mere two days ago, I cleaned up pretty well.

We did a run-through at the church, celebrated over Italian food at a trattoria on Jericho Turnpike and the night ended with me at an animal emergency room at midnight. Never a dull moment.

As I was half way through my veal marsala and washing it down with a glass of chianti, my mother stormed into the restaurant coming from a Zurich trip to get the car keys because she received a phone call from my brother Andrew saying that our 17 year old family cat Colonel Forbin was vomiting blood all over the house. This isn't the first incident, this is one of many as he gets older and older. Back in September, after my birthday party, he had a diabetic seizure at 4 am where his tongue was sticking out, he couldn't breathe and his body was flipping all over the kitchen.

So now I am back from Paris and another episode is happening and I'm convinced that he wants to leave this world when the entire family is together. We dropped him off at a third party 24 hour animal emergency room and when I had suggested to the doctor that we put him to sleep, he looked at me like I was a kitty killer, made a snippy comment that I wanted to take the easy way out and demanded that we hand over a credit card before discussing any further. Seriously?

Colonel is 17 years old, his life consists of insulin shots and vet visits, he can't keep food down and water isn't hydrating him anymore. His quality of life is non-existent, not to mention the fact that the cost of his medical visits on my mother's flight attendant salary is astronomical. He went to the vet last week and it cost $600 and last night's stay will be about $1000. I am not putting a price on his life but we don't know what else to do. I don't want to lose our family kitty but I don't want my mother to come home from her next trip and find a dead cat in the house who suffered miserably alone. 

He spent the night at the hospital and we're now heading over to pick him up and bring him to his vet who we believe will give us an honest opinion. If that wasn't enough activity for one day, I'm also going to pick up the rest of my stolen things from Barbara. Today is not going to be fun.

Charlotte is looking at me with concern as I write this, she wants to know where her little buddy is. It's funny how animals can have very human expressions when they sense trouble. I'll keep you posted. Sigh...

I can't wait for 2012.... 

Update: Colonel Forbin passed away in the car ride from the animal hospital to his vet from internal bleeding. He lived a long and beautiful life and will be missed by our family, especially by my brother Andrew. Although he was old and this doesn't come as a big surprise that this would be the outcome of today, my heart is completely broken right now for our 'big dog'.

Day 179: Feel Like An Old Maid.

Kill me. Kill me now. Frances Bean is engaged

Ok, so, my best friend getting married before me? I can handle that. My little cousins? Fine. My entire graduating class? Ok. But Frances Bean Cobain? That's going too far. I remember when she was born! Who's next? Suri Cruise? Matilda Ledger? cat?!

If I wasn't already feeling like la merde with my vicious cold, well than this just sealed the deal. All I need is a Rachel Ray marathon to send me over the edge.

This little child is getting married...
I already had my period and was wearing training bra 
when this photo was taken.
Just sayin'...

Today is about Puffs Plus, shots of Nyquil and my Bridget Jones VHS. Yes, room at my mom's house hasn't gone through the Y2K update and I sleep next to stacks of YM Magazines and compact discs. 

I must get better for Kitty's rehearsal dinner tomorrow, I must get better for Kitty's rehearsal dinner tomorrow....

Day 178: Feel Like Death....Warmed Up.

I wish I looked as cute as this.
 "Navy Nurse"
by Richard Prince

I must have caught something on the plane. I have been in bed for two days since I have been back and feel just awful. Awful, I tell you! I was hoping to see some other friends, my cousin Vinny and his new wife but feel like I need to stay in bed and kick this deathly cold before Kitty's wedding.  

On an annoying note, it's the first time that I have seen my things that were recovered from the Barbara Roy robbery and some of the items have been destroyed. My bags are filthy, my sweaters are stained, she dismantled a red bikini top to use as a string in order to identify "her" suitcase in the baggage carousel at Newark and she confessed to having more things. More things! So on top of trying to nurse the flu, I have to meet up with this person to get the rest of my belongings that she callously stole from my Paris flat. 

Now on a super cute French side note, I skyped with Séb who said "Oh là là" when he saw my ugly, drained, puffy, red-nosed face (not the cute part) and asked me what the pharmacist said in regards to my condition. How cute, he's thinking as if I went to a French Pharmacie where you tell the pharmacist your symptoms and the medicine is issued accordingly. I told him that Regina at Rite-Aid in Mineola didn't care if I bought medicine for a urinary tract infection or if I stocked up on more than one brand just as long as my credit card passed.

My mother made a big pot of Pasta e Fagioli, I'm camped out in bed and I have been catching up on all of the fall shows I missed in the hopes of being in tip-top shape for the wedding festivities that start on Wednesday. And by the way, in case you didn't already know, cats make terrible nurses. Bitches. 

Paris me manque déjà! (I'm speaking in 'code' to my francoreaders...)

Day 176: Leave With A Bang.

Can't a girl just leave Paris quietly without something happening?

I left work on Friday at 5 pm and skipped the gym to focus on organizing my things before this mornings 9 am flight to New York. I stopped at Franprix for wine and the Chinese traiteur for take-out. Aurel was borrowing his company's car to drive me to Charles de Gaulle and was stuck at his office later than any French person would want to on a Friday night, exceeding his cushy 39.5 hour work week. His co-worker said that he would be at the office at 6:30 to give him the keys which in French time means leaving where he was at 6:30. Annoying.

He got to my place around 9:30 and my things were in order, my apartment was tidy, passport was out and the Chinese take-out that was absolutely disgusting was in the garbage. We were famished and needed something to stick to the wine that was burning a hole in our empty stomachs. A quick Friday night meal is pizza, what was I thinking in getting Chinese? That's Sundays lazy night dinner! My shoddy internet in my apartment wasn't connecting me to find the number to call so we decided to not be such lazy fat-asses and walk down to Pink Flamingo and pick it up ourselves.

We arrived and it was surprisingly not busy, so we decided to grab the table for two by the door and to enjoy our last night together for a week. We ordered my new favorite pie Le Gandhi and split a Pink Flamingo house beer.

I was feeling uneasy and wasn't sure why. Even Aurel noticed that I was a bit jumpy and hyper-aware of my surroundings. Perhaps I was anxious about traveling, packing, the airport? Doubtful because travel doesn't usually make me anxious. I've traveled the world on stand-by leaving me vulnerable to getting stuck in airports in foreign countries overnight, staying in seedy airport motels in Middle-America, being tortured by gate agents, being hazed by flight attendants, being vomited on by unaccompanied underage passengers sitting next to me, on top of the suspense of not knowing if I will get on the flight or not. I'm a tough traveler with patience made of steel, so this anxiety was questionable.

Our pizza arrived; steaming and smelling like delicious baba ganoush goodness when someone briskly walked through the door going straight to the take-out counter. I know this pace, this urgency, this intensity. Monsieur Flâneur. Damn you, internet. I swear he was the cause of my anxiety. It's as if instinctively I knew we'd cross paths that night. And I'm not saying it in a kindred spirit soulmate way.

I guess this day was bound to happen and I hate to admit it but my heart was pounding. Not enough time has passed for it to be just that; 'the past' but just enough time has passed for our encounter to be uncomfortable. In an essence, we're strangers now. His brother walked in and met him at the counter and watching their interaction with each other was like taking a time machine back one year. Had none of this happened, I probably would have been with them or in the peripheral of this Friday night activity. It's like that movie Sliding Doors where you see what happens in both scenarios of Gwyneth Paltrow's character. Ella 1 would be drained and miserable in her relationship with MF and would pass Ella 2 who would be with a man more suitable and is more independent and focusing on her own growth, goals, and progress. Clearly, I prefer Ella 2 but can't help but look back sometimes and think of the sad and useless Ella 1. Unlike Gwyneth, both Ellas have the same haircut and color.

The restaurant is minuscule and as soon as he turned around to leave with his take-out box, he would see me. I ran some options in my head; I could acknowledge him and try my best at small talk and introduce him to my new boyfriend or just pretend to not see him and look away. 

I went for option two. We're not 'there' yet. We're not enemies but we're certainly not friends. I shadowed my face with my hair and looked in the other direction as he walked towards our table heading for the exit. As he passed, he looked at the girl with the mounds of curly brown hair and did a double take once realized it was me and followed my eyes in the mirror's reflection. The stare held between us lasted no more than 3 seconds but felt like minutes. I knew exactly what he was saying to me with his eyes that were growing darker with anger. How could I be out on a date with someone else while he still hanging out with his brother? How dare I move on before him. I'm such a connasse. We may be strangers now but I still know him and his carnal thought process very well. I looked away and he continued out the door, slamming it behind him.

Of course, I told Aurel what was going on and excused myself for reacting even in the slightest bit. It haunted me for the rest of the night where communicating with Aurel was beyond difficult, especially in French. I just wanted to lock myself in my thoughts and self-obsess over why this had affected me so much. I felt guilty for even caring. I'm supposed to be moved on and I am. I just can't help but think that a year ago today, I was planning my life with a person who I was now trying to avoid eye contact with at a pizza parlor. It's all so sad.

These little earthquakes always seem to happen right before I go to New York where I can emotionally shake it off and come back to Paris refreshed. I'm on the plane now and the woman next to me who is a famous director at a major fragrance and cosmetics company keeps looking at my washed out and broken out pasty skin. She just recommended some products to me. I just ordered a glass of wine.

Pink Flamingo
105, rue Vieille du Temple
75003, Paris