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Day 293: Say Goodbye to Hollywood.


All fabulous things must come to an end and now it's time to leave this gorgeous weather and head back home. While I've enjoyed the sunshine, my beloved iced lattes and wearing sundresses in February, what truly made this trip special was spending time with good friends. Friends who helped me forget the anniversary of my broken engagement with laughs, booze and encouragement. It really is the company that you surround yourself with that makes all the difference when nursing a broken heart. I wish that I had these incredible people nearby when I was in the thick of it last year, but I suppose that's the trade-off of picking up and moving to one of the most beautiful cities in the world - alone.

I'm looking forward to getting back on Paris time, seeing Séb, my apartment and getting some damn relief from Angelina's ridiculous right leg. Someone please tell me that her stupid prosthetic pose isn't all the rage over in France because it's inescapable here in America. I just don't see what all the fuss is about, other than she looked like a complete idiot. But I guess that's just me...

Day 292: Selling the Drama.


Today I drove out to Malibu to sit on Surfrider beach to reflect on the day. I sat on the sand while sipping on my Hollywood guilty pleasure, a pink can of Sofia Coppola champagne. Reflecting not because today is the Academy Awards, a day that celebrates and rewards dramatic accomplishment but looking back on my own personal drama that was happening in Paris, one year ago today.

There was a cold front blasting through Paris, similar to the arctic temperatures that we were experiencing a few weeks ago, where being outside even for ten minutes was too long. It was one of those days that if you could help to stay in, you did because there was no reason to be strolling the streets on the year's most unpleasant day. MF and I had spent the night out at his grandmother's house in the suburbs and as we were packing up the car to head back to Paris, he had asked me to take his brother's Spaniard girlfriend, Valentina to Alliance Française to sign up for classes.

Taking the metro from Oberkampf over to 6th was the last thing that I wanted to do on such a nasty day. My thoughts were also weighed down by a scary letter that I had received from the IRS and a message that my gynecologist had left at my mom's house, and was waiting for their offices to open so I could sort it out. I told MF that while I'd love to take her, it would be best if we went the following week where we could make a day out of it, and perhaps get lunch at the nearby department store Le Bon Marché. I'm not a "if you say jump, I say how high?" kind of girl. I had things to do that day.

Just to be clear on something, Valentina wasn't exactly pressed to improve her already advanced French. She was like me, spoke well but could use some tinkering, so she wasn't lost her in the City of Light sans Alliance Française. The difference between her and I was that she didn't have her life settled in France, with her own friends and a job, so it was obvious that MF and his brother wanted her out of their hair for the day which some reason had become my problem. When I calmly told MF that it would be best if we went the following week, he called me selfish for not helping him out and that I was being dramatic for wanting to call the IRS and my doctor sooner than later. My talent for ignoring red flags had reached impressive heights at this point.

Obvious Lesson #1 for a healthy relationship: Support your partner. If she has important things to do regarding American taxes and her health, Alliance Française can wait. Apparently, this wasn't obvious to him.

I brushed off his lack of concern and went ahead and called Valentina myself to feel her out, to see if she was in dire need to go that day or just needed a girl's day. I offered her some refuge from the Brothers Flâneur by inviting her over for lunch. She was more than happy with this arrangement and had to tell me that she already told MF that she had registered on-line, so she didn't understand what all the drama was about. Neither did I.

Before she came over, I made the apartment cozy for a chilly winter's day in. I lit scented candles, made a pot of rose tea, found all my DVDs that had Spanish dubbing and laid out my favorite cashmere and mohair throw blankets for her to curl up on our couch while I wrote and made my phone calls in the dining room. As I was passing the Swiffer in the living room, tidying our home, I received a text message from him calling me selfish, lazy and unhelpful.

Obvious Lesson #2: Try not to be insulting and verbally abusive to your fiancée who is actually helping you out and has been nothing but supportive, especially right before she is about to make a nervous phone call to her gynecologist. What a jerk.

Valentina came over and I made us a frisée aux lardons salad, we caught up on neighborhood gossip, and she napped in the living room while I worked. After I sorted things out, made follow-up appointments and polished up my French CV, Valentina woke up and we walked over to one of my favorite restaurants in Oberkampf, Cannibale Café for dinner and girl talk. Over dinner and after our first glass of wine, she asked me how I was able to handle MF's difficult personality. I told her that while he can be a handful at times, that fact remained that I loved him for him and would never demand that he changed. She looked at me in amazement over my patience. Reading this back now, so do I. I was such an idiot.

As the check arrived, she received a phone call from Garçon Flâneur saying that he and MF were leaving the restaurant, were heading over to meet us and to expect them around 9. Even though MF was being a little bitch about the Alliance Française fiasco, I was prepared to blow the whole thing off and act as if nothing had happened. I learned to choose my battles - that was becoming more and more often in those days - with him and to keep the peace.

9 pm came and went while we sat at the Cannibale Café finishing up our pichet of red wine. 10 pm, gone. 11 pm, no news. Neither of them were picking up their phones as we tried to touch base with them. We were getting the roll-to-voicemail brush off. At this point, I was tired, tipsy and was through with sitting in a café like a doormat girlfriend. Valentina and I walked back to the apartment in irritated silence. Me being the older one out of the two and not wanting to fuel the drama, I wanted to set an example and remained calm.

11:45 pm.

We were sitting on the couch watching The Golden Girls (the only thing that keeps me calm when I'm furious) when we heard the key in the door turn. The two of them walked in drunk and laughing.

They looked at our stern faces, called us cute and began mocking us. Valentina was pissed, as was I but decided to address it once our company had left to avoid making a scene. MF fed off of things like this to demonstrate to others how difficult his life was, so I knew better to not encourage him. It wasn't until he told me the reason that he had left us in the café that sent me over the edge. His excuse was that he had run into my friends (friends of mine that he knew uniquely through me), and had drinks with them. He stood me up to hang out with my friends in the Marais. 

Unacceptable. 

I was actually going to excuse the fact that he left us waiting for them in a bar, but the fact that he was with my friends and didn't feel that it was necessary to call me? This was when my claws came out. Who does that? I had asked him that very question and his only response to me was: “Arrête”, followed by his favorite, “Arrête ton cinéma”. At this point, I didn't want to be told to stop my drama, an implication that my irritation was ridiculous. He blew me off to hang out with my friends. How else was I supposed to react?

He sat there and laughed in my face as I tried to find the logic in his one-track thinking. For him, this was easier because he simply could not admit that what he did was not only wrong but really mean. This was also his stubborn Turkish side coming out. I said to him that if he told me to “arrête” one more time, that I was going to throw my glass of water (that I was sipping in a failed effort to remain calm) in his face. That's how pissed I was. 

Not taking me seriously, he leaned in, looked at me with black eyes and said, “ferme ta gueule” with defiance. He just told me to shut up.

I don't need to tell you what came next. I calmly walked over to him with my blue tumbler in hand and flung the water in his face. 

So much for me remaining the calm one.

Please believe me when I say that I have never done anything like that – in my entire life. I was turning into that crazy chick and it was awful. Silence took over the entire apartment as he stared back at me, Valentina and Garçon stood stiffly in shock, only the sound of the water dripping down the wall behind him could be heard. 

Obvious Lesson #3: Don't underestimate your pissed off Italian fiancée.
 
We never did recover from this night and commenced the beginning of our inevitable end. Looking back a year later, even on the coast of Malibu, this particular story still irritates me. I shudder when I think of how much crap I put up with and how I blamed myself for his inappropriate and erratic behavior. Looking out on to the Pacific Ocean with my feet buried in the sand, the sun warming the back of my neck, and with every bubble of champagne that slid down my throat, I realized how far I have come, how simple my life is now and how everything works out exactly the way it is supposed to...

I am still waiting for my Oscar nod though.

Cannibale Café
93, rue Jean-Pierre Timbaud
Paris 75011 

Update: (January 14th, 2013) After re-reading this a year later, with the story taking place almost two years later, I have to say that this story doesn't hinder any feelings, hurt, anger or disappointment. I don't even recognize myself in this story. I guess that's called moving on...

Day 290: Feel Fugs.

Illustration by Kate Rodgers

Taking advantage of a warm February morning in Southern California, I walked down to the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf to soak up some sun on the terrace facing out onto Santa Monica Boulevard. Sipping on my iced soy vanilla latte and daydreaming, letting my eyes drift down the boulevard, a woman who had just parked her car, locked eyes with me and began to approach me. She was well-groomed, fashioning acquired red hair, and was quite sleek, in her fitted button down shirt that was tucked into her slim pencil skirt.

As she was walking towards me in her sky-high, open-toe sling-backs, I started getting both a little nervous and confused. I didn't understand who she was or how she knew me and then it hit me. I knew what this was about. There was no other explanation than the fact that I was in the process of getting discovered - finally. Oh my, this was my big moment! Clearly she a casting agent who was blinded by my radiant beauty and simply could not wait for a second longer before casting me in a role opposite Ryan "schwing" Gosling. 

If it wasn't that, then obviously she recognized me in one of my many challenging roles as an extra. Perhaps it was my memorable role as "High school Girl at Locker #13" in The O.C or my honest portrayal as "Party Girl at Black Jack Table #6" on the show, Las Vegas, who knows but all of those years of early call times, anorexic paychecks and living off 99 cent store canned food was going to finally pay off at this very moment. They say that sometimes you have to leave Hollywood to break into it.

Truer words have never been spoken...

Big Red arrived at my table and wasted no time before launching into her greeting, "Hi there!" she said with a radiant smile as the sun reflected off of her copper locks. I returned her cheer with a hello and anxiously leaned forward waiting for her big pitch, "Are you Yasmine?" she asked as she helped herself to the empty chair at my table, confident that I was in fact, Yasmine. I wasn't Yasmine, for Ryan I could be Yasmine but what would I do when the real Yasmine comes in and blows my cover. In my early 20's, I would have somehow made this work in my favor but as I get older, my knack for playful b.s has slowed down with age where I accept defeat almost immediately.

"No, I'm not," I confessed with regret. Her face fell with slight disappointment, she then apologized for disturbing me and promptly took the vacant table to my left. Why couldn't I just be Yasmine? I had imagined Yasmine to be the epitome of perfection, the girl everyone wanted to be, the girl who was not me.

Several minutes later, Big Red perked up and waved her hand as from what I could only assume was the real Yasmine. Yasmine was about ten years older than me, had about 50 pounds on me, and looked exhausted and worn out.

That I wasn't expecting...

Eavesdropping on their conversation, I quickly learned that Yasmine had hired Big Red as a weight-loss and image transformation consultant (only in LA) to help her shed her post-pregnancy weight and to get her "groove back". Yes, this was said. Yasmine, at one point, told Big Red that she wasn't at all surprised that she had recognized her with the description that she had given to her over the phone, instructing her to look for the "fat, tired and haggard woman". I must have reacted to this because Big Red, who glanced my way, suggested that they take their conversation inside.

Ok, so I didn't put make-up on this morning and yes, I have a few pounds of framboise macaron, Bordeaux and baked camembert weight on me, but mistaking me for a sleep deprived, "haggard" woman who just had a baby?! Come on! I don't look that bad, I mean my clothes still fit...ish.

And if I didn't already feel fat, I received an e-mail from the fashion house that I am working at during Paris Fashion Week, informing me that the dresses that we are required to wear in the showroom have arrived. They wanted to know if they should set aside an extra-small or a small for me. How generous. 

While I should be watching my weight as I will be squeezing into an itty-bitty dress in a mere matter of weeks, I'm not. I felt no guilt in stopping at Trader Joe's to pick up a chunk of Triple Cream Cambozola cheese, a bottle of sparkling pink Moscato and avocados to make a big bowl of guacamole while I throw chips at the television during this weekend's Academy Award ceremony. 

Bon week-end à tous!

Day 288: Friend or Ho?


Taking a break from our project, I opted to not be all LA and join Brett at the gym. Instead, I indulged in spreading out on the couch Jabba the Hutt style to watch one of the many movies offered on his 600 channel cable box. Having lived in France for years with limited television options, this was an absolute treat. Picking a movie was a tough call though, the choices were endless. I narrowed it down to either Black Swan, Midnight in Paris, Kill John Tucker, Deliver Us From Eva, Wayne's World (1 and/or 2), and Something Borrowed

I wanted to choose a movie that I could doze off to, so I went for Something Borrowed, a film that I knew nothing about other than the fact that it was adapted from a best-selling "Women's Literature" (Brett told me that the category chick-lit doesn't exist anymore, how sad) novel. I assumed it was about a bride facing challenges before her wedding day who has her best friend (whom I presumed gives her "something borrowed") by her side as she enters the next phase of her life; marriage. For those of you who have seen the movie or read the book are probably laughing right now. I couldn't have been more wrong.

So what is this gem of a story about? I'll tell you. Enter Rachel, the meek brunette who has been overshadowed her entire life by her best friend; the outgoing, effervescent blonde, Darcy, played by Kate Hudson. The men, who typically in RomComs are just moving furniture were actually involved characters with a pulse. In this film, we have several men, we have Dex, Darcy's fiancé and two guy friends Ethan (played by John Krasinski) and Marcus. Seems like a harmless formula, right? Five friends involved and relishing in the happiness of their best friends' wedding. Not so much. In Something Borrowed, Rachel is having an emotional and consummated affair with Dex, Darcy's fiancé.

Wasn't expecting that, but okay...

So we're supposed to hate Rachel for lying to her childhood best friend and sleeping with the man she is about to marry, right? Not quite, we're actually supposed to be rooting for this underdog because she has been stuffed in the background her entire life, while her brazen best friend took center stage, "taking everything from her".

Oh well in that case, I suppose that makes it alright...

Seriously?

The film didn't even try to justify the betrayal by portraying Darcy as an unbearable chick (like she apparently was in the novel) that we as an audience never liked anyway. Was she self-involved, obnoxious and vapid? Sure, but this still doesn't legitimize Rachel's treachery, sorry. As the affair gets more complicated between Rachel and Dex, at one point Rachel snaps at him, saying that she can't stand seeing him with "her". Oh please. Her? You mean his future wife and your best friend? And then there's Ethan (played by John Krasinski, whom I normally adore) who encourages this dishonest behavior by telling Rachel to stick up for herself, and go get her man.

What planet are these characters from? Geez, with friends like these who needs enemies?  

Having had several frenemies in my life, who I had found out after the fact were hurting me behind my back, I have zero tolerance for stories like these. You're supposed to be able to trust your girlfriends and if you think one is unbearable and selfish, instead of sleeping with her man, how about break the friendship with her and move on. That's the beauty of friendships, you choose them!

I understand that the story is aimed to be realistic because let's face it, this sort of thing does happen, but I guess I was waiting for there to be an exception, a gray area that would advocate the betrayal which normally comes in the form of persuading the audience to dislike the woman being deceived (think Parker Posey's character in You've Got Mail) or that it was never going to work out between the couple anyway. Oh wait, I'm sorry there was an attempt to rid the guilt by wrapping it up a neat little package that Darcy too was having an affair with Marcus and is now - wait for it - pregnant with their love child!

How insulting to the audience. Now we're supposed to be relieved that this all happened for a reason and everyone goes their own way and can laugh about it years later over white wine spritzers.

I don't know about anyone else, but I'm not laughing.

There are plenty of films that I've appreciated that touch on, if not are based on infidelities (e.g, Woody Allen's Euro films, Fatal Attraction, etc..) but a movie that is clearly marketed as a Romantic Comedy complete with a promo poster that replaces the 'o' in the film's title with a floating engagement ring, turns out to be a film about an insecure, backstabbing snake of a best friend plotting to steal your fiancé was completely unexpected.

What do you ladies think? Am I missing an obvious point portrayed in this "fine" film, that feelings are facts that need to be acted on? And that friendship is fleeting if there is a cute guy involved? I feel like I'm missing something here and am clearly deeply disturbed by the terrible example that this film is setting,

I really should have watched Deliver Us From Eva.

Day 287: Postcards from Hollywood.


LA January 082
Anyone need a Hollywood sign? 

CA12-NEW

CA10-NEW

CA11-NEW


LA January 137

Beachwood-Canyon

HollywoodRoyale
I love the 60s architecture
that sell the dream with their fancy shmancy names.

Lastcap101
 
LA January 053
The 101 Coffee Shop

Orange Blossom Tree
Winter in LA

 
LA January 058
Hollywood Ending.

Original photography available for print at my new etsy shop! Don't see it on etsy? E-mail me for custom print inquiries! 

Day 286: Coup de Foudre à CDG!


So my trip halfway across the world went without a hitch. Thank God! Hopping from aircraft to aircraft on stand-by tickets during President's Week is not for the faint of heart. It's a marvel that I'm not stranded at O'Hare, waiting for seats to clear up on oversold flights while praying for no-shows. I have experienced getting stuck halfway through a trip several times, where there wasn't much else to do except eat and try not to get too drunk at the airport bar. Good times.

I am grateful to the travel gods for making my trip happen, and more importantly, the fabulous flight attendants (CDG, JFK, and LAX based crew - thank you!) that kept me entertained with juicy gossip in the galley (my favorite travel pastime) and my glass filled with vodka and/or wine.

Per usual, my travel adventure commenced at the airport that after three years, I have grown to understand and accept, the one and only, Charles de Gaulle. Waiting on the air bridge to board the plane, I noticed some of the mechanics and cargo crew - who, poor things must have been frozen little popsicles in this weather - preparing the plane. I gave them a sympathetic look, told them to stay warm and wished them a bonne journée. While the others smiled and wished me a bon voyage in return, my polite concern particularly caught the attention of one of the mechanics who could not have been older than 25, who winked at me as I passed with my roller-board in tow. Only in Paris, I thought to myself, smiled and made my way to my seat.

After nestling in, and taking out the flight's necessities; my iPod, my cardigan, and putting on my navy blue Monoprix "in-flight slippers", I anxiously cracked open the trashy novel that I have been devouring, when I looked up and saw the mechanics boarding the plane for the cross-check before take-off. The young one, Garçon Wink spotted me at my seat and winked at me - again. At this poin,t I just had to run through my head what I had said to him to make sure that I didn't accidentally make some kind of advancement that I was unaware of. After going over our very brief exchange, I was in the clear, nothing I said could have possibly been misconstrued as an invitation for sex. Good. Moving on.

After several minutes, the mechanics came back through to exit the aircraft as more passengers were boarding, approaching them in the opposite direction. Garçon Wink, took this as an opportunity to tuck himself into my row and stood in front of the vacant seat next to me. He then turned to me and asked me if I spoke French - in French. I responded that I did, which then prompted him to hand me a piece of paper.

Because my travel status is unorthodox from the typical traveler, it's not uncommon that airport personnel would board the flight to check my passport again, or hand me a new boarding pass, so I accepted his offering without thinking twice. When I looked down at what he had given me, I blushed. The paper contained his phone number (he lived outside of Paris), name (Davide) and an illustration of a rain cloud (random). 

"Call me," he said with a smile and slipped away before I could tell him that I wouldn't be honoring his request. I looked like a total mess, I was tired, red, puffy and fugs and while I was flattered that someone besides my boyfriend who has to think I'm cute would even look twice at me, the union between Davide and I was clearly not an option. I was however impressed by the rain cloud drawing.

I quickly called Aurel who was at work and told him what had happened, "Coquine, indeed," he said with a chuckle where I could feel his head shaking over the fact that my friendliness always gets me into these situations, "Paris will miss you, especially Davide and I, bon vol, babe."

As the plane was taxiing out, Davide, wearing his little protective ear muffs and puffy coat, was waving to me from the tarmac as I looked back out through the window. Out of consideration, I thought about trying to gesture to him that I wouldn't be calling him but figured he'd probably forget about me by the end of the day and anyway, how would I even communicate that tactfully? So I just waved back and appreciated this experience, reminding me why I love Paris, this crazy and at times, over-sexed town.

Day 284: Wilted and Faded Somewhere in Hollywood.

IMG_2778

Just like Paris, California has been romanticized, rewritten and stereotyped, turning this iconic land of dreams into an extreme version of itself.

I moved to LA in 2002 expecting to hate it, after all, I was supposed to be a proud New Yorker. LA charmed me with its kitch and kook and ended up staying longer than expected. I look back fondly on my years here, the place where I started my adult life began while still living out childhood dreams, the place where I met life long friends and the place where my father was born and raised. 

I still can't believe my Angeleno father and my typical New York mother had anything in common, especially in the 70's when the two coasts couldn't be more different. What did they talk about on their first date?!

Here are some of my favorite songs that celebrate the Sunshine State.

Sheryl Crow - All I Wanna Do
311 - Champagne
Hole - Malibu
Joni Mitchell - California
Phantom Planet - California 
Rufus Wainwright - California 
Air - Californie 
Beulah - Gene Autry
Coconut Records - West Coast
Madonna - Hollywood
Missing Persons - Walking in LA 
Guns n' Roses - Welcome to the Jungle
Tupac feat. Dr. Dre - California Love

...and because I can't help it. I have to smuggle in a French song that references California. Pourquoi pas?

Serge Gainsbourg - Torrey Canyon

To listen to the playlist in its entirety, click here

Day 294: LAX ✈ JFK


Why is LA the only city in the world that doesn't provide public transportation to the airport? And when I say public transportation, I don't mean, taking a bus from Hollywood to El Segundo transfer at Inglewood and walk up Century Boulevard to LAX with your rollerboard in tow. I mean, real transportation that delivers you right to the terminal - in one shot. Every other city has gotten on board with this phenomena, but for some reason LA is exempt from providing this very basic,.

When I lived here, airport rides were used as barter. For example, you could get someone to feed your cat while you were in Santa Barbara for the weekend in exchange for an airport ride (offer good for one year).

With this being said, Terri's husband Steve graciously drove me to the airport for a 7 am flight to JFK that was over-sold due to a cancelled red-eye flight that I was initially supposed to be on. I arrived at LAX prepared for the madness that would await me at the gate as the airline tried to consolidate two flights on to one. I was making a pit stop in New York for an 11:30 am appointment with my gynecologist and was waiting for their offices to open to postpone the visit. I know, I know, I should just find a doctor in France but because of my complicated medical history, and not wanting to deal with sending my records overseas, I prefer to do my annual when I'm in town.

I called the office just as they were opening at 6 am LA time with the hysteria of pissed off passengers surrounding me, to explain that I wouldn't be making the appointment, explaining that I was stuck on the other side of the country due to a flight cancellation. They understood but informed me that I owed a penalty fee of 100 dollars. Irritated, I explained that I had every intention of honoring the appointment but due to unforeseen it was unfortunately not possible. Obviously. “You should have known,” is what the receptionist said. I should have known what? If I knew that the flight would be cancelled, I wouldn't have even gone to the airport in the first place, and stayed back at Aunt Terry's for another night. Even if I checked the flight status, it would not have been in their 48 hour cancellation policy bracket, so it was a moot point.

She then put me on hold while she spoke to her Finance Director, Bruce. Bruce the Finance Director? I knew this would not end well. I have reported to Finance Directors at past jobs and know that they have the compassion of a gate agent on an over-sold flight during Christmas. In short, they don't want to hear it. I also had a boss named Bruce who was such a pain in the ass. So I knew that I wasn't going to win this battle. The receptionist came back on the line and told me with fake regret that they would not be able to waive the penalty fee because in 2006, I only gave them 36 hours notice instead of 48 for a cancellation.

In 2006? 6 years ago, I only gave them a day and half's notice for a cancellation? I have honored my appointments every of other time and it was obvious that my absence was completely out of my control, as she heard the gate agents announcing the now over-sold 7 am flight to JFK.

At this point I was frazzled. I was tired, stressed that I wouldn't be flying out, stressed about Bruce, and stressed that I was missing an important appointment. I miraculously got onto the flight and while I wasn't offered first class, I sat next to a young man who captures Los Angeles through his photography. He shared with me the complications of love. Ah, to be young again.
 
And that's American healthcare for you and I'm looking into finding a gynecologist in Paris. 

Day 283: CDG ✈ LAX


I went from the City of Light to the City of Angels where it's 80 degrees and sunny without a cloud in sight. It's a relief from the frosty temperatures that have been sweeping through Paris. I can imagine that our bodies don't love going from 35 degree weather to 80 in a matter of 12 hours, so it'll be a miracle if I don't get sick. 

So what brings me to LA, you ask? I'm here to work on a project that Brett and I started last year (no, we're not making a movie staring us) that we really need to make progress on and while I'm here, I plan to catch up with friends and visit some of my old Hollywood haunts and dives.

My trip half way across the world went smoothly and arrived at LAX looking exactly like someone who came from Paris with my white Repetto jazz shoes, black skinny jeans, a black cashmere sweater, a printed slouchy scarf from Sandro and cat-eye glasses. All I needed was a cigarette and I would have been back on the streets of the Marais. Something about wearing black and smoking in LA seems so wrong, so I was looking forward to slipping into something lighter and brighter and slurping down an iced soy half-caf sugar-free vanilla latte from the Coffee Bean while taking a drive down Sunset to reacquaint myself with my former adopted city.

Now that the coffee buzz has worn off, I need to take a power nap on Brett's poolside lounge chair in his Melrose Place style apartment complex in West Hollywood and then we need to get cracking. I did come all this way for a reason.

LA, it's good to see you again old friend.

Day 282: Appreciate the Nice Guy.

Illustration by Robyn Neild

Recently I had a conversation with a reader who was asking about my relationship with Aurelien and my feelings for him. It sounds a lot weirder than it is, the conversation just drifted in the direction of a playful debate. I was told that Aurelien comes across as "way too nice" on the blog and that it's inevitable that I'm going to want to go back to a bad boy like MF. Upon reading this, I let out a hearty chuckle at how wrong this perception is. What the hell is "too nice" anyway? You know, after everything that had happened last year, I'll take "too nice" any day.

This conversation got me thinking about my past relationship decisions. If this were 2004, choosing the bad boy over the nice guy would have been a possibility because I spent a better part of my twenties chasing that Mr. Big fantasy of trying to get the unattainable "cool" guy. That guy that you think you have this deep connection (good sex) with but really all it really is is anxiety and seeking approval from an unavailable guy. Really.

I was smacked in the face with the error of my ways back when I was living in LA, I was dating a great guy, a real catch. He had Luke Wilson good looks, was a talented, up-and-coming illustrator, funny, sweet and looking to settle down. I pushed him away to be with a total narcissist who was constantly standing me up, insulting me because I didn't know obscure Danish psychedelic rock groups from the 60s and didn't bother to learn anything about me. To this day, I still can't believe that I was impressed by such a shallow jerk whom by the way, I met on Friendster - just to date myself a bit...

The nice guy illustrator eventually grew tired of my indecisiveness and gave up on me (and rightfully so). He met and began dating his future wife; a smart woman who knew the value of the nice guy. And believe it or not, I was crushed when he decided to finally end things with me. At this moment, I vowed to never make that mistake again. I really did care for him but I was immature and focusing on the wrong person - the one who didn't give a shit about me.

So I ask you, why would I switch out a happy, loving relationship with Aurelien for an unstable mess based on frustration and insecurity? That unstable mess was my relationship with MF. Someone who saw absolutely no problem in making an 8 pm date with me and showing up three hours later. He also saw no problem with gabbing on the phone with his female friends up to three hours a day while I sat there. They use to call right when we were getting up in the morning and before we went to bed but according to them, the French peanut gallery, it was me who wasn't normale because I didn't think this was appropriate.

Sadly, I blamed myself for his major character faults and I worked hard at being less "demanding", but the more lenient I became, the more he pushed the envelope until one night I exploded and threw a glass of water in his face in front of his brother and his girlfriend. Up until recently, I beat myself up over the fact that I did this but looking back now a year later, it makes me snicker because he - as you can imagine - deserved it.

There's something to be said about the nice guy and Aurelien challenges me in different ways. We work well, even if he is Oasis and I'm Blur. This, we can work through.

Life is stressful enough and I finally, finally, finally appreciate the tranquility of a healthy relationship. I can say with certainty that I would never trade it back for the artificial excitement of the chase. After all, I'm not a 23 anymore...

What about you ladies? How many frogs did you kiss before meeting your prince?

Day 280: Fall in Love with Paris.

Before a leisure drive through Paris after dinner the other night, Aurel took my camera to "do something" and was being super mysterious with it before we pulled out of the garage. 

Like a typical girlfriend, I was getting all huffed, puffed and bent out of shape because he wasn't telling me what he was doing and was changing all of my camera settings. 

I should have known to just trust him because he is fantastic and apparently some kind of magician Jedi master because he somehow made my camera look at Paris exactly the way that I do...

Champs-Elysées

Montmartre 

 Place de la Concorde

La Tour Eiffel

I feel bad for making major bitch face while he was producing this magic...


Happy Valentine's Day to you all!
xoxo, moi

Day 278: Gossip Has a Passport.


Just as I was opening a bottle of red to relax on a quiet Saturday evening at home, my cell phone rang. It was my mother - who never calls on Saturdays. When she's not traveling, Saturday is her spa day where she spends the day primping and relaxing while watching Law and Order: Criminal Intent. Really, "spa day" is just her excuse to drink Pinot Grigio in the afternoon guilt-free but in any event, I seldom hear from her on a Saturday afternoon, New York time.

She calls my cell phone through Skype and after I pick up, it usually takes her about ten seconds to realize that I had picked up. "Hello! Hello! Ella! Hello!" can be heard barking on the other end as she screams into the wrong part of her computer. I have showed her several times where the mic is but clearly she never listens. "I'm here!" I scream into my phone, "Ma!!!". Once she realizes that we have made contact, her voice goes from barking Long Island Italian mother to sweet and concerned mother - for a second. "Oh hi sweetie, it's Mom," she says. "I know, hi," I say, at this point just wanting move past introductions.

"Well, I heard some gossip today at the shopping centa," she said with a hushed tone. I swear I could hear her eyes look left and then right to see if anyone was listening. This reminds me of the time that she called me 1 am Paris time to tell me that she bumped into Tina Fosserelli at Rite Aid and thought that her baby was ugly. After she spit out her confession, I spent the next fifteen minutes on the phone assuring her that she was not a terrible person because she didn't find all children to be beautiful. So I could only imagine what she discovered on this Saturday afternoon. 

"Did you know it's MF's birthday today?" she asked with concern. Oh yeah, I guess it is, he's 35 today. It hadn't even occurred to meBefore I could indulge in memories of last year, back when I was trying to mend our relationship that was hanging by a thread with a surprise party for him, I had to stop my thoughts from wandering. "Wait, how do you know that?" I asked confused because she has a terrible memory. Did I mark it in the family calendar when I was in New York for the holidays? No, I couldn't have, that would be totally creepy and I always knew his ballpark birth date which was somewhere between the 9th and the 12th of February, so how the hell could my mother know the day he blessed the world with his presence?

"Well I'll tell you how I know," she said in her Page Six voice, "I bumped into Jessica Mossberg at Yogurt n' Such and apparently she read on Facebook that it's his birthday," she said, saying apparently as if it was allegedly his birthday. 

I forget that Jessica Mossberg is friends with MF on Facebook. She passed through Paris a few summers ago and we had taken her out to dinner at the restaurant at Palais de Tokyo. Jessica and MF both being iPhone people (I suppose like the rest of the world, sauf moi), added each other on Facebook after several mojito royales  leaving their "friendship" immortalized on social media. I forget just how many friends we still have in common.

"Well that's lovely, I hope he has a joyeux anniversaire," I said sarcastically while letting my sip of Bourgogne slide down my throat. "Well the word on the street is that his new girlfriend threw him," she waited for a dramatic pause, "a surprise party last night," she said as if this was the hottest news to breeze through Nassau County, "What a whore, she copied you!" she exploded. My mother has such a skillful way with words.

"Mom, she's not a whore because she threw him a surprise party," I said defending someone that I didn't know, "She and I are just both terribly unoriginal." So he got another surprise party? This detail did sort of annoy me, he didn't deserve another one because he's been such an ass this year and is probably still acting like an ungrateful little bitch to this poor girl who took the time to throw him a celebration. I hope I'm wrong, I just remember how I was treated last year.

"Mom," I asked exasperated, "Is this why you called? To tell me what's happening with MF, fresh off the Long Island gossip mill?" "No," she said defensively and desperately searching for something else to say, "I also thought you'd like to know that Charlotte is also wearing her Valentine's Day colla, the one with the red rhinestones and bell," she said trying to sound convincing, "She looks gorgeous!" I had to admit that it was a good subject change because I'm sure Charlotte looked adorably festive and ready for Valentine's Day with her blinged out little collar. 

Not wanting to hear any more news and wanting to watch 90s classic Great Expectations, I rushed off the phone by lying and saying that I was heading out for the night. After hanging up, I took a deep breath, looked out on to the rooftops of Paris through my tiny window and sipped on my wine. So there you have it, MF gossip traveling from Paris to the supermarkets of Long Island back to Paris. This what I get for staying in on a Saturday night.

Day 277: Postcards from Valentine's Day.

With Valentine's Day around the corner, here are some things that have been inspiring me and getting me in the mood for love. 

Oh, who am I kidding? Valentine's Day just gives me another excuse to drink and woof down on sweets. Still inspiring, nonetheless...

New York City Street Art
Prince Street

Red Velvet Cupcake
Originally, the idea was to take 
the photo of the cupcake as whole.
I couldn't wait.

My favorite conversation heart messages.

The Eiffel Tower peeking!


Love cheese!

...and love pancakes.

A gift I made for my mom before I left.
I preserved a left over pancake
with glitter shellac and strung it with ribbon.
Clearly I'm unemployed...

Bon week-end! 

Day 276: Visit a Dear Friend.


What is it about getting older that makes it harder and harder to reach out to friends and stay in touch? And when I say "reach out", I don't mean Facebook "likes" and retweets, I mean getting together and truly catching up. I know for me, I tend to stay in the nook of immediate friends where making the effort to see otherwise amazing people is a challenge. Why is it so difficult? Have I gotten so lazy where making a phone call in lieu of a text is deemed a grand gesture? This is something that I struggle with this in both Paris and New York. I can't say this poses much of a problem in LA where this is the social norm.

When I was in New York, I was walking through Anthropologie with my mom when I saw a collection of Hervé Tullet books, the eccentric children's book author as well as my former English student turned friend. This reminded me that I had to get in touch with him once back in Paris to pay him a visit. He is such an incredible person and it has been way too long. I was so proud to see that his books have finally been translated in English which is truly wonderful news. Getting books translated in English is a huge accomplishment because the anglo-market is so fierce which makes it extremely difficult for a foreign author to cross over to the States and the UK. We tried to connect before Christmas but that time of year leaves everyone frazzled that we promised to touch base after the new year.

When I got back in town, I let a few weeks go by, completely forgetting that I had made a mental note to drop him a line. It wasn't until Séb, May and I went to the Keith Haring exhibit at Musée en Herbes where I found an entire showcase of Hervé's books in the gift shop that I told Séb to please remind me to call him and also to remind me to buy a notebook for little notes like these.

The last time I saw Hervé was several weeks after the break-up with MF, long after I stopped teaching him, around this time last year. I had to pull myself together because I was booked to work Paris Fashion Week and anyone who has worked in fashion knows that no one especially during Paris Fashion Week gives a hoot about your personal mini-dramas and I had to show up polished, professional, vapid and ready to talk about important world news, you know, like Gaga's Thierry Mugler show.

The only way I know how to somewhat pull myself together when I'm in the throws of crisis is to get a blow-out, so I made a rendez-vous at my salon near Hervé's atelier at Place de Clichy. There's something about walking out of the salon humming “Who's That Lady?” while tossing your hair in the wind and checking yourself out in storefront reflections that works wonders on the morale. Is it just me?

After my Clichy blowout by the very talented Hamid who went a little overboard by pulling out all of his tools, I left with super volume and cascading curls. I walked over to Hervé's atelier in the boho part of the 17th looking like Brigitte Bardot and tapped on the window to see if he was in to say hello. He let me in and over a café allongé, I had dismally told him what had happened. I was exhausted, drained where even his strong coffee wasn't perking me up to my usual vibrant self. I have this sad image of myself at his atelier that day burned in my memory. I felt like I was dead.

Almost a year later, our last meeting compared to this year's is like night and day. I met him again at the atelier with flatter hair, pulled back in a bun and as he opened the door, I ran and gave him a big American-style hug and with a glowing smile on my face told him how happy I was to see him. I truly was. We walked over to the authentic Japanese restaurant Kokoya for unlimited cups of dark green tea, unagi bento box, sesame creme brulée and gossip as we sat under the fish painting that he had donated to this hidden gem in the Batignolles area of the 17th.

Sidebar: If you have never been to Kokoya, I highly recommend it. I find that getting good Japanese food in Paris can be a bit tricky, but this place serves up fresh and authentic Japanese dishes in a clean and simply designed restaurant.

Kokoya Restaurant Illustration 
found at Ivy Mag

As we sipped on our miso soup, I recalled him assuring me last year that everything was happening for a reason and I was exactly where I was supposed to be. At the time, I resisted this theory because I was in so much pain and couldn't see how this was all for the "best". I hate when people say that when you're upset. Maybe it's not for the best, damn it! Now a year later, it's clear that I really was supposed to have these experiences because it has sharpened my awareness, my judgement to be more selective on who I let in and improved my self-esteem with the knowledge that I can persevere through anything.

After lunch, we took a cool stroll through the neighborhood where he introduced me to the owners of some of the boutiques in the neighborhood (where I found a darling notebook), he filled me in on his exciting news and intense travel schedule promoting his books and we mused on life, love and living in Paris.

There are special people to me here and Hervé whom I see once a year, is without a question one of them. Everyone needs an Hervé Tullet in their life. He shares with me the wisdom of his life experiences and I keep him young with my stories and adventures. With everything that I've shared with him over the years, he shouldn't age for another ten more years because I just keep them coming with one story crazier than the next.

I couldn't think of a better way to spend a brisk February afternoon in Paris.

Kokoya
5, rue des Batignolles
75017 Paris

Day 273: February Musings.

The key to my...

February has always been a bit of an emotional time of year for me. Maybe it's the cold weather that forces me to reflect because I'm not distracted with bike rides, sunshine, Marc by Marc Jacobs sun dresses and margaritas. Or maybe some major turning points in my life have happened during the month of February...

For example, the 7th grade Valentine's Day dance when my intense crush Zach went with "the (debatably) prettiest girl in school". This was a hard time for me. Seeing them dance in the auditorium as Kitty and I looked on in our Contempo Casuals plaid miniskirts and waffle tops was hardship that I thought I'd never had to revisit again in my life. And don't even get me started on the fact that someone (no names Danielle Lisa Vincenzi) thought it was a good idea to publish this image of them dancing in our yearbook; "Going Places" which is now burned into my memory...for eternity. 

I knew how Jennifer Aniston felt way before she even did. Seeing them gloating in the yearbook made me finally realize that I had to let go of the life Zach and I had built together in my head and accept that we were never going "to be". I wasn't able to listen to Mariah Carey's "Can't Let Go" until at least the 9th grade, and even then, it brought up painful and wistful "what-ifs".

Several Februarys ago was also the first time that I had ever visited Paris and fell in love with this city and decided that I wanted to make my life here. And more recently, it was last February that the man that I thought I was going to share my life with decided "not so much" and I was left wandering these very streets that I fell in love with, carrying all of my belongings...alone.

 ...heart.

I know that whatever happens, nothing is 100% but my love for my adopted city is as consistent as February. People come, people go and merde happens...but me and Paris? We're in it for the long haul.

*An extra special thank you to Mlle. May who came with me to shoot this photo on this icy, cold day in Paris. Je t'adore. xo.

Day 272: Getting Tracked Down.

Je suis là!
Illustration by Blanca Gomez

Since coming back into town, it has been so nice catching up with my friends. The welcome back that I've received from real-life friends to cybermates has been truly heart-warming, reminding me that I am home. This sure as hell beats last year where I was the least popular girl in town. In fact, so unpopular that I went back to buying phone credits at the tabac because my 45 euros a month plan was a waste of money. But it's a new year with new friends, and if I had to go through all of the madness of last year to find these incredible people, it was well worth the trouble. No one ever said that good things come easy.

Thanks to social networking, news of my return traveled fast and my e-mail and Facebook in-boxes were bursting with notes from friends wanting to meet up. Ok, I'm exaggerating, it hasn't been "bursting" but there have been enough to make me feel special and loved. Isn't that what we're all looking for?

Now that it has been a week and have touched base with my core posse of friends, the dust has settled on the commotion of my return and my inbox is back to normal with messages from friends.

I woke up this morning and had two messages waiting for me in my Facebook message box. Expecting it to be from one of them wanting to shoot the breeze on chat and looking forward to them filling me in on the Superbowl, I was disappointed to learn that it was not from Brett or Thomas, but rather from MF...and Lucien. Double whammy! It's like I have a GPS on me where ex-boyfriends are alerted when I'm in Île-de-France.

MF's message read as if we were old friends who haven't caught up in a while: "I haven't received any news from you! I know you are in Paris...you have my number! Bise."

News? Why do I owe him any news? Since I refuse to play the puffy coat game, we are not friends, and I'm still very upset with him about many things, he will not be getting any "news" from me anytime soon. Next.

Lucien's message was less annoying but still presumptuous: "Hello! I see you are in Paris. Let's take a coffee at Café Le Basil."

Oh geez. Lucien is sniffing around like he does every year to see if I am dating someone. The truth is that Lucien doesn't really bother me, in fact, I find him extremely entertaining because of what an idiot he is. Before I could close out of Facebook, I heard an instant message alert with a new chat message...it was from Lucien.

Lucien: Hello.
Ella: Hi Lucien. How are you?
Lucien: Good, good. You are back in Paris, I hear.
Ella: Yes, it's good to be back. Cold...but good to be back.
Lucien: I see.
Ella: You see what?
Lucien: I see you love Parisian living.
Ella: Sure I do...but like any place there are both good and bad points.
Lucien: I prefer the energy and beat of New York.
Ella: The "beat" of New York? Like 103.5 KTU?
Lucien: What is a KTU?
Ella: LOL, Nothing..so what have you been up to?
Lucien: Not much, enjoying Paris life, wishing I was in NYC, interested in going to some intellectual cocktail parties, having one cocktail and talking about art and writing.

Four minutes pass....

Lucien: Hello?
Ella: You're still looking for your intellectual cocktail parties? I remember you telling me that when you moved to NYC you want to hobnob with Woody Allen and The Strokes at parties. Is that happening?
Lucien: Not yet. LOL. But I really want to sit around and drink one cocktail and discuss Tolstoy or Nietzsche at a library cafe likes Les Editeurs in St. Germain.
Ella: And you think Woody Allen and The Strokes want to do that wit you? 
Lucien: Why not? :-)
Ella: Also, why do you keep putting an emphasis on having "ONE" cocktail? It's annoying...
Lucien: I remember when we were together you enjoyed your cocktails very much....
Ella: Yes...and I still do. Are you trying to make a point? 
Ella: And by the way, I drank wine, you make it sound like I was Miss Hannigan with a flask of Bathtub Gin in my garter, stumbling around parties. Although that would have been kind of fun...#mentalnote
Lucien: I make no insult, I just remember you wouldn't have been able to have just one cocktail at a party...
Ella: Party being the operative word here.
Lucien: I see...

Is it just me, or is he kind of annoying? Yet, I can never stop myself from getting sucked into talking to him. He is just so ridiculous that I can't resist. It's sort of like watching "Kourt and Kim Take New York." 

Ella: Sooooo...Valentine's Day is coming up...seeing anyone special?
Lucien: I have options but make no commitments. No one meets my beauty plus intellectual demands..I know I am difficult to please..I am living the workaholic life in libraries, analyzing papers, deep thinking and I must wait for the right women to come to me.
Ella: To go to intellectual cocktail parties with...?
Lucien: Exactly.
Ella: So what you are looking for is someone with the looks and body of Gisele Buncheon, the biting wit of Tina Fey, and the intellect of Simone de Beauvoir who doesn't mind that you're broke, not very attractive and on top of everything, kind of an jerk? Tall order, my friend...

Five minutes later...

Lucien: I see that you still paint our relationship black and cannot move past how I have insulted you in the past...have fun in Paris.

..and he was gone.

This is why it's generally not a great idea to talk to ex-boyfriends whom you have no feelings for and find incredibly irritating because you'll just end up making fun of them to their face. Ex-boyfriends sometimes are like taxes, they come back around once a year and ignoring them does not, I repeat does not make them go away. Like taxes, they will only come back with more interest. Which reminds me, I need to do my return...

Anyway, it's been a fantastic week back and am looking forward to the next few months of positive challenges, excitement, and new beginnings. Paris, I've missed you.