connect!

Day 318: Spring is...

Paris in the springtime...so this is what the fuss is about! It's been absolutely gorgeous here and I'm not taking one second of it for granted.

To me, spring is...


...looking for street art.
Rue Chemin Vert


...blossoming trees and petals.
Saint Germain-des-Prés

 ...tulips and outdoor seating.
Courtyard au Musée de la Vie Romantique

...having a "few".
Le Marais

...butterflies in the park.
I was afraid that this woman was going to turn around and 
think I was taking a picture of her ass.
That didn't happen. 
Phew.
Parc des Buttes Chaumont

...hanging out on the street.
It's a party everywhere. Raise the roof.
Oberkampf 

Day 317: 2 Days in New York.

 
I have to say, I'm not a big movie-goer. I love movies themselves, but I don't necessarily love going out to see one. Something about being stuffed in a dark room with a bunch of strangers and being forced to watch an hour of commercials before the actual film starts just turns me off. A movie night to me is watching an illegal download from the comfort of my home, under a blanket with a glass of wine. Saying that, I am always the last to see movies that everyone is buzzing about and have reactions to art films about a year after their Academy Award win - a small sacrifice for being a lazy wino. Every so often, a film comes out that I have been dying to see and it's only this kind of hysteria that gets my big bottom over to the theater. A good example of said hysteria would be Spice World. That, I saw on opening night.

In the summer of 2007, I was given a movie pass by my step-mom who was encouraging me to use it on La Vie en Rose that was playing at the Paris Theater on the Upper East Side. While I absolutely love this movie theater and the biopic on Edith Piaf interested me, I had another Franco-film in mind that appealed to me much more; 2 Days in Paris and I was not disappointed with my choice. Julie Delpy is such a talented writer who is able to communicate the incessant cultural differences between Americans and the French. She takes on the challenge of conveying it with humor while avoiding cheap clichés - a difficult feat. To be clear, this film isn't targeted just for the Francophiles of the world. At the time, I didn't speak French, I had no interest in Paris, and certainly no interest (whatsoever!) in French men, but I still adored this film. Something about it hit home for me. Perhaps I was foreshadowing on my life...

Now that I'm the neurotic New Yorker in Paris, I relate to it more than ever, but on the reverse side where I've brought home several French boyfriends to meet my rowdy New York family and I was never sure exactly how it would go over. I have never been that reassuring girlfriend who says: "Don't worry, my family will love you," because I really don't know if they will. They can be pretty unpredictable, especially with their opinions. I mean, they hated Lucien. But he was also the one who thought that a great dinner topic would be to tell us all that if we were in France, we'd be considered low-class. That sort of killed his chances of ever being invited back.

Tonight I'm off to see the very much anticipated 2 Days in New York to see if it lives up to the original; a movie I can watch over and over again. How apropos, as I lead up to introducing my new French boyfriend to my grandparents for Easter dinner in New York. Meeting the Italian grandparents on a Catholic holiday. Good lord...

Day 316: How to Make a French Person Smile...

...in two seconds or less.

You guys, I've cracked the code that is guaranteed to be effective about 98% of the time. This is a little something that I found in the caverns of my apartment during my big clean out. It's one of my favorite things that I own because of it's kitch factor and also because it gives me such a cheap thrill.

Are you ready? 

Are you sure?

I'm being so dramatic...

...voilà!


I found this shirt (that translates to: "Smile if you speak French!) in a vintage shop in Los Feliz about ten years ago and fell in love with it the minute I saw it. When I would wear it, I was always able to detect the Francophones in L.A by whomever reacted to the t-shirt. I'm not kidding when I say that people really do crack a smile after reading this. It's corny but it works. Sometimes it really is life's little things that do the trick...

I just had to share this. And yes, I'm totally smiling right now. I hope you are too on this lovely Monday evening.

Day 315: Macaron Day Fail.

 Illustration by Charla Pettingill

Last week, the blogosphere was all abuzz about Macaron Day here in Paris. Per my understanding, Macaron Day is a day where select boulangeries give away these irresistible, pastel-colored, almond pastries to promote awareness and encourage donations for autism and other charities. Loving the idea behind this and excited about being in town for something as chou as Macaron Day, I sent a festive email to Zoé and Séb wishing them all the best on this festive day. 

Crickets chirping.

They had no idea what the hell I was talking about.

I must say, this doesn't surprise me that neither of them had ever heard of it. Non-natives always seem to know more about what's going on in town than the actual locals. I get it, when I lived in New York, I always relied on my friends who were from other states for fun city activities because they seemed to have their thumb on the pulse way more than I did. It's either that, or this day was clearly created for the expat community, because we seemed to be the only people who were aware of its existence.

While my wide ass hardly needs a free pastry, I still wanted to partake in the offering and donate the little that I had on me. Consulting the map of participating bakeries, I found one right in my neighborhood. On my way up to the north side of Paris to run an errand, I walked in to the participating boulangerie and disappointingly saw no signs of a celebration and/or giving away of anything, no less macarons. I guess I let my imagination run with this one where I thought there would be platters set out, conversation from the other enthusiasts and overall unabashed excitement about Macaron Day...2012! This wasn't the case and before I could quietly leave the bleak boulangerie, the baker had arrived from the back to take my order. I couldn't escape now and asked for a vanilla macaron. Upon handing it to me wrapped in a piece of parchment paper, she had requested 60 centimes - the cost of one. Oh, I wasn't expecting that but I assumed it was part of the donation? I fished for my wallet, but stopped myself as I saw this as an opportunity to articulate myself in French, something that I shy away from when in the company of strangers or authority figures. I lowered my wallet into my purse and politely explained the details of Macaron Day. 

There was silence. The woman looked at me like I was about to hold the place up.

We stood there staring at each other, me holding the vanilla macaron that was starting to crumble and her, looking at me like I was out of my mind. "Gratuit, mademoiselle?" she asked me in complete confusion while widening her ancient eyes at me. Okay, defeat accepted, there is no Macaron Day, there never was and never will be. I placed a euro on the counter and hightailed out of there, feeling like well, an asshole.

Eating the remains of my crumbled pastry on the street, I considered checking out the other "participating bakeries" to see if I'd have better luck, but since I was heading up to the less than scenic Porte de Clignancourt, I just had a hunch that the boulangeries and patisseries in this neck of the woods would also not be basking in the glory and jubilation that is Macaron Day.

After a long afternoon in the more festive part of Paris, I returned to my chambre de bonne to find that everyone was atwitter (literally) with their macaron experience. This was when when my phone rang. It was from Séb calling from work, who enthusiastically wanted to know what flavor I had chosen in observance of Macaron Day. In one frantic breath, I told him that I had selected vanilla, it had crumbled in my hands and half of it was left on the floor of the bakery, I tried to explain "Macaron Day" to a 90 year old French woman with my stupid American accent, while simultaneously fumbling for my pièces in my purse so I could just pay her, I couldn't make my little donation because I just wanted to get out of there because I felt dumb and couldn't go to another one because I was heading to Porte de Clignancourt. Respire! 

"Wait, I don't understand, you went to Porte de Clignancourt for Macaron Day?" was the only thing he could gather from my hysteria.

Not impressed with my Macaron Day, feeling disappointed with myself, my PMS being in full hormonal swing, and my apartment hitting Grey Gardens status, I had to just get off the phone and told him that I'd see him later.

Although we both know it wasn't the point of the event, but that night he surprised me with a dainty box from Ladurée filled with intact and non-crumbled goodies in colors of magenta, rose, mint green, creamy yellow and baby blue. "They weren't celebrating Macaron Day at Ladurée either, don't worry, it wasn't just you," he said while waving the box of fancy French delights under my nose, that once again, my lumpy ass certainly does not need. 

I'm glad that everyone else enjoyed their Macaron Day and were able to partake in such a good cause. Perhaps I'll have better luck next year? But really, was there something that I missed? Did I not read the website correctly? Perhaps there was some fine print that read that I had to bring an egg like in that 90210 episode before being granted my free macaron...?

Either way, Happy Macaron Day!

Day 314: Postcards from a Brocante.

When I first came to Paris, I had a scorching case of camera shyness where I never wanted to take pictures in fear of being outed as a foreigner...or worst..a <gasp> tourist! I don't know why I cared so much. I guess I just wanted to fit in and give the impression that I was a busy Parisienne, out and about and didn't take into account that the second I opened my mouth, the jig would be up. My accent reveals all.

Now that those days are over and I have grown into myself here, I can always be found with a huge camera around my neck, getting into nooks and crannies to get a shot of something that caught my eye. While cleaning out my apartment the other day, I came across a memory card from last year full of forgotten photos, including these pictures taken at one of my favorite Brocantes (flea market) on rue de Bretagne.

Now that spring has arrived and being outside is preferable to holing up inside, I look forward to all of the outdoor treats that the city will have to offer! Now get off the computer and get out of the house! Il fait trop beau!

Bon week-end à tous!











Day 313: Be a Tourist.

Illustration by Charla Pettingill

One of my favorite moments during these 300 days was my second date with Séb when he took me on a Vespa ride through Paris. Zipping around town on his kitchy bike has certainly given me a different experience, where my delusions lead me to believe that I'm in an Audrey Hepburn movie - not as Audrey, of course, I'm not that delusional. There's something about not being forced to breathe in the burnt smelling exhaust in the metro stations, being off the hustle and shuffle of the crowded, teeny sidewalks, and be able to weave in and out of Renaults, buses, and Smart Cars that I find so liberating!

For me, Vespas in Paris are what convertibles are in LA...total babe magnet status. When I first met Séb, on top of digging his style and his kind manner, when he showed up at my flat on a baby blue Vespa, I admit that I had a total girl schwing moment.

Getting around the city on this mode of transport is something that I highly recommend and I'm pleased to announce...(drum roll)...that you don't need a boyfriend to see the City of Light on a Vespa when there is 2 Wheel Tours, an independently owned company that specializes in custom Vespa tours around in and around Paris! Pretty cool, right? I was so excited that this even existed and contacted them back in January to see if I could tag along on a tour to check out what they were all about. 

Xavier, the company's founder responded immediately and invited me to come along with a tour that he had scheduled for the following week. I wasn't expecting such a quick response, and was hoping to do the tour when the temperatures weren't hitting a high of below zero, but if I have learned anything this year, it's that that nothing is 100% and confirmed my attendance with bells and whistles for the following week. What I do for you guys!

I met up with Xavier on a cold morning in February in the 7th where we started our mini tour with a couple from Australia, who must have had forgotten that it was winter in Paris when booking the tour. Bundled up in double socks, gloves and wrapped up in a scarf, I put my tourist goggles on and off we went on this icy morning through Paris to check out some of the sights that the city has to offer. While handles are provided on the side of Vespas for passengers to hold on to, I feel more secure holding on to the driver, because I still have a fear of flying off the back. I gripped tightly on to Xavier, which made me feel like I was scooter-cheating on Séb. You can imagine Séb's amusement when I confessed this to him over dinner that night.

 2 Wheel Tours Vanilla Vespa

The tour with Xavier was just darling. He drives with caution (a lot slower than Séb and no weaving through traffic!) and adequately answered all of my questions in English that I had prepared, to ensure that they would be able to accommodate English-speaking visitors. We started in the 7th, zipped around the rond point at Invalides, crossed Pont Alexandre III, swung a left on the quai, rode up along the Seine to the Eiffel Tower, then over to the Champs-Elysées, and finally to the Louvre where we stopped for something to warm us up. Xavier, being the super tour guide wanted to continue the tour up to Montmartre and then over to Notre Dame but at this point I was frozen solid, like Picard solid where it hurt to even answer my phone that was in my pocket, and had to jump off the tour at this point while the others continued on. Our one hour tour gave me a wonderful impression of the company, Xavier was friendly, drove safely and was nothing but eager to share his knowledge of this historic city, while keeping conversation in between landmarks light and engaging.
 
2 Wheel Tours specializes their tours to the client's request, whether it's an art history or fashion tour through Paris or a historic ride to the château at Versailles, it's up to you! Now that spring is springing and out-of-towners from the States will be itching to come visit as each week gets more picturesque, I'd say that this is a fantastic recommendation for adventurous travelers wanting to see Paris...as a moving postcard.

For more information on tours, schedules and prices, visit their site 2 Wheel Tours.

Day 311: Je t'aime...moi non plus?


Yesterday while taking a walk through Belleville, I passed an épicerie that was playing the song "Broken Glass" by Annie Lennox, an artist that I have never really loved but also never hated. I have always held a stance of indifference regarding anything Annie related...until last year. 

I had just started working at the American tax office here in Paris, where the receptionist would dominate the space with music from her computer speakers. Her selections were always fairly innocuous, you know office music you could ignore: Creedence, Springsteen, Top 40 Pop...and Annie Lennox. This was when Annie's existence was brought to my attention more than ever. She had an Annie Lennox "Essentials" mix on her Deezer account that always reared its head around lunchtime. 

Your basic Annie Lennox hits could be found on this mix, including the at-the-time torturous song "No More I Love You's". I'm not sure if the song was added twice on the playlist or I was truly meant to hear it because the damn song would play two times. Add that to three months and that's a lot of rescinded love happening. 

But really, do you how awful it is to a hear song called "No More I Love You's" on repeat after you've been dumped while working in an office where your ability to log mail and apply stamps is constantly put into question? It feels like dog poo to put it simply. While photocopying a 300-page document while keeping my finger on the tray in order to keep the paper aligned and hearing this song howl in the distance, I drifted off and remembered when my French ex-fiancé first told me that he loved me. 

It was on a day trip out to Deauville several summers ago and after a picturesque day on the beach, he declared his love. We had been together for maybe two weeks. 

"Je t'aime," he said as we stood beside his parked car. 

"I'm sorry, what?" I recall was my response. 

Having spent the three years before in NY and the five years before that in LA where I couldn't even get a guy to admit he was dating me, I remember being shocked by his sudden declaration. I mean, we pretty much had just met. But what I soon learned was just as easy as it was for him to tell me that he loved me, it was just as easy for him to tell me that he didn't...anymore. Dis. This was not the first time I had experienced this with Frenchmen who can't live without me one day and the next, they couldn't be bothered and blow the relationship off as a beautiful "histoire", soon to be forgotten. 

It hurts every time. What is it about saying "I love you" within the first few weeks of a relationship that they simply cannot resist? It's like, you know, you don't have to say it, right? 

On a walk through Père Lachaise with a friend last Friday, we sat on a bench that looked out onto the city talking about the loves that have come and gone since we've been in Paris. While each of our ex-boyfriends and currents are their own creatures, have different jobs, styles and interests, they all had one thing in common: they all shocked us by dropping the "L" bomb fairly early in the relationship. Ah ha, so it's not just the guys I date.

A man sitting on the bench beside us, who fashioned a bit of a  Crispin Glover look (more like creepy, skinny guy in Charlie's Angels than McFly...I know, McBummer), began to smirk, inviting me to believe that he understood our conversation and was not listening to his iPod. I took his eye contact as a cue to welcome (or rather force) him to join the conversation as a special guest (live!) in the studio, to enlighten us American gals on our queries of love in the City of Light. Obnoxiously, I leaned over my friend and flat out asked him why "he" proclaims his love so early in the relationship.

"We do what we feel," Crispin said with a smile. Okay Sir, yes I get that, but is "I love you" not as strong a sentence as it is to us Americans? 

"I love you means I love you," he added. "but maybe you are all too serious in America."

He then did the uniquely Gallic shrug, followed by that fart noise they make with their mouth when they're trying to convey that they don't know and more importantly, don't care. 

What I loved most about Crispin's response was not his indifference to my inquiry, but that he was not even a drop defensive or insulted that I decided that he too was like this. He just accepted my generalization without argument which only justified my assumption.

In the States, saying the "L" word is a pretty effing big deal and isn't a sentence that gets around too often. Having lived in Paris for several years now and having had this idea of "love" brought into several of my French relationships early on, I can't help but wonder if "je t'aime" means something different in French, or rather, does it just hold less weight than it does in the U.S.? Or is Crispin right, are we're too serious and tend to put all of our oeufs in one basket once we're told "I love you"? Perhaps the French really are just more romantic than us. So many questions...

Ladies...your thoughts?

Day 309: Kiss Me, I'm Irish.

 Illustration by Fifi Flowers

No, really I am, a fair-weathered one at best, but I definitely have some Irish in me. Proof of my "mc roots", my Irish-Mexican father gave me his super tricked-out Irish last name that sounds absolutely horrendous when I say it with a French accent. And although I identify as an Italian girl, as my mom is overbearingly 100%, St. Patty's Day reminds me that I am in fact, part Irish.

To celebrate my forgotten origin, Séb and I are going out for afternoon Mojito Royales and pistachio macaroons, since chez MacDo doesn't offer Shamrock Shakes...

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Day 308: La Vie Romantique.


One thing that I absolutely love about Paris winters is that they are gone before you can even get used to them. It's not like on the east coast where a chance of snow on Easter Sunday is a probability, and winter seems to lag on and on. In Paris, by the second week of March, spring is here and the frosty weeks we had been suffering through are already a forgotten memory.

Last year, I was a miserable mess and was actually pissed off that spring had arrived. I was incapable of allowing myself to enjoy one of Paris' most celebrated seasons. I wanted to step on the flowers, those little purple and blue doohickies who were torturing me with their elegance. I despised the blue skies, because I was always hoping for rain to justify my wanting to live under my blanket...forever. The café terraces bursting with friends and couples, enjoying the warm weather over cocktails only reminded me that I was alone, and the longer days forced me stay awake longer than I had wanted to. It was awful. The only time I felt safe from my thoughts and oblivious to my situation was when I was sleeping, and spring was getting in the way of my new favorite hobby.

Heavens to Betsey that those creepy days are over! I wasn't living...at all. I mean seriously, what kind of person fantasizes about smashing flowers in France?! To commemorate the changing of the seasons and my new life, I went to one of my favorite nooks in the city; La Musee de la Vie Romantique. I spent an afternoon alone soaking in the sun with my book in their unmanicured garden (that makes me feel like I'm in the Doll Parts video), sipping on a noisette from the greenhouse café and appreciating my life on this insanely gorgeous day in March.

La Musée de la Vie Romantique is ironically located in the 9th arrondissement, only steps away from the sin and scandal of Pigalle's seedy sex shops and peep show theaters, the museum finds itself a home on a side street of this otherwise "busy" district. Tucked away on the quiet Rue Chaptal, the street gives no leads to the beauty that awaits. The museum (that was once the home of painter Ary Scheffer) features the permanent collection, a small house built in the 1930's located at the head of the courtyard has seen the likes of guests Chopin, Delacroix, and George Sand. 

This was one of the first places I had discovered in Paris back in 2009 and fell in love with the serenity of this off-the-beaten-track little gem. 2009, a gilded time in my life when the burden of broken hearts and failed relationships didn't weigh down on my mind. Coming back to this spot brings me back to my Paris spring chicken days, reminding me that it is possible to recapture that feeling of enchantment with my surroundings.

Paris truly is magical, especially in the springtime. I'm glad that I am able to see it this year.

View from the café.

The museum

My favorite paintings by Ary Scheffer
Princess Louise d'Orléans
1833

I need this head piece!
Princess Marie d'Orléans
1830

...and then there's this guy.
Well bonjour there...

Bon week-end à tous!

16, Rue Chaptal
Paris 75009

Day 306: Try Not to Kill Your Boyfriend!!


Forget the models! Try not to murder the man you sleep next to! I love Aurelien, I truly do and we've made it to ten months without any problems, hiccups or red flags, but sometimes he does really stupid things. He may be 95% perfect but he's still a man and sometimes they just can't help it...

Aurelien every so often has what I call "senior moments" where I know he means no harm, but he just doesn't think. For instance, last November, we were on our way to a party when he mentioned that the theme was black and white. I was wearing purple plaid. Do you know how dumb I felt being in a room full of guests elegantly donning black and/or white and I'm in a bright purple wool plaid dress? I looked like I was auditioning for a community theater production of Oklamhoma. I looked like an ass. His defense was that he had told me three weeks earlier, but instead of fighting with me like MF would have, he admitted that he could have reminded me (or as I say, told me) and made things right by keeping my champagne glass full - for the entire night.

Well this morning, Monsieur Senior struck again. It's been November since I've seen him and was starting to wonder when he'd pop up again. I guess today was the day. After a delicious twelve hours of straight sleep, I woke up feeling refreshed with clear eyes and radiant skin and went to the bathroom. Within milliseconds of sitting, I nearly jumped off the toilet from the excruciating pain that instantly zapped me out of my morning haze. I had a freaking urinary tract infection. How inconvenient. Incidentally, I just had an e-mail exchange with another blogger about gynecologists here in France and was telling her that I have never gone to one here. Look how much can change in a matter of hours. Incroyable!

Aurelien was in his office getting ready for work when I came in and told him about my lady parts problem. Being the amazing guy that he is (senior moments or not), he offered to take me to his doctor that was around the corner for support. I appreciated this because doctors, in general, make me nervous, but having to explain everything in French terrified me. Who wants to talk about their ill nana in French? Certainly not me. Before we headed out, Aurelien called his office to tell them that he would be coming in after lunch and then added, it was because his "girlfriend's vagina was not well".

For real.

Did he tell Marie, the receptionist that my vagina wasn't well? No. Marion, the intern? No. But Raoul, his robust, middle-aged co-worker who talks with his mouth full and per Aurelien, always has stains on his shirt after his greasy lunches that stink up the office. So my doctor, my boyfriend and Raoul know that my vagina is not bien. Ça va pas!

I could have killed him. Okay, okay, maybe it's not that big a deal, I guess just didn't want Raoul or anyone in Aurelien's office thinking about my vagina or acknowledging that I even have one. Is that asking too much? 

The visit went well and was in and out in under 30 minutes. The doctor was gentle, direct, spoke clearly for me, gave me my medicine and it was....free. You hear that America...free! Okay, well not exactly free. We pay for this every month, 50% taxes, so...

On my way out, I ignored his hand that he had extended in an attempt to shake mine and went in for the kill. I gave him a hug, which I could sense he found somewhat disarming, but I just couldn't resist. He was so cute and was giving me free stuff like healthcare, that I had no choice but to love him.

As Aurelien and I were parting ways outside of the pharmacy, with him going to work and me returning to the apartment to take a bath, he had asked, "So are you still planning on coming by the office after work to go to dinner straight from there?" No, mon chéri, me and my vagina (because we're sort of a package deal) will not be going to your office...anytime soon. 

Day 305: When Life Gives You Lemons...


Recently, I indulged in a rare moment of downtime and made myself a latte and futzed around on-line. After g-mailing, facebooking, tweeting, and linking in, I checked my AOL account. I know...don't laugh. Why I have never erased it is for one reason and one reason only: my mother who still calls the internet the world wide web, insists on using this e-mail address to contact me when she can't hunt me down on Skype. This is an e-mail address that gets over 300 pieces of spam per month and was created back when I had braces and a-rockin' night consisted of photographing my cats wearing feather boas while watching reruns of The State on MTV. I was such a party animal.

Being off the radar for the past week because of my hectic work schedule, it was no surprise that there was an e-mail from her waiting for me in a sea of junk mail and Facebook receipts. I have gotten used to my mother's internet etiquette or rather lack thereof. Her messages are always in lower case, no commas or punctuation marks and are cryptic notes that say things like: "call me momma". She truly doesn't recognize how a comma can change an entire sentence. But this is also the same woman who used to plant encouraging post-its around the house for our cleaning lady. For example, if Gloria moved the sideboard to vacuum behind it, she would be rewarded with a lime green post-it note stuck to the back of it that read: "very good thank you". My mom has never been sharp with expressing herself through written word.

Today's message, however, contained a link from her source of reliable reportage of world news and vital issues (and stuff); The New York Post and a note that read: "Ridiculous! Some people...I'm telling you. If MF pulls this I'll walk down to his restaurant myself and tell him what time it is." Tell him what time it is? Okay, I really shouldn't laugh. She composed an e-mail with punctuation and sent a link which means that she finally learned how to copy and paste; a technique that she once referred to as: "fancy computer stuff". This is a big deal for The Coquine Family.

My mother knew that it would pique my interest to read that Grammy Award-winning artist Adele is currently being sued by her ex-boyfriend. Not just any ex but the ex who inspired her award-winning album, 21. Why the hell is he suing her? Well, he feels that he is owed royalties of her album because he was the inspiration behind these heart-break anthems and claims that if it weren't for him she wouldn't be enjoying her current success. Okay, so let me get this straight, he treated her like terribly, left her for a model, she wrote about it, people liked it and somehow she owes him for this?! People never cease to amaze me. She's a recording solo artist, what else was she going to do? Release a rap album? A book of poetry? Yes, he inspired these soul-crushing lyrics, but this is a case where inspiration isn't exactly complimentary.

21, although difficult to listen to last year, is one of my favorite albums because it reminds me that no matter how strong-willed and resilient you are, nothing kicks you in the knees harder than having your heart broken. There needs to be some kind of outlet to let out that pain, in order to avoid showing up at your ex's house drunk at 2 am and making an ass out of yourself. For me, it was taking dance classes, reading and writing, for others it's cooking, watching crap television, and in Adele's case, it was writing an album that thank god will finally replace the heartbreak anthem "I Will Survive". I have always found that heartbreak, albeit excruciating, had a way of launching me into the next phase of my life.

My big break-up of 2004, notably after my father died, motivated me to get serious with my life because, at the time, my days were made up of waiting tables, going to Hollywood bars, waking up with a hangover - rinse and repeat. I was still young but I wasn't doing much with myself. After a month of self-pity and complaining that I had been wronged by my ex, I decided to get over it and do something about it. I went back to school, got an internship at a Fashion PR Firm and within a year and a half, was working at the corporate offices of my favorite designer in New York where I met my French bosses who ended up changing my life. Using the break-up as ammunition to succeed, I put all of my energy into changing my life for the better. If it wasn't for that experience, I wouldn't be in Paris right now. 

I still wonder what will come out of this break-up, and if it will come full circle one day. I guess all I can do focus on growth, work harder, recognize the past but not hold on to it, and make better choices based on my new found awareness based on past experiences.

As for MF, he better not sue me for my Liebster award-winning blog otherwise he has a tough Italian mother waiting for him to give him a piece of her mind, and he will not be issued a motivational lime green post-it.

What is it about heartbreak that inspires us to do great things? What positive changes do you remember making after a painful break-up that made you realize that it really was for the best?

Day 303: Postcards from the Showroom.

I cheated a bit and funkdafied the photos that I snuck at work today. I feel so rebellious...I also feel like I'm in an A-Ha video with this photo enhancing application.

Here's a little peek at what's been going on this week...






View from the Showroom's terrace.

Day 302: Try Not to Kill the Models!


Paris Fashion Week is coming to an end this weekend, and while it's been fun seeing the collection, reconnecting with old contacts and feeling the rhythm of my former life, I'm looking forward to it being over. I'm wiped out.

So some questions have been raised as to why I am still working Paris Fashion Week when it has been over for several days now. Good question. The second component to Fashion Week after all of the collections have hit the runway is a fun-filled, stress-free week called Market. Sense the sarcasm. Market is when each designer presents their collection to retailers in their showrooms where they are invited to feel, merchandise and photograph the pieces, as well as see the runway looks live on models. The models are used to sell the line by making the size 0 samples look flattering. While all buyers know that their average customer is not 5'11" and 110 pounds (at least I hope not), it's the industry norm to showcase the looks on these shapes. I regret to inform you that you'll never see my fat ass emerging from the dressing room in hand sewn cuffed leather shorts to see what they will really look like on a real person. Sorry.

I have worked Market every season that I have been in Paris and every season, the models grind on my last nerve. I know what you may be thinking, I'm jealous because they're skinnier and are strikingly beautiful, therefore I hate them. Believe me when I say that this is not the case. If anything, their beauty inspires me to exfoliate my skin and skip on the late night pasta and crème fraîche cravings that creep in after several glasses of wine.

As you could imagine, fashion is full of personalities and everyone seems to have one where the models are certainly noexception. There are two types of models that I work with each season...

Type 1: The Primadonna. No surprise here. The primadonna thinks that you work for her. When she is done showing the look to the clients, she meets you in the dressing room and stands with her arms stacked as if she is incapable of unzipping, unbuttoning, and the worst, unbuckling her shoes where you have no choice but to do it for her. It's pretty degrading taking the shoes off of a 17-year-old girl in a desperate attempt to move the day along quicker. Type 1 also has total bitch face the entire day, rolls her eyes when you ask her to put something on (God forbid that you need to see something twice, because the client requested it), she bitches about you in her native tongue with their model friend for the day (the French models can't get away with this one anymore) and are just plain miserable to work with where you feel uncomfortable asking them to, I don't know...do their job? These girls make about $1,700...for the week.

Type 2: The Know-It-All. Believe it or not, this type is actually more annoying than Type 1. These are girls who are sharp, follow direction and are well-traveled where they have the life experience of a 30-year-old at their young age. They are fun to chat with during down time and I'm sure they make good friends but they annoying as all hell to work with. So what exactly is the problem with this type? I'll tell you. The problem is that because they are smarter than your average model (which they know), and have spent a better part of their life in showrooms that they think that they know your job better than you. They are desperate to be viewed as more than just a pretty face and to be identified as a person with substance, which I can understand, but, their need to get noticed gets in the way of sale appointments. 

For example, if you ask Type 2 to put on the black dress with the blue cardigan, not only does she not do it and holds up the meeting, but in front of the client she tells you that she doesn't think it's a good choice and that the green that was just sold to Store X would be a better option. If she really did know everything, she'd know that Store X is the current client's competitor and it's probably not a good idea to share information about the other client's buys in front of them. Do you know how annoying this is when you are trying to keep to your schedule?

These models also have an annoying habit of segueing details of their personal life into appointments, which once again, holds up everything up. I had one model who at first glance appeared to be your typical blonde model from the States because of her strong Caucasian features. During a coffee break, she had told me that her father was black. While I found it interesting that she only inherited her Swedish mother's looks and sincerely wanted to know more about her background (during off hours), I didn't find it necessary to mention this to each client. Meetings were held up as she dominated my presentation with details of her family tree. It was actually pretty impressive how she worked in her aborigine roots into every appointment. I never said anything to her because how do you tell someone that they can't talk about their black dad? Or rather their family in general? Everyone's family is important, trust me, I get it. But at this moment, it's inappropriate and not to mention, irritating when you're trying to sell a 2,000 dollar sweatshirt.  

In smaller showrooms, Type 2 is the norm and in bigger fashion houses, it's all about Type 1, but today, I had the rare occasion of having both and wanted to the day to just end already. I was told to shut up, I had another model telling me how to merchandise the looks and was disagreeing with the designer's lookbook that we all had to follow, and another threw a tantrum at me because she thought that the shoes were made in a Russian sweatshop. I'm not a showroom assistant, I'm an au pair running after these little girls, telling them not to talk during the meetings, buckling their shoes and reassuring them that their family is not making the collection under corrupt working conditions in Russia. It's exhausting and it's like this every season. Same shit, different showroom.

The excitement of working in fashion in Paris has worn off, as it always does after a week and while I did enjoy myself at one of Paris' oldest fashion houses and worked with the inspiring women from the New York office, I am once again reminded why I left this life. It's fun a few weeks out of the year but full-time? I just don't have it in me anymore. I'm too old to babysit these little pains in the ass.

Only three more days to go...

Day 300: Champagne!


I know that I've said it before, but I can't believe how fast time is going by! I'm almost hitting a year! What's going to happen in these last 65 days? I'm prepared for anything - as long as it doesn't involve me getting robbed again by someone that I know - I'm game for anything. It's incredible how the first 30 days went by excruciatingly slow, where I felt like I just wanted to die, as everything seemed to be moving in slow motion to now where time is slipping away.

Saying that I must tell you guys that I did something. Something that I have been avoiding for a year that could have either been cathartic or completely catastrophic. What did I do? I waited in front of MF's restaurant in the pouring rain wearing a Burberry trench, reflecting on old times...

I'm totally kidding. Scared you, didn't I? How creepy would that have been? While I didn't reenact a scene from an old film noir movie, I did pull out my old PC that has been stored in the back of my closet and looked at old photos of my former life here. Why would I attempt emotional suicide? I'm not sure exactly why, but I needed to look at these photos to take my emotional temperature on the whole ordeal, to see exactly where I was at with everything that had happened. For the past year, I have been so terrified of crossing paths with these memories that haunt me, that I went as far as replacing my PC for MAC (which was the best impulsive decision) to avoid revisiting my old life - my old life that seemed to have changed over night.

So, the verdict after taking a walk down memory lane, going through photos of past birthdays, Christmases and 14 Juillets? Do you really want to know? I don't blame you if you don't, or if you don't really care, but this is something that I had to do for me. Well, as it turns out, I wasn't as haunted by the past as I had thought and feel like a weight has been lifted. That feeling of heartbreak that I feared would return like Georgina on Gossip Girl, never did. I guess it shouldn't after a year, but as we all know, our hearts have a funny way of operating, where they have a way of negotiating the facts to persuade our heads to follow them. In this case, my head and heart were actually in agreement. Finally.

The only sadness that I did feel, was not for the loss of him and my former "friends", but for the loss of the wide-eyed, trusting person that I used to be. A girl that didn't believe that someone would purposefully go out of their way to hurt me like Phil did, a person that didn't believe that people, who were supposed to be my friends here would secretly take pleasure in my misery and add salt to my wounds by speaking terribly about me, a person who didn't think that someone would kick me when she knew that I was already down and would rob me like the shady sublet did, and the person who thought that MF loved me - for me. I now know that he only loved the idea of me.

My little blast from the past with my ancient Dell laptop allowed me to understand once again that the past is just that; the past. I've lost count of the people in my life that have come and gone. Friends, acquaintances, lovers, boyfriends and the worst, relatives who have passed, so there is no reason that MF would be an exception to this. We're not supposed to take everyone with us in our journey of life.

Returning to the present: I got home from work an hour ago and am in pain - good pain, but in pain. I screech from a sharp ache in my lower back when I bend down to take off my shoes, my feet sting when they get wet in the shower from the high heels that I've been wearing for 13 hours straight, and the whites of my eyes are a lovely shade of crimson, from lack of sleep but it feels good to know that I worked my ass off today. Aurelien just opened a bottle of champagne and we are celebrating, not because I'm over MF and appreciating life again (because that's starting to get played out besides the fact that it would be weird to celebrate that with him) but because he was on TeleMatin this morning (I'm so proud of him!), because spring is creeping in on us (has anyone noticed?), because I'm loving the hustle of Fashion Week (for the most part) and tout va bien (et voilà!).

Today was a great day, even if I am walking like an old lady and the models are acting like Naomi Campbell, where I had one storm out during an important meeting.  

In fun Fashion Week gossip, to lighten up this post a bit, I met a famous fashion editor in the showroom today...(no, not her!) Which one? I can't say, but what I will say is that she may or may not be a judge on a fashion contest reality show, and I'm here to report that despite her cold demeanor on said show, she was actually quite lovely. Who would have thought?  

Day 298: Get Stuffed...

Illustration by Derek Cardigan


Day One in the showroom for Paris Fashion Week went better than I thought it would, I was just like a duck to water. I'm not sure why I was so nervous this morning, I've done this before, this is hardly my first rodeo in fashion. And besides, today was only a meet-and-greet and a briefing of the collection, to get familiar with what we will be working with for the next eight days. The real challenge starts tomorrow, as the showroom will be in a state of panic as models will be tossed around like pieces of meat, ready-to-wear pieces will be flying everywhere, buyers will be complaining because we're behind schedule, and showroom directors will be screaming - in every language. 

Before arriving at the showroom this morning, I knew that it was going to be a nice set-up because I was going to one of the biggest French fashion houses, but I wasn't expecting just how nice it was going to be, because in fashion, you just never know. I've been to some budget showrooms of fairly big designers and was shocked by how makeshift everything was, but today, not so much. During our three hour briefing, a breath-taking view of the Eiffel Tower framed by a double window fashioning wrought-iron detailing was positioned right behind the designers as they were introducing the Winter 2012 collection. It was a fashion wet dream. If I had fast-forwarded to this very moment back when I was 24 years old and considering going into fashion (and willing to accept even a textile job in Downtown LA), I wouldn't believe this was me, in a conference room in Paris that could easily double as a honeymoon suite for newlyweds. My expectations have truly exceeded themselves.

While everything went well today, there was only one little, itty, bitty hitch that was not so dream-like...my uniform arrived. Just as I had suspected, it was a nightmare. The uniform that I was issued - you know the one, where my choices were small or extra small? - was worse than I thought. For the next eight days, I will be wearing a black tube sock that is being passed off as a skirt and a button-down shirt that features bizarre hardware on the collar and shoulders, reminiscent of Janet Jackson's Rhythm Nation look. You guys think I'm joking when I say this, but the uniform is not cute and my hips definitely don't lie, as they are protruding out the sides of this air-tight pencil skirt. Damn being Italian! Even at my skinniest, I have always had larger hips and they are best when not accentuated and showcased.

I guess the only thing I can do is take comfort in the fact that there will be seven models presenting the real collection, and that no one will really be watching me waddle around the showroom like J.Lo...in Selena. Maybe I can keep a rolling rack at my side at all times to hide my wide load...hmm, a thought.

Before today, I thought I was starting to become jaded with my life here in Paris, but I was reminded that there are always new experiences to be had and that I still have that twinkle in my eye from when I first arrived on French soil, even if I am being stuffed in a couture skirt like a pig at a beach roast.

Ah, fashion, it's good to be back...

Day 297: Work It.


Why do I feel obese, underdressed and old? Award season is finally over, so there's no reason to feel dumpy and unaccomplished. Hmm, so what could it be? When I walk down the streets of Paris, why do I have this undying urge to stop eating, cake on a full face of makeup in an attempt to conceal my age and run into Maje to buy a floral print catsuit, an oversized blazer, and a braided headband to wear over my forehead? Why am I feeling this way? I wonder...

Oh I know, it's worse than award-season...it's freaking Paris Fashion Week...and I'm working it. No, not diva "werking" it..but working it, like as a hired employee.

But who am I kidding? I live for this. While I do feel old and crusty in a city that's crawling with drop-dead-gorgeous gazelles with flawless skin from Eastern Europe and South America, it still beats the hell out of last year's fashion week. I had just gotten dumped by the man that I was in love with, was couch-surfing with an end-of-winter cold and was washing down Milka bars with red wine in the bathroom of the showroom where I was working, acting like a deprived addict. It was tragic.

Thank heavens that this year is different! While this is hardly my first fashion week presenting a collection to buyers in a showroom, it is my first Fashion Week at such an iconic house...here in Paris. I must admit, I'm a little nervous. Excited, but definitely nervous...I'm doing my nervous but excited shuffle now.

To kick off a week of drama, mayhem, attitude, crazy street style, and editors not dressing their age, here are my favorite songs that either inspire or are inspired by fashion.

Happy Fashion Week! 

Lady Gaga - Bad Romance (Chew Fu Remix)
The Knife - Heartbeats
Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Date With the Night
RuPaul - Supermodel 
David Bowie and Damon Albarn - Fashion
Madonna - Vogue
LMFAO - I'm Sexy and I Know It
George Michael - Freedom 90
Sonic Youth - Kool Thing
George Michael - Too Funky
New Order - True Faith

And because I simply could not resist; the most ridiculous song ever written by Lady Gaga, performed by...

Heidi Montag - Fashion

To listen to the playlist in its entirety, click here