Day 350: Chaud for Firemen!

What a long weekend I've had! Oh là là! It's not often that I cut myself off from the blogosphere for more than two days, but this weekend, I would not have been able to juggle both of my lives. It just wouldn't have been possible. For someone who stays in on the weekends, I was burning the candle (no pun intended) from both ends, and now it's Monday morning and I feel heavy, hungry for another day of sleep. Damn, I must be getting old. 

On Friday night, I packed my bags and moved in with Ginger and Vinny, out at their mom's house in Queens for the weekend. With the calm after their mother's passing starting to settle in, I stayed with them to keep some movement and laughter in the house. Every one could use a sassy little Italian girl to keep things fun and light. We're just built that way. Along with me, Ginger's friends from high school whom I haven't seen since my J.Lo velour jumpsuit, pin straight blow-outs and hoop earring days, kept themselves available for back-to-back girl's night on both Friday and Saturday. It was interesting to see the direction all of our lives have gone in over the course of ten years.

To make it an official "Ladie's Weekend", we went to the launch party of the 2013 New York City Firefighter Calendar that my cousin is posing in. Yes, I have a cousin posing in the hunky calendar. I guess I'm not the only coquine in the family! The party consisted of cheap drinks, firemen being passed around like hors d'oeuvres, greasy food, jukebox rock and a portion of the evening's proceeds going to the Jacobi Medical Center Burn Unit. That's all I needed, another excuse for me to order more drinks. I vaguely remember myself shouting, "It's for charity!" as I ordered another glass of wine.

While I'm not much of a beefcake lover, I couldn't resist the kitch of the night, and within minutes at the tavern, I turned into a middle aged house wife having a ladies night out at Chippendale's circa 1985. Had the evening's event been held in Queens, I would have fully committed to the role and rocked my spandex capri pants, off the shoulder sweater, vintage Versace zebra print mules and top the look off with my gold bamboo heart "I Love You" earrings, but since we were going to the Firehouse Tavern in the affluent Upper West Side, I played it safe with a red and white striped boat neck top, a navy blue skirt and ballet flats. France representin'.

Not realizing that there is an entire subculture of women who not only love New York City Firemen, but crave them, posed a bit of a challenge in getting any of them to sign my calender. I had to get aggressive, and leave it to the little Italian girl to get things done around here. In order to get a little face time with the boys, I had to instill a little fear by chasing them down, and when necessary, hiding behind drink menus that between you and me, wasn't much of a useful disguise, and once I was able to capture them and had them in my grip, I ordered them to introduce themselves and sign the calendars at our table of ladies in waiting. Always send in an Italian to get things done.

During a lull in the evening, I had a moment to chat with my cousin who needed a break from his screaming fans (really) and as he was telling me about his news bit on Fox that had aired that morning, we were interrupted by a girl whom he had been taking to earlier in the evening. She looked very unhappy with him. "So you were just tawkin' to me, and now yaw with her?" she said in her thick burrow accent, staring back at him with wide eyes that were demanding an explanation from someone she had met twenty minutes earlier. Her entitlement of my cousin's attention was impressive, I was in shock. I forget that women like this really do exist, and aren't just manufactured for the show "Tough Love". Some women take their fantasy of being rescued very seriously, and to her I was getting in the way of her dreams.

Before getting myself into an unnecessary bar brawl with his admirer, we relieved this woman of her fear and filled her in on our relationship. "We're cousins," we said in unison. "Don't worry, I was just leaving." I assured her with a smile that implied that I was not looking for trouble and that she could have my cousin back, who not surprisingly wasn't terribly interested anymore. "That's a new one," she said while shaking her head in disbelief, signaling to her friends that it wasn't going to work out. You think? Clearly she was drunk but any shot she had with my cousin who is very cute, very single and may have been interested before, was long gone because she was acting just crazy. This is also coming from me, the girl who spent the entire evening stalking fireman by tucking and rolling on them, so I'm hardly one to judge. After she stormed off and a new round a women surrounded my cousin, I excused myself when the hunky Mr. November walked by. I scurried after him like Sofia Petrillo with my pen waving in the air.

I know what you must be thinking, what would Séb think of my hot tamale night? Well, funny you should ask, he was kept up to date with all of my shenanigans, thanks to Jann who recently befriended him on Facebook, he was tagged in every photo that was uploaded. Whether I was feeling the bicep of Mr. March, Séb was tagged, or biting my finger while looking at Mr. January, Séb was tagged or fully wrapped around the tree trunk of man that was Mr. September, Séb, still tagged. I woke up the next morning with likes and comments from him, his entire family and friends in France who saw these embarrassing drunk photos of me looking like a cat in heat with the NYFD.

To give you an idea, here's a taste of the "hotsie-totsies" that went on Saturday night. For best results, play this with the viewing.

...and my personal favorite 

C'est chaud!!

While I don't see myself relocating back to New York and settling down with one of New York City's heroes, I enjoyed an evening of harmless and playful fun with these guys who were such troopers, handling their satirical new roles as topless stud muffins with irony and humor. It was a perfect way to spend my last weekend in New York, with old friends, family and smokin' hot firemen. Tssss (read: burn sound)....!

Day 348: daydream for spring.

It's been another cold, wet and dreary day here in New York where the last thing I want to do is run errands around Manhattan in preparation of heading back to Paris, where it is also dreary and cold. Instead of being responsible, I spent a better part of the day procrastinating, laying on my bed, staring at the ceiling in a psychedelic daydream of being barefoot under the sun, making daisy chains and being buzzed off of wine at Parc du Champs de Mars. My Virgin Suicides fantasy coming to life... 

What marks a new season is a new playlist that paints a picture, sells the fantasy of a better life. Last year, I missed out on this little joy because I was only listening to Tori's Little Earthquakes (yes, "Tori"), Songs of Leonard Cohen and dance music I could ignore. So making up for lost time, here are my favorite songs to get ready for picnics, giggles and gossip, lingering days, grass stains and the most important, making the official switch from red to white wine. This is what spring should be, this and indie pop, not snarkey bitches having a drink with your ex at Caffe Vitto...I'm sorry, I couldn't resist.

Bon week-end! 

Air - Ce matin-là
She and Him - Why Do You Let Me Stay Here?
Panda Bear - Bros
Bertrand Burglat - L'Observatoire
Feist - Mushaboom
Lupe Fiasco (feat. Jill Scott) - Daydream 
Ben Folds (feat. Regina Spektor) - You Don't Know Me
Alister - La Femme Parfaite
Cat Power - I Believe in You 
Iron and Wine - Boy with a Coin 

Hangar - Version Originale
The Shins - Young Pilgrims 
All Night Radio - Daylight Till Dawn
John Legend - P.D.A
Belle and Sebastien - For the Price of a Cup of Tea 

To listen to the playlist in its entirety, click here: Printemps!

Day 347: ce jour-là

I'm sitting at Cafe Borgia on Price Street, wrapped up in a thick, over-sized, gray sweater, and sipping on my second extra-hot vanilla latte.  Spring is here...or so they say. You could have fooled me with these forty degree overcast days as we wait for the sun to warm up and follow the lead of the bees, tulips, longer days and the blooming trees that with each gust of wind, creates a gentle storm of petals.

Although it doesn't feel like spring here in New York or in Paris, I wouldn't trade today, this moment, my life, for last year's early seventy-five degree days. All I need to do is to is close my eyes and run my bottle of Marc Jacobs "Lola" perfume under my nose to bring me back to this dark time of my haunting day in particular. 

Picture it. Paris. Today last year.

I was returning home from another numbingly long day from my job as an executive photocopier, wondering what the hell I was doing with my life. The fact that I'd be pressing a button for nine hours a day was the initial appeal of the position - the idea was to not think - not realizing within weeks I would grow restless and hungry for more meaning in my life. Unfortunately rent and bills happen, so pushing a green "start" button was my reality and also, what was keeping me in Paris. We do what we have to do.

As each mockingly picturesque day went by, where my big life decisions ranged from which metro stop I'd get off that day, would I go to the Franprix by Saint Paul or the G20 on Rue Vieille du Temple, and what could I watch when I got home that wouldn't make me burst out in streams of tears, I decided to be a wild child and walk home from work that day. With my cardigan stuffed in my work tote, I rolled up the sleeves of my sky blue H&M button down, and went from George V to Hôtel de Ville, not even the aimless tourists on the Champs-Elysées encroached on the comfort of my haze. The only thing I had to focus on was walking straight, the simplicity of this task was soothing. 

Champs-Elysées turned into Place de la Concorde which turned into another long stretch on Rue de Rivoli towards the Marais. Finally making a left from this busy street onto Rue des Archives, I passed by all the cafés that MF and I would sit at for early evening apéros. On our good days, we'd sit out on one of the terraces, side by side, me tucked under his arm and we'd look out onto the Marais and talk about our life, future and share funny anecdotes our day. As I let my mind become intoxicated and seduced by memories of my former life of cafés, rosé and Gitanes, I saw him. I hadn't seen him since he dropped my things off at my new apartment and now there he was. MF at a café, one of our cafés...with another woman. I have watched this scene played over and over in films, where the lead actress sees the man that she loves with someone else and while it's supposed to be devastating, it never got much sympathy from me. It's not until you've lived and experienced it for yourself that you are able to understand the magnitude of pain of being replaced by another woman. My heart shot right down to the caverns of my stomach seeing the two of them laughing and enjoying each other at Caffe Vito. They were savoring this warm evening in the Marais as I was miserable, watching the days pass in my chambre de bonne, trying to squeeze in one little chuckle a day by humiliating myself at Belly and African tribal dance classes, trying not to explode into tears when told by my boss that I needed to be trained in filing paper, my life had been turned upside down but here these two were, living life to its fullest at one of our cafés. I wanted to smash him. 

The woman, I immediately recognized as someone who had been sniffing around his restaurant, always proposing to get a drink with him after work, feigning innocence in her little request to spend time with the man I shared a home with. Of course I was always the bitch for questioning her intentions, and even the suggestion that I thought she was being inappropriate for pursuing a taken man, caused a two day war between MF and I. Sometimes, I really don't understand women. I would never do that, but my days of assuming other people would do the ethical and morally correct thing and act as I would are long over. Barbara McRoy taught me that lesson. 

Before I could even consider turning around to avoid him, I felt his black eyes on me. I had been spotted. I had to be a big girl and deal with this. I took a deep breath and approached the café where he got up from his seat and met me on the sidewalk, away from his new girlfriend. Once we were face to face, I couldn't look at him. How could he be on a date so soon? And with someone I had suspicions about months before! I wanted to scream this at him because in my mind I still had the right to, but the shock of how quickly he stopped loving me rendered me speechless. He tried to go in for the casual double kiss but I wouldn't let him downplay the situation with a trivial bisous. I put my hand up and flinched back as if he was poison, like a cat reacting to strong perfume. We weren't friends and I didn't want to assuage his guilt of him pressuring me to finally give up my apartment at La Motte-Picquet and fully move in with him, to have him dump me two months later where I was scrambling the streets of Paris looking for a new home. Forget him. There was no way I was going to let him think that it was now all in the past and we were now buds. My wounds of his impulsiveness were too raw. I don't remember much after this, just leaving him behind with my head hung low, holding back the wall of tears building up in my eyes, and walking as fast as my little ballerines would take me. We had nothing to say to each other. All I wanted to do was hole up in my apartment for the rest of my life.

My sadness was much deeper than a mere feeling of disappointment for a relationship gone wrong. This was the kind of pain that burned every time I thought of him, her, and the worst; him with her. A stinging sensation would shoot through my entire body at the thought of them and couldn't help but wonder what was really going on those nights when he came home at 2 am. I felt sick from the assumed betrayal. Everything was heightened that night, not even a glass of wine and a conversation with Aunt Terry out in L.A could get me out of this one, I was planted right in the thick of my own madness. This was the very moment that I knew that it truly was over.

As long as I live, I don't think I'll ever forget how this felt. Do we ever forget this kind of heartbreak? Is it even possible?

Being able to comment on this a year later, as a stronger woman, a heartbreak survivor, I'm grateful for this! Thank God it didn't work out! He wasn't the one for me and it truly is no one's fault but my own for locking myself so deeply into his life, where starting over on my own seemed close to impossible. I did it to myself and it took me a year to realize that. The spring season is reminding me of my own personal growth and experiencing pain, as harrowing as it can be, isn't always a bad thing. I wouldn't be who I am today without it.

Day 345: Become a French Wife?

Illustration by Inslee Haynes

I was just thinking last week that a few months have passed since I've last heard from Lucien, and was wondering if he has finally gotten that there is no point for us to stay in communication because of what a jerk he was. I know what you may be thinking, after our last exchange, why would he ever contact me again? I know I wouldn't contact me, I was such a bitch. But just like clockwork, I had a message from him waiting for me in my in-box this morning, requesting to meet up with me. It's incredible how he just keeps coming back. We're going on almost three years of this and it still hasn't sunk in that it's over. He may have gone to some fancy shmancy French University but boy is this guy is dense.

While I could have entertained myself with a snide response, my days of punishing him are over and the e-mail went unanswered and filed in a folder dramatically labeled "The Vault"; a land where all ex-boyfriend e-mails live and co-exist. I like to go through some of these messages when I want a good laugh over relationships with people I don't even know anymore, and how they were so dire and serious at the time. As you can imagine, MF's e-mails haven't yet reached comedic status, but give me another year and perhaps I'll allow myself to see the bright side.

Thinking about Lucien, and reading back on our e-mails and some of my posts that I have scribbled about him, I started to feel a little bad. Perhaps I have been too hard on him. Just as I was going to feel shame and write an apologetic note, I stumbled upon this e-mail that snapped me out of my nostalgia, reminding me exactly why I think he is such an ass, and that he deserves getting pushed around a bit by me. This is how this guy broke up with me:

(Note: This e-mail has been copied and pasted directly from the original e-mail...if you can believe it.)

"I never said you're a fat girl ; I was talking about your thighs & hips fats / cellulites [sic] problems that are common for all women, especially you and I was suggesting that you could at least, try, T-R-Y, again T-R-Y, to work on it by running around the Eiffel Tower, so please don't say "Lucien says I'm fat" I'm saying that you are fat in general and you are an unfortunate girl who needs to work harder than others to achieve a slim figure. That's all !"

That's all? Oh well, okay...

He continued to say...

"I must now go my own way and reflect on my life. Below, please see this article that will justify my actions and help you with your new life in France. Courage." 

You read that correctly, he included an article to soften the blow of him breaking up with me for my "hips fats."

As if providing reading material wasn't offensive enough, the title alone is enough to make your jaw drop. I invite you to read it. I'll wait...

Written by an English woman who offers her "expert" advice and a set of rules to abide by, should you dare become a French femme. The article, where she is basically justifying her French husband Pascal's ludicrous demands and emotionally abusive behavior as being a cute French thing, and thinking she is très chic for abiding, takes ridiculous generalizations to the next level. And we thought "Bringing Up Bébé" was bad! I seldom criticize other Anglo's observations and experiences in France, but this article made me question the writer's self-worth and her credentials (besides being in an unhealthy marriage with a French man) to write this article. I couldn't help but think of her as someone who wanted to fit in with the cool girls in high school and is now carrying her desperate need for approval into her marriage and life in France while becoming "sleeker and chicer version" of her former self. How sad. It's stupid articles like this that freak my mom out and confirm my grandmother's suspicions that France might not the place for me, even when I plea with them that these are extremes.

I was fresh off the boat when I first read this and while I was appalled by these words, I was in no position to question its validity because it very much could have been accurate. At the time, what did I know? Now having several French relationships in France under my belt, I can say that this article is incredibly misguided, false and tragic. Perhaps it was meant to read as tongue-in-cheek observation of inter-cultural marriages in France but to me, it read as a woman who will do anything to fit into a 1970's cliche of the French, and degrading herself to live up to the impossible expectations of her creepball husband who believes that a fat wife is grounds for a divorce, and takes away her wine should she pour herself a second glass (something she has allowed herself to do no less than five times). The second glass? Oh, Pascal and I would not get along.

While I have certainly picked some questionable suitors, each relationship secures my belief that no man, French or not, is worth marrying if he has an obvious lack of respect for you...and controls what you eat and drink. Am I crazy here? Perhaps I am wrong and this is an honest portrayal of marrying a French man. After all, I never made it down the aisle in France. So I'm asking my ladies who are married to French men, do any of her points ring true for you? Do your husbands tell you what to wear to the market, criticize your weight, control your drinking and expect that you prepare a home cooked meal for eight of his friends with an hours notice?! If so, I'm hightailing the hell out of France!

Day 340: Postcards from Havemeyer Street.

Séb has met my entire family, passed by where I grew up in Chelsea, has experienced about ten of my grandfather's Italian dinner prayers (both the abridged and extended versions), and helped me clean out my mom's garage where he found a box of horrifying photos of me from high school. I figured for his last day in town, I'd take him around my old neighborhood of Southside Williamsburg, to finish off his East Coast Ella Tour 2012.

Getting off at the Marcy stop of the J/M/Z train, it was as if nothing had changed. I could almost feel the ghost of my former self walking these streets, going to work, getting my blowouts at the boricua salon on South 3rd, and groggily picking up my morning coffee at the Italian café, Atlas. I was pleased to see my "boys" who passed their days on the stoop of my old apartment building were still there, and to my surprise, they remembered me and gave me a round of hugs to welcome me back! How sweet was that? Séb was totally impressed with my street cred. I'm so down.

I loved my "burg" days. It kept me grounded while working in the glitzy, superficial world of high fashion. Something about passing the Marcy Projects every morning kept it real, where I didn't let the drama of things like the "fall collection" change my perspective. It was nice to see that the neighborhood has developed a bit, but it's still an even mix of hipsters, Hasidics and the locals who haven't been shoved out due to the highrises and gentrification.

To think, I came from Southside Williamsburg to La Motte-Picquet within a month. What a surreal change of scenery!  

Here are some shots* from my beloved Havemeyer Street.

My former "chez moi".
The Havemeyer Flats. 
So fancy.

Jack's "Cancellation" Shoes.
What the hell does that even mean?
I asked myself that every morning on my walk to the subway.

Here's one way to recycle an old bathtub. Pretty kitchy, eh?
Séb and I want to bring this idea to Paris!
We just need to find an abandoned biggie.

Stopping in for a night cap.
A bar so cool it didn't have a name...
No, really. We asked.

A new whiskey bar with a photo of my hero Charles Bukowski 
hovering over the bar. 
The bar's name suddenly made sense...

*Sorry for the watermarks. I was tired of finding my images on Eastern European company websites. While I don't mind sharing, I'd at the very least like to be linked back. Am I shooting for the stars here? 

Day 337: Whine.

 Illustration by Garance Doré

Oh no, it's back. Not this. I thought we were passed this.

Sigh. I guess not.

My Felicity Season 4* reoccurring dream is back. There I am, trapped in an episode wearing an Anthropologie sweater and drinking lattes, thinking that I fit in with Ben, Noel, "Feliss" and the gang but no one knows who I am, no matter how hard I try to chime in with their weird whispering banter, I get blank stares from the cast. There's no director, there are no lines, but I'm there and I can't leave. I'm imprisoned on a WB set in the 90s and it's awful. This dream, that I've had sporadically throughout my twenties (and apparently now my thirties) usually spears its head when I am uneasy with something in my life. While there are several things that I'm antsy about, there's one thing that I have been suspicious about for quite some time now that I simply cannot ignore. Allow me to explain...

So I know they say that once you enter your thirties your metabolism changes, and you'll never be as thin as you were in your early twenties. Okay, I accept. Since I don't have a sweet tooth, I don't have late night cravings, I eat breakfast, I eat small meals, and I work out vigorously, why was I unable to get my ass into a piece of clothing yesterday? Was it my skinny jeans that I was trying to squeeze into? No. My circa 2000 Frankie B corduroy hiphuggers? No. An Hervé Leger tubeskirt? Let's get real, I know better than to try to get this bad boy on after living in France for three years. So what was it that I couldn't get my larger-than-life ass and mashed potato thighs into? It was my librarian chic knee-length silk pleated skirt. The once flowing silk lining wouldn't get past my hips and the zipper bit me as I tried to slide it over my new doughy love handles. I couldn't believe it.

While I don't gorge on pain au chocolat or have midnight cupcakes and macarons cravings, I am still consuming copious amounts of sugar, only my sugar is coming from another place. A place I don't want to admit is adding to my weight gain, but if there's one place where I can be brutally honest, it's here. What's causing this "expansion" is wine. There I said it. I've been in denial about this for sometime but it's the only explanation! I just can't drink it the way I used because my metabolism is catching up with me, and the alcohol is not breaking down like it used to. I have been known to polish off a bottle of white in one night and if each glass has 120 calories multiply that times five, voilà, there's my weight gain. I knew this day was going to come where I'd have to cut back on one thing in my life, I just didn't think it was going to be my precious, delicious, always there for me wine. Mince!

Starting today, I'll have to curb my little joy and will restrict my wine consummation to the annoying recommended "5 units per week" which means I've already consumed my units for this week...and perhaps next. Let's see what happens. While I'm realistic with my goals and know that I will not be squeezing into my hoochie mama low rise jeans that have a front zipper the length of my pinkie nail (why was this in style?), there's no reason in hell that a 30 year old woman who works out everyday cannot fit into a skirt that my grandmother used to wear. Come on.

Wish me luck. 

I'm so not excited about this... 

How about you ladies? Is there anything that you have had to cut out or watch as your twenties coast by? Or is this just me?!

*Oh and why season 4? Because Julie wasn't there and Megan wasn't goth anymore. 

Day 335: The Sound of Silence.

Illustration by Cecile Mancion

Sunday night was quiet at my mom's. Last week has come to a close, and long gone are the days that seemed like years ago of uncertainty at the hospital, the sense of finality at the wake and funeral and the acceptance and celebration of my aunt's life over lunch in Queens. Now is the quiet lull that always comes after a loss, once everyone has gone back to their homes to digest what exactly has happened. I hate this part.  

Séb, my mother and I quietly sat over a comforting dinner of brocoli di rabe and grilled chicken pizza and a bottle of Cakebread Chardonnay. We absorbed the silence as we let the warm pizza and cool wine temporary alleviate the weight of our heavy hearts. The bleakness of what would otherwise be another Sunday night on Long Island was deafening. I let my eyes glaze over thinking about the aunt that I lost, but more importantly, thinking about Ginger and Vinny, who have just lost their mother.

Leave it to my mother to try to pull me right out of my very visible funk.

"Are you peeing right now?" my mom whispered over the table. 
"What?" I responded, not exactly sure if I heard her question correctly. 
"Are you peeing?" my mother continued, "y'know, in your Depends?" "My Depends" I don't have "My Depends". I have Depends that were bestowed upon me but that certainly does not make them "mine". Just as I was going to make a snippy comment that I was not urinating at the dinner table, I caught my reflection in our kitchen window and you know, she had a point. I did have that concentrated look on my face, a face that I could imagine one wearing Depends would make, while releasing in public. I took a bite of my pizza and with a full mouth informed her that no, I was not peeing and that I regretted ever trying them on, even if it was just for "fun". This Depends story is going to follow me for life and I just have to accept the fact that whether it's true of not, I now wear Depends. So be it. It also doesn't help that Lisa Rinna has been all over the news endorsing the brand and showing up to red carpet events announcing what's going on under her dress. How gross. And of course it has to be Lisa Reena, my mom loves her. Are you surprised? My mother once asked a woman on a street in Los Angeles if she had ever been to Lisa's boutique in Valley and if she could give us directions from the 101. That woman was Catherine Keener and I was mortified, just mortified. So you can imagine my irritation that of all people and all products, the two banes of my current existence are now joining forces.

A sense of humor certainly runs in my family and this is how we release during tough times. Ginger, who is no exception, gave a speech on behalf of her mother that managed to make us all laugh, and put smiles on our faces, even in the setting of church that was packed with one familiar face after the next. The last time I saw her girlfriends was exactly a year ago when they all came to Paris. In an effort to cheer me up after my crisis of 2011, I was asked to be their photographer for the week, to take campy photos of them around the city in hot pink berets. What a difference a year makes. I was devastated over MF, couldn't crack a smile at our ludicrous photo shoot and was a shell of my former self. I was desperately trying to laugh and to enjoy having friends in from out of town, but I was so blocked by what had happened that I couldn't see past my own drama. Do you know how dumb I feel now? If someone would have told us what would happen a year later, I would have smacked myself for being such a little whiny bitch.

As I reach my full year, I am becoming more and more aware of who I am and am almost ashamed that I let myself become so heart broken over someone who was not worth my long and desperate nights of isolation, locked up in my chambre de bonne, not wanting to be a part of reality. While it didn't take the experience of what has happened this week to realize that life is short and no man is worth what I put myself through, it was a good reminder.

I will always remember my aunt Mary for her quick tongue, terrible taste in music, blunt yet maternal nature, sharp wit and her fritatta (which I used to always make fun of how she would say a sentence with a thick Queens accent accept frittata - it had to sound all Italian. She'd then give me a warm hug and gently call me a jerk). My heart reaches out to my cousins Ginger and Vinny during this time. No one should lose their mother at such a young age but I'm glad they have people like me and some of our other friends in their lives who have lived through this, because this is a heart break that cannot be undone. Aunt Mary will truly be missed.

Day 332: Laugh Through This.

What a week for Aurélien to visit New York. Wow. So far he has been to a cemetery in Queens, been to a Long Island hospital, not once, twice but three times, a doctor's appointment with me in Manhattan where my doctor was practicing her French with us as she was giving me a breast exam, part one of an Italian funeral and has met every member of my extended family, people even I haven't seen in years. It's been exhausting! Kitty keeps wondering if any of us are ever going to see him again. To keep things light between us, Aurélien and I have been relying on humor to get through this week that has taken some unexpected twists and turns. Besides the handcuff and cufflink faux-pas, the second joke has been the vial Maryvette, and all of the word vomit that came out of her mouth during Easter dinner. 

As Aurélien and I were walking through the Manhattan, Aurélien brought up something she did that annoyed him, even more than her insinuating that I can't hold on to a man and that my life seems to be a revolving door of French men. That in itself was a pretty low blow, so I couldn't imagine what could have ruffled his feathers more than that.

Over dinner, Maryvette had mentioned that she watches the television series Nurse Jackie...okay harmless enough. Since I keep my television limited to high-quality shows like Gossip Girl and Toddlers and Tiaras, I wasn't able to join Maryvette in her cable series bliss. This however piqued Vinny's wife, Carmella's interest who is a big fan of the show and chimed in from the other end of the table. "Maryvette, do you watch Nurse Jackie too?" Carmella asked with a warm smile, wanting to relate to or at least converse with this peacock who was at our dinner table. Maryvette swung her Bergdorf blowout in Carmella's direction and merely tolerated her presence with a half smile. "It was so funny," she said in a forced blasé Upper East Side drawl, "we were eating at (insert chic restaurant du jour here) and we sat right next to Edie Falco," Okay..and? But that was it, Maryvette ended the conversation there which made it clear that she couldn't possibly stoop down to Carmella's plebeian level and admit that she does something as simple as watching a television show like the rest of the world, even though she had previously admitted it. Carmella, who wanted to talk about the evening's season premiere about the show, not Edie Falco's personal life, just looked back at her waiting for the punchline, but once she realized that Maryvette was through acknowledging her, the topic was immediately dropped and talk of Nurse Jackie and Edie Falco was never revisited at the Easter dinner table.

Because Aurélien adores Carmella and Vinny, it irritated him that Maryvette couldn't just partake in a normal conversation that she in fact initiated, and she had to somehow be better than us suburban folk with her acquired Metropolitan attitude.

Incidentally enough, at Cafe Gitane on Tuesday, we sat next to a very pregnant and glowing Alyson Hannigan and upon seeing her, Aurélien and I just looked at each other and shook our heads. This was our karma for making fun of Maryvette "hobnobbing" with celebrities and now we would be damned if we told anyone about our sighting. Damn it, this is what we get! The following night, we had dinner with my family where Carmella and Vinny brought up How I Met Your Mother (those two watch a lot of tv!) where Aurélien just couldn't resist. In an attempted Maryvette voice which sounded more like a flamboyant male flight attendant, he said, "Well, it's funny you should mention How I Met Your Mother because..." The joke was well received and we all had a good laugh over how self-important people can get over things that mean absolutely nothing. If I wasn't impressed with Aurélien before, this just sealed the deal. It's no easy feat getting a table full of New Yorkers to laugh. Bien joué mon amour!

It's these little things that have been getting us through this tough time, from something as simple as a Hollywood sighting at a hip downtown café to stupid Maryvette-isms who I'm thankful for right now. At the risk of sound cliché, laughter really is the best medicine and she has been keeping the laughs a-commin'.

Bon week-end à tous.

Day 331: Postcards from the City.

Taking a mini break from the fam, Séb and I ventured into the city to spend some time together, eat and of course, drink. We did Paris in the springtime, now it's New York's turn.

Here are some of my favorite spots in this city where...

...Séb and I stopped in for an afternoon glass of bubbly.
Le Singe Vert

...I used to come here for a White Lillet with my book
on a Sunday afternoon.

Joe's Dairy
Sullivan Street get the freshest and softest "mozz" in the city. 
No chewing required!

Crosby Street
...I used to agonize over conjugations with my French tutor after work.
I was sad to see that it's now closed.

Have you guys ever seen the movie "Addicted to Love" where the token French guy works here: "French Restaurant"
I thought the sign was made just for the movie.
You can imagine my delight when I saw that in fact, it was not.
It's real.

Broome Street

Prince Street  


Day 329: N'importe Quoi!

The weather was absolutely gorgeous on Easter Sunday, the sun was shining bright, the petals were blowing off of the trees creating a picturesque flower shower in my mom's backyard and the temperature was just perfect to sport my Easter best. Before going to dinner at my grandmother's house, Aurel and I stopped by the hospital to drop off a fuschia orchid and the box of macarons from Paris that we were originally planning on bringing to Easter dinner, but figured my family who was at the hospital could use them more. And they did. We spent a few hours with my cousins Ginger and Vinny who are the ones who are truly suffering from this tragedy, and kept them in light spirits with sugar and bubbly antidotes. They particularly enjoyed the story about Aurel telling my grandparents the night before that he brought his handcuffs to New York and my grandmother telling him that she recently read an article on how S&M is making a comeback. Unfortunately, I was getting a box of Truvia for our coffee in the basement before I could save the conversation from confusing Aurel on how the topic shifted from dress attire to bondage and more importantly, saving my grandparents from thinking that we have an openly kinky sex life. Do you know how many times that I've told him that handcuffs and cufflinks are two completely different things?

Aurel and I were the last to arrive at my grandparents where it was full company, the whole fam was there. Feeling drained from the hospital, Aurel and I kept to ourselves before easing into surface conversations about the weather and how the champagne brings out the flavor in the smoked salmon. Just as the bubbly was working its effervescent magic, the doorbell rang. It was Uncle Giuseppe whom I adore...and Maryvette, his 29 year old girlfriend. Hmmm. I really have tried hard to like her and rise above her condescending tone, but it's difficult to appreciate someone who gives off an air that her newly acquired grandiose lifestyle somehow makes her better than everyone else. Whenever I think that I'm being harsh and judgmental, she says something so insulting that legitimizes my suspicions that she is truly evil. Easter dinner was no exception to her method of operating. "It's so funny," she said in a way that I knew what was following was going to be everything but funny...especially to me, "Every time I see you, you always have a new French boyfriend. I mean, really what's your secret? How do you reel them all in?" she asked feciously while speaking loud enough for Aurel to hear and looking at Angelo's wife Josephine - who knows this is a sensitive topic for me - for approval to mock me.

People can be so mean sometimes.

This coming from the girl who tweeted to five thousand of her followers that my uncle was diagnosed with cancer and hashtagged his company for all to see because she was annoyed with him that day. I could have stooped to her level and called her out on her poor behavior regarding relationships after this demoralizing comment, but there's something about spending a weekend in a hospital, watching someone you love on life support that puts things into perspective, and Maryvette is more trouble than she's worth. "Well, we all misjudge characters and don't see people for who they really are, and unfortunately by the time we realize that this person is not right for us and who don't have your best interests at heart, you have already introduced them to your entire family," I said as I stared into her, "Don't you think it's better to move on than to stay with a terrible person just for the sake of it?" Aurel and I both stared back at her, patiently waiting for her response. She took this moment as an opportunity to praise my grandmother for the gorgeous appetizer spread.

I thought so.
I avoided Maryvette for the rest of the evening and focused on pursuthe ing conversation with my real family - Aurel in particular. People like her never cease to amaze me with their snarky remarks, holier-than-thou attitude and false perceptions on what really is important in life. I'm nothing but thankful for moments like these because it reminds me that no matter where life takes me, what I have accomplished (or failed at) and the person who I have become, I am no better than anyone and to treat others the way that I would like to be treated. A sour attitude, cruel heart and permanent bitch face makes all of her Lanvin ballet flats, Louis Vuitton bags and Balenciaga sunglasses look heinous and cheap because beauty truly does come from within.

Day 327: It All Depends...

Postcard from my mom's backyard.

I've always found that tragedy has a way of bringing on comedic moments, giving our heavy hearts a much needed break and allowing us a little comic relief. This reminds me of when my cousins were put in charge of designing the program at Aunt Maria's funeral, and put Sade quotes in bouncy bubble letters on each page. They truly thought that quotes from "Lover's Rock" and "Love Deluxe" was an appropriate filler between old photos of my aunt and passages from the bible. My grandfather, who lost the passage that he was supposed to read at church, read the program back to us, Sade quotes and  directions to the cemetery included. I had streams of tears from holding back my laughter, dripping down my face as Carmella, who was sitting in the pew behind me mumbling under her breath, "He's reading the Sade quotes, I can't believe he's reading the Sade quotes. I'm going to kill Vinny for putting them in there. Who puts Sade quotes in a program for a funeral." We all sat there in silence as my grandfather went through all six pages - front and back - of the program.

Before heading back to the hospital yesterday, my mother surprised me with goodies that she picked up from Rite Aid for me. You know you're an adult when being treated to a bag full of toiletries makes your day. Laid out on my bed, I found Optic White toothpaste, a three pack of Glide dental floss, a new loofah, cucumber body wash, fancy green apple face scrub, this month's Vogue and designer colors. I swear to God, there always has to be something in my family. There I was standing my bedroom with my boyfriend by my side, holding an issue of Vogue in one hand and a package of adult diapers in the other. I couldn't even bank on the fact that Séb didn't understand what their purpose was because the text on the purple package was in both English and French. 

"Why are there Depends on my bed?" I asked my mother, completely mortified that my boyfriend now thinks that I have major bladder problems, considering the fact that we were just at the doctor's office in Paris for a urinary tract infection. "Oh, well I read last week's post and you were complaining about having soiled "unmentionables", so I figured these would come in handy!" she said, clearly proud of herself that she provided a clever solution to a problem that I had over five years ago. "These ones have pink and purple flowers on them too!" Yes, how dainty. 

I opened the package and just lost myself in the moment. Perhaps it was my exhaustion, or my mother's little face smiling back at me as I pulled out the larger-than-life, pink elastic paper panties, or Séb's gasp when he saw me holding them, but I couldn't hold back my laughter. The three of us stood in my mother's bedroom cracking up like children. Was it terribly funny? Not really, but this is exactly what I needed to break the tension of this harrowing weekend.

Séb and I are heading to the hospital now and then going straight to my grandparents for Easter dinner because the belief in my family is that we'll all go into "starvation mode" if we skip a holiday dinner, especially a religious one. I hope you all are having a lovely Easter and I thank you for your warm comments, e-mails and messages.

Day 323: Talk Dirty.

Illustration by Garance Doré

Lately, Aurelien has not been very supportive of my new found desire to expand my French vocabulary. He has been avoiding me like Aubervilliers after midnight, as I stalk him around the apartment with my notebook of sentences that I have proudly constructed.

Before we write him off as the next MF, let me back up a bit...

So, I'd consider myself a rather chatty, out-going gal. I take pleasure in striking up conversations with complete strangers. I hold no prejudice in my targets who can be anyone from my next door neighbor to the elderly man standing next to me at a brasserie, sipping on an espresso. I'm just someone who engages in small talk and I have developed a skill of sniffing out those who welcome it. However, the one time that I do find myself at a complete loss of words - especially in French - is during (as my mom calls it) "Hotsy Totsy" time. I thought that I was taking advantage of the electives that were offered at Alliance Française by signing up for the Poetry in French, French Slang and (despite my lack of intuition in the kitchen) Cooking in French classes, not realizing that a Gettin' Down n' Dirty en Français course would have been much more helpful and applicable to my real life. I mean really, how many times have I segued a French haiku into any conversation? 

In general, I feel really cheesy about talking dirty in my native tongue, but in French? Forget about it. I mean, seriously, who wants to conjugate their verbs naked? And I don't care what anyone says but grammar does count in bed. I have this growing fear of sounding like Olaf in the film Clerks and saying the French equivalent of "making 'eff' berserker" to find myself being laughed at by the man who is currently hovering over me. The one time I attempted to get festive in my second language was after several glasses of that white Martini drink that tastes like sweet pepper, with one of my first flings in Paris, François (no, really that was his name...amazing, right?) where I ended up humiliating myself. I called him a bellâtre, a word that I heard in an old movie I caught on TV5 Monde one night in Brooklyn.

I later learned that bellâtre means handsome muscular hunk and no one, and I mean no one says that anymore. Handsome Muscular Hunk? Seriously. I was mortified! It's no surprise that François was never to be heard from ever again.

Whatever, he was like 22.

Moving on. Since then I never ventured back into the realm of spicing things up where the most I can offer is meek little "oui" as my big sexy response during these heated moments. My mom, on the other hand, accuses me of talking dirty with all of my French boyfriends because she thinks everything sounds like sex in French. I remember we had once stopped by MF's place while he was at work, and I called to tell him that there was a lot of dust blowing in through the window from his next door neighbor's kitchen renovation. What could possibly go wrong with this, right? Over the phone, I used the words poussiere and chez toi which my mom self-translated into dirty words. "There's hotsie totsies goin' on, I'll go in the other room while you two talk nasty to each otha," she said, stomping off in her Stevie Nicks circa Bella Donna scrunched leather boots. I've told her countless times that poussiere means "dust" and chez toi means "your house", not English slang for the female genitalia. My god! By the way, this argument is approaching its two year anniversary. She's adamant that we were getting off on his apartment dust that day.

Saying that, I would like to be more creative with my responses, but unfortunately for me and my yearn to learn, Séb - who usually finds my commitment in mastering his language charming - is not on board with my self-inflicted as well as extremely raunchy and offensive French homework. He thinks it's unnecessary because (in his words) I'm sexy enough without forced pillow talk and something about having an open notebook on the nightstand is starting to freak him out. Also, if he hears me say the idiom "sweet nothings" to him one more time, he may just kill me. In short, I'm driving the man insane. 

I don't think I'll ever reach fluency in French dirty talk but perhaps some things are best left to the natives. I'm sure the other expat girls have no problem with this and are more secure with themselves when it comes to this craft, but me, I just can't do it. Mostly because I start giggling, and doubting what I'm saying which then leads me back to Olaf and "berserker". It always comes back to Olaf and really, who wants to think about that guy while you're having sex?

Day 322: Discover Paris Street Art.

Besides drinking a cold glass of rosé on a café terrace, one of my favorite ways to pass time on a warm day in Paris is wandering the streets, looking for and photographing street art.

I first became familiar with this now thriving subculture back when I was living in Los Angeles, where I had friends who were following in the footsteps of pioneer Shepard Fairey, by going out on night brigades to post their art on the sides of buildings, freeway overpasses and vacant lots. These ninjas of the night would be in head-to-toe black, their faces covered with a bandana, and would post their work within minutes to avoid getting fined and arrested. Some see it as graffiti, others see it as art, and the authorities clearly see it as vandalism, but whatever your stance is on this growing form of expression, it doesn't seem to be slowing down anytime soon. While I'm nowhere close to being a black cat in the night contributing to this burgeoning art form - as I would totally blow the whole cover by charging out of an alleyway with flailing arms the second I heard the L.A.P.D - I stand as a supporter.

Before coming to Paris, I was unaware of how big the street art presence is and that several French street artists (who still remain anonymous) have now crossed over to other international major cities and are able to make a living off of their passion. Street Art has reached new heights of popularity where you can't turn a corner (especially in the northern bohemian parts of Paris) without seeing a Space Invader mosaic or my personal favorites, quirky and girly pieces by Nice Art and Madame Moustache. 

Getting on board with this growing phenomenon, a French team of street art enthusiasts developed Urbacolors, an interactive application (that was recently celebrated as Glamour's Glam App of the month!) that allows fans to upload, share and discover new street art worldwide. Starting off with a modest following, Urbacolors has now up to 4,000 subscribers and growing as more buzz circulates around this hipster App. 

The debate on whether street art is merely graffiti or true works of art remains on-going but what's undeniable is recognizing that this is a sign of our changing times, even in our charming, old-world city of Paris. Who said nothing ever changes around here?

To download this free application and for more info,

go to

To deepen your knowledge of Street Art, check out their supplement website