connect!

It's a Small World.



6:17 am
Montauk, New York
 
The sun was rising over the ocean, pouring through the undressed windows in the living room where Aurel and I were sleeping on the pull-out coach, and feeling the early morning breeze coming in from the beach. I heard footsteps, the same footsteps that I had been hearing for the past hour but chose to ignore, as I was trying to squeeze in at least another hour to sleep off my wine hangover. The footsteps that had been pacing the living room finally stopped next to the arm rest of the couch that was inches away from my face. Having no choice but to wake up, I pried open my glued-shut eyes to find a little elderly man who resembled a miniature version of my grandfather looking at me. The little man in question was my 91 year old Uncle Leo. 

Uncle Leo is Ginger's grandfather as well as my grandfather's brother, who hate each other and only speak at funerals and weddings. At funerals, thankfully they are pleasant, and at weddings they ignore each other but as the night progresses, a drunken relative forces one to come over to the other to say hello, snaps a photo of them and everyone thinks the vendetta is over. It will never be over, but like the most of the junior members of our family, we've chosen to not take sides hence why I was welcomed at Uncle Leo's beach house. At least I thought I was...

Uncle Leo had been padding in and out of the living room since 5 am, waiting for someone to wake up to entertain him. I know this because my grandfather does the exact same thing, except our version of Uncle Leo makes up songs about coffee and dancing cakes in a Sinatra-esque falsetto, attempting to lure everyone to wake up at ungodly hours.

Out of respect of the fact that he is my great-uncle and I was sleeping in his home, I forced myself awake. "Good Morning, Uncle Leo," I said in a haze, closing one eye in order to focus my double vision. I touched my face and could feel the dried up zit cream flaking off my face, my dehydrated mouth telling me that my lips were tinted that familiar shade of dark red from last night's wine, and my hair tangled up in a knot that had flopped to the side of my head. I was quite a vision. While looking at Uncle Leo, I went to grab Aurel to nudge him awake by smashing my fist on to the edge of his pillow that fell flat. No Aurel. I looked to my right which confirmed the fact that he was not there, and then looked back at Uncle Leo. 

"Cutie Pie flew the coup, eh?" Uncle Leo said with wide eyes as I sat up in the empty bed. "No more cutie pie!" he declared louder in his thick Italian accent that is similar to my grandfather's, only his has an essence of sandpaper from the three extra years he has on him. Knowing well that Aurel or rather, "cutie pie" didn't choose his birthday week in Montauk to end things with me, or worse, that Uncle Leo had killed him, I played along with his six am suspicions, and I feigned shock that I had been dumped by dramatically throwing the covers of my head. "If he leaves, I'm always here," Uncle Leo offered. Before I could remind him that we were related, a smiling Aurel walked in from the beach with his camera around his neck. "Cutie pie return," Uncle Leo said looking at Aurel, and then in slow motion turning to look at me, "You must do something right."

Aurel walked over to Uncle Leo and shyly greeted him, addressing him as sir, and offered to make him coffee. While the two fumbled around in the kitchen, preparing breakfast, I sneaked off to the bathroom to brush my embarrassing Barolo stained teeth, comb out my knotted beach hair, and to moisturize my dry, red skin. Emerging from the bathroom, a less horrifying version of myself, I found Uncle Leo and Aurel pouring espresso in three large mugs filled with steamed milk. We put out some cookies and sat at his big oak dining room table with the hot sun bleeding through the skylights on to the left side of my face. He looked at Aurel with his cloudy blue eyes, the same color as my grandfather's, and informed him that coffee is very important in Europe. Out of politeness, Aurel didn't respond in his own thick European accent that he was well aware of this, and just nodded as if this was a new fact. Uncle Leo then leaned over and began to sing a song about coffee in Italian, only looking at Aurel. This lasted a good minute and a half.

Uncle Leo entertained us with stories about how he sent Michelle Obama a handwritten letter, telling her she can come over anytime to his garden and pick his wild radicchio. Michelle responded with a warm letter declining his offer, explaining that her busy schedule wouldn't allow her to make a pilgrimage to his garden in Queens to pick his wild radicchio. Uncle Leo also sent a letter to Michelle's husband, and made it clear that it was a "different kind of letter" packed with suggestions on how to lower America's debt by simply eradicating life support for patients relying on ventilators for more than a year in the hospital. It wasn't so much his suggestion that made it shocking, but rather his wording. "You pull plug, you walk away, you say I no do it, problem solved!" 

He did not receive a response from President Obama. 

He then launched into stories of his childhood in Italy, which led to him telling us the history of the family. I assumed it was for the benefit of Aurel that he was explaining who each member of the family was, but it wasn't until he mentioned unkind words about my grandfather, and remembering from the night before that he kept wanting me to give him a kiss him was when it occurred to me...

...Uncle Leo had no idea that I was his niece. In French, Aurel pleaded with me not to tell him in fear that we would get kicked out, but how could I not? It was bound to come up at some point this week, and I didn't want to deepen the vendetta by withholding information, and that his estranged brother's granddaughter and French boyfriend were squatting at his beach house.

"Uncle Leo!" I said, making sure he could hear me. In shock from my raised voice he swiftly turned to me, "Hey!" he responded. "I'm related to you," I said slowly and clearly. "You are?" Uncle Leo, who now had my attention and set down his coffee mug. "What's the connection?" he asked. I felt Aurel's fear about what would happen next. I forget how Italian families can come across as scary beasts to the rest of the world. "I'm Antonio's granddaughter," I informed him. Uncle Leo perked up at the sound of his name. "Antonio? My brother?" he asked, looking at me in confusion, "You know my brother?" I then gently leaned over, and placed my hand on the table to express that I meant no harm, and informed him that Antonio is my grandfather. He looked at me, looked straight ahead through the sliding doors out onto the beach, looked at Aurel, and then back at me, "What a small world!" he announced with his hands up in the air. Uncle Leo let the information come and then go, and continued on to a story about how he bought the beach house because of the large kitchen, and when he once drove through a mound of hay on his Vespa in Italy.

It's a small world? Okay, we can accept that, moving on, problem solved. We later learned that before I revealed my "secret" identity, Uncle Leo thought that Aurel and I were friends of Ginger that we had just met on the beach, and by coincidence, we all happened to be related. Small world!

Aurel and I absolutely I adored our morning with Uncle Leo, regardless of the fact that he had no idea who we were, and expressed his distaste for my grandfather. Perhaps I should feel more passionate about the vendetta, but it's not my fight to fight, and know better to offer my opinion, especially when it comes to siblings where feuds can date as far back to the sandbox. Uncle Leo is someone that I see about once a year, this year with the weddings and unfortunate tragedies, it's been more than usual, and I truly appreciate every encounter. I'm glad that Aurel experienced how special, crazy and quirky he is. Little by little we are collecting and creating these memories, and creating our own small world. 

What was going on a year ago today? This

How Catty!



I'll start this post off with wishing a very special Joyeux Anniversaire to Aurélien! We had a lovely birthday celebration weekend filled with champagne, cupcakes from Williston Park's Cupcake Contessa, friends and family, a homemade dinner prepared by me which consisted of pre-made appetizers from the supermarket (my gift was to not cook), and an extra special surprise to him from me which I'll share with you in a bit. 

Per usual, an element of drama managed to creep in. The weekend was absolutely perfect until...


...I found THIS in his drawer.
 A homemade red-light district inspired card by another woman who addresses my boyfriend as sir. I guess nothing or no one is 100%..
I'm so disappointed...

Before I let myself jump to conclusions, and start the crisis of Summer 2012, let's just see who it's from...

Who could it be? Who could it be?



Quelle Salope! I'm being Soon Yi'd by my cat Charlotte. As it turns out, the sneaky little minx sent this over to him last week to be the first to wish him a happy birthday! I not only gave this Jezebel a happy home but rescued her from her previous owners that posted in their Craigslist ad that if someone didn't adopt her that day, they would dump her at the Nathan's Hot Dog Parking lot on Old Country Road and drive away. 

This is the thanks I get! A boudoir photo of her peeking out from under a little blanket surrounded by farfalle pasta, and signed it Charlotte "Forever", an obvious Serge Gainsbourg reference that she knew Séb would appreciate. I knew something was up when she sat on his suitcase looking at him longingly before he left for Paris last April, or how she sunbathes spread eagle in the window letting the sun reflect off of her rich mink colored highlights whenever he is in my mother's kitchen. I better watch out, she's good, and she's after my man.

Despite the betrayal from my furry femme fatale, we enjoyed Séb's birthday celebration that happened to get even more festive, if you can believe it. While we were already planning on going to New York this week, I surprised him with a Montauk getaway where it's now 90 degrees, sunny, blue skies, and la pièce de la résistance is that we're staying with the other half of my crazy Italian family where the senior members from that side and our side haven't spoken since the vendetta of '79. I'm not even joking...

It's about to get interesting in this little beach town...

What was going on a year ago today? This!

Postcards from the Promenade Plantée.


Here goes another round of things in Paris that exist that I've never heard of, even after three years of living here! I love this game. No, not really, it makes me wonder what the hell I have been doing here these past few years. To backtrack a bit, my gym membership recently expired (Antoine!) and if I'm going to continue with my strict diet of triple cream cheeses, saucisson and copious amounts of wine that I have grown accustomed to, I'm going to have to move my bottom. My body was just not built to stuff my face, sit around and hope that lower body doesn't realize the thousands of calories that have been consumed. So unfair.

Since I have to wait until the fall to renew my gym membership, my only option is to go running; my least favorite form of exercise in Paris. On top of being an ugly runner who huffs, buffs and waddles down the "rue", I also don't have cute and fit official workout gear. I wear old Bat Mitzfah party favor t-shirts from the 90s and too-tight yoga pants that I need to pull up every few minutes as my ass pours out of them. Not a pretty sight. How is a girl to stay fit and fab in a country that celebrates food?

Low and behold a solution presented itself, or rather Séb produced one as I was complaining that my "fat shorts" from last summer are still too tight. The Promenade Plantée! What is this place?! You must be chuckling because apparently this is where everyone in Paris secretly goes running, and that this is hardly a new discovery, but to me, it is. I can be an oblivious faux-risienne sometimes.

Similar to the Highline in Manhattan, Paris offers their version of an abandoned elevated viaduct that runs along Avenue Daumesnil in the 12th. Filled with flowers, greenery, light vandalism (hey, it's Paris!), a well paved road, other joggers who are working on their own fitness and are hardly concerned about my tacky attire, and a notable homeless man stalking a group of Asian girls calling them Tokyo, who then in perfect French responded that they were in fact not from Japan. The Promenade Plantée is the perfect solution for staying trim this summer, above and off the streets. 

Here are some things that caught my eye on my jog turned power waddle...

Don't mind if I do...

 Baise la Police. 
Just precious.
 
Warm heart, cold lyric...
Dramz. 

...and clearly the reason I was beckoned to this place.
What I would give to live in this building. 
Just to see my mother's face as we approached my new apartment located between the loin and butt cheek of an Adonis.
A girl can dream, right?

Bon week-end à tous!

What was going on a year ago today? This!

Is Sharing Caring?


Illustration by Cécile Mancion

Since I have been staying with Aurel during my transition of finding a new home, and sorting out my paper work, we've been getting a taste of what domestic life would be like together. I forgot what it's like to live with a man, and am thankful that every night is not date night. I'm free to do my nerdy single girl things like watching bad American television in the other room with while I instant message Kitty who is six hours behind in New York at work. If I really wanted to go all out, I'd whip up one of my homemade masks but we're not at sugar scrub egg white status yet. Maybe in another year.

Last night, wanting in on some of my American bliss, Aurel requested to watch an episode the Golden Girls, to see what all the fuss was about. Yes, I do make a fuss about it. Feeling festive by his interest in my customs, I poured ourselves two large glasses of rosé, filled up a bowl of terrible French tortilla chips, lit the sparkling mint candles that Ginger gave us in April, cracked open the windows to let in the spring air, and launched into season three of my four my favorite old ladies. I was so excited. If this went well, the opportunities would be endless! We could move onto Hot in Cleveland, Chelsea Lately or even Housewives New Jersey. I'm fanning myself from how worked up I'm getting.

Nestled on his couch, we started an episode that I've seen over a thousand times, but focused a bit more than usual in order to be prepared for potential translation questions, as my illegal GG download never gives me the option of French subtitles. The episode lead the girls to a supermarket, and Aurel who pays attention to detail made a comment about the clerk's 80s haircut. I agreed that his haircut was a bit dated, but before I could finish my sentence, I took another look at the guy. What had I seen him in before? He looked so familiar. I love figuring out the who's who, the who's been in what, and who's become who when watching old shows. Like when we discovered George Clooney was the undercover cop in the  stake out episode...so satisfying. 

The clerk on the other hand, seemed more familiar than George, perhaps someone I have met, and then it hit me. I let out a very noticeable gasp. How could I have completely forgotten about this? I guess somewhere between leaving LA, moving to Brooklyn, changing jobs, learning French, moving to Paris, planning a wedding and then not planning a wedding, and everything else that has happened since 2003, it somehow slipped my mind that I've more than just seen this guy before, I had carnal knowledge of him. If I didn't feel old and crusty before, seeing a guy I slept with in a rerun of the Golden Girls certainly seals the deal.

Combing through my memory, going back over ten years, I remembered a conversation we had over dinner at The Spanish Kitchen on La Cienega where he had told me that he was in an episode of the Golden Girls, but I swear I thought he was kidding! How could I not?! What guy in his 20s could possibly be in an episode of the Golden Girls?!

In my muted hysteria, and not wanting Aurel to think that his girlfriend was a total ho, I quietly grabbed my laptop to confirm that it was in fact him. His updated IMDB page revealed that he wasn't 29 like he had told me at the time, but rather he was 39, which is just living proof that dating in LA is a nightmare. On top of his GG gig as "Annoyed Clerk", there was also an episode of House that I actually once saw with MF, who would have had a heart attack had he knew, and an episode of The Shield that I watched with my brother, who would be less than thrilled thinking about his sister with this dude. Hey, at least the guy is still working. Good for him. 

Being pulled out of my self-inflicted implosion by the intense stare of Aurel, who clearly wanted to know what the hell I was doing, brought up an internal debate. Do I tell him about the Golden Girls guy? How much do you share with your partner about your past? Things like the number of guys you've been with, a history of any recreational drug use, if you've ever slept with an extra on an 80s sitcom if you've ever cheated on your taxes. How much is too much information? Me, I'm honest to a fault where in the past, offering too much information has led to misunderstandings that led to the demise of the relationship. Where do you draw the line between over-sharing and being shady and secretive?

I'm still trying to find that healthy balance. 

C'est Coquin!

What's a boyfriend to do when his girlfriend is celebrating her one year mark of being over her ex-fiancé? Does he celebrate it too? Does he even acknowledge it? Does he take her out for a fancy shmancy dinner? I admit the circumstance was shall I say, a bit unique. 

Aurel being the amazing person that he is, did what any perfect boyfriend would do; took his broad out for drinks and got her liquored up. He didn't just take her anywhere, but to a bar/restaurant that was practically designed for her. 

This was a magical place where...


...complimentary homemade chips, tzatziki sauce, and water with floating fresh cucumbers, are brought to the table after ordering.
 Said bar has happy hour of 7 euros cocktails, instead of 15. 15 euros for a drink!? That's outrageous, Ella! I agree, I agree, but when....


...the cocktails are large enough to share, are infused with vanilla bean, spices, and fresh fruit, are strong enough to have you dancing on the table after just one, and come in these vintage glasses, 
it's so worth it!


What about the ambiance? 

Great question. Thank you for asking. There were the giraffe table cloths, leopard print banquettes and framed photos of Marilyn, and I could almost hear Brigitte Bardot, Françoise Hardy and France Gall playing as if we time warped back to Paris in the 60's. The fabulous owner, who was in head-to-toe leopard print, and fashioned a fire engine red bouffant might still think we are in fact, in the 60's. My kind of gal!


So it's about to get more intense in here...
Are you ready?

 The decor.
Like for real.
This is what my thought process must look like.

et voilà!
A little bit gaudy? Yes.
A little bit bordel? Totally.
A lot amazing? YES. 
C'est tellement moi!

The Shake n' Smash Cocktail Bar by Le Temple is now the official bar of Ella Coquine. I've been wanting to come here for over two years, but MF never wanted to sit in a room with feather boas draped over gold framed photos of Marilyn, and sit on over stuffed leopard print couches. Tant pis pour lui! I guess it takes a real man to do that! Kudos to Aurelb for reading my mind, toughing it out, and picking the absolute perfect place to celebrate my blogaversary!

If you can handle the kitch, Happy Hour is from 15h to 20h, 7 days a week. You know where I'll be this summer. Cheers!

Shake n' Smash at Le Temple
87, rue Turbigo
Le Marais (of course)

What was going on a year ago today? This!

A Doctor Says What?



I'm going to start this post off with saying that I am so going to regret putting in some of these words that I'm going to find in the search keyword section of my blog stats tomorrow. Before launching into the madness, here's a little back story, especially for those of you who are just hoping aboard Ship Coquine. Ahoy.

As previously mentioned, I went to my ill nana doctor in New York and in Paris early this spring. We all know that the difference between healthcare in France and in America is night and day. I try to avoid falling into the temptation of boasting that one country does something better than the other, because both countries operate as two completely different machines. Unfortunately, having the transcontinental appointments almost back to back, the glaring difference could not be ignored.

In Paris, I made the appointment the day of, arrived at the doctor's apartment/office where he saw me within fifteen minutes. The appointment cost 35 euros which was reimbursed, and my medication cost all of three euros. All in all, a lovely, inexpensive experience, even if we did have an uncomfortable misunderstanding where I thought the doctor was asking me if I was a homosexual when he asked questions about rapport sexuel

In Manhattan, because I had some operations done where there were talks about a possible hysterectomy, I wanted a follow-up to the appointment in France, and to have my files transferred overseas. Séb and I waited almost two hours in the waiting room, and because I hadn't been to the office in almost three years (shame on me!), my files were in the archives in an office somewhere below 14th Street, and I had to refill out all of my paper work. The appointment itself was fairly innocuous, my doctor who I swear looks just like M.I.A was friendly enough, well for her at least and I was out of there within thirty minutes. This appointment, because it's a private practice cost 235 dollars...not to be reimbursed. Ouch.

It had been about a month since the test results came in and I was starting to get nervous. To ensure that I was contacted, I made painstaking efforts to give them as much information as possible. On top of my address and cell phone number, I gave them Séb's, his address, my mom's address, cell phone and land line, and need be, my Facebook fan page. A month had passed, no news. The only news that I was receiving was more bills. On top of paying the 235, I received two bills from "the lab" that totaled 725 dollars. Holy moly. I can't afford to be an American anymore.

Against the insistence of my mom and Séb, I didn't call to follow up because I was terrified by what I was going to hear. It's like that Seinfeld episode where Costanza stands by his conviction that something always goes wrong when he goes to the doctor. He claims that he's fine all year long, he goes to doctor and bam! suddenly you're dying. That's me. Sometimes I'd rather not know and started going by my grandmother's belief that no news is good news. I mean if there was something really wrong, they'd go out of their way to contact me, right? ...right?

Last week the letter finally arrived at my mom's house, and wanting to open and read it myself, I had her send it to France. What was a couple of more days at this point? It arrived at Séb's house on my magical Day 365, and he handed it to me as I was sipping on a glass of bubbly.

This is what a 960 dollar doctors appointment in the United States gets you: 

May 17th, 2012

Ella Coquine
Address in Paris 

Town on Long Island, NJ

Dear Ella, 


I am pleased to inform you that the results of your recent PAP smear, HPV test, and STD testing for HIV, Chlamydia and Gonorrhea.
If you have any questions, please contact us.

Sincerely,

Your Doctor, who clearly did not proofread this.

Only me, I swear...

First of all, combining Paris, Long Island and New Jersey all in one address? That's just wrong. I'm sure somewhere in Paris, a Parisian lost their wings. Good thing the address on the actual envelope was accurate, otherwise who knows where it would have ended up. And second, do I have any questions? Yes! What the brouhaha are the results!?!? Although it is implied with the "I'm pleased to inform you" bit that my tests came out negative, but a results letter isn't exactly a forum to be cavalier. Good grief!

I called the doctor who apologized profusely for the erroneous letter, confirmed that I was healthy and that no further operations would be necessary, and managed to squeeze in one more lecture on how I have to stay on top of this, especially as I enter my 30s. Lesson learned. I'm so grateful that I have my health, you have no idea, and I will never wait three years to go to the lady part's doctor ever again. How stupid was I? 

Between this, paying my American taxes, paying off and cutting up my last credit card, I feel like I'm slowly closing up open ends in the States and it's nothing but liberating. Keeping one toe in America is so 2011 and I'm ready to plant both feet in French soil - for good.

Now for the scary part....since a hysterectomy is no longer necessary, this means that having children may be an option for me one day. 

I need a cocktail.  

Stat.

What was going on a year ago today? This!

living effervescently!


I'm sneaking in a mini post to say a quick bonjour from my blogging honeymoon after a dramatic one year blogaversary, coming to you live from the tropical and glamourous 11th arrondissement of Paris.

To wrap up my 365th day, I had the pleasure of catching up with one of my favorite bloggers, the fabulous and inspiring Cara, creator of The Champagne Diaries. Cara an exec at MTV, has been featured in Glamour, Shape and Daily Mail, and lives by the motto that every woman should live their life each day to its effervescent potential. It was her bubbly personality, no nonsense personality, and belief that there's always room for champagne even in the strictest of diets, that brought us together in the blogosphere.

Thank you Cara for awarding me as The Champagne Girl of the Week

I hope you are all having a lovely weekend and I can't wait to catch up with you all next week. Vous me manquez

What was going on a year ago today? This!

Day 365: Hollywood Ending.


I'm in my cold, empty, and bleak apartment staring out the window, waiting for my landlady to come by to pick up the keys. Each corner of my chambre de bonne that was once packed with my life of shoes, piles of sweaters, books, records, empty wine bottles set aside to recycle, and more shoes are now stark, as if life never happened here. The bed that was once soaked in my tears is now stripped with the apartment's linens optimistically stacked at the foot of the bed for the next girl, a hopeful Italian girl who has always wanted to live in Paris and learn French. I wish her the best.

So this is it. Time to say goodbye....

Goodbye to the ghost of MF coming to my apartment in the middle of the night to tell me that it wasn't what it looked like the night I saw him and that girl at the cafe. Goodbye to the haunting image of Barbara McRoy pawing through my belongings with strangers in my apartment, robbing me of who I am in Paris. Goodbye to my landlady coming into my apartment when she knew that I'd be away, hire a cleaning lady to clean it and handing me the bill. Goodbye to my anxiety that built up with every corner that I turned in the Marais, wondering who I would bump into, MF, his brother, his mother or worse, the creepy Phil. Goodbye to "Bad Romance" drunk sing-alongs on Rue Vieille du Temple on Saturday nights. Goodbye to the strange birds that hover low and squawk over the Marais, as if it is still a swamp. Goodbye to the irony of having a bridal shop on the ground floor of my building, and seeing brides try on dresses every single day. 

Goodbye to this year. Goodbye to 365 days of starting over in the City of Light. It's always darkest before the dawn, eh?

I've learned so much. I wouldn't give back a drop of this experience for the fairytale that Paris is supposed to be. Paris is real...and at the risk of getting all J.Lo on you, so am I. 

So here's my Hollywood ending...would you expect anything less from me?

Day 364: Postcards from Mademoisella Coquine.

As a part of my big last week celebration, I thought I'd share a little bit of me with you.

So, I know what most of you look like, therefore it only seems fair to share with you a part of me, a small part. I'm still not comfortable with having my full photo posted on the internet, but here are some peeks. 

As the wise Bill Murray once said, "baby steps, baby steps..."

Day 364....here's what I've been up to...

Revealing...
...my bamboo "I Love You" door knocker earrings.
Oberkampf 

Reposing...
...over a noisette at the counter.
Alesia 

Reflecting...
...at the church where I went to and cried my eyes out after everything fell apart.
That day, a tourist snapped my photo.
I still wonder about the whereabouts of this sad photo.
Rue Saint Dominique

Remixing...
...a vintage mohair sweater.
My mint green and navy blue ratp fashion moment.
Belleville 

Reminiscing...
... at the first place I called home in Paris.
La Motte-Picquet

Rejoicing...
...that sad days are behind me!
Woo hoo! 
Why does this remind me of a Toyota commercial?

Photos by Aurélien and Brett

What was going on last year on this day? This!

Day 363: Interrogate Me!

 
Well hello there. I'm sipping on a foaming glass of pink champagne as I write this. Actually it's crémant, I could only spring for the 44€ bottle of the real stuff one time this week, so crémant it is. So here we are, the last few days leading up to the fateful Day 365. I couldn't even imagine today a year ago. I was in such a haze that every second felt like eternity, and thinking about a year in advance would have terrified me as nothing seemed to be working out.

I'm feeling so many emotions right now, I don't even know where to focus my train of thoughts right now, so I'll take this opportunity to answer some frequently asked questions that I have received this year leading up to the big day.

Will you continue the blog now that you've reached a year?
Of course I will! I wouldn't be who I am today without it, and have had the opportunity to meet and chat with some incredible people. I am so grateful for this experience that I couldn't abandon it now.

Will it be any different?
I think the blog has evolved into stories of my life in France, Los Angeles and New York City, and I will continue recounting these tales, while keeping the focus on Paris. The only difference will be that there won't be a daily count down, so consider this exciting Season 2 of The Tales from the Chambre de Bonne.

I see you are moving, are you looking for another chambre de bonne to live in?
No. I've paid my CDB dues and am looking for a big girl space, maybe something with an actual stove and proper insulation! You gotta think big, right? I'm not going to change the name because growing up in Manhattan, I am used to small spaces and always sought out quaint apartments in my adult life, whether it was a studio in LA, a shared apartment in Brooklyn, and my many nooks that were being passed off as apartments in Paris. I'm a chambre de bonne girl at heart, and I couldn't imagine myself moving into some spacious flat. If I do, I promise I'll change the blog name to Tales from the Amazingly Large Apartment That I Can't Afford in Paris. Deal?
 
Why is the blog anonymous?
The big question. Geez, I wish I had some juicy answer like this whole time the person behind the blog was Lady Gaga or Olympia Dukakis, but I can't, I'm just a normal chick from New York, nothing too fancy. It wasn't intended to be anonymous, I just didn't have any friends to take photos of me during the inception of the blog, but mostly I wanted my stories and words to take center stage, as being the heart and soul of the blog. 
 
Will you ever come out?
At some point, yes. But for all of you who have met me, I haven't had a bag over my head over drinks and girl talk, I'm not in hiding, I'm just a little internet shy.

Will you still keep shredding your ex-boyfriends?
Absolutely.

It's a year later and are you over MF?
Over him? Yes. Over wanting to smash his face in? No. A lot of the turmoil that had happened this year was a residual of the break-up. Restarting your life in another country (in France, no less!) in under three weeks is a lot of pressure, but I did it, no thanks to him. My life had been turned upside down, while he continued his in the same safe place that it has been for his 35 years. This was hard for me to except. This is the guy that told me that I was not an independent, strong woman as I was standing on rue Jean-Pierre Timbaud in Oberkampf with my suitcases. That's just funny to me now.

Why didn't you just go back to New York and be with your family?
My family (with the exception of my mother) didn't exactly empathize with my situation, not that I was looking to be coddled, but some acknowledgment would have been nice. Saying that, if I have learned anything this year besides taking life one day at a time, it's that I can't blame others for not responding they way I would. I was in a situation where I had no choice but to turn every disappointment, no matter how hurtful, into a positive, and took their indifference as a sign that I needed to work through this on my own. Today, I am thankful for that, otherwise this blog would never have been created where I was able to reach out to other strong, talented, and smart women. Plus, Tales from My Mom's House out on Long Island doesn't exactly have the same ring.

Is your name really Ella Coquine?
Not at all. 

Which GG Girl are you? Golden Girls, Gossip Girl, or Gilmore Girls?
You forgot Golden Globes. While I actually love all these of shows, except for maybe Gilmore Girls because they talk weird, for me it's a no-brainer. Old ladies calling each other slut puppies never gets played out. I love those crazy broads. Hey, I'm cheap.

That's all I could think of! If you have any other questions that I didn't get to, feel free to ask! I think I've covered most of the common questions that I've received, but if I left something out, ask away! I'm an open book...you know that.

What was going on today last year? This!

Day 362: Get All Artsy Fartsy.


Living in Paris, the art capital of the world (sorry New York), I find that I don't go to as many art openings as I did when I was living in the unassuming LA, where the art scene was exploding. Wanting to get in touch with my inner art-house chick, I jumped at the invitation from my old friend Christophe, a Nice-based art critic to come along to a show at the Backslash Gallery in the Marais that he was writing a review for.

Walking up Rue Notre Dame de Nazareth, with the honey gold glow of the sunset reflecting off the pavement of this uphill street, I saw the silhouette of Christophe waiting outside for me, standing among other art gallery goers taking a smoke break. Art shows make me nervous because I always manage to stand out. I'm too bubbly, loud, and the mounds of Italian girl hair is never chic and sleek in an art setting, only if it's done to be ironic, but there's nothing ironic about my rat's nest. My hot pink dress in a sea of black also didn't help me blend in. 

After our bisous and my American style bear hug attack, Christophe told me that he had taken a peek at the exhibit and was pleased that he was going to write a complimentary article, explaining that there's nothing worse than writing a bad review for an artist who had clearly spent time with an exhibition. I can only imagine. I would be a terrible critic, I think everyone should get a gold star for effort, right?

"At first, I wasn't sure about the exhibit because it has the ambiance of my bathroom" he said, looking at me through his thick black glasses where you can see through the other side that he would be completely blind without them, "But once I saw the show in its entirety, I understood what the artist is trying to convey," Back up, the ambiance of his bathroom? I didn't understand what that meant. Maybe this was "art talk" or a French expression that I wasn't familiar with, so like I always do when I don't understand something in French, I smile, nod and make a confirming sound effect like an "ah", "ah, ouais" or if I'm feeling adventurous, I'll throw an "ah, bon?" out there. I think I did a combo of them all.


So the ambiance of his bathroom meant this:


It wasn't artsy fartsy talk, or an ancient French expression that wasn't taught at Alliance Française, it was literal, Christophe is having work done in his bathroom and there's debris everywhere.  This is the entrance into the show, stepping over chunks of smashed ceramic. Good thing I wore flats.

The show, appropriately called Eidolon, an ancient Greek term meaning apparition was created by the French urban artist Rero, who has developed a concept of phantasms with a suggestion to pop culture. Where his past exhibitions were more reminiscent of a fall-out shelter influenced by his perception of identity, Eidolon is comprised of pieces stemmed from classic imagery integrated into modern ideas that reads like the anxiety one has when struggling between past and present.

We walked through the show and Christophe made his little art critic notes which had us standing at each piece for about ten to twenty minutes as he analyzed the work, jotting down words like rendering, focal point, negative space, and juxtaposition. Words I certainly would not have used to describe the art, and that's why no one is pounding my door down to be an art critic. His descriptions reminded me of a 9th-grade field trip to the Guggenheim, where our art teacher Miss Dundlin was in her element and wore her most eccentric outfit, jeweled cat-eye glasses that day. She kept talking about the exhibit in this annoying whisper that she acquired for the day, and would ask us to do things like "filter in", which just meant come in closer to the painting. I think it was Michelle, our grade's Daria clone slash goth chick who called her out on it, and asked her why she was trying to sound all artsy, then Nathan, our class homie who was really just a rich Jewish boy who had just transferred from Roslyn told our teacher that her ass had just been checked by "The Crow". I loved high school. 

All in all, it was a great night catching up with an old friend,  seeing some art in my neighborhood even if I didn't understand each piece, sipping on Bionade plant flavored soda, and poking fun at myself in my hot pink dress adding it to yet another bull in a china shop story that is my life in Paris.




Sea of Black.

Backslash Gallery
29, rue Notre Dame de Nazareth
75003 Paris
The exhibit runs from May 12th to June 23rd 
6pm to 10pm

Day 360: Arrête Ton Cinema!


As an expat, one of our international delights is something much greater than finding the best hamburger in town, or the best cocktail bar. What truly is the most satisfying part about living abroad is having friends come and visit. I think I can speak for us all when I say that there's nothing better than seeing familiar faces in your new home where you can share your view, your own French film of an intimate portal into the City of Light, directed by you.

Last week over instant message chat with Brett, somewhere in between him complaining about LA, and me complaining about the egregious lack of follow-up from school, he nonchalantly mentioned that he was using some vacation days before busy season, and was traveling to Brussels for the week. Brussels! That's right next door! I immediately insisted that he come to Paris for the day as a perfect supplement to his vacation; a day trip in Paris with a local! At first he resisted my invitation, saying that he'd do Paris on another trip. Do Paris on another tip? Was he out of his mind? He's coming from LA for Pete's sake! That's not exactly a short trip. It's like taking a vacation in Montauk from Russia and not heading into Manhattan, saving it for the next time. Aurel, who has been wanting to meet him since their meeting on Skype back in February even further the enticement, and offered him his guestroom-slash-office in his apartment for the night, dinner included. How could he resist? He finally agreed and sent me his train itinerary the following day. This was Brett's first visit to Paris. Project!

Because Brett and I both share an appreciation for the film Before Sunrise, and the sequel Before Sunset, I planned a themed tour inspired by some of the locations, although the film takes many creative liberties, and that the stream of locations doesn't always make sense geographically. Only in Hollywood can you turn the corner at La Sorbonne and magically skip over the little stream of water called the Seine and end up in the Marais, and then stroll the promenade in the 12th, descend a flight of stairs and be on a private ride on a bateaux mouches at Quai Henri IV. I love Hollywood time machines.

The tour started in the iconic Shakespeare and Company, a store every writer coming to Paris should see and made our way through all the little nooks of the 5th. The initial plan was to follow the film and have lunch at Le Pure Cafe in the 11th but because we were famished, and roasting like shawarma under the sun of the unpredicted 80-degree plus day, we stopped one of my favorite left bank cafés. At the charming La Pâtiserrie Viennoise for a late afternoon lunch of cold rosé and Parisian ham and cheese baguette sandwiches. 


 
Day two, we crossed over from one Delpy film fantasy to another and made our way over to Père Lachaise to see Jim Morrison's grave, even though neither of us particularly like The Doors. Can you believe I have never seen his grave? I pass through this cemetery fairly often when crossing from the 11th to get to the 18th and have never taken the time to look for it, until today. Another bonus of having friends in from out of town, you get to play tourist. At his grave which was barricaded by a metal barrier in an effort to control vandalism was surrounded by a large group of tourists speaking amongst each other in their native tongues of Italian, Spanish and of course, English. Like us, none of them looked like die-hard fans in there running sneakers, knapsacks and tour books, and talking about their dinner plans at Chez Georges that night. Brett brought up a great question, would his grave be such a tourist attraction if it were in the States, like somewhere in Pamona California? Why has this become such a destination for visitors of Paris? We were prime examples, we were there too but didn't exactly know why. What's the appeal?

Brett had an excellent introduction to Paris and am confident that we will be seeing him around these parts again. In his 24 hours in town, he understood what all the fuss was about where he experienced the French acapella group that practices at Aurel's apartment on Thursday night, Paris in the rain, the pleasure of stopping for a coffee several times a day at one of the million brasseries the city has to offer, a drunk man at Pili Pili in Oberkampf who was hanging over his cocktail, asking him if he thinks that we are all created equal, and what makes him more special than Mozart, and seeing a bunch of Ecole Militaire officials in uniform enjoying after work mojitos with glow stick straws at a café in the 7th (yes, we were totally coming back from seeing the Eiffel Tower). I love how quirky this city is.

On my way home from dropping him off at Gare de Nord, a man walking behind me walking through the station as I was heading toward the line 2, thanked me for my show. My show? I looked around and saw that he could be talking to no one else but me, but preferred to not challenge him and sped up to lose him. Another man behind me mumbled something that I didn't quite catch and looked down at my bag to see if something was hanging out. No, nothing hanging out. Finally, a young girl stopped me, motioning me to look at my backside. Are you guys ready? As it turned out, part of the back of my dress had been tucked into my stockings since we stopped at the MacDo in Belleville to use the bathroom. I was not wearing underwear. In short, my ass crack was seen by all on the metro from Belleville to La Chapelle, as well as all of the travelers at Gare de Nord.

I'm mortified right now. Just mortified.

The butt crack portion of our 24 hours in Paris together didn't fit in either of my film fantasies, but I guess I'm at the point where I'm realizing that life is a movie, and I'm just the dumb actress trying to keep up with the script.

Bon week-end à tous!