The Devil Wears Last Season.

 Illustration by Jennifer DeDonato

With all the information that has been thrown my way this month, absorbing all of it has been overwhelming, to say the very least. Last week, I received not one but three interesting, and eerily identical e-mails that I have let marinate for the past few days. These e-mails were from former New York colleagues and work contacts at top fashion houses dropping a note to say hello, as well as to inform me that they will resign from their positions to pursue a simpler life. 

This I was not expecting.

I was surprised to hear that not one, but three of them have made the decision to say goodbye to 70 hour work weeks, messy apartments with clothes everywhere (because we were never home!), and are on a quest to live life! Bravo! I never would have expected this from these three. These were painfully skinny, ambitious girls who lived and breathed their jobs, thrived off of their promotions and praise from our bosses, and had grown accustomed to their generous work perks like clothing allowance (Side note: I never had a clothing allowance, I worked in a sub-division of IT. No one cares about IT.). I thought they would be lifers in this corporate game, but I guess I thought wrong.

My first two years in Paris, I quietly broke off communication with former work contacts because I had nothing career-oriented to share. While I was doing things for myself, I wasn't doing anything that would be deemed impressive "on paper". In New York, I wasn't making nearly as much as them, as my position was much lower than theirs, but I had security. Security that I gave that up to live extremely modestly off of savings, and supporting myself with odd jobs that I was actually lucky to get in Paris. As risky as it seemed to others, I loved every minute of this journey. And while I believed in my move, I also knew that the New York corporate world would have trouble swallowing why in essence, I gave up my life to struggle in another country - France no less. 

One colleague, incidentally a native-Parisienne who thought I was insane to come here without a solid plan, has started consulting from home while she gets her yoga certification. I actually remember her musing about doing this during our many trips together out to the warehouse in Jersey. She has since downsized by giving up her one bedroom in the West Village for a large studio in Greenpoint. The other will be moving to San Francisco to be closer to her family, will manage the books at her friend's family vineyard (amazing!), and will be taking sculpture classes. As for the third, she is moving upstate to start a family with her boyfriend of ten years.

Perhaps pursuing yoga and sculpture, and stopping work to start a family seems like privileged choices that not everyone can afford to make. I get it. High rent, student loans, and bills exist, and are in fact a very real part of my life. But if you can follow your dreams by starting small and creating a five year plan to realize them, coming from someone who has done it alone, I say it's worth the risk. Before I moved to France, I was pinching every penny I had to cushion my savings, and living way below my means to make this happen. And no, I don't regret missing out on after work drinks at 60 Thompson, or brown-bagging my lunch everyday in order to save up for a life in Paris.

Saying all of this, I can't help but wonder: Did I have it right these past three years? Is living a frugal yet fuller life the way to go? Or is it that us fashion girls who came from The Devil Wears Prada generation searching for more in life than next season's it bag? Or is personal growth and exploration the new black?

Who knows. Thoughts?

Whichever it is, I have to say that it feels good to know that I'm not the only one from my previous life who has taken a leap of faith, in the pursuit of love and perhaps greater achievements.

My response to these ladies who are downgrading their salaries in order to pursue their passions on a tight budget:

Be prepared to learn how to cook, understand that wearing last season is so okay, and accept that gaining weight happens when you're not burning calories stressing about ready-to-wear and pre-collection. All of these sacrifices are in exchange of more sex (especially for the one starting the family!) and time than you had when working grueling hours in a cubicle. Welcome to living life! One last thing, do you like want to follow each other on Pinterest? Since we have the time and all..

I'm sure they were horrified...

What are your thoughts?
Have you ever made a huge life risk?
Have you ever regretted your decision to follow a dream?
Have you often wondered about your life that could have been had you stayed on the "straight and narrow"?

I'd also like to take this moment to share how happy I am to read the statuses on Facebook and Twitter trickling in from friends and family on the East Coast, and to hear that they are safe after the gruesome Hurricane Sandy.

I also want to thank some of you who have e-mailed me in regard to my mother. You'll be pleased to know that she is safe and sound in London, presumably torturing the English as well as the staff at the Kensington Waitrose.

I hope you and your families are inside, safe and toasty!

Dance My Blues Away.

Illustration by Fifi Flowers

Last Wednesday, I received a text message from Aurelien saying that we were going out on a Friday night date. Or his exact words: une soirée surprise super sympa!  Oooh, how mysterious. Like any yenta would do, I completely ignored the surprise bit and responded with "Wait, where are we going?". I love surprises especially when I'm in on them, so I just had to know. Aurelien wasn't budging on this one and cryptically responded with, "It's a surprise that you will love. We need a night out on the town!". Well if that's not the truth. A night out would do us some good.

Aurelien who likes to taunt me when he has a secret activity planned, put on a little show by dramatically putting something in his bag while dancing and singing that he wasn't going to let me in on the surprise. I actually did get a glimpse of what it was; it was an envelope of some sort with an image of joyous nuns and cheerful red letters that I was unable to make out. Joyous nuns? Joyous Nuns. And then it hit me.

He bought tickets to see Sister Act. The Musical. In French.

Kill me now.

Despite my own musical Tourette syndrome where I break into song at several moments in a day, I really do hate musicals. And translated in French? I doubt that would offer much improvement. The only musical I'll accept is The Rocky Horror Picture Show. As for the others, as far as I'm concerned, they don't exist. I would sooner stand in line at the prefecture with expired paperwork during a snowstorm than go see a musical. I really do not like them. And yes, this includes Glee.

Aurelien really is so sweet though. He really just wants to cheer me up during all of this wedding nonsense, and thought that taking me to dinner and a musical would do the trick. I love his effort. It's not the gift, it's the thought, and like he said, we so needed a night out.

As planned, on Friday night I met him at work where even his boss was in on the surprise. She gave me a little wink and a thumbs up before wishing us a bon week-end. The suspense was pure torture. Where in brouhaha were we going? 

We stopped for a quick bite at Sushi Shop where we feasted on a sashimi platter, edamame and for dessert - wait for it - foie gras sushi (only in France, I tell you) before heading to the play. I had mentally prepared myself for a night of Whoopi who would be there in spirit, singing nuns and 1950s pop music. When we didn't descend down to the metro that we had passed, my Sister Act: The Musical speculation was beginning to falter on me.

Hmmmm, perhaps my investigation skills aren't as sharp as they once were.

In the same neighborhood as his office, I followed Aurelien into a place called the Bus Palladium...

Well, this surely isn't where Sister Act: The Musical en français would be performing, I thought. The bored looking French hipsters smoking on the sidewalk sort of gave it away. If it wasn't the play, then just what were we doing? Aurelien then handed me my ticket that he pulled out of the Sister Act: The Musical envelope, and I squealed with total excitement when I discovered what the surprise was!  

We were going to Bertrand Bergulat; that jazzy, 60s-inspired French chanteur that I have been obsessed with since I saw him perform at Paris Fashion Night Out at Roger Vivier! Aurelien strategically let me have a glimpse of the envelope to throw me off, hoping that I'd think we were going to see the play. Bien joué.

This was an evening that I needed more than ever. I don't remember the last time I had danced so much. In my heels that were slicing my pinky toes, I literally danced my blues away in this 1960s euro-discotheque setting. Bertrand has quite a big following with the underground French music scenesters who have a propensity for kitch. His fans range from in-the-know young music connoisseurs, the taste-makers, and us; aging (dancing!) hipsters. On this Friday night in Paris, being older or younger, Anglo or French, we all had one thing in common; we were there to dance. Perhaps other people were there to shake some blues away as well.

The venue itself was intimate, cleverly decorated with faded vintage swan wallpaper, and well-designed light fixtures giving the space a warm glow. My only complaint was the bar. They don't serve wine (in Paris this seems ludicrous), watered down beer cost 5 euros, and the cocktails, well you should have seen my look of absolute horror when the bartender told me that mojitos cost 14 euros. Well, Halloween is coming so I guess everyone is entitled to one good scare, eh? Or perhaps I'm being a bit of a Stingy Mindy here, but 14 euros is a little steep for one drink. Since I don't drink beer, for the first time in about ten years I went dry and ordered nothing. I let the music be my cocktail for the evening.

It felt good to let loose, forget about our unfortunate current events, and enjoyed a night out tous les deux for an exceptional date night in Paris. Honestly, even if we had gone to Sister Act: The Musical (do you like how I keep including "The Musical" part?) we would have had just as much fun - just less dancing. It really is the company that makes an evening special...and of course having a good dance partner always helps!


Metro Musings: On the 6.

These past few days in Paris have been absolutely gorgeous. For those of you who are here, have you been just relishing in every second of this uncharacteristically warm weather and sunshine? It's nicer now than it was over the summer! These are the kind of days that need to be enjoyed and taken advantage of because the rain will be a-comin'. Not allowing current events and random accusations hold me down, I have been appreciating the beauty that is autumn in Paris.

Yesterday I was treated to an impromptu lunch from a friend. She must have picked up on the fact that I was having one of those days. It's a rare occasion that I don't want to be alone, but yesterday was just one of those days. I really needed some company. For part of the afternoon, she kindly let me hang around her lovely abode where we eventually did a small lunch al fresco on this gorgeous autumn afternoon. Sprinkled with fallen golden and cherry-colored Japanese maple leaves, on her terrace that overlooks her building's communal garden (that no one is allowed to enter), we were ladies who lunched. So rive gauche.

After overstaying my welcome I'm sure, I got going and after a transfer or two, found myself on the metro line 6 heading back home. It's always when I'm bit out of it, and perhaps a little down and out that I have the oddest interactions - and always with strangers. An older gentleman wearing a wrinkled navy blue cotton button down, khakis and fashioning an official badge that he was an official agent for a publication that I have never heard of, hopped on board. Standing several inches in front of the fold down seat by the door that I was sitting on, he was unnecessarily hovering over me in this hardly packed train car. 

"Mesdames, Messieurs, bonjour, here I have a 2013 calendar with pictures, beautiful photos of the cutest, fluffiest baby animals that you have ever seen in your life," he announced to us passengers without a single drop of emotion. "It's important to have a calendar especially with the busy year of 2013 fast approaching. Act now, act now."

"Act now, Act now", when said in complete monotone doesn't exactly trigger a sense of urgency. He then held it up and flipped through the pages, giving us an upside down view of the fluffiest animals we had ever our lives. The poor guy, while I didn't think he himself cared about the damn calendar or the animals either, he really wanted us to acknowledge him. Sadly, he wasn't getting much feedback from this tough crowd of Parisian commuters. Feeling bad, I discreetly pulled out my wallet to see if I had enough change to purchase one. I was in no way committing, I was just checking to see if I had money.

Because he was only a few inches away, the act of reaching for my wallet caught his attention in which he stopped his commanding and convincing pitch that simply no consumer could refuse, and held his hand out to collect.

A little presumptuous, but okay.

"Mademoiselle, are you interested in purchasing a calendar?" he asked inching in closer.

"Sure," I responded, "How much?"

"We accept donations," he said with a shrug, "Give as much as you can."

Hmm, okay. Flicking through my coin purse with my pointer finger, I saw that I had a 2 euro piece as well as a bunch of loose change. Not wanting to give him 2 euro as I had to pick up bread for dinner, I handed him 75 centimes. For a metro calendar, I thought that was a fair donation.

Well, tell that to monsieur. Snap.

"75 centimes?" he said with a loud chuckle while staring down at what he clearly thought was an insulting offer, "The calendars themselves cost a euro to produce! You try getting a baby kitten to pose like that for 75 centimes, ha!" With that he flashed me the month of July which demonstrated two kittens snuggling in a picnic basket in a field...presumably in July.

He did have a point, they were pretty cute and I know that my cat Charlotte would certainly not have worked for 75 centimes. That wouldn't have even covered her union fees. I really didn't want to give up my 2 euro piece, but like a sucker I forked it over and now have the stupid animal calendar.

When Aurel came home, he found the baby animal calendar hanging proudly on the fridge, displaying the month of January that boasts two little polar bears kissing in the snow. As a peace-treaty for neglecting to pick up a baguette, a bottle of Bordeaux was open, breathing and ready for consumption next to the empty bread basket. I explained the story while he flipped through the calendar and then it hit him!

"Isn't that the weird newspaper that is sold in the metro for people looking for a purpose in life?" Aurel asked while holding up the September centerfold of a leggy giraffe in the jungle.

Since we conduct our relationship in French, from time to time I'm faced with a comment that questions my comprehension. This was one of them. Readers that are looking for the point in life? What does that even mean? And that's a target audience for a publication? Really? Well, no wonder he found me. Mystery solved and now I have a baby animal calendar to remind me of it for the next 14 months. Oy vey!

Come and Play With Us, Danny...

Name the thriller that inspired this shot!

I guess I sort of gave it away in the title...but guess anyway!

In the spirit of Halloween, I couldn't resist capturing this shot while visiting my friends at a neighboring fashion house during Paris Fashion Week. Leave it to me to take a ruffly spring ready-to-wear dress and twist it into something dark, by way of masterminds Stanley Kubrick and Stephen King.

So on top of the many random facts you know about me, I'll add another to the pile: I'm a pretty big horror movie fan. Not in like a Rob Zombie kind of way where I have posters and collectibles around my apartment. Just in the way that I enjoy the suspense, jump scenes and when the movie's annoying chick - because every horror film has one (Rose McGowan, anyone?) - gets slashed. Growing up with all boys, as well as having to share a room in our small Manhattan apartment with my older brother where a poster of Freddy Kruger was on "his side of the room" (that by default looked on to mine) has created a strange comfort in a these gory flicks.

Part of my Halloween countdown (a day that's not celebrated as "festively" in France as it is in the States with all its sluts and gore), I have set up a strict schedule of horror films that are on a need-to-be seen basis before October 31st. Your usual suspects can be found on my list: Scream, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (both original and Biel version), A Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween, Dawn of the Dead, and When A Stranger Calls. These classics are aiding me in my attempt to make each night just a little more jumpy than usual. I still scream at scenes that I have seen a hundred times...

While I don't have any personal slasher stories to tell you (which I'm pretty sure is a good thing, right?) I do have one ghost story in my pocket. Nothing too scary, I promise...just a little weird.

Picture it. Long Island. 1996.

My mother, brother and I were staying out at my grandmother's house on Long Island while the bathroom at our place was getting renovated. My mother was out to dinner with my grandparents and my brother was out being a teenager, presumably listening to Phish and taking bong hits at Jason Eisenberg's house up the street. It was just me in a large house filled with echoes, old plumbing, and lots of history. 

Even though it was 7 pm, after a hot shower and a cup of chamomile, I was ready to turn in for bed. I know, what 15 year old goes to bed at 7 pm? On this particular night; me. I was tired, not in my own home with my own things, there was nothing on television, plus, the internet wasn't what it is today. So really nothing was forcing me to stay up.

Before crawling into bed, I shoved a glob of wax in my back top molars to coat the wires that my orthodontist didn't cut short enough, and that were viciously scarring my back gums. With much effort, I pulled down the sheets on the bed with its straight-jacket tight hospital corners. I then popped my Fiona Apple tape in white Sony boombox, turned the lights off, and stared at the ceiling.

Thoughts of my first ever boyfriend that I had met the weekend before at a Ween show came to mind, as I waited to fall asleep. I was pretty excited about him. I couldn't believe that this cute guy with similar interests as me actually wanted to date me and perhaps even make out with me, braces and all. Just as I was drawing up a mental list of upcoming shows we could go to together, I felt someone sit down on the bed beside me. I assumed it was my grandparent's cat "Tammy Girl" wanting to nestle up next to me on this chilly night, and with that in mind, I reached my hand down to pet her.

Well. My hand did not fall on soft, fluffy dove grey Tammy Girl fur. It dropped down heavily like a weight onto the bed.

Ummm, Tammy Girl? How'd you do that?

I turned on the light and while Tammy Girl was not there, what was, was the imprint of the bed as if someone was still sitting on it. After several seconds in complete shock, perhaps even horror, looking at the bed still in this form, and I hightailed out of there so fast. I didn't even care that my favorite part, the gypsy-esque ending of "Criminal" was playing, and I waited in the kitchen until someone came home. There was no way that I was going back up in that room to hang out with my bedside buddy....even if it was a deceased family member. I wasn't into it.

What felt like an hour in the kitchen that suddenly become freezing cold, my brother came through the back kitchen door, with Tammy Girl trailing behind him with a leaf stuck to her paw. I recounted what I saw, and I wasn't sure if it was because he wasn't exactly processing what I was saying, or if he was just really stoned but the only response I got was a "whoa, dude" as he shoved a piece of homemade onion focaccia in his mouth. 

Very helpful.

I never did get to the bottom of what happened that night. How could I? Gratefully, I never had a follow-up occurrence and am not sure if I ever will. I can't say that I'm exactly looking for one. Up until that moment, I had never really considered the paranormal or its validity, but now I know that anything is possible...especially on Halloween. Mwuahahahahaha!

Bon week-end à tous!

What about you? 
Have you had any freaky experiences? 
Or am I the cheese who stands alone on this one?

i love vous.

Really. I do. Each and everyone of vous. I also love vous, as in the formal and plural in French.

"That's it! She's officially lost it!", I'm sure some of you are thinking. But really, one of my biggest fascinations with the romance languages is the idea of speaking formally and informally, and how this simply does not exist in English. Of course we have our formalities and polite ways of expressing ourselves, but not the distinct difference that exists in Italian, French and Spanish.

It turns out that the romance languages aren't the only ones who follow this guideline (actually, I'm sure all languages do). Last night at a party in the Marais, I was speaking with a Russian-French couple who have had to conduct their relationship in beginner's level English. Since both of their mother languages practice the use of the formal and informal, they have found it strange that this idea does not exist in modern English. They also wanted to know, aside from the formal aspect of it, how do we specify who we are talking to in a room with more than one person in it.

Good question. How do we address more than one person in English? Do we say "you guys"? Or "you all"? Do we make eye contact with each person we're addressing? I honestly forgot. And not in that pretentious "I speak French now therefore I forgot my English" kind of way. I hate that. I really did forget how we clearly direct to whom we're speaking to in a group.

And on a side note: I must be getting old and boring if analyzing grammar and languages is my now "go-to" cocktail party conversation starter. Good Lord.

At family dinners with Aurelien's family, it's unspoken that I'm the only one speaking in the formal vous, echoing family dinners at my ex-fiancé MF's house where I was never invited to speak in the informal. I wonder if Aurelien's family will ever grant me the green light to join in all of the informal fun in tu. I do know that you can't just smuggle it in hoping it will go unnoticed. I tried this method with my French teacher in New York, and each time he would totally shut me down by sternly responding while placing emphasis on the vous.

On our way home from the party on the Vespa, Aurelien asked me if I wanted him to send out an email to his relatives requesting if I can now speak in the informal because even he finds it strange that I'm the only one "vouvoyer-ing" everyone. Never mind the fact that it would come across completely pushy and strange, I had to consider, did I want to take away from the cultural bliss that is speaking completely different than everyone else at the table? Okay, I wouldn't exactly say it's blissful, but it does make me feel kind of special that I'm the only one who speaks formally. I guess I just love the old world-ness of it.

After giving it some thought - like three minutes - I told him that I didn't want to change anything, and for crying out loud do not send out an email that would make me look like a total American bitch. Speaking in the formal vous with my soon-to-be family is just another facet of my experience in France. It's the little things like this that makes life special and different than it was in the States...and I love it.

To my friends in Franco-Anglo relationships, how do you speak to your in-laws? And if you are speaking in tu, at what point did you cross over?

True Confession.

 Illustration by Gunseli S.

As the title suggests, I have a confession to make...

I don't know how comfortable I feel about publishing this considering that I live in France. But I think I'm just going to come out with it and share something deep, dark and personal about myself.

The years that I have lived here, I have picked up a dirty habit; something that I never, I say never do in the States. For some reason when I'm in Paris, I do it more often than I'd like to admit.

Please don't judge me...

From time to time, like once every six weeks, I eat at McDonald's, or rather, Chez McDo...there, does that make it sound fancier? 

Yeah, I didn't think so. Quel shame I feel for not always dining at local, independent restos, and for supporting the corporate monster that's responsible for everything that's wrong in the world. Okay, that's a little dramatic but still. I bet all my hipster readers are horrified right now, just horrified. I don't blame you, sometimes I can barely even look at myself in the mirror...

Yesterday morning, waking up with a bit of a headache from one too many glasses of Saturday night celebratory crèmant, I was in desperate need for my ultimate hangover cure of a New York deli egg sandwich on whole wheat toast, a large hazelnut coffee and the Sunday Styles section. Try ordering that in a Parisian brasserie. The closest thing to my hangover cure I can get here in Paris is an Egg Muffin at Chez McDo (I'm still trying to make it sound fancy), a caramel latte and reading the few excerpts of the Styles section that The New York Times posts online...many hours later.

If this is one the "prices" I have to pay for living in Paris, I'll take it...I've seen worse.

After consuming about a gallon of water, I threw on my cat-eye sunglasses to hide my watery rose-tinted eyes, wrapped my head in a plaid cashmere scarf, pulled up my pink wellies and with a heavy alcohol-soaked head, I made my way down to McDonald's for breakfast on a rainy autumn morning. For 3 euros, I treat myself to their formule tonique; a cup of orange juice, a caramel latte and an Egg McMuffin. In short, sheer hangover cure bliss.

I arrived at exactly 9 am, the time when the McDonald's in my neighborhood opens and watched the employee - still in her street clothes and jamming out to a "featuring Pitbull" song on her iPod - just start up the machines.

Great. It was going to be one of those experiences.

After waiting for about ten minutes in silence beside another customer who didn't find this at all bizarre, the one and only staff member working, finally got herself situated. She was suited up in her uniform (which is green and yellow here in France), had her headset on her ears, and all of her machines were powered-up. We were finally able to order. Thank God.

I ordered my formule tonique and waited patiently for my cure-all to present itself in all its fattening glory. Several minutes later, my tray was placed before me and in my Jackie-O-meets-walk-of-shame get-up, I sat myself by the window to enjoy my meal. I opened the wrapper of my sandwich and before sinking my teeth in to it, I looked down and noticed that it wasn't cooked. Like at all. The cheese wasn't melted, I nearly choked on the powder that I inhaled on the barely toasted muffin, and don't get me started on the state of the egg patty. It was completely inedible.

I hate the predicament when put in when you're forced to send food back. You don't want to sound like a bitch because you know it's not the server's fault, but you're also hungry and are slightly annoyed that you now have to wait another fifteen minutes or so for a replacement. Because I hate sending food back, most of the time I just deal with it, but this couldn't be ignored. The food was simply not cooked. Putain.

I went back to the line and waited with my raw sandwich for about ten minutes. Once at the counter, I politely explained to still, the only girl working there, my situation.

"May I please have this cooked?" I asked the 14-year-old high school student extra politely by using the formal "puis", and polishing it off with a smooth s'il vous plaît.  

"What's the problem?" she asked with a blank stare, and might I add, in a less polite manner.

"Well, this isn't cooked," I then opened the wrapper to present the proof.

She looked down at the cold sandwich, took it out of my hand and stormed off into the kitchen, screaming to someone to redo it. I guess she wasn't alone...

Several minutes had passed and she reappeared with my sandwich and placed it on my tray. Before I could thank her, she cut me off by shouting over my head and asking the customer behind me what he wanted. Literally. Voulez-vous quoi?!

With my new sandwich, I went back to my table, took a sip of my coffee that had now cooled off and began to open the wrapper. While my sandwich was nice and piping hot, I saw that it was flat, completely flat. Okay. Ice cold, I can't do, but flat? Sure, why not? I tried to see beyond aesthetics and with full intentions to eat it, I attempted to pull the wrapper off but couldn't because it was now completely stuck to the muffin. What the hell did she do to it in "the back"? Sit on it?

So as much as I hate returning food the first time, you can imagine my aversion to going up a second time. Am I alone here? For the second trip, I decided to be all French and just skipped the line (a little trick one of my favorite expat friends encourages me to take advantage of here in Paris). I held up the sandwich with two fingers like a dead mouse and this time with a bit of a tone, I asked for a normal egg sandwich. I wanted to "s'il te plaît" her ass, but I don't have the balls to be that rude.

I have never really been snippy in Paris, I don't see the point, but this time I was annoyed. What did she do the sandwich that made it so flat and hot? Did she fart it into submission? Gross. She came back several minutes later, told me that I could keep the squashed mcmuffin as a "gift" (merci?) and gave me a new one. I opened the new one at the counter and just like the first one, it was cold. I let out a laugh out of pure frustration, took both of the sandwiches, threw them away and did what I should have done from the start; went to Franprix. I brought a dozen eggs, bread, weird French bacon and a carton of OJ. I now have homemade egg mcmuffin material for the next week. Ca va.

The lesson I got out of this: Stop going to McDonald's and/or lay off the Saturday night booze. If I had to give up just one...which do you think it would be?

The Autumn Switch.

It's chilly, rainy and gloomy here in Paris. The days are getting noticeably shorter, leaving the house without a scarf (or an umbrella!) is no longer an option, and I have made the official switch from full-bodied post-summer Chardonnays to Bordeaux (my current pick has been the deliciously oaky and reasonably priced Caves Fleury Bordeaux). It's official; autumn has arrived! And as much as I loved this summer and all its simplicity, I'm an autumn chick who embraces the calmness of the season.

The autumn switch is in full swing chez moi! My gardenia hand cream that I use as a light summer scent has been switched out for my heavier autumn scents; Black Orchid by Tom Ford and Jean Paul Gaultier Classic. My summer signature attire of navy blue striped day dresses and Keds have been replaced with fuzzy sweaters, cable-knit tights and slouchy boots that have been hibernating in the cave at Aurelien's father's house out in Fontainebleau. And finally, empty pop dance music of the summer has been switched out with music that has a little more meaning that having someone call me...maybe.

Here are some of my autumn favorites that will accompany me while I sort through piles of clothes, arrange them in color order (total "ROY G BIV" action) and get ready to take on yet another season in Paris...

Need To Be - Stereolab
Satellite - Guster
Bird and the Bee - Polite Dance Song
3 6 9 - Cat Power
Saint Jerome - Coconut Records
Running Thoughts - Deerhoof
People's Parties - Joni Mitchell
The Look You Gave That Guy - Eels
White Belly - Belly
Iron Man - The Cardigans
Outcome - Beck
Brothers and Sisters - Blur
Diamond Sea - Sonic Youth

To listen to Autumn 12 in its entirety, click here on Spotify

Have you made the autumn switch yet?

So L.A.

Just because I'm getting married, doesn't mean I'm getting all fancy and "adulty" on you. Ha! That'll be the day. I'm still the same little coquine who gets in mischief, mayhem and madness. Also the same little coquine who is still looking for a job and is broke.

And with that, I introduce my second installment of Diva Does Parisian Divebars, my quest in finding the perfect dive bar in Paris. This week's edition was spent over at Le Motel, a bar that whisked me back to my East Sunset Boulevard bar-hopping days of flirting with guys with 2% body fat, gossiping with girlfriends over cheap cocktails and rocking out to indie jukebox classics.

I stand firm in my belief that no one does the dive bar quite like L.A. where they manage to make 40 year rundown bars with Bukowski-esque patrons and Eastside gang hangouts, somehow hip. L.A. also does hype better than any other city too, so that may have something to do with it. But I'm digressing here. 

Le Motel met my requirements that go into a great neighborhood find and in true LA hipster fashion, was a total people watching bonanza making me forget that I was in the company of Aurelien and his best friend Aurélien. Girls in skinny jeans holding their Rough Trade for Agnes B. tote bags were coyly biting the straw planted in their empty cocktail glasses, guys sporting their Sonic Youth t-shirts and striped cardigans looking cool and bored surrounded the bar, and of course the soundtrack of Animal Collective, new wave classics and whatever bands will be on Nova radio next year permeated the room over the low hum of bar chitchat. I remember the days when all of this was important. Now in my 30's, I'm in it for the nostalgia and the cheap drinks.

Despite the total Anglo vibe the bar has, the Frenchness has to creep in somehow (doesn't it always?) and we ordered a plate of munchies for 5 euros.

Was it chips? No. A hotdog? Pish! Beer nuts? Come on.

Even hipster dive bars aren't exempt from the assiette de charcuterie et fromage! Welcome to France.

Just as I was crowning the place as the best dive bar I've been to in Paris - something happened. Something big happened. The bartender pulled himself away from ferociously chopping mint for the dozens of 4 euro mojitos he was banging out and made an announcement.

It was trivia night.

What you should all know is that I am freakishly competitive when it comes to trivia. So much that my mother refuses to watch Jeopardy! with me. She says that I take all the fun out of it. Despite the misleading exclamation point in the title, Jeopardy! is not fun. It's an exercise of survival skills and quick thinking. Don't think those kids who participate in Kids Jeopardy! have me fooled. They know what exactly what they're doing. They're just as evil as the students on College Jeopardy! My mom has usually has exited the room by the time I get to this part of the rant. Can you blame her? I sound insane.

The theme for trivia night was movie studios. Each team was given a piece of paper that revealed a fraction of 10 different studio logos, and we had to figure out the studio name based on the image provided. It sounds a lot easier than it was. While we were struggling with the answers, someone had texted me and as I was responding, a boy in a tight plaid button-down with strategically rolled up sleeves charged across the bar towards me to accuse me of cheating. For the first time in the history of my crappy phone, I was proud to flash it to prove that I was not cheating. Upon seeing my phone from 2001 that clearly has no internet functionalities, the guy looked at me as if I was a motherless child wandering the streets and offered his condolences before swiftly returning back to his team. Presumably to continue cheating himself...

Once I realized that everyone was cheating as they were all hovering over their smart phones and that the prize was a bottle of champagne, it was on. "Aurelien!" I howled like a beast bursting out of a cave, "Take out your Android and let's win this thing!" With that, we took a photo of the paper and sent out a frantic email to all of our friends who work for Hollywood studios and networks, and demanded their participation. 

With Los Angeles being nine hours behind, we didn't get our answers until 1 am that night. We didn't win. Our score was a sad 20 out of 40. It also didn't help that I took my rage out on the paper we were tallying up for a competing team, calling them useless, cheaters and MoFos. What's wrong with me? I may never be allowed back at Le Motel for creating a scene on trivia night. Perhaps once the dust has settled (meaning: I cut and dye my hair and get a face transplant), I will be able to go back to Le Motel...and preferably not on trivia night.

In the meantime, I suggest you all check it out. It's definitely a place to see if you want a break from the brasserie and wine bar scene, and especially if you're into good music, great cocktails and a relaxed bar atmosphere that us Americans have a penchant for. 

Le Motel
8 Passage Josset  
75011 Paris

Let's Try This Again.

This summer something happened that I have been keeping a lid on - well at least on the blog - and I'm about to burst! I hate keeping things from you...

When we were in New York this summer, Aurelien and I really experienced spending time together as city slickers enjoying suburban life where days were passed going on morning runs, gardening, swimming in my neighbor Enid's pool, walking into town to get groceries, barbecuing, going to the little farmer's market (two tables!) in the village green, discovering our new love and economic benefits for boxed wine (Black Box and Domaine Le Garrigon were our picks) and of course giving each other space to write and blog, or in my case, to torture my plump princess, Charlotte with unlimited snuggles. 

I have never been with someone who shares a love for such simplicity. Lucien wanted to hobnob with New York City intellectuals and Parisian philosophers (meanwhile the guy didn't know any), MF didn't want to except that he was pushing 40 and still wanted to party, and all the other boyfriends in between would have just been plain bored. But with Aurelien, we are consistently on the same page...

I'm going somewhere with this. I promise.

With so much going on; our Househunters International episode, la rentrée, Paris Fashion Week, I've been trying to find the right time to tell you guys something, so for once, I'm just going to shut up and let this do the talking...

Aurelien proposed.

The lovely ladies at Walnut Paperie put together for us this sweet Save the Date or as they say in the wedding biz: "STDs" (Enter Beavis and Butthead chuckle). They kept the design simple, slightly girly and a little French with the nautical blue touches that fit exactly what I had in mind for the first round of communication regarding our news. And so there you have it...I'm engaged! 

The wedding will be next summer in New York and being the Virgo that I am, I've actually organized most of the plans. I met with the coordinator, planned the menu, and hired the music. Now I don't have to fuss about until next year and more importantly, I won't bore you all with these details! There's nothing worse than that, right? I promise that this will not become a wedding blog!

I can't believe it! It's really happening! I have a feeling that this time around will go a lot better than the last's hoping!

Be a Model or Just Act Like One...

 Illustration by Garance Doré

...completely and totally insane.

As usual, Paris Fashion Week was a flurry of early showroom call times, sore and crusty feet (once again, I was wearing flats! How was this possible?), sleep deprivation masked with copious amounts of espresso, and grouchy models who didn't hide their aversion to working.

In all fairness, the models this season were much easier than they were last. Last season was just impossible where at one point I had one girl tell me to shut the eff up while another refused to get dressed because she was adamant that the garments were made in a sweatshop in her home country, despite the "Made in Italy" tag. I thought I was going to lose my mind. I felt like I was babysitting these little girls, bargaining with them just to do their job. This year though, they were a bit nicer but a lot crazier.

Walking into the cabine where the looks are styled on the models really is a scene right out of any fashion movie. The scene is set with exquisitely detailed crepe de chine gowns, delicate organza tops in soft pastels, and triple chiffon layered skirts in hues of blush and cream are casually draped over chairs and garment racks. Aloof models wearing nothing but nude colored g-strings and ten inch heels, curled up on folding chairs reading their iPads, waiting for the next look to be ready. Associates frantically charging in and out of the room carrying stacks of garments requesting looks fashioned after the runway show. While nothing really shocks me anymore - especially during fashion week - a few things stood out. 

One being that one of the models had a belly ring. First off, I must be old and out of the loop because I didn't think girls still had them, I thought that fad went out with pubic-bone bearing hip-huggers and Kevin Federline media attention. Her belly ring sort of became the theme of the week for me because it was impossible not to notice it. The shape of the bulky double ball ring showed through some of the more form-fitting looks, taking the focus off of the garment. But what really stood out about this ring in particular, wasn't so much that she was flashing back to 1999 (perhaps paying homage?) as it was the jewel itself that had me wondering. The "jewel" was a large acid yellow ceramic ball that read in bold black letters: SEX.

Okay, really, who walks into a shop, sees this and deems it an absolute must-have? After two days I just had to inquire, I needed to get to the psychology of her purchase and bluntly asked her why she had chosen that style. With a shrug, she turned to me and in her Eastern European accent said, "I was in shop with my boyfriend and he sees, and he say I like sex, so we buy." And with that she sauntered off. In her nude thong. I guess people really will buy anything.

Another model somehow got chatting with the president of the company who was passing through the showroom and boorishly shared with her what she thought was a humorous story about an event that took place in the bathroom involving another model, an explosion of some sort and too many laxatives. She illustrated the graphic story with gestures dramatizing the scenario. I simply couldn't let this moment pass, so I hid behind a nearby garment rack, peeking in between two dresses to witness the disaster that was happening. The president, an elegant woman with a sharp and witty sense of humor, politely listened to the model's story before finally cutting her off. "Do you really think I'm the right audience for this story?" she finally said to her. The model stared at her blankly, processed the question and walked off. And just for the record, fully dressed and not in a nude thong.

We had the Linda Blair zombie model who walked like she was dead. Really, she looked dead. With a wide-eyed terrified expression on her face, she walked through the showroom centimeter by painful centimeter which would take her a full twenty minutes to make one round as other models dusted passed her. My boss shared with me that this particular model's eyes would follow her as she made her rounds occasionally looking back at her before returning to the cabine, giving my boss the impression that her head was going to do a full 365 turn. This model didn't make it through the week and was replaced by the sweetest girl from Holland who looked like a little doll. She curtsied and smiled after presenting each look. Besides the Marc by Marc Jacobs Resort 2009 collection, it was one the cutest things I've ever seen in a showroom.

After fawning over the week's best collections, the second most entertaining part of the week is observing the models and all of their little idiosyncrasies. Because most of them grew up in these settings where they've had to develop their personalities around professionals in showrooms, runway shows and are cramped in model apartments that have little to no supervision, you're bound to get a nut or two, but really, look who's talking?

It was a great week, I went to some fun parties, and I'm looking forward to next season. Until next time Paris Fashion Week....

Coming Up for Air.

Here's a present that I received today!

No, it's not from the Gods of Paris Fashion Week offering me a benchmark of an ideal weight to keep in mind for next season (gross), but rather a gift from La France herself. Awww, she shouldn't have. Really...

So we briefly interrupt this Paris Fashion Week to come back to reality, come up for air, and back to my real life with a trip to the doctor's office at the Office of Immigration...

Will an immigration office ever sound glamourous? Doubtful.

Because I've basically started from the beginning with my new visa, I've had to re-do everything, including the mandatory medical check-up we all have to do shortly after entering France. I received the letter last week reporting me to their local office, and of course, it was smack right in the middle of fashion week. The letter finely stated that failure to attend would threaten my legal stay in France.

In that to the doctor it was!

With past jobs, coming in a few hours late would not be okay, even for something critical like, I don't know, potential deportation. Luckily, the house I'm currently with understood the magnitude of this visit and told me to come in as soon as I could. In my 20's, I never understood the importance as well as luxury of working with rational people. Frankly, I didn't even think of it as I was just happy to be working in fashion, but now in my 30's, I almost demand it.

One of the more extreme examples I've had with unreasonable bosses was when one told me to tell my father to please hold off dying until after fashion week when he was then free to "croak". Exact words. Yes, I'm going to call my father at St. Vincent's Hospital to ask him to wait until the collections have hit the runway before he's allowed to pass away. This lunatic ended up firing me when it without question should have been the other way around, but hey we live and learn, right?

Fast forward to my real adult life working with professionals, I didn't get any grief for a necessary inconvenience and all went swimmingly (and somewhat speedy) with my appointment. Nothing too far out of the ordinary happened, just my usual random interaction with the French. For those of you who haven't done a mandatory medical check-up in France, it's simple: you get a chest x-ray, do a simple eye-test, get weighed, measured, get your blood pressure and a heartbeat check. There is a different doctor for each of these exams, so a visit that should take fifteen minutes tops, can take up to two hours.

Here are some highlights from the visit:

- I got scolded at for saying, "ça caille!" after standing topless under an air conditioning vent while waiting for the x-ray technicians to start-up their machines. Apparently it was rude to say such a familiar expression to a doctor whom I didn't know. On a side note, and not that I have given this much thought; but I would have figured that getting scolded or having any kind of serious conversation with a stranger, topless in a public place was uniquely for strippers. Well not in France...

- One of the doctors shared with me that she finds Louis Vuitton bags to be vulgar and made for ugly old ladies. She prefers Lancel, but not the BB collection. 

- I almost had to get a prescription for eyeglasses because even after three years in France, I still confuse the pronunciations of the letters "G" and "J". Reading an eye chart certainly wasn't going to kick that habit and the English-speaking part of my brain logically said "G" when looking at the letter, forgetting that it's pronounced "J". Why won't it stick in my brain to just reverse the two when speaking French? 

- And with my sit down meeting with the final doctor who simply could not wrap his head around the fact that I have a middle name (which was a ten minute conversation in itself), lectured me - after dramatically slamming his glasses down on the table- about the fact that HPV is part of the American scam to increase healthcare costs by instilling fear, that it would be virtually impossible for a woman under the age of 30 to have pre-cancerous cells in her cervix, and that there's no such thing as an irregular PAP smear.

All of this before 9 am. Only in France, kids...

I made it to the showroom in time for the big appointments and literally just got home from a grueling 13 hour day. My feet are in misery; swollen, cut and bruised as I try to break-in the designer ballet flats (I might as well have worn heels!) I was given and am rewarding myself with a big glass of red that is waiting for me in the kitchen. So I'm off to put my feet up, sip on a 2008 Bordeaux that I've been saving, and watch a slasher film because after all, it is October!

Not to worry, a full report on this week is coming soon and do I have some goodies for you guys...

I think the cray definitely got cranked up this season...yes, it's the models again.

Like I said, Happy Paris Fashion Week!