connect!

there goes the neighorhood.




Here we are in the midst of another fluctuating summer in Paris. One day it is sunny and blazing hot and the next it's hailstorm pelting icy chunks of rain onto the cars, my head, and the sidewalks. When the sun does come out, I really have to force myself out of the house, away from my manuscript to enjoy these slices o' summer. Because before soon it will be la rentrée, and I'll complain, wondering where the summer went. 

Two weeks ago, a dreary day had unexpectedly turned into a sunny afternoon, beckoning me to go out to enjoy some of it with a trip to the supermarket. In a large tote, I stuffed a reusable Monoprix nylon sac, my wallet and an umbrella...just in case. 

Purposefully I chose the market located 15 minutes away from my house, on the other side of my neighborhood for maximum sunshine and a little low intensity cardio. During this walk, I soaked up the sun admiring how sleepy my area of the 12th gets over the summer, and snapped a few phone photos of the summer flowers blooming on the sides of the prominade plantée

The streets may have sketched the scenes of a quiet summer in the city, the supermarket, however, did not echo this sentiment (maybe this is where everyone was?). 

While doing my shopping, through the windows I caught a glance of what was once that sunny day I had been basking in, had turned suddenly dark and bit threatening. Good thing I had my umbrella, I thought with a shrug before going back to squeezing and smelling mini cantaloupes.

By the time I got to the checkout, the sky had completely opened up and was pouring sheets of rain, drenching any pedestrian that got in the way of its wrath. Knowing that this sort of heavy rain would only laugh at the pocket umbrella I had brought along you know, 'just in case', I had to wait it out. I stood in the supermarket's entrance with my bags and about 10 other customers who like me, weren't willing to brave the sudden extreme weather conditions. 

With nothing to read but a circular left on the floor, with joy, I had discovered that market was promoting an all American-themed food festival! For a limited time only, the market would be offering a selection of American 'delicacies' such as cake pops, peanut butter, onion dip, popcorn, hamburger buns and whoopie pies. Images of 1950's housewives, a route 66 sign, fireworks, and dancing cupcakes with little faces supported the promotion, inciting a small chuckle that my country is still sometimes hued with this image of 1950's American idealism. To be fair, if my mom's local market on Lawg Guyland had "French week", I can only imagine what kind of clichés that would welcome.

Ten minutes in the steaming supermarket entranceway: The rain was not letting up. A man had stolen groceries which prompted the alarm to sound. No one chased after him. The room was getting more humid by the customer. The cashiers were overwhelmed by the volume of customers. The customers were complaining that the cashiers weren't moving fast enough (like there was anywhere to go...) And the alarm continued to sound. Fuck this. I had my jellies on. So, I left.

Two seconds out in the rain, I had immediately regretted my decision to flee. I couldn't go back; that would only accept defeat. Like a warrior I continued on my journey with the knowledge that there was a café up the street. I picked up my pace and began to run, with my groceries pounding against my hip, my tee-shirt at that point being obscenely wet, and drops of rain gathering under my umbrella drip dropping on me.

I made it to the café drenched and cold, and chose a window seat and a glass of pinot noir to warm up with, and to wait for the rain to subside. It did. Only about an hour later. I went to pay the check but the 5€ bill I was certain I had was a melange of coins that did not add up to the 3.50 value of the bill. 

"By any chance can I pay by card?" I asked, and waited for an exasperated response that they only accept cards à partir de 15€.

It came.

I then asked if there was a nearby bank where I could grab some cash. She informed me that there was a bank up the street and around the corner near the Montgallet métro. 

Génial.

"Merci," I said, "I'll be right back."

A look of concern poured down her face and a nod no.

"But you have to pay first." She said, not at all joking.

"Right, but I have to get money first. I only have 2€ in change making me short."

"Hold on, let me ask my manager."

Okay.

The manager, who was pulled away from her smoke break, repeated that I had to pay my bill before leaving to go to the bank. 

"If I could pay my bill I wouldn't need to go to the bank." I think, or at least I hope I effectively communicated in French.

"Can you leave a piece of ID then?"

That seemed a little hardcore for 3.50, I thought before pulling out and handing over my titre de séjour. The manager pulled down her glasses to analyze it before handing it back to me.

"It's expired, Madame."

Judas Priest! It was true. It was expired. The temporary récépissé that I probably should always carry with me before my appointment at La Cité, I had left at home. Can you blame me for not thinking that I was going to need it? She then leaned over the bar, peered into my wallet and saw my California driver's license and a New York Learner's Permit (braces!).

"What about those?" She asked, pointing down to my wallet.

It hadn't even occurred to me to use a piece of American ID. I plucked out my California license, which always reminds me of spending a half day of our honeymoon at the Hollywood DMV and the unexpected expenses it had accrued, and realized that it was worth way more than a glass of pinot noir. While I knew nothing was going to happen to it, I guess I wanted my collateral to be just a little more even. Now it was me who was being the complicated one...

Realizing that I could have gone to the bank two times already, I had come up with a solution! I opened up my bag of groceries pulled out my packet of chicken breasts that were marked at 5.34€ (more expensive than the wine and equally as important to me as them wanting to be paid) and put it on the bar.

"C'est plus cher que le vin. Look," I said pointing to the sticker, "I will be right back. I promise. I'm making chicken parm tonight."

Says the Italian chick from New York...

Ignoring their protests "Madame! Madame! Non!" I left them in what I imagined were their fists pounding in the air and steam coming out of the ears, and took myself to the damn bank. 

Six minutes later, I returned clutching my cash, my chicken waiting for me on the bar, and two pissed off servers still complaining about me. I handed her a ten, waited for the change (which I have to say, felt a little reluctance on her part) scooped my chicken off the counter and wished them a bonne journée

"C'est pas normal," I caught one saying to the other with a gasp as I was exiting. While the other one reduced me to be so américaine.

I wasn't offended by their response, sure, it was bold especially for our quiet little area. The only thing I could not help but wonder, the one thing picking on my mind as I walked home in the cool aftermath of the storm was: Will they will be partaking in the American-themed celebration at the supermarket the following week? Or did it ruin it for them on the day I forgot to give a fuck?


Happy summer from Paris, all!

turning the page.


So that's it, Tuesday was my last day with the little French tots...forever. Can you believe it? A job that was supposed to be temporary stretched out to two years. And as unglamorous as it was, I learned just as much at this job as I did at my fancy shmancy fashion job in New York and at my temp tax office job here in Paris.

Before closing this chapter of my life, I had an appointment to zip to that I had made three months ago. Christening my sparkling new carte vitale, I went to my first ever gynecologist appointment in Paris before heading to final day of school. Unlike these appointments I have experienced in the States, I did not wait an hour in the waiting room listening to Fresh 102.7 and another 15 minutes half-naked and alone in a cold room (Wait, don't the lyrics to that Natalie Imbuglia song kinda go something like this?). 

No, this appointment was speedy, which for Paris, was pretty shocking. I read about a page in my book before being welcomed in personally by the doctor (not a wound-up receptionist barking at patients in the waiting room asking if they have insurance or not.) The check up itself was routine, and when it was done, I proudly handed over my carte vitale and paid 34 in which 23 will be reimbursed. Parfait! Here's however, the part I was not expecting: she handed me a little-sealed paper bag and wished me a bonne journée. Merci? 

So, I expect a goody bag at the dentist but at the gynecologist? What could I have possibly needed to-go? I shook the bag, holding it close to my ear in hopes for a clue. Shake, shake. No clues there.

"That is simply your (enter unidentified word in French here) to send to the laboratoire, Madame." She informed me after witnessing the shake. Because I had done so well during the entire appointment, taking about the history of my lady parts all in French (a round of applause!) I didn't want to ruin the fun by asking her to clarify. I nodded and feigned total comprehension with an exaggerated d'accord before shuffling out of her office.

Out on the sidewalk, naturally I called Aurélien who is usually on stand-by for translation purposes when I have these first time appointments. 

"Hey," he picked up on the second ring, "Did everything go okay?"

"Yeah, it was perfect," I said looking down at the bag, "But I think she gave me a bag of my stuff."

"Okay," he lingered, searching for something, anything to say as the French translation 'un sac de mes choses' was not terribly clear.

What also struck me as odd was that this paper envelope containing particles of my cervix that I was instructed to send through the mail did not require a light proof black bag, a biohazard sticker, or anything to officially notify the handlers that it was a medical delivery. Does this seem strange to anyone else?

"Anyway, I have to send it off to "the lab" now (I've kinda of always wanted to say that)," I said looking up at the clock at Daumesnil noticing the minute hand inching closer to the time I needed to be at school. "Merde. I actually really don't know if I can make it. I wasn't expecting to have to send this off myself."

"You probably should do it before you see the kids, I think," he suggested, "Because they are always curious about what's in your bag."

Gross, gross, gross.

"You're right and also, it is hot today. Do you think the heat from the sun will deactivate my cells if I don't send it asap? Is that even possible?" I asked. 

"Just go send it," he said with a nervous chuckle. "Courage."

I went to the closest post office and as usual, the line was long and the place was scorching hot. The usually dismal scene of the post office was animated by a man angrily shouting and cursing at the piece of paper he was filling out, another man walking in with a dog the size of a sofa, and the anxiety that came from holding a bag containing my important specimen. I anxiously looked down at my phone and saw that I was cutting it very close. If the métro ran smoothly with no delays and I caught all three transfers without waiting on the platform then I would be there right on time, I calculated. But as I always say: Paris is a city that is not your friend when you're in a rush. Having been burned many times by trying to push her to move faster, where her wrath comes in the form of a stray dog found wandering on the tracks resulting in a 30-minute delay (yes, this did happen once), I had no choice but to forgo the post office.

Why not just be late? What's the big deal? Good question. The last time I was late I got scolded by the director (Il faut pas, Il faut pas!), they wouldn't direct me to the children, I got yelled at by the maids because I didn't say bonjour to them (I was looking for the children, at that moment it really wasn't about them) and I set off an alarm of a side door that I apparently was not supposed to open. So being late was not at all appealing.

I made it to school on time and following the directions I had received earlier from the parents via text, I took the kids home early. What I was expecting to be a house scattered with suitcases and vacation paraphernalia because they were heading off to Italy the following day, was instead a party...in my honor.

A table was set with wine (they know me so well), Champagne (okay, they know me really well), and an assortment of little gifts to thank me. Around the table were the parents, the kids who each handed me a present and thanked me for being the best Lisa ever and Franck who told me that he was relieved that he never has to speak English again, and Aurélien.

Of course I started to cry. I didn't realize how much they all appreciated me and how much they were a part of my life.

As much as these little guys drove me insane by opening the bathroom door when I was on the toilet, sliding destroyed art projects under the door and screaming voilà, flipping out on Boulevard Magenta because I didn't declare that one of them was cozy, and flipping out as we walked through dark hallways during power outage, I'm really going to miss them. How could I not? But now it's off to the next chapter of my Parisian life, whatever that will be. 

Aurel and I sat in the cab ride home that night, watching the city pass by, just me, him and my bag of cervix. Who knows, maybe my next experience with children will be with my own. Now that's a thought. Let's see what the lab has to say...

un mariage juste parfait!



As many of you know, the reason for heading to New York for a week was officiate our wedding in the States! Getting married a second time around gave us the opportunity to change things we wish we had done differently the first time around. Reflecting back on it and the preceding week of preparation, it is already such a heartwarming memory.

The wedding was broken down into three parts: the first was a small impromptu ceremony by an ordained minister (whom I used to work with at a local New Age shop when I was a teen) in the gazebo of the Roslyn Duck Pond, followed by an early dinner at Bistro Citron in the historical village of Roslyn, then guests were invited back to my mom's house for Champagne, cheese, sweets and Pear Williams that we brought back from France. 

The story behind the location is as a little girl I was always charmed by the Roslyn Duck Pond (which has since been renamed Gerry Park). For my birthday every year, part of my present was to out to the Island from the city to spend the day in the park. Aurélien inherited my love for this park as well as the village a few years ago when we were first dating and I took him to Bistro Citron. Fast forward three years later, it seemed only perfect to host our American wedding dinner there.

Just like the French wedding it poured, but as we were saying our vows, in cinematic perfection the sun peeked out, the birds started to sign and the bells from the village clock tower rang. It was almost like we had planned it.

Here are some shots from our unforgettable day.

Many thanks to Cara and Jen for snapping these photos for us and for being all shades of amazing. The day really flowed so beautifully because of your help! I couldn't have asked for better friends. Merci beaucoup. 


The ducks.

Ceremony location.

Delighted to see Jenna!

 
Chit chat with Cara.


The dress was purchased last year during our trip to L.A at my old haunt vintage shop Ragg Mopp Vintage. Owner Vince who is responsible for 50% of my vintage collection agreed that this 1950's lace and velvet-trimmed dress would be perfect for a wedding reprise. I paired it with a mint green mohair Ralph Lauren cardigan from the 90s and pink tulle Badgley Mischka heels. Aurélien of course wore his white Repettos.



Initially I wanted to redo the fresh mint bouquet that I had at the French wedding but the American mint didn't hold the form, so Kobey at Muscari Flowers put together this blush pink peonies and calla lilies to match my shoes.


Aurel got his very first American barbershop haircut and shave
at Rudy's. The barbershop all the men in my family have been going to since the 50s.


When guests arrived at Bistro Citron they were offered a French 75 or a glass of Champagne garnished with a strawberry. Servers passed lobster tartines, duck confit tacos, truffle deviled eggs and warm Camembert drizzled in honey. I have to mention this because this was a detail missing at my French wedding and was happy to have such an inviting cocktail hour the second time. 

Bistro Citron did an incredible job from start to finish. From the inception, the planning, the table setting (they were aware of all vendettas and followed my table plan accordingly) to the impeccable service throughout the dinner. We, and most importantly the guests were pleased. The restaurant receives nothing but glowing reviews from us. Thank you for helping make our second special day so unforgettable.


The green trellis menus and tented place cards were designed through site Minted

Party favors were mini bottles of Grand Courtage Champagne.
For our pregnant guests or guests in recovery, we offered jars of Albert Ménès rose petal confiture and vintage box cameras.



Taking many trips from my mom's house down to the town of Roslyn and never having quarters to feed the meter, we assumed our guests would be presented with the same dilemma. My mom wrapped up bundles of quarters in tulle and mint green ribbon that Jen helped distribute after the ceremony. Yes, it's a bit odd giving our guests a dollar worth of quarters but at least it prevented them from having to get change at the deli!
 
To truly enjoy the night, we held back from snapping photos at the after party. Without much effort, my mom's house took on a Gatsby vibe (when on Long Island, eh?) with strung café lights and lanterns in the kitchen that extended to the garden, tea lights twinkled in quilted mason jars, vintage Champagne glasses and coupes were set out, the fridge was well stocked with Taittinger, an assortment of Italian and French cheeses, fruit, and sweet meringues were waiting for guests, a playlist of 1930s and 40s jazz played (okay, and a little Zou Bisou Bisou action), and of course an outfit change by me. In colors of yellow and powder blue, Muscari adorned the kitchen and the garden with bursts of spring.


It was the perfect end to an exceptional week. Admittedly, coming back to Paris two days after was a bit of a struggle, something I felt guilty about. This trip has raised some questions for us...how can we manage to somehow live in both cities? My love for both has finally balanced out.



Note: This was not a sponsored post. We were just so pleased with everyone we worked with that we wanted to give them credit for a job extremely well done.

the rudest people in the world.



As many of you know, Aurel and I were back in the States to do a small wedding ceremony for the folks who couldn't make it to France last year. Before I get into the loveliness that is getting married in a duck pond and having an intimate dinner at a bistro in a historical village, I have a little tale that I thought some of you would appreciate.

While the wedding was small with only 30 guests, we still wanted the touches of a traditional wedding and had offered guest favors, tables splashed with gorgeous blush pink peonies, garden green place cards, and printed programs and menus. The week leading up to the wedding turned out to be less of a vacation and more running around to secure these details for our second big day. 

Once our menu was locked down, we ran to get them professionally printed at chain print shop near a mall on Long Island. We entered the printing store and discussed with the clerk what we wanted done. When she realized it was going to be a bigger job than a simple photo copy as we handed her our USB key, she welcomed us to the back office to discuss further. In the back office, there were other employees and because Aurel is French and I have lived in Paris for many years now, we made the point to make eye contact with all three employees to say hello. They looked up from their work and grunted hello.

"We don't have to do that here," I nudged Aurélien, honoring our pact to speak on English when we are on American soil, "No one cares, especially on Long Island."

"Okay," he accepted, "No hello on Long Island."

"What do you mean?" a woman with bleached yellow hair and big teeth who was sitting across the counter asked, "We say hello here."

I really didn't want to kick off the uber-snotty "Well in Paris..." (so Blue Jasmine, right?) but she appeared to be genuinely interested and even a bit offended, so I did it.

"In Paris," I explained, "It's a cultural expectation to acknowledge staff and employees in a store."

"Well!" She scoffed, "Isn't that interesting coming from the Fah-rench-a?!"

She somehow added two more syllables to the word French, clearly for effect. Aurel and I both nodded and smiled, knowing what she was hinting at and turned to the clerk who was helping us, waiting for our heavy documents to load up.

"I mean," she continued, "I find that very interesting coming from the French!"

Again, we nodded and smiled. I may have even shrugged at this point, but our body language clearly read that we got what she was laying down and were not interested in pursuing it any further.

"Wanna know why I say that?" She asked.

"Well," I muttered without conviction.

"Because the French are guilty for being the rudest people in the world!"

And she went and did it. She clearly couldn't resist. Only on Long Island. I swear, it's the water.

"But are they?" I indulged her. Clearly I couldn't resist either.

"Oh come on!" She said, "They are just awful people! I can't stand them."

"Yeah, well" I nodded, and with a thumb pointing to Aurel said, "He's French."

"Bonjour, guilty as charged." Aurel responded with his hands up. 

Her coworkers all nodded their heads in laughter, as did we, because really, who makes blanket statements about any culture like that anymore? The French are rude? What is this, the 80s? Several days later when we picked up our prints, the same Judgey Jan employee was there. I made a point not to say hello, Aurélien on the other hand approached her and gave her the double French bises and said to her, "Not all French are rude, ma belle."

Just like she was dumbfounded when I informed her that Aurel was French, she stood frozen in her little printer's smock making incoherent noises to somehow make sense of what had happened. She'll be talking about forever when the Frenchman came into her shop and kissed her. Maybe this is what it will take to change her view on the French. They say, if you can reach just one person....

Wedding and New York recap to come soon! 
So, how is everyone?

(1000) jours ensemble.



I know, I know, it's been quiet chez moi for the past few weeks. The truth is that not much has been going on. Even with this gorgeous spring weather we have been graced with, I've been mostly indoors. I have been rewriting my old adventures, tightening up my words, which doesn't exactly make room for new ones as my days are spent essentially living in the past.

A few weeks ago I began an Advanced Memoir class that has also been consuming much of my time from the hours of class readings I have per week, as well my first big class assignment. I submitted a re-written chapter from my memoir that took about three weeks to revise to my (somewhat) satisfaction. So, are you snoozing yet? I wouldn't blame you if you were, I find talking, or rather writing about writing incredibly boring. 

In exciting news, Aurelien and I are heading to New York to get - wait for it - married! We thought we would make it official over there too. Why not? We're not doing the ornate guidette New York wedding that at one point was going to happen, we were thinking something a bit more pastoral. We chose a duck pond near my mother's house to conduct the ceremony, which will be followed by an early dinner at a restaurant in the area with a few friends and family. Simple and small.

We of course are anticipating drama from my Italian family. It wouldn't be a family event if there wasn't any. So far we have received 5 requests about seating from this guest who cannot sit near that guest due to some unreconciled vendetta. There are 30 of us. How many vendettas could their possibly be? I just hope no one tells me on this trip to make a consultation appointment with Dr. Tornambe to consider liposuction. That was, like, a thing one year. 

Breaking out of my writer's hovel, last Friday Aurélien had asked me to meet him at the Hôtel de Ville metro stop at 7:15. No explanation, just meet him there at this time. Since we are seldom in this part of town, not since I moved from la chambre de bonne, I was at a loss. Quel grand mystère! I, however, knew something was up when he left the house in his Repetto white jazz shoes...

In my Friday night best, I arrived early in a black wool Givenchy dress that I pulled out of the caverns on my closet. Ascending from the steps of the metro, I felt the comfort of spring; it was 7 pm and the sun was still shining bright. So, I'm not sure why I thought he would instinctively go into The Body Shop to look for me but while he waited for me just outside, I was "killing" time getting sold all sorts of doodads that I apparently "needed". 43€ later, I thought to peek my head out onto the street, where I found Aurel with a new coif à la Don Draper (when he's not greasy and drunk) holding a bushel of one of my favorite flowers, daisies. 

"Where are we going?" I asked, as we crossed rue du Renard.

"Do you know how annoying you are with surprises?"

"I do," I admitted, "So where are we going?"

In silence we threaded down the tiny cobblestone streets before Châtelet before crossing in front of the Pompidou. At then I got it: he had brought me to the exact same place we met almost three years ago on our blind Adopte Un Mec date. To commemorate 1000 days together, he handed me this, the first movie we saw together:


As you can imagine, I was flush with emotion (even with his head superimposed on Joseph Gordon-Levitt's body!) at the time he took to make this montage of not just photos of us, but photos with friends I have made here, friends back home, family, and Charlotte. Before I could recompose myself because I was embarrassing myself, he re-proposed. Now he went and really done it.

We never really had a story, and we still didn't have our wedding bands from the French wedding, so now we have both. Just as I was accepting to remarry him in New York, I received my official rite of passage to my life in Paris: a pigeon shit on my Givenchy. And it was just perfect.

I hope you are all enjoying your spring, I hope it has finally warmed up on the east coast, and I wish you all a lovely weekend! Bisous de Paris!

serge forever.


My first week in Paris (once the profound jetlag that is coming from the States to Europe wore off), I remember sitting down at my kitchen table at La Motte Picquet and jotting down a list of places I wanted to go and things I wanted to see immediately. With Paris in my palm, I decided to kick off cette vie Parisienne with a stroll from 15th to 7th (one of my favorite walks in Paris) to M. Serge Gainsbourg's house.

My intrigue was ignited after reading a 2007 piece in Vanity Fair that documents his daughter Charlotte's wishes to keep everything in the house exactly as Serge left it when he passed away in 1991. With the exception of exploding canned food and perishables, all of his quirky toys and tchotchkes, ashtrays, paintings, Repettos, even chewing gum are exactly where he left them. Because his home is currently closed to the public (although Charlotte hopes to one day turn it into a museum), the biopic Gainsbourg (Vie héroïque) gives us a look inside and his eclectic tastes, among other facets of his incredible life. 

Seeing it in person for the first time, I got the chills. I was not expecting the volume in which his home was (and still is) memorialized by fans who pay tribute with graffiti; some of it being bona-fide street art. That first visit in 2009, the facade had sketches from Joann Sfar, the graphic novelist and director of Gainsbourg. It was months later that I recognized his work in my photos after seeing the making of the film.

I have since visited several times, each involving a little story where I have chatted with other fans who also enjoy a visit with Serge. In honor of today, his would-be 86th birthday, I revisited 5 bis Rue de Verneuil to pay homage to one "France's most beloved and important songwriter", l'homme à tête de chou....white Repettos and all. 




Along with the French classes I took in New York before I came to Paris, I supplemented my schooling with the music of Serge Gainsbourg, looking up and translating the lyrics. While this method vastly improved my vocabulary, I also learned a lot of dirty words and expressions, which of course I loved.

Here's a compilation of just a handful of my favorite songs that on any given day, I can be found rocking out to my in apartment...alone. Enjoy!

(*Fun fact: I sing this one to my cat, Charlotte. 
It totally creeps her out...and my mom.)

little earthquakes.



 Illustration source: Melissa M

Everyday I hop on the metro to go to work, I can honestly say that I have no idea what the day will bring me. Perhaps this is the "excitement and adventure" that is working with children, but these little guys keep me on my toes where I can never predict what they will say, or worse, do. 

At work, the one thing I really do try to avoid is going to the bathroom. It sounds ridiculous, I know. It just seems like every time I leave them to their own devices for even the hottest second, something always happens where I hear crying or some kind of commotion through the door, and can't push my pee out fast enough. Previous episodes have included an iPad being launched from a top bunk and smashing onto a hardwood floor, Franck punching Thomas in the face, or one of them (no names) standing naked in his bedroom, smearing his own feces on the curtains. (Why the curtains? Does this strike anyone else as an odd choice for placement? It was almost poetic.)

That last event was when I made a vow to eschew any personal after-school bathroom activities. Holding off on drinking water and tea in exchange for feces-free curtains is a decision I have yet to look back on. I have been lucky thus far not needing the bathroom, as my lady friend appeared to follow suit arriving on weekends....until last Tuesday. So, with that kind of set-up, you know this story is going into a very dark place. I forewarned you, this will not be an I love Paris in the springtime post.

I knew that I would be in the bathroom a drop longer than usual, therefore I separated the mini monsters to opposite sides of the table to work on their English homework (serious stuff here: coloring paper cookies for a nail-biting round of Who Stole the Cookie from the Cookie Jar?) before heading off to manage my business. With an assortment of phrases instructing them to stay put ("Soyez sage, Restez ici, Bougez pas,"), I was confident that my brief absence would be rid of incidents.

There I was, sitting in the minuscule bathroom, so small that I could touch the walls boxing me in without having to stretch my arms out. I learned toward the door expecting to hear hysteria but all was quiet on cookie mountain. Parfait. Finishing up, I sat up and let out a small yelp when I realized that I had not inserted my tampon all the way. (I hate when that happens.) At first, I did that dance to maneuver it in place, which never works, before poking it up.

There I was, my pants around my ankle, standing in grand plié, my face scrunched up in the discomfort of having my fingers up my crotch, while the other hand held onto the wall for balance. 

And that, was when I looked up to see that Franck had opened the door, catching me literally red-handed. Of course, he did. After two years, how did I not call that?

Upon absorbing this horrific scene, he let out his best "Home Alone" scream, slammed the door in my face and ran off. Merde, merde, merde!!!

That day I was wearing my vintage sailor pants and had to button all 15 buttons before addressing this, which only adding to the tension as he wailed on in the living room.

"She's naked!!" I heard him cry to Thomas, "She's in their almost à poil being bizarre! Qu'est-ce qu'elle fait?

But really, I did not know what to do, I'm not versed in - at least not yet - handling emotional trauma of a five-year-old. Was I supposed to punish him? And if so, for what? Opening the door? Not listening when I told him to stay put? And was I going to have to pay for his therapy sessions? The horror!

Then the second part of this already humiliating experience dawned on me: I would have to explain all of this to his father that night. I couldn't let this one slide in the hopes that Franck would not relay what he saw to his family. They had to hear it from me. 

At the behest of Aurélien, whom I called for advice, I spared the father all of the gruesome details and placed emphasis that Franck was very shaken up.

"That was his response when seeing you without pants on?" the father joked, "He cried? Oh là."

I was not at all amused. And it showed.

I am not one to storm out of situations, but my humiliation was mounting by the second. I wished them all a curt bonne soirée before leaving to meet Aurel for a much-needed happy hour cocktail at Chez Vous

I sometimes can't believe these are snippets of life in my 30s. I always imagined I would be settled into an actual career by now, but I also never predicted I would be married (still so weird) and living in Paris. Take the good with the not so great, eh? These almost two years working with these kids have been quite an experience, unwittingly preparing me for the day I have my own, however, I am looking forward to the end of my final year in childcare. Mon dieu.

revisiting la motte-picquet.

May 2012

I admit it's been quiet on the blog this year. The reason is that I have been hunkering down on projects, submitting essays, and considering some new opportunities. This has meant spending my days confined to my desk-slash-dining room table with my thinking beret on, fashionably wearing my blue Sports Authority sweatpants, with my short hair pulled back into a wee ponytail. Hardly a riveting blog post. Aside from being called a deaf girl who doesn't speak French by a toddler (they're still failing to understand that I'm not allowed to speak French to them!), life for this américaine in Paris has been less action-packed than it normally is.

With hints of an early spring season charming the city, and a special meeting with blogger-turned-friend Sara Louise to commemorate her last day in France before moving back to the States, it was time to get l'enfer out of the house!

Meeting at Bar au Central for an early evening glass of wine, Sara Louise regaled Kristen and me with her jaw-dropping French stories as she reflected back on her ten years in Europe. (Girlfriend needs to write a book!)

On my walk home to the metro, I passed the iconic Parc du Champs Mars, and couldn't help but recall my own journey. To bring my sense memory to life, I reached out to my former roommate Charles-Henri to see if he wanted to meet up with me before I jumped back on the 6 to go home. 

My first year as an ex-pat was not exactly typical, but really whose first year is? Because finding an apartment in Paris is pretty much a nightmare, not to mention, that my status was not attractive to French landlords, for the sake of cheap rent and to actualize this dream of living in Paris, I shared a one bedroom apartment (READ: one bed) with a guy I barely knew. As you could imagine this set-up triggered a host of "situations" where I still cringe when I look back at some of the discussions I forced upon poor Charles-Henri.

Luckily he didn't hold the 2009 me against the 2014 me, and agreed to meet with me for an impromptu dinner at the apartment on La Motte-Picquet.

It's funny how our memory gets distorted over time; the spiral staircase leading up to the apartment was slimmer than I remembered and, the smell that I had grown so familiar with had evolved into a different odor that I no longer recognized. 

I rang the doorbell that had a higher pitch and some man, who was not Charles-Henri, answered the door. Apparently, I even forgot what floor I used to live on.

"Oh my god, you look like a wife!" Charles-Henri proclaimed after opening the correct door and giving me the once-over.

"Why? Because my hair is short?" 

"No, because you're wearing a wedding ring, cocotte."

(Beat)

I helped myself to my former bathroom and through the faintly frosted window saw that the same neighbor still lived across the way. Well yeah, of course he did. This was the neighbor who had told me five years ago, that he and his daughter could see me sitting on the pot and performing other bathroom activities when they ate dinner at night. 

"What happened to the blinds we put up in here?" I screamed through the walls, yanking my tights up.

"Oh, they fell down a few months ago." 

That's it. They just fell down. No further explanation, which I recall being a typical Charles-Henri response: so direct and assured. He knew exactly what I was suggesting but he didn't care, and I suspect the neighbors also know that he doesn't care since they have never approached him about it. Only I got to enjoy the privilege of that conversation.

Sitting in "our same seats", over pinot noir, poulet rôti and steamed brocoli, we dished about the present while entertaining ourselves with tales of the past. He is the only person I am still in touch with who witnessed the insanity of my first two years here and met the oddball characters that, even then, he vehemently disapproved of. 

Extending my visit to the last drop of wine, it was time for me to say goodbye to 2009 and go back home to 2014.

"You really did it," he said as I was putting my coat on. "You came to Paris to learn French, to make a life, and to get back to writing, and voilà, tu l'as fait."

"I do forget that I was hanging by a thread for a long time," I acknowledged, "And it's nice to be reminded sometimes that life has a way of working itself out."

"We learn and grow more from our failures than our successes." he said, never ceasing to impress me with his English and his astute outlook.

"I wasn't sure what I was doing with myself in those days," I mused, "For a while I felt like a loser, but I was secure in the decision to come here. I'm glad it wasn't all for nothing." 

"It never is, cocotte."

A brief visit with my past was just the refresher I needed to continue on with my future. And what better time to look forward in Paris? I hear it's lovely in the springtime.

Quel chou? Kale chou!


 
In my almost five years in Paris, I have learned (sometimes the hard way) that finding certain items in this town can be unpredictable  and to remember to keep an open mind when setting out for something specific. (Case in point: it took me a week to find inexpensive silver glitter.) More often this applies with food. I have maintained a habit of relying on the Parisian basics, nothing too wild, so I would no longer set myself up for disappointment. 

It took one rainy day in the 12th to have my theory come crashing down on me...

It was a typical Friday morning at the Daumesnil farmer's market to stock up on veggies for the weekend. All the usual friends were present: onions, garlic, tomatos, chou frisé, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, kale...whoa, back the train up, kale?! My friend with benefits was there! Delighted by this fine and unexpected discovery, I struck up small talk with the merchant who told me that they were there every Friday and always have kale as it has been in high demand. (Many thanks to the efforts of The Kale Project for creating this demand.) 

How progressive for my quiet area of Paris! For laughs, Aurel and I have spruced up Daumesnil by giving it one of those cutesy New York-style acronyms the jauntier parts of town are sometimes called. Over wine one night, we came up with SoNa, for South Nation. I know, I know, it so doesn't work, but I always enjoy seeing the expressions on our French friends faces when we tell them that we live in SoNa.

Last week, I prepared a shopping list for a dinner party we were hosting, and a part of me knew I was setting myself up for major disappointment, but I did it; I put kale on my list and set off on my journey.

My first stop was the supermarket for items like rice milk, dark chocolate tablettes for melting and foie gras toast. Amazingly, the market didn't have dark chocolate tablettes or foie gras toast, yet they had organic rice milk in several varieties. That just struck me as odd, but I wasn't going to let that discourage me, there were other supermarkets in my neighborhood who would meet such needs.

I left the supermarket and made my way over to the farmer's market with my little list. I stocked up on my basic veggies at my favorite corner stand where the merchant gives me a free clementine for my patronage, and picked up a few blocks of cheese before setting out for my kale. I had remembered that the stand was closer to the Dugommier stop and made a beeline straight for it. 

Have you ever walked quickly though a farmer's market? I don't recommend it. Everything started to look the same, some of the meat cases had gruesome displays that was making my stomach turn, my bag containing three kilos of veggies was digging into my shoulder, the merchants shouting "One euro, one euro allons-y allons-y!" and having also skipped breakfast that morning, I really thought I was going to faint. It was the Paris farmer's market version of that hazy scene in season one of The O.C when Marissa gets drugged and is wandering the streets of Tijuana. I wasn't sure if I was going to make it.

I finally found the stand, or at least I thought it was, and saw no trace of kale in sight. Of course I didn't. They had chou frisé but not kale, which really are two different things.

"Bonjour, do you have any kale chou today?" I asked, remembering that was what they had called it the first time I purchased it.

"Comment?"

"Kale chou?" I repeated, struggling as I tried to say kale with a French accent.

"Which chou?"

"Kale chou."

"Mademoiselle, I'm not following you. Which chou do you want?"

"Kale chou?" 

After what felt like ten minutes of "kale chou?" "which chou?" It became aware to me that despite my efforts in saying kale with the best French accent I could conjure up, he thought I was saying quel chou (what chou), over, and over, and over, and over. No wonder he was looking at me like I was out of my damn mind.

Feeling slightly embarrassed, as other customers were listening in on our bizarre exchange, with no further explanation, I ran away. There was nothing more to say or do, I just needed to be gone. In my little rubber rain boots, off I went to find refuge elsewhere.

It served me right to think I could go back and get something as uncommon as kale! Paris isn't quite there yet. I couldn't be frustrated, how could I be? What I needed to was to shift my mindset and remember where I was. With that, I walked over to the nearest boulangerie to pick up the most French thing I could think of, something that is always available and brings me comfort, and ordered a trusty croissant au beurre.

"Oh, we actually don't have anymore," the baker said, "We still have muffins though."

Oh. là. là. Since when are there muffins in Paris? I walked home eating my chocolate chip muffin under my umbrella, reminded that in Paris you just have to let the day take you where it goes and to surrender to the flow. Kale surprise.

Bon week-end a tous!