fighting the battle of who understands less.

 illustration by jim darling.

Back in Paris and it feels pretty good. Aside from the stiff neck that has me moving like a robot, and the chilly and wet weather Paris winter is gracing us with, I'd say I'm in the full swing of 2014.

Unfortunately, my trip over was not as smooth as the transition of getting back into town has been. In fact, it was pretty much fresh hell. 

Check it out. It was the first day of my lady friend and I had started antibiotics (for something unrelated), which had left me light-headed. When collecting my ticket at JFK, the gate-agent noticed I was a bit flushed and was kind enough to put me in an open back row in coach so I could lie down once we took off. This is seldom the case so when it does happen, it's the golden ticket; the next best thing to flying premium.

I settled myself into the end seat comfortably and decided to make a trip to the restroom before take off. Upon my return, there was a young guy, my guess he was in his early 20s, sitting in the middle seat, to right of mine. My bag that was there before had been placed on the floor. My first assumption was that a last minute ticket had been purchased or the gate agent was mistaken and the row was not free. No big deal. I was disappointed, but it happens, right?

But no.

Per this guy's chat that he was having over me with his brother who was sitting in the next aisle to my left, he boasted that he just decided to move seats. His explanation: pourquoi pas?

Okay, so the other two seats were not officially mine, nor were they his. I get it. It was the fact that his arrogance allowed him to move his seat along with my things just because? That, was what irked me.

During a long flight you eventually get used to whomever is sitting next to you, where you just co-exist or many times in my case strike up a cordial acquaintanceship with another polite passenger. Sadly, this was not one of those times. 

The kid was a nightmare. During take-off, he was sending text messages, which made me nervous. Who was he contacting? He was rude to the flight crew, demanding his "food" during the beverage service, in which the flight attendant slammed down a packet of ChexMix and said, "Here. Food." And in a total Larry David moment because I just I couldn't resist anymore, I asked him why he insisted on moving his seat, in which he told me to "go make fuck off" and that my French sucks.

Go make fuck off? And it was my second language that was lacking?

You guys, we weren't even halfway over Boston.

I had put off attempting sleep until after our meal came, and struck up conversation with the lovely new mother in front of me whose sweet infant seemed more acclimated to flying than the young guy next to me. Well, our chat was disturbing him, the boy who voluntarily chose to sit next to me.

"Can you please shush up?"
"Why not? I am tired. I don't understand when you speak French."
"T'as pas compris 'non'?"
"No. I didn't understand."
"Mais tu me réponds?"
"Yes, I responds you, but I don't understand when you speak French."
"C'est quoi ce jeu?"
"It is no game. I just don't understand when you speak French."
"Okay. Tu es un petit con."
"You a psychopath."
"This time of the month, yeah, you pretty much summed it up."

My ego doesn't prevent me from switching to English if someone doesn't understand my French, but the fact that he was responding exactly to the words he was so adamant about not understanding just made me push the French even more. I know, how old am I?

Knowing that this was going to be an even longer flight if I continued to stoop down to his level and with my head starting to spin, I leaned back in my chair and took deep breaths in an effort to ignore the reality mere centimeters away from me. Letting my eyes daze off as my head tilted to my left, they were met with a set of eyes weighing heavily upon mine. Jolted, I refocused to find his brother, staring at me with death daggers. Now what was his problem? Not breaking the stare, because you know, I'm a psychopath, I continued the stare down for a solid five minutes before he punctuated his rage by flipping me the finger. In slow motion.

The remainder of the flight was dotted with little messages from them. I woke up to find his dirty food tray and drinks on my tray while he slept somewhat comfortably on his, my blanket was wet, he turned my reading light on to shine on me, and I can't confirm this, but I think he may have put my seat in the upright position. If I was in better form, I totally would have retaliated. I grew up with all boys, so I have been trained by the best to handle these situations, I just didn't have it in me.

Before landing, I felt an aggressive tap on my shoulder, and before I could lift my eye mask to see what he could possibly want, he asked if I had seen his headphones. In an exaggerated display, I lifted my sight-hindering apparatus, and turned to him, "I don't understand when you speak English." As much as I want to say that I I told him to "go make fuck off" because I am more evolved than that, I can't. I simply forgot.

I practically kissed the ground at CDG and couldn't get home sooner to plunge into my bed. Sadly, Paris is a small town. I known will see these brothers again. That, I'm pretty sure about.

seven days in new york.

Wow. It's been two weeks since I have posted! In all of Ella Coquine history, this has never happened. What is going on? For those of you who follow me on Instagram and Twitter know that I am in New York for the week for a little post-holiday catch up with friends, family and broccoli di rabe Here are a few vignettes of my week:

I arrived at Charles de Gaulle last week at 7:30 am for a 10:30 flight to find out that we would not be taking off until 4:30. With 9 hours sitting in an airport ahead of me, my first response was to get coffee. Well, the Starbucks in the terminal was not offering hot coffee that day, and in true New York fashion I asked the barista what I was going to do with a frappucino in the middle of January. He told me that I was in luck, because they didn't have those either. The day went by faster than I had expected (no, I didn't go to the bar) and was upgraded to business class (as pictured above.)

In an early morning jetlag haze, an informerical for Cindy Crawford's Meaningful Beauty somehow managed to convince me that I needed the skin care system. You guys, I actually ordered it. I repeat, I pulled out my wallet and ordered something called Meaningful Beauty, only to read the horrific customer reviews after the order was placedI pretty much purchased a $39.95 (I used the promotion code Cindy123 for the discount) headache and am unable to cancel it since it is now considered a "return". Why do I get the feeling that Guthy-Renker will very much be a part of my 2014 reality? 

A showdown ensued in a train station on Long Island between a young girl and a crew of drunks who were quite audibly making themselves at home in the heated waiting room. The girl had asked them to be quiet as their belligerent conversations were disturbing her reading of "All the Rules: Time Tested Secrets for Capturing Mr. Right". Their ration? They told her to go to the library, accused the slim girl of being an "anorexisist", one of them threatened to punch the wall, and then told her to go to Grand Central and tell everyone to be quiet there too. In their defense, they were whispering so hey they were honoring her wishes. Sort of.

 Grand Central Station
Shhhh, everyone.
Headed out to Brooklyn to catch up with Jenn who runs the vegan recipe blog Lorimer Street Kitchen (remember that faux-mage I made? That's a Lorimer Street creation) and Miss Champagne Diet herself for a girl's night. Okay, so only bloggers would turn an impromptu girl's night into an event that we titled "Love Your Blog". 

 Havemeyer Street
Southside Williamsburg

Our three-person "event" came with its very own hashtag, a themed cocktail incorporating all of our blogs, Jenn's vegan treats (including an amazing cardamom donuts with rosewater glaze and pistachios!), and a make-up tutorial and application by me that went just wrong. I guess it is easier to do it on yourself...

Our organic lavender French 75.
(recipe on Lorimer Street Kitchen)

I have been enjoying being Stateside during this François Hollande scandal; getting the American perspective of the hot mess our French Pres has gotten himself into. The best was on the Today Show where they interviewed a French women in front of the Trocadéro métro stop (I know) decked out in fur, telling America that France doesn't have a strict policy against lying. You know, ça arrive. And of course members of my family have been looking at me with a single raised eyebrow, because you know, all Frenchmen inevitably cheat on their wives. N'importe quoi. 

It's been lovely getting a taste of New York but look forward to heading back to Paris. Who knew that the two cities would switch roles where Paris means work and life, and New York is where I now go to relax...

And just like that, it was 2014.

So here we are: the first Monday of 2014! Are you excited? I kind of am. What will this year bring?

Even though the New Year officially started last Wednesday, I confess that I did not get cracking on my "fresh start" until today. My New Year's Day was deliciously spent sipping bubbly and carb-loading in bed, while watching my favorite New Year movie; 200 Cigarettes followed by my least favorite; New Year's Eve (okay, the Lea Michelle elevator singing scene gives me an intense case of the giggles. I know, it was supposed to showcase her talents but in a non-musical film it just seemed random while Ashton Kutcher awkwardly stared at her feigning his enchantment.) 

Last year, a wise soul advised me to write a letter to create my intentions for the new year: what did I want to achieve; what did I want to see; what did I want to do. Choosing last night, the eve before my official new year, I pulled out my 2013 letter and was astonished by how many of my wishes were granted.

One wish that I never thought would manifest was making peace with my family. I had come to a point of acceptance and had truly let go of the hope that they would apologize for accusing Aurelien and me of robbing them, which led to the cancellation of a planned New York wedding. But when you let go, you let God, right? Well last summer we received a verbal apology from them, a sincere acknowledgement to their hasty accusation. My jaw was pretty much on the floor. My Italian family is not the apologetic type, especially for something they feel strong about. 

When sharing this closed chapter to a sad and confusing story with close friends, they couldn't help but ask if we had accepted their apology. Of course we did. Everything happened exactly the way it was supposed to, and standing proud and defiant over being "right" is just a useless habit to fall into.

With that said, this 2014 I intend to reintroduce myself to meditation, limit my dairy and alcohol consumption (limit, not eliminate -- I do live in France after all), get more sleep, tap into my creative conscientiousness with a new hobby, and one the hardest thing for me to do: stay focused. 

Here is to a peaceful yet productive 2014.
What are your intentions for the year?

the breaded train.

The Friday before Christmas was a double festive day for all: it was the last day of school for 2013 and my mother was in town. It was also a day where four métro lines were out of service for the afternoon forcing me to restructure my commute to school. Heeding to RATP's tweet advising passengers to avoid lines 2,6,10 and 11, with a few changes here and there, we made it to the safe line 7. 

But of course, 7 had to join in on the fun too.

Holding bags of American chocolates and presents for the little ones, my mother and I sat still at the Pyramides station in a stuffy and closed métro car waiting sans announcements for what felt like longer than ten minutes.

"Are you sure the numba 7 wasn't on the list of out of service subways?" my mother asked loudly, letting her voice bounce off the walls of the enclosed car.

"Yes, I'm sure." I hissed, anxiously looking at the time.

"Well it smells like farts in here." she announced, fanning herself with her Us Weekly magazine.

She was absolutely right. It did and by the quiet chuckles from several passengers who apparently understood English, we weren't the only ones who recognized it. 

"Throw mama from the train." I slowly turned to her, playfully threatening her with a raising an eyebrow.

"Yeah and then what?" she retorted. "You'll be even later for school filling out the reports."

The conductor finally made his announcement, which I'm not sure if it's the fault of my French comprehension or the shoddy métro "sound system" resembled the incoherent grownups in the Peanuts cartoons.

"Whah, whah, whah," he declared, "Et whah, whah, whah. Merci beaucoup."

Most likely it was some presumptuous message thanking me for my patience and understanding, so it was probably better that I didn't understand it. When the clunky doors glided back open to allow air into the warm car, I interpreted it as encouragement to take an alternative route. We were getting there by foot. With my mother in tow, we ran from Pyramids to Gare de L'Est.

 Just to give you an idea...

Huffing and puffing with linked arms, we shuffled down the rues with my mother emitting her discomfort through comments and cursing, and we wove in and out of pedestrians shouting "Excusez-nous!". Catching a glimpse of us in the reflection of a boutique, the two of us looked like little Italian mamadellas running after jewel thieves in Paris.

We made it to school and heading straight for the cantine (an after school program for some kids or a waiting point for pissed off kids whose parents or nannies are late.) 

Franck, of course, didn't notice that we were late or we were even there for that matter as we found him rolling around with his friends on the floor, wired up on sugar. Thomas on the other hand posed more of a challenge...where was Thomas? 

"It smells like farts in here too!" my mother again declared as we charged around the classroom looking for child number 2.

But again, she was right. It did.

The maîtresse (which always amuses me that it means both mistress and teacher in French) lead me to Thomas who was crouched in the corner with tears streaming down his face and yogurt encrusted around his mouth.

"Oh, no, what's wrong?" I said as I picked him up.

"You forgot me!" he cried.

"Non, non, le train était en pané" I said, switching to French in order to be clear.

Or was I?

"En pané?" he asked, staring at me, softly blinking his row of dark eyelashes.

"Oui, en pané," I responded, putting him down. "Desolée."

"What do you mean, en pané?" he insisted, looking lost and almost desperate.

"En panne you mean," the maîtresse who was within earshot gently suggested, "The train was en panne because pané means breaded."

Well, that explains his confused look. I don't know what I would have done at the age of 4, if someone had told me that they were late because their train was breaded. 

After explaining the métro trouble, Thomas finally accepted his reality yet offered a sound solution on how I could have avoided the entire catastrophe.

"You should have taken the TGV," he said with an assuring nod, "It's a lot faster than the métro." 

It most certainly is, Thomas.