Where is Bryan?

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Live from Paris: Rock en Seine

When you think of Paris, music festivals don't immediately come to mind. Apparently the UK is where you go to see the real deal. But Rock en Seine definitely held my attention, especially since I’ve been hearing about it for the last 7 years and always ignored it. I just thought it was kind of a smaller deal than it really was. I guess I was wrong.

Heading out to Parc Saint Cloud, west of the city, I wasn’t really sure of what I was getting myself into. I was kind of imagining a big picnic with some music and dancing. Well, I was close…

Even though I really knew only a few of the artists, and a few others by name, the many English-speaking bands were enough to get excited. There were only a handful of French bands to get through, but I managed to miss all of them (funny how that happens…).

Friday, August 14, 2015

Tour Saint Jacques: Tower with a View

View from the top...

Just when I thought I had seen Paris from every angle…

For the last three years, the Tour Saint Jacques, that big flamboyant gothic belfry just down the street from City Hall, has been open to tourists during the summer. While the city offered a rare glimpse inside this prominent, but mysterious structure, I missed the boat the last two years. This year, I was not going to take any chances.

Dating back to the 15th century when it was part of a church, the Tour Saint Jacques survived the French Revolution (unlike the rest of the church) and underwent extensive renovations in the 19th century.

But I won’t ruin the tour for you. Your guide will take care of the details.

Friday, July 3, 2015

The PhD Marathon

The tome, draft 1.

My thesis director once told me that writing a dissertation is like a marathon. I smiled. I’d done that before, and loved it. So I figured, easy, right?

While a marathon only lasts four hours or so (well, for me) and this project has been three years in the making, there are indeed many similarities. And I feel like I am almost at mile 25. Having finally achieved my desired page count, the very first complete version of my thesis has been printed and will join me on a journey to China and Australia these upcoming weeks. I will reread, edit, highlight, scribble, and doodle all over it, polishing its very rough edges.

Thinking about doing a thesis at the Sorbonne? Whether it’s a masters or a PhD, it’s a good idea because, as mentioned before, it’s inexpensive, flexible, and often allows for time to work a job on the side. But I’d suggest training for a marathon first in order to get an idea of what it actually entails…

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Changing Habits: On Eating in Paris

When you get excited about strawberries, something has changed inside you...

While having lunch with some tourists, I polish off my quiche while nibbling at the many fresh vegetables in my salad. 

“What’s this?” one of the tourists asks, poking at one of the veggies. 

“It’s a white beet,” I tell her, explaining that the rest of the vegetables are seasonal, and that the salad will be slightly different in a few months. I launch into a whole thing about how it’s springtime, and the strawberries and asparagus fill the markets. I also tell her not to repeat “beet” too loudly, because it sounds like “penis” in French. We giggled.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

It's Not About the Love Locks

The Pont des Arts bridge, as it was meant to look, returns!

All of this buzz about these love locks. It’s a whole lot of baloney, honestly.

On Monday, the deputy mayor of Paris announced the beginning of the end of the love locks in Paris. The idea is that lovers come to Paris and put a padlock onto one of the bridges – notably the Pont des Arts – and throw their key in the river. Cute symbol, unless you live here and have to see the result after years of the practice. I was there to watch the gates, sagging under the weight of an estimated 45 metric tons, being hauled off to some warehouse. It was strangely satisfying.

The short of it is this: the bridge was crumbling. Locals avoided it, pickpockets thrived, and it became a spot that tourists would come to, leave their mark, and rarely look back. Out of sight, out of mind, right? But for those of us living here, we saw the effects. As recently as 2008, we’d picnic here, along with Parisian students and local buskers. Today, we avoid it like the plague. Jagged metal, gypsies, falling fences, and illegal lock vendors don’t make for a very festive atmosphere.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

A Personal Tale: Inspiration, or the Lack Thereof

Paris France
This place...

I wonder what Fitzgerald or Picasso did when they felt like this. I mean, I could drink more, or go to a brothel. I just kind of assume that’s what these guys did back in the day when they needed inspiration. Maybe not. In any case, you’d think a city that spawns so much art, fashion, design, food, and literature would be a gushing spring of inspiration for me. But sometimes it just seems like a dusty old well, with only Timmy’s bones at the bottom (you know, that time Lassie got distracted).

I know, I know. Paris is beautiful. Its streets are bustling. Its people are gorgeous. Its monuments are monumental. I am lucky to live here, blah, blah, blah. I know. But right now, I just am not feeling it. Stuck between finishing a PhD thesis and waiting hopefully for citizenship, the joie de vivre and cancan dancing that usually mark my days has faded to the background, allowing (gulp) real life issues to come to the forefront.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Things Learned During a French PhD

Books, books, books everywhere....

I’m halfway there – or at least I tell myself. Writing a doctoral thesis, and in a different language no less, is an experience that fortunately one need only do once in life. I’m thinking back to that time I told myself, “Yes, this is a good idea.” I’m sure I wasn’t sober.

There are stages you go through until you finish the document, if you ever finish it. For the moment, I’m in what I can only imagine is something like stage 3 of 5.

Stage 1 was the easy part -- pretending to work. This is the most enjoyable part of an academic’s career where you say, “Yes, I am doing a PhD.” And that’s about it. Maybe you read a few books, but let’s be honest here, you’re relaxing. Then there’s stage 2, when the work starts and you feel like you’re actually making progress. One interview completed? Have a drink. Two interviews transcribed? Time for a vacation.