March 2011

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Paris Win: Spring has Hatched on the Canal

New neighbors.

Living in the same place for almost three years can be daunting -- the same noisy neighbors, the same smelly fish sauce from the family downstairs, and the routine hammering can really grate on a person.  It can wear you down and force you to start searching for a new apartment.  After the fifth week of hammering, suddenly you think, "Oh, living in the 15th arrondissement doesn't seem so bad."

But then there are the perks.  Amongst all of the Canal Saint-Martin's hype and well-publicized establishments, you find something that is your own.  Every spring, the same family of ducks hatches a new batch of eggs and the tiny floating fluff balls paddle their way down the Canal.  This is not another gushing article about this fantastic neighborhood.  I know it's a great place to live.  Apparently these ducks know, too.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Paris Fail: Wedding Dress Cabaret

The Moulin Rouge, the red windmill -- we all know it.  Made famous by, amongst others, Nicole Kidman, the  dance hall is something of a Paris icon.  And what better way to celebrate your wedding than a photo shoot at the infamous cabaret where women once -- and still do -- take off their tops to make ends meet?

Iconic, of course, but, Lady in the Red Dress, let me tell you, to add the air shaft into the mix is borderline tacky.  As if that red dress weren't already...

Friday, March 25, 2011

In Defense of Tourists...

Stanley, you tourist, we're judging you...
Today, during the lunch break of my tour, I took a seat at my favorite coffee shop between the Comédie Française and the Louvre.  Sometimes Seattle does a body good, especially when it’s free.  As my tourists were off doing their business, getting sandwiches, heading to the bathrooms, the woman next to me asked where I was from.  And, gasp, she asked it in English.  The urge to look at her with a smoldering gleam in my eyes arose within me.  There’s no way that this woman was speaking English to me at this café in the first arrondissement of Paris

She was dressed head to toe in, well, clothing, but I bet her underwear was made of ignorance.  I couldn’t tell, but let’s assume, just for kicks, eh?

But here’s the best part: her accent was marked.  Yep, that’s right, I could tell that this lady didn’t come from England.  And she definitely wasn’t from Australia.  She said things like Y’all which not only means that she’s a total idiot, but that should be grounds for deportation, if you ask me.            

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Jedi in Paris: Futuristic War Museums...

War really isn't my thing.  I can do without it.  History, however, holds a special place in my heart.  On family trips to any place that included a museum, like historic Jamestown in Virginia, my dad and I would stop and read each sign of each display while my mom and sister tapped their feet at the end of the exhibit.  We were slightly compulsive about learning.

Paris is not short on history, and considering myself an amateur of warfare, yesterday I made a special educative trip to the Hotel des Invalides, home to the military history museum in Paris.  Thinking I’d just see some canons and a few pieces of armor, I was blown away by the extensive royal collection of military artifacts from Roman times, through the middle ages, through the Revolution, and all the way up to the end of World War II.  Not surprising, I suppose, for a war museum.

But it only got  better.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Paris Fail: Bearotica

Based on your fantasies, this statue of an apparent lovers' embrace could be a Win.  A quick glance at this statue would lead onlookers to believe that this man was looking for more than a hug from this smiling bear.  

If you are a child roaming the Jardin des Plantes trying to enjoy the sunshine and the new flowers, it's probably a Fail.  You will be scarred.  A closer look reveals that the bear is not looking for action, but actually revenge.  The man has killed the bear's cub as it hangs from his pantless-hip.  

Going to bed with that creature, especially with an awkwardly-placed knife in its neck, seems like punishment enough.  Do you think they'll remove the dead cub from his waist before getting down to it?

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Paris Win: First Days of Spring

We made it.  Through the winter, through the snow, through the ice, through the misery...  
Spring is here.  All Parisians rejoice together as the picnic season officially begins.

The city is awash with warm pink skies...

Morning Rituals: Ephemerality...

I already ate the cupcake...
Far be it from me to be a creature of habit.  Being an expat allows me to live in short ephemeral moments that I usually bunch into two week increments.  When your residency in a place literally has an expiration date, you learn not to get too attached to anything.  The idea of planning beyond two weeks means I’ll write it down and pencil, never in pen, if I write it down at all.  But one thing is constant and indelible.  The morning ritual.

Wake up.  Start boiling the water.  Two spoonfuls of coffee into the French press.  A heap of sugar into the mug.  Pour the boiling water over the coffee, stirring gently, and then the waiting.  The impatient waiting.

Meanwhile, and replace the old dirty black and white paper of my childhood as I soak up the morning news with pristine hands.  There’s nothing like airstrikes in Libya or another Charlie Sheen post to wake you up in the morning.  The coffee might be ready.  I push the press, forcing the dark liquid through the sieve of the press and I pour it over the sugar.

How do people start a day without a huge cup of coffee?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Paris Win: Things' Gettin' Hot...

So now that spring is almost upon us, where can you get an "iced orgasm" here in Paris?

12 rue des Lombards 75004 or 45 rue Mouffetard 75005

Try the Speculoos or the caramel au beurre salé gelato
A great way to cool off when things

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Just a kid at the Sorbonne...English Class, Missing the Mark

Photo taken post-class...
Yet another week goes buy and I realize how culturally uneducated I am in my own American heritage.  Three presentations this week on three films that I have never – but probably should – have seen.  The theme for this week’s films remains to be defined since the only common thread is, well, that they are all movies…

American History X was up first, a movie about neo-Nazis, in case you haven’t seen it.  The students presented the idea of WASPs and immediately linked it to the film, leading us all to believe that WASPs were automatically Nazis.  I think John Kerry.  They think Nazi.  Apples and oranges?

Further on in the presentation I learned how all Americans have guns because we believe killing someone is OK…in the name of personal justice, at least.  It’s in the Bill of Rights, an indelible right, for the moment.  So the conclusion, apparently, is that you can be killed at any time in America.  It’s a “climate of fear” that we live in because anyone can have guns on them and Americans are willing to use them.

They should have watched Pleasantville instead.  Now that’s America. 

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Paris Win: Fruit of our Looms

What made this moment even more endearing was the fact that she got up and waved at us, cheering a bit as well.  You have to love the paparazzi effect.  I walked a tour past the Air France building, just next to the regal gold-domed Invalides and a film crew appeared to be filming what we all thought was a Fruit of the Loom commercial...though I don't remember zucchinis being a part of these underwear ads -- it just seems inappropriate.  Maybe the famed Veggie Tales have gone live action?  In any case it's refreshing to see other people doing crazy stuff in the streets.  It makes me feel less transgressive.  

After fashion week and having my tourists spot Karl Lagerfeld, a giant strawberry can barely hold a candle, but we were still excited.  Though apparently not as excited as the lady in the photo was to see us...

Friday, March 11, 2011

Paris Fail: Spell Check Your Allies

The sun was just rising in the sky, warming the top of the Eiffel Tower.  I was walking through the Champs de  Mars, the large park in the shadow of the tower, minding my own business when I came upon a memorial.  It looked like a small Egyptian temple with all of the cities of Europe marked on it.  Paris. London. Amsterdam. and Brussels.  Or should I say Bruxelles as it is spelled in French.  Apparently the French aren't sure, so they decided to engrave both spellings on the monument.  Spell check much?

I'm sure it's actually some homage to the Flanders/French divide in Belgium, but am I giving them too much credit?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Just a kid at the Sorbonne...English Class, Tea and Krumpitz

I learn more and more about American culture as the days go forward here in France.  For example, this week the English professor corrected a student’s pronunciation in American English class.  When the student discussed David Bowie, he pronounced the name with a long “o” like “Boe-ee.”  I did not balk, but continued to listen attentively.

“It’s ‘BOW-ee,” the professor chimed in.  As in famed American rapper Lil Bow Wow.

Meet the face of krump...
Now, I know David Bowie is English, but neither in Britain nor in America is he David Bow-ee.  But I guess 25 years speaking English in an English-speaking country have clouded my judgment.  What do I know?

As if class couldn’t get any more enlightening, my classmates presented their exposé on apparently renowned filmmaker David Lachapelle (pronounced the same in French and English) and his iconic 2005 film, Rize.  Heard of it?  Yea, me neither.

Monday, March 7, 2011

It Started with a Baguette...New Friends in Paris

The secret’s out.  I have a new best friend.

It was a cold February morning.  The sun was peaking out but not enough to warm my chilly fingers and cheeks.  But then I entered the bakery with my colleagues to film a small interview with a baker and I met someone who's smile warmed me right up.  Irina.  My new best friend.

Irina: My new BFF
I was back by the ovens filming the interview, the air heavy with the scent of yeast, while she was in the storefront, doing her thing.  Selling baguettes.  Pushing the financiers.  She came back at one point and our eyes met for a moment.  “Bonjour.”  It all began.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

New York Nights and Paris Mornings...a Retrospective

Late night flower run in Paris?
My friend Helen and I used to walk down St. Mark’s Place in New York late at night.  We’d talk about nothing and anything and she had a tendency to get rather philosophical, which is one of a million reasons why I like her.

The bodegas in the East Village were always lit up, hocking their cigarettes and Ben and Jerry’s to a mixed lot of late night crowds.  The colors of the bright spectrum of flower bouquets were always clearly visible behind the plastic drapes surrounding the store front.  On St. Mark’s, the tattoo parlors proudly displayed their fresh and bruised body art on clients by hanging Polaroid photos in their windows taken just minutes post tattooing.  Is it supposed to be that red? I always asked myself.

Helen once remarked that she loved New York because, in her estimate, only in this city could you get fresh flowers and a piercing at any time of night.  And she was right.  It was an observation that stuck with me and a reality that I sometimes long for here in Paris.  New York was full of vitality and electricity that never died at night.  Hungry mouths could always be fed and you never felt alone on the streets. 

Corrinne Bailey Rae’s song “Paris Nights and New York Mornings” always confused me because people generally like it the other way around.  New York nights are what many New Yorkers live for.  It’s a city where 24/7 means 24/7, not closed from 2-7AM

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Paris Win: Move It!

I am in love with ParisBouger, c’est facile  (Move it, it's easy) campaign that started in the fall.  The idea is to encourage people to walk and take a bike as much as possible.  Little by little I have been seeing these signs in random spots at Paris that give you the approximate walking times to major landmarks from wherever that sign is located.


Not a bad idea to keep the already thin Parisians just as svelte as ever. 

Paris Fail: Forcing the Issue

Harmony should come naturally, I believe.  Forcing these things upon people never works.  Have you seen what's up in North Africa?  These folks should stick to dry cleaning and not worry about peace and accord.  It will come with time, don't worry.

But all things considered their prices aren't bad for a little bit of unison...

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Just a kid at the Sorbonne...English Class Part 3

Dude, I'm trying...
This week I encountered an obstacle that I never though I’d face.  It was my group’s turn to give our oral presentation in class, a tactic that most teachers use to either encourage students to learn proactively or to hide the fact that they dislike preparing lessons.  In any case, I was nervous, and so were my partners.

The problem for them was that the presentation was to be presented in English, their second language.  For me, I thought nothing of it.  Admittedly my English is pretty good.

Our topic was an exposé on the film Funny Face featuring Audrey Hepburn followed by our impressions of American culture based on the film’s representations.  Easy enough.  It’s an American film set in Paris, so the stereotypes are more than abundant.  But when we stepped up to give the presentation, I started to get nervous.  While the French students were worried about conjugating their verbs correctly and using the right adjectives, I was even more afraid of making myself understood to a class of non-native speakers.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Great American Tourist...Revisited

I discovered during the past five days that I have a problem.  This should come as no surprise to most people, but I’ve noticed that the minute I am in front of a group or I have an audience, I lose all sense of normal social conduct.  When did it become OK to dance like Fred Astaire in the middle of a busy street?  And when it is ever permitted to belt out “A Whole New World” while passersby stare at you with disbelief?  Apparently all I need is a camera pointed my way and the one-man-clown show begins.

The past few days I had the opportunity to film shots around the city for a top secret project.  Or at least I think it’s top secret.  The project had me giving speeches in front of famous monuments and interviewing people, like my new best friend at a local bakery – photos to come.

But the real show started when the cameraman forgot to stop the recording process and I would let loose.