April 2014
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Monday, April 28, 2014

The Music of the Paris Metro

Singer-songwriter Sian Pottock at her RATP audition.
Sitting in the basement of the RATP building, Paris’s urban transportation headquarters, I was tapping my foot along with the young girl who was crooning along with her guitar. Next on stage was a Cuban salsa band, followed by a blues singer with an American accent that gave him away immediately. As the jury looked on, it felt like an episode of The Voice, and not an audition to play in one of Paris’s largest theaters…

***
You get on the metro. And then it happens. You’re on your way to work, probably with your earphones in, and that man you know oh so well boards the train.

Mesdames et messieurs…” he begins, and then the music starts. It’s an accordion, maybe violin, or  God forbid a trumpet, but the scene is always the same. They play some music for a stop or two and then ask for money.

“But I didn’t ask you to play that music,” you think to yourself, narrowly avoiding eye contact as the musicians pass by with their paper cup or hat.

As you recover from the blaring trumpet, returning to your Beyoncé or Céline Dion (no judgement), you don’t even entertain the idea of paying him.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Paris Marathon Round 2: For the Love of Pizza

I was reading through a note book that I often take with me on my travels. During a daytrip to Luxembourg in 2009, while sitting on a terrace eating a pizza with a Belgian beer, I recapped my trip in about two pages. At the end of one page I scribbled, “PS train do a marathon, please.”

Little did I know how that would end up coming true, and then some.

Last Sunday was my second Paris Marathon, with some 40,000 people taking to the Champs Elysées and racing through the city’s streets. I’m back to normal after a couple nights of sleeping soundly and eating copiously (we ordered 8 pizzas after, they were finished within 24 hours). But oh what fun…

It all started with a 5:30AM wake-up call, some breakfast, some morning music, and then a quick metro ride with fellow marathoners to the corals. Rarely is there so much energy on a Sunday morning…

Exiting at the FDR stop, the crowd was there, just as I remembered from last year. The urge the pee began, and I excitedly joined other runners, peeing right by the Tiffany’s store with zero risk. I jumped into my very ambitious 3.5 hour coral, hoping to finish the marathon quickly and painlessly, only to pee again in front of onlookers as we approached the starting line. Inhibitions? Ha.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

How Do You Say "Gender-Neutral" In French Anyway?

...and boys don't cry.
It’s an exciting day. You head to Monoprix, the Target of France. You beeline to the home section. You see the all-too-familiar logo as you begin the hunt for that perfect Hallmark greeting card.

Maybe it’s a birthday, maybe it’s a wedding, maybe it’s just a friendly “Thinking of you” card that requires the illustration of a bouquet of flowers because, let’s face it, they’re not worth a real bouquet. While nothing compared to the Hallmark card stores of American mall fame, the choices are all there.

On this particular Friday, I was looking for a card for a friend about to give birth to a baby boy. The French don’t really do wedding showers, but that wasn’t going to stop us, and it was all planned. But I needed the perfect card, and finally, I found the category entitled, “naissance,” or birth. What a find!

Quickly, however, I realized that the task would be a difficult one. My friend, the farthest thing from a 60s housewife, wasn’t bound by traditional stereotypes. But these cards were.