Friday, December 25, 2009

Chance of rain : 90%

I'm not sure what Merry Christmas means right now. We've gone and bastardized all of our traditions to hell, and just when we were going to have the picturesque white Christmas, it warms up 3 degrees, rains, and we are stuck with slushy gray Christmas.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Knock knock. Who's there? Plato.

Saturday night, it was roughly 11 pm, and I was making my way towards St. Michel for one last hurrah at the Canadian bar (yes, you read that right). I am sitting on a bench next to guy-with-10,000-lbs-of-luggage waiting for the 4 train, reading Plato and Platypus Walk into a Bar...understanding philosophy through jokes because I went a little crazy at W.H. Smith yesterday (yes, Shakespeare and Co, I cheated on you).

The guy looks over at me, I can tell he's lurking. I make sure to keep my head down. Then he speaks, in English with an accent I can't quite place. But not French. "What is that book about?" Or something of the sort.

I tell him philosophy. With a French-ish tint to the word. Since it's the same word, I am hoping to convey to him that he can also address me in French. He continues in English, to my annoyance, to say something to the effect of, what, philosophy so late at night? At this point I've gathered that he's pretty fluent in English, and not French. And if such is the case, how is it that he can't read the stupid cover of the book?

"Jokes," I say, defending myself, "It's about jokes, too." Oh, he says, okay. I just couldn't read something so intellectual so late at night.

Well, I wanted to say, then we have no business talking. But I stuck with the "it's got jokes in it."

Then, he made an effort to advance the conversation. I, trying to read my "intellectual" book, did not so much appreciate.  "So, what do you think of the metro system?" Seriously? What do you think of the metro system? I told him that it got me where I needed to go. It wasn't as nice as the London system, but more extensive. He did one of those things where he didn't completely understand my point, and nodded in agreement while saying something completely contrary to what I had just said about London.

Trying to live by the categorical imperative, I didn't tell him he was an idiot. I smiled and made sure that I entered the train through a different door, and continued reading my philosophy jokes.

I then made my way to a Candadian bar, where I proceeded to have a conversation with some guy about football, which turned into why he hates the rive droit, and could never live anywhere except for Montparnasse. When Minnie arrived, I was somewhat relieved, because he was about 10 years too old for me to even think about it, but was also a little disappointed. I am finally to the point where I am comfortable having a conversation in French. And I was talking to a real, live French person about something unrelated to school.

Instead, Minnie, Jess and I had a grand old time with a couple of French Candadians that came to watch Montreal play the NY Islanders (hahahaha. Long Island is still funny). They stuck around for a few too many drinks, and I found myself at a café sharing an 8 euro bowl of ice cream with Jess at 5 am waiting for the metros to open.

I'm a little proud of myself for finally having the out-all-night night, the day before everyone leaves. On the other hand, I'm still tired.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

And the band continues on...

I've showered at least. And, techinically, written something in English.

A small note on how my life is going right now

Things I would like to do right now:
- Sleep
- Shower
- Get through the rest of Confederacy of the Dunces and Anna Karenina
- Write something in English
- See my family
- Ride my bike

Things I would not like to do right now:
- Write 5 more pages of French
- Polish 45 pages worth of French
- Sit around Reid Hall
- Worry about a presentation that is "only" 15 minutes worth of on-the-spot French about some scientific things that I really only pretend to know about, going either before or after Minnie who actually knows about them
- Continue going to class tonight and for the rest of the week because the end of the semester is no reason to stop teaching
- Think about my grades this semester

On the bright side, the below freezing weather has at least brought the sun out to say hi for the first time since around mid-November.

On an even brighter side, I had the best experience in the metro this morning. I was sitting there, reading my book, acting normal(ish), and some rather lanky guy gets in at Rue Saint Maur (stop 4 of 10 before my correspondance) with a suitcase. He decides to stand in such a way that his ass is directly in my face. At first, I was surprised, then I decided that his ass wasn't so bad. That is, until he took his hand and (no, he's not really going to do that is he??) started picking. Yes, picking. Adjusting, if you will, though a little far back for that kind of adjustment. I was momentarily startled, and intrigued. My eyes wandered from ass-hand-man to scan the rest of the car. Thank God, some guy across the car from me had also seen it. We made eye contact, and both started laughing hysterically. I put my head back in my book, hoping that Ignatius P. Reilly could save me. But no, I couldn't stop laughing. When I got to 10 out of 10, I was still laughing. It wasn't until the awful stench of Parisian sewer hit me as I was walking from the 4 to the 3 that I finally wiped the smile off of my face.

This would have been a great story--but the fun didn't stop there. Towards the end of my morning journey, as I was walking near the Luxembourg Gardens towards the Institut Géographique at the Sorbonne, I passed a woman getting money out of the ATM. I started with the normal bottom-up size-up. cute black boots, interesting stripey tights/hose, and... and nothing. The skirt that should have been there simply wasn't. I know that leggings-as-pants have somehow made their way into mainstream acceptance, but these were decidedly more sheer than leggings. Definitely ho-siery. The kind that have been through a few wears, are a little more stretched in places that when you first bought them because you aren't a stick figure -kind of ho-siery. I continued upwards : leather jacket, beret worn in a French-French way, not off to the side all ghetto-like. I don't understand why this woman wasn't wearing any pants. Still don't.

Toutefois, I shrugged it off and continued walking. This is the city, after all.

Day complete.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Random thoughts that have come to me after a day of paper-writing, plus the Menorah Mobile!

I am obsessed with this drink that i have concocted. Lots of drip coffee, a little bit of cocoa powder, some milk, and a spoonful of sugar or honey (depending on my honey stores; low, at the moment).*

I am obsessed with it for several reasons, one being it allows me to mix up the coffee schedule a little bit. The second, though, being that I'm infatuated with how good it is. Not like "I just drank straight sugar" good, but a real quality beverage. It kind of reminds me of the Peet's mocha (reason #3 for obsession). Obviously, I use good coffee. I really lucked out with my famille d'accueil. My host dad keeps having to go to Latin America for business trips, and keeps bringing me back fantastic coffee. I love him. But the cocoa powder is what really impresses me. I bought it at Franprix, which is the crappy grocery store down the street. The New York equivalent is Morton Williams, the Ventucky one is probably that crappy little Vons on Telephone between Wells and Kimball. Anyway, it's no Whole Foods. But--then again, this is France. So the result of a splash of milk and two teaspoons of grocery store variety cocoa powder is absolute deliciousness.

Which brings me to my next point: Starbucks is terribly disappointing here. Now, maybe my standards have improved since I am in France. But I think the reality is simply that Starbucks is terribly disappointing here. For one thing, do they only put 1 shot in their talls everywhere? Because 1 shot of espresso + 10 oz. of scalding whole milk is actually kind of gross. If you get it with an extra shot it's better. But they still scald their milk. AND they don't put foam on it at all unless you ask for a capuccino. A latte should have at least a dollop. And I swear that their coffee is even more overroasted here than it is in the US. Once again, referencing above, I've lucked out on the coffee that I've been drinking at home lately, but still. I am fairly certain that the coffee isn't THAT bad at the Starbucks on 114th.

Anyway, I could be looking forward to Peet's more than I'm looking forward to Christmas. And I might have to swing by Abraço on my way back from JFK. Right...JFK. JFK to where? Still have yet to figure out where I am staying between Jan. 5th and Jan. 8th. Should do that.

In other news, it snowed here this morning. Leading to much screaming from the grandbabies as we were eating breakfast this morning, some playing outside in a skisuit from Sixtine, and me nearly freezing my toes off while running this afternoon. I forgot that the difference between 45 degrees and 35 degrees actually does matter.

The tree is finally bare (and you can kind of see that it's snowing...look in the lower left corner over by the trash).

* Note that despite being in France for months, picking up on the whole language thing, adopting the tendancy to capitlize only the first letter in titles, eating after 8 pm, and not ordering anything apart from what is explicitly written on the menu, I still CANNOT get rid of the Oxford comma. I GIVE A FUCK ABOUT AN OXFORD COMMA, Vampire Weekend, I do. It should be there.

OMG. As I was posting this the first time, the most exciting moment of my week passed by my window. A MENORAH MOBILE. With music blaring out of the speakers.  This is better than the second coming. I didn't get a great photo, as it was moving as I was trying desperately to find the camera icon on my iphone. For a better photo, see here.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Just in case you haven't seen this yet

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Yes, I use omfg.

Omfg. Buche de Noel. Should be illegal. (photo: wikimedia commons)

Thursday, December 3, 2009

On cultural differences

I am a big hypocrite. I have made a language pledge. Je ne parle QUE français jusqu'à 18 décembre [correction appended. It's been a long day]. I will not speak english until dec. 18th. Of course, here I am, writing in English. Mais les mots qui viennent de la bouche seraient que français. But the words that come from my mouth will only be French. I am really making an effort to make my French as good as possible before I leave. But at the same time, I have figured out in my time here (well, over the last 4-5 years I guess), that if I don't write things down, I will explode. We are talking guts everwhere, heart over there on the other side of the street, person walking behind me covered in brans and bits of skull -kind of exploding.

Much like the type of exploding that Minnie and I have discussed might happen to Long Island some day (three hours is a long time to sit through a lecture about natural catastrophes without coming up with some funny notes with your neighbor about catastrophes that would make the world a better place). Only then, Long Island *surfers* would be come Connecticut surfers. Maybe, though, it would just sink after it exploded and become like the Great Barrier Reef. Just think of it: Long Island, the 8th natural wonder of the world. Fantastic. Home to the first scuba-diving mafia. Wow, I got really off track with this whole "exploding Long Island" thing. my mind has come up with some interesting things since I have been in France. It's the language thing. It's inspired creativity.

On Thanksgiving, I called Rob and Sam, and at some point in the conversation Rob asked me what about the culture that I would adopt. I was somewhat caught off-guard by this question, trying to think of the things about the French culture that are different from American culture (more specifically differences between Paris and New York). What I was thinking at that moment, and I still believe, is that Paris and New York are somewhat like fraternal twins. They don't look exactly alike, but occasionally without seeing each other in the morning they end up with the same outfit on. Much of the cultural differences here I cannot bring back to the United States. I mean, I could go around speaking French to everyone, but that would just be annoying and make me look even more pretentious than people already think I am. I can't stay home all day Sunday and have a bug party with my family because my family lives in California. The bread isn't good enough to walk around with a baguette in my hand (not to mention the whole gluten thing--I don't really eat bread here unless I get invited to a fondue party). And while I could adopt the idea that religious symbols shouldn't be worn in schools, I don't think that would get me very far. I could also start drinking only espresso, but that would just get expensive. Don't even get me started on the whole not-exercising thing. Everyone knows that just turns me into a (bigger) bitch.

It was only a day or two later that I realized that there will (hopefully) be one difference that I do bring back. I only wish that it was raw milk cheese, but that's still illegal in the US. RELAXATION. Not relaxation in the straightforward definition of it, because I've got enough stress going on in my life with family problems and 50 pages to write in French (yeah, I've already got 25 of them done, but still). But the idea that I don't have to have 1000 things going on in my life to feel fulfilled. I don't have to rush from one thing to the next, in an endless cycle of busy-ness like I'm am a little bumblebee. Obviously, the reason that I don't have a million things going on here in France is because of the situation : I am not here long enough to get involved in most things, I was a little slow on the uptake, I live 45 minutes away from where I got to school so lots of free time is taken by commuting, and I wanted to have ample time to travel. But at the same, it is a very French thing to relax a little bit more in life. I have tried to adopt that, and it's getting me far. N'inquiète pas. Don't worry about it. I love that phrase, along with pas de souci. No worries. Don't get your panties in a bunch.

I've already started adopting that ideal for next semester, by dropping out of the turkeyshoot race. Trying to be an editor at Spectator would stroke my ego, but not do much more on the positive side of my life. I know how to be an editor, I know how to manage things. What I don't know how to do is get through a semester feeling like I did more than scrape by. The big decision was between cycling and Spec. I knew that I couldn't do both after last semester ended up with me depressed and in therapy. So, I thought about it. Spec meant being proud of myself, working hard and late for little gain, other than my name on the masthead. Cycling means 9 weeks of laughter and my best friends, plenty of exercise,  and a complete break with my intellectual side. I don't know how that was ever a competition. Healthy and happy vs. unhealthy and miserable. I am really excited for spring 2010.

So, Rob, there you have it. I won't bring home the eating dinner at 9 pm or the love for fois gras or even the esteemed raw milk cheese. But I will bring the outlook on life. Pas de souci, pas de souci.