mercredi, août 24, 2005

Antwerpen is Swiet and Seksie

On a stroll through the charming historic streets of Antwerp, I came upon this shop.

I now have two new words I can add to my Flemish vocabulary!

In case you need a hint as to what kind of shop it was, here is a small one. (Or rather, a large, inflatable pink one.)

And yes, folks, that is an edible bikini. You have to really, really like Sweet Tarts.

Or how about a nice warm, crusty loaf of bread?

There were many more delights inside, but I didn't want to be too much of a geek by going around giggling and snapping pictures of chocolate hoo-has, impressively faithful in their rendering as they might have been.

And to just roll with the theme here, it was on this trip to Belgium, famous for its mussels, that I finally understood why on earth the word 'mussel' is a synonym for hootchie in French. I don't know why I didn't get it before. I guess I got too hung up on how the shells fit into it. But as I was hungrily scooping out the actual tasty morsel from its shell, I looked at it closely, in all its flesh-colored, shell-less glory, and I finally got it.

And yeah, man, they are so right.

And now, a test:

You thought the same thing I did, didn't you? (I know you did.)

And just to cement the impression I am giving of myself as a total snickering teenager, peeping through keyholes at people getting undressed, here is another sign that cracked me up. This was found in the nice fancy hotel's elevator, letting guests know where to go to get all sweaty with strangers of both sexes in the hammam, jacuzzi, sauna and swimming pool.

Head on down to the 1st floor to where things are happenin' at the:

Get some Antwerp Action at the Astrid!

(snicker, snicker!)

mardi, août 16, 2005

Antwerpen is Uitstekend - Continued

Here is the town square, the Grote Markt, with City Hall and its statue of Brabo, the town legend. I have been told I am overly fond of photographing statues. This is my Truth, and it has been since I first unsteadily held a camera in my little grubby hands. I like statues. So there.

Second, here is my fabulous shot of something. I don't know who it is, but check out that photo!

Then, here is my oh-so-artistic shot of some of the buildings on the Grote Markt square.

Man, I love digital cameras. They do all the work for you, and you get to sit back and say, I did that!

Me, in awe of Brabo. Cause he's a statue.

More coming up, kids!

Antwerpen is Uitstekend!

Okay, I had to look that up, but it means "Antwerp is excellent." I don't speak Flemish/Dutch to save my life, but I had fun imitating the sounds and making up fake Dutch sounding words with lots of "j"s in them.

I just got back from this very cool, very pretty, very funky city only three and half hours away from Paris. And I took some pretty good photos, too, at least for me.

Let me start you off with this one.

Ronald says,

"Wilkommen in Antwerpen!"

And as a nice little segue, Belgium is famous for its golden delicious:


And now that you've had a snack, you wander over to the flower market, where you can buy, for the low, low price of 2 euros:


But, wait!

That's not all.

Antwerp is very hip, young, creative and fun. There are many art galleries where, should you so desire, you can buy sculptures with multiple noses.

And that, boys and girls, is your virtual tour of Antwerp for today. More photos and many more stories to come.

Stay tuned!

jeudi, août 11, 2005

Banksy is Ballsy


Since I'm not doing anything productive at work because it's August and there is no one here, I was browsing around the blogosphere and internet. I just discovered this really funny, really talented, really outrageous graffitti artist who goes by the name of Banksy. He's been causing a furor over in London, but check out what he just did on the controversial wall in the West Bank separating Palestine and Israel.....

You should really also have a look at his other work, which include fake exhibits he sneaks into galleries and museums such as the Tate and the Natural History Museum, including prehistoric proof of man's penchant for shopping, and the the evolution of the common sewer rat. The entomology exhibit of "Withus orwithoutus" is simply brilliant.

But I have to admit at being disturbed by the paintings he vandalised. Walls, advertisements, and the like are cool, but don't mess somebody else's work up, man.

Nevertheless, it kinda makes me want to take a Eurostar over to the Motherland.....

mercredi, août 10, 2005

Faces and Fesses* on M° Ligne 1

No one really talks on the Paris metro, except of course, the tourists. They anxiously stare at the line map until you'd think the thing would start fading from being looked at too much. They obsessively count, over and over, how many stations they have to go until their desired stop.


Then there are the ones who pile on in little groups, and the minute they are inside, a woman in shorts and tennis shoes will nervously ask,


I love that one, because, what's the big deal? If you miss it, just get off and ride back in the opposite direction. It's as if this newfangled idea of mechanical public transport is a big bad godless invention that we just don't quite trust enough to do what it says it's going to. Can't trust those Frenchies too much, ya know, they surrendered to the Germans in a heartbeat. So let's just check that line map again and see if it hasn't changed around on us, while we had our backs turned, those turncoats.

In general, the unspoken (literally) rule is that you must read something, or at the very least stare at your shoes, or those of others around you. Or stare out the window.

I prefer staring at the people. I've always had this problem - looking at people too much - and in school it used to get my honky ass in trouble.

"What the hell you starin' at? You need to go to da eye doctor?!"

I think the French equivalent of this, which I always imagine being uttered by an agressive teenage girl, is,

"Tu veux ma photo? Ca durera plus longtemps!"**

Thankfully, no one has said this to me yet, but I'm waiting to get it one of these days.

I just can't help it. I love faces. I fantasize about being a really good photographer and asking different people to pose for me. I want to capture them and look at them for hours. I want to keep their faces for myself.

In college, I had two whole walls entirely covered in faces I had found in magazines, interspersed with personal photos of me, my mother, my father, my cat, and the requisite Eiffel Tower. I remember especially loving a strawberry blonde model named Marie-Sophie Wilson who I thought looked like my mother when she was young.

I really loved the one with the statue. I was a touch melodramatic at the time. And really, really fucking cold.

When I was an exchange student in Paris long ago, there was a phenomenon of "les frotteurs", the men who would use the packed metro as an excuse to rub up against you from behind. I had thought it had gone out of style, but alas, no. Just the other morning, I caught a totally innocuous looking businessman in Coca-Cola bottle thick glasses looking at me on the platform. I tend to play dumb and ignore it, unless of course he is a hot businessman, in which case the ride to work is peppered with furtive glances and lightning quick smiles. But Jean Coca, as I'll call him, boarded the same car I did, and stood by me, holding on to the pole like the rest of us fanned out like a starfish from its center. I had my back to him and was reading my book when the train departed, and he used the movement to rub his finger ever so lightly over my butt. I calmly moved away from him to face him, continuing to read. He turned his face away and looked out the window, keeping that position until I got off.

I don't know why this doesn't piss me off more, but it just doesn't. I don't actively want my ass rubbed by strangers on my way to work, like some kind of good luck talisman, but I just don't think it's all that much of an insult. I kind of understand, actually. In the way that I want to own other people's faces, he wanted to touch my butt. So did Patrick Bruel, but that's another story for another day.

So in addition to staring at people and imagining myself to have some photographic talent that I most decidedly do not, I also entertain myself by pretending I am a casting director for a French period film. I imagine the young boy with the apple cheeks and bee stung lips in an 18th century royal valet costume, complete with tights, and I know, just know, that he's perfect for the role. Or I imagine the girl with piercing blue eyes and dark lashes in a peasant costume, sleeves rolled up and breasts pushed up in a fetching decolleté. I picture the pasty older man in a Louis XV wig, and the plump older woman scolding chickens in a dirt courtyard.

I think I watched way too many historical drama mini-series on A&E.

* fesses = butt cheeks (don't we have a better word for that?)

** "Do you want my photograph? It'll last longer!"

lundi, août 08, 2005

You Know It's August When....

There are two people on my floor at work. It's deserted and my phone has only rung twice. Unbelievable.

See, it's August, and in France, everyone goes on vacation in August. Because of this, the prices to go somewhere even two hours away are ridiculous. I am trying to save money since I will have to pay an arm and a leg for my French taxes next year. And to be perfectly honest, the rebel in me resists the pressure to go on vacation now just because the rest of the country does. To add to it, apparently if you go through a travel agency to book some package of train or plane plus hotel, you PAY A PENALTY for being single. Yep, folks, you read that correctly, because you are not currently fucking someone you want to spend more than 24 hours with in a locale other than your home or his/hers, you pay a penalty. Nice.

So, here I am, the only other assistant on the floor except for the assistant to the CEO. I've brought in some CDs to listen to, and I am going to try to learn some Russian, as I might be going there in September for a conference.

I'm trying to find little projects to do while avoiding the one I don't want to do at all - the filing. Have I mentioned how much I hate filing? Especially here. It's a literal pain. See, the file folders are not the kinds we are used to in the US, which hang in drawers. Here, they prefer filing cabinets where you hang the folders vertically, like this and as illustrated in the picture on the right. (I have a picture on my blog, people! I have a picture on my blog!) Problem is, the stupid folders have velcro on each side, so if you're doing a lot of filing, you are constantly scraping off a few layers of skin as you try to separate them.

At my wits end one day, my knuckles nearly bleeding, I asked a co-worker why on earth there was velcro on each side of the hanging folders.

"So they hang properly," she said, as if this was obvious to everyone.

Well, sure, as long as those folders look pretty.

So, in an effort to avoid shredding my knuckles raw, I am ordering office supplies. (Making sure to not order anything having to do with the act of filing, of course). This being France, and my being on the Executive floor, we have an espresso maker, with real cups and little spoons. So I decided to order some nice little products for the coffee maker, which we use not only for ourselves, but primarily to serve to people waiting to see our bosses. I don't know what I would do without coffee and Perrier to distract different bankers from the fact that my boss is 20 minutes behind schedule. Plus, the waitress in me sort of likes serving them nice frothly espressos with a smile.

When my friend worked on the floor, she had the whole shabang - hot chocolate, tea, little cookies, chocolate squares, and chocolate covered almonds. I noticed my boss has a sweet tooth, so I thought I'd order some chocolate squares to serve with the espressos, as well as more practical items like de-liming powder. I go to the website, which is chic and has nice Buddha Bar-like music. I order some extra spoons and some little almond biscuits, but when I try to order the dark and milk chocolate squares, it tells me they are temporarily unavailable. Disappointed, I click on the "more details" button. In nice fancy French, it says, "in order to provide you with the superior service and quality of products you expect from Nespresso, chocolate is not available for ordering in the summer months."

You know it's August in Paris when you can't even get chocolate delivered.