lundi, décembre 25, 2006

Yesssss! Yesss! YESSSSS!!!!

Can I find the absolute best way to piss off my upstairs neighbor, who already rues the day I moved in?


Not content with merely annoying my downstairs neighbor by throwing a Thanksgiving party at the ungodly hour of 8:30 PM on a Saturday - whereby she started to pound on the wall at exactly 8:45 PM - Handsome and I recently brilliantly succeeded in enraging my upstairs neighbor as well.

This would not be the first time. I managed to piss her off all by myself months ago.

See, in Handsome's family, they have a tradition. They have a family song, which is used at any time to congratulate someone on a job well done. For practical purposes, I'll call it the "Chic a l'amour" song, it being the first line. One person will suggest the person to whom the song should be directed, which is everyone's cue to begin. For example, if the meal is particularly good (which it very often is) one person will say, "Chic a l'amour to Arlette, for the pot roast!" and everyone will join in. The song is accompanied by rhythmic claps and hand waving. You have to experience it to believe it. Luckily, the first time I was introduced to the family, Handsome had warned me in advance. Otherwise, I think my brain would have imploded trying to understand what the hell was going on.

But it does not end there. The Handsome family, they likes them some singing. Very often, after they have gathered around the table and eaten to their hearts' content, they designate someone at the table, and that person has to sing a song. Any song. On the spot. A cappella.

The first time this happened to me, I had brought along my friend Kitty, who has a really good set of pipes. She was sitting next to me, and sang 'Hymne a l'amour' like I wanted to. Perfectly. Bitch. So I was left scrambling for something else. I have no memory of what I eventually came up with. I've blocked it out.

But then it happened again. On a totally different occasion, in a totally different locale. We were once again all gathered around the table, someone got pointed at, and it began. Only this time, it was more like karaoke. Handsome's 11 year-old nephew had a whole DJ console installed in the kitchen, complete with a mike, CD player, keyboard, disco ball and lights. (Have I mentioned how much I love this family?) But once again, I was on the spot, with no song to sing. I passed, blushing in embarassment.

And then couldn't stop thinking about it. All night.

Surely I knew one song sort of by heart that I could share? Me, who used to spend hours in my mother's garden, singing my head off?

The evening was winding down, and people were clearing the dishes and preparing to go to bed. And I was still thinking about it.

Shyly, I pulled on Handsome's shirt and whispered that I thought I could sing that one song on the jazz CD we had listened to in the car on the way down. He nodded encouragement.

I went to get it, and came back into the kitchen, the CD clutched in my clammy hands like Oliver's bowl of gruel. Please sir, can you put this on? I almost whispered to the 11 year-old in charge.

Handsome cleared his throat to get everyone's attention. People were finishing up their last dregs of coffee and most had started to get up and stretch before going upstairs.

"Um, Penelope has a song she would like to sing for us," he announced.

Everyone looked a little surprised. but slowly sat back down. I handed the CD to the preteen DJ and told him which track to play. I gripped the microphone like my life depended on it, and weakly ambled through the jazz ballad. The original jazz ballad composed specifically for that unknown vocalist, so it's not like anyone would have recognized it even if I hadn't completely botched it. There was a modest smattering of polite applause.

And then everyone finally went to bed.

Later on, curled up in Handsome's arms, I whined,

"Nobody liked my song."

"Yes they did," he countered.

"No they didn't," I pouted. "I saw them, looking all confused, like, what the hell? It was jazz, and they don't ever listen to that. But I don't know any Claude Francois or Johnny Hallyday." I sniffled.

"But that's you," he said, "that's your contribution as an American : jazz! Don't forget, they don't speak English that well, so you can't expect them to exactly sing along."

I was mildly comforted.

But once back in Paris, I was determined never to be caught off guard again. I went through my CDs and compiled a repertoire of songs I liked and could easily learn by heart. I began to transcribe lyrics. I played and replayed them. And once I had two songs' lyrics written down, I began to practice. Again and again.

Until I heard a knock on my door.

I froze, and looked at my cell phone for the time. 2 AM. On a Tuesday. I didn't move a muscle.

A haggard voice came from behind the door,

"Could you please stop singing?"


Handsome came back at 5 AM after getting off the night shift . It was the day after my birthday.

Standing up next to the bed, he started, "Haaappy Birrrrthday to Yooouuuuu!!!"

"SSSSHHHHHH!!!!!!! No singing!!" I stage whispered, "She will KILL me!!"

"Who? What are you talking about?" He waved his arms about like a conductor and took a breath like he was going to go for the second bar.

I clamped my hand over his mouth. "I'll explain later!" I hissed.

I totally understand if she hates me.

You would think I would be extra careful after that. You would think I could not find a way to piss her off more.

You would be wrong.

I've only seen her in the flesh once. But I get the feeling she is a mite sensitive about the wreck her love life seems to be in. I make this sweeping judgement based on the shouting matches I've overheard her get into with the person I can only assume is her (not too frequent) boyfriend.

So I really should have known better.

I admit that it was late. 3AM, to be exact. I admit that I mometarily forgot we were not alone in the world. I admit that we made some noise on top of the dining room table. I was going for a second round of 'yesses' when we heard an angry thumping on the ceiling. The ceiling my head was bent up towards. The ceiling that would be her dining room floor.

I would not be surprised if she's made a voodoo doll of me. Which she regularly pricks with pins. In its vocal chords.

The next day, we came back from dinner to find this note under the door.

*Translation : Please try to be at least a little discreet in your intimate acts at 3AM.

So, Penelope? Can you try a little harder to rub it in? Can you just shoot for the jugular? Can you find the best way to make friends in the building in the snootiest neighborhood in Paris?

Oh, yesss! YESS!!! YEEESSSS!!!!! You can, Canon!

dimanche, décembre 24, 2006


I've come to realize that I have a thing for signs and advertisements. I love the Marilyn Monroe 'Lustre Cream' shampoo ad I have hanging in my bathroom, and one of most prized pieces of art is an antique Erte poster advertising a show at the Folies Bergeres.

So it should come as no surprise that while in Turkey over the summer, I was delighted to find it rich with signs that beguiled, puzzled and outright made me double over laughing.

Tourists are routinely warned about what ruses to avoid in Turkey, such as agreeing to follow someone in the Grand Bazaar market who insists he has better merchandise to show you at his cousin Mehmet's stand, which is just over here down this alley.... Another very common way to be had is to follow the recommondations of that very nice man at the train /bus station or airport who recommended you go to such and such hotel or restaurant, and - oops! The price is way more expensive for your fanny-pack wearing tourist self...

So, this little pension in Selcuk is to be commended for trying to assuage any lingering doubt:

Still, what about the trainsstation?

After you have spent the day visiting the incredible ruins at Ephesus, sweating and trying to appear intelligent by struggling to remember your Greek and Roman history, you just might want an altogether different kind of experience at the end of your tour. But you may be apprehensive about how much it's going to run you...

Only fifty cents for the magic? What's in that thing, anyway? See how the kid's hands are all bunched up in excitement? That must be one magical toilet!

Maybe you want to buy the missus a nice gift while in Turkey? How about a memento that is not only from an exotic locale, but completely oxymoronic?

A Rollex? A Piyaget? An authentic sham! Thanks, honey!

Perhaps you are hungry after walking around, and are hankering for some kind of Turkish meal? Look no further.

Okay! Well that says it! I'll have one of those!

Feel like some water sports?

Let's not Dive........ instead......

Big Mable with us! Patriot with us! Banana with us! Let's exciting! In fun with us!

After all that physical exertion, you must be hungry again. You could always grab a bite at Ali and Sahil's.

Dude makes your mouth water, eh? Is Diana Steak some kind of Turkish meal?

At the end of your trip, suppose you have some Turkish lira leftover that you'd rather spend than exchange. Let's say you had anywhere from 4 to 500 Turkish lira. What could that buy you?

Hmmm..... figs or a flatscreen TV? Flatscreen TV or some figs? Decisions! Decisions!