lundi, décembre 17, 2007
'Don't you have anything that would look good on someone who's Jennifer Lopez in the rear and Kate Moss in the top?'
She frowned. 'I'll see what I can find,' she said, throwing open the curtain to the dressing room and disappearing back into the store.
I finally settled on an extremely overpriced ruffled spaghetti strap top and horribly expensive silk pants. I had never spent that much on one outfit in my entire life. (But that was my first year in Paris. The real spending, it came later.) The hem of the silk pants came undone after wearing them only two times. Then I accidentally washed them. In my washing machine. I really should never buy expensive things - they deserve better homes.
The night of the film screening, I got a big kick out of the people watching. My friend had told me there would be lots of celebrities and other VIPs there, and I tried to guess who amongst the crowd was someone famous. Usually, the women who wear something totally kooky are either in fashion, the arts or rich enough to buy some of the horrors you see from the haute couture designers. One woman, whom I supposed was a VIP from the outfit she was wearing, had on those footie things they give you in shoe stores to make it easier to slip in your feet, only hers were violet and she was wearing them with gold strappy high heeled sandals and an evening gown. Confused? So was I. So much so that I didn't even notice what her dress looked like.
But I was also slightly concerned that the red wool cape I had chosen to wear over my horribly expensive black outfit would be out of place. Too flashy. Too old rich lady looking. I was terrified I would be the only person in red.
But la dee dah, I was at a private screening with real French movie stars! None of whom I recognized! Well that's not entirely true.
After the screening, there was a champagne reception. My friend, nervous about the reviews, downed two glasses in a row while listening with half an ear to the hollow assurances of his agent. I was looking around when I caught sight of someone I thought I recognized. He was obviously famous, surrounded by a group of people eagerly vying for his attention, his arm draped around a blonde half his age in an elaborate red evening gown and, to my surprise, a regular pony tail, complete with an everyday elastic band. (The I-don't-spend-time-on-my-hair look is very popular here.) He was only a few feet away and I was looking straight at him, trying to place who he was. I had a vague sense that he was a has-been singer, but then maybe I had seen him in a movie, too. I suppose I must have had an intense look on my face that made him think I wanted to get his attention because he began to stare back. Intensely. Desperate to place him, I poked my friend's arm.
"Who is that guy standing over there? Some cheesy singer, right? Or is he an actor?"
My friend discreetly looked over and turned back around to look at me incredulously before saying, 'That's Patrick Bruel!"
"Oooooh!! That explains it!" I replied, relieved to have put the name to the face. Patrick Bruel is indeed both a has-been singer, and nowadays, more an actor than anything else. A pretty darn good actor, too, I have to admit. In his musical heyday, though, his concerts were composed of masses teenage girls screaming "PAATRIIIIIIICK!!!!!" swooning and bursting into tears at his rather fluffy lyrics.
By this time, my friend was introducing me to some of his acquaintances, and I had my back turned towards Paaatriiiiiiick and his entourage, who were starting to head out. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed him slip through the crowd behind me, and to my utter amazement, felt his hand cup my ass as he passed by. I nearly choked on my mouthful of champagne. My friend saw the expression on my face and asked if anything was wrong. I waited until I was sure the entourage was out of hearing distance and leaned in to whisper,
"I can't believe this, but Patrick Bruel just grabbed my ass!"
"You're kidding me!" my friend said.
"I swear!" I took another sip of champagne and looked moonily at my ass, "I'll never wash that cheek again. I will have it bronzed! PAATRIIIICK!!"
The next day at work, I couldn't help myself. I pranced around my office and stuck out my rear, saying,
"Do you wanna touch this? This right here? Cause last night, baby, Patrick Bruel sure did!!"
The story proved so popular that one day recently - three years after the fact, mind you - a colleague sent me the following email :
"Just heard Patrick Bruel is getting divorced.....You wouldn't have anything to do with that, would you?"
mercredi, octobre 17, 2007
This time, however, the entire country will be affected. This one is a doozy, with all the various public transportation unions united in their efforts to cripple the whole system. The SNCF regional and international trains, as well as all suburban trains into and out of Paris, and the entire metro system and buses will be on strike. The bone of contention is the current government's plan to reform these workers' 'special' retirement plans. As best I understand the situation, anyone at 60 years of age and after 40 years of working may retire with full benefits. The workers of the public transportation systems, however, only have to work for 37 years before they get the same benefits. This is seen as unfair and preferential, so the government plans to reform the law so that everyone is on an equal playing field.
The strike planned for tonight and tomorrow (and possibly beyond) is so massive that most metro lines will have no service whatsoever, most suburban trains will not run, and - imagine this for a moment - all regional trains connecting various parts of the country will come to a screeching halt. Most people I know at work have taken the day off or gotten permission to work from home. At the very least, it might prove to be a positive step in getting telecommuting into the forefront, but I have my doubts. I, of course, not living in the cut-off suburbs (thank goodness) nor having any children to worry about transporting, have agreed to sub for my co-worker, who has both children and an hour and a half commute by suburban train. (Shudder.)
In order to get to work, I sneakily asked Handsome - who has a car - if he had any plans tonight, and if he might be willing to drop me off tomorrow morning somewhere within walking distance to La Defense, the eyesore of a suburb where I work. He of course agreed, but called me earlier in the day to warn me we should get up around 6:30 (quelle horreur) to be on the road no later than 7 so that he can then make it to a freelance job at 9:30 in the city centre.
Getting back home will be a challenge, but I think I will risk the metro line - which is supposed to run at 15% of its normal frequency - to the Arc de Triomphe and walk from there.
I guess I'll actually put some comfortable shoes in my bag.
mardi, septembre 04, 2007
While sitting on the balcony overlooking the avenue Ledru Rollin and exchanging pleasantries with the other guests about paid internships and first jobs out of college, it occurred to us that we were the oldest people there.
They were talking about their current experiences.
"Oh, but age is a state of mind," I later protested to Handsome, as Eliane came out to greet us.
She squatted down on her heels to be on eye level with us and asked if we needed our drinks refreshed. We waved away her concern, assuring her we were fine.
"Happy Birthday!" Handsome said.
"Yes, Happy Birthday, and may all your wishes come true," I chimed in. We each gave her two birthday kisses on the cheek.
"So," I ventured, "what year are we celebrating?"
Luckily it was dark out, so she couldn't see us blanch when she told us.
There was a pause, and Handsome choked back a cough.
"Oh, come on, I'm sure you're not far away," she chided.
Handsome and I exchanged worried glances.
"Um," I managed.
"No, really," she insisted, "how old are you guys?" She looked up expectantly at us.
I poked Handsome in the ribs so he would go first.
"Forty-one," he said a little sheepishly.
"WOW!" she replied, obviously surprised. We weren't sure that was necessarily good. "And how old are you?" she asked, turning to me.
"I'll be thirty-six in October," I said, as neutrally as I could.
"Wooow," she said, looking up at me admiringly, "I would love to look like you when I get to be your age!"
And with that, it was crystal clear : I am now officially an old fart.
samedi, août 25, 2007
But since things are slow in my department, and I'm the new one, sometimes my coworkers who aren't on vacation will stop by for a little polite chat.
One afternoon a middle aged female coworker came by and asked how things were going. I made some non-commital response about it being a little slow, and eventually, it being August, the subject turned to vacations and hobbies. It turns out her hobby and passion is archery, which she discovered for the first time at a resort around 10 years ago. She explained to me how quickly she picked it up, how she joined a club and moved rapidly into competition level, eventually becoming the reigning French champion for five years in a row.
I've since been warned she has a propensity to go on for hours if you let her, but as she prattled on and I made the occasional replies of "Uh huh," and "Really", I secretly made a mental note:
DO NOT PISS THIS ONE OFF. HAS GOOD AIM.
dimanche, août 12, 2007
I was waiting for the bus one day after work, and after checking and double checking that I was indeed waiting for the right bus going in the right direction (a constant challenge for me), my cell phone rang. It was my mom calling from the States, and we chatted over the street noise until I saw my bus approaching.
"Hold on a minute," I told her, "I have to get on the bus and pay my fare."
I was wearing one of my favorite dresses, a black and white giraffe patterned number that I bought in Madrid on the weekend my niece was born. I stepped onto the bus and swiped my fare card while holding my cell phone to my ear with my shoulder.* The bus driver, a pleasant-looking African man in his thirties, stood up as I boarded, and planted himself in front of me.
"I'm sorry, but I cannot take you**," he said, grinning.
"Hold on, Mom," I said into my phone, and then to him, "I'm sorry?" For a second there, I thought he was going tell me I couldn't board the bus while talking on my cell phone because it might disturb other passengers. This actually happened to me with a taxi at 2AM on a Saturday. I had to hang up before the driver would let me into her cab. But she was sort of freaky, anyway.
But back to the bus driver.
"I cannot take you," he repeated, "you are too charming."
I laughed. "How sweet," I replied, while trying to sidestep him to take a seat.
"No, seriously," he insisted, "I cannot take you, Mademoiselle, I'm sorry. But you really are too beautiful."
I let out a sort of 'mmheh, mmheh' polite chuckle, because, really, this was getting old fast.
"Okay, but is there some other problem?" I tried.
"Where are you going?" he asked.
"Um, the Gourgaud stop?" Suddenly I thought I might actually, despite all my double checking, be on the wrong bus.
"Well, technically, I am not supposed to take anyone at this stop because it is the terminus," he explained.
Nowhere on that route map did it say that this was the terminus, goddammit, I thought to myself.
"But because it is you," he beamed, "I will let you have a seat so you can accompany me to the next stop."
"Thank you, that's very kind of you," I said, "But I warn you, this is my mother I have on the phone, so you'd better be on your best behavior."
I could hear her voice from the phone in my hand. It reminded of a train trip we took to Prague from Paris, where the seats in our car pulled out into a reclining position, so when laying down, my feet were in front of her face. Next over from her was a Frenchman, and since he and I were facing each other, we naturally got to talking in French. It was polite talk, and despite taking place other over my mother's feet, it had a distinct air of sensuality as we lounged on our sides, leaning on our elbows, and rocking to the rhythm of the train. My mother quickly got tired of being left out of the conversation, and promptly stuck her finger in my sock to poke my foot saying, "What are you two talking about?"
The bus driver laughed and said, "Tell her I would love to be able to call her 'Mother' some day."
"Oh ho!" I remarked, thinking good lord, that was quite a leap.
"Well?" he said.
"Hmm?" I replied, starting to raise my phone back up to my ear. My poor mother was paying for this call.
"It's usually the first step to get the approval of the daughter," he teased.
"Usually, yes, it is," I replied, thinking, finally, it's time for the 'I'm not interested' part. Maybe after we get that over with, I can finally sit down. I've always had trouble responding to a man's compliment or flirtation by abruptly announcing I'm taken. I consider that being on the receiving end does not commit me to anything other than a 'thank you'. I'd rather take the compliment like a lady and leave it at that. But rarely do things end there. Especially in France.
"Well?" he pressed.
"Well that's all very sweet of you, but I'm taken," I said. "And very happy," I added, anticipating the I-don't-care-if-you-have-a-boyfriend-let's-have-a-little-fun-anyway reply.
"Aww, too bad," he said, looking genuinely disappointed. He finally moved aside to let me take a seat.
I sat down in a window seat and put my phone up to my ear. "Sorry about that, Mom," I said.
"What were you two talking about?" she prodded.
* I know I shouldn't do that, Handsome, I know.
lundi, juillet 23, 2007
I have been doing this all day, and I cannot stop.
But I thought there might be a hairdo I had overlooked that would be closer to my actual one, so I tried this on for size :
And then I thought, hmm, the nose. While pretty darn close to my real one, why not get a painless and free nose job while you can? And there was something a little too perky about the eyes.
PERFECTION!!! I absolutely love the annoyed look.
Speaking of annoyed, here is one you could call the teenage me :
I loved doing this so much, I thought, why don't I do one of my sister*?And then I just couldn't stop. Here is one of my mother :
And for those of you who are curious as to just how handsome Handsome really is, check this out :
* Her real glasses are much cooler than these.
jeudi, juillet 12, 2007
lundi, juillet 02, 2007
No, not marriage.
Not kids either.
Something even scarier.
We have decided to brave the Paris real estate market and buy an apartment together.
I have no idea how to actually go about this, and only a vague idea of how much pasta we will have to eat in order to afford a two bedroom, but am nonetheless excited about owning a (very) small little piece of Paris.
Since we haven't done the first thing about actually starting the process, though, I sometimes forget we actually made that decision.
As evidenced by this little exchange the other night in bed.
Me: "So are you working nights next week?"
Him: "Mmm hmmm."
Me: "Oh, ok. I suppose I should get used to it."
Me: "I mean, with your new job starting in July, you'll be working nights and I won't get to see you that much."
He hooked his arm over me to pull me tighter next to him and replied,
"Of course you'll see me! Especially if we live together, you dumbass."
A month in the US has done wonders for his vocabulary.
* Parts 1 and 2 can be found here.
mercredi, mai 23, 2007
We spent four weeks eating local specialties and hard-to-find-in-Paris ethnic food; drinking California, Oregon, South African and Australian wines (not to mention Bulgarian!); visiting museums, zoos and historical sites; and most importantly, spending time with family and friends.
I still marvel, even after three years here, that I live in a place where taking a month off in the springtime is no big deal.
In fact, when we went to pick up the rental car in DC, the guy behind the counter couldn't resist asking,
"So, what do you guys do for a living that you can take a whole month off?"
Handsome and I exchanged smug looks.
"That's normal in France," I answered, smiling.
"Geez, I only get seven days this year," he replied.
"You're in the wrong country," I said.
Being home was fabulous.
But as I watch from my bedroom window the searchlights slowly rotate on the top of the Eiffel Tower, spreading beams of light across the roofs of Paris, I know I am where I want to be.
lundi, avril 16, 2007
"I've prepared some things, like the guest bedroom, but I haven't prepared my French phrases like I said I was going to," she admitted.
"Oh don't worry about that," I reassured her.
"But I'm afraid he will think I'm all bumbling and dumb if I try to say something in French and I haven't practiced," she explained, referring of course to Handsome. He bravely decided to come with me on this trip home to meet my family and friends. Fearless man that he is.
"Oh, but he is just as worried about his English as you are about your French," I explained.
Without missing a beat, she proclaimed in slight Southern lilt,
"Well, maybe we'll just hold hands and coo."
mercredi, mars 28, 2007
jeudi, mars 15, 2007
My parents played her records often. I remember twirling around the living room to "La Goulante du Pauvre Jean" and imitating the movements I thought were those of a woman in love to "La Vie en Rose" and "Hymne à l'Amour." I had no idea that the voice which at turns transfixed and annoyed me - "Bravo pour le Clown" and "Ca Ira" really, really grated on my nerves - belonged to the woman on the scary album cover. Without understanding the actual lyrics, her voice communicated the emotion she was singing about, be it love or dancing in a crowd.
Years later when I was learning French, her songs took on a new dimension as I rolled over my tongue the sweet simplicity of lines like, "Il me dit des mots d'amour/ des mots de tous les jours / et ça me fait quelque chose." *
When I went to Paris for the first time, it was her voice that was the background music to my strolls along the quais of the Seine, my pilgramges to Hemingway haunts such as the Shakespeare & Company bookstore and the Closerie des Lilas, and my attempts to strike poses in cafés worthy of Doisneau photographs. A blonde American teenager trying to look sufficiently European, mysterious and brooding over her afternoon café au lait and ridiculously strong Gitane filterless cigarettes must have been touchingly naive and cliché. (Pardon my French).
A film has just come out about her life, which Handsome and I went to see. Called "La Môme" over here, and "La Vie en Rose" in the US, the press has been abuzz about the young actress, Marion Cotillard, who plays the role of Edith Piaf, and how amazingly she disappears into the skin of the French legend. Ms. Cotillard is only in her twenties, and had some successes on her film resume, but no one except the director thought she was capable of pulling off such a role, much less carrying the entire film.
She is incredible.
Go see it.
lundi, février 19, 2007
Still, I was a bit disappointed we didn't attend the wine tasting. I was all set to go, taste a few different ones, and find the right moment to declare,
"Now this, this is a wine that doesn't beat around the bush!"
After giving my glass a little theatrical swirl and taking a sip,
"Whoah, boy! This is a wine that says what's on its mind!"
Alas, I will have to find another way to embarrass Handsome in public.
vendredi, février 16, 2007
I usually just refer to it as the "rue de l'Ah Ah Ah." Handsome thankfully speaks Penelopese.
We got an email today from the wine shop announcing their Saturday wine tasting, encouraging us to come taste two little wines from Touraine: a Gamay and a Chenin. Described as 'bursting with fruit' and 'rich', I was all for making sure we stopped by, but what really convinced me was the last line in the invitation.
"These wines will seduce you with their frankness and richness."*
I don't know about you, but if there is one thing I can't stand, it's a dishonest wine.
*"Ces vins vous séduiront par leur franchise et leur richesse."
mercredi, janvier 31, 2007
This has me worried.
I'm afraid, I suppose, that I will eventually get too comfortable. That I will let myself go and become unattractive. This is the only explanation I can come up with to justify what came out of my mouth last night as we were settling into bed.
"I'm so lucky to have you," I cooed, touching his face.
"I'm lucky too," he murmured.
"Yeah, but I walk around in my slippers and cooking apron," I countered, "and I even talk to you while I pluck my nipple hairs."
There was a slight pause while he considered this.
"Yeah, well, I'll let you watch me shave my balls sometime."
As usual - at his father's bidding - we ate and drank too much at lunchtime. Unable to move, we declared we were taking a nap before finishing up the chores.
Comfortably spooning under the covers in his parents' bed, his arms around me, Handsome murmured into my ear,
"You know, I feel so good with you. I like you."
"You like me?" I retorted, "Is that all? You like your friends. You like steak. You like your mailman!"
"Oh, come on," he said, nudging me with his knee,"You know I love you. Now stop bugging me."