mardi, décembre 28, 2010


I thought I'd start out the days leading up to the New Year with a few (some ridiculous) confessions you may or may not already know about me. Feel free to chime in with your own in the comments.

1. I absolutely hate the sound of the electric guitar. I can stand it in the background of a song, but I start to cringe at the opening notes of an electric guitar solo. I can't help it. And yet, as a teenager, I liked Billy Idol and Prince. I am full of teenage contradictions, what can I say.

2. People begging for money in Paris make me inappropriately cranky. I don't know anything, really, about what resources are actually available to the homeless here, or how hard it is to make use of them, but when the people begging for money are better dressed and better spoken than I am, it ticks me off. I just, well, don't believe they actually need my money....? As a bleeding heart liberal, this makes me feel very weird. (Having put that in writing, I feel really bad now...) But a homeless person in the US? Especially one in the age bracket to be a Vietnam Vet? That person is getting some money and a smile. Maybe I'm a homeless chauvinist. Hmm.

3. This is the worst one yet. Are you sitting down? I have come to the conclusion that I think chewing gum is vulgar. I have caught myself glaring at various people of all ages, especially on public transportation, who are smacking away and making the most disturbing noises. And I find myself thinking things like, do you know how gross that sounds and how ridiculous that makes you look? I have no idea what this says about me. That I am an old curmudgeon before my time?

4. I love celebrity gossip. I have no excuse or explanation for this. But it has come in handy in trivia situations!

5. I have a photograph of my mother when she was in her twenties in a frame in my apartment. She is in profile, holding up a black kitten, about to kiss it. I get over-the-moon flattered whenever anyone thinks it's me because I think she was so much prettier than I ever was or will be.

6. I stopped regularly watching television in 1999. This means I am hopeless on the pink questions in Trivial Pursuit, unless they fall into the category of recent celebrity gossip. See contradictions, above.

7. I am a lover of most cuisines, except Chinese and Mexican. Well, actually, after 6 years of living in France, I would kill for even some bad Mexican food at this point. Just as long as they don't use Emmenthal. But I still loathe Chinese food, both in France and in the US. I find it strangely tasteless and unnecessarily glutinous. One of my recent great disappointements was going to a supposedly Thai restaurant to find out it was a Chinese restaurant that had a few "Thai" dishes on the menu, which they prepared like it was Chinese food. I nearly cried.

8. I used to love to go grocery shopping for my mom because I could pretend to be an adult living in my own apartment, in charge of my sure to be adventure-filled life. Now that I am an adult living a satisfyingly stimulating life, I loathe grocery shopping. Well, in the big supermarkets, especially. Outdoor markets or specialty shops I like. Maybe I'm just adverse to fluorescent lighting and Musak?

9. I am a hopeless procrastinator. There are about five things I should be doing right now that I am putting off. Ahem. I work better under pressure, maybe? Maybe not.

10. When I dislocated my knee cap for the first time (there was a terribly painful second time) I actually had to go out and specially purchase a pair of flat shoes. The only ones I had were for running. Ha!

Your turn. Fess up, in the comments!

mardi, décembre 07, 2010

Théâtre des Variétés, Lessons and an Invaluable Secret

So, that was fun.

The Théâtre des Variétés is indeed beautiful. Getting ready in the dressing rooms named after Jean Gabin and Louis Jouvet was surreal, and being made up by professional makeup artists right before going on was divine.

But most of all, hearing the applause as we exited after doing a dance number I wasn't confident about in an unflattering costume in front of 900 people after two and a half months of constant criticism from the director was just about the coolest thing ever.

I learned a lot during the whole experience.

I learned that I have the guts, after being cut from every number, to pick up my broken pride and come back with a proposal of my own and survive - triumph, even, in my own way, with a director who tends towards the sadistic. Tada! Take that!

I learned (for the umpteenth time) that some people are two-faced and will double-cross you the minute it's convienent for them to do so.

I learned that some things aren't worth getting all worked up about.

I learned (for the umpteenth time) that I can overcome feeling inadequate, unattractive and rejected, by simply facing those feelings head on, finding reasons why it's not true and forging ahead full speed.

I learned that hard work pays, almost always.

But the most important lesson I learned is that next time I step on stage, I will not do it for approval, support, admiration, glory, validation or recognition. I will do it for the pure exhiliration of being on stage. I will feel secure, glorious, superb, even, whether there are 10 people or 1000, whether anyone thinks I did well or not.

I have been given a secret, you see, by a professor. If, while taking a bow, you repeat in your head "I adore you all," instead of endlessly going over what you think you might have fucked up, or what anybody might think of your performance, it changes the whole focus, and you are free to feel the pure joy of just being there.

I didn't remember to do that Monday night, and it was an awful feeling. Every doubt I had came rushing to the forefront and I was desperately searching for approval.

But next time, I have promised myself, I am using the hell out of that secret.

lundi, novembre 08, 2010

My Paris Stage Debut - Sort Of

Got any plans on December 6th at 7:30 PM? Feel like watching a little show my acting school is putting on? No big soliloquies, I promise. It's more like a bunch of little dance and lip-synch numbers to songs from Elvis to Edith Piaf and lots of things in between.

I just might be dressed as a cat. (Not exactly what I had imagined when I dreamed of my Paris stage debut, but I'll take it. And anyway, the Théâtre des Variétés is sort of pretty, don't you think?)

You are forewarned.

Go here to reserve your free seat!

lundi, octobre 18, 2010

Reality Check

I guess I was feeling confident after having my professional headshots taken.

It's not often I actually like a photo of myself, so when I was looking over Handsome's shoulder the other day as he was showing me a clip on YouTube, I noticed an ad for Hotmail on the sidebar.

Me: "Hey, don't you think that woman in the Hotmail ad looks just like me?"

She was blonde, had an interesting oval face and an intense expression. My doppelganger, really.

Handsome: "Um....that's a transvestite."

Me: "....."

mardi, septembre 21, 2010

Che Bello Che Bravo Che Buono

Massimiliano "Max" Reider
(? 1996- September 13th, 2010)

Beloved boy cat of Penelope Reider and Gilles Thomain and adored by all who met him, Massimiliano passed on to his next life at 9PM on Monday, September 13th, 2010 in Paris, cradled in Penelope’s arms.

Also known as "Buddy", "Le Gamin", "Maximum Max", "Max la Ménace", "Maxou", "Bad Boy", "Baldie" , "Milk Mustache", "The VP of International Operations", and formerly known as "Captain Yellow Balls", Max was born on a farm in rural Georgia sometime in 1996 and picked out of a litter of six especially for Penelope as a gift from her then-husband, Fernando. Having been needled for several months about getting "a striped orange boy", he finally gave in. Pretending his car had been broken into yet again - as happened with annoying frequency at the time on North Avenue and Myrtle Street in Atlanta - he asked her to come outside and see what had happened. Pointing to the car, he said, "Look what they did!" Penelope could see no visible damage, but as she approached the passenger side to look inside for broken glass, sitting on the seat was a spritely orange striped kitten who looked up at her, cocked his head and meowed. She immediately dissolved into tears.

Seeing the "M" marking on his forehead, she decided to name him Massimiliano, after an Italian friend from Trieste whom she had met years earlier in France.

Max immediately took over the apartment on Myrtle Street and the hearts of all who met him. As a kitten, he would start to purr the moment he was touched even if it was just the tip of a finger, and was therefore constantly teased for his habit of purring "on contact". One memorable day, Penelope had taken him along with her to exercise, and as she did a sitting leg lift, Max the kitten climbed up her extended right leg and curled up in a ball on her hip. Exercising had never been more fun. That same day he also performed a death-defying leap from the top floor, scaring the shit out of Penelope, who had no idea what had just dropped from the sky.

Back at Myrtle Street, Max soon began to terrorize Fernando’s poor girl cat, "Ceci", eventually driving her into depression to the point where they would come home to find her sitting atop the sofa facing the wall. It was decided to house her at Atlanta’s famous "Cat Camp", aka Penelope’s mother’s house on East Rock Springs, where cats went to recuperate, recover, and rediscover their feline roots. Ceci was forever transformed, and Max became the sole cat on Myrtle Street.

After five years of antics and love on Myrtle Street, Max moved to Montgomery Street, where his dream of being able to live together with Ceci and go outside was quickly thwarted by several suspicious "accidents" he suffered, making his vet declare he not be allowed outside as his injuries appeared to be purposefully inflicted. The neighborhood was apparently not cat-friendly.

Max and Penelope then moved to a studio apartment on North Decatur Road. It was in Decatur where Max learned to walk on a leash. He started out humiliated and terrified, grazing the wall of the apartment building hallway in dread of what awaited outside, but quickly figured out that a quick dart into a bush and a pull on the leash while he was secured in the right position meant Penelope was left holding an empty harness as she yelled at him to get the hell back here, godammit. Many escape attempts were made; none were successful.
During Penelope’s many business trips, Max was lovingly looked after by his two faithful cat sitters, Penelope’s mother Daphne and Penelope’s sister Tatyana.

It was also in Decatur where Max forever left an impression on a group of Penelope’s friends. As they sat on the sofa waiting for her to come back from letting a friend in the building, he boldly walked in front of them, stopped at the front door to stand up on his hind legs, reached the doorknob, turned it with a flick of his paws and went out the open door, leaving them all sitting there mouths agape.

It was in this studio apartment that Penelope made him a promise: if she someday made it to Paris, she would take him with her.

At Christmas in 2003, Penelope received a gift that would forever attract attention – the famous cat bag. Originally designed to carry a small dog, it is a red backpack that converts to a rolling suitcase and a small bed. It was in this bag that Max would make his many voyages, be they to the vet or to foreign lands. Wherever they went, people would ask where to buy that bag.

In summer 2004, Penelope and Max moved to Paris. It was Penelope’s particular delight to make the surly passport control agents at the Roissy airport laugh by presenting them with a miniature passport she had created for him, complete with photo and paw print. She did not know at the time that Max would indeed have a passport in the future, European this time, with no bureaucratic wait of three months. She would be green with envy when she saw how easily he obtained European citizenship.

After a year of studiously ignoring and occasionally tolerating a series of men no good for Penelope, Max finally met his lifelong buddy and partner in crime, Gilles, in 2005. Originally not particularly fond of cats, Gilles was conquered by Max’s charm and charisma, especially touched by a display of affection full of heat butts and purring while being assisted by Max with a complicated IT intervention on Penelope’s ancient laptop.

"The boys", as they came to be known, would go on to become the best of friends and accomplices; watching countless action movies - nicknamed "boy movies" - solving numerous IT issues as a crack team, going on unauthorized walks, eating unapproved-of foods, taking luxurious afternoon naps and other scandalous behaviour typical of partners in crime.

In May 2008, Penelope, Gilles and Max moved in to the apartment they bought on Boulevard Ney, which incidentally, Max helped them buy. Known for opening doors, both figuratively and literally, it was the mention of Max to Mme. Couty, a formidable Parisian real estate professional working for Penelope’s company, which broke the ice and provided the proverbial key. A passionate lover of cats, it was with her incomparable help and through her powerful influence that they were able to negotiate a good price and get fair loans.

Penelope and Gilles became accustomed to being upstaged. Wherever the three of them went, Max was the center of attention. Friends and family would ask after him before inquiring about their welfare. Countless children would call for "Mask". Wherever he went, whoever he met, he left an impression.

Renowned for his remarkable intelligence, Max’s accomplishments ranged from being able to open almost any door, immediately understanding that a laser pointer was not a physical object able to be caught (he straightaway looked at the dot on the floor and up at Penelope’s hand holding the pointer, and then walked away, miffed), raising the alert that his dry food was moldy by knocking over the bag so its contents would spill on the floor, and, upon seeing a big screen TV for the first time (set to the Animal channel), he walked up to the screen, pawed at the bugs, and then looked below and behind the screen to see where the images went.

Max was particularly fond of very loud bouncy rubber balls, green beans, any food made of starch, Gilles’ clothes closet, and being rubbed on his belly. Shaved for an ultrasound, it remained thereafter pink and hairless due to constant belly rubbing "love sessions." It was the ultimate sign of distinction and affection to be on the receiving end of his "paws of love," one, two or even four of his paws placed on the face or chest of the person rubbing his belly. He never tired of a good can of freshly-opened tuna, or a kiss on the nose.

His dislike of vacuum cleaners, dancing and being teased about his "rabbit legs" never abated.

In May 2009, after a couple of mysterious health issues, Max was diagnosed with diabetes and kidney disease at the age of 13. His diet was completely revolutionized from dry food to organic wet food imported from Germany, and he began undergoing twice-daily insulin shots. He taste-tested a wide variety of wet foods from around the world -diabetic cats being particularly finicky and capricious in their tastes - one minute chicken aloe vera was the tastiest thing ever, the other minute only rabbit with veal would do.

After an initial round of treatment, Max showed all the signs of being cured from diabetes, a phenomenon unique to the feline species. Max would go on to be "cured" a total of four times, the last being in March 2010. Throughout the management of his diseases, Max remained upbeat, loving, curious, and incredibly brave and charming during all his clinic visits, shots, pills and ear pricking. Vets and vet techs alike enthusiastically greeted him whenever he came through the door. He had an international team of veterinarians working to solve his health issues, from Atlanta to Paris to Italy. He had even been selected to become a case study in Paris’ renowned veterinarian school in Maisons Alfort.

Max is widely believed to be the only American cat to have travelled to both Slovenia and Southern France, so far away from his native rural Georgia. He also travelled to Aix-en-Provence, Angoulême, Le Rimbert, Périgueux, Limoges, Venice, Dubrovnik, Opatija, and Trieste. He had travelled by plane, car, train and boat. It was his particular relief to have never been subjected to the helicopter or the submarine.

His last voyage in the famous cat bag saw him through Italy and former Yugoslavia. In Venice, an elegant lady on the vaporetto declared upon seeing him, "Che bello! Che bravo! Che buono!" After two and a half weeks of sun-filled balconies, local fresh fish, and local bugs caught with brio, he suffered a setback while in Opatija, Croatia, causing Gilles and Penelope to race him back and forth through Slovenia to a veterinary clinic in Trieste, of all places, where the raven-haired veterinarian declared him to be a "fighter".

Upon his return to Paris, unable to walk or feed himself, he was put to rest. His body was interred in Le Rimbert, home to Gilles’ now cat-loving parents.

He is greatly missed. He taught us much : how to love selflessly and unconditionally, how to be patient, how to comfort and ease sickness, and how to let go of the unimportant. He leaves an enormous void. May he rest in peace knowing he changed us for the better.

mercredi, août 04, 2010

Tap tap....

Tap tap....
Anybody there?

Serves me right for not posting for three months.

It's August. Everyone is gone.
Yesterday, as I was desperately trying to navigate my rental bike in red high heels, I came to the conclusion that - in my neighborhood at least - the only people left in the city are homeless, crazy, disabled or old. I was strangely annoyed by this. (It could have been the migraine.) But as everyone will tell you, at least you get a seat on the metro.
There are three people on my floor at work. This makes it harder than usual to get out of bed in the morning. Who will even notice if I come in or not?
Not that I'm complaining. Seriously. The rebel in me likes that I refuse to go on vacation when everyone else does. Handsome, Max and I will be happily boarding a night train to Venice when everyone else will be fighting the traffic jams to get back into the city. Then it's on to Croatia, Montenegro, Slovenia and Bosnia Herzegovina. Or wherever the rental car company actually lets us go. I am confused why one part of ex-Yugoslavia is okay and another isn't, but my Italian isn't up to par enough to get into geo-political detail about it.

In other news, "The Lion King" ended after a three-year run, and the producers were nice enough to throw a huge bash on the night of the finale. How about some pictures?

This is me in the lighting booth at the Mogador Theatre at Handsome's console. Please notice that I have the back of walkie-talkie up to my ear. I like to call this one "A Portrait in Blonde".

This is me and Handsome. I like to call this one cute.

That is all for today. I have to go learn the Serbo-Croatian for "local wine and cheese."

jeudi, juin 03, 2010


I figured it was time to change the tone around here. Thankfully, my niece is doing much better and responding very well to treatment, so how's about we pick it up a notch around here, huh?

Without further ado, ladies and gentlemen, I announce my upcoming Paris stage début!!

On Monday June 14th and Tuesday June 15th, I will be in my acting school's end of year production, called "Algérie en Eclats". It takes place in Algeria in the 1990's in the middle of the civil war, when thousands of innocent citizens, and most especially intellectuals, artists and journalists, were massacred by fundamentalists. Sounds like a blast, no? Seriously, though, the stage direction is pretty interesting, and it's not nearly as depressing at it sounds. In fact, the overall message is pretty much that artistic expression is a fundamental human need, and some people are willing to risk their lives for it.

The theatre where we are playing is pretty small, so if you want to come, you have to reserve your spot!

And I leave you with a French lesson of the day.

Instead of "Break a leg!", in France they say, "Merde!"

Isn't that perfect?


vendredi, avril 09, 2010

For Meaghan

This week was surreal.

On Monday, my sister and her husband learned their cute, spunky little three year-old daughter Meaghan has leukemia (specifically, ALL, the so-called "good" kind). It was quite a wallop in the head for everyone.

But, all things considered, she is doing great, and the prognosis is very good for this type of leukemia, and very good for her specifically so far. She might even be able to go home this weekend.

This isn't quite my story to tell, or perhaps the most appropriate forum, so for those of you who know my sister and want to send her and her family messages of support, she has created a website for Meaghan.

I am so very proud of how gracefully my sister is handling this, and so grateful that she is getting tons of love and support. It warms the heart.

Love to all of you.

jeudi, mars 11, 2010

If I Were A Rich Girl

I often daydream about what I would do if I were rich. I imagine the palaces I would stay in, the restaurants I would dine in, the houses I would buy and alternate living in, and, most often, the clothes I would wear.

First, one of the houses :

Photo from Vogue of Olya and Charles Thomson's NY Brownstone

Isn't it a lovely mix of clean whites and splashes of blue with all those luscious rich carpets? And the mirror - wow. Plus, I love a bay window. I don't know why, but in French, a bay window is called "bow-window". I suspect someone down the line wrote it down wrong and it stuck. Well, that's my theory anyway.

As for hotels, I have been lucky to have stayed in some pretty top-tier addresses on business trips (which is totally the way to go, even if you spend a large portion of the time fantasizing about being there with your honey, and oh, how the two of you could get creative in that bathtub the size of your living room...) and on one such trip, I had the chance to visit this one. I vowed on the spot I would come back someday and stay there.

The Four Seasons Istanbul (from

Drool. And Istanbul in general - sigh.

So if I were a rich girl, I'd have a house like the one above, stay in places like the Four Seasons Istanbul (starting at 450€ a night, people!) and I would eat at places like this :

Photo from of Apicius, a Relais & Châteaux award-winning restaurant

And this :

Le Grand Véfour

And, then, I would totally find the occasion to wear this:

That is a motherfucking gold feather coat, ladies and gentlemen, from Alexander McQueen's last collection, and a crazy-ass but gorgeous red and black satin dress from his 2009-2010 Autumn-Winter prêt-à-porter collection.

I might tone down the lipstick, though. That is a bit much even for me.

What do you daydream about?

lundi, mars 01, 2010

I Will Kick Your Ass Some Day - Love and Kisses

After two particularly fierce rounds of Trivial Pursuit Genius II last night, where I just BARELY lost both times, this is what this morning's email exchange looked like. (For context's sake, I have only beaten him three times in our entire time together. It is my constant goal to clobber him, but he is so wily!)

Handsome : Love and kisses and sorry I kicked your ass at Trivial Pursuit last night ;-)

[Ed note : The nerve!]

Me : A clarification : you did NOT "kick my ass" at Trivial Pursuit. It was a VERY CLOSE CONTEST. And you have a distinct advantage with the French version. So there. Watch out for next time, buster. I will pummel you. One of these days. And it will be ugly. Love and kisses!

mercredi, février 24, 2010

Weird Weird World

I don't know if it's because my acting classes are having the effect of making me more "aware" of every little thing, but the other day I seriously felt like I was on Mars.

I was at our local supermarket doing the shopping, for once. Usually, Handsome takes care of this odious task with much cheerfulness and aplomb. Seriously. That wasn't meant to be sarcastic, I swear.


I was idling around with the caddy - aimlessly shuffling about, really - because it takes me eons to find everything, and I ended up in the produce section. I say ended up only because Handsome and I have pretty much agreed that the supermarket's produce selection sucks, so we prefer to buy from the open-air market. It's much better quality at pretty much the same price, but it's still not organic. Organic is outrageously priced over here.


I'm in the produce section and I suddenly realize I hear birds chirping and wind blowing and other such nature-like sounds. And then I realize. They were piping in birdsong in the produce section. To make us think the shit was more natural? That birds would have liked the selection? That we were actually in an orchard instead of in a flourescent-lit inner city supermarket?

And I just stopped in my tracks and thought, what a very strange world we live in.

mercredi, février 10, 2010

Not To Be Mean, But....

This is the second week in a row my co-worker has worn the same dress to work.
The. Exact. Same. Dress.

Should I be concerned?

Should I say something? What exactly does one say in this instance? I sort of feel like she might be depressed, but I haven't the slightest clue how to approach her about it.

She is kind of a downer of a person anyway, in the sense that I can never, ever get a positive response when I ask her how she is. I cringe every morning when I stop by her office, bracing myself for the total depressing answer she is going to give me.

"Not so good, I couldn't sleep last night, so I'm exhausted."


"The trains were late again. It took me two hours to get to work. I'm so tired."


"Have you seen this rain? They say it's going to last all week."

I guess I don't have to mention that the dress in question is grey. Grey as the rain. Grey as the trains that are always late. Grey as the sleep in your eyes.

Oh god.

I need a dose of this, stat!