I went over to my friend Bérengère's house last night. She has the most adorable little boy, Maxime, who is a bundle of toothy smiles and blond-haired charm. He's two and half, and smart as a whip.
The three of us played and sang songs while he took his bath, and afterwards she and I made truffle risotto while he ate his zucchini purée.
Then it was time for him to go to bed. Bérengère tucked him in while I continued to stir the risotto. When she came back in the kitchen, she reported their exchange, where Maxime had observed,
"Penelope is sick."
I wasn't. When she asked him what he meant, he said,
"Her eyes hurt."
She asked me what I thought he meant.
"I dunno, maybe my eyes are red?" I ventured. My eyes are often red. I work in front a computer all day and never wear my glasses like I'm supposed to. (Please don't fuss at me, Mom, they make my vision worse! I promise I put them on on the rare occasion I drive at night, okay?)
"No," she said, "they aren't."
Suddenly, I understood. I pointed to my trademark cat-eye liquid eyeliner.
"He totally didn't understand what this was about," I said, cracking up.
And come to think of it, maybe it does make it look like my eyes hurt, like I'm squinting them up in pain, or something?
Nothing like a 2.5 year old boy to make you reconsider everything you thought you knew about makeup in 3 seconds.
Well, he did say I was "gentille" right afterwards, so all is forgiven.
My company sponsored a blood drive today, and I had signed up to donate, in honor of my adorable niece Meaghan. The last time I donated was in 2005.
I went down and filled out the questionnaire, had to run back to my office to find my donor card and some ID, had a chat with the nurse registering me about the fact I was born in the US (a question on the form), and went in to see the doctor.
"So," he said, in a way I thought a tad condescending, "anything you want to tell me?"
As if I was hiding something. I had filled out my form thoroughly, thank you very much, but he hadn't even looked at it.
"Well," I said, "I indicated on the form that I had surgery to correct a heart murmur in 2009."
"In 2009?" he said, surprised. I wasn't sure if the year surprised him, or the heart surgery.
I say 'heart surgery' all casually, when in fact my atrial septal defect was repaired in an hour by going through a vein in my groin. It was done in a private hospital very well respected for cardiac issues, I had a private room, was released the next day and paid not a cent for any of it. (Vive la France!) It's not like I had open heart surgery or anything.
"Yes," I replied politely but firmly, "in 2009 I had my atrial septal defect corrected."
"Well," he said, taking my form and stacking it, as if it was a pile of important papers,"I regret to inform you that you will never again be able to donate blood."
He didn't seem too regretful. He was downright thrilled to tell me this. I must have been his only refusal case for the morning.
"Really?" I said, incredulous. "Why is that?"
"Well, when they've gone and messed with your heart," he said dramatically, "and torn you open to get to it," at this, he gestured at my chest, miming ripping it open, "it's just too risky."
"I didn't have open heart surgery," I replied, "it was repaired through a vein in my groin."
"Well, all the same," he said, "it would be too dangerous for you."
At that, I just wanted out of there as fast as possible. I didn't want to ask what was so dangerous, I didn't want to point out that my cardiologist had already approved me to go scuba diving a year after the operation, I didn't want to say how alarmist and silly I thought he was being.
"That's too bad," I said, "I wanted to donate in honor of my niece who had leukemia and received many blood transfusions during her treatment."
"How old is she?" he asked. I don't know why he acted like he cared.
"She's almost five," I said.
"Sad stuff," he said, typing into his computer atrial septal defect 2009 with satisfaction.
I grabbed my purse, wished him a good day and got the fuck out of there as quick as I could.
I sort of felt like crying, but not really. I knew he was being alarmist. I suppose I felt unfairly rejected. I don't deal well with that.
Then, I looked it up on the Red Cross Website : Blood donation WITH a heart murmur defect is "...acceptable if you have a heart murmur as long as you have been medically evaluated and treated and have not had symptoms in the last 6 months, and have no restrictions on your normal activities."
I no longer have one.
But maybe I'm just mad because I didn't get to spend 30 minutes reading my book lying down. I missed my metro stop TWICE last night because I was so absorbed.
Or maybe I was mad because I was looking forward to that chocolate croissant.
Well. My apparent anger at silly French desserts has dissipated, and we can move on to other things.
In June I finished the second-year of my 3-year acting school and got accepted into the third year, but for various reasons, decided not to continue classes there. Mostly, I wanted to be home more often and feel less pulled in all different directions. With three four-hour classes a week, work, and rehearsals, I was rarely at home. Handsome got a little frustrated at this, and said so. I wanted some more free time, too, and frankly, the school's administration was pedantic and it tended to suck the joy out of the experience. Once, I was rushing to get to class from work (on opposite sides of the city, of course!) and when I arrived, two minutes late, the professor counted me as absent, per the administration's regulations. I nearly imploded with rage. My clown was on fire that evening, though, so always a silver lining and all that. I was also afraid that we would have a certain Russian professor as the director for the end of the year play, and I had really had enough of him and his style. I learned a lot from him, to be sure, but after a certain point, the novelty wore off, and I wanted something different. Something less invasive (when you were in his production, he owned you and your life - it was exhausting).
I had asked one of the professors I liked about his amateur school, had written him twice, but when he didn't respond, I set it aside, thinking it must not have been the right path. A classmate talked about starting a theatre troupe and asked if I was interested, which I was, but I thought it would be best not to count on it.
I went to a few workshops. I even signed up for one, not really understanding until almost too late that I had pretty much committed to it (I am so glad I got out of that one - it was definitely not the right option for me). I called a bunch of schools, I searched the web. There were very few schools that fit my requirements of real evening hours (I can't do anything before 7PM and expect to be consistently on time) and an advanced level. Most of the professional schools, understandably, only had daytime hours.
Basically, I had nothing lined up and figured maybe I'd just sign up for workshops from time to time. But suddenly, one after the other, things materialized.
My classmate got in touch, saying the troupe was ready to start, we just needed to find a rehearsal hall. She had managed to convince one of my favorite professors from the school be our troupe leader and guide.
The other professor got in touch to say, come to our informational meeting and see if you want to sign up. I did, and I did.
So now, I have two of my favorite professors from the school for a fraction of the price. Same quality of instruction, a third of the cost. That's what I call a really good deal.
The troupe has already started working on our February project : a stand-up routine (individually, of course) in a live comedy club. (Gulp.)
In the amateur school, we have already started working on a monologue. This week we did an exercise where one by one we had to imagine we were in a confined space and could not escape. We could make all the noise we wanted, just not use real words. Each time the professor felt the student was "acting" or "faking it", he'd stop them and say, "you're cheating." Brutal. But effective. I got out there, imagined I was stuck in a tunnel in a cave (drawing on some of the creepier ones we had explored in Cappadoccia recently) and just as I really began to believe I was really stuck, felt real fear and panic, at the exact same moment I felt the surge of real emotion, the professor says, "Yes, that's it, let it come." It was downright creepy that he saw it at the exact time I felt it - maybe even before I knew it myself. I screamed, I wept, out of real despair. It's a very odd sensation to be surprised at a real emotion coming from your imagination making something real. In that minute and half, I actually believed I was stuck in a tunnel in a cave. I felt real fear, panic and despair. And when the professor stopped me, I took a few seconds, wiped the tears away, stood up and went back to my seat. I had no problem "coming down".
At that point, I thought, I'm beginning to understand this acting thing...
These are actual items seen on actual menus in actual Parisian restaurants. And actual sources of profound annoyance.
Mousse aux fraises Tagada -"Fraises Tagada" are a horrifying marshmellow like candy thing every French person in my generation grew up snacking on. They are vile. This caters to a recent trend in getting all nostalgic and misty eyed about your idyllic childhood.
Candy apple mousse - see above
Cotton candy mousse- see above, sweet jesus christ on a cracker
Ben & Jerry's oatmeal cookie ice cream - IN FRANCE!!! The French generally hate cinnamon and don't ever make sweets with oatmeal, good god. Just ask my mother how long and how loudly I went on about this in the restaurant where we saw this on the menu.
Oreo cookie cheesecake - if I were nostalgic for an item found in every chain restaurant in America from 1980 - 1998, I might order this. If I were not IN PARIS.
Smarties flavored ice cream - No. Comment.
Sheesh. Call me a snot, but I didn't think the originals were all that good by themselves, so I'm less than inclined to order their trendy, oh-so-originale spinoffs.
Not so long as I can get a simple plum tart or a mousse au chocolat that will make me swoon. Please, Paris, quit with the offerings for toddlers' palates. Be the grown lady you are.
For the last class on "Constructing a Character", our professor let us have free reign to present whatever we wanted to share. It could be a song, a monologue, a dance, whatever.
I'm a longtime reader of Jennifer Mattern, who writes breathtaking pieces on her blog, "Breed Em And Weep." If you have never read her, go. Post haste. (Can you tell we are currently studying Shakespeare?)
I took a lot of liberties. I cut out a lot, trying to limit the length. I made up a name for her ex-husband, whom she refers to as "D" on her blog. I flubbed a few lines, and had to peek at my text twice.
But I really enjoyed getting into her words, and, essentially, playing her.
Everyone - including Handsome - asked where the text came from. That Jenn can WRITE.
As soon as she gives me the green light, I will post the video here for your viewing pleasure.
To join in with those brave enough to publicly declare what they would like to accomplish in 2011, I hereby give you my list of 11 things I would like to get done this year. Eleven for 2011. I am so creative!
1. Get a French driver's license. I have been saying this for years without doing anything about it since it costs a ridiculous amount of money, and even though I already know how to drive, I must complete a driving course of a minimum of twenty hours. This rankles, but it must be done. I have to set aside the money, find the time, and bite the fucking bullet of pride and just do it already, jesus.
2. Stay with the recent motivation to do an exercise DVD twice on the weekend. I can see the difference already, and that is even more motivating. I can do this.
3. Spruce up the apartment. I'd like to paint a book unit thingy, get some swanky grey curtains for the bedroom and replace the sad ridiculous curtain rod in the dining room. Maybe recover the sad Ikea chairs? Oh, and finally redo the kitchen and bathroom floors. Bye-bye linoleum!
4. Keep some goddamn plants alive in the window boxes. My goal of doing this last year sadly failed. I am toxic to plants. But I do keep insisting on trying.
5. Continue with the positive internal monologue. One of the most useful and relevatory things I have learned in acting class (I think I mentioned it earlier in my post about the dance performance in front of 900 people) is that what you tell yourself is what becomes true. If I say to myself that I can do it and I know what I'm doing, I give that off to people and they respond positively, which gives me confidence, which helps me actually do the thing well. It might start out sounding like utter bullshit, but it ends up coming true. In any case, it's a hell of a lot better than berating myself for all my shortcomings.
6. Get my varicose veins fixed. I've had some little ones forever, but recently I have noticed one on my calf that is getting really ugly. Must eliminate.
7. Do one hard thing every day. "Hard" can be loosely defined. It might mean, taking today as an example, picking up the phone and calling the stupid nurses at work for my 2 year check-up. They are ridiculously alarmist. One told me I was near obese (so not true, especially five years ago) one told me I was going blind in my left eye (had it checked out by an optometrist and she just laughed) and the other one basically tried to scare me that my moles were cancerous. Yet again, the dermatologist I went to just rolled his eyes and told me to keep doing the excellent job I'm doing of protecting my skin from the sun. So, yes, it will be hard for me to pick up the phone and call the silly ninnies, but I have to do it. And then it will be done.
8. Do one kind thing every day. It's amazing how much one small gesture of kindness can make somebody's day, especially in a big grumpy city like Paris. I once helped an old man bag his groceries and he couldn't stop saying how nice it was and that no one did anything nice anymore. That sort of broke my heart.
9. Finish fixing my acting resumé, send it in to the new casting director, get her to pick the best head shots and SEND THEM OUT.
10. Go on at least one casting call. God.
11. This is really shitty of me, but I'm keeping this one to myself for a while.