Friday, November 24, 2006

Mercy, beau coup!

Last night I celebrated Thanksgiving at a wine bar - a departure from my original idea to host 25 people for wild food acrobatics.

Plans change and spheres collide. Four women found themselves instead at le Verre Volé, upending tradition with oysters and foie gras.

It is no longer possible, after Sex and the City, for four women to gather chastely around a table. Perhaps this has always been true. Perhaps I am just getting older. But when a recent business dinner in Dublin included an assignment of the "Samantha" role, I began to sense that the times, in fact, are a-changin'.

Last night's conversation unfurled with the usual revelations about work. The curator from Boston explained her visit (Paris Photo). The reporter from Miami discussed a recent assignment (Castro). The Paris-based writer described her (completely awesome) book deal. And I don't discuss work on this blog.

This reasssurance of professionalism, this "go girl!" performance - this is what smart women do during the first drink. The devolution begins with the second, however, and can wind its way through any number of discursive gutters.

Our particular Thanksgiving path included the following:

1) The reporter's counsel that "sturdiness" is the most important quality in a dining table.
2) The curator's fist-in-the-air manifesto about every-day oral sex.
3) The writer's description of trans-Atlantic difference in circumcision.
4) My illustration of said difference with a wine bottle and baguette end.

In a contemplative moment, I asked my friends what they were thankful for. There was silence, glances cast toward the ceiling, and an immediate return to the sex talk.

I'm not entirely sure, was this a dismissal or a response?

Monday, November 20, 2006

Des jours et des vies

I got rid of my TV over the weekend, so my viewing is now limited to whatever Club Med Gym is showing above the treadmill.

This morning it was des Jours et des Vies. The long-running American soap opera has been airing (dubbed) in France since 1991, which is probably around the last time I would have seen it in the States.

Now, there may be subtleties that a truer devotee would discern - one not distracted by sweat and an Arcade Fire soundtrack - but it seems to me that nothing has changed. The same faces are there, and fifteen years of fake crying has not aged them a day.

I, however, am a different story. In 1991, I was a gangly 16-year old growing up in Kansas. I played basketball and spent my weekends driving around in cars. I had very big hair and no real sense of who I was.

There's no denying that, unlike Hope and Bo, I have changed a lot over fifteen years. My hair, barring any exceptional friction, is now flat. My driving days are over, both in sports and vehicular terms. And I haven't hung out in a Taco Bell parking lot in years.

Does that mean I've left adolescence behind? Some who know me behind the scenes would say no. I seem, in fact, to be going through a second adolescence these days, complete with note passing, mix tapes and hangovers.

But life is short, as the hourglass reminds us. And Paris is as good a sandbox as any.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

In the Buttes

I lay down today in the Parc des Buttes Chaumont and thought seriously about never leaving.

With the dog wandering nearby, I stretched my arms above my head and twirled the damp grass between my fingers. Tiny papers fell eratically from a canopy of yellow and black. Beyond it, white clouds raced across a blue sky.

I put my headphones on and was swollen by a song. Mirth appeared above me, having abandoned her grass-eating for a moment. I stroked her soft fur with my eyes closed and thought about that line from American Beauty - "Sometimes there's so much beauty in the world I feel like I can't take it, like my heart's going to cave in."

And then the dog threw up in my hair.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Korean snails and nothing at all to do with vagina

A hearty welcome to you Petite Anglaise devotees who have found my site by way of her completely fictionalised version of Saturday's events.

My previous post contains an image of a man wearing a giant vagina. That's a bit much for first-time visitors, especially those who have already been primed by Petite's lies. To ease your transition and help you settle into the world of Le Blagueur, I wil tell you first about the Restaurant Namsam.

This no-frills Korean joint is arguably the best in Paris, a claim that is supported by the bus-loads of Korean tourists who will eat only here. Don't believe me? There's a kiosk inside the restaurant selling little Eiffel Towers, and the tourists have covered the ceiling in thousands of Korean business cards.

We quite enjoyed our bulots à la sauce Coréenne (yes, snails) and crêpe aux poireaux (with squid). The hands-down winner was the barbecue Coréenne poitrine de porc piquant avec seiche. Whoever thought of pairing bacon with squid is a genius.

We ate and drank very well for around 20 euros a person, and I hear that their lunch specials are even better. Go see them at 87 avenue de Flandre, M° Riquet.

So there you have it - an innocent little restaurant review from a modest and misunderstood blogger. I hope this post goes some way toward dispelling any rumors you may have heard about me.

Now, about that vagina...

Monday, November 06, 2006

Vaginas and vernissages

Everyone has one true specialty in life. Mine is the vagina.

Measuring the number of vaginas in Europe and the relative health and happiness of their owners – this is what I do for a living. I went to grad school in "vagina." I have been known to make vulva-themed food for parties. I sing a song from time to time called Cooter Boogie.

In the States, this was a big hit. So imagine my surprise upon learning that such frivolity is not appreciated in France! It doesn't matter that I've mastered the new vocabulary and translated the Boogie's (many) lyrics. Talking crotch at a French dinner party is a definite non-non.

The French, as I have deduced from 26 months of careful observation, prefer to talk about "culture." Sigh...

Because I cannot beat them, I have decided to join them. I shall cleanse my filthy mouth and learn to pepper my speech with words like vernissage - which almost sounds gynecological.

You may be wondering how exactly I plan to pull this off. In fact, dear reader, it's quite easy. You need only a child-like sense of curiosity, access to the internet, and abundant coffee. A total lack of shame helps, too.

Just last week, for example, I attended two concerts, five expos, one play, a lit-mag launch, an I V Y event, and a Parisist gathering. I chatted up a sculptor, a comp lit dude, even an actors' boyfriend. Distracted by their own plastic cups, they barely noticed as I spun my web of inanity and pried the info from their arty little brains.

For your benefit, I should add.

In addition to the aforementioned mission (being a better dinner guest), I will soon be transmitting my findings via Expatica, a website for anglophone expats in France. They've asked me to compile their What's On calendar of events - covering music, exhibitions, theater & dance, and festivals. My first submission will be up next Monday, November 13.

To effectuate my transformation into Hack of All Trades, I welcome your suggestions. There may come a time when my knowledge of classical music exceeds that of the cervix. Until that day arrives, I could use a Henry Higgins or ten.