Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Sunday, September 21, 2008

A funny thing I saw yesterday...

So the Paris Techno Parade was fairly interesting this year:

More about it over on Mu Foo.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Home Sick Aloof

One of my favorite bloggers has up and moved from Brighton to San Francisco and is just now beginning to unravel. She'll roll herself back up soon, of course, but in the meantime it makes for excellent reading.

Today's post finds her wailing about Squash, a particularly foul-sounding beverage that she can't find in the US. But it digressed into something I think expats anywhere can relate to:

I wept for not knowing how things worked, and not understanding a different culture and its different priorities - not worse, just different. I wept at the overwhelmingness of new sounds and smells and not knowing what brand of coffee bean I liked anymore, but having 500 to choose from. I wept because there is a deluge of wonderful new experiences and I am scared that I am too cautious and shy to enjoy or appreciate them. I wept because I didn’t know when the bin goes out and I don’t know where the bus stops or where it goes. >more
It's the last bit that really struck me this morning. After four years in Paris, I still don't know when the bins go out. There are a whole lot of things, in fact, that I have simply tuned out because the weight of not knowing so much was overwhelming.

Moving abroad does explode the head a little bit. I used to take pleasure in the mastery of small tasks, from checking boxes on a To-Do list. Routines were comforting and made me feel like I was the captain of my own little boat. The first years in France, while fun in so many ways, also completely kicked my ass. Faced with the sheer illogic and unfamiliarity of the place, I surrendered the sailor's cap and resigned myself to floating.

Homesickness, for me, was never acute in relation to products (although I did profess to miss, of all things, Kraft Mac & Cheese). The sickness came instead from feeling nearly-always confused, and from longing for a place where I was more in control.

Life in a foreign country brings hundreds of daily situations in which the answer is not at hand. I'm not sure how other people deal with this, but I seem to have adapted by becoming completely aloof.
Self: Can I recycle this?
Self: I dunno... yes... why not.

Self: What's my equivalent bra size?
Self: I dunno... just take that one.

Self: Is my green card still valid?
Self: I dunno... don't think about it.

Self: Glass of wine?
Self: I dunno... why you are even asking.
I know some expats who rise to the challenge and manage to organize themselves and even the natives around them. As for me, I've chosen to protect my sanity by not letting any new questions in. Sure, I may be evading the law and wearing an erroneous 42 DD bra, but at least my mind is clear.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Knowing When To Take Your Clothes Off

The blogging ranks are regularly pressed by readers for advice. Those posting on the Paris Blog get emails asking for travel tips. Catherine Sanderson gets ten-page recaps ending with "so, do you think I should leave him?"

This is what I get:

In France do women having gyn exams have to take off all of their clothes at the start of the exam with no gown or drapes provided by the doctor?
(name withheld to protect the vagina)
What an email! It's direct and to the point without any verbal foreplay. A lot, in fact, like a French gynecologist.

Here's what to expect when you go for ze Exam:
Doc - Mme Blagueur? [offers ungloved warm hand] Please follow me.

You - Bonjour! [sits in chair at office desk] I am here for my annual poke.
Doc - Congratulations. Now take your clothes off [indicates table and returns to typing].
You - What here? Yes? Erm... [stands, removes everything south of waist, drapes clothes hastily over office chair while hiding bits behind computer monitor].

Doc - The top, too.

You - Even the bra?!!

Doc - Your bra cannot save you, American.

You - I see...

Doc - Let's begin. Do you mind if I smoke?

So that's mostly how it happens. After parting your red sea, the doc will ask you to replace your pants behind the monitor while she types something into her records/blog. There will be a quick exchange of insurance cards or, if you're paying in cash, 28€.

As unnatural as that might sound to Americans, let's consider the reverse situation. I have a French friend who was living abroad and went in for her annual inspection at a Chicago teaching hospital. She was led by a nurse to the exam room, handed something that looked like a napkin, and told "the doctor will be with you shortly."

Now, an American knows that this napkin is actually a paper dress that opens at the front. It ties at the neck and protects her dignity.

Caroline, of course, knew nothing of this. And so the young American doctor, when he returned after a suitable interval, found a very hot French woman sitting buck naked on the table, a paper gown in her hand.

The take home message: it is important, when traveling abroad, to know when to take your clothes off. Local bloggers are an excellent source of advice in these matters. Be advised, however, that we may use you as material.

To the terrified reader who sent in this question: an apéro before the exam always helps. Bon courage!

Friday, September 05, 2008

What's up, chicken butt?

Not long ago, this conversation took place in my apartment:

French boy: I've ordered something online for us.
American girl: What's that?
FB: A cul de poule!
AG: ...Come again?
FB: Chicken butt!
AG: ... Is that, um, something you'd like to try?
FB: Absolutely! And it's silicone - so not hard to clean!
This went on for some time, with me becoming increasingly horrified until I realized we were talking about cooking. A cul de poule (big sigh of relief) is just a big bowl for whipping and melting.
AG: But why do they call it a cul?
FB: Because that's what it looks like!
Riiiight. Now, despite my Kansas origins, I've spent precious little time around poultry. Is there anyone out there who can 'splain to me how a bowl, whether silver or silicone, resembles a rooster's back door?
AG: Do you not find that even the slightest bit vulgar?
FB: I have no idea what you mean.
I am completely alone in this country, it seems, in finding cul de poule totally giggleworthy. How else to explain the straight-faced existence of restaurant named Chicken Butt? Caroline Mignot, in her review published online today, had nice things to say about the newly-opened (sorry) Cul de Poule. She even admitted that "le nom me plaît bien." And here I thought she looked so very innocent...
Cul de Poule, 53 rue des Martyrs, 75009
+33 (0)1 53 16 13 07

Update! I have finally tasted the butt for myself. You can read about it over at Mu Foo.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Like a bear in a cave, but with sun

I moved to Paris in August, four summers ago, when everything in the city was closed.

Those impressionable weeks were spent shopping at Ed* and wondering what treasures lay behind the metal gates pulled over every window. I scanned the empty sidewalks and began to worry that Paris really was, as certain friends had warned me, a dead town.

And then a few weeks later, everything changed. The shops on my street reopened revealing cheese and baguette where before there were none. Paris wasn't dead, it had simply been sleeping.

I am currently bracing myself for the city's annual coma, and knowing the drill doesn't make it any easier. My butcher called it quits on Saturday, and today my favorite market vendor said goodbye.

I find the latter departure the most difficult to accept - there's something cruel about a farm stand closing during the most plentiful season. "But what will happen to all the basil?!" I cried to my usual vegetable lady. She stared at me blankly and backed slowly away.

Having cleaned them out of fresh herbs, I am now cooking and freezing as if for a war and padding my shelves for the enforced hibernation.

My only consolation is that, like a bear, I can anticipate burning through several layers of fat during this time of nothing-to-eat. September will find me slimmer and crankier - ever nearer to my goal of integration.
*Ed stands for Épicerie Discount and serves as the French version of ALDI. After three misspent years I learned the correct pronunciation (euh-day), but it will always be Eddie to me.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Opposite of Nirvana

Behold the world premiere video from the hottest band to come out of (Benoît's apartment in) Paris... we are Les Moquettes!

I believe the french term is pitoyable.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Why Paris?

I've just returned from a holiday spent cycling through the Haut-Médoc - a peninsula that produces Pauillac wines, a surprising amount of pizza, and in this case, a sweet tan.

I will tell you about it shortly, but first have to get this out of my system:

Dear Dinaw,

I'm sure you're a lovely person. Being from Kansas, I'm obliged to offer that, and to apologize in advance for not being nice. That's how we tumbleweeds roll, especially when addressing anyone from New York.

An added drop of humility can be a good thing.

The question always in the back of my mind - "am I really qualified to say this?" - prevents me from doing things like, say, writing an article that pronounces Paris to be dead, creatively speaking, without appearing to have ever left the boulevard Saint-Germain-des-Prés.

Dinaw, and those who will follow you, I beg: no more Flore, pas des Deux Magots. There's nothing to see here, please move along.

The scene that you came looking for happened sixty years ago. That moment, and those people, are now dead. Their children - those who were inspired by and learned to make money off that moment - are now talking, as the elderly do, about how things just aren't the same. Saint-Germain-des-Prés is, in effect, a retirement community with very expensive coffee. It is not (did you really not know this?) what you were looking for.

I have a new friend who recently arrived from New York. A clever writer and musician type, she is, I suppose, the sort of person you were looking to find. I was sitting with her and another writer friend (does that make it a scene?) on a roof-top terrace in the 20th, when she admitted that her new apartment would be over there, in the 7th, at the border of Saint-Germain.

We smiled and tried to be supportive, suggested some good markets, assured her that it wouldn't be "so bad." The truth, however, is that nobody very few people doing anything interesting live over there. And what's more, the "anything interesting" taking place these days doesn't look exactly like it did sixty years ago.

But as I said, I'm sure you're a lovely person who, like Adam Gopnik before you, just didn't know where to go.

Monday, July 07, 2008

The root of all obesity

This morning I'd like to break a seal of sorts and take a moment to mock my French boyfriend. He doesn't read the blog so this will be our little secret.

An entire series could spring from the unintentional smut that sometimes falls from his mouth - the happy accidents that arise from the difficulty of certain sounds.

The majority are related to the aspirated 'h' that many French add, unnecessarily, to English words that begin with 'a'.

To illustrate: Once, as we were stolling along the Bassin de la Villette, he offered to "rent us a rowboat, along with some hoars."

This happens all the time.

And it brings me so much amusement that I have adopted, in some cases, his particular pronunciations. I will ask him with a straight face to take me in his harms, or if my hass looks okay in certain pants.

But my all-time-favorite has nothing to do with the aspirated 'h'. It revolves instead around a preferred spread, and its French designation as Evil. Dorie Greenspan addressed this recently on her blog when she noted that,

"French children never get peanut-butter because their parents are convinced it's the root of all obesity."
The boyfriend looks bemused whenever I bring out my overpriced jar of peanut butter. He watches me uncomfortably as I spread the stuff on bread, as if I were wiping boogers on the sofa.

And then he asks me every time, inverting the word order and fatally omitting the last 't',
"Do you really like this butter peanus?"
I have never corrected him, and have in fact doubled my consumption just to hear him mispronounce it. I suppose this means, in a roundabout way, that the French parents are right.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Food porn indeed

Seen just this moment on - a "lifestyle" site that has introduced a surprising number of my friends - it's Dating Advice from Food Writers!

Don't ask me what I was doing there, or if I have multiple fake profiles for my own amusement.

Instead, I'll ask you to guess in the comments which food writer said the following:

"A good rare beef liver is like being banged hard against a wall in a skeezy alley behind a nightclub."

Monday, June 16, 2008

Her Big Big Smile

I have just returned from a weekend in the French countryside.

Doesn't that sound lovely?

There is no internet in the French countryside, and very little spoken English. One is therefore forced to "relax," away from the computer, usually through HOURS of conversation.

Have I mentioned that I don't love French Meg?

French Meg smiles and nods a lot. She also laughs on cue. There are times when French Meg understands what you say, but she won't ask a single question. You may have covered that point already, and she probably already laughed.

Nod, smile. Ha ha HA!!

Not only am I a bit slow, I am indiscretely so. At 5'10'', I'm only slightly taller than average when playing on the home court. In France, however, I am walking talking circus show.

The result is that, in addition to babbling and smiling, I am often dressed kinda funny. It's not always my fault.

This weekend, the countryside hostess offered to lend me her slippers. I pantomimed something like "I don't think they fit!" looking at first disappointed, then smiling enormously.

She suggested that I just wear them over my toes, and I was unable to respond with anything other than a smile. I spent the next two days mincing around in her elfinwear, falling down (two times), and smiling.

Outside the chalet, her XS parka hit me just below the bra line. Even the mountain sheep were rolling their eyes. "It's cropped," I gestured in return, grinning madly the whole time.

My finest performance of the weekend can't be blamed on size. It came one night when I was too tired to climb the stairs for toothpaste, and instead started fishing around in the hosts' bathroom drawers.

Do I even need to type this? It's really too predictable...

I used their Fixodent.

It was exactly as you imagine.

And yet I kept on smiling, even with globs of waxy red stuff stuck in my gums.

Upon leaving, my soft-spoken host raised himself up to faire les bises and to say his parting words.

"Merci pour venir et... pour ton sourire... ENORME."

At least I think that's what he said.

* * * * *

For a different take on The Language Problem, please click on the veryfunny following from Paris blogger Kung Fu Dana.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Afternoon Delight with 'Sex' and Dorie

...not at the same time, mind you, although these photos may lead one to imagine that Pierre is showing off something other than his tattoos.

For someone who has too much work, I was a marvel of doing very little yesterday. There were good intentions and several hours of morning labor before the derailment of a boozy lunch at the wine bar Racines.

No matter. Time spent with cookbook authors David Lebovitz and Dorie Greenspan would sort of qualifiy as work if it weren't also so pleasurable. It's not often that I get to raise a glass with such slim-hipped foodie heavyweights and bask in the Rolland Garros-esque batting around of names. "When does Mark (Bittman) sleep?" and "Patricia (Wells) says so...," etc. In the moments when I wasn't exactly sure which Ruth (Reichl?) was being considered, I was more than happy to keep company with a towering tartare.

The food at Racines is lovely (more photos here), and almost as nice as the wine, which is nearly as compelling as the proprietor himself.

I caught myself staring too long at Pierre Jancou's plate-stacked arm and rhapsodizing about the way his tattoos were set off against a background of colorful floor tiles. Ahem...

The only consolation for such behavior is watching all the other customers - journalists from the nearby HQs, young girls, moustachioed middle agers - also trying to conceal their crush. I suppose that's what good food & wine does.

When we finally left it was 4pm, three hours before my next date. Not really enough time to go home and work, a bit too long for cafe squatting. I was pondering my options when I walked past the Rex and saw people lining up for Sex.

I'm not really the sort of girl who wants to watch in a group and then go out for Cosmos afterward. I frankly don't have the footwear to pull that off.

But I was curious and so plunged myself into the theater for some... "Jesus... is this in FRENCH?!"

It's true - I have now seen the dubbed! french! version of Sex in the City. And if the reviews are to be believed, I may have made the right choice.

A half-remembered snippet:

Smith: [looking down at his bulging groin] "J'ai un cadeau pour toi, ma chèrie."

Samantha: "J'ai quelque chose pour toi, aussi."
Believe it or not, this sort of dialogue actually feels profound when you have struggled to translate it.

After the movie, I made my way across town to say goodbye to two friends who are leaving Paris. I fear for their sanity, returning as they are to a land devoid of three hour lunches, where one is forced (!) to watch Sex in the stark original version.

Let's all wish them luck, shall we?

Monday, June 09, 2008

The 24-hour Wedding

At 9am on Saturday I was delivering breakfast pastries for a bride too nervous to eat.

24 hours later, I was returning in a cab after sharing a post-party beer in broad daylight (8am) with two old friends and Inaki Aizpitarte.

This being my first French wedding, I can only assume that they are all like this.

The marriage of Petite Anglaise and her Boy, in between those two early morning bookends, was a completely joyful affair.

Friends from both sides of the English Channel gathered for a ceremony at the town hall, champagne, a sweet lunch at Vin Chai Moi, more champagne, more food, rowdy dancing, and still more champagne.

What I'll never forget:

  • The radiance and endless grinning of the bride and groom
  • Le Maire, after performing his duties, admitting that he recognized Cath and asking for a photo with the couple
  • Seeing the groom's mother shaking her booty to Blur's "Girls & Boys"
  • Watching French girls throwing up discretely in the garden before returning to the party looking elegant as ever
A few photos are here. Thanks for a great party!

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Mucho Macho

Paris is a cultural capital for many, many reasons. An abundance of karaoke parlors is not one of them. And so it is with great anxiety that I announce the following:

I may no longer be welcome at L'Echanteur.

The city's best (only?) karaoke is in the basement of a dive bar in the Marais. Its management and clientele are "hetero friendly," but it helps to be accompanied by one of the Stars of Gayraoke.

One such Star was supposed to meet us at the bar last Saturday night. I arrived just after midnight with two boys and my new travel editor at the Wall Street Journal.

(Was that vulgar?)

Anyway, this distinguished visiting editor needed little encouragement, putting her Snoop Dogg slip in straight away. My inspiration came more slowly, but when it did I scribbled my song choice and found myself on the stage only moments later.

And that's when things began to turn ugly.

A "normal" karaoke night would find me taking to a stage much later, after several watery beers and having already witnessed other people's shame. On this particular night there was no posse to shield me from the unknown members of the audience. There was no former session singer at my side to do the backup. I was nearly - gasp! - sober.

But none of that would have mattered had I chosen the right song -

...had I NOT chosen to sing Macho Man a gay bar

...without really knowing the words.

Who knew there were words? Besides the chorus, I mean. They're actually (don't laugh), kind of hard. Which is why I found myself staring out at the horrified audience and mumbling "body... body... body? It's so hot my body? body... body.. check it out."

The editor, in an ill-considered moment of great compassion, rushed to the stage and began to gyrate in circles around me and, I think, to pantomime the macho man's chest hair.

"...check it out, my body."

That went on for far too long, the opening verse, but I was just SURE that when the chorus came we would all throw our heads back and our arms in the air and unite as macho men together.

It was dead quiet as Nikki and I, the two white girls in the gay bar, threw our heads back and began to scream the chorus.


And then the song went on another three or four minutes.


The DJ, who has seen me perform many challenging numbers in the past, actually said, "Goodbye Meg" instead of "thank you" at the end of the song.

And that's when I dropped and shattered my glass.


Nikki never got a chance to perform that night, her name seemingly blacklisted by association.

A shame, really, because I would have killed to watch her Drop It Like It's Hot. I had a clear image in mind of my employer rapping "I'm a bad boy, with a lotta hos," as I booty danced behind her. "SnooooooooOOOOOOP!"

Because I have no video of my disasterous performance, I offer instead this treasure from Brazil - two 22 year-old boys dancing Macho in their living room. The long-hair is my new summer crush and the spiritual twin of this guy. Where was HE when I needed him at L'Echanteur?

Monday, June 02, 2008

Bridesmaid channeling

A "temoine" is not really a bridesmaid.

She's just a witness who needs to bring her passport to City Hall to sign something in French that she doesn't understand. Working backward, she needs to for once be on time, pick up flowers, and wake up...preferably not hung over.

It's not a big role by most people's definition. But because I so adore this friend (and am by nature a leader of rings), I have expanded the role of "temoine" to include party catering, guest DJing, and Hen Night Bringer of Shame.

The latter role was executed several weekends ago in London. The Brits had amassed on that side of the Channel for what Cath had hoped would be a stately affair. She'd even arranged the thing in Notting Hill (the London equivalent of Saint-Germain?) to decrease the overall odds of lewd behavior.

Little did she know that I had crossed into her territory with a sack full of props and no love for her dignity. And so while Cath's university friend was distracting her with shots, the assembled hens (several men included) were donning feather boas and bribing some Dutch boys to strip.

That's about all I can reveal, except to say that once the squealing died down, she really seemed to enjoy it.

Whether she remembers any of it is another question...

* * * * * * * *

One task down, then, and two to go.

For my music playlist, I've been instructed to "lay off the obscure indie crap," which leaves...? (I'll get back to you)

For the food, she has advised me to "be reasonable," i.e. choose 2-3 items instead of 12 to avoid spending the entire party in the kitchen.

Because someone's gotta be out there keeping an eye on that bride. I only wonder who will watch over me?

(more Hen Night photo evidence can be found over here)

Friday, May 16, 2008

Learning the English

In preparation for tomorrow's trip across the Channel, I've been learning a bit of vocabulary:

#1: Slag is a perjorative slang term, primarily used in the United Kingdom to describe women who engage in casual sex and promiscuous behavior. Its meaning is broadly similar to the terms "slut" and "skank". It originally derives from the same term for piles of impurities skimmed off during the smelting of metals, and has been backronymed to mean "She'll Lay Any Guy", referring to promiscuous behaviour.

#2: Hen's Night - A bachelorette party, hen party, or hen's night, is a party held for a woman who is about to be married as a rite of passage. Companies sell decorations and novelties for bachelorette parties including products like "piñatas", fur-lined handcuffs, "willy whistles," and adult toys. Other companies also sell bachelorette party packs with games and party tools. There are all different products sold for this event. Many bachelorette parties have the girls wear matching tops.

#3: Petite Anglaise - Translates literally as "little english (female)", and is commonly used by French people to refer to English people. See also: Catherine Sanderson, a British blogger living in Paris; See also, Slag.

Further discoveries and photo evidence (matching tops?) to be posted here soon...

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Turn and Face the Strange


There are two broad categories of people in my life: those who have no interest in blogs whatsoever (much more fun to drink with), and those who have at least two blogs of their own.

In the latter group, there's a tiny sub-set called Freaks (or, more politely, 'blog watchers'). These are the people who've been emailing me this week to ask, "Did they fire your ass?"

The they in question is Gawker Media. Blog watchers know that the most powerful and profitable blog network in the world last week offloaded the travel site Gridskipper. They dumped two other titles in the process, Wonkette (politics) and the music blog Idolator. The three together accounted for less than 3% of the network's total traffic. On a good day, Gskipper brought 50,000 page views. Gizmodo, their most popular, brings 2 million per day.

In an internal memo that he encouraged his writers to leak, founder/slasher Nick Denton spoke about the sale of these three sites (for mere pennies, as rumors have it):

"I'm relieved we've found pretty decent homes for the three sites, and most of their writers, but we're gutted to lose them... Gridskipper is so far the most sophisticated travel blog: it entirely deserved its inclusion in Time's list of the 50 coolest websites."
Gridskipper's "new home" is Curbed Network, owner of Curbed, Eater, Racked and now (in the interest of consistency?) 'Skippered. We received an email ten days ago from Editorial Director Ben Leventhal, promising news about the changes and inviting us to tell him how we'd like to stay involved. We (or at least I) never heard from him again.

Rumors are circulating that the revamped site will focus on resorts in and around the United States. That didn't appeal to Editor John Rambow (that really is his name), so he and the rest of his editorial staff are on the sidewalk. As for Denton's claim about finding homes for most of the writers, I don't know a single person from Gridskipper who has been invited by Curbed to stay on.

That brings us back to the original question, "did they fire my ass?"

Not officially, no, not yet. So I'm still wearing the company-issued underwear and checking my email every five minutes. However, I'm pretty sure that they're not going to pay me ever again, and so I should probably get out of the habit of sifting everything I see onto a mental list of six places...

In closing, out of the 47 posts I've written since last June, these five were the most fun to work on:

#5: The Hidden Kitchen

#4: The Most Horrible Tourist Traps in Paris

#3: Paris Concerts à la Carte series

#2: Le Swap: Paris Swing Clubs

#1: Dancing French Electro-Mimes Battle in the Streets

I doubt I'll ever find another outlet that allows me to rank the city's best restaurants alongside its clubs échangistes. It was certainly good while it lasted.

My sincere thanks to former editorial superheroes Chris Mohney, Amanda Kludt and John Rambow, and to all the deranged Paris writers I've met along the way: Adrian, Anna, Lauren and Morgen.

Someone should hire the lot of us. Beginning, of course, with me.

Monday, April 28, 2008

The Top 10 Concerts of the Summer

Between now and mid-July, there are more than 40 great indie pop/rock concerts coming to town. For music lovers living and traveling in Paris, this Gridskipper article features videos for my favorite 25 shows. The Top 10 are reprinted below for your viewing pleasure. Enjoy!

♫♫ ¡Forward Russia! 5/17 @ la Maroquinnerie

♫♫ Vampire Weekend 5/19 @ le Trabendo

♫♫ Yelle 5/23 @ Bataclan

♫♫ The Fratellis 5/28 @ Point Éphémère

♫♫ Feist 6/3-6/4 @ le Grand Rex

♫♫ Sunset Rubdown, Deerhoof 6/3 @ Villette Sonique

♫♫ Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks 6/4 @ la Maroquinerie

♫♫ The Go! Team 6/5 @ Villette Sonique

♫♫ Beck 7/7 @ l'Olympia

♫♫ My Morning Jacket 7/9 @ le Trabendo

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Welcome Home

When I visit the U.S. I am invariably asked about if I plan to stay in France.

"Who knows?" is usually my watery reply, along with "probably not forever." I tack on that last bit to soothe the Americans who are hard-pressed to understand why I've strayed.

I then usually try to explain why I like it "over there." Few among my people have visited, and they're not the sort to squeal about macarons. I've had little success in stammering about the simple pleasures of Paris. I suppose I'm afraid on some level of being insulting or, even worse, being tagged as an elitist. It is hard to extoll the virtues of fresh markets without seeming to judge the Costco member across the table.

I will turn to my camera then, to do the job of illustrating why I like it here in Paris. These are images from my first week back in the city after visiting the U.S.





It's an idyllic view, to be sure, and not always so lovely. But such was my week, and I am happier than ever to call Paris my home.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Notes from the Jet Lag Lounge

My very confused engines started racing at 3am, and there was nothing else to do (after last night's dishes) but finally sit down and write a blog post.

I used to brag about my immunity to jet lag. No matter in which direction I had traveled, no matter how much coffee consumed, I was somehow able to sleep on command. This talent was developed, along with many useful others, while working the graveyard shift at a Kansas diner.

That, however, is a different story, and a seemingly moot point. Because the 'Sleep Whenever' trait has reached its expiration date. I now belong to that unfortunate camp of people who find themselves awake against their will at absurd hours in the morning. The breastfeeding and menopausal, plus me.

One week is a silly amount of time in which to visit the United States. I arrived at my mother's and spent the first three days in a haze, waking up in the wee hours and sleeping again at the first sign of light. Near the end of the trip, my body adjusted. I became very briefly delightful and then boarded another plane.

Now I'm counting the minutes before I can mount a Vélib' and head over to Au Duc de la Chapelle. My sleep-deprived mind is finding poetry in the idea of pedalling to the Best Baguette in Paris as it is pulled hot from the oven.

But will Anis Bouabsa be pleased to find an American sleeping on his bakery's doorstep? There's only one way to find out...

Friday, March 14, 2008

Weekly Giftbasket: Dance Fever Edition

This week's distract-a-basket contains intentional juxtaposition: a dancing walrus, an 80 year-old stripper, and a combination of those elements as Last Night's Karaoke.

1. For the Kids

2. For the Ladies

3. For the Shame of my Eventual Grandchildren

*please note the terrorized voice at video's end pleading "stop this!"

4. What That Was
Supposed to Look Like

*a white jumpsuit would have helped my performance, obviously.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008


A blog is a good enough excuse to track down your high school boyfriend, engage in some catch-up, and then pose the burning question.

BJH and I went out during our senior year. This "going" was conducted primarily on the phone, although I do recall one driveway makeout session with Elton John playing on the car stereo.

As blissful as that might sound, BJH was less content with our direction. He ended things after a few short weeks, I suspect because of these pants* =>

A high waist, double rolls, and one very hot pocket - my jeans must have... intimidated him.

In any case, it wasn't fashion that we discussed after fifteen years. It was the dog.

Specifically, the burning dog. The burning dog and erect penis.

"BJ," I asked. "What up with that?" The people need to know.

And now BJ, bless his H, hath responded:

In many cultures the artistic representation of the erect penis, also known as a phallus, represents power, wealth, and good health. The concept of the phallus is often connected with being the ultimate man, and possessing said phallus is compared to having the divine gift of God.

The dog has long been known as "Man's Best Friend," and symbolically represents undying love and loyalty. The union of starving dog and phallus under fire represents teenage misanthropic angst in conjunction with an overwhelming desire to deconstruct the norms of an impersonal, omnipotent society bereft of love.

Either that or BJH thought it was funny and cool. BJH can't remember exactly.
So there you have it, Commenter #8 - a fine answer from BJH. But while we have him on the line... are there any other questions for high school boyfriend?

* 'pants' in the American sense.

Friday, March 07, 2008

My Roots are Showing

Facebook, that beautiful timesuck, seems to have developed a new application. It's called "Find Your High School Friends & Freak Them Out."

This has been happening a lot recently. The most recent high school alum to find me was - whew! - someone I actually liked.

More often, it's an unfamiliar name along with a message that offers no clues - "Hey there! What have you been up to??"

All this has led me to unearth The Yearbook.

It'd been a long time since I'd cracked this open, and I'd forgotten about the hair. I dare say, my high school companions may have had the Best Bangs of All Time.

I'm from Kansas, you see. And this is how we roll:

I'd like to claim that I was too cool for this trend, but the evidence shows otherwise:

Bonus points if you can name that grape-scented hair product in the corner.

DOUBLE bonus if you still own a pair of white shorts.

Anyway, the best part of unearthing The Yearbook has been re-reading the old signatures. From one classmate:

Good luck at Gay-U [KU], you pinko-commie baby-killin' fag-lovin' tree-huggin' Hillary worshippin' media mackin' flower-powerin' band wagon jumpin' U2 lovin' feminazi left wing LIBERAL!!! Call me this summer. We'll PARTY!!!
Did she have my number, or what?

The boy I was crazy about - the one who took me to Homecoming and then dumped my ass - brought my yearbook home one night in order to write something special. The next morning at school he delivered this:

You can see why I adored him.

The best, though, are the banalities. While I seem to remember a lot of hanging out in the Taco Bell parking lot, everyone else says we partied hard and had a total blast (!!!).

It must be true.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Weekly Giftbasket: Rap Lobster Edition

These are the critical bits that found their way across the wires this week. I offer them up for your Thursday amusement knowing that, basically, you've stopped working by this point.

1. Cookin with Coolio

With a black toque topping his famous twisted braids, this "ghetto witchdoctor superstar chef" implores you to "get your ass into that kitchen, baby."

No ordinary Food Network nonsense, this is raunch-flavored 2.0 at its best. Cookin with Coolio is shown only on the internet, and viewers are encouraged to "Live the Dream, Win a Pepper" by posting their video responses. Jenni Powell did, and her winning video earned this comment from Coolio:

"He seemed like one of those salad eatin' bitches so she made him a Coolio Caprese salad. It worked out, because Jenni got his panties off..."
The promo can be seen right here:

2. Nuestro Gran Amigo

After watching this video, I for uno don't understand how Obama did not kill the popular vote in Texas.

Familias unidas, seguras y hasta con plan de saluuuud!!

Stephen Malkmus is Still Damn Hot

Here's a little trinket for those of you who, like me, wore the tape out of your Crooked Rain cassette back in '94:

He can hit my plane down anytime...

4. And for the 9 People Who Have not Already Seen This...
"Who would have guessed that when you remove Garfield from the Garfield comic strips, the result is an even better comic about schizophrenia, bipolor disorder, and the empty desperation of modern life?"

I read every one of those books as a child. Does that explain anything?

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Tecktonik Teaser

I've just finished a new article for Gridskipper called Dancing French Electro-Mimes Battle in the Streets. It's not edited yet, but I had so much fun with the research that I wanted to share some videos with you. The full post with my analysis should be up on the site in a few days.

In the meantime, I offer a Tecktonik Teaser - a look at three rising stars from this French dance phenomenon. My favorite of these videos is the last for Lili Azian. Director Ristourne has made scores of these self-promos, and his moves seem to come straight out of the Tiffany video playbook. I've already watched it fourteen times...

This is the stuff that cult films are made of: A suburban teen named Jey-Jey films himself dancing in the garage. His DIY vid sweeps the internet and is ultimately seen by more than 4 million viewers. Jey-Jey becomes the face of Tecktonik and has packs of girls trying to get into his white jeans.

Another brand name is Treaxy, the dance champion picked to perform in this video for Yelle. He's now teaching Tecktonik in a chain of fitness centers.

One of the few female icons in the Tecktonik scene, Lily Azian has made a name for herself by dancing only in high heels. The shoes play a starring role in this self-promotion video, as does her azian heritage. Behold as Lili keeps it real by dancing Tecktonik with a bowl of shrimp chips!

P.S. Can I get one of these Ristourne masterpieces made? I think a soft focus video calling card would be the perfect birthday gift. Spice up my Myspace and all that...

P.P.S The article has now been published over at Gridskipper. Run-run-run to see footage of raging street battles, the Tecktonik Body Killer hair salon, and the trend's frightening cross over among US teens.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Roll Credits: My Week on Film

It's best, while waiting for working papers to come through, to keep busy. Toward that end, I have just completed one of the stranger weeks in my life.

It all began when Chryde of (newly redesigned) Blogothèque fame sent me an IM. "Hey Meg, do you want a good and funky job?"

And so began my week as the guide and driver to a Hollywood film crew.

For 12-14 hours every day, I recommended locations, plowed a nine-passenger van through Paris traffic, and negotiated release forms with unsuspecting bystanders.

I drove in circles around the Arc de Triomphe with a camera man Director of Photography hanging out of the open door. I relayed the precise timing of the Eiffel Tower twinklage and explained how to use the city's public toilets. I found restaurants that would let us eat at 7 (that's early), and learned (eventually) how to stay out of the shot.

I even had a few lines, hastily written and poorly delivered. And while I know that these scenes may be destined for the scissors, it was a total trip to watch myself when we were reviewing the footage. It looked, for lack of any better term, just like a movie.

I got lucky with a funny-as-hell crew of people who were good to be around. After keeping their pace for only a few days I'm amazed (after these softening years in France) that they manage to do this full-time and remain jovial. It must have something to do with the fact that they're almost all under 25.

I spent the small number of off-hours writing grant proposals and filling in as the waitress at Spring. Daniel Rose, chef/proprietor, spent most of that time looking at me like this...

... and saying things that can't be repeated on this blog.

And thanks to a pair of new webcams at the restaurant, that crack performance was also filmed.

I don't think you'll be seeing me on the small screen at Spring again, but you can look for me in the small print as "the driver" in an as yet unnamed feature film to be released next year by director Nicholas Jasenovec (Paperheart Productions) and starring Charlyne Yi, Michael Cera (Juno, Superbad), and Jake Johnson.

Baby's First Meme (awww...)

Bookpacker tells me that it will be loads of fun if I open the nearest book, turn to page 123, skip to the fifth sentence, and copy the next three.

This is called a meme, and it's all the rage among real bloggers. Being only a part-time word spiller, I was previously unaware of the phenomenon, and find it not so different from the Christian prayer chain mail that's cohabitating my inbox.

If the bible were the first book to hand, that would kill two adulterous birds with one stone. Alas, the first tome within reach is decidely less saintly: it's Martha Stewart's Hors D'Oeuvres Handbook. And page 123 contains no text, only a tantalizing and glossy photo of beef bulgogi in lettuce leaves with soy-ginger dipping sauce.

That hardly seems to qualify, does it?

The next book in the pile is Petite Anglaise. I'm re-reading the newly released hardback after rushing through the manuscript last June.

This time around is a relaxing good ride, unaccompanied by the fear that my friend's book might suck terribly.

It doesn't.

Page 123, after skipping the first 5 sentences, reads:

Now was probably the time to come clean and face the music. If I kept all this to myself a moment longer I was afraid I would burst. 'It wasn't the nanny,' I confessed.
She then goes on to explain that she's had a hotel rendezvous with a man who she met from the comments section of her blog.

What a slag.

The book is on sale now in Paris, and there's a reading at WH Smith for those who want to meet the trollop in person. I pray (there! two birds.) that she sells a bundle, for this will surely come back to me in beer.

I will continue this memery by tagging P.A. herself, along with the boobalicious Little Red Boat...

...and the batshit crazy Gone Feral.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Postcards from Gluttontown

Greetings from the Windy City, aka the City of Sodden Socks.

Note: this post is about Chicago. Fair city readers who care only for Paris may prefer this new article about the Paris restaurant scene, or this one about February concerts.
I was mildly deported recently, sent back to retrieve a slip of paper, and am making the most of this exile by stuffing my gullet with fried Americana.

The Health Fest began on Saturday when I was greeted by my hosts Nikki and Garen with, among other delicacies, a batch of homemade samosas.

The next day brought a Scotch egg and fried zucchini at the Gage, followed by a bag of takeaway pupusas.

Day three was deep dish Chicago pizza and a trip to Kuma's Corner, a metal bar cum hamburger shack where every sandwich bears the name of a band. Pictured below, the Pantera.

Yesterday began with a pilgrimage to Hot Doug's, one of my top five eateries in the world. My admiration for this man and his sausage is such that I made an offering of illegal foie gras at his alter counter.

In return, I feasted on the traditional Chicago dog, a Polish with peppers and carmelized onions, and an apple & cherry pork sausage with chutney and cranberry Wensleydale cheese. With a mountain of cheese fries, of course. Dinner chez Ed & Kathy offered no caloric respite: fried chicken, fried okra, and slaw.

At this point in the trip, I fear my digestive track may be shutting down. And I haven't even made it to Pilsen yet!

More to come from Chicago, site of my own personal war on moderation...