For what feels like the seven hundredth time this month I am getting ready for a party. It's the night to end all party nights and though in other years I have only been mildly excited about moving the year off the calendar, this year I am really celebrating that it is finally ending.
I think abut where I was this night last year and my mind just reels. The party I went to was in my neighborhood. I wore yellow tights and drank too much tequila. I remember someone driving my car home for me, curling up on my bed with the cats and waking up in my clothes. I looked over the bed to find a a trash can there and a deep red wine stain on the carpet from where I had missed the target. It took months to get that color out of the rug.
Someone once told me that how you spend your New Years Eve dictates the kind of year you will have, and if that is true it would certainly explain the various upheavals, downfalls and erratic swings from up to down that occurred for me. It would never, however, explain how I ended up in Paris. That one is still a mystery.
This year I will be dancing across the City of Lights decked out in party clothes and meeting with as many of the people I have come to know in Paris as humanly possible. I had offers to go out of town - to Normandy, to Brussels - but turned them down because I am finally really happy that I have chosen to be here, in this city, and want to celebrate that.
And I count my millions of blessings. Last night as I strolled down a charming Rue in the bitter cold, full from a perfect French dinner and wonderful dinner company, I could not help but feel like I had been showered with a fistful of magic Pixie dust. I thought about everything I had: a wonderful family to live with while I am here, all expenses paid, warm unconditional love coming from the most wonderful, supportive family a crazy wayward girl like myself could ever wish for, talent and and ambition, and more friends than I ever thought I could have in one city. I watched my shadow dance joyously in the streetlight and thanked God that I could be so incredibly lucky.
At some point in this year I am sure that I will have moments to forget how charmed my life is, but for right now - as I ring in this brand new calendar year - I am fully aware of the sweetness of life. Promise none of you will let me forget it?
Here's to you, my lovely readers! Happy New Year!
Wednesday, December 31, 2008
For what feels like the seven hundredth time this month I am getting ready for a party. It's the night to end all party nights and though in other years I have only been mildly excited about moving the year off the calendar, this year I am really celebrating that it is finally ending.
Sunday, December 28, 2008
Does anyone else have positively terrible ideas when they wake up in the middle of the night? I guess it's something about the dead silence that starts me to think crazy thoughts. Last night it involved stealing a scene from Love Actually and taking a two hour train ride to a place I have no business going.
I had the whole scenario worked out in my head because January 4th is the day we met. It changed my life and for that I will always love him.
Luckily I woke up and realized that this was a terrible bad AWFUL idea. I thank God that I can have some kind of rationality in the morning light. If I lived out all the crazy fantasies I create at three a.m. my life would be a disaster. If you assume that it certain areas are not already. Because they are.
Since it's coming on a New Year I have decided to begin to try to make healthy decisions for myself in the romance department. Ask any of my tortured friends/family/counselors and they will tell you that I have some "patterns". I have a tendency to make fabulously bad decisions in the realm of love, and I do it over and over and over. I like to beat my head against walls, typically.
Take for instance, the story of C. When we met I was not that into him. There was physical chemistry but something was missing. I couldn't quite pin what, but I - at one point - had the conscious thought that "This is not the man I will marry." I knew, right from the start. But I thought "He's a nice guy. I never like the nice guys. I shouldn't just write this one off." And so I didn't. For two and a half years. We fought like children the whole time.
But I must be growing up because the old me who had a really ugly habit of going home with strange men (it was a "phase" that usually started with mass quantities of alcohol), has now been able to realize - even while drunk! - that being safe with your girls is a much sweeter deal. And really, I have a very efficient vibrator for those other urges.
I have also begun to recognize that the guys I find myself really really attracted to tend to be the ones who have "sleaze" taped to their forehead. Last night as I waited alone for my friends in a mostly empty restaurant, I noted with pleasure the beautiful blonde guy across from me. He had perfect straight white teeth and that kind of hair that could never possible go beneath a hat. He looked as though he stepped from an Abercrombie and Fitch ad. There was eye contact made and some kind of verbal exchange that was not clever. I suspect that if he was speaking English I would have regarded him as an air headed imbecile, but because I only understood half of his conversation I could ignore it. He was pretty.
And yet, I respected my initial instincts that he was TOO PRETTY to be any good. If he had any notable qualities about him, it was probably a strange French STD. He was also wearing unforgivable shiny gold sneakers. So we moved on and I did not look back, proud that I had not wasted any physical urges on this French douchebag. The evening was so much better spent with two hilarious girls.
But while I am making better, more mature, decisions for my heart these days I am still not sure that I trust myself to pick a good one. The right one. Which is why when the girls last night said joking "Who can we set you up with?" I said "Sure why the hell not." I can clearly use all the help I can get. And in between that I am not even looking. I might buy some horse blinders.
I figure it's better than getting arrested for loitering outside an apartment South of Paris.
Saturday, December 27, 2008
When I woke Christmas morning I had no return text from the Frenchman. This did not surprise me at all, I have sufficiently burned that bridge and it was a mere drunken lapse of judgment to text him in the first place. I didn't linger on these thoughts long because it was Christmas morning.
My friend wandered into the living room looking as groggy as I felt.
"Good morning! Merry Christmas!" I said from the couch bed.
"Merry Christmas!" She replied.
She baked the pain perdu and made us coffee while I turned on Christmas music. She woke her boyfriend and we shared the yummiest breakfast I've had since I've been in France.
I took the Metro home with all the people rushing off to meet their families for Christmas day. The train was filled with people in their Sunday best, carrying packages wrapped and unwrapped. Even though it was noon, it seemed to be too early for everyone present.
When I got home I ran to the computer to catch my family for another Skype chat. I had been anxiously waiting to open the last of my Christmas presents and did so with them via webcam. I tore open the wrapping to find fuzzy pink socks in the first gift and a matching Mp3 player in the second.
"But read the card," my sister instructed.
"Okay," I replied obediently.
'The package holding your Mp3 player was not damaged in shipping. Mom and I wanted to load it with songs and a movie or two for you to get started with. There is a lot of music and a full length movie as well as the latest family production. Enjoy!'
Indeed, the sparkly pink device had been fully loaded with music and my favorite movie ever White Christmas. I was one hundred percent giddy with joy.
We chatted for bit longer. The kids showed me their super cool gifts from Santa and my brother in law popped their traditional bottle of Christmas champagne to toast with me. Sooner than I was ready they left to continue their day and I slipped off to take a little nap hoping to rid myself of the hangover I had.
By four o'clock I was "refreshed" and headed off to get the house ready for the guests. I baked the biscuits and readied the Chapon for the oven while having Christmas chats with some friends back home.
I turned on their lights on the Christmas tree and just as I was lighting the fire the first of my guests arrived.
I did a terrible job of photo documentation because I was busy being a gracious hostess. One of my fellow bloggers (also involved in the debauchery of the crazy cab driver night) has photos, I know, but I'm too lazy (or sick or tired maybe) to acquire them from her. To me it doesn't matter because I was so happy to have pulled the night off that I couldn't think of anything except how blessed I was.
Everyone who said that they would come did. The Chapon made its appearance at the table around eleven but the amount of wine and appetizers kept people from completely starving in the meantime. For dessert we ate a mutlicolored Buche Noël and more champagne, followed directly by the White Elephant. I tried to break the rules at my own game but didn't get away with it. It was the most civil game of White Elephant I have every seen.
The hours whizzed by fueled by a well kept fire, three bottles of champagne, six bottles of wine and each others company. People kept asking me if I needed help with anything, if I was stressed out or overwhelmed by preparing things and I answered honestly "No." It makes me so happy to be able to give the gift of celebration and good food to those around me that it never remotely feels like work to set up and take down a party.
At two thirty I escorted the people not staying over to the night bus, returning home to find I had pretty much lost my voice. I was definitely sick, but stayed awake for a few more hours with the remaining guests chatting and letting the fire die.
The next morning the last of the girls scurried out the door to make appointments, though all of us were in a fair amount of pain. Closing the door I surveyed the damage, decided it wasn't so bad and went back to bed, but not before watching White Christmas.
The Holiday was so wonderful that I had to sleep for fifteen hours just to feel human again. If humans normally hack up funny colored mucous looking like the blob. So I am sick, this happens when you stay up until five a.m. two days in a row, running around in the cold. I accept it and am plenty happy about it.
On Christmas Eve I woke around noon, feeling the pressure to get some things ready for the party. I cleaned my apartment and then chatted on Skype with my family and took a nap. This was not terribly productive, but my thoughts were consumed with the emptiness of the house. My little town was whisper quiet, the house made sounds of loneliness, and I stared expectantly at the internet waiting for someone to appear. Everyone in the world was beginning their celebrations.
I thought about baking the Cheddar Biscuits I had planned, but I my heart lurched at being alone more. I did the emotionally responsible thing and reached out to my friends.
As I suspected there were a few people in Paris who were alone that evening - a couple I met earlier in the year who came from Austin to study for a year. Yes, they would love to come out. We didn't know what would be open, but they were up for grabbing a beer. What else could we do?
I left my house immediately, knowing I needed to escape the silence. I grabbed my camera and headed for the Champs Elysees. I had not yet been and if there is any place in Paris that existed Christmas cheer it was here.
I admit that it was a little hard to be there alone, watching the families and couples walk and laugh and drink vin chaud. The lights were beautiful, though, and the laughter was slowly heartening. I headed towards the ferris wheel, glittering with a frosty snowflake. Maybe I could take a ride on it.
As I made the zigzag across Place de la Concorde, I heard the wail of Police sirens.
"Oh no!" I thought, "What a terrible night for an emergency."
When I looked I saw there were a dozen Police on motorcycles, though, which indicated an escort of some kind. I got out my camera, waiting to see what important celebrity had come out to the Champs Elysees for Christmas Eve. Was it Nicolas Sarkozy?
The caravan passed slowly, the Police waving at the crowd watching. Then I saw him, tucked comfortably in a side car of one of the motorcycles - it was Santa Claus! I laughed out loud. It was the bit of Christmas I had been looking for.
It didn't take us too long to find a lively Irish Pub open "Every day through Christmas". We passed the night there, drinking cheap beer and laughing with wayward strangers celebrating the Holiday in the same way.
We made friends with a man who claimed to be the son of a Nigerian diplomat, but he ditched us when we stopped to pee behind a car on the way to the next bar. No matter, we were ready to go home anyway.
I tagged along back to their place knowing it would be hard for me to get back home at this hour. Even though it was three a.m., my friend headed into the kitchen and whipped out spinach crepes with bechamel sauce for all of us, following that with the preparation of pain perdu for the morning. I fell asleep at five a.m., my heart as full as my stomach, but not before I drunk texted the Frenchman a Merry Christmas.
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Yesterday I wandered half of Paris looking for the goods I hoped to feed my guests on Christmas day.
At first I thought, "Wow I might not spend too much, actually." This was after my trip to the Monoprix where I chucked all manner of tasty things in Host Mom's metal rolling cart. Pears, yams, brown sugar for the ham, rum for the eggnog, coke for the people who hate eggnog (crazy!), cheese, etc.. 65 € for all that. I felt success.
I dragged the cart - which was surprisingly heavy - across the street to find the butcher was closed.
"Damn! I'm going to have to lug a ham home from Paris!" I thought.
After shlepping the cart home I considered not going into Paris at all because I had broken quite a sweat. I have no idea how old ladies wheel these things up and down the hills around here. I can't count the number of times I rolled over my toes. Couldn't I just take a nap?
But the thought that all the butcheries of Paris would be closed the following day moved me out of the house. I needed a ham.
Onto the trains. Three transfers later I was met by the sun as I rose out of the tube. It was a miraculous blue day in Paris. I stopped at the American store and bought a 10 € can of eggnog. Because I rarely go there I threw in two cans of 4 € refried beans, 4 € mac and cheese, a tiny can of crisco for 8 € and cheddar cheese for the same price. Total 32 €. Okay, still not doing so bad because all I need is a ham and I'm done, right?
Well, as it turns out I know nothing of the ways of butchers in Paris. See, the purpose of a butcher is to get it FRESH, right? So they typically have on had what people typically buy. Which, in France, is not a ham to feed 10 people. I stood patiently in line surveying the goods and trying to see what I remembered a ham should look like and listening to the five butchers behind the counter shout and chop and chat.
"I'd like a ham, please," I said when it was my turn, in barely passable French. The old woman in front of me understood me and told the butcher I wanted an entire ham.
"Yes, that, Thank you," I said. "For 8 to 10 people."
"No, not here," the butcher explained. "You have to go across the street to the Charcuterie."
"Okay, thank you!" I said, "Bon Fete!"
I made a jolly beeline across the street to the Charcuterie and rushed in. The sun had set and the lights along the street had come on. I passed the florist selling poinsettias and the man haggling with customers to sell the last of his Christmas Trees.
I looked around the shop and saw the familiar sight of ham. Hooray! But then, wait - all these hams were cured. Right, because charcuteries sell cooked meat for the slicing.
"I'm looking for an entire ham," I asked anyway. "Not already cooked. Is it possible?"
"No," the woman explained. "You have to order that sort of thing in advance. These are salted and could be cooked but if you buy it today by Christmas they will go bad."
"Oh!" I said, understanding finally that I was not getting my Christmas ham, "Okay, thank you so much. Bon Fete!"
I went back across the street to the Butcher, shrugging my shoulders when I entered to say "Nope, no ham for me!"
I figured I would just get a Turkey, they seemed to be available. I considered for a moment getting lamb or rabbit or something decidedly more French, but opted instead to make something I knew would be good. I don't trust myself in the other meats just yet.
As with the ham, the turkeys also needed to be pre-ordered and so I took the next best thing - a Chapon. It was turkey sized and that suited me. I could have gotten two small chickens, but what the hell, a Chapon sounded nice. And it looked fun too.
"Uhhh," I started as the young man held up my bird by his legs, neck dangling down loosely, "You, eh, cut? You prepare that?"
My French was bad but the look on my face clearly said "I cannot chop the head off that thing."
"Yes, of course. I prepare it here. It will look like this when I am done." He held up a neatly tied bird and I relaxed.
I watched as he adeptly pulled the feathers and hacked the head, pulling out the insides with one forceful movement of his hand. The other butchers watched me watching and laughed.
"What is your impression?" one asked.
"It's not me, I am happy!" I replied.
The young man handling my Chapon pulled out a blow torch and set it to the bird.
"He is removing the hair," another butcher explained. They were wildly entertained that I was so wildly entertained. I could not hide that I've never witnessed such a display of butchery. In Texas they come frozen in plastic.
"You think, for me?" I said pointing to the flames and then my hair, joking. "It's cute, you think?"
The butchers laughed.
"Yes," one said, "That's a good idea!"
With a few sharp jabs, the young man threaded the Chapon and tied all of its dangling parts neatly together. Finally my bird was handed to me along with the ticket. 66 €. I had forgotten to ask how much it was going to cost me.
I whipped out my card like it was no big thing, mentally calculating and then deciding that it wasn't worth calculating. It would be a wonderful bird and a wonderful celebration, worth every centime overspent.
I tucked the bird under my arm and went for one last stop. Party dresses were calling my name. I had wanted to find a vintage store that I knew to be in the area but I didn't know the street and the bird was pressing against my chest reminding me that it was fresh and needed to be refrigerated soon. It would have to be H&M.
A lovely green velvet high waisted skirt and some long needed black pumps called out to me, and it was a fairly quick trip into the store. It's possible to spend hours, but Mr. Chapon begged me not to and I obeyed. Price? More than the bird, and that's all I'll admit about that.
As I headed back home, packages in hand, I felt briefly sad to be going home alone. Mentally I tallied my purchases and said a silent Thank You to a friend who had surprised me earlier that day with a gift that was just the amount I had spent. This holiday was on him, apparently. It's only too bad he can't be here to partake.
I said a Thank You to God, passed my sadness and decided I was so happy to be able to share my wealth with those around me. Today I get to make Cheddar Cheese Biscuits and celebrate!
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
I absolutely cannot believe that it is one day till Christmas. Where did the month go? Okay, it is possible that I lost it between this, this and this, I can't be entirely sure. There were some blurry moments there.
Now I have to plan a menu, realizing that I have offered food for a house full of people but only planned for ham. Which is fine but I suspect people will be hungrier than that, just a guess. I need to purchase a white elephant gift and send out directions and follow up emails. I called the woman I was supposed to help make fliers and told her I couldn't make it because who are we kidding I'm not getting paid for that and they can't possibly need fliers before Christmas. Not for this organization.
Also, perhaps something to do with the staying out till dawn several weekends in a row, I have procured a swollen throat that is pretending to be the beginnings of a cold. Seriously? Oh well, that is what I get for traipsing about in the pre-dawn of Paris in winter.
No matter, it's the sudden onset of ADD that I am worried about. I can't seem to focus on anyone thing. The stray cat (whom I have named Edith, for future reference) comes by and I bring out the bacon that I've cooked especially for her and give her a belly rub. I spend unnecessary minutes on Facecrack. I reply to a text and then - wait what am I doing? Oh right, the menu. I thank God that I don't have to decorate the house or I would be up shits creek without a paddle.
No, not that anyone would care but me, I'm sure. It's all about the perfect pull off for me when I'm preparing, but in the end no one really cares. We all just want food, music and merriment. Speaking of which, does anyone know what they want to eat with a ham? Wandering around the monoprix and hoping food jumps in my basket it not a good plan, is it?
Maybe I'll just make one of everything.
Monday, December 22, 2008
I am on vacation. It's a good feeling, for sure. I slept until noon and then forced myself up to clean my apartment. I have invited people over to my house for Christmas and I haven't washed my sheets in much longer than I will admit in a public forum. I wanted to go shopping - to buy a dress for my party and some art supplies - but the washing of the clothes is more pressing. Ha, no pun intended.
I had a wild weekend. I wish that someone else would tell the stories because they are hilarious and I have recounted it at least five times. I've lost my steam for the hilarity, so the blogosphere gets the abbreviated version. I will tell you that I left my house on Friday night and did not return until yesterday at midnight. There was an incident at an after hours club located under Pont Alexandre III that involved me stealing a bottle of Dom Perignon from a private VIP party (I don't know why this seemed like a good idea at the time.) and resulted in us being invited to join said party. Currently we have no idea what the party was for or who the mysterious French host was. He refused to be photographed and offered no information about himself. I randomly saw him on the streets of Paris the next day but had lost my cahones (clearly they had been fueled by expensive champagne) so did not stop him.
The shenanigans after the after hours club went something like: screaming crazy cab driver speeds off with our friend still in the back seat and my friend and I spend an hour in with the French Police trying to convince them that we're not just drunk but not getting much across. It could have something to do with the fact that in our bad French we could not explain "kidnap" and so said "stolen" which doesn't make much sense. It did not help that I most definitely smelled like the bucket of champagne I had bathed a few hours ago.
Don't worry about our friend though, she negotiated with crazy cab man and was returned safely to her apartment and didn't even have to pay. Lesson I learned is that Parisian cab drivers hate Americans. Be careful, and learn the word for kidnap.
After a few hours of sleep we got up again and went off to ice skate at the Hotel de Ville. This was a fantasic idea but it was also the idea of half the other people in Paris (and their kids) and so rather than actually skate we stood in line for an hour, skated for ten minutes and then watched them zamboni the ice for another half hour. Instead of letting us back on the ice we were encouraged to stay and watch a group of six year olds in tights skate way better than we can (but really that's not as fun as pretending you can skate) and so we left.
I was on my back to the train when the another friend and I decided to take a detour to the best english book store in Paris. Here we struck up a conversation with a really sweet Canadian couple on a European tour and ended up sharing drinks with them. I took them to one of my favorite overpriced cafes in St. Michel and we laughed about travel and language and life. It was a random moment well enjoyed by a group of strangers.
Now the sun has set - though it never really did come out today - and I am trying to motivate myself to leave the house again to meet the Canadians for a reading at the bookstore. It's three days into my vacation and I'm pooped! It's tempting to stay in and finish the laundry instead. I must be getting old.
Tomorrow I am going to try to squeeze dress buying in between shopping for the Christmas party I'm hosting and some volunteer graphic design work I felt too festive to turn down. Clean sheets and a warm bed are looking better and better by the minute.
Friday, December 19, 2008
On Wednesday I was awoken by the ring of the gate bell. In mid morning it could only be two things: a solicitor or a delivery. I, for once, was actually waiting for something to arrive and so I quickly pressed the button, forgetting that Host Dad was home for his vacation.
I threw on a coat over my pajamas and rushed out of my apartment to meet whoever it could be. As I rounded the corner of the big house I peered in the windows to spy Host Dad accepting a big package. It was for me from my sister! I squeeled with delight.
"You are getting rained on!" He said in French as he handed me the package.
It was true I was getting soaked but I didn't really care. I held the box against my body and hurried back to my apartment to open it.
It was just like Christmas morning for me, sitting on my hands waiting to open a bounty of wrapped goodness. My sister had started the box back when I was in the depths of my depression and so there were a few things for me to look at while I eagerly watched my messenger to see her come online. I was told earlier that I could open the littlest gift from my niece immediately but I wanted to wait to share it with her.
In the box was the family Christmas card, showcasing my three favorite kids in the whole world.
Two small books, lovingly made by the brilliant hands of the older two children. Each one had personalized the book just for me with poems and drawings and inspirational qoutes that they had coined.
My nephew writes "Love is so much that I gave it to you!" My heart swelled and then overflowed as I paged through each book to see what they had made for me. Both of the children are so compassionate and vibrant, just like their parents, it makes me eager to see what kind of adults they will become. But not too eager, because that youth is so precious!
There was also a lovely hardback devotional. The weight of it felt good in my hands. I have wanted a devotional for a long time, but never found the right one. Now I always have a page to turn to when I need to talk to God but am lost for words. Which often happens to me.
Finally Sister L woke up and came online.
"Should I wait for Abby to wake up to open the present?" I asked.
"You could. Or you can open it now and tell her about it when she gets up," she replied. She was just as excited to have me open them as I was.
"Okay, I'm opening it," I said. I wrote out each detail so she could experience it with me.
"Your sloooooooooow," she said.
"Okay, okay!" I said, ripping the green paper. The scent of christmas wrapping came up to my nose. Inside was a little red box that I flung open. It contained a gift chosen especially for me from my niece.
"She saw this at the store," Sister L explained, "And she said 'I have to get that for Aunt Julie in France. She would love that."
I immediately put it on my coat lapel so that I could share it with all of Paris.
I called the kids before they went to school that morning and thanked them. It was so good to hear their excited voices. It was the next best thing to being able to hug them on Christmas morning.
I set the rest of the gifts on my table next to the T.V. - which is a poor substitute for a Christmas Tree by the way - and anxiously await Christmas Morning when I can open the rest.
I am certain that this year I am the most blessed girl in France.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Instead I am doing this meme. Go figure. Stolen from Blackbird.
Things you've already done: bold
Things you want to do: italicize
Things you haven't done and don't want to - leave in plain font
1. Started your own blog.
2.. Slept under the stars.
3. Played in a band - or musical. Sang in with a bad band for about a week.
4. Visited Hawaii.
5. Watched a meteor shower. Several.
6. Given more than you can afford to charity.
7. Been to Disneyland/world - Land
8. Climbed a mountain.
9. Held a praying mantis.
10. Sang a solo (in the shower). I sing solos everywhere I go.
11. Bungee jumped. No, but I want to skydive.
12. Visited Paris. Obviously!
13. Watched a lightning storm at sea.
14. Taught yourself an art from scratch. Knitting.
15. Adopted a child.
16. Had food poisoning.
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty.
18. Grown your own vegetables. I've TRIED for sure...
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France. Not yet!
20. Slept on an overnight train.
21. Had a pillow fight.
22. Hitchhiked. NOT SAFE ANYMORE. (Which is too bad, cause I totally would.)
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill. I am a firm believer in this!
24. Built a snow fort
25. Held a lamb.
26. Gone skinny dipping.
27. Run a Marathon.
28. Ridden a Gondola in Venice.
29. Seen a total eclipse.
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset. The sun rise over NYC is awesome.
31. Hit a home run.
32. Been on a cruise.
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person.
34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors. But WHICH ancestors?
35. Seen an Amish community.
36. Taught yourself a new language. Erm, I don't think I am teaching myself, but it's happening.
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied.
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person.
39. Gone rock climbing.
40. Seen Michelangelo’s David.
41. Sung karaoke. Sing Sing, again, NYC.
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt.
43. Bought a stranger a meal in a restaurant.
44. Visited Africa. Not yet
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight.
46. Been transported in an ambulance.
47. Had your portrait painted.
48. Gone deep sea fishing.
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person.
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling. I have a fear of being deep underwater. Claustrophobia!
52. Kissed in the rain.
53. Played in the mud.
54. Gone to a drive-in theater.
55. Been in a movie.
56. Visited the Great Wall of China.
57. Started a business.
58. Taken a martial arts class.
59. Visited Russia.
60. Served at a soup kitchen.
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies.
62. Gone whale watching.
63. Gotten flowers for no reason.
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma -
65. Gone sky diving. HELLS YES.
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp.
67. Bounced a check. And SO proud of it.
68. Flown in a helicopter. I think I'd be scared.
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy. I think my mom has it.
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial.
71. Eaten Caviar.
72. Pieced a quilt.
73. Stood in Times Square.
74. Toured the Everglades.
75. Been fired from a job.
76. Seen the Changing of the Guard in London.
77. Broken a bone. Knock on wood.
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle. And hated every minute of it.
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person. But you won't get me out on that glass floor. Not in a million years. Skydiving, yes. Glass floor, NO.
80. Published a book. Not YET!
81. Visited the Vatican.
82. Bought a brand new car.
83. Walked in Jerusalem.
84. Had your picture in the newspaper. When I was like 12 or something.
85. Read the entire Bible. I went to Catholic school. It was required.
86. Visited the White House.
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating. I'll let someone else do the killing, if that's okay.
88. Had chickenpox.
89. Saved someone’s life. Not that I wouldn't...
90. Sat on a jury.
91. Met someone famous. And humiliated myself in front of them.
92. Joined a book club.
93. Lost a loved one. It will happen, I am not looking forward to it.
94. Had a baby.
95. Seen the Alamo in person.
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake.
97. Been involved in a law suit.
98. Owned a cell phone.
99. Been stung by a bee.
Monday, December 15, 2008
Tonight I heard the discordant sound of knives sawing through tough meat. It's true the boys will eat anything, but watching the young one dramatically gnawing on his roast beef was an indication that I had failed this diner.
"I'm so sorry," I kept saying, laughing. "It's not good."
"No, c'est pas grave," Host Dad said. It's no big deal. "It's edible."
This is further proof that HD is my easiest customer. Although he did agree that it was over done. I just don't understand how it happened, each time I cut into it it seemed to still be mooing, but then at the finish it was like chewing leather. I guess I have not yet mastered the finer points of cooking red meat yet. Give me some chicken or fish and you've got a meal. Ask me for medium rare, you get charcoal.
If I understood correctly, the only "real" work I will have to do after tomorrow is English with the young one (and cleaning the house of course). HD is on vacation and so he, I guess, will be taking care of diner. Which spares me the embarrassment of screwing up something else I guess.
I think after the rabbit incident Host Mom has gotten less and less confident in my abilities. The meals are more structured now, with more instruction on just how she wants them cooked. And, slowly, more and more of the notes are being left in English. It's funny, actually, because now I am beginning to understand more and more French. Though, I admit I will probably never quite be able to read her handwriting. She's crazy busy, I don't hold it against her.
Anyway, C'est pas grave. I know I'm not a bad cook, it's just an off day. And it seems as though I'm on vacation, sooner than I thought!
Sunday, December 14, 2008
Things lost over the weekend:
- One glove
- A sweater
- The contents of my stomach
Things gained over the weekend:
- A New CD
- The sweater of a stranger
- Whiskey, wine, champagne, wine, beer, and passion fruit rum (down the hatch, in no particular order!)
- Moments of total hilarity with new friends
- Seven million bisous
- Random pains from so much dancing
It's safe to say that the things I lost are far less than what I have gained (don't ask my liver I think it disagrees), but it's sure that I am no good at this partying like a rock star thing. I am ridiculously tired and completely unmotivated to do anything except pace around my apartment and talk to my friends back in the states. Its cold and I have not gotten out of my pajamas, nor do I intend to. The only thing I really want is a big greasy omelette with fried potatoes and someone to curl up with and watch a movie. That would be the perfect end to the weekend, I think.
Alas, my fridge is empty like my apartment. Boo.
I thought about how many parties I've been to in the past two weeks or so and at first I was sort of surprised by it. I thought, "Wow, this is what happens when your happy, I guess! People want to hang out with you!" This may be true but then I realized that this is every holiday season for me. I always find myself completely worn out from the festivities, recovering from a hangover, tired all the week. It was like this last year as well. I wouldn't have it any other way, of course. For me the holidays are about being with people. The doors of my heart open to any one who wants to celebrate with me, and celebrate we do.
Last year I threw an amazing caroling party. It ended up on craigslist somehow and by the time I had prepared the coquito and hot apple cider, I had a house full of strangers. One of my guests had taken the initiative to print out and tie together actual song books and she led the group in a practice as we warmed ourselves with the spiked nog and wine.
It wasn't terribly cold that night and so we were happy to take our time in front of houses, singing requests and chatting with whomever opened their doors. People were so thrilled to see us, I couldn't help but feel a little proud of myself for orchestrating such joy for so many people.
As we wrapped up the night I knew we had to stop at one particular house in the neighborhood. Each year the little old man strung his house with so many lights it looked like daytime, and in his yard were an assortment of lawn reindeer, inflatable snowmen and an entire collection of dancing Santas. He had them all - the James Brown Santa, the Snoopy Santa, the Homer Simpson Santa - and they all danced at once. Each night he took special care to put them out and each night he brought them inside. He was so proud of his display that he would sit by his door and wait for people to come by to see it, offering candy canes from a bowl left out on the sidewalk.
He was there, of course, when we arrived and it's possible that no one was more happy to see us that night than him.
"Wait here!" he said as we started to sing. Quickly he dashed in his house and we all waited to see what he would come out with.
He returned with spoons in hand.
"Okay, go what are we going to sing? I like Feliz Navidad."
"Feliz Navidad then!" I replied. By now I was floating on a magically high of laughter and music.
We sang every single refrain of Feliz Navidad and he accompanied us with the spoons. We followed that with another upbeat song before leaving a trail of musical Christmas notes down the street.
It was virtually unforgettable and I would surely do it if I was there now. But this year is an "orphan Christmas" meant to be spent with anyone who wants to share some of the joy I am so craving. Rest assured I won't be turning down any invitations between now and the new year, cooking up some invitations of my own. Maybe I'll lose the other glove along the way...
Thursday, December 11, 2008
So, I've tried really really hard to be a good girl this year. I've practiced my manners, tried to respect my elders and not slashed the tires of the people I felt really slighted by. I have tried to better myself and I've made some nasty mistakes this year, but Santa, please don't hold those against me because I swear I could heat Russia for a hundred years with all the coal I got from that. And I think I've learned some good lessons. You can throw a pop quiz at me if you like. At any rate I think it is safe to say that while, in years past, it may have been true that I should have been on your naughty list, this year I have been pretty well behaved. That being said, you should know I'm not asking for the moon this year. In fact, I'm not even asking for a new computer (though if you feel like you can facilitate that I won't look a gift horse in the mouth). I'm not ungrateful. No, no, no. I don't need anything fancy. No three hundred euro panties from the Bon Marché (no don't try to get me the hundred euro panties either, I just won't take them), and no lovely wool pea coat with fat buttons and perfect pleats. I don't want the long leather gloves or the perfect pair of flat boots. No Santa, none of that. All I really want is a nice group of people to share Christmas Eve with and wakeup with Christmas Morning. I can't be with my family (which is what I really really want, but I get it, you're kinda busy this year) but I can't bear the thought of waking up alone, with no one to share the day with. I have never done it in my life and I don't really want to start now. I think it would be sort of like insult to injury after some of the crap I put up with, don't you think? Plus, ya know? Maybe some other people would like this too. Why we gotta be alone on Christmas, Santa? Work with us a little.
That's it. No fancy stuff like jeans that fit me or anything. Just people. Kay? I'll make whatever cookies you want and I promise to spike the eggnog.
From Your Bestest Girl,
P.S. - It would be okay if you wanted to throw in some socks and underwear too, that would be pretty sweet. But seriously, that's all. Okay?
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
I am supposed to be going to the Social Security Office today to check on my Carte Vitale (which is basically my health insurance). I'm anxious about going because I'm not really sure what to say to them but I guess that it would be nice to know that my information is going to be put in the system. Once I am in there I will be reimbursed for my doctors visits and for my antidepressant but it will take months. Actually, it's likely I won't get my Carte Vitale before I leave, so for now I am paying out of pocket and wait - isn't that what I was doing when I was in America without Health Insurance???
Part of me doesn't even care because the cost of the medication and the doctors visits are a quarter of what I would pay in America and it's kind of nice to know my health doesn't have an expensive price tag attached anymore. BUT I my Host Mom went out of her way to research my status in the system and it is my responsibility to get this thing going for myself so I will make an effort to go out in the cold to speak with people who will likely not understand me and be "a responsible adult". Whatever that is.
Oh but, oops! It looks like they are closed for lunch and the young one will be home from school soon and want lunch so I guess I have to put it off till this afternoon and that's too bad isn't it? What else can I put in between me and this anxiety? I think I will go blow dry my hair and then iron the table linens. That seems like sufficient procrastination.
Another cup of coffee would be a good idea for sure.
Monday, December 8, 2008
For every French word I learn, I lose a word in English. It's sort of infuriating, the point I am at, because currently I sound like a real dolt in both the languages locked somewhere in my brain. I can't spell English words like "infuriating" - I had to be reminded by spell check that it is not spelled "ENfuriating" and I am starting to think in improper word order. I find myself saying things like "Would you like to take a cup of coffee with me" and "It starts to be winter now."
Those sort of things are cute when a French persons says them, but when a Native English Speaker with a healthy, well rounded vocabulary can no longer formulate proper sentences then one must think about becoming mute, or perhaps learning sign language. Although, I suspect that in France they sign in French, so this might be a terrible solution.
Often I am reduced to wildly gesticulating anyway. I know when I go to "take a baguette" that I will need to hold up two fingers if I want two of them on this particular day, because for what ever reason when I say "deux," I am not understood. If someone asks me for directions - which often happens - I resort to flinging my arms in the direction they need to go and making vaguely French sounding noises. It seems to confuse people enough to leave me alone.
I was awake at four a.m. the other night and I got to thinking about this. I know that the French are very protective of their language, but maybe it's time for a change. And maybe I should be the one to spearhead it. Because there are certain things I love about the English language. Things like a being able to say "Totally" and "Oh my God, Seriously" for emphasis. Sure, I have the proper words to use to sound intelligent but what fun are they? There is no French equivalent that I know of for the phrase "I know, right?" And this saddens me.
But maybe it's just because they don't know how good it could be. To just break out of their formality and say "Je sais, vrai?!" Or maybe I could just subtly introduce new words into the language. Start saying things like "Dude, dude, ecoutez." You know, with a perfect French accent. Because for some reason I can handle the accent - accepting this morning in French class when I was called on and my tongue ceased to work inside my mouth. Other than that I can totally sound French. If I just knew the words.
So I just try stuff out. Big words in english that have a Latin root, I just throw into a sentence with a French accent. "Je ne comprend pas ca. C'est unconcienable." Because if I can't have my slang I want to sound terribly intelligent. And the blank stares are certainly worth the effort made. Sometimes it even works. For the most part, though, I am just stradling the line between French and English, playing with both of them for my own personal enterainment. I'm no longer terribly worried about getting understood, because I am more concerned about how I can use the word gigantesque in a French sentence.
But maybe it's a word after all? If only I could remember in one of the languages...
Sunday, December 7, 2008
On Saturday as a friend and I wandered around St. Michel looking for the perfect gifts that I simply could not commit to buying, we entered one of the many chic parfumeries along the rue. I don't think I know anyone who wears perfume enough to warrant a hundred Euro bottle for Christmas, unless I suddenly came into a massive unexpected wealth, but I love the little shops with their neatly lined up bottles of extravagant fragrances.
On entering, my friend pointed to a black bottle on a shelf to our right.
"Oh my god, it's perfect!!" she said.
And indeed, it was. The scents were lovely, and I almost snatched up a bottle of Miss Charming to take with me, but I quickly remembered I'm supposed to be spending my money on other people. Instead I sprayed two cards with some fragrances and decided I had to email the designer to tell him he has a blog to go with his super belle perfume*. Or maybe he knows already????
*Get it? Evolving Revolver. Juliette Has a Gun. Ahem...Yeah okay, you get it.
Friday night as I locked the door to the little house, fireworks exploded on the hilltop. Carol of the Bells echoed off the houses, ushering in Noël. At the Meudon Observatory they were having a party and normally I would never turn down a Christmas celebration, but I had made plans with a friend that I hadn't seen in my month of self imposed
hermitage and I was on my way to meet her.
"Oh bring us some figgy pudding, oh bring us some figgy pudding, oh bring us some figgy pudding, we want some right now!" I sang along with Bing Crosby at the top of my lungs and headed for the train station.
I was still singing when I stopped at the ATM to take out some cash - I knew I would be taking a cab home that evening.
Thirty minutes and three train changes later I met by friend in the 15eme of Paris where we headed to her friends house warming party. It was interesting to say the least. Let's just say I've never been to a house warming party before the furniture arrived. The apartment was, in fact, completely empty devoid of all the comforts of home - even glasses to drink from. Someone arrived with those terribly dangerous tiny plastic cups and speakers for the music and the fifteen or so of us made the best of this strange party. So we didn't have anywhere to sit - at least we had a spectacular view.
Around one thirty we all gave in and called it an evening. My friend started her walk home and I hailed a cab.
"I would like to go to Meudon, please," I said in butchered, fairly drunken French.
The cab driver flicked on his overhead light and started fumbling with his GPS, making a show that he did not where Meudon was.
"Meudon..." he said, unsure.
"Yes, Meudon. M-E-U-D-O-N." I flipped open my Paris 'Indispensible' and pointed to the train stop on the map.
He respelled it in his GPS and we headed in the direction of home. Or so I thought. Because if you know me then you know my sense of direction is terrible. I can find my way around streets based solely on Landmarks but ask me which way is North and you might see me point up. I think some people are just born without it.
That being said, I know my area well enough now, and I am familiar enough with Paris to know we needed to be on or near the Peripherique. I also know how long it should take, approximately, to get where I needed to go. So thirty minutes later, when Paris had faded away and we were on some stretch of highway I'd never seen I began to get uneasy.
"It's not right," I said, still fumbling with the words in French. "It's not near Meudon."
"Euhhhhhh," he said. "I don't know..." He flicked on his light again and started flipping through his book of maps. He found the page and then closed it again.
I panicked and called the friend I had just left.
"Hi, how are you? No, I'm not home yet. No, No, I need to know where Massy is. Can you open google maps for me?"
She entertained my request and even went so far as to speak to the cab driver for me, since her French is better than mine.
"Massy??" She asked incredulously, back on the phone. "Thats really south. How did you get there?"
"I have no idea," I replied. "I'm really not happy about it, and I have to pee."
"Well, good luck with that," she replied, because she had done all she could.
How could a cab driver not know where we were? He had a book of maps and a GPS for chrissakes. My full bladder and exhaustion started me to fume.
"You speak english?" He said suddenly, in very good English.
"YES. Of course I speak English." I replied. As if he couldn't tell from the second I got in the car. I'm not delusional, I am well aware of my level of French.
"Do you know where we are?" I asked.
"Yes, Massy. We're near Orly."
"ORLY!!!" I replied, fully furious. Because there is Paris and there is 45 minutes at least of driving due south and then there is Orly. Where I live is southwest and in no way takes 45 minutes to get to.
"Just get back to Paris," I said.
I looked at the meter, which was at 50 euros, and I suddenly realized what was going on. He seriously thought that he could just drive me all around France and I wouldn't figure out he was just trying to run up the fare?? I'm American, I'm not an idiot. I sat in silence as he turned the car around to head back to Paris.
"Meudon?" He said again, messing with his GPS. "Oh I see now."
Magically, he GPS had our coordinates. How 'bout that.
I sat in the back seat visibly livid. My face gnarled into the sourest scowl I could manage as I stared out the window.
"The GPS," he tried to say, "It doesn't work right."
"Mmmm." I grumbled, not interested in entertaining his conversation. If he thought I was going to pay him seventy euros for getting me lost he had another thing coming. We rode the rest of the way home in complete silence and I was not at all surprised he had no trouble finding his way to where I lived.
He must have realized at some point that I was not buying his story, or maybe he had a flash of conscience, because at some point he turned back the meter to start over.
"How much." I asked dryly, expecting him to bargain.
"Twenty euros," he rounded up from the price on the meter a few dollars.
"That's fine," I replied, handed him a twenty and exited the cab with a huff. "Good night."
Once in my apartment I took the worlds longest pee (because I had been holding it for an hour and a half), and went to bed at 3 a.m.. At least I wasn't somewhere in the South of France, but I made up mind - right before I passed out - that I would always be carrying a proper map with me from now on. No reason to give anyone an excuse to screw me around. Maybe I should purchase a compass too.
Friday, December 5, 2008
After several days taking my antidepressant at night, like my mother had suggested, I have gone back to taking it when I wake up. I have a fair amount more energy and so I have concluded, through my expert skills of deduction, that when the doctor said "Take one pill each morning," she meant that I should take one pill each morning. How about that? Well, I mean who am I going to believe, my mother (who has had some experience with this drug) or some French lady who can barely understand what I am saying? So she is a doctor, big deal. Mom's are never wrong, right?
Well, I am not bouncing off the walls, this is for sure, but my eyes aren't burning from sheer act of being awake either, so it is an improvement. It's certain that there is some kind of tranquilizer in this thing, but that cracks me up too because if there were shouldn't I be sleeping like a baby? No, not for me. Awake at 3 a.m. on the dot. Every. Single. Night.
Last night I wasn't up for long, thankfully. Just long enough to imagine that it had snowed a few feet and to contemplate where I could put a little Christmas tree if I got one. I am thinking of putting it on the couch, and you think I'm joking, but actually it might not be such a bad idea.
When I woke again at 8:30 instead of snow there was, of course - it's Paris - rain. Lots of it, too, but I was motivated enough to make coffee and send emails and even get the rest of the house work done before Host Mom returned from her business trip to the states at noon.
Because she was home for the afternoon I canceled my therapy appointment. I didn't want her to think that I was the type of person to leave her 13 year old son at home alone for two hours. But I was done with the house work (even the ironing!) and so what could I do? I rewarded myself for being productive by dinking around on Facecrack.
Which I immediately regretted. Because even though I am now medicated I am still entirely capable of working myself into a mental tizzy over stupid things (which is why I see a therapist, ahem). Here I was, with plans galore for the weekend - fun things to do! - feeling sorry for myself.
"How come I didn't get invited to such and such? I wish I could have done blah blah blah." Never mind that such and such and blah blah blah had occurred during my working hours which everyone knows pretty well by now are in the early evening. It was a throwback to middle school, when I broke down crying in class because one of the popular girls had failed to invite me to the pool party that I am sure I didn't want to go to anyway.
I find it weird the sort of social issues networks like Myspace and Facebook have created. Things that would once have never been an issue are suddenly now in the bright white light of the internet for all to see. Were it not for Facebook I wouldn't have thought twice about anyone else's plans for the weekend because I, myself, have already made plenty. But because I am allowed to see excited interchanges between friends about things I assume I am missing out on, I feel left out and rejected. Which is just plain silly.
The voice of my sister (who is often what my conscience sounds like - Hi Sister L!) echoed in my head, reminding me to count my blessings and enjoy what I already had, which is like, everything.
And then before I closed Facebook, because I felt like I needed some holiday spirit, I sent out an invite to anyone else I know who might be spending Christmas in Paris sans family, because no one is going to do that for me, and that is the sort of the moral to my life story isn't it? I am hoping to find a solution to waking up on Christmas morning alone (as in without anyone to share it with, not as in with some dude in my bed) but I assume that solution will present itself in time. As with all the other great things that have come along.
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
In the cupboard, taunting me, were a pound of purple potatoes. Every since I discovered such a thing existed I've wanted to see them and make something deliciously colorful. Did you know there are more than four thousand different varieties of potatoes in the world? Three thousand of those are found in the Andes alone. That's crazy!! And purple potatoes?? Color me incredulous.
Monday, December 1, 2008
On Friday morning I started taking anti-depressants again. It shuttled down my gullet and dissolved into me without resistance. There was the nausea, a little cotton mouth and some dizziness. I am tinkering around a little with the time I take it because it makes me more tired than usual - probably because my system is too amped up to sleep properly. My eyes are dark like a raccoons and I almost fell asleep in French class today.