Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Sad Panda at Starbucks

I am at Starbucks. I am upset with myself. I don't want to be at Starbucks. I want to be at a café that a. has its own personality b. has a legitimate cozy feel, not a fake cozy feel c. isn't a multi-gazillion dollar business.

But Starbucks is the only café with wifi within 3.5 miles of my parents' house. And I have work to do. So I am at Starbucks.

There was one thing I used to like at Starbucks. They used to write your order and name directly on your cup. This reminds me of a story a professor's sister told my Advanced Writing class in college. Her name is Regina. Confused Starbucks baristas mis-wrote, then mis-read her name. I'm not going to be able to tell the story as well as she did. It's her story. You'll have to ask her to tell it to you sometime.

But no more writing on cups. Now they print out a label and slap it on your cup. It's so much less personal.

Sorry this post is so gloomy. I feel so gloomy being here. Please don't tell anyone I am here. It can just be our little secret. I will hurry to get my work done, and then I will stealthily slip out. It will be like I never came to Starbucks in the first place.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Let's Buy Some Food

The true "Yup. I am definitely in America now" moment came during one of the most monotonous pinnacles of everyday life: the grocery market. Or, as we say in these parts "the store," or simply "Jewel." First off, mom and I roll into Jewel in our running clothes, ready to do a week's worth of shopping. I like that in America, you can where whatever the flip you want to buy your groceries. In France, this doesn't fly. You need to wear real clothes.

Okay, so we're in our running clothes. We enter Jewel. Jewel is huge. It would be safe to say five times the size of my regular grocery store in Paris. And since it is so huge you can buy MORE FOOD!!! I am excited about the hugeness of it all. I can buy anything and everything. I feel like I have the world at my fingertips. That is, until I decide I want some peaches.

The peaches are huge. Like way, way too huge. I don't remember peaches being this huge. The tomatoes are also huge. And so are the bananas. Every piece of produce is overwhelmingly huge. I don't like huge anymore. I can't eat a peach or tomato or banana that huge. Why aren't they normal sized? Wait, what is normal sized? Mom says she can get better peaches at the farmer's market. Peaches this huge? Yep, they are the same size. Dang.

Okay let's move on from the peaches. That's a dead topic.

Next I see a whole slew of 100 calorie pack snack packs. Come on America. I knew you had these, but I forgot. You do not need to pay Nabisco extra $$ to put 100 calories worth of mini Chips Ahoy in a little bag. Just don't be a dum dum and don't eat so many cookies.

And a bit farther down that aisle, I see about 600 new varieties of Oreos. Double Delight Chocolate Mint'N Creme? Gross, who is going to buy that? There is some nasty peanut butter creme variety as well. Even I, proud devourer of gallons of PB, would not buy that. Everyone knows the best kind of Oreo is the original kind. Why bother with anything else? Cuz we're in America, that's why.

I am not going to ramble on too much more about all this, just one more thing. The manager of the store bags our groceries. We chat through the whole bagging process, and it feels so strange. I can bag my own groceries just fine. But it would be very odd if I lent a hand. We just don't bag our own groceries here. Because we're in America.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Breakup Letter To My Bike

Dear Bike,

You probably noticed sometime last week I was acting strangely. You might have found it a bit odd when I took a screwdriver to your handlebars to remove the bell. Maybe you saw the girl who came last week and fiddled with your gears a bit. You probably tried to shrug it all off as just a phase.

It’s not. You have no idea how much it pains me to have to tell you this. You and I are finished. She bought you. I’m sorry.

You deserve honesty, so here it goes. I have a bike back home. I won’t hurt you further with details. But it is a bike I love very, very much. I sold you because I am going back to it.

Maybe you already figured there was someone else waiting for me. I never really brought it up, because we were having so much fun. Mentioning it would have just ruined our relationship. And really, the other bike never concerned you and me. Just because I’m going back to it doesn’t mean the moments we spent together in Paris weren’t meaningful.

Bike, I cannot image Paris without you. We saw everything in the city together. We got lost together. We found our way home together. We received a stern warning together when the police caught us riding the wrong way down a one-way street. When you were sick, I was so worried. I took you to the bike doctor not caring how much it would cost. Sometimes I thought someone had stolen you from me. Realizing that made my tummy really hurt. But it was just always me being silly and forgetting where I parked you. You know I can be silly. Thanks for putting up with me during those times — like when I broke too hard on wet pavement, and we both fell. Thanks for not letting me get hurt.

Things weren’t always easy for us. The upward incline on Rue de Belleville always tested us. But we always made it to the top together. And afterwards, after a few — or many — beers or glasses of wine, it was always so much fun to cruise downhill together to home. During those 60 seconds, with the Eiffel Tower in the distance and then the cobblestones that went BUMP BUMP BUMP, I was always the happiest I have ever been in my life.

There are so many other memories like that. Without you, bike, Paris would not be Paris. I can't even remember what Paris was like before you. You were the key to my happiness and to cheap transportation and to exercise.

Maybe someday I will come back to Paris and get a new bike. But no bike will ever be the same. I hope you will never forget me, because I will never forget you.

Love and Kisses,

Tuesday, September 08, 2009


Today I had a ginourmous Eureaka moment. I can have telephone conversations in French. NO WAY.

Phone conversing in another langauge is hard. You can't see the other person, thus can't see his or her facial expressions or gestures. Oftentimes, my ears decide to be hard of hearing or I just mix up words*, so this complicates things futher for me.

I experienced a horrible horrible telephone catastrophe back in March. I was ordering a pizza. The pizzeria dude wanted me to order two pizzas, but I only wanted one. Later I discovered it was a 2-for-1 deal, but I didn't understand that at the time. After the awkward convo ended, I wasn't exactly sure how many pizzas I had just ordered. On my way to pick it/them up, I sniffled a little bit and shed a few tears. I was really embarrassed and upset, because I had been studying French forever and had all this trouble ordering a frickin pizza.

But I guess there's been a veeeerrry gradual improvement in the success of my telephone conversations. My 75% comprehension became 80%. And 80% became 85%. And so on.

And today, when I was talking to someone about getting my newish purse replaced because it developed a mysterious hole, I started to actually whine a bit. But it's not my fault! I whined. I swear the hole just came out of nowhere. NO it's not from a lighter, I don't even smoke! I didn't get my way. They won't give me a new purse. I was grumpy when I hung up. But a second later, I realized that this was progress. Before I couldn't order a pizza on the phone. Now I can grump someone out on the phone. Go me.

* I recently was very confused when my roommate and her boyfriend were telling me about this delicious chocolate mousse that comes in a glass jar (un pot en verre). I understood it was delicious chocolate mousse that comes in a green jar (un pot vert). Just trust me, my brain hurt really hard after this conversion. I make mistakes like this all the time.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Flea Market Comeback

My last non-Parisian adventure was to be a trip to Lille for one of Europe's largest flea markets. It didn't work out due to driver's license complications of my friend's cousin's boyfriend (I told you it was complicated). So I decided to dedicate my Sunday to do a bit of flea marketing here in Paris on my own. I've been once to Le Marché aux Puces de Saint-Ouen, but we were filming a movie. So I didn't really look for stuff to buy.

So I leave my apartment this morning, ready for my adventure, and surprise surprise, there is a flea market right outside my front door. It's more like a neighborhood-wide garage sale. Here I accumulate:

- a multi-plug thinger. One exploded in the kitchen about a month ago, and we have been making do by juggling plugs and cords around. That works out okay except when I accidentally unplug the fridge and stove (while I am trying to use the stove), as I did last night.
- a retroish looking pair of sunglasses that are probably from H&M.
- a French-English picture dictionary. I especially like this purchase, because I bought it from a little girl. I don't even mind that it is in yucky British English, because now the little girl has €1.50 more to buy a pony or whatever.
- A neato scarf. I am planning on chopping off a ton of my hair on my return to the states, and I plan on accessorizing with scarves.

Then I go to the real flea market, which is a bit of a disappointment because here you can either buy only giant pieces of furniture or cool small things that are way too expensive. I was interested in a pair of opera glasses until I realized they were €150. Still, I manage to find:

- some pens. Those ones that have little windows with a little picture that floats up and down. I am OBSESSED with these pens and try to find one every time I visit a new place. When I saw a whole bunch at the flea market, I am pretty sure I started muttering excitedly to myself in French. I got three, and was very careful not to break my rule of only buying a pen if I have been to the place.
- a wine bottle opener. Nothing fancy, just one retired from some French restaurant. But I have been trying to learn how to open a bottle of wine without breaking the cork for months and months. I think I finally have the hang of it, so bought my own to celebrate.
- 10 really old Paris postcards.

In the end, not that much stuff, nothing particularly interesting and not that much money spent. But I either really wanted or needed or liked each thing, so I am content. Maybe I will go open a bottle of wine, or tie my hair in a scarf, or read a dictionary now.