Sunday, August 30, 2009

Four Weeks To Go

Well folks, race day is coming up fast. I can't believe that I will be at the starting line for yet another marathon only four weeks from today. And on American soil nonetheless. Yikes.

How is training going? I will share this bit I entered in our training calendar post an 8-mile run on August 26: "hobble hobble hobble. Not as bad as yesterday, but felt hobbley." Here's one Kelly wrote recently: "Why do we do this to ourselves? Remind me."

August was really, really hard. We've ramped up our mileage a ton. I've pretty much gotten used to the non-stop throbbing of a calf or a hamstring or a knee or all of the above. A coworker the other day asked me why I was limping, and I was like what? huh? I'm not limping? Well, do your legs hurt? she asked me. I had to think about it. Yes, well I guess they do. They always do. I don't even notice it anymore, because I'm considering it normal.

Now I feel like I'm trying to make people pity me, but I'm not. The only one forcing me to run 40 miles a week is me. I do it because I know, or hope at least, that I'm doing enough to be 100% prepared for the upcoming race. Kelly and I both know that what really counts are the 18 hobbley and tired weeks we put in before toeing the starting line. The miles are long, and it hurts, and I spend a lot of time feeling sorry for my legs and trying to make them feel better with ice packs. I guess I just keep telling myself the harder it is now, the easier the actual race will be. That could be totally false.

Well. At least I'm in the best shape I've been in a few years (I guess since I trained for my last marathon) and can still drink as much beer/wine and eat as many croissants as I please. And I can beat almost anyone I know in a foot race — as long as it is a long distance one. Also, my toes are pretty good looking. And by good looking I mean they are gross, do not look at them.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

French vs. American Dudes

Anyone who talks to me for more than five seconds will learn I don’t like French dudes. I like to generalize them all as creeps.

I could go on and on about this, but instead I will present to you two completely isolated case studies. Your task, my dear blog reader, is to figure out which guy is French and which is American.

1. My bike and I are idling at a red light by République. A guy wearing a bright green tee and nametag – which means he collects money for some charity/scam – frantically starts signaling to me. He has noticed that I have a flat tire, and I need to get out of the street asap. I become calmly frantic and get outta there fast to the safety of the sidewalk, where I start to inspect my bike. Actually, he tells me, you don’t have a flat tire. I just said that to get your attention. Then he proceeds to spin his spiel on the charity/scam he works for by trying to be very very flirtatious.

I am not buying any of it, because he has already proved himself to be a LIAR. I don’t like liars, particularly when it concerns my safety and my bike. Furthermore, he commits an error even more grave than assuming I am a student, which is one of my hugest pet peeves. Instead, he assumes I have quit school. Yes. Naturally. I am young and not enrolled in a university, so that must mean I am a quitter. I am magnificently unimpressed by this guy’s game. I escape back to the street with my bike, whose tires are just as un-flat as they were prior to this waste of 5 minutes of my life, whose name may or may not have been Guillaume.

2. I am taking pictures of an artsy alley in Belleville. A guy approaches me and asks me what model of camera I have. I have a Nikon D80. Oh, I have a D60, he says. This is a good move. He has found a way to talk to me by approaching a common interest of ours. He asks my name, I ask his. We chat for a few minutes. Did you hear about the party tonight? He asks. No, what party? Well, he says, there are going to be a ton of people at this bar in Buttes Chamont. It was a lot of fun last night, and I’m going back tonight. I happen to know exactly what bar he is talking about, because it is one of my favorites. More bonus points, because we enjoy the same bars.

He finishes the conversation by telling me it would be great to see me there later. Then he goes his merry little way, and I go mine. He doesn’t insist on taking my phone number, but still expressed interest in getting to know me better. I have an open invitation to accept the offer or not. If I was looking to meet guys, I would have. Especially because he did not immediately lead me to believe he was a LIAR.

So, who’s who? And what fine example of his culture tastefully and properly knew how to hit on a girl?*

*I feel as though I must add a disclaimer explaining I understand all French or American males are not equal to their respective case studies. I know that. That’s not the point of this exercise.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Easy Peasy

I want to keep my bank account open after I leave, but my branch is really far away, where I first lived when I arrived. I decided it would be more practical to have my account based in Paris proper. So I mentally and physically prepared myself for the process of transferring my account from one branch to another.

Mentally: I figured I would have to go to the bank an average of three times before successfully completing the branch transfer. This is because in France, you must try something an average of three times to ever accomplish it.

Physically: I stuffed a folder full of useless papers the French seem to require for even the most of insignificant of transactions. To prove I had the right to transfer my account to this branch, documents in my folder included, but were no limited to, a letter from my landlord to confirm I in fact live at my current address, an electric bill to confirm that he is in fact the landlord, a copy of his passport to confirm that the landlord is in fact a real person, my check book, a random assortment of important looking papers from the bank with my name and account number plastered all over them, some government documents to verify my address even further, my passport, etc.

All this, and I am not even inside the bank yet.

But by this part of the story, I am. I deal with a poo-pooey woman at reception who says well I really should have made an appointment for something like this, didn’t I know? She guesses she will see if her colleague can see me. Whatever lady. The bank opened 30 seconds ago, and I know I am the only non-employee in it.

So now I am in an office with her colleague, with my bulging folder of useless documents. I am mentally ready for her to tell me I don’t have the right ones.

Instead she doesn’t even look at them. She takes my account number, flips through my passport, prints off a single document. As I sign it she says the transfer will take a few days, and that’s it. Goodbye, and have a nice day.

And I’m like what? What? WHAT?! Never in my year in France has anything ever been this simple. I cannot get over how NORMAL this transaction was. I still can’t. I have wasted entire days, probably even months trying to do stuff like this in France. And here it took 5 minutes. I did not know that was even possible in this country.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Cat Attack

My concierge has two cats. This one is named Fifi (I think. We’ll pretend he’s a Fifi for the sake of this post):

Fifi is fat and never does anything but occasionally throw up in the courtyard. He sits and stares and stares. He is the laziest cat I have ever met. He will sit in the same place for hours. I could roll my bike over him, and he still wouldn’t budge. I wouldn’t do that though, because I am a nice person and don’t hurt cats.

I can’t even guess the other cat’s name, and I do not have a picture of he/she/it. Even if I did have a picture of this cat, I would not give it the satisfaction of posting it on my blog. I am mad at it.

This is the scardiest cat I have ever met. I will cross the courtyard, and it will dash away as fast as its little cat legs can carry it. It is terrified of people. It is also apparently extremely terrified of innocent American girls who leave their apartments very early to go running.

This is what happened. I left my apartment very early to go running. I was not entirely awake.

There I am groggily exiting the building, and suddenly there is a mass of black fur on my legs. Then it dashes away as fast as its little cat legs can carry it. I am awake now, because a cat just appeared out of thin air and freaking pounced on me with no prior warning. My legs hurt kinda. I look down. There is damage. Cat has managed to drag its claws across my thighs in three separate spots, and things are starting to get puffy and bloody. As I realize this, I shout F*#% CAT! But no one hears, because no one is up this early.

Then I go running and think about how someone should have taught this cat not to do what it did, because nice cats don’t hurt people. Several days later I see the cat again. It is sitting on a green garbage bin. It does not dash away. It stares at me, and I stare back. Staring contest, me vs. cat.

I lose.

This cat is physically and mentally more powerful than me. I don’t like this cat. Fifi's okay though.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Musée de l'Orangerie

Here's a mini tour of the Musée de l'Orangerie. I went to the other day during my lunch break. I hate when people ramble on about museums in blog posts and preach to you why you should care, so I won't here. I'll just share some pictures. If you want to learn more about the museum, check out the website.

Just a note on this last one. It's a miniature representation of a room in Paul Guillaume's home. I don't know why I have always been a sucker for these bity rooms (favorites are here and here). Maybe because I liked dollhouses when I was little.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Dear Neighbor,

As I write you this, your cell phone or landline phone or fax machine or WHATEVER is still ringing. Just as it has been for the past two weeks or more. Without. Stopping. Ever.

You must be on vacation. I really hope so, because that means you will eventually come back and turn it off. Seriously, neighbor, why in heaven's name would you leave for such an extended period of time and not unplug whatever this thing is that obnoxiously rings 24 hours a day? Why why why would you want a nice, respectful neighbor like me to suffer so much?

The ringing is so constant that sometimes I don't realize it's there. But other times, like when I am trying to sleep, I do notice. It is very unpleasant. Also, as I am sure you already well know, it is very hot here on the top floor of the apartment building. Perhaps the unbearable heat caused you to take a vacation. But I am not on vacation, and instead I open my window. Given the short distance between our apartments, that makes the ringing sound even louder.

I hope you are having a nice time and are enjoying your vacation. I am not enjoying your vacation. Please come back asap. Turn it off. Please.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Month of Bikes

The month of July went by super duper quickly. A bizarro very bike-filled month kept me busy. Some bike-related incidents of July 2009 below.

1. Matt. This is Matt, picture taken by himself:

Matt is a friend from home who quit his job and came to Europe with a bike. He is riding all over the place for six months. He stopped in Paris for about a week and slept on our itty bitty kitchen floor. Matt brought much joy to our lives. He washed dishes, took out the garbage and recycling, vacuumed, and kept the cat we were watching company. We had some picnics, drank some beers, and rode some bikes. It was great fun. One time he got locked out slept on the roof. Don't ask me how. My roommate and Matt on said roof:

2. Anti Metro. After my teaching contract was up at the end of June and I didn't need to take public transportation an hour to work anymore, I didn't renew my metro pass.

The metro is dirty and it smells and there's a whole lot of waiting involved in between transfers. It's an efficient system, but I was just over it. I decided I would ride my bike everywhere. I can't believe how much time I previously spent staring into space while riding the metro. Now I stare at glorious French architecture (although I don't pay attention to it) and get good exercise at the same time. I get to see so much more of the city. Going no metro is probably one of the best things I've done in Paris.

3. Tour de France. So everyone already knows that I followed the Tour a bit. My good friend John, some of his family, and I drove around France and Switzerland to watch the race, then caught the finish when it came down the Champs-Elysées in Paris. I hadn't seen John for a long, long time. It was an eventful reunion. We played some of our old favorite games and invented new ones.

This is us on the Tour with a stolen sign:

While in Paris for the race finish, we also spent several hours on the Eiffel tower doing socially unacceptable things, such as purposefully holding up lines and having races that, if you played aggressively enough, involved pushing strangers out of the way. Here is the most normal picture taken on that adventure:

Overall a good month. A bit stressful, but I survived. All thanks to bikes.

Monday, August 03, 2009

The Fake Halfway Mark

Kelly and I just passed the halfway point in marathon training - nine weeks down and nine more to go. But we haven’t reached the tough part yet. By the end of this month, our mileage will double that of what we ran at the beginning. For me, this means devouring gobs more bananas and peanut butter (please send more soon mom!), my clothes becoming a bit more ill-fitting, dragging myself out of bed even more unreasonably early for before-work runs, and being awoken in the middle of the night by even more of those painful, piercing, it-hurts-just-thinking-about-them muscle cramps in my calves.

Even though I train for each marathon pretty much the same way – which is essentially conditioning myself for this very long race by breaking down my body and then building it back up – every time it feels different. Kelly and I always ran together when we were training for St. Louis in 2007. Now that we’re on separate continents, that’s not so possible. I am grateful though that we can keep tabs on each other thanks to tecknology, aka a shared Google calendar we use to update our progress.

I do miss Kelly’s companionship, but training for this marathon while in Europe has its perks, too. When I was on my Tour de France trip, one morning I ran the race route 14 miles through these tiny Swiss villages and fields. The Swiss mountains kept me company. The air felt cleaner than any other air I’ve ever remembered breathing, but I probably just thought that because the nature around me was so green and so big and so full.

I probably won’t get another such run, because I don’t think I’ll be going back to Switzerland before the race. So I’ll just keep trucking away here in Paris. Fortunately, the whole city is disappearing to take their vacation outside of the city, so I’m looking forward to calm and empty streets this August. Me and my TAL podcasts are going to dominate the Paris streets - watch out.

This is what my shoes look like now, for anyone who is interested. I don't know who would be, but I am posting it anyway. They looked like this before.

Saturday, August 01, 2009


My first visit to Le Centquatre:

cent = 100 quatre = 4. It's the address. From 1873-1998, it housed the Municipal Funeral Service. The restored building is now hosts artists in residency. The goal is to improve interaction between the public and contemporary art.

I took about a million pictures of this photo booth. It rocked.

Check out the dude on the far left. He was sooooo bored and tooooo cool to show his moves. He sat like that the whole time.

Break dance it out.