Friday, March 31, 2006

Goodbye Rambuteau Rue . . .

Today is our last day in our apartment in the 4th arrondissement. Tomorrow we move to our new place in the 15th. Here are a few photos that I took of the shops on Rue Rambuteau shortly after we arrived as a little adieu . . .

*Click to enlarge

And this, my friends, is the home of my dear poissonnière. I snapped this photo as she was next door getting a croissant. She walked out just as I was running away.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Update, Instructions and Unsolicited Advice

The sunglasses are working. Svetlana got a “ciao, bella” from a truck driver today.

Mango, the first thing my yoga instructor ate after her 7-day fast.

Yesterday I was eating left over egg noodles that I had served with boeuf bourgogne. This prompted an instant craving for tuna casserole. I can’t remember the last time I ate it, but now it’s all I can think about. Mom, I know you won't be coming here until Christmas, but I think you need to start practicing now. I want you to go buy a bunch of balloons and cans of Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup. See how many you can swallow and report back to me. Or, you could just pack them in your suitcase, which ever you’re most comfortable with. Melinda has Cheez-Its and Cheetos covered. Okay? Thanks!

Always purchase Ny-Quil in the bottle. Fred made a rookie mistake the last time he bought it for me and brought home gel caps. They followed me to France (in a balloon) and I was grateful to have them when I was on my deathbed (in addition to being poisoned, I had a month long cold); however, gel caps make it very difficult to give yourself a little extra dose.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

My Name is Talking Tina and I’m going to . . .

Why is it that when I meet complete strangers who speak French and English and they find out that I’m learning French, they feel compelled to say something to me in French and wait for my response as if they had just pulled a string on my back? I know they’re just trying to be friendly, but for me it’s very embarrassing not to be able to communicate in full sentences at my age, especially when I've never met them before. I have a script for all my dialogues in French and when someone veers off script, all I can do is look for Fred and yell: “Line?!?” To me their behavior is the equivalent of squatting next to a toddler and asking “how many are you?” and then clapping gleefully when the child holds up two fingers. Next time someone forces me to perform without my script I’m going to hold up a finger.

Sunday, March 26, 2006


I did it. I bought a pair of aviatorish/slightly mirrored (only slightly, I promise)/eurotrash sunglasses. I couldn’t help myself. In defense of the French, I think it was mostly the Italian influence. There are so many Italian tourists here, I hear Italian spoken as much as I hear English (I have to assume it’s Italian, it’s a form of gibberish, not French, and not Spanish). I think there’s something about moving to another country that allows one the freedom to wear things they might not otherwise try in their own country because their friends would call them out on it.

It was confirmed the other day when I saw a jackass walking down the street in a massive, even bigger than the one pictured here and her head was smaller, fur-trimmed hunting hat. I thought, wow, when you’re French you can really get away with a lot more. As she walked by, I heard her big American accent and had to laugh because I knew she wouldn’t be sporting that hat in the U.S. Let’s face it; there are only a few people that can pull this look off. Most of them are models in Smirnoff Ice ads or funky college students. She was neither.

I’m kind of becoming her with what Fred refers to as my “space bug” glasses. That being said, he helped pick them out and prefers them over my old glasses. Although he was wearing fitted black Levi’s when we met, I have to take his word for it since I don’t have anyone else to ask. I suppose I could have emailed a picture to you, but I was afraid some of you would tell me no and, to be honest, I kind of like them. Call me Svetlana from now on.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

ATTENTION: Travel Advisory

Some of you may have thought I was joking when I imitated Sally Fields in Not Without My Daughter and to some extent I was. However, somewhere deep inside of me, I knew Fred was too good to be true. And now I have proof. I became suspicious when I became violently ill on New Year's Day after enjoying a four course meal, champagne, and wine with my loving husband. Or perhaps it was the undercooked chicken kebob that I purchased from the street vendor at 2:00 a.m. as we stumbled home on New Year's Eve. Whichever, I'll admit that Fred did attend to me for several days, responding to my beckon call, cleaning up after me, and finding the remote control when I had misplaced it just a few inches to the right of my left-hand. But, there was something sinister in his caring smile.

A few weeks later, when my little toe nail inexplicably fell off, my suspicion elevated to Yellow Alert. I should have started testing the water at that point. But love is blind.

In February, I fell ill again. This time cheese was the "culprit". Fred and our neighbor Jean (aka "the coconspirator downstairs") said that it probably was the croute [crust, rind, skin] of the cheese. They opined that my tender American digestive system was not yet accustomed to the French microorganisms and predicted that it could take months for me to develop a resistance to the "molds" that were wreaking havoc on my innards. I was told to slowly introduce the culinary culprits into my diet. Because I ate cheese by the boatloads in San Francisco, as well as in Bordeaux during many vacations, I'm a little suspicious of this theory.

However, last week, having been lulled into a false sense of security, I indulged in a piece of Brie (and Comté and Roquefort). What a lucky girl I thought. My husband went shopping to select my favorite cheeses and even prepared my plate for me. Lucky girl? Silly girl! The next day, I was sick to my stomach. Poisoned. Again. Orange Alert!

I guess I shouldn't take it personally. It seems they do it to all North Americans, including Canadians (only the English speaking part). On Saturday, Fred and I were walking through Les Galeries Lafayette. We noticed a large crowd gawking at something on the floor. As we passed by (and gawked), we saw a woman huddled in the fetal position against the wall. There was a pool of bile next to her, which sadly I can recognize from a distance (a skill I've acquired from my bouts of illness here, and drunken binges in the early-mid 90s -- and once last month).

As we got closer, I sensed something didn't seem right. There were two security guards squatting next to her, but nothing appeared to be happening. Fred and I moved closer. I suspected that the woman didn't speak French given the terrified look on her face and the fact that she had thrown up (i.e., was poisoned). Fred asked if she spoke English, to which she said "yes". She was a nice Canadian woman who was traveling for business. She attributed her vomiting to an allergic reaction to a mushroom sauce that she had eaten the night before. She was leaving the next day so I didn't see the point in upsetting her by telling her the truth. Red Alert.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Addendum (and misinformation I’ve imparted that needs correcting)

France does indeed sell sliced turkey meat. It’s prepackaged at the grocery store. Not exactly freshly sliced Molinari’s deli meat, but it does exist. Wouldn’t you know it? I discovered it after the bird flu hit France so I won’t eat it now anyway.

I decided not to choke Annie Wilks because a new student, an anesthesiologist from Maine, joined our class last week. I was concerned that the doctor might try to revive Annie or, at the very least, administer an anesthetic to ease the pain of my beating. It no longer seemed worth the hassle.

I think I’ve become the annoying older student in my class. There’s a new batch of people born in the 1980s (I know because our teacher made us do a humiliating exercise where we had to write our birthdays on the board) and I’ve caught myself making stupid jokes (on more than one occasion). I can hear them coming out of my mouth, but I can’t stop myself. I decided to extricate myself from the situation. I start private lessons next week.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Freddie the Pimp

Fred and I have plans on Friday to go out to dinner with one of my classmates. She seems very sweet and likes to drink so I thought it would be fun. She is in her late 40s and is spending the year here while her young daughter attends French school. Her husband is a 70 year old physician in Boston. She approached me after class today and told me she has two favors to ask of Fred. First, she wants Fred to call a Frenchman who currently is in Nice and ask him why he has not returned her calls. She had a good time with this man in Paris a few weeks ago and apparently wants more. Second, she wants Fred to tell her where she can watch men and women copulate on stage. She wants to take her husband there during his next trip to Paris. She thought France was liberal, but she had heard there might be a regulation on such entertainment. I said “Sure. He might not know the answer to your second question, but I’ll ask him tonight and he can ask his coworkers tomorrow and tell you on Friday. Bye.” I scurried away. If she only knew Fred. Hilarious. I don’t think I’ll tell him and see what happens when she brings it up.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Paris. On All Fours!

No, not another Paris Hilton video. These subjects are smart, beautiful, and wear more clothing!

After breakfast, Fred and I set out with the best intentions of getting some culture. We planned to visit a museum or an exhibit, do something that would help me appear interesting and to relieve the humiliation when asked how we were spending our weekends in this amazing city full of history and art. Eating Pringles and looking at the pictures in French Cosmopolitan while doing laundry at the laundromat doesn't seem to impress people (Cosmo is the only French magazine that has celebrities I recognize so I tend to gravitate towards it. Not something I'm proud of). Because we were only mildly interested in standing in a long line to look at paintings under glass, we were easily distracted by our new furry friends along the way.

Introducing "Cookie". Cookie is very bon chic bon genre (BCBG) and resides with her owner, a beautiful Parisienne, in the 5th arrondissement near the Panthéon.

*Please click on photos to enlarge

Waggie, est-ce que vous voulez un biscuit?
Waggie, do you want a Cookie?

Meet "Max". Max is all personality. We're not quite certain where Max lives, but be sure, what he lacks in l'argent [money], he makes up in l'esprit [spirit]. Despite his regular snack of sugar cubes, he has a beautiful smile. His sweater is red because Max is looking for love, and there is plenty of room in there for two! TicTac and Riley, first come, first served! Please, no fighting ladies.

Max candid.

Max portrait.

We even found a restaurant where the proprietors appreciate man's bestfriend just as much as some of you! It's called "La Maison". We haven't had an opportunity to try the food yet, but we will and report back soon!

Whoa! Now how did this looker sneak his way on to this canine tribute?!?

(Sorry, he made me do it. You have no idea how jealous he gets!)

Friday, March 03, 2006

If you like Pina Coladas . . .

Fred and I just passed our three month mark in Paris. We’re beginning to settle in and our lives are starting to feel normal. Now that the dust is settling, I’m realizing just how much I miss all of you.

I miss getting those 4 o’clock calls asking me to meet you at the Four Seasons, the Ferry Building Wine Bar, or Catch (3 o’clock on Fridays). I miss hosting and going to dinner parties. I miss attending your birthday parties. I miss being there when you need me. And I miss being there when I need you.

I’ve been a little stubborn in trying to make friends (evidenced by the hostility in the previous blog entry). I admit part of me doesn’t want to expend the effort because forming new relationships takes time. Moreover, a lot of the people I meet will be moving back to their original countries in three to six months and the last thing I need is to make new friends only to have them move away. I have plenty of awesome friends that live in another country! The pool of people is small too. Most of the people I meet are the younger student type or retirees. I could meet French people, but that is intimidating because I don’t speak the language well enough to be entertaining or interesting. I just smile and talk about my cat, which in itself is risky because, like in English, this word can mean something different.

I decided to start taking Yoga classes for stress relief. However, just taking the class fosters guilt because I feel that I should be devoting that time to learning French. I’ve decided I need to let those feelings go and live my life as I normally would and the language will come.

Fred is taking Yoga with me. We found our instructor on craigslist. She moved to Paris from San Francisco eight months ago with her French husband, who she met in San Francisco. She lived on Divisadero and Golden Gate and worked in a law firm as an office manager. Our commonalities end there. She’s super fit, super Zen, and just returned from India where she was on a seven-day fast! All I could think of during the entire class was: I wonder what the first thing she ate was when she was done fasting? And then my thoughts turned to food as I struggled to hold my half-lotus. Fred thought that maybe our Yoga instructor could be my new friend. She's very nice, but seriously, she doesn’t strike me as the type of person that would want to spend hours in a cheese and wine bar.

I had convinced myself that I didn’t need new friends. That Fred, Bilbo, my work, French classes, Yoga, my blog, emailing exchanges, and telephone calls would keep me busy enough. But the other day, when Bilbo started scratching the furniture and I scolded him by singing: “Wait ‘til your father gets, until your father gets, wait ‘til your father gets home” – it hit me, I need to make some friends and get out of this house. Bilbo agrees.

I asked myself, what would my life be like had I not met all my amazing friends in law school or all of my great friends at work, and all of their great friends, who are now my friends? Inspired by this, I decided to peruse some websites to see if there was anyone else like me out there. I checked the “Strictly Platonic” section of craigslist and realized that these people do not understand the meaning of “strictly” or “platonic”, which is annoying because there’s a specific section for man-on-dog action and they should post there and not clutter up the platonic section.

I also looked on FUSAC (French USA Contacts) under “Strictly Conversation” and found this:

117772 14/01/2006 French man, 44, handsome, intelligent, looks for women, any age or origin, who loves to humiliate a man, to spank him, to use him as a carpet…
Any takers? Another person who does not understand the word “strictly” (or “conversation”); although I don’t dispute the fact that he needs a spanking. This post is particularly disturbing because, unlike craigslist, one actually has to pay to place an ad here.

Anyhow, I can tell my quest for friends is going to be much more difficult than I thought. Come visit! The champagne is chilling . . .