Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Merry Christmas!

I hope to start a trend of beginning posts with something other than an apology for inactivity starting…next post. For now…I apologize for my inactivity. In the past about three weeks I have completed an obscene amount of work that will interest few of you. The quote of the semester survey is very close and voting will be open until…I feel like posting the results. For now, though…

The In-Laws Visit Part Three: Is that Doogie Howser?!

This is the third of several Blog Posts which will document the recent visit of Abbey’s parents: Due to the traumatizing and irritating nature of many of the events that transpired during their visit their names have been changed to protect the innocent. Abbey’s name was not changed as she knew good and well what she was getting herself into when she said “Yes” when I asked for her delicate hand in marriage (her “yes” was immediately followed by “this is weird!!”). Abbey’s parents came to visit, and this is their story. Additionally, it has now been roughly 7-8 weeks since this visit and my memory tends toward hyperbole. I make no apologies for events embellished for comedic effect and promise that there is almost a semblance of truth in most of the things that I will say.

To recap: Abbey wasn’t feeling well, Centieme, Garcon, Abbey and I spent one day on the RER and one day in the cold, gray, rain at an abandoned winery, followed by mild inebriation, sightseeing in Epernay, and a jaunt through Mickey’s overpriced wonderland before retiring to the villa for wine, soup, and pizza. We then slept.

Abbey spent all night practicing her cough and had nearly perfected it. Unfortunately, all of this practice had left her fatigued with a very sore throat. She could barely talk. While our intentions were to go back to Paris that Sunday, Abbey’s seemingly mild illness was taking a turn for the worse and we decided to call a doctor. Garcon and I walked up to a local market while Centieme stayed at the villa with a coughing, sniffling, miserable Abbey.

Rather than attempt to recount the market on my own, here is Garcon’s take on it, written much better than I can remember at this point:

“We experienced a very busy open air market with hundreds of Parisians buying everything in sight. At the market we found vans selling foods and families with their vegetables, jams, honey, and breads. We bought a Poulet Rotissierre with Pommes de Terre, and some aged Brie (really strong). We had a late lunch of Roasted Chicken with pit roasted potatoes, and poached eggs with bacon on a grilled baquettes topped with Sauce de Legume (a creamy vegetable soup laced with chicken drippings). The Domaine Naudet Sancere (Chenin Blanc) was perfect. All of the cafes and markets close at 2 pm on Sunday, so dinner was wine and cheese again from the market; Federic Trichard Beaujolais Villages and Chateau Haut Bourdi Bordeaux.” – Garcon

What Garcon failed to mention was that it was damn cold. I volunteered to carry home the poulet rotissierre (because it was warm). We got back to the villa and there was an 11 year old person looking down Abbey’s throat and taking notes. He had a doctor’s coat and everything! I assumed he was playing dress-up until his mother or father, the doctor, showed up, until he wrote a prescription and left. That was the doctor? Maybe I’m just getting old. Anyway, the verdict was in: Abbey had la bronchite. I guess my remedy of “go to bed, it’ll be better in the morning” hadn’t quite worked and we should give wonderboy’s diagnosis the benefit of the doubt.

We spent the rest of the night relaxing, eating, drinking, being merry, and de-thawing. Abbey called in sick to work for Monday and we planned to leave Monday morning for Paris. Little did we know that the disgruntled French men and women in charge of the RER A’s operations had other plans in store for our Monday activities.

Thanks for reading.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Preview to Semester Review

In order to prepare for my upcoming review of the Fall 2009 Semester here at AUP, I would like your help in deciding upon a "Quote of the Semester." I have compiled my top four quotes from professors and politely request that you vote which one should earn the honors. You do not have to be an AUP student to vote, although they will perhaps be funnier to those able to contextualize the phrases.

Fair warning, one uses British slang that is somewhat inappropriate, though virtually unknown and therefore unused in the states.

Without further ado:

The Survey

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Promises, promises...

I was hoping to be able to post clever observations on my life in Paris on this page on a weekly basis. Unfortunately, someone neglected to assure that those in charge of evaluating my academic performance at the American University of Paris received this memo (or forgot a cover sheet on their TPS report). As such I have been up to approximately my clavicles in final papers, reading, and PhD applications. In the next three days I will have all of my final papers completed and have ten days off before my finals. During this time, I promise to continue with the series on Centieme and Garcon's Parisian Adventure as well as put forth a synopsis of my semester in light of my initial goals set out in the post "On a Serious Note" possibly also describing the research project I will be completing next semester along with my reasons for choosing this topic and my reflections on interfaith relations in general. I've also had other blog-worthy endeavors that I will hopefully be able to address - I visited a church that was built on the spot where a church has been for nearly 1500 years as well as an advent service at Notre Dame (granted some good perspective on the future of the church in light of the past - even though the folks at Notre Dame weren't concerned with next season's coaching vacancy at all!) and went to my first french soccer game.

Hopefully I can fulfill all of these promises, if not...well...sorry

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Inlaws Visit Episode Two: There’s No ‘H’ in Winery

This is the second of several Blog Posts which will document the recent visit of Abbey’s parents: Due to the traumatizing and irritating nature of many of the events that transpired during their visit their names have been changed to protect the innocent. Abbey’s name was not changed as she knew good and well what she was getting herself into when she said “Yes” when I asked for her delicate hand in marriage (her “yes” was immediately followed by “this is weird!!”). Abbey’s parents came to visit, and this is their story.

We are now roughly twelve hours into the visit of Garcon and Centieme – the former being Abbey’s father and the latter her mother, for those who were confused – and exhaustion ruled the evening. Tucked into our beds, we were all blissfully oblivious to the fact that we would not be getting the proper amount of sleep in order to catch our taxi the following morning. After four years of post-college education, I have forfeited the ability to sleep past 8 or 9 AM, so I woke up around 7. Centieme and Garcon were slightly slower to rise as was Abbey – she was feeling slightly worse than the day before, her sore throat had progressed to an unrelenting cough and headache which did not make for a pleasant night’s sleep. Regardless, I woke up, showered, and went downstairs to make coffee for everyone only to find out that while the Marriot provides each room with ground coffee and a coffee maker, coffee filters were nowhere to be found. I therefore curled up on the couch for twenty minutes or so with Frantz Fanon’s “Wretched of the Earth” and enjoyed some violent description of the process of decolonization while the remainder of the family showered, shaved, bided, etc.

Centieme was the first to join me on the ground floor of the villa and, fortuitously, had packed a bag with coffee filters! If only this were to be the largest hurdle we would overcome on this rainy Saturday. The coffee brewed, Garcon descended the stairs, followed shortly thereafter by Abbey…followed shortly thereafter by an overzealous taxi driver who had arrived 15 minutes early. Garcon chugged his coffee, Abbey scrambled to locate her scarves, and I…walked outside with Centieme and waited by the Cab. I then realized I had neglected to turn the coffee pot off. After remedying this situation, I joined the family in the Taxi van and we were off. Until we politely requested that the driver return us to our villa as we had forgotten the address and directions to the winery that Garcon had arranged for us to tour that afternoon outside of Epernay (in the Champagne region of France). I couldn’t tell if this change of events irked the driver or if he was simply being French. Regardless, Garcon ran into the villa, located the folder with the information, and we were on our way.

We arrived at the train station (which was in Paris…for the record, we had caught a taxi and a train and a metro into Paris in order to catch another train that would take us two hours East of Paris, passing the Marriot on the way). By divine providence we decided to Abbey should buy a heavier sweater because the temperature had dropped below anything we had yet experienced in France…it was wintry and drizzling. Garcon and I enjoyed some coffee as we awaited our train…which was…get ready for a surprise…delayed. It was only delayed 15 minutes, though, and we would surely reach the winery with ample time before our 1 PM tour. After boarding the train, Abbey and I talked, Garcon slept, and Centieme knitted. Two hours later, we arrived at Epernay. The train ride – though delayed – would turn out to be one of the more efficient modes of transportation experienced during this visit.

After arriving in Epernay, we usurped the place of a group of Asians in the taxi cab line (using the “confused American” look I have perfected while walking the streets of Paris) and were in a van on our way to the winery. We arrived at the winery 40 minutes ahead of our 1 PM tour time. It was cold. It was rainy. It was beautiful scenery. Abbey bundled up as her and Centieme stood in the entranceway to the winery – nobody was there yet, but there was at least a roof over their heads. Garcon and I separately explored the winery’s exterior. I wandered up and down the hillside to look at…dead grape vines while Garcon peered in windows and pretended not to be growing more irate by the minute. 1:00 PM came…and went…as did 1:15 and 1:30. I continued to take pictures of dead grapes, Abbey and Centieme stayed huddled together for warmth, and Garcon stopped pretending not to be annoyed culminating in leading the charge back into town towards the one boulangerie that we saw on our way in that was open…which was now closed…[expletive]…we kept walking…we found a bar. Abbey used her newly charged cell phone to call a taxi and in the 15 minutes between our arrival at the bar and the taxi’s arrival to pick us up, Centieme, Garcon, and I took out our frustration on a bottle of champagne and shared our adventure with the highly hospitable owners of the establishment. We finished the bottle and the conversation in time to wait a few minutes for the taxi. I was feeling the champagne (something about drinking champagne in Champagne enhanced the effects of the alcohol), Garcon was smiling, and Centieme was – and I quote – “three sheets.” The rest of the day was actually quite fun – we enjoyed a stellar lunch at a local eatery in Epernay, wandered the city – exploring markets and boulangeries and cafés as we strolled – and caught our train back to the Marriot after purchasing some cold medicine at a pharmacie for Abbey. We arrived back at Disneyland and decided – what the hell, why not go to one of the overpriced restaurants in Disneyland for dinner…HA!

After ruling out planet Hollywood and…I don’t know, Mickey’s Rip-off Buffet, we settled on a steakhouse…quite Parisian, I know, but we all thought soup would be good for Abbey’s mysterious illness which - suprisingly - had not improved after standing in the cold rain for almost two hours. We were seated and perused the menu. It was apparently bring 17 of your favorite 0-7 year olds to dinner night because the place was running rampant with screaming children. Even if the “American Cheeseburger” was worth 27 Euros (I wish I was kidding) and the 25 Euro “Carrot and Coriander Soup” cured all illnesses, the ambience was completely ruined by these miniature human beings. We left our table, took some pictures in Disneyland to prove we were there, bought some wine, pizza, and soup (for the now much sicker than earlier Abbey) and retired to the villa for the evening. So ended Day 1.5-2.5 of the Inlaws visit...we'll call it day two.

Afterword: in the winery owner's defense, they have contacted Garcon and felt terrible about not being at the tour, additionally, they have since sent a "sorry we didn't show up for the tour" gift and neither Abbey, nor Garcon, nor Penny, nor I hold any sort of grudge against these fine folks and will all happily continue to drink their wine

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Inlaws Visit Episode One: Revenge of the Baggage

The next several Blog Posts will document the recent visit of Abbey’s parents: Due to the traumatizing and irritating nature of many of the events that transpired during their visit their names have been changed to protect the innocent. Abbey’s name was not changed as she knew good and well what she was getting herself into when she said “Yes” when I asked for her delicate hand in marriage (her “yes” was immediately followed by “this is weird!!”). Abbey’s parents came to visit, and this is their story.

I paid closer attention to the passing of each minute in my Friday afternoon Egypt class. By no means was my distraction due to my not being absolutely enthralled with the professor’s latest brilliant lecture. Rather, I watched each second tick by because upon returning to our apartment, I would be greeted by our first family visitors: Abbey’s Parents. This trip had been on the calendar since Abbey and I were residing in her parent’s guest room and it was difficult to believe that it had finally arrived. When I came home it was silent. Abbey had gone off with her mother, Centieme, to…I’m not entirely sure where they went, but Abbey’s father, Garcon, was in the apartment alone…in a country where he didn’t speak the language and 66.66% of the people he knew here had abandoned him. Fortunately, I arrived in time to explain that I too had many times fallen victim to sitting alone in an apartment where the television speaks only French. Centieme and Abbey arrived shortly thereafter and we were off on adventure #1: Operation Snacktime.

We made our way to Butte aux Cailles to go to a delicious creperie which – perhaps foreshadowing the rest of the weekend – was closed. Unfazed, we stopped at a small boulangerie for baguette pizzas which were absolutely delicious. After purchasing enough food to make dinner, we returned to our humble abode, gathered our belongings and began the trek to Centieme and Garcon’s villa at the Euro-Disney Marriot. This, dear readers, is where our story truly begins.

Abbey and I planned to stay at Centieme and Garcon’s villa for Friday and Saturday night as Garcon had arranged for a private tour of a winery outside of Epernay on Saturday afternoon. Abbey had developed a slight cough accompanied by a mild throatache, but we had a few days of rest and relaxation ahead of us – surely the rest would allow Abbey’s immune system to successfully dispose of the attack on her well-being. Abbey packed up two purses worth of clothes and toiletries and I filled one large purse with clothing and books and one small purse with my wallet, metro card, keys, and change (all meticulously organized, mind you). Centieme and Garcon each had two medium sized suitcases and Centieme had one purse. We descended eight floors from our apartment (God only knows how many total trips we made in order to move ourselves and all of the luggage from floor 8 to floor 0). After walking the eighth of a mile or so to the Metro stop, we boarded the metro…it was roughly 5:30PM.

Centieme and Garcon were on roughly hour 18 of travel and still going strong – I was and still am quite proud of their perseverance. After twenty minutes of standing armpit to shoulder with 157 of our closest French co-passengers, we unloaded all of our bags and tried to figure out which long, dark, urine-smelling hallway led from metro 6 to RER A. We made it. At some point, Abbey heard an announcement regarding the fact that the RER A would be preturbed on Monday. This announcement was quickly dismissed. Carrying a total of 10 purses/suitcases/bags full of groceries. We were on the train. It was fairly crowded. There were no empty seats when we boarded the RER so all of our luggage was stacked against the wall. As seats opened up, Garcon and I encouraged Abbey and Centieme to have a seat while we stood and watched the luggage like the scholars and gentlemen we are. When another seat opened up, I encouraged Garcon to take it while I watched the luggage. He did. Two stops (roughly 25 minutes) later, I realized that this was no wall that we had propped the luggage against, it was a door and it was going to open momentarily. I played jumbo-speed-jenga (a game I invented then and there, copyright pending) with our luggage to keep it from falling out of the car. Success. I broke a sweat. I took of my jacket. Abbey coughed. We got to our final destination. Neither my nor Abbey’s metro card worked. You see, when travelling VIA RER, one must scan their card in order to both enter and leave the station. I may or may not have run through the turnstiles behind Centieme in order to avoid being stuck in the station, but Abbey was too honest to attempt such a deceitful act. Fortuitously there was a young gentleman who was slightly inebriated with a beer in one hand and a metro card-containing-wallet in the other who – I jest you not – handed his wallet to Abbey to let her in. He must not have been French. From here, we carried all of our luggage to the larger-than-expected bus station to find bus #34 to Centieme and Garcon’s villa. We found the bus. Once again, not wanting to just rush on with the crowd of non-paying imbeciles, Abbey stopped to pay the bus driver for our tickets.

When Abbey and I stopped to pay for our tickets, a young gentleman exclaimed “while we are young please!” Standing right beside him, I looked him in the eye (after noticing that he was shorter and skinnier than I am) and – as politely as I could muster – informed him that his exclamatory remark reminded me of behavior that I most closely associate with a mule. He proceeded to tell me that he spoke English (though I don’t know where he got the impression my name was Richard as he called me a common nickname for one whose name is Richard) after which I congratulated him on this grand linguistic achievement and he quickly made his way to the back of the bus. It was now 9:00 PM and I was tired, sweaty, hungry, and annoyed with this English-speaking young man and make no apologies for my less-than-pastoral response to his less-than-polite demand for a speedy boarding. He debarked the bus after 15-20 minutes and made sure to stare at me as he walked away…because only extremely tough, intimidating characters stare someone down through the windowpane of a bus that is driving away. But I digress. At the next stop the bus driver turned and informed us that this was the Marriot stop. I would have sworn under oath that she was lying. Exiting the bus I saw no buildings. I saw a road. Apparently this road led to the Marriot.

A fifteen minute walk later, Abbey, Centieme, Garcon, and I found ourselves at the welcome desk of the Marriot. 10 Minutes later we found ourselves in their villa. We ate dinner and shared our individual experiences of the roughly four hour commute between Paris and the Marriot. At some point, one of us pointed out that this trek would be made five or six more times. It was subsequently stated that the next few times no luggage would be involved. Abbey took some medicine and went to bed. She still didn’t feel great, but figured a night of rest would do the trick. Centieme and Garcon went to bed shortly thereafter. Finally I went to bed in order to get some sleep before the 7AM wake up call that would ensure that all four of us would be on the 8:15AM taxi to the bus station to go on the aforementioned winery tour.

So ended day ½. Tune in next time for The Inlaws Visit Episode Two: The Winery.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Recent Blogging Hiatus

I did not blog this week. I apologize. In order to remedy this, I offer the following:

A recurring conversation with myself:
Myself: "did anyone else see that?"
Myself: "I don't think so"
Myself: "I need to blog about that!"
Myself: "My words will never do this situation justice"

A Conversation Today between Abbey and I:
Abbey: "don't take a video of that man, it's rude"
Me: "This is too funny for me to worry about being polite."

The result of these conversations:

Your Welcome

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Wish Me Luck...

I noticed it on the way to class today – it has become an unconscious, almost reflexive action…and I don’t know how. That’s a bit of an exaggeration, I know how it happened, I just didn’t expect it so soon, I certainly didn’t plan for this particular twitch to once again rear its ugly head during my time here in Paris, but, alas, it has resurfaced. It’s been years since I’ve suffered from this particular affliction and I certainly feel ill-equipped to overcome this…twitch... here in a foreign country. It’s a little intimidating, but certainly could make for a rather amusing experience for all of you while traumatizing me – a small price to pay, I guess.

The affliction: walking down the street I realized that I jerk my head upward and to the right every 20 yards or so. This isn’t some neurological abnormality or anything of that sort…my hair has gotten too long and I must flip my damn bangs out of my eyes.

Stop laughing.

Seriously, I looked awesome Junior year of college with the mop on my head – I even had cornrows once…you know you’re all jealous…damn it I need a haircut. I didn’t even think about this before I left the states…this is intimidating…I know that the word for hair in French is close to the word for horse and I’m a little concerned that an innocent mare will end up being lacerated as a result of my sub par French…I could always make sure Abbey is with me…she is, after all, an ABD French Literature PhD student…no! I need to learn. I will get a haircut. By myself. I’ll look up some French vocab and if I come from la salon looking like a molting cockatoo then it will just serve as motivation for learning French and as amusement for all of you. Please wish me luck.

Monday, October 26, 2009

An Addendum to the Previous Proposal to Parisian Pedestrians

Specifically, to Rule #4: Moving one’s damn umbrella so as not to strike another pedestrian in the head (la tete) and its consequence (Your umbrella may be forcibly confiscated and thrown into the path of a moving vehicle.)

I would like to add an extra stipulation for gratuitously oversized umbrellas (gros parapluies). If your umbrella exceeds the size necessary to provide portable shelter for your person, I will join you under it. I will snuggle up uncomfortably close to you. I will sniffle. I will cough. I will clear my throat. Depending on the size of your umbrella, I may even boisterously expel a flatus or two. By and large, you large-umbrella carriers are rather slow so I have little faith in your ability to outrun me. Additionally, you appear to be inept when it comes to physically defending yourself so I have doubts that you will succeed in forcibly removing me from under your umbrella (parapluie). You will either have to throw away your umbrella and purchase a new, smaller model umbrella or come to terms with the fact that you will be sharing your large umbrella – with me – until you reach your destination. I don’t care where you are going. I daresay that enforcing this rule is more important than most of my Parisian commitments.

You may object, stating that I should not be the sole judge of the proper size of your umbrella. En Contraire, if I fit under it…it is too big. This goes for anyone else who feels up to enforcing this rule – if you fit under a stranger’s umbrella, consider it an open invitation to join them.

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Wait...the French DO know how to drive??

Abbey and I were on a stroll. A Screech of tires. We turned our heads. Car Crash.

[Disclaimer: Nobody was hurt in this crash – as a matter of fact, one car was virtually undamaged]

Moving on, I have spent nearly two entire months of walking alongside traffic that makes 285 in Atlanta look like a how-to video for proper driving. These people are insane. It’s like they are driving with their eyes closed and steering with their feet. Not only are the lines on the road seen as recommendations not to drive over rather than regulations but so are curbs, other cars, trees, and animals and furthermore, pedestrians here exist without an implied ontological status of “a being you should avoid hitting with your car.” But somehow I have yet to see an accident. Cue someone paying attention to a red light.

A small, red car driven by a large, French man stopped at a red light and the relatively large white car behind him screeched it’s tires coming to a halt…in the red car’s diminutive trunk. Everyone on the sidewalk was silent…making myself seem much louder as I exclaimed “Merde!”

[Disclaimer: while, at that point I was unaware that nobody was hurt, I stand by the fact that while “Merde” in the exclamatory may not have been a caring, pastoral response it was, by no means, inappropriate]

Abbey and I joined the group of pedestrian onlookers as the man in the red car emerged and assessed the…absolute lack of damage to his vehicle. I don’t care what anyone says, I saw that man grin when he looked at the hood of the other car folded in half without a headlight left unexploded. The other driver emerged unscathed and began yelling and questioning why in God’s plush earth this mad man in front of him had dared to…obey a posted light. Now, my French is still a little spotty, but it’s getting better, so here is what I gathered from eavesdropping into their dialogue:

Driver of Red Car: Hey, you got glass everywhere…make sure it doesn’t scratch my unscratched car – look at how nice and unscratched my back bumper is!

Driver of White Car: You can’t be my fellow countryman.

Driver of Red Car: I am French, why would you think I am not?

Driver of White Car: You know exactly why not.

Driver of Red Car: You seem upset.

Driver of White Car: Traitor.

Driver of Red Car slightly tilts his head with a befuddled look

Driver of White Car: All French people know that you never, ever, ever stop at a red light you buffoon, you drive up on the sidewalk, throw things, honk your horn, scream out the window – these pedestrians might be AMERICAN! We can’t have them thinking we know how to drive and just choose not to, they have to fear us or else they’ll start crossing at crosswalks when the light tells them they can, they’ll assume that they have the right of way, it might even lead to them thinking they should rent cars and obey the rules and drive at a safe pace and distance from the car in front of them, forcing us to do the same. Then, they’ll tell all their American friends how nice it is to take a leisurely drive in Paris and then they’ll buy cars, but then they’ll bring over their giant trucks and minivans and use all of our gas, then import more, then they’ll stay, and then…YOU FOOL, our terrible driving is the only thing keeping us from becoming the 51st star on their flag!

Driver of Red Car: I apologize, I assume full responsibility for this, here is a large sum of cash. Good day, sir.

Like I said, my French is improving, but definitely not fluent so there may be some minor translation issues in the above rendering of their conversation.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Strategy trumps Neonshirts

My blood was boiling. I can't stand those people. It isn’t nice to dislike people you've never met, it’s not nice to think mean things, it’s inappropriate to wish ill…but I’ve never claimed to be that nice of a person. I was standing at the crosswalk near the Centre Commercial at Place D’Italie when I looked up and saw them. With their orange shirts. Their fliers. Their “cause.” Their clipboards. That’s what I get for encouraging philanthropy. These people are what happens when overly extroverted phone solicitors mate with ticks and fleas and give in to their insatiable need to thrust themselves into the lives of others in person. They stand in public places and talk to you about something in French. What cause are they fighting for? A worthy one, no doubt, but I have no idea. I’m told that they don’t want money, they just want to spread awareness. Of what? I assume that it varies based on what color neon shirt the overzealous young men and women are wearing but I don’t know. I don’t speak French [Abbey says I need to add the word "yet" here...so...yet].

I know what you’re thinking and the answer is no. The fact that I don’t understand a single syllable of their plea does absolutely nothing to dissuade them from standing in my way speaking gibberish. I step to the right. They are there. I step to the left. They are there. I shove them out of the way. They give me a hug. There are usually about 10-15 of them on a small stretch of sidewalk so if I manage to elude one, I still have 4-8 of the remaining unoccupied, flier pushing, neon-shirt-clad, overly-peppy, smiling, well-intentioned…did I say well-intentioned? I’m giving them too much credit – I’ve never understood a word any of these people have shouted. For all I know they could be selling baby seal slippers, they could be petitioning on behalf of child labor, or they could just be trying to convince me that I should don a neon shirt and annoy people alongside them…maybe that is their entire cause…neon shirts and annoying innocent pedestrians.

Don’t be fooled by my simplistic portrayal of these clipboard-toating weenies. They have an answer for everything I try to do or say to avoid them. They meet my “I’m just a stupid tourist who doesn’t speak French” look (which, by the way, I have absolutely perfected) by replying “I…Speak…also…English…aussi” Caught you, frenchie, “aussi” is French, you don’t speak English, you are a liar, get out of my way. But they don’t get out of my way, they keep doing to English what I do French except I only do so when forces beyond my control necessitate my entering into French dialogue with a stranger…or my wife is refusing to speak to me in English to “help” me “learn.” They meet an aggressive look by getting even cheerier – maybe they want me to strike them. This could be another purpose of their gathering – if I strike someone in America, odds are I will end up paying them a healthy sum of money (that’s what student loans are for, right?). Maybe it’s the same here. If you ignore them they get louder, if you zig and zag they chase you down. Your only hope of avoiding them is to run inside the nearest building and pray to whatever you believe in that the neonshirts will go away. That was your only hope. Until I figured it out.

As noted in a previous post there is an overabundance of pedestrians in Paris – pedestrians are literally everywhere. Did I say pedestrians? Until today they were pedestrians. Henceforth they shall be known as “sacrifices to the neonshirts.” I stood there at the crosswalk and realized that there were more pedestrians than neonshirts. If I could maneuver through the upcoming block in a manner that would create a series of situations in which there were at least one sacrifice between myself and the neonshirt, the neonshirt would pounce upon the closer prey. Like every single one of my brainstorms ever, this worked to perfection. The sacrifices had no idea that I was walking right behind them to their immediate back/left and that I had made eye contact with a neonshirt (this is neonshirtese for “ooh! Ooh! Bother me!!”). As the neonshirt approached I swiftly moved to the sacrifice’s right side thus positioning this poor soul between myself and the neonshirt. The person was stopped and bothered.

Tommy – 1
Neonshirts – 0
Sacrifices to Neonshirts – -1

I then looked ahead to see that there were two neonshirts heading in my direction. I looked to my left – no one. I looked to my right – no one. I looked behind me…BAM woman and husband. I bent down to “tie my shoe” and in one swift motion I stood up, made eye contact with the two neonshirts, was passed by the woman on the right, and the man on the left. I had spatially divided the couple so as to necessitate the attention of both neonshirts and I giggled as I walked by the poor sacrifices.

Tommy – 3
Neonshirts – still 0
Sacrifices to Neonshirts – -3

It seemed as though all the other neonshirts were preoccupied with men and women I had just moments earlier traversed avenue D’Italie with. Our ranks were depleted. I was the lone survivor. Before I could breathe a sigh of relief a neonshirt appeared from around the corner, apparently acting as the last line of defense. I made eye contact. The “I’m lost” look didn’t work. The “I’m angry” looked failed as well. The outlook was bleak. From behind the redshirt appeared a beacon of hope – an oblivious sacrifice to the neonshirt. I looked unsuspecting victim at first puzzled and then elated. My eyes widened and I acted as though I was witnessing something truly spectacular just over the right shoulder of the approaching neonshirt. The neonshirt looked over his right shoulder. I leapt by his left shoulder as he cornered the poor sacrifice I had thrown to the neonshirts. Victory.

Final Count:
Tommy – 4
Neonshirts – 0
Sacrifices to Neonshirts – -4

Can I get a "booyah!"?

thanks for reading

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Paul is a Liar

It has come to my attention that it is a partial duty of mine as a member of what is known as “the blogosphere” to recommend websites and other blogs of my friends to those of you, my readers, who may not know my friends, frequent the same web sites, or have as much spare time on your hands. Enter Paul.

I have a friend named Paul. While Paul and I are by no means the closest of friends, in college we did attend many of the same social functions, donated money to the same semesterly slush fund, and wore t-shirts that had the same letters on them creating an unbreakable fraternal bond. Paul is a retired pizza delivery guy and, to be honest, I’m not entirely sure what he does now. What I am sure of is that he is a dirty, dirty liar.

Paul has started a blog entitled: “The Running Jerks.” Yes there are two people listed as authors of that blog. Yes there are two names in the site address. But don’t be fooled. You see, Paul – as stated previously – is a liar.

First: His blog is about his quest to run a marathon. Fact: Paul doesn’t run, Paul reads comic books. Paul is the reason that the good folks who invented the Segway were able to illustrate that they did, indeed, have what is known as a target market. The only time I have ever seen Paul run is…I don’t think I have – he does, however, throw a great party and is quite adept at tossing a ping pong ball into a beverage filled Dixie cup located about 10 feet from his person.

Second: There are two names on his blog, and two people claim to be writing it. Fact: I think Paul made this “Mike” character up. He never posts and when he does it usually serves the purpose of emphasizing the arduous workouts Paul is undergoing as opposed to the inactivity of “Mike.” Being that Paul has proven himself to be a liar by claiming to be a “runner,” adding an imaginary friend to his blog is not beyond the realm of possibilities.

So why am I letting you know of this delusional liar’s quest to run a dreamed-up marathon? Well, liar or not, Paul is doing it for a good cause, encouraging his readers as I now encourage you to go to Paul’s FirstGiving page (see this blog post) and donate because, since Paul is a liar, you will probably end up getting your money back in addition to giving to charity.

While I don’t condone lying – I would never dream of using this blog to exaggerate or lie about my life’s events! – I do condone charity work which appears, for now, to be the purpose of Paul’s fictional blog.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Another Parisian Observation

While I have certainly been noticing cultural dissonances between the women and men I interact with here (by ‘interact with’ I obviously mean ‘avoid eye contact with and pray to god they don’t try to engage in a conversation with me in French’) there are many notable similarities. The most striking of these congruencies involves those who, were I able to speak the same language, might be considered my peers. These young gentlemen seem to be between 22 and 30 and yet there is a striking contrast between them and myself. I notice this phenomenon also in the States, though not to the same extent (probably because this group of young men occupy their own individual vehicles on their way to their destinations rather than stand armpit to armpit clutching the “holy crap I’m falling” rail in the middle of each metro train and, while we may have shared I-85, we shared no semblance of human interaction). As you may have guessed it, the striking difference between this group of my peers and myself is the following fact: They wear a suit to where they’re going.

I have deduced that there are three subcategories of men in their mid-twenties who wear suits in public (not counting those on their way to a funeral). Also, being that I observe their behaviors while on the metro or walking down the street, and given the fact that I happen to be an astute judge of character and a mind reader, I also have a fairly good idea of what these men are thinking as they head towards their suit-necessitating destinations.

Group #1: The “That’s right, I’m Wearing a Suit” Mid-Twenties Suit-Wearers. They are proud. They are borderline smug. Their hair is neatly quaffed and gelled. I take great joy in scuffing their shoes as I shuffle by them with my sneakers, jeans, and school purse. They see their reflection in the metro windows. They think “That’s Right, Pierre, you are wearing a suit. Look at that schmuck, with his jeans, and purse reading a book. Wow, my hair looks phenomenal. This gel works wonders. My, I must say that I am also quite clean-shaven. I look good in this suit! Flow charts. Consulting. Productivity analysis systems. I am handsome!” They are well aware that they are on the way to evolving into tomorrow’s movers and shakers and suit-wearing twenty-something hirers.

Group 2: The “I’m not Qualified to be Wearing a Suit to my Destination, but I have to, but it makes me Insecure, I Don’t Know What I’m Doing and Probably Won’t be Rising up this Company’s Organizational Chart and Keep Having to File Papers and Fetch Coffee and I Hate This Job but There’s No Other Alternative” Mid-Twenties Suit-Wearers. These are a worrying bunch. They have the same look on their face as my Basset Hound (may he Rest in Peace) had when he tried to sneak a baguette from the table while there were people in the room – almost confident that their goal is attainable but they know someone else will get it, and they don’t seem to want to go for it. The greatest thing about this group is that they are the first to say “pardon” and get out of your way on the metro. They don’t know how they ended up in a suit and they aren’t happy they got there – if they could figure out the moment their life started creeping down this path they would surely try to change something. Until then, they humbly walk through the metro, careful not to get in anyone’s way, and go somewhere to get someone’s coffee.

Group 3: The “I Don’t Get Paid Enough to Buy a Decent Suit that Fits, But One Day, I’m Going to Make It and Buy a Suit Like Pierre’s!” Mid-Twenties Suit-Wearers. They are full of all the eager optimism of someone who doesn’t realize that they actually belong in group two. But their suit pants drag four feet behind their person and they could tuck their sleeves into their socks. They believe that the massive amount of gel they used makes them look like a Pierre and they accidentally nicked themselves shaving. They are eager to get to their destination to prove to whoever they need to prove something to that they are worth every penny of a promotion – and every penny of that will be spent on a new suit appropriate to that position (and one that might actually fit). I honestly feel worse for this group than Group 2, I hope the best for them and, yes, periodically I even get out of their way in the metro or on the sidewalk. They are a pitiful bunch, but – hey, they are important enough to wear suits to work.

If you aren’t a Pierre, or in group 2, or 3, and yet you are a mid-twenties suit-wearer; consider yourself proof that most paradigms of this sort – which divide a large mass of people into a conveniently small number of categories – tend
to fall short when applied to reality: write that down.


Thanks for reading.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

A Glimmer of Joy on the Metro

She hit me. The lady hit me in the back with her purse. We were at least 20 yards from the train and halfway up the staircase. The “get the h on the cart or get squished” bell was ringing. Someone much swifter would have barely made it on the train in time from here. This middle-aged, overweight French woman was not swift. And yet…she hit me with her purse as she quickly waddled by. Granted, I was walking slowly [for the record, I was on the right (droite) side of the stairwell] – for I had accepted my fate: I would be forced to take the next train. A whopping two minutes of my day would be spent standing next to the urine gutters along the wall of the metro reading a book and awaiting the next train. It happens. Then…god giggled.

Don’t get the wrong idea, she didn’t fall, she didn’t smack into the side of the metro as the doors shut, or anything else like that, she made it onto the train. One of her feet did. The door closed on her foot/back half of her body/purse and she hurriedly yanked all of her self that she could onto the train. I lost it. I fell into a chair, I pointed, I laughed, I cried. This was the culmination of 5 weeks of frustration rising from the daily ritual of being crammed on a small metro train with 463 of my stinkiest, sweatiest, cigarette-smoke-smellingest, cold-having, nose-picking, farting, sniffling, wailing-baby-toting, accordion playing, fellow Parisians. Finally, I was granted laughter amidst a typically unpleasant and aggravating environment, albeit at the expense of another.

The woman pushed. She shoved. She panicked. She flailed. The doors closed. She was in. Sigh of relief. The straps of her purse were in. Fantastic. Her purse was not. I lost all semblance of composure. Others on the train gave a condescending look at my laughter through the nearest oversized window but I didn’t, and still don’t, care. Her purse was outside the train. She was inside. I apologize to anyone who was on the train or who may be reading this who fail to see the humor in this – by worldwide standards, this is funny (the UN said so last week).

As the train took off, I saw the lady through the window desperately tugging on her purse straps. The purse was going nowhere. As the train disappeared into the tunnel, the purse struck the wall and scraped against it until it was out of the range of audibility, and probably beyond. I laughed then. I laughed the rest of the day. I’m laughing now. So much joy at the expense of another makes me wonder if I’m a bad person. I respond negatively. My amusement at this lady’s expense has no bearing on the moral quality of my person…though blogging about it may. And you may be a bad person for reading this. But for those few brief moments, I experienced joy on the metro, and the next time I am struck with a purse or crammed up against the wall of a train between a crying baby and a stinky, hairy, sweaty jogger, I will think about that poor lady tugging on her purse and chuckle…a lot.

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

It's not a Satchel

First of all, dear readers, my apologies for another week-long gap between posts, turns out graduate school still requires a lot of time – you’d think by the time I entered 20th grade I would have figured that out. Nevertheless, in the post below I endeavor to share a peace that I have reached with a topic that – to be quite honest – created some anxiety upon my arrival one month and one day ago. It is not the language barrier, the difference in culture, or the fact that Abbey and I took out a good amount of loans to make this year happen that brought about this anxiety, rather it was the anticipation of finally realizing a long latent desire as Parisian cultural norms dictate the carrying of a purse is, indeed, a universal privilege whereas, in the good ole U.S. of A. [insert Sarah Palin-esque wink], this privilege is reserved for females and effeminate males.

I don’t mean to say that either of these groups are either rightly stereotyped, made lesser people, or solely defined by the act of purse-carrying; I merely intend to state that I don’t believe myself to fit in to either of these groups, making purse-carrying a socially unacceptable behavior for myself. Being somewhat of a conformist overly concerned with how other people perceive me, I am wary of defying this longstanding, though unwritten, societal mandate. Then I arrived in Paris.

Everyone in Paris carries a purse. Let’s bracket that thought for the moment while I define the term purse. Many American males attempt to avoid the use of the term “purse” when it refers to a bag that is in their possession – probably due to the type of fears I expressed above. The terms “man-bag,” “man-purse,” “murse,” “knapsack,” “briefcase,” “satchel,” “messenger bag,” and myriad others have been used by American males to refer to their purses in order to mask the fact that they fall into the category of purse-carriers. I am ok with calling it a purse. As the cliché goes, “it is what it is.” Here at the American University of Paris we were issued a standard black cloth purse upon arrival at Orientation that was labeled something like an “adventure pack” or some other clever name to convince American males that it was NOT a purse. It’s a purse. We are, after all, graduate students in need of some sort of bag to carry books, notebooks, pens, and other student-related paraphernalia to and from class. I hereby state, though, that henceforth a school backpack should properly be referred to as a purse. Any bag that someone carries – whether endowed with two X’s or one or anywhere in between and beyond – will be referred to by me as a purse. This includes the three purses that I have been rotating between since my arrival in Paris. Back to the point – everyone here carries a purse. Abbey and I counted in the metro yesterday: walking up the stairs there were 7 people, 6 of whom were purse-carriers. The other one: a loser.

Why am I so excited about finally being able to carry a purse? Let’s do some math. Abbey and I have been together (dating exclusively, then getting married) since December of 2002. We have lived in the southeast United States for the duration of our relationship and, therefore, experience four seasons per year. Due once again to societal norms, at some point it was popularly mandated that different colored/textured/patterned/materialed purses be carried in each season. It is currently between Summer and fall of 2009. That makes winter of ’02, all four seasons in ‘03, all four in ‘04, all four in ’05, all four in ’06, all four in ’07, all four in ’08, and two full seasons thus far in ’09. For those math studs reading, that makes twenty-seven seasons and…you guessed it…27 purses for Abbey (this list does not include VT themed purses carried to game day or those given as gifts). Now, I will be the first to admit that Abbey re-uses purses (she may have used the same fall purse from 2006 as she did in 2008). However, the bottom line is that I have travelled to grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations, and shopping malls with a pen and keys in my right front pocket, a cell phone in my left front pocket, and a wallet in my back right pocket for nearly a decade. In that time, Abbey has carried roughly 20 purses, all with different pocket schemes/storage spaces. Granted, in this time, I was a student carrying a backpack (purse). However, my keys, phone, change, pen, and wallet all remained in my pants and shorts pockets and I only carried my backpack (purse) to class-related/textbook-necessitating functions. I was not utilizing my purse to its full potential for fear of my manly man backpack being mistaken for a girly purse. Each time Abbey and I would venture out and she would find occasion to delve into the chasm strapped to her shoulder to locate the 43 cents for change I would spend roughly 17 minutes thinking “If I had a purse, it would be SO much more organized than that.” That “if” is now, at long last, a reality.

On to my purses: my timbuk2 brand purse has a pocket in the front of it that conveniently holds all of the prior contents of my pants pockets. Wallet: Check. Cell Phone: to heck with a cell phone, I don’t have one at the moment and I love it. Keys: check. Additionally, in this compartment I carry a small map of Paris, a thumb drive, and writing utensils - it also has a small zipper pocket for change. These are all easily accessible with minimal rummaging. Furthermore, there is ample room for all of the necessary books, folders, and notebooks, that I may need on any given day (It is even equipped with a padded compartment for my laptop). There is also a front pocket big enough for an ipod and a zipper compartment that conveniently holds my metro card. This is truly a student’s purse – American gender roles be damned. My AUP purse is the next size down from my Timbuk2 purse but has no compartment for my laptop. My third, and smallest, purse is fantastic – if you are facebook friends with myself or Abbey, you have already seen a candid shot of this purse in action. Just big enough for my wallet, keys, map of Paris, and metro card, there is no rummaging necessary in this little, awesome, blue-cloth purse.

I sense that you are judging me.

However, I wager that your judgment arises from jealousy or a sense of awe. If you are a NPCM (non-purse-carrying male) you are jealous of the fact that my right butt cheek doesn’t go numb when I sit down for an extended time due to the wallet in my pocket. Further, as a NPCM, you are likely envious that I do not get poked in the leg by my keys and change doesn’t fall out of my pockets when I sit down. If you are a purse-carrying female you are no doubt impressed by my organizational prowess displayed by the easily accessed contents of my various purses. I am sure that all the jokes that will be made at the expense of my purse-carrying are merely manifestations of the aforementioned envy and awe of the great improvements in my efficiency as a citizen directly due to my carrying of a purse as well as indications of the fear that grips American males as they come to terms with the fact that, perhaps, carrying a purse is a good (great)idea.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to get my purse together for class.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Baba au Rhum and the Evangelical Impulse

It happens to all of us. Well…maybe it doesn’t and I’m trying to convince myself of the universality of this phenomenon in order to lessen the worries that I am an egotistical twit trying to tell everyone else what to do. I’m talking, of course, about what is known as the “Evangelical Impulse.” While the term “evangelical” has its roots in the greek term “euangelion” which is translated in most versions of the New Testament as “Good News,” it has lately been used primarily to refer to Christians who occupy an extremely socially conservative point of view and voice their opinions regularly in public (three cheers for a seminary degree!). I, however, am not using this term in either of these ways, although the latter is probably closer to the definition I am attempting to utilize. The evangelical impulse refers to one’s desire that others engage in an activity that, for the “evangelist,” produced a highly desirable effect. In this manner, the folks mentioned earlier do, indeed, tend to act upon this impulse (i.e. I don’t imbibe alcohol and I am perfectly happy; ergo, if you cease imbibing alcohol you will reach a similar level of happiness [and have me to thank (I just used parentheses inside of brackets inside of parentheses, how you like me now high school english teachers??)!]).

However, this group of people (admittedly broadly defined and therefore problematic – exceptions to stereotypes, overly broad homogenizations, etc… you’re free to choose the reason I’m wrong) tend to have some kind of motive to convert others to their particular faith and, perhaps, believe that in getting you to act in a similar manner to themselves your belief structure may begin to resemble theirs as well and you will keep reaching new levels of “happy” until you are as “happy” as they are. I have no such ulterior motive to alter your behavior (or do I?). What I do have is an experience that has made me happy that I wish to encourage all of my readers to engage in...[after a discussion with my legal team regarding the contents of the blog to follow, I can only encourage those of proper age under the laws of their country, state, city, county, etc. to engage in the aforementioned experience]. This experience: Baba au rhum. Dear Lord, I thought Vietnamese nougat was delicious (this is the part of this post where I’ll cease to discuss complicated themes using difficult words/sentence structures and certain mother-in-laws may find themselves giggling more).

Baba au rhum is a pastry sent down from the kitchen of every God ever worshipped and every prophet ever to receive a revelation (I believe it was a collaborative effort) to France to be served at restaurants, boulangeries, and prepackaged to be sold at Carrefour (an establishment that probably originated in the same kitchen of the Gods and prophets when Vishnu turned to Joseph Smith and said “How will we get this delicious pastry to the masses?” And Joseph Smith responded…“The sacred place shall be called ‘Carrefour’ and they shall also be the keepers of beer for two euros/six pack and delicious frozen pizza…and an American shall stumbleth upon it…and he shall bloggeth). I have experienced this pastry in the Carrefour variety and eagerly look forward to experiencing au restaurant, and you should do.

Problem: Many of you are in America where Baba au rhum is scarce. Solution: I’ve got you covered.

You see, Baba au rhum is a four-part treat. One part delectable pastry. One part crème. Two parts rum…don’t judge me. Basically, what Baba au rhum is…is a twinkie dunked in rum. What I am saying, then, is that those with legal access to both twinkies and rum (I’m not sure of the particular statute on twinkies in each of your localities) should buy both, fill a cup with rum, and…




What I am further saying is “Yes, I have experienced something good…nay great.” As well as “Yes, for those who share the love of fine pastries, crème, and rum, this good is universal.” If you do not like rum, don’t feel obliged to dunk a twinkie in it…feel encouraged to experience a French delicacy that a friend of yours has enjoyed. If you have some sort of health-related issue preventing you from enjoying an Americanized version of this delicacy, come visit and enjoy a Baba au rhum in Paris – I promise they are full of vitamins here. For those thinking that I have no right to tell them how to live their life – including dictating the beverage in which they dunk their crème-filled pastries – even if I “claim” to be “merely encouraging” an action…go hug a tree, Baba au rhum is delicious and everyone reading this should try it and buy one for someone else (perhaps one small step towards world peace?).

One final piece of advice: should some well-meaning – but mistaken – friend or relative call you an alcoholic for dipping a twinkie in a full glass of Captain Morgan’s tell them what I tell myself: “I’m not an alcoholic…I’m experiencing French culture.”

thanks for reading

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Boarding the Morning Metro (A Haiku)

This just came to me on the metro this morning - like a kind of divine revelation, enjoy.

Boarding the Morning Metro (A Haiku)

Bonjour smoker breath.
Bonjour offensive B.O.
Bonjour urine smell.

thanks for reading.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

A Preliminary Proposal to the Plethora of Parisian Pedestrians

My Fellow Parisian Pedestrians:

From my past experience (going on three weeks now) I feel enlightened as to the plight of your everyday existence for I, now, am one of you. We are in a hurry. We must get where we are going. We are very important people doing very important things. There are unimportant people doing unimportant things who get in our way. These miscreants have regard neither for our individual societal status nor for the importance of the myriad vital engagements we have found ourselves speed-walking towards. In a country where the revolutions have historically begun by the people for the people, I propose the following guidelines and repercussions for Parisian Pedestrians which, henceforth, I shall abide by – whether the other pedestrians appear to be les nobles ou la bourgeosie.


1.) Walk on the right (droite) of the sidewalk and metro hallways.

2.) If it appears as though, should we both continue in our paths, that we shall collide, step to the right (droite), or make some effort to move towards the right (droite).

3.) Stop bringing your enormous carts/strollers to crowded markets – you are in the way and nobody appreciates it…as a matter of fact, most people are thoroughly annoyed with you

4.) Move your damn umbrella so as not to strike another pedestrian in the head (la tete)

5.) Do not stand in the middle of a small sidewalk talking on your cellular telephone oblivious to the world around you.

6.) Before walking in front of someone, please allow a proper amount of space so that there is little to no chance that you will infringe upon the path which will momentarily be occupied by the pedestrian whom you will momentarily step in front of, causing them to dart out of your way or come into contact with your person.

7.) If you are a slow walker, walk to the extreme right (droite) of whatever surface you may be walking upon.

8.) If you are a scooter on the sidewalk, you disgust me...but you win because your vehicle will do more damage to me than I to it.


Should you choose to ignore Rule #1 (regarding inhabiting the right (droite) side of the sidewalk): you have forfeited your rights as a pedestrian and may be bumped into or shoved with no regard for your personal safety or belongings.

Should you choose to ignore Rule #2 (regarding moving to the right (droite) should your path collide with another pedestrian) you have also forfeited your rights as a pedestrian and may be bumped into or shoved with no regard for your personal safety or belongings by the lady/gentleman whose path you have crossed. NOTE: should the person whose path you have crossed make no effort to move, they have similarly violated rule #2 and thus forfeited their rights as a pedestrian, allowing you the opportunity to collide with/shove them with no regard for their personal safety or belongings.

Should you choose to ignore Rule #3 (regarding your enormous carts/strollers in a crowded market): Your carts may be freely bumped into/purposefully kicked – as may your stroller under the condition that it has been established to be uninhabited by an infant innocent of your stupidity.

Should you choose to ignore Rule #4 (regarding your damn umbrella): Your umbrella may be forcibly confiscated and thrown into the path of a moving vehicle.

Should you choose to ignore Rule #5 (regarding standing stagnant on a sidewalk while talking on your cell phone): You have relinquished all rights as a pedestrian and may be shoved, bumped into, glared at, or have projectiles hurled in your direction…you arrogant ninnymuggins.

Should you choose to ignore Rule #6 (regarding not allowing the proper amount of space before walking in front of someone): You relinquish the right to not have the back of your shoe stepped on causing it to come halfway off. Furthermore, you relinquish the right to not be kicked in the non-planted foot causing said foot to collide with the back of the shin of your planted foot and you to stumble forward. You arse.

Should you choose to ignore Rule #7 (regarding walking too slow): You have relinquished your right to walk at your own pace without being bumped into.

Should you choose to ignore Rule #8 (regarding riding scooters on the sidewalks): The pedestrian has no course of action to follow. However, you will be considered to be a terrible person...take that.

I deem these rules to be obscenely self-explanatory and straightforward. If anything is lost in translation, please consult my wife. If you are walking through Paris and see that I am the one who stepped on your shoe/kicked your airborne foot, I did it on purpose – you shouldn’t have walked so close in front of me. If your basket falls on its side at the market – I kicked it: next time bring a bag. If a tall, lanky American's shoulder collides with your delicate French torso, you made no effort to move; and I make no effort here to apologize. If your umbrella strikes me, you have no right to be upset when I throw it under the closest, fastest-moving, tiniest, most fuel-efficient vehicle I see.

It isn’t difficult: follow the eight aforementioned guidelines and your life as a Parisian pedestrian will be as comfortable and collision free as mine will hopefully become upon the acceptance of this proposition. Thank you for your time, and happy walking.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Busy First Week

Please accept, dear readers, my sincerest apologies for the paucity of recent postings on this site – as you all know, this blog remains my first Parisian priority.

I’ll give you a moment to wipe the sarcasm off your screen as it may be dripping at this point.

In all seriousness, though, I will do my best to keep posting regularly on here because I do want to keep you all updated/entertained; however with classes (which are going very well), negotiating my way through miles of non-English speaking red tape to open a joint French bank account for Abbey and I (which sucks), being the “official blogger” for the MEIS program (more on that later), a part-time job (more on that at a later date) and, from time to time, enjoying some down time with Abbey this blog will fit in somewhere. Without further ado, here are some quips about the week:

- I’ve begun to either look too confident, too nice, or too French because the rate of French people stopping me (and Abbey) to ask questions (about the time, the bus schedule, school supplies, directions, if you have to use cash in this line at the grocery, etc) has greatly increased. This, I guess, is good for me and my French but bad for relaying amusing misadventures to you all (don’t worry, I have a solution…although perhaps I’m just guilty by association because Abbey is confident in her French and looks like a nice person…)

- Our professor walked into class the other day and asked if anyone in the class was web-savvy…I am not. I kept my mouth shut. He then said he was hoping someone would be able to set up an online blog or forum for our program. I kept my mouth shut and looked at my desk. What do I hear from the back of the room? “Tommy has a blog.” Damn it. Outted. Thank you [classmate to remain nameless]. So, I’ve got that just about set up, unfortunately it probably won’t be very funny and will be closed to people who aren’t in the program…because I’m an elitist jerk. Suckers.

- Pre-packaged “Baba au rhum” is delicious.

- Public parks often double as restrooms

- Zoolander is just as amusing in French… “qu’est-ce que c’est? un centre pour les fourmis?!”

- I almost bought a sausage at the grocery store the other day before Abbey pointed out that it was made from a part of a horse that she did not know the word for. Oops.

- I saw a Frontlett – that’s right, a Front Mullett – business in the BACK party in the FRONT…it was spectacular, rivaled only by the Dreadlock Mullett and the long, long, long neard that I saw on the metro as well.

- Sometimes, at fancy Cathedrals that you can walk in and look around as a tourist, weddings happen. It’s frowned on the take pictures during the ceremony. Oops.

- Many people here don’t seem to have qualms about passing gas in public. Loudly.

Expect another post to amuse you on your workday on Monday, as I know that many of you have “real” “grown-up” things to do during the weekdays, but still have access to the internet and probably commit time theft at your various places of employment. Additionally, expect my detailed plans for counteracting the perception the French seem to have of me (even though it is probably more so a perception of Abbey) as a nice, knowledgeable, confident person to be revealed sometime later next week.

Monday, September 7, 2009

On a Serious Note...

After dinner the other night at a Thai restaurant down the street, I was on the phone with a Pastor from Alabama who brought it to my attention that I was an American eating Thai food in Chinatown in Paris, France. Add to that that I am a Christian from Virginia who just finished seminary in Georgia studying the Middle East and Islam at the American University of Paris and you may be struck by the question “What am I doing here” that I will attempt to answer below (as a welcome(?) break from the self-deprecating humor characteristic of my previous posts).

In studying Islam and the Middle East, I hope to learn about and from those whose religious, political, geographical perspectives differ from my own and, in doing so, reflect on the process by which our perceptions of reality are shaped by the different facets of our identity that we have forcibly thrust upon us/were born into/willingly accept. As stated earlier I am a seminary graduate, so I hope to keep a particularly close eye on religious identity as a motivating factor for action as well as whether or not our religious identity is something we have thrust upon us (by some sort of divine agent/ultimate concern? Society? Culture?)/were born into/willingly accept. A further theological complication arises when one considers the role of a sacred text or texts. This/these text(s), to whatever extent, end up shaping one’s religious identity which, in turn is somehow involved in the complicated interactions between the individual and her culture. It seems that beliefs regarding every facet of the interactions between self, ‘god,’ text, and selves have ramifications for the way life is lived and other people are treated.

Devoting the next year to the study of a long trajectory of interactions between Christianity and Islam, the ‘west’ and the ‘east,’ the belief structure of the Muslim faith, as well as the myriad issues – both historical and contemporary – in a part of the world that I am currently admittedly unfamiliar with will be a challenge. In addition to studying an unfamiliar culture, I find myself immersed in multi-lingual, multi-cultural environment in which I feel a strange sense of comfort in our collective differences. I begin classes tomorrow (my non-credit-bearing, tuition-free beginner French class this morning doesn’t count) and so begins this year grappling with the aforementioned questions both inside and outside the classroom. My hope is that this year will be a time of preliminary explorations of these themes which I will hopefully have the opportunity to continue exploring in a PhD program beginning Fall 2010 or 2011, depending on what works out.

Thanks for reading.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Minor Differences in the Courses of Action Taken by Myself when I Arrived in Paris and Abbey when She Arrived in Paris

First thing I did: Wander around the loading dock of the Post Office next door with a ton of luggage looking for the front door of our apartment building while being laughed at by French postal workers.

First thing Abbey did: Walk through the front door and go right up to the apartment.

First thing I did in the apartment: Put luggage in the middle of the floor. Sent out an e-mail that I got here safely. Took a five-and-a-half hour nap.

First thing Abbey did in the apartment: took her suitcases to the bedroom, called family members to let them know of her safe arrival. Took inventory of the apartment, making a list of all of the cleaning supplies and household items we needed to go purchase.

First thing I did in public: Avoiding eye contact with people, I found a grocery store and bought an alarm clock, a six pack of beer, coffee, some frozen pizzas, and some apples. Did I say I bought apples? I meant that I took them to the cash register and got yelled at in French and had my apples taken away.

First thing Abbey did in public: Speaking French to people, she located all of the cleaning supplies we needed in the store and everything we would need for a nice, French dinner (I’ve been informed that despite being bought in France, frozen pizza is, by and large, not considered French) and bought them.

First thing I did after my first shopping trip: Came home, put the beer and French pizza in the fridge, figured out how to set the alarm clock, and took another nap (this time with an alarm set).

First thing Abbey did after her first shopping trip: Found a boulangerie near our apartment and bought dessert. Upon returning to the apartment, she put all the cleaning supplies and food away, wiped the kitchen counters with the disinfectant wipes she had purchased and began unpacking her belongings into the appropriate drawers, lamenting that there weren’t more organizational cubbies/containers while I checked facebook.

First meal in Paris for Tommy: Un frozen pizza and a few beers.

First meal in Paris for Abbey: Salad made from fresh produce with homemade balsamic vinaigrette dressing. Baguettes with a vast array of toppings including: Fresh Chevre, Fresh Brie, oil and vinegar, two types of pate (mousse de canard, terrine de champagne), a glass of pinot noir and – for dessert – crème brulee and un tart citron from the boulangerie she found on the way home from the grocery.

First thing after I finished my first dinner: Had another beer, emptied my suitcases onto the floor looking for toiletries and went to bed with the apartment in cluttered disarray, making a mental note to go buy toothpaste the next day.

First thing Abbey did after her first dinner: put all of the food away and began to do some dishes before finishing unpacking and putting all of her things away. She then brushed her teeth, turned on a movie and went to sleep.

My more generous readers will say that Abbey and I complement each other well. My more honest and realistic readers will agree with my assessment that I married up…way, way up.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

La Métro de Matin (The Morning Metro)

I’m just putting this out there: Riding the metro in the morning sucks. When the bus shows up, it is full. Nobody gets out. Everyone at your stop tries to get in. This mass act is one of groupthink combined with unbridled optimism, the anal-retentive adherence to punctuality, and knowledge that the next train has just as many, if not more, damn people on it. Add to all that the sense of panic people seem to experience when the Metro buzzer sounds alerting all patrons to get their belongings and extremities through the door or forever lose a limb and you have quite a spectacle. The only thing worse would be to hand each of these people keys to horn-honking, gas-guzzling, air-polluting, overpriced vehicles made by underpaid workers and stick them on I-85 in downtown Atlanta. And I did say ‘each’ because We all know that carpooling is beneath most Atlantans. But I digress.

This morning on the metro, I was privy to a real treat. I could feel on the side of my leg the contents of the pocket of the person on my right and was wedged between him and the bar we were supposed to hold on to…unless you’re wedged in too tight to be able to move, in which case the bar is rather superfluous. I couldn’t lean back. I couldn’t lean forward. I couldn’t take a deep breath. But I was on the train. When the buzzer sounded, we all breathed in, took up the least amount of space possible, and prepared for the ride. Just as the doors were about to close, the eight or so people in the three feet (or almost one meter) in front of the door fell backwards into the 17 people behind them who fell into all those around me, causing a ripple effect across our train. The culprit: a woman with some sort of bag or suitcase under each arm was using these suitcases as makeshift battering rams, swinging them to her right and left, knocking people over and securing herself and her bags a place in our 35km/hour sardine can. Once all on the train had regained their composure, the gaze of the entire car fixed angrily upon this woman and her bags/suitcases/weapons.

She then began to set down her bags.

Her bags were laughing.

They had legs.

They weren’t bags.

Or Suitcases.

They were her children.

I wish I was making this up.

I’m just putting this out there: Riding the metro in the morning sucks.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

An Adventure

Today I made a fairly brief, precipitation-filled visit to campus followed by an afternoon of avoiding contact with the outside world reading, thinking, and talking about exams (hurrah grad school). So tonight I was faced with a dilemma:

1. I am in a foreign country.

2. I am in an ethnically diverse neighborhood.

3. There are abundant cultural and linguistic challenges I could view as an opportunity to work on my French and broaden my intellectual horizons.

4. The Carrefour down the street sells really good pizzas for like a euro and a half that take approximately 5 minutes to cook in the oven and six packs of beer for just over two euros and I won’t have to speak French or talk to anybody.

Be proud readers; for rather than indulging my introversion I ventured out on a quest for a unique restaurant where I could experience the essence of Paris’ Chinatown. I didn’t have to travel far before I stumbled on “Restaurant Le-Dung” which I can only assume translates as “This Restaurant is the shizzle.” (I haven’t quite reached a decision as to how I shall treat profanity on this blog, so for now I am attempting to keep it friendly for all to view…hence shizzle as opposed to…) Here was my chance to combine my vast experience of eating strange foods with my somewhat limited experience with speaking French. Fortunately they had a Fixed Price menu where I had two options for appetizer, several for the main course, and several for dessert.

The couple whom I presume own Restaurant Le-Dung were very fun…and – better yet – they understood my butchering of the French Language and used simple 2nd grade vocabulary for the duration of the meal so that I could understand them…apparently I still have that ‘I’m a dumb American wandering around somewhere I’m unfamiliar with’ look about my person…c’est la vie. So I look at the menu:

First course: choice between ‘Salade Imperial’ or ‘Pate Imperial (3 Pieces).’ Easy. Everyone knows what Salade means and it is horribly unadventurous, give me the Pate.

Main Course: Ok, I am a sissy. For the main course I chose something that I knew what it was. Poulet Curry. There were several choices, but I’m not in the mood for an upset stomach. If you don’t know what Poulet means…booyah, I know more French than you, stupid! It’s chicken.

Dessert: now Dessert presented a Quandary. I do enjoy a good ‘café’ or ‘the’ after my meal…but this is an adventure. So those items on the menu are out of the question. My choices then were:

“Lychees au sirop (something ummm with…syrup?)
Arbouses au sirop (something else…with…syrup)
Nougat Vietnamien (Some sort of Vietnamese nougat?) or
Gingembre au confiture (which I can only assume has something to do with gingerbread and comfort…so it was certainly tempting)”

I was in a Vietnamese restaurant so I went with the Nougat Vietnamien.

For the first course…pate meant eggrolls with a mint/iceberg lettuce salad and some oil/vinegar/pepper dressing/dipping sauce. Now those familiar with my culinary quirks are aware that I am skeptical of most eggrolls because I believe that you will never know their full contents. This time, particularly, I firmly believe that I will never know their contents. However, this was an adventure, and...they were delicious...whatever they may have been.

The chicken curry was spectacular, I don’t know what all they did to that chicken/onion/carrot mixture but it should be done far more often. I could eat that in an omelet for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch, and over rice for dinner for a good month before I would get sick of it and even then I would probably ask for seconds. If you’re ever near ‘Place D’Italie’ find the Dung Restaurant and eat their chicken curry.

Finally the dessert. [Mind you I was the only patron at this establishment during my meal and made quite a bit of small talk with its owners. Their kids were playing upstairs and occasionally descended the spiral staircase to enjoy a beverage out of the cooler. Just reiterating that I utilized every bit of the 6 weeks of French I have under my belt during this endeavor.] The ‘Nougat Vietnamien’ can best be described as a Baby Ruth bar minus the chocolate, plus a little bit of heaven, cubed and covered in sesame seeds. If I am ever the pastor of a church in Paris I will use these cubes in the eucharist. They were spectacular.

Adventure: success.

I will definitely return to the Dung Restaurant several times in the next year. The service was impeccable and the food did not disappoint. And the restaurant’s name is another name for poo. Aren't I mature.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Conversation du Jour

French Guy: Monsieur!
Moi: Oui?
French Guy: [insert French phrase/question I do not know]
Moi: Quoi?
French Guy: [presumably the same phrase/question asked immediately prior]
Moi: Je ne parle pas Français.
French Guy: Tu es un tourist?
Moi: No, Je suis etudiant.
French Guy: ahh…[pause]…pourquoi me parles en français?

Touche, sir

(Translation :
French Guy: Sir!
Moi: Yes?
French Guy: [insert French phrase/question I do not know]
Moi: What?
French Guy: [presumably the same phrase/question asked immediately prior]
Moi: I do not speak French.
French Guy: You are a tourist?
Moi: No, I am a student.
French Guy: ahh…[wait]…why are you speaking to me in French?)

Friday, August 28, 2009

Jour Un

Day one in Paris was full of learning experiences, but overall I declare it a success.

Things I Learned:

NyQuil is a necessity on overseas flights.

The door to our apartment complex is in the middle of the building. In the front. Not around the side. Around the side is some sort of loading dock where, when they aren’t working, groups of French men amuse themselves by watching a dumb American with 3 suitcases and a backpack wander around a loading dock because he failed to locate the door to his apartment building.

The front door is a push door, not a pull door

I still prefer shower heads that are firmly affixed to a wall.

I do not know enough French to purchase produce.

I do know enough French to purchase an alarm clock.

There is a small button on each floor of my apartment complex which turns on the hallway lights.

Using said button is easier than walking up the narrow spiral staircase in pitch black darkness.

Our apartment is awesome.

This is going to be a fun year (once Abbey gets here).