Monday, February 22, 2010

The Inlaws Visit Part Four and The Year of the Tiger

The first part of this post is the fourth installment of several Blog Posts which document the no longer 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.

So we left off with doogie howser informing Abbey that she had la bronchite (brawn-SHEET). We took it easy for the rest of the day in the hopes that the next day (Monday) Abbey and I could return to Paris and I would be able to get some work done before my class-ridden Tuesday. HOWEVER, the French RER (train) workers decided that our vacation should be extended.

Greve is French for: you’re going to be incredibly inconvenienced by one or many disgruntled French person(s) today. That Monday, the French RER workers declared a Greve. We didn’t think it would be too bad, so Garcon and Centieme joined Abbey and I at the Mickeymouse metro to await a train to take us in to Paris. It was cold. It was windy. The Mickeymouse metro station is outside. (Bron)chite.

We waited for thirty minutes. We found seats. We waited for an hour. I gave Abbey my scarf (aren’t I a gentleman?). We waited 90 minutes. Garcon and Centieme went to lunch and told us to have a nice day in Paris and they would see us tomorrow. We waited two hours. Abbey and I did some math.

One out of five RER trains goes all the way out to the cold, unwelcoming, miserable Mickeymouse metro. Due to the French train/metro workers’ propensity to indulge in the frequent greve (the GM of the marriot put it best: “the French punish their government by punishing their neighbors”) it is required that SOME trains be running. This particular greve closed 9 out of 10 trains on this particular track. If 1 out of 10 trains is running and 1 out of 5 NORMALLY go all the way to Mickeymouse metro…Garcon and Centieme were quite surprised to see Abbey and I in their hotel room after their lunch – the lady at the front desk graciously gave us a key. Centieme and Garcon had enjoyed some wine at lunch and, by their account, communicated through grunts and hand gestures with their non-english speaking waiter. That night we watched one of the worst movies that I have ever seen called “A Mother’s Promise.” Please keep in mind that, in no particular order, my top five favorite movies are Cable Guy, Moulin Rouge, American Beauty, Drop Dead Fred, and Time Bandits. I emailed my professors – one of whom was thoroughly amused and the other of which told me “you are far too old to be spending that much time with a giant mouse” (I really do miss that professor) – letting them know that I would be missing class (for the first and only time that semester, mind you) and Garcon and I enjoyed a night of free wine courtesy of the Marriot while Abbey and Centieme shopped.

It’s four months later and I am still bitter about that particular greve.

On the plus side, it is the Chinese Year of the Tiger (fairly well-timed public apology, I must say) so there was a giant parade in Chinatown – the route of which happened to be a lap around our apartment. There were dragons, creepy-masked children (or little people), teenagers dressed up standing on top of floats but acting as though nothing was going on in order to maintain an outward appearance of flippancy that is all the rage these days, and people banging on drums. We met up with some friends, watched the parade, had silly string and confetti thrown upon us, ate Chinese food, and had a very pleasant afternoon. Then I came home and typed up 10 pages of notes and read two articles. Speaking of which, it is midterm week, so I must go read some more, go to bed, wake up, and lock myself in renowned, resplendent AUP library for the duration of the day.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Another Nudge

I have no idea who reads this blog…for that matter I’m not entirely sure what the purpose of this blog is – self-deprecating humor, amusing renditions of daily observations, some earnest reflections on social norms challenged by a new context, my awesome new purse, financial advising...I lost you there, didn't I? We’re all familiar with my clever poo jokes, amusing musings regarding metro stink, and my pitiful inability to purchase produce, use doors/light switches properly, speak French, walk and chew gum at the same time, etc. Why then would anyone come to this blog seeking advice regarding how to spend their money?

They don’t.

I did once, though, point readers toward the site of a young man who is trying to run a marathon and raise money for the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America (and I hypothesized that he made up a friend and wouldn’t end up running the race and everyone would get their money back anyway (see here to catch up on Paul’s poor wittle knee and all the big mean snow that’s preventing him from running and here to read about Paul's charitable endeavor))

So now, I bring you a similar post – attempting to alert whoever may read this blog of a good cause and, occasionally, a good read. There is a blog called “The Church is Alive” (I’ll spare you the Frankenstein joke that I think is funny but you will probably roll your eyes at). You can access the blog here to read some of the Five Blog Administrators' reflections on the state of the contemporary church from their own perspective or from the perspectives of any of the guest bloggers that contribute to the site fairly regularly. I think the blog tends to be updated more than mine because, well, there are five of them plus guests and I’m hopelessly outnumbered…but I digress.

As many may or may not know, it’s the season of lent, when many christians give up potato chips or soda to remember all that jesus sacrificed for them (Warning: that statement was not entirely true nor theologically accurate though it was grossly oversimplified and is yet another statement in a string of probable failed attempts at humor otherwise known as this blog). The CIA, however, would like for you to think about adding something to rather than subtracting something from your lives this Lenten season.


No, not that CIA, the Church is Alive group blog thing I talked about a minute ago, I thought CIA would be easier to remember.

The CIA has “launched a water project” for lent which you can read about in this post. The short summary is that they have set up a donations page here to raise funds in order to build a well somewhere in need of clean drinking water. So consider this a nudge in the direction of the CIA’s website and an encouragement to support their water project. I’m sure the CIA would appreciate your support - even if you are wholly indifferent to the current christian liturgical season and are unrepentantly enjoying soda and chips as you read.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Incident

Paris Tommy is just like American Tommy. He puts his hot pink long underwear on one leg at a time, puts on his rather tight jeans on top of said pink long johns one leg at a time, throws some product in his hair after donning his tight French sweater, and nonchalantly tosses a purse over his shoulder on the way out the door. On second thought, American Tommy is probably somewhere laughing at Paris Tommy, calling him effeminate and making jokes about the rigidity with which he may carry his wrists. I’ve come to terms with this, though, despite my original discomfort with the tight jeans and sweaters, they have gotten more comfortable and I have become quite a fan of carrying my purse (I upgraded purses a few weeks ago to this snazzy black purse [see below (parenthesis inside brackets inside parenthesis again!)] that is the ideal size for a small notebook, a book, plus all of the former inhabitants of my pockets – wallet, keys, change, metro card, etc.) and my hot pink long johns have aided my survival in the windy, rainy Parisian wintry wonderland. This systematic acclimatization to new social norms and the gradual abandoning of any concern for my “masculinity” proved fortunate given yesterday’s incident in the metro.

I hugged a stranger. It was an accident. It was mildly awkward. I’m not talking about a greeting or anything, I hugged the guy’s back. It all happened so fast, before I knew it my arms were wrapped entirely around this poor 65ish year old innocent bystander and my face was momentarily nestled in the middle of his upper back. It was brief, the man pretended not to notice, and several stops later we parted ways, him probably never to speak of the incident again and me to…well…share the encounter with the world wide web. How did this happen, you may ask?

Well, you see, I hypothesize that our metro conductor had consumed the better half of a bottle of vin rouge that morning for breakfast and was accelerating and braking at random intervals throughout our commute. Additionally, the car was packed as it tends to be whenever I am in a hurry. In my attempts to avoid landing on people during the driver’s frequent and abrupt changes in pace I was holding on to the pole in the middle of the car for dear life. Enter the man who would soon be hugged.

The man entered the car as the leader of a pack of roughly 40 people who all intended to share the same cubic foot of space available in the car. The man was shoved between myself and the pole in the space formerly occupied by my left arm. With his navel touching the pole my arm became bent and I began to lose my grip on the pole, necessitating that I change hands. Fearing a loss of balance due to our erratic driver, I did not want to let go of the pole with one hand before I had my other hand secured around it. Mind you, I did not consider the fact that the arm grasping the pole was also wrapped a little more than halfway around this rather large gentleman and that I would have to wrap my other arm around the remainder of his person in order to grasp the bar by way of his other side. Before I realized it, I was hugging him. I quickly grabbed the bar, released my left hand and was no longer hugging a stranger. I then forgot about the incident and went about my day, until I realized at lunch that I had actually hugged a stranger and that neither he nor I seemed the least bit fazed by it. It’s not like he tried to snatch my purse.

thanks for reading

Old Purse (left/gauche) and Snazzy New Purse (right/droite)

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Dog Poo and the Militant Moderate

For those of you who visit this blog looking for a cheap laugh at immature humor and/or witty observations about daily life in Paris: I stepped in poop the other day. There is poop everywhere here. I think French canines must perform acrobatic feats (somersaults, back hand/paw springs) while pooping in order for there to be poo all over the sidewalks, the walls of boutiques, boulangeries, hotels, people’s cars, motorcycles, bicycles, sewer drain covers, welcome mats, there is literally nothing that one commonly associates with sidewalks and their surroundings that I have not seen covered in dog poo. Do French people pick up the poo? No, they wait for some dumb, unobservant pedestrian who is accustomed (for whatever reason) to poo-free sidewalks to carelessly step in the poo and unknowingly carry it off to their destination. One man’s (my) shoe is another (French) person’s pooper scooper.

For those of you who visit this blog with the high hopes that I will say something profound or somehow stimulate your intellect: A group of classmates and I were discussing fundamentalism, government censorship, individual liberties intersecting with social rights, religious garb, international relations, and dog poo the other day (ok, I threw in the dog poo (figuratively) to keep those of you I mentioned in the first paragraph reading). We then discussed moderates and why they never speak out when some crazy [insert political extremist here] says something silly. We entertained the notion that moderates really just aren’t that interesting – who wants to watch as a bunch of people commend the good points of both sides and attempt to diplomatically suggest faults/areas in need of improvement in all ideologies in question when you can hear this? A friend then began to chuckle to himself and shared his vision of “the Militant Moderate” and we soon joined him in laughter. Please imagine someone wielding firearms screaming at two “extremists:” YOU’RE BOTH MAKING VALID POINTS BUT THERE ARE SOME WEAKNESSES IN THE UNDERLYING ASSUMPTIONS OF BOTH OF YOUR POSITIONS THAT YOU SHOULD EXAMINE MORE CLOSELY AND PERHAPS COMPROMISE ON!! YOU AREN’T GOING TO REACH A SOLUTION BECAUSE YOU ARE EACH TOO BUSY EXAGGERATING AND DEMONIZING THE OTHER PERSON’S POSITION FOR THIS CONVERSATION TO BE PRODUCTIVE!! [fires shots into the air and repeatedly strikes each “extremist” with the butt of an automatic weapon before forcing them to shake hands and listen to each other...]

Anyway, hope the mental image brings you a chuckle and makes you think a little bit (credit to anonymous (in the interest of sparing the innocent from being associated with my ramblings) classmate for the idea). Things in France are going fairly well, classes, library work, wine, research, etc. In other news, maybe one day I’ll finish poking fun at the in-laws visit and recap the Carrico Jr.s’ Christmas in Strasbourg. And maybe get around to any of the other things I said I was going to write about…don’t get your hopes up.

Thanks for reading.