Wednesday, March 31, 2010

You'll be Able to Visit the Louvre on One Channel...

I hope that, as a reader of this blog and, therefore, probably a friend or relative of mine you appreciate the title of this post. If not, go watch the movie “Cable Guy” no less than ten times and return to reading.


If you don’t have time to watch what is arguably the greatest movie ever created, you can just click here.

Enough about cinematic brilliance, this post is entirely dedicated to artistic brilliance in all its splendor. A couple weeks ago my brother and sister came to visit and we saw and scaled just about every Parisian monument one can imagine. The most tiring day, for me, was when we spent five hours in the Louvre, taking in hundreds of years’ worth of majestic artwork.

The first portion of the Louvre we decided to meander through was the sculpture rooms. This section of the museum, like the rest of them, was massive. One area, though, was somewhat troubling. Every single statue was missing something, though, between the three of us, we couldn’t name the attribute that each statue lacked. Then it hit us. Heads. None of them had heads. An entire room of statues…each one decapitated. While some families may stand slack-jawed in dismay at the room full of torso-topped legs, we Carricos are problem solvers.

From the sculptures, we moved on to observe all of the paintings that this museum had to offer. I grew to appreciate the minute details of each painter, as he or she added their own personal touch to each painting with a uniquely positioned stroke of the brush. There were little aspects of each painting that struck a small chord for a short time. The effect that these diminutive, dare I say lilliputian, additions to the paintings had on my enjoyment of the piece far surpassed their bantam stature.

While the next piece we viewed was certainly no large piece of artwork, it is perhaps the most recognized painting on the planet and a must-see for all those visiting the Louvre: The Mona Lisa. She has her own wall and no less than three security guards around her at all times, there is a huge crowd gathered around her, all pressing in to get as close to the roped off boundary 20 feet from the painting as possible. We made our way through the crowd in order to get the best, dead-center view of the masterpiece that we could. As the people parted and we neared the front of the pack, we were treated to a view of the Mona Lisa that will be permanently etched within the fibers of our art-loving souls for the remainder of our lives.

This museum is full of two things: the famous works of well known artists, and highly confused curators. One painting, in particular, showcased the uncertainty of the enterprise of labeling paintings crafted by the world’s most famous artists?

This next painting may not have necessarily caught my eye months ago, however, my French has reached the level that its title was enough to merit a second gander. I took a picture of both the painting as well as its title so that Abbey could confirm that either a.) my French had vastly improved or b.) I was still quite dumb. Though the result was a mixture of a.) and b.), I am proud to say that my rough translation: “kid getting his leg chopped off because he slapped his momma” was a fairly accurate rendering.

Finally, aside from the Mona Lisa, there was another piece that I needed to see. For purposes of entertainment and vindication we saved this 16th Century Bronze sculpture for the end of the day, capping off an exciting venture through a world renowned collection of art. This particular piece had great personal significance for me as it represents an early example of a contemporary work that utterly transformed my life. I am speaking, of course, of “Gnôme à L’escargot,” or “Gnome on a Snail.”

I earnestly hope that you enjoyed the Louvre as much as I did!

Thanks for reading.

Monday, March 29, 2010

What page is this?

I know what you may be thinking and 1. Yes, that is an awesome purse in that picture and 2. Yes, as a matter of fact I have three final papers, a few hundred pages of reading, and half a research project to I revamped the blog.

I have attempted to make it both more aesthetically pleasing and user-friendly – the front page will now only display the most recent blog post, though you can scroll all the way to the bottom to see all of your favorite old posts, the still non-existent “About Me” link, and the list of all the other cool kids following the blog (seriously, they are ALL doing it). More blog, less link-related shenanigans on the sidebar...that’s my motto. I believe the blue background accentuates the focal point of the header: my first purse. While this purse has been retired, I’m sure it holds as dear a place in your hearts as it does in mine. With regards to the title of the’s the same (likely a by-product of the conservative portion of my moderate mind that, though it can appreciate some change, periodically pauses to say ‘let’s not get ahead of ourselves here’). I considered coming up with a clever, new title, but...didn’t. I can only hope that Bob and Eric continue to be loyal readers despite the removal of their names from the title bar...

Don’t hesitate to let me know what you think about the new look, and please enjoy!

Enough about the new look, now for the France update:

There are about 7.5 weeks between right now and AUP’s graduation…which means that our time in Paris is sadly winding down. There are several questions that I get a lot, that I’ll go ahead and answer here:

1. Has your French improved?
Yes. However, like many things, I feel like I should have put more time into it, learned more, pushed myself more, read/wrote/spoke more but...I’ve done hasn't been a complete immersion experience as I am getting an MA from the American University of Paris and am surrounded, suprise! by English speakers, but, like I said, the French has certainly improved.

2. What do you miss most about the states?
Aside from the obvious - an ocean between Abbey and I and a majority of our friends and family - the answer to this question is going to be quite contradictory: Junk Food and the gym. I miss Five Guys. I miss Moe’s. I miss the Varsity, Arby’s, and Chik-fil-a. I never thought of myself as much of a junk food eater until I came here and realized how much I miss it. Which brings me to my second point. When we got over here I had the decision of paying too much for a gym membership or buying a set of dumbbells. I opted for the latter as it involved less of a chance of me lying under a pile of heavy things in a room full of people who don’t speak English...irrational? Maybe. Fiscally responsible? Certainly. But I am looking forward to getting back to the states, picking up heavy things, putting them back down again, and repeating.

3. When are you coming back?
July 8th after a few days in Nice – just in time for the Summer 2010 tour of what is certain to become one of my new favorite bands…stay tuned.

4. What's the best thing about living in Paris for a year? Prolonged exposure to the never-ending amusement that is French people-watching (and I thought Virginia’s annual “CountryFest” was the best place to bask in humanity’s unintentionally entertaining side); Being in an academic program where I feel like I’m seeing ‘the other side of the coin,’ so to speak – learning about familiar time periods and events from a different perspective; finally, every now and then me and Abbey realize that when we got married we had hoped we would be able to spend the year after I finished in Seminary and now, so to speak, we’re living the dream.

That’s all for now…Oh, one more update: our traffic circle (Place D’Italie) was completely blocked off Saturday for a “No Sarkozy Day” demonstration. There were a couple hundred police, many loud protestors, and – I kid you not – French Gangster Rappers putting on quite a show. I celebrated by buying a new, light-weight spring scarf...

Stop laughing at me.

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Once, Twice, Three Times a Metro

So I complain about the metro on here. A lot. However, in the past two days the rain clouds parted, a gentle breeze blew through mes cheveux, and the metro gods smiled upon me. I had not one, nor two, but three absolutely stellar encounters on the metro in my last three trips with the finest real-life amusement this city has to offer. If you are one who prefers when I make fun of myself instead of others, I’m sorry. Yesterday and today I looked good…I mean real good…especially compared to the Parisians that I encountered last night, this morning, and this afternoon on lines 8, 6, and 8 respectively.

Ride One; Wednesday Night: "Oh my god I forgot about those!"

It had been an atypically long Wednesday – Abbey and I woke up and went for a jog, arrived back at the apartment in time to read for a while, I then found out the hard way that “choking up” works wonders in correcting one’s baseball swing but is less than pleasant when applied to using a frying pan before heading off to school. I went to class, then did some reading, then went to a speaker. Perhaps the metro gods were rewarding me for entering their lair through an entrance one stop further along the line than my typical routine, but for whatever reason, in that dark, smelly, damp Parisian metro, my day brightened.

I wedged myself between two fellow passengers – avoiding eye contact so that things wouldn’t get more awkward as our entire bodies came into contact. Once I had staked my claim on about 16 square inches of metro I looked up…and there she was. Her curly ponytail reflected the glow of the fluorescent metro bulbs creating what seemed to be a halo around the delicately-coiffed remaining portion of her mullet. She looked like Billy Ray Cyrus’ short, grouchy, middle-aged French sister. Stellar.

Ride Two; Thursday Morning: "Narcotic or Psychotropic?" defines narcotics as a “class of substances that blunt the senses…that in large quantities produce euphoria, stupor, or coma,” and Psychotropic drugs as those “affecting mental activity, behavior or perception,” before saying something about them being bad and causing addiction/health problems and whatnot. This guy was likely on a highly amusing combination of several variants of narcotics and psychotropic substances. Now I do not condone these substances as often they lead to things that are not nearly as amusing as the gentleman on the 6 line this morning who not only stared at things that weren’t there, he pointed at them, grabbed at them, and laughed hysterically at them. Additionally, at each stop he would crouch down on the ground and giggle uncontrollably until people surrounded him, at which point he would stop giggling, slowly stand up, and resume his boisterous giggle. This went on for the duration of my 25 minute ride. As though all this wasn't amusing enough, he periodically stroked his face against the [disgusting] metro pole like a puppy dog who wanted table scraps. Once again, Stellar – thank you metro gods.

Ride Three; Thursday Evening: "The Human Disco Ball"

She was wearing headphones so she was unable to hear me giggle…or tell that the entire train was listening to her sing along to her Frenchie music. The headphones apparently also made her oblivious to the fact that the combination of her gray pants, shiny silver jacket and shiny silver purse created the aforementioned effect of making her look like a human disco ball as she swayed back in forth by the metro door singing loudly in her own little human disco ball world. I’ve never seen so many French strangers nudging each other and laughing (especially on the 8 line which for whatever reason attracts many stressed out Pierres). Do I feel a little bad for joining them? Not one bit. Am I being judgmental? Maybe a little…but I’m merely stating my observations without any type of value judgment on this young disco ball lady aside from: hilarious.

The gentlemen with accordions should take note – their accordion playing doesn’t amuse me, but I would gladly have surrendered all of the change on my person to any of these three individuals if they were holding a dirty, crumpled Dixie cup. If any of them are reading this: the offer stands – should we meet again, and you amuse me with your glowing mullet, drug-induced shenanigans, or gently-swaying, disco-ball-sparkling, out-of-tune-overly-animated-singing-with-complete-disregard-for-the-world-around-you, then you have a good amount of centiemes coming your way…not my mother-in-law Centieme, the coin centiemes. I almost want to go get on the metro just to see if my luck holds.

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

My Wife is Smarter than Me.

I’ll give you a moment to absorb the shock of this declaration.

Now that you’ve gathered your composure after the shift in your worldview brought about by the title of this post, I repeat: my wife is smarter than me. She speaks another language (reads and writes in it too) can tell the difference between clean and orderly (I’m told, at least, that there is a difference), and she figured out that the weird buttons in the hallway of our apartment building are light switches after I spent a week stumbling up and down the stairs waving at the lights because I thought they were motion activated. Abbey’s intelligence, however, tends to be of the innocent variety…until this past Saturday.

Saturday, Abbey was clever, plotting even. She had devised a plan to make me speak French. To a stranger. In a circumstance where a mispronunciation or gaffe could have drastic ramifications. I had to speak French to a bubbly, energetic coiffeuse.

This was my second haircut in this country and I wimped out on the first one – I whined and wimpered until Abbey agreed to accompany me instead of speaking French on my own like a big boy. This time, Abbey was accompanying me as well, though she also planned on having her hair trimmed. I was under the impression that I would sit uselessly mute and wait while Abbey got her hair cut and then sit uselessly mute in a chair while Abbey told someone how to make me beautiful. After waiting for a few minutes in the salon, a dashing young man with his shirt half unbuttoned whisked Abbey away to the shampooing station. Abbey smiled. I realized that I had been had.

I was alone. Abbey and Pierre were speaking their secret code language and I did not know what to do. I ran through every bit of vocabulary that I have amassed in the past few months and realized that I knew how to say “more,” “less,” “long,” and “short.” I could make it through this. As I ran through my internal linguistic inventory Abbey and moussehead walked to the front of the salon, waving as they passed. I can only assume that Abbey was detailing to Gerard Depardieu her master plan to make me speak French.

“Monsieur, foo doo fafa fwah fois gras escargot shampwan croissant?” asked the young lady who would soon be trimming my hair as she pointed towards the shampooing station.

Ah! A shampooing!

“Oui.” I confidently replied.

She said something while shampooing my hair and I pretended not to hear her.

She dried off my hair and she pointed towards the chair. I sat. “Qu’est-ce que vous voulez?”

“un petit plus court, s’il vous plait.” (Booyah)

“Quoi?” (damn)

She apparently did not understand what I had thought to be my immaculate pronunciation. I resorted to pointing. She went and got a book of haircuts and opened to a picture of Brad Pitt between a few teenagers’ glamour shots. She pointed at one and said “like this?” I replied “oui, mais un petit plus long.” After pointing and grunting and several “oui”s and “non”s and “plus long”s and “plus court”s, she pulled out the scissors and – I kid you not – apologized to me for speaking in English. Game time.

“Ca c’est bien?”

“Un petit plus courts s’il vous plait.”

“Comme ca?" she asked, pointing at the length that she would make my hair.

“Oui, c’est tres bien.” (And a thumbs up sign – that’s universal right?)

“Voulez vous les cheveux fous?”


“Voulez vous les cheveux fous?” I did hear her right…decision time…"did I want the crazy hair?" Perhaps in a subconscious attempt at retaliation towards my wife (after all, she would have to look at my “cheveux fous” until it grew out and became non-crazy again) I replied.

“Porquoi pas?”

We laughed. She pulled out what looked to be scissors, but were in fact half razor half scissors. This could get amusing.

She made my hair crazy, trimmed the neckline and I was on my merry way, only to turn around and see Jean Girard and Abbey looking at me giggling. Abbey got her hair straightened and looked good enough to make me forgive her for her wicked plan to make me talk to French people. We paid and went back to the apartment, her looking radiant and me looking…well…fou. But I chose les cheveux fous.


My "Cheveux Fous"

Thanks for reading.