Thursday, December 02, 2010

Don't forget to say "Thank you" and "Good-bye"

I'm at the post office. I want to send a bottle of Calvados to my Great Uncle. I didn't realize you can't ship liquor to the United States. I present my wrapped bottle to the clerk and ask for a carton to ship to the US.

Clerk: "What is it?" (in French)
Me: "Wine" (In French). (I lie because I figure since wine is like water here maybe that is more permissible than alcohol.)
Clerk: "No liquor to the United States."
Me: "What? Really?"
Clerk: "Yes Madame. Look here in the guidebook." (He gets out the big guidebook with all the shipping rules to every country. Flips to "Etats-Unis" and puts his big fat finger on "No liquor to be shipped to the United States" section.
Me: (Annoyed and aggravated. Well, what else can I do? Nothing. No point of sticking around and discussing this or arguing or anything. So I take my bottle, turn and go, which, by the way would be an acceptable New York response.)
Clerk: (Annoyed and aggravated that I didn't adhere to French "codes" begins to "call" me upon it.) "Au Revoir Madame! Have a good day Madame! Thank you Madame! Au Revoir!!!!"
Me: (Realizing I've "broken" a French code of conduct, annoyed at this and annoyed that the clerk is trying to shame me...) "Au Revoir!!!!" (without turning around as I am exiting the building).

Saturday, June 26, 2010


Living in the land of cheese, I'm a relative late-comer to indulging in the world of fermented milk. I have not tried many cheese to date either. But I am beginning. And here are the results:

Mont D'Or - :) :) :) :) I like it. Soft, creamy
Reblechon: - :) :) :) :) ditto
Tome de Savoie - :) :) :) :) ditto. nice.
Conte - not my favorite, but Teddy's favorite! He ate his way through a big slice of this before my mother-in-law could serve it.

St. Nectaire - :) :) :) :) Love it. creamy.
Emmental de Savoie - haven't tried yet.
St. Marcellin - :) not my favorite, but okay. A bit like Brie.
Tomme Crayeuse - :) :) :) :) :) This is my new favorite! Oh so luscious and creamy and delicious!

Conte 30 mois. definite favorite

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Botox Limits Emotions, Scientists Say

Botox Limits Emotions, Scientists Say

Interesting report. It obviously didn't affect my ex, who got secret botox shots before we got married. He told me he had to see an "eye doctor." I was told to wait in the car. I thought that was strange so I wandered into the waiting room of this "doctor." It looked like a spa! I was amazed if this was supposed to be an eye doctors office. I told the receptionist I was waiting for my fiance. Then I looked around and saw the Price List for the spa treatments, including botox. At first I waited inside, reading a magazine. Then I thought, if he didn't want me to know, I didn't want to embarrass him. Gee, I was naive and nice then. So I went to wait back in the car. I confronted him saying it didn't look like an ordinary eye doctor's office and he confessed.

More Gypsies - Trying to Catch Me!

On my way to a playgroup for Simon (well, a State-sponsored play-area for children up to 4 yrs. old), I walked past Gypsy-Central. There was a woman with a toddler, sleeping on her lap. (How do they get those kids to sleep and lounge all day long?) There was an old woman with a young boy, just standing on the sidewalk, not far from the first set. When they both saw me they began their refrain-of-sorrow.

Then, at the corner, a bunch of children ran up to me and waved money saying, in French, "You dropped this! Here! Your money!" They were waving 20 and 10 euro bills at me. I thought, "what? 20 euros? I dropped that? But my wallet's inside my bag and I never took it out! Gee, that's a lotta money waving around down there..."

I looked at them stony faced and just said, "that's not my money." (Should I take it and say "thank you?!") Then I remembered one of the classic Gypsy tricks and grabbed my bag to make sure it was still closed. Safe. Wallet's still inside. When they realized I wasn't going for this trick, they ran down the street waving their money screaming, "it's the man on the scooter! Get him!"

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Smokiest City

I am sure in the scheme of things Paris is not the smokiest or most polluted city in Europe. To this non-smoker however, I feel as if I am constantly waving away cigarette smoke and huffing out sooty breaths from buses and metros. Perhaps I am more sensitive to this because Paris is inland, and is in a rut. Seriously. According to BlurtIt The elevation of Paris, France is a mere 129 meters, or 423 feet. Paris lies in a depression. (No kidding) "It gets very little wind to move the air around and can be cold and damp in the winter and extremely hot and humid in the summer. There are many grey days when the smog and low clouds just sit there."

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Thumbs Down for H.A.N.D!

We were hoping to bite into some savory juicy burgers "Americain" at H.A.N.D. (Have A Nice Day) in Paris. But we were all disappointed. The burgers were mediocre, there was hardly any cheese on the cheese-burgers, the cokes were flat, the onion rings looked like they were frozen Oreida, the milk shakes were watery and my strawberry cupcake tasted like nothing. There was no service to speak of, they didn't bring enough water and we were there for three hours. Man! When it rains, it pours--and it poured all week in Paris, so I guess we topped off the week in a deluge of disappointment! Mince alors!

The NY Times seemed to think it was great though:

This place is being touted as part of the New Brooklyn in Paris, the "Best Burgers in Paris, " "Vrai NY in Paris." I beg to differ!

Friday, May 28, 2010

French Mothers

I'm not in agreement with how French mothers operate. And yet, their children seem to have a devotion not seen in the US. American moms seem to be more lenient, wanting to be their child's friend...and it doesn't seem like there is the same loyalty for all that "friendship." I guess the lesson is that children want and need to be parented. Perhaps that means discipline, which has gotten softer in the US.

However: I saw this poor little girl walking on the sidewalk with her mother the other day. The little girl tripped and fell on her hands and knees. The mother dragged her up and said, "mais, qu'est-ce que t'arrives?" which basically means, "now, what did you do that for?" I felt so sad for the little girl. It wasn't her fault she tripped and fell. So instead of helping her up, brushing her off and saying, "are you okay?" her mother blamed and yelled at her. :((( BIG FROWNY!

Another time I saw a mother grab her young son (10-years old?) by the ear and drag him along down the sidewalk. :((( BIG FROWNY!!!

Thursday, May 27, 2010


I find the gypsies in Paris fascinating. Before I moved here I would have looked away, if I saw them, in the past because I felt sad about their situation. Now, it just fascinates me. In college I heard the definition of "grotesque" as "that which fascinates and repels." Here, on "The Victorian" it is defined as that which is outside our reality. "We are strongly affected and terrified because it is our world which ceases to be reliable, and we feel that we would be unable to live in this changed world. The grotesque instills fear of life rather than death."

To me, the gypsies represent this definition of grotesque--especially the "mothers" with their "children" and the young teenage girls.  I would not assume that it is the actual mother and birth child together. It could be their sister's or friend's.

One woman is usually stationed by the ritzy hotels the Prince de Gaulles and George V on Ave George V. (pronounced George Sank because the "V" is a "5") A few days ago I saw her in her usual spot but she was leaning on her arm and it was shaking violently. I wondered if this was an actual medical development, or if this was a new dramatic show, one of her "tricks," if you will. I didn't ask.

There also are the girls who dress up as Egyptian Mummies and stand or sit still for hours and hours, even in the hottest part of the summer. How can they do that? I couldn't suffer it.

One time I saw a boy of about eight years old, in the lap of his "mother." Obviously, going to school wasn't a big priority.

Of course, there are also the young teenage girls. These make me the saddest. They roam the metros in groups of two or three. They wait for crowds in the train and jump in at the last moment to grab what they can before escaping the closing doors. What really breaks my heart though is that I've heard if these poor girls go home empty-handed, they are raped. This, and just submitting a child to endless days of petty thievery, never knowing innocence and joy and laughter and warm embracing love and nurturing, is so tragic.

Sometimes girls, or boys, will just grab something (like a cellphone or purse) from a person at the door just as it is closing--forever leaving any possibility of capture.

Speaking of capture. If any one (or several) of these street urchins are caught, they are let go at the end of the day because French law prohibits holding minors. They're back out on the street again the next day.

Perhaps they go "home" to the grassy knolls on the A14 highway heading out of Paris. Sometimes I've seen them as we head out to the airport. Usually situated near the underpass of a bridge, there are sizable camps for these nomadic thieves.

What is also fascinating is that I know these tribes are an historical part of Parisian history. We see them in almost all theatrical works, like Les Miserables and across the Channel in Dickens' works. We don't see types like these in New York or American cities. The history and generational centuries of their existence and their role here is timeless. And I don't mean that in a romantic sense.

I am sure there are professional studies and writings on the case of these gypsies, which apparently are usually Romanian. The French, in fact, refer to them as "romani," but that is pejorative. Perhaps this post seems pejorative, but well, these are just my observations.

Tonight (May 27, 2010) I saw a gypsy family on the subway. They looked like they were heading home after their day of "work." The mother had a cane but was walking normally. The little girl had big round dangly earrings, just like you would imagine a stereotypical old-style gypsy to have. They all looked worn out and beaten from the day, and life.

Then, on another train (same night: 5/27/2010), I saw about five young girls on the platform of the metro. They looked to be less than 13-years old with the youngest looking about eight. They waited for the rush-hour train to pull in, they tried to board the last car and then at the last minute stepped out. I wonder--is someone less a watch? a wallet? a phone? They looked like they didn't get anything though, because they stayed on the platform looking forlorn. They looked like they knew they had to get "one more score" before they could go back and present their findings and receive either their reward (dinner?) or punishment (I shudder to think of it). It's really so sad.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

French Dog Walking

Today I saw an older woman walking her poodle. She had him on a short leash. (typical of the French. He stopped to try and pee, but she wasn't paying attention to him so he got dragged on 3 legs as he was trying to mark his spot. It annoys me that the French don't pay attention to their dogs when walking, dragging them on short leashes, never minding the dog and the fact that this is "their" walk--their change to pee, to get exercise, to be in the world. It's so typical...
Last year we saw a woman saying "lâche!, lâche! lâche!, lâche!, lâche!, lâche!" (let go!) as she yanked her dog by the leash, pulling him up off the ground with each forceful yank. The poor little dog just had a little something (leaf? stick?) in his mouth. But instead of bending down to try and get it out of his mouth with her hand, she pulled him up by his neck, which also made it impossible for the poor little bugger to actually release the object!

Perhaps it's a good figurative comment on the French character as well -- keeping dogs on a short leash.  Actually they are either on a short leash, or off leash, which is yet another good analogy for the French.