Notes From My Long Overdue Last Day of Work

Leaving can be so anticlimactic dont you think?

Le Pen and Le Fall

Montpellier is an amazingly beautiful place; The old city is is near perfect, the buildings, the fountains, the tiny alley-ways. It’s nearly too perfect to provide interesting blog-material. In fact while sitting on the edge of the fountain, “Les Trois Graces” facing the Old Opera House, a strong cafe in hand i imagined that this here may be the summit of western civilization. All the other places can be plotted on the way down, if not somewhere else entirely.

Speaking of the fall of civilization, i was on my way out of The Mothman Phrophecies (which i thought was ok) when i got a call from Nils. We chatted for a bit and then his voice changed.

“Well i’ve got some really really bad news.”

“What?”, i was a little perplexed, we had already covered all major areas of conversation: health, sex, drinking, weather.

“Le Pen won the first tier”

“No Shit, really?”

This is huge news here. On the rest of the way home, i passed by the ex-pat bar and heard quite the commotion inside. I stopped to investigate. In between shouts of “Booo!” and “Faciste!” was Le Pen on the tv giving his acceptance speech. I pushed my way in to watch, and firstly, dude is that guy old. Secondly, dude is this guy hated. I suppose it’s as if a more right wing Pat Buchanan won the republican primary. But it’s even weirder because Le Pen faces a conservative Chirac next wednesday. So it’s as if Buchanan won the democratic primary, and then faces Bush in the final. I fell into conversation with three young’uns from Toronto, and a Frenchman, and as usual i ended up sighing and shrugging away the political faults of the Bush administration. It started with someone bringing up the fact that Le Pen wants to reinstate the death penalty, and then of course came up our president’s affinity for chairs with built-in wiring.

“I heard Bush had the Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders go to the last one. Is that true?” asked one of the young Canadians.


So it is with a bit of schadenfreude that i greeted the news of the victory of the right-wing loony. Your unwashed masses are no better than our unwashed masses.. ok. The unwashed masses here in the big city are pissed. Refreshingly so. I heard from no less than five people say in earnest that it was a very sad day in the history of France. No more than 10 hours after the results were announced there’s anti-Le Pen graffiti all over the city. I guess there were demonstrations in several places in Paris last night. One passed loudly by my window at about 2 am. I’m curious to know if all of them went and actually voted that day.

Everyone’s convinced that there’s pretty much no way he’ll win the final next week. But still, everyone i knew was convinced that there was no way Bush could win. Anyway good thing i’m on my way out on my own volition. I’d rather not get deported, it just seems an un-classy way to make an exit.

Cats ‘n Dogs ‘n Things

My cat had to be put sleep last week. Over the phone from New York the vet told me what she had, but i can’t remember now. Only that i was very composed until she specifically gave me a picture of in what state Smokey was in, and then i was not as composed.

“The humane thing would be to euthanize her”

“Yes, of course”

This is bad, sad. And as with more than a few things, a bad sad that has no impact on my days here across the Atlantic. So it’s a weird muted sadness. A waiting until i get back to my cat-less apartment sadness.

Smokey was old, 15 years old. Pretty good for a cat. She had major attitude. She had an air of i-own-the-world that i could only get away with in the deepest crevices of my fantasy life. And she was really cute and furry. Really furry. She got to live in both LA and New York, preferring New York i can only imagine. It’s sad, but i knew it was coming. I’m only bummed that she had to up and die not 3 weeks before i was coming back. She couldn’t have made it month longer of course. See – attitude.

I’m playing with the idea of getting a dog. Since i’ll be working at home for at least a little while when i get back, it would be a good time to invest the attention they require at first. Not to mention keeping me company all day, not to mention keeping me from sitting in my pyjamas all day long, not to mention keeping me from developing a vampire like lifestyle of waking at 2pm and sleeping at 5am that has infected many of my “freelancer” friends. Not to mention that a little love keeps the moping away. I need to be on constant moping vigilance.

But a dog is an enormous commitment. It must needs major stability. Stability that i think it’s been quite well proven i do not posses. Part of stability is maybe staying in one time zone within any given 30 day period. At least that’s my guess. But then a dog might enforce my latest challenge to myself: Trying not to see the inside of an airport for six months following my repatriation. This is already kind of unlikely. I have a theory that airport and airplane air has some sort of wrinkle causing composition. To counteract this i propose that Botox injections are offered with the pre-meal cocktail.

“Saphire & Tonic please. And yes, just a little something under the eyes. Not too much, thanks dear.”

And at what age is it ok to start calling flight attendants, “dear”?

Meanwhile, it seems a touch appropriate that the east coast hits record highs this week. Ordinarily when i hear it’s warmer in New York than Paris, i get peeved, but 93 degrees in the concrete jungle is not jealousy inducing. For those worrying about global warming, for what it’s worth, the weather here is perfectly seasonal. A semi-crisp mid 60s to low 70s with occasional rain has been the norm for the last month or so. Wouldn’t it be unbearably fair if global warming was doled out in proportion to the amount of pollution each area contributed?

Off to Montpellier tomorrow morning for a small solo weekend in the South of France. I wanted to go somewhere warmer than Paris, and Montpellier was the cheapest and fastest train ride available. I only just learned that it is not directly on the coast, but a bus ride away, which is disappointing. But hey – who don’t like the bus? Other than that, i’m clueless. I think there’s wine there…

Wo Ist Die Toilettes?

There’s a lot to be said about Berlin. The most obvious is that the city had it’s ass kicked. Just like that, in italics. Ass kicked. In the spirit of pitching a movie, it’s a Los Angeles meets the Gloomiest Weather On Earth kind of thing. Most of the buildings seem to have been built in the 50s or 60s, with that odd aesthetic of dull playroom for kindergartners. And then a few of the buildings are that brown tri-angles 50s 60s thing. I’m lacking in any architecture vocabulary to make myself understood here, so just go ahead and visit the two cities and let me know if you see what i mean. The corny aesthetic sort of makes sense in a place as corny as LA. Berlin on the other hand has an actual serious place in history, and there is little left that gives away any of it. And what is left is in terrible shape (with the exception of a handful of buildings on the creatively named “Museum Island”).

I haven’t seen many places where the scars of war are so in-your-face. And here they looked as well like big bleeding gashes. A crumbling half facade of the old railway station at the station near the apartment stands in the middle of a trash filled empty lot, surrounded by a really sorry excuse for a fence. You can tell that before several tons of bombs followed by several decades of complete neglect, these few thousand bricks topped by two oxidized Greek-like sculptures was probably a magnificent structure.

In another parallel to LA, the streets are deserted. One looks up and down the large boulevards and they are lined with boxy 10 story apartment complexes. And then one looks around at the sidewalks and the courtyards where one couple maybe walks a dog and few kids kick around a soccer ball. Where are all the people? They can’t all be sleeping or watching television. Or can they?

A brighter spot is Potsdamer Plotz, which is one of the weirdest mall complexes i’ve ever seen. Only the Universal City Walk can be considered a distant cousin to this experiment in glass, neon, and climate control. There’s an elliptical glass dome that tops the complex, from which a giant, disturbingly asymmetrical, metal spike hangs suspended. I considered that a medium sized sneeze could bring it crashing down into the reflecting pool beneath, with the entire glass roof coming trailing behind. Oh, and spotlights light up the thing from the inside and out, changing colors every 10 seconds or so. All the surrounding buildings are made of glass as well. My main thought was how the thing would withstand a truck crashing into its base. Would there just be a big hole at the bottom? Or would the structure shatter in total the way a vase would? Probably the former.. smarty-pants architects.. For some reason being surrounded by that much glass sets my mind on destruction and nothing else. It was so bizarre, i liked it. I begged to eat dinner in the square. I’m glad it exists, and i’m glad it’s not in my city.

We also went to see the Berliner Philharmoniker (Berlin Philharmonic). When John first said he had tickets, i was content to drift through a sleepy hour or so in the presence of some nice acoustics. I had to get up at an ungodly hour to catch my 7am flight that morning so it might be a nice time for a nap i figured. Imagine my surprise at being so captivated. The conductor / musical director is Sir Simon Rattle, whose total rapture while conducting was so fun. At times his ecstasy was so much that it felt almost voyeuristic to watch. But mostly it was just great fun. The Philharmonic – who knew?

As befitting a city of neglect, my phone and camera battery both promptly died upon arrival, so i only have a couple of pictures of it all. We did take tours through the Mini showroom, the Volkswagon showroom, and stopped to look at several antique cars including a classic Bugatti which had John practically foaming at the mouth. I’m not particularly interested in cars beyond the novelty of the shiny paint and the new car smell, but it is nice to be in the presence of real enthusiasm and admiration. We also managed to have excellent food across the board including, bar none, the best tomato cream soup i’ve ever had, a complete surprise to my spoiled French palette. All in all i was psyched to get out of Paris for the weekend, and then quite happy to return. I also picked up some pretty snazzy postcards. If you haven’t sent an address for one yet, get your order in now.

Oh, and the german i learned : Wo Ist Die Toilettes? : Where are the toilettes?

This Matters

I don’t usually write about politics. I have sporadically in the past, and received very poorly spelled hate-mail as a result. Not that that stopped me. If anything, the urge to piss off misguided spellers grew a little bit. But truthfully, i never feel like i know enough, and i’m easily taken in by a well written opinion piece. The one thing i am sure of is that i should basically never trust the objectivity of anyone, especially lately.

With that long caveat, this freaks me out: Lawyer Helped in a Terror Plot, Indictment Says. In fact all the not-so-subtle thinning of people’s civil liberties are really fucking scary. So now a person’s lawyer is going to be put on trial, maybe put in jail? Effectively jeopardizing everyone’s right to legal representation. Can this be anymore fucked up? I’m frankly pretty worried about the changes that have taken place since i left New York in July. I assumed things like the right to privacy, the right of journalists to free speech, the rights of the accused to due process, the things which make it easy for me to defend the US to the sometimes-haughty Europeans i come across are unassailable threads of what makes the US the US. What do we have if we don’t have these rights? What else does it mean to be free? What other definition is there?

And i know someone will point out those ridiculous 5 words that for some reason *only* get used by people on the right against people on the left, “Love it or leave it”. I’d like to say that back actually. Why isn’t Ashcroft being called unAmerican for this? It’s frankly the most unAmerican thing i’ve seen. Ever. If we can agree on anything concrete that defines America it must be the Constitution and The Bill Of Rights. And frankly he’s tearing them to shreds (unless of course he’s blowing the gun lobby). There are places where the government can eavesdrop on it’s own citizens, where trials are held in secret without lawyers and fair judges, and where newspapers won’t print opinions that disagree with that of the government. We call those places monarchies, or dictatorships, or oppressive regimes. We take care not to piss anyone off when we visit because we can’t be sure of being treated fairly. And we know that many, if not most, of the ordinary people who live in places like this want to be in our place, where we get to take all of these things for granted.

Frankly I don’t care about having 65 different brands of cereal to chose from, or being able to drive a gas guzzling Suburban 5 blocks to my sprawling house which i heat to 85 in the winter, and cool to 65 in summer. These things aren’t important. Living as a free individual, that’s what matters. Many times in the past few years, before burning skyscrapers, i had talks with my friends where we kind of lamented that we didn’t grow up in the sixties, when things mattered, when there were causes to fight for, when young people weren’t so jaded and cynical about everything. Well at the risk of sounding mad corny, it seems to me like right now things really matter. There are bad people in powerful positions doing very scary things and we still have the right to point it out, and try and stop it.

It’s Always the Bass Player

Dennis points out a thing about cities. It’s always been a source of internal wonder how i became such a city girl. When i was a kid i always thought i’d leave the city, LA at the time. I figured i’d end up somewhere sort of rural or rustic. My favorite month of the year was at sleep away camp. Except for kayaking which was the worst. Hate kayaking. But everything else, hiking, archery, sailing, dirt, rocks, campfires there was nothing better. The weeks after i came home from camp i would fall into a serious depression. Why couldn’t life just be sleep-away camp all year long??? Invariably my mother would threaten to never send me again if i didn’t snap out of it, and quick.

The crossroads must have been the point where i was deciding where to go to college. I had it narrowed down to extreme country vs extreme city. Hanover, New Hampshire vs. New York, New York, the city so nice they named it twice. Both were adequately far away from Los Angeles, both were good schools, both were expensive as hell, though Dartmouth was giving me a substantially better financial aid package seeing as that, like, no girls went there. Dartmouth had things like rock climbing, canoeing, hiking as your basic after class activities. Sounded great. Nevermind that the “town” was a half a block long, and the guy who was showing me around took me to The Coffee House with way too much excitement. Apart from a few bars and many many frat parties, this coffee house was It. But then i saw New York. Rather i saw one of the first days of spring on the Columbia Campus. Hailing from LA i was unused to seasons, and i didn’t understand that these odd “weather changes” had a huge impact on the mood of the natives. Naturally i assumed that the playfulness that pervaded the campus that day was always there. I’ve since learned well about the first-days-of-spring delerium. For those few weeks alone, this seasons stuff is practically bearable.

But let me get to the real point. Frankly, it was Hot Guy Headquarters. I was stunned. I’m going to admit something now that i’ve never told anyone ever. I came to New York because of the shirtless bass player in the Mama Joy Band that was playing on the steps of Low Library that day. Period, end of story. That was it. I stared at him, i wiped a bit of drool off my face, and my mind was made up.

A grotesque amount of student loans later, i not once got up the nerve to talk to him, though i saw him a trillion and a half times at least. But so started the love hate relationship with New York. I really do hate New York, passionately, feverishly. But then again i really love it too. It’s a bitch that way. And really, i couldn’t imagine living in a small city. I could go to Paris or London or LA, but like San Diego? No way. But why is living in the cramped confines of a concrete, smelly, dirty metropolis attractive to anyone? Rationally it sucks doesn’t it?

I go to the Canal St Martin to eat a sandwich and pastry practically everyday for lunch now that spring is here. Sometimes i think it’s a cheap substitute for a country stream, or a deep lake somewhere. On either side of me are all sorts of folks, kids from the high school smoking cigarettes, people like me on their lunch break, city workers in their blue jump-suits drinking beer. All sitting along the edge of the canal. And there you have it. It’s cool. It’s not the same without all these people. Without people, it’s spooky, lonely. And unspoilt nature with a lot people is just weird. City people soaking up as much nature as forces allow, now that’s cool.

Yesterday i was waiting to see a very odd Godard film in front of the Pompidou. Next to me a guy was kicking a soccer ball around. It got away from him and this other guy walking along returned it, and then guy number one did a trick and sent it back. And so it began, a ring of boys kicking around the soccer ball that eventually numbered seven. They were all way different from each other, ethnically, the way they were dressed, everything. It was cool. The type of thing that doesn’t happen when everyone’s bbq-ing in their own fenced off yard. Naturally i ended up directly behind the one kind of crappy player who wasn’t able to get to the ball before it came hurtling towards my delicate book-reading self every ten goddamn minutes.

Yep, there’s the city for ya.

Le Regroup

So Voila!

It’s a slightly changed layout; the main difference is that i changed my CMS from Blogger to Movable Type. I can’t be any more indebted to Blogger for getting this now world famous blog (51 hits from Brunei Darussalam, woo hoo) off the ground with it’s ease of use and generally cheery disposition. They all rock pretty hard over there. But i mostly couldn’t stand being at the mercy of their (presumably) overloaded servers. And as a wise man once said, free means no complaining. In order to give myself permission to complain, I did try to upgrade to Blogger Pro but finicky paypal wouldn’t accept my credit card with it’s foreign address. So in the meantime i learned a few things about PHP and a coupla Unix commands, and feel generally more connected to my computer and server. Kind of like the first time i “drove” a stick shift. But now i’m babbling.

The second thing is the one-post-per-page layout which i did purposefully to make myself write sort of longer, sort of more considered, sort of more interesting things. (Note the extreme pussy-footing and lack of confidence.) This has been my dilemma recently, but whatever if i suck, so be it. Since i don’t think any of us could live without the little things, i added a little space, over there, to the right for links and other short quips. Keep in mind, blogger doesn’t use titles, so all the titles in the Archives are taken as the first five words of the post, and in most cases they make very little sense. The “Riffraff” section is still not done, even though it’s really close! When i finally finish, hopefully sometime this week, you’ll have your pick of lots of little trinkets and party favors that you might wanna take home and play with.

I was planning this to be as a year anniversary type thing, but oddly enough i’m about one month early. Wow. Anyhoo let me know if you have any feelings on it, one way or the other. In the meantime, i’m doing my very scary, two-different-countries, four-different-currency taxes. If i weren’t on the verge of getting a substantially large refund, i’d say screw it and go have an eclair. Hmm… maybe i will anyway.

10 Months

Well yeah it’s true, i’ve been slightly estranged from for the recent past (another thing you’re not supposed to mention, but as it has bearing on my mood, i damn well will). For starters spring’s hit the city of romance with a vengeance and i’ve been spending drowsy early evenings taking the long way home from work and exploring new neighborhoods. Mainly it’s been the 3rd arrondissement which may have the funniest old buildings here. Their mid sections all seem to have eaten maybe a bit too much magret du canard and are buckling under the pressure. The thing with these old buildings is that many of them are literally falling down. Falling down slowly in this expanding/buckling sort of way. Sometimes i am a little apprehensive about walking alongside them. They (the authorities i assume) use tape to measure and mark the size of the cracks in the walls. I’m not sure if there is any action that occurs as a result of the measuring, but on the more egregious of the cracks are little strips of paper tacked over them with notes.

And the other, well.. main, thing is that i have finally quit my job and decided to leave Paris and move back to Brooklyn. YAY! Firstly i’ve been dreading my job for kind of awhile now and have been sucking it up for various reasons. Mostly money, as is customary. But also because it’s my reason for being here, and i’ve been trying to give being here a fair shake. I vowed to stay for a year, and i, like the old buildings, am also buckling under the pressure. It’s been 10 months.. so… well 12 months or 10 – no big whoop, no? There’s so much to be said about all of it that i’m kind of shy about condensing it into words.

The main thing is that i didn’t so much move to Paris as i left New York. Looking through my old blogs from june of last year remind me of that. I ran away. I ran away from a life that i thought i totally failed at. Whether that’s true or not doesn’t really matter to me anymore, and that’s already a point in the neille column. I could have been moving to Vancouver or Vienna or like New Hampshire for all the thought that i gave to the actual destination. I said in early September (after about 2 months) that i knew i’d made the right decision about coming here. I said that, and a week later skyscrapers started burning, and i started wondering about things a whole lot bigger than whom i paid rent to. And now i think it is even more true.

The thing about being here, it’s not the beauty of the city, it’s not the perfect wine, it’s not the feel of 700 year old stone under my tipsy fingers. It’s that everything stopped. It’s that i lost a certain connection to ordinary life. And that was at once incredibly painful and then so clarifying. It’s a hard thing to explain. It’s hard to explain how isolation can make feelings that you once filed in between teenage angst and urban boredom carry some actual weight. Actually scratch that. It’s that isolation can be a real and painful and creative thing. It can remind you that the things you feel aren’t just a result of too much or too little serotonin. It’s that having to translate everything to understand even the smallest thing, the small things become very small. Or maybe it’s that the small things become very big, and the big things fall off the radar. Actaully what it is is that i continue being a real and rich person even when no one else can see it. And actually it’s when no else can see it that i am forced recognize the seriousness of who i am. And well that’s a weird thing to write, or say, or think. And it’s a really hard thing to live through. And when i say isolation, i’m not talking lack of human contact. I talk to people all the time, and i’ve met a few people i’ll sort of painfully miss. But an isolation from the noise of the world around. Maybe isolation isn’t quite the word.

There’s a world of minutia that i’ve totally escaped. The world of human interest stories on the news, the water cooler gossip at work, sports scores, the newest fad in today-show medicine (like “Oh today caffeine is good for you. Dr So-and-so’s who’s written such-and-such book is here to talk to us about it for one minute and 18 seconds”). Or there’s thumbing through a magazine left on the subway, or contributing to small talk, or chatting with the woman at the bakery. All of these things are available in abundance, but not always to one who’s suddenly missed everything when her mind wanders for two seconds. It’s simply too hard to pay attention to these tiny things. It’s not worth the effort. And so one gets a lot of free brain space, free reading space, free writing space, free thinking space. Which is actually kind of exactly what i was expecting. I wasn’t expecting it would be so hard.

Excuse me if i feel self conscious. It’s all so much harder than we let on. I like what rabbit wrote the other day. The themes to explore have all already been explored. But isn’t it our luck that it isn’t enough. That i’m still waking up in the middle of the night and taking more than a few seconds to remember in which city i’m waking up in. If i were smart i would have taken A Remembrance Of Things Past with me to read. Lord knows i’ve had the time.

On the phone with my dad today he asked how Paris was and i was going to say “well, it’s nice, it’s spring, i got caught in a romantic rainstorm except i was alone so it wasn’t romantic at all, just wet mostly.” But then i stopped myself and said, “well it’s Paris and i’m tired of it and i want to go home.” Karen and i made a pit stop at a cafe on the right bank yesterday. We found a table in the warm spring sun, and prattled on about nothing. “You know people would *kill* to be us right now”, i said out of the blue. And then we both snickered. Part of me is so irritated that i can’t even be unhappy and lonely without some sqwack “reminding” me that i’m in Amazing Wonderful Paris and that i must be a lunatic for not loving every square meter of it. And another sneakier part of me is like well i’m unhappy and lonely but at least some misguided sqwack is jealous of me.

So yes, the ride’s over in May. Another maybe bumpier ride might start as i’m doubling my rent while my salary is going the way of Zero. But who knows, in my head the amount of things i’m willing to do to earn money is probably larger than it’s ever been. That could be exciting (or awful). And i’d like to start playing a lot of tennis again. I did try to time it so that i’d have May in the city, as my mother pointed out, “one of the two months that it isn’t disgustingly hot or disgustingly cold”. This morning i was thinking about this Cincinnati Chili i kept making before i left, and then i wondered where i put the grease-stained recipe, and then i thought about my old kitchen, and then i thought how fucking weird it is that i’ve been living in France for 10 fucking months! And then i thought i’ve really missed Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and i wonder if anyone’s been taping it for me.