Today I met my friend Yael for a picnic in the Jardin du Luxembourg. I hadn’t seen her since before college – this seems to be a common theme for me in Paris – but it was wonderful to spend time with her; in fact, I think we get along better now than we did when we were friends in high school. She told me about the family whose kids she’s teaching English to and her life at Smith and her thoughts about becoming a rabbi. I told her about Jews for Justice and marching band and wanting to be a farmer/pastry chef/translator, and took her around to look at my favorite bakeries in the 6th arrondissement, Sadaharu Aoki and Poilâne and Gerard Mulot. Though I’d already eaten lunch and a chausson-aux-pommes (literally “slipper of apples,” basically apple mush in a flaky pastry) from Poilâne, I couldn’t resist trying one tiny macaron from Gerard Mulot. Before today I’d only ever eaten one macaron in Paris, a big pistachio-flavored one from somewhere unmemorable, which was fine but not great. Well, let me tell you, this was a TOTALLY different culinary experience. It was pretty much a passionfruit-basil-flavored, crispy, gooey, slightly tart bite of ecstasy. Unfortunately for me and my money, Gerard Mulot’s satellite store is on my way home from my metro stop…
Tomorrow I’m headed off to London and Ireland for a week. I think I’ll probably miss Paris when I leave, but right now I’m just excited to go somewhere where they speak English.

Published in: on February 19, 2009 at 11:21 pm  Leave a Comment  

psyche update

1. Yesterday morning I went to synagogue with my dad’s friend’s niece Rebecca, a Parisian mother of two whose name had been given to me as a useful “Anglo” and Jewish contact here. Much like communism, the meet-up was a nice idea in theory, but in practice it was disastrous.
The first bad omen was that the synagogue was Orthodox. I guess I could have viewed it as an interesting cultural experiment, but the worst parts of Orthodox shuls are the same everywhere, and I have better things to do in Paris than sit up in the women’s balcony while the men mumble in Hebrew and try to rally financial support for the Israeli army. Afterwards we went downstairs for the kiddush, where Rebecca ate nothing but vociferously encouraged me to partake of the olives and charcuterie because “all we have at home is chicken soup.”
When we got back into her car, she decided she needed to pluck her eyebrows, so she whipped out a pair of tweezers and did so in the rearview mirror. Once that was accomplished, we went home to take her son to tutoring. While we waited for him to get ready, Rebecca asked her 8-year-old daughter why she was watching Shrek and if she was going to watch it all day. Then she made me a challah and dried sausage sandwich despite my protestations of not being hungry, and just as we were about to run out to door, asked me “Do you like cake?” and threw an entire bagful at me.
After we dropped the kid off, she lit up, which ordinarily I could care less about, except that she chased her cigarette with a piece of gum and a vigorous spray of antiperspirant—her kids don’t know she smokes (I’m assuming her husband does, but who knows). “It’s like I’m in high school,” she said, laughing nervously.
I nibbled on the sandwich while she drove around looking for some kind of Lubavitch luncheon, I think with the vague idea of introducing me to young Jewish guys. But when we couldn’t find it (thank God), she decided we should go to the mall.
First we went to Starbucks, where she ordered a big Frappuccino—the only thing I saw her consume between the hours of 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. Then I followed her into a FNAC because she said she needed a new mouse. I pointed her to some optical mice, but she headed straight for the display of Macs and entered into a long conversation with a computer salesman while I perused the CDs and comics. She had apparently decided that this was the right moment to purchase a new computer, complete with a 24-inch monitor, for her husband. So I waited with her in various lines and helped her lug the enormous thing to the car, while she kept apologizing and saying she would “release me soon,” forcing me to reassure her that I was having a great time.
I finally got her to drop me off at the Metro and promised vaguely to come back another time, maybe for Friday night dinner. I’m sure she meant well, but there is no way I am going to subject myself to that again.

2. I tend to be picky about my friends. I can get along with just about anyone if I have to, but it’s relatively rare for me to feel genuinely close to people. This is why I’m usually very persistent about keeping in touch—if I’ve found someone who I truly like, I won’t give that up just because of a silly thing like distance.

During my fall semester, for the first time I can remember, I felt completely and constantly surrounded by a community of the people I liked most. I still had many dear friends who were far away—meaning anything from the other side of campus to New York City to Chicago—but cell phones and trains helped bridge the more daunting distances. On my Thanksgiving and winter breaks, I came home to high school friendships that were still strong as ever, invitations to gallivant around Brooklyn and the Lower East Side with Yale pals, and relationships with my parents that were perhaps better than they’d ever been.
And now I’m in Paris, an ocean and a 6-hour time difference away.

I’m not sad that I’m here—Paris is awesome, I’m enjoying myself, I’m spending time with lots of different people. But I can’t help feeling that just when I finally managed to collect all my favorite people in one place, I left and forced myself to start from scratch.

I know I’ll be back in a few months, and no one is going anywhere in the meantime, at least not that I know of. I can, and do, still keep in touch thanks to various wonderful Internet-based utilities. And I have met a few people here who I genuinely like and could (and probably will) grow closer to. Nonetheless, as one might imagine, it’s difficult not to have my dear friends around me in person. Really, as entertaining as it is to constantly make new acquaintances or reconnect with old ones, it sucks to frequently have no guarantee that I’ll actually enjoy the company of whoever I’m with; see above for the worst-case scenario.

I feel bad complaining in general, and especially about Paris. I want to be able to say that everything is just non-stop awesomeness 100% of the time, wheeee! And things are awesome enough of the time that when people ask me how I’m doing, I can truthfully say that I’m happy. But to be honest, I think I wish I were happier. I’m happy “a peine,” as they say in French, which basically means that I am but I have to work hard to stay that way. After a semester of sheer contentment, which I’d rank higher than happiness any day, it’s sometimes tough to be satisfied with that.

Published in: on February 8, 2009 at 8:29 am  Comments (2)  

french friends!?

Big news guys: I had my first night out with no other Americans involved. I went out for drinks with my German friend Eva after choir practice, and a whole bunch of other choir people came, and we sat around talking about art and politics in French. Well, more specifically, Eva and I talked about politics with a former member of the Lyndon Larouche youth movement (they’re everywhere in this weird country – remind me to tell you about how they tried to recruit me this summer), and then two other people freaked out when they heard I was from New York and started talking about all these paintings they had seen at the MoMA, which I responded to by nodding enthusiastically and not mentioning that I haven’t been to the MoMA yet.
Anyway it was a lot of fun, and Eva invited me to visit her in Germany over my April break, which I may or may not do. I have so many places I want to travel. It looks like may also have two weeks at the beginning of June with literally nothing to do. What do you think – should I try to change my ticket and go home early, or should I squander more money and gallivant around Europe some more? Parents, please weigh in on this too.

Also, this has nothing to do with Paris or really with anything, but I love how leggings are the hippest going-out clothes. Seriously. Leggings and big, weird sweaters are what we wore in elementary school, until it became “inappropriate” (i.e. we acquired butts). But now it’s like, hey dudes at the club, check out my butt! But maybe you can’t see it because my shirt is kind of long! This also makes the infamous transition-from-day-into-evening (see any women’s magazine ever) SUPER easy – you just take off your skirt, and you’re ready to party! Though I guess that is the inherent definition of taking off your skirt.

Hey, you know what I miss about Livejournal? That “current mood, current music” tab. Well right now I’m pretty dang good, and I’m listening to the Vaselines. I hope you are too.

Published in: on February 5, 2009 at 10:17 am  Comments (1)  

Les Funambules

One great and terrible thing about being in a foreign country is that each event takes on a whole new level of personal importance. Every small achievement feels like the success of a lifetime; everything that doesn’t quite work out is the worst thing that has ever happened. The first time I tried to do my laundry and the machines didn’t work, I wanted to cry. When I made delicious roasted vegetables in my foyer’s convection oven later that day, it made up for any bad thing that had ever happened to me.
This is all to say that right now I am experiencing very irrational feelings of jubilation over having found a cafe with free wireless. It is a totally adorable cafe called Les Funambules about 2 blocks from where I live, with lights on strings outside, reasonably comfortable seats, super friendly waiters, and Cuban music playing in the background (in fact I think the cafe is not French-owned, which may explain why it is so friendly). I ordered mint tea and got an entire pot of hot water, plus two little biscuits.
I think this is especially exciting for me because I’d been really missing New Haven coffee shops. Last week – and this week too – my university was (is) on strike and I had a lot of hours with nothing to do. I tried hanging out in the cafe across the street from the fac, but they were playing the worst American music and there was no one else there and a jackhammer outside and it just made me really depressed. Fortunately I ran into a Middlebury grad student who is very nice and happens to live in my foyer, and we went to the cafe next to the mosque and got mint tea and talked about becoming translators. But as lovely as that was, it’s not gonna help next time I’m stuck at the fac with nothing to do – as far as I know, there isn’t even wireless in the university library. And then of course there’s the fact that I don’t have internet in my room. Sitting in the computer room or the lobby of my foyer is not much fun, and more cafes than you’d think are too busy or too crappy or too pricey or have no wireless or make you pay extra.
But now everything is better. Especially because the biscuits they gave me with my pot of tea are GINGERBREAD BISCUITS. Ahhhhhh.

Published in: on February 3, 2009 at 9:34 am  Comments (1)