You can scroll the shelf using ← and → keys
You can scroll the shelf using ← and → keys
Someone I used to know right down to the soul but who I don’t even talk to anymore (great gossip teaser, right?) once said to me: “Don’t come back to Paris next year, that’s boring. Go somewhere new.” My first reaction was: “bitch pleeeeeease…you don’t even KNOW me,“ since I’m very confrontational and also an Aries. My second reaction was to slightly agree with this idea of going somewhere new, but my third reaction was a fist pump to my deeply thought-out artistic and “next project” reasons for returning to Paris, all of which are cited here.
So I returned…and it’s been three and a half weeks…and it’s been so damn great that I haven’t even had a chance to blog or tweet about it properly…the horror! (there’s a lesson in here about stopping to smell the roses, and I’m happy to report that I stopped to smell the literal roses in the Rodin sculpture gardens this past Thursday).
Take last week for example: some visiting Canadian pals and I walked 50km in Paris over the course of five days…this is a conservative approximation. Meanwhile, Paris has a 10km radius from east to west, so…not large by any means. MEANWHILE…throughout our jaunts, we kept experiencing new and different things! This is the beauty of Paris, my friends…good old-fashioned DENSITY. There is always a different café to try, always a random museum you haven’t been to, and always a cool new bar where you and the bartender make a deal that every cocktail must include a complimentary shot. It never gets old, and if I’m somehow to remember this all for the purposes of a future Paris-centric book aimed at future Paris travellers, I need a comprehensive spreadsheet that incorporates the categories, the neighbourhoods, and the detailed personal impressions.
So yes…my latest book is being drafted within the confines of a spreadsheet, but I assure you it is pivot-table free. I’ve never drafted a book in such a weird rigid format, but somehow it’s very freeing, because as soon as I plop it all in there I’m free to experience the next thing, and I know I can organize it later. Like the bakery with no name on the front that sells the most amazing coconut ice cream that has ever hit my lips. PLOP. Or that corner café in the 10th arrondissement where the price is good, the tourists are non-existent, and you can actually taste the coffee through the froth of the café creme (instead of the plain old milky warmth that many cafés dish out). PLOP. Or this random little bar in the 4th arrondissement where you climb the stairs and you’re suddenly in your own secluded lounge, right next to a window overlooking the street. PLOP. So many plops! I’ve barely even scratched the surface in this post, but fear not, my spreadsheet knows all…
Another added bonus (which isn’t even spreadsheet-related) is making new friends on a second jaunt in Paris, when you didn’t even expect to make new friends, since you were already returning to people know and love. And yet…within the aisles of Paris Ikea (not very Parisian, I know), you find yourself growing closer and closer to a friend of a friend, and thinking “How have we not been friends our whole lives?! Let’s hang out EVERY DAY!!!” Yeah…Paris seems to have a knack for new encounters (as long as you’re not a socially-awkward shut-in who blogs…wait, what?…)
I should probably get back to doing my Paris thang, but not before including some photo action below. Oh and by way, remember when I shared the first ten pages of a screenplay I wrote this year, and said I’d be happy to advance in just one contest? Well somehow I made the top 20 finalists of the 2014 Script Pipeline contest, out of over 3,500 entries! I found out I made it three days before my flight to Paris, so let’s just say it was one big high before another. The best part of all is that the finalists get an over-the-phone script consult and actual assistance in shaping their work for potential industry introductions. There are no guarantees, of course, but even in the few e-mails I’ve exchanged with the contest director, I can safely say that the writer dream lives on…or maybe it’s not even a dream, I mean I’m doing it, right? Needless to say, I’m so glad I didn’t give up on writing after spending last year in Paris; in fact it was only the beginning…
The café from the movie “Before Sunset.” Yes it exists and yes a glass of wine is reasonably-priced and yes the co-owner who works there is the nicest lady with the biggest smile, so who said Parisians weren’t friendly?!
Many people think “doing” the Eiffel Tower means climbing atop it and checking out the view of Paris, but if you haven’t had a picnic in front of the Eiffel Tower until the wee hours, I’m not sure if you’ve actually done it right (and if you think French people don’t like the Eiffel Tower, let me tell you that 90% of the conversations you’ll hear during a nighttime picnic will be in French—> you also may or may not be serenaded by Corsicans with guitars…)
When it comes to day trips outside of Paris, if you don’t hate crowds, you’ll probably end up in Versailles. If you do hate crowds, you’ll find yourself here, at amazing Fontaine Bleu.
On a crisp sunny day last year in early May, I made my way to Paris with a suitcase full of dreams. As a wide-eyed newcomer to Paris, the following six months would prove to be nothing short of a soul-replenishing experience…
Is that cheesy enough? Are you grossed out too? I almost made myself dry-heave.
So here’s what really happened: didn’t know a single person, got lost, forced myself to randomly meet people via awkward meet-ups, got lost, ate a lot of pastries, stopped getting lost, proved the “negative Nancies” wrong by making friends with actual Parisians ( they’re just as friendly and ready to laugh as anyone else), ate more pastries, got to know my Left Bank home pretty well, ate a lot of other food/came up with a list of favourites, joined a running club with a group of locals so I wouldn’t gain a hundred pounds, celebrated Bastille Day in pure Parisian fashion, firemen’s ball included (see: outdoor nightclubs for a two-euro cover charge, with handsome firefighters as the primary entertainment), picnicked on various grassy knolls throughout the summer (then compiled a list of favourite grassy knolls), wrote my next book, published my next book, and ate more pastries.
It was a fabulous six-month stay (with its share of personal moments that don’t need elaboration), but I will say that going into it with a book-writing deadline influenced a lot of my stay, in terms of locking myself away to write when I should’ve been strolling around Paris, and thinking a lot about plot lines and character arcs, when I should’ve been taking note of certain experiences in greater detail. I don’t begrudge the wine-induced, “talking to myself” writing nights one bit (and thanks for reading book 3, everyone!), but it left me with a bit of a Parisian deficiency. This deficiency equates to a slightly incomplete historical record of my experiences in Paris.
SO I’M GOING BACK TO PARIS FOR THE SUMMER!
It was the only logical conclusion.
The big difference now is that with last year’s experience behind me, I have the benefit of jumping back in from the moment I return to Paris. The other big difference is not worrying about a deadline. And so, 1 + 1 =…living on the Right Bank this time, and at least five hours a day of strolling, interacting, consuming, revelling, and taking notes (could’ve been ten hours a day, but I need to catch up with with old mates, you see). By the time I finish, I’ll have so many thoughts and so much information on Paris, that it’ll only be a matter of organizing it all. This is really for my own future reference, like if I go back to Paris thirty years from now and realize I’ve forgotten everything. At that inevitable point, I’ll easily reference everything from the handy book on Paris I wrote, along with the moods and ambience that characterized those experiences (Will the tone be flowery? No. Blunt and sometimes embarrassing? Yes). I guess that’s what bugs me about Paris books, as they are today; the entire experience isn’t centralized. Like first I have to read a whole memoir to get in the mood, then I have to read a guide book to learn about good places to eat, and then I have to read at least a dozen blogs, depending on what I’m looking for (i.e. ten croissants from different districts face off in a battle royale, but only one can survive (insert “Hunger Games” joke here; oh wait, I kind of already did, and it wasn’t good. Remind me to never apply for “Last Comic Standing”). By taking all three of the above categories, and putting as much of each into a single book, I will have myself an inspirational yet efficient reference for when I’m elderly, forgetful, and uninspired. It’s a time capsule, made my me, and gifted to me. If anyone else wants to read it, that’s cool, as it will be published like all my other books, but it’s rooted in that all-important writer’s jumping off point: write something you care about!
Well I should go; only two weeks left ’til my return to Paris, or in other words: two weeks left to diet and work out like crazy, to prepare myself for a summer of eating whatever the hell I want…(red flag: my dieting plan will be challenged by a road trip to DC for the next four days, which aside from checking out a few monuments, will be entirely centred around eating. This can only mean one of two things; either A: “Hard body in two weeks” is an unrealistic expectation, or B: next stop, bulimia express!
PS: I share this picture way too often, but I can’t get enough of it, and I plan on finding those 2013 birds when I return…
PPS: I will pepper this blog with updates direct from Paris throughout the summer; stay tuned!
My relationship with mannequins has been nothing short of tumultuous over the years. First, there was my confusing childhood crush on a grown man/mannequin hybrid in Jeff from Today’s Special, and then, growing up, the realization that a mannequin’s painted-on eyeliner was so superior to my own. For a brief moment things turned around, when a movement began to eliminate hair and faces on mannequins across the board, in favour of the polished and uniform faceless look. I suspect this was done to accommodate the fact that many prospective shoppers don’t have porcelain skin and horse-hair locks of gold. It was definitely a strategy to improve race relations, and recently it went a big step further when mannequins started having no heads at all. It was a bold but intelligent move, since as an ethnic minority myself, there’s nothing I relate to more than a decapitated likeness of a human in the latest and greatest fashions…
A few weeks ago though, things went horribly wrong. It happened on Toronto’s bustling Yonge Street in the downtown core. My friends and I (it’s important for bloggers to “character drop” friends into their posts, to eliminate the stigma that bloggers have no friends, even if the “friends” in question are fictional, and in my case they are, but no one needs to know that except myself and the readers (aka my REAL friends! Are you all eating Cheetos in your pajamas too?)…oh wait, I forgot what I was saying. Oh yeah, so my friends and I were strolling along after a fabulous dinner, a skip in our step from splitting two bottles of vino—friends are great for sharing the vino in a dignified way, as opposed to drinking the bottle alone in your pajamas after binge-eating a bag of Cheetos—when we came across…THIS.
Your eyes do not deceive you; those, my friends, are anatomically-disgraceful INVERTED knee-caps. We weren’t sure if our eyes were deceiving us either that night, so I took the picture, let it sit for exactly one month, and didn’t look upon it until today, only to find that it wasn’t a sick joke. I mean damn, like it wasn’t already hard enough to relate to blonde mannequins, or twenty-inch-waisted mannequins, or decapitated mannequins, but now you’re telling me the basic structure of my human form is no longer worthy of wearing the dresses in the shop window? It won’t be long before women start getting elective knee-inversion surgeries, just like how there’s procedures to elongate legs, or a recent rise in butt implants, or the newfound obsession with having a thigh-gap (did you see that episode of Dr. Oz? Better yet did you see Beyoncé’s photoshopped thigh-gap from that day she was playing golf?).
The fact that this blog is supposed to be about Paris reminiscence (and there’s so much reminiscence I haven’t yet shared!) should tell you how this issue has been weighing on my mind. I even went back and changed the post’s title to reflect this disturbing topic.
Due to my current state of distress, I think I’ll leave it at that. In other news, since I haven’t blogged for two months, I never shared that Ted Talk I did in November re: following your dreams. Well here it is! (I’m also working on a butt-load of writer stuff, but it’s still too early to mention it yet…just know that I’m using the full 10% of my brain that we humans use!)
Single people have been led to believe that Valentine’s Day is when they must confront their loneliness, feel sad, then reflect on all the ways they can improve as a dateable commodity, to avoid winding up in this sorry predicament the next time this day rolls around. It’s like a new year’s resolution, only tailored to your romantic inadequacies, as opposed to the weight/nicotine/alcohol issues that are typically targeted on January 1st.
Many single people (mostly women) fight the power by getting all dressed up and hittin’ the club with “their girls,” where they’ll inevitably hold court with the remnants of the male population, the single guys who troll such clubs on Valentine’s night, ready to feed off a single woman’s fear of dying alone (1. eww; and 2. been there, said NO to that).
But back to the people who accept their lot in life as feeling sad/punished on Valentine’s Day: stop that now, there’s no need! And I’m about to tell you why.
Few people know that Valentine’s Day is the one day a year to take pity on couples, as they only engage in romance on this day because of the biggest and loudest reminder ever known to man:
Worse than that, is how contrived all this romance is. I mean…a Pepto-Bismol-coloured card with a corporation’s impersonalized greeting? NOT romantic.
Or how about chocolates that are supposedly romantic because they’ve been stuffed into a heart-shaped box for this once-a-year occasion? Umm NO (and don’t be fooled by the box, it’s exactly the same as the regular Ferrero Rocher chocolate, only the heart-shaped box has eight measly pieces, whereas the year-round rectangle box contains SIXTEEN pieces for only a dollar more! There’s a sucker born every day…)
What about stuffed animals holding stuffed-hearts? Seriously, what’s a grown woman supposed to do with a stuffed animal? That’s the equivalent of getting Flintstones chewable vitamins for your wedding anniversary.
“But guess what Romi, ” the couples say (condescendingly), “we don’t do the shitty “greeting card and chocolate” stuff on V-day. We plan romantic getaways, and give each other mix tapes, and do scavenger hunts, and make crafts based on inside jokes, which means our love is REAL, so the single people can go back to envying our holiday.“
First of all, dear couples, you doth protest too much. Second of all, no matter what you do, no matter how quirky and “not mainstream” your hipster romance is, if it happened on Valentine’s Day, it’s immediately disqualified from the best romantic moment of all time, because any sweet gesture was jacked-up, amplified, and prompted by the manufactured romance that’s filling up the air on February 14th. It’s like when disgraced baseball star Mark McGwire tried to claim the home-run record when his butt-cheeks were pumped full of steroids. I DON’T THINK SO.
Of course, this won’t stop the couples from trying to show the single people who’s boss. You’ll know that feeling when the Facebook posts start trickling in: “My man is the best!” Or “I’m the luckiest girl in the world!” You know what the “luckiest girl in the world” posts are supposed to do, right? They’re supposed to remind you that you’re not (until February 15th of course, when everything goes back to being the same, ya know?). It’s cool though, ’cause calendar-prompted romance is the same as a tainted home-run record, so why feel bad about that? And let’s not forget the slashed prices on chocolate you’ll find on February 15th! (the heart-shaped boxes of Ferrero Rocher are always the first to go)
Despite this post being a streak-free spray-tan of self-esteem for the average single person, your couple friends definitely deserve a shout-out, for when they do romantic things on any old day of the year (and when asked why, they respond: “just because”). When these random acts of romance happen and you hear about it, you’re totally allowed to feel jealous. And sad. And maybe even jump off a cliff.
Okay so the “dying alone in a violent way, cliff-death wise” imagery was harsh, but back to my overall point: Valentine’s Day should never make you feel bad again, so take back the night!
PS: is it weird that I listened to “You’re Beautiful” by James Blunt on repeat while writing this post?
How can I even argue with that?
You’ve got the sunsets to enjoy with that someone who could be “the one,” and how could you not feel happy when you admire the changing sky, and how those last rays of sun make the ripples of the Seine glimmer like jewels from Chanel? If it’s cloudy out, don’t worry, there’s back-up! It comes in the form of romantic cobblestone side-streets that are perfect for stolen kisses. Or here’s another option: gaze at each other as you sit side-by-side on charming café terraces.
These elaborate set pieces are somehow the natural state of Paris, and as beautiful as it all is, it negatively alters your ability to discern who’s dateable vs. who’s insufferable. If anything your judgment is blurred by the distracting background.
Basically…Paris is airbrush makeup for ugly personalities.
It’s not Paris’s fault; I mean Paris didn’t ask to be defiled in this way, to be used as an agent of “surface romance,” for people who think wine and chocolate and gazing at Eiffel Tower views will be enough to distract you from poor conversation skills.
But that’s what people do!
And only after several dates (once the Parisian haze has lifted) do you realize you’ve never been more bored in your life but now you’re so far into it you should probably break it off in person and dammit if only you’d met him (or her!) in a rural barren wasteland because then you would’ve known how boring he (or she!) was within the five-minute mark.
It’s a shame how Paris numbs your senses and radars, and all the other skills you’ve amassed over the years to weed out the wrong ones to help you find the right one. It’s a shame because well shit, you’re in Paris! And it’s beautiful! So why can’t you share it with someone special?!
This is the part where I tell you to move to a different city.
This next part is when I tell you I was lying in the part above, because I loved living in Paris and will rob you blind when you’re not looking so I can fundraise my way back to the Seine.
So what’s the workaround to the Paris “blur”?
Actually, it’s simple: you must go to the places that bring out the random conversations…you must! Nothing tells you more about someone’s personality than how they react to random topics of conversation. “But Romi,” you say, “conversation’s not that important. I mean that’s what my buddies are for. I just want a girl I’m really ‘into,’ ya know?” Sure random blog reader, I know all about it. But what YOU don’t know is that forty years from now when all your buddies are dead (your buddies lived hard and fast) you’ll stare into the face of the person you spend almost all of your “awake time” with, and you’ll realize you have absolutely nothing to say to her (or him!). And it’s not one of those adorable “comfortable silences” either.
So back to my workaround solution!
There are many places in Paris that are ripe for random conversation, and one of the best ones is the Centre Pompidou, a.k.a. Paris’s museum of modern art. I don’t even have to take you through it step-by-step because it’s easy. All I have to do is show you some of the art I saw when I was there, and the conversations will make themselves. I was not there on a date, but if I had been, there’s so much I could’ve discovered about a possible mate in front of this melting bicycle painting. I mean it’s MELTING! What does that MEAN? Does it make you think about how everything’s made up of atoms, whether it’s a liquid or a solid? In which case…is a melting bicycle really such a leap in logic? And how does a specific combination of atoms even hold a bicycle into a solid? How fragile is it? What if I’m riding a bicycle and it starts to melt?! I have many concerns!
Obviously this sort of date could result in my possible mate thinking I’m extremely weird and running away, but that’s the risk you take by being yourself, and there’s someone for everyone..right? In other words your conversations don’t have to be as weird as mine, but at least it’s a conversation! Now this one…well this one is just so easy. Do I even need to go there? Look closely. Bringing your date here and getting them to describe this work of art will equal automatic laughter, and laughter’s an important part of haze-free romance!
Okay…so this one. Well it freaks me the hell out. I could find out a lot about a guy by asking him how he feels about these little troll men who are basically SMILING while one of them passes the other one the CORPSE-HEAD of one of their peers! If your date is not the least bit disturbed by this, he is probably a serial killer, which is a really important trait to weed out!
These are just a few examples, but by reading this, please don’t think I’m so nerdy when it comes to romance that I’m a conversation robot who simply wants to talk and talk until death do us part. As a matter of fact I love gazing into someone’s eyes on a café terrace, I love sunsets, and I love those little cobblestone alleyways which are so conducive to making out in doorways (heh). I’d just rather do all that once I’m sure the personality in question matches up well with mine. You gotta EARN the sunset…
Before I drift away into the new year, I wanted to share some exciting news: the “Year of the Chick” series is now available as an ebook box set! The readers of the series have been SO great with their reactions/emails/Amazon reviews, that I’ve put together all three books into a set you can get for yourself (for a crazy introductory price of $3.99!), or gift to your friends via Amazon’s simple “give as a gift” button (all you need is the “giftee’s” email address, and they don’t even need a Kindle, since you can read ebooks on your phone or iPad with the free app).
Anyway, here’s the link so feel free to check it out, just in time for Christmas!— Year of the Chick series boxed set
I’ll be back in 2014 with many more thoughts on Paris (oh, you thought I was done?) and updates on my writing projects.
For now I’ll leave you with this lyric I’m really digging right now: “Our love, it grows, because I know it makes me better; thy will be done, when we are one, us, together.” (See? I’m not a robot who’s only obsessed with conversation!). It’s called “Fall” by Serena Ryder, and I gotta say, she really gets me. If you’re curious you can listen to it here!