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I saw a headline in reference to Tom Cruise “scouting” women (applicants?) for his next official girlfriend, and instead of being grossed out, I was immediately reminded of a summer night in Paris (the dots will be connected, I assure you).
The night in question did not occur when I lived in Paris this summer, but in 2013 when I lived there to write my last book. It was halfway through my six-month Parisian stay, and my Canadian friends were joining me on some travels. We’d just returned from Brussels–which is a whole other story of crashing a Scottish guy’s bachelor party at Delirium–and with four days in Paris ahead of us before we journeyed south, we needed a nighttime fix.
Our twitchy-eyed withdrawal led us straight to Rue de Lappe in Paris’s Bastille neighbourhood.
After living in Paris twice, I would not go to Rue de Lappe again; just give me a quiet wine bar, or a hole-in-the-wall with surprising cocktails and I am a happy lady. If, however, there are four of you, and one of you broke your toe in Brussels (ahem), which means you’re looking for a dozen options within a five-minute limping stroll, Rue de Lappe is the place for you.
When you’re on this street you must relax your usual standards, otherwise you’ll freak at the first sight of “El Rancho Dominicano,” a bar façade covered in fake green bushes, where the doorway is kind of like this hole you have to huddle into, a pathway that may or may not lead to a militant jungle environment you’ll never come out of alive. There was no way in hell I’d be huddling into some plastic bushes with a broken toe. Well, actually…we did go inside out of sick curiosity. More leaves, extremely dark, people giving you weird looks I interpreted as “did you bring the drugs?”…we didn’t stay.
Luckily we found a dive bar thirty seconds up the street, “Le Bar à Nenettes.” It was nothing amazing but I didn’t mind it; just wooden tables, affordable drinks (by Parisian standards), and a lot of French locals which I always find comforting. What ensued was a few rounds of drinks, many utterances of “I love you guys!” and then of course, all of us freaking out about finding food before the eating establishments closed. This is one thing I find forever annoying about Paris; why is it so hard to find something to eat once you leave the bar?! What do you French soak your alcohol with? Your snobbery?! Just kidding, French people are really nice; whoever made up that snobbery stereotype is basically an asshole. Nevertheless, I don’t understand how the French avoid getting hangovers when I never see them eating after the bar. I’ve asked them too and they just smile at me all coy, those withholding bastards.
Anyway, we got lucky; there was this Mexican joint down the street serving food for another twenty minutes. I am unable to tell you if the food was any good, due to being intoxicated and therefore having no standards.
What I DO remember is the guy that looked like Tom Cruise (see, I told you I’d connect the dots!).
We were still on this street, wandering at some unknown hour, when a trio of guys approached us. They must’ve been moved by our luscious Canadian accents, as two of them were American and the third one British, with generous smiles all around. I wasn’t the least bit interested, but when I’m amped up with alcohol I ask a lot of questions. Which led to this: how do you guys know each other? Oh, you’re staying at the same hostel? Cool. How long are you guys here for? Actually I’ve stopped listening ’cause I got bored; yeah, I’m just saying random things now. Wait, did one of you just say that people say you look like Tom Cruise???
Yes, he did. Item one: he did not resemble Tom Cruise. And yet, it wasn’t one of those things where he was drunk and making crazy claims; like he truly believed it and showed us his drivers’ license photo as further evidence. Being myself and having very little social filter, I laid out his delusion before him. His reply? “I don’t look like Tom Cruise NOW, I look like Tom Cruise from the early days!” Ohhhh I get it, you have outdated hair and your shirt is tucked into your jeans; okay cool let me take off my clothes now, since I’m so excited that I can’t even handle myself. I said some variation of this out-loud, but only after he claimed he’s the friend from his group who gets asked out the MOST, on account of this mystical Tom Cruise resemblance. How’s that workin’ out for you, Top Gun? I definitely said this out-loud. I may be a horrible person.
The second guy was pretty generic so let’s move on to guy number three, this adorable guy from England. My friends and I could immediately tell he was young, which officially removed him from consideration. It’s weird; like when a man finds out a girl is nineteen, he will probably hit that shit. But when three women discover a “MAN” is only nineteen? They will treat him like a fucking baby. For fun. “You’re so cute! Look at your little dimples! Look at your adorable sweater!” These were my friends, and boy-wonder was loving the attention. I was feeling left out from offering all this innocent affection, so I thought I’d join in too: “Do you still get breast-fed on a daily basis?” They looked at me like I was crazy. So I tried to clarify: “Is there someone here who can burp you? Should we ask?“
For some odd reason none of my comments landed like I’d hoped, and as we went our separate ways, I was certain boy-wonder was relieved to be rid of us forever.
But THEN….the next day….far from Bastille…my friends and I were wandering down Rue Galande in the Latin Quarter, which was near my apartment at the time. We were specifically there to visit an independent jewelry shop, as my friend has this thing for buying a pair of earrings in every city she visits. So there we were, leaving the shop, and who should stroll right past us?
British boy wonder!
I couldn’t remember his name so I simply cried: “Hey! You’re that kid!” He smiled but there was a look of terror in his eyes, and that’s when I knew I had to do it. So I stared at my feet, sheepishly, and apologized for the previous night, when I’d suggested that he still gets breast-fed by his mother. He laughed it off like it was nothing, but he finally had some colour in those boyish cheeks of his, so I knew I’d made a difference in his life, by at last saying sorry for my blatant ageist comments. After that, we marvelled at the sheer coincidence of our run-in, we invited him to our upcoming picnic that night, and one of us even became friends with him on Facebook (not me, of course), a superficial friendship that lasts to this day.
It was one of those magical moments that Paris is so full of; that beautiful random quality where destiny sometimes brings two people together on the cobblestoned streets, only this time the singular purpose of this force was to have me apologize for humiliating a male adult.
As I sit here staring at the two-euro print of “Starry Night” affixed to my Parisian wall by extra-strength transparent tape (I don’t think my landlord would approve), I’m reminded of the movie poster for “Midnight in Paris,” which in turn reminds me of how rainy days were romanticized in the film. As an aside, did you know there are two very different versions of Van Gogh’s “Starry Night”? The one on my wall is the one you’re probably picturing, and the other one which I’m showing to you now is a secret photograph I took at the Musée D’Orsay in Paris last year (“no photos allowed” is a loose guideline, in my opinion). You should check it out in person, it’s a treat.
So about those rainy days…today was one of those relentlessly rainy days in Paris, the kind when Mother Nature washes away those random whiffs of “public urination sins” from days gone by; a glorious day indeed.
Or WAS IT???
You see…Owen Wilson’s character in “Midnight in Paris” was all about the rainy days, so according to him today should’ve been amazing. If that’s not enough, I’ve seen the movie at least three times, and I’m pretty sure his character twirled around in the rain with a look of glee at some point; or maybe it was only a half spin, but anyway he fucking loved it.
I was all about the “I’ll have what he’s having” when I stepped into the rain today, but somehow…it didn’t quite live up to the fictional movie scenes I so heavily base my life on. It’s just that Owen Wilson’s character has this soft blond pony-like hair that recovers from a drenching in an effortless way, and as much as we’re incredibly impressed, we don’t all share these follicle-based gifts (and yes I was carrying an umbrella, but sometimes it rains diagonally and what’s a girl to do? I suppose I could roll around in the streets from inside a plastic bubble, but on this particular day I did not have the means). If that’s not enough, his character not only encountered a youthful Parisian dream girl who sold vintage records (which she probably acquired from past senior-citizen lovers), he also ran into her while crossing the river on this extremely rainy day!
Do you know who I run into on rainy days in Paris? An old British woman asking me for money. And a tourist family of four that decides to link arms so they take up the entire width of the sidewalk. Not only that, but rainy Owen Wilson’s character never experienced how all those missing cobblestones in Paris fill up with water, so when you accidentally step into one you’re ankle-deep in a puddle. And your foot goes “squish squish squish” with you all the way home. And then you spend twenty minutes sitting there blow-drying your shoe.
It seems evident that the cynical part of myself was running point on this rainy day, except for one notable fact: the dinner I was about to cook for myself needed bread. And so, with one last stop at the corner bakery, I now beheld a fresh hot baguette in all its Parisian glory. A baguette so good it didn’t even matter that its tip had become rather moistened by the steady rain (there is no way to make that sound G-rated). I bit right into it as I squished my way through the streets, and just like that, I was home…
Okay…so now that the optimist in me has been re-established, I will swiftly dive back into the cynical world. Last year in Paris I wrote about my experience at the lock bridge, where couples affix a lock on a bridge to guarantee their love will last forever. Or something. I tried not to be too cynical about it last year, in fact I even tried to appreciate the wedding photos happening right in front of me. Overall, I only rolled my eyes about six or seven times while strolling along the lock bridge; not bad.
And then…last week…I saw THIS:
So basically in June the main “love lock bridge” in Paris (Pont des Arts) partially collapsed under the weight of those super-romantic locks. This was especially hilarious to me, since last year I’d pointed out how some of the locks are ENORMOUS, with the intention of…displaying the sheer insecurity of a relationship?? (sort of like how men with small penises drive big fancy cars—I would insert the name of a car here, but I don’t give a shit about cars). So alas, I was right for insulting the giant-lock offenders last year, but hey don’t stress, the French tax-payers will fund your insecurities via restoration of the bridge…no biggie!
So take another look at that photo. Yes, you’re seeing that right, i.e. several panels of the bridge are blocked off with wood, to prevent any additional weight from those lovey-dovey locks. And so…love birds have taken to declaring their love with…a marker. On a piece of wood. There’s some random graffiti as well (what do all those fish mean?), but take a close look and you’ll notice lots of names enclosed in hearts. I mean…what?? Granted, the original purpose of attaching a lock as a sign of love was pretty cheesy and a whole lot weird, but at least it had an idea behind it. But now? Scribbling some stuff on a piece of wood? And what do these couples even post on Instagram? A picture of themselves kissing, next to a section of wood? I’m not being a dick, I am genuinely confused by this.
So that’s the latest from Lock Bridge central (which I only found out about last week, since I consciously avoid that bridge)…
The cynic in me is clearly taking over again, so let me just say this has definitely been the best summer in Paris, with eight days of wonderment to go. I mean I only have two summers to compare against each other, but this one was full of unexpected discoveries, and new friendships that will surely last beyond these silly limitations of space and time. I will definitely write all about it in the upcoming book, but since this next book is a non-fiction effort…there are some things I was previously all set to write about…which I’ll now keep under wraps. It’s just that sometimes random friendly encounters at say, a cool bar…convert to something way more meaningful over multiple occurrences, and those are the memories I’ll keep for myself. But hey, fret not, because I still have way more stuff to write about than I’ll ever be able to use, and on that note…I will include an important Paris pro tip here: if you ever plan on riding line 12 on the Paris Métro (particularly from Montmartre to Porte Saint-Denis), please ladies, wear a sports bra, or duct tape, or anything to contain your bountiful breasts, because line 12 is the most boob-jiggling metro I’ve ever ridden! I’m serious, no matter what your cup size may be, on line 12 it’ll be like loose coconuts knocking around in a bouncy castle, so please, dress accordingly. You’re welcome.
À bientôt Toronto, and even though I will miss Paris for a million reasons, some writing stuff on the script front is brewing; it’s too early to talk about, but for this particular dreamer, anything and everything is possible…
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 you 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 the 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!)