Confessions of a Chick in Paris (and beyond)

Confessions of a Chick in Paris (and beyond)

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Things I’ve Been Doing (And Crazily Thinking About) In Quarantine

April 24, 2020 2 Comments

The last time I posted something on this blog was almost a year and a half ago, in what was a detailed account of a gluttonous jaunt throughout New York City. What a time that was! Crowding around with people on the Brooklyn Bridge on the way to the best pizza in Brooklyn, lining up for cronuts in Soho without any social distance, lining up for giant cookies on the Upper West Side without any social distance (a lot of my close-contact-with-other-humans involves consuming large quantities food; I am not ashamed).

I love New York, and after going there again only two months after the food-fest, I was thinking that in 2020 I would definitely need to go there again. Maybe in late Spring! I thought. I’ve never seen New York when everything’s in bloom…

Things obviously took a horrible turn not long after this springtime daydream, and New York, like so many other places around the world, has been going through a terrible time. Meanwhile, we’re about 6 weeks into the quarantine in Canada, and the main theme for many of us who are sheltering in place is how lucky we are, with a focus on giving back where we can (if you can spare it, check your local food bank as they probably take donations online!). Then there’s the gratitude, for all those essential workers who are doing the most to keep things going and help us find our way out of this. There’s also some degree of fear, but I’m sure you’ve all been dealing with enough of that yourselves, so I’ll skip that part.

The luck, gratitude, and fear is something that remains in orbit throughout the day; it’s there when I wake up, and it returns when I begin to fall a sleep at way-too-late of an hour.

The rest of the time though, my quarantined days have been marked by: consuming content (I recently watched American Graffiti–hot Harrison Ford barely had any screen time, false advertising!), taking on new cooking feats, grudgingly exercising due to consuming aforementioned cooking feats, being less-petty-than-pre-quarantine, but nonetheless a little bit petty still (as is a requirement for my existence), writing, engaging in more video calls with friends and family than ever before (a paradox of horrid and nice), trying to find the humor in things so I don’t go totally nuts, but then also self-examining and analyzing more than ever, resulting in a slow but inevitable descent into madness, hooray!

If you’re on social media, the normal way to experience the summary I’ve described would be to watch one of those clever videos, where people just talk to themselves and then edit themselves, so it looks like they’re doing many things in a humourous way. That’s a very cool way to go about it, but have I ever struck you as cool? If the blog itself wasn’t enough of an indication, my extreme deficiency in coolness is plastered all over the dorky way I just described the life of the video comedian or TikTok star, or however the fuck you would describe the current era of bite-sized humour.

I am, in fact, extremely old school, and in 2020, what is more old school than writing out a list of thoughts in completed sentences, on an online diary called a blog? (perhaps you would say “Well isn’t using a feather quill and parchment more ‘old school’? Hmm?” And to you I would say, shut your mouth with the smart-ass comments…)

This old school vibe now brings me to a list, a list of things I’ve been doing or randomly thinking about, ever since they told me to stay inside and wear pants with elastic waistbands.

And so, without further adieu…

Things I’ve Been Doing (And Crazily Thinking About) In Quarantine

Let’s get the embarrassing stuff out of the way first.

(Upon reflection, none of the below items reflect a total lack of embarrassment, but alas, we must proceed)

I’ve been doing a lot more personal video calls. Before Quarantine (B.Q.?), there were only one or two friends with whom I felt comfortable enough to share the full-frontal, uninhibited view of myself on a video call. I’m of course referring to the ‘triple-chin‘ view, we’re you’re reclined on the couch or in bed, and your phone is at that angle where it accentuates the most chins possible. Since quarantine, that tiny of circle has now expanded to several friends, all of whom have now been treated to the ‘triple chin’ view. There remain certain friends who don’t have access, and for them I will still sit upright in a chair, and for that I will not apologize. Frankly speaking, the ‘triple chin’ look is still somewhat private, and if society has any chance of recovering from this mess, some things must remain sacred.

I’ve been doing a lot more professional video calls. The company where I’ve been freelance copywriting is doing all their work remotely. My smaller team has a catch-up meeting every day, and our larger team does a meeting once a week. All of these meetings are conducted over video call. When I would go into the office on a normal day, I would be my usual normal self, and my normal ‘going outside’ persona is: some hair product, some makeup, and a consciously thought-out but casual outfit. Basically we’re talking about full-on glamour all the time. Or maybe a B-minus fashion grade. Whatever. So that was the outside look, but from the first video call and ever since, I haven’t been doing any of those things (except for that I still wear clothes, which are now usually hoodies etc.). The first time the larger team saw me on a video call, I’m pretty sure I witnessed some actual shuddering, or maybe the video was shaky (she tells herself). Or maybe I’m overanalyzing and they never even registered my appearance; like am I really so full of myself to believe they even think about me at all? ISN’T IT FUN TO OVER-ANALYZE IN QUARANTINE?! Just in case they were traumatized, when I see them in person again I’ll make sure to compensate with fake eyelashes, that ‘contouring blush thing’ the Kardashians do where it looks they have a different face, and perhaps a full-length wig. TBD.

I watched that Gal Gadot ‘Imagine’ video and almost puked. It’s been a while since it happened, but I’m still traumatized by the fact that a bunch of celebs got together to sing “Imagine a world with no hunger or possessions” as a way to make the lowly peasants feel better. Ugh, I’m still not ready to talk about it.

I almost spent $800 on a digital piano and leather bench. Hear me out. This was one or two weeks into quarantine, when I started to realize that this stay-at-home thing wasn’t ending anytime soon. I started to think about my lifelong bucket list, and while a lot of my travel dreams have been checked off the list (a list that will go on forever–I miss travelling!), I remembered that one of my grown up bucket list items is to learn how to play the piano. I know it’s a lot harder to learn as an adult versus learning as a child, but I’ve always been told that I have long fingers (why have I been told that at least a hundred times? That is creepy as fuck!). So I ask you, who am I to let these long dangly sausage fingers go to waste? That was my logic for being on the Best Buy website, and browsing an array of grown-up sized keyboards. The deeper I got into the rabbit hole, the more I decided I needed “weighted” keys, and so my searching progressed to the fancier ‘digital pianos.’ As I browsed this new niche of products, I decided that I needed a digital piano with one of those accompanying ‘gas pedals,’ or whatever those foot thingys do. I also needed somewhere to sit while I played, so obviously I added a sleek-looking leather piano bench to my online shopping cart. Once I was done, I moved to the next screen where it calculated the cost with tax, and that’s when I finally took a deep breath and realized: the economy is very uncertain right now, so maybe I shouldn’t be buying an $830 digital piano package. At least not right now. Someday though…these dangly fingers will finally get to play…(gross)

I’ve been cooking all kinds of things, and it’s been really therapeutic. I refrained from beginning this list by talking about food, lest you end up thinking I’m a one-dimensional food whore. The items mentioned above have obviously proven otherwise (a piano, wow, look how complex and worldly she is), and so, since it’s now crystal clear that my dimensions are vast, I can now get on with my favourite topic. When it comes to quarantine cooking, I totally understand why a lot of people haven’t been able to cook during these stressful times. It is certainly not a mandatory hobby, as each of us can only do what is best for ourselves (or the family, if you’re currently residing in a chaotic home that includes children). For myself, my stressed out brain seems to calm itself by diving in head first to cooking I’ve never tried, to deliciousness I’m craving, or to the science and thrill of wondering whether a recipe will work out great or taste like trash. My stress-therapy experiments have included making fresh ravioli for the first time, making baguettes (yep, I am one of those bread-making basic bitches), making chicken tikka masala flatbread from scratch (possibly my fave!), poaching an egg for the first time (it wasn’t easy!), baking a dark chocolate olive oil cake, and most recently, making fried chicken, biscuits and waffles. I almost screwed up the baguettes, and I had to wear gloves when I was frying the chicken because the droplets of oil felt too hot. Yes, I am a weak-ass little baby, but everything was flat-out delicious. You can see the full highlights on Instagram, and thank you to all who’ve been joining me on the Instagram-Story-Quarantine-Cooking-Adventures (your comments have been fun to read, and tomorrow is Chicken Tinga Taco Night)!

When I haven’t been cooking, I have eaten a shitload of chips. I think I’ve eaten at least 6 bags of chips in the first 6 weeks of quarantine, along with 2 bags of kettle corn (different categories!) Two of the bags of chips were ‘family size’, but in my piggish defense, I’m convinced that ‘family size’ bags have gotten smaller in recent years, whereas I’m highly suspicious that the price per gram has increased…I need Mulder and Scully to look into this. In the meantime, have you seen the new bags of Cool Ranch Doritos? They have extra seasoning, and it’s amazing.

Because of all the cooking and chips, I’ve been grudgingly finding ways to exercise. The original plan was, that 2020 was gonna be ‘a new decade, and a new me.’ I got myself a personal trainer and everything! He was great, and the long-term sins of pasta past were finally being abolished. And then the pandemic hit. To reference my thoughts at the beginning of the post, boy am I ever privileged and lucky, if one of my concerns isn’t seeing my personal trainer (you bougie bitch!). I recognize this, and I also recognize that with all of the cooking and consuming, and the bags of chips that I refuse to stop eating, if I don’t find a way to exercise, I will never be able to wear denim again (unless it’s in some sort of poncho form). My amazing trainer has been sending me exercises I can do at home, and I’ve also been doing some virtual classes, which I must confess, I was worried about at first; like if the tyrant can’t see me doing the moves, why would I even try? I’m just gonna eat this ravioli instead. Somehow though, the thought of all the bags of chips has made me haul my ass, so I am grateful. I’ve also gotten myself a skipping rope, and let me tell you, it was a harsh reality to learn that skipping for ‘cardio’ is a WHOLE lot different than casually skipping as an eight-year-old. Why didn’t anyone tell me that skipping on the spot for three minutes straight would practically break my legs? Rude.

I watched Ozark season 3. And I still haven’t recovered.

I’ve been writing. Since this blog post is turning into a full-length book (oops), I would certainly put it into the “writing” category, and I’ve also been adapting a screenplay of mine into a novel. This adaptation was not in my original 2020 plans,  but with all this extra time, I’ve had the chance to re-discover how fun it is to write in narrative form. I love actually getting inside the character’s thoughts, and adding background colour I couldn’t include in a script. I don’t have anything snarky to say about this, I’m just geeking out on writing and it feels pretty good!

I made my friends sing me ‘happy birthday’ on a video call. This forced act was exactly as horrifying and awkward and as off-key as you would imagine, but if you can’t make your friends awkwardly sing you ‘happy birthday’ in the midst of a pandemic, then what’s the point of having friends at all?

I’m fascinated by Instagram influencers trying to be sexy during quarantine. So…what do you do if that perfectly curated outfit is irrelevant in these quarantine times? It’s a tough question for a lot of Instagram influencers, those for whom the norm is to pose in the street in different outfits every day, but I’ve been fascinated to see how they’ve adapted. A lot of them have been trying to make loungewear seem inventive and hot. Like I never knew jogging pants could be so provocative and sexy. It’s inspirational.

I ordered a 1,000-piece puzzle of my favourite Van Gogh painting. This is possibly my favourite thing on the list, as the painting in this puzzle has a lot of sentimental value. Before I ever set foot in Paris, I ordered a print of this Van Gogh painting of a French café at night, and I would stare at it all the time. During those lengthy stares, I had no actual plans to ever go to France or Paris, I just hoped that maybe one day, after all the staring…I would just fall into the artwork somehow. In a way, I did. And many, many times after that. I can’t wait to geek out on this puzzle, but I can’t decide if I’ll be more efficient with several cups of tea, or with several glasses of wine. I guess I’ll just try it both ways and see.

I love random humour when I’m in quarantine. I pretty much love random humour all the time, but somehow it’s even funnier during these stressful times. My latest discovery was an EP from the hilarious comedian Chelsea Peretti. She’s actually released 5 well-produced songs with the most ridiculous and yet relatable lyrics. Mostly the songs are just about coffee, and it’s divine. One of the songs is called Oat Milk, if that’s any indication. Anyway, it’s amazing.

I’ve started feeding a squirrel. Since quarantine started, I looked into fostering a cat, but each time I tried to get myself a furry friend, it fell through. The failures felt like a sign, like maybe it was the universe’s way of trying to say: why don’t you instead feed this squirrel that probably has rabies? He’ll burn through your premium almond supply, but he will never show you a single ounce of gratitude. Isn’t that something you could use in your life? It started as the universe’s sick little joke, but now I’m in too deep. Now my squirrel will continue to get six premium almonds a day at the pre-determined time. Except…is there two of them? THAT’S RIGHT, last week I noticed TWO black squirrels scurrying around, so now I don’t actually know if I’m feeding the original squirrel, or if the second squirrel FOUND OUT about the almonds and took over. Has the second squirrel stolen the first squirrel’s lunch? Is he the bully on the playground? Am I enabling squirrel bullying? (Isn’t it fun to over-analyze during quarantine??!?!)

***

 

Phew! Okay, is anyone still reading this or am I just talking to myself? I mean, the latter would be pretty on brand for quarantine, so it’s fine. What I wanted to say to you, or to myself, was that I started this post with the intention of telling the fun and random travel story from that time I went to Slovenia (since this is pretty much a travel blog these days). It would’ve been fun to reminiscence, but the topic went a little sideways, and now this post has long overstayed its welcome.

Maybe next time…

Gluttonous Autumn in New York

December 7, 2018 2 Comments

What is the meaning of life? Who am I? 

These aren’t just questions asked by Derek Zoolander (in-between conversations to god on his tiny cell phone), but they’re also questions one might ask when travelling to New York City for the primary purpose of eating ALL the food.

Is pizza-ness the meaning of life? Or chocolate-y-ness? Or burger-ness? Or cronut-ness? My response would have to be all of the above, so what does that make me? A privileged mammal I’d say, and one who is proud to be able to react to the deliciousness of food (sorry, naked mole rat, maybe in your next life…).

Full disclosure: eating “all the food things” wasn’t the initial reason for going to New York City. Instead it was an invite to speak on a writer’s panel at Wattpad’s annual convention. Hmm…a panel hosted by the biggest reading app in the world? Of course I was in — as well as honoured to be in the mix. It was a great afternoon of discussing different writing mediums while hopefully inspiring others.

And then there was the food.

I’ve been to New York City before, three times before in fact, but due to some distraction or another, food never played a starring role in the previous NYC jaunts (a lingering shame I carry with me to this day). This time however, with a best friend along for three days of the trip, the scene was entirely decadent.

This was best friend’s very first journey to New York, and as an equally obsessive maven in food consumption (did that sound classy or what?), she researched the million food blogs and together we formulated a food schedule. In Microsoft Word. To the tune of a three-page document. Single spaced.

Listen, this is totally normal and not excessive at all, okay? And why? Well it’s simple: timing, meal count, snack allowance, sweet/savoury balance, hunger estimates, and of course — geography. A lot of cities have a central nucleus where all the action is, but it’s not exactly like that in Manhattan (and the adjacent sprawling Brooklyn). Deliciousness is everywhere, so when you’re planning a NYC gluttony tour, you must bring out your best and most aggressive type-A personality to get shit done.

That brings us to our excessive meal plan organized by geographical progression, flowing as smoothly as a Carnegie Hall orchestra rendition of Robert Schumann’s “Scenes From Childhood Op. 15 VII Träumerei” (a composition which is liquid butter for the ears — check it out to confirm).

By mapping out where and when we’d be reporting to the feeding trough like salivating sows, we eliminated amateur-hour errors like strolling the Brooklyn bridge at noon, and then trying to have lunch on the Upper West Side before indulging at a bakery in Chelsea. No, we did not do that, because wasteful transit time would cut into eating time, and we’re not insane idiots.

Now that I’ve validated the legitimacy of our 3-page Word document (highlighted in different colours based on edits/weather-permitting updates — are you as turned on as I am?), we can move right along to the full-frontal food porn pictorial…

It all started with a cronut, and it set the tone for a food adventure to remember.

It’s in Soho where you’ll find the fabled cronut bursting with a juicy filling — at Dominique Ansel Bakery to be exact. Dreamed up by a French pastry chef who wanted donuts and croissants to live in harmony, it’s a fine example that we can all get along if we simply consume a donut thingy that feels like it weighs a pound. This particular rendition can only be described as a strawberry pistachio fusion so delicious, that you’ll never need basic bitch chocolate again (until you’re ready for another pastry three hours later). Bon appétit.

We worked off maybe 5% of the cronut calories with a casual stroll across the Brooklyn Bridge, and when we found ourselves on the other side in Brooklyn, it was time for some of the best pizza in the city.

Roberta’s doesn’t have a facade, but when you find yourself on a rough and tumble graffiti side street that slightly resembles “Crack House Row,” you’re there! Don’t be alarmed by the exterior, as inside you’ll find cozy coloured lights, communal tables, a weird painting of people’s faces made out of pizza ingredients (??), and some of the best, thin-crust, chewy flavourful pizza I’ve ever had. Bless.

It’s Friday night, it’s happy hour, but it’s too cold for a rooftop terrace with a view. Or is it? The Press Lounge cocktails in Hell’s Kitchen are expensive, but if Rockefeller Center can charge $36 USD for you to elevator up to their rooftop to take awkward windy selfies, then a $20 cocktail with an awesome view and blankets you can cozy up in are a steal.

We need to talk about dinner at The Dutch, we really do. Think classic farm-to-table American comfort food with an upscale twist, and an endless sea of mouth-watering delights. It’s basically like Homer Simpson’s dream when he’s prancing around in “Chocolate World,” taking bites out of lamp posts and such, only instead, imagine a CRAZY huge domed rabbit stew pie, a crispy, bright apple/cheddar sweet/savoury salad that was SO good, all other salads will now taste like garbage forever, and epic fried chicken that…well, we need to talk about that. On a previous trip to New York I had some pretty amazing fried chicken in Harlem at Red Rooster, but what was happening here was a magical situation. Not only was the batter crunch-er-ific and flavourful, but when I forced my friend to consume a piece about thirty minutes into our dinner, a cloud of steam escaped from inside when she sliced it open, almost as if the fried crispy batter had been encasing eternal juiciness; it was unicorn fried chicken with the power to stay fresh on demand, and it filled our hearts with gluttony cheer. And those homemade biscuits? That sweet and salty glaze will enrobe you in bliss and you’ll wonder if it’s all a dream. Also: the caramel sauce on the freshly baked apple pie was poured onto the plate from the end of a candy apple soaked in caramel. Nice touch.

The conclusion of that meal had us cradling our bellies as we checked out the “facade porn” in Soho. Doing lots of walking and creeping townhouse exteriors? It’s the only way to survive a food adventure in New York City.

Some other highlights:

There had been so much hype about Shake Shack, that we thought this would be our first over-hyped let-down meal. It was not. It’s extremely hard to get a table at this bustling Times Square location, but aggressive prolonged eye contact with other customers who are eating can coerce them into finishing their meals faster than normal.

As for the famous “Shack Burger,” it definitely had a melt-in-your-mouth quality that will forever inhabit my dreams. Also, this was the first time since I was a teenager that I had a milkshake. Why did I ever stop? More milkshakes will henceforth be incorporated into adult life.

After Shake Shack, we burned off 4% of the calories by strolling around the beautiful New York Public Library and spending money on library swag, as book nerds do.

Dinner was an interesting situation of wanting fresh pasta, but not wanting to go to an old school Godfather style restaurant in Little Italy. There are actually some good Italian restaurants in Brooklyn, but excuse me — we’d already covered Brooklyn in the geographical progression of our 3-page document. Instead we found Bar Primi in Soho, which is a hip and cozy place with a wine bar feel, along with plenty of fresh pasta options to choose from. Super yum.

Cocktails later that night at Pegu Club were not only delicious, but the origin story written in their menu is the coolest one I’ve ever seen. This was way better than waiting in line at some of the West Village bars that have been so over-exposed in Thrillist type articles, the ones where people wait outside in stairwells just for a desperate shot to get in. We passed two of those on the way. No thank you.

On this night we burned a solid 6% of the calories by walking back to our hotel in Tribeca, while creeping some cool Soho galleries along the way.

Morning. Hungover. And Black Seed Bagels in Soho saved the day. I think I blacked out from Black Seed and it was totally worth it.

So about chocolate chip cookies. I’m obsessed. The monstrosity photographed here is what Levain Bakery in the Upper West Side is famous for. This bakery has definitely made the rounds of must-eat blog posts — not unlike the town whore of indulgent delights — and as a result there was a serious line-up at 2:30pm on a Sunday. I know I just said I won’t wait outside in stairwells for a speakeasy cocktail, but will I wait outside in line for a cookie? If you’ve ever met me, fill in the blanks. From the outside, this looked like a giant scone. From the inside, you can catch a glimpse of the endless chocolate chips. Peak “food porn ecstasy,” and we burned off 2% of the calories by strolling in Central Park.

That cookie was the final hurrah before best friend got on a plane to head back to Toronto. I would miss her, but did that mean it was time to halt the food adventure? Not as long as there was breath in my lungs and a stomach in my skeletal cavity (there was).

That night I met a dear friend and we had an amazing dinner in Noho, at Michelin-starred vegetarian restaurant NIX. She’s vegan and gluten-free, and the staff ever so kindly provided her with a modified menu. That pineapple dessert will inhabit my dreams forever along with the burger.

The next day I strolled around Union Square, creeped a Farmer’s Market, and decided my body needed this amazing, twisted roll thingy from Breads Bakery. That looks like chocolate but it’s actually a million poppy seeds. I was replenished.

Soon after that, I decided to burn more than 6% of the calories by heading to the Upper East Side. I went to the Guggenheim to feed my brain — Hilma af Klint, you talented Swede — did some shopping, and strolled the other side of Central Park. I burned so many calories that it was definitely a top priority to eat more food as soon as possible.

This food adventure had already been filled with so many highlights, that I was starting to wonder if lunch at Refinery Rooftop in Midtown with another dear friend would be “basic.” It was not. The only time I’ve had more flavourful and vibrant tacos was when they were made by a best friend who is Mexican, uses Mexican ingredients, and is a very talented cook.

Later that day, I ate the legendary brownie from Fat Witch Bakery in the comfort of my hotel room, since I was, after all, becoming thy namesake.

That night it was off to Greenwich Village, to meet a new acquaintance for some fancy Korean BBQ at Do Hwa. I’d never had cocktails made with rice wine before, and after three of them and nearly three hours of scintillating conversation, I can safely say that those cocktails were like the sweet, sweet nectar squeezed out of candy that was stolen from the clutches of screaming children. Amazing.

For the rest of my trip I covered the important things left on my food adventure to-do list: a great slice of pizza, and an amazing cupcake.

When it comes to pizza, on a previous trip I’d had John’s Pizza on Bleecker Street, and it was absolutely delicious. So this time I needed to try Joe’s. Joe’s Pizza in Greenwich Village is a no nonsense $3-a-slice situation. You must fold it and you must fold it good. I ate it in a quiet little square on a sunny day with the autumn leaves in full bloom. I also spilled a blob of tomato sauce on my jeans. It felt like a rite of passage.

As for the cupcakes, I am a major snob a.k.a., there’s nothing I hate more than overly sweet one-note frosting, and a shitty dry cake underneath. Why are the cupcakes so dry? Do you not know about putting milk and oil in the batter you wretched fool?! (this is also my biggest pet peeve with bakeries in Paris that attempt to make cupcakes. Please stick to your expertise of amazing croissants. Merci).

I’ve had Magnolia Bakery’s cupcakes before, made famous in that season 3 episode of Sex and the City, and if you ask me, it’s a classic case of over-hyped. But I had an alternative. I wanted to check out the Chelsea High Line, and on my way I ran into Michael C. Hall a.k.a. Dexter. He was wearing a baseball cap and we locked eyes for a soulful exchange. This has nothing to do with the cupcakes. On the way back I checked my map and noticed something called Molly’s Cupcakes in Greenwich Village. It wasn’t a busy establishment, but the cupcakes were AMAZING. It was a well executed cake with diverse frosting qualities, and so many interesting flavours. This particular one was based on the “Samoa cookie,” and I must say, there was a lot of chocolate, coconut, and caramel things happening with that frosting. Thanks Molly, top-notch and underrated.

Afterwards I creeped more townhouse facades, as Greenwich Village has the best of them, particularly around Perry Street (which is coincidentally where you’ll find the fictional Carrie Bradshaw’s place of residence).

And thus concludes a whirlwind food adventure in New York City. I mostly wrote this for myself so I can always have a meticulous record of the food consumed and the joy experienced. If you yourself actually made it through this 2,200-word post, you are a rare soul and I hope you drooled a little along the way.

Live to eat,

Hollywood and Sexism and Stop Being Terrible

October 11, 2017 3 Comments

Female_RoseThis has nothing to do with travel or writing, but everything to do with a bubbling rage, a widespread disgust felt by anyone who’s spent more than 5 minutes reading about “Hollywood mogul” Harvey Weinstein’s thirty years of sexual harassment and assault against women.

This afternoon and last night, a best friend and I stoked the fires of rage across countless furiously-typed text messages, exchanging our disgust at how women could be so mistreated, not just by a wretched man but by a system meant to silence them. Before long we were asking ourselves where Hollywood ends and society begins, and the line is unfortunately far too blurred to make any sort of clear distinction.

It comes down to that “chicken and egg” thing; which came first? Do we diminish and intimidate women because of their diminished roles on screen, powered by a Hollywood machine led by men who made it happen? A machine that gives the majority of significant speaking roles in films to men? Or demands that most films need a sexy girlfriend but not the other way around? Or dictates that Tom Cruise’s female lead in a movie will be 25 years his junior because that’s totally normal? Or creates countless movies about a male loser’s “coming of age,” where he “finds himself” and becomes a better man thanks to the “quirky magical girl with the cool personality,” who somehow had no needs of her own, but only existed to “show him the way?” (I am so sick of those movies I will stab my eyes out if I have to see another one)

Or…did the Hollywood machine create all of this because we wanted it? Are we being too hard on the (mostly) men who run Hollywood–excluding Harvey Weinstein who is clearly an evil asshole–because they’re simply responding to demand with an adequate supply?

I started thinking about this and I couldn’t come up with a clear answer, at least not one that I’d be able to fit onto Twitter. I’m not even sure if the unlimited character-count of a blog will help me formulate an answer, but I find myself asking: how did we get here? 

When I break it all down and try my best to organize everything I’ve read, observed, and experienced first-hand, the one common thing at the root of it all seems to be that women are interpreted as objects for male pleasure. This may not be a “100% all the time” thing that overwhelms my sense of self all day long, but in some form or another, isn’t it here, there and everywhere? If you’re squinting your eyes and struggling to find this problem, let’s not forget that Hugh Hefner built an entire industry on this very concept. He LITERALLY had a mansion full of ADULT WOMEN called “bunnies,” whose ONLY role was to be fully available as pleasure objects. And let’s not pretend he was some rogue eccentric, like “oh Hef, that ONE crazy guy who views women this way…” Yeah right. In fact, mainstream celebrities and wannabes would trample over each other to get invites into those Playboy mansion pool parties, and all the while middle-class “normals” would happily envision the fantasy.

Beyond the universe of the late and gross Hugh Hefner, we live in a society where so much comes back to the orbit of male pleasure (see: Viagra and lack of surefire women’s equivalent). If you’re unconvinced, think about one of the first things anyone says when a women is harassed on the street, or assaulted, or faces unwanted advances on the subway, or in an elevator, or at a bar, or in the office, or in a cave (please insert any location in life). The first and most common question is “what was she wearing?”

Seriously, how many bajillion times is this stupid question asked?

The only way to explain this question is that society orbits around male pleasure, a.k.a the uncontrollable, inevitable, probability that a dude will get a boner.

“If you didn’t want to cause “street boners,” you shouldn’t have worn that.”

“If you’re showing cleavage at the office, don’t be surprised when you turn around and find a “corporate boner.”” 

Obviously the wording in dress code policies or rape case courtroom trials is different, but the thinly-veiled implication is always there. It’s never about a man somehow figuring out a way to NOT harass a woman, or to NOT have a boner, but instead it’s always about what a WOMAN can do to limit the number of boners she’s responsible for, like maybe if she didn’t go out so late at night, she would reduce the risk of triggering spontaneous boner syndrome. I mean…what?

I don’t have a direct solution to this problem, and I do acknowledge that a lot of men are respectful, cool, and trusted allies (and I’m happy to know a few of them!). There are however far too many men who live in a bubble of entitlement; entitled to the Victoria’s Secret models as seen on TV, despite having nothing to offer in return, entitled to hooking up with a girl just because he bought her one drink, or entitled to a conversation on the subway, just because he graced some unsuspecting woman with his leering smile.

To these wretched, wayward entitled fools, I offer you a check-list, because after the scandalizing demise of Harvey Weinstein, a (tiny) optimistic part of me believes that your horrible behaviour won’t fly anymore, so here is some advice to improve yourselves:

Checklist for treating women like human beings with the most basic level of respect:

  1. Don’t ever tell a woman you pass in the street to smile, i.e. “hey, why don’t you smile?” or “how about a smile?” or “you should smile more!” or any variant of that.
  2. If you’re dumb enough to tell the woman in point #1 to smile and her face remains the same, don’t loudly exclaim “bitch!” because she didn’t smile.
  3. Don’t ever gesture to a woman on the subway to take off her headphones as if you have some important information to share–i.e. something fell out of her bag, she dropped a mitten, etc–only to in reality say “Hey, how are you doing?” If there are headphones in her ears she doesn’t want to talk to you; you don’t need to understand why, you just need to respect that it’s her private time (like maybe she was listening to her favourite podcast, can’t you just allow her that pleasure?)
  4. Never strike up a conversation with a woman when she’s walking alone at night, because for safety purposes she can only assume you’re a rapist.
  5. If the woman you’re trying to talk at night in point #4 ignores you, don’t walk faster to catch up with her, because a strange man speed-walking towards a woman is terrifying.
  6. If you are one of those guys who thinks women are objects for your pleasure, take a long hard look in the mirror, and ask yourself if YOU are an object of a woman’s pleasure. If you are not at least equally beneficial to a woman’s pleasure as the pleasure you seek, stay in your house and watch Netflix forever (there’s a huge database of movies and shows and they update their content every month).
  7. APPENDIX: if you are one of the good guys, don’t make the mistake of saying the mistreatment of women is awful because you have sisters or daughters or nieces and it “really hits home.” The mistreatment of women is awful because women are human beings, and no further context is needed. The End.

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Slowing Down Time, From Paris to Italy…

April 18, 2017

It all started on an early morning in Paris…

I’d been sleeping over at a friend’s apartment, as one sometimes does when the friend is in fact a best friend you’re potentially obsessed with (and someone whose presence you feel lucky to enjoy for every second that it’s available).

On that early morning, the best friend was already going about his early routine, on account of his pets and also his psycho internal clock (if you’re reading this, I’m sorry for calling you a psycho). I stirred awake, my attention drawn to the sound of his podcast or non-fiction web series or what have you (EDIT: an episode of Strange Mysteries). I only heard muffled bits and pieces like “slow down time” and “the age of your consciousness,” but it was enough to drag me out of bed to find out more.

I shuffled down the corridor with my hair all askew and only one eye squinted open, since I’m either a vampire or a bitch who hates the world before her morning caffeine (it’s still up for debate). I may have also hissed like a cobra.

I swung the bedroom door open, and as I watched him happily fold his laundry in the way that early-morning psychos do (sorry once more if you’re reading this), I listened more intently to the words flowing out of the iPad. The explanations were technical at times, but here is a summary of what I heard:

…As we go through life, our consciousness ages along with us, and the older we get, the more exponential and rapid the aging of the consciousness becomes. As you can imagine, I found this fact to be deeply disturbing, and although I was very tempted to grab my phone and google “consciousness botox,” I decided to keep on listening.

Okay…so the aging of our abstract self/soul/being or however you want to call it was explained to me as such: when you are four years old, one year represents an entire quarter of your life. And so, as this child of four, you perceive one year to be extremely long in duration. This explains why childhood summers seem endless, and why the joy of building snow forts can last for hours without a semblance of feeling cold. In other words, when a year is 25% of your life, time feels slow.

Fast forward to being say…30 years old, and one year is approximately 3% of your life. 3% eh? What’s 3%? Basically nothing, that’s what. Using that logic…if a year is only 3%, then a month is minuscule, and a week is even less. And guess what happens when time represents so little: it flies. Which basically means…when you’re an adult and time flies, you’re getting exponentially older and barrelling through life on a rocket headed straight towards death…

HOLY. SHIT.

Best friend and I froze as we had our realization. “Wait a minute…” we said. “Is this why we always hear adults saying ‘where did the time go?’ Or ‘it’s like I blinked and suddenly summer’s over’?  Or ‘I feel like nothing happened this year and it’s already almost another new year’s eve.’ Is this WHY?!?!?!? 

I was about to have a nervous breakdown, but we kept on listening, and the next thing we heard was a little more promising. The episode talked about how slowing down time would slow down the aging of our consciousness, allowing us to stay “young at heart,” if you will. It went back to describing children, and how they value play and carry with them a sense of wonder, which gives every moment and minute the chance to be fascinating. And so the theory was…if we do more with every hour and every day, time will feel slower, and slower, and slower…ultimately keeping our consciousness “young” and prolonging our abstract life (and hopefully that can also erase eye wrinkles too? Yet to be tested and proven).

The episode then got crazy and talked about stopping time altogether, but then it was getting into “black hole” topics and I hadn’t had my coffee so we turned it off.

Afterwards I couldn’t stop thinking about it. For days it was on my mind. Then I started testing it out, just with the littlest things. I started enjoying nature more…making more plans to see friends…eating more meals without Netflix in the background, and so on and so forth. I’m not going to pretend that within a week I anti-aged my consciousness to resemble a nubile fourteen-year-old, but I have to admit, the more things I did with my days, even when it was just doing more interesting things while alone, the more that my days started to feel a little longer.

And then it got much bigger than that.

How so, you ask? (or probably not but you feel obligated to finish reading this?) Well, since you asked, I never would’ve been so spontaneous as to plan a long weekend in Italy with only 20 hours notice, if I hadn’t listened to this episode about slowing down time. There’s just no way I would’ve done that, since I’m a PLANNER and an ANALYZER; it’s simply not in my nature to quickly pick up and go somewhere by myself.

But I did it.

I’ve only been back for two days, but that 3-day weekend in Italy legitimately felt like two weeks. When I returned it was with an exhausted sigh, as if I hadn’t seen Paris for ages. And even despite the crappier weather, I felt like I’d missed belle Paris.

Were my days feeling slower because I’d enjoyed every minute in Italy?

I believe that’s true, which for me, makes this more than just a theory…

To be fair, I’m certainly not saying that all of life’s stresses are solved by running off for a long weekend getaway (sure they are, YOLO!), but it seems to be true that the more you do in a day that’s outside of your subconscious routine, the more you will immerse yourself in actual conscious life, and therefore, the more you will savour every minute. I know this isn’t always easy to do, since there are deadlines and obligations and responsibilities, and no we are not the same as four-year-old children who can play in the sun all day, I get that. Still, imagine for a second all the time we spend thinking about what’s lacking, or worrying about what hasn’t happened, or trying to plan for something later that distracts you from today. I’m not saying I’m any better, because I do it too. Despite that, lately I’ve been thinking about: what would happen to my day if I spent even one less hour watching Netflix because I’m lazy? Or one less hour replaying a bad conversation in my head? Or one less hour wondering why my life hasn’t progressed at the rate of my dreams or compared to others? Or one less hour punishing myself for the times in the past I stole a heart but couldn’t keep it? (please stay with me on this abstract plane, since I’m not referring to an actual stolen organ in a cooler)

When I think about how I could change the way I use my time even just a little, and make my words and actions towards others just a little more meaningful, I already feel like so much more could happen in a day. I guess what I’m saying is…when we do what we say and say what we mean, without the games and the pride and the coolness, I suspect life becomes more genuine and real, like this actual thing you’re inside of, rather than a show starring you, a performance you’re just observing from start to finish, until the credits roll and the lights go out and oh guess what you’re a corpse, too late to rewind all those past regrets now! (morbid tough love, I know, but hey, I didn’t promise you roses)

So that’s what’s been on my mind. And the fact that the food in Italy is as amazing as everyone says.. 🙂

Now as a disclaimer: when I talk about saying what you mean, which implies being true to yourself and others, I’m not suggesting that we behave TOO honestly. For example, when pushed into a corner, I will always say a baby is cute, even if I secretly believe it resembles a miniature old man, and I will always say someone’s haircut is good, even if it’s the ugliest thing I’ve ever seen (except when it comes to a certain world leader’s hideous carpet of hair, but that is a different blog post I will never write, because well..fuck that guy). I would expect the same lies in return, a.k.a. thank you for all the compliments on my February haircut! So yes, we need small lies for society to function, but it’s when it comes to the “big things,” the “life things,” I think that’s when we should always be true, because it makes the ride more real, and the time spent living it more meaningful.

So do that. And eat lasagne in Italy. And that’s all.

Until next time, ciao bitches, and here are a few pics from beautiful Milan (and the picture at the top is Genova which is beautiful too).

 

 

Love Notes to Paris on a Cloudy Day…

November 13, 2016 3 Comments

There are many ways to mark a sombre day, and for me…quiet reflection is a warm-up exercise to focusing on the good, so I’ll spend this time sharing aspects of Paris I’ve loved in recent days…

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…I love how in Paris in the briefest moments, you can end up having random conversations with absolute strangers in a way that leaves you with a smile. This happens to me more in Paris than in any other city, and even extends to the seemingly rigid and soul-less guards that protect President Hollande’s residence.

The moment I’m referring to traces back to last Sunday, when my best friend and I, with our tired wobbly legs, were returning from our running group’s 10km affair (another thing I love about Paris: running groups that force you out of your lazy slumber). We decided to make our return along the ultra posh Rue de Faubourg Saint-Honoré, because we were, after all, dressed in our ridiculous running clothes, and sometimes we enjoy breaking convention by making a scene :-).

Along the way down “designer lane,” we approached the president’s residence. Before passing by, we were stopped by one of the guards. I wasn’t surprised, as we certainly stood out, but when we told him of our Canadian and Mexican origin, he immediately seemed to warm up to us (maybe “President Dump” can learn something from this…).

The next thing I knew, we had become best friends with this guard, sharing our hopes and dreams, he in his perfect French, and me with French sentences spoken in Canadian tones. He didn’t seem to mind.

His name is Thierry.

Thierry composes music in his free time.

Thierry hopes to one day write the musical scores for films produced in France.

Thierry is a dreamer.

Now for all you cynics out there, you’re probably wondering how Thierry can protect the president and surrounding citizens, when he’s busy telling my friend and I all about his hopes and dreams. It’s a common concern, but let me assure you that while Thierry’s eyes sparkled as he shared his most profound wishes, those shining eyes never once stopped surveying the scene around him. And his hands never loosened their grip on his intimidating automatic weapon. So take heart, concerned Parisians, Thierry understands his responsibilities. I hope I see his name in the credits of a film one day, because even though he’ll otherwise always be a stranger, for a brief moment, through Thierry we accessed the hope that lives in all people. And it’s something that happens to me often in Paris…

…Wow, that was a long love note. Thierry is clearly an attention whore. Well the rest of my notes are much shorter…

…I love how when it’s cold in Paris, and your nose is running from the cold, and you know you have a long way to walk, and you have every opportunity to be miserable, you’ll encounter some beautiful part of Paris you’ve seen many times, only that then, in that specific moment, in the right light, and with the absence of a crowd…what your eyes observe will silence all your bitchy complaining. There are many beautiful cities, but when it comes to the abundance of beauty, this quality is specific to Paris, where seemingly around every corner, there lies some stunning architecture, or a charming street, or endearing shops, and I could go on and on…

…I love how Paris is an emotional-eater’s paradise, a place where at a moment’s convenience and for just a few euros, you can stuff your face with all manner of viennoiserie, and let yourself be enveloped in amounts of butter that will make you forget about unpleasant things, like elections and the horrifying people they represent, and…as long as you can remember to go for a 10km run so the butter doesn’t find a permanent home on your ass, well…I’ll call it guilt-free emotional support at its finest…

…I love that when you put on your coat at midnight, because you think you’re about to leave a quaint little French party, it’s suddenly 2am, and you’re in the kitchen, having the most laugh-out-loud addictive conversation with people you’ve just met, even though you’re still ridiculously wearing your coat. I love how at last you’ll realize that it’s time to be rid of the coat, because of course you’re not going to leave, as the champagne flows and the laughter flows along with it. I love how at these various parties and gatherings and wine bars and apéros, you can arrive a near stranger and leave with new friends. And I love how it always somehow happens that in Paris, these friends take the form of people from everywhere; France, Spain, Ireland, Singapore, England, Colombia, India, Brazil, the US, and on and on and on. I love that in Paris, I always feel like a citizen of our common home, which is earth, a place where no one should feel unwelcome, and I love that when I’m in Paris, I never, ever do… ❤

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