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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…
The Northeastern US is gearing up for a massive blizzard, so to any snow-ridden readers out there who happened upon this blog, I send you good thoughts and snow-shovel prowess (I grew up in Canada, hence my shovelling skills rule). If you’re living in New York City and don’t have a driveway, your shovelling concerns have likely been replaced with the innate need to “cuddle.” This is no joke, as all the buzz on Craigslist right now relates to offers citing the following: cuddling, drinking hot cider, and possibly making out if you’re hot; let’s make this a snow day to remember. No, I’m not kidding, see here.
I’m too far from “blizzard central” to contend with any similar offers, nor would I, not because I’m afraid of the weird Craigslist dude who would answer the ad and show up at my door, but mostly because I’M the weird one, and my “Kathy Bates in Misery” like tendencies dare not be tested. Watch your back.
What I can do though on this wintry Monday night, is offer up a section from one of the chapters in “Vicarious Paris,” my candid guide through the city of lights. When I initially thought about sharing this passage, I wondered: is it a dick move to reflect on warm summer nights in Paris, when millions of people are trapped inside because of a blizzard? But then I remembered: hey, it’s not exactly warm in Toronto either; we’re in these dog days of winter together. Besides, if the demand for illegal narcotics has taught me anything, it’s that escapism is important to the human condition. So enjoy some escapism now, without the long-term effects of heroin or crack.
(For context, the passage below is taken from Chapter Twelve in “Vicarious Paris,” the chapter where the reader vicariously joins me on a night of bar-hopping in my “tied for first place” favourite neighbourhood in Paris, Canal Saint-Martin. And the bar this passage relates to? Well it’s ONLY one of my favourite “chill out” hangouts in Paris, no big deal; enjoy!]
This next bar is going to win some kind of award, for being unassuming yet leaving a lasting impression. This is Chez Prune (36 Rue Beaurepaire, M5 Jacques Bonsergent), a simple café by day, and a packed, lively bar with an amazing soundtrack by night. This café is right along the canal, and at night it draws you in with the buzzing crowd. Tara and I walked in at nearly eleven, and given that it was Saturday, there was no chance of getting a table. You know what though? That’s okay, because interesting things tend to happen when you’re sitting at the bar.
I’ll start with a fun fact: the proprietor of the bar looks like Colin Farrell, if Colin Farrell had a full-on beard and a newsboy cap. Did my mention of a newsboy cap deflate your image of a manly Colin Farrell doppelganger? Fear not, for your faith will soon be restored.
We assumed “Colin” was the proprietor, due to the way the fresh-faced servers looked to him for guidance (on billing quandaries and the like). Colin doesn’t smile. He smirks. As in…he will take your drink order, smirk when he hears your non-French accent, and smirk when he gives you your drink. This is not bad service, this is a game; he is challenging you to tear down his walls, and bitch, challenge accepted.
We will get back to Colin in a minute, but first let me say that on a pricing note, most types of wine at Café Prune are four euros a glass; not generic red or white, but different varieties. This is cool. On a musical note, the soundtrack at Café Prune on a Saturday night is amazing (we went twice on Saturday nights, but the other nights might be great as well). We are assuming it was Colin’s iPhone connected to the speaker that night, and in that case, we salute you, Colin. Colin played Blind Melon. And Foo Fighters. And Smashing Pumpkins. It’s like he’d gone to school with us or something, and I was now more sure than ever that I wanted to make him my friend.
Tara and I each had three glasses of wine at Café Prune. I’m not sure how this was physically possible, given all the wine at the canal, the dangerous sips of “house punch,” the drink at La Patache…how is it possible that we felt totally fine? I am thinking there’s something special in the Parisian air, something that regulates your bloodstream and makes it all okay. That is definitely the rationalization I’m going with; that and the carbs from eating an entire pizza. Don’t judge me, it was thin-crust.
Whenever Tara and I sit at the bar during one of our outings, our scintillating conversation (in our arrogant opinion) on everything from films to funny things we saw that day, is sure to lead to bartender eavesdropping, i.e. the gateway to conversation. Not so with Colin. On our first night there Colin was “in the zone,” working fast and furious at the bar (and smirking at us, the two of only three English-speakers at the bar). You know what made his “in the zone” feat more commendable? The eleven shots of Jack Daniels he consumed while we were there. Actually now that I’m thinking back on it…it must’ve been some other brown liquid in the upside-down bottle called “Jack Daniels,” like maybe an energizing corn syrup, because how in the hell can someone manage such exact, choreographed movements at the bar after eleven shots of Jack Daniels? Yes, I will now confirm it was an energizing corn syrup mix in that old Jack Daniels bottle. Look at this guy…caring about the environment by reusing old glass bottles; well done, Colin.
The incidence of energy shots makes me even more certain that Colin was the proprietor, as the other three servers were only allowed two shots of corn syrup each.
Back to our scintillating conversation; Colin may not have piped in, but this random dude sitting next to Tara did. I glanced around this packed bar of people in their twenties and thirties (and forties), and realized why this fifty-something man in the blazer and jeans may have felt out of place. He spoke French pretty well, but switched to English once he and Tara had developed a rapport. Tara is very friendly; Tara will ask you where you’re from and what you like about Paris. She’ll also smile with consistent enthusiasm, whether it’s the first picture of your ten-year-old daughter you’re showing her, or the tenth. As this man did. I’m the one, if you recall, whose boredom/disdain spills out of her eyes with involuntary eye-expressions. It’s a good thing Tara was next to the man instead of me.
As the night went on, as the patrons got rowdier, and as Colin finished his corn syrup mix, something amazing happened. On the speakers, via Colin’s playlist…came the song that shaped an entire generation. I’m of course referring to “Barbie Girl” by Aqua. If you are a child/teen of the nineties, this song is an important fixture from your youth. Our delight in what we were hearing wasn’t the amazing thing. It was the other two bartenders singing along to the song, and Colin joining in (sort of). He wasn’t exactly singing along to the words, but he quasi-shook his hips, twice. After that, it’s like he suddenly remembered he wasn’t in the privacy of his bedroom, bringing him back to his usual smirk. He may have thought no one noticed, but oh, we noticed. We were seeing the cracks in Colin.
When Tara and I finally decided to bring our epic “fourteen-hour hang out” to a close, Colin stood across from us staring as we scrounged up our money. This was a new development, versus the up-until-now barrage of smirks; Colin also stares.
We left the bar feeling energized; we may not have lassoed the smirking Moby Dick just yet, but good things come to those who wait, and Chez Prune is definitely worthy of a repeat visit.
Since we’ve already discussed the nature of this bar as it relates to your inevitable visit (you should go!), I will briefly lay out the conclusion of our quest to break down Colin. We returned two Saturdays later, and the atmosphere was just as lively. The music for the night was “tunes from the eighties,” which cemented our conclusion of good Saturday soundtracks at Chez Prune. When we walked into the bar, there was a flicker of recognition within Colin; I might even call it one eighth of a smile to go along with his usual smirk. On this particular night, Colin wasn’t dipping into the “corn syrup” shots, and I wondered how this might affect our plan to break him down. The plan, by the way, was simple; Tara would be leaving Paris soon, and with so many things still left on our agenda, we only had time for one drink at Chez Prune. Cue operation: leave him hanging.
As planned, we asked for the bill after just one drink, and Colin, for the first time, spoke (outside of the usual things bartenders say). He said, in French: “You’re leaving already?”
Holy crap, Colin needs us.
We explained that our jam-packed night needed to keep on moving, so with a quick good night, we wandered outside to take in the canal’s mellow ambience. Five seconds later something crazy happened: Colin followed us outside. He didn’t say anything; he just stared. My god the staring! Faced with a suffocating silence, I, with my liquid courage, told him I really liked his bar, and wished we weren’t leaving Paris so soon (I’d be leaving two weeks after Tara). Colin’s eyes went wide (he has involuntary eye-expressions too?!), and he said: “C’est dommage.” Then…then…he pouted.
I made Colin pout!
Tara and I laughed our way home, and maybe also skipped our way home; it was such a victorious blur. You’re probably wondering where the rest of the story is; like what about the part when Colin and I have a torrid love affair? The thing is, Colin was wearing a wedding ring, and the other thing is, it was never even really about that. The only thing that mattered was my need to weaken a person with my magnetizing charm, and force him/her to become my friend.
If it wasn’t clear in previous chapters, you can now see there are times when I will talk about a place for two paragraphs, and other times when I’ll go on about a place for three pages. That’s a key thing about Paris, the way that various experiences will stick in your mind and inspire you in different ways; nothing about this city can be confined to a table or chart.
Next we’re going to hop and skip through all my favourite parks, and talk about the ways to make the most of them…
[I’m not actually going to continue with the jaunt through the parks in this post—though it’s an interesting chapter with fun facts, like finding out which fountain Natalie Portman waded around in—but if you’d like to read about the parks, and 80,000 words of everything else (photos included), you can buy “Vicarious Paris” at Amazon, Kobo, Google Play and Barnes and Noble!]
PS: I’ve finally updated my blog’s “About Me” page, which details other projects and what’s up next (and a photo of me in Paris, which I should’ve had all along; d’oh!—>and keeping in line with my photo tradition, I look creepy as per usual, ala Kathy Bates in Misery; you’re welcome.)
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.