Monday, December 30, 2013

Holiday Hijinks

Coming home for Christmas… is weird… Every year, no matter the circumstances, it's always just a bit strange to be floating in a land that was once your permanent residence but for many years hasn't been. Though visiting NYC again felt a little strange to me because I recently lived there for 10 years and I saw friends and family I used to see weekly, going to Connecticut almost felt like it does every year, seeing friends and family I don't usually see all that often. The main difference was that for the first time in my 33 years on this planet, some of our family traditions were thoroughly modified. I was in NYC on Christmas Eve, with only part of my family. My brother and sister-in-law hosted a small gathering, including one of my sisters, my father, my step-mother, and of course Baby Boo ("Le Moo Moo"), my wonderful nephew. I ventured into Manhattan during the afternoon to see the tree in Rockefeller Center, wander up Madison Avenue for a last minute gift, and hop through Union Square to finally get my hands on some Peppermint Stick ice-cream to go with our holiday treats. The evening was spent munching on pesto pizza, coconut chicken, drinking wine and hot cider, and of course my first helping of the infamous family favorite, kielbasa. 

Christmas day my sister and I drove to Connecticut to be with my mother, step-father, and my youngest sister. We went to see "American Hustle" and topped off the night with a family meal of local Chinese take-out. Thursday and Friday I caught up with old friends, some family, saw my adorable baby god-daughter, and prepared for a belated Christmas holiday weekend. On Saturday, we had a big brunch at my mom's house with her extended family, and Sunday was a recreation of Christmas morning for my nephew, followed by brunch with my father's extended family. All of these events included kielbasa, up and down family dynamics, and a really sweet pile of Christmas treats. 

Today I pack my bags and trek back to Europe, this time for an indefinite time abroad. When I arrived in France in August, there was always the possibility I would see friends and family within a 5 month period for the holidays, and I was oh so lucky to have numerous visitors. This time, I could be away 6 months, 3 years, or who knows how long. I already know I will have visitors this spring, and nothing will stop be from seeing friends and family I love when I want, but opportunities are definitely open and endless for now. Before landing back in  Paris, however, I will first stop in London en route to celebrate New Year's Eve in the land of Harry Potter, The Beatles, Shakespeare, Jane Austen, and fond memories of my college time abroad. Here's to my next post in 2014!!!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas!

The season of great loving should be happy, yes indeed.
But often it is filled with less of joy and more of greed.

When merry Christmas turns from wishing cheer to drama huge,
One might consider plights of those like Ebenezer Scrooge.

He wanted to be miserable, shut away with gold,
But ghosts of past and present then of future did quite scold.

So off he went to herald all the love that could abound,
And razzleberry dressing Tiny Tim could eat in pounds.

Consider in your day today the people who you love,
From those you see quite often to the ones you just think of.

And in your Christmas musings and your festive fêtes ado,
Be sure to think of dancing Baby Elfin Dashie Doo.

A captivating day to love is best to make enthrall,
So have a magic day and Merry Christmas to you all!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

A City To Remember

There is nothing like the loud noises, crowds, and sirens of NYC. Flying into Newark Airport and taking the train directly to that heart of Manhattan, Herald Square, during prime tourist season, was probably not the way to immediately reinspire my love of the city. Happily however, my amazing college friend who visited me in Paris this fall, met me at the airport and escorted me to some food and drinks with her and her boyfriend. This was the first of many meetings this weekend, a mad dash to see all of my beloved New York City compatriots before they too went on the road for holiday festivity. Friday I saw two friends from my restaurant days in Astoria for Thai food, my best friend and most recent roommate in Brooklyn for coffee near Bloomingdales, and ended the day having dinner with another amazing college friend in the East Village. Saturday I was allowed the privilege of watching my nephew for several hours while my brother and sister-in-law went to a double feature. My whole trip has been wonderfully sprinkled with love from my two-year-old nephew, who calls me "Auntie La" and continually floors me with me with his brilliance. Saturday night I had dinner with another college friend at a traditional New York steakhouse, one of my quintessentially favorite American meals, after which I met up with an ex-student/now good friend for drinks in trendy TriBeCa. Though I had been gradually losing my voice since my arrival, it wasn't until I could barely get words out over blasting music and was falling asleep in my cocktail that I realized how potentially ill I was. Sunday I had an amazing brunch with the fam in Brooklyn, followed by a preparatory trip to Whole Foods for Christmas Eve holiday fare. My sister-in-law and I had grand ambitions to bake tons of homemade cookies, but were so taken by some adorable Christmas tree shaped pastries in the bakery section that we threw caution to the wind and splurged on daintily decorated treats. Sunday night I met with two of my best city friends, one from college and one from NYC, for our annual "Holiday" meal at Otto in the West Village. Quick sidenote: I use the word holiday with care, since while I was sweetly tucked in Paris away from the current political implications, I had no idea that "Merry Christmas" had turned into such a phrase of obscenity. Without rolling my eyes TOO much at America's neverending need to make a hot bed of controversy out of a casual remark, I must admit that in a world of hunger and homelessness, it seems rather profoundly silly to be fighting over a phrase originally meant to spread good cheer. But I digress... Though filled with delightful ambience and scrumptious food, it was at Otto where I finally realized how sick I had become, as a result of jet lag, exhaustion, dehydration, and global warming (70 degrees in December). I managed to throw up in the restaurant then twice more over the course of the restless evening... Sigh... A bit disappointed that seeing all of my amazing soul-mate friends in NYC required fighting through voluminous amounts of sinus goo, I am thrilled to have made such wonderful rounds about the city. It almost felt like a dream, wandering through places I know so well, seeing friends I have missed but who felt as if nothing remotely had changed since my departure. I must admit that while I miss my beloved friends and family daily and am happy to be visiting the Big Apple, I do not feel pangs of homesickness or longing to stay. As my one friend pointed out, how much closer to happiness can you really be? And while I am thrilled to report that I seem to be feeling slightly better today, my hope is that I can indulge in all of the Christmas Eve and Day fixin's aheadin' my way...

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Great Triumvirate

The birthplace of a legend will not often be the site,
Of unsurpassed transcendency, abounding daily flight.

From Newington, Connecticut where brilliance soon took wing,
To New York City, promising absurdity to sing.

Then off to greener pastures, for Bohemians to reign,
Of Love and Truth and Beauty, finding Freedom seeking fame.

I sometimes wonder when I'll love and be loved in return,
But then I think well what is love but happiness to learn.

So trekking through the ancient lands of unabashed hope,
I circumnavigate in search of radiance through trope.

From NYC to Paris and returning for grand fête,
Then off to London ringing in the New Year sans baguette.

Though Empire States and Eiffel Towers will be far from sight,
Instead the Beatles, Shakespeare, Harry Potter burning bright.

Beware the coming days of epic revelry pursued,
No telling what felicity will glitterfy the mood.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Metro Bitch

This past weekend I felt like a real social gal once again, having spent the past couple of weeks so busy with teaching and school that I wasn't the socialite I usually prefer to be. Friday evening I had my first real Parisian ladies night. My friend from language exchange (yes it's true, sometimes language exchange is truly for exchanging languages! ) had a small birthday gathering and invited me to join. Though exhausted from the week and knowing I had three more students the following day, I had a wonderful time celebrating at a restaurant near Pigalle (the red light district) with some Parisian ladies. They mainly obliged me by speaking English most of the time, but I was also able to pull out a few phrases of spotty French.

Saturday night I met up with my Scottish friend who I met during my teaching program two years ago. Our (or at least my) original intention to have two or three casual drinks turned into a revelry of decadent bar hopping (Aussie bar, French bar, Scottish bar) which culminated in the most disgusting bottle of unidentified red wine that I've ever tasted.

During my excessive jaunts, however, I was keenly reminded of one very important thing. No matter how calm, cool, and collected I pretend to be while wandering about and no matter how many countries I live in or how often I take public transportation, I really do turn into a heinous bitch when commuting about town. People are just so intensely unaware of their surroundings that I seem to metamorph into a raging monster who wants to violently push people from subway platforms for merely daring to invade my personal space and/or not walking fast enough. One of my friends in Paris two years ago was a constant soundboard for my transit rants... My trants? He soon realized that me being late via transit problems usually resulted in outrageous diatribes and me refusing to apologize for any subsequent behaviour until given some sort of treat... One of my language partners now actually keeps getting a small earful whenever I am late after getting stuck in a nexus of tourism...

Now, some people are legitimate idiots... the common rules of courteous decency are not abided by and you wonder what planet they must have grown up on other than ours. Pole hogs, for example... why are you wrapping your entire body around a pole that twenty other people need to hold so they won't go flying through the train car when the subway comes to an abrupt halt?! In Paris there are also seats in every car that fold up, so the unspoken rule is that when the car becomes too full you stand up, allowing more room and comfort for the many. However, there are always those who just continue sitting, feigning obliviousness to all those around them. Now, I'm no hypocrite... I acknowledge that I am sure I also walk around in a nice little bubble most of the time, texting on my phone while casually walking into random passersby or stopping mid-pedestrian traffic amidst geographic confusion, halting the path of all those behind me. But I do try... I do really try...

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Les Petites Choses

As my fall semester is coming to a close and I am preparing for my two weeks of travel to NYC and London, I have been thinking about many of the little Parisian intricacies I've noticed over the past few months...

Last weekend I went out with a French friend that I actually met through language exchange in NYC. Though we originally intended to try out Buddha Bar for a cocktail, we ended up across the street at what we assumed was a typical French café, but where oddly all of the waitstaff was wearing kilts in the Scottish tradition. As we sat in the enclosed outdoor seating with heaters blasting,  I looked around and noticed that many of the chairs had cozy looking blankets draped over their wicker backs. On my way to class two days later,  I noticed that another café had a similar set-up. It reminded me how Parisians will really find a way to sit outdoors no matter what the weather or circumstances, and they somehow manage to make it far more charming and romantic in the process. 

And speaking of cafés, I am constantly convinced that the French have a very different perspective on hydration.  It is a culture where bottled water and sparkling water run rampant but whenever I ask for une verre or un carafe d'eau, I am given the smallest possible amount.  Even when at the houses of students or friends,  when I ask for water,  the glass offered is always only half full (taking the more optimistic approach). For sensitive,  dehydrated Angela,  3 bottles of wine followed by a teaspoon of water just doesn't seem like an appropriate balance. 

Two things about the Paris metro have been lingering in my mind lately, one involving the in-transit entertainment. Coming from NYC, I am used to all manner of vagabond performances,  ranging from instruments to evangelists to acrobats.  In Paris,  however,  the main novelty is a makeshift sound system on wheels,  providing boxed music for mediocre singers of a gypsy-like flavor.  It's a thoroughly strange phenomen in my book. That,  and the fact that in Paris there are turn styles reserved for entering the metro,  and separate gateways for exiting.  Rather than being stuck waiting for a rare moment where you can leave through the same passages people are entering through,  Paris has long since realized that it alleviates many difficulties when directing traffic. 

Finally,  the men... I have yet to confirm if French men are less or more complicated than American men. At the very least, they are far more obvious in their flattery. You are rarely left to guess whether they think you are beautiful or amazing.  However,  with all of those words adds a different level of vagueness,  leaving you wondering if a kiss and a compliment ever result in a real moment where you discover that you might just be more special than most other girls they have met before. I have recently been spending time with a man who frankly made me feel much more special than most men have of late. Though we met through language exchange,  it became clear almost immediately that we had way too much to talk about and that my limited French would simply not withstand the creative musings we pondered daily.  Instead,  we became good friends, to the extent that two people of similar ages,  with so much in common,  and mutual attraction could be. He has a soul mate and I am trying to get over someone,  which generally results in a rather turbulent recipe for disaster.  The fine line between friendship and more was too easy to cross and we realized that friendship isn't possible at this time.  However,  as he was already in tune with my magical side , he showed up to our last meeting with a 6 pack of kinder eggs and one giant holiday special kinder egg. After dinner,  I insisted that he have one with me, as a symbol of festivity and friendship. To my utter amazement,  we ended up having the exact same kinder toy, a small pony accompanied by a golden glitter saddle adorned with a purple star you could wear as a ring.  We actually joked about how we obviously must now be best friends forever and wear our glimmer rings eternally.  I somehow managed to lose my pony over the course of the evening but arrived home and even woke up the next morning with the ring still firmly placed on my pinky finger. Though we had realized that this was not the right time for our star-crossed connection,  I can't help but smile when I think that we must have been kindred spirits for some reason,  ponies and rings commemorating our fleeting attachment.

Sometimes I think that I am incapable of allowing myself to be truly happy,  my own worst enemy by far. But then I realize that every day I find something small and beautiful to delight in, so I can't really be that far from happiness if the little things still make such a difference.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Season of Love in the City of Love

It doesn't matter what religion you are or what beliefs you have, Baby Jesus is just a good story. A man put on this earth to herald love and embody all of the most sought after feelings of goodness and beauty most of us strive for. Sadly, he's also become a symbol of the most intense hypocrisy ever created. Those most fervent about his existence tend to be the ones least accepting of anyone outside of their very narrow scope of imagination. I have a pretty shrewd idea that Baby Jesus would have gladly projectile vomited on many of his followers throughout history. Either way, one of the biggest holidays of the year is named after him and no one can escape the effects of Christmas in this modern age.

I've always thought that Christmas is by far the most romantic holiday, ideally full of love, giving, friendship, family and magical hope. It's the one time of year that I think I'd rather be in New York than anywhere else. There is an astounding energy that sweeps through the city once the twinkling lights start going up about town. In Paris there are lights and trees, and the cheesy Christmas market down the Champs Elysées, which I will always adore for the simple fact that you are allowed to walk down the street with open containers of hot wine. However, as one of my French acquaintances was saying, there isn't quite the same buzz as there is in New York. Almost the entire ten years I lived there, I worked in either restaurants or retail during the craziest of all seasons, true hypocrisy abounding with every tinsel-toed step. Madison avenue elitists who would literally jump in front of a line of people going out the door to demand why he wasn't being helped, or fevered Christmas party goers screaming as if their life depended on it because they had to wait twenty minutes for their reservation on a Saturday night. The amount of times that I seriously considered asking them to sit down and write me a list of the most important things in their life, taking care to note whether things like family, children, or oxygen were ranked before eating a $50 steak in a timely fashion. I don't get the sense that Parisians have quite the same intense hysteria that New Yorkers do, though I also haven't walked right into the busiest restaurant in town on a Saturday night during December either. In Paris, however, there is generally no wait list. You can be seated, potentially stand in line, or be told a definitive no, whereas in New York they prefer to make you wait for 2 hours so the rush never dies, keeping it all open after Radio City and Broadway lets out for that final merry push. Still, there was nothing better than wielding the power from the other side, managing a crowd several people deep while Mariah Carey's Christmas album wailed in the background, simultaneously wanting to throw things at the wavering crowd while also totally getting off on the holiday euphoria.

On the other hand, there's something much more quietly idyllic about the Parisian Christmas spirit. I don't think I will ever be a subtle or subdued person, it's really not at all (even remotely a little bit) part of my charm. But as you walk through the frosted streets and peer into café windows to see glasses of red wine in cozy corners, you can't help but want to be in love during a time of year where nothing else should matter.