Joey Potter: Classin' it up...

I'll admit it: the baby is cute. I am probably the last person on the face of the planet to finally read the Vanity Fair article about Tom Cruise, Katie Holmes and their Suri off-spring, but I couldn't resist flipping through the tattered copy in W.H. Smith on my way home yesterday. The article is well done and the photos are gorgeous; I can tell because I REALLY didn't like the idea of this family before I read the article and now, well, now I will at least make the effort not to mock them as often. It's strange to see the Joey Potter half-smile replaced by glowing Mother Mary rays...

I did really like Katie's jewelry, especially her earrings. They were very un-Joey-like and elegant in a simple way. It's just too bad that she doesn't have such classy taste in men...


Fun Fact 001: Unicorns and Virgins

I have decided to begin a new series on this blog, notably the Fun Fact Series. I happen to be a big supporter of the Fun Fact, a fact which is not well-known and most importantly, Random with a capital R. Today's FF comes from the Louvre, which I visited this afternoon.

Would you have the right to put this guy on your tomb?

The answer: ONLY IF YOU'RE A VIRGIN! Yes, the unicorn is a symbol of virginity, as only virgins have the ability to tame the wild unicorn. According to ABC news, only 3% of American adults are still virgins, which leaves some stiff competition for those hoping to major in unicorn taming (though I imagine that certain universities could offer full-time programs).

A full believer in anything that is written about in Harry Potter and SHOULD exist in the real world, I did a bit of research and found that unicorns may have existed, but were hunted to extinction in the 5th or 6th centuries B.C. That being said, research on the internet is always a bit iffy- especially when it comes to fairytale websites like this. Or this.


An Open Letter Regarding Goldfest '06!

Dear readers,

It has been suggested that the lack of photos depicting Goldfest 06! is an attempt to hide the truth. That Goldfest 06! is an illusion in my mind and I've spent the past week eating cheese and visiting tombs alone. How to prove that I've not gone bat-crazy? Perhaps a photo of Goldie and I in a garden?

If Goldie wasn't really here, would we be standing in my hallway getting ready for the ballet like THIS?

Or at a bar like THIS?

Goldie left earlier today to head off to Florence, where she'll spend the next week visiting Duomos instead of Cathedrales and eating mozarella instead of brie. Here are a few lessons I've learned from Goldfest 06!:

1. When Paris metro doors close, they really close. Despite the fact that half of Goldie may or may not still be on the platform.

2. Goldie's wedding will take place in the Opera Garnier. She may or may not be wearing point shoes at the time.

3. Beware of brand new pink Longchamp bags, as they easily attract the following: chocolate sauce, oil from chicken and cheese crepes, and bone dust from the catacombs.

Speaking of the catacombs, Goldfest 06! took a turn for the BEST by visiting the catacombs yesterday, located 19 meters below the streets of Paris. I am not sure how to describe the feeling of entering a tunnel piled 6 feet high with arm and leg bones and decorated with skulls. To put it blunty, it creeps the shit out of you. To be honest, I had been a bit worried about our nervous dispositions before the tour, so I was glad they acknowledged it on a poster:

Visiting the catacombs has been a Goldrick dream since last fall when she watched an ABC family special about them in which a man disappeared, leaving nothing but his camera and fading footsteps behind. We made it out alive, but not without leaving an inspiring message in the guestbook:

"Dreams do come true. Goldfest '06!"


Dry Bones Epting and CataGOLD.


Goldfest 06! does cheese in a big way

Tonight we decided to have Raclette for dinner, a French specialty consisting of potatoes, ham, sliced meat and LOTS OF MELTED CHEESE. It's a fun dinner because you cook the meat on an electric skillet on the table and melt the cheese in little shelves on the skillet. Moving the shelves back and forth at least gives you the impression that you may be working 0,001% of the fat off that you're dumping into your arteries, though studies have yet to prove this.

Not only is Raclette fun and easy, but it introduced Goldie to a new cheese and boy does Goldie like French cheese. I am pretty sure I'll come home one day this week to find her funneling brie in the kitchen or filling the bathtub with raclette. "I'm going to need angioplasty when I get home," she said tonight after dinner, and I thought, "not after climbing our 5 flights of stairs everyday, you're not..."

It's funny to have her here when I come home from a long day of work. If my motivation to write a two-part essay (this time about a MEMORY... WHO WRITES TWO-PART ESSAYS ABOUT NOSTALGIA??) was lacking before, her presence here is really pushing me over the edge. Our late nights studying for finals in good old Trexler library may be behind us, but I can always count on Golders for a good study break laugh in the next room. Or at least I can take a break and sit with her while she pumps melted brie into her veins through an I.V. That's just how good this fromage is.


Goosebumps for Goldfest '06!

Goldie and I attempted to fulfill her lifelong dream of visiting the Catacombs this afternoon. Unfortunately, destiny got in the way and made it so that the Catacombs are closed on Mondays. So we decided to go to the next creepiest place we could think of.

This afternoon in the crypt of the Pantheon:

Goldrick: Let me take a picture of you next to that tomb.
(I pose, she clicks)
Goldrick: (looking at the image) Oh God damnit-- (looks towards the sky) SORRY!
Me: Yeah, way to curse in the basilica. Let me see the picture.
Goldrick: It's all blurry, it looks like something is entering your body.

Here's a picture of a nun who appeared in the hallway as I was taking a picture a few minutes later...

I can't decide if she was there to visit Victor Hugo's tomb like we were or if Goldrick evoked her with her foul language. Either way, nuns and foul language have proven to be necessary ingredients to best celebrate Goldfest '06!...


The Day of the Tram: Celebrating Transportation Clermont-style

I spent last weekend in Clermont, my hometown during the 2003-2004 school year. While living in Clermont, I was a frequent bus-rider; it was a nice way to see the city and a necessary way to get to work if you didn't like teaching the first 20 minutes of class out of breath after hiking the mountain leading up to the Chamalieres High School.

Since my departure from this lovely city, the roads surrounding the main part of town have been jackhammered apart. If you've ever tried walking on a ripped-up sidewalk to work every day for THREE YEARS, maybe you too would celebrate the opening of the new Clermont Tram like the Clermontois did last weekend.

I can honestly say that I have never seen such a party for the opening of a Tram in my life. (No, I have never seen another Tram opening either- but the celebrating was so ridiculous that this one takes the cake.) What says "BRING ON THE NEW TRAM!" more than a blown-up 4-breasted monster balloon? Not a lot.

The Tram was free all weekend and EVERYONE wanted a try...

The city put off fireworks Saturday night to commemerate the occasion (which will inevitably go down as one of the most important events in the history of Clermont just behind the time the Michelin man was designed).

I didn't spend the whole weekend watching an electric bus, however. Feeling a bit friend-deprived in Paris, it was good to drink a snowcone while wearing a scarf with Emilie:

And as always the Hotel Erica Johnson was a perfect place to stay. Erica moved in with her boyfriend Landry this summer whose English is getting better everyday (highlights include: "You reek"; "Guess what? Chicken Butt!" and an old crowd favorite, "I'm going to fart on you.")

Not only did they provide top-notch hospitality, but I was able to watch four (COUNT 'EM UP!) episodes of Gray's Anatomy. And that, my friends, was worth more than 10 new trams in my book.


'Talking bout my cycles... no, not THAT kind...

I crashed at about 12:30 this afternoon. I was walking by the Gare St. Lazare and I distinctly remember thinking "Oh my god, this is what it feels like to be an adult, to work and be tired and come home and have to put dirty dishes in the dishwasher and take them out again soon afterwards." It's the cycle- the cycle of cleaning up the kitchen, using the George Forman, and cleaning it up again that kills me, that serves as a constant reminder that there were dishes this morning and there will be dishes again tomorrow and the day after and every day after for the rest of my life.

Do you think I've burned out this week? I'm writing about how goddamn dirty dishes have sucked away my will to live. Obviously. Oh, and I'm reading Sartre. That helps.

Though I may not often vocalize how I feel about housework, my parents' voices are CONSTANTLY ringing in my head. I remember when we were little and we made a mess just after my Mom finished vacuuming or dusting. She'd say "Oh come on, I JUST finished cleaning that..." in a way that sounds like whining until you are 25 years old and realize that it's not whining, it's a cry for HELP to escape from domestic hell. I can picture my Dad saying "Please remember to do your dirty dishes after you finish making that" and thinking "GOD, CHILL OUT, life is about SO much more than this!" until I realize that it IS annoying and I DO sleep better when there aren't dishes in the sink.

Somewhere my parents have just realized that their lives have been completely justified by this blog post.

I treated myself to a chai in Starbucks later this afternoon, which cost me 4.10 euros, more than 6 dollars, and was more than worth it. If you aren't familiar with French literature, I'll tell you that Proust wrote a famous passage in which he describes the moment when he tastes a Madeline and all of his childhood memories come rushing back. My 6-dollar chai was the essence of comfort food this afternoon and I can't believe how much it reminded me of my friends and the U.S. and New York. Leave it to me to turn a Proust story into a Starbucks' memory that they'll probably use to open more Starbucks on every corner of every boulevard of Paris. Or maybe they'll just print on a mug and sell to other people with dishwashers. Wouldn't that be just like them...


Case of the Wednesdays

I find myself halfway through a period of time known to a close few as "the week of the devil" or "the week my job booked me for two times as many hours as I'm supposed to have." I thought I was managing things pretty well until this morning when my metro ride turned into a Kafka novel. Should anyone have heard my inner monologue, there's no doubt that I'd be shipped off to the looney bin.

The onset of such insanity was brought on by a presentation I had to give at the Sorbonne this morning. Called a "Commentaire Compose," it requires you to take a 2-page extract from a novel and comment on every detail, every nuance, in- you got it- a three part essay. You should have three ideas, each of which have three arguments, each of which have three examples. Why? BECAUSE THEY'VE ALWAYS DONE IT THAT WAY, which obviously seems the most logical response to me.

In any event, I have given presentations of the like to my fellow Middleburians, but never in front of a class full of pure-bred french-os. I left my apartment thinking "in 31 minutes, I'll be in the class. I'll be in the classroom where I'll have to speak in front of 40 French people. This is real time." The walk to the metro was worse. "Look at these people. Having a normal day. Doing normal things like buying roses and drinking coffee and mailing letters. Not ONE of them has to do a Commentaire Compose on Gide today, I'm the only one... GOD I FEEL SO ALONE."

Seated in the metro, eyes darting around like a rabbit cornered in a cage: "Stop thinking about the negative. Think about the positive. Think about how many people don't give a shit whether you do a good presentation or not. Think about how it will be over in 2 hours and you can go on with your day, do what you like, eat chocolate, drink Orangina, THE WORLD WILL BE YOURS."

No doubt the requirements of the assignment sent me off the deep end- the good news is, it went very well. The bad news is that I don't have time for chocolate and Orangina because the dark cloud of assignments for Thursday has just settled over Wednesday afternoon.

One of the only things getting me through the week is the light in the distance, GOLDFEST '06. Goldie's fame on this blog continues, unbeknownst to her until she emailed with her new pal Sue. She writes:

"You’ll also be interested to know that I found out about this through Mama Epting. She goes, “I saw your photo on her blog.” I was like oh, sweet Jesus. GOLDFEST ‘06"

It's going to be sweet.


A Pleasant Moment

Throw out the stats and forget about what you read in Newsweek; jobs might be scarce in France, but I have managed to grab one. I'm teaching English to important people who wear expensive suits and work 12-hour days... it pays pretty well and I get to ride in lots of elevators. What more could you ask for?

This afternoon, I taught a 1-on-1 class to a high-ranking employee. It was our first time meeting and the conversation was great; his English is pretty good and so I went "off-book" as much as possible to keep him talking. Most of my students need conversation practice more than anything.

We were just finishing up when:

Me: Ok, well I think we're all set.
Him: (making a face like he's stuck on a word or a phrase...gestures, referring to our class) A Pleasant Moment!
Me: Well yes, it was a pleasant moment.

LOVE it.



Today officially marks the countdown to GOLDFEST 2006! in which this lovely lady will discover le Paris through our eyes... probably while doing arabesques down the Champs-Elysees.

I'm off to Clermont for the weekend, but stay tuned for more GOLDFEST 2006! previews...


Favorite comic stolen? He can sympathize...

My good friend Sarah Mclo and I spent a few minutes in a comic shop at St. Mark's place in NY before I came to Paris. The mission? Find SUICIDE SQUAD 59, the only Suicide Squad comic book that Aurel does not own. Two girls dressed in Banana Republic stood out juuust a bit in the so-geeky-it's-hip comic shop and we spent a good 20 minutes fishing around the 50-cent bin to find some cheap surprises for MasterMan himself. I suggested that we find at least one comic that had a hot girl on the front, and this is not exactly the cover we found, but it's close enough:

Most of our surprises have been deemed crap by the royal comic master (sadly enough, Pantha is destined for the recycling bin), but he did LOVE Matador (major props to Sarah Mclo who picked this crime-fighting mystery out herself.)

Why am I telling you this? A few minutes ago, Aurel was a minute away from buying ALL SIX MATADOR comics for $0.95 on EBAY and someone outbid him in the last 20 seconds. He sat there, his face aglow from the HP rays, stunned that someone came in and stole his treasure at the last second.

"One more minute!" he repeated, over and over again... "only twenty seconds!" Even now, a good 20 minutes after the incident occurred, he keeps saying things like "well, I guess that's the name of the game..." and then he shakes his head. "It's my own fault," he whispers in a self-induced coma-like state, "I have learned today."

He looks as if someone ran over his pet rabbit. Or, more appropriately, as if someone just burned the last copy of Suicide Squad 59 in front of him while he watched, handcuffed and helpless to stop the blasphemy.


Weekend in Normandy

I can't really explain the feeling you get when you walk into the American cemetary on the west coast of Normandy. I've seen "Saving Private Ryan" and I studied WWII in school. Hell, we even visited the museum of the D-Day beaches just before visiting the cemetary. But the numbers don't mean a thing until you're standing among nearly 10,000 gravestones. The magnitude of the markers, and even more so of the names on the markers, is overwhelming to say the least, because unlike other cemetaries, where the inhabitants don't have any significant relation, every one of these men and women died in the war. Within a year or so. And I'll tell you that walking among them and noticing that some were in the same division and infantry... well, you don't need much to get stories going on in your head about who these people were before they were killed.

I protested against the war in Iraq and it felt good to exercise my liberty to do so. But there was a rought undercurrent among the protestors, among a lot of the vibes and politics that I've been exposed to over the past 3 years. The underlying message, which I have unfairly adopted, was that the military is composed of war-hungry, arrogant pricks. On the other hand, the faces in the newspaper of kids coming home in body bags from Irak and Afghanistan, have never seemed that way to me. And I think it's wrong to confuse the soldiers with their leader, even if there are some of them who aspire to be just like him.

The weekend wasn't only about the world wars; it was about William the Conqueror and 1,000 year-old tapestries, chateaux where Louis XI stayed for a night, and, of course, it was about Mount St. Michel:

Combine a scientific phenomenon with an abbey that dates back to the middle ages and you've got this tiny island. Visiting the town that climbs and winds along a path up to the abbey was a fantastic way to spend Sunday morning and if I could, I would spend every weekend on a trip like this.


5 minutes ago

Me: I don't want to take a shower. It's getting so boring- I take them everyday...

Aurel: I know, I know, sometimes I can't do it either.

Me: Can't you take a shower for me?

Aurel: Well, I can take a shower for ME or I can give you a shower with my love. (voice becomes dramatic) I know, I know, it's going to be ok... you're going to get through this.

Me: Shut up, you big loser.

Aurel: Ok, and I'M the big loser?


Word to the Wise

This is what happens when you have a fight before dinner and you shove a pizza in the oven and instead of watching it, write your friend an email to vent...


Robots in Love

Before leaving the lovely city of NY, I stopped by Piano's to hear my good friend Becky in concert. Beck and I know each other from life events such as The Fourth Grade, Brownie Scouts, and her Fabulous Birthday Parties (ex: once we had to show up dressed like our moms.) While I floundered through High School on the violin (mostly dedicated to the orchestra because I was dating my stand partner), she mastered the cello and has now mastered STARDOM.

I'd been to a number of her shows in Brooklyn and NYC over the past few years but the last one was the most exciting because she had just made a CD. Her music is light and back-groundish for moments when you must write a 3-part essay on the color red in French (yes, that was MY night, how's yours??) and lyrically strong enough to stand on its own in a silent room when you feel like contemplating. Tonight my I-tunes suddenly flipped on "Robots in Love", a fantastic little song that might just stick with you until tomorrow morning in your shower. Check it out if you have a minute... or if you're taking a break writing your essay on the color green.


Paris Newsletter: Month One

Dear Paris,

The first month is always the hardest, this is what they say, and I am apt to believe them. On the eve of the first month spent here, the gods of technology smiled upon us and we are the proud new owners of an Internet and landline. This undoubtedly means that exactly zero work will get done this week, as we catch up on everything we’ve been missing (downloaded season premieres, google searches, weather.com) and call everyone we’ve ever met.

This first month has been especially hard for my family, which in turn became hard for me. Standing on a street corner at 11pm calling my mom on a phone card is not the most comfortable way to have a conversation and yet we found a way to manage. In many ways, Paris is like New York; they're both big cities and so the culture shock isn't as severe, at least in a certain sense.

On the other hand, the mental shift has been difficult at times. I never feel more American than when I am in a foreign country and over the past month I have never felt closer to George Bush. There have been moments when I’ve thought “wow, these guys just don’t get it like America does.” This attitude isn’t excusable, and certainly not when you’re living with and having a relationship with an example of French culture. As a result, complaining about French bureaucracy become insulting and I’m guilty for having insulted the essence of Aurel to his face more than a few times over the past month. It’s hard not to get personal when the same blank look that the guy at the post office gave you is replicated in your kitchen with regard to doing the dishes, but I’m trying my best to keep things in perspective.

I must have learned something in my history classes from Kindergarten through 12th grade, but to be honest, the entire body of information from those 12 years pale in comparison with what I’ve learned over the past month. I have never been so intrigued about the past; every damn place I visit has a story and is part of an atmosphere that has animated this city for hundreds of years. I can’t get enough of the sights and the smells that Hemingway and Gertrude Stein lived through, or the architecture designed specifically for Louis XIV. Many writers and intellectuals (especially during the 20th century) spent at least a little time in Paris and I feel overwhelmed and lucky to be experiencing such a tradition.

To be honest, there is a key connection between the “unwillingness” of the French people to change (in a foreigner’s eyes) and the fact that every senator passes through such historical halls of the Luxembourg Palace on his or her way to vote everyday. Because their history is ever-present, because it looks them in the face in the name of a subway station or the fa├žade of an apartment building, it connects these citizens to the past. I won’t say that it holds them back, for who am I to define progress in such a menial way?

To be French means to remember the history of a country that has existed for over a thousand years and keep that history alive, in the artwork through the halls of governmental buildings or the reluctance to alter a system because of a fear of change. I have no intention of becoming French, but I have a much less stressful day when I stop resisting and instead try to understand the people I’m living with.