Marking it up: 10

If you've ever seen a wholesome, American TV show (see: Full House, Family Matters, etc), you'll recognize the tradition of marking a child's height on the wall on his birthday. This tradition serves to remind everyone who sees it that that kid is growing, "right before our very eyes!" I can't count myself among the kids that grew up with this tradition; my Dad was very Nazi-like about keeping his white walls clean and would certainly never consider marking them up with such sentiment. We had our own system of measuring how much we'd grown; the question was, if you stand next to Uncle Dick at Thanksgiving this year, do you even reach his waistline? Because at 6'4", he seemed to have sucked all the growing genes out of the pool and ate them up himself.

I mention this because no one ever thinks they're growing until they see something that reminds them of where they were. And when I started the Middlebury program this summer, the thought of doing a 50-page thesis was unthinkable and I always believed that, on some level, I would be able to do everything but that. I'd be able to navigate the Paris metro and do well in my classes, but the whole writing so many pages about the same thing? Not so much.

Today I met with my director to discuss the first 10, which were due this weekend. I figured that those 10 would be watered down after meeting with him, that we'd chop stuff out and play around until it was back around 4. But he didn't chop or hack; he corrected some agreement mistakes and wrote "oui" in the margins.

And so, let the wall be marked: I'm at 10.


It's not just HOT, it's GOOD

Don't have anything to do this weekend? Maybe you should go to your local 7-11 and pick up a couple of big bags of ice and some slushies and go directly to the movies to see Little Children. Because this movie is so. freaking. hot.

Or maybe it's just him:

The film is touching and difficult to watch, truthful and scary. May I never become a playground Mom who can't appreciate passion and all the beauty that comes with it. It's the kind of movie that a 10-years-older-Zach Braff would love to be in because it deals with all those crazy anti-suburban, fear of marriage, searching-for-an-out feelings that he's been playing out in his past couple of films.

I can't say enough about Kate Winslet either. Who doesn't want to be Kate Winslet? Especially when she gets to be in naked scenes with Patrick Wilson and dye her hair crazy colors in utterly moving films that make you want to call ex-boyfriends just to make sure you haven't made a gross mistake somewhere along the way.

It's not all a love story though; there are some very dark and twisted themes running through Little Children, but they add dimension and inform the central plot line. Taboo subjects like child sex offenders and skeevy middle-aged husbands made my skin crawl, but I only did my cautionary "squint your eyes and put your fingers halfway in your ears" a couple of times.

However, I was in this position for the ENTIRE 3-minute trailer for the new Hannibal Lector film. Who the HELL watches that crap?


Lentils: the Poor Man's food

Once I was eating lunch with Kelly when we both worked in New York and she pulled out a Breyers yogurt for dessert. "Wow, that's the rich man's yogurt!" I cried. "Um it was 2 for 1 at the store," she said and then we looked at each other and laughed for about 10 minutes. Why do I think that Breyers is for rich men? What cultural context did I grow up in that taught me that? I can only assume that my association with Breyers is the vanilla ice cream (with black things, as we used to say as kids) that my dad always buys. I suppose I thought that said "black things" (even as an adult I still don't know what that crap is- crushed vanilla beans from Madagascar? Whatever.) made the ice cream fancier. Apparently not.

Anyway, I was reminded of this when I was surfing the Internet a minute ago, trying to find a recipe for Lentils. I purchased both Lentils and kidney beans at the store yesterday in an effort to branch out from canned corn. And here is what I found:

"Some foodies once considered lentils as poor man's food and refused to eat them because they are so inexpensive. Although they may be cheap, lentils are very nutritious, filling, and more importantly, arguably the most flavorful of all the legumes."

Although they may be cheap?!? This sentence fragment suggests that the cheap-ness of Lentils is inferior to their nutritious and flavorful qualities... I would like to suggest that the price of Lentils is not only the thing that pushed the decision to buy them over the edge, but the REASON for their purchase; the superiority of Lentils is PRECISELY their cheap-ness. Have such "foodies" ever considered buying green beans in winter in France? Well good luck! At 4.50euros per kilo, they better produce gold freakin' nuggets when planted in soil.


Soulmate located: Myself

So I forward the below email I wrote to Goldrick to some friends, but did not do a clear job explaining that I was the author of the original email and Mclo writes back, wondering who this email is written by and why I'm not dating them. As she says, she thought I "found my soulmate."

People say things like "my soulmate was right under my nose the whole time!" but this is ridiculous. And yet possibly true.

Writing to you from a Starbucks, will send in email form later at home when I have internet. I am sitting here working on my thesis and ready to throw up in my mouth. In fact, I’m pretty sure I just did. This French couple (probably early 20s) have moved from a small table for two (at which they were sitting so close they basically exchanged molecules and became each other); they are now BOTH sitting in an armchair. You know, those armchairs meant for ONE, where is it NOT POSSIBLE that two people could be comfortable. They have systematically removed pieces of clothing so that she is now wearing a tank top and pants and he is wearing a tee shirt and jeans. There is a heap of clothes on the back of the armchair, abandoned as their MAKE-OUT session gets more and more intense. The most ridiculous thing is that I AM THE ONLY ONE WHO THINKS THIS IS WEIRD. Everyone else (and it’s pretty crowded!) is having casual conversations about their jobs and their relationships around me. It’s the pink elephant in Starbucks. Oh my god, now they are whispering in each others ears and he is caressing her back and… now he has stuck his tongue down her throat and I’m not sure I’ll ever be the same. It’s not even Valentine’s day! IT’S NOT EVEN FEBRUARY! I have to move home in June because I refuse to live in a country where the pink elephant in the room is a guy with a hard-on and a girl not wearing a bra. It is just so damn French.

P.S. I hope they name their child Frappacino.

The only place GW would feel at home in France...


Ode to a broken iPod

To my iPod:

Well, we've come to this. After sitting in my closet for two years, I finally took you out last week and joined my generation. You were a gift from the pharmaceutical gods who furnish my Mom with whatever her little heart could never think of. I'm pretty sure you were found on a pillow at a swank hotel, Susan Epting engraved on your back. We had a good four days during which I took you everywhere; you saw more of Paris than Goldrick did. And now this.

Is it your time of the month? Why are you so cranky? What's with the static and constant skipping? Are you trying to spin like Lindsay Lohan? Because I'm sorry, but the Garden State soundtrack doesn't need you to spin.

I tried to reason with you. Maybe it was the headphones you weren't getting along with, I foolishly thought, and tried others. But you were ambivalent. I thought it was the metro, some weird French wavelength that started screwing with your abilities; I was prepared to move, to change cities, but then I realized you didn't even work in the park, far from the screeches of Paris metro breaks. That hurt.

You didn't like 'Golddigger' so I tried Madonna. You refused 'Hey ya' and so I even tried old love mixes (although I've really not been in the mood) to see if you needed something slower. Maybe the bass was throwing you off.

And now what have we come to? The ONLY way you won't scratch or blow out my eardrums is if I hold you in my hand, perfectly still, without the hold function turned on. You have refused all puffy vest pockets, all bags, you must be in my hand, alone, and barely touching my flesh. I'm trying not to be offended, but I am now the only tool who walks through Paris with her iPod in her hand like a compass, as if I need to find out which way North is to get to the freaking metro. I hate you, I'm so mad I took you out of the closet, you and your stupid pink metal-ness, you who start to play beautiful songs like 'Brick' and then turn them into K-Fed spectaculars.

Thanks for nothing. I want my discman back.

Hell yes, I'm a member

I am pretty sure I just had a mini-political orgasm.

The thing is, I don't know if she could win. I don't know if America is ready to vote in a female president, let alone Hillary, one of the most high-powered choices out there. But I read her book a few years back and I was really impressed with what she had to say. And if the country can comprehend the idea that we voted in GW and allowed him to take us for a royal fender-bender in all aspects of our reputation, I think we can also imagine that she could help us get our integrity back.

And now if you'll excuse me, I have to go dust off my "Hill's Angels" membership card that I printed out from her website after reading her book. That's just the kind of girl I am.


Best Email Endings of the Week

Speaking of frustration and the inability to communicate, I have to get back to my glorious job. Hope you're all having a good day.

i bought some dove deodorant today and thought of you.

May that all your whishes come true : nice students, democrats on the top, Bush goes away…

I leave you to choose the one sent by the ESL student...

The American Addict

People have been checking me out this week. But not just men- women too, and at first I was all flattered and thinking "wow, time spent in America must have given me that inner glow" and then I looked in the mirror and saw that life is taking its toll on my face.

This trip back to Paris has been the most difficult and here I am almost a week from my first day back, still jet lagged. I can't fall asleep until 3 or 4am and so I've been barely sleeping; add to that some major personal problems and you get a face that draws stares. The bags under my eyes are so dark and so outrageous that I now recognize that those who I thought were checking me out were actually wondering how long it had been since I'd last used heroine. And maybe were about to offer me some because they thought I was going to pass out on them in the metro if I didn't get my fix.

Despite my zombie-like state, I started classes at Paris III yesterday and so far they seem really good. I did sort of sleep through half of my Fiction class, which is a damn shame because it's so interesting, but what can you do? The other students seem pretty nice too in that class and I had the unknown experience of someone recognizing me from last semester and sitting next to me and talking to me (I know!). There is, however, a guy in my Fiction class who made himself known as "that guy" within the first three minutes of class. He's older and bald and is basically into talking to hear himself talk and I am positive that the other students had the same reaction as I did the first time he spoke: "ok, here we go... he's going to be the guy, the guy I tell stories about and the one who makes me really not want to go to class except it's like a car-wreck and I won't want to miss one painful moment of it."

But let's be fair and say that they may have also been thinking "wow, the American went home and came back a major addict... gotta get to class to see if she'll shoot up in the co-ed bathroom during the pause."


Watercress: where it's at

The theme of the past few days has been "self-help." I've been googling the benefits of tai chi, the best ways to stay fit while not changing a thing (I know, I know, it is too good to be true), and then tonight, I stumbled upon this:

The top 10 detox foods:
1. Green leafy vegetables. Eat them raw, throw them into a broth, add them to juices. Their chlorophyll helps swab out environmental toxins (heavy metals, pesticides) and is an all-round liver protector.
2. Lemons. You need to keep the fluids flowing to wash out the body and fresh lemonade is ideal. Its vitamin C - considered the detox vitamin - helps convert toxins into a water - soluble form that's easily flushed away.
3. Watercress. Put a handful into salads, soups, and sandwiches. The peppery little green leaves have a diuretic effect that helps move things through your system. And cress is rich in minerals too.
4. Garlic. Add it to everything - salads, sauces, spreads. In addition to the bulb's cardio benefits, it activates liver enzymes that help filter out junk.
5. Green tea. This antioxidant-rich brew is one of the healthiest ways to get more fluids into your system. Bonus: It contains catechins, which speed up liver activity.
6. Broccoli sprouts. Get 'em at your health-food store. They pack 20 to 50 times more cancer-fighting, enzyme-stimulating activity into each bite than the grown-up vegetable.
7. Sesame seeds. They're credited with protecting liver cells from the damaging effects of alcohol and other chemicals. For a concentrated form, try tahini, the yummy sesame seed paste that?s a staple of Asian cooking.
8. Cabbage. There are two main types of detoxifying enzymes in the liver; this potent veggie helps activate both of them. Coleslaw, anyone?
9. Psyllium. A plant that's rich in soluble fiber, like oat bran, but more versatile. It mops up toxins (cholesterol too) and helps clear them out. Stir powdered psyllium into juice to help cleanse your colon, or have psyllium-fortified Bran Buds for breakfast.
10. Fruits, fruits, fruits. They're full of almost all the good things above - vitamin C, fiber, nutritious fluids, and all kinds of antioxidants. Besides, nothing tastes better than a ripe mango, fresh berries, or a perfect pear.

The funny thing about these foods is that:
a. I have no idea what 80% of them would be in French.
b. I'm almost positive that Evelyn eats all 10 everyday. Possibly together. Probably in the form of a brown soup.

Please leave any/all good recipes for such detoxifying foods in the comments section... so that they may perhaps find their way into my kitchen sometime this semester.



Gunned down in Madrid

Because of my French skillz, I can understand a bit of Spanish. But the problem with Spanish-speakers is (no offense to half the population of NY), they speak so fast they sound like they are TAP DANCING on your face. They are machine guns of syllables and while French is a smooth sounding language (by which I mean, even when incoherent, you're pretty sure someone is asking you to make sweet, sweet love to them), Spanish makes me very nervous to be around. Consider yesterday's situation at the security check-in during my transfer in Madrid:

I put all my stuff in plastic bins and walk through without any beeping. I assume I am cleared and start taking my stuff back.
Man: Rat a tat tat bang bam boom.
Me: Comment? Commentato--huh?
Man: Bingity boppity bam bam "agua."
Me: Um, agua? Water?
Man gesturing to my water bottle that cost $4 in NY: Bip de dip de dip do wap di doobity do. Makes a motion to the garbage can.
Me: Ok, gracias.
Man throws my bottle out in the garbage.

That was a little like how yesterday went, in more ways than one. I slept 13 hours last night and am now tackling the confusing task of finally figuring out how to use my iPod. This will be followed by a period of using my iPod on a long walk around the 17th, which on my way into Paris yesterday struck me as a really beautiful neighborhood. I'll post pix later if I take any good ones.


Cache to the GEO

It's official: I'm a little obsessed. Steve and I found TWO geocaches today and this hidden world of secrets just keeps unfolding. Apparently there are geocoins (coins with tracking numbers that you can keep track of on the Internet), geobugs (figurines with special ID numbers... we got a John Smith figurine that I'm taking to Paris with me tomorrow! How's that for getting things moving!?!), and... wait for it... a GEOCACHING JAMBOREE. I only know about this because Steve found a badge in one of the caches.

I was a Girl Scout until 8th grade or so; I always loved doing the badges and visiting old people. But I wasn't too crazy about the other girls in the troop. Things also started going downhill when my leader's Cocker Spaniel bit me on the face, almost blinding me in my right eye. Kind of put a damper on things. I liked camping, but mostly for the singing with guitars and eating smores (I am now content to stay in hotels and listen to Guster while eating marshmallows).

So I suppose Geocaching is getting me back into nature in a way that none of my crazy outdoor-loving, EMS-shopping family members have been able to do. And for that I say, cheers- cheers to traipsing through thorn bushes, twisting ankles in muddy swamps, and the thrill of the hunt in what some call a live video game for environmentalists.


The People of the State of NY vs. Me

I got my first and only speeding ticket in July on my way up to Middlebury. It was on a long stretch of the Taconic Parkway, where the only other cars on the road are two or three people going faster than you are. The state cops flagged me down like I'd just hit the NASCAR finish line and filled their quota for the month of July.

To make a long story short, their letter to me outlining how much I would have to pay got lost in the mail and my Dad called me in November to let me know that my license was suspended until my court date on January 9.

Today was the day. Like any good criminal, I had my Mom drive me up to the Claverack courthouse, which, from the outside, looked a lot like a local firehouse from a Stephen King novel:

The judge was missing all but four teeth- two on top and two on the bottom. The decor was "the extra room in my parents' basement" circa 1969, complete with wood paneling which covered every possible surface- ceiling and all. And there was a nifty accordion wall available in case they wanted to split the courtroom into two so they could suck money from NY drivers in a more efficient manner.

I am now a free bird, but owe the state of New York $290, including a $55 "surcharge." Who do they think they are, Ticketmaster? I am not complaining however; I did a little bargaining with the ADA (Assistant District Attorney for those of you who don't hang out in courtrooms...) and got things down a bit.

The whole thing was straight out of a movie, My Cousin Vinny comes to mind. If the plea bargaining hadn't worked out, my argument would have been based around the fact that, despite my maturity, I'm still a "yute." I also had Marisa Tomei on standby. She was obviously prepared to prove my innocence based on the tire marks of a 1963 Pontiac Tempest and the amount of time it takes to cook grits.

A Very Spanish un-Birthday

I am turning 26 in less than one week and what's better than celebrating one birthday? How about two? With this in mind, the girls and I decided to have a very Spanish un-Birthday, which began with a visit to the Guggenheim to see the Spanish Painting Exhibit. I have no photos of the paintings because I did not want to risk sneaking it past the guards in such a dangerous shaped museum, but here's an upwards shot that gave me a little vertigo:

Spanish paintings were followed by Spanish Tapas at El Charro Espanol in the Village, which was excellent. Tapas are such a good idea and I'm not sure why we don't do them in American cooking. It's kind of like having the best of all worlds; small bits of many different dishes and flavors. Don't they make it look tempting?

We rounded off the evening in a Belgian bar, where we drank Krieks and then continued that theme the next morning at brunch, where I ate a Belgian waffle. Here is a photo of me in my (almost) old age- all signs point to the fact that I am eventually destined to look like Laura Bush after seeing this photo in which I am sipping champagne at breakfast:

So far the idea of turning 26 is refreshing. I have decided that my motto for the next year will be "Not Taking Any Shit", to be referred to as NTAS in future posts. The early 20s are for feeling conflicted and identity-stricken; it feels GOOD to be past the first half of the decade. A little like getting your braces off.

"I'm 26" is also just the sort of catch phrase that becomes useful to justify just about anything. Dad doesn't like your future career plans? Guess what? "I'm 26. NTAS." A middle-aged ESL student tells you that he is planning a "resistance" against learning English? "Oh, hm how interesting, that's right- I'm 26 and NTAS."

Because taking someone else's shit? That is SO 25.


The Death of Community... or is it?

Time magazine published its annual "Person of the Year" a few weeks ago, and unless you live in a cave, I'm sure you know the choice for 2006 is "You." Inspired by sites like YouTube, blogspot and myspace, the choice recognizes the average man as a voice in today's already noisy world. What's with the sudden surge of life from the public? Did it really just take a few Optimum online connections to get people speaking?

Time's announcement comes at a time when it's easy to be disillusioned about humans. People zone out to their iPods on the metro, spend a lot of time on cell phones and might complain about mega-stores like Walmart, but file into line to benefit from the low prices. I include myself in this category. If the family-owned stores are going out of business, if we're checked out of society and are alone within our IN-networks, where have our communities disappeared to?

Steve and I took a hike on Turkey Mountain yesterday and he brought his new GPS toy. About halfway up the mountain, he told me about a new phenomenon- Geocaching. The idea is that people hide a secret package anywhere and put its coordinates on the Internet. You can therefore plug in your zip code and, using your GPS tracking tool, navigate your way to the package. Armed with the clues and coordinates, we found the hidden package on Turkey Mountain and it was pretty amazing.

Inside the box was the history of this particular "cache" (FYI- "cacher" means "to hide" in French), as well as a log book and a bunch of random objects. The idea with these cache boxes is to sign the log book, take something and leave something new. We left a pen from Mom's work and took a firefighter figurine. It was really amazing to read through the past 6 years of entries; the box was placed on the mountain when I was a sophomore in college and Steve was in 8th grade. How could we have hiked the mountain all these years and not known of its existence?

As we descended the rest of the way to the car, we talked about how amazing it is that people organize something like Geocaching. And to bring this full-circle, I think that this is a perfect example of the way people are re-defining and re-creating communities. At a time when religion makes disturbing headlines on a weekly basis, maybe people feel like it's up to them to create something larger than themselves. So they hide boxes in the woods and hope that others will share the space with them.

This all reminds me of Postcrossing, a website that organizes the exchange of postcards around the world. I did this a few times when I lived in Rye; you enter your address and you get someone's address. You send a postcard and you soon receive a postcard from another person across the world. It's simple and cheap and it makes you feel like you're harmonizing with the world.

I know these types of communities aren't the same family-based structures as those which existed even 50 years ago, but how could they be? With an ever-displacing population and technology banging down the door, we've evolved in the only way we know how. Community might be re-defined in 2007, but it still exists.


Art is the World's Most Beautiful Lie...

I stocked my iTunes up in Nashville with some of the Sarahs' favorites, including a first CD that a fellow Muhlenberg English major came out with a couple of years ago. Hartley Goldstein, a cool cat that survived a senior seminar about Jay Wright with me, seems to have become a real presence on the indie scene. I can't say where or how because most of my post-Muhlenberg days have been spent on another continent, but I think it's pretty fantastic.

Songs in the Key of Zoloft is a short five tracks, but word on the street is he's working on some new stuff. In any event, I think it's worth listening to, so check out "Art is a lie" (this SCREAMS Rosenwasser, for those of you who were privileged enough to take one of his classes.)


Teenage Dirtbag, baby

After spending three weeks at home, Steve's boredom reached a peak today. The day's activities were therefore based on two activities, neither of which involved shaving his overgrown sideburns:

1. Turning Toby insane with a laser beam.

2. Playing inter-racial and gay-friendly Mall Madness.


Paris Newsletter: Month Four

Dear Paris,

It's strange to be writing about Paris from New York. After spending the past 10 days on American soil, France seems far away right now; it's been very easy falling back into routine and I bet I could get used to this lifestyle of not working or reading Proust and only visiting friends in various cities.

The New York girls and I had dinner the China Grill last week and exchanged Secret Santa gifts afterwards. The restaurant is warmly lit and I was hit with the feeling of "hooooome" in the midst of the after-dessert glow. We used to do monthly dinners while I lived in New York and I miss those dates and discovering new restaurants.

One of the interesting things about coming back after four months is realizing how much I've grown and changed. It's amazing how much more focused I feel about French and my career. Spending time with friends and family over the past two weeks has helped me to talk things out too. After my bon voyage party in August, my Dad told me he couldn't believe how my friends and I could TALK, that we could spend hours and hours in the family room or on the deck with nothing other than some bagels, coffee, and conversation. I think that might be our best times talking, when we're without make-up and still wearing pjs, lying around on couches and pillows and talking about who and where we want to be.

I walked out of Grand Central the other day, looked UP and felt like any other immigrant who sees the Big Apple for the first time. The buildings are so tall here, the sidewalks so crowded and the sky seems so far away. It took me a good 24 hours of hating New York to love it again. Strands bookstore, walking through the Village and seeing Grand Central at night brought me back.

I had a thrilling realization today while drinking chai in Nashville with Skersh; it's 2007 and that means that the next presidential election is only ONE CALENDAR YEAR away! Middle America and its airports were good to me over the past few days and though the people are friendly and the biscuits are buttered, I guess I'm still unsure about where I want to be in the future. Here's hoping that the next semester back in Paris (and that pesky thesis paper) will shed some light on all this and more.

Happy January.




Happy New Year, y'all!

In a last-ditch effort to squeeze every last moment out of 2006, I flew to Nashville on New Year's Eve and skipped back a time zone. What's in Nashville? Fair question because one might assume "a whole lotta Southerners and butter." This is the case, but there's also these two:

World, meet the Sarahs, the finest residents of Nashville and Vanderbilt. One cheap flight later and I sailed into the central time zone with a few hours to spare in 2006. I didn't come empty-handed, however; I picked up a few key accessories in Times Square before leaving the city:

We called our friends on the east coast at 11pm and watched the ball drop in a vertigo-like state. Ryan Seacrest is annoying live, but he's even more annoying when his New Year's Eve countdown is rebroadcast an hour later in TN. The highlight of the evening was watching Meat Loaf (yes, THAT Meat Loaf) sing duets with a half-naked brunette who was 1/3 his age. And Christina Aguilera refusing to even kiss Seacrest on the cheek, proving that Meat Loaf gets more action than Seacrest ever will.
Nashville is a friendly kind of place, where people running in a nearby field almost make you want to join them. It's also kind of like the un-Hollywood, where Ben Folds hangs out at the local coffee joint and Al Gore frequents the local dive restaurants. Seeing as how it's the first day of the year, we opted for dining at the only place that was open, the Loveless Cafe, where fried chickens and biscuits grow on trees.

With a new year ahead and a birthday on the horizon, things are looking good. My New Years resolutions are as follows:

1. Make this blog look nicer.

2. Visit a new country.

3. Stop watching "Seventh Heaven," even if it's the only thing on TV when I get home and fall on the couch in a heap of exhaustion. It may be less annoying dubbed in French, but I've now got 4 new Sex and the City DVDs from my Secret Santa and Barry Watson isn't in any of them.