3.31.2008

Serait-ce possible alors ?

Up until a few months ago, the prospect of leaving a job in which I used my French on a daily basis scared the shit out of me. Moving back from Paris was only partially made bearable by the fact that I was using the language everyday. Sharing Haribo with colleagues recently back from a jaunt in Nice became a regular. And the potlucks! Genuine French dishes cooked by genuine Frenchies. I might have decided to live on American soil, but I was going to do it with as much French influence as I could possibly gather.

Times change and priorities evolve; I will not be using French in my new job, at least not in any tangible way. I'm no longer dating a French man. Conceivably, my French-ness could fade into something I was 'into' for a while during my early twenties. My heart hurts to imagine it, and yet how many times have you heard someone speak of the Spanish they knew fluently after a semester in Costa Rica, only to be back to mono-lingual square one a few years later?

The fact is that things came down to this: if using French was the priority, I would stay where I was. But if anything else was a priority (marketing, communications, working in Manhattan), I would have to be flexible about the language. Donc, me voila.

And strangely enough, I'm not so terrified about losing the crutch of daily language anymore. I spent some time this weekend thinking about different ways to continue incorporating the language and culture in my life. Bi-annual trips to Paris are going on the list. So are French film festivals. And cooking more dishes using French recipes. Buying phone cards to call friends in Paris. Paying extra for TV5; paying extra for France-Amerique.

When hobbies or interests become part of who you are, it's hard to figure out what to do when the occasions to practice them begin to evaporate. Like skiers who move to Dallas. Or diabetic pastry chefs.

And then sometimes passions pop up in the strangest places. I took a walk this weekend to the Brooklyn Public Library and stumbled upon... wait for it... the Arc de Triomph's BROTHER in BROOKLYN!


Grand Army Plaza is just to the north of Prospect Park and commemorates soldiers of the Civil War. Who knew? The BPL ended up having a pretty extensive French section and I found myself reading a Marc Levy novel on the Park's lawn within viewing distance of the Arch. Très bizarre.

Two weeks ago, I hit up the Met to see the Courbet exhibit, which was beautiful and familiar. Seeing the paintings that were flown in from the Musee d'Orsay was like greeting old friends. "Origin of the world! I've watched grown men look at you and struggle between fascination and malaise in a museum halfway around the world! How the hell are you!?"


It was possible that every French ex-pat was in the exhibit while I was there, that's how much French was humming through the airwaves in the room. An older French couple was navigating the route at the same pace that I was and I heard her say something to her husband about having always loved one of Courbet's self-portraits since she studied it in college. There was a familiar tinge of sadness in her voice; I used to speak about American bookstores and cream cheese using the same tone last year. It was evident that she'd been in the U.S. for years, but something as simple as a piece of art from her native land was enough to evoke a bit of homesickness.

I found myself wishing that it was socially acceptable to put my arm around someone unknown, to tell her that I knew what she was getting a little choked up about, to admit the challenge of negociating the space between two cultures.

Or maybe, in a subconscious way, I was looking for someone to do the same to me.

3.27.2008

During today's visit to scrounge up caffeine...

Me: And finally... one large, hot, passion tea.
*Barista boy starts making order.
Me (quietly to Eliza): Did you hear what I just said? That's the sexiest thing I've ever said at a Starbucks.
Cashier: Tell me what you ordered so I can ring you up?
Me: Oh, um, just a large tea.
Barista boy (from across the bar): One Large Passion.
Me: Yeah... that was it.

3.25.2008

Quitter

Well, here comes the big news. I quit my job on Friday.

I know! I know! HUGE stuff happening over here, HUGE, crazy, life-changing stuff.

Every part of the job quitting process has felt like a break-up, a bad one, one that you know is the best thing for everyone involved but that people are probably going to cry over it, cry big buckets of guilt-provoking tears. And oh, the guilt! The glorious guilt! I haven't felt that much guilt since... well, pretty recently actually, it was last year around this time when I broke up with Aurel and had to ask him to move out. Consider this the annual guilt-fest, then!

I'm not going to get into it (being of the dooce generation), but I'm now on a 4-week countdown until the old job ends and the new job starts. What, you didn't think I was going to be the girl without a back-up, did you? The new job is going to be pretty freaking great and every time I think about plunging into new-ness, I get a little weak in the knees.

But what I am right now is the girl with a very overloaded brain; finishing up at the ex-job will be intense right up until the end and I'm already wanting to think about the new job. My head during my commute home tonight was noisier than an Irish pub and the list of things to do and prepare and get squared away seems not only endless, but completely disorganized. When I remembered that tax day is less than a month away, I realized that there is but one solution to the next month: a fail-proof combo of a whole lot of Yoga and a damn good Excel spreadsheet.

Great in '08, people. Get excited!

3.22.2008

Egg time '08

I would write more about dying eggs tonight, but I am going to have to get up in the middle of the night to go to church with my parents. Sunrise service, my ass.

Check out the pix from tonight's good time here, at least to see how Toby reacted to his egg, once he realized it had been soaked in VINEGAR.


3.19.2008

Boys will be boys

Sarah: I'm glad we came upstairs.
Me: Ya, downstairs was getting a bit much.
Anne: It's better when there's not as many people.
Justin: Yeah, not as many people farting.

3.18.2008

Like growing out a peach fuzz moustache

Living in Paris last year wasn't void of lonely days, but I always found comfort in a walk around the city late at night; there was something about the historical buildings that made me feel among old friends. Even today when I think about visiting again, it isn't the people that I fear unable to leave at the end of my stay (email does wonders for international friendships). It's the idea of leaving the goddamn buildings that I fear will be too much to handle.

Last night I ended up taking a walk around midtown to join Sarah, Anne and Justin for some St. Patty's day festivities. The Empire State Building was lit up in green for the occasion and I started down Madison Avenue and then continued along Bryant Park, enjoying a stroll among the familiar shadows. And then! A spark!

I haven't loved New York since last summer when I was first thrilled with moving back after a sunny weekend on the Brooklyn Bridge. I haven't even liked New York since then, and I've often out-and-out hated it. But last night it was like back in the sixth grade when you realize that those boys in your class, those gross, sweaty, whiny boys, well, they were kind of cute, at least to a version of yourself that wore braces and purple headbands.

That's really what puberty is, isn't it? Finding out that the very thing you hated is actually the best thing ever. My New York puberty hit last night as I turned the corner and saw the GREEN lights down one avenue and the wise old Public Library down another. It was as if New York laced up his Michael Jordan high tops, wiped the Hi-C juice from his lips, and winked in my direction.

And in response, I adjusted my scrunchie and blushed right back.

3.12.2008

At tonight's monthly girls' dinner...

Sarah: Wait, did you guys hear about the girl who sat on her boyfriend's toilet two years ago and hasn't gotten up since?
All: SILENCE.

I mean, what the hell, people?

3.11.2008

No hablas Espagnol

There aren't many people on the street when I leave my apartment in the morning, but this morning I noticed a man walking a little way behind me.

"bah bah Bah bah-de-DAH-Dah-da*," he yelled in Spanish.

I didn't pay much attention. People yell things in Spanish all the time here. It's Brooklyn.

"bah bah Bah bah-de-DAH-Dah-da."

I heard it again, and then again, and then again. So I turned around to see if he looked in distress or in pain or seemed to be pointing at a large object about to fall on my head.

Nothing. Just a regular guy, ok, perhaps questionable facial hair, walking with four brown shopping bags. Stapled. Like takeout food.

"bah bah Bah bah-de-DAH-Dah-da. bah bah Bah bah-de-DAH-Dah-da."

What the hell was he yelling? I giggled to myself for the rest of the four-block walk to the Subway thinking of potentials:

"God damn, these bags are HEAVy!"
"This takeout food is 12 hours late!"
"I am SO FINE."
"YOU are SO FINE." (flattering, yet sketchy)
"Who wants to buy a $30 salon gift certificate?!"

And so on. I gotta learn me some Spanish one of these days. You know, for those early-morning potential conversationalists.


*Interpretation from someone who does not speak Spanish.

3.10.2008

Sick Day Findings

Today I took a sick day from work (The Cold '08 reared its ugly head) and all I got you was this link to an awesome video. It's the video-version of what I talked about in the Month Three letter yesterday.

Also? I can highly recommend Tylenol Cold Head Congestion SEVERE with Cool Burst caplets. Tastes like cool breeze all the way down.

3.09.2008

Brooklyn Newsletter, Month Three

Dear Brooklyn,

I’m writing this from a train (again with the trains! The theme will be long dead once I’m done with it…); we’re headed south along the Hudson River and because of daylight savings, I’m lucky enough to count a sunset among the scenic views. I spent the weekend with el Dad-o up in Yorktown (Mom is away, prancing on beaches in California and calling it ‘work’) and somehow came down with a raging cold in the past 24 hours. Just the other day I consciously congratulated myself for being so healthy all winter; the combination of the 40DC and Yoga warded off various forms of the flu until this sinus nightmare, otherwise known as The Cold ’08. I have a sneaking suspicion though that The Cold ’08 comes from drinking champagne from the bottle at Maura’s birthday bash last weekend along with about 12 other people. Not smart.


In the past month I’ve reread Eat, Pray, Love, felt lonely in Brooklyn, felt alive in Brooklyn, fallen in love with e.e. cummings, and cooked chicken potpie. I’ve thrown out my favorite red sneakers with holes and replaced them with black Converse-types. I’ve been seduced, charmed, insulted, and hung out to dry (all via text messages! Vivre la technology!) Every time I write these monthly letters, I review what has happened in the past few weeks and always end up at the same thought: “Christ, what hasn’t gone down this month!” After a particularly difficult day at work on Friday, Eliza and I had a couple of beers at a classy little joint called Tequillaville. “Shit man,” I said. “I feel like so much STUFF happens to us!” “Oh no,” she said, laughing. “It’s all happening to you; I’m just along for the ride.”


Which is perhaps why sometimes I feel downright exhausted with the whole experience (Frenchies call this “metro/boulot/do-do”). Unlike episodes of Felicity, my months are not measured in themes. When you’re single and working your ass off, it’s hard to measure progress and sometimes I long for the days of my German class in Clermont, when Herr Steck would end class with: “Ach so, what have we learned today?” It made you feel like you were moving onwards and that the previous two hours had been worth something. In the same token, it was also reassuring to look ahead, to know that the next class would end with a similar reflection covering different material. Progress.


As I bought my ticket tonight, I noticed a young couple holding each other in the train station. He was wearing a huge backpack (presumably filled with clean laundry) and seemed to be headed back to college. Someone on a loudspeaker announced the arrival of the next Amtrak and the girl, a tiny thing, pulled him tighter. I was so touched by the moment, the blind optimism, the manifestation of young love played out before me. If there is one thing I know about long-distance relationships, it’s the intensity of the moment before the one you love boards a plane or a train and leaves you empty-handed, wandering blindly back to drive home in the obvious silence. The ebb and flow of passion in those moments: to think of them reminds me that I once had the capacity to feel so deeply for someone, despite how difficult it is to muster up any hope for that again.

But you know, I’m banking on progress.


Love,
Jen

3.06.2008

SUCKER.

Fact: A few months ago, I told my roommates that I was going to start smiling at strangers more often in the subway and on the street because I thought it would make New York a better place (blah) and possibly get a reaction from the potential subway soul mates I was meeting day after day (yay).

Somehow this decision has resulted in some kind of transformation that I can only describe as etching "TALK TO ME" on my forehead. Tonight I took a late train home and was pretty sleepy on the ride back to the city, but this guy sitting next to me dragged me out of my nap and into a conversation about philosophy and Obama. I'm a polite kind of girl, so I obliged his chattiness.

World, meet my fatal flaw. Because just as Grand Central Terminal (and the lure of the subway) pried him off of me, I vaguely smiled in the direction of some guy with a clipboard.

Note to self: NEVER smile at someone with a clipboard. It will automatically cost you at least $30 and you'll walk away with a gift certificate to a hair salon/spa for somewhere hundreds of blocks north of where you live. At least, that's what happened to me. And it is probably a good deal, all things said and done, but I didn't need to spend $30 tonight, especially since I was essentially sleepwalking. There must be a clause in the return policy covering unconscious commuters!

It's just that look, that proud yet pitiful look that screams "come on dude, I'm a starving actor/musician/artist/NYU student and I wouldn't be trying this marketing scheme out on you if I didn't have to eat." And so of course I bought it, I told Matt the salesman that he did a good job and that I'd buy his stupid haircut coupon, manicure and all.

Somewhere there's a truckload of Karma coming my way, that's all I'm sayin'.

3.04.2008

Lighter in the pants!

Today at work Stephanie told me that she thinks the 40DC is working because I look 'lighter in my pants.' Silly Frenchies and their ESL... last week we had to teach her what "BS" and "BYOB" mean.

One of my favorite things lately is to skip the gym and take a long walk around Brooklyn once a week. Usually I listen to the most recent installment of This American Life and tonight was no exception. I love how my memories of the stories are superimposed over the different neighborhoods, wet pavement, and nighttime shadows.

A few weeks ago I walked the Promenade, listening to the Valentine's day episode and now the darkened brownstones across from the city will forever echo Richard Bausch's voice to me. He read a letter that he'd written to his wife on the eve of his 70th birthday and dammit if I didn't start crying right there on the Promenade in the middle of a minor snowstorm.

Tonight, as with so many other episodes, I got giggly instead of weepy; this happened just about the same time I hit a street that was a bit emptier than I would have liked. So there I am, walking quicker to get back to one of the residential streets, and giggling out loud to myself, well-aware that I look drunk or crazy or both.

Or possibly just lighter in my pants.

3.03.2008

Got married yesterday at Fairway

Cashier: Sign here, please.
Me: Yep, no problem. (I sign the receipt and start collecting my bags)
Cashier: Wait, don't forget your... flowers.
Me: Oh. That's actually parsley.
Cashier (holding out the bunch of parsley like a bouquet): I thee wed.
Me: What a bargain! Groceries and a husband!

3.01.2008

Steve's cooking video... classic.

My brother is so freaking hilarious in the cooking video we made for this issue of NIFW. The crotch-burning part makes me die every time I watch it without fail. Also, I posted a poem this issue (yikes!). Figured if I'm asking everyone else to put their guts on the line, I should be publishing something with stakes too. Check it here.