Saturday, December 30, 2006


I just liked the look of this because it reminds me of D. He loves ramshackle buildings of all kinds. It's in an area of the 3rd arrondissement that a friend loves for its quiet charm -- close to the bustle of the Marais but the masses haven't discovered it yet. I feel like it's all mine!

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Hot like fy-ah, or burning down the house

I was thinking of my far-away fondue-loving friend (probably because I was looking at a mouth-watering fondue recipe on the Chocolate and Zucchini blog last night). She has an elaborate setup and makes the best lamb and shrimp to dip in the oil. I don't know what she does to it, but I'm always happy to eat the results. One New Year's Eve we had too much champagne to pay attention to what the oil was doing. Burning. She (I?) dropped it and the oil spilled, and we looked down to see a trail of merry flames on the hardwood floor of her apartment. Silly champagne giggles amidst the mad scramble -- and luckily no harm done. I know, I know, not funny.

Happy holidays, fondue fiend!

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Sacré Coeur and bracelets out of the blue

Surely Christmas Day would be a good time to wander around the steep hills of Montmartre. It would be less crowded, and we'd have space to enjoy the vast views of the city and its people from a prime spot in front of the Sacré Coeur. And yes, I confess that I also wanted to work off some of the buche de noel I'd eaten earlier.

As we climbed the first of the many, many stairs, a pushy little guy intercepted us. At first I thought he was asking for money, but he was trying to tie a bracelet on D.'s arm! I burst out laughing. D., so much nicer than I, put him off with a gentle, "Non, merci. Merci. Mer-CI..."

We climbed farther up the stairs and turned to watch Paris spread out in front of us. The same pesky little guy popped up in my peripheral vision. This time he was trying to tie the bracelet on a meek-looking man burdened with an unwieldy camera. Bracelet man was pretty aggressive. He plucked at the tourist's jacket and zigged and zagged into his personal space while the poor tourist tried to pull away. He scared him with his unexpected bracelet offensive. Oddly, this took place over a long period of time. The whole vignette unfolded in some surreal slo-mo that ended when the tourist fled.

I'm positive the tourist will go home with exaggerated tales of how dangerous Montmartre is.

Monday, December 25, 2006

The saints are coming

First I couldn't get the song "The Saints are Coming" out of my head.  I thought it was U2 and...somebody.  (My brother-in-law, the biggest U2 fan in the world, would be aghast to know this.  He actually chased Bono through an airport in Ethiopia once, waving his passport to look like like a press pass so he could get close to him.  He wound up with the gift of Bono's glasses, which are custom made for him. That's not the only time he's chased and met him either; once he snuck into some kind of EU session in Brussels to get to him.) 

Then I realized I didn't know what the hell they were saying in the song, so I googled it to find the lyrics.  I ended up in the wikipedia entry for the song, originally sung by a Scottish punk group called The Skids. Never been into punk, wouldn't have known that, understandable.  

But.  Because I was traveling around the time this happened, I guess, I missed the huge news about the reopening of the Superdome in New Orleans for the first time since Hurricane Katrina and U2 and Green Day playing the song together live before the Saints game there.  I didn't know they were giving the proceeds to Hurricane Katrina charities.  And I never saw until today the video that depicted the redeployment of troops from Iraq to New Orleans to help the victims.  If only.

It made me wonder how residents of the Lower Ninth Ward are getting by, and what the U.S. government is doing to help long after the spotlight has moved elsewhere.  If you go to youtube, you can see plenty of firsthand footage of people driving through the area.  I'm going to track down the documentary "When the Levees Broke." A friend from New Orleans said I really need to see it.  

D. used to ask me how the social net works in the U.S.  What if you get really sick?  What if you lose your job?  In Denmark, if you lose your job and you have a dog, the government makes sure that you have money to cover the cost of dog food.  

Something to think about. Ho ho ho.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Monday, December 18, 2006

La Bague de Kenza, or death by Algerian pastry

I can't move again, but this time it's because I found paradise. It's conveniently located right down the street from me. Gooey, rich pastries with almonds, honey, and pistachios. I walk past every day but today I just couldn't resist.

La Bague de Kenza
106 rue Saint-Maur - 75011 Paris
01 43 14 93 15
It really needs a photo to do it justice, so here is the sublime Chocolate and Zucchini post I found:

I love where I live.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Where's my café crème?

This is what I've been thinking about today:
I'm instantly a huge fan of Chez Pim's beautiful blog. I've been in a coffee quandary, too! I even started my giant afternoon walk with a trip to a cafe in my hood that was mentioned in comments. It was closed. For the day? Forever? I don't know; I'll try it again another time.

The giant afternoon walk lasted for four hours and left me utterly motionless, probably for the rest of the evening. I thought I should see the fabulous windows of at least some of the grands magasins. It was like playing in highway traffic. Don't mess with Christmas shopping tourists. What was I thinking?

In my haste to get home, I forgot to buy coffee. Tomorrow morning is going to be a bitch.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Polonium pearls of wisdom

This morning I went to meet my new friend Polonium 210. I was afraid to tell her about the little club from the other night. I remembered that last week she’d told me, “You know, there are places you shouldn’t go in Paris…it’s not safe.”
“Like where?” I’d snorted with all my urban bad-assed-ity.
In a hushed tone: “Like…the 20th.”

I just have to add here that all my Polonium 210 peoples have certain characteristics in common. You basically need to have a diamond-encrusted front door for them to grace your humble abode, and all your stuff needs to have DOLCE & GABBANA stamped all over it (doesn’t matter if it’s bootleg). Hell, I don’t hold it against them. It’s only been in the last few years that they've achieved the ability to roll with all this bling.

I didn’t tell her where I’d gone.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006


Last night I was coerced into going out to a club.

I rarely do that anymore. Years of working at music companies sucked the joy out of being in dark, raucous venues. When you have to go out for a living, you start to really want to stay in and make it a Blockbuster night. Aside: I have to give props to Blockbuster, a company I despise, for indelibly imprinting their stupid ad in my subconscious. That’s how I eventually became BFF with Netflix, the most perfect service ever invented.

Back to last night. It was a beautiful, drizzly night, perfect for cuddling up in bed. But damned if I wasn’t going to be social (a resolution that’s a byproduct of an article I’m researching). D. and I bundled up and headed out, just in time for the drizzle to become a steady rain. We traipsed through puddles and hiked up the steep hills of the 20th arrondissement for a long time, because I hadn’t bothered with the Gmaps pedometer and thought the place was nearby. I’d forgotten about all those stairs in Pere Lachaise…what elevation is that neighborhood, anyway? We finally got to La Flèche d’Or, in a converted former train station. Drenched and disgruntled, I was all ready to hate on this place. I’d read it was an indie-rock/electro venue and thought, “Oh great. Williamsburg redux.” I do NOT like Williamsburg.

But a strange thing happened: Kiss Kiss Bang Bang sang me right out of my bitchtastic mood. I liked their music. I liked the venue. I liked that I didn’t have to do battle with a coat-check Nazi. I looked around and, after a while, noticed that I liked watching the scruffy, hair product-laden crowd with its wide age range from boy toys to old geezers. We never found the friend we were supposed to meet, but I got my people-watching fix and I had fun. I’d even recommend it to friends.

I think I’ll go back.

La Flèche d'Or,
102 bis, Rue de Bagnolet , 75020 Paris
Tel : 01 44 64 01 02 -

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Use me, says Paris

Paris is even more beautiful than usual when you don’t have to get on a plane and leave it. The city takes on a certain gleam when you actually use it, instead of tiptoeing around gazing at it in awe. This week I mastered the art of exercising in jaw-dropping places, squeezing in runs at the Jardin du Luxembourg, the Île Saint-Louis & Île de la Cité, and the Promenade Plantée. That last was today. It was a brilliant day whose sky rebutted the rainy forecast. Most runners made eye contact when we passed each other, a bunch of naughty children kicking up our heels in the most beautiful playground in the world. (Or maybe I’m projecting, and it was just me looking at them like a nutjob, thinking we’re sharing some little secret.)

But… it’s hard to carry a camera while running. So I still haven’t taken any pictures.

P.S. Who lied and told me that the French don’t run? The Promenade was chock full of runners. It was definitely a high-traffic area. Don’t try to tell me all of those people were American.


Busy week.
Congrats to my little sister for her tenure track job offer from Smith College. It also sounds like a couple of other big ones are not far behind...All the hard work is paying off, sis. I'm so proud of you.

Monday, December 04, 2006

iPod on shuffle

I saw this survey on The Assimilated Negro ( His instructions, my iPod answers.


So, here's how it works:
1. Open your library (iTunes, Winamp, Media Player, iPod, etc)
2. Put it on shuffle
3. Press play
4. For every question, type the song that's playing
5. When you go to a new question, press the next button
6. Don't lie and try to pretend you're cool...

Opening Credits:
Wagner: Tristan and Isolde, Was traumte mir von Tristans Ehre? - Wilhelm Furtwangler
Waking Up: We Run This - Missy Elliott
First Day at School: Bellydance music - don't know the artist or title
Falling In Love: Le Desert - Emilie Simon
Fight Song: Me Gustas Tu - Manu Chao
Breaking Up: When It Hurts So Bad - Lauryn Hill
Prom: Safe from Harm - Massive Attack
Life: I'm the Toughest - Peter Tosh
Mental Breakdown: Sugar, We're Going Down - Fallout Boy
Driving: Erotic City - Prince
Flashback: Where's Your Head At - Basement Jaxx
Wedding: Raid - The Constant Gardener Soundtrack
Birth of Child: Ai Du - Ali Farka Toure with Ry Cooder
Final Battle: Sweetest Tabou - Les Nubians w/Casey
Death Scene: Russian Unit 3 - Pimsleur Russian Language Course**
Funeral Song: I Can't Stand It - Dennis Brown
End Credit: Ya Rayah - Rachid Taha

He's right about the "oddly appropriate couplings." The death scene is a Russian lesson? Absolutely Litvinenko.
But where is my beloved Arabic music? Mostly this makes me realize I need to delete some junk from my iTunes library. Fallout Boy. Come on. That was purely a curiosity download.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

The little things

There are so many details of daily life that are different in Paris, little components that delight me. I cook in what looks like a Betty Crocker Easy-Bake Oven that was popular when I was little. The washing machine is a taller, skinnier version of the ones I’ve always used. The apartments are set up in a series of small rooms, like the Kirkland House Library. French women don’t get fat, French appliances don’t get fat, and French real estate doesn’t get fat, either.

The waiters in cafés don’t shoot you pointedly dirty looks if you park yourself in their sections for hours at a time. I’ve lost hours this way getting to know new friends.

I read somewhere that one end of my favorite neighborhood street is a “hotbed of Islamic fundamentalism.” I take that with a grain of salt; all I know is that my favorite butcher is there, everyone who works there is friendly, and their mouth-watering rotisserie chicken (apparently halal = delicious?) is two euros less than the same version right next-door to me. I tend to frequent the hotbed.

Habibi, I’m happy.