All posts filed under: big

This Week’s Free Map: A Wine Country Sampler

This week’s free maps are actually three free maps: Sonoma, Napa, and Santa Rosa, three of the cities in Wine Country. I went to art school in S.F. a few years after 9/11 but close enough to remember what it felt like when it seemed like the place where you lived might one day not be there. Maybe it’s ironic that the Bay Area felt to me so permanent and substantial (see: earthquakes). What I do know is that when I was there, I felt safe. And also that it was very possibly the most beautiful place ever. If you like these three maps, all you need to do is download them (here’s Napa, Santa Rosa, and Sonoma) and print them on nice paper, and they’re frame-worthy, if I do say so. (If you’re coming here without having subscribed, you can still do so! A free map every week! Plus some cool other things going on in the world: And then. I usually sell these for $5 (the downloads), which gives these a value, all told, of …

Why You Actually Should Move to Paris

Short answer: Paris is as good as you think it is. Second short answer: Because there is nowhere better to learn to understand beauty. The long answer is longer. When I first came to Paris, I had a writing job that was a dream in that it paid a living wage and that it paid that wage on time. I could also live wherever I liked, as long as I was online between 10 AM and 6 PM Eastern time. I planned to stay in Paris until I perfected my French (allotted time: eight weeks) and then head elsewhere. Six weeks later, we’d all been fired, I spoke approximately three additional words of French, and I was in love with my Airbnb host. By the time we broke up, a few months later, I was hooked — on Paris. In Paris, I found a poor laboratory for language learning (everyone speaks English, everyone is in a hurry) but a singular workspace for un moment de calme, if you know what I mean. A 10-to-6 work schedule in New …

Today I Was Accused of Shoplifting and It Was Kind of Awesome

Un dimanche soir, Maubert Isabeau se disposait à se coucher, lorsqu’il entendit un coup violent dans la devanture grillée et vitrée de sa boutique. Il arriva à temps pour voir un bras passé à travers un trou fait d’un coup de poing. Le bras saisit un pain et l’emporta. … C’était Jean Valjean. First, as I believe it is customary, I begin my story about being accused of shoplifting by saying I am no Jean Valjean, stealing bread for my family — which is a terrible situation to be in, and something to think about as I share a city with thousands of migrants and refugees who cannot enter a supermarket as I can: with the knowledge that as long as I avoid the aisle with the very expensive whiskey, I can pay for what I see. I thought about that quite a bit after I was accused of shoplifting: how my experience, which, while amazing in a very sideways sort of way, was made possible — and ridiculous, rather than threatening — because of …

Protests Here, and At Home

My first real apartment in Paris was a one-bedroom sublet above boulevard Beaumarchais. This was exciting because I had never lived in a one-bedroom before, even if the kitchen was so small you had to walk through it sideways. Also, I stole my neighbor’s vacuum cleaner for three hours before putting it back. I feel bad about that. I didn’t know it at the time, but boulevard Beaumarchais is a central route for Parisian protests, connecting, as it does, place de la République and Bastille. Every other weekend, it seemed, someone was marching down the boulevard. My favorite were the farmers, whose demands I did not understand but who always brought ponies. The farmers and the ponies would march to or from République, municipal cleaners would magically descend upon the street to clean up after the ponies, and the traffic would resume. It was magical for two reasons. One: You don’t get to see a lot of ponies in the middle of a city, and that is exciting. Two: I had never experienced a culture …

francoise hardy eyeliner

Elements of Style: Françoise Hardy’s Eyeliner

Françoise Hardy is the sort of French polymath I’m not sure we have in America: She sings, she writes, she provides the soundtrack for pivotal moments in Moonrise Kingdom: Part of her genius is her management of her style: When I read Edith Wharton’s immortal wisdom (“Genius is of small use to a woman who does not know who to do her hair“) and I think of her. It’s a really interesting thing: Americans — well, American media, which is not the same thing  —is obsessed with the allure of the French women. I agree that it is a thing: They do, in my opinion, something that we (well, I) do not. I have tried to explain this to French women, and the ones I have spoken to, at least, get annoyed, and not that “Oh, I’m actually flattered” annoyed — it’s more of an, “Enough with your ridiculous stereotypes” thing. But there’s a reason books like “How to Be Parisian Wherever You Are” work — there’s truth to it, and truths that I think are especially applicable, by contrast, to us. …

paris bataclan attacks

Kind of a Funny Story.

Let me jump directly to the point where we think we are about to die: I am sitting in the Café de l’Industrie with A., the cousin-once-removed I have never met before, when I turn to the windows and see people streaming by. “Oh,” I say. It’s the Rollerbladers, I think, because it is Paris, and it is Sunday night — this is important, that it is Sunday, and not Friday — and there always seem to be parades of Rollerbladers Rollerblading down the street on Sunday evening. “Oh,” I say, turning, even as I’m realizing that they are not Rollerblading but running — but from what? From something. I am turning toward A. but also, now, realizing that everyone in the café — which is packed, not a seat to be had — is up and then down and then on the floor. A., somehow, is under the bench, on which I am sitting — and how did that happen? Words cannot convey my surprise. OK! I think. This is the part where we all get on the floor! A. has wedged herself under …

are parisians rude

Are Parisians Rude?

The question I am asked most often: “But aren’t Parisians so rude?” There is no good way to answer this question. My personal belief is that all people are kind in roughly the same way. Once I went for a walk between two small French villages, and one of the pathways between them was a narrow country road. A woman stopped her car and asked if I needed a ride, or some help. I told her thank you, but no—I was taking a walk. (Actually what I said was, “Thank you but no am walk now.”) That same day, I saw a mother carrying a child drop a packet of tissues on the metro floor, and another woman picked them up and ran down two corridors to return them. It’s the same sort of thing you’ll see in New York or San Francisco or Tokyo or any other place where humans exist: In my experiences as a traveler, people are kind more often than not. That said. That said. I have also found that unhappy …

The L Words: Love, Marriages and Loneliness

Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness. Despite the beauty of Justice Kennedy’s prose  — and it is beautiful, most of it; it reminds me, in its way, of the closing passage of Thornton Wilder’s “Bridge of San Luis Rey,” and we’ll get back to that in a minute — it does, in those words, obscure its point: No American citizen should be denied access to an institution of the government, a position we have long held here, including with the production of now-irrelevant glitter maps. I feel like Kennedy was perhaps less interested in suggesting that a life without marriage is such poor broth — and yet there it is. There is something so final and damning about the word “loneliness,” a 21st-century emotional leprosy for those who failed to heed Princeton Mom’s instruction to lock one in before the Botox. Most people marry. I expect I will, too, one day, the same way I expect to visit Bhutan, own a Saab, and never kiss a monkey because I just absolutely hate monkeys. But I am happy either way! …