All posts tagged: featured

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 …

The 100-Year-Flood

In terms of localized natural disasters, I prefer a blizzard, ideally one that requires early departures from work on Thursday afternoons and necessitates a day off on Friday. At least while the snow still falls, and as long as you don’t have to work/drive/do anything during it, a blizzard in New York City is a beautiful thing. I have only experienced one earthquake in San Francisco, which was very fun, very small, and very confusing. In 2012, I spent three weeks in Switzerland, hiking and eating Swiss cheese (LOL) that came out of a plastic container. I flew home the night before Hurricane Sandy, having judged (erroneously) that it would be better to be close to my family in case things turned difficult. (Question: What’s worse than three people in the course of a hurricane? Four people!) I always take pictures of the skyline coming into JFK — how can you not? — but that night I took many, many pictures of the Long Island beaches below us: The waves were already starting to rise. In its smallest spaces, nature is humbling and awe-inspiring — …

Je T’Ecoute

Every Sunday I’m in Paris, even if I’m only there for a couple days, I try to go to Franglish, the non-sexual language-instruction speed-dating-style event I have mentioned here previously, in which you’re paired off with a French speaker and take turns speaking in the two languages. I love Franglish even if it always, inevitably ends with two language learners with their head in their hands, their brains about to explode from 90 minutes of trying to explain themselves in unfamiliar words. Here’s how my most recent Franglish ended: I tried to tell Romain, the architect I was paired off with last (after the 19-year-old French girl who said she’d returned to France from the U.S. to be with her boyfriend but that he worked all the time so now she used Tinder to make friends, to which my puritanical, American self responded: “Friends? Really?”). He had said he liked to draw, so I told him to send me an email if he put his drawings on a website: “Oh hey if you get a website let me …