So late this afternoon I trundled off to BHV, my favorite department store in Paris and not only because it is a five-minute walk from my apartment. Two minutes into that walk, I realized I had made a serious error in not stopping to use my own bathroom (sorry if that’s too much TMI but this is a crucial plot point). I continued on, despite knowing that not turning around would mean using the bathrooms at BHV, which are always crowded, and would be circus-like on a Saturday afternoon. BHV has escalators, and my fifth-floor apartment does not, and so my decision was made.
Last night, at trivia night, I decided I wanted not fish and chips (€13) but fish and mozzarella sticks (€6.50). Pourquoi pas? You only give your arteries one chance in this life; you might as well clog them with only your first choice of snack foods. Anywhere else in Paris I would have gone up to the bar and paid my €19.50. But trivia night is at a Scottish-themed pub: Perhaps they would be amenable to some negotiation?
A week after the Bataclan massacre, I flew home to New York for Thanksgiving on an OpenSkies flight. Each of those details matters: That it was only a week. That it was the day before Thanksgiving. That I was flying to New York — which, as a New Yorker, I know to be the best city in the world, and thus, the most attractive possible target to those who would injure America, regardless of our own distinct politics, regardless of the fact that we are the best example of myriad communities living in fractious harmony, drooling on each other as we sleep on the Q train.
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 …
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.
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.
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 …
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!
I’ve been home for the last 10 days, on a trip that’s been sort of equal parts fantastic and terrible—the kind where your mom says things like, “I know this trip has been terrible” and then you both start talking about the new puppy. But let’s talk about the fantastic bit, or, to stay with the theme, the terrible part of the fantastic bit. Without a doubt, the best part about coming home is seeing people. My trips home are always so poorly both planned and executed that they end up involving a grab bag of friends I have known my entire life and friends I have known much, much less time than that. I am thinking, for the moment, of one of the very, very new friends. We had tacos (wonderful) and margaritas (delicious) at my favorite bar (convenient!) and then she started saying that she wished she, like me, lived (sort of lives) in France. (It’s pretty easy!) Now, I know—she was just being nice, and complimentary, and that’s what people do when …
I was eating a burrito and wondering if anyone else had noticed that the Best Picture nominees were the stories of, like, a half-dozen white guys and Martin Luther King (at least we know where the bar is set for the non-white guy portion of the population) when I came across this story: Apparently guys are less interested in confident ladies. And it got me thinking. Typically I might not have much to add to this particular discussion—except for the fact that I recently took a deep dive, shall we say, into the world of French real estate. For what seemed like a Captain Ahab-looking-for-Moby Dick amount of time, I went and looked at French apartments. All kinds of apartments, with bathrooms in the bedrooms and canal views and weird carpeting and one with a bathroom so big, and a shower stall so small, that I just kept saying that I could use the extra space to rear pigs, which I’m sure endeared me to the realtor to absolutely no end.