I'm watching in a sort of stupor. I don't understand why museums-- museums!!!-- aren't air conditioned. Perhaps there simply isn't enough money in these smaller towns (I'm guessing, though I haven't confirmed this, that the Louvre is air-conditioned) to cool off such big spaces.
Monday night L and I went to Starbucks thinking we would find AC in that American outpost, but since their front door was wide open, any good the air conditioning units might have done went-- well, out the window.
Last night I escaped the heat in a movie theatre, but when I went to the loo it was as hot and sticky as blacktop in the sun. Gross.
I've never been a fan of the excessive extent to which your average office building or superstore is air conditioned in New York in summer. I hate that I have to carry a sweater around with me for when I walk into one of these icy blasts. But I far, far prefer that to the inescapable and (apparently life-threatening canicule that's been laying over France this past couple of weeks.
Heck, I've even been using ice cubes in my drinks. What is happening? All of my European pretensions are falling away to expose the wimpy American I am at heart!
Life has been moving too fast lately for me to be "missing" it. In fact, quite the opposite; I have felt completely steeped in life.
The first thing is the heat. It's been hot in Paris since I returned last Tuesday, averaging about 88 degrees Fahrenheit. That's not really hot by NYC standards, but considering air conditioning is scarce here, it feels brutal.
The second thing is my sister was staying with me for a week. I love her dearly, and it was wonderful to catch up with each other. But six consecutive nights with anyone is a lot. Luckily, we shopped away our heatstroke and our sororal friction by escaping into the air conditioned Galeries Lafayette. Several times.
Then there were other events too sad to blog about, and ongoing turnover in my personal relationships. There's job stress and school stress. There's trying to keep together my social life and cobble together a new one, as my friends from this year's assistantship program prepare to return to the States.
But! tonight I have persuaded G to go with me to see "Les Poupées Russes," even though he saw it last week. It's the sequel to "L'Auberge Espagnol," which is one of my favorite movies because it glorifies the study abroad experience that if you are fortunate enough to have experienced, makes you susceptible to the world in a way you'd never have suspected before you left home. So I'm intrigued to see what the sequel is about... and I'm hoping I'll be able to get through it without subtitles.
Alrighty. Sorry for the absences and prosaic postings. I hope to be back to my shiny happy self soon. If only the damn heat would break...
I flew home to New York last Tuesday because, as I mentioned, my little sister graduated from college, and she had to be appropriately fêted. The party took place yesterday and it was quite an affair-- family came in from both my mom's and my dad's sides, a melange of Italians, Jews, and Irish Catholics that made my backyard look like the Lower East Side at the turn of the century. Except everyone was beautifully dressed, the party was gorgeous, and there weren't any screaming babies present (there was one baby, little Isabella, but except for some projectile vomiting she behaved beautifully).
My sister and I have historically not looked anything alike, but since lately we're wearing our hair similarly and have the same blond highlights, as well as vageuly similar builds and fashion styles, yesterday people kept congratulating me and telling my sister she looked French.
Luckily, the number of times I was asked "What the hell are you doing over there?" was kept to a minimum, and I became adept at defusing inflammatory anti-French comments by mentioning that my sister would be joining be for a week in France, before joining her boyfriend in Rome for a month, thus recentering the conversation on the college graduate and removing myself from the fire.
Although I worried I would suffer from the same ennui that struck me when I was home for Thanksgiving and Christmas, this time I found that six days was far too short a visit. I saw a lot of my friends, but very briefly-- three hours with Pam, dinner with Matt, overnight with Wendy, drinks with Helena and Lizzie. So I fly home to Paris tomorrow and have promised to spend another two weeks in New York in August. Why the hell not. As long as I can bring my dog, because I'm very unhappy without him.
Regarding the entry from 22 May in which I listed my favorite American foods and extolled the virtues of American versus French boys: I have crossed off nearly everything on my list, and when I was in Manhattan I had to fight the urge to sign up for J-Date and find myself one of those adorable boys I kept seeing in Midtown. If they'd be willing to come work for Goldman Sachs in Paris we'd have something to talk about...
you know the drill. you've been sitting in that café for over an hour. you've read your newspaper, your book, written in your journal, watched the people go by, dissected your relationships. you've finished your coffee. now, you're stuck with a 20 euro bill and a check for 2,70. you've been waiting for 15 minutes for someone to come and give you some change so you can finally leave. where the hell is our waiter! you fume.
There he is. Taking a leisurely break to watch traffic go by on Rue Vaugirard.
Take a nice long look, folks. This is why service in France sucks.
I would say it's a class thing, except for the most part these are all pretty standard, upper middle class families-- no more well off than any of my friends' families back home, who resolutely don't have country houses, with one or two exceptions.
It just seems that every time I turn around, one of my French friends is off to their country house, or a friend's country house. And to me, little old New Yorker that I am, it seems out of the ordinary to have a house in the country and an apartment in the city.
So what's the deal? Is real estate cheaper in France? is it just part of the culture to have a country house? Or do I just happen to have a lot of friends from wealthy families and I'm not aware of it?
That is, I had a very interesting meeting with a woman who seems like she would be a great dissertation advisor in the English department at the Université de Paris VIII. There are a few wrinkles to iron out, but the biggest one would probably have to be...
...that I will be expected to write my approx 300 page long dissertation en français.
I think I can be forgiven for my naiveté. See, in the United States, if I were to be doing my PhD in French instead of English, I would be expected to write my dissertation in the language of the texts under examination, i.e., French.
In France, this is not the case. When you study in an English department, you're at least allowed to READ the texts in the original English, but any discussion of them, be it oral or written, must be undertaken in French.
I think given a bit more time I would be capable of writing the damn thing in French. That's not what freaks me out. the problem is, I'm still in my American PhD program, and I don't want to give that up, and I have a really hard time imagining the department accepting a dissertation that was written in French.
The end goal is, of course, to find a university post at the end of the doctorate. And since I would ideally like for that university to be in France, it probably makes the most sense in terms of my career to write my thesis in French.
The other scary thing is-- I'm afraid if I commit to doing this thing in French, the French will colonise my mind, assimilating me and making me incapable of sustaining academic discourse in my native language. My professional English, I'm afraid, will atrophy. It's already begun. And the degree to which I experience difficulty now in writing my mémoire de DEA I attribute to my stubborn persistance in conducting my research and writing my drafts in English. I need to give myself over to the French in order to succeed here. But I'm afraid of that kind of committment!
It just seems sort of surreal to even be thinking about this.
I smacked my forehead. What the heck are the kids learning at UPenn these days? (Caroline? any thoughts?)
In other news, my boyfriend called me "douillette" last night. French being the latin language of love that it is, I thought "douillette" sounded rather promising, as if he were calling me "adorable and cute." Except the context of the conversation led me to believe it meant something else, as I had just finished saying I couldn't go to India until I have enough money to stay in a swanky enough hotel that I won't have to deal with mosquitos, sketchy water, or other third world country inflictions. He laughed, called me the D word, and said he couldn't imagine me in a sleeping bag under a tent. This from a boy who, with his last girlfriend, went hitchhiking around Europe because they couldn't afford to rent a car. My shocked response, when he told me that, was "so you stay home!"
I asked him what, precisely, "douillette" meant, and was it an insult? He said no, it's not an insult, it just means I require certain comforts, and he meant it affectionately. Ok, true enough.
I got home this morning and looked it up. It means "overly sensitive to the least bit of pain or discomfort." It also refers to a kind of quilted housecoat.
Wow. J, you really know how to warm a girl's heart.
I am going to begin to keep track of the rituals and observances of this new cult on my blog, because I find it to be a phenomenon that challenges both religion and popular culture. So to begin: last night, N summed up a problem I was having by putting it this way: "If Carrie were writing an article about your problem, she would ask 'Sometimes you just have to wonder, is it more important to be objective or subjective?'" Not long after, I let it drop that due to a recent setback in his career, J is likely to "go all Berger on me."
Later, in a conversation with L, we talked about how silly it is that everyone tries to assign themselves a SATC character, and how nobody we know wants to be Miranda (why is that?). I wondered if it's possible to be just one of the girls, if they aren't just archetypes, and isn't it futile to assign yourself just one? L thinks she's Charlotte, tried to find another character to form a composite, and came up short. She's right, of course, but she's so much more than Charlotte. She's Charlotte with more spunk and a healthy appreciation for North African men.
I, on the other hand, realized this afternoon while watching an episode from season 4 (I was taking a break from writing, jeez) that I am more Charlotte than I usually admit to in terms of my relationship ethos and need for definitions, and that I am less Carrie than I would like to be because a. I would be uncomfortable walking down the street with my bra hanging out and b. I can't type on my laptop while contorting myself into the various positions she manages over the course of the series. Oh yeah, and I can speak French and I pick Paris over NYC any day and children have not yet begun sticking their tongues out at me (give it time).
Thank you for indulging me in this mock-sociological, thoroughly silly dissertation. And now back to Carrie and her Jazz Man.
This week it's Coldplay.
Coldplay, the British band fronted by Gwyneth Paltrow's husband, Chris Martin, first appeared on my radar screen in 2001, when I was working at a dot-com under a really cool boss who introduced me to lot of good music. (He's also the one who told me about Esthero.) Coldplay at that time had yet to be aired on z100, if you can imagine such dark days. And the song I liked best on their first album, Parachutes, was inevitably "Yellow."
Then not long after, they released "Yellow" as a single in the US, followed by the cuts off their second album, "A Rush of Blood to the Head" (I don't want to know which head he's talking about and whether or not that title came about after he met Ms. Paltrow). And that was the end of that small indie band I used to listen to and the beginning of that obnoxious ubiquitous sound that is Chris Martin's falsetto whining.
I neared the end of my Coldplay infatuation when they became synonymous with a pop culture conception of "depth." For example:
Scene: a tormented teenaged boy has just had something heartbreaking happen to him. He wanders through Central Park, looking lost. Cue Coldplay, "Don't Panic."
Scene: a tormented 26-year-old guy's mother has just died. He lies in bed staring at the ceiling. Cue Coldplay, "Don't Panic."
So that's "Igby Goes Down" and "Garden State." Can anyone think of any other films that have applied the Coldplay panacea to suggest that their heros are experiencing something "profound"?
The last straw, however, is their latest album, X&Y. I heard there was a song on it called "Fix You" that CM wrote for GP. I made the mistake of checking out the "The O.C. version" which has those mindnumbing twats Mischa Barton and whatever the Russell Crowe clone's name is murmuring unintelligible things in the background. That's it, I said to myself. Coldplay's name is officially mud in my book. When they start authorizing "The O.C." to use their stuff, they have crossed over from a legitimate band to sappy media tools.
I'm just glad Jon Pareles agrees with me!
Not such a baby anymore, huh?
She is trop belle and is, in fact, the sharpest pencil in the box, the brightest light in the room-- as Cole Porter put it, and meant it as a compliment, she's a Bendel bonnet, a Shakespeare sonnet-- she's cellophane!
She recently graduated (ahem) Magna cum laude from UPenn, and is observing the appropriate amount of downtime before she launches herself into what is sure to be a firecracker of a career. I don't know where her first job as a financial consultant will take her-- I don't think even she knows-- but whatever is it, she will be number one at it. Because that's who she is: Number One. Even if she is, in terms of birth order, Number Two :)
I hope I haven't embarrassed her but I thought I should tell all of you who don't know her how special she is. And those of you who do know her, well, I'm not telling you anything you don't already know.
Happy birthday, little one!
Love, your blabbing blogging sister
[I should mention here that this is very close to my own book project on literary Paris, except Constantine's is a collection of primary sources, a literary anthology, and mine is just going to be me blabbing. But just so we're clear on this, I've been working on this since well before I heard about Constantine's book]
Anyway, so somewhere in my unconscious, I did the same thing I always do when I hear the word "Austerlitz": I think "Auschwitz."
That translated into me dreaming last night that I was on a Metro, and we were stopping at Auschwitz. A couple of tourists got off, and I decided on a whim to join them (I have never been to a concentration camp). I hopped on board a tour and made the rounds of the place, which seemed like a bustling small town inside the walls, rather than an inferno of human evil. It was as if the place had forgotten what it had been, in its effort to be what it was-- a tourist attraction and a museum.
Here's where things get really metaphysical. By the end of the tour, I was lifted up higher than the rest of the group-- I seemed to be riding some kind of bird. We came up upon the exit of the camp, which read "Arbeit Mach Frei." I said to myself "I am not afraid" and the thing that was bearing me aloft flew up and over the wall, some hundred feet in the air. I could see for miles. I was aware that I was petrified, but I was telling myself not to be.
And then the group called me down, telling me to get off of the stork. In that dreamlike way that things are revealed to you very slowly, I realized it was in fact a stork I was riding.
Ladies and gentlemen, I assure you I was not under the influence of any illegal substances when I went to sleep last night. I don't know what to make of such a strange dream, but although it seems strange in the telling, I regularly have that manner of vivid, random, ridiculous dream.
So this morning, for some reason, it warmed my heart to see this photo of Gérard Dépardieu at the Kotel in Jerusalem. I know he's an actor and stuff, but it looks like he really means it.