Category: social skills
Hipsters in Space!
Penned inside this enclosed microcosm in which everybody knows everybody, condemned without the possibility of escape or relief to live with others, beneath the gaze of others every individual experiences deep anxiety about ‘people’s words.’
– Pierre Bourdieu, “Différences et distinctions” 1966.
It’s strange to return to your blog’s statistics page after months of inactivity, especially when you discover all the myriad ways people arrive at your site while you are busy ignoring it. A lot of people arrive here searching for Aperol, Pasolini, the Parc des Buttes Chaumont, Picasso in his marinière, and—a wee bit puzzlingly—piñata sex. But however they arrive, I’ll take it. Today somebody got here from a Paris-based wine blog’s entry about Breizh Café written in the spring of last year. My Hungerdome regarding some local crêperies received one of links in this oenophile’s annotated bibliography on the subject, which reads as follows:
A 2008 piece on Breizh Café @ DavidLebovitz, containing the benign authorial blunder of complaining about hipsters (really? in the Marais? how hip? hipster complaints invariably demonstrate an anxiety about cool equal to or greater than that which the author purports to disdain in those about whom he is complaining)
A recent comparison of Breizh Café and West Country Girl @ LesBonsBonsdesRaisons, unfortunately written in the voice of a 9-year-old game show host. (It also contains complaints about Marais hipsters. It’s like people walk into the Marais and turn into frowning Mormons, or something.)
Wow! This is a series of amazing firsts for me. First off, David Lebovitz is an unofficial deity among Paris food writers, so this is surely the first time anyone has ever voluntarily mentioned anything I’ve written and anything he’s done in the same breath. Secondly, I can’t say that I’ve ever been likened to 9-year-old game show host OR a frowning Mormon, much less in the same paragraph. I’m pleased, however, to finally have such a canny explanation for the deep lines that mysteriously arrived on my forehead during the two years I lived in the Marais (though admittedly not in the “nicer more genteel” neighborhood surrounding Breizh but rather smack dab in across the street from that shower show). It’s from anxiously scowling at all those goshdarn hipsters day in and day out! Thank goodness that Pierre has come back from the grave to diagnose old David and me!
Obviously I’m showing my thin skin here, but this did feel rather like being inexplicably kicked by a stranger on a crowded subway car. I recognize the impulse to link to other better-trafficked blogs of niche celebrities like Lebovitz, Clotilde Dusoulier, or Deb Perelman in an attempt to drum up traffic for one’s own writing, but I’m genuinely bewildered why someone would be compelled to shit on my unobtrusive and mostly uninhabited corner of the internet. Aren’t there bigger fish to fry? I guess there isn’t much more to say about it besides that, but it left a nasty taste in my mouth all afternoon.
Such sweet sorrow, yes?
About a week and a half ago M left Paris. She stayed as long as she could this summer, but needed to get back to the States to move to Boston, where she’ll be living with her wonderful husband this year while he studies at the Big Fancy School near there while she works on her dissertation. We had sort of “reserved” her for her final week in Paris. We didn’t do anything particularly out of character, maybe a few little things that we hadn’t managed to do before, but basically we just shared a few lovely days of rambling around town, chatting and lounging in the park, seeing films at our favorite places, and eating some great meals. It was impossibly sad.
M was the first person I came to know in Paris. We were both working at the same university here and had both had a terrible time with the process of getting a visa back in the United States. I contacted her about her consulate visit before she arrived, and she sent me a long, concise, yet surprisingly warm e-mail about what I could expect from my own appointment. I recall showing the note to my mother and declaring that I was going to make friends with this woman. At our first staff meeting, I pounced on poor M, declaring that I thought we should be friends. She seemed a bit flustered by my forwardness (she’s unfailingly reserved with new people), but nevertheless agreed to my proposal that she accompany me to see Lars von Trier’s Antichrist at Le Nouveau Latina next door to my apartment. That lead to coffee, and that lead to falafel, and the rest is history as they say. Somewhere along the line we picked up B and the three of us were inseparable ever since.
Being in Paris for two years has been a magnificent experience, one that I wouldn’t trade for anything. But a huge part of what has made it so amazing has been the presence of these two remarkable people in my life. I fell in love with Paris because I fell in love with M and B. I truly have never felt more cared for than I do with this crew, and I know that they feel the same way.
The best part of leaving Paris is that I get to take B with me. The worst part of leaving Paris is that I don’t get to take M. Her final week was profoundly bittersweet, with poor B having shepard two women liable to burst into tears at any moment around town. I spent most of the day she left sobbing, and even though it will come three weeks later, I don’t think that the day we finally leave Paris will be anywhere near as difficult.
The good news is we’ve talked every day since she left, and I know that it’s only a matter of time before visits to Boston and the Midwest will be planned. I also know that she will be my Skype buddy during the long, likely lonely days of writing I have ahead next year. She’s not getting rid of me this easily.
A few have you have asked about my list of things to do in Paris before I leave. We’ve crossed off a lot in recent weeks, though I haven’t been stressing about doing everything. There is something strangely reassuring about the idea that there are still things left to do sometime in the future, a yet-to-be-determined “next time” with two of my best friends in tow. But a few little things that can be crossed off the list include:
Take B and M to the Cimitière Montparnasse
Not only did we cross this one off the list, but we did so with a bang. We tracked down all but one of the graves we wanted to visit (damn you Eric Rohmer!), blessed M’s new Repetto Zizis (the same ones that Serge wore, but in black, not white) at Serge Gainsbourg’s grave, and finished our afternoon in Montparnasse with a coffee at Le Dôme with M and E. It was a perfect afternoon.
Visit the Maison Rouge
What a lovely place! We especially liked touring the current exhibition of contemporary Canadian artists called “My Winnipeg.” Oh, and they have one of the only original-style Photomatons in town.
Go to Marché des Enfants Rouges as many weekends as possible The last few months we have been positively religious about our Sunday Marché visit. M was the one who “discovered” what we now fondly refer to as “McDo Bobo,” so it was fitting that her last Sunday morning was spent happily over a yummy marinated tuna tartare.
Eat at Frenchie
So after two years of trying to get a reservation at this place, they apparently finally took pity on the Americans on the 4th of July and granted us a table at 7 p.m. (the French equivalent of social suicide). The food is excellent, though the service was kind of weirdly abrupt. Um, yes, we do want that final hunk of foie gras before you whisk away our plates, thank you very much! Still, it was a lovely evening. I’m not going to spill too much ink over it, because too many people on the interwebs already have, and there are indeed better places to eat in Paris along the same lines that aren’t going to give you an attitude (La Gazzetta, Rino, and Yam’tcha among them). But still, here were the highlights:
Followed by a visit to Le Champo for a final Monica Vitti flick, Buñuel’s Le fantôme de la liberté, it made for a perfect Fourth of July in Paris. Three little Americans (okay, two little Americans and one little Soviet), three friends forever. Don’t worry, the blog snark will be back next time. For now, I just want to wish my lovely friend M happy travels always. Thanks for letting me come along on the ride.
I just arrived home from a great trip with B’s family to Ireland and Scotland. Sneek peek: you’re about to witness a big ol’ UK offal mess up in here. I ate haggis people! And loved it! It’s taking me a little while to compile everything, however. In the meantime, I think you should spend some quality time with some new blogs made by lovely people I happen to know in real life too. Foodies should head directly to my friend A’s amazing food blog The Secret Menu, where she has been writing knockout accounts of her cooking adventures, complete with some seriously yummy recipes. I’ve riffed on a few of her terrific ideas recently and let’s just say that this blog is most hilarious way to get yourself out of a cooking (or dissertation writing) slump. Her entries are getting picked up all over the place and I think she’s just about to blow up big. Now you can say you were following her before she went viral.
Secondly! My dear friend S, who I’m sure you remember from this here blarg, has started a smart tumblr called Techno-Utopias. S is basically the super-hip art history professor that we all wish we had had in college, but didn’t. Instead we ended up with Professor Cobwebs and his recycled lectures from twenty years ago about neoclassicism. Snooze. Predictably, S’s cannily curated images are always surprising and guaranteed to leave you thinking.
So kick off your shoes, make yourself an Aperol Spritz, and hop over to these fantastic blogs. You won’t be sorry. They take “Smarter than me” to a whole new level. I’ll be back in a jiffy with pictures of organ meats in a variety of delightful contexts.
Cockroaches of the Sea
Ugh, what a mess we are over here at the ranch. B admirably fought off my vicious übervirus for nearly two months, no small feat given our four foot square apartment and our luxurious two star hotels in Portugal: “Hey! Is that your foot or the shower head?!” But he has finally succumbed to the beast. Our home has turned into a contest as to who can cough the loudest. He’s trying his best, but his weakling four-day-old cold is absolutely no match for my mature demon. Having completely exhausted my supply of mucus and lung tissue, I’ve begun coughing up lost elementary school biology papers, pieces of swallowed gum, and lead paint I chipped off a desk and ate when I was seven years old. I’m digging deep, dear reader.
I must be a seriously miserable sick person to live with. I spend most of my time surfing the web, looking for alternative diagnoses, and coming to the conclusion that my swollen lymph nodes actually indicate that I have tuberculosis and spleen cancer. I inherited this charming case of hypochondria from my mother, who once concluded from an errant lab result and an afternoon spent on Web MD that she had early onset Alzheimer’s, which she announced to me right before we attended a production of Madame Butterfly. Fortunately, you are allowed to sob through the opera. Needless to say, she didn’t have Alzheimer’s, nor do I have tuberculosis or spleen cancer. The internet is an ugly place for people of our disposition. Let’s just say that B has begun to lose his patience with sentences that begin with “According to Wikipedia, gallbladder failure begins with a faint sense of doom…”
Yet despite our cacophony of coughs and my rabid internet-fueled death fears, we had a pretty lovely Valentine’s Day, if you happen to care. I know you didn’t ask about my Valentine’s Day, and barf to hearing about other people’s romantic holidays, am I right? But one particularly cool thing transpired, namely that B bought and killed his first live lobster! I guess sometime in the past six months I said that the most romantic thing I could think of was someone making me lobster bisque from scratch. I don’t even remember saying it—I have a brain like a sieve for anything other than pop song lyrics—but B remembered my weird little request and filed it away, likely on an Excel spreadsheet that he maintains for this very purpose. On Monday, he left work and tracked down this amazing creature:
I was still teaching rather late into the evening, a rather brutal graduate class I’ve been assigned in the school of education in which my students are twice my age and seem to arbitrarily resent about half of the things I tell them about the English language. Still, a steady stream of text messages from home kept me duly entertained:
Success! That fishmonger on Rivoli had a lively selection. What a beautiful boy!
He’s watching me chop the vegetables for the bisque! A great kitchen companion!
Can I touch it!? YES! [If this doesn’t ring a bell, scurry over here immediately and promptly make your own day.]
Goodbye my lobster friend!
OMG escape attempt! Thwarted!
OMG, he actually changed colors!! Why didn’t we charge the camera! Can I use the photobooth on your computer??
OMG, HE is a SHE! EGG SACK!
I came home to Sade and Stevie Wonder on the stereo, a perfect bouquet of orange tulips, a box of fancy chocolates, and fragments of lobster shell mysteriously shellacked to the walls of our kitchen. The bisque itself was a labor-intensive, resounding success. I often describe things as “sex on toast” (no idea where I got that one), but this was even better. It was like sex on a fresh blini. Always a stickler for the correct word, B explained that it less of a bisque and more of a chowder, as he decided to submerge a half-lobster’s worth of meat in each bowl upon serving (insert heaving sounds of joy here). He cobbled together his masterpiece from a mixture of French and English recipes, so I’ll try and convince him to give me the recipe to post here. There really is nothing like the slaying of a live animal to really let your lover know you care.
There seems to be a rash of “life lists” and “bucket lists” circulating on the ol’ blogosphere lately. And while I don’t have too many “life goals” at this point, I do have an ominous event looming at the end of next summer: I’ll be leaving Paris. I don’t have a firm departure date just yet, but like all good things, this one will be coming to an end sometime in early August 2011. The mere thought of it makes me sad, and a few days ago I sat in the park in front of the Musée Picasso (closed interminably for restoration) and wept at the thought of having to leave this city. I’ve never been happier in my life than I have been living here. And while I’m excited for the next chapter, it’s still going to be a tough transition come next summer.
It’s easier than you think to become complacent when you live in a place like this for a long time. While I’ve certainly done plenty of amazing cultural activities since my arrival, I’ve also managed to avoid some really important one (like, uh, stepping foot in the Louvre). So I have compiled (along with B) a “to-do list” of sorts so I don’t forget all the things I want to do before I leave. I’ll share it with you, dear reader, and periodically update you on my progress. Some of these things are pretty cliché, so I’ll ask you to promise me that you won’t make fun. Telling you about things has been a great incentive to do things over the past ten months. Better yet, if you are in Paris (or are planning on being in Paris) and want to join me in any of these activities, let me know!
Muesums and other cultural attractions
Buy an annual passand tour the Louvre from top to bottom (this will take a while, so I’ll list the collections so I can cross them off periodically: Egyptian antiquities; Near Eastern antiquities; Greek, Etruscan, and Roman collection; Islamic art; sculpture; decorative arts; painting; and prints and drawing). See the Jean-Michel Basquiat show at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris before January 30th See the Arman show at the Centre Pompidou before January 10th
- Visit the Musée National Gustave Moreau museum
- Visit the Musée de l’Orangerie
- Visit the Musée Carnavalet
Tour the Catacombes
- Take B and M to the Cimitière Montparnasse
- Visit the Crypte Archéologique in front of Notre Dame
- Visit the Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle
- Visit Fondation Dubuffet
- Visit Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain
- Visit the Musée du Vin
- Take B to the Musée du stylo et de l’écriture
- Visit the Maison Rouge
- Visit the Musée des arts forains
- Visit the Musée de la vie romantique
- Visit the Musée Jacquemart-André
Go to the top of the Tour Eiffel
- Go to the top of the Tour Montparnasse
Go to Versailles
- Go to Chartres with B
Go to Giverny with my mom
- Suck it up and go with B to Parc Astérix
Ride bikes to the Bois de Boulogne and have a picnic See the tulips in the Bagatelles in the spring Take my mother to Parc Butte-Chaumont and buy her a drink at Rosa Bonheur
- Take my dad for a bike ride along the Promenade Plantée to the Bois de Vincenne and rent a boat
- Return to Fontainebleau with B in the spring and find some morels
Movies and Concerts
See Nouvelle Vague at the Casino de Paris on November 30th with M, AC, and B See somebody at the l’Olympia, preferably somebody French and venerable See The Gospel According to Matthew, Oedipus Rex, and Accattone! at Accattone, thus completing the project of seeing all of Pasolini’s films on the big screen
- See 8 1/2 and
La strada, thus completing the project of seeing all of Fellini’s films on the big screen
- See Les Quatre Cents Coups, À bout de souffle, Pierrot le fou, Les Carabiniers, Masculin, féminin,
Week End, Vivre sa vie,and Cléo de 5 à 7 on the big screen
Clarence, King of All Things Good and Plentiful
- Eat as much charcuterie, foie gras, rillettes, truffles, rabbit, duck, rotisserie chickens, and oysters as possible
- Try as many French cheeses as possible and keep a record of ones I love
- Try as many French wines as possible and keep a record of ones I love
Learn to shuck oysters and do so for my friends on New Year’s Eve Eat at Spring (B snagged reservations on January 6th , probably didn’t need that kidney anyway) Eat at Yam’Tcha
- Eat at Frenchie
Eat at La Gazetta Eat at Rino Have brunch at Rose Bakery with M Go to Marché des Enfants Rouges as many weekends as possible and take my mom there when she visits Eat a Pierre Hermé white truffle macaron and a foie gras and chocolate macaron (if possible) Throw a proper ex-pat Thanksgiving feast
- Throw a party for Fête de la Musique and make a thousand paper cranes to dump on the crowds for Raidd Bar’s annual block party
Save Me From What I Want
Buy an oyster-shucking knife and an oyster-shucking glove from E. Dehillerin Convince B that the only thing we can afford from E. Dehillerin is an oyster-shucking knife and glove, or, price shipping costs for copper cookware and cast iron pots from E. Dehillerin Buy the rest of Lacan’s seminars in French (four to go!), figure out how to ship books internationally on the cheap
- Find an amazing set of vintage Laiguole cheese knives, preferably with wood or horn handles
- Buy the perfect beret
Find vintage lithographs of our favorite landmarks in Paris (including the Hôtel de Ville, preferably on fire, Tour St. Jacques, Porte St. Denis, Notre Dame, Église de Saint-Germain-des-Prés, and Sacré-Coeur) at le Marché aux Puces de Saint-Ouen
- Find a vintage map of the Marais (Saint-Ouen, you’re on notice!)
- Visit Deyrolle, the famous taxidermy shop. Resist buying a stuffed bunny.