jeudi 11 décembre 2008

French vanilla almond granola

I had to move my car by 10:00 for fear that the Philadelphia Parking Authority would catch me. They would attempt to slap me with a fine, but at the wrong hour of the morning, and then I would be the one to make them pay. For the puddle of rain water on the driver’s side, for stupid stupid television, for all the noise in my pocket, for the dirty apple sauce that caused my nose to run. Again. I can't keep fleeing like this! Perry slumbered like a baby and his hair was long.

I forgot the granola, but Perry remembered the pizza. It tasted like 0% food because the previous night had also already been forgotten, save for the over-extension of my arms and beer like a nightcap.

The umbrella was broken and borrowed with mangled prickly pieces of metal that I could have used to poke tiny holes through my eyes so that my brain could finally see through. And then maybe in turn, my eyes could rest and they wouldn't be so weary and angry all the time. I scurried like a squirrel and did a K-turn in the middle of the 4700 block. Perry's house emerged as my tree, my hole in a tree where I could disappear until the rain subsided or the tree just collapsed. Forcing me back to a place where people run over me with cars. Fuck fuck fuck.

I was awake at 4am and I couldn't stop breathing. A lot. There were so many breaths and I hated them. One for my workday, another for the flea market, another for my "nez qui coole," one for the future, one for Perry because my arms are too long and he looked like he was laying in a thin and crunchy pile of dead grass, the view from my hole in the tree.

And I was bleeding and I can't tell if that's why. In any case, I forgot the granola. That could have changed the course of the day, of Dec 11th 2008 where I scowled 200 times and awoke with no direction. Maybe I could've seen with my brain today.

I showed Perry about BFF and fidgeted on the kitchen floor. He told me to see a career counselor about all my complaining.

Ginnie gobbled down her cat food as if it were French vanilla almond granola. I could hear her little teeth chomping like my fish used to do. Her head is so small. Cats are not complicated; their lives are marked by catnip and no response to catnip. She doesn't respond to catnip, only bags, balls, and string and not really the mouse that I crocheted for her. I have to craft mice forever if I'm going to make it in this world, through such heavy breaths and no light switch except for those flicky portable ones hiding on shelves in the living room. I'm going to hand deliver the mice to people or cats, HAND DELIVER. Because what if they got lost in so much disorder?

I sulked and pouted and I don't know what Perry did. I need to know because I miss him. He told me to give myself something to look forward to.

I left kind of late, but wasn't late to work. There was way too much to do. Someone came in to talk to the kids about culture and islands.

lundi 17 novembre 2008


Perry loomed over me as though he'd never left. After an hour and a half of sleep revisited, I awoke just before 10:00 to find that my body and the blankets had become weightlessly one and Perry loomed over as though he'd never left the room.

In sleepy dreamland, I had inquired to my mom whether or not Perry's friend should come over to assist him in his studies. Only in my dreams could I pose such a pointless question. In reality, Perry was pulling a shirt over his head while I clung to fresh denial of a new day and morning.

It was sweet creamy coffee time, an hour that only exists on mornings at Perry's house. I'm fond of this time and I look forward to it. Well, once denial has dwindled down to acceptance levels. Perry lovingly prepared onion bagels with lots of hard cream cheese that I scraped off onto the plate.

Mariah Carey was singing about her baby at Christmas time when I dropped him off at school. Next was the Carpenters and then the Eagles and Elvis and then likely the Carpenters again all singing the same song about Christmas. We want it white, there's no place like home, Santa is to Jesus as bagels are to hummus... It really doesn't matter. I've overdosed on cheer and it's only mid-November. I frowned the whole way to work and it felt like cinema.

There was a fun friendy dinner planned at the Castle for that night. All of the Hermit Thrushes were back from tour and so it was time to eat. Chicken I guess. Because I didn't have much besides sesame crackers and ricey stuff that Jessi made. The distraction was priceless, but then it was cold and I had to go home.

dimanche 3 août 2008

Neighborly love

Jessi lives in Philly now.  Yesterday we wrote lyrics for a song called "Neighborly Love."  An excerpt:

You could be good
at looking after my home
Feed my dogs
and I'll throw you a bone

jeudi 24 juillet 2008

Like a Thursday

Today= 4 consecutive episodes of French Internet series (Decide-toi, Clement!)
      crappy interview at my local library
      searching for employment AGAIN
      drinking old(not aged, just old) wine at Rittenhouse Square

But I ate real food (my mom's ziti that she gave my brother to give to me)!

dimanche 20 juillet 2008

It's blueberry time!

Hej girl hej.

So post France means that I gotta get a job.  I've been toiling ever so hard on this, cruising Craigslist like it alone is my job, calling around, creeping around, you name it...  And alas, months passed, and my savings dwindled and are dwindling as we speak.  My first big break was an interview for a customer service position with airline giant US Airways.  This means TRAVEL BENEFITS like whoa.  Words can't describe.  Free travel and a world of both happiness and decided misery from the crappy early morning/late night sort of schedule that this job entails for new hires.  
My neck is sweating.
The information sesh/interview was held on a Tuesday afternoon in Lester Poopy Pants Mapquest Lies, Pennsylvania.  Area code 19blahblahboo.  They gave us hopefuls the low-down/frown on working for US Airways.  The undesirable and fluctuating schedule, the full-time training, the expectations, the seriousness/officialness, etc.  Then there were individual interviews.  I scored major points with the francophile card, which has actually operated surprisingly well as a selling point lately.  The interviewer was herself a fan of Europe who spent some time residing in Strasbourg(French/German border), France.  My 10 months of customer service experience magically and exceptionally amounted to the minimum requirement of 2 years, and suddenly, I was in business.  

Oh yes, and it's important that I mention that for the duration of the interview, I had a pancake in my purse.  It's something like ass pennies, but less detestable, and certainly NOT deliberate.  But perhaps it eases tensions a bit. It's just that I didn't have time to eat that day so I found a 2 day old blueberry pancake that my mom had prematurely prepared at my aunt's urging, just chilling(pun, anyone?) in the refrigerator.  While I thought it best to instead conserve the batter to make semi-fresh blueberry pancakes in the future, my mama opted to prepare and save the pancake in it's whole and ready form.  And ya know, eating a cold pancake in your hot hot car while your one and only official business-casual interview dress is wrinkled and wet from a sweaty tummy, takes time that a US Airways hopeful just doesn't possess. So I brought it in the recruting center in my purse with me kind of like a good luck charm and a guard against excessive anxiety in the face of a super serious interview.  

And apparently it worked because one minute I was listening to funk music in the waiting/application room and the next I was being fingerprinted and welcomed to US Airways by a kindly man with an air of efficiency who I thought was the security guard.  "You must take a drug test at the designated location within 24 hours," he informed me.  Some apprehension ensued.  

Then I couldn't pee in the cup.  Well, I could pee in the cup, however, not enough to satisfy their formidable demands as made clear to me by a red line drawn across the cup.  So I had to wait it out, drink lots water, and then try again.  And I found out that they don't combine pee samples.  From Attempt #1 and Attempt #2.  This was my first drug testing experience.  

I was a champ because they called me a few days later.  After a standard avoidance period, I eventually amassed the courage to call them back long after the end of normal business hours to leave a recitative message to a nonjudgemental answering machine letting them down easy on account of the cost of travel and parking that often accompanies working at the airport, at least at first.  
Wow, I'm tired. 
So I might just try resting my eyes and maybe even my head and my limbs and stomach and heart for a little while, yea.

samedi 24 mai 2008

School's out forever.

It's really crappy that it has come to this. My computer crashed about 5 weeks before I parted ways with Paris, thus rendering my blog a hopeless and neglected mess-- a mere ghost of documentation, for archival purposes only. Which hurts because I really wanted this blog and for it to serve its purpose as a portal for my reflections, tales, and sentiments as they pertained to living in France. I recently left Paris behind, but the saga continues to unfold given that much of it remains untold while the rest is still happening even as I write in New Jersey and contemplate what exactly France and French have to do with my life, my life as it pertains to simply being.

Thursday, April 17 was my last day of school. I took almost the entirety of my first class and asked them to come up with worthwhile things I could see and do in order to savor these last 3 weeks in Paris. This I passed off as a lesson plan, a pretty damn good one at that thanks to Jessi. I thought it to be decent since the students could volunteer information on the places that they know and like. They can both teach me and challenge themselves by relating the information in English. The ideal was for the students to exercise some level of ingenuity with thoughtful and sincere suggestions that reflect their individual personalities and avoid the stereotypical tourist locales that I've already visited 100+ times. I wanted to know about parks and streets and lakes.

Perhaps the assignment was not adequately explained. Or maybe a lot of kids are just stuck inside of kistchy images of the Statue of Liberty and the Eiffel Tower. They're still young. I'm still young. Up to my ears in tourist information(the good and the bad), I still somehow managed to spend my last weeks drinking the same vodka tonics and beer at the same bars and lounging around some of the stunning parks that Paris has to offer. I'm a bum.

Jessi and I had lovingly prepared choco krispie treats for our classes the night before. The peanut butter batch was avoided like the plague by the first class. The French don't really do peanut butter. The second teacher that I work with is a total sweetheart. In addition to being super sweet and helpful, she wears dark pencil around her eyes, which is then further intesified by vibrant dyed red hair complete with a different-shade-of-red hairpiece extension that dangles down her back in ponytail formation. What a kind soul!

Well, the last class embraced the peanut butter with no reservations. Evidently a more daring and adventurous bunch, their suggestions weren't bad either. Sure, go ahead, throw a ball around the room, it's my last day! Everything's ok.

That was the last time I saw Mennecy.

Empty classroom after my last class.

Little street in Mennecy.

The local medieval church, every small town's gotta have one.

Old man carrying a basket, they do this in Mennecy. There are also walls everywhere, and here we see the point that used to mark the entrace to the town.

Just a house.

More lil' stuff.

On my route from the station to the school.

Another Mennecy house.

jeudi 10 avril 2008


Another day of strikes and of running to school only to find out that no one is there. When I arrived a few students were blocking the gate that leads into the school. The principle unsuccessfully tried to separate the wall of students. The cops came and broke the chain.

"The door remains open!" the principle shouted as he went back inside the building.

jeudi 3 avril 2008

My train was canceled this morning. After leaving home at 7:35, I hastened to make it to the platform on time. Upon my arrival at 8:02, the info screen reads Malesherbes : BIPE: 8:07. Great. Then 8:08. Then the words disappear from the screen. The train's not here, the train is late, the train's not coming. There is no valuable information to be found at the information desk other than speculation that the train was canceled, I have to wait, patientez. How can a rush hour regional train from Paris to the suburbs be canceled? For the second time this week, I call the school's administration office to explain away my unwillful tardiness due to the unpredictable workings of the regional train.
I get off in Mennecy shortly after 9:30 and continue the walk/run up the little streets, past the church, and across Avenue Charles de Gaulle to find an unusual congregation of students lining the gates. It's normal for students to pass time chatting or smoking cigarettes outside; however, the size of the crowd led me to believe that perhaps a fire drill had driven them outdoors. I greet a group of familiar faces who respond with hello followed by "good luck." With what? As indicated by the cardboard signs proclaiming "la culture de jeunesse(youth culture)" at the gate's entrance, the students are striking. I cross Madame Papillon on the other side of the gate who informs me that it's okay, don't worry about being late, class is canceled anyway, the students didn't come. The intricacies of the French school system continue to elude me, but I managed to gather that the secondary school system is changing in ways that are contested by many students. My meager research shows that the students are divided.
"It's not the France that I want for my children," a teacher says in the lounge.
In an afternoon class, I saw the boy who had been protesting that morning as I'd entered the building. He raised his hand in attendance. I forgot to wish him luck.

vendredi 14 mars 2008

Days like these

I awoke this morning with extraordinary sensory perception. I didn't know where I was, only that I was in the 16th. There's something exhilarating about disorientation. How could I ever be so fortunate?

The sign said Rue de Passy. So if I just keep walking, the metro should materialize. Voilà, line 9. I think I can't go home, they're renovating in my apartment. The cafe at République came to mind, the one near Absolute Hostel where I used to live.
I settled in next to the window with a book and a café crème. Across the street, a brawny man in a white blood stained suit tossed a wilted corpse over his shoulder. A meat transportation vehicle blocked traffic in the right lane. Suspended by hooks a few feet above the pavement were creatures whole and headless with stomachs slit open like Christ animals. Blood marked a trail down the dangling hairless cadavers. Their heads were substituted by thick red stained bones protruding from their bodies. What sort of heads is a mystery as the animals had been transfigured beyond recognition. Somehow maybe they were still alive, playing dead and ugly in a social experiment to investigate human reactions. I watched the faces of the passersby.

The day was Paris, mild and gray, cloudy with a chance of showers. I sang along the water, eventually stepping up onto the rail that partitioned the concrete from the water. "When I go for a drive, I like to pull off to the side." The rail was about a foot wide leaving only enough room to walk one foot in front of the other. "I like giants, especially girl giants." I lowered myself to read the grafitti painted on the rail under my feet. The message read: ICI-ON-VECU-LES-PETIT-QUI-SONT-MAINTENANT-DES-GEANTS. Assuming that the author made a few choice grammatical errors, I reckon (s)he aimed to tell us that HERE-LIVED-SMALL-PEOPLE-WHO-ARE-NOW-GIANTS. I could have cried, but instead sat down to absorb this magnificent moment. "I am just a speck of dust inside a giant's eye. "

Having left my notebook at home, I scribbled on an old receipt. I positioned myself to leave, and the girl seated further down the rail didn't seem to notice. From the bridge, I could see the way the big sturdy trees hugged the water. Each branch ended in soft pink. A woman took a picture.

I parted ways with the water in pursuit of a metro. I discovered a garden instead and a playground modeled after a medieval castle. A tall elderly man rested tranquilly on a bench among the flowers. His position was comfortable yet composed. At the same time a little boy scurried across the drawbridge of his 12th century chateau. Gare de l'Est appeared in the distance. Hey, this is where Amelia lives.

On the glass doors of the station, there was a friendly sign notifying the public that Automatic doors are becoming more and more common. Since regular doors are an obstacle for everyone, we have automatic doors in this station.
Another one next to the information screen stated: In consideration for the vision impaired, the text on our information screens is large and brightly contrasted.

I heard English on the line 5 platform. A skinny blond woman with a North American accent warned of imminent metro chaos. She articulated to her large luggage-toting party of youths, "The metro car is going to be very very crowded. It's Friday, the peak day for metro riders. Pay close attention and stay together." One girl muttered something about pickpockets, and I smirked as a virtually empty train approached.

"Over here, gang." She called them gang. "Go ahead, Billy, open the door." Bewildered by this brand of manual metro doors that are an obstacle for everyone, Billy fumbled to pull the lever with enough force to free the train car door from its locked position. With the hope of more priceless moments, I climbed into the same metro car and surveyed from an innocent yet calculated distance.

It wasn't long before my interest veered elsewhere. Seated next to the door was a man wearing a yarmulke with dark skin and hair suggestive of foreign origins. His hair was neatly coiffed and and wire rimmed glasses sat on his nose. His lips moved as his eyes focused on a little brown book. I loomed overhead and peered down at the pages full of tiny Hebrew characters. I wanted to talk to him.

When I lifted my eyes, I could see in the window's reflection the man in front of me communicating with another guy in sign language. They were smiling and having a conversation

There was a vacancy next to the Jewish man. I took a seat, leaving respectful space between us, crossed my legs in his direction, and spread open my library copy of the Slaughterhouse Five as wide as possible without breaking the binding. Look, guy, I'm reading English in Paris. And you, you've switched to a larger brown book now, but you're still reading Hebrew. And holding a ratty plastic bag full of things that aren't new like a homeless person would. And those guys are communicating in sign language. And the American tourists already got off, but they were funny, did you see? Do you like Paris as much as I do right now?

I raised my eyes to the map overhead, neither perceiving nor making any serious effort to. He looked at it too. I continued past my stop.

We both descended at Bastille and I observed him disappear. In an attempt to cope with the loss, I walked behind an ambiguously aged woman with a glorious haircut. Despite her youthful appearance, an abundance of silver strands blended with brown in the short hair that tumbled alongside her face not yet reaching her shoulders. Tiny little bangs framed her forehead like an Amélie Poulain of the future.

I switched to line 8 on my way back up to République. Two Asian guys with Asian mullets were propped up against the train doors. One was finishing a sandwich. It looked like something we could share. The other had glitter in his hair. Suddenly everyone in Paris was my friend. Especially the dark-haired fellow with beautiful eyes carrying the cello by the pole.

Time to switch again to Line 11, direction Mairie des Lilas. A young woman with wildly curly hair was wearing faux fur boots. I imagined reaching down to feel them. A schoolboy with a backpack and a grave sort of adult expression gazed intently out the window. Although appearing about 10 years old, he traveled the metro alone the way that grown-ups do.

My stop: Porte des Lilas. I was never really aware of the café across from the metro before. It looked nice. I entered the Franprix grocery store and walked out sans purchase. The bus drove by. The information screen had offered legible yet incorrect information, having predicted 13 minutes waiting time. After aimlessly walking the streets for hours, I was now unwilling to travel the few blocks to my apartment. I pulled up my hood for protection against the light raindrops that had begun to fall. At the next cafe, a company of elderly folks chatted around a table while a leashed dog lounged listlessly at their feet. Two white-haired men sipped coffee at a small circular table outside. One of them, surely Francois, cried out to me, "Salut, chérie!" I replied with Bonjour. "T'es belle," he called out. I don't know what compels strangers to tell other strangers on the street that they're beautiful, but I appreciated Francois.

In the metro, I'd taken to writing on an old sheet of paper that I'd found in my purse. Months prior I'd used it to write down ideas for English tutoring. The old date was 1/7/08. The page now reads:
Head shoulders knees and toes. Eyes and ears and mouth and nose. Sat down next sp.... I want life to be like this always.

mercredi 27 février 2008

To be a language assistant

In the pantry: dry pasta, rice, onion, Krisprolls, breakfast bars, instant mac and cheese my Mom sent from the States, microwave popcorn my mom sent but I don't have a microwave, canned white beans, canned peas and carrots, dry black beans, cocoa powder, Nutella
Fridge: pasta sauce, guacamole sauce, hot sauce, salsa, blueberry jam, vegan margarine, half of old tomato
Freezer: fries, frozen spinach

mercredi 20 février 2008

English for Secretaries

Person 1: Hello.
Person 2: Hello, this is Carine. I would like to make an appointment because I saw your advertisement for secretary work in the newspaper.
Person 1: Please hold on. I'm calling the director.

Person 1: Hello, this is Ingrid. Ms. Carine would like to make an appointment for the secretary job.
Person 3: Ok, give her an appointment during the week.
Person 1: Ok, no problem.

Person 1: Hello, Ms. Carine, when are you available?
Person 2: I'm available Wednesday afternoon.
Person 1: Ok, I'm checking the timetable. Wednesday, February 22nd at 3:00 p.m. Is that ok?
Person 2: Yes, thank you.
Person 1: Bye. See you Wednesday.
Person 2: Oui, shut the fuck up.

As conceived and performed by students in my Secretarial Studies class. I take full responsibility for any grammatical accuracy.

mardi 19 février 2008

This week in history

Ideal Schedule For The Week of Feb. 18 - Feb. 24

Monday: Work - discuss films with students (check, even if they were jerks and didn't speak English)
2001: Space Odyssey at Cinéma Le Grand Action (check, excellent)
Tuesday: Work - films again (check, much better this time)
Clean room because repair people are going to see it tomorrow (shit)
Watch Arrested Development with Jessi
Eat dinner at the American Diner
Wednesday: Work- films again
Buy ticket for Jens Lekman
Correspondence (hopefully)
Centre Pompidou Modern Art Museum free for people under 26 every Wed. evening (long overdue)
Thursday: Work - talk about films or play drawing game
Bake cookies (chocolate chip)
Go out and celebrate Winter Break (2 weeks off)
Friday: Read, play with new guitalele
Make doctor's appointment or be a walk-in to discuss my swollen thyroid gland
Pick up mail at old apartment
Saturday: Correspondence after not doing it on Wednesday
Sunday: Rejoice not having to make a lesson plan for Monday
Write something

If I say I'm going to do it and post it in my blog, then it will have to happen, I think.


mardi 29 janvier 2008


After 4 months here, I think I have the hang of holidays in France. What happens is the other foreigners and I gather at someone's house, eat our foods, and discuss holidays back in the "old country." Oh no no, we're not immigrants, just ex-pats. It all started 3 months ago with my first major holiday here: Thanksgiving 2007. Thanksgiving in France was strangely reminiscent of the real thing. Though of course, we gathered on a Saturday, paid more for the food, and partied independently of the rest of the country. There was no prayer, no thanks to God, no pilgrim pageants, just food and people.

Not many have attempted to draw up an account of Thanksgiving '07 in France. Therefore, since I myself am an eyewitness of all the events from the beginning, I will introduce a brief orderly account. In the eleventh month of the year 2007, the day after real Thanksgiving and the day before fake Saturday Thanksgiving in Nemours, we met Scott. He was the only person who talked to our friend Sarah at the Créteil English assistants orientation in September. Sarah therefore saw it fit to invite him to her fête de Thanksgiving in November. Sarah and Jessi had arranged for a turkey at the American grocery store in Paris to be picked up in the morning on the day of the dinner. Reasoning that two people carrying a turkey from Paris to Sarah's apartment in the suburbs would be better than one, they solicited friends to assist Jessi in carrying out the operation. Scott volunteered to lend a hand and was thus scheduled to stay the night in Jessi's studio apartment so the turkey could easily be retrieved early the next morning.

To counterbalance the awkwardness of receiving a stranger in her tiny apartment for the night, which is very much comparable to a blind date in that each party hopes for maximum compatibility and minimum discomfort in a moment of exceptional trust, Jessi invited me to eat dinner with the two of them on the evening of his arrival. Scott waited for me at the metro station so I could direct him to Jessi's apartment. The first indication of trouble was our failure to find each other at the station. We talked on our cell phones.
"Scott, wait for me in front of the McDonald's. I'm across the street, where are you?"
"I only see a KFC."
"Cross, you're on the wrong side of the circle."
"Oh, ok, the McDonald's is there. I think I see you in the street." Click.
I crossed my fingers. Please let this guy be cool. I'll know it when I see him.
"Hi, nice to meet you." There was no way of knowing it at the time, but not being cool was actually the least of his problems. Scott was tall and plain. He wore a black coat like the rest of Paris, but void of any stylish insinuations. Black fleece sporting gloves warmed his hands and his jeans were an awkward shade of blue, neither dark nor particularly pale.

Back at the apartment, Jessi and I were unwillingly enrolled in an unexpected crash course in Scott 101. It was like listening to the radio with the tuner fixed on Scott FM, proud to bring you all Scott, all the time. Scott hailed from a small town in Iowa and was presently residing in a small town in France an hour and a half outside of Paris. He shared with us the joys of small town France life. In Provins, everybody identifies him as the town American. He plays rugby once a week with a local group, the bartenders refer to him by name, the students at the local high school scribble his name with hearts on the chalkboard, even the principle succumbed to the love of Scott by inviting him to join a school field trip to London in April. All this without speaking any French. The boy is a walking America, forcefully clearing his path of all things French, then tossing them aside like dead fallen trees only to erect a tower of English in their wake, this as a glowing example of American governance. I was certain that the space within a 6 foot radius of him was legally no longer France, but an American hybrid with laws and norms of its own in which everyone else was a passport-carrying visitor. All foreigners must present themselves to the Scott Embassy for further instruction.

The dinner table was square, one side against the wall, Scott at the opposite end, and Jessi and I seated across from each other. Eager to discern Jessi's opinion of our special dinner guest, I dispatched several telepathic messages disguised as insistent stares and peculiar grins. However, the three feet of cheap Ikea folding table between us proved an impenetrable boundary and no indication of her feelings could be deciphered from my end. What if she actually LIKES this crazed Iowan? We could no longer be friends.
"So Sarah tells us you're an ex-Marine?" Jessi politely inquired at the dinner table. Next came a story about his enrollment in the military and subsequent drop out following an incident of brutality. After being struck one day by one of his superiors, Scott simply decided to never go back. We simply could not wrap our minds around this notion of just up and leaving the military when you felt like it. Scott took no formal action; he just never showed up again at training. Such audacity was both remarkable and dangerous. I glanced at the time on the computer and patiently waited for the FBI to shoot down Jessi's door and slam Scott's face into his mashed potatoes. Jessi and I would stand idly by, stricken with equal parts fear and relief, as the feds patted him down and violently threw cuffs around his wrists. Suddenly we were harboring a fugitive.

Scott was a treasure trove of tales. He once smuggled pee into a doctor's office in order to cheat a urine test. He almost roughed up a kid that cheated him out of money in Provins. He didn't strike me as a liar, but his declarations were muddled and steeped in untruth. One minute, he was a big drinker and the next, he didn't really drink that much. Then the very next, he was casually stepping out to buy pot.
"Where, how?" we questioned. "Oh, you just ask any black guy on the street," he assured us. "Oh...okay." And off he disappeared into the night, sans winter gear, wearing only his blue and white plaid button-down summer shirt over a white long sleeve that I imagined to have debuted in Billabong's 1997 winter collection.

"AHH, I hate this guy!"
Oh, thank god.

We scurried into the bathroom for fear of being overheard from the corridor. On the rug between the shower and the sink, through hushed exclamations and cries of laughter and distress, we frantically emptied out of all the frustration and amazement that Scott had vigorously crammed into our existence. Jessi begged me not to leave her alone with this maniac. Naturally, I would stay. Or we'd just shut off all the lights and lock the door. No, I would stay.

Once back inside, Scott set to work crafting a bong from a can of Orangina. A few puffs later, he was back on the street, this time in search of vodka, which he found at the little grocer on the main street.

Jessi's fold out bed couldn't perfectly accommodate the 3 of us. I was fine, but Scott insisted that we sleep diagonally. Jessi disappeared into the bathroom to prepare for bed as Scott declared "cuddle time" the solution to our discomfort. "Oh god!" I winced in horror and inched closer to the bed's periphery. Unfortunately, the darkness did not break Scott's spirit. He rattled on as I prayed to god or the FBI to take him away.

The next day, Jessi, Scott, Elizabeth, and I boarded the train to Nemours. We had no objections when Scott chose to sit with some guys on the lower level while the rest of us sat up top. However, it was only a matter of time before we heard the singing. Loud, passionate singing drifting in from an adjacent train car. We dismissed the voice as that of a stranger, most likely someone drunk or mentally ill. Little did we know, this undiscovered talent was none other than France's American sweetheart, Scott from Iowa, making his regional train debut.

Dinner did not bring any surprises. Scott ate plenty of food and had his fill of alcohol that he did not pay for.

Thankfully, Christmas bore no resemblance to the Scott-filled Thanksgiving. I'd always wondered how I would approach the holidays once I was no longer obliged to celebrate them. Would I do away with Christmas altogether? Would I surrender to the forces of excessive consumerism and celebrate to the fullest? What better way to find out than Christmas in Paris a thousand miles away from anyone of blood relation.

I spent 2 hours Christmas Eve morning in a rich French family's swanky 16th arrondissement apartment giving private English lessons to 3 insanely lovable children. The oldest, Lancelot, was home on holiday from the boarding school he attends in England. The other two couldn't speak English to save their lives, but were polite and sweet as pie nonetheless.

After the lesson, Stephanie, Madison, and I headed over to the Monoprix in Boulogne in search of provisions for Christmas Eve dinner. We didn't even know what to make, let alone what raw materials to purchase. One thing about Stephanie is that she has no reservations when it comes to her lack of cooking skills. She has come to terms with it and accepts it gracefully. I, on the other hand, choose to deceive myself and everyone around me, feigning knowledge of food and food preparation while hardly knowing how to bake a potato or how not to melt a spatula. In the end, everyone suffers.

Fortunately we had Madison. Food-loving Madison. In essence, our savior. All the pain in the ass things that make Stephanie and I cringe and reach for another drink only make Madison love food more. Drawing inspiration from holidays spent back home with our families, we somehow came up with a sort of Christmas Eve menu. We picked up a bottle of Bailey's from the Nicolas liquor store and called it an afternoon.

Madison lives a few blocks away from me in a stunning and palatial apartment on the other side of Porte de Saint Cloud. While in my tiny lil' baby apartment, there is scarcely enough room to extend a finger without risk of injury, you could do cartwheels and somersaults in Madison's apartment, unburdened by fear of sharp corners or looming walls. The kitchen is immaculate and a perfect workspace for a mad chef to experiment with various concoctions and serums.

Lunch consisted of bread, avocado, and a cheese herb spread followed by 3 different sorts of ravioli. After lunch, sprawled out on the couches in the living room, food and drink slowly digesting in our bellies, it hardly seemed worth it to prepare the kind of decadent dinner originally intended for the occasion. After a very long pause, another trip to Nicolas for more Bailey's, and an incomplete viewing of The Royal Tenenbaums, the spirit somehow moved us to our feet and back into the kitchen, beckoning the 3 of us to bring to fruition a decent holiday meal, even if the clock already read 8:30 in the evening. It was Christmas damnit. We needed to get it right.

I don't even know how this happened, all hope and energy had been lost. This was our Christmas miracle. Not, like, miraculous, just cool. It must have been around midnight when we finally sat down to our feast. Everything felt warm--the mashed potatoes as well as the feeling in the air and in my body. The cause: undoubtedly a melange of friendship, celebration, and Bailey's. Stephanie and Madison were still chatting away when I stretched out on the carpet and closed my eyes.

The next day, Christmas day, our makeshift family of 3 trekked out to the suburbs, Bailey's and waldorf salad in tow, to join our fake relatives for a holiday gathering. Amin, a schoolmate of Steph and Madison, welcomed us into his home with open arms and holiday decorations galore. Soft lighting met red, gold, and green streamers, a Christmas tree, and a little nativity scene set up on the half-wall that led into the living room. My parents' house never looked so festive. Amin's roommates felt like estranged aunts and uncles of mine, just the kind that are white and don't speak English.

Amin was host extraordinaire and had some crazy philosophy about letting his guests be lazy and not do any work. He wined and dined us to the max, and we offered up our waldorf salad, which was a big hit at the table. Oh we just carried on as though the night would never end. However, unlike everyone else, I really wanted it to end. I had English lessons scheduled early the following morning. Sleep happened eventually, but not more than 3 hours passed before we had to drag ourselves out of bed and back into the cold toward Paris.

So we made special. Sometimes I actually like tradition.

Piña Colada

Christmas Eve dinner