Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Paris Has Left the Building!

Should you desire to follow me on continued and (hopefully) more uplifting journies....

Hope to see you!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Upside Down & Insides Out

I have so much to report, and so little desire to re-live it all to be honest. The string of events that have led me to where I am now (without proper residence, on the verge of an expiring visa, pain in my leg that doesn't seem to want to end and daring to make the boldest career move I've ever attempted) has royally tried to screw with my solidarity. There's nothing like being stripped of every single thing you use to identify yourself to make you lose your mind and test the strength of your mettle. Yes, I could most certainly waste time pondering what it all means, if the universe is trying to tell me something, if it's just a string of bad luck, but I'd rather just pick up the latest broken piece, find some gnarly glue, slap it back together and keep on truckin'.

It's interesting when you go through a difficult time how various people react. I have found it's one of three reactions: 1. Shock and surprise followed by consoling and coddling. 2. Feigned understanding with much dialogue behind one's back. 3. Realists who tell it like it is with no sugar coating to be had. The older I get, the less bullshit I am able to stand from people (still having enough of my own to wade through) so I do have a new found appreciation for group number 3. All BS aside, I don't love Paris. I'm not even sure I like big cities anymore. I miss temperate weather, the sunshine, the ocean and basically loathe any environment that thrives on unnecessary stress. I don't know what that means for my future, but for now my best option is to stay put until I figure it out.

Despite it all, my disposition remains forward thinking and rather upbeat. Perhaps I've simply met the quota of tears for this lifetime. I mean, my family did seem to always think I was a bit of a drama queen. I tend to think they were just jealous at my ability to get so emotionally worked up it allowed me to vomit my way out of any situation. Although the disgorging was sometimes used for manipulation, it was mostly a surprise as my deepest fears came alive in my stomach and felt the need to exit through my mouth. There are two children who will never forget their first day of first grade in Mrs. Fleisher's class in 1984. Being very nervous about going to school all day long and having a large, scary, beast of a woman with two distinctively downward pointing eyebrows for a teacher, it's no wonder I lost my Pop Tarts all over poor little Dominic Onaindia. I don't remember the embarrassment, or if children laughed at me, or if Dominic cried in his puke covered state, I simply remember the sweet relief that followed (until the nurse's office couldn't get a hold of my parents, so the neighbor kid's mother had to bring me some of her daughter's clothes to finish out the day). Those old pangs of nervousness in the stomach have subsided for the most part, but if one does pop up now and again, I simply remember that I'm an adult now and being ruled by fear is not an option.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

One Ticket for the Crazy Train Please!

When you are an artist your whole being becomes consumed with outlandish thoughts and ideas on a regular basis. This is how we function, how we are able to create greatness and inspire the world around us, but it most certainly can be our downfall when its consumption takes a wrong turn. I realize that when music starts to top the pop charts it can be seen as less than quality, but I have to say I always go back to Gnarls Barkley's Crazy to remind me that losing my mind is the most necessary action in order to progress. In releasing all sensibility and logic one does run the risk of blowing the most minor instances out of proportion, so the walking of the tight rope between conscious behavior and freedom of thought is an understatement of how difficult the balance can be.
(I would have embedded the original video, but that function has been disabled, is the song with the lyrics)

I do recommend watching the actual video if you haven't seen its rorschach inspired artwork:

If you have read any of my previous tangents, you will understand all too well how my mind has taken me for a ride on more than one occasion. I don't know if it is a combination in freedom of mobility, a change in climate with the approaching summer solstice which has me feeling like I'm finally back in my skin, but whatever it is I am truly grateful. It is a pleasure to wake up in the morning and set working goals for the day which keep me in a forward motion and healthy mindset. To most people I have always had a fairly cheerful persona, be it genuine or the desire to be pleasing. Usually it seemed based upon the circumstances in which I let myself become involved or allowed to affect me, but recent results have reminded me that happiness is a choice. I am all too familiar with the invasion of dark times caused by fear, self-doubt, self-loathing, all of which result in self-destruction. I can't believe it has taken me so long to understand that choosing to be happy is only difficult if you feel you don't deserve it. Let's go ahead and cliché that out with 'better late than never' I suppose.
My friend Eric whom I love dearly has always said to me, "You are so lucky that you know what you want to do in life", but that has not necessarily been the case. I headed down a particular road because I had this talent, and spent a lot of time listening to other people try to tell me what I should be doing with it. I hated musical theatre, couldn't stomach being a pop star, and the over-achiever in me loved the difficulty of opera and how I was certain I could conquer it. However, the more time I have spent meandering down that path, the less interested I have become in it. I had always hoped I would be the person to change the business and the public's perception of opera, but I have been going about it all the wrong way. At least for me. I have spent my entire life fighting and rebelling against the nay-sayers who think they know what is best for me, including my parents, so why in the world would I fall into the habit of conformation of what others would have me be when it comes to my art? It can be scary out in the world when you've lost a sense of self and all you want is for someone to come along and tell you what to do for an easy fix. I have wasted precious time waiting for life to happen in certain areas and listened too closely to the opinions of others who hardly had my best interest at heart. was definitely time to lose my mind, find my inspiration and put on the necessary blinders to keep me from stopping too often to smell the flowers or drift off under the magic spells of someone else's opinion which usually only ended up being poison apples instead of food for thought. Losing the possibility of 'no' really frees up any hold that doubt may try to take. I just needed permission to be unreasonable! That resonates so well within my personality and brings with it such joy to think I can ask for whatever I want, even if I don't get it. However, I'll go out on a possibly delusional limb here and say: when I have the balls to ask for something outrageous, and do so with the most sincerity and confidence possible, I usually get it. When did I forget that I was so audacious? Well, not anymore! I may be creating a monster here, but I cannot convey enough how happy that makes me. It puts that insecure girl's fears to rest, and keeps me from being a belligerent miserable bitch to everyone around me. I have spent too much time being a shrinking violet for fear of offending the delicate nature of those around me, and that only manifested itself in the form of a bitter woman who wasn't being true to her nature and would let loose inappropriate outbursts with a silver-speared tongue. Make no mistake, I will surely continue to shock the world at large, but with that comes the ability to awe and inspire.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Walking the Streets Where the Sun Doesn't Shine

I was sitting in the police station yesterday with my friend Jenn and we were telling stories to each other which made us laugh in only the way happy people are able, then suddenly our joy was doused by the woman sitting at the reception desk in her slacks that were too tight in unmentionable places, and too short for her sling-back sandals that obviously hurt her feet as she dragged them lackadaisically across the floor. I'll get back to why I was in the police station in a moment, but for now I would like to carry on remarking on the odd experiences I have been privy to here in Paris. The French people who are in my circle of friends and most acquaintances of theirs are exempt from the slander I am about to spew. There is something psychologically defunct with most of the people in this country (or perhaps it's mainly Parisians). In all of my Freud and Jung studies I don't remember anything specifying the psychosis of the inhabitants of this country, but surely they had opinions on this very strange population. Perhaps it's very French or stereotypically American of me to complain about them, but I am sick to death of being told what to do at every moment, that I am always wrong and that happiness is seen as something dreadful. Yes, I come from a country of loud-mouthed, rarely well spoken or educated peoples, but seriously who told you you're allowed to rain on my parade? I suppose I should thank the woman from yesterday as she has inspired today's writing, but CHRIST ON A CRACKER I wish I'd had either the French vocabulary to hand out a tongue lashing or at the very least a spitball shooting device to knock her down a notch or two. In all fairness I do have a rather boisterous laugh that tends to ring throughout any corridor I may inhabit, but why is that something that should be seen as a horrifying crime? I should have asked if there was a law preventing laughter, seeing as how I was in a local precinct. This was not the only offense or odd occurrence I had been witness to this week. Recently I went to the movies, and before buying my tickets from the man at the counter, I arrived with my shitty ipod headphones in my ears (I have broken both pairs of expensive earbuds, therefore forcing me to use the less than acceptable Apple ones) and before I could even ask for two tickets he scolded me for having them turned up so loud as it would most certainly cause my deafness. I am never sure of what kind of automatic reaction comes over my face, but I think it was probably the ever so diplomatic charming smile which covered up my internal monologue that spat with the fury of an Italian mother whose daughter had become pregnant out of wedlock. "Excuse me you grumpy-middle-aged-worker-bee, you are employed by a movie theatre and are wearing a royal blue polyester blazer that is only a wise fashion choice due to the certain drippings of popcorn butter you are about to serve that will surely come out in the wash with greater ease from that material." Yes, it's condescending and elitist of me to say, but what I really wanted to say was "back the fuck off and mind your own business." Or as I have recently learned 'MĂȘle-toi de tes oignons' which after a fantastic round of etymology with a friend, have understood it to mean, 'mind the manner of your own buttcheeks.'

Before you fret that the reason for my sitting inside a police station had anything to do with my behaviour, let me ease your mind. Jenn and I were there in support of another American friend who had found himself in a precarious predicament two nights before. He also faced some French resistance on his way home, unfortunately for him it was in the form of a prickly police officer instead of a mere minion. Everything worked out, as he was only required to pay 100 euros directly to the officer with whom he had had the altercation. Forced bribery it would seem. Nonsensical country.

Alright, back to the previous rant. Although my living space is humble at best, I do happen to live in a very affluent area of Paris. Every other car is a Porsche or Aston Martin and when I walk outside it appears I have been dressing myself at a homeless shelter in comparison to the designer frocks, shoes, and bags I see walking down the street. However, as we all know, having an endowed bank account cannot buy one manners or propriety. I am constantly befuddled how every Monday morning without fail, I walk down my street to the boulangerie and seem to come across a minimum of three dried raw eggs that have been smashed to bits on the pavement. It's bad enough one has to take care with their step due to the steaming piles of canine fecal matter everywhere, but this just seems excessive. I could go on a few tangents of speculation, but I'd rather roll my eyes, shake my head and move on.
The most appalling thing I have been witness to (other than during cold season when people couldn't seem to keep from blatantly using their fingers to scrape the inner walls of their nostrils) was on my way home from the grocery store on a Friday evening when people are rushing about trying to get out of town for the weekend. There was a car double parked outside of the market and being packed by a mother and father. The mother was standing next to the car and patiently waiting for her four-year-old daughter to finish urinating in the street. There she was, bare-butt and squatting for the world to see in the middle of a crowded scene. I was completely dumbfounded. Granted, I don't have children and am sure there are memories of my own childhood which may have eluded me, but I can hardly fathom that my parents would have allowed me to behave in such a manner (though they weren't exactly able to contain many of my actions in the first place). I do have one friend - and when she reads this she'll know I'm speaking of her - whom I have witnessed on more than one occasion, relieving herself betwixt two parked cars throughout the streets of New York City. So, of course when I saw this little girl recreating that scene, I admit it did bring about some laughter and nostalgia for my lovely friend.
I still have not completely made up my mind about this country, other than I know I hate the weather in Paris. What in the hell was I thinking? It's almost the first of June and there is a small chill coming from outside my window, covered in clouds that will most certainly threaten the afternoon with rain. This California girl needs some warm weather and the ocean. Screw the seasons, I'm tired of them. Seasons are for people who need an external force to determine the motion of their routine. Give me the sun and an excuse to wear nothing but a piece of cloth tied around my body any day.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Lessons Hard and Tarot Cards

I woke this morning from a dream where I was driving on freeways in Singapore with a long vacation planned for travel around southeast Asia. In the car with me was a man I used to date who was complaining about the way I drove. In all fairness, I did seem to think I might be suffering from night blindness in the dream, which would have kept me from seeing whether or not I might be swerving off the road. However, I didn't like his attitude so I pulled over and let him out of the car. I decided to resume my dream during the daylight hours, where I was still having a bit of trouble controlling the speed of my vehicle and had to use both feet on the breaks. I wasn't frightened so much as frustrated with the lack of control I had over my general velocity. I tend to dream about the ocean a lot, and there was plenty of it surrounding the areas where I drove. One journey led to a hike that included some rock climbing on the edge of a very sandy cliff side, which jetted out over the water. Anyone who knows me has never heard a story which involved both rock climbing and me in it. I blame it on long fingernails and a general fear of falling, resulting from a lack of upper body strength. No thank you. So, it was no surprise in this dream when I was hanging on by a thread looking up at all the other hikers who marveled at the glorious view while I fought for my life (or at least to keep from falling into the ocean). Somehow I made it to the top with the slightly too chipper for my taste, campers. You know, those annoying people who might have been cheerleaders, aerobics instructors or just seem to maintain a general sense of overly perky behavior? I usually wish I had a BB gun on such appropriate occasions. Not enough to cause real harm, but just enough to where they can let the rest of us enjoy some silence (after a moment of screaming in pain....BBs do hurt). The dreaming woke me after only 5 hours of sleep and it left me lingering on the emotional purging process I've been going through in the last week or so.
It's been a rough winter and adjustment to being in Paris which has not inspired a lot of hope in myself as well as promise of future projects, however after a freak out about my reality which involved ice cream, Nutella, red wine and a teary phone call to a dear friend in California last week, I am snapping out of it. I called this particular friend because she has a way of seeing through the emotional bullshit to get to the bottom of things, but always in a very loving and intuitive way. It's rare when you have someone who knows all your darkest secrets, doesn't judge you and still lifts you up to remind you how great you can be when you aren't able to feel it yourself. It's not the same emotional coddling that can happen to validate what you've been doing, but the true gift of loving kindness coupled with honesty to bring you back to the facts of the matter. Knowing me the way she does she asked when the last time it was I had read my tarot cards. Now, I know it's hokum and voodoo to some people, but I find it a good exercise which brings me back to my intuition by clearing up any emotional turbulence that might be clouding my vision. Of course it's always difficult to remember the tools one has acquired over the years when becoming overwhelmed by emotion. I realize that not everyone is like me, and I do stare in amazement at those who achieve a sense or calm or even flippancy in their reactions. I am capable of this as well, but moving across an ocean into a new environment, a depressing Parisian winter and a broken leg are not exactly the formula for a healthy mental state. So, I broke out the cards. I have been dabbling with this particular deck for the last 10 years or so, and do not profess to be any kind of expert, but since I do have a strong sense of intuition and know myself better than anyone else it tends to bring in much needed insight that I fail to see otherwise.

Below is the brief summary from the notes I made on this reading. I could go into detail about each card, but I might lose some of you along the way. So if it really interests you pop me an email.

- "What I have taken from this reading is that I am a non traditional person who doesn't know how to accept myself and therefore is resistant to the changes that are naturally happening inside of me. My emotional distress from the past has distorted my current state so much that the brain tends to tell me truths that are in fact false, and if I continue to believe and remain ruled by these distorted emotions, it will only channel my powerful personality into aggression. Therefore achieving balance is necessary and will be obtained by looking at things logically, and carefully weighing options so as not to make impulsive choices which would only create further imbalance. There are external forces which will block my creative energy and try to keep me from being my best self, therefore I should carefully consider how to spend my time with people and environments. My biggest fears are that I am not strong and that others will in turn see any exuberance as false and only deem me weak therefore making me insignificant and useless. Moving forward, it is important to accept that the past will not change, but I must not resist current and future change, for they are always possible. I am NOT subject to the fate of my past. If I learn to understand these things and remain calm there is a fiery new beginning waiting for me to obtain it."

As you can see the cards did not tell me what lottery numbers to play, when I will die or that I will fall in love with a blonde haired man with black eyes. What it said so clearly is that my emotional stability is distorted, has much to do with my upbringing (duh), and that even though I think I have worked through it in therapy or whatever, I am obviously still carrying more of it into my present than is necessary. Everyone has a screwed up family or childhood in some way, but some of us are just wired with higher levels of natural anxiety that cause us to deal with it differently. On the exterior I appear to others like a relaxed, calm person who has her shit together, but the reality is I always carry around a large amount of internal suffering. However, after a so many years of trying to hide and carry pain all on my own it started leaking out (via vomit or uncontrollable emotional reactions) usually at very inappropriate times and with the help of inebriating substances.

After an attempted death by Nutella the day before, I decided I needed to get out into the sunshine (yes it's been sunny in Paris this week) and have a little fun. I did a little yoga, went to Parc Monceau and wrote for a few hours on the grass then met up with some friends for dinner. We were wandering around (first time out without a cane, crutch or leg in a brace) trying to decide what kind of food we were in the mood for with the myriad of restaurants before us, and finally decided on a hole in the wall Italian place. It was reasonably priced and not much to look at with its plastic red and white checkered tablecloths, but presented the warm aromas of a proper Italian kitchen. We were welcomed by a tall lanky older man with some serious bed-head who seemed to have lost a few teeth somewhere along the way. Two of us decided on the prix fixe menu, and as we ordered were informed that with the special menu came a free tarot card reading from one of the two Italian-gypsy-like women in the back of the restaurant.Two tarot sessions in one day, why not? I tend to look at such coincidences as more of a cosmic joke being played on me rather than giving it any great gravity of importance. The first card this woman pulled represented a man with whom there had just been an "upset." At first I thought she was going to generically talk about someone I may or may not have been dating, but she turned to the subject of my biological father who had recently been in the hospital and how it created conflicting emotions within me. Okay, one point for the tarot lady. There have been times where I thought it might just be easier if my father were dead, because at least I would not be pulled in close only to be betrayed and disappointed by him again in this yo-yo of a relationship we have always had.

In the grand light-bulb moment, I have seen the real affect of what he taught me about love and what it does to me anytime I start to feel the slightest bit abandoned by a man. The best part is realizing I really can choose to look those feelings in the face and say, "no, I will not tolerate these emotions any longer" and react in a much healthier way. As my friend Jeremy would say "it's time to put on your big girl panties!" There's peace in understanding the reason for a behavioral and physical reaction that has dictated one's actions. Rather than solving the search for love by putting a temporary Band-aid on the wound - which would indefinitely turn into an infection of continually festering, potentially life or limb threatening gangrene - making choices that avoid the gangrene altogether would appear to be the wiser decision.

(Pictured above is me, my sister, youngest brother and biological father)

Thursday, April 8, 2010

God Help Me. Jesus, stay out of it.....

The cast has been off for over a week now and while I still don't have full function of my joint, tendons and surrounding muscles (not to mention that my body does not seem to be very happy that there are several foreign objects made of metal inside it) I am surprised how fast the progression has been from the day of removal in the hospital (when I cried because I could hardly put weight on it) to now, when I took the metro for the first time in 2 months over the weekend! The unveiling from cast to leg was pretty gross. Dried blood everywhere, long gangly leg hair and peeling alien skin that itched like there were fire ants crawling all over it. Not attractive in the slightest. The very cute tall man-nurse that removed my stitches gave me some of the best physical pleasure I've received when he cleaned my wounds with a piece of cotton that applied some much needed scratching to the area. I could have died happy at that moment.
I was going to save the pictures of the gruesome aftermath until the very end of this post, so as not to allow anyone's lunch to be lost......but....sorry.

It's strange looking down and seeing the right skinny floppy leg in contrast with a strong muscle-beach-like left one. I do some exercises every day to increase mobility and have been lengthening the duration of my walks as well. Because I am a person who is full of pride (yes even after all of the humiliating experiences that have gone along with this one) it is really hard for me to endure the kind of attention that comes with being an invalid walking down the street. I am down to using the one polio crutch, but it's mostly so I don't lose my balance or get mowed down by the number of inconsiderate Parisians with their scooters, strollers, dogs and reckless children on those god-awful-ride-on-two-wheeled contraptions.
Having all of this time to myself has left me over thinking and analyzing too many things in regard to my journey in Paris thus far. I moved here to create a fresh start for myself in a few areas and admittedly have not been as proactive in taking advantage of this opportunity as I intended on when I first arrived. It's funny when you reflect upon certain decisions that cause you to question your own strength. I waver between feeling strong and weak, but I see that I can't allow those dark thoughts to come in and take over so much that I keep myself from the things I am so perfectly capable of doing. Perhaps, I did not set firm enough goals for myself and allowed that artist's way of floating along in the wind to carry me in whichever direction I felt, as opposed to focusing on where I want to go.

There's this thing that I always forget I do as some sort of default mechanism. When I get stressed out or overwhelmed I always find some man to use as a distraction and become completely focused on him. To my close friends this is no secret, as I adore attention from men due to years of damaged daddy issues. I realize I am not alone as most women fall prey to seeking out male love as over-compensation to the lack of what they received from their fathers. How cliche and ordinary! Ha. Well, it has been my reality nonetheless and when I first arrived in Paris I was dating someone who allowed me to cry on his shoulder and was there for me at every moment. However, after I discovered he had been dating another girl at the same time as me, I cut him off completely and in turn left myself in an exact replica of the situation I was trying to bury from childhood. Directly after I fell into the same bad habit of depression in reaction to feeling unwanted and unloveable. I can happily say that I was not nearly as self-destructive as I had once been, but I still allowed this depression to stop the motivation I originally arrived with in Paris. This pattern is like a strange terminal sickness that I choose not to see, allowing my want for connection to take hold of all emotion and biting me in the ass every single time. Insanity at its finest ladies and gents! Obviously at this moment I am quite clear of these transgressions and can use my current state of level-headedness to make better decisions....that is until what I call "crazy girl brain" starts to take over, bringing in the myriad of irrational thoughts that can only be concocted from years of trust issues.

I was up late last night after not being able to fall asleep and watched Frida. While I totally hate Julie Taymor (the director) for the ridiculous spectacle she made of Mozart's Magic Flute (and the fact that she's sort of a one trick pony) I still love the beauty of the movie along with the captured essence of Frida Kahlo. I admittedly despise being so emotionally moved by trivial moments on my screen, but when the film ended I was overwhelmed with my own sense of emotions. Let it be said that I am definitely someone who is extremely sensitive and feels everything at the deepest level of my core. When I take pleasure in something it is a pure form of ecstasy and when I feel pain in my heart it's as though I've ingested it into every cell of my being. Even now as I sit here and breathe deeply into a brief moment of sadness, it feels as though it is the pulse of the world running through me, causing my eyes to well with tears and a heavy swell of emotion to rise up from my gut into my throat. I have learned to live with this sensitivity as best I can, and try not to fight against it, as that usually only manifests itself in a downward spiral of self-destruction. I have learned I am not a person who can compartmentalize and pretend something does not exist, rather the only way I can function is to make peace with the emotion as it lives within me. It is quite exhausting to feel so much, so deeply, ALL THE TIME! There are plenty of times when I simply tune it out because I just don't want to deal with it. I listen to other people's problems, read, watch movies or any number of other energy numbing activities that keep me from heading into the turbulent depths of myself. Don't misunderstand as there are just as many feelings of light as there are of darkness. However, it seems one cannot exist without the other, therefore if I allow full happiness, I am also susceptible to the sadness. I never manage to escape either for very long, at least not anymore. I endure my suffering alone, not wanting to burden others with my struggle, but also for fear that a perception of "craziness" might be taken were I to dispel every thought I have all at once. Last night in the deep dark hours of night I had a moment that I can only describe as "I wept for my soul" - god, that sounds ridiculous. It stemmed mostly from the uncertainty if my soul even exists, or if there's a god who cares enough to save it by offering me love and peace for the duration of earth's journey, like all the good books throughout time have told us. I suppose my largest conundrum is that I do not know what I believe. I have scoffed at or mocked others for their personal convictions, yet I envy their ability to be so certain of personal truths. The concept of God is so twisted in my mind, from years of attending churches with different dogmas as to what God deems virtuous and worthy. Some say we are all worthy of God's love, others believe it is earned through daily deeds, but I can't seem to wrap my head around the guilt that was always shoved down my throat for committing "sins." Even as a young girl it was as though I could see God shaking his head at me in disappointment every time I lied, masturbated, or was mean to someone. Why would I seek the approval of someone whose love was proclaimed unconditional, but who clearly didn't like me when I committed acts of unworthiness? It resonates quite well in my ever so Freudian quest for "fatherly love." Because of all this I had abandoned any sense of spiritual connection I felt for this higher power. I have only believed in tangibility, even the kind that comes from feeling the energy of the person next to me or the city in which I live. However, none of it has ever come down from the heavens on a cloud to show me the right way to be (no matter what the bible says...I wasn't there). My mother said something to me once when I was young, and although there is a propensity for malarkey to fall out of her mouth most of the time, every so often there are slivers of insight: no one can judge what goes on in the dark between a person and their God. For all the years of exposure to Christians who concern themselves with the behavior of others, who try to pray away what they deem "sinful" in the people around them, I pose the question as to why they are so worried about the soul's affectation from the acts of one's flesh? Leave them to their God I say. I do not pretend to be a theologian with expert knowledge on the lives of Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha, Lao Tzu or anyone of the sort. Eighteen years of bible thumping, 2 semesters of southeast Asian religion, and years of yoga study does not a spiritual guru make. I don't care what anyone else is into, what works for them or begrudge their journey, but I just don't want to hear about it. To blatantly quote Lao Tzu "Those who know do not talk; those who talk do not know. Keep your mouth closed...." Truer words have never been spoken in my humble opinion. So I guess one could perceive that I think all of our religious prophets, sons of god, or deities who rule the land, sea and sky, were just a bunch of loud mouthed egomaniacs who wanted the world to take on their dogma to satisfy some need for joint community through belief. However, I've already established that I don't know what I believe, yet continue to spew my own ideas, making anything I say truly a moot point. Since I'm already disturbing the taboo waters of religion I will gladly remain open in divulging my own practice of calling out for help in moments of deep struggle when I am alone in the dark. I ask for love and support that cannot come from the human realm and which I find necessary in order to move forward day after day in a world with priorities so far up its own backside that it causes us to swim in a sea of daily excrement.
Is there a God? How the hell should I know? I laugh inside any time someone says "I just know"......please. Well, you don't know the sky is blue unless you've seen it, and you don't know that wind exists unless you feel it on your skin or watch it knock down a tree; you know that 2 + 2 = 4 because it was taught with a tangible concept to you. What we end up with is belief. People believe plenty of things that aren't necessarily true. Just go to your nearest high school and get the daily gossip from any random teenage girl and they will tell you any number of truths. Many Americans believe the French are snotty, uptight, cowards who couldn't save their own asses against the Germans, however the perspectives are quite different from this side of the ocean.

Do I have a real point? No, not really. Do I think you should hop on my bandwagon? Not in the slightest. I'm just trying to figure all this out, and it's better to get it out of my head with the help of my fingers than to overindulge a brain which has a hard enough time coping while millions of emotions, rational and irrational thoughts, chemical reactions from hormones, blood sugar, oxygen or the lack thereof, are swirling around inside it.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Indoor Mania

Even though being in this condition is a perfectly good excuse to sit around and get stoned, so as to not lose my mind with every thought under the sun bouncing against the walls of my apartment, I need something to do right now. My focus is oozing out through all four million plus pores in my skin and I admit to feeling pulled in each of those directions. I could stretch, scrub the floor, clean the shelves of the refrigerator, vacuum, scrub the oven, individually sterilize each little rock in my bathroom sink, study French, read Garcia-Marquez or Flaubert or Steven Pinker or Dhiravamsa, practice piano, practice singing, memorize music, learn new music, watch videos of people singing the music I need to learn, find old recordings of the music, research the libretto or poetry of the music, double check my translations of the music, organize the shelf behind my bed that keeps piling up with crap so that everything is within reaching distance, finally decide what to do with the two boxes of CDs I have no room for ::::breathe:::: or write. I have been laughing all day about the first moments I physically got up and went to fill the ritual kettle with water so it would be on its way boiling after I returned from the salle de bains.
I'm sure my family doesn't want to hear this, but I thought I'd give fair warning; I rarely wear a stitch of clothing at home and never to bed. I love living alone (well except at the moment, as leaving the house is quite a feat). So, when I arrived in the kitchen and took the kettle from the window sill, filled it with water and turned on the stove I had nothing on but my cast and suddenly surprised my new neighbor across the way with my birthday suit. It was a common occurrence with the last neighbor, as that apartment's bathroom window is directly opposite my kitchen window. At times he'd be getting out of the shower as I'd head to the kitchen and although sometimes we'd wave, we simply became used to each other's nudity like an old married couple. This morning (or noonish) I saw a girl with a ponytail who was hanging a curtain - an idea that has eluded the rest of us apparently. My only reaction was: huh, new neighbor. That led me to wonder about my lack of reaction. Why hadn't I tried to cover up or worry if I'd offended her? Ultimately it just made me laugh at my own priorities. I remembered that I don't care about such things and then I thought well, I am in France as the stereotype goes, but it's not the same in the north as it is in the south. It is colder and a bit more prudish than one might expect when it comes to such things.
Personally I am not offended by nudity. Perhaps it's because my parents (especially my mother) regularly partook in clothing optional practice around the house. Dad would at least grab his bathrobe in the mornings, keeping his exposure to us children very limited - and we thank him for that. I suppose it is hard being a parent trying to get three children out of bed, showered, dressed, fed and driven to school all the while needing to do those things for yourself. Clothing must have just been low on my mother's priority list. I don't blame her. I see the appeal. Anyone who has hung out with me in summertime knows that the main staple of my wardrobe is skin. This has mostly to do with muggy New York summers that make every thread of clothing stick to you while feeling as though you're breathing under water, therefore making any sort of cloth related insulation a terrible idea. However, I am starting to see the downside of around the clock nudity. Depending on one's mood it can distort what is seen in the mirror. Some days all I can see are stretch marks, dry skin, extra padding in the tummy, areas that used to be naturally buff, but somehow decided to go on strike, and a myriad of other self-criticisms that would rival the catty panel of America's Next Top Model. Other days (which usually include boredom) there are moments of posing, arching and the distorting of one's figure to satisfy some egomaniacal thirst that one is still appealing. As for the rest of the time, acceptance of whatever is there tends to take precedence. No use in wanting to change things that can't be fixed, or whining about what could be if one is not willing to do anything about it. I have never been a tiny person, nor would I want to be. If I were really thin I would waste money on tiny designer jeans to increase the bootyliciousness of my backside anyway. Having one built in is much less expensive, and creates a lovely cushion of absorption should falling be a regular habit.... The lack of clothing in combination with too much physical inactivity is starting to give me what the Catholics might confess to their priest as "impure thoughts" about.....well everything really. I can't exactly get out to meet anyone, nor was I seeing anyone before this happened, nor would I be inclined to want to be with someone while in a cast (feeling sexy just isn't in the cards when you know you have 7 inch ingrown leg hair) and also don't want to run the risk of someone who prefers the "gimpy girls" and could end up breaking my other leg to appease his particular fetish. Is it twisted that I can imagine the conversation between such a disturbed individual and myself? "Sweetheart, but you look so beautiful hopping on one leg. If we simply break the left one, then the right one will have time to grow stronger, keeping you from feeling out of balance." Then he would probably have the nerve to break-up with me once I had rehabilitated both legs and was back to being a normal homo erectus. Jerk.
While I'm on the subject of dating in France I would like to take this opportunity to dispel the rumor that French men are the best lovers. I was chatting with a friend of mine yesterday about her experiences with men while living here in Paris and we arrived at the same conclusions. I will not lump the homosexual male populous into this argument, but I gladly speak with full confidence from a female's perspective. These men are all about the chase. I know there are several self-help dating book authors who would say that about most men, but the French take it to new heights. They spend so much time in their game of pursuit, flirting, teasing and taunting us women until we finally give in, but by that time they are so ready to pounce on you that they move through the entire love-making experience with such haste, it usually ends with some sort of equipment malfunction, making us wonder why we indulged in their ridiculous little game in the first place. This country is not known for its valor, so why would one expect that from its men? (Although, courage and bravery rarely describe anything in the modern world, aside from a skewed view of military heroism). It also baffles me how little these men appear to be. I feel as though I could hoist their waif-like bodies over one shoulder and nearly snap it in two if not careful. One day I'll write a book entitled, "Whomever said French men were the best lovers....was a French man." I think the photo below should be on the cover, but I'd swap out the beret for a cigarette to adhere to accuracy. In the interim I shall research all the Scandinavian churches and non-French rugby game locations throughout Paris in hopes of a better dating pool.

I have been out a few times and stayed with friends for a couple of days here or there, but I'm really at the mercy of my physical limitations and it's pissing me off. I was depressed and not talking to anyone, stewing in an unbathed sanctuary while doing nothing but watching movies, but now I'm just annoyed with it all. Having the option to do nothing versus being forced into its throes does not have the same effect. Yes, perhaps I'm supposed to be thankful for the ability to do other things and feel all inspired, but really it's overcome with impatience. Wanting to get back to my life where I wasn't participating as heavily as I should have been is really starting to take over. The second week out of the hospital I really needed to do something that felt normal, otherwise I was liable to start cutting up books and sheet music in a collaging frenzy on one of the four walls I have been forced to stare at recently. I hadn't really done much singing since all of this happened, but I had been looking through my repertoire, as I have a new found love for some classical French music that I've never taken the time to learn. A friend of mine here in Paris who is a baritone called me up and asked if I would be interested in collaborating on a small recital at the home of our Pianist. It would be an intimate evening with some friends at minimal cost to us. This gave me plenty of ideas which inspired the outing to the pianist's home for a program discussion and rehearsal for the three of us that weekend. I coordinated with my friend to pick me up at 2pm (or 14:00) so that we'd have at least an hour to get there via bus. The metro is still out of the question unless I'm going to sit down on the stairs, slide up and down, exposing my hands and bum to any number of atrocities that might be lingering on the bottom of Paris's feet. There are not as many options for elevators/escalators as one might hope in this scenario. It seemed easy enough, two buses, one transfer and eventually let out 2 blocks in front of our destination. To begin Sylvain was 20 minutes late....he is always late and I should have known better by now than to give him the exact time to arrive. We missed the first bus and had to wait another 15 minutes for the next one. Getting on the first bus was ok with the crutches, and people were quick to offer their seats for me which was admittedly kind of fun. Almost makes me look forward to becoming an old lady. I might walk around with a cane and ugly shoes on purpose just to make people give up their seats to me or let me ahead of them in line. The second bus however, was where the day's catastrophe began. The transfer between the two buses was much further than it indicated on the map and this was the first time I had walked more than a block on crutches. We arrived at the second bus stop and of course it was in the middle of a busy shopping area with no bench to sit on. I toughed it out pretty well while dealing with the cold and less than ideal circumstances. One bus comes toward us, but of course it was not the one we wanted, then the next and the next and the next.....we must have stood there for almost half an hour before our desired bus number came along. We were late, I was cold, in pain and frustrated to no end. Fighting back tears, I stood on my numb left foot with the crutches digging into my underarms in the cold air until the bus finally arrived. I let everyone on before me, and hopped toward a seat, but before I was able to secure myself, the ever so considerate bus driver took off into traffic and I went flying. Luckily there was a giant pole which killed my momentum, allowing me to catch myself from falling. A whole slew of multi-lingual expletives came flying out of my mouth in the odd order of "Sheisse! Puta-mierda-pinche-cabron, you fucking asshole; MERDE!" After an uninspired apology, he informed the bus that due to a "manifestation" (or event) at one of the plazas, we would not be making the scheduled stops....I was about to go postal. Then somehow dispatch came through to give me a break and we made it safely to our stop. It took a while to settle in and regain circulation in my left leg, but by the time it was my turn to sing something interesting happened. In the past I've often had a hard time getting out of my head and being in the moment when it comes to singing (or living for that matter). Since being in Paris I have had to go directly from very emotional experiences straight into rehearsal. I admit I had never been good at not becoming affected vocally under such circumstances, but one day I just decided to breathe into the uncomfortable feelings and embrace them as opposed to compartmentalizing and pretending they didn't exist. I couldn't believe that it worked. This day, I was overcome with a lot and rather than dauntingly approach the obstacle I just sang as though I had not a care in the world....and it was good. Like...really good. For the first time since I left school have I felt that I am actually capable of succeeding as a singer. It's interesting because this past year was also the first time I had thought about giving up this dream completely. It's the first time in my life I haven't allowed the definition of my persona to revolve around this talent, or worried what I would be like without the display of this gift. I don't know how I feel about destiny or if we have one. I do know that the sound of the instrument that was built inside me is truly beautiful, but I don't know if it's supposed to be for the world or just for me. I don't know if it's a heavenly gift that is my cross to bear as I toil to make it heard in the world so it can share the light of God. Maybe I don't want to fight. Perhaps I have spent so many years trying to make peace with myself that struggling for the rest of my life has lost its appeal. Could I be happy spending my life on a beach, with land to tend, drinking in the sun, writing all day and singing at night in a little cafe off the coast of Mexico? The more time I spend in large cities with tons of people the less I feel like being an active member of a metropolis. These could be the rants of a crazy cooped up woman who has just survived her first Parisian winter, but it could be worth pondering.

For your entertainment I give you Robin Williams's interpretation on French cliches......

Monday, February 22, 2010

Laid Up Leg Up

I started writing this about a week ago, but I'll admit being laid up in bed with not a lot of energy doesn't exactly inspire brain waves to move toward creativity. For those who don't know, I broke my ankle about 2 weeks ago and have been quietly mending since then. Now on day 16 of invalidism, I finally feel up to finishing what I've been trying to write down for weeks.

Literally slower than a one-legged man in a butt kicking contest. I have never been more frustrated with the inability of mobility. I was fine with a resting state of inertia before this happened, but too much of a good thing in this area is a lot worse than simply eating an entire box of cookies. I haven't felt like doing much of anything because every time I exert myself my body decides that it's had enough and tries to wimp out on me. I loathe this feeling so much that even the idea of sitting in a French government office all day is starting to sound pleasant. I am not going to lie for the sake of pleasantry and say that it's really not that bad, because it is. It completely sucks (if I had a better synonym to describe this feeling I would have used it, but there isn't one) and I want to cry and scream about it most of the time. Yes, I have crutches; two pair in fact (one polio style and the all-American underarm burners as well) but before you wonder why it's such a big deal, please go to your nearest hospital with two broken bones in your ankle, have them cut you open so they can drill 7 screws and a metal plate into your bones so you look like a junior high carpentry project, dope you up on morphine for days only to take it away so it then forces you into immediate detox (withdrawal) for the next week until you just can't vomit anymore and then.... Lift yourself up and down on one leg anytime you need to urinate (because let's face it, all of those opiates are going to keep you nice and constipated for a few more days) and do it all in another country where you are in such a state that speaking your mother tongue is difficult enough, let alone any other language.
We all remember the kid that broke a leg in school. We drew asinine pictures in magic marker on their casts, tried out the crutches and thought they were cool, and were jealous that they were able to obtain a get out of jail free card for at least 2 weeks of school. My bubble is officially burst. Being an adult with broken bones is just pathetic and sad.
I suppose I should start at the beginning and explain how this less than blessed event came to pass. I was leaving a friend's place after a lovely evening of dinner, wine, good company and some dancing. Being that in France most elevators, lifts or ascenseurs are rarely made for more than two small nose to nose people and there were three of us leaving the apartment, I opted to take the stairs. It was four flights down, but I didn't make it past the first. Most buildings have large, wooden circular stairs with carpet that is being bolted down by metal rods and screws. I was wearing my cowboy boots as I would any other day, and slipped on the last two steps, which buckled my foot under so when I landed it snapped my ankle perfectly between my body and the stairs. I must have been in shock, as I have very little recollection of what happened directly after that. My friends lifted me and put me in the elevator to go back up one floor to the apartment. They got my boot off and assessed the damage which led to the calling of an ambulance. I was convinced that it might not be that bad and so I would just wait it out until morning. I did know I had done something really bad to it because I was in some seriously unfamiliar pain and normally have a pretty high threshold when it comes to that sort of thing. The next morning after I had to crawl to the bathroom for fear I would wet my pants, my friends took me to the hospital. I must say that if one finds him/herself in such a predicament that might require an emergency room (in Paris) I highly recommend 8:30am on a Saturday. Completely void of people, I was immediately whisked away to an exam room with a very sexy doctor from Luxembourg and his handsome little intern. Mind you at this point in the game I fear my pride was wounded far worse than my ankle, especially when they removed my socks to uncover the hairy legs of winter and non-pedicured feet. Only after that mortification did I discover my right ankle to be twice the size of the left. After the intake, I was supposed to go to "radio" on a rollaway gurney only to be left waiting in the middle of a giant hallway for about an hour. I watched a handful of doctors and nurses walk by who were all well above par in the looks department. I suppose if one is forced to wait, enjoying the sites is always a viable option in time passing. A woman came and asked me something in French about "radio" and I really still had no idea what she meant until I saw the x-ray machine. Duh....radiology. Meanwhile back in the vacant waiting room were my patient friends Jeremy and Thibaut. Both sleep deprived without any news of me they sat and waited. While they were there, a gigantic (meaning tall and wide) man walked up to the nurses station in sweat pants, huffing, puffing and sweating - registered, asked the orderly for a plastic bag, then decided the best seat of the forty empty chairs spread generously across the waiting room would be the one right next to Jeremy. He proceeded to sit down and vomit profusely into the small, clear plastic bag he had requested. This made me burst out laughing when I heard this from Jeremy. By that time I was fresh with the news that I needed surgery and would be admitted to the hospital only to perhaps find out there might not be room for me on the orthopedic surgeon's schedule that day. Oh, and did I mention they put me on drugs too? Yeah, that did make things much more hilarious and able to digest. Come to find out I was in a brand new orthopedic wing at Saint Antoine Hospital which is supposedly the best in Paris. However, the fresh out of school nurse who came in to take six vials of blood from me, left giant bruises as she couldn't seem to decipher what veins looked like. I wanted to stab her several times and see if that might improve her skills so as to keep her patients from looking like heroine junkies. The reality of all this felt as though it had barely set in when they wheeled me to be prepped for surgery. I had never broken a bone, had surgery or been admitted into a hospital since the day I was born. Still a little out of it I tried to decipher broken French and English with the nurses, surgeon and anesthesiologist that I was a singer and if they were going to knock me out or have to intubate for any reason to use a small tube and be extremely careful with my vocal folds. Ultimately I opted for a nerve block that would simply keep me from feeling any sensation below the waist for a few hours and was fully conscious in surgery (aside from the awesome sedative and morphine combination they injected into my bloodstream - intravenous drugs really do have their up side). For those of you who are a bit squeamish I would advise you read ahead. I wanted to watch the surgery, but they wouldn't let me. I did get to see them draw the giant Frankenstein-ian marks on either side of my ankle to use as for the cutting and suchers reference +++++. I laid there for about an hour and then started to hear what sounded like a power drill. It was complete with flying liquid and debris, and brought with it a smell I will never forget. At first I thought perhaps it was burning flesh, but then I realized that scent was coming from the hot screws being drilled into the bones of my leg. It was reminiscent of a barbecue near a slaughterhouse. I watched them roll the cloth and fiberglass around my leg. It's an odd perspective to watch people handle a part of your body that has zero sensation. It might as well have been someone else's.
By the time surgery was over, my less than opaque hospital gown was completely torn and falling off (not that it prevented one from seeing everything in the first place). For perhaps the first time ever, I had a Garden of Eden moment of bashfulness, when I realized I was naked in a room full of strangers. My friends had been with me just before I left for surgery, and brought some bare essentials, reading and writing materials. I imbibed in a perfectly wretched hospital meal that night and met the over night nursing staff. They were three jovial women that came in laughing and singing, but whom did not speak English, so this forced me to fight through my drug ridden haze to communicate. By this time I had a roommate in the bed next to me in the form of a 75 year old French woman who appeared to have fallen and dislocated her shoulder. She was wearing the same transparent gown as I, and let me tell you I don't ever want to see that much wrinkled nakedness again until I'm staring at it in the mirror 40 years from now. I didn't think I could feel much worse until I needed to urinate. It had been a few hours since surgery and I figured I'd call a nurse to help wheel me over to the bathroom in a chair....but no. This crazy heifer brought me a nasty, white, post-war bedpan and stuck it under my ass. Whatever miniscule sliver of remaining dignity I had, took a flying leap right out the nearest window. I sat on that stupid bedpan for about an hour in various positions trying to convince myself that it was "okay to pee in bed." I confess, I was a bed wetter as a child until about the age of 9 I would say. It didn't happen often, but it was humiliating nonetheless and I always hated having to tell my mother because I knew waking her up in the middle of the night with this news was never something she was happy to hear. So, at this moment I had to fight past the fear of being scolded for wetting myself, plus doing it in front of two other human beings. I just couldn't make it happen and the bedpan was starting to dig into my rather plump ass cheeks, so she took it away. At 3am they came in to give me a new dripping bag of drugs and asked if I wanted to try again. It still took some time but when the nurse returned she asked if I was successful and then threw her arms in the air with cheer as I confirmed that I had been. Then she wiped me......that.....I can't.
I am a very proud, independent person who never asks for help from other people, and therefore is not used to accepting it. When I have asked in the past for help from my friends or family I'm always ridden with guilt while doing it. However, it appeared in this scenario I didn't get to make the choice as to whether I would accept help or not. I have learned (mostly the hard way) that when we are resistant to making certain decisions, life will eventually make them for us, but never in the way we expected. So, at the risk of negating or retracting other things I've said about not depending on others and doing everything on my own..... I see that I need to learn how to let go of pride by allowing others into the parts of my life where I feel weak or vulnerable. That accepting help and needing to depend on people is okay and should not carry shame. My parents have said to me on numerous occasions that I was the child they never worried about because I always wanted to do things my own way without help. I wish they had known that even though I have a strong will for independence, I still needed to be taken care of like a child and taught that people can be dependable even when you think you don't need them. Some lessons come later, and life has an interesting way of teaching you when you refuse to learn on your own.
A few days after surgery I was allowed to go home, but still had to face one flight of stairs to the 6th floor as the elevator stops at the 5th. I really need to acknowledge these amazing people who were at my side these last couple of weeks in some of the worst moments of my life. I have only known them for a few months, yet their kindness, generosity and care have shown what lovely people they are. Jeremy stayed with me and made sure I was settled into the hospital with a working phone and a list of phone numbers. He visited me every day, has done grocery shopping and comes over at 9am every Thursday to let in the nurse who takes my blood to make sure my platelets aren't going to kill me. Tara has been so helpful and amiable when it comes to making sure I'm comfortable, have everything that I need and brings me delectable chocolate. She and Thibaut even had me stay at their place for a few days and they waited on me hand and foot (not to mention that I took the first bath I've had in France and clean hair for the first time since leaving the hospital). Thibaut is in the field of naturopathic medicine, so he has taken on the responsibility of getting me to and from the hospital, doctor's appointments and dealing with all of the paperwork in French to make sure I know what is going on. He even did my gross and disgusting pile of dishes....and yet somehow still wants to be my friend. More thank yous to Sylvain, Hanaye, Nanci (Camille and Juliet's mother) and everybody who keeps checking in on me via phone or skype. I have more fun stuff to share and tell, but I'll wait until tomorrow to bombard you all some more.

From your favorite Paris gimp,


Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Les Ennuis Terribles!

Last night before I went to bed I started to recall and write the story that led me to become a singer and the events which followed landing me in Paris. However, after this morning's minor debacles I've decided to finally put together all of my annoyances about being here in France. Don't misunderstand, as this city is completely gorgeous and every time I go outside it makes me smile in some fashion or another. My favorite thing to do is take a walk. The nuance of romance is built into nearly every building be they Romanesque, Baroque or Neoclassic. Much like Rome, it's difficult not to stumble upon some sort of great monument. The boulangeries are ubiquitous, the open air markets are filled with fresh items to indulge any and every gluttonous desire, and there is never a shortage of curious side streets to help one become lost in another world. What could I possibly have to complain about, right? HA! I'll go out on a limb here, while using fictitious statistics based on different articles I've read, and say that 80% of home grown Americans have never left the country and I'm sure at least half of them have made some antiquated generalization about the French or France that is based in myth or hearsay. The craze of "Freedom Fries!" is a perfect example of those who are quick to criticize a land they've never bothered to set foot in, let alone outside the gates of their trailer park to investigate (not that there's anything wrong with a good old fashioned double-wide). Of the 20% of Americans with passports, I'm sure Paris might be a romantic or educational destination and perhaps they'll come home with charming anecdotes of their week long experience, but that is hardly enough time for gathering information to make assumptions. I will also not pretend to be fully versed in the ways of the French, but in the last four months I have come across the same bag of irritations that makes a bout with poison oak seem pleasant.

Where should I begin......ah yes, this morning. I woke to make coffee as I always do after my eight hours of psychedelic dreaming and twenty minute morning meditation (alliteration makes me giggle with joy). I sleepily went to fill the kettle with water to heat on the stove, which I use to pour over the lovely Italian coffee grounds that will steep in the heat to bring me that glorious first sip of caffeinated goodness. I turned on the faucet which began to exhibit signs of a choking victim by wheezing and spitting out bits of water. About a week ago there was a notice in the entry way of my building informing the tenants that the water would be switched off from 8:30am - 5:00pm on Monday, February 8th. Well, that works out for most people with normal jobs, but I don't have school until noon on Mondays and then I come home before going to work to teach a class from 6-9. I tried to remind myself how I needed to get up early yesterday to shower, make coffee and brush my teeth, but alas my body decided to sleep through any chance I had of that. Also, the last time they threatened to turn off the water it didn't seem to happen until three days after the fact (this is very typical French) so I admit I felt my chances of getting a shower in would still be quite favorable. I woke up at 9 a.m. startled by what seemed to be elephants parachuting down though the building walls. As, I stumbled to the kitchen I was indeed met with disappointment. Just to be sure, I turned on the bathroom sink and shower as well, which only brought back the angry elephants in the walls instead of water. I had to accept my smelly fate for the day, brush my teeth with sparkling water and use what was left in the kettle to make a small cup of coffee. Of course there was still no water when I returned home and left again at 5:30. My class ended early last night so I rushed home in the hopes of having a shower, but to avail. I turned on every faucet and left them on until the water finally came rushing out (or up, as I am on the 6th floor) and in full disregard for water conservation I let them run until hot water appeared....not really, the hot water never came out. The thought of a cold shower in winter was less appealing than toughing it out until this morning. So, you can see how I might be a little more than perturbed by the kitchen sink spitting at me for the first five minutes of the day. I decided sit here in my own filth before having the glorious shower I've been looking forward to, as to keep me in a state of irritation while writiting......ooooo so method of me! Or is that just for actors.....

Some group is always on strike for some reason. It took me two months to receive my modem and cable box because the La Poste was on strike twice for a two week period. My landlady received a subpoena from her property management company because she hadn't responded to the billing notices for the taxes on my apartment that were stuck in the mail limbo due to this ridiculous strike, and guess who got to answer the door to the daunting man who served the papers? There is not a lot of room for logic in the French system and you must succumb to their way or the high way when dealing with them. There are people who are paid to push paper to slow you down and make life miserable. I am not exaggerating. The government has no problem paying for these types of positions be they public or private. However, if you like to try to shoot for a sense of efficiency, that does not exist unless it serves the interest of the particular French agency. They will put you off until they feel like dealing with you without any consideration of your circumstance. I had all of my paperwork in to get my work visa after receiving a student visa, but I had to wait six weeks in order to get a mandatory chest x-ray to make sure I wasn't bringing tuberculosis into the country before they decided to approve a work permit. I could have taken out all of Paris faster than the bubonic plague in a matter of six weeks if I were that disease ridden. If it is their fault that something has not been done on time, they will always immediately absolve themselves and punish you for not making the deadline. I guess they would have another American to blame for destroying France.

Alright, THAT'S IT! At this exact moment while I sit here complaining, there is a bit of a ruckus in the hallway. There's always something or someone disturbing my peace, but this is the same noise over and over and over again..... I just now went out to investigate only to discover there is a man tinkering with the elevator. I use the word "elevator" loosely, as it is hardly designed for more than one person and moves at the pace of the simile involving January's molasses. The man appears to be pushing the button...and pushing the button...and pushing the button... and receiving the same response one might hear when a car's battery has died. This is not good news for me. As previously mentioned, I live on the 6th floor. The lift only goes to the 5th, but one flight of spiral stairs is better than six. My right to bitch and moan has just been validated. Buildings with old romantic nuance are pretty to look at, but a pain in the ass for modern living.

Let's keep going down the laundry list of complaints, shall we? Oh come now, my pain can be your pleasure. You know all of those lovely walks I like to take? Well, I spend more than half my time with my eyes glued to the ground so as to avoid the fresh piles of steaming dog poo left on the street by the very powerful canine community here in Paris. Dogs seem to have more rights than I do in this city. They take their masters everywhere without leashes, often determining the route and pace of travel. They stop and defecate anywhere they like without having to clean it up and no one says boo about it. There have been days when I have taken no more than one step outside my front door and walked directly into it. The animals are carried everywhere by the master if it's raining (which is ALL the time in winter). Dogs are allowed inside everywhere and if they are not then they are allowed to be tied up directly inside the front door, so this way the entire establishment has the luxury of listening to them yap at the top of their voice box until their "master" returns. Yes, most of these are yappy little dogs. I will never understand the choosing of dog breeds in Paris. It's worse than New York. The population of white, long haired, short, small yappy dogs is simply ridiculous. I really do love animals and am a dog person, but I also remember that I am the human and they are the pet. There's even a specialty, high end, doggy clothing store just up the street from where I live with designs by Jean-Paul Gautier. I mean really, imagine for a moment if I wandered around wherever I liked in my Gautier jacket, spewing excrement all over the sidewalks, screaming at the top of my lungs inside every store I entered and then whined for someone to carry me so I wouldn't get my feet dirty, I'd be known as the town crazy and probably be thrown in jail!

I love the apartment I'm in, mostly because I get to live by myself, but it's not without its limitations. If you've talked to me or read other postings you know about the miniature shower situation. At the risk of handing out too much information, or TMI as the youngsters like to say, I am rediscovering what a hairy woman I can be. Shaving is just not worth it, unless there is the rare occasion when I wear a dress or have a date, and it always proves to be a most vexatious incident. Speaking of hair, the blow dryer situation is something I fear will never be resolved. In the States, a good hair dryer would melt off your eyelid and blow away your lashes if you let it, but here it's more like the hot desert wind of the Santa Ana's. Riding on the back of a Vespa without a helmet would be a better solution. This of course, has to do with the allowed voltage in this country, which has recently been changed to make the world a greener place to live (although green as a color is not what I would use to describe Paris, however kudos for trying). That brings me to the next complaint of electrical wiring and number of outlets. If I run the radiator and blow dryer at the same time, I must extinguish any lights. If I turn on every light in my apartment it is only slightly brighter than that of Abe Lincoln and his candles. Each electric outlet (I have three) only allows one plug at a time, and of course I have a power strip, but with the limiting number of four plugs. OH! And, did I mention that because each wall outlet is 2 prong, one must also have an adapter for the very strong 3 prong power strip.....? Er go, this leaves me with entirely too many things to plug in and not enough room to use them. I am constantly forced to have to choose between the computer, modem, two telephone mounts - one via the internet and one land line (which is why some of you have TWO phone numbers for me, incase I need to unplug one....) - the keyboard, the printer, the lamp and the several chargers for any number of "rechargeable" electronic devices. Enough said (photos included).

Let's move on to local shopping for ordinary household items. Toilet paper. I just want nice, normal, white, unscented toilet paper. It seems a most outlandish thing to request. There is a rather large section of an aisle in the grocery store dedicated to this necessary paper product, however it is overrun with colored paper coordinated with a corresponding scent. Examples include: peach color/ peach scent; pink color/ rose scent; green color/ pine scent; lavender color/ lavender scent. There are some "fashionable" unscented colors such as bright orange-red or black, but something about black toilet paper just feels wrong to me. As I said, I do not wish to dye or scent my delicate areas, and (avert your eyes to the next sentence for another TMI moment) I would like to know the color of my bodily fluids without having to use a color wheel to figure them out.
I can't seem to find any cleaning products with bleach in them. Ammonia is as good as it gets, but I have always hated that smell. No economy sized Kikkoman low sodium soy sauce, in fact most "ethnic" foods are non existent except for the abundance of coconut milk for some strange reason. The import Mexican food products are all made by Old El Paso, and the thing that really makes me sad and nostalgic is peanut butter. Being that there are no peanut farms in France, there is no such thing as French peanut butter. You can get jams, marmalade and Nutella inexpensively by the bucketful, but a 4oz jar of Skippy in the "international food" section will cost you 7 euros. For a country that claims to have the best and highest cuisine in the world, their ability to innovate and fuse gourmet items from other countries and cultures says a lot about their ability to adapt in general.
In my opinion, that is probably the biggest problem with the French. They pride themselves upon being very well educated, learning the art of gastronomy, developing sensitive palates for wine and cheese, believing that travel is an important way to discover the world, and yet at the end of the day will insult everything they have seen, tasted, smelled or experienced outside of France. It is truly preposterous. No wonder they are filled with such a sense of ennui. It's as though they are inveterately bred for nothing other than to keep an idea of loathing for outsiders, and to exclude any antipode to their opinions for fear it might rouse suspicion that their way is not the best!

Monday, February 1, 2010

"Do Not Go to the Garden of Flowers!"

Sorry I've been on hiatus lately. I could say "I've just been so busy" which in the past was always code for: I don't feel like talking to anyone. The truth is, I got into a really odd sleeping pattern coupled with wildly vivid dreams of piloting a helicopter, riding a pink bicycle up a fictitious 13th Ave in New York City (I hate pink) and being the principal of a school where I threw out Itzhak Perlman for racially discriminating against one of my students. Hmm......I guess I have been busy after all. In turn, that has made most of my writing a bit nonsensical and fragmented. I wouldn't have wanted to torture anyone with that. However, an email from my lovely Aunt Rebecca gave me that little extra push I needed.

I watched Almost Famous the other day. Although there are plenty of bandwagon sayings I can lay down that made the movie itself famous, the one I always related to most was when Cream Magazine Editor, Lester Bangs said, "I'm always home! I'm uncool!" For some reason, people seem to think I'm cool and the truth is, I've just learned to play the part. I am SO not cool. I am a nerd. I have always been the weird uncool girl, but not in a death-metal-kill-rodents and wear a vile of blood around my neck, kind of way. Just in that I'd rather study music, math, literature and science, so I guess that makes me a geek way. I do admit to getting very caught up in the "industry of cool" that has in fact taken over the world and left it with such superficial priorities where Aristotle himself would probably be one of those guys wandering the streets of Manhattan with a homemade cardboard sandwich sign spouting his philosophies in magic marker, and we'd either walk quickly past him (for fear he'd smell of dirty ass) or give him a name like "apocalypse Joe" or something. We've stopped listening and looking for the concrete truths because we'd rather play with our iphone (and all its very cool programs). I'm not leaping out against technology because if I wasn't able to type away all the crazy thoughts in my head, my fingers would bleed with ink stains and arthritis might set in sooner from gripping a pen with all my might. I had a point.....oh yes, I'm not cool. It's all a facade. Or, perhaps what really makes me "cool" is that I don't believe there's just one way of doing things. I believe in questioning rules and ways of life that try to bind, pigeonhole or define us simply because others need to throw us into a category of something they can comprehend. I tried that for far too long so that I might fit in and be accepted by my peers. Once I learned the formula for being superficially cool, I used it to my advantage and I will admit it is a good skill set to have.

When I first moved to New York I remember hearing two questions that I had never been so confronted with in my entire life: What are you? and, What do you do? My first answer was always....I'm a woman (or then, girl) from California, but that was never a good enough answer for the deep rooted cultures of New York Italians, Irish, Jews or Puerto Ricans. It was like a qualifier question so they could judge whether or not they were supposed to like me. I found it really annoying and so sometimes I would just make things up for fun to study their reactions. Once I had an entire Irish pub convinced I was from Argentina with a Spanish father, went to university in London (which was why my English was so good) had a ski chalet in Switzerland and a beach house in Cinque Terre. The story developed over a few hours and several scotches, as did my strong "Argentinian" accent. The second question was not so much of a mystery as to why they asked it, I just simply found it almost rude or condescending. Mostly because I hated having to answer: well I work as a make-up artist, but I also sing opera. I'm sure all artists feel this way to a degree, as though they have to explain to the people with "real jobs" why it is we do what we do. I once dated a computer programmer who was from a family of scientists and engineers, and his sister asked me, "Did your parents freak out when you told them you wanted to study music?" I laughed because both of my parents are musicians and the thought of them freaking out about any of my decisions just seemed absurd (mostly because after a certain point they gave up trying to tell me what to do). You can't really make someone who isn't wired the way you are comprehend how you really don't have a choice in the matter. I'm good at other things and could have been an accountant or surgeon with no problem, other than my creative side would have been nagging at me so much it might have turned me into some miserable shrew for denying it. After the initial answer, there always followed a myriad of questions which used to bore me to tears trying to explain to people who knew nothing about opera. I mean, don't get me wrong, I love to talk and me is a great subject, but I prefer conversation that requires the exploration of ideas rather than a series of 20 questions. My favorite was when someone would try not to offend me by saying they didn't like opera in a nice way. I would let them squirm in their excuse for a few minutes and then finally let them off the hook by saying, "Don't worry, it's not for everyone." Although, I do admit that my ornery side would come out if someone even mentioned Phantom of the Opera to me. My hair would stand on end, I would raise one eyebrow, half-smile and in my most soothing and charming voice put them back in their place with some mild condescension and humiliation. It was a sure-fire way to change the subject and keep them from the requesting that I "sing something!" See? I'm still not cool.

I remember being in high school and starting to hang out with some of the rebels in the drama department, mainly because there was a boy I had a crush on. He was best friends with this really cute girl who was what we'd call "slutty" and she smoked, drank and cursed all the time. Being an impressionable Southern Baptist girl who was never exposed to this vein of life, it left me very curious. My parents didn't drink, so there was never alcohol in the house, swearing was strictly forbidden (my mother used to threaten the 1950's method of washing our mouths out with soap if we ever did so) and of course there was never any talk of sexual behavior, activity or orientation. In fact, the time my mother forced herself to have the "reproductive talk" with me, was on our way to my 4th grade basketball championship (nice timing ma) and that was the last I heard of it from the adults in my life. I was the first born, so I never had an older sibling to test the waters and let me in on the do's and don'ts of deviancy. Needless to say I had no idea how to get this boy to like me because I had zero experience in his fields of interest. I thought I'd start with cursing. My parents would never know if I did it at school and I wouldn't have to worry about side effects or hiding mysterious odors or unwanted pregnancy. Since never cursing before (and too ashamed to admit I barely knew what any of those words meant) I just went for it full-bore. I started telling a story and throwing in the foul language wherever I could. For a moment it was going quite well as I mimicked their "fuckin' this and fuckin' that," then I said, "and we went to some shit-load little town" first there was confusion, then came the laughter, which was of course followed by mockery. It was one of those adolescent moments where you want an ever so handy, time traveling, trap door to drop beneath your feet. At that moment my uncoolness was ever so apparent and I vowed to never let that happen again. For a while I just laid low, stayed quiet and agreed with anything people said. I turned it into a science experiment, watching their behaviors and interactions as if it were my own little petri dish. By my senior year I had it down to a science and had a whole new group of friends. I still wasn't cool, but I could fake it when necessary. However, the worst part was I felt like a total fraud and was constantly riddled with anxiety that they'd finally figure it out and expose me. For years afterward I would always describe myself as a "social chameleon" which is still very true in ways. I am able to be relaxed in any social setting and talk to everyone without a problem, but now I don't pretend to be anything other than myself. I can attest to the truth that that works out best. There is no longer a need for a little liquid courage, a bump of superpower, or a toke of relaxation to create a false sense of social bonding. It's more fun to just be me and keep everything else in the petri dish. It's gone through the phases of "please like me" to "fuck you if you don't like me" to "It doesn't matter if you like me I'm fine with who I am" to "oh, you like me? That's nice."

I am sure most of us have no idea what is written in our yearbooks from days of old, but there was always one entry that burned itself in my memory. It was from a guy I had known since we were little, we had the same group of friends in high school, were on the swim team together and I thought we were friends. He wrote some type of poem about flowers and how they compared to me and it seemed very sweet until at the very bottom it said, "No you're not! YOU are a WEED!" which was probably funny to him because it rhymed with my last name, but I remember being hurt and it bothered me the few years after whenever I thought of it. That came to mind a while ago and instead of having the insecure little girl's reaction I laughed and thought....he was so right! I began to think of my dad out in the landscape of the beautiful gardens he'd created at our house with his weed-whacker and how irritated he'd get that they would keep coming back, bigger and stronger than the rest of the flowers. They were harder to kill, never easily defeated, and weathered the bleakest of climate conditions.
I decided to see what wikipedia had to say about weeds and I found some relevancy that made me smile:

"Weedy plants generally share similar adaptations that give them advantages and allow them to proliferate in disturbed environments...weeds have adapted to grow and proliferate in human-disturbed areas....The weedy nature of these species often gives them an advantage over more desirable crop species because they often grow quickly...Some plants become dominant when introduced into new environments because they are freed from specialist consumers; in what is sometimes called the “natural enemies hypothesis,” plants freed from these specialist consumers may increase their competitive ability. In locations were predation and mutual competitive relationships no longer exist, some plants are able to increase allocation of resources into growth...."