Tuesday, March 31

Summer Lovers

We were in Greece for these past ten days and it ended up exactly like Summer Lovers with Peter Gallagher. The sun, the strangers offering us cocaine, the all-day-but-extremely-tender threesomes; Summer's lease had all too short a date. You can listen now for the rejuvenated joy in my voice during episode 5 of Treat Me Rough on AUP Radio.
EPISODE 4 [60 mins]
EPISODE 5 [57 mins]

Saturday, March 21

Breaking Vegetarianism

This morning Colby nearly flipped me over the ramp of our bunk bed, which would have landed my neck at the top of our television, my legs scraping along our metallic clothesline, during which he shouted, "I'll feed you the applesauce!" but I saw where he was coming from; I was in the middle of glamorizing the way the snails that I had sucked from their shells with my mouth the night before were wiggling, reaching out with their little feeler-eyes to touch my tongue and then retract back in. He wasn't with me when I ate 10 snails. I had brought a box of 12 to Isabelle's apartment. She tried one [and disliked it]; as for the other unaccounted for snail, I had been trying to wrench it out without a utensil and, accidentally exhaling too hard, had shot the snail [still nestled in its shell] to the other side of her kitchen.

Having fattened up on bread and cheese and every pastry I've been attracted to, adding red wine weight to my mid and lower drifts, I was hungry to find a new way to ingest French culture. Reading translated books that drop names like "Faubourg Saint-Martin" and "Nanantatee" excited me but didn't leave me with a stomach ache and a need to lay down.

Colby's other apartment is near a small, foot-street composed of clean-cut, swirling cobblestones. The bakeries and chocolatiers are famous and everyone on the strip is expensively-dressed. Near the opposite end of the blocks is a restaurant called Escargot, signified by a large bronze [smiling?] snail. It gave me the idea to try something French that, unlike tenderized duck liver, is not specifically an animal rights violation. At least, as far as I'm concerned. A plate of escargots at Escargot is 50€ which is the amount I spend on a week of food, including wine if I don't drink out. Luckily, there are snails sold at Picard.

"It says, The Class Of Gastropoda Is Second Only To Insects..."
"See! They're dumber than insects!"
After the attempted murder, Colby had climbed down the ladder and opened up his computer. I assumed he was reading the Wikipedia page on snails. I was still in bed, defending my last dinner.
"It says, Snails Are Eaten In Several European Countries. They Are Not Insects They Are In Fact Animals. It says, If You Are Vegetarian You Are Definitely Not Allowed To Eat Snails..."
"Oh what-ever, what-ever." He was clearly getting creative with the text.

Picard, my snail provider, is a frozen food grocery store. Everything in the store is in a box in a freezer that you can look down upon, so from the street it's a big white room with big white boxes. When I first noticed Picards around town, usually at night, I pointed out how empty they were, usually inhabited by one or two cashiers. I thought how backward they were, seemingly the "supermarket of the future" in a world evolving toward farmer's markets and re-usable containers.

I'm wrong, though! Picard sells frozen vegetables at a reliable quality in a country where most produce needs to be imported. And cheap! They sell frozen soups and hors d'œuvres and 12 macarons for a few euros that simply defrost by keeping them in the refrigerator, and they taste just like expensive bakery macarons. The box of 12 escargots, pre-buttered and spiced green and kept in their coiled shells, was 3€. I shouldn't have even eaten all of them at once! It was more than enough snails for two. But after this morning I've sworn them off because Colby's right; based on their feelers, gastropods have feelings, too.

Tuesday, March 17

Copycat Abba Group

I secretly [depending on who you talk to] wanted to start a copycat Abba group but apparently Maywood totally beat me to it! They're even from the same general area of Europe. Like Abba, most of their music is unlistenable and like Abba, they feature several Spanish-sounding tracks dealing with things they know nothing about, like war or Southern California.

Their video for "Late at Night" stands as proof to me that, no matter where in the world, all boring suburbs look basically the same.

Monday, March 16

New Wallet

I realized my wallet was gone when we got to the subway station and I reached for money to buy a ticket. Colby helped retrace my steps, but the only hunch we had was that a cackling homeless man with a really cute dog had possibly found my wallet; if we responded to his heckling by giving him a euro, maybe he would return my wallet. We fought that notion though and saved the euro, having only lost a few in losing my wallet. Colby walked me home and I canceled my credit cards through Skype.

The wallet I used to have was from the Gaylord Opryland gift shop in Nashville, TN. It was black and dependable, and printed with "Grand Ole Opry" in orange and brown. It was a great conversation piece with people at the bank.

Last week Colby went to Portugal and Spain with his father, leaving me alone in our dark, eerie apartment that doesn't have a smoke or carbon monoxide detector. I was bitter, but he made it up to me by buying the cutest coin purse in Southern Europe. In needle-point, it depicts an indigenous couple celebrating the harvest or something. Colby later admitted to me that he bought it in the Portuguese airport, but it made little-to-no difference in the way I felt.

Sunday, March 15

I'm Throwing My Life Away Living In France

Special thanks to Gabby Shaw for alerting me immediately and subsequently breaking my heart. My question to her was, could it have been considered a "walk-in" if I just happened to be there anyway?

Friday, March 13

The Innocent Eye Test

Les Enfants Intelligents

Every time I see a seeing-impaired bébé in a stroller, they always look up and around wearing bottle cap glasses. They don't look that cute so I think it's definitely a Harry Potter reference, but who's making it? Are French parents reading Harry Potter et l'ordre du Phénix and modeling their children after the protagonist, or are these babies reading books? I initially ruled the latter out, as I probably learned to read when I was 13 but as kids keep getting smarter, with European kids progressing at a faster rate than young Americans, I am left to wonder - how would doctors know to prescribe lunettes pour les enfants if not by having them read back a seeing-eye chart?

Tuesday, March 10

No Radio Show Tonight!

Take this opportunity to get caught up with past episodes of Treat Me Rough! Tune in next Tuesday to AUP Radio at 22h [4pm EST] for a new installment of advice, long distance dedications, and soothing songs from now and then.
EPISODE 3 [55 mins]
EPISODE 2 [57 mins]
EPISODE 1 [58 mins]

Monday, March 9

New Necklace

The street I live on in Paris has multiple Middle Eastern eateries and West African electronics stores. There are also two major French-chain grocery stories, one hip bar, and a handful of mild-mannered homeless people that I've come to recognize. Everyone on the street looks different from everyone else; presumably, rue du Faubourg Saint-Denis is the only Parisian melting pot.

Down the block there's a store that mainly vends evil eye amulets on varying decorative strings. As soon as I saw the store I wanted to buy the biggest, heaviest one and start wearing it around as a medallion, but there's a lot of voodoo around them. They're meant to block away the curses cast by people with particularly strong glares. The Greeks believe they're as harmful to the people who are cursed as they are to people who cast the spell; Muslims put the pattern on the wings of their airplanes. It's common to find a girl wearing a bracelet with small evil eye charms, but they're always modest. Legend has it that if you put a piece like that on yourself, bad luck will follow you everywhere. How would my neighborhood, with so many differences and proud nationalities, respond to my jokey jewelry?

I went to the store when I saw in the window that they were selling gold bells on thin yellow ropes with plastic beads in primary colors. I bought one for 2€ and wore it home with earbuds plugged into my iPod so I didn't notice that I was ding-a-linging. I've since gotten into the habit of stuffing the bell with paper. But right before I pack my things, I'm going to buy the prettiest evil eye in the store for when I'm back in the US, hanging out in places with like-minded people and a culture of tolerance for anti-religious behavior.

I Thought He Mostly Played Saxophone

Dead Flowers

On the day I arrived in Paris Colby greeted me with a unplaceable yellow flower, best explained as a gourmet dandylion. We put some water in a measuring cup and, weaving the flower through the spice rack, gave his present to me a permanent home.

Now, nearly two months later, the flower's petals are brown. It's small leaves are dark and wrinkled. I saw today that the stem was no longer touching water through a natural combination of absorption and evaporation. Colby had mentioned throwing it away but neither of us had mobilized and I wondered if today would be the day. Then I noticed that the flower, in fact, has three leaves that seem to be thriving, one of which is actually perked straight up as though attached to a plant with roots and soil.

I pulled out the measuring cup, filled half of it with fresh water, and slipped it back under and around the stem of the flower. So when somebody asks you can tell them what kind of person I am.

Sunday, March 8

Yoko Oh-No!

Saturday, March 7

Dubbed Down

When Colby and I went to Belgium everyone we met spoke at least near-perfect English. It made it easier for us to make (Facebook) friends than we had previously experienced, and one of them pointed out that they (as a people) had learned their English from American television and movies.
"We don't dub it like the French do," said Elke, twirling three fingers around one of her blond dreads.

Wednesday, March 4

New Kitchen Decoration

Gatsby Gatsby

I went to college in Westchester and would often take a bus through the "city" of White Plains in order to reach the Manhattan-bound commuter rail. Discounting "White Plains" and "Westchester," most locations in Southern New York have Native American-inspired names. The bus I took would cross Mamaroneck Avenue, a main street which shares its name with a village purchased by the English from Chief Wappaquewam and his brother Manhatahan prior to the Revolutionary War. On one of the corners of Mamorneck Avenue there was a store of ugly, mostly-brown men's clothing that I would always laugh at because - its sign in a very 80s art deco style - the store was named Gatsby Gatsby.
The town I grew up in, Roslyn, originally named Cow Neck and given a Scottish name in the 19th Century, is marketed to be nestled along the Gold Coast of the Long Island Sound. It's home to a large estate of the Frick family, who were major benefactors for the Museum of Natural History and whose home now exists as a museum itself. It was the kind of place F Scott Fitzgerald was referring to and, because of its proximity to my childhood home, I spent many afternoons there - drawing, taking pictures, or just eating fried chicken with the boys. And so, when I showed Mia my new shoes [10€ during January sale season] over Skype, and she responded, "Oh, very Gatsby of you," I agreed whole-heartedly.

Tuesday, March 3

Mini Europe

2008 was a huge year for Mini Europe. The park added the Széchenyi Baths of Budapest, the Magdeburg (Germany) Millenium Tower, Bulgaria's Rila Monastery, and Slovinia's three bridges of Ljubljana. They also purchased a replica of an Air France Airbus A380 from a well-regarded hobby store across the street from the Gravenstein Castle in Gent (Belgium).

For only 12€90 guests can "discover Europe's nicest places" with 300 models celebrating the landmarks of 27 countries. No other theme park in Brussels can boast that! Although nothing in the park is accompanied by holes of put-put golf, many of the mini-monuments have animatronics, used to emulate the real-life movement of the site. There's even a rotating ferris wheel - but you're too big to ride it! For some famous places, with a just a press of a button, visitors can watch a reenactment of a historical event, illustrating its importance and EU symbolism from a hawk's eye-view. Watch now as Mini Europe relives the fall of the Berlin Wall.

The mascot of Mini Europe is an orange turtle who poses as a young traveler, his only home attached to his back. He is your guide to uncovering the Mystére à Mini Europa. And as your navigator, the turtle will be sure to bring you to Austria's Melk Abby, Stokholm's City Hall, and the Monument to Fallen Shipyard Workers in Gdańsk (Poland). He'll teach you the French national anthem for the sing-along in front of the mini Eiffel Tower and keep you posted on which mini-monuments you're allowed to touch (hug). You won't miss the mini Acropolis or the mini-Big Ben, but most of your time will probably be spent in the Mini Belgium area, which features the park's most expensive model: the Grand Palace of Brussels, whose production cost about 350,000€ in parts and labor.

My only qualm with the theme park is the low mini-representation of Romania, i.e. no Transylvania to be found. Should one be unveiled in 2009-10, I will do my best to reach the ribbon-cutting.

Monday, March 2

No Need To Feel Foreign!

My deejay group Club Fromage is hitting the decks at la Mécanique Ondulatoire tonight. If you will not be in Paris to appreciate it, don't worry! Tomorrow night is the fourth broadcast of my show - Treat Me Rough on AUP Radio. It can be streamed from a computer from http://aupradio.org, of all things! Until then, definitely download this 55 minute MP3 of last week's show.