19 December 2007

Wish List

There was a request to move that last post further down the page into oblivion, and so I am gracing you with my Christmas wish list.

Here is the list of wishes I sent my family:

  • Yoga ball to replace office chair at work
  • Yoga tops
  • Yoga pants
  • Silver watch
  • BBC's Planet Earth DVD
  • Books!
  • White hoodie
Here's what I would actually like for Christmas
  • My loose tooth fixed for good (boo to no dental insurance!)
  • Sheets that actually fit our bed and match (can't ask my family for sheets for a full bed, as that would remind them (gasp!) we're not actually married!)
  • Someone to take me makeup shopping and buy me stuff that actually works for me and show me how to put it on
  • A bike, and to be able to ride it again without fear of it getting stolen or me getting hurt
  • To be able to reduce the amount of stuff in my life, without actually having to get rid of any of my treasured possessions
  • A really good night's sleep, or twelve
  • Better eyesight without glasses or contacts
  • A reason, a budget and a workspace to get out my sewing machine again and go to town
  • An exchange rate in favor of the dollar, so I could travel more

17 December 2007

Sometimes I Wonder

Originally written a few months ago.

Sometimes I wonder just what I am doing here. Not here in New York, which I've already discussed many times, but just here in general, at the point in life where I find myself.

We had a fight last weekend. General crankiness, wanting to finish Harry Potter, toothpaste and disagreement about coffee tables were involved.

From a distance of several days, none of those things seem very important now. I haven't learned to choose my battles, that's for sure. Nevertheless, during a fight, each new topic adds fresh rancor and resentment, at least the way I have been taught to fight.

Why is it so impossible to let go, to realize in the very moment that things are not as important as they seem? For several months I justified telling my boyfriend each time he did something I disliked, and exactly why it hurt me, by saying that at least I got it out in the open. Usually this backfired when he continued to do the same as always, which I interpreted as not giving a crap for my feelings. More recently, I realized it was rather a passive way to "improve" another person, to change him into the shape I thought a person should take.

At one point, I did swallow my pride and try to apologize, only to be pushed away. Perhaps we haven't learned exactly what pushes our buttons, when to step down and when to hold tight. There was more than one point this weekend when I thought, "Is this really worth it?"

But no matter whom I'm with, I'll still be struggling with the same tendency to resentment, the same loaded jabs, the same bitterness. I'm worried that as we have bigger things to fight about, our fights will get bigger, too.

Instead of trying to change the other person, how many years together does it take to change one's own personality?

13 December 2007

It makes you pretty

I learned today that it takes exactly 22 "glurb glurb glurb"s from the water cooler to fill up my water bottle.

Well, that would be 22 individual glurbs, not 22 triple glurbs, which would come out to 66 glurbs altogether. But I was afraid if I just wrote one single glurb, you wouldn't know what I was talking about.

Then again, you probably still don't.

10 December 2007


I've been so depressed lately.

Not in a "are you supposed to slit your wrists across-wise or up-wise?" way, but motionless, energy-less, and bleary-like. I don't think it's the weather, as I finally have a window in my office and get some semblance of daylight.

But I Just. Don't. Feel. Like. It. I don't want to cook (hello, pasta!) I don't want to wrap any more presents. I don't want to read a book. I definitely don't want to go to work, and I most certainly do not want to pick up one more used tissue from the floor by the opposite side of the bed! Gross!

I do, however, want to eat ice cream, chocolate chip cookie dough, surf on the internet until Godknowswhat hour, snap sarcastic remarks in the Frenchy's direction, and in general be in a strop.


27 November 2007

Gone fishing

So you'd think I might have learned from her, but of course not. Guess who went and dropped her Metrocard in the toilet, in the EXACT same manner?

Yes, that would be me.

I stared at it, trying to decide what to do. On the one hand, ew, toilet! On the other hand, it was an unlimited monthly pass. On the other hand, it was about a third of the way into the month. On the other hand, that's only a net loss of about 45 dollars. On the other hand, it's Christmas time, and I can think of a lot other things I'd rather be spending fifty dollars on. On the other hand, that's exactly what soap was invented for. On the other hand, I was just bragging about how I never got sick, not even from touching the subway poles. On the other hand, I've run out of hands.

I took a deep breath, rolled my right sleeve up, and--dip--drip--there I had it! I ran out of the stall (this was at work) and without even buttoning my jeans, spent the next twenty minutes frantically washing my hand, metrocard, back pocket, anything that might have come in contact with the card.

Suffice it to say that I have not contracted any Deadly Disease of Death, the metrocard still worked this evening, and most importantly, no one walked in the bathroom to question why I was scrubbing a small piece of disposable plastic, or why my pants were undone.

And no, I'm not going to tell you whether it happened before or after I used the toilet. There are some things I'd rather keep between myself and the porcelain gods.

The holidays are starting again

I have just managed to break a third of my miniature glass bulb ornaments into a zillion dangerous shards and covered my floor with a quantity of dried lentils, to boot.

Happy Holidays, folks. At least the bookworm looks festive.

20 November 2007

Game of the year

I met a girl from Kirkwood at a wedding two weeks ago, and when I told her upon leaving that we were going to beat them, she kind of looked at me blankly. Turkey Day? High school? Football? "Oh, I don't really follow that."


07 November 2007


Oh, holy hell, these are funny. I never knew about the Martine books, since I was never a child in France, but I've heard about their rosy-cheeked sugary cuteness. I don't remember how I stumbled across this (oh yeah, I think it was through Polly-Vous Francais?) but I spent a large portion of my morning the other day going through the archives. I only wish they had an email function. Maybe some Martine e-cards? T-shirts?

These French, they don't know how to market ideas. I mean, they don't even have a word for entrepreneurship, as our grand leader says!

I type everything in Word.

Somehow things always flow better in Word. And there’s the helpful squiggly red and green underline thingies when you type something wrong, or when the paperclip decides that you didn’t pass third grade English class.

Anyhow, it’s a holdover from college. Do you always format your screen to "print layout," because it looks more like the actual page you’d be writing on if you were writing with a pen?* I can’t do the normal—I’d never know how many more pages to go until the "5-7 pages minimum length" was almost reached. The web layout? Really? And the outline version? Never used it once. I freak out if I accidentally twitch my wrist and select that one without realizing it. GET IT BACK, MAN! GET IT BACK!

(Also, hate the Reading layout. I can’t be bothered to move my eyes all over the screen. Must scroll as I read, with my eyes glued to the top half of the screen.)

My boss recently made me compose some new text for our website in Notepad. And then he said, "Well, you’ll probably be more comfortable writing in Word." And I was all, bitch, watch my work my mad Notepad skills! I can even put in the funny html tags that make hyperlinks and stuff!

Except I can’t, not really, and now I’m stuck with a bunch of .txt files that all tell me that my formatting will be lost if I don’t save it a in certain way, that is, with my thumb pressed to the top of my nose while dancing a jig. These formats, they are out to take my life or my dignity, whichever.

*I only just now realized the irony of this.

And to all the Microsoft haters out there, to ye I say unto you, get over it. Word works for me, works for the simple needs I have, and quickly responds to the emergency "shift F7" thesaurus-summoning. All I want to do is get my words down on the page, with perhaps a little column action, or some page breaks.

(Digression: Why does no one utilize the page breaks? Why do they insist on enterenterenterenterentering until they reach the bottom? Do they not realize that one more character inserted at just the right spot will screw up all their careful entering? And once you learn what the funky backwards P up there in the toolbar is, your formatting woes will be overcome, and this I say unto you. Soothly.)

Perhaps there may come a day when I am forced to learn a new program, when my sweet old graduate-school laptop decides to visit her undergraduate Gateway desktop sister in the sky. I do not want to learn new tricks. I can tolerate small incremental change, even welcome it, but major, all in-your-face change, I cannot handle it. There will be sulking on the day that I have to change computers and change my technological habits. I’m trying to delay this day for as long as possible, and this is why I freak out, honey, when you touch my computer with anything harsher than a feather, or when you spill beer on my keyboard. Ahem.


31 October 2007

A Small Medium at Large

Ah, Halloween.

Weeks of pre-holiday costume creativity and a load of free candy. Who dreamed up this festival, and can I thank him? Actually, I imagine it was probably a her, due to the copious amounts of chocolate involved.

Since it falls on a Wednesday this year, Frenchy and I have been sort of blah about actual partying--we're not organized enough to plan something last weekend, and apparently it's lame to do a post-Halloween event. Meh.

But the ambiguity has proved useful in another way, affording us an extended window during which to play our favorite seasonal guessing game, "Halloween or Hipster?" Here is our corner of Brooklyn, the hipster reigns supreme, with trucker hats, tshirts from the late seventies/early eighties and skinny jeans to shake a multitude of sticks at. Sometimes the getups get so overboard they're ironical. Or would that be so ironical they're overboard?

Anyway, at Halloween the line between costume and everydaywear in the Billyburg gets blurred, and as we sip a coffee or walk down Bedford, we point out passersby and try to figure out if they're dressed up for the holiday or simply out'n'about. It's harder than you'd think! (Unfortunately I have no photo evidence. You'll just have to take my word for it, or take the L train someday. Then you'll understand.)

Eschewing the present (see: lack of party this year) notable Halloweens in the past have featured kids running through my college dorm, collecting candy like the little monsters they're dressed up to be. One year, I noticed the kids were remarkably silent, and all scratched their chins before running on to the next door. "How rude," I thought. "Back in my day, we said thank you before leaving a house, or our mamas would whup us." (NDLR: not really. But look disapprovingly, and perhaps subtract some of our precious takings.)

Finally it hit me that these were the kids from the deaf school down the street, and that they were indeed saying "thanks" in ASL. Duuuhh!

Moving further back to my own trick-or-treating days....in St. Louis we seem to have a tradition that the rest of the country doesn't. Before getting a piece of candy, you have to "deserve" it by telling a joke, usually a bad pun or knock-knock. You know, typical kid stuff. "How do you make a handkerchief dance? Put a little booger in it!" (Digression: when I graduated to opening the door and handing out the candy, I amused myself by guessing the punch lines of the kids' jokes, and watching their faces as I ruined their joke. I know. I'm going to pay for it in chocolate karma.)

In St. Louis we think this tradition is totally normal, and it's a rite of passage to go off to college and realize that no other city does it. I always justified it by figuring that it was the "trick" part of trick-or-treat, although I subsequently ran into a snag in explaining the "or." Perhaps I thought it was the late 20th-century version of stealing watermelons, or throwing sacks of flour à la Tootie in Meet Me in St. Louis. You collected jokes for weeks beforehand, and carefully planned which houses you were going to use which jokes at, because you couldn't possibly tell the same joke at each door. If you went with your sisters or a group of friends, before ringing each doorbell, you discussed and traded rights to jokes: "Okay, this time I get to tell the pirate ghost one, and you can do the doctor and his patient walk into a bar one. Okay? Got it?"

Yes, I was organized even back then. Get over it.

Most of my jokes were terrible, but there's one that still makes me smile each time I tell it. Are you ready? Are you prepared for the brilliance?

What do you call a petite fortuneteller who's escaped from jail?

17 October 2007


Why do some people feel the urge to comment on utter strangers' facial expressions? I was hurrying to meet Frenchy for lunch today (he had a client downtown) nine blocks away, and on the way a (rather rotund and somewhat greasy) man peers at me. He cocks his head to one side and says "You should really try smiling." (This is not the first time this has happened to me, so it must Be Me. But I digress.)

WTF? I do not know this man from Ted Koppel. I'm surprised I even registered that he was talking to me, as I barrelled past him. Who made him the Chief Smile Officer?

Furthermore, why is a young female obligated to smile when walking down the street. Or even have a pleasant expression? I had just come from work, where I squint at a screen all day. When I pass through the glass doors, my face relaxes. It is at repose. It doesn't want to be messed with, or told what to wear.

In fact, a dirty look is most New Yorkers' public mask, especially the female ones. It can be quite useful, allowing you to pass a gaggle of male loiters catcall-free. It can even save your life; a well-placed dirty look to a driver says "Yes, I know you know I know you saw me, now let me finish crossing the street and everyone can keep his extremities intact." New Yorkers employ the dirty look with gleeful abandon, shooting withering glances right and left, slaying any slow-moving tourist on their path. I particularly enjoy firing off an angry glare while pretending I'm an über-important power executive, on my way to the meeting that will clinch the proverbial multi-million dollar deal, even when I'm just going to buy celery.

So this I say to ye, O Large Oily Man, let a lady scowl in peace! I am not here to serve your viewing pleasure, I have lunch to eat! And strange imaginary scenarios to act out!

16 October 2007


In a nod to complete transparency, I feel I must admit now that the morning following the First Yoga, I am in considerable pain.

15 October 2007


So I've reached a new level of New Yorkitude. I never thought I'd do it. I poked fun at it. I experimented with some forms of it and concluded it was not for me. I secretly derided the legions of girls who did it, and mocked their knit capri pants.

But today, my friends, I did the yoga.

Oh, and it gets better. To do the yoga, I became a yoga member. Not of some gym--any New York yokel can walk into a gym, slap down three hundred bucks, and say they leg press 1200 pounds. No, sir. I joined a holistic spa. This ain't no free weights and disinfectant spray, babe. It's a incense-burning, inner-happiness-seeking, granola-munching haven for hippies.

I feel somewhat out of place.

But never ye mind, I felt out of place in Billyburg when I first moved here, and now I get my kicks out of seeing what these crazy kids are going to wear next. I will get used to it. Perhaps right after I use the sauna, free to members, and only ten dollars for guests.

In the meantime, though, I'm ecstatic. Now I can join the legions of late-twentysomethings who brunch on salmon benedict and commiserate about their Downward Dogs. (Note to self: either find a spot by the mirror and get your Dog right, or move across the room and quit caring.) If I play my cards right, maybe I can get one of those girls to explain the difference between the first three warrior poses, and how to do the tree position without falling. Wobbly ankles will be my yogic downfall.

We spent most of the time "opening" the sides and back, and Shayla's isolation exercises came flooding back to me. I have a lot of flexibility to regain!

Sun salutations all around. And pass the IcyHot.

Things I Am Not Allowed To Write About

1. Anything that Frenchy does
2. The defeat of France by England in the rugby World Cup semi-finals

11 October 2007

It's not like I have sexy hip wordsmithy ideas very often, as proved by my irregular posting. In fact, I post so irregularly I could be a German verb. Take a spin through my archives, you'll see what I mean. So I take my inspiration from where I can, okay?

This evening's post-spiration comes from page 288 of November's Glamour, which showed up in our mailbox today. (Sweet, I just had to refer to the magazine to find the page number, and turned to the right page on the first try!) It's entitled "12 things in life never to take for granted." Which is quite a sexy hip wordsmithy twist on the November chestnut "Things I'm thankful for."

So, ado-less and furthery,

Things I Shouldn't Take For Granted

  • Lady Grey tea when I post--creative juice, with just enough bergamot!

  • A boyfriend that grumbles but caves almost without protest when I ask for a backrub

  • Backrubs (and the warm touch of another human being)

  • Floors that I don't care about so I can keep the window open at night when it rains and listen to the sound

  • Just enough html knowledge to write this ordered list without having to look up the tags

  • Being able to sew, and have my clothes actually fit

  • The J train

  • More books than I can shake a reading list at

  • Just enough adventure in my soul to do crazy things, every once in a while, but not enough to get me seriously in trouble

Not a bad compendium, as compendia go.

05 October 2007

For Mom and Dad

I think I nearly wet myself on this one.

Tee hee!

Reminds me of the years when I used to give people thyme for Secret Santa gifts, because "every working person needs more thyme!"

24 September 2007

26 Candles

Happy birthday, Frenchy! We're only two years apart again now! I hope the 26th will be a good one for you.

21 September 2007

Smudged Porcelain

I have often talked, self-deprecatingly, about my habit of cleaning the bathroom before anyone comes over. It is a remnant of my mother (although she is most certainly not dead, at least not last week when I talked to her), a vestige of her influence, a tidbit of training. I simply cannot have guests over, even for ten minutes, knowing that my bathroom is not sparkly and lemon-scented.

My mom would make me clean each bathroom in the house (yes, even the basement one) whenever we were having guests. Guests, in her mind, included anyone who did not have a bedroom in said house. This meant that each time my grandmother or great-aunt came over, I would be dispatched to the loo bearing a bucket of Soft Scrub.*

(* It has just occurred to me that in addition to being a good hostess and showing guests that she keeps a clean house, this might have also been a symptom of proving herself to her mother. I emphatically sympathize.)

And so I find myself doing the same. There is a small voice over my shoulder, that says "But they will notice, and they will judge!" When I have people over, even if I know there's no possible chance they will have to use the bathroom, out comes the sponge. I can clean a toilet, sink and mirror in six minutes, and a tub in another eight. Practice, baby, practice.

I have guests over this weekend, friends of mine from a former life. I know perfectly well that they will not think less of me for having smudged porcelain, but nevertheless I was up at midnight last night, scouring and wiping and polishing. As I did so, I thought about my mom, about the profound influence she has had on my actions. I decided to start an early Mothers Day gift, a list of ways that she has changed me and things she has taught me.

1. Cleaning the bathroom when guests come. Must be done. No exceptions.
2. Tea is infinitely superior to coffee. (nb: Well, sometimes. Dad's influence is in there, too.)
3. A balanced meal consists of a protein, a vegetable and a starch. No more is necessary, and no less is acceptable. You may not have two starches; that is carbohydrate overload.
4. It is possible, and desirable, to use wrapping paper more than nine times. Gift boxes may be used infinitely.
5. Clothes should fit, and can be altered to fit. Although I draw the line at having skirts sit at my natural waist.
6. There is a right way to load the drying rack/dishwasher, and a wrong way. Mine is the the correct one.
7. You can always add more water to the orange juice concentrate to get a couple extra glasses out of the can.
8. I can fit three weeks' worth of clothing into a weekend bag, and I can do it in four and a half minutes. (I'm rather proud of this fact.)

Okay, the mother in question just IM'ed me. Tootles!

12 September 2007

Pike County

When we were little, we had an agreement in our house: on the hour-long trip to the lake house on Friday nights, we'd listen to "kid" songs, and on the Sunday return trip we'd listen to "parent" songs. I usually hollered loudest for the Wee Sing America tapes, and I'd close my eyes and belt out the words that transported me to Cape Cod ("Cape Cod girls they have no pins, heave-a-way, heave-a-way, they pin their gowns with codfish fins"), to the railways ("all the live-long day") or to the very foundations of my country (those ubiquitous spacious skies and amber waves of grain). Even back then the lure of time and space travel had gotten to me.

I prided myself on always being able to memorize the lyrics, even for songs with dozens of verses. I oculd always spit out the correct words to the tongue-twister songs, when my sisters got tripped up on the one about mules having two legs behind.

So it has been that much more distressing to me that for the past two weeks I've had the refrain and part of the verses from Sweet Betsy from Pike traveling through my head. Except that I only remember the first half of one verse and the second half of another verse (and the rhyming parody that we made up to the same tune, Sweet Nancy from Zike). And even after having caught myself humming "too ray lie ooh ray lie ohh ray lie ay" more times than I care to admit, I still couldn't put together the missing chunks. So today I gave up and googled Betsy.

The Wee Sing people must have figured that their target audience was short of RAM, because out of about a zillion verses to the original folk tune, only three made it into the Wee Sing America book (pictured here is a more recent edition than the old-school blue-bordered one we had). In addition, they were hedging their bets on the fact that the eighties were clearly a more innocent time, since the words that I remember have her crossing the wide prairies with her husband Ike.

Well, go have a look at those words and come back here. That whore Betsy left for California before she got married, traveled across the country with her lover, played with guns, drank whiskey and made a habit of mooning people. What a slut!

01 August 2007


Late Saturday evening, a certain member of our apartmenthold went on a late-night ice cream raid.* I woke up the next morning and found the freezer door standing two inches open.

* Identity hidden to protect Frenchy

ALL the food inside was completely thawed, and so we spent the morning cooking: browning ground beef, boiling shrimp, cubing and cooking chicken, poaching fish. We've been eating pretty well this week!

Except this evening. I got all industrious and went grocery shopping after work. I marinated salmon, made an apple crisp and planned to have a great dinner ready for Frenchy when he came home grumpy from work. After that was done, I vacuumed the entire floor and cleaned the bathroom from tub to tile.

Then Frenchy calls and says he's going to poker night after all, when he had all but decided last night he wouldn't go. I hate it when he does this!

Let it go, Liesl. Breathe.

19 July 2007

I am going to hell

Things to say when your redneck-teacher-Bridezilla-ex-friend gloats that she's pregnant and you're not.

"Gosh, I thought you wouldn't ever do anything to make your hips even wider."

"You already live with someone who has the mental age of a five-year-old. Are you sure you want another one?

"What stage is it at now? Does it look like a turd or an alien?"

"That's okay, I llike not puking every morning."

"Well, it's a good thing your students got used to getting less attention from you during your wedding planning--they'll be used to it."

"Congratulations! And you won't even need to have a baby shower, because you already have all the stuff from your husband's other two kids.....oh wait....he's a deadbeat dad."

"Are those the same hormones that made you grouchy for the nine months before your wedding, too?"

"Oh no, I've heard it's always the end of a friendship when one girl gets pregnant and the other one doesn't!"

"Great, now you can finally come to girls' night every week, because your husband won't be home alone--the baby can keep him company!"

"I'll buy you a Toby Keith album to play to your bump--that way the baby will recognize her kind when she comes out."

"Gosh, it's such a pity our house isn't baby-proof."

"Maybe you should consider switching to M condoms instead of XL. They do have a history of slipping off, you know."

"So, how's that baby savings account going?"

10 July 2007


This is how I feel.

Or would you prefer this?

Sweet haunches of Hades, it's HOT here! When we moved in, I vaguely knew that the lack of AC would be an issue, but I conveniently shelved my worries in the more pressing need of getting away from the roommates. Now, well into July, the problem has reared its sweaty head.

Tips for surviving New York summers on a fourth-floor walkup with no AC
* Spend as long as possible at Borders in the evenings, basking in the glorious chill.
* Take multiple showers--one when you come home and frantically peel off all your clothes, one when you've washed the dinner dishes, and one when you go to bed. And possibly one when you wake up from the heat at 1 am, 3:45 am and 6 am.
* Get over the fact that the neighbors are probably enjoying watching you walk around naked. It's hot. You're past caring.
* Do as little as possible. This means housework, of course.

No really, I'm dying here. Frenchy didn't believe me when I told him that stand-alone air conditioners were $500. So I took him to see. Now he believes me. He wants to try and stick it out. I want to tell him to drop the last word in that sentence! I think I'm coming down with heat rash. Someone get me a cool cloth.

02 July 2007

Dilemmas in Homerentership

Even though we've lived in our apartment for exactly two months now, we still haven't finished the final touches on it. Still no seating in the living room other than a sprawling futon, still no bedside tables, still no decorative bookshelf from a company we shall call Clientell, still no free carpet that turned out to be an antique Persian carpet worth thousands and thousands of dollars so our friends aren't giving it to us after all. One can quite understand their change of heart.

In France, to decorate your living space with an exotic touch means Moroccan. Former colony, etc. So accordingly, we went out in search of some poufs, or ottomans (ottomen? If you search too long, has it become an ottomania?) and possibly some Moroccan lamps. I've had a secret hankering for a silver teapot in which to make sweet mint tea and for a pyramidical tagine to make proper couscous. (Note to self: do not confuse the two.)

Well, if you want to make a quick buck, it appears the Moroccan import business is the way to go. Damn, those things were expensive. They don't look difficult to make, when you really get down to it, and I was asking one vendor about the inside stuffing, seemingly a stiff cotton or wool batting. His shop makes poufs to order, he quickly volunteered, and so we browsed around the authentic handwoven wool tapestries to pick a pattern.

Frenchy picked out a frighteningly ugly (sorry, honey, but it's true) one, and for the sake of finally having something to sit on I agreed, and then came the delicate moment of finding how much this would set us back. Well, the fabric alone would cost $750, plus the cost of making the pouf which would be another $250! We found the front door of the shop pretty quickly! Dilemma part one. I think I can manage pretty well on my own, as well as do some decorative embroidery.

Now I get to browse the famous fabric stores where the Project Runway people shop!

But back to the dilemma part two--ever since the Clientell deal fell through, we still don't have bedside tables. A friend of ours is moving back to France in August, and she agreed to sell us her tables cheaply. Now, as much as I'll really hate to see her go, I really want those tables!

20 June 2007


Frenchy got back from France yesterday and brought me my present. I'm glad he's learned that he has to bring me something every time he goes home. This time it came from the shop that sells Chti paraphernalia.

Here goes. The shirt is a play off the famous opening lines of The Little Prince, where the Prince asks the narrator to "Dessine-moin un mouton," or "Draw me a sheep." Hence the sheep, and the cultural reference for any French speaker.

Except! In the north of France, they speak a regional language known as Chti, or Picard. (It's kind of like Provencal is to southern France.) One of the more famous chti words is "chicon," which means "endive." (Don't ask.) In any case, that's what gives this shirt its local reference. Got it? I thought so.

17 June 2007

Grammar Police

I realized many years ago that my habit of correcting people's grammar was, to say the least, irritating. Now I only do it in the context of helping Frenchy to improve his English.

However, I have to say: You're either leery [liri] or wary [weɘri] of something. You cannot be weery [wiri]. If you mean weary [wiri], that's another feeling entirely. Got it? Good.

11 June 2007

Desultory Thoughts, Numbered Smartypants-Style

1. Today a man on the street offered to untie the scarf around my neck. If Frenchy complains, I'll just tell him that if he's going to be gone nearly two weeks and not call me, then I'm justified in considering my options.

2. Really, he's been gone for 11 days and has called me once (when I was at work and therefore not able to answer the phone). I don't even know what day he's coming home. Isn't this something you're supposed to tell your roommate, who is coincidentally also your girlfriend?

3. Apparently I was either a hoity-toity librarian or Victorian aristocracy in a former life. Possibly both, at the same time. Viz., and to wit:

A few of us at work were discussing who we might have been in former lives. I couldn't think of anything clever, but one girl filled in my blank for me. "You were one of the genteel Victorian proper ladies, with bustles and big pompadour hair. Or you were a librarian that was proud of the fact that you were a Librarian, Keeper of the Knowledge." Now that I think about it, both of these scenarios are very possible. I have long felt that I was more at home with historical figures in upper-crust England than I am with my middle class current self. My coworker may be onto something with this.

4. Yesterday was Puerto Rico day. As I live in the Puerto Rican neighborhood, consequently there was much celebrating and Latin pop music until the wee hours. Many people tucked Puerto Rican flags over and into the hoods of their cars. As festive as that may be, is it really safe to put flammable, flapping fabric right on top of a combustion-driven engine with many moving parts?

5. I don't know whether to ascribe it to the fact that they live in small dark apartments, to Hispanic culture, or to Brooklyn stoop-sittin' tradition, but all the Puerto Ricans in my neighborhood spend their afternoons on the sidewalks. They'll bring out folding chairs, stools, or just lean out the window and participate in the fun. The streets I take to get back from the subway seem to be fiesta centrale, with groups of old people, herds of teenagers and lumps of little kids riding scooters. While I was walking to the grocery store on some side streets, however, I only saw a couple people by their lonesome. I wanted to point them over a few streets south and whisper in Spanish, "The party's over there! Go enjoy yourself!" I wonder what they would mutter under their breath about the crazy gringa.

--skorky64 properly cites her sources

06 June 2007

Make new friends, but keep the old

So much has happened since the last time I posted. We've almost stopped arguing about how we'll decorate the new place, Frenchy has gone back to France, I've made other business trips, and so forth.

Right now in my life, we have a new coworker in town. As I learned in Missouri, it's not necessarily the best idea to dishearten them from day one, so when I went to pick her up from Penn Station, I tried to focus on the positive. Since then, she's had plenty of time to observe for herself the truly messed-up way we function. I invited her over for dinner today. We had pasta and I made her look at my scrapbooks.

This evening, I also met up with some friends. Actually, it was a friend of Frenchy's sister and her fiance. I had met them once or twice, and I was kind of afraid that we would have nothing to talk about. As it turned out, we had no problem talking about New York prices, French cheeses, Frenchy's family, the American system of dating, and many other things. I may be able to come to their wedding in September. Is it bad I told them I'd never been to a French wedding, even though I have? Twice?

22 May 2007


At what point does a blogger, even the most amateur one, tell her acquaintances about her writings? Up until now, I had told exactly two people about this site, one because I wanted her opinion on my take of a situation I found myself in. I eventually didn't post the piece. The other one was for technical advice, and the person was half a world away. (God bless t'internet!)

But since I write about my life, the people near to me tend to enjoy repeat appearances. Even though the most negative thing I've written about Frenchy is that he has a big nose*, I felt guilty that he had no idea about the last two-plus years of my web existence.

* A fact which he corroborates

So the other night when we were talking about childhood diaries, I quietly opened up this site and set the computer in front of him. He particularly enjoyed the pillorization of the wackjob roommates. In fact, he spent all evening reading it. I was a little nervous, but left him alone to peruse.

In the end, I'm glad he knows about this site now. Now I can write all the juicy things I've been keeping back!

10 May 2007

Still Settling In

11 April 2007

A Reverse Chronology of my Life

2007: Still working on it. Coming around to the New York concept.
2006: Split between a town too small and a city too large. Scotland and England were highlights.
2005: In January, a very difficult choice to make which led me into my first real year of adulthood. Not such a bad gig after all, except the poverty. Finally a "mistress of French studies."
2004: Six different thesis topics. Changed my tipping habits significantly. Loathed my host family and tried not to project the feeling on Nantes.
2003: The trip of a lifetime came to a climactic end. Graduate school atlernately sucked and rocked. Interested in a new boy--how far will this go?
2002: Friends hurting me and graduation. Off to Dijon and independence in my beloved country!
2001: Funerals and French classes. Stretching into a less critical and selfish person. Drama with dance.
2000: Sophomore year. Distinguishable from freshman year solely by virtue of not being a freshman anymore.
1999: Fall in Strasbourg, becoming an expert in European travel.
1998: Crying from the beauty of meeting new friends and the terribleness of leaving them. Depression and withdrawal ensued, along with 13 extra pounds. Freshman year of college came and the self-importance that accompanies it. Dance became exquisite torture, but at least I lost the 13 pounds.
1997: Graduated high school, FINALLY. Got myself the hell out of Dodge. Host families, high school redux, and headaches from living in French.
1996: Sucked. Became flag captain. Still sucked at dance.
1995: Sucked. Miss Amanda asked me when I suddenly became good at flags. Didn't realize I had.
1994: Sucked. Made the color guard/dance team, even though I sucked at both.
1993: Sucked. At least middle school is over. Dumped a friend and felt horrible about it.
1992: Sucked. Learning how to let the teasing roll off my back. Still not very good at it.
1991: Sucked. I pretty much hit my nadir here, because I hadn't learned to deal with the suckiness. One day were were growing "fast plants" in science class, and I had a full pot in my hand. I sat back, expecting my chair to be right underneath me. It was five feet back, and the pot, plant, dirt and I went sprawling on the floor. Everybody laughed at me, and I tried my hardest to laugh along. You can imagine what I would rather have done.
1990: Fifth grade camp was fun. Had a fight with a friend in class.
1989: I hated my fourth-grade teacher with a passion, the only one I ever really hated. She was really mean. She never asked me why I forged my parents' signature on my spelling homework. (It was because I've always been a good speller and the words were so easy that I didn't want to waste their time listening to me spell my ten weekly words. I only got one word wrong all year. Suck that, Mrs. Careklas!)
1988: Third and fourth grade. Don't remember much.
1987: Broke my shoulder for the second time. When our class paraded into the gym for the school Christmas concert, the sling anound my neck elicited "aww"s from the audience. I felt pretty important. Dad finally made me learn to ride a bike.
1986: Don't remember much. I think it was this summer that I started going to Girl Scout camp with Mom.
1985: I got assigned the letter "u" to write a sentence with, because I was the smartest kid in the class. In first grade when Katie arrived, I would never have that distinction again.
1984: Every morning when Amy walked over the Westerbecks' hill, I'd watch her through the window until she disappeared from sight. I wanted so much to know where she wasa going and to go with her. Of course, she was going to school, as I learned this year. I broke my right shoulder for the first time.
1983: The babysitter that stayed with us while Mom and Dad are on vacation taught me to tie my shoes bunny-ears style. When she got back, Mom tells me I'm doing it wrong. I learn to read, correctly.
1982: Apparently I had friends in preschool. Mom still remembers them. I don't.
1981: Can't say I remember much.
1980: Presumably, I started walking upright and forming words. Hot and ball seemed to be my favorites.
1979: I made an appearance in September, smack in the middle of Virgo season.

07 April 2007

Seventies Inferno!

Frenchy's cousins are visiting this week, and we spent the day trawling NY for the best "only in NY" moments. Saturday morning brunch, Brooklyn Industries, Guggenheim Museum, Belvedere Castle, the Pen-Top bar, burgers at the Meridian and views from Columbus Circle Mall were among the highlights.

We gave them the thorough Central Park introduction, (although sadly we missed the Easter Egg hunt by a few hours) and I was thrilled to see the return of one of my favorite New York institutions, Roller Disco!

The last time I saw this was in August when I had just arrived, and Frenchy whirled me through his take-no-prisoners version of showing me around. It probably took me until January to really figure out how to get anywhere. I'm only now putting together pieces of my mental Manhattan puzzle. In any case, I now know it's adjacent to the grand promenade near the south end. When I finally get my rollerblades (spring gift to myself), you'll know where to find me!

FavIcon Woes

I'm trying like the dickens to get this little guy up in my favicon spot. I love everybody's images that show up in my Favorites list, but I can't figure out how to do it. Before when I wanted to steal tricks for my layout I copied and pasted the relevant portion of other people's source code, changing details, but that isn't working this time. Even Blogger is no help in their hints forums, reeling off the nonsense of "save the file where you host your website." Isn't the whole point of Blogger that you don't have to host your own space? Graaarg.

Update: I did it! I had to sign up at www.myfavatar.com, and it generated the exact code I needed! Yay!

04 April 2007

Intercultural Annoyances

Today I was thinking about what annoyed me most when I lived in France, and what generally annoys Americans in France. Of course, the most obvious is the closing of shops between 12 and 2 and on Sundays. For working people or students, these are obviously the best times to get your errands done, but Protective Mother France makes sure you have your rest time.

What else did I come up with? The dog poop is always a big winner on the French-bashing forums. No one cleans it up or nudges their dog to a less-traveled portion of the sidewalk. I also remembered the infuriating tendancy to tune out contradicting opinions, which I characterize by saying "The French love to tell you what you think." And of course, I can't forget the old chestnut of teaching schoolkids to be sheep for the rest of their educational lives.

I used to say that there were certain things that French people did that drove me crazy, and that I probably wouldn't be able to live there all my life. Having been absent from these annoyances for a long time now, and having experienced some radically different cultures within the US, I started to wonder if they would still be annoying if I were to move back to France. For some reason, I think I might now have more patience for some of them.

To be fair, I asked Frenchy what things bother French people about Americans. Since he's so culturally conditioned to the US by now and since he's naturally laid-back anyway, he had a hard time thinking of many things that would be deal-breakers for Frogs in America. Here's the few he came up with.

  • Not having free health care baffles us. It's a basic human need. Why should you have to pay for it, and so much?
  • Many French girls don't like the way American girls talk. We call American girls "les ohmygawds," and for a reason.
  • The way you eat. Americans are constantly snacking. A bagel at 10, pretzels and M&Ms at 4. We're taught to wait until the next meal. Why can't you just wait?
  • And then guys will spend six hours at the gym, bulking up. No wonder--they have to work off all the pretzels! Do you really have to be the size of a linebacker to be attractive?
From there the conversation degenerated into a comparison of the relative merits of soccer versus the popular American sports, and of the various body types that permit excellence in each. (Pretty much all our conversations wind up about soccer.) In any case, neither of us could come up with more than six or seven things that drove us nuts about theother culture. In looking over the list now, I'm not even sure that any one by itself would really be a deal-breaker for me, making me move home in despair after a few years. The difficulty of navigating official French bureaucracy might drive a person over the edge, but fortunately that isn't a daily occurrence. Does this mean that American and French cultures are more compatible that I have previously thought, or does this mean we're both remarkably tolerant?

Food for thought. But not between meals, of course!

01 April 2007

La chance se provoque*

A weekend of tenseness has just terminated, and I can now say that I have passed one of the true New Yorker tests: the housing hunt. On Wednesday, we saw an apartment that was the Holy Grail of apartments: affordable, less than ten blocks away from two subway lines, in the same area we live in now, with plenty of light and closets, and did I say affordable? We put in an application as soon as possible.

We had prepared by gathering, for both of us, three months of bank statements, three paycheks, letters of employment, tax returns, social security cards, passports, copies of anything that would establish our solvency, and copied them in quadruplicate. And put them in very profssional-looking tan cardboard folders with binder clips to hold it all together. We figured that if we ever found our dream apartment, we could just hand a folder to the landlord on the spot and guarantee our spot at the head of the applicant line.

It sort of worked out like that. For this apartment, though, the super was showing us through, and we had to contact the landlord, whose office is in Manhattan. We had to get the application from him, fill it out and fax it back to him, with the supporting documents aforementioned. Reader, this fax came to twenty-two pages. And as everyone who has ever watched Office Space knows, fax machines are the work of Beelzebub and should be shunned. It took us three attempts at the ghetto copy shop downstairs to give up and go into the city to Frenchy's office. We tried again from there, with no success either. We then decided to drop the whole thing off at the agncy's office.

Being nine o'clock at night by now, we figured we had no chance of getting it to them that night. When we arrived at the building (and by the way, I easily outpaced Frenchy who normally walks like a maniac running away from a fire) the doorman had never heard of the company, and our hearts sunk. At that point a woman comes out of the elevator and says she works with the agent and she will deliver our package to him. La chance se provoque.

To ensure receipt, we also emailed our application as a pdf attachment the next morning. Had all of our attempts succeeded, this poor guy would have had no fewer than seven copies of our application. The guy confirmed (at 11 pm) that he had received a portion of the original faxes, and would reply to us with his decision on Friday or maybe Saturday.

Friday came and went. I kept my phone on all day. Saturday came and went. Hope started to wane. Nerves set in. This morning we got up and made French toast (trying to get rid of bread in the house for psycho pseudo-Jewish roommate who's not even in the country right now) and the phone rang. We were approved!

I'm not silly enough to rejoice before the deposit is paid and the keys in our hands, but--whew, big relief! What kind of realtor works until midnight on weekends but won't pick up his phone on weekdays?

*Luck come to he who helps himself

30 March 2007


You might be a Frenchy if your nose hits your girlfriend before your lips do.

~Quoted directly from the source

29 March 2007


Originally uploaded by skorky64.
Don't say we're not taking advantages of the opportunities this city has to offer. Tuesday evening, Frenchy came home earlier than I expected, and so on a whim we dashed off to the New York State Theater. Student rush tickets, $32. Subway rides, $8. Evening of culture and music, priceless.

The opera, only the third opera I've ever seen, was beautifully staged and emotional. We both especially liked the spare scenery and rich lighting. They definitely used the lights to great effect, saving a new color scheme for the ultimate tragic moment.

Although it was pretty trippy to hear an opera about a Japanese woman who thinks she's American, sung in English.

14 March 2007


What's up with Mother Nature? We haven't had this kind of weather since January!

27 February 2007

What I Am

While browsing other blogs recently, I found this essay, and thought I would try my own hand.

I am from the suburbs. I am from public schools and wide leafy avenues. I am from Middle America and from middle class. I am from my own bedroom. I am from two parents. I am from silence. I am from singing.

I am from between two sisters. I am from sibling rivalry. I am from hoping to be noticed. I am from PSR and Sunday School, from confession and confirmation. I am from two religions and one belief. I am from the fear of sports and extra chances at serving volleyballs. I am from skinny legs and flat chests. I am from family dinners and terrible jokes. I am also from terrible haircuts.

I am from Jo March, Anne Shirley and the Little Princess. I am from Choose Your Own Adventure. I am from reading under the covers. I am from Sherlock Holmes and Babysitters Club. I am from anything I can get my hands on. I am from Aldous Huxley and Chaim Potok.

I am from prom queens and kings, although not of them. I am from dance team and color guard. I am from captaincy. I am from struggling for recognition. I am from escaping. I am from partial friendships and superficial ties. I am from the fear of gym class. I am from secret talents.

I am from discovery and self-doubt. I am from people who care. I am from liberal arts. I am from sorority dominance and disappointment. I am from Confederate flags in windows. I am from self-affirmation. I am from a surprising affinity for neurology. I am from Greek revival buildings. I am from Alsace. I am from separatists. I am from the international community. I am from depression and isolation.

I am from thumbing rides with strangers. I am from backpacks and hiking boots. I am from trains and planes and boats. I am from host families. I am from small towns and sidewalk cafes. I am from museums. I am from curiosity. I am from sunflowers and motorcycles. I am from photographs and scrapbooks. I am from loneliness. I am from hostels. I am from teaching English. I am from teaching American. I am from defending an outlook I only half believe in.

I am from the long march of French universities. I am from theses and deadlines and learning how to be an adult. I am from boots and polka and Friday fish frys. I am from the Terrace. I am from realizing my own limitations. I am from squeaking by.

I am from advice. I am from expanding your horizons. I am from neediness and incompetence. I am from holding hands. I am from a small rural town. I am from a huge city. I am from travel and discovery. I am from international phone calls. I am from the internet. I am from vicarious experiences.

I am from the totality of my experiences.

19 February 2007


When I first began this blog, I found a site where you can check off all the states (or countries) you've been to, and it generates a map for you. I haven't been to any new countries since then (good God, and I call myself a traveler!) but I have added a bunch of states in the Northeast. Scroll sideways for the entire most recent version:

create your own visited states map

Now the map tool is at a different site, and they've expanded your choices. For those of us who have confined their wanderings to Western Europe, here's a map made just for us!

create your personalized map of europe

18 February 2007

Chinese New Year

Happy New Year in China! Or in your nearest Chinatown.

We went to Chinatown today to party like it's 4704. Apparently it's the year of the Golden Pig, which comes around once in a blue moon. Everyone had these long cardboard tubes which shot off a bunch of confetti and a prize attached to a parachute. The air was filled with confetti and you heard little bursts of tubes every few seconds. Of course, we had to try it for ourselves. It was hard to twist the tubes, and I had to get Frenchy to set off both of ours.

Frenchy finally got it:

We can't all be perfect!

Keepin' It Real

Frenchy and I went to Katz's Deli the other night, the most famous deli in New York, where God forbid if you lose your ticket. Known for pastrami sandwiches and fake orgasms à la Meg Ryan, it definitely keeps the New York 'tude real.

The waitress was surly, until she saw how I polished off my reuben like a local. Gotta get respect one way or another!

10 February 2007

Rental Car Marco Polo

It happens to us all. Leaving a school, heading towards the parking lot (of course it’s a commuter school, easily recognized by its ginormous and ever-extending seas of parking spaces), we realize for the twentieth time, “I have no idea what my car looks like.”

As road warriors, we spend our days skitting from campus to campus and our nights in different yet similar hotels, the only alteration being that tonight’s room is a mirror image of yesterday’s. I’ve been known to enter a hotel room and walk straight into the coat rack, intending to go into the bathroom. We collect the miniscule shampoos and lotions (less than three ounces, great for the plane!) and forget our phone chargers.

We wake up in one town, drive to another for our day’s labor, and drive to a third for the night, in a different car every few days. Each time we step off a plane, our wheels for the week might be different. One week a Chevy, the next a Ford. I hate Fords.

Yet we learn to cope. We go back to a select few chain restaurants for their comforting resemblance, the only hint of sanity in our fluid lives. Conserving our mental energy for students and for administrators, we choose the easiest path for the basic pleasures of eating and drinking. Panera, anyone? We learn the protocol for delivering pizzas to hotel rooms for late-night arrivals.

And so I play Marco Polo with each new car. Standing at the edge of the parking lot, I sharpen my senses for the game. “Marco,” beeps my keychain remote. A split second later, somewhere from the depths of the sea of metal, my car of the week honks its “Polo!”

30 January 2007

Boo to Changes

Under intense pressure from Blogger, I upgraded to New Blogger, and in doing so, I lost all of the fun tweaks I had done to my template. And now I don't remember how I did them. Does anyone have any hints for learning HTML so I can again have the coolest background ever?

24 January 2007

A Real American

The final step has been taken, and Frenchy is now a full-fledged American. No green card yet, but he's got something even more fundamental: the cowboy boots.

He posed for this picture, forgetting that the flag poster was in the background. As it were, it was the perfect setting! Now he just has to perfect the "yawl!"

18 January 2007

Much Too Close For Our Health

We discovered "three-dollar token Fridays" at the Brooklyn Brewery, which is just down the street from us. Of course, they don't have a beer license, so you can exchange your token for a free beer, or you can keep the commemorative token. Obviously, no one chose the second option.

08 January 2007

Cohabitation, or The Things My Roommates Do That Are Wacko, And Sometimes Marginally Rude

Our roommates are really bizarre. I guess with the wheat of the awesome loft comes the chaff of the two wackjobs that inhabit it. Here is a partial list of the obnoxious things they have done since I moved in. Hopefully this will let off steam so I don't blow up at them one day and lose my wonderful place to live.

1. When I create a wet laundry jungle in my room to avoid using the dryer (and by extension the weird cardboard thingamajig that they fashioned to hold the dryer hose out the window, which incidentally lets in gales of cold outside air), ask me why I didn't simply use the dryer.
(1.5. Cardboard? Stuffed in the window next to the gas stove? Which you have to stand on to insert? Are you kidding?)
2. When I use the dryer, pull a long face at me and complain that there's a cold draft and that I shouldn't use the dryer. Hmm, I didn't see you so upset about the cold when it was our room that had no heat. Which brings me to...
3. Realize around mid-October that there is no heater in our room. Our room with the twelve-foot-high factory windows. Order a heater from Japan that will come next week, I promise. Meanwhile, an Arctic front moves in.
4. Receive heater a month later. Realize that a key piece is missing. Order piece from Japan, that will come within a few days, I promise. Don't offer any extra blankets. Finally receive piece in mid-December, after I have reinforced my stock of wool sweaters and have become resigned to wearing double layers of socks to bed.
5. Quit job in August. Piss around all day on the computer, downloading porn. (I have proof.) Complain about money. Sleep till four pm. Buy a new laptop. Transfer porn to laptop. Arrange a "study" area upstairs and pretend to study, but download more porn. (Okay, no proof on that one, but really, wouldn't you feel justified in suspecting?) Talk about rehabbing upstairs, but only move a bunch of junk around.
6. Regularly ask us for rent a day before it's due, and before you calculate utilities. Get mad when we don't produce check on the spot.
7. Work four days a week at two crap jobs, and complain that it's "simply too exhausting to work on Fridays." Complain again about money.
8. Pry into our personal lives.
9. The only time I answer the house phone, during which I take a message and relay the message accurately, coldly tell me, "Don't ever answer the phone again."
10. The day I move in (bringing my MO apartment furniture with me, fully expecting to get a place of our own relatively soon and not wanting to move cross country twice), tell me, "Um, didn't you know that this place was furnished?" Simultaneously, hide piles of broken junk in the massive storage space upstairs. Make me feel like consumerist crap for having a complete set of nice furniture.
11. Make me put all my things in storage upstairs, then rearrange storage so I can't get to them.
12. When we throw out a lamp with broken wiring, chase us down the hall and retrieve it, saying, "Well, maybe I can fix this," and relegate it to the storage pile. See item 10.
13. Talk to Frenchy while he's watching football. Really, even I learned this one years ago.
14. Completely fill freezer so I can't store any food larger than a single fish fillet.
15. Taunt me as materialistic for putting my name on my food, then eat my ice cream.
16. When I go to the massive storage space upstairs (now turned into a putative "bar exam study area") to get a sweater from a box that is still up there, follow me and insinuate that I am not allowed upstairs.

I'm sure I will add more as they happen, and as I un-represss memories. When it gets too bad, I just have to remind myself of the view. It's nearly the same from our bedroom window. Life isn't all that bad, is it?