How being late made me look ambitious

•28 juillet 2011 • Laisser un commentaire

I like being busy. I like to feel the adrenaline increase and spread throughout my body as the time of the expiration of any deadline comes closer, and closer. It makes me feel alive. Which is probably why I like to book last minute trips and rush to the airport. I timed myself yesterdaytwo feet towards the Orly airport to catch my plane to Rome, so I wanted to cut it as close to the deadline as possible to beat my record of 1,30 hours of commuting (metro + bus + Orlyval). (On a sidenote, despite this mentality, the trip from taking the first step into the metro to the Orly airport until the bus that took me back home from the Fiumicino airport lasted a total of 9 hours!!!).

Which led me to miss my 16h40 flight. But here is the best thing about me. I can sneak my way through any situation because, for some reason I can’t fathom, I have a great sense of timing. Case in point: my university application for a master’s at Paris II. One day, I literally woke up and told myself I would fill out an application for an M1 at Paris 2 because I wanted to widen my career options. I visited their site only to discover the application process had started since January (it was March) and the deadline was just a week away. Did I panic? No I didn’t, and I got all the materials in on the day of the deadline. I hand delivered them, and the secretary looked at me enigmatically. I said something on the lines of « I wanted to make sure my application was flawless » to which she smile and said « That’s the dedication we are looking for. »

Similar situation at the airport. They had closed the check in table, or so did the man standing at the counter tell me. I pretended to go away, devastated, but I just stood right outside his peripheral view, trying to come up with a quick scheme to get on that plane. Suddenly a woman goes up to him to ask for some information, and I take that moment to zip onto another counter and chat with the nice young gentleman working it. I told him how that other man had addressed me to him in order to put me on the next plane to Rome. He looked at me trivially, at which moment I panicked and did the only thing I do best. Smile like it was the best day of my life. The sucker bought it like candy, and I had a first class ticket on Alitalia for Fiumicino. Ok, it’s only a two hour flight, BUT they served me wine and peanuts, while everyone else sitting miles of rows behind me suffered two crying babies and the noise of the turbine. They should have been late.



•21 juillet 2011 • Laisser un commentaire

Somewhere in the depths of my attic in our Italian home, there is a box full of drawings I made back in kindergarten, the ones showing my daddy and my mommy holding hands with my sister and I, and we are all flying through blank paper space with long spindly legs. And then there are the drawings that I had to make to respresent months like December: Papa Noel, January: New Year, […] April: Easter, May: Spring, June: flowers in bloom, July: warm, sun, beach…. you get the idea. Just like any normal kid, I was brought up to expect warm and heat and fun in the months of July through August. I will even go for a stretch and include September, because I feel generous today.

Now, if I were to ask a little Parisian first grader to describe the months to me, what would they put down for July?

Cold, rain, rain boots, humidity and grey skyes. Would I mark them down for misrepresenting July? No. I would give them extra points because due to theim being realistic enough to know that Parisian weather in the summer sucks. It  just sucks.

And what is worse is that I live in a neighborhood where, although during the day I can comfortable walk outside and say hi to the fruit vendor across the street, or go to the bistrot by the side of the church and know the waiter by name, the nocturnal activity (and demography) changes drastically. Two weeks ago, for example, all the power on the street went out. « that’s weird, » I thought. And as I looked outside, I saw a group of men running a drug deal right outside my room’s window. Which is on the ground floor. Apparently it’s a common thing for them to cut the power in order to  run their business.

And a couple of days ago I was awakened by the phone ringing: it was the woman that lives in the building besides our house and she wanted to tell me there was a man outside the house who has been observing the house for 30 minutes and has been attempting to climb it for the past 5. And it was only 9am.

Call me cynical, but it’s a tiring lifestyle, having to act like a paranoid android every time I leave the house. So that whole ordeal, mixed with the rain, gives me nausea. Am I starting to become disenchanted with Paris? Maybe. I mean, SF’s weather is no different during the summer, and some days can be very very cold. But you walk down the street, and the only thing you have to worry about is stepping in the way of the Bushman during one of his stunts. Not drug dealers, they leave you alone.

On the other hand, when I gain enough motivation to get on my bike and go past the walls of the twentieth and its loitering men hissing at me in Arab « Fatimah! Put your veil back on! » comme n’importe quoi, a new life appears right before my eyes. An Haussmanian Paris, with fashion forward people, ragged-looking big-boned old artist walking their mini pug. Old ladies with hands weighed down by huge heirloom rings,  antique stores overflowing with vintage crystal champagne cups, lost tourists, happy tourists, tourists asking for directions, women studying you up and down and back up, lovers kissing shamelessly whenever and wherever they can….sigh.

I cannot win the lottery fast enough so that I can finally buy that little 35 squared-meter studio in the Marais, Saint Michel or Saint-Germain des près or hell, even Bastille! I  don’t care, just don’t let my idea of Paris be buried under crime, and huge bric-a-brac building, and drug deals at 11pm, and robberies at 9am.

It was a dark and stormy night…

•7 juin 2011 • Laisser un commentaire

And I loved every moment of it.

But before the skies gave us thunderstorms, it was a sunny, warm day. We originally had decided to bike from Paris to Fontainebleau, but then thought better due to the decrepit state both of our bikes were in. So we took the train to Melun and then just followed the 20Km to a little village next to Fontainebleau. Good thing too, because by Km 5, my back tire had drastically taken the shape of an egg for no reason whatsoever besides the fact that it is my bike and things obviously cannot go right. That would be a joke. Consequently, Stefano’s bike pedals just decided to stop working. Completely stop working.

Luckily we were not in Paris anymore and people were nice enough to A) Say « Bonjour » as we crossed paths B) Smile / smile back and C) Actually stop and help us repair bikes (!!!!) even though both our bikes were past the point of no return. Believe it. People are only mean in Paris.

And my dream to live in the countryside surrounded by hectares of fruit trees and chickens continues to grow…

We finally got to Stefano’s friend’s house. And by house I mean enormous château with a lake in the backyard that only took up a third of the backyard itself. It was insane. It was beautifully insane. And we spent the afternoon BBQing, playing Taboo and soaking up the sun. Until 11pm, when the thunderstorm hit, and the water started to fall in buckets, and the earth overcharged with electricity, and I took it all in, sitting by the side of the lake. It was such a purifying experience.

« Hier ici, demain aussi »

•14 mai 2011 • Laisser un commentaire

In France, the leftist party died with Mitterand. As a last breath, this poor battered party decided to organize a huge but short concert in honor of the 30-year anniversary of Mitterand’s elections. Because, what better way to waste money that could be used to gain some kind of momentum than to throw a huge concert for some youth who are mainly immigrants and cannot even vote?But Gotan Project played and after the concert we went for some Halal kebab. So I was satisfied.

à la Bastille, how symbolic!

Ya(wwww)nnick Noah finished. Amen!

...And then the skies opened up, and Cristina Vilallonga sang....

Candle in the wind


Paris is burning

•29 avril 2011 • Laisser un commentaire


It happened earlier this month, but the memory of that night slaps me in the face every time I look outside my window. During the day, I try to be out and about for as long as I can, because I know that as soon as I step through the gate of the Cité, the stale stench from the fire makes its way into my nostrils and the quietness of the street pounds me a sensation of anguish into me. What makes the situation worse is having people fill the air with their whispers, having to see people from the other side of Paris come here, in my haven, to exorcise their fear about death, about morbid things.

Go exorcise somewhere else.

So, I am trying to rebuild the happiness it took me so long to gain when I moved here. But I don’t know where to start. There is currently a crowd that formed out of nowhere, 4 cops on bikes just posting outside, as if waiting for a great messiah to clean up the mess, repaint the façade, and re-welcome all the original neighbors.


It is times like these I question the bureaucracy of this place. At first it was a personal conflict I had, having to fight to obtain ONE social security number to feel legitimate, and having to go through the same routine virutally every week, and having the sae 3 ladies tell me that the documents I have provided are not enough, and that I still need this this this this and this. Now it’s become something bigger. Something in the system isn’t working. 40% of the people who lived in the building were in France illegally, sharing a 38 square-metered apartment with 5 other people because that is all they could afford. Busting their asses every day to bring back money, to pay rent, to pay the taxes, to hope that the next day could be easier, and they could one day afford their own 38 squared meters. And now they find themselves with no home, and no means to find another place to live because they have no papers, they have no legitimacy here. And even if they wanted to, they would have to jump through hoops of fire because the bureaucracy doesn’t give anything out for free to the poor.

Enjoy with a Krug Selection 1961

•31 mars 2011 • Laisser un commentaire

Dying of cancer, François Mitterrand ordered a last meal of:

  • Oysters
  • Foie gras
  • Capons
  • L’Ortolan

L’Ortolan is the eating of a Ortolan bird, a tiny, yellow-throated songbird that is illegal to eat in France. The bird is roasted and eaten bones and all. L’Ortolan recipe is as follows:

Preparation: The birds must be taken alive; once captured their eyes are either poked out or kept in a lightless box for a month to gorge on millet, grapes, and figs, a technique taken from the decadent cooks of Imperial Rome who called the birds beccafico, or ‘fig-pecker.’ Roman emperors and French kings used the same practice on the little birds: disorientated by the darkness, they eat for 24 hours a day.

When they’ve reached four times their normal size, they’re drowned in a snifter of Armagnac.

Cooking: Simply pop them in a high oven for six to eight minutes and serve. Place a napkin or cloth over your head. This large napkin is used for the gourmet’s aesthetic desire to absorb the maximum odour with the flavor. It is also to cover your shame and gluttony from God.

Eating: When cool, begin to chew. Put the whole bird in your mouth, with only its beak protruding slightly from your lips. It should take about 15 minutes to work your way through the breast and wings, the delicately crackling bones, and onto the inner organs.

Devotees claim they can taste the bird’s entire life as they chew in the darkness: the wheat of Morocco, the salt air of the Mediterranean, the lavender of Provence. The pea-sized lungs and heart, saturated with Armagnac from its drowning, are said to burst in a liqueur-scented flower on the diner’s tongue.

Savor the intermingling flavors of fat, blood and guts. Do not panic when the bird’s small, delicate bones begin to cut into your gums – you are actually supposed to slightly bleed, so as to fully drive home the decadence of what you have done.

And then there were a million stars

•17 janvier 2011 • Un commentaire

A country bumkin at heart, indeed.
As soon as I stepped out of the TGV, I looked up to see a rose-tinted sky giving way to a blue, star-lit night. Driving from the Montbard station to Touillon (population: 250) I passed vast pastures of green grass, through rows of stone-built houses, and almost killed a raccoon.
I went to bed every night with overwhelming silence and the light of countless stars, and woke up every morning with nature’s first alarm clocks: roosters.
At every corner, I was reminded of Capradosso, despite the fact that the scenery looked nothing like the countryside from my childhood. But the feeling of being at peace, and happy with the simplicity life offered (and lack of internet) and the constant heat of the sun on my face was enough to awaken the best memories I have of my childhood: how many trees I climbed, how many splinters I had gotten on my hands, feet, hips from rolling in the dirt and on old wooden stumps. How much dirt would accumulate in the bath every night when my mother forced me to clean up…
I climbed one tree this weekend, mostly out of nostalgia. The rest of the time was spent either playing with a soccer ball (more out of pleasure for the kid than for my own entertainment) or reading on the balcony with a tea in hand (something that I would have scoffed at 10 years ago).
Life is funny. Here I am, still young, thinking I have all the energy in the world to create adventures for myself, yet all these simple activities that would have sent me apeshit years ago are tiring just thinking about it today. And there I was, getting all giddy and excited at the thought of just walking through the woods (as opposed to rolling through them).

I must have cursed my brain 12,879 times for not having brought the camera with me, so these mobile photos is all I have of my delightful weekend.