Saturday, April 18, 2009

Paris I Love You, But You're Bringing Me Down: 25 Things I Took Away From France Other Than Overly Priced Magnets and Keychains

25. Paris Feels Like a 24 Hour Movie Set


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Time to time, I thought that a couple of PAs will come from out of the blue, pull the curtain back and reveal Francois Truffaut in a sweater cape and beret, fully equipped with a big ass megaphone yelling at me to get off his set. Apparently, I was blocking the light and I was just not stylish enough to be considered an extra. Then I would say, "But Francois! I'm wearing a peacoat!". Francois would then reply, "Peacoats? So last year. Sweater capes, bitch".



24. Parlez-Vous Français ?


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I found that one can get by in Paris with a very limited knowledge of the French language. Here is the extent of my french:


  1. Bonjour (Sup guys? [during the day]).
  2. Bonsoir (Sup/Lates guys [during the evening])
  3. Qui (yes).
  4. No (no).
  5. C'est la vie (Something Dan constantly said)
  6. Parlez-vous engles (Excuse me for being such a dumb and ignorant American, but may I impose on you for a second?)
  7. Désolé (Thank you for not laughing and/or spitting on me)
  8. Un baguette and/or pain au chocolat (Gimme some yum yums!)

If all else fails, look to the closest American next to you, shrug, turn back and give the deer in the headlights look (otherwise known as the Sarah Palin).



23. The Yum Yums


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Fat young adult with a hyperactive thyroid and an insatiable thirst for all things yummy in the culinary capital of the world..uh oh.



Here are a few of the highlights:



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Whole roitesserie chicken for 10 Euros. Add a side of mash and corn and Boston Market got some competition.


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Two baguettes every morning and night. Served with chev, munster, comte, etc. My new favorite combo consists of baguette, pickle and duck pate. (I have tried to recreate it here. Alas, to no avail)


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Kebab= the French Mexican food.


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Yes, please.


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Phil's carrot bull is the best bull I've ever had


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Russian barlay soup, possibly the best dish I've had in ages (Julie. I still want the recipe, please.)



22. Parisian Youth is Just As Annoying as American Youth


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Evidently, mainstream hip hop's message of pursuit of excess, sexism, homophobia, and a primitive, highly unrefined demeanor is not exclusive to the United States.



21. Wine is A Necessary Substitute for Water

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The only encounter I had with a Parisian "bum" was with a wino standing behind me at the supermarket buying a bottle of white wine. Judging by the eloquent flow in his speech, I can only imagine that he was waxing poetic about the beneficial prospects of youth and love, making keen observations about the meaning of life and the pursuit of happiness. Or he was just really drunk.



20. Americans are Fat, Lazy and Polluting Bastards

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(Note: Emily is neither fat, lazy nor a polluter)


The main mode of transportation was walking. Sure, we used the Metro to get to places of further distances, but for the most part, everything was in a relatively short walking distance and nobody thought this to be peculiar. While at Berkeley, the fact that I lived on MLK Jr. Way was considered unreasonably far. Friends would be consistently shocked to find that I lived at such distances. In all reality, it took 10-15 minutes to walk to campus, depending if your class was on north or south side. Took me a while to realize, but I actually quite enjoy walking. Strolling around the city, people watching and playing with puppies--way better than standing in the middle of a overcrowded bus with something ambiguous poking the small of your back.


The French also don't believe in the American 'fuck you' car. Every car there was tight, compact and can parallel park in a spot considered too big for a bicycle in the States with relative ease. The city also encourages more fuel efficient means to get around such as bikes (they have stations of rent-a-bikes located at every other block around the city). Finally, I only saw one gas station and it was a tiny little fuel pump located on the corner of one street. Daniel Plainview would be disappointed.



19. "How do you feel about rollerblading?" "I'm for 'em!"



Speaking of alternate means of transportation....rollerblading? Really? As much as the French are purveyors of lasting trends, I think they need to let this one die. (Sorry Kev)



18. Coffee and Cigarettes


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There was nothing better than sitting at a sidewalk cafe in the middle of the afternoon, drinking espressos, chain smoking, people watching and pretending you're French. Doesn't work very well at the local Starbucks. Speaking of Starbucks, I was surprised to see a Starbucks located in the city. In a place where every corner is a different, authentic cafe, did they really need a Starbucks? Surprisingly, every time I passed by, it was packed to the brim. I guess people need to get their non-fat, half-calf, triple grande, quarter sweet, sugar-free vanilla, non-fat lactaid, extra hot, and extra foamy caramel macchiato.



17. Is it...Art?


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You know that feeling of authenticity Walter Benjamin talked about in the context of the age of mechanical reproduction? And you know how I usually cite mundane and esoteric references as if most people know what it is? And you know how the latter of the first two questions I posed should be disregarded as irrelevant? Well, if you answered yes to all those questions, then you're at least trying to pay attention.



Regardless, I did feel that heightened sense of authenticity when I visited the numerous amounts of museums spread throughout Paris. And whether that feeling comes from societal influences, subconscious feelings, or reader-interpreted education (a topic in which Fil, Dan and I discussed for quite a while one late night, despite the fact that everyone else in the room was trying to go to sleep. Sorry! It was Fil's fault), I still felt the aura pierce through as if a Catholic priest-



Too soon, Eric. Here are a few of my favorites:


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Pollock


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Breton


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Y Tu, Brute?


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Rothko


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Whistler


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Dali


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Calder



16. The Catacombs: Not Just a At The Drive-In Song



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So in the 17th-18th century, a bunch of people died (those were the times, I suppose). French cemeteries were overflowing and local neighborhoods (or neighbourhoods [Sorry, Bill]) were starting to contract diseases related to zombie-like symptoms. The solution? Move an estimated 6 million bodies (now all bones of course) to underground tunnels and quarries that stretch for miles on end. Dan and I spent a good two hours (estimated) in there taking creepy photos in the dark. Most of the time, you tend to forget that the remains around you are real and not a set built for Indiana Jones The Ride. I caught myself resting upon stacks of bones from time to time, then realizing that I got dust on my hands from a 300 year old Frenchman.


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15. Jews and Gays, Contrary to Popular Belief, Are Not Mutually Exclusive


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(Dan Schneider: Jewish, in Paris..kind of gay...fits the bill)


Fil lives at the 3rd (or 4th, I forget) arrondissement, which was right next to the Jewish part of town, which also borders onto the gay/hipster area. It was a trip to see traditional Jewish delis suddenly turn into high end, American Apparel-esque (actually, there was an American Apparel there, which made me chuckle for some reason) fashion boutiques. It is admirable to see so many diverse cultural groups packed in like sardines. In some cases, the cultures coalesced into one-- creating one super hipster, gay jewish man. Kevin Wada, there's hope for you yet.

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14. There Was More Space to Move Around At The Peter Bjorn and John Concert Than There Was on The Metro


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On the way back to the airport in our last day in France, while on the Metro, there was no need to hang onto any railings of any kind. Rather, we could just stand and let the warm bodies of fellow travelers provide you with comfort and cushions. The worst part about this is that you usually have no say in whose body you get to snuggle up with. I haven't been so close and so tight in such small corners with so many men since Fleet Week 1991....


In more comfortable news, Peter Bjorn and John are better live than expected. 'Young Folks' still sucks though.



13. Pepsi Tastes Like Rancid Milk

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She's just as disappointed as I am, albeit for probably different reasons (like Jesus dying or something). So Pepsi was about a Euro cheaper than Coke. What gives right? I'll start drinking Pepsi. Wrong. Stupid move, Eric. An even dumber move was spending another Euro on Pepsi Max out of pure curiosity. Turns out that it was just a shittier version of Diet Pepsi. Speaking of diet, most of the "diet" drinks in France are labeled as "light", which is misleading in a decimalised sort of way.



12. Fit Doesn't Just Mean Physically In Shape, It Also Means Physically Attractive

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Thanks Sarah!



11. Dan's Humor: Doesn't Fly as Well as it Does in The States

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Evidently, the immense influence of "that's what she said" has not reached the shores of Western Europe. I'm guessing that's due to the shortage in collar popping frat boys who are typically a year or two behind cultural trends and/or can't comprehend the art of satire. I personally think, contrary to popular fact, that Dan is a very funny person. Exhibit A: Dan's take on the French pop sensation Yelle's "Cause De Garcon", where he takes the word garcon and replaces it with croissant (which then translates to Because of Croissants--isn't that just silly?). Exhibit B: Dan's attempt at a children's song with the intent to help young infants master the French language. The lyrics are:



Qui non qui


Bonjour bon


Qui non qui


Bonjour bonjour



Suffice it to say, Dan's humor borders on the heights of near genius, which is why I'm so surprised that some nights consisted of awkward stares and silence as Dan twirled his arms in circular, contiguous motions.



10. When a Gay Man At A Bar Tells You That You Can Smoke Inside, Run The Other Way

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There was a couple of things I learned that night at 'Pop In'.



First, as the title indicates, never listen to a gay man when he tells you it's OK to smoke in a bar. Generally, gay dudes don't give a "frak" about the rules. They make the rules. Best recognize.



Second, never tick off a tiny Frenchman. I tend to forget that Napoleanic complex originated from France (named after who? The name escapes me). And when said tiny Frenchman yells at you for smoking a cigarette in what is most likely his bar, do not ignore him as if you do not speak english. The man can see through your beady little, Asian eyes. He will then grip your shoulder in a way that only a man with limited strength must learn how to do to defend himself.


Lastly, Philip Johnson is a tease.


Pierre: Are you guys straight or gay?


Dan: Uhh straight


Pierre: Oh..how bout that one


*points at Fil*


Dan: Straight


Pierre: Oh..



5 minutes later..



Pierre: Are you sure?


Dan: Yep


Pierre: ...Pédéraste


Dan: ?



9. Faux pas: Carrying A Glass of Wine into A Bakery And/or Wearing PJs to The Supermarket


Only two things got us stares throughout our whole trip. Dan carrying a wine glass full of red to get baguettes and me waking up early in the morning in a cut off and pajama pants to get "Natural" Lays. Everything else like drunkenly riding bicycles at night and performing stomps in the Metro ceased to cause a ruckus.



8. French Women. I Heart You.

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Emily isn't French, but ain't she pretty? I would say about 75 percent of the women in Paris were either drop dead gorgeous, beautiful, pretty, or cute, with no other options.



"Frenchwomen simply don't suffer from the same dramatic, post-40s slide into sexual obsolescence. Just 15 percent of Frenchwomen in their 50s and 27 percent in their 60s haven't had any sex in the past year, according to a 2004 national survey by France's Regional Health Observatory. Another national survey being released next month will report that cohabiting Frenchwomen over 50 are having more sex now than they did in the early 1990s. Try not to hate them: Frenchwomen don't get fat, and they do get lucky."

-The Washington Post



Fuck, huh?



7. French Sex Slangs Are Absolutely Priceless

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It was a surprise that most people from France have never heard of "The Eiffel Tower", which, most of the time, had to be explained through physical visuals. Then again, I didn't know what "twix" and "kitkat" meant, and they are now engrained in my own personal lexicon of sexual perversions.



6. Everyone Photographs Well in Paris


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5. The Song About Champs Elysses is Way Cooler Than The Actual Champs Elysses

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I was walking on the street, my heart opened for the unknown
I just felt like saying hello to somebody. And that's how I met you
I said nothing special to you
but it was enough to make you confiding

On the Champs-Elysees
whether the sun is shining, it's raining, it's midday or midnight
Everything can happen to you on the Champs-Elysees



4. The Two Kisses on The Cheek Thing...Doesn't Work Very Well Here

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The "Hey Ladies! It's cool! I just got back from Europe!" excuse can only last so long.


What I found surprising is that hugs between male friends were generally frowned upon and considered "way gay", whereas cheek kisses were friendly salutations by two bros who were just like, you know, totally straight.



3. Out of 15 people (11 of them being Parisian) Three Americans Beat The Vodka Taste Test. TAKE THAT!

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I didn't pass. All vodka tastes the same to me, whether it be Grey Goose, Russian Standard or Smirnoff (and according to my results, I prefer Smirnoff to the former two). While I see alcohol as a means to an end, some actually have palates mature enough to enjoy the subtle pleasures of fermented wheat. Congratulations to Fil, Dan and Julie for winning the titles of 'Vodka Snobs'. Although I still think they won because Americans know how to party. (The last sentence was supposed to be read in a sardonic tone).



2. I Have Now Come To Understand Why People Hate Flying

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My first encounter with the most common of French stereotypes (their uncouth rudeness, which turns out, from my experience, could not be any further from the truth) was actually in New York, where our plane was delayed for about an hour because a Jermaine Clement/Trevor Mast doppelganger (with his hot Feist-esque, milf of a wife) tried to choke out another Frenchman on a plane full of witnesses (including some from Queens, which brought upon a hilarious subsidiary confrontation by the Jermaine doppelganger and Latina's from the Bronx). The chokeout was due brought out due to property rights over space in the overhead compartment. As peeved as I was about the delay, it was thoroughly entertaining to see a genuine airline fight unfold. I was going to take a picture, but Dan looked at me like, "Are you f'ing j'ing me?"



The trip back, however, was the absolute most dreadful trip back in the history of trips from Paris to Dallas to Los Angeles. About five hours in, while we were cruising a healthy 30,000 feet over the border of Montreal and Buffalo, Dan and I were killing time by watching reruns of Lost. The episode we were watching was 'Namaste', episode 9 from this season where Frank Lapidus is trying to land Ajira 316 on the runway that was built on the Hydra Island four years before the plane even took off (I'm a bit obsessive). While Ajira 316 was crashing onto the island, Dan and I suddenly hear the words "CODE RED" yelled from the back of our plane. According to Dan, as my head cautiously turned back, my face was glossed over in pale white with a sheer look of terror. Here I am, watching a show about a plane crash on a plane that has been issued "code red".



Turns out a "code red" means medical emergency, and it turned out that the medical emergency was a man, coming out of the lavatory, projectile vomiting blood all over the floor. So we're not on LOST, thank God--instead, we're either on the first episode of Fringe (where everyone on a plane turns into a melting zombie) or any George Romero movie, or maybe Danny Boyle's 28 Days Later. Doesn't matter really, those zombies are usually all fast and love human brains. I'm fucked either way.



So we land in Montreal due to the medical emergency. The stewardess ensured us that this will only take about half an hour and since most of us had connecting flights (who lives in Texas? Seriously. [Jk, love you Texas]), we will be able to hopefully make it on time.



Three hours later. After a clusterfuck due to an amalgamation of airline inefficiency and government bureaucracy, it looked like we were about to get back on track. 2/3 of the plane, while initially sympathetic to the zombie man passed out on the floor, are now livid and uncaring due to the fact that they have all missed their connecting flights. I still sat as patiently as I can, listening to podcasts on my iPod, trying to block out the screams and complaints of fellow passengers; however, I found that the reason why we were delayed for so long (the inability to clean and replace the carpet) was a problem that could have been fixed with a bit more effort. By effort, I mean that every plane should come fully equipped with oxyclean, shamwow, and the zombie survival guide. All this could have easily been avoided.



After takeoff, I immediately passed out (the first signs of jetlag). When I woke up, Dan told me that soon after I passed out, another woman passed out in the back of the plane, causing yet another ruckus. I'm so glad I was asleep.



We finally land in Dallas hours after our connecting flight to Los Angeles. After customs, we were approached by American Airlines staff informing us that they needed our baggage. We tried to explain that we had no idea what flight we were on yet, but the baggage handlers claimed that everything would be fine. At this point, we were too tired to inquire further and took their word on good faith. We get a connecting flight to LA that leaves Dallas at 8:40 pm at terminal C. It was 8:00 pm and terminal C was across the other side of the airport. A security guard gives us directions that turned out to be a giant circle. It is now 8:20 pm. We hurry our way to the tram system that we are not familiar with at all. At this time, Dan's phone runs out of battery so we can call neither of our respective rides to inform them that we will be four hours late. We get on and off the tram and make it to our gate literally SECONDS before the gate was closed (like Hurley in the season 1 finale!).



Dan and I are separated, of course, much to our dismay, and Dan finds his seat next to the emergency hatch, placed strategically by God (punishing for our secular sins) next to the biggest black man we have ever seen in our lives (his arms took up half of Dan's space). I had better luck sitting next to the cute girl from Walnut Creek that let me borrow her phone to call my parents (Thanks!). I digress. While I was making my way to my seat, a traffic jam ensued and about 10 people (including me) couldn't get to our seats. A stewardess from the front comes storming through, pushing us to the side and approaches a woman PASSED OUT on the floor. The stewardess starts pressing the emergency button and declares: (you guessed it) "CODE RED!"



At this point, if there is a God, he hates me and wants to see me suffer. S(he) also cursed me with a bad case of the shits (shouldn't have ate that questionable pizza on the plane).



The flight is delayed once more, but we finally get home around 11 pm (we were supposed to get in around 6). Dan misses his flight back to Berk town and has to stay with me in LA for another night (by this point, I'm sick of seeing his face every friggin day [Love you, Dan]). We wait for our baggage with the rest of the passengers that were also delayed, but to no avail. The last nail in our coffin: Our baggage was now missing. Super sweet.



We go to customer service to file that our baggage was missing. I was reasonably angry, knowing that we should have asked more questions before handing over our baggage, but I could have been a lot worse (considering the line behind me were yelling, heckling and cursing at the employees). Customer service promised me that my baggage will be delivered at my house the next day before 2pm. Dan can pick up his baggage the next day at the same terminal when he goes back to catch his flight back to Oaktown.



After two burritos, fries and taquitos, we're back at my place and fall asleep despite our jetlag.



4:45 am. A knock is heard on my iron door. What the fuck, right? Everyone in the house wakes up. We either think it's a burglar or Jehovah Witnesses (we'd much prefer the former). Nope. It was American Airlines, delivering my baggage...at 4:45 in the morning.



Fuck you, American Airlines. I'm flying United for now on.



1. Bahn Mi is Not As Good Anymore


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The one detrimental part of my Parisian experience: the Bahn Mi shop on Atlantic and Valley now tastes like butt.

8 comments:

KEVIN CHUNG LEE CHENG said...

Good post. You hide the snobbery very well.

jo said...

Oui (yes), non?

<3

J. M. said...

no way bahn mi could taste bad! by the wy i found some places that have the potentially amazing Vietnamese concoctions and they are just CRAP!

P.S. can we get married? i'm serious!

J. M. said...

1. I will give you the recipe when I see you in August.

2. Yes in french is OUI not QUI (lol but you still got by apparently!)

3. I found bahn mi sandwiches in Paris and they are just lame in the face! :-(

4. I will recreate the duck pate and cornichons experience for you again!

5. We will make our on Cali crazy songs! YES!

6. Walter Benjamin and you mentioning him and a lot of other things ROCK MY WORLD!

7. Let's have weird ameri-russ-asian babies and call them french names like Pascal and Lucien and Jean-Pierre!

8. Make it happen!

C.M.E said...

this makes me want to marry you. Don't tell Kevin.

Tamara said...

Upon searching The Postmodern Condition for my Public Speaking class, I stumbled upon your blog, and I must say I enjoyed reading it much more than anything Jean-Franois Lyotard has written. :) Hope you have a nice day.

Are No said...

Sup dick.

hi said...

I hear they have cool art in Paris... such cool art.