First post for a new decade

They say absence makes the heart grow fonder.

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Clarion Alley Mural Project, San Francisco

 

 

 

Yes, I know. It’s kind of a lame excuse, but, hey, it’s better than the usual “oops, I just got so busy with things that I forgot to write.”

 

 

Though, that bit is true.

 

 

This last month has been rather hectic to say the least. Not just with the usual end of term grading binge and holiday prepping, or with the strikes, which somewhat altered my theatergoing plans.

 

 

And yes, as an aside, I didn’t go to the theatre as often as I had planned last month, but that’s not to say I have any feelings of resentment over what’s going on. On the contrary, I actually support what’s going on, in large part because it directly affects my line of work (because of course teachers and other public servants are so privileged that our pensions must be snipped away at. Unless, of course, we’re cops…obviously), but also because, to be quite frank, in this general environment of increased neoliberalization, seeing that mass worker mobilizations can still do…something…is slightly encouraging. Slightly, only because who knows if it will actually amount to anything significant. It’s hard to stay optimistic.

 

 

 

In any case, it is also quite hilarious (well, infuriating but also hilarious) to read the news about this and see mostly comments along the lines of “well, yes, we understand why people are striking, but why must it be so disruptive?”. I mean, I suppose that people could just go out into the streets one day for a couple hours, make some little signs, wave them around, say a couple of slogans that could later be printed onto t-shirts or pins to be sold for the low price of X euros and then go home—perform at protest, evoke the idea, the gestures of protest—, but what good would that do?

 

 

 

But this is part of what the general tide has turned towards, perhaps. Going through the motions for a moment of illusory subversion, a quick rush to think “yes, I feel good about myself right now” without daring to take that extra step into more difficult territory.

 

 

 

It’s somewhat similar to what I’ve seen in some pieces over the last few years. It’s what Olivier Neveux categorizes as theatre that is essentially “political” in name only, when in reality, it operates within—and even to some degree, reinforces—existing power structures and dynamics.

 

 

 

So, yes, I’m mentally (and physically) preparing myself for a lot of cold walks in the coming days. So be it.

 

 

 

But beyond that, I was also sent into something of a tailspin regarding my dissertation—well, more precisely, my dissertation defense date—that kind of cracked me in the last few days leading up to the break. Chalk it up to stress, or a general feeling of being so close only to potentially have things collapse from under you, but by the time I was ready to board my flight for San Francisco, the only thing on my mind was that I needed to get out of the city for a bit. Clear my head. Relax.

 

 

 

And I did, relax, actually. In fact, to really hammer that bit home, I did something I had never done before for a flight to California: I upgraded to business class.

 

 

To be honest, this was always one of those things I always told myself I would do one day, but never did. Mostly because I never thought I had enough money set aside to do it, as well as just generally feeling guilty about the thought of spending money on a one-time treat like this. Besides, once I saw the “other side”, could I ever go back?

 

 

 

Well, friends, let me tell you: I’ve crossed the Rubicon. Business class is very nice.

 

 

And it’s not just the fact that the seat turns into a full-on bed so that I could actually sleep (okay I slept for only two hours but, hey, that’s more than zero), or that I actually had enough personal space that I could get a good amount of work done (yes, I finished grading exams because I am also very responsible when I relax). It was getting a 15-minute facial (and mimosa because I get started on my relaxing early in the morning as well) in the Air France lounge. It was getting a complementary glass of champagne on arrival, a three-course dinner with actual silverware, and then a light lunch before landing, again with actual silverware. It was the amenities kit with a toothbrush/paste, eye mask, ear plugs, and hand creams that was offered after we were all seated. Hell, it was the fucking facial cleanser in the bathroom.

 

I mean, let’s be honest, in brief, it was just the general feeling of being treated like a human being instead of a mass in a seat.

 

 

 

Now, to be fair, I have had very good experiences on Air France in economy class, so this isn’t so much a dig at them, per-say. It’s more the same general comment about air travel that’s been repeated ad nauseum over the years.

 

 

In any case, it was a lovely experience, and a good way to get started on my holiday.

 

 

 

And it was a good holiday too, even if I did spend the majority of it working.

 

 

I did, at least, make it out for one solo adventure in San Francisco. My parents had gone down to Orange County to visit my sister, and I elected to stay behind to finish my dissertation draft (which I did…somehow). As a sort of reward to myself, I decided a walk and a visit to the SFMOMA was in order.

 

 

And eating, lots of eating.

 

 

I started with a croissant and café au lait at Tartine (because I can never leave France behind entirely) before venturing on a stroll around the Mission to kill some time before lunch (aka the reason I came out here in the first place).

 

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Never say no to coffee in a bowl

 

I mean, I actually managed to visit the namesake Mission, for once.

 

 

 

But yes, lunch.

 

 

 

Lunch was tacos.

 

 

Now, yes, the taco scene in Paris is not too terrible (special shout-out to El Nopal), but let’s be honest, it cannot beat what I can find here. And hell, I’m not even remotely an expert. I just like a good lengua taco now and then to accompany my usual order of carnitas, and also a small salsa bar.

 

 

Well, anyway. Taqueria Vallarta more than satisfied all of that. And it filled me up for my trek to the SFMOMA as well.

 

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Yeah, I know it’s blurry but meh, I was hungry

 

The museum was lovely, as usual, but nothing stood out to me so much that it left an impression. I think it was more the general feeling of being surrounded by art that made me the most happy, or that just got me out of my head for a moment.

 

 

 

After that, I popped over to Good Mong Kok Bakery to grab a red bean cake, and then it was off to City Lights Bookstore to see if I could find anything that struck my fancy. Unfortunately, I didn’t this time around, but, then again, I’ve got two rather large books on deck, and my bookshelf is pretty much full at this point. In any case, it was nevertheless a good way to end the adventure, as well as to mark the closing of the year and decade.

 

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Sweet spot when no cars are zipping by

 

 

Yes, this is going to turn into a slight end of decade post. I say slight because I more or less did this in my birthday post (the perks of having a birthday so close to the end of the year, I guess). But I’ll add a little something here:

 

 

The 2010s for me have been, above all, the decade of Paris. Studying abroad in Paris, moving to Paris once and then back again, and spending all my time when not in Paris thinking about how I would get back. The Paris of my 2010s, and consequently my 20s, was a Paris of studying, of dealing with bureaucracy, of my first real job (which consequently, was also my first real teaching job). It was days spent at the BNF that turned into evenings. It was all-nighters (or close to them) being pulled at Reid Hall, seated behind a window in a little attic room, a pile of paper fortune-tellers acting as a testament as to how long I’d been there.

 

 

 

I’ve dealt with the dormitories, the landlord who got into a straight-up argument with me over giving me my security deposit back, the apartment that was too big (yep, figured out that was a thing), and then my spot now.

 

 

 

In short, over the past decade, as back and forth as my time here was, Paris became home.

 

 

And at the risk of getting overly sappy, I’ll end it at that. I’d say here’s to an excellent 2020, but the idiot-in-chief may or may not have just started WWIII so….eh?

 

 

 

 

At least I have whisky…

 

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The only time I will ever elect to sit by a window for a flight this long

One year on (302 – 306)

My how time flies…

 

 

According to Facebook, it’s been a year since I originally started this thing. One year. I honestly almost can’t believe it, especially when I think back to where I was physically, mentally, emotionally this time last year, and just how much has happened in the meantime.

 

 

Taking stock : I feel stronger, happier, more confident in myself than I did a year ago. Oddly enough, I think the general feeling of hopelessness and desperation I felt after the rug was pulled out from under me contributed in large part to this. Looking back, I think I figured that I had already sunk so low, felt so small, that stumbling along, being a bit more daring even, wouldn’t hurt as badly as the hurt I felt in those early weeks. And it was hurt. Body-aching, mind-stripping, cry until you can only heave out air because the tears are dried up hurt. But I made it. I surprised even myself and I made it.

 

 

Throwing myself back into this city when I did pushed me, helped me get back in touch with a kind of strength that I could feel somewhere within me, but hadn’t accessed for a while. It also made me more vulnerable, or rather more comfortable with being vulnerable. I used to hide a lot of the rawer parts of myself from people, thinking that I had to keep up this act of having everything together, of everything being fine. For whose benefit? I’m not entirely sure. If I had to guess : to prove to myself the extent of my independence and ferocity.

 

 

But one night a few months ago, I was asked why I was hiding how upset I was about something. This came as a shock to me because I thought I had been putting on a pretty good façade. Apparently not.

 

 

And so I decided to open myself up more, to speak out a bit more when something was bothering me. I was allowing myself to experience even small moments of vulnerability and it felt good. And then this good feeling extended outwards into how I projected myself into the world. I knew I could still stand on my own, that I could still handle almost any bullshit life (or bureaucracy…) decided to throw in my way, but this time I could do it knowing that I could allow myself to feel small, bare in front of someone again.

 

As to the name change. The old blog title hasn’t really been true for several months now for a number of reasons, from the content of my posts to the state of my personal life. I wanted something that, going forward, would better reflect my relationship to the city and my work now.

 

 

I also really like alliteration, and have been very into the letter ‘S’ lately so…there’s that.

 

 

Beyond that, the content of the blog isn’t really going to change much, though I’ll probably start to pepper in more dissertation-related thoughts in the near future. Yes, everyone, the time has come to finally begin the long process of writing the thing. Am I nervous about it? Oh god yes. Is there nevertheless a thrill coursing through me when I think of my impending jump into an intellectual abyss of my jumbled thoughts? Definitely.

 

You need a bit of fear to push you along through this I think. Makes it all a bit more exciting.

 

 

With that, I leave you all with a picture of a salad – yes, you read that correctly – I had a couple nights ago while I was out with two friends from the theatre workshop. Normally, this salad is served with a fried egg on top. Unfortunately, no matter how much has changed for me in the past year, I still can’t stand eggs (exceptions, again, being in quiche, frittata and strata forms). Sometimes it’s nice to have a bit of consistency.

 

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Back in Paris, Day 4

A note to anyone who has ever thought ‘hmm I think I might want to pay Effie a visit in Paris. Surely that will be a swell, relaxing time…’ : be prepared to walk. Everywhere. All the time. 

You will walk until you think you can no longer stand on your own two feet.

You will walk until the brink of delirium.

You will walk until you start to legitimately consider the merits of a Segway. 

I’m pretty sure I walked my mom to the limits of her sanity today, but I firmly believe that one of the best ways to explore this city is on foot. And considering that, despite the rather ominous-looking clouds, the day was promising to be dry, I figured why not take advantage of it before the unpredictability of fall really kicks in. 

And so we walked from Hôtel de Ville to the Eiffel Tower and back again, ticking off the usual sites while soaking in the almost uncanniness of Paris in August. I have only spent one August here – in 2013 when I was finishing my 1st Master’s thesis -, and back then I was so absorbed in crafting that beast of a paper that I barely noticed how quiet things got, how even with the constant stream of tourists there were these pockets, these empty spaces that were opening up. That the city seemed to oscillate constantly between activity and dormancy, never quite reaching either but performing a strange sort of balancing act, cognizant all the same of this bubble of energy growing – somewhere – underneath. 

I’m still of the opinion that it was rather fortuitous of me to come here when I did, under my current circumstances. Sometimes I feel as though I am standing on the edge of a precipice dreading but also desperately wishing for that inevitable plunge into the unknown. Those who have listened to me ramble about my research interests know how much I invest in the meaning of space, its charged nature, the fact that it is constantly ‘marked’ not just by our presence but by the presence – and absence – of those who occupied it at the same moment we have. The first time I lived in Paris, I was single. When I came back, I had him. Now it’s as though I’ve entered a process of coming full circle, approaching completion but never quite getting there – because can you truly ever come full circle when you’ve been so changed, when you walk through familiar spaces juggling two different versions of yourself all while wondering where this new one fits in? I am in flux. The more my memories pull, the more I want to at once keep them and burst out of them

Then again, this could all just be the steak-frites talking. Or the wine. 

Yes, it’s definitely the wine.