287 – 301

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I like pretty cocktails from Combat

 

It’s been a little over two weeks since I’ve settled into my new place, and slowly but surely, things are finally starting to feel like home.

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Finding creative ways to hang photos helps

Quite a number of notable events happened in those two weeks, at least one of which was witnessed by pretty much the entire world over in one way or another. I closed my last post with my housewarming party, and all the leftover chips I (still) have in my house, sitting on my table…just waiting to be consumed…at some point.

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Old mustard pots make great vessels for desserts…just saying

In the days that followed, I reoriented myself with my (not so) new surroundings, trying to establish a routine that could follow me through into the rentrée. I planned new walking routes (because of course I did), I acquainted myself with my new smaller kitchen, I made things, gifted things, stocked my tiny fridge to the brim with things. I got back in touch with two old friends, one of whom I hadn’t seen in about five years, and who I had originally met in my first study abroad program when I was an undergrad. They work as an actor full-time in New York now, and were in town as part of an independent production : a reworking/reimagining of sorts of La Vie d’Adèle (Blue is the Warmest Color). I won’t go too much into the details of how this went because even though my friend and I had a long and incredibly cathartic on their end, at least from what I gathered, talk about all the almost unbelievable nonsense that muddied the overall mood of the production, I’m not sure how much negativity I want to put out into the world right now when there are so many others (two world leaders in particular are coming to mind…) doing the job so astoundingly well already. Suffice it to say that an overinflated ego that all but blinds you to the – I know, astounding – reality that your audience is more than fully capable of interacting intelligently with and drawing informed conclusions from your piece, is never the best way to go about things.
On the bright side, the aforementioned cathartic conversation with said friend did allow me the opportunity to add a new restaurant to my list, Le Cadoret, located about 5 or so minutes from my apartment. It’s going right up there with the three dumpling places, and the proximity to my favorite café on my list of reasons why I’m really glad I moved into this apartment.

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Beets and boudin noir to start
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Pork and the fluffiest pommes dauphine I have ever tasted
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Cheese…because of course.

This first reunion was followed up on by another with another friend – from the Cité U days – who I also hadn’t seen since the last time I moved out of Paris in 2014. Unfortunately, schedules never worked out in our favor to meet up during my subsequent short visits, and right before I moved back, she took a job in Vienna. Luckily though, she was in town for the night of July 14th (Bastille Day), so a small group of us were able to get together for dinner before heading over to the Pont Alexandre III to watch the fireworks with a slightly smaller crowd than the masses on the Champ de Mars. Let me tell you, watching the fireworks with an incredibly, excessively belligerent human squawking the Marseillaise – along with several other chants relating to France’s semifinal win the night before – right behind you is quite an experience. I mean really, it was almost as though we were right there, on the champ de mars, listening to the soundtrack of various pop songs that no doubt accompanied the (several) ecstatic bursts of color. The theme this year was Paris in Love. I have no doubt that nothing illustrated that theme better than the love that was shown between that man the the robust capacity of his vocal chords (really though, the show lasted just over 30 minutes, and he kept at it the whole time…yes people asked him repeatedly to knock it off…and yes after a while we realized that this, like the fight against our own mortality in this journey called life, was a futile endeavor).
Anyway.

Speaking of celebrations, France won the World Cup. I met up with the boyfriend at a bar near his friend’s place, a bar that, once I walked in, gave me strong California vibes, with a touch of New England maritime aesthetic.
Despite the very palpable feelings of stress that permeated the room during a large part of the first half (let’s get this out of the way now: France did not play well at all during a very good portion of that game), once the goals started happening – and especially once victory became almost inevitable –, the mood changed, as one might expect it would during an event like this.
Really though, I don’t think anything can quite capture the absolute joy that radiated out into the streets after the match was over. I didn’t really feel up for heading down to the Champs Elysées that evening (or the day after for the team’s welcome home parade), but honestly, it almost didn’t matter where you were in the city (I’m going to stress that last bit here because, of course, access to the celebrations from the banlieues was all but cut off that night), the celebration all but found you.

All this to segue into another victory, a smaller, more personal one, perhaps, but a victory all the same.
I installed a washing machine.
A bit of background: before I moved in to my apartment, the friend of mine who was living there before me informed me that the in-unit washing machine was smoking. This is, of course, not normal. Not a problem. I strategized my laundry at my old place, a new machine was ordered, and two weeks later, there it was in my ‘living room’.
Now here’s a thing about France that I did not know at the time: technically, if you order a large appliance like this to replace an old or broken one, the delivery service, by law, has to take the old one out of your place when they deliver the new one. The former is then dropped off at an appropriate recycling facility where it is either repaired/refurbished (if possible), or taken apart and its materials being put to use elsewhere. Of course, this system does at times mean that you will encounter people who conveniently ‘forget’ to take your old machine, meaning you find yourself in a conundrum of being on the top floor of a 5th (US 6th) floor walk-up with one more washing machine than you really know what to do with.

One thing was for certain though: I needed to do laundry. For that, I had to install the new machine.
Shout-out here to the boyfriend for helping me figure out how to do it over the phone, and for granting me the realization that it really isn’t quite as annoyingly complicated as I thought it would be.
Well, the actual installation part at least (apart from this moment where I almost had a breakdown because the damn faucet thing wouldn’t stop leaking until I realized that the tube was screwed on slightly crookedly and that there really was a very simple solution to that problem). The moving the old machine out and the new one into place was slightly less so.
Honestly, that part was a bitch. But at least now I have clean underwear so…

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*Victoriously sips on a really quite excellent Freddo Cappuccino from IBRIK as a way to mark the completion of an initially daunting task…

 

As to the old machine, thankfully I had a few friends willing to come lend a hand to bring it down the stairs (and a neighbor who caught us about 2/3rds of the way down and offered his help as well), otherwise that thing was (metaphorically) going right out the window.

Finally, the week was rounded out with another first for me: my first trip to a public swimming pool in Paris. Yay!
My friend Isabella and I were keen for a bit of sun/sunning, and since going to the beach was not an option (1: last minute train tickets there were a bit too expensive, and 2: all the trains back were full), we figured why not do the next best thing and go to an open-air swimming pool (conveniently located near both the Parc des Buttes Chaumont and my apartment).
Contrary to my expectations, the pool wasn’t overwhelmingly crowded that day, and was actually very nice and clean (as in, the water was crystal clear, and did not smell overwhelmingly of chlorine clean). We mostly sat out on the pool ledge to get some sun and dip our feet in (no lounge chairs in the immediate area, unfortunately), but after a bit, we did end up donning our (mandatory) swimming caps and taking a quick dip in.

Coincidentally, this is also the thing that reminded me of why I never really sought out going to public pools here. I hate swimming caps.
Another side note: someone is going to need to explain to me exactly why it is that in France the rule is that you must take a quick shower – with soap, provided in the changing rooms – before going in the water. This seems counterintuitive.
As I am going to be off to Greece in a couple of weeks, I don’t fully anticipate visiting the pool again this summer, but given how pretty excellent their access packages are price-wise, maybe this could become a weekly thing next year. Who knows?
Hell, maybe by then I’ll have bought myself a swim cap that’s a slight more comfortable than the 2eur one I bought from the vending machine in the entrance lobby. There were two colors available: black and navy blue. Take a wild guess as to which one I picked…

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As you can see, this is not a swim cap. No, this is some apricot jam I made. Another mini-success

165 – 168

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The Hurricane at Lulu White

 

Sometimes I feel as though I get into these sort of slumps where writing feels more like a chore than something I actually really look forward to doing. Maybe that explains why I felt like I had to drag myself to update this thing today. Granted, I did come off just finishing a preliminary bibliography – including small (and large…very large) paragraphs to accompany each text I read – so the thought of typing out anything didn’t exactly seem very appealing. Thankfully, weekends exist to help with the whole recuperating process.

 

 

I’m one of those grad students who basically treats what I’m doing as my job and, as such, I hold weekends – particularly Friday nights and Saturdays – pretty sacred, as in, I’m not going to touch anything related with my work unless I absolutely have to. Experience (and let me just take a minute here to process the fact that I’m currently in my sixth, yes sixth, year of graduate school right now) has sort of taught me that the best ideas come after I shove everything to the side for a minute and think on other things. Or  simply just try and be in the world instead of thinking about it from an ‘outside’/theoretical perspective.

 

Friday night thus found me back at Lulu White’s where I discovered that they occasionally play live music. It’s kind of surprising to think that they can pull this off to be honest, given how small the space is, but let’s be honest, if your Friday night doesn’t occasionally involve you cozying up to a three-piece jazz combo (as well as one or two small clusters of individuals who, immediately after admitting they aren’t experts on jazz, try to offer their opinions on what is happening to everyone else within earshot while taking on an insipid air of ‘expertise’…) are you really living?

 

Honestly though, the music was a really nice addition to the night. Coincidently, so was the hurricane cocktail that I ordered. Nice and rather potent.

 

 

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CalArts comes to Paris

 

Saturday was a bit more chill compared to Friday, in part because a good chunk of my afternoon was spent at the theatre (my one exception to the no work on weekends ‘rule’ – going to see a show…because it’s fun). This was my second time at the Théâtre des Abbesses, and I think I can honestly say that I’m not incredibly keen on seeing a show in this space again, unless I happen to be sitting in the orchestra. I was talking this over with my companion for the afternoon, and we both agreed that we were right to take the opportunity to move to the orchestra from our original seats in the mezzanine, mostly because even before anything started, the distance between our section and the stage coupled with the fact that the proscenium arch – and thus the stage itself – is not particularly tall, made it feel as though we were too far removed from it all. Honestly, I think the space would be better served with keeping things relatively intimate, but then again, theatres – even ones supported by the State – need to survive somehow. Capitalism…

 

Moving on to the show itself, the reason why I wanted to try and squeeze this one in to my rather full March schedule is mostly because it is a partial retelling of the Orestia, and I’m due to attend a conference around notions of power and theatrical representations/retellings of the Agamemnon myth throughout history. The fact that the show is not only a coproduction between CalArts and La Comédie de Saint-Étienne – and cross-cultural theatrical collaborations interest me – but also is a production of a text written by a female playwright of color (Alesha Harris) kind of gave me the last convincing push I needed to buy my ticket.

 

At its core, the play tackles the question of what makes us a society through the examination of two different families: the Halburtons, a political family lead by a matriarch with ‘lofty’ aspirations (and I mean this literally because her dream, as she lays out in her opening speech, is to build a great tower that will house all of society), and  the family of Agamemnon (here portrayed as a military general recently returned from war), his wife Clytemnestra and their son Orestes, a very shy, awkward fifteen year-old. There’s no direct mention of any of Agamemnon’s daughters (Iphigenia and Electra), though at one point Clytemnestra does evoke a female baby that she remembers holding in her arms before it disappeared (could we say a reference to Iphigenia perhaps…?). The play opens, however, not with a presentation of the two families, but with one of the actresses from the ‘chorus’ delivering a soliloquy on memory, the dead, and the evocation of ghosts.

 

I’m going to be upfront and say I was *slightly* disappointed in this production, but only because my expectations were so high after this first monologue. As the play was performed entirely in English – though the actors were a mix of French and American performers – the expectation was that there would be a screen of some sort set up for the surtitles in French. Imagine my very pleasant surprise when, instead of just a rectangular screen with ordered lines of text, the words were projected directly onto the curtain behind the actress, sometimes with print so large that the projection crossed over onto her body. These were not static words, they were rhythmic, lively playful words, words that appeared and disappeared in a rhythm evoking the spoken-word pace of the text being voiced. Call it an addition of vocality onto an otherwise silent form, or a way to  create an active form of reading text. I almost expected this to be brought back again, but unfortunately, instead of being a sort of throughline – and I should be specific here, I mean this in the case of both the alternative surtitles and the spoken-word style of the text itself – all this  manner of approaching speech and translation was reserved just for this opening prologue, though the themes of ghosts and reviving the dead came back again briefly. Instead, the overall structure returned to a slightly more traditional approach with regards to the surtitles, clean orderly lines replacing active and bordering on musical playfulness.

 

I will say though that the set design was probably my favorite overall element of the show. Created in a way so as to both keep a trace of a fourth wall – one thing that stood out to me as I was reading the dossier pédagogique  before going in to see the show was set designer Carlo Maghirang’s comments that he wanted the space to evoke that of a prison, with the cells stacked atop one another – as well as imagine the existence of possibilities beyond said fourth wall, the action was confined to two floors of the aforementioned tower, each one representing an apartment of one of the families. Verticality, I find, is something that is often not quite taken advantage of as much as it could be, and it was interesting watching the constant up and down shift of focus from one apartment to the next, making moments in which someone did actually cross the stage horizontally that much more impactful.

 

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Sun’s back…time for ice cream

 

The rest of Saturday consisted of a long walk home – the weather had finally taken a turn for the better so there was no way that was not happening – followed by a dinner featuring very smelly cheese (aka the best kind of cheese). I had originally intended to stay in on Sunday and spend the day tackling one or two chores that needed doing, but then the morning of, a friend put out the call to grab a coffee and given how nice it was out (sun! Finally!), I really could not resist.

 

And so I spent the day in the great sunny, yet still a tad crisp, outdoors walking. Oh, and eating the above ice cream cone.

 

 

Have I mentioned I’m really ready for spring and summer to get here? Because I am.

Summary of a weekend (78 – 80)

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Last of the autumn leaves…

 

Fridays are for…

  • Friends coming over (with wine) to help you finally finish the rest of that pumpkin pie from earlier that week
  • Feasting on tacos from El Nopal together on the banks of the Canal, and reveling in the fact that – due to the sudden drop in temperature – there was only one other person in line when you got there (though it does also make you eat your tacos faster…wouldn’t want to catch a cold after all)

 

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Chocolat chaud from Yann Couvreur in the Marais

Saturdays are for…

  • Steaming, warming cups of thick chocolat chaud bringing the heat back into your hands during a stroll home. Pictured above is the first of what will be undoubtedly many this season, this particular one courtesy of Yann Couvreur Pâtisserie in the Marais.
  • Sazeracs at Lulu White, a New Orleans-style bar in SoPi, with another friend, and chance encounters with other art-makers during the course of an evening.
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Also this glass is kind of adorable.

 

And Sundays are, of course, for…

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  • Sensorial overloads in the form of a theatre experience that I enjoyed, but am still not entirely sure what to make of. There’s a sort of part 2 of this performance that I’m going to on Thursday. Maybe by then my thoughts on the experience as a whole will be more in order. If nothing else, I will say that it at least dared to be overloading, overbearing, just too much in general, which can’t be said for a lot of theatre these days. Oh, and a special shout-out goes to the fog machine which made…several…imposing appearances throughout the course of the evening.

 

Here’s to the week ahead.

 

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First holiday decorations up on rue Montorgeuil

35 – 36

My neighborhood makes some great art.

Honestly, with the amount of speakeasy bars that seem to pop up every five seconds in Paris – and always with a line of patrons waiting to get in -, it’s a wonder that the term can still mean something. 
Granted, that doesn’t mean I don’t still enjoy going to them because while the ‘speakeasy’ concept has surpassed its origins as part of the underground of Prohibition-era America, the cocktails at these Paris bars are usually rather good. And, yes, sometimes the concept behind the bar itself can be kind of cute.

The pumpkin spice obsession not being one of the trends that has crossed over to Paris (thank goodness), I get my fall fix with pumpkin purée in my cocktails.

Last night, I met up with a friend at Lavomatic, a speakeasy bar hidden within an actual working laundromat (hence the name). As we arrived during apéro hour, the wait wasn’t too terrible, although we unfortunately did not get there in time to score a table with a swing for a seat (of which there are, I believe, two). Laundry-themed decor dots the interior of the small – yet very cozy – bar, and the noise level didn’t get too crazy while we were there, even with the cramped space. As for the drinks, I really enjoyed my cocktail, and I’m curious to go back again and try some of their other creations as the menu changes seasonally. Price-wise, they run anywhere between 9 and 13 euros, with most coming in at either 10 or 11 (they’ve also got some wines by the glass on offer for a cheaper price, think 5/6 euros). 
Also, they’ve got some rather amusing bar stools : 

Rough translation : “I get upset when, while at a restaurant, I overhear idiotic conversations, but I console myself in thinking that those people could have been at my table.”

After finishing our drinks, we headed over to Boca Mexa for some tacos – and, for me at least, some actual mouth-burning spicy salsa, yay -, and I was once again left pleasantly satisfied by how much easier it is to find good Mexican food here now than it was when I first studied abroad in 2011 (hell, when I came back again to start my M.A. a year later, El Nopal was still pretty much the only worthy place for tacos in town).

Today was, theoretically, going to be a day of traipsing about outside, considering it was the annual Journée sans voiture (day without cars) *, but the light mist hanging in the air all day made the thought of staying outside for prolonged periods of time a bit less appealing. Not that this stopped me from walking to my Shakespeare monologue class near Opéra this morning.

The urge to jaywalk is very strong.
Or sprint down this hill, even.
Can it be no car day every day…?

The class runs at the somewhat awkward time of 12 – 2, so it’s a bit too early to eat lunch before going, and then a bit too late to be thinking about lunch when class lets out. Normally, I would have headed home to have some leftovers, but the cozy potential of the grey sky was just too good to not take advantage of in a café somewhere. Unfortunately, I forgot that it was fashion week, meaning all the usual – tiny – places I would hit up for my hot beverage fix were filled with folks in town for the big event. So I ended up just going to Wild & the Moon because 1) it’s bigger, and 2) I figured I could get a specialty coffee for my pains.

Charcoal latté. Black like my soul….or something.

Really though, no one should be surprised that I chose something black.