Tuesday, September 21, 2010

"This business of things almost but not quite being the same..."

The title of this week's blog is another excerpt from the honorable Adam Gopnik’s Paris to the Moon.  For those of you who have not been followers of CB Radio since day one, this book is the Bible for Americans in Paris.  There are several other students from American University studying in the City of Love via the MICEFA exchange program; and given that we are all still being sequestered from the real world in our 3 week crash course French classes, we see a good bit of one another.  At any rate, we were grabbing baguettes of salmon at the Café Vert nearby the Sourbonne University after class and one of my friends was talking to another about a book he had been reading.  I was in lala-land for the first bit of the conversation, still in that morning haze or else focusing on not being blinded by the light reflected off the front windows of the shop or else indulging in my chocolate chip “biscuit” (cookie).  When I finally engaged myself in the world around me I was eager to hear what book my friend had on hand, this being the first move I’ve made without carting along a whole library and English books being rather expensive here.  Turns out, though, he was discussing one of two books I do actually own currently—that book being Gopnik’s.  As I said: every American’s Bible.
He is infallibly accurate in his observation though, that things are in fact quite similar here but not quite enough.  He cites “pharmacy[ies] not quite [being] drugstore[s]; brasser[ies] not quite [being] coffee shop[s].”  The metro isn’t quite the subway because you have to press a godforsaken germy button to command the doors to open.  Grocery stores are fairly ordinary except that you have to weigh your veggies and fruits on a scale and be issued a sticker to place on the plastic bag which will subsequently indicate to the cashier at the end of the shopping experience how much money you owe for your produce.  Naturally, every foreigner reaches the cashier, so eager to be free of their shopping chore and the anxiety of having to interact with the employees in an unknown language.  Then, of course to his/her greatest horror the cashier begins gesticulating wildly and speaking very quickly in that unknown language.  The poor foreign shopper becomes overcome, tosses the vegetables out of the cart like he/she might a dead bird from the front stoop, and sprints from the store after finally paying, the anxiety practically dripping down his/her leg.  Henceforth, at least for me, shopping for fruits and vegetables is tinged by the irrational fear that the experience will end in some bumbling confrontation or another.  Alas…the fall air has that brisk tinge but not quite enough of the fire-smoke aroma.  The coffee sure as hell wakes you up, but that’s because it’s actually espresso that costs 2€-3€ more than it should and gets cold within 10 minutes.  Also: the various names for coffee beverages are similar but really very misleading.  For example, if you say, “Café au lait, s’il vous plait,” you’ll get an espresso latte of sorts, with a film of froth on top.  If you say, “Cappucino, s’il vous plait,” you’ll receive a huge frothy mess, atop one shot of espresso, and you will be charged 5€.  School is still school except that the fall semester starts half way through October.
You get the picture…to say the least, I’m a bit out of sorts and feeling homesick for North Carolina falls and my kittens.
My comfort food right now is music:
  • Rory Block Gone Woman Blues
  • Los Angeles Guitar Quartet LAGQ
  • Little Dragon Machine Dreams
  • Chopin the Complete Polonaises
  • India Arie Testimony Vol. 1: Life and Relationships

Send me some pictures or post cards or music recommendations with some love.


  1. Aww girly, sorry to hear that you're homesick. But, remember, this is once in a lifetime (AKA, once you survive this you never have to do it again). Sending lots of love and positive energy.


  2. Buying veges in France is just like when one attempts to buy a bag of coffee at Earthfare. One must always come to the cashier with the special coffee code or the entire place comes to a standstill. And fall has yet to arrive in NC. Hot, hot , hot! Kittens on skype tomorrow. xo
    p.s cafe creme.

  3. i wish i could "like" your mom's comment. can i skype with newmie, too? aw naw, com bom!

    i just checked the paris weather... sixties of course. so jeal.

    keep the posts comin'!

  4. I always knew that I loved North Carolina falls like nobodies business, but somehow I still underestimated just how much.

    Alos, if you buy coffee in Greece you get a littleybitty teacup with superstrong coffee with at least a centimeter of coffee grit in the bottom. If you buy something called a Frappe, for the same price, you get an iced espresso drink in an old-timey dineresque milkshake glass with 2 inches of really bitter foam on top and really tasty coffee stuff on the bottom and it makes your hands shaky for the next three hours.

    What I mean to say is, I understand.

  5. oh man. i meant nobody's.

  6. Blogrolled..

    I got your post card. I checked my mail half-heartedly on a break from class, pulled it out and wedged it back in so that i could save it for a better time. Loved it.