Le cul entre les deux chaises

An American Spaniard in France or: How I Learned to Make an Ass of Myself in Three Cultures


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Tightening it up in Paris

This is the album art we tighten it up with

The iPod is the single greatest thing I’ve even gotten myself. By far. It’s improved my general quality of life immensely every day.

This isn’t a love letter to the iPod, just a statement of fact. Without it, I wouldn’t have been able to tighten it up down Avenue de l’Opéra on a bright winter day, seeing my breath cloud slightly in front of my face. ‘What?’ you say. ‘You did what down the street?”

I was tightening it up, man. You can do it, too. I don’t think the French boogie down sidewalks judging by the looks I got, but that’s how I roll. Get behind it, man.

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Happy Thanksgiving!

It’s my favorite holiday of all time, not least of which because it presents an annual opportunity for America to show how awesome it is. Behold!


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The Bletchley Circle (ITV)

Ladies who lunch (and break codes and solve mysteries!)

Since Downton Abbey ended a few weeks back, I’ve been sad without a British period drama. Lots of searching turned up The Bletchley Circle, a three-episode series about four women who did “clerical work” at Bletchley Park during WWII teaming up to solve some grisly murders almost a decade later. (Bletchley was where Allied Forces codebreaking happened, most importantly the Nazi Enigma code.*)

She’s Scottish and sassy

It wasn’t until the “previously on” of the last episode that I was able to put my finger on the one thing that had been nagging me. One of the women, Jean, had an accent that was slight but distinctive and I just wasn’t sure what it was. My first thought was Welsh since that’s always a good guess (for some reason, a disproportionate number of UK actors are Welsh) but then I hit on it: she spoke almost precisely like Mrs. Hughes, the housekeeper on Downton. Two quick IMDb searches later and I confirm that they’re both Scottish!

This reminded me of the few times that accent-identification has come up with other expats. A German friend of mine was unable to distinguish between Spanish accents and a Venezuelan acquaintance wasn’t able to say which part of the Spanish-speaking world I hailed from. I’m not yet conversant with the French accents, but I can tell if one person speaks differently and when I first came north from Lyon, I noticed a marked difference in speech between the two regions.

Can you differentiate between different accents in your native and foreign tongues? Am I am outlier in this respect?

*Seriously, I know way too much about WWII for someone my age. It’s not normal.


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Thanksgiving spinach

It’s so pretty!

Spinach always makes me think of Thanksgiving. The first time I ever really ate some was at one of the urban-family Thanksgiving dinners that I went to during the years after college. Cara made a salad with spinach and dried cherries and some other stuff and I couldn’t believe how delicious it was.

Since then, I’ve been devoted to the leafy green in salads and as a stuffing for chicken. With the recent discovery of a Dutch oven in my apartment, I’ve been on a spinach-wilting craze, adding it to just about everything I make. So good.

Festive spinach

  • Wilt spinach in a pan with minced garlic.
  • Generously season with salt and pepper.
  • Cook until most of the water has evaporated.
  • Add raw walnuts and dried berries (I used Craisins).
  • Cook until nuts are well coated.


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Unintended (American) side effects

Even Americans joke about how bad health care is in the US. It’s uniformly expensive and it’s hard to get appointments or treatment in any kind of timely fashion. Of course, there are some Americans who have it worse, or so the joke goes: the children of doctors.

Having been one myself, I’ll say that this is only half-true. Pretty much everyone I knew growing up went to the emergency room at least once, something which I’ve never done in the US. Many of them had stitches and casts and splints and were diagnosed with sprains and all manner of other injuries that I never technically had, despite playing my damn heart out and generally carousing around.

Of course, it’s not that doctors care about their kids less, it’s just that they are usually better judges of what the appropriate course of action is in a given medical situation. Additionally, if your parents are legitimately Old World people (as mine were), most things can be cured at home or are deemed not as serious as the sufferer thinks.

The unintended side effect of growing up thinking that none of your physical pains are really that serious is that you start to think you can take care of things on your own, even if you don’t have a medical degree. (Or maybe that was just me.)

This is an x-ray of my right knee, the one that was causing me so many problems recently. It doesn’t look like anything to me, but people who know how to read them saw right away that there was a lot of liquid that had no business being there, so a battery of additional tests and x-rays were ordered.

On my own, it’s possible that I would never have found out that I have a chronic inflammatory disorder, but now that I know, it explains a lot of little problems I’ve been having for a long while. This experience won’t change my behavior for good, but I am starting to find that perhaps it’s better to go see a professional than to think I can cure everything myself with an Advil (which, if we’re being honest, really does generally make everything better).