Le cul entre les deux chaises

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


Catalans in Paris, Part 2

Look at me, remembering a holiday on the day it actually falls! All of the credit goes to Camper which sent me an email prompting me to check out their “Halloween selection.”

Clearly, no one told them that "damn" is a swear word.

No one told them that “damn” is a swear word.

Camper, a Catalan shoe company originally established in Mallorca in 1975, clearly doesn’t understand that while most American holidays* are about spending money, Halloween is only about children getting candy and adults getting dressed up and wasted. Oh, and telling ghost stories, like the spooky one I’m going to relate right now…

It was a dark and stormy night… That’s a total lie. It was a lovely sunny day and I was walking past the Opéra Garnier. There’s a Camper shop near there and, since I wasn’t in a hurry and I am always happy to check out their good quality, comfy shoes, I went in.

A tall salesman at the back of the shop said hello to me and I said hello back. He started a bit and looked at me really hard before making a bee line straight for me.

He asked me, in Catalan, where I was from and I responded, in Catalan, that I’m Spanish and American but that I used to live in Barcelona. I asked him how he knew to speak to me in Catalan and he said that I had done so first. I told him that I didn’t think that was possible since I’d never just assume that he spoke Catalan; we were in Paris after all.

He said, “No, you definitely said ‘bon dia‘ to me, so I thought you were Catalan too.” At this point I actually looked at him and saw that he *did* look kind of Catalan so it’s possible I automatically greeted him as one but I still thought he was pulling my leg. That was the moment when I became wildly uncomfortable because I was doubting everything that had transpired in the previous two minutes and that’s just not something that happens to me. I gave him the sideways stink eye to see if he buckled under my scrutiny but he just grinned really wide and said that he hadn’t found anyone to speak in Catalan with since he got to Paris.

“But *you* started it,” I insisted again and he rocked back and forth on the balls of feet and kept smiling.

At this point I said, “Adéu” and got the hell out of there. And that, children, is why I will never go back to that Camper store again.

Happy Halloween and remember not to talk to strangers, even if they greet you in favorite tongues!

*Non-Americans probably don’t know that President’s Day has evolved into the holiday for big-ticket items, like cars and mattresses. If I were joking, this would be kind of funny. That I’m totally serious should indicate how twisted and consumer-driven American life is.


There are no Great Pumpkins in France

I don’t get Halloween. Like most holidays, I think it’s fine for children, but the adult appeal of dressing up as something or someone you are not makes no sense to me. (And don’t get me started on “sexy” versions of pop culture characters since I find that trend totally disturbing.)

All this being said, I do like when people come up with something clever like the two dudes below who are dressed as French Kiss.

My friend Mark once wore the best costume I’ve ever seen in person. It was a piece of cardboard covered in tin/aluminum foil with two holes punched out of the top corners and a piece of string threaded through the holes so that he could hang the sign around his neck. In the center of the board, he’d written PLAN in black marker and I laughed and laughed and still think about it to this day, some ten years later. (Highlight for joke: he was A FOILED PLAN.)


Learn Something American

It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown is the Peanuts Halloween special from 1966. Despite this being waaaaaaaaaay before my time, this holiday classic has aired every year on network television and still gets pretty good ratings. My favorite parts all have to do with Snoopy (him howling at the moon is a high point), but this clip of his WWI flying ace is pretty good too (and oddly dark for a kids’ story).