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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Summer surprise!

holiday feet

My feet on holiday in 2005.

Soooooo, I’m taking August off from le blog.

I decided to do this out of respect for fellow bloggers and also to prevent my own implosion. For the past several months, I’ve been commuting to and from work for two hours, five days a week, so that’s 10 potential Internet hours gone. Add in all those extra showers I’m taking to cleanse myself of said commute and we’re talking 90 minutes a day gone. Consider that I really need 8 hours of sleep a night to function well (but that I prefer 9 if I can get them) and you start to realize that there aren’t enough hours in the day for me to dedicate to anything for pure amusement.

While I can’t do much to remedy any of the time-sucks in my life for now, I can at least dedicate some of the time I spend writing the blog on reading other people’s blogs and commenting and generally being a part of the virtual world again. I clearly miss you all as real people, interacted with in the real world, are horrible.

Plus, you know, it’s Europe in August as of tomorrow, so I’m embracing my inner-European. And I will actually be going away for a while, to a land where I couldn’t give directions if I tried and I hope to get lost somewhere where I don’t speak the language and can just be an ignorant jerk.

Speaking of jerks, watch this! It’s hilarious!

Thing I’ve been saving since April au cas où

“It failed in July,” said Michael Horodniceanu, the president of capital construction at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. “What happens in August in Europe? They said, ‘O.K., we’ll see you after vacation.’ ”

(context is here)

See you in September! Keep posting ’cause I’ll have time to read again!


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The benefits of Christmas in July

1. If you “celebrate” in July, you can take advantage of les soldes! I was able to get myself some fancy (much-needed) French rubber rain boots 50% off! I love a good deal.

2. It always bothered me in Hollywood movies when kids got bikes for Christmas. I never knew anyone who got one since giving a kid an outdoor toy when there are several feet of snow on the ground is cruel. If you get a bike in July though, it’s the perfect gift!

I got myself a new (second hand) bike to ride to work since my normal bike is way too nice to leave locked up outside all day. This one’s my color (purple!), from my decade (the 80s!) and weighs about 6 pounds (which is nuts!). It’s also genuinely français, so it blends into the Parisian streets. I lurve it a lot and have already gotten it new brake lines and am going to get it a new seat saddle and tires since they also seem to be from the 80s, which is less cool when safety and my butt’s comfort are involved.

My new baby

My new baby

Have a merry weekend!


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My first expat Christmas

My roommate's attempt at making me feel at home. He didn't know I hate Christmas. (Please note that the boxed jamón at left is almost as tall as the tree.)

My roommate’s attempt at making me feel at home. He didn’t know I hate Christmas. (Please note that the boxed jamón at left is almost as tall as the tree.)

I was in Barcelona and had no plan. I didn’t yet understand that EVERYTHING closed on holidays in Spain. I didn’t realize that even if people hated their families, they spent ALL NIGHT with them. I wasn’t prepared to deal with the total desolation of my neighborhood as everyone I knew went to their pueblos [hometowns].

I spent the evening with a couple friends, one of whom had a car. We drove up to Tibidabo, the small mountain range behind the city that seems like it wants to push Barcelona into the sea. There’s an impressive-looking church there, the Templo Expiatorio del Sagrado Corazón.

Templo Expiatorio del Sagrado Corazón, Dec 2005

Templo Expiatorio del Sagrado Corazón, Dec 2005

My friend, who is a professional photographer, offered to take my picture but didn’t like where I’d chosen to pose. I tried to explain that I wanted to be hidden. I told him that people who knew me would recognize the outline of my Russian-style hat since I’d had it for ages. He really didn’t want to do it, but it turned out perfect.

I can totally tell what clothes I'm wearing too.

I can totally tell what clothes I’m wearing too.

Everything was closed down, but the merry-go-round was creepily lit up and running. There didn’t seem to be anyone minding the place, so my thoughts immediately went to Scooby-Doo type scenarios. (There were probably two kids smoking pot in the bushes and watching the wheel go round and round.)

Maybe it was meddling kids who'd turned it on?

Maybe it was meddling kids who’d turned it on?

It was a weirdly peaceful evening. Excepting the lack of food options, it was pretty nice as far as Christmases go.


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It’s Memorial Day!

Thanks to a practice which really annoys me, I am now going to be able to remember which holiday marks the beginning of the summer season and which one ends it. The key came in the form of a movie I will never see called LABOR DAY. Here’s the US poster:

labor-day-poster

And here’s the French one:

last-days-of-summer-poster

 

Can you guess what, under normal circumstances, would bother me about this? It’s changing an English title into another English title. I mean, I get it: no one in Europe knows what Labor Day is but this practice is generally dumb and confusing.

Even before I heard and read the positively dreadful reviews for this movie (notice complete absence of reviewer quotes!), I wouldn’t have seen it for one big reason: it’s based on a book by Joyce Maynard and I don’t like her at all. I was studying writing when her book At Home in the World came out and one of my professors was exactly the kind of hippy-dippy person to eat it up and she made us read it too. I found the whole thing to be in poor taste and indicative of a person who was still not mature enough (then aged 45) to own up to any decisions she’d ever made. Other opinions are available but that’s the nice version of mine. The mean version is quite nasty and includes lots of foul words used to describe women of whom of I have a very low opinion.


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Mayday, May Day!

Ha! I actually remembered a holiday! This is BIG NEWS around these parts.

Thoughts on May 1

Another great Midwestern invention.

Another great Midwestern invention.

1. My mother always called the local classical music station to remind them of the date and request they play some version of the Internationale. It was mortifying to hear the smooth-voiced program host mention her by name and play the track. I don’t think my mother has any real Communist leanings, but this is another true story: she totally hung out with Fidel Castro in Cuba one time. Spaniards around the world, unite! [Ed. His parents were from la patria, making him a Spanish national, just like me.]

2. Where I grew up, there was a local tradition of making May Day baskets and “anonymously” delivering them to your friends’ houses. We’d take things like SOLO cups (later used for other things), poke holes in them to thread pipe cleaner handles, decorate them in a spring theme and then fill them with candy. Then you’d have someone drive you around and you would drop the basket at the door, ring the bell, and run like hell. The recipient was supposed to guess who each basket came from so everyone would try to throw their friends off the scent by putting weird things in theirs. It was the definition of good, clean, wholesome American fun and almost seems like an idea Norman Rockwell and Grant Wood cooked up together.

3. In France and Spain, this is a federal (bank) holiday. I love that the way to honor workers is by not working. Such a concept wouldn’t really be able to take hold in the US — to wit, Secretary’s Day where they get flowers but still have to work. In America, workers are a dime a dozen and worth even less. Also, the streets are paved with cheese.

4. My crazy-rich student in Barcelona was eventually slightly impressed by the vast scope of my knowledge. She had taken the exam to be a licensed boat captain (they had a yacht!) and asked me to explain many of the terms she’d learned. I know very little about nautical things but I did know that the international distress call of “Mayday, mayday!” comes from the French for “Come help me!” [Venez m’aider !]. This was a rabies I put together on my own while reading a French novel when I was younger and I was crazy pleased with myself. Little did I know that there would be so many other things in life that would puzzle me.

So much weird knowledge came from PEANUTS

Couldn't find one of WWI Flying Ace yelling "Mayday!" but I'm pretty sure they exist.

Couldn’t find one of WWI Flying Ace yelling “Mayday!” but I’m pretty sure they exist.