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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The Replacement Loot

You know that my watch died, so it clearly needed replacing. I’ve also decided to commute to work by bike some days to avoid the scrum of Metro madness, so I needed a Velcro-less* messenger bag too as my professional leather bags weren’t up to the task. Most items were found on eBay or REI’s outlet page.

Loot 2014 stuff

This loot includes:

  • Patagonia MiniMass Messenger bag — a messenger bag with snap closures and just the right amount of space to limit what I carry.
  • Timex Weekender Indiglo watch — Indiglo is on my list of things I love along with Thinsulate and neoprene.
  • Spanx tights — I am a total convert. These things don’t fall down, droop or sag. They are a wonder.
  • shearling-lined slipper booties — my toes almost fell off from the cold this past winter. Turns out that if you aren’t living in a carpeted apartment, the floors are frozen.
  • 2 zip compartments — surprise items patterned after salvaged library books.
  • purple snowflake — another surprise item that speaks to how I am a unique snowflake.

*Velcro should be reserved for uses that are only a couple times a day. Repeated opening of Velcro-shut bags is grating and also wears on the bag. Ask the two Timbuk2 bags I destroyed if you don’t believe me.


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Alpian Way Loot

This loot came from New York via Geneva, Switzerland so I wasn’t sure what to call it. Running a search through my brain, I couldn’t come up with any good movie connections or even mildly amusing puns related to Switzerland…which is kind of Switzerland all over. Everyone’s very friendly and everything’s very clean but the place is not exciting.

Loot Swiss
Pictured

  • New York Public Library tote bag 
  • Coach wrist bag  
  • 2 pairs of Smartwool socks
  • The First Year: Rheumatoid Arthritis: An Essential Guide for the Newly Diagnosed 

Things to be learned from this collection

  • One can never have enough tote bags.
  • Due to the Paris metro card’s sensitivity to magnets, I can’t carry mine in any of my bags, hence, wrist bag.
  • In the sock business, you get what you pay for. I had to throw out the four pairs I got from JCrew last autumn because they had no elastic.
  • Everything, even medical ailments, can be solved if you have the right book.

Things I’ve already learned from my book: it knows I love etymology and torturing myself!

RA book excerpt

It’s like it sees into my soul.


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Portandia Loot

A friend of mine from college gives the best hugs I’ve ever gotten and is also one of the few people who can consistently give me gifts I like. This is the care package he sent from Portland, Oregon over the holidays (the furthest any love has ever travelled to get to me).

Portandia Loot
Contents

plain Cheerios
Hostess cupcakes
2 marbled composition notebooks

I am not at all ashamed to admit that not one of the eight cupcakes lasted longer than 24 hours in my presence. I felt so sick afterwards, but it was totally worth it and I’d do it again.


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The Loot Was Left Behind

Traveling in the winter is the pits. Navigating an airport with your coat and all your bundling up stuff is annoying enough, but the real issue is that winter clothes take up so much damn space. Buy two sweaters and suddenly your suitcase is filled up and you have to leave behind most of the food you bought.

The real tragedy here is that I had been counting on that food to sustain me during my first 30 hours back in France and since I didn’t have it, I had to actually get out of bed, shower and go buy things to eat which was rough since my getting-over-jet-lag procedure is very clear and doesn’t allow for any of those things.*

Left behind loot

Pictured (and not consumed by me):

  • 2 cereal containers
  • 2 packages of Reduced Fat Wheat Thins
  • 1 box of Cheerios
  • 1 box of Rice Chex
  • 1 box of cinnamon graham crackers
  • 1 bag cinnamon yogurt pretzels (sounded interesting)
  • ½ Brown Sugar Cinnamon Pop-Tarts (I was able to fit one sleeve into my carry-on)

* For the record, the secret to recovery from a westward-originating flight is to get home from the airport, shower, eat something, then take two bottles of water to bed and crash out until the following morning. Somehow, when I wake up again, the water’s been drunk and I feel ready to face the world.


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The Postman Rang Twice (with the loot)

Because I am an experienced traveler and have developed a keen sense of when a suitcase is overweight, I took the precaution of sending myself some things from the US. As usual in such cases, I chose wisely as the package in question weighed 13.25 lbs. (6k) and my luggage allowance was 50 lbs. (23 k).

Here’s what the mailman came twice to deliver (really! He left a note the first time and the package the second):

2013 Loot from USA

→ Envelopes filled with the few actual photographs I still have. Many of them will be scanned and then shredded because I don’t believe in keeping lots of stuff.

→ The only love letter I probably won’t ever throw out. In keeping with my own twisted logic, it’s not from anyone I actually dated, nor does it contain any declaration of love but that’s why it’s my favorite.

→ A whole stack of my original Super López comics, including my favorite issue! You can tell they’re the real deal because they cost 395 pesetas! (That was just over 3 bucks back in the day.) These books have traveled more than many people.

→ An Italian phrasebook I bought in 2003 as my one defense against the rudest people on earth. It didn’t make them any nicer to me, but at least I knew I was being polite to their asshole faces.

→ On Writing Well, William Zinnser. I’m gonna master this whole expressing-with-words-on-pages thing.

→ The Big Screen, David Thomson. Books about movies are two of my favorite things in one! The only way to make them better was if they were edible.

→ Mythologies, Roland Barthes (2012 translation). I will most likely not understand anything, but I’ll try.

→ Complete Works, William Shakespeare. It is possible I have three different versions of this but I won’t know for sure until I finally unpack all my belongings and take stock.

→ My name tag from college when the locally owned video store I worked for got bought out by a chain. A friend of mine called me Brain and that’s his crappy writing on the tag.

One night, a young guy and his girlfriend came up to the counter and he looked at me, then my name tag, then to his companion and finally back at me and smirked, “Hi, ‘Brian.’ Do you have [some stupid movie I didn’t bother to register in my memory]?” To which I had to say, “Actually, it’s Brain,” and I very condescendingly ran my finger under each letter so that he could see how un-Brain he was. “And we currently have multiple copies of [whatever Hollywood crap fest] on the New Release wall. It’s that huge wall that runs the length of the store. With a neon sign. That says ‘New Releases.'” And then I smirked right back at him. God, that was the best job.