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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What’s in a bodega?

An interesting international discussion cropped up around my shop Word Mystery post regarding what exactly a bodega is. For me, it falls into the category of words (I should come up with a name for them) that mean totally different things or are completely unconnected in my mind depending on what accent they’re pronounced in. Reading it in an English context, I immediately think of New York City corner stores. In a Spanish voice, I go to wine cellars or pantry-type rooms.

GIF by Nathan Pyle

GIF by Nathan Pyle

By a weird coincidence, The Brian Lehrer Show on WNYC did a segment about bodega cats that I heard right around the time this conversation was happening. It’s more cute than informative but if you’ve been to an NYC bodega, you’ve met one of these cats.

If you’re not familiar with the concept, these are cats who live in convenience stores. Many NYC bodegas have them (the one near where my sister lives likes to sit on my nephew’s head) and they are, in fact, illegal. During the course of the conversation, it’s revealed that the fines for having a cat in a food shop are essentially equivalent to the ones for having rodents so it’s a wash.

If you have a few moments, you should scroll through the listener-submitted photos of their favorite bodega cats — it’s such a funny and weird collection and I somehow love the hashtag #bodegacat more than anything else right now.

Other amusing things for the day

Today’s GIF was part of a promotional campaign that Nathan Pyle did for his book about how to be in NYC. He has also designed some of my favorite things online, like another Schrodinger’s cat joke and a clever ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT joke. If you need a laugh, you should look through his stuff. Bonus: so many PRINCESS BRIDE jokes.


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Metropolitan diaries and cockroaches

Do you know about “Metropolitan Diary”? It’s a weekly column in the New York Times that prints letters from readers about funny New York moments. (Sometimes there are poems which are dreadful, but if you just skip them, the amusement ratio is high.)

Digging through the file I keep of things that make me laugh, I came across one from January 2010 that still cracks me up and is totally appropriate to reprint here.

Dear Diary:

I was recently reminded of an event years ago, when I was living in New York City.

We were visiting Toronto, and were at a very nice French restaurant downtown. As we were seated, the maître d’, with a flourish, took my wife’s napkin and placed it on her lap. When repeating the effort for me, the flourish released a large cockroach hiding in the napkin!

It crawled down my leg, hit the floor, and with (what I thought was) a smooth action, I violently dispatched the critter.

Without batting an eye, the maître d’ said, “Monsieur must be from New York City.”

We received a complimentary bottle of wine!

Richard Freeman

Read more

One letter from the Diary is printed online every day and isn’t behind a paywall. Reading it may count against however many articles one can read for free a month. I’m not really sure how that works.


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Things I Learned in New York, Part 2

I wear a lot of purple.

I wear a lot of purple.

→ With Filene’s Basement shuttered, I was forced to go to Loehmann’s, its more expensive cousin. At least the girl in the fitting room section put me in the right dressing room. [Ed. Now Loehmann’s is going out of business too! I am crushed.]

→ Even New York bagels aren’t as good as I remember New York bagels being. This may be another case of Thomas Wolfe-ism.

Unchanged since the last time I was there: people put way too much meat in sandwiches. The bread should not bulge on any side and all elements should remain level. If you can’t fit your mouth around the sandwich, it’s too big. Why can no one understand this basic sandwich science rule?

There should be 50% less turkey here.

There should be 50% less total turkey here.

→ If you go into a shop in a nice part of town (i.e. one where all the apartments cost at least $1 million), the salespeople are CRAZY ATTENTIVE. I popped into a place that was maybe five or six times the size of my apartment and there were over 20 young people working in there, folding stuff and plumping merchandise and taking inventory and all of them were really eager to assist me with anything I might ever need. I high-tailed it out of there since they freaked me right the hell out.

→ The subway is much nicer when it’s not a thousand degrees outside and a million underground. Much, much nicer. Downside: it’s hard to spot famous people when everyone’s bundled up. I usually see half a dozen writers, actors or media types on public transit but this time, all I saw were lots of pants tucked into boots and circle scarves.

→ In Paris, I’m the only person I’ve seen playing Candy Crush. In New York, every person playing a game on their smartphone is playing Candy Crush. Every single person. There are no non-Candy Crush games on the subway. I, for one, do not welcome our new Candy-crushing overlords.

→ Mexican food is still the best thing on earth to put in your digestive system. I’m fond of Cafe Ollin in Spanish Harlem. Their green chili enchiladas are delish.

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→ Part 1 is here.


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Things I Learned in New York, Part 1

→ The kind of underwear I’ve been buying for years was discontinued. This meant a trip to Macy’s to find a new kind. “Intimate apparel,” a euphemism I loathe for how pervy it sounds, is located on one of the top floors, necessitating riding up the wooden escalators. I think I always forget these, the first of their kind in the world, exist so that I can be surprised every time I go up them. They’re worth a visit, if nothing else to make you take a moment and think, “Man, escalators used to be wooden and made horrible clacking sounds.”

→ Even though I might not need reminding, when taking the subway to Macy’s, I think of MIRACLE ON 34th STREET and get off at 34th (Herald Square).

Korea Way NYC→ Right by Macy’s: the best couple blocks in the whole of the continental US. 24-hour Korean food street. Every damn day of the year. Whenever you want it. It’s too upsetting if I think about it for long.

→ It is not advisable to eat four cheeseburgers in two weeks. This having been established, I will surely try for five next time.

→ There is no such thing as too much Korean though, as I ate it at least five times in the same time period. A favorite is MANDOO BAR  [site] because you can watch them make all the yummy mandoo [dumplings] in the window, it’s pretty fast and they serve super-cold drinks. Downside: their bathroom is not insulated.

→ Paragon Sports [site], a kind of snobby sporting goods store near Union Square, sells Wigwam brand wool socks. These are my favorite winter socks since they’re thick and warm and don’t fall down. Sadly, I’d already bought two pairs of wool socks from JCrew (they were on sale) and couldn’t justify getting more pairs, which is just as well since they wouldn’t have fit in my suitcase anyway. But now I know.

→ Cheerios that haven’t crossed oceans of time to find me taste noticeably fresher. Another point in the column of how unfair life is.

Unrelated, but everything about this is perfect (via)

NSA v NWA