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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A benefit to subletting

Having a legitimate excuse for turning Death away at the door.

Oh, no no no. There's been a misunderstanding. I'm only the *sub* letter here.

Oh, no, no, no. There’s been a misunderstanding. I’m only the *sub* letter here.

Another way to avoid having him show up is to always use fresh salmon when making mousse.

[More funny French New-Yorker-ish cartoons here.]

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Oh, the places you’ll live!

European real estate is a weird thing. In Barcelona, I arrived at my assigned student housing and found that this was my room.

On Carrer de Sardenya, Barcelona 2005

On Carrer de Sardenya, Barcelona 2005

When I’d lived in a dorm my freshman year in college and had to share a tiny cell with a total stranger I still had more space to myself and certainly had more storage. The photo is taken from the doorway and there were no other furnishings in el cuarto. Notably absent was a place to put my clothes. Or my suitcases. Or my books. Or even to sit down and study. It was a nightmare.

And now in France, I have an opposite problem. Toilets here tend to get their own rooms which makes no sense to me.

My toilletes (and yes, it's plural for reasons beyond me).

My toilletes (and yes, it’s plural for reasons beyond me).

It’s a total waste of space, and from a construction perspective, the cost of an additional door and two walls seems irresponsible. If it were a half bath (toilet and a sink), I wouldn’t object so much, but with this design, you are obligated to touch the handle with dirty hands. It’s both excessive and unhygienic which are words that some people might use to describe the French. (But not me! I aime the French!)


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My drinking (and real estate) problem

No, not this kind of drinking problem

I don’t have this kind of drinking problem

My father once accused my mother of drinking too much. Since this actually happened before I was born, I don’t know whether he said, “bebes demasiado” or “¿por qué bebes tanto?” or some other construction that would be translated in English as “you drink too much.” What I do know, since this anecdote rightly belongs to my sister, is that she repeated it at school and my mother was called in “for a parent conference.” In English, if you say someone “drinks too much” what you’re saying is that they have “a drinking problem” which is just one more euphemism for accusing someone of being an alcoholic.

The circumstances that prompted my father’s comment were that he’d gone to the dumb-waiter where we kept the soft drinks and found that all of the cans of soda (“pop” at the time) were empty, waiting to be recycled. His complaint was that my mother ingested too much liquid, leaving none for him.

As a kid, it became clear that I also drank too much. My father would say that he was going to buy a cow to keep in the fridge because I drank almost a gallon of milk (3.78 liters) every day at home. At school, I drank two pints (0.94L) plus whatever was in my Garfield Thermos which is a lot of liquid for a person who was under 4 feet tall.

And I still drink too much. On a normal day, when I don’t do any extra exercise or am not talking excessively, I put away about three liters of water and a liter-and-a-half of Coke Zero, easy. The downside to all this drinking is that I have to buy and carry massive quantities of liquids several times a week.

The cashiers at my store must have initially thought that I was having lots of parties. Now, when I roll up with my cart and say, “I’ve got eight Coke Zeros,” they don’t even bother checking because they know that I buy a lot of Coke. A couple days later I’ll roll up and say, “Two packs of Vittel” and show them the scannable sticker that Vittel cleverly puts on each 6-pack so you don’t have to remove them from your cart. They don’t bat an eyelash since they know I also buy lots of water. With these two shopping trips, I’m set, liquid-wise, for one week.

My version of a liquid diet

My version of a liquid diet

Why the hell should you care about any of this? You don’t have to, but I’ll tell you that when you drink so much, your priorities shift. I absolutely require that any building I live in have an elevator because there’s no way I can carry all those bottles up flights of stairs.

Which is just a reminder that I’m still looking for an apartment. I’ve narrowed it down to a couple neighborhoods and know that I want a decent-sized studio instead of a one-bed, but finding this combination with an elevator is proving to be very difficult. As they say over here, c’est pas evident [it ain’t easy].


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More fun with apartment listings!

Yay! Looking for a place in Paris is the most fun I’ve ever had! I am enjoying this experience so much! The opportunities for learning are infinite!

Like, here’s a place where I can practice my home renovation skills!

No, really! The listing specifies that the place is a fixer-upper and that it would be perfect for a building professional or an experienced handyman (travaux à prévoir, idéal professionnel du bâtiment ou bricoleur expérimenté)! Who doesn’t want to build a kitchen from scratch? In a rental?

Here, the toilet is like, “Get me the fuck out of here!” If the fixtures don’t want to stay, why the hell should I? And note how far away the toilet paper is! All the way on top of the tank!


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Paris: come for the food, stay for the crime possibilities

Still sorting through the (virtual) piles of apartment listings even though I’m no longer desperate to find a place. The most striking listing so far (and by far) is a place advertised as “a fully equipped cave for any activity, no noise complaints.”

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Even before the pictures loaded, I thought, “This is where women are taken to be killed.” Buffalo Bill‘s place wasn’t much nicer than this, nor the cave systems in Kiss The Girls or any of the thousands of places where sickos take people to get rid of them.

After running through multiple murder scenarios in my head, I got to wondering if, like so many things, this initial reaction is shaded by my American pop culture upbringing. It’s come up before, that when confronted with a situation, my reaction is totally different from those of people who didn’t grow up watching a lot of American TV and movies. On the flip side, I know a lot more about how to deal with medical situations for the same reasons.

What reaction did you have upon seeing these pictures? Do you think they’re creepy? Under what non-murdering circumstances would someone need to rent such a space?