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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Word Mystery: slipper / zapatilla / chausson

Every Wednesday, I explore the linguistic origins of one word in different languages I speak.

Last summer, my sister bought me these slippers while she was in Paris.

FLASH slippersShe did this because everyone in my family loves slippers, they were on sale (we love good deals) and when I saw them, I said, “FLASH! Ahh-ah!”

Flash tweetI’m not the only one who does this last thing (see tweet at right), but I may be the only person who does it who doesn’t like Queen and who can’t remember having seen FLASH GORDON (1980), the movie whose theme song‘s chorus I repeat every time I see lightning bolts.

You know what else is like a flash of light? Realizing that I wear a Word Mystery every day.

EN → slipper — a comfortable slip-on shoe that is worn indoors. ORIGIN From Middle English slip [move quickly and softly].

ES → zapatillaZapato de comodidad o abrigo para estar en casa. [Comfortable or warm shoe for use in the house.] ORIGIN Diminutive of zapato [shoe] from Turkish zabata [shoe].

FR→ chaussonChaussure d’intérieur, souple et légère. [Light and flexible indoor shoe.] ORIGIN Variation on chausser [to put on shoes] from the past participle of Latin calceare [to put on shoes].

Spanish note: The Spanish verb calzar also comes from the Latin and has the same meaning as the French. Interesting that all the related words, like those for “footwear” [calzado] and “bare foot” [descalzo] and “sock” [calcetín] in Spanish share the same root tree as the French, but that it strayed so far in one instance.

Man, I’ve got to hand it to Spanish for fairly consistently coming up with crazy origins (that’s why it’s Today’s Winner). This is the first time Turkish has appeared in a Word Mystery and is probably the first time I’ve ever thought about the language of the Ottoman Empire.

About those slippers

The ones pic’d above have been made in France since 1947 by a company called Collégien. On the packaging, which is basically a cardboard hanger from which the slippers are suspended, it says that these are a classic indoor shoe worn in schools since forever. I figured they were being hyperbolic but a visit to a friend’s house over the holidays suggested otherwise.

terminator2thumbsup

All five people who were staying there had their own pair and there were a few for guests as well. They’re really comfy (though they offer zero arch support) and nice and toasty and are also good for doing yoga since they have soft spiked soles. They don’t get this site’s highest award, but I’ll give ’em the ole T-800 salute.

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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


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Vendredi noir en France?

It shouldn’t come as a surprise to regular readers that I’ve never done Black Friday. The first time I ever heard about people waking up before dawn the day after Thanksgiving to go shopping was in high school when a friend told me that it was her and her mom’s big bonding day of the year. They were really into it and would map out routes in the mall in advance, essentially planning a military attack on commerce, hoping to execute perfect shopping experiences. To me, that sounded like the worst possible combination of things which could reasonably happen to me.

Waking up early? No thanks. Missing out on eating Thanksgiving leftovers? No way. Spending hours on my feet in a crowded place? Not gonna happen. Shopping for hours with my mother? Pass. Hauling bags of odd sizes along with winter outerwear in a mall? Nope.

For the last several years, I haven’t even thought about Black Friday since, lacking Thanksgiving, Europeans don’t have it as an excuse to go nuts.

Until now.

Habitat Black Friday 2013

“It is on this long-awaited day that Americans take advantage of exceptional discounts to commence their Christmas shopping.”

Color me disappointed in Habitat. The store is a British version of Crate & Barrel, which is to say they carry pretty well designed contemporary home furnishings at reasonable prices. The next time I need something like cloth napkins, I may consider shopping elsewhere.


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The Endorsement: Tekserve

119 W 23rd St. @ 6th

119 W 23rd St. @ 6th

The situation: You’ve got a Mac and Macs sometimes get problems. Occasionally, they’re serious problems, like when my computer decided to freak the hell out and destroy years’ of data and all my iTunes metadata and basically stop functioning. Other times, your Mac just runs slow or makes a loud noise when the fan is on. Sometimes, your Mac just wants to get kitted out in the latest fashions or check out what kind of upgrades it can get.

The solution: The best place to do all these things is an Apple-authorized store called Tekserve in Chelsea in Manhattan. Sure, you could go to the real Apple Store where no one will be able to help you for ages and you’ll be jostled by all the tourists and youngsters and people just milling about. It’ll be loud in there too and you’ll probably forget an important question you had and leave none the wiser.

At Tekserve, you get a number and you sit in a little area and you’re called up in a reasonable amount of time. (You can also drop off and they’ll get in touch with you later.) The person who helps you will know just about everything you could care to ask. They will address your issue(s), give you options if serious work needs to be done and make sure you’re okay about every step of the process. They understand that you live on your computer now, that all of your life is there and they treat it, and you, with the care both of you deserve. And lots of times, they won’t even charge you.

And this can happen

I was there on a day ending in Y so I was wearing a purple coat, purple hat, purple glasses and was carrying a purple shopping bag. I’d stopped in to get my purple hardshell-protected laptop air-blasted ’cause it was making funky sounds. An employee walking behind the counter passed me, observed how insanely I was coordinated and said, “She knows what’s up.” I *do* know what’s up, but so does that guy.

The location can’t be beat

After servicing your computer, you can go to the original Shake Shack in Madison Square Park. Who doesn’t want to have a legitimate reason to eat a ShackBurger?

Go here. Do it!

Go here. Do it!