Le cul entre les deux chaises

An American Spaniard in France or: How I Learned to Make an Ass of Myself in Three Cultures


Word Mystery: blizzard / tempête (de neige) / nevasca

2012 Nemo snow dog 1

Happy dog in Nemo snow, February 2013

Word mysteries are where words in languages that I know don’t correspond to each other at all despite those languages often sharing lexical histories. These words are both mystifying (why are they different?) and annoying (why must you be different?!).

A big winter storm hitting the Eastern seaboard of the US meant another chance for me to lament that I don’t live in a place with more snow, but it also got me thinking about how to talk about the white stuff. Continue reading


Your friendly neighborhood Speeder-Man

Winter has finally come to la petite couronne. Snow, my favorite thing came last week.

Vue de ma fenêtre

Vue de ma fenêtre

Among the many things I love about snow is the chance to walk around in it like a boss, never falling, slipping or losing my footing in any way. I accomplish this by using my chief weapons, balance and traction. The balance comes from the eons I spent doing ballet and the traction comes from a keen eye for good footwear.

Pulling out my super winter shoes (not to be confused with regular winter shoes), I thought of Spider-Man and how, despite the sadness I feel about the continued Americanization of the world, having common cultural icons can be very useful.

The situation went like this: a friend of mine in Lyon who literally lived on Steep Side of Big Ass Hill (Montée de la Grande Côte), had bought a new pair of boots and was looking forward to wearing them out but was concerned about sliding all the way down the street and then not being able to make her way up again. The boots were made by El Naturalista, a Spanish company. Being well versed in Spanish shoe brands, I knew she wouldn’t have any problems, but how to express this in French?

spiderman-cartoon-comicI actually tried combinations of real words that I thought might make sense like “those shoes stick/are adhesive” and “they are like suction” but nothing was getting through. Finally, I said, “Don’t worry. The boots are like Spider-Man” except I pronounced it French (Speeder-Man) and she totally knew what I meant. When she got home later that night, she said that I’d been right and proceeded to make suction sounds (shrup-shrup) while making Spidey moves.

Look at some things

Since I don’t take very good photos, here are the two days that Suzanne et Pierre took to the streets to document all the snowy goings-on around them. For other takes, here is a curated BuzzFeed collection of Paris under neige and some great images of Montmartre (where there’s actually a hill) enjoying the snow from “A French Frye in Paris.” The Frye’s post was also Freshly Pressed this week, so super congratulations to him!!


There’s snow place like home

I woke up with a start around 4:30 on December 7th. I normally sleep so soundly that I need five alarms to get me out of bed, but something had definitely disturbed my slumber.

As my eyes adjusted, I saw and heard it at the same time: snow.

I don’t like Christmas but I love snow. Everything about it is wonderful and magical and makes me happy and I want it to snow for months and months so I can get bundled up in lots of layers of clothes and then roll around in it. The sound of falling snow is maybe the best thing on earth and so hard to capture on tape as to seem mystical, but my wolf ears hear all and they’re especially alert for any sign of activity on the snow frequency.

201212 Paris snow

Sadly, it hadn’t been cold enough here for the snow to stick so, in the morning, all that was left was some frozen windshields.

Of course, as a person who loves snow, it rarely does near me. When I was living in Boston, there was a fluke blizzard on April 1st that was easily the best day I had during the five years I was there. Come to think of it, if I had to list my Best Days Ever, another snowstorm in DC would rank highly as well as the March day it snowed in Barcelona and the December 1st when I was in Lyon and it snowed several inches overnight.

2012 snow roasBut the Universe didn’t want me to have snow this year, so instead it sent part of my family back to the land whence we came where there was so much snow that their flight was cancelled and they drove part of the way, passing 102 cars and trucks which had slid into ditches. And then, they got to spend some days in a proper winter wonderland that looked like this:

Actual yard of house they stayed in. Jerks.

Actual yard of house they stayed in. Jerks.

All I have are memories of winters past and the hopes that meteorological freaky business will come my way.

201003 Parc Guell Snow

Neu a Parc Guell, 2010

201012 Lyon snow 1

Neige Hôtel de Ville, Lyon 2010