Le cul entre les deux chaises

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



Updates on stuff I’ve written and your comments.

In the day after being Freshly Pressed, there were over 1200 clicks on my blog. Which is nuts. If you commented or “liked,” I’ll be checking your blog out eventually but there’s a lot to get through. #FreshlyPressedPeoplesProblems

Responding to all the comments on the post about spying, I started to wonder if American men have defensive tactics that they employ whenever they leave the house. Anyone care to comment?

More proof that the pop vs. soda debate is the defining schism in the US: Tweets reflect the rift.

After reading about my drinking problem, my mother suggested I may have potomanía, an ailment described as “excessive and uncontrollable drinking of water.” I’m adding it to the list of things that are wrong with me which I will blame on her.

I learned why Japanese master chef Jiro pointed to his nose. Turns out the Japanese for “I” and “nose” are similar so people touch their noses when they talk about themselves.

I was right about children not needing to identify with fictional characters and Harvard academic Maria Tatar proves it. According to something AS Byatt cites (which I can’t find), Tatar

has observed wisely that children do not usually ‘identify [with fictional children]’ – they stand a little apart inside the fictional world and intensely observe the people and the action.

I only listen to one podcast from Spain, “180 Grados” (which plays really good music). They didn’t broadcast between Dec 21 and Jan 7. This reminded me that many of the businesses in the country, including state-run radio, close down between those dates for the winter holidays. In the US, having two weeks off for Christmas is called “being in college.” It’s no wonder Spain’s in the shitter.

According to the most recent “Freakonomics” podcast, I may owe Winston Churchill money which is concerning.

Speaking of prolific famous English guys, if you want to listen to Alastair Cooke’s “Letters From America” (which I recommend) but don’t want to deal with iTunes, you can download them directly from BBC4.

Don't be such a pillow case

Don’t be such a pillowcase.

A while back I asked bilingual readers if they could do things simultaneously in two languages. I think I asked the wrong question since everyone said they can, proving nothing. I guess the question should be posed to monolingual people, so I’m going to try again.

What I want to know is if you can do two things at once in whatever language you speak (presumably English if you’re reading this). For example, can you read while listening to the radio? Please answer ONLY if you speak ONE language:


Basic spy craft for daily use

The bus stop nearest my house doesn’t have a shelter so when it rains, which is most of the time, people huddle under the awning of the bakery up the block or the alcove of a building nearer the route. On a rainy day like the dozens of others I’ve experienced here, I was in the latter spot with an elderly lady and I ducked out and reached the stop exactly as the bus pulled up, hopping directly on.

The lady sat down next to me once she’d gotten away from the protection of the building and hobbled over to the curb. “How did you know it was coming?” she asked. “The window,” I said, generally indicating a storefront receding behind us. Then I said, “La vitrine,” since a shop or display window is not the same as the kind you have in your house. She looked confused, so I clarified that it was the reflection of the approaching bus in the window which I’d seen. Her eyes got wide. “Like spies,” I said, trying to express, in just a few words, that I have read or seen hundreds of spy stories and watching for stuff in reflective surfaces is basic spy craft.

The conversation ended abruptly with a look that I’ve come to know all too well, one that says, “what a fearsome creature you are,” since it’s apparently not nice for young ladies to put classic espionage techniques into use on a daily basis.

I figured that my affinity for spy stories was where this habit came from, but then I heard an interview with novelist Attica Locke which presented an alternate reason.

In America, there is a feeling of always walking through life as a woman with the knowledge of violence around a corner.

And I think this is, while being very sad, more likely to be the source of my spying habits. If I wanted to, I could feel deflated that I grew up in a culture where I was constantly threatened by the sheer amount of violence around me as well as the possibility of violence being perpetrated upon me. But the truth is that, barring the many bikes I’ve had stolen, nothing bad has ever happened to me, so maybe my hyper-vigilance has paid off.

So, here are my basic tips for keeping safe:

  • Check reflections and shadows
  • Keep your back to the wall
  • Always know where your exits are
Can you find me? (Chicago, 2006)

Can you find me? (Chicago, 2006)