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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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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Heart of Darkness

So, this happened:

Carrefour after dark 1

Oh, what? My crappy iPhone picture isn’t good enough? Try this one:

Carrefour after dark 2

Still not clear on what happened? I was in the supermarket when the power went out.

I’ll be honest, my first thoughts were of the Dawn of the Dead/The Mist variety and I was not happy because I do not like those kinds of movies. The store is open during renovation, so I thought someone tripped a fuse and power would be restored momentarily. After a few seconds, I whipped my phone out and fired up the flashlight app. As I scanned my immediate surroundings, I almost screamed because this old lady dressed in very dark colors was right next to me and that was like something out of Drag Me To Hell and I DON’T LIKE THOSE KINDS OF MOVIES!

I kept my cool though and eventually took it upon myself to help people find what they were looking for since most of the patrons mid-morning are older housewives and grandparents who don’t have flashlights. After a half hour or so, we were all ushered to the front of the store where there was light coming in through the windows and the clerks all got together, waiting for orders.

My cart was loaded up with a few things I needed, but my express purpose had been to buy a rotisserie chicken and some Coke for lunch. Some 20 minutes later, I tore into a pack of gum because I was genuinely hungry. One of the stock boys came up to me all aggressive-like, asking me what I thought I was doing. (I really hate rhetorical/sarcastic questions. Total wastes of time.) In my best French “duh” voice, I said I was hungry, obviously, and he started yelling at me, really yelling, asking how I was going to pay because all the machines were down. “I have cash,” I said and then he actually started flapping his arms angrily, saying that the registers were electric and that he was going to stay right by me to make sure that I didn’t leave without paying.

In the end, I got what I wanted because I’d thought the whole thing through in advance. I paid for the gum, the chicken and a bottle of Coke Zero in cash (€11,96) because the manager was a more reasonable person who understood that money is always money and that, because she had a key, she could open the register. She even gave me change back, which I wasn’t expecting.

I also learned an important lesson that day: the cashier from my peanut story wasn’t an angry person after all; the stock boys she works with are just total dicks.

Weapon of Distraction

I finally stopped thinking about scary movies by singing The Clash’s “Lost in the Supermarket” to myself. I read an interview once with Joe Strummer where he went back to the market that inspired the song and couldn’t believe how small it was. Insert Thomas Wolfe-ism here.