Thursday, June 30, 2011

It's not a problem. It's a war.

I'm learning a lot of expressions in French. For instance:

Pédaler dans la choucroute means:

To be at a complete loss, getting nowhere fast, spinning one's wheels. 

Which is kinda how I feel about learning French.

I'm also learning more about expressions in English. For instance, you know the phrase "I smell a rat." Turns out you can actually smell a rat.

Or in my case, a mouse.

I was near the fridge and smelled something off.

So I cleaned out the fridge and mopped the floor. It takes 17 minutes to sweep and wash the floor of my entire apartment. I timed it.

The smell was still there. It smelled like a cat with a tooth infection.

I sat on the couch to do my interminable french language course when something caught my eye. I turned and made eye contact with la souris.

I screamed like a little girl. It ran back behind the fridge.

I prepared the trap. It waited.

This trap is actually a tube of sticky glue. You pour the glue on a piece of cardboard in a zigzag fashion, then cover it with cheese, boobie-trap style. You then put it near the fridge and wait on your bed across the apartment to stare at it like a cat on a stakeout.

The mouse climbed down and touched the sticky stuff. I screamed. It retreated.

Then it revealed itself in another area of the kitchen. I screamed. It retreated. I prepared another trap.

Before long, the surface of the kitchen was littered with cardboards of glue and cheese.

Now let me give a little background. I'm from the country. I should be fine with mice. But most of those who live country have cats. If one doesn't have a cat but has a mouse problem, one will actually borrow a cat from a neighbor to let it roam for a night in the house to catch the vermin.

It's the circle of life. 

Even if you aren't a cat person (like my mother), you have a cat (like my mother) because even people who aren't cat people are probably really, really not mouse people (like my mother). And if you're going to have a cat, you want it to be a good mouser, so avoid a purebred fancy cat. It's even better if the cat was born in a litter in your neighbors barn. Built-in street cred.

I'm even allergic to cats. Even so, I know that it's better to have a runny nose and a cat patrolling the joint than affixing glue and cheese to cardboard and risking stepping in it yourself.

And the best case scenario in this trap? That the mouse gets stuck and dies a slow, painful death. But I wasn't thinking about this at the time. I was only thinking that the only thing a mouse is good for is animal testing.

After I pockmarked the kitchen with traps, I leaped across the apartment and flew out the door. It takes four leaps to clear my apartment. I counted.

I had five hours before Christophe would arrive home for work, so I started walking. The adrenaline was flowing and I got quite far before I realized I didn't bring my map with me.

Just as well I had hours to burn. It took about that long to find my way home.

I asked a man for directions. He gave them.

Then I asked him for directions on how to kill a mouse. He told me that the only way to kill a mouse is to have him over to my apartment to do it. He's an excellent mouser.

Nice try buddy, but I'm asking about another kind of cat and mouse game. 

Then I asked him how to avoid mice in the future.

"Leave Paris."

Which vermin are we talking about now?

The moment Christophe finished work, I was standing outside la boucherie tapping my toe and explaining in my Franglish that there might be a mouse massacre inside the house. That there may be writhing.

A few weeks ago, we were having dinner and he thought he heard something. His eyes turned wild and he whisked around on his chair and opened the cupboard. Nothing. He turned and asked, "How are you with mice?"

"Startled at first," I said. "Then it's war."

"Bon," he said.

I should have inquired further.

He opened the door to the apartment on the day Mickey visited and saw the empty traps all over the floor. 

"I thought you were from the country!"

Nary a mouse fell for my cunning boobie trapping. For this I was equal parts relieved and dismayed. Relieved because I didn't want anything to meet it's demise in such a suffering manner (and maybe I didn't really mean that thing I said about animal testing). Dismayed because the matter seemed unsettled.

Then I read a post by Danielle LaPort on how she meditated mice out of her office space. 

So I've been on that kick and the smell seems to be gone.

We walked around the traps for two days until I was satisfied that the meditating worked and the mouse was no longer building a restaurant for itself and it's 100 closest friends behind the fridge.

Christophe told me how every shop keeper in Paris is a vigilante, constantly trying to snuff out the mice before one catches the eye of a customer.

"The mice are no secret though," he says. "In Paris, it's not a problem. It's a war."

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

I'm a certified Francophile

Learn French Online

So I've been doing Rocket French. It's an online language course from Rocket Languages.

Each day I wake up do to my hour of online training.
Each day I turn on the TV afterward hoping I can understand.
Each day I'm disappointed.

In the online course, I do alright. There are little quizzes and lessons you can mark off as complete with a encouraging little green check marks. There are motivational tactics weaved throughout the site like the badge shown above that I earned after completing a level. It's not boring like other courses. As far as language courses go, I'm delighted with Rocket French.

When I'm doing the course, I am understanding the verbs and how they mix together depending on who you're talking to—you (tu) or you (vous) or them (ils) or them (elles). Some of the lessons from my school days in Canada are returning. I'm upping my vocabulary. I'm learning colorful expressions. It's all good.

Yet when I go out in Paris, I feel like I'm Jack trying to order a chipotle sandwich in Mexico.

I keep asking people how long it takes to be bilingual.
No one gives me a straight answer.
If they do, I can't understand it anyway.

But I know that plugging away at my little online french course is good.
Watching french TV is good.
Talking to french people is good.
Being immersed in it is good. 

And I've only been doing it for three weeks, so I should also be practicing patience, self-compassion and prizing while I'm practicing my french. I should also give myself a reality check because three weeks of language lessons doth not a bilingual person make.

I know this. I'm aware.

It's like the body issues I wrote about in the last post. I know I'm not Jabba the Hut in the bum department, but sometimes I feel like I am. And I know I'm not a complete idiot when it comes to learning languages, but I wish I were like Rain Man with his uncanny ability to absorb every detail immediately. That would come in handy for my life as a nomadic blogger... and in Vegas.

Yet three weeks of trying to speak another language with native speakers is a really, really long time to be continually frustrated.

But it's not all bad. Progress is being made. 

I find myself saying "oui" to myself sometimes before I say "yes."
And sometimes someone says something and I respond in French without thinking.
I also eavesdrop on conversations and catch every tenth word instead of no words. 

So I keep at it, collecting my online badges from Rocket French like I'm in Girl Guides, hoping that the more I collect, the more likely I will understand every fifth word they say, then every other and then everything.

I'd like for french to open up to me like my geraniums on my window sill. Today's tight bud will be tomorrow's blossom. And it will be a beautiful thing. But right now I'm a puny green stub of a flower waiting to be...

which is the verb être, by the way.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

An examination of the bum

Is there a more harshly criticized part of the body than the bum?

Not in my world.

I've spent my whole life trying to get over my loathing for my own arse.

I've had a few fans, but I've never been a fan.

And having this constant boring monologue running through my head for years? It's tiresome.

Never mind that my hands are feminine and I can type faster than anyone I know.

Never mind that my feet can walk me across cities, be completely in pain at the end of the day and heal themselves overnight to be ready for another day of walking. Nothing short of a daily miracle.

Never mind that I have a pretty face and only have one grey hair... that I plucked the other day and taped to the window sill to gaze at, not in judgment, but like it's an alien growth.

My first grey hair sprouted during the most relaxed time of my life.
Never mind any of this because my bum issues trump them all.

And I've got to get these issues behind me.

I'm a fan of nice looking bums. I just wish I had one. No, I wish I thought mine was one of them. Or that I was blissfully unaware of my bum, like I am about my esophagus. It's all a head game. I know this. I'm aware.

Check out Bernini's Pluto and Proserpina. I stood agape. This sculpture actually took my breath away.

I mean, c'mon. This is a sculpture... in MARBLE.
(Borrowed from here)
Yesterday was the Gay Pride Parade here in Gay ol' Paris. People paraded, danced and cheered to the glory of what their bodies gave them. And they were showing it off in a way that I never could.

Me? My gut is sucked in all the time.

Me? I wear almost exclusively A-line dresses to show off my tiny waist and make the size and shape of my bum a mystery to onlookers.

Me? I can't bring myself to feel comfortable in my bikini, except in this shot, which is taken at a flattering angle... by me, who is an expert on how to get me at my most flattering angles. Let me tell you, it takes a lot of photos.

I wish I were comfortable in my own skin.

How much do I want to lose? All of it. Obviously. Pft.

I walk for hours in the day. And what I carry with me at the back of my mind is a constant droning calorie counter, ticking off the minutes and hours I've walked, making sure I burn what I consume and hoping I burn more than I consume.

It's exhausting.

Part of the reason I chose Paris (beyond wanting to be bilingual and to hang out with a person who adores me and my bum) was so that I could have a big, safe, interesting, beautiful place to walk off my bum.

But I'd settle for walking off my bum issues.

I'm acting like I'm Jabba the Hut. I'm not Jabba the Hut. I am a healthy average weight for a woman my age.

But I'd rather be like Lady Gaga.

I've got to get my bum issues behind me. If not for me, for my nieces. I don't want them to adopt my unhealthy thought process.

I don't want her to have inhibitions with her body when she's older:
Eat your heart out, Auntie Jan.
The other day, I found myself walking behind these two lovebirds. How beautiful are they?

I think they have the most beautiful bums. And I love how their bums are hot for each other. Very sweet.
I'd just like to feel like my bum was beautiful, too.

I wish their was an effective hypnosis treatment.

Or a pill.

Or a miracle.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

I'm going to Hemingway the shit out of this blog

I've been in Paris for three weeks and have managed to create a life where I can write to my heart's content. I can be a real writer in Paris just like Hemingway.

Talk about putting pressure on myself.

So for the last while, when I haven't been traipsing around in search of the perfect café, I've been going through my blog posts from last year, trying to reshuffle, edit and add content to make a manuscript of sorts. But yesterday, I realized that it just wasn't working.

Three events happened to help me with this realization:
  1. I dreaded working on the manuscript. One must always follow one's enthusiasm, and I wasn't enthused about the project.

  2. My Office Town book that I made at arrived in the mail. Though I'm incredibly impressed with the book binding, paper quality and overall product that Lulu created... the typos and errors that I made horrified me. But not enough to go back and fix them. Just enough to let  go of the project. So if you order it, be ready for typos. They are staying in and I'm moving on.

  3. I channeled Ernest Hemingway. I actually wrote in my journal with Hemingway. I asked him for guidance and he gave me guidance. Yes, I wrote a question, then on the next line, I wrote "Hemingway:" and he answered in a voice that was my voice but also not my voice. It was a voice that seemed wiser than myself. And that guy set me straight. He doesn't mince words. He asked me why on earth I want to go through my blog posts from a time that I was so miserable in Los Angeles during a time when I'm so happy in Paris. Good point, Hemingway. Good point. 
So that was that. When I decided that I wouldn't continue writing a manuscript made from old blog entries, my entire being expanded. Ahhh, I can now go out and enjoy my time in Paris. Ahhh, I can sort through my photos and post a few to Facebook. Ahhh, I can write poetry and make a new poetry blog.

Ahhh, I can let myself off the hook that I put myself on.

So now, inside of 24 hours, I feel like I'm finally living in Paris. In fact, I've become somewhat of a domestic goddess. I tidy up the apartment, make a meal, throw in a load of laundry, then walk around the city to find a café where I can sit, sip, read and write for an hour or two. Then I return to la maison to practice my online French classes, putter online and have dinner with Christophe.

This feels better than trying to write the best book known to mankind.

See here's the thing: What if my blog is it? What if there is no book in it? What if there is no screen play? No Rachel McAdams playing me in the blockbuster motion picture? No Ewan McGregor playing the leading man? Nothing but the blog for the sake of itself?

What if The Book itself is dead and The Blog is where it's at? Not just for my blog and book but for everyone's blogs and books. What if the Kindle and iPad, with all their downloading capabilities, are shifting the importance of Being A Published Author to How Many Hits You Get In A Day? 

Plus, I've already been a published author. Twice.

Shameless plug.

What if the publisher dies a slow death just like the record stores did?

What if, while this shift is happening, I've been wasting time trying to turn a blog into a book, when really I could have just been concentrating on good blog posts?
"When you do well, when you do your best, people notice."
-- Oprah Winfrey
Plus, yesterday I received this comment on my blog when I slapped up a video of a little girl dancing:
cute! but you are a writer! I want to hear about more what is inside your head! AND your heart! Speak! You are holding back you big tease! ;-D
And I thought, Shit. You're right.

Some part of me judged The Blog as not as important as The Book. Yesterday, I was tweaking the Great And Powerful Book but then threw up a video on my blog and called it a day.

Threw up.


It was a cute video, don't get me wrong. But I could have taken it further. I could have written beautifully about the Fête de la Musique in Paris. It was a magical evening, in fact. But I was lazy. I admit it.

So now, this domestic goddess bloggess is making The Blog THE THING I DO rather than trying to make The Book THE THING I DO. I am going to be part of the shift to make blogs as important or even MORE important than books. Why? Because I'm following my enthusiasm, and my enthusiasm would rather have a daily shared moment with you, dear Reader, than be sitting at the kitchen counter alone for a year, writing The Great And Powerful Book.

Aw shucks. Glad to hear it.

The truth is, dear reader, that I'm a blogger. I've got nearly 400 posts for gosh sakes.

So I'm going to Hemingway the shit out of this blog.
Hemingway: Are you now.
Who said that?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Little Miss Sunshine in Paris

Imagine a band playing outside of a bar on a hot summer night.

Now imagine a band playing outside of every bar in the city on a summer night.

Now imagine that city to be Paris.

That was last night at the Fête de la Musique festival in Paris.

The streets were humming: people and drum vibrations. There were vendors, beer tables and plenty of dancing...

As I was taking a video of a band, Little Miss Sunshine appeared...

There were also a lot of Frenchies acting über cool. Pft. Whatevs, dudes. What. Evs.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Clarence Clemons 1942-2011

Clarence Clemons 1942-2011
Clarence Clemons, the sound behind that bellowing saxophone in Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band moved on from this sweet life today at the age of 69.

I grabbed the photo above from the Rotation and Balance blog for a reason. Rotation and Balance is my original office spouse. And today, Bruce Springsteen lost his office spouse, Clarence Clemons.

Isn't that just the saddest thing ever?

I watched a slew of videos today on YouTube with Bruce and Clarence doing their thing, making the world more magical and loving every minute of it. They both tell the story about the night they met. How it was a dark and stormy night. Bruce was playing in a bar. Clarence walked in the door and just as he walked in the door, a strong wind came and blew the door off the hinges. The bouncers ran after the door down the street. And there stood this massive black man in the entrance of the bar with the storm raging behind him. This scene... somehow announcing that someone very important just walked in. He walked up to Bruce and asked if he could play. Bruce said yes. They began to play and they both say it was love. And that was that. They've been playing together ever since.

They came alive on stage and inspired everyone who saw or heard them to do the same. Even I became a writer the moment I heard the opening lines to Thunder Road.
Screen door slams
Mary's dress waves
Like a vision she dances across the porch
As the radio plays
Roy Orbison singing for the lonely
That's me and I want you only
This one stanza says so much. You can see the dusty road, the way her dress flows in the breeze as she sashays across the porch, which is the kind of porch that could always use a paint job. Even though to paint it would make it look ridiculous unless you repainted the whole house and the only time anyone is going to repaint that house is if someone sells it and newlyweds move in.

All this in 30 words or less. It made me want to choose the fewest and best words to say what needs to be said.

I'm still working on it. 

I'm not the only one that broke open with creativity the moment they heard a Bruce Springsteen song. In fact, I'm typical. Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band make you dream of things.
The reason my friendship with my office spouse flourished was because of our mutual love of Springsteen. The office spouse was/is/will always be obsessed with Bruce and I was young and just starting my guitar lessons so I was eager to learn. And learn I did. Every day there was a new Bruce song and a new Bruce story.

Once, I went up to the office spouse and said I was having a bad day. He said, "No problem. I've got a new Thunder Road LIVE." So we went to the parking lot and blared Thunder Road in his car.

He knew exactly what would make me feel better. The one song that reminded me why I became a writer.

And that's just one story about how Springsteen music changes things. The world is full of Bruce stories. Why? Because the music is affecting. Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band helped you recognize yourself. They help you recognize the world around you. They are the living embodiment of this quote by Howard Thurman...
Don't ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.
Clarence, your life made people come alive. I can just imagine you at the gates of Heaven. It's a stormy night and you walk through the gates just as a gust of wind comes along and tears the door off the hinges. Somehow announcing that someone very important just walked in.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

A tea party with Kathy Bates

I'm sitting at Open Café in Le Marais, which is the hip and happening 4th arrondissement in gay ol' Paris. It's also the gay district.

I love this restaurant. I am only English-speaking person. I am the only straight person. And I am the only woman in the room. Not exactly comforting in a foreign land. However, the Niçoise Salade they serve calls to me. It is so good that I don't care if I muddle up the language. I don't care if people stare at me wondering why someone the likes of my straight self is here. I don't care if there is a sea of men treating lunchtime like it's a midnight rave with the boom-boom music and sexy lighting. I love the salad. I'd even venture to call it The Best Salad Of My Life.

So while the boys give each other googly eyes, I'm chomping away at my olives, tuna and even anchovies. I don't know why the anchovy got a bad rap along the way because it's salty and who doesn't enjoy a savory food item.

After the salad, I'll cavort around the hood and shop with my eyes but not with my pocketbook. That's the thing about being nomadic. Shopping isn't the same. I buy practical things like socks. With all the walking I've done, I've worn out every pair of my socks. I also can't buy sweet wonderful lovelies like these teacups I found in a store before I went down on the Niçoise:

Did she just write, "Went down on the Niçoise?!" Yes. It's that good.
I don't know why I was lured to these tea cups and pots. Maybe it was their Popsicle color palette. Maybe it was the elegant curve of the pots. Maybe it was just me wanting to buy something impractical. Whatever it was, I didn't just want the them, I wanted the life that went along with them.

The life where I would have ladies over for tea. We would wear flowery dresses and flowers in our hair. There would be a bouquet of flowers on the table. We'd sit in the garden lined with flower bushes.

We'd say things like, "Heavens to betsy!" and "I do declare!"

One of us would mention something steamy about a night in the sack with the hubbie. The prudish one would purse her lips. The quiet one would eek out a gasp, then giggle with her hand over her mouth. The drinker would say, "Hell ya!" like she was Kathy Bates as the Unsinkable Molly Brown in Titantic. Or Kathy Bates as Gertrude Stein in Midnight in Paris. Or maybe Kathy Bates as herself at MY tea party. How great would that be?!

Anyway, that's what those tea cups did to me.

And ya, they don't fit in my current nomadic life. Plus, I'm typically an under-buyer so it takes a lot of deliberation and even a blog post before I get remotely close to a purchasing decision, unless it's IKEA and I've just moved into a place and have no material possessions, in which case, "I'll take one of everything, please," and shove it into my clown car.

Anyway, that's what those tea cups are still doing to me.

And self is not impressed with self dreaming of a nomadic lifestyle just to be in that nomadic lifestyle to be dreaming of a life with tea cups and tea parties with Kathy Bates.

I bet she'd wear a big flower in her hair. She seems like the type. She'd get all English fascinator about it. And she'd agree with me that the tea cups are lovely and she'd agree that the tea pot has a lovely curve.

I'd tell her what those tea cups did to me.

She'd tell me what the tea cups did to her.

The prudish one would purse her lips. The quiet one would eek out a gasp, then giggle with her hand over her mouth. Then Kathy Bates would say, "Hell ya!" in just the way she knows how to say it.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

NEW BOOK: Office Town

So I made a book online

So I made a book online
An actual book
And ebook version
Because I'm hip to the modern age

That was an interesting exercise

I'm not sure what made me
Want to make an actual book
Beyond the same reasons
Everyone has for wanting a book
Of their very own

But now it exists beyond
Scribbles and the Word doc
And that's gotta count for something
Put it toward my 10,000 hours of success
Because I'm hip to Outliers, too

Was it dreams of grandeur?
Entirely possible
Was it futile?
Entirely possible
Was it the thought
That a million people
That I don't know
Will discover this sensational book
About office life grumbling?


It was "completion energy"
That I wanted running through my veins
But all the uploading
And reuploading
Just made me tired
And the final discovery
At the price when it's printed
Made me grumble again

I don't know
If it was worth it
In the end
But here it is

The ebook: 
Corporate drudgery to nomadic bloggery.

The printed book:

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Haunted by Hemingway at Midnight in Paris

Just me and the butcher taking a little stroll around Paris. Photo credit: Sony Picture Classics
Woody Allen was brilliant in creating the new film Midnight in Paris.

You don't even have to think he was brilliant or the film was brilliant to know the idea was brilliant.

Back when Woody Allen was thinking up the seed of the film, which became Midnight in Paris, he must have wondered, "Now what time in history would I like to recreate?" Naturally, for any writer, the answer would be Paris in the 1920s when Hemingway was smack dab in the middle of living what became A Moveable Feast.

Even if you don't like Woody Allen films... (?!!)
Even if you're not into Owen Wilson... (?!?!!?)
Even if romantic comedies aren't your thing.... (?!?!?!?!?!@#%#$!!!)

Seeing Paris recreated as the 1920s with Hemingway and his cronies is worth it.

And now this modern day writer, yours truly, is trying to recreate a literary life like that of Mr. Hemingway. 

Hemingway says of A Movable Feast, "This book contains material from the remises of my memory and of my heart. Even if the one has been tampered with and the other does not exists." Brilliant.

I'm living where he lived... just down the rue. I'm writing and reading and walking where he wrote, read and walked. I'm hanging in cafés where he milked every café creme for all it was worth... which you do when they are $4 a pop. It's all about renting the seat and less about the caffeine anyway. And I'm dining in the restaurants around the city where he dined in his moveable feast.

And when I need help with writing, I pick up one of his books to conjure him for assistance. When I've got nothing to write, he tells me, "Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now. All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know."

And when I get concerned that I don't have friends in Paris, he reminds me of when he was in Paris. "The only thing that could spoil a day was people and if you could keep from making engagements, each day had no limits."

And when I feel like what I write isn't enough, he reminds me that Ezra Pound was, "the man who believed in the mot juste—the one and only correct word to use—the man who had taught me to distrust adjectives as I would later learn to distrust certain people in certain given situations."

Hemingway. Always there when I need him. In book form and formless, and now on screen in Midnight in Paris.

It's like he's haunting me while I'm exploring his Paris haunts.

But it's a good haunting.

Glad to hear that.

Who said that?  

Sunday, June 12, 2011

In Paris, bigger isn't better

If I had to choose one word for the USA it would be:


Make everything bigger. Get bigger ratings. Get more followers. Get a bigger house, bigger car, more friends, more books, more of this and more of that.

I, myself, have been influenced by this BIGGER mentality. I'm a fan.

Why? Because measuring things is fun. It's glorious when the numbers go up. It's like a game. And when the numbers go down, it's an effective way to measure self-worth. Don't we all like to pat ourselves on the back or beat ourselves up over the numbers? Whether it be our stock choices, number of visitors to our sites, sales of the month or even pants size (which is the one place we generally don't prefer bigger).

But in Paris? Non. Bigger isn't better.

Paris is run by what we in North America, would see as people with "Joe Jobs." Not corporate fancy pantses. Not people who are hoping for bigger, bigger, bigger. It's run by waiters and chefs, by fish mongers and butchers, by fruit guys and flower guys. The whole city is boutiques, cafés, restaurants and shops. Without these guys running the place, this would turn into... the Salton Sea. Ew.

And the people who run these businesses aren't thinking about expansion. It's not even part of the Parisian mindset. Sure, some months show bigger sales than others and some businesses fail. But if you've got a shop here, that's that. And if you work in a shop here, it's not about looking at the horizon for the next big opportunity. You're just looking to keep what you've got. C'est tout.

If you took a bakery in Paris and plopped it in Los Angeles, soon you'd be scheming up ways to sell your cakes online, to create a line of products for the major grocery store chains and to create a reality show based around the bakery. Danny Bonaduce would ask if you wanted coffee with that.

But in Paris, your bakery would be a bakery and that would be just fine for you and for everyone else, too.

As a person who has been seduced by BIGGER, I'm not quite sure how to get my mind around not expanding. But my butcher friend? And all his butcher friends? And all his friends who run Rue Mouffetard, where I am currently staying? These people are in it for the long haul. They could happily keep on keeping on in the same shop, same apartment, same same same.

That would drive me bananas.

So I sit here analyzing my numbers on my stocks (blech), and my google analytics (meh), the number of followers (nice to meet you #74), and consume myself with how to make those numbers BIGGER BIGGER BIGGER.

I'm not saying that bigger is better or the Parisian preference for staying the same is better. Perhaps those on Rue Mouffetard are at the top of their game. This is, after all, the street in Paris where heavy hitters like Julia Child came to buy food. And if you're the veggie guy on the best street in the best city in the world to buy food, you're doing okay. Why go somewhere else? Why aim for anything else.

Plus, here's another thing. This is a sweet life.

If you work on this street, you live on this street. You walk 30 seconds to work. You come home at lunch for a bite to eat and a nap. You get a gazillion holidays. And you have 50 friends you see every day. It's a good life.

Why aim for bigger when the same is so sweet?

So far, I've only found one thing that Parisians love to make bigger: Lemon Meringue pie. 
The best lemon meringue of... my... life.
It took a team effort to polish it off.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Paris: Croissants, cafés and comprehension

The aunt and uncle in Paris. Cool cats.
To celebrate my aunt's retirement, she and my uncle came to Paris for a long vacation. They say it's nice to travel to a place and stay awhile. To feel like une habitant. A resident rather than a tourist.

That's why I came back to Paris, too. 

Turns out, traveling for three months is exhausting. 

Also turns out that learning another language is exhausting. 

And it turns out, I got a nice offer from a friend to stay in Paris for awhile "to see."

So I'm here to see. 

(Cheers heard around the world. And I hope a few sighs. Turns out, it's all in the asking—accepting who is asking and accepting who is not.)

I'm also here to conquer the language. 

I'd like to be bilingual. Of course, I would love to be bilingual in Italian, but I feel like a first grader in Italian while I feel like a sixth grader in French. And being a sixth grader in French means I'll graduate to bilingualism sooner in Paris than I will in Rome.

Plus, Rome in the summer with all those tourists? Non merci.

Not being in Rome doesn't stop me from practicing my Italian language CDs. When I do, I shut the windows and get out my Italian book and CDs from under my pile of t-shirts. Like I'm being sneaky.

Somehow, pretending to be sneaky about it makes it more fun.

My friend Sandro, who learned English on his own, said that he tries to think of learning English as a hobby. That way it doesn't feel like work. 

I think if I study my language book while sipping legal addictive stimulants in a café, accompanied by a croissant or pain au chocolat, maybe it won't feel like work to me either. 

This was my final latté in Rome. It was as if the bartender knew I was leaving and was convincing me to stay. I was swayed by his caffeine-infused swooning. 

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Rome: My apartment REVEALED

I just can't stop throwing coins into Trevi Fountain.

As you probably know by now, the only wish you can make when you toss a coin into the fountain is that you return to Rome. I tossed a coin in before I left for Venice and Florence, before I left for Sorrento, and now, as I leave Rome.

I think at this point the fountain is aware that I want to return.

You may wonder why I'm leaving if I like Rome so much.

I wonder this myself.

But, onward. Reasons to follow in future posts.

And I tossed a coin in the fountain to make sure I'd be back.

Many of you have asked about my apartment in Rome. It was fantastic and I highly recommend it. I was smack dab in the middle of Rome. I rented it from EasyDomas and the apartment on the site is called Apartment Serlupi.

It was even better than the photos, if you can imagine, which is always a concern when renting apartments online. It was a two bedroom with two bathrooms and had a pull-out couch. A bit much for one person, but I had Marni join me along the way.

The Marni:

The Apartment Serlupi:

I wrote posts from here.

And here.

And here.

And here.

Which is also here.

I did not write posts from here.

Or here.

Or here.

But a few from here.

And a few from here, too.

Ciao Rome! I will be back.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Rome: Painted letters, FREE advice and a CONTEST!

I'm doing a talk at the Rock Your World Summit this Saturday June 11 @ 10 a.m. PT.

The talk is called:

Finding Your Life Through Finding Your Art

It's about how art can change your life if you let it. Sign up and listen to speakers all week because it's FREE and awesome.

I'll be telling the story of this here blog that you read from time to time and how it led me out of  corporate day-to-day drudgery and into the fascinating world of nomadic bloggery. 

I'll also be giving away a painted letter to a lucky winner. See the video below.

I've been inspired by Percy Kelly and have been painting letters to friends. One could be yours if you sign up for the summit which is FREE. You'll have to email me to enter though. Two steps. That's all.

Here are a few painted letters I've sent to friends recently:

The fountains of Rome make all the noise of the city stop. I can sit next to a fountain, listen to the trickling water and come back to myself. All the other sounds fade away so that I can only hear my thoughts and the soothing fountain. It's as if they've agreed—the fountain and my ears—to drown out everything else so I could collect myself and my thoughts for the next leg of the journey. But sometimes the only word I hear is Stay.

There are many questions I have about the Italian language, like whether to add the "H" as shown above. My Google Search proved fruitless. My day at Villa (H)Adriana will always be remembered fondly for the beauty of the ruins, but more for the company. I laugh to recall standing in the shade and traipsing through the woods in search of the exit. And of course, the many photos I made you pose for along the way. I'm like a Japanese tourist with my camera. Thank you for a dreamy day among the ruins.
I can't believe my luck. I managed to score an apartment right near the Pantheon during my stay in Rome. Nearby is a restaurant I go to when my feet won't take me further and my head is full of historic facts from tours and museums. There I sit with my glass of surprisingly amazing house wine and watch people mill around the Pantheon. They take photos in between sips of water or licks of gelato. Many stop, take a photo and move on to the next site, which is a bit sad because I think many miss the majesty of the site. The Pantheon doesn't seem to mind though. It seems to say that it was here before anyone arrived and it will be here long after all those tourists leave. That monument has a lot of confidence.

Rome may be the busiest place on earth this week. Pope John Paul II went and got beatified right in the middle of my vacation. This means I've been trying to navigate my way around church groups from around the globe all week. A tiresome little task, I assure you. This little church I drew is tucked into a busy shopping street. You'd hardly know it was there if you didn't look. I noticed it because I don't like shopping.

When I have hit my limit of hurt, seething and lonesomeness, I write to him. I spill out everything until I am hollow. I tell him what happened, how I am feeling, admit that I've cried. That I'm not as brave as I'd hoped. I write him because I know he won't try to fix it. But he writes back immediately telling me he understands, telling me a joke, and without meaning to, he fixes it anyway. 
The video of me making the painted letter I'm giving away at the Rock Your World Summit.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

The Happiness Project: Eat, Drink and Laugh

I've been pondering happiness ever since I realized my month in Rome is coming to an end.

And nothing makes me more unhappy than leaving Rome.

Except for leaving Maui, which ties with Rome for first place in my heart.

So, pondering my pending unhappiness, I decided to read The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. 

In the book, she spends a year doing activities that she believes will add greater happiness to her life. She splits the book, and project, into 12 sections, one for each month of the year. In each month, she endeavors to do certain tasks that she believes will bring her more happiness, which hopefully culminates in a big bliss fest by December.

I mentioned this project to my Roman friends Marco and Sandro. This is their reaction:

You're doing what?!
Whaaat?! Who needs a happiness project?
I replied to their chagrin with an exasperated, "People are creating lists of things to do to bring more happiness into their lives. What's wrong with that? Look, here is my list."

I pulled out my list that included activities I wanted to do each day, or nearly each day, to bring me greater happiness. Items listed down the margin included activities such as Update Blog, Write Morning Pages, Practice Italian, Practice French, Stretch, Take Vitamins. And across the page were dates and check marks on days when I did the activities.

Marco gave me that look. You know the one (see above) and he said, "Janice, because we are accepting you as a Roman citizen now, you must know the true secret to happiness. You must find people with whom you can Eat, Drink and Laugh. That's it. That's the secret."

It's as simple as that?

"It's as simple as that. To find people you can eat, drink and laugh with is the sweetness of life."

Marco looked at my list again more carefully and pointed at the area where I had marked off many days of Practicing Italian and no days of Practicing French.

"Well, maybe I was wrong," he laughed. "This makes me happy."

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Tanya Davis saying it like it is

Sometimes I need to take a breather from all this traveling business.

It's nice to put down the day pack and effort.
To stop trying to communicate in a different language.
To not politely laugh at jokes I don't understand.
To stop wondering if the joke is on me.
To put down the map and go no further than the bakery around the corner.
To heal my pink shoulders, ears and nose.
To stop weaving around tour groups.
To stop standing in lines for everything from concerts to gelato.

When I quit my job to travel the world, I thought I'd have more days to linger.

Correction: I thought I'd give myself more days to linger. 

So today I decided that it was okay to stay in, surf online and hang out.

And what did I do? I lingered over lines of poetry by Tanya Davis.

Tanya Davis is a poet from Halifax, Nova Scotia. Her words are full of truth, vulnerability and beauty. She has this awkwardness about her that captivates. And I could listen to her east coast Canadian accent all day long. It's nice to hear an accent from home when I'm on the road.

So rather than reading about my travels, take a breather like I did and listen to Tanya Davis tell it like it is from wherever you are.  

This is her most popular video. It's about the beauty of being alone. I posted it here awhile ago, but it's worth a repost.

... And a super cute video about being an artist in this world.

... And the most lovely little vulnerable poem.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Sorrento: Right where I need to be

Sometimes I wonder what I'm doing here.

I pick a city and I go. I pick another city. I go. Here, there and everywhere. There is no real formula involved. Just a bit of an online search, a train ticket and hotel confirmation number.

There are days I fantasize about staying put and living in a little house. I have a garden. I watch my arugula closely. I pick a small tomato off the vine and eat it right there and then, while it still holds the heat of the sun.

But if I were there, I'd probably be dreaming about visiting cities in Italy, which brings me to now, when I'm visiting cities in Italy.

The next city on the roster was Sorrento, which is on the Amalfi Coast. 

Last year, when I went to the Amalfi Coast, I didn't like it. And I didn't like that I didn't like it. I felt like it fought me the whole way. Positano was full of tourists. The beach of Priano was rocky and small compared to my expansive sandy California beaches. And the ridiculously curvy road between these towns made me car sick. And I never get car sick.

But this time in Italy, I was determined to find something redeemable about the place.

But then Naples happened. Naples is an asshole that smacks you on the ass and laughs at you when you look back and scoff.

I took a train from Rome to Naples, then hopped on the subway from Naples to Sorrento. Apparently there was some sort of "demonstration" on the train tracks between two of the subway stations. Once the train reached the demonstration, everyone had to get of the train and walk the tracks two subway stations down to pick up the next train.

Now, I'm all for adventure but I didn't have the shoes for this. My cute ballerina slipper shoes, though comfortable for zipping around a city, didn't have the chutzpah for this job.

But no worries. The accordion player saw that I was struggling and helped me all the way down the tracks. With his accordion on his back and holding my hand for balance, he walked me the whole way while his brother, who was the guitar player in this duo, played Italian love songs along the way.

You can't make this up, folks. 

Sure it was flirty. And I knew what he was after. But alas... life goes on.

I was really glad for the help though, so I was willing to overlook his gold teeth. But somehow, I lost him in the crowded subway stop.

Took some doing.

With ruined shoes, I hopped on the subway and reached Sorrento an hour later than I expected. But I didn't care. I was exhausted but delighted to put my knapsack down and put my feet up.

The town of Sorrento is home to Limoncello, which you may remember from my first drunken post. The lemon-tree lined streets lead straight to the blue sea. The place oozes charm.

I think the downfall of my trip to the Amalfi Coast last year was hauling my ass between the towns on the bus, which made me ill. So this time, I rented a little boat and sailed from Positano to Sorrento like the fancy pants that I am.

The beauty of renting a boat here is that you don't have to know how to dock it. You drive near the beach and the water taxi sails out to you and docks your boat for you. No skill required. Thank Christ.

I walked ashore and went to one of my favorite restaurants, Buca di Bacco. After lunch, I ran into my fruit mafia king from last year. I mean, I almost literally ran into him. Out of all the places he could have been and I could have been, we were in the same place at the same time. How amazing is that?

Enrico didn't focus on the amazement of it all. He moved quickly into the most important pieces of information "You alone? How long you stay? You stay in Positano?"

Sure it was flirty. And I knew what he was after. But alas... life goes on.

And I felt like a million bucks leaving him on the beach after our quick visit and sailing off to Sorrento.

As I look back on the moment, I take running into him as a sign that I was in the right place at the right time.

And the Amalfi Coast? We made up. 

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