Posts Tagged ‘france’

January – Maisons Laffitte under snow.

February – He who jumps off bridges in Paris is in Seine.

March – Arthur leaps skyward.

April – Cinque Terre, Italy. Hiking… it’s only walking… for 7 hours. Bring proper footwear and a bottle of water.

May – Sunset over North Lake, Grand Junction, Michigan.

June – Late night lights on the expressway, Chicago.

July – Urban spelunking, Gary, Indiana.

August – Bean time, Chicago.

September – Welcome to the new bookshop, Austin, Texas.

October – Dim lights for Halloween.

November – This caused injury. Most initiations do.

December – Five days of a white Christmas. New Years Day in short sleeves.

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Here are three things the French kids said to me today in English that made me glad that there are CDs in France that let you learn English using only Obama speeches:

“Can you do me some pastas?”


“My couffrans are good frappeurs.”


Look how the guardian of Chicago goes lently.

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This past week was a week of incredible extremes.

From the grandest endless expanses…

… to the most intimate proximity of living space.


From the most touristed of places…

… to paths unimaginably less traveled…

From the most grandiose forms of human expression…



…to the most simple…



and all the while reminded of the importance of time, of music passing, of moments taken and stored in a memory box of snapshots and familiar scents, of sunsets just missed and the endless lapsing of ocean waves.  This week, I was reminded of the importance of taking time to dance…

…to build…



…to reflect?…

…to laugh at the most silly of things…

…and to always continue walking…

…but most importantly…

…always, always the love.  

I had the most wonderful of vacations.

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I followed my brother through the drive thru at the burger joint.  It is not that we had a car, we were not even old enough to drive.  It is that they never allowed my roller blades inside, or as my brother liked to call them, “pussy boots.”  He skateboarded, wore baggy jeans, a chain wallet, and could make armies tremble by the mere mention of his older-brotherness, at least in my eyes.  He always got two double cheeseburgers and I would do the same.  My 11-year-old 80-pound frame struggled to keep up with my brother’s imposing figure complete with budding beard, and digestion was always a process.  I gained weight and we looked more like brothers than ever before.

This was back when I lived for supermarket hotdogs with fake cheese miraculously melded into the middle.  I lived for white bread.  After days of playing basketball with friends, three point contests and buzzer beaters, after we had designed t-shirts with sidewalk chalk for our beloved Sports Club USA and talked about building a score board to rest next to the hoop on the back of my garage, after I finally got hungry, I ran inside, took two pieces of the fantastically fluffy substance, removed the crust, made a tight ball and shoved the dense nutritionally void mass into my mouth and returned to the cement court.  I never wanted dinner then, not only because my ball of bread was expanding in my stomach, but also dinner tasted.  It tasted of food.  It tasted of salt and pepper and spice and protein.  All of these concepts were foreign and undesirable.  I expressed my patriotism and American spirit by eating food so processed that it would survive any unjust war in which we engaged.  Either that or it was just simpler my way.

My brother ate meat almost exclusively.  He was employed by Plunkette Furniture as a stock boy moving furniture and the animal protein fit his carthorse after-school job. As his shoulders grew wider and his forearms more assertive, his hunger for meat grew exponentially.  I tended toward the bun.  He tended toward the burger.  Hence the shock that ensued when he announced casually at the dinner table over taco bell that he was becoming vegetarian.  “No more meat,” he said.  By then, his skateboards and baggy jeans had been replaced by a poet’s pen and a vintage sport coat.  The vegetarianism fit.  My parents, supportive as ever, applauded my brother’s decision and immediately my mom starting conceiving recipes, which was no easy task, as my brother did not particularly like vegetables, or fruits, or grains, or legumes.

We would wrestle as brothers do.  He was always stronger.  He gave me a black eye once at his new apartment.  It was an accident and he was quick to begin doting.  He offered me ice but he had none.  I asked for a steak and we both laughed and he put a frozen pizza on my face.  The swelling went down and that is when I coined the term, “pizzatarian.”

A pizzatarian is a vegetarian who subsides on cheese and boca burgers, chick’n patties and tortilla chips.  When he wants to feel that he has eaten especially healthy, he has a cookies-and-cream protein bar and a chocolate peanut butter smoothie with a boost of some chemical powder with a name like vitaburst.  

Being the little brother I am, though, I eventually followed suit.  My days of being happily drunk on simple carbohydrates were over as thoughts of B-12 deficiencies crept into my consciousness.  Vegetarianism caused us both to think more about food.  We started cooking.   I calculated food miles and read about pesticides and endocrine disruptors.  I scared myself into eating only local and organic.  My brother, now working at an Italian risotorante, would watch as the chefs would prepare eggplant parmesan and caprese salads.  A bowl full of spinach was not yet his idea of deliciousness, but steps were taken away from processed soy. 

Yet for some reason I still wore the pussy boots, even in the kitchen.  He would make falafel from scratch.  I would make saffron risotto.  He perfected pad-thai.  I brought out an artichoke dip in a home-baked sourdough bread bowl.  Recipe books were a thing of the past as our own artful concoctions came out of the oven.  Vegetarian Thanksgiving became a competition; his golden mashed potatoes against my rosemary pumpkin soup. 

We ate out differently as well.  I chose raw restaurants where none of the food is cooked above 107 degrees and you can order a side of enzymes.  My brother, after learning some Spanish from the chefs at the ristorante, knew where to find the perfect burrito.  When he moved out, his favorite burrito corner spot was a deciding factor.  He moved into the Puerto Rican neighborhood.

 I moved to Paris.

 I learned about how to describe the bouquet of a glass of wine and how it may or may not be long-in-the-mouth and do so in French.  My brother knew what mix of oils made the perfect homemade French fry.  He spoke Chicago street Spanish.  I spoke 19th century poet French.

To this day whenever I make a dish with a reduction or an infused foam, my brother still asks me in front of my family, in front of whoever my girlfriend is at the time, if it is a good time for me to come out to mom and dad.  I do not know when knowledge of truffle oil and what years provided a good grape harvest became immediately demasculating but if it is, I will wear the pussy boots because chicks dig ‘em. 

I do know that I could cook my brother out of the kitchen and that he would say the same about me.  I know that I would have more than just a pizza to offer him for his eye after a bar fight but I have no idea who is more likely to get into one.  I see the conversation leading up to his brawl being over a woman or some insult directed toward a friend.  I see mine as an off hand comment by some Frenchmen about the faults in the American educational system.  His would be over beer and mine would be over a bottle of Absinthe.


I wrote this piece over a year ago.  But lately, I have a feeling that all that as changed.  I feel like through completely opposite paths we are arriving at the same place.  We’d get along in the kitchen now, even collaborate on a dish.  

And my sister, whose food path I know even less about, but I am sure is far more interesting, involving rainforest cafés and more restaurants than I could count, to a steady diet of pints of Guinness and nothing more, but my sister, my dear dear sister, I am sure, could now cook us both into oblivion with her top chef of a boyfriend.  (Who you also have to love for his ability to enjoy a fresh herbed truffled white wine reduction as much as fried oxtails and chitterlings.

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True fact : In Paris, all toilets are made of solid gold.


Every time she sees some kid’s balloon floating up high, up above the rooftops, up up into the sky, she thinks “Shit!  My balloon!”


Do this with me quick.  I am going to write 10 countries and you write down the first person from that country that comes to mind.  Try not to think about it too much.  Example:  Italy – Dante.  Got it?  Okay, go!  

1.  USA                                 6.  Mexico

2.  Spain                               7.  Russia 

3.  France                             8.  China

4.  Canada                            9.  Japan

5.  Germany                         10.  India

Check out the comments for my answers and conclusion.

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I will soon be packing up my life and taking it across the world… Again.  And I suppose that after I knew that this decision would be made, I pretty much put a freeze on acquiring anything.  A temporary house remains far less full.  My friend Cory used to say, “Home is where the stuff is.”  But few of us are as Buddhist as we should be and we still have attachments to material things and emotional hangings.

Things Lost in 2008.

  1. A key to a bike lock.
  2. An expensive pen.  It isn’t the first time I’ve lost it.  The first time I lost it, I said it was my grandfather’s pen so that people wouldn’t think I was stupid for buying and then losing an expensive pen.
  3. My belt buckle with the name of my hometown.
  4. Many pictures taken and half a story in a computer crash. 
  5. My wanderlust.
  6. My job as a cleaning lady.
  7. My ability and desire to do it all her way.
  8. My interest in explaining things.
  9. The desire to do much more than have endless Sunday afternoons.
  10. One of the chairs in the teahaus.  I still don’t know where that went. 
  11. Two books I lent out.  (I kept three of other’s though.  Sorry Matt, Agnes and Sophie.)  The good ones never come back.
  12. Most of my grass-is-greener mentality.

When I made this list last year, I had a whole slew of things that were stolen from a rented car when my parents and I parked outside a medieval city in the south of France.  I remember swearing then that I would no longer fret over things (except for my computer, but I suppose that this thing processes more of myself than past lovers have.)  But of course, I scrambled around swearing when I lost that pen.  Yet looking at this list now, and last year’s as well, they both quickly become positive.  Things lost becomes Things of which I’ve rid myself.

What’s your list?  What’s making moving across the world just a little easier?

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