Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The Ends of Things

On June 30th, I will have officially lived in Paris for one-and-a-half years.  I’m not entirely comfortable in my skin here, and perhaps I never will be, but there are many aspects of my life in France that I no longer fear.  When I first arrived, I was afraid to enter a fromagerie alone, because I didn’t know how to ask for my cheese, and I was even more terrified to take a bus, because I didn’t know how to pay for my ride.  Those things seem silly now, but looking back I realize I’ve lost more than just my fears.  In fact, I ditched every ounce of my pride in return for rejection letters.  I still won’t stroll into a boucherie unaccompanied, but let’s admit, it’s intimidating to parlez francais with a foreign man holding a butcher knife, OK?

It's Cherry Season in France!  And gone before you know it....

Anyways, with two or three (or four) years to go, here are some things that have recently ended:

A school year

My youngest son made it through 7th grade in Paris.  He learned a whole buncha French, visited Geneva one too many times, hosted exchange students from Moscow and Rome, skied in the Alps, and mastered the art of X-Boxing while Skyping simultaneously in three foreign languages.  What. The. Fromage.

My older son finished his second year boarding at a military academy in the United States.  During this school year, he matured into the type of responsible young man who can independently fly across an ocean at the drop of a dime, without any help from the likes of an ex-president’s son, who completely botched their first solo travel excursion in November.  Thanks for that, Louis.

A French class

This Friday marks the end of my intensive French class (until the Fall, peut être).  Since we first learned about our relocation to Paris over two years ago, I have attempted to learn French using all the following methods:

Rosetta Stone.  By the way, fuck you, Rosetta Stone.

Pimsler.  At least I could listen to Pimsler while jogging behind Les Pompiers in the Parc Monceau.

Alliance Française.  Monique, I will forever be indebted to you for teaching me numbers, because without those, I couldn’t appreciate the euphonious lore of mumbling Quatre Vingt Dix Neuf under my breath every time a Frenchie corrects my French.

Private Tutoring.  A lightbulb illuminated in this tiny blonde brain of mine when I finally realized the difference between être and avoir.  Yep, after nearly a year in Paris, I figured out the difference between “to be” and “to have.”  My mother beams with pride every time I remind her I hold an English degree.

Death by Chocolate Withdrawal.  The bombardment learning technique employed by my local chocolatier, who couldn’t utter a word in English but made every effort to teach me French, came at the expense of withholding bon-bons.  I certainly would have avoided the place, except he was really kind of cute.  For a grandpa, I mean.  Alas, we moved apartments, and now he’s a metro ride away, and I have a new chocolatier who speaks perfect English.  Vive la France!

Finally, I enrolled at Lutece-Langue.  :::: insert The Bestie’s florescent pink glittery font here :::: Four weeks of classes, five mornings per week, 3 1/2 hours per day, during the entire month of June.  Guess what?  I speak French now.  No shit.  I actually explained the entire plot of my work-in-progress novel to my class today IN FRENCH.  Fuck if I know how that happened.  I don’t even know how to explain that plot in English.

A visit from my son

I’m talking about the same awesome kid who can now fly independently back and forth across the Atlantic Ocean without the help of a jackass very impolite young man whose last name begins with the letter S.  My sixteen-year-old son, the one who napped on my bed wearing nothing but a diaper while I stared at his peaceful baby face for hours on end, spent the early part of June here with me in Paris.

La Tour Eiffel, Paris

Montmartre, Paris

The Gates of Hell, The Rodin Museum, Paris

Since his brother was in school, we had lots of time alone, spent sightseeing, eating, laying in the grass, catching up, and fishing.  The fishing thing happened only after we acquired his fishing license, an adventure in French paperwork just like any other French paperwork.  ::::: insert ppppffffffttttttt here :::::

The day he left, I accompanied him in an Uber to Charles de Galle Airport, where I handed him his passport and his ticket, and just like that, he was back in the world.  My heart aches writing about it, and I look like shit when my mascara runs, so let’s move on.

Fishing in The Seine, Paris

Living in a Monet Moment, France

How to Get a Fishing License in Paris

There's Never Enough French Onion Soup in Paris!

Two books

In the past month, I finished White Oleander by Janet Fitch and Josie and Jack by Kelly Braffet.  Both are dark and tragic stories with main characters who are teenagers, but they are not YA novels.  I chose to read these books specifically because my novel involves similar subject matter, and I hoped to learn a few things about how I’m presenting the material.  I highly recommend both.  Excellent stuff… if you can stomach it.

Time with certain friends

This is where I bid adieu to my first wave of Expat friends, who are leaving Paris this Summer.  Last year, I wasn’t affected, as I myself had only lived here six months.  This year, well damn, we all know about my mascara-running rule, right?  (See above).  Let’s just say, I never thought I could make so many good friends at this point in my life in such a short period of time.  And only long-term Expats can understand what that entails, so I won’t try to explain it.  You know who you are, and you know why I’ll miss you.  And by the way, all the Au Revoir lunches and soirees are adding inches to my thighs, so leave already, willya?

Dessert at Lasserre Paris

Going Away Soiree Chez Moi

Rejection Letters (Not)

One thing that has not ended recently is the flurry of rejection letters that still invade my mailbox week after week.  This week, I heard from New England Review that “Finish What You Start” isn’t a good fit for their journal, and Paris Lit Up had over 800 submissions and 200 pages of space, so yanno, that aint gonna work out for me, neither.

I’m back in the saddle though, people, because yesterday also marked the end of a terrible bout of Writer’s Block.  I’m a quarter of the way through a new short story temporarily titled “The Book Signing” about a retired college professor who once did very, very bad things to his female students.  And no, New England Review, you can’t have it.

19th Arrondissement, Paris

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Rejection Runs in the Family, or Misery Loves Company

Guess what, mes amies?  I’m not the only person in my family receiving rejection letters these days.  My thirteen-year-old son earned his first ever literary denial last week, which sort of shocked me, since I hadn’t even known he entered an alleged short story for an alleged acceptance to an alleged contest.  But le voila.  My children continuously surprise me.

As for me, my recent accomplishments include a rejection from American Short Fiction for “Paper Trail,” and, well… that was my only rejection.  Bravo!  I also successfully completed a new short story, Finish What You Start, which I submitted to New England Review, Glimmer Train, and Philadelphia Stories.  I submitted the twice-previously-rejected “Quittin' Time” to Tin House.  And I’m not proud to admit I haven’t written a single word toward my future award-winning novel, although I should mention that I tacked on and edited some previously written material, bringing the total word count to 14,298.  I should also mention this material belongs at the end of the whole damn novel, and now I’m required to fill in the gaps with some eighty-or-so-thousand words, which feels impossible like self-sabotage.

Obviously, I’ve been too occupied during the month of May to write productively toward my goal, or even write a single blog post, but merde, I’ve had one hell of a month.  Most importantly, my youngest son made his Confirmation, after a full school-year of religious preparation and a visit from his Sponsor, my brother, who flew to Paris from Philadelphia and then spent a week galavanting the cobblestones avec moi.

During his time in Paris, I happily guided mon frère along my favorite rues of Montmartre, wandered the Champs de Mars with sunny views of the Eiffel Tower, took cheesy pictures at the Pyramide du Louvre, and walked off our Angelina mont-blanc at the Luxembourg Gardens.  I also explored new places with him (the Picasso Museum!) and discovered my new favorite downtown lunch spot, Louise Café.

Before my brother’s visit (you know, the other parts of May when I wasn’t writing), I was simply enjoying Springtime in Paris.  Crucify me.

Maintenant, I know you’re wondering why this blog post is littered with French, being as I failed French twice in college and all that (while dating a Parisian) - C’est vrai! - so I will tell you.  I am taking Intensive French for the third time since moving to Paris eighteen months ago.  And this time, I’m determined to come away fluent.  It helps that my professeur is an adorable, tres cool twenty-something French girl who teaches tu instead of vous and compliments my Michael Kohrs handbag with “C’est chouette!” because everyone knows you’ll learn French better after you’ve been treated like you’re not turning quarante-quatre… prochaine semaine!

:::: insert reminder to wish me a Bon Anniversaire next Tuesday ::::

Speaking of my birthday (No, really, don’t get me anything; the last thing I want is a pair of Christian Louboutins.), I will receive an early cadeaux this Saturday when my sixteen-year-old son arrives from America.  For those not aware, he attends a military academy in the United States, which means our time together is limited to les vacances.  Let the party begin!