Just One of Those Things
Oh my dears, thank you so much for the birthday cheer. I'm insane right now-after baking and cooking and prepping I just finished cleaning the bathroom for my guests tomorrow night. I know. I promised you Paris adventures. And God as my witness I will deliver. After the party. When I'm a little less on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Right now I keep thinking-how is this thing going to get done? And more importantly how can it get done so I don't turn into a narcoleptic at my own damn party?

Incidentally, lest you think the Lord disappointed me this year, He almost hand delivered a blonde blue eyed french boy who is an english major-23 years old and moon eyed over moi-to my door step. Yeah baby, I still got it.

Now I'm going to sleep for a few hours before I get up, vacuum, shove everything in the closet, bake gingerbunnies, wrap presents, prep the food, drape the tablecloths, take a bath, do my make up, light the lights and get things started for the most sensational, inspirational, muppetational Birthday/Holiday party.

As my Israeli ex boyfriend would say "Time enough to sleep when you're dead."

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Originally uploaded by arimoore
Yep, tis my official birthday. Today will be a kind of quiet celebration: a massage, dinner with Mere Lapin, writing some Paris adventures (I saved the best for my birthday). Still that's no excuse for y'all not to make a big deal. Jump up and down. Send virtual hugs. Present me with a box of little chocolates shaped like Gordon Ramsey. (Sorry, I was making caramel hazelnut clusters dipped in semi sweet chocolate from his dessert cookbook earlier today-an early pressie from Bakerina.)

In retrospect, last year I was miserable on my birthday. Today, despite some hostility about grade grubbing from students (thanks to web enabled phones I now get hassled literally the minute final grades are submitted via blackberry and iPhone...which is upsetting because I don't have either), it has been a good day. I'm actually happy. Apparently I do well with a boyfriend across the ocean speaking another language. The beginning of the year was been rough, rough in the pardon me while I start drinking martinis out of the toilet kind of way, but I can't complain about the other half. I got the present that I want every year, a man who surprises me in a good way and a pack of friends who managed to keep me alive long enough to send my ass back to Paris. Unlike last year, I feel like celebrating, which is good because apparently my birthday party is going to be host to a cast of thousands.

Now I must go have my official after midnight birthday bunni shot at my local so I'm not too sleepy for my massage tomorrow.

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Paris Diaries: Thank You Zola, For All the Good Times
Man 1: This really is not my day.
Man 2: So make it your day.


The next day my ankle was quite swollen. Even after a night of rest, the swelling hadn't gone down much. I have two more nights left in Paris. All I have to do, I think, is make it onto the plane. Once back to NY, I can go directly to my orthopedic or an ER, but until then I have to be careful. I had still been pushing myself until now, but now I really had to take easy. The key to not ending up in the hospital is knowing when to stop pushing yourself. So I walked down to a cafe and had breakfast. I sat there smoking and pondering what to do with my day.

When one is scared, one often finds comfort in the familiar. And so what I did is hobble to the closest internet cafe and write this blog post. I felt horribly guilty doing it. I was supposed to be out living not in some dreary internet cafe seeking the comfort of my cyber pals. On the other hand, as I wrote in the post, I didn't come all this way to end up in a Parisian hospital. Driving yourself into an unnecessary hospitalization isn't living either. So I typed away for an hour before I sought out lunch.

I went back to the place where I had enjoyed a glorious dinner my first evening in Paris, but this time to waiters were rude and the food wasn't particularly good. Before lunch, I had planned to sing the praises of this restaurant. After lunch, I thought there was no way I would guide other tourists there to be humiliated. I felt worse, depressed, alone. I started to walk still unsure of what to do and now fairly rattled. It seemed that all the decisions I was making were mistakes. I began to doubt myself, to doubt the universe. I began to fear that I would return to the US feeling worse than when I left, which was dangerous. I was going to have to go on antidepressants. And even with them, all it would do was making me cheerful about having no hope and having lost another place in the world that seemed to make me happy.

As I walked, I passed a cafe that had a sign inside proclaiming "L'Assomoir." In French, "l'assomoir" is a "drinking den." It is also the title of one of my favorite books by Zola. *Despite my increasing doubt in my decision making ability, I decided that this was a sign. I picked a table on the outside by the door and ordered a glass of cider and wrote the following in my journal

One of the most difficult things about skiing is most often when you fall, it's because you lean back instead of leaning further forward or "into the mountain." It's a natural impulse when you feel you are going to fast or out of control to lean back. After all, if you trip while you're walking, you don't lean into the sidewalk. You pull back. But when you are on skis that impulse will cause you to fall.

Unfortunately in life the decision isn't that clear. You don't always know if you should resist your natural inclination or obey it.

So do I go to Notre Dame? Will it make me feel better to go there or worse?

I sit there and decide the best way to go is to shop for a bit, take a nap at the hotel and go to dinner in St. Michel that night. I'll do Notre Dame tomorrow and go back to Au Petite Monsieur for my last dinner. I'll get a decent night of sleep before I return.

I sit and order another bowl of cider and look around. There isn't much activity here. The other tables to my left are empty. To my right is the doorway and one more table. There is a man, clearly french, rolling cigarettes. His daughter who is about 9, seems fascinated by this process and so he is showing her how to roll cigarettes. She demands to roll his next one. She makes a few mistakes, the end result being a somewhat sloppy fat cigarette, but it's functional enough. I watch the whole process and contemplate this scene that couldn't possibly take place anywhere else but France. In NY, a place of tolerance, he would be stoned in the streets for letting his daughter roll a cigarette, for even letting her tough tobacco. MI myself am torn. On one level, it's charming and sweet. It shows how close they are. On the other side, father and daughter bonding activities should exclude tobacco and other dangerous and addictive substances. Still when I was her age, I used to rip up my father's cigarettes. Now I smoke. So I suppose there's no real danger (aside from second hand smoke, which in a city like Paris where everyone smokes can't really be avoided). I take out my own cigarettes. After my own failed attempts with matches, the man offers me a light. I thank him and return the lighter.

After two glasses of cider, I was feeling like it was time for my nap. The waiter having become even more lackadaisical had vanished for some time. I got up to pay my check. I stood in the door way with my money, and the man asks me, in French, if I would like to get a drink somewhere else. "Well," I thought to myself, "I have to rest my foot anyway." "Where?" I ask him. "Oh around the corner." "Sure."

We walk much farther than around the corner until we come to a bar that's trying to be American. It offers Long Island Iced Teas, Margaritas, even vodka based "shooters." I order another cider and we sit and chat for a bit. A very little bit as my French is very limited and he doesn't speak any English. I explained I was from NY. I was an English professor. He was the first French person I met who seemed to understand I wasn't a "maitress" , but a professeur. We talked about the places I had been and he was intrigued by the Museum of the Middle Age (Cluny). He didn't know there was one in Paris, and so I showed him my visitors map.

After my cider, he asked me if I would like to join him and his daughter for dinner in Chinatown. One of the rules that I live by is if offered the chance to do something you have never done before, you must accept it. Since I had never been to Chinatown, I thought this was a great opportunity to see a new part of Paris and keep off my feet a bit. So I accepted. I was scared, nervous, because I was going to have to trust a man I just met. But it was my fear that made me think it was the right decision. I decided to lean into the mountain and hope that I didn't end up kissing the sidewalk.

* There is a scene in this book that is just disgustingly hysterical in which a young wife walks into her bedroom only to discover her drunkard husband has vomited all over the room. Zola describes the scene in such detail, it is, quite unfortunately, like you are standing there next to her. It's one of my favorite scenes-it's funny and heartbreaking and disgusting. Just had to share.

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