|I’m just going to sit here for a minute and relish the fact that I can say “I think I’ll go to Paris,” and then actually go there.
Life is so sweet.
Valeria has some Peace Corps friends in for a visit, so tomorrow I’ll tag along with them to the City of Light. The French have a 2 week break around Halloween, so I plan on spending some of it at the Louvre, Da Vinci Code in hand (don’t look at me like that. You would too if you had the chance). Then I’ll hit Shakespeare and Co. and gorge myself on books (I’m reading Lodge’s Author, Author now, it’s driving me crazy. My unread copy of The Ambassodors sits in my bedroom at home!!). Followed by a tour of every gay club I can find, until I run out of money. I’ll have to live like a monk in November to pay for it, but it’s worth it.
I think I’ll go to Paris. October 26, 2005
Saturday Night at the Smoking Rabbit October 22, 2005
Right. So, the other language assistants.
My job in France is to be an assistant to English teachers in the two local colléges (junior highs) here in Verdun. My American roomie Valeria is an assistant in the primary schools, and there are four other assistants who work in the lycée (high school). So a few weeks ago we all met up at a local bar Valeria found called Le lapin qui fume, The Smoking Rabbit. It’s a tiny, hole-in-the-wall place; the regulars were sitting in booths in the front, and the nice friendly bartender led us to the benches and table in the back. There were seven of us in all: me, Valeria, and Matt were the Americans. Matt’s from New York and has the East Coast Intellectual Big 10 School look, black turtle-neck sweater and wire-rimmed glasses and everything. Nice guy. Katy is from Austria; Kim is a Brit with a cute, vaguely northern accent (“I live near the town where Robbie Williams was born!” Hopefully that means something to my European readers). Ricardo is from Nicaragua, so his French is pretty incomprehensible thanks to his accent; luckily he speaks English very well. And finally Carol, my French roommate with a very un-French name. When you think of a stereotypical sophisticated French woman, you picture Carol. Knock-out figure (ohmygod), long wavy brown hair, 24, teaches French lit at the lycee, wonderfully sweet and funny, it’s really fucking annoying. Clearly the Universe has a cruel sense of humor. Sometimes it’s just too early in the morning to deal with that and I wish she’d go be all sexy and French somewhere else.
I had this brief moment of acute homesickness as I looked over the beer list. At home I usually drink Mexican beers like Dos Equis (with some lime) and Negra Moldelo, or Poor College Student booze like Pabst Blue Ribbon. Deciding that it would just be wrong to drink a Guiness in France, I took a chance on a Czech beer called Regent, which I liked.
I was sitting between Val and Carol, so I didn’t get much chance to talk to the others, but Ricardo and I hit it off. He’s just a nice, easy-going guy, we swapped travel tales and Catholic childhood stories.
The next Thursday (we all have Fridays off) we all went out again to Le Peniche, the boat restaurant, for drinks again. Val and I shared a bottle of red wine, because we’d been in France for three weeks and hadn’t had any yet, because we’re stupid. I had three glasses, which is more than enough for me. I’m a total lightweight. Found myself chatting with Ricardo most of the time, again, though I wanted to get to know Katy and Kim better. Afterwards we hit Le Havana Club, a cramped little dive that plays bad French hip hop. I had a French beer called La Duchesse de Bourgogne that was absolutely disgusting.
I haven’t gotten thoroughly loopy in months; it was nice.
I can only hope that Ricardo’s not interested in me. I don’t really have any reason to think so, I’m just always paranoid that I’ll give some perfectly decent guy the wrong idea, just because I find it easy to talk to him.
Future goals for French nightlife include checking out Les Parents Terribles, a queer or at least queer-friendly dance club just outside town that I discovered after much digging on the net. I’ve got the address, phone number, hours, even the website, just no means of getting there. Now I have to make friends with Katy: she’s got a car.
Frequently Asked French Questions October 21, 2005
- Are you English?
- Where are you from?
- Is that in Louisiana?
- Have you met anyone famous?
- Is there anyone famous from your state?
- What do you think of George Bush?
- What do you think of the Iraq War?
- Do you have a boyfriend?
- Do you have a gun?
- Do you like Harry Potter?
- Have you seen the Statue of Liberty?
- What’s your favorite food?
- How do you like France?
- Do you speak French?
- Do you like France or America better?
- How did you feel on September 11?
- What do you think of current American politics?
Most of have been asked by students during my intro Q&A session; but that last one was asked by a Frenchman (That Guy) I met last weekend. I was invited by one of the English profs I work with on this group hike out in the countryside (I’ve found that the relative picturesque beauty of my surroundings is in direct inverse proportion to my ability to remember to bring a camera). I was making polite conversation with my fellow marcheurs, all of them nice middle-aged parent types, mostly consisting of the above questions. But This Guy, otherwise ordinary and unremarkable, starts off wanting to know my opinions of the present administration. Unfortunately I don’t know the French for “Orwellian nightmare” so I ended up blathering a bit. Then he follows it up “I don’t really like American culture.” And I guess I should have been all offended or something, but honestly, it just made me laugh, because he was so nice about it. It was as if he said “I don’t really like asparagus.” I don’t like your culture!
Okay, then! Duly noted. I’ll make sure to send a memo to the Complaints Department! I asked him if he had ever actually been to the United States, and of course he hadn’t.
It’s my students, however, who’ve been asking about Iraq and 9/11 and my boyfriends with wide-eyed curiosity. I seem to be this exotic creature to them, with my crazy accent. It’s harder to answer the simpler questions, actually, like “Who’s your favorite ____?” because most of my favorite things are not what you call mainstream. There’s not much point in telling them I love Meshell Ndegeocello or The Butchies. So I’ve been telling them absurdities like my favorite actress is Julia (BARF) Roberts, my favorite singer is Celine Dion, I love Tupac Shakur (never heard his stuff) and pizza (well, I do, but it’s not my favorite). Then I go home and listen to Sleater-Kinney.
I’m it October 20, 2005
I’ve been tagged by Winter! So you’ll just have to wait a little longer for stories about my students. I’m supposed to list 20 random facts about myself as quick as I can, so here goes:
- I was voted “Most Likely to Become a Nun” when I was 13.
- I used to pray to God not to call me to become a nun.
- My first political actions were in the pro-life movement.
- At the risk of being stoned, I will admit to voting for George Bush in 2000. I was 18 and didn’t know any better! Now you know why I’m such a bug-eyed fire-breathing radical freak.
- Katie Kinney is the only person in the world who can get away with calling me “Annie Bananie”.
- I’ve read Beowulf twice, voluntarily, and loved it each time.
- I read Moby-Dick when I was fifteen just to say I had read it.
- I still have a crush on my Anglo-Saxon Lit teacher.
- I have hazel eyes, but when I dye my hair purple it makes them look green.
- I want to like Guiness because I think it would make me look cool.
- When I was fourteen I had a wierd obsession with Leonardo DiCaprio (he’s so femmey!)
- When I was fifteen I had an obsession with James Dean; I wanted to look like him.
- The first time I went to Washington, D.C., I was a member of the Young Catholic Musicians Orchestra.
- The second time I went to D.C. was with my town’s chapter of NOW, to protest at the March for Women’s Lives.
- I have performed for Pope John Paul II, when I was with YCM.
- I have 37 cousins on my mother’s side. I think; it’s been a while since I counted them all.
- I’ve had 11 teeth pulled in my life, four years of retainers, and five years of braces.
- I’m trying to be a vegetarian, but I will always eat my daddy’s barbeque.
- I had a crush on Mary Martin as Peter Pan when I was a kid.
- I managed to get a degree in Literary Theory without ever reading Chaucer, Milton, Joyce, or The Wasteland.
It’s my birthday October 19, 2005
At lunchtime I bought a huge orange-
The size of it made us all laugh.
I peeled it and shared it with Robert and Dave-
They got quarters and I had a half.
And that orange, it made me so happy,
As ordinary things often do
Just lately. The shopping. A walk in the park.
This is peace and contentment. It’s new.
The rest of the day was quite easy.
I did all the jobs on my list
And enjoyed them and had some time over.
I love you. I’m glad I exist.
I’m 23 today. It’s kind of odd, being 23. I’m starting to not feel like a teenager anymore, which is good, I didn’t enjoy adolescence. But I don’t think I’ll ever be a Grown-Up. But I can’t really see myself as an Adult. But I guess I am now.
Spent some time in the jardin by my place this morning. It’s where I go to meditate and be a tree hugging hippie. Then I went to the bookstore, La Maison de la presse, and spent my parents’ money, because the French government hasn’t paid me yet. I bought myself a fountain pen and some stationary to write proper letters to people. I always wanted a fountain pen. Everybody uses them here, even kids, which is strange to me. A fountain pen to me means elegance and refinement; a fountain pen is for writing poetry and love letters, not scribbling verb conjugations in your 50 cent notebook.
I also capitulated, finally, and bought The DaVinci Code. I give up. You win, Dan Brown. Uncle!
I stretched out Jigs and Reels as much as possible; and the pages of Life Mask have been rapidly dwindling. I finished it with great reluctance and satisfaction on Monday. Life Mask is a book that you cannot simply sip at, like the heroines do their tea. It’s Emma Donoghue, her lovely prose and elegant structure have you swallowing it in gulps before you realize it. And shipping books here is prohibitively expensive, which leaves me, all alone in France, with no books, no magazines, nothing but the International Herald Tribune.
So what choice do I have, really. I must have books, English language books. I am reading in French, but it’s fucking hard work. This is non-negotiable. I’m a junkie who needs her fix. Da Vinci Code it is, then.
Up till now I’ve refused to read it on principle; that principle being sheer intellectual snobbery. I have a spiteful streak in me that will dismiss out of hand anything annoyingly popular. It gets me into trouble sometimes; I almost missed out on Harry Potter that way. But the Da Vinci Code? No f-ing way, if only because all my classmates last summer spent our five days in Paris pointing at things and saying “That’s in the Da Vinci Code!” But I will admit to being intrigued by the premise. I just thought I’d wait for the movie; guess not! You better deliver the goods, Dan Brown.
I also bought David Lodge’s Author, Author, about Henry James’ failed attempt at playwriting, to assuage my concience. Then I went home, had lunch, and ate a whole box of chocolate mousse Pims. And tonight me and the other language assistants (who I will tell you about, honestly, it’s all written out and everything) will go out for a drink. It’s a good birthday; the best one I’ve had in a very long time. I barely remember my 22nd, last year was the Semester from Hell so I probably spent it obsessing over a paper for TeacherCrush (sigh. I still carry a torch for that woman). My 21st birthday was nice enough, except I had just come out to myself the week before so I was too preoccupied with my quarter-life crisis. And adolescence was mostly a vague blur of unhappiness. Nothing beats my 9th birthday, though. You’d be hard pressed to top a dozen third graders buzzed on cake and soda doing the hokey-pokey at the rollerskating rink. Now that’s a good time.
stream of conciousness October 13, 2005
blog post writing, scribble scribble…let’s see, first day of classes, check, other assistants, check, what else can I mention, oh yeah, That Guy–hey those are nice boots she’s wearing…Oh. Whoa. DAMN. Cool jeans, black tank, butchy buzz cut, sexy tattoo…Jesus H. Christ Almighty…
Okay. Think. Coherent thought, please. Breathing, also good. She’s rocking that baby butch Rebel Without a Cause look, wow. Yeah, I know English Girl told me that what’s dykey in the States and the UK is not necessarily considered gay on the Continent, but any girl who looks like that has got to be queer as a three dollar bill. But with my luck she’s probably 15, anybody over 18 here is also over 35…Eye contact, make eye contact. Shit! Don’t look away you idiot! Argh. Ask her the time. Wait, scratch that, you’ve got a fucking watch on. Okay, what time is the bus coming? Also stupid, why would you be sitting at the stop blithely writing away if you didn’t know what time the bus was coming? I wish I smoked, I could ask her for a light. Does this jacket make me look too straight? Maybe I should take it off. Great, here’s the bus…Fucking A, why did I sit here?? She’s all the way in the back! Is it too late to switch seats and face the other direction? No, way too obvious.Well if I stare directly out the window I can get a glimpse of her when she gets off. Is that her voice? GAWD it’s sexy. Too bad I don’t know what the hell she’s saying. DON’T turn around you moron. Don’t. Absolutely not. Fuck it, she’s getting off, I’m turning around. Ah, she’s meeting a friend; you know, maybe I could get into that whole kissy-face thing the French do. Ack, she saw me looking at her! Did she see me? Is that a good thing? Right, note to self: Gorgeous Butch catches the 4:00 bus into town. On Thursdays, anyway. Hopefully each week. I’ll be dyeing my hair before then, maybe she’ll say “Hey, nice hair,” and I can say “Nice tattoo…” What’s the French for “tattoo”? Isn’t it just “tattoo”? Oh fuck, I missed my stop!
I swear on the Gideon Bible I do have posts about something other than me mooning over inaccessible girls. But Tuesday was my 2nd out-iversary, so it’s been Lesbo Week chez Andy. And seeing as this is pretty much the only space where I can be as dykey as I feel, this won’t be the last such post. But I do have amusing culture clash anecdotes and bookish musings in store. I just wish I had regular internet access.
dyke hunting October 6, 2005
You haven’t experienced France properly until you’ve had to deal with the Strike of the Week. The French love la grève almost as much as they love wine. I’ve already had to deal with two, and I haven’t been here three weeks yet. I’m teaching at two schools and when I visited the second one on Tuesday, I couldn’t meet any of the English teachers because they were on strike.
Then yesterday I had to go to Metz for a training session that all us language assistants were required to attend. The program starts at nine, so I buy a ticket for the 6 o’clock train, get up at 5 in the morning, go to the station, and there’s no train because of la grève. The next train to Metz is at 10. I don’t get into Metz until noon Wednesday. C’est la France.
I found myself faced with one of my personal nightmares, walking unnanounced into a room full of strangers. So I took a deep breath and barged in, apologizing profusely in broken French. My grammar is all over the place, but my accent is very good. Henry Higgins is absolutely correct: the French really don’t care what you do, so long as you pronounce it correctly.
Luckily you just have to mention la grève and everybody understands. No big deal. I sit down with my face burning because I hate having everybody stare at me like that. The girl next to me leans over and says don’t worry, she was late too, I haven’t missed much. She’s got wavy black hair, a sweet smile. Oh no, I think. Le coup de foudre. Pas encore. Here we go again.
We break for lunch a few minutes later and I go to the train station to double check the schedule for the afternoon. Stop in the tabac in the station and–cue the trumpets–find a copy of La dixiéme muse. Finally. It’s pretty decent; not that different from Curve or Girlfriends, but less annoying (well, this issue at least). And it’s got a better name (Sappho being the tenth muse). Fairly new; this is only the 15th issue. And it’s shelved with the rest of the inane womens magazines, thankfully, and not with Tétu alongside all the sex mags. It feels so good just to have a piece of dyke culture in my hands. Here I’m surrounded by strangers and vague acquaintences and closeted by default; I’m missing my friends and the fledgling queer community I had managed to create over the summer. But at least I can get ahold of La dixiéme muse; it makes me feel less lonesome.
The rest of the afternoon is uneventful. After the training session is over we’re all gathering our stuff, getting ready to leave, and I find myself catching the cute girl’s eye across the room. Totally unintentional, I swear to god. She glances at me and smiles again and her eyes are so lovely and I actually blush a bit. I make sure I’m next to her as we walk out of the building and we exchange pleasantries but I don’t manage to get her name. Maybe I’ll see her in November at the next session. I’ll be able to pick up the next issue of La dixiéme muse, at any rate.