Saturday, November 30, 2013

The Night Before Christmas in Paris

I wrote the following post three years ago and originally posted it to my Leith (in French) blog while living in Paris.

I'm posting it again, because I'm lazy and because it's the holiday season and because I can.

Even with its many flaws, I hope you enjoy reading.  Happy holiday season to you all!

'Twas the vielle de Noël in Paris
And all through the city
The streets were all purring
like a blue ribbon kitty.
The Citroëns were parked in the street without care
In the hopes that, thanks to Christmas, there would be no ticketing fare.

Karl Langerfeld was nestled all snug in his bed
While visions of riches danced in his head.
And Le Pen in his kerchief,
And Sarkozy with his night cap,
All of Paris had settled down for a long winter's nap.

When out on the patio there arose such a clatter
I sprang to my window to shout “vas te faire foutre, bastard!”
I threw on my knee-highs and tied up my écharpe
and stepped out in the sludge
in time to see an old Frenchman barf.

The city lights on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the luster of Frenchness to objects below.
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature drunkard and eight large cans of bière.

Being young and sober I was more lively and quick,
And was able to outwit the man as his cheeks drew out spit.
More rapid than the métro his entreaties they came,
And he whistled and shouted, and called each cent by name;

“Give a sous, a centime, a pound, a penny!
Give a dollar, a euro, a peso and plenty!
Fill the top of my cup! Fill the top of my bowl!
And merci, merci, merci to you all!

When thinking of sapins de Noël and Givenchy couture,
Most think of Christmas in Paris as a time filled with allure.
But this man sat as a reminder in the cold
That there are some Parisian realities which are still left untold.

He was dressed all in down, from his head to his chest,
And his clothes were all tarnished, though he tried to look his best.
A bundle of belongings he had flown on his back;
He was a God-honest peddler, just opening his sack.

His eyes were a bit cloudy.
His hair was all greasy.
His cheeks were all rosy.
His nose was all fleecy.
His droll little mouth slurred all his words,
But all the same he seemed to have mastered speaking in curse.

The stump of a Gitane he held tight in his teeth
So much smoke coming from it, he could hardly breath.
His chapped, naked hands clutched tightly to his portable telly
Hanging out from his pants I could see the bottom of his beer belly.

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf.
I almost laughed when I saw him in spite of myself.
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head
Soon gave me reason to worry, so quickly I fled.

We exchanged not a word, but his image stuck with me.
Sentiments toward French gouvernement filled my head: have some pity!
As I made my way back, he put a hand on his hungry tummy,
So I gave in good cheer a couple euros of money.

I sprang back down the road as he gave me a whistle
And I ran up the stairs to leave you with this epistle:
To all those rich or poor and down on their luck:
A joyeux Noël to you all, and may you partake in roast duck!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

A Happy List

{} Thanksgiving = pumpkin pie, sweet potato casserole and cranberry sauce.  Oh, and family.  But really, food.

{}  Ok, and family.  I really love getting the family together.

{}  The annual Maver family shopping trip in San Francisco is right around the corner.  Even though my sister and I live here now, walking around window shopping with the family never gets old.  Probably because we always end the day by looking at the kittens up for adoption at Macy's and pizza.

{}  Christmas music.  I plan on driving everyone mad with Christmas music because it's that awesome and never gets old and they're the only songs I know all the lyrics to thanks to countless Christmas concerts in elementary school.  So really, I plan I driving everyone mad with my singing.  Yes, this makes me happy.  Very happy indeed.

{}  Speaking of Christmas music, I'm going to this concert at Grace Cathedral.  The Boys' Choir at Grace is phenomenal.  Who wants to come with me?

{}  Mulled wine and egg nog.  If you don't like both these things, I don't want to be your friend.

{}  Rain.  We need it and it's finally decided to pay us a visit.

{}  Can you tell I'm happy the holiday season is finally here?  Expect a lot more annoying posts about it in the future.  I know you're dying with anticipation.  :)

Thursday, November 21, 2013

A note about 'Yes'

Me and my friends just saying "yes" in Paris.
Did I ever tell you I lived in France?  Because I did.  For two years.  And while life there wasn't always easy (in fact sometimes it was just damned hard), I really did love living there.  France was a dream come true.

But recently someone asked me how to prepare for an upcoming move to Paris, which got me to thinking about my biggest culture shock of French life: the French love affair with the word "non".

Let me just stop you here for a second and say that I'm attempting to make this an inspirational post which, as far as it goes, inspiring people is what I do worst in life.  So bear with me.  There's a Tina Fey excerpt at the end of this spiel  worth reading, and you can feel free to laugh hysterically at my awkward pictures.  In fact, draw mustaches and devil horns on them.  Go wild.  You deserve it if you've read all the way to the end.

Now, I can be as negating as it gets.  I understand - nay, worship - the appeal of the word "no".  It's my go-to word for instant comfort and security.  See below for typical examples: 

Q: "Can I have this seat?"
A: "No."

Q: "Smile!  It's a beautiful day!"
A: "No."

Q:  "Do you plan on ever shaving your legs?"
A:  "No."

Despite this natural tendency to cling to the word no, as an American I realize I'm pre-programmed to feel compelled to say "yes" sometimes, for fear of the American guilt complex known as "being a dumb bore."

After all, Americans invented the cocktail and "Jersey Shore".  We have an exciting reputation for the novel and profound to live up to.

But the French take "no" to a level I never knew existed.  Something, as an American, I was not at all prepared for.  "Non" is the natural French response to everything - and I mean everything - that might be viewed as new or out of the ordinary or simply just a slight inconvenience.  And it was hard for me as an impressionable girl in her mid-20s to not take all those nons a bit personally.

I learned from living in Paris especially that life is much more exciting when embraced with the word "yes", contrary to French (and especially Parisian) opinion.  The French have a good lot going for them, but embracing harmony isn't one of those things.  Funny how it took me moving halfway across the world to tap into this American fondness for spontaneity and agreeableness.

Many times I have regretted saying the word no.  No sets me up for a life of monotony.  I say no to keep things at status quo.  But I'll let you in on a little secret: the status quo is boring, lonely, and barren.  The status quo is where cowards go to hide.  And I'm guilty as charged.

By saying yes, I've opened myself up to making new friends.  To staying out until 3 am in the streets of Amsterdam.  To working on my career.  To witnessing a moment in history that will never repeat itself.

I've never regretted saying yes.  Life becomes instantaneously more exciting when I open myself up to its myriad of possibilities.

Even when put in uncomfortable situations, "yes" leads to lessons learned.  Memories made.  Dreams followed.

There's no getting back missed opportunities due to a knee-jerk "no".  And I'm trying hard to refuse to be the person who has her mind so made up about life that she's put the kibash on something before ever even trying it out first.

So here's to "yes" - the most beautiful word in the English dictionary, followed closely by the word "rum".

My wish is that you may all live to be the person who embraces yes your whole life long.  I say these names in the name of fun, adventure, an eternally open mind, and a life well-lived.  Amen.

And now, for the Tina Fey segment I promised you, from her book Bossypants (which deserves the Pulitzer, in my opinion) and retrieved from this article:

" [In 1997], I moved from Chicago to New York to work at "Saturday Night Live." I packed up and was going through my things to see what I would take with me and what I'd leave behind. I found an orange folder -- a regular school folder -- in a bookshelf. As soon as I saw it, I knew what it was. There were quotes written all over the front of it. Some of them were: 

"Greet everything with 'Yes, and....'"

"Make statements instead of putting the burden on others with questions." 

"Stay in the present, as opposed to focusing on the past or future." 

"The fun is always on the other side of a yes."

...These quotes were some of the rules of improv.

 When I found the folder, I realized that taking that class had completely changed my life. It certainly sent me down a career path that I never would have ended up on otherwise...All those rules and exercises defined us and our outlook on the world.

The things I learned in that class became part of the way I live my life. A couple of times I've been called on to do things -- jobs or whatever -- where I've felt, maybe I'm not quite ready. Maybe it's a little early for this to happen to me. But the rules are so ingrained. 

"Say yes, and you'll figure it out afterward" has helped me to be more adventurous. It has definitely helped me be less afraid. 

"We're offering you a job here at 'Saturday Night Live' -- can you move here within a week?"

"Ummm, yes I can."

"You know, you haven't been here that long, but do you want to move up and try to be one of the head writers?"

Feeling completely terrified inside, but saying, "Uhhh, yes, okay, yes, for sure."

"Do you wanna do 'Weekend Update' with Jimmy?"

Petrified. "Yes, thank you, of course!"

There are limits of reason to this idea of saying yes to everything, but when I meet someone whose first instinct is "No, how can we do that? That doesn't seem possible," I'm always kind of taken aback.

Almost anyone would say, "It's Friday at two in the morning. We don't have an opening political sketch. We can't do it." Yeah, of course you can. There's no choice. And even if you abandon one idea for another one, saying yes allows you to move forward."

And now, for a random picture of me embracing my inner "yes":
Photo courtesy of Delbarr Moradi Photography
Happy Thursday!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Fall Exists in California

When it comes to the magic of the seasons, California can be somewhat of a cruel beast, at least for me.  Some people tend to enjoy sun year-round and never needing more than a heavy sweater to keep warm, even in the depths of February.  I am not one of those people. 

Living in Europe, I felt like the drastic changes in weather somehow made each season a battle victorious. 

Surviving the cold snow and icy walks to the train station in my heeled boots meant I was worthy of enjoying the spring flowers that much more.  And enduring the rains of spring meant that I was personally entitled to the blissful humid nights of summer.  And the sweat of summer made the painted skies and chilly breeze of autumn the sweet denouement of a year-long story told just for me. 

I secretly dream of reliving the seasons again.  All of you snow shoveling haters out there can call me a crazy heretic all you want, but Mother Nature knows what's up.  Snowmen in the front yard is God's way of telling us we're special.  Or something.

Fast forward to this past three day weekend, where I found myself in Sonoma.  Did you know they have autumn in Sonoma?  Because they do, and I had no idea until now.  The leaves actually change colors and the entire valley is a rich, golden red hue.  It's a dream, especially when paired with a late harvest wine. 

Now all that's left is to cross my fingers for some snow in San Francisco.  Hey, a girl can dream.