Wednesday, December 24, 2008

125 cubic centimeters of goodness

my favorite chocolates in the world are from suchard.they ones i like are these rounded cube things that have crunchy hazelnut chocolate on the outside and praline on the the inside. they are pretty big, huge actually, about 125 cubic centimeters. you eat one and you're pretty much set for the day.
so my grandmaused to send me packages of 20-30 at a time. i would totally hoard them, i don't know why, hide them in the back of my sweater drawer and eat them little by little until they either melted or a new shipment came in and i forgot about them and then would have chocolate covered sweaters.
anyway, my grandmother also catalogued every letter i ever sent her, and my mom recently gave me a bundle. a lot of my letters were about chocolate.
i will now write word for word one of my favorites. you'll get the jist; though you will lose the mis-spellings and terrible handwriting and doodles (mostly cats, or stupid characatures of my brother) in the translation, sorry.

feburary 19th, 1988
dear mame et pepe,
thank you for the chocolate. it is very good, but mother is becoming crazy for chocolate. you know the big square ones, well there were 30 of them. we gave her 12 and now she is asking us for more. Jules almost hid his in the plant, but then he changed hiding spots because mother waters the plants; and if she didn't see them when she watered the plants she would soak them. But Jules didn't know this, I had to tell him that.

i'll leave the rest out about the neighbor's dog getting killed; it's sad and has nothing to do with chocolate.

here's another.

March 16th, 1988
Dear mame et pepe,
Hi how are you doing? I still haven't finished my chocolate. I eat it very slowly. Mother keeps asking me for some because hers is finished. She says, "give me some chocolate, or else i'll light a cigarette." I tell myself this is good because this way the house won't be full of smoke. So I say yes, and I give her some and 5 minutes later I see her smoking. The next day she asks me again and I say "no because last time you smoked when you said you wouldn't." She says, "I won't smoke." So I give her some and she smokes again. She's really annoying.

i'm going to have fun reading these at the xmas dinner table.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

pharmacies: the good, the bad

so pharmacies here are pretty awesome. there's one on every block and you can get the most awesome hair care products, anti-wrinkle creams, herbal remedies, or over-the-counter anything you want. there's generally a nice young friendly knowlegeable pharmacist who will prescribe on the spot, even anti-biotics; (though there's a big media campaign against that now). contrast that with my neighborhood CVS, the one where i have to fight the crazy old ladies with no health insurance but ,any health problems to get to the counter, and they never have my prescription ready, or i have ask someone to find the key so they can open the toothbrush display case, but they can never find the key and so they just stare at you and loudly chew gum, and then the security guard is watching angrily at you waiting for the security beeper at the door to jump into action...
yeah; so french pharmacies are a little classier, more helpful than that. though, in my experience, it's not unusual for them to give you anal repositories for a stomach ache or something like that. i had a toothache once and the guy gave me something with a syringe. like a real one. my cousin once sprained a muscle and they gave him literally 4 different kinds of muscle relaxants. so there's still something a little dubious and scary about what they might give you.
so i've had this sinus infection or cold or something for months now and what better time to cure it than though the french universal health care system and their wonderful pharmacies. i pick one across the street and tell them my symptoms. nut this pharmacist is someone's grandma. where is the nice young lady with the makeup? i tell her my ears have been stuffed up, runny nose etc... and she comes out with a cocktail of nasal sprays and tubes and i don't know what. i must have had this terrified look on my face and uttered a no thanks, i think it's getting better, it will go away on my own..but this is someone's grandma. take your medicine or no dessert for you. i ask; don't people get addicted to nasal sprays and she says "yeah, if you smoke it." then i ask her if they don't have pills for this kinddof stuff and that's when she confirmed i was a junkie. i had in fact, left the apartment in my pyjamas and winter coat with the sole intention of picking up a croissant. ummm, so off i go with my 30 euros in scary tubes and the first one was a 100% seawater spray, which made me feel like i was gloucester. ahoy!! the second one grossed me out and i sneezed for an hour and i think i'll forgo the nighttime treatment, looks kidna gelatinous.
so much for the pharmacy, i think i'll just stick to the organic lip gloss and anti-cellulite creams from now on.

Monday, December 22, 2008


so on saturday i had some free time before my chilean friend arrived. i decided to walk around my neighborhood as my very in-style friend Brigitte recommended some streets for good bargains. there is a chain of stores called 'Sympa' which is like, 'cool' and i've noticed them around and always thought it was odd to see all these really well dressed young women digging through various bins. well turns out these bins are full of last year's designer clothes. and french designer clothes are serious business. so this is how everyone is so well dressed, duh, they don't actually buy chanel. go figure.
so here i am at the corner of my street, the bar that i was at briefly last night is once again open - i don't think it ever closes, actually. the patrons are back, probably the same ones who kept me up all night by partying in the street, drinking, singing, and smoking hash around their scooters. i see them all drinking beer at 10 am and that's when i made the realization, duh, why the hell am i ordering orangina all the time when beer is only 2 euros? (any sort of soda is a least 3 or more).
i notice down the street a foule, a mob of sorts on the streets, sidewalks. that's where i'm going, must be a market. and it is, your pig's feet and heads, your rabbit and olives and super fresh cheese and veggies. and then i see a scene like what you see on the news, people mobbing a delivery truck, refugees fighting for rice and stuff. but this isn't a UN convoy; this one that was likely carjacked, as it is carrying prada purses and Dolce and Gabbana belt buckles. i try to get in closer but someone pulls my hair, yanks my bag and literally tosses me out of the way to get to a prada wallet. this is no mellow little italy market, these people are raving mad. i could die here. i wander off.
further down i see more african fabric stores and then, a big shoe warehouse, a sort of filene's basement only, this isn't a department store, it's an old theater. there's a large stage with a red velvet curtain, fancy chandeliers, gold adorned columns and molding, a swirling staircase that leads to two balconies. and bins of designers shoes for 10 euros!! this is awesome. i'm digging through a pile of kickers, a british shoe i love and had actually considered buying after seeing in a window for 10 times that much. there's only the left shoe, and i figured out you bring it to the dude and he finds the other one and off you go. cash only. and that's how it goes. i have a brand new pair of blue suede shoes!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

paris: bar style

so there's an interesting thing about bars here. first of all, not everyone is drinking. a lot of people drink coffee, hot chocolate..and if they do drink, it's mostly beer, some wine, maybe a rhum punch or tequila. margaritas? what? martinis? not in the places i hang out in. another thing, haven't seen a tv anywhere (only 3 channels anyway) and finally, every bar is practically empty because everyone is outside smoking!
you think places are jumping, overflowing, but no, those are just the smokers huddled outside. i was hoping i'd have an even playing field here- before i was always the awkward one who didn't have a cigarette to fiddle with and look cool. i thought maybe now people would just sit...and..maybe play with their phones or something but no. i'm just the lone loser at the bar. yay.

Friday, December 19, 2008

osteria: 10 rue sévigné

uh, yum. you'd never know what this place was called since it had no sign. handwritten menu, totally italian staff (all 4 of them) looked straight out of a movie. our waiter was goofy like roberto benigni, and the kitchen staff, all hotties from cinema paradiso (though our inappropriate dinner guest said a little too loud "he looks way to dark to be italian, i bet you he's lebanese!").
the night before claudia cardinale was there. i know because my mom and stepfather went two nights in a row it was so yummy. and the wierd thing, most of the other diners were repeats too! the chef seems to have a bunch of regulars, comes out frequently to say hi, recommend the risotto that he just fired up, so it's a 45 min wait.
i often went to the bathroom to get a little peak at the tiny kitchen, and other stuff, hehe. best part was that it was cheap! definitely go back, make reservations, or you'll be one of 20 that were turned away...

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

infrastructure, what's the deal?

so in the space of a few hours, i went from an airport to the centre of the city in two countries via fast, efficient and easy train transit. in europe, they actually put train stations in airports, or airports in trainstations not sure which came first. but you don't need to take a cab, a bus, a monorail you just walk and be transported on rails. name one US airport that is that easy to get to. ok, besides Reagan National (which you can bike to!). to get to the long island railroad from laguardia (what? 10 miles apart?) you need to take a cab, get stuck in traffic, then get dropped off at woodside, realise you want to be at jamaica so you take the train back into new york city to go out east. seriously?
so there's all this talk of obama's new deal infrastructure plan. how about some f-ing trains. no, i mean ones that are actually affordable and fast and connect useful things like planes to cities. you know what else? in amsterdam you can take a train to brussels. or, rotterdam. for next to nothing. pretty much anywhere. in philly, you can pay $100 to go to new york and it will be slower than driving. most developed country in the world, huh? oh my amsterdam: bikes and electric trollies. and the trollies turn off at stoplights to save energy. and the only vehicles are mostly trucks for deliveries, not much traffic. brilliant. now compare that to where you live. pfffff.

Monday, December 15, 2008


back in the homeland for the holidays. i'm doing an apartment swap with a nice woman from paris, and i have to say so far so good! the fridge is full of champers, different types of duck, an assortment of cheese. i left an equally abundant spread, tho more americanified: screwtop wine, cheddar, xmas colored cupcakes. i hope she finds it just as welcoming. the neighborhood is fantastic, the steps to montmartre are at the end of my street. yeah, a parisian version of kalorama!
stopped over in amsterdam on my way here. it was super cold, but super nice. i walked a lot, took pictures, saw the van gogh museum; drank a lot of coffee. lattes are the standard, yum. along with other stuff at "coffeeshops" which i don't really know how to roll up that well and i sorta just spilled it everywhere and people were staring at me (or was i just paranoid?). i ate a really good falafel. all my clothes stink. but now i'm in paris!! the train drivers are on strike, naturally. i stepped in dog poo. feels like home.