Monthly Archives: June 2015

Paris, Je T’Aime

I received a comment today that my blog is too negative.  I suspect that the poster and I would not agree on much of anything, but I always try to keep an open mind and take criticism in its stride.  I do have a tendency to see things negatively sometimes.  I know this about myself.  In the spirit of self-improvement, tonight I bring you a post about something that I dearly love: the City of Lights.

I touched down in Paris at the tender age of 20, a bona fide country girl with dreams of the big city, no doubt influenced by Carrie Bradshaw and her coterie of couture-draped comrades.  In my mind, I was a size two with Dior dresses, a closet full of heels, and a line of successful, attractive men waiting to date me.  In reality, I was a size 12 with a fair wardrobe, a bag full of textbooks, and a genuine fear of my first metro ride.  The country mouse had finally come to town.

It took a couple of days, but I found my feet, and I used them.  I quickly discovered one reason city people are thinner: walking.  Even taking the metro, which is startlingly convenient, I walked constantly.  And I often did so in heels, albeit not stilettos.

One of the first things you’ll notice about Parisians is the style.  Of course.  Paris is all about style, n’est-ce pas? The thing about Parisians is that it appears so effortless.  They hurry down the boulevards, heels clicking against the pavement, jackets swishing with the swing of their arms, satchels and bags thrown casually up on the shoulder.  The thing about the casual is that it is and it isn’t.  For the majority of middle America, looking so effortless would require an inordinate amount of effort.  For Parisians, it is simply what one does.

French style is a lot like French cooking: they can take nothing and make something.  I don’t believe that most Parisians have the space for a large wardrobe, but they always manage to throw together something that is both timeless and fashionable.  It is a skill that they seem to acquire by culture.  The French culture is effortlessly chic, a little bit snooty, and always gives you the sense, even if you aren’t wealthy, of being somehow rich.  It may be the way they handle their silverware.  It may be the way that they sip their wine or flick their cigarettes, but it is there, and you will strive to acquire it.

But returning to the theme of walking, one must walk Paris.  There is simply no other way.  You need to feel the pulse of the city during rush hour as you are jostled through the crowds in Chatelet.  You need to feel the breeze off of the Seine ruffle your hair.  You need to hear the scam artists trying to sucker a gullible tourist and smell the fresh pastries from the patisseries in the morning.  You need to come home at night and wash the grit off of your feet because at the end of the day, the grit and the band-aids on your feet to protect you from your stylish shoes serve as a reminder that underneath that glitz, it is still a city after all, and even your best efforts to dress it up will still often leave you tired and smudged.

It is a place of moments.  Many of my favorite moments were spent strolling around Saint Michel, Notre Dame, and the Ile-St-Louis, the little island next to Notre Dame where no cars are allowed.  There is a footbridge that goes across the river.  There used to be an ice cream shop called Bertillon on the right side of the bridge where you might get a small cone, sit down by the river, and listen to the accordion man on the bridge play.  It was a moment – a moment when you couldn’t believe that you were there, in the grandest city in the world.  I was truly alone in the crowd, but the city felt like a true friend then, and I knew what it meant for a city to be a character in your story.  Paris lives. 

I relished my time window-shopping (“licking the window,” as the French say), for the famous soldes were on while I was there, and there were bargains aplenty to be had.  I was shopping with my friends one night, and we were commenting on the fit of a friend’s coat.  I tried one on myself, and the gay shop boy bitchily responded to my comment that it didn’t look right, “Well, it looks better than what you’re wearing now!”  And he was right.  I was sporting my North Face fleece.  I loved it, that brutal honesty.

I cruised by the designer windows on the Champs-Elysees, although I never went in.  I never felt posh enough.  I knew I couldn’t afford anything, and I figured it was bad enough that I got side-eye for my accented French, never mind my skinny wallet.

I smoked a lot in Paris.  I smoked a lot before, but everyone smokes in Paris.  My host family smoked, and I remember very distinctly leaning against the tall windows of their dining room one evening, half in and half out so that I could smoke.  The neighbor across the street gave me a dirty look and quickly pulled his curtain.  Privacy is so important to the French, more so than to Americans, I think.

I learned to appreciate a good smoke and a good glass of wine with dinner, along with a cheese plate for dessert.  I found a wine shop in Montmartre not so far from the foot of the Sacre Coeur.  I asked the man for a recommendation for a good wine, and he gave me a blush called Cote Tariquet.  I’ve never seen it anywhere else in Europe or the U.S.  It remains my favorite wine – tart, dry, elegant.  And it wasn’t especially expensive.  It remains my favorite wine, 10 years later.  I hope to have it again someday.

I was fortunate enough to experience the Fete de la Musique, which is a city-wide music festival held in the summer.  There are free concerts all over the city, and it is amazing and fun.  We saw so many different acts, and half the fun was just wandering around the city listening to it all and taking it in.  The atmosphere was jubilant.

I also got to watch the fireworks for Bastille Day at the Eiffel Tower.  It was spectacular – set to music and just grand.  I think half of Paris was there.  The metros were so full that I ended up walking from the Eiffel Tower all the way back to my apartment in the 14th arrondissement, near Denfert-Rochereau.

Paris was 100 tiny moments that made one major impression.  I came home feeling like I knew a secret – about class, about taste, about culture, and about the best parts of life.  It was sitting in a cafe reading a book, sipping coffee, and smoking cigarettes.  It was about mille-feuilles and pate and wine.  It was about the tall windows and the rooftops and walking on Sunday morning in Pere Lachaise.  It was about evenings spent in good company, talking about everything you can imagine and laughing all the while, stopping only to run out for another baguette and bottle of wine so that we might finish the cheese in style.

Paris is the kind of place where the day could take you anywhere.  You might get your butt grabbed by someone on a bridge. You might get invited to a party while riding the metro.  You might see President Bush (happened, second time in my life), and you might hear your host mom make your host sister cry over dinner.  (French dinner gets brutal.)

I haven’t seen Paris since 2005, but it’s waiting for me, like an old friend waiting to greet me with open arms.  My age will show and she will remain timeless, and I will be overjoyed to be back in her embrace.

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Dear Beth

Dear Beth,

Man, it was so good to hear from you!  It’s been too long!  I can’t believe I haven’t seen you since my baby shower.  Ridiculous.  I really need to plan a weekend trip to the Lou so that we can go shopping and then go to the bar so that we can troll around and find you a date with an undateable alcoholic!  Haha!

I was just thinking about Germany the other day.  One of the guys at work was talking to me about my travels, and I got to thinking about you and Heim D and all the good times we had.  And all the hard times.  There were plenty of both.

Remember that night when we went to meet Erika in town?  I was already drunk in my room because of course, and you dragged me down to the bus, and then your mom called while we were heading to town.  I was laughing and saying stupid things, and your mom totally knew what we were up to, but she was a damn good sport about it.  I think that was the same night that I told a bus full of Germans that I’d eaten my cell phone.

And then there were our stupid dorm mates.  Remember that guy down the hall who had loud monkey sex with his fugly girlfriend?  Hence the need for monkey spray.  Seriously, between the bugs and the pests in the other rooms, Heim D was completely infested.  It’s a miracle we survived – more so in your case, having to live in that box of a room.

And of course, there was Holly’s birthday, sitting outside McDonald’s, drunk, passing around a jar of peanut butter, singing “Let’s Go Fly a Kite” for all the Germans and then, when they gave us dirty looks, I cried, “Fucking foreigners!”  Keep it classy, Marge.

Remember when my wallet got stolen right before Christmas?  We were supposed to have Christmas dinner with Holly and Flo and her friends, but then they bailed because her friends didn’t want to have dinner with us for some idiot reason.  You, Jonathan, and I ended up drinking cheap wine, eating cinnamon- and sugar-covered apples that were meant for a pie that never got made, and scaring ourselves shitless during an impromptu walk in the terrifying German woods.  We spent the rest of the night telling ghost stories and laughing over our ridiculous lives.

We went to Italy right after that.  I think we both thought it was going to be like Florida, but then it was really more like North Carolina on a cold day in January.  There was that giant spider in our room that you so valiantly killed.  I’m amazed either of us managed to even look at it.  But the rest of the trip was great – good food, wine, and neat historical places.

We didn’t see each other as much back at Mizzou, but it was awesome that you always made it to German Club, even when you were busting your ass for your MBA.  No envy there.  You always came to my birthday parties and then my going away party before I left for Korea.  You stayed the whole night, and you even went with me to say goodbye to He Who Shall Not Be Named.  What a dumb idea that was, huh!  Oh well.  The foolishness of youth.

Anyway, give me a call Thursday or Friday.  We’ll work something out for next weekend.  Can’t wait to see you!

That’s the letter I should have written.

Beth Rieman committed suicide on March 23rd, 2015 after a long, hard fight with depression.  I was on maternity leave, and I didn’t find out about it until Holly sent me a text message the second morning that I was back at work.  I went into the conference room and tried to make sense of it.  That never happened.

I met Beth through our study abroad program.  We spent a year together in Germany, lived in Godforsaken Studentenwohnheim D, laughed together, suffered together, drank together, and made it back in one piece together.  We kept in contact despite the distance between us.  She was hands-down my top commenter on this blog.  She thought about coming over to Korea while Holly and I were still there, but she ultimately decided against it.

Part of me will always wonder if a new adventure would’ve helped or if the b.s. in Korea would’ve made things worse.  I’ll always wonder if I could’ve done something, and I’ll always wonder if her medication played some part in her death.  She told me many times that she was skeptical about anti-depressants, having had some previous bad experiences with them.

But the bottom line is that I wish she wasn’t gone.  She was beautiful, smart, and good.  The world suffers from a perpetual shortage of genuine people, and we’re one less now.  Beth was a true friend, kind and funny, lover of animals, and terminal self-doubter when she had no reason to be.  When I think of her, I will think of her sitting in my uncomfortable desk chair in my Heim D dorm room, laughing over a shared joke.  I will keep the best of her with me, and I am content to let all the rest go.

“The hour of departure has arrived, and we go our separate ways; I to die, and you to live.  Which is better?  Only God knows.” – Socrates

I Hope You’re Offended

Something has been bothering me for a while now, and I don’t think I’m alone.  I could probably try and be more creative here, but in the spirit of a truly and utterly offensive post, I’m just going to come right out and say it: I HATE THE SJW BULLSHIT THAT IS FUCKING EVERYWHERE!

If you don’t know what “SJW” stands for, thank whatever God or gods you call holy that you haven’t encountered them or their illogical, asinine bullcrap.  SJW stands for “social justice warrior.”  The term doesn’t even make any sense.  There is no such thing as social justice.  What the fuck.  And warrior?  Come the fuck on.  Trolling people on the Internet with your insane opinions doesn’t make you a “warrior.”  Warriors don’t just hurt your feelings; they kill stuff.  They will go Game of Thrones all over you and your stupid feelings.

And that’s the big problem with SJWs and their movement to sanitize everything offensive from their field of vision: it’s all about feelings.  These are people who consider having an uncomfortable encounter or getting their feelings hurt to be on the same level as being physically assaulted.  I don’t know about you, but I think that sort of mentality is insulting.  Telling someone you don’t like them is hardly the same thing as punching them in the throat and then face-stomping them while they’re down.

I’ve read articles about colleges having “safe zones” when speakers come to campus – rooms where students can go and play with Play-Doh, watch videos with cute kittens, or color when they feel upset or don’t think they can handle what the speaker is laying on them.  I actually thought it was a joke at first, but when I read it in multiple places, I realized that it was for real.  That these people are real.  And they are offended!

Well, here it comes.  You know what offends me?  Here it comes.  I hope you SJW freaks have a damn good appetite for this.

I despise the notion of “hate speech.”  Hell yes, there is hate speech – it happens when someone rants about hating everyone belonging to a group – blacks, for example – and talks about wanting to kill them.  Do they hate that group?  Hell yes!  Do they have a right to their misguided, poorly thought-out opinion?  Hell yes!  Just like you have the right to your stupid opinions and I have the right to mine.  We can blast those opinions on a loudspeaker all day long, but we better be ready to accept the consequences of voicing those opinions.  That does not need to include arrest, lawsuits, etc.  Trust me, life will take care of these assholes.

What I don’t get is why these SJWs want to force these voices underground and try to make everyone be friends.  You’re not going to make people like one another by stifling their voices.  You’re just going to push the feelings down until they bubble over in other – sometimes violent (real violence) – ways.  Why the hell would you want to make people who clearly don’t like you accept you?  Makes no sense.

And trigger warnings?  Ho, please.  If you can’t handle discussing real-life events, no matter how hard and awful they are to face – and there is a lot of horrible shit in this world – then you need to reevaluate yourself.  You should not be trying to make everyone else conform to you.  And no, I don’t care if you’ve been attacked or whatever.  Triggers are real, but frequently they are not discussions about hard topics such as rape, gang violence, war, etc.  To me, suggesting that people who have survived violent attacks cannot stomach hearing the word “rape” or whatever is an absolute insult.

The honest truth is this: if you can’t handle discussing tough topics, you need to grow a pair and get the fuck over it.  If you think that people who have opinions different from your own are committing violence against you or something, you’re delusional, and you need to have your head examined by a trained professional.  If you can’t stomach constructive criticism, then you need to grow a pair and get the fuck over it.  You do not have the right to not be offended.  Rights don’t work that way, and if you think rights are giving you something, then you need to get the fuck over that and read up on what rights really are.

Have I offended you yet?  Good, because I’m just get started.

American liberals, have ALL the seats!  Most of you believe in rampant entitlement programs, printing money out of thin air to fund them or, barring that, taxing us poor working sods to death, and regulating businesses out of existence.  Well, guess what?  It doesn’t work!  Socialist markets don’t work because humans have proven to be pretty shitty at outguessing the market.  Are you offended that minorities are poorer than whites?  Well, guess what?  Throwing money at the problem hasn’t helped there, any more than it has helped education or the “economic recovery.”  Get the fuck over it.

Republicans, did you think that you were going to get off that easy?  Obama isn’t the root of all evil – he’s a dumbass Chicago Democrat who has no clue about reality.  The Pledge of Allegiance is a statist song, and calling for war all over the world ain’t helping this country at all!  In fact, the war spending vastly outstrips the individual entitlement programs.  You can think of all that war spending as welfare for the defense contractors.

You’re both in bed with crony “capitalists,” and neither of you is showing any signs of wanting to get out.  And most of the country seems to be made up of idiots who either believe the rhetoric or who are just flat out too lazy to look elsewhere for answers.

But what I really can’t stand is all this horse shit about being offended.  Well, I don’t care if you’re offended!

Are you a “curvy girl” like me?  Face it, sister – you’re fucking fat.  You can dress it up however you want, but at the end of the day, hips don’t lie.

Are you a flamboyant gay guy, living it up in the city?  Call me because I’d love to have drinks and a night of dancing, but you’re still a flamer to all the hicks around here.

Are you transgendered?  Well, I’ll admit that I really do not understand the trans community, but you know, you aren’t hurting me, so best of luck with that.  Do I think Caitlyn/Bruce Jenner deserves all the headlines?  Hell no, there is WAY more important shit happening in the world.

Are you genderqueer or whatever the hell they’re calling it now?  Okay, hate to break it to you, but you’re biologically male or female, with a very few exceptions that are the result of birth defects.  I mean, end of story.  You can feel like a man all you want, but at the end of the day, everyone else bases their opinions on what’s between your legs.

Are you on welfare with six kids from six different fathers?  Guess what?  You’re fucking trashy, and you should’ve stayed in school, gotten some training for something useful, and not had six fucking kids.  They’re going to grow up as trashy as you, and I weep for their futures because the likelihood is that they will never know anything but how to be grifting drains on society.

You must think I hate everyone.  You’d be kind of right.  There are days when I look around and I just want to beat my head against a wall.  There are no more real debates about anything because everyone is offended.  The left and the right look the same.  Culture is going down the tubes, our money is quickly becoming worthless, and the middle class is struggling for air, crushed beneath the weight of trying to stay ahead and failing miserably because the system is rigged against them.

Have I offended you yet?  I hope so.  I hope you get mad.  I hope you get mad enough to have a real debate with me.  I hope you get mad enough to grow a big pair of hairy man balls so that you start debating everything.  I hope you start asking questions – hard questions – and throwing it back at people when they give you a dumbass answer.  I hope you strive always to be logically consistent, even if that pisses off everyone around you.  I hope that you will be the start of change because I see the way things are going, and we aren’t going to a good place.