Tuesday, May 26, 2015

A Tale of Two Coffee Places

Subject of story not pictured!
There are two coffee shops right below my apartment.
Cinnamon Girl and The Civil Service are side by side, and sell the exact same coffee. One doubles as a sort of organic general store, with vegan pastries, craft beer, produce, and dry goods. The other has lots of seating, serves sandwiches and salads, and is designed for people to sit and work and socialize for hours. But when I stop for a to-go cup of coffee on my way to work, I always choose Cinnamon Girl. Here's why.
When I first moved to the neighborhood, a halfway gentrified corner of BedStuy that is to Bushwick what Bushwick is to Williamsburg, I was thrilled to discover not one but two! cool coffee shops between me and the subway. Always lingering in front of The Civil Service was the proprietor, a tall guy in black jeans and Nike slip-on sandals. After just a few days of daily patronage, he introduced himself and invited me in for a cup of coffee on the house. Score one for The Civil Service. How cool! I thought. I'd always wanted to have a neighborhood coffee shop, where I befriended the people who worked there, got occasional free drinks and hung out for hours with the other neighborhood characters. What a charming sense of community! 
I began to see this guy every day and he always came so close to remembering my name and my order (large coffee with milk and a croissant). Usually standing outside or in the doorway, it was not uncommon for him to say as I passed, "Are you coming into the Civil Service?", or for him to stop me as I walked and draw me into conversation, which usually ended with, "Coming in for your coffee?" Every day, he stood in the coffee shop like a sentinel, watching (at least he seemed to) which of the two shops (again, with the exact same coffee) I would patronize today.
So I began to avoid The Civil Service, shuffling past the store front like a coffee criminal, struggling to hide the incriminating Cinnamon Girl to-go cup. In the bag? Under my coat? What if I just turn to the right and kind of crab walk past with the cup behind me? If I did happen to spot him I used my well-practiced blank stare. Just don't make eye contact. Don't make eye contact! Look at your shoes! Look at the sky!
My roommates agreed "Oh I never go to Civil Service." And when I brought it up with the woman behind the counter at Cinnamon Girl she said she'd actually seen the owner of Civil Service follow people into Cinnamon Girl, and drag them over to his shop. (That's not legal, right?)
At this point, I've basically become so turned off by this guy, who is literally always there, that I just don't go in there anymore. How beautifully ironic that one man's aggressive pursuit of regular business has effectively driven it away.
So much for that charming sense of community, I guess. That's ok, though. Let's just call it charming eccentricity instead. Only in NYC folks!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Up in NYC

So it's been kind of a while hasn't it?
Well friends, here I am, I'm back. And I'm living in New York City.
Like most young writers who move to NYC, I came here on little more than a whim and a dream with next to nothing in my pockets and a heart full of hope. Just a plucky young girl looking for adventure.
And it has been a non-stop rollercoaster fever-dream ever since. In the past 18 months  I have been poor, I have couchsurfed, I've made and lost friends, I was cheated on, I fell in love, and I tried my first pickle-back (an ungodly New York shot in which a shot of Jameson is chased with a shot of pickle juice).  I have had two apartments, two boyfriends (not at the same time), and six different jobs. Six. I had an internship, which I swore I'd never do again. I was the highly inexperienced PR manager for a very small company. And then I worked at Sofitel just long enough to realize that hospitality management is definitely not for me.
At the end of all of this, exhausted and disheartened I lounged on a friend's couch and whined, "I just feel like I've failed."
"Well," she responded, "You haven't really tried."
And she's right. I wanted to be a writer but what have I written? So I'm gonna write. I hope people read it but even if they don't, at least I'll have done something.
And you know what? As terrifying and stressful as the past year and a half has been, it's been a hell of a lot of fun.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

The Real Au Pairs of Paris

It occurred to me the other day as I was hungover and eating sandwiches with Matt and Caitlin on Rue Cler, that my life would make an excellent Bravo reality show. We could be the Real Au Pairs of Paris. We'd have awesome catchphrases like

"I'm not as innocent as I look."

"I may not have much money, but I always get what I want."

"Children are my life. Except on the weekends."

Then "Kathleen" in blue letters or something floats under my face as I unlock V's door, while upbeat indie pop plays. As I'm unfolding the ironing board and sighing dramatically (as I do) my phone rings and I put it on speaker so that everyone at home knows that I'm getting a call from one of my equally fabulous and broke yet extremely well-dressed au pair friends. 

"Hey girl," I say, laying out some age-3-yr pajama bottoms.

"Heyyy. So we're going to Batofar tonight."

"That costs like 10 euros, dude," (although I'm pretty sure I'm getting paid plenty by Bravo at this point it's important to keep up the ruse that I'm actually broke).

"Whatever, you're young once. I might be bring Pierre actually..." (Pierre may also be being paid by Bravo).

"Oh my God. Well then he can pay for my entry."

We laugh. I say something like "Bye, bitch," and hang up. Cut to confessional interview with me in which I say something passive aggressive and backhanded about my friend who I've just finished talking to. Probably something mean about Pierre, who we've already established is basically a plot device.

At this point everyone at home has established whether they prefer me to my imaginary phone friend or vice versa. After this interaction airs I receive hundreds of hate/support tweets. 

Later in the evening Sophie, Matt, Caitlin, and I are getting ready to go out in my apartment, which means that we're playing lots of pop music really loudly with the windows open. While I'm in the shower the guardienne comes up and informs my friends that she's already called the police because of noise complaints. Oh and it's totally inappropriate that there's a man here with three girls. The fact that he's gay doesn't seem to matter. She's also called V, who calls me and tells me not to worry and that she's already fixed it by calling off the police because she happens to know the Paris police chief, but if I get any more noise complaints they may kick me out of my apartment. (This event actually happened on Thursday. But in the reality TV version, we all blame each other in the confessional interviews. This event will also cause me an unreasonable amount of stress that will stretch for at least a few episodes.)

Later in the evening somebody cries, and the episode ends with whoever the appointed "bitch" of the group is making fun of the crier. 

I'm totally pitching this to Bravo. 

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Sweet Home Chicago in Paris

As everyone in Paris surely already knows because I all but hired a plane to write in in the air, Matt and Caitlin are here! Friends from home! Chicago friends! Making new friends is great, and I love all of the people I've met here in Paris, but there's something really special about seeing people who have known you for years, who not only know about but were present for many of your most embarrassing escapades, who have comforted you when you dissolved into an-entire-bottle-of-red-wine-to-yourself-and-then-some sobs, and who despite it all still love you.

I told them I'd pick them up at Gare du Nord, where they were arriving from London. As soon as I saw them I immediately lost all sense of dignity, screamed, and charged at them. My friends!! After the requisite hugging/crying/hugging, I took them for falafel (I don't call it obsession, I call it devotion), and then I had to dash off to work. Ah if only they'd had the good sense to come during the weekend like Cat. 

It's actually worked out pretty okay though. They have a tourist agenda which they accomplish while I'm playing play-dough with Le Petit, and then I get back and we hang out, or drink, or drink and hang out and have a sleepover. And yeah, V was maybe a little bit right, my bed is not exactly equipped for three people. Imagine Caitlin falling off her side of the bed, Matt falling off his side of the bed, and me trapped between them, on my back with my arms sort of awkwardly pinned on top of my breasts and my feet sticking out from under the one blanket which doesn't really cover either of them.

Their first day we did a Champs de Mars picnic (I should get more creative with my tourguiding I know) and last night we went out with my only Parisien friend, Thibault. One of the great things about Thibault is that he truly appreciates my need for cheap, and knows the maybe three places in the whole city where truly cheap is truly possible. He led us to a packed student bar near Cardinale Lemoine with 3 euro pints of Bud where we crowded around and tried to understand each other. This went surprisingly well considering Thibault doesn't speak perfect English, I definitely don't speak perfect French, and Matt and Caitlin took German and Spanish in high school respectively.

And today is the 4th of July. What exactly does an American do in Paris on the 4th of July? There will be no fireworks. There will be no watermelon, or barbecues, or parties by the lake. The best I think I can hope for is cold beer, although this will probably be drunk in a crowded Parisian bar surrounded by Europeans who don't feel quite as fondly for my homeland as I do.

Oh well. At least I'll have my American homies with me. Maybe I can convince the DJ to do some sort of dubstep remix of the Star Spangled Banner. Or at least lead the crowd in a rousing a cappella rendition. I'll let you know how that goes.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Things Found in My Bag

2 pacifiers

Ziploc with a single unused tissue inside

Used tissue. Mostly likely Le Petit's

Journal that gets even less action than this blog


My "to-go" corkscrew

Various pain au chocolat wrappers

Handful of American quarters

Handful of 20 cent coins

3 books: 2 in French, 1 in English, all borrowed

American phone - used mostly for playing Candy Crush

French phone - used mostly for fielding anal retentive texts from V

The lid to a compote

Lipstick I use to write notes

Prather Ebner LLP pen I can never find

3 sets of keys. One for my apartment. One for V's. One for an apartment in Chicago

Innumerable receipts 

1 flyer for a children's activity

Wallet containing 3 bank cards with no money on them, my Illinois driver's license, DePaul student ID

Water bottle


Navigo pass

I just realized my life can be pretty succinctly and eloquently described by just the crap found in the bottom of my purse. And yes, I do need to carry all of it with me at all times.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Family Bonding

My cousin Cat came to Paris last weekend. Well, the weekend before last. But I'm not entirely sure where this past weekend went so I'm calling it last weekend. Getting visitors, by the way, rocks. Yes, my apartment is only big enough for about half a person to live comfortably, but that's not the point. The point is that it's Paris and we're young and if we have to snuggle and climb over mountains of suitcases to reach the bathroom, so be it. 

So Cat came to Paris on her way to South Africa to pet baby rhinos and I had a whole schedule planned. The first day we'd get falafel and shop in the Marais and then we'd get a nice dinner somewhere and then we'd go out. And on the second day we'd sightsee and have fancy lunch at a popular restaurant near me, then drink on the Champs de Mars and go out again. And then Sunday we'd have a nice long day of wandering through all the essential museums. Perfect.

This is not exactly what happened.

She arrived and I barely gave her enough time to change before I was dragging her to the Marais for falafel. I know you're all sick of hearing about it by now but I'm in love with that place. I can't help it. L'As du Falafel forever! F + K = <3. Then we wandered around the vintage shops until we were both so tired we were no longer able to carry on a coherent conversation. 

"That's cute..."
"This purse has a hole in it..."

When we got back to my apartment we both collapsed on my bed for an impromptu nap which lasted until dinner time. After this, my carefully thought out plan basically devolved into a drink, nap, wander cycle that lasted the rest of the weekend. Sightseeing Saturday was whittled down to just Sainte Chappelle and Marché des Fleurs. Museum Sunday turned into A Couple of Flea Markets, Sacré Coeur, and a Failed Attempt to get to Musée Rodin Before it Closes Day. The drinking, however, commenced right on schedule and with vigor. This included Café Oz, bottles of wine on the Champs de Mars, and Nouveau Casino. 

Some highlights:

-Reflecting at Café Oz that however silly we got, we would never be silly enough to do a prolonged pole dance on stage at a bar. I honestly hope the poor girl who did this didn't remember anything the next day. It was bad. 

-This text on my phone: Hey Cat! It was great meeting you last night :-) I can't remember what you're doing tonight but we should meet up! -N

-And the resulting conversation: "Cat, did you intentionally give this guy my number instead of yours?"
"Yeah. Yeah I might have done that."
"How did you even remember the number?"
"I have no idea."

-Making new friends at Nouveau Casino. Yep, Mr. I'm Swedish No I'm from Liverpool Just Kidding I Actually am Swedish, I'm talking about you. He agreed that Life of Brian is better than Holy Grail. We had to be friends.

I do feel bad that we did basically nothing cultural the entire time she was here. It was, at least, a fairly accurate depiction of what my weekend life in Paris is like. Growing up is for squares.

Friday, June 14, 2013

5 Scotsmen, an Aussie, and an American Walk into a Bar

I was just going down to the metro, minding my own business, and then I heard them. English voices. English spoken in public places is like my siren song. It's not exactly uncommon around here but still, every time I hear a "hello," or an "Oh my god," or an "I know, right?" my ears perk right up and my whole body subtly shifts toward the speaker as if compelled. The voices on this occasion came from a largish group of guys that I heard as I pushed past them at the Châtelet stop. 

"Sorry," I said. Not "Pardon" and certainly not "excusez-moi," but "sorry" as if to say, "We are kindred. Be a part of my Anglophone brotherhood." 

Evidently taking my hint, the 5 Scottish guys and their Australian friend immediately struck up an eager chat. By the time the train arrived 3 minutes later, the Aussie was saying, "Well we're going to this pub called the Aulde something or other if you wanna join..." The offer was seconded by some of the other guys and I think I was on the wrong train anyway and oh what the hell. Sure. Let's go. 

They were loud, a little tipsy, and fun. the Aulde Something or Other is apparently the only Scottish pub in Paris, and I find it hilarious that their goal while in Paris for the week was to find the one Scottish pub. When we arrived the lads were shocked and dismayed to find that the supposed Scottish pub did not actually have Scottish beer. 

"Is there Scottish beer?" I asked. 

"Like one," replied Craig. "But still." (There was however an American bartender from Texas who had been away long enough that he now sounded English.) So everyone got pints of Pelforth, a French beer and therefore generally the cheapest. I didn't even have to pay for mine. Because apparently by following "a bunch of randoms" to a bar for no reason other than that the mantra "do it! do it! do it!" is basically playing in constant loop in my head, makes me the coolest girl ever. "Who just follows a bunch of randoms to a bar? That is so cool," said James. Only he's Scottish so he pronounced it more like "kel."

They were all cute in their own goofy ways but the Australian was attractive. Never mind the pretty hair and face and really impressive biceps, he had that general sort of beaming, good-natured Australian-ness that is so damn irresistible. I asked why he was in Paris, and he said he'd just finished University so he had some time and was just traveling. You and me both, my friend. 

Well the bar was going to close and the lads were on their way to a club. They asked me to come along but I had to draw the line somewhere. I had to work in the morning for Christ's sake. "Oh come on!" they said. "It'll be such a good story!" It would have been. But I had to get up at 8 and if I stayed out until 5 I would never survive the following day. And not all of their cajoling and teasing could change my mind.

As they planned their next move at the top of the steps I waved goodbye and skipped down to the metro. Before I got to the turnstiles I heard my name. It was Mitch the Aussie and his beautiful arms.

"It was really nice meeting you," he said, giving me the kind of big warm hug that I've been missing since I left America. And before I could finish saying "It was nice to meet you too" he was kissing me. I remember looking at his face and thinking If I didn't know any better I'd say you were about to kiss me, and suddenly he did. In the metro station. In Paris. Zooey Deschanel should play me in a movie.

"What was that?" I asked.

"A story."

Best. Line. Ever. 

Then he left, and I left, and I've been crying myself to sleep ever since because I don't know his last name, his phone number, or how long he's in Paris. Damn, I should have just gone to that club.