Sunday, June 15, 2008

|Brussels in under 18hrs?! Done.|

Part of the plan for spending half the summer in the Paris office was to go and see other parts of Europe. I was going to go with a friend from the London office, but it was too costly to get from London to Brussels. So, only being able to sightsee for a while by myself (it’s like going to a club alone – I can dance for two or three hours by myself, but then I start to become very aware that I’m by myself), I decided, crazily, to take a “day” trip to Brussels.

The plan: arrive in Brussels on Saturday in the mid-afternoon, sightsee, sightsee, dine, club and bar hop all night until my early Sunday morning train. I took my blackberry with me and this is my log of the events. (I would have sent them directly to the blog rather than keeping a long test file, but for reasons passing understanding my firm issued me a blackberry from 20 blackberries ago and it didn’t have enough juice to keep the wireless constantly on [having only decided to journal the journey when I was on the subway to Gare du Nord].)

12.51 I arrive to the train.

12.55 Messages start in (order) French, Dutch (Flemish?), German and English.

13.33 Food service begins. Yay for first class! Get 'tude from the server 'cause I don't understand his question and he has to speak to me in English. FYI: I pige the question, I just don't understand why he asked me "Would [lunch] bother you?"

13.59 Rain starts to pound on the window. It's going to be a wonderful excursion.

14.14 Train begins to pull into the station. ‘Tude-y server handed out little chocolates and the rain appears to have let up.

14.35 After consulting about six different maps/plans (the first one I look at is a night bus map and I don't figure that out until my fifth map) I board the #2 train bound for Simonis, where I plan to transfer to the #1 bound for Roi Baudouin (getting off at Heysel).

14.40 I take mental note that from the train car, Brussels looks to be far more diverse than I would have expected. (But I also got on the subway near a train station – I wonder if that has something to do with the diversity.)

14.48 The board indicating how far away all trains heading to the station I’m at are (and how close some are that have come and gone) lights to indicate the train that was at a station one minute away is "now" in my station and at that instant the train pulls in. I wonder if that board is ever inaccurate.

15.07 Train briefly pulls out into the open air and the Atomium (my quarry) (built for the 1958 World's Fair) flashes by in an instant before we plunge back underground. So awesome.

15.11 I step out into fresh Brussels air for the first time. It's wet. It smells like fries. And American rock music is glaring. Evidently this is a theme park.

15.22 I am lost at Heysel. I can see the Atomium, but I cannot see how to get there.

16.10 A new feeling: resentment of all the Belgian school kids (or kids field tripping to Brussels) who get to overnight in the Kids' Sphere.

16.19 Speaking of kids, a cute little Arabic boy pushes the "stop" button on the escalator just as I get off. His mother and I exchange a look. Mine says, "Cuyeurt!" and hers says, "::sighs:: he's done this before."

16.43 There is a quartet of Spaniards behind me. At first I liked them because while none of them (2 guys and 2 girls) is especially attractive, they are all nicely dressed (compared to the rest of the crowd). BUT they keep bumping into me (absolutely no sense of personal space) and bit by bit they have started to edge ahead of me in the "line" for the elevator to the top. Grrrr!

16.46 Ah, the view from the top – achieved by taking what was the world's fastest elevator in 1958.

17.01 To the Pavilion of Temporary Happiness! (Constructed entirely out of beer crates, celebrating/mourning the trappings and bric-a-brac of the 1958 World's Fair, modernity and hope for the future.)

17.26 (after finally making it through the line for the world's fastest elevator in 1958, NOW) To the Pavilion of Temporary Happiness!

17.46 (too much time in the gift shop, and NOW NOW) to the Pavilion of Temporary Happiness!

18.13 I am in the craziest coolest room ever, in the Pavilion of Temporary Happiness. It's the size of a large master bedroom and is all black, but on all of the walls and ceiling are being projected the images of a movie. With sound and translations on the walls depending on the language of the speaker at any given time. It’s a documentary in five dimensions about the '58 World's Fair. What's crazy is that some of the images go into the others in a really cool and choreographed way.


18.21 Nothing temporary about the happiness here. I could spend all day exploring the fair grounds, but now its time to explore the city (i.e., eat some gauffres). To La Grand Place!

18.29 I am almost back to the subway and I realize I didn't go to Mini-Europe. So no pics of me on the cusp of destroying puny European monuments. Next time I'm in Bruparck.

19.03 Shakespeare saves me again:
the Sun sets in the west.Hôtel de Ville,here I come!

19.08 Spot superheroes (?) on the steps of the Bourse (?).

19.12 Never been so happy to spot a gay bar. Someone needs to bleed the lizard. And oh, they are playing the Macarena!

19.16 Now satisfied, I sit with a glass of Leffe watching gay men celebrate a wall full of girls dance and lip synch to
Celine and that hippy the hop song.

19.23 I pass the third lace shop in not nearly as many blocks.

19.35 I turn down a passage and suddenly the sun is blotted out by awning warfare – each restaurant vying for out door space on a street barely four people wide. And I feel like I am walking in a circle around the Grand Place. Surely it’s here somewhere. Hmmm...

19.51 After almost giving up and going to dinner... Success.


20.00 Shrieks of pleasure and red and yellow face painted mobs are pouring out onto the street – looks like Belgium (or someone) won the match.

20.09 I ask a senior citizen couple the way to the Musée Royale (where I have chosen to have dinner). The husband starts to speak, pointing where I need to go, as the sound of an accordion wafts through the air. His red-haired wife slaps his pointer finger down, tells him he has no idea what he's talking about, and proceeds to give me the very same directions.

20.19 She had said to climb to the top of the big staircase. "What big staircase I asked?" Oh, that big staircase. It's a biiiiiig staircase.

20.53 I have just finished soaking up the Place Royale and am in the Museum Brasserie. If the food is un tiers as good as the decor, I'm in business.

21.08 I just ordered North Sea shrimp croquettes with fried parsley to start, with roasted farm-raised chicken cooked in Westmalle beer as my main dish. Of my choices, the server assured me that they are the most "classic" but also less commonly found. After taking more pics of the resto, I sip my glass of the house aperitif (champagne and lime) (third glass of champagne in two days) (yesterday at Spoon for lunch, the partner ordered champagne to start followed by white wine. Ahh, working in Paris) and the question occurs to me: at what point did I stop being carded? Yeah, I know I’m +5yrs legal now, but whatevs. Just curious. Maybe this is just how Europe do.

21.14 This may be the most fantastic (and salty!) butter I have ever ever ever had.

21.22 At 21.21 I ordered a glass of a Chilean chardonnay from one server. It just arrived, brought by an entirely different server. Provide quick service much?!

21.28 FRITES! How could I have forgotten to order them? Consider the problem rectified. Meanwhile, also consider that fried parsley is weird and has lost all of the refreshing spice that makes parsley so lovely.

21.35 Other than the staff (which seems to be half white, half North African), I think I'm the only easily discernibly non white person in the whole of the Museum Brasserie. So much for all that lush diversity.

21.54 Three landmark conclusions: 1) after tasting the butter, shrimp, fries and chicken, I feel comfortable in unequivocally stating that the Belgians are NOT afraid to salt their food; and 2) chicken should always be cooked in Westmalle beer; and finally 3) I am pretty sure I've had sex in Paris with the guy sitting next to me's identical twin.

22.00 Whoever claimed that European portions are smaller than American ones clearly included a footnote: "This claim does not apply to Belgium." Only through sheer will power am I going to get through dessert (I have not eaten in 8hrs and I'm still leaving large amounts on my plate), luckily I have +7hrs to walk it off.

22.06 Quel horreur! I can't have dessert because I have to skedaddle to one of the gay saunas before it closes at midnight. I am not in Brussels to get laid, but I would super duper love a shower before I continue on with my adventure. Guess I’ll have to get my gauffre on the street like everybelgian else.

22.18 I am in the bathroom washing my hands and it hits me: I haven't paid for the metro yet. I bought a ticket. But, having ridden it twice so far, I haven't encountered a machine or anything asking me for said ticket. I've just walked onto platforms and gotten onto trains. Huh.

22.27 I hop in the taxi that the Brasserie called for me and I am on my way to gay la-la (aka "Macho Sauna" on rue Marché au Charbon)

23.54 I am a HOTTIE in Brussels, apparently. I walked into the club and was quickly involved with a threesome in the sauna, a foursome in the steam room, and had to put a hot but crazy power bottom in his place for just being super uncool. Now I'm leaving, having been invited to a party.

01.03 So the party is a bunch of hot guys sexing, smoking and other-ing. But I'm D.A.R.E.-ing, so just watching. Well, mostly just watching. But still D.A.R.E.-ing. W00t, Brussels.

02.21 I tell Loic, the forever-tan French-Arabic guy who's throwing the party (and who invited me) that I need to get a street waffle before I go/it's too late. There goes my sex party cred.

02.23 Loic, in his typical French animated fashion, is mimicking me tip-tapping this log.

03.34 The party having ended, Loic took me on a quick tour of the city. We hit everything I'd already seen. Man, Brussels is tiny! And he's letting me crash for a few hours before I have to leave for my train. On the tour I decided not to take the waffles that were available. I'll look again in the morning. Evidently I am just an easy 10min walk from the train station.

04.40 Thoughts: Loic, you're crazy hot, but I'm more tired than you are hot. Lights out, buddy!

04.58 Ok, now lights out.

06.45 The alarm that Loic graciously (it is his Sunday morning, too, after all) set for me goes off. I feel like I didn't get any sleep at all (he's a French ronfleur [I am making that word up]).

07.03 Loic breaks my heart when he tells me the only gauffres available at this hour will be in the train station, not on the street. Someone should have been clearer last night (read: 3hrs ago).

07.06 Ah, the cool, crisp, breath-condensing Brussels morning!

07.22 I stumble onto the setting up of a marché aux puces. Looks mostly like a lot of uneven deals on off brand tube socks.

07.35 I contemplate getting a waffle at Häagen Dazs (lame, I know, but I gotta get something!), when I decide to check the time. "Schweet," I think, "20min. Wait, what time is my train?" With horror I realize that my 07.55 departure time is actually 07.43. Walk. Faster.

07.42 I board the train.

07.44 The train departs.

And that was Brussels.

promulgated by SWS2.1 at 15:30.


Thursday, June 05, 2008

|And that's why you keep keep waiting for the express train.|

Justin arrived today. He'll be here for a week. Part of this week is leaving for a villa in the south of France (Grau d'Agde, if you are familiar) for the weekend this afternoon (may I remind you that it's only Thursday).

Due to baggage issues and a tornado watch, his plane left late. And he had some trouble managing the journey from CDG to my APT. As a result, I did not leave for work until 10.55 this morning (I'm supposed to arrive between 9 and 10, ideally).

With the exception of the randomly excited bout of work that I had the past few days (so much work that I came in over the weekend, and worked for 15 hours on Monday), I have sat here, hour after hour, day after day doing nothing and not being sought by anybody.

And then, somewhere between Rue de Paresseux (laziness) and the Pont de Languissant (lackadaisical), on the day that I'm leaving early for a luxurious weekend, my blackberry buzzed with an email (from the managing partner): "SWS2.1, I've been vainly trying to reach you all morning. Are you in the office?"


promulgated by SWS2.1 at 09:27.


Tuesday, June 03, 2008

|Extra! Extra! Read all about it! Dubai is NOW the most extraordinary city in the world!|

Or so the Dubai Department of Tourism would have you believe, according to the ad I saw this morning on CNN.

I feel like I would find the ad less absurd if it had stated that "Dubai is the most extraordinary city in the world." That's the kind of unqualified superlative one expects from a tourism board. But that "now"...

That "now" suggests that the The Most Extraordinary City in the World Committee assessed Dubai's bid for the title and found it lacking. But then Dubai put its nose to the grindstone and corrected all of its deficiencies and, upon reassessment, the TMECWC gladly bestowed its most coveted (and singular) title upon the Emirate capital.

Or that at the most recent All World City Conference there was a motion to name Dubai as The Most Extraordinary City in the World and after a heated debate that lasted into the night, Dubai emerged from the electoral fray victorious.

Dubai better watch it's back, because I think Podgorica is already gearing up to take its place.

promulgated by SWS2.1 at 11:54.


|And Now I Feel Like a Lawyer|

(Not that I should or should have before given that I'm actually not.)

I just wrote "Exhibit A" on a document.

promulgated by SWS2.1 at 04:24.


Monday, June 02, 2008

|"Well, that's not REALLY country music, now is it?"|

I do not understand this obsession people have with claiming something as "really" this or that. I can't pretend to not be a fan of labels and I can certainly be accused of being overly persnicketty when it comes to categorization and classification, but sometimes it seems so unnecessary.

For example: I like white chocolate. I don't dislike dark, milk, or semi-sweet chocolates. It's just that I do not like them as much. I also fully acknowledge that "white chocolate" may perhaps be a misnomer, since there is not normally any chocolate in white chocolate. Nevertheless, more often than makes any sense, I will encounter someone who asks rhetorically, "How can you like white chocolate? It isn't even chocolate!"

It's almost as if they are upset with white chocolate itself for fronting as chocolate chocolate. Upset for the plight all of those pitiable rhubes who were duped into thinking they were about to savour the essence of the cacao, instead of just sugar and vegetable fat.

Listen here: white chocolate's confectionery wonderfulness is not impugned by someone ages ago having decided that for long-forgotten (though maybe easily guessed) reasons it was similar enough to chocolate to be so named.

And the same goes for so-called "country pop." The other day I was at lunch with some associates and some SA's at Pomze (a restaurant devoted to the glory that is the apple). I don't recall how or why it came up, but at some point I mentioned being a country fan. I specifically referred to Chris Cagle. To which one of the SA's (who I do like, despite her inspiring this rant), who hails from the Lonestar replied, "Well that's not really country music, now is it?"

Calling it "country" doesn't get my rocks off. I don't get paid a royalty by CMA or Sony each time I refer to Carrie Underwood or Josh Turner as "country." Other than conversational ease, I get nothing from referring to a certain class of the music that I listen to as country.

The point was that I like that artist -- the particular song strikes a particular chord (no pun intended) within me (albeit for reasons passing understanding).

It may not really be country music (though I dare you to define the category). And it may not really be chocolate (though I dare you to define that, too). But here's a better question: That does not really matter, now does it?

promulgated by SWS2.1 at 10:14.


Sunday, June 01, 2008

|Pimp My Cupcake, Please!|

As my friends will attest, I [heart] cupcakes. I probably make cupcakes 1.5x a month. I love cupcakes so much that back in the early spring I even had an all cupcake and muffin dinner party (the menu: [to start] caramel covered teacakes, gruyere sage and onion mini muffins, [main] asparagus and smoked salmon jumbo muffins, [sides] couscous minicakes, corn cupcakes with pesto cream cheese frosting, [dessert] florentine cupcakes and black mission fig gelato bonbons). If only I'd had my camera then!

But cupcakes aren't as globally appreciated as I think they ought to be. And they are not to be found in Paris.

Or so I thought.

One lazy Friday (two Fridays ago) I googled "paris cupcakes." And then googled "paris cupcakes -hilton." The second search string and a few clicks later I was at La Cocotte and signing up for their "Pimp My Cupcake" atelier (which took place this past Friday). This marvelous little cookbook librairie is run by four women -- I only met two of them at the atelier and they were cool, young, nice and fun.

I was a little disappointed (though I'd suspected this would be the case) that we didn't actually make cupcakes. But Rachel (one of the librariennes [screw not making up words in French!]) made cupcakes (or faery cakes, as she called them [she's English]) in front of us, giving tips and making notes. And besides my cupcake assortment, I also walked away with a two new recipes: one for a vanilla cupcake and the other for a dulce de leche frosting.

And a book on the art of macarons, my favorite confection of all time.
And a box of the most amazing homemade shortbread I've ever had in my entire life.

So the moral of the story is that cupcakes are not to be found in Paris, unless you bake them yourself. Or have someone awesome bake them for you and provide all the fixins necessary to take them from just cup-sized cakes to cupcakes.

promulgated by SWS2.1 at 17:41.


|And not just because I've been pro-Mandy since Candy.|

I feel dirty in admitting this, but I kinda like it.

Not sure how I feel about the "No to Top 40s" admission coming from Mandz, though. Still, if she can "admit" that, I can admit enjoying this song.

No pun intended, but I feel like I'd enjoy walking leisurely in the rain to this cover with some sort of special someone or other.

promulgated by SWS2.1 at 04:19.


Thursday, May 29, 2008

|Hey, hey, what's that sonnerie?|

There are a lot of new sounds here in France. Like so many things you can grow accustomed to and then take for granted at home, I don't think I realized in New York just how much my life was regulated by sound.

The sounds of my phone that tell me when I'm receiving a call, when someone has left a vmx and when I've received a text message. I know the sound a truck makes to signal that it is backing up. I know the sound an elevator makes to tell me when it's arrived at a floor. And I know the beep my CO detectors makes to let me know that asphyxiation is probably not in my immediate future.

The sounds are different here. I don't recognize them. And (perhaps worse still) I don't regard them.

Everytime my work phone rings I miss the phone call because it isn't until the 3rd refrain of the "doodleydodoop!" that I realize it's a phone and mine.

Two weeks ago when a friend was visiting me from Madrid, on a Friday morning, he was messing around on Facebook and I was getting ready to go to work, when there was a weird sound. He asked, "Hey, what's that sound?" I said, "Eh, I dunno, there are weird sounds here. Just ignore it." Three minutes later it sounded again. And then I said, "Actually... could that be the doorbell?" I didn't even know I had a doorbell (I don't think I do in New York).

I went to the door and opened it (no peep hole here) to discover a middle-aged Sri Lankan man wearing a NY Mets baseball cap with a couple of white ouvriers in tow. He said he was there to replace the couch -- evidently the one I had wasn't stylish enough.

Oh, and to wash my dishes; clean the bathroom and the water closet; and wash and replace all of the towels and linens. Oh, and he also took out my trash.

Yay for strange new sounds and the surprises they bring.

promulgated by SWS2.1 at 06:37.


|And that's why you keep waiting for the express train.|

I have been an SA in my firm's bureau parisien for over 2 weeks now. And in these first 12 work days where I should have worked at least 84 hours assuming an 8hr day less 1 hour for lunch, I would guess that I've "worked" about 12 hours. Assuming you don't count planning my academic schedule for next year, cleaning out my school email's inbox, knitting a sweater for a friend, watching "Seinfeld" and "NewsRadio" on YouTube, reading the NYT and Le Monde, updating this blog and shopping for vintage chairs as work.

And all through those distractions I felt guilty. Inappropriately so, since it was not as if: 1) I hadn't asked multiple people for work, 2) I hadn't made the fact that I had no work to do known or 3) I was avoiding work that I had been given.

Still, I didn't get to where I am the way that I did by being someone who likes to remain idle for too long.

So two nights ago I decided to take matters into my own hands. If they weren't going to give me work, I was going to free myself from the shackle of my desk. I'm in a marvelous city that is aching to be explored. So the next morning (yesterday), I didn't get into the office until about 10.30. The next two hours I sat with my officemates talking about the place and nature of latina women in societies today (both are girls -- one is Cuban-American, the other is Franco-Colombian), particularly as seen in contemporary literature. At 12.30 an officemate (who has some work, but not too much -- not a legal stagiaire or SA) and I took a nearly 3hr lunch at La Duree. For dessert I had, of course, a macaron. At 16.30, I was literally arranging my bag to go home (well, not home -- I was going to go knit in the jardin du Luxembourg). At 16.32 I received a call from my partner mentor (who I have not seen since the first day I arrived where he poked his head into the office to say that he had to cancel lunch [I don't blame him -- he's extremely busy and I think, hierarchically speaking, the most important person in this office]). At 17.02 I had 250+ pages of technical documents to read and summarize for a client to present to its board of directors next week.

And that's why you always carry an umbrella.

And that's why you don't teach lessons to your kids.

promulgated by SWS2.1 at 05:08.


Tuesday, May 27, 2008

|One Giant Step in Some Sort of Interior Direction|

So despite the fact that if all goes well I will be moving out of my lovely loft apartment in Clinton Stuy to a significantly smaller apartment in Paris in 16mos, I've nevertheless decided to try and turn my apartment into something.

I dunno why it came to me (perhaps after seeing what my hip downstairs neighbors have done with their apartment), but about three or four weeks ago I was seized with this desire to turn one of the empty spaces in my apartment into a sitting room.

But not just a sitting room. Think more: I've inherited a mansion from a long lost never known very wealthy uncle and the first room that I'm going to change is his study. I want to maintain its sense of presence and elegance, but I want to make it modern (without being mod), hip and me.

The "center"piece of the "reconstruction" of this library is going to be my wall (in my mind I've decided that "books are dead" and I've ripped out all of the book shelves). Ideally lots of framed images/works of varying dimensions floor to ceiling. Maybe even a few mirrors and one or two clocks.

I finally got this piece ("Ariella and Crow," by Sarah Small) that I purchased at the Silent Auction and Rock Show that I went to in the fall framed.

And these pieces that I purchased from Tiny Cup by a Pratt Student (I assume) named Alex Dyck (I'm not sure how I felt about her, but one of the pieces I just found funny and wanted to have and the other struck me as very "Andreas Gursky meets Nature" in a way that I totally dug), I should be able to pick up from the framer when I get back from Paris.

I also just ordered these two prints from Threadless (and the fact that they've started turning some of their designs into large format prints could not have been better timed with my interest in this way).

I'm also going to frame some of the black-and-whites that I took back when I was "studying" to "be" a "photographer" and maybe have some prints made of some things I've seen with my new digital camera.

I think (know) the hardest thing will be finding the perfect chairs and tables. How much am I willing to spend? How hard am I willing to look? Will I be able to commit to that special piece when the time comes, should the time ever come?

Stay tuned as it all comes together.

promulgated by SWS2.1 at 06:27.


|New Camera|

I have a new camera. And Blogger has made adding pictures easier (for some reason I wasn't really able to get Picassa). So now I'm going to start adding pictures to my blog posts. I am excited about this and hope you are too. Eh, why waste hope on something that must surely be true?

promulgated by SWS2.1 at 05:40.


|Bank Holiday|

At around 4pm Central European Time (CET) yesterday, for about the 17th time, I'd once again forgotten that it was Memorial Day in the states and that's why still none of my stateside friends were online. I've become so accustomed to the bulk of the 2nd half of my day being filled with idle internet chat because I have literally not a single thing to do at work other than sit here. At around at a little after 4pm CET it hit me, "Hey, but what about friends in the firm's London office! Why aren't they online?" Then I remembered (yes, I'm slow), that London is closed, too.

But... hold the phone. Does London celebrate Memorial Day, as well? Or is it a touch of the "We should get everything the colonials get"-itis?

So as soon as my friend in the London office got online, I assailed her: "So, how'd you enjoy the day off? And, btw, WHY did you have the day off?"

"Bank holiday," she replied. I asked, "What holiday?" "Bank holiday," she said again. She asked if the system was being weird, since it seemed like I was not getting her messages.

"No, your message came through. But isn't 'bank holiday' just a general term? What were you celebrating?"

NQA. No Questions Asked. She was told it was a "bank holiday" and that's all the reason she needed not to go into work.

So I googled "England bank holidays 2008." May 26, 2008: "Spring Bank Holiday." WTF?! C'mon, England! Really? Really?!

When I informed my friend that her willful blindness was well placed, she replied (somewhat facetiously), "But we work hard here! We deserve a day off!"

To which I pointed out that there was just a holiday just a couple of weeks ago in early May: "Early May Bank Holiday."


promulgated by SWS2.1 at 05:15.


|Septimus Warren Smith 2.1|

I went to an Ivy League undergrad.
I go to a top NYC law school.
I date men (well...).
I live in Bed-Stuy.
I don't need more to say,
just more room to say it.


August 2004 September 2004 October 2004 November 2004 December 2004 January 2005 February 2005 March 2005 April 2005 May 2005 June 2005 July 2005 August 2005 September 2005 October 2005 November 2005 December 2005 January 2006 February 2006 March 2006 April 2006 May 2006 June 2006 August 2006 September 2006 October 2006 November 2006 January 2007 June 2007 October 2007 November 2007 December 2007 January 2008 March 2008 May 2008 June 2008

|Nouvelles Fleurs|

How I Met Your Mother
Pushing Daisies

|Les Invités|

Big-Brained Opposable Thumbed Bipedalism
La Troisième Queue
The Search for Love in Manhattan

|Human Nature|

Ivy Blues
Listen Up
Wish You Were Here


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