Finding Out Where Home Is & Bathroom Bandita


Moon in the Canadian summer sky, August 2008

I am so steeeenking excited to write today’s post I cannot tell you how much! 😀

Firstable**, I received the most delightful comment from a reader named Karen on my previous post. As I am wont to do with my style of blogging/writing (trés long, meandering, often off-topic), and to which online friends who’ve read this and other blogs of mine will attest, I worry that I am not very blog-reader and Internet-friendly. I have had online friends, ones whom I love and appreciate a lot, let me know how much they loved a blog I wrote, but then suggested, “Maybe break it up into three posts instead of putting all that in one.” LOL. Yup. Pretty much over the nearly four years I have been doing this (blogging) regularly, something like that comes up about one in every five blogs. To have someone out-of-the-blue find this blog (and it was through Prom King David Lebovitz’s blog, too!! Yay!), read a bunch of posts, and appreciate them exactly the way they are sends me over the moon.

It makes me feel like I am appreciated and that my style of blogging is perfect just the way it is, even if it is not the neat and tidy focused kind of writing found on other people’s blogs. It makes me feel accepted just the way I am, and don’t we all love to feel that way?

(**I remember back in the days when I worked as an ESL teacher to young adults hoping to get their English up to par to go to college in the US that I had students who misunderstood the organizational expression “first of all” and thought it was “firstable.” That tickled me so very much that I always think of it whenever I begin to use “first of all.”)

Today’s topics are:

  • Finding Out Where Home Is, and
  • The Bathroom Bandita

Happy reading!

Finding Out Where Home Is

I got to begin my day with that and this. KBCO Studio C Volume 20/20th Anniversary Edition.

KBCO is a Boulder, Colorado radio station which plays adult album alternative rock. Every year, the station makes a CD of music from artists who have visited their in-station studio in order to be interviewed and play a couple of songs live. The best studio recordings of the year are put onto an annual album and sold to the public in limited numbers. The proceeds go to the Boulder County AIDS Project. In December 2008, the 20th anniversary edition was released and we had a friend get one for us.

PJ was saying yesterday, “I don’t know how you can write all day and not listen to music.” I do, often. I sit in the apartment at the computer in silence but for the white noise of traffic outside with an occasional siren nee-noo-nee-nooing into the Doppler Effect, punctuating the outdoor hum. Or a street sweeper (A Parisian Leafy Mess).

Once in a while I will open my iTunes and set it to Shuffle. But by and large I enjoy the silence of myself, the internal flow of my thoughts, which I hear as a kind of chatter in my head, and the tapping of my fingers on the keyboard. Hearing another voice singing is often too distracting for me when writing. This morning, however, I was starting le ménage and something beautiful came on the CD player. I keep tellin’ y’all you need to be sure to check that link. It’s not what you think it is. *grin* PJ had been doing his morning writing and put in the KBCO CDs (the 20th anniversary edition is a 2-CD set). As I was spraying cleaner into the toilet, Joan Osborne’s “Cathedrals” came on. (YouTube video here.) Her live version on the KBCO CD is so lovely, so poignant, and it seems like a such a great song for me in Paris right now.


In the shadows of tall buildings
Of open arches endlessly kneeling
Sonic landscapes echoing vistas
Someone is listening from a safe distance
The line moves slowly into a fading light
A final moment in the dead of night

In the cathedrals of New York and Rome
There is a feeling that you should just go home
And spend a lifetime finding out just where that is

Those last two lines about feeling like going home and spending a lifetime finding out just where that is feels like the story of my life: two ex-husbands now a third almost-spouse, having lived in China, all over the U.S., and now in Paris — yes, I feel like I have spent a lifetime finding out where “home” is.

Last night, PJ and I also saw the movie “Away We Go,” a really witty and thoughtful film by Sam Mendes. While it was out in the States this past summer and is now out on DVD, it just opened in Paris theaters last night.

I cracked up knowingly at this part of the movie:

Verona De Tessant: Burt, are we f*ck-ups?

Burt Farlander: No! What do you mean?

Verona: I mean, we’re 34…

Burt: I’m 33.

Verona: …and we don’t even have this basic stuff figured out.

Burt: Basic, like how?

Verona: Basic, like how to live.

Burt: We’re not f*ck-ups.

Verona: We have a cardboard window.

Burt: [Looks at window] We’re not f*ck-ups.

Verona: [Whispers] I think we might be f*ck-ups.

Burt: [Whispers back] We’re not f*ck-ups.

Yeahhhh. Well,  I am 41-and-a-half, almost, and I wonder each and every day if I am a f*ck-up. *thoughtful smile* I’d  like to think PJ is my Burt and is whispering to me, to us, “We are not f*ck-ups.”

I adored the scenes with Maggie Gyllenhaal as “LN” — I know some women just like her character in the film and I about died laughing watching Maggie’s portrayal. Speaking of Boulder, I swear that city is populated with chicks of that ilk. Ahhh, Maggie. She does a terrific job in the role of LN. She’s one of my favorite actresses ever.

Finally, the movie is very much about finding one’s home, finding one’s place. With my thoughts on this blog of late, the movie, and then the song, I felt a sort of cosmic synchronicity (“orgasmosynchronicity” my friend Fictionista has dubbed it) weave these threads into a piece of fabric in my head which is a banner stating, “Your home is where your heart is. Your home is where your heart is.” Or, as in the words of the Great Buckaroo Banzai, “Wherever you go, there you are.” (check it out)

I was actually counting on making this a post about Movies in Paris as PJ and I have seen quite a few lately, and I have learned some things about Paris movie theaters that I did not know, but that was before the Bathroom Bandita showed up.

The Bathroom Bandita

So as I wrote up there, I was doing le ménage this morning. The bathroom especially has needed le nettoyage desperately. I had not disinfected anything in about two weeks, since just before we had houseguests. I started with spraying down the tub with un produit de nettoyage avec javel pour anti-moisissure. Two points to whomever can tell me what that is.

Our tub is pretty gross. In fact, there is a lot about our apartment that is gross.

We live in a building run by France Habitation. I do not understand the system completely, but what I do understand is that France Habitation provides low-income housing for those who qualify. PJ qualifies.

Paris is not a cheap place to exist and PJ is an instructor in an English language teaching school for business persons. He has done this for a long time, in addition to professional writing on and off through the past nearly-20 years he has lived here. As anyone who has been involved in educational enterprises will know, it is not exactly a lucrative occupation. While PJ holds his own, and, in fact, holds the two of us, living in such a place is a necessity.

It’s actually not a bad place, for the most part. I have no idea how many square feet there are, nor square meters, but I can tell you there are two bedrooms that are about 12’x12′, a living room and adjoining dining area that is about 12’x24′, one small-ish bathroom, and an open, “American style” (that means “not enclosed in a separate room”) kitchen.

Oh heck. I am so curious, I am going to go ahead and measure for real.

*15 or so minutes later*

31.25 feet x

…oh crap, I forgot the other dimension…

*goes to measure again*

24.84 feet.

Okay. I am not a math whiz by any means (in fact, I am quite pathetic with basic arithmatic), but if I remember right, multiplying one dimension with the other will give me Area. Correct?

776.25 sq. feet

Now, I will go to this site, and plug in the numbers, and I should get square meters out of the whole business.

Okay, that is about 72 square meters.

By Paris standards, it is a pretty good-sized apartment.  It reminds me of the standard 800 square-foot, two bedroom apartments in which I have lived in the States before. It’s a bit small when PJ’s two kids are here, and even smaller when PJ’s folks visit, and smaller yet (I have heard, although I have not experienced it) when PJ’s sister and her husband and PJ’s parents and his two kids are all here. That happened during Christmas of ’06 before PJ and I got together. I am actually kind of glad that was before my time, lol. Two weeks of people crawling all over one another in not-quite 800 sq. feet, no matter how much they love one another, sounds pretty insane.

I would guess that this building originates in the 1960s or 1970s. Our corner of the Paris Apartment Universe is made up not of the pretty Hausmann-era apartment buildings that so epitomize Paris, but of what I am guessing was a part of the oft-criticized Mitterrand-era modern monstrosities.

PJ has lived in this place since his Ex-presso kicked him out on Valentine’s Day, 2002. First, “the Ex-presso” is PJ’s nickname for his ex. He has her permission to call her Ex-presso, with which he makes a joke (also with her permission — she thinks it is funny) because she is “short, black, and bitter.”  Second, putting their separation in those terms is much more hyperbolic than it really went down. PJ and the Ex-presso are actually on really good terms with one another. The separation/divorce was not bitter, just sad, and while, yes, Ex-presso asked PJ to leave in early 2002, they managed to break up with a lot of dignity and grace, for the sake of the kids and for the sake of the good years they did share together. Putting it the other way is really PJ’s way of dramatizing events as writers often do for Effect. Ergo, I am, too. Fictionalized memoir and all that.

PJ has done little in the way of home improvements in that time. Well, there have been a few. When his parents, etc. visited in 2006, they did repaint the kitchen and bathroom. Other than that, however, the wallpaper is what has been here in the past seven-and-a-half years. PJ has been an indoor smoker most of that time. The industrial/office-type carpet squares are worn, stained, and grungy. The linoleum needs a good buff and wax. Also, mold is a problem. Whenever the bathroom was designed, it was not planned out with the idea of the bathtub being converted into a shower.

There is a huge window right over the bathtub. We have to have curtains hanging in the windows, else we’d be giving a peep show to folks on the street, especially at night (although the curtains are pretty sheer. I guess PJ’s mom made PJ’s dad go out one time to check and see if she could be seen through the window, and PJ’s dad reported, “No”).

Moisture from the shower has pretty much rotted the wooden windows and the plaster under the tiles, which have become cracked. The windows are warped and have become difficult to close, which, with cooler weather makes for a chilly bathroom.

Did I mention the mold?

I am very sensitive to mold. Today I determined to bleach down some of the mold.

As I got to working, though, things started to get a little complicated.


I began to bleach the windows with le nettoyant.


And I began to bleach the icky tiles with le nettoyant.

Then all went to hell  in a handbasket as the tiles  under the window began to pretty much collapse and crumble.


The plaster behind the tiles was so damp and moldy, I knew it had to go.


I began to scrape it away and on to some newsprint.



Then it occurred to me, “Oh my god, what if there is ASBESTOS in the insulation or whatever?!”

Not that it was going to help me much if in fact asbestos lurks in the works here, but I decided to make an impromptu face mask.




Ugh. Mess.


BUT, the good thing is, I got the window to close! Using the scrape-y-looking thing there, I managed to use it to wedge the window over the lip of the sill and then a good push later and with a turn of the window latch, the window is now closed. It is going to have to stay that way, I am afraid. Things are too warped to open and close on a daily basis.


I decided, too, to go ahead and peel the tiles away…


Me, as the BANDITA in the mirror in the bathroom (golly, I love that scene from “Grosse Point Blank”! I am kicking some A just like John Cusack in that movie. It’s a wee bit violent, that, so if you have a sensitive nature or kiddies around, do not watch).

Then I had an idea. I thought about trying to clean and preserve the window wood a little more, including protect the unfinished boards we had sitting around in our “Bricolage Corner.” I CUT, with a SAW, all by MYSELF, the boards so they would fit in the window in place of the tiles.

I did a quick search online, and discovered that some olive oil and lemon make a good wood protector. Maybe not like a varnish, but one has to make do with what one has around the house sometimes.

Also, I have been watching French shows like «100% Mag» (“Cent percent magsohn-pear-sohn mag) a totally chick television magazine show which often has segments on non-toxic cleaning solutions.

As a total aside, I am fascinated with the hostess, Estelle Denis’ boobs. She has an enticingly beautiful set, if I might say as a hetero woman, but one who knows a nice rack when she sees one.

Like, check this out: ED’s set 1

or this: ED’s set 2

and this: ED’s set 3

Seems like her shirts have been progressively getting more and more low cut, and there is something in the way she moves that makes her boobs look like they involuntarily move on their own. It’s mesmerizing.

I think maybe they show her boobs off as it is not really a Dude Type of Show.  I imagine all sorts of French women coming home, watching «Un dîner presque parfait», another show I love, too, and then wanting to watch «100% Mag» which is on right after. I can imagine French Dude, her husband, starting to say, “Ahhhh,  cherie, non…” and then trailing off as Estelle’s set does this kind of hypnotique thing. Before he knows it, he is watching segments on apiculture, non-toxic cleaning solutions, “cougars: older actresses and their younger men,” and the use of wet-wipes. (Not sure if that vid is viewable in the States, so let me know if you try.)


I mix the OO (Bio! Which is French for “organic”) with some lemon juice.


I look under the sink for some rags and lo and behold! There is liquid beeswax there. Who knew we had this? I had just read this was good for wood, too, but I had already begun to mix the OO and the lemon, and I could not understand clearly the French instructions for how to apply the beeswax. I also saw something about its being inflammable, which I know means “can catch fire” and thought, “I’m not messing with that” except the word “messing” began with “F” in my head.


This was the wood I had CUT with the SAW by MYSELF (!), and which I rubbed with the OO and lemon.


I read, too, that mixing vinegar and OO was a good wood cleaner also, and I thought I would rub this into the wood of the window. Just think: dual purpose!! Salad dressing and wood cleaner. Again, WHO KNEW?


TA DA! All clean. All polished. Window closed. Boards to protect where the tiles and plaster had been.

Now I have to go get another shower curtain and rod to hang over all of this so as to keep it as dry as possible for the time when and IF someone from the apartment ever comes to repair or replace the tiles, etc.


I got a lot of mold off the tiles.


But not all of it. Alas, here are the cracked tiles.


This is the board that is covering the area where the tiles were (and the asbestos???).


What it looks like behind the boards.




YAAAAAH! (Hard to take non-blurry photos of oneself in a mirror when you are karate kicking.)


Yeah, you better watch out for the Bathroom Bandita. She kicks butt.

I have to try to go and wash myself in the tub with no curtain now. I have to meet PJ at the Etoile in about and hour-and-a-half. In that time, I have to avoid giving a show to the street below while I bathe (I KNEW I should have taken a shower earlier, but I wanted to clean the bathroom first), go to the cheapo store to buy a shower curtain…

Oh heyyyyyyy. I just realized I have some duct tape and trash bags!! I know what I am going to do… Makeshift shower curtain! Ha HA!

Okay. I gotta run.

Over and out.

(Word count towards NaNoWriMo: 3,036)

Categories: Life in Paris, Movies in Paris, NaNoWriMo, Personal Life | Tags: , , , , ,

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17 thoughts on “Finding Out Where Home Is & Bathroom Bandita

  1. aimee maher

    That was the best blog ever! Lol, you are doing a fab job, and I love watching your daily life in Paris. Keep writing! You may think no one cares about this stuff, but it is just awesome.

    • pariskarin

      Thank you, chick!! And especially thank you because I know you are NaNoing, too, and it is HARD to keep up with reading while you are writing!

  2. Mister E.

    Wow! I am impressed!

    • pariskarin

      Thank you, Mr. E! I’m pretty worn out today, though, I have to say, haha!

  3. Shel

    This was AMAZING. You really do kick booty, chick.

    And your apartment is a mansion compared to some of the ones I saw in Seoul! 🙂

    I liked it, it had character.

    • pariskarin

      Thank you, Shel. 🙂

      I bet Seoul was like China — some people live in apartments the size of walk-in closets there. Actually, I have friends that live in studios here, too, which are pretty teeny.

      Yes, not only does it have character, but it has characters living in it, lol.

  4. ken

    I almost said something about blogging with music in the previous post it was mentioned. Sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t and the reason between the two is that music is so influential. Music can set a mood and keep my mind on topic when there are other distractions about (and wooboy does my mind wander)or music can be the inspiration for a blog. With that in mind, music can also put other ideas into my head while I am trying to concentrait on something else completely and I will “lose” my blog under a flood of other ideas.

    “Chatter in my head” is exactly it as I phrase and rephrase everything I write before, during and after (where I match one phrase against the next for flow. This is important or my writing becomes much like my thought process and will read as incoherant and random, when it is actually diverse building blocks of a single thought and I am trying to demonstrate how they relate).

    “Are we f*ck-ups” I have spent my life either coasting through (when I should have been proactive) or striking out and doing something, but because I was never proactive, what should have been “old hat” was always something bold and new. No one stopped to walk me through the process, so I was thrown into the deep-end of the pool and expected to swim (“what do you mean, you don’t know how? everybody knows how”). My whole life has been the terror of failure and the thrill of acomplishment on the simplest scale, but so much harder because there was no road map.

    Yeah, after a while there is a sense of “what is the worst that can happen and really, how bad is that. Once the mind clear that concept, everything falls into a feeling of syncronicity as if all is as it should be.

    Ah heck, got to the Bandita section and work calls, will return…

    • pariskarin

      I like what you wrote up there, Ken, about losing the blog under other ideas. Yeah, I think that is why I like just the chatter as I write. I find that our lives often do not have enough QUIET in them in the day to day, and while I adore music and listening to it, I prefer to listen while, say, ripping bathroom tiles out. Heh!

      Your third paragraph there reminded me of this:

      Remember that? 🙂

      This is so true:
      “after a while there is a sense of ‘what is the worst that can happen and really, how bad is that.’ Once the mind clear that concept, everything falls into a feeling of syncronicity as if all is as it should be.”

      Okay, see you a little later! (and there you are, down below! *waves*)

  5. PJ

    Wonderful, wonderful post.

    The “messing with an ‘F'” cracked me up. i smiled at the “almost-husband” and it made me feel good. i also liked the bathroom scene when i found out you hadn’t done any permanent damage and the pictures, omg, the PICTURES are just so awesome.

    What really warmed my heart is that you’re finding a way to make this homey and a home. Who knows what the future holds and where our next home will be, but i’m proud to share this one with you right now.

    MWAH! i Love You.


    PS [Whispering] We are not f*ck ups.

    • pariskarin

      “i also liked the bathroom scene when i found out you hadn’t done any permanent damage and the pictures”


      Yeah, you were sounding worried at the beginning of the post, lol.

      This comment makes me feel all mushy. *blushes*

      I love you, too, and [whispers] I am glad you think we are not f*ck ups. 🙂

  6. ken

    I wonder if PJ’s dad would have lied to his wife about the shower curtains just for the secret satifaction of knowing how mortified she’d be if she knew. Probably not, but it would be amusing if it were so.

    Have I ever told you about my morning news porn? appearantly the personel director for one of the local channels has quite the eye for both men and women, but one in particular has quite the following. If you ever get the chance, look up Darya Folsom

    well, you get the idea and while we will miss Lisa Fernandez, we most certainly welcome the addition of Evelyn Taft.

    • pariskarin

      Hello again…

      LOL. You knowwww, knowing PJ’s mom, if what you write were the case , his pop would be in a heap ‘o’ trouble!

      I will definitely check out the links after I get my post for Friday done, Ken.

      Thank you for all the comment love. 🙂

  7. Janet

    OMG, Karin, you totally cracked me up. Loving the bathroom bandita, and I am seeing how I got so freakin’ busy that I never called you yesterday — clearly you had a mission to fulfill and I had no business interrupting. I’ll catch up with you today, and in the meantime, totally loved your blog, sweetie. BTW, I think the next time we speak on the phone, we’ll have to organize special time for us to tell each other that we’re not f*ck-ups. I need to hear it, too. Sigh.

    • pariskarin

      Oh my best girlfriend ever, thank you for making it here and commenting. 🙂 Yeah, I have been trying to whisper I am not a f*ck-up all morning long, lol. Talk to you soon.

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