A view of the Eiffel Tower from the Avenue du Président Wilson exactly here. August 2010.
I am mostly putting this photo here so you know what this post is not going to be about.
The past month I spent more time than I really want to think about researching and constructing 100 word descriptions about the top sites and points of interest in Paris, France. One hundred of these 100 word descriptions later, I am a little sick of Paris, to be truthful.
Why Paris Sometimes Drives Me Batty — a recurring theme
Okay, I wrote that I did not want to think about it, but I started to, anyway. I researched and wrote descriptions in about 80 hours, I estimate, so that’s 10,000 words in those 80 hours — about 175 words per hour. You know what? Now that I am doing the math, I am SURE I must have really put in around 100 hours, minimum, on that thing I was working on. I must have done at least that. It was about an hour per description, with research and mapping, and figuring out how to put it all on a route, and then writing whether a person needed to turn left, turn right, go up, go down, or use a crosswalk. My lord. No wonder I was a basket case!!
I also just got done reading an article about the top things to do in Paris during fashion week, and all that I can think while I am reading is “Yammer, yammer, yammer, yada, yada, yada — Marais, Merci, La Grande Épicérie — blah, blah, blah!!” It was about the same old places that the “popular kids” have deemed worthy of hanging around. I am a part of this increasing Twitter group of folks that are all writing about Paris This, and Paris That, and it is honestly becoming like white noise reading over and over about the popular bakeries, and the popular restaurants, and the popular people, who are doing all of the popular things in popular Paris. *rolls eyes*
If I had the Photoshop Skilz, right about now I would find a photo of a bunch of cheerleaders and a Prom King, and cut and paste photos of some of the faces of those most popular Paris bloggers and stick them onto the pictures of the cheerleaders and Prom King, and place them here on this blog and razz some more about the Paris Popular Crowd. If you have read my blog long enough, you know who I mean. 😉
Yes. *sigh* It is another one of those blogs, one where I feel I have had my fill of Paris, and … okay, I was considering going for a whole “bulimic angle” as a metaphor here, and then felt like to do so explicitly was going a little too far. Let me take this angle instead: too much of life feels like a popularity contest, and when you are a geeky chick in her 40s living in a city you never really felt that attracted to in the first place, but which is THE most popular place on the planet for people to fall in love with and visit, it is not easy to be a Paris-based blogger.
There is a tension between wanting to post about interesting stuff and have people gather around and declare YOUR blog as a blog of wonder in the City of Light and wanting to find a unique angle, to stand out in a crowd where the topics revolve around the same limited subjects of the Same Old Monuments or places where the Paris Cool Kids are hanging around these days.
I have been figuring out that Paris-based blogs are a dime a dozen (if you don’t believe me, just go visit Keith’s A Taste of Garlic site, and realize that he has only reviewed the tip of the iceberg when it comes to blogs in Île de France, Paris specifically), and Paris blogs, with some degree of creativity and inspiration, say about the same things. For the most part. But it does seem to be the case that the Paris-based blogs that get the most attention have the prettiest pictures, or introduce the hottest spots, or highlight the same monuments over and over and over (ahem, Eiffel Tower, anyone?!?) all saying something along the lines of “I LOVE PARIS SOOOOOO MUCH!!!”
If you have your Bullshit Detector on right now, you will call me out and say to me, “Okay, so why do you read all of those blogs and articles and follow all of those Paris-based people if they get up your nose so much? Hmmm, Karin, why?”
Okay, you are right. I’m fussing about something over which I have complete control, and over which I really could choose to not participate. Agreed. Here is my rationale (-ization?).
It goes back to the roots of this blog and why I started it in the first place, and which I have written about numerous times.
Jardin des Plantes, September 4, 2010
I really do want to try to bloom where I am planted.
I have a Master’s Degree in Curriculum and Instruction for Teaching English as a Second/Foreign Language, which I got in 1995. As a part of the intercultural studies coursework for that degree, and as a part of working with the immigrants and foreign students I taught in the late 1990s, I learned that the best way to come to acceptance of living in another culture is to learn as much as possible about that culture. It really does help to ease the integration process to try to figure out as much as one can about the new place where he or she is living. I know this. I have seen it in action with the people I worked with in the U.S. I also learned this was the case for myself when I lived and worked in the People’s Republic of China from 1990-1991.
It’s good for an expat to read up and try to take in as much as possible about the host culture.
And I will confess, too, that I am a huge sucker for learning about new places: the history, the culture, the things that are important to the people living there. When it comes right down to it, I do enjoy reading up on Paris and France. I also want to add that all of the Paris-based bloggers I have met in person so far have 100% been friendly, nice, kinda geeky (they are bloggers, after all), and fun. So this is in no way a personal slam to those bloggers who adore Paris and write about her with passion. They are cool people.
This is mostly just me, pre-menopausal and crabby, bitching about how there are more days than not where it feels like I am that clichéd square peg trying to fit in a round hole, and how I get annoyed because I know and have seen firsthand that Paris is NOT all that. In my opinion.
The people who write the articles and keep the Paris tourist machine running smoothly tend to idealize what this city is about. And because people have such an ideal and dreamlike experience when they visit Paris, it becomes romanticized beyond what it really is: an urban, world-class city with problems just like any other city.
Most of all, I think this rant I needed to get off my chest is a big case of sour grapes. The limit came for me this week, after this past horrendous month when I had to think much more about Paris than I really cared to, when I got a sweet invitation from an equally sweet Paris blogger to go to another sweets taste-off, this time comparing éclairs from the famed Stohrer and relative newcomer Jacques Genin (and oh my holy hell, is Jacques Genin ever a Paris Cool Kid blog topic of the past couple of years. Sheesh. Just Google him to see what I mean).
I think I have tried one éclair in Paris, back when I first came here over two years ago, from a bakery down the street. Being poor and non-famous, and really pretty ghetto here in the city, I did not have opportunity to try more. As you know, éclairs are full of gluten and dairy in the flaky pastry shell and creamy custard filling, and those are things that now make me very sick.
It’s one reason I get aggravated with being in Paris: it is the pastry capital of the world. It is the cuisine capital of the world. It seems that everything that is worth doing here in Paris somehow revolves around food and restaurants.
And I can’t eat any of it (or not most of it as pretty much every dish in town is going to have gluten and dairy in some form). I am cut off from a huge part of Parisian culture and intercultural experience because certain foods make me sick.
It’s just one more reason I get annoyed. Most of the stuff the cool kids post about, I can’t do anyway, and I feel like I am missing out.
Dontcha love how I go from Ms. Ranty Pants to Ms. Poor Me in a few paragraphs? LOL. (Sorry, Mr. Starkey. I know how you hate this, but even if it is not Strunk and White Correct for me to do it, this here is Blogland, and is acceptable in these here parts. To most. FU if you don’t like it, heh heh heh! ;-))
I think I will close this rant with yet another acknowledgement that lord knows I am trying my best to find the square-peg places in Paris. I will continue to seek them out, and continue to make the best of the things in which I can participate here in the city. I will continue to try to count my blessings that I have an opportunity to be here in this historically rich place where some of my heroes in life have spent time. To conclude (this part of the blog, anyway), these paragraphs make me realize this blog really does have a unique Paris angle, and the angle is that I will continue to be the Paris-based blogger who really does not like it here very much and will rant about it with cyclic predictability. Hahahaha! That is something that makes me stand out in the world of Paris cheerleaders.
After all that, I am going to be the Anti-Typical Paris Blogger, and I am going to proceed with another installment of “Ghetto Living in Paris.”
My Ghetto Garden
It’s been a while since I updated about my Ghetto Garden. Past posts on this topic are here. This past spring, I had planted a sprouted shallot, onion, and garlic clove.
I am sorry to say that none of these fine fellows made it this past summer. I think the downfall started with the onion, which had actually blossomed.
It got so big and tall that it kind of just collapsed. One morning, I tried to prop it up, and pop, the whole thing just came out of the soil, bulb and all! I don’t remember which plant went next, but none of them were was (oy, and I call myself a former English teacher! I went a whole three days not discovering that grammatical faux pas) doing entirely too well. The mint started going crazy in the other planter, too, choking out the lemon thyme and chives. Mint, I have discovered, is very invasive. My best friend tried to warn me! She said it would take over and strangle everything around it. She was not kidding.
So what I decided to do was kill the ghetto garden of the shallot, onion, and withered-away garlic, and spread some of the herbs from the original planter now dominated by mint into the former ghetto garden box. That mint, though. It’s really hardy. Clingy. I am still finding and pulling up little mint runners out of the chives that I moved to next planter.
Here are the ghetto garden herb window boxes on October 7, 2010.
Left to right we have rosemary, chives, tarragon, lemon thyme with mint behind it, verbena (the tall stuff), mint, a pot of basil and more mint. The geraniums are on the railing.
Here are some closer views:
Rosemary / Romarin
This is the sad, fucked up rosemary. It has never done that well. I tried it in its own pot for a while. It did no better there than with the dominant mint. It’s got a fungus-y looking fuzz on the leaves, and looks nothing like the big pots of fragrant stuff I saw at the Marché Sécrétan as I passed it the other day. I think I need to take it out and toss it. I should start with a new pot. I really would like to have some rosemary chicken, but not with this moldy-oldy lookin’ stuff. Ick.
Chives / Ciboulette
Ever since I moved the chives out of the original planter with all the herbs in it, they have sprung back into action! I need to start using them again, now that they are of healthy proportions. Hmmmm. Maybe next time I have a salad, I will snip some chives into it.
Tarragon / Estragon
This is the tarragon, or estragon in French, which still reminds me of “estrogen” so I call it the “estrogen plant.” I think it is going through menopause, because it is just doing “meh.” I’m scared if I snip it and use it, what is left is going to die. I’m not really sure what to use tarragon in, anyway. I suppose chicken. Seems like a lot of foods not only taste like chicken, but chicken is the all-purpose meat with which to use herbs. I wonder how mint chicken would be, though. (???)
Lemon verbena / Verveine
The verbena on the other hand? This freaky plant is a TREE, I swear. I really need to make some lemon verbena tea with it. Tomorrow.
Lemon thyme / Thym citron
The lemon thyme, on the other hand, has the same moldy-oldy disease the rosemary has, I think. I finally cut it waaaaay back, so that only the healthiest stuff was still around, but I think the mint is going to kill it. It’s okay. I never could find a recipe using lemon thyme that sounded good, and the leaves and stalks are very tough. It’s a strange herb. Smells terrific! But it does not seem like something to cook with.
Here’s the damn crazy opportunistic mint. It is an aggressive muthuh effah (excuse my French, hahahaha. Okay, that’s not really French. In case you thought I was an idiot. 😉 Just trying to be funny, and since I can’t see all y’all’s expressions nor hear you, I’m just going to trust you smiled and laughed). I may have to let it take over by removing what’s left of the lemon thyme and watch it go head to head with the verbena and see who outlasts whom. Or which outlasts which. I’m thinking of these two as pro-wrestlers now! Way to personify my herbs!
Basil / Basilic
And the lovely, lovely sweet, tender basil which I got cheap at the Poor People Store, Leader Price, this past summer. I know, I am supposed to repot it in something better, but I don’t have a spare empty pot to put it in, I don’t dare plant it with that mint, and I don’t plan to spring for a new pot just yet. I’m trying to use it a lot in cooking (yum, yum!) so that it won’t outgrow the pot too quickly. So far, so good.
As far as the other plants go, here they are, still growing:
The Ficus, the Resurrection Plant, the Philodendron, and the Bamboo
(No idea what they are in French, except Ficus, which is Ficus, just pronounced “fee-koos.” I’m too lazy right now to go to Google Translate to figure it all out, and I also have to leave the house soon. If you want to add in comments what they are in French, I welcome it.)
Et voilà. Kind of boring stuff, maybe, but then so are large chunks of my so-called exotic Parisian life. My big concern that is beginning to nag my thoughts is what to do with this whole mess come winter when the freezing cold will kill it all. I know I need to take the garden inside, but where to put it? Another “charming” thing about Paris is the size of the apartments and problems like where to put things like your Ghetto Garden when it gets too cold. Plus, the design wünderkind who created this apartment put the electric heaters just under all of the windows (?!?), so placing the planters near the windows indoors is not possible. They’ll cook to death. (And who in their right mind puts heaters just under *windows*? Old, wood-framed, single-pane French-style windows at that! *rolls eyes*)
I’m sure, like everything else around here, I will figure it out.
So. Aloha, faithful readers. Au revoir and ciao. See you again real soon. I already have some photos for another ghetto post, so I hope I can get it up and running in a reasonable period of time.
(an alien parisienne)