Apr 30, 2008


For a split second i thought the pigeon walking in front of her was a pet.

Apr 29, 2008

French supermarket

A supermarket security guard reading the newspaper in the supermarket photo booth.

Apr 28, 2008

Déjeuner sur l'herbe

How refreshing to step outside of Paris for a day. Five metro stations away from my home and i'm in a totally different place, where some of the houses remind me of those seen in my grand-parents' village in the Loire Valley. An old factory in Montreuil turned into a loft with a big yard full of plants, a deck, chairs scattered around the garden and a table covered with glasses filled with champagne. And filled again. And then filled with white wine until the end of the day. Ten of us chillin' between the shade and the sun, feeling lazy and giddy. Weed smoking. Playing red light-green light. Teasing one another. Couples embracing in the grass, mother and daughter reading children's book under the weeping willow, walking barefoot, stepping on incandescent ash without minding it, talking about script-writing, movies, vintage furniture shopping in towns where you can still find great deals, pornography, music, adolescence, first hard-on (on a moped in the countryside, dreaming of a lonely farmer), smelling freshly picked lilac, cutting each other off, pouring more wine, eating again, digging in the chicken with our fingers, pealing shrimps...

Apr 23, 2008

Paris—L'Ecailler du bistrot (Fish/Seafood)

I always enjoy this place a lot. Might be a combination of the really tasty food, the wine that goes to my head, the friendly and super busy staff who laughs with us at my mother's jokes while taking an empty plate away and the British customer who knocks down our pepper shaker while sitting down and then knocks down his menu board.
We took my mama out to dinner early last night because she had to wake up at five the next day. When we sat down I noticed out the window a woman standing at her balcony. Twenty minutes later i looked up and to my surprise the woman was still there. Ten minutes later I looked up again and she was gone. My mom said she must've gone inside to watch the news on T.V (the evening news starts at 8pm). She looked at her watch and it was 8 sharp. When my dad moved to where he lives right now he got a paper in the mail from the Impôts (the French IRS) asking him to declare whether or not he had a T.V. In France there's a tax on televison called "la redevance audiovisuelle". So my dad checked the box that said he didn't have one. But it turns out he got taxed on it anyway. When he went to the Impôts to get his money back the woman behind the desk could hardly believe he did not have a T.V. In France statistics indicate that 3% of people don't have a T.V. but out of these 3% there's probably 2% who do own a television but do not declare it. Cheating small and feeling like a mega winner! Back to my dinner: we totally scored on the dessert with the fromage blanc Fontainebleau with raspberry coulis. My girl could not believe how good it was. This Is France. And as for Fontainebleau, more on that pretty town where I spent my last years of high school, later.

Apr 19, 2008

Paris record convention: a whiff of french sweat

5 hours in a pit at the underground record convention, Porte de Champerret (17th arr.) No windows, no A/C and a bunch of sweaty French men in their mid-forties. Hecka dudes with 5 o'clock shadows and long hair presenting a multi-colored variation of ponytails: whitish, grayish, yellowish, black, straight, curly... There was a fair share of the balding type with no hair on top and long hair in the back, kinda like the bald guy's mullet. A "party in the back" compensating for the bareness on top. There were some women too, like the three old ladies standing by the hip hop crates, talking about their trip to Eurodisney with the grandkids. Or a younger woman, bleach blond with tiny braids and dressed up rockabilly style. And then there was us two, waving through emanations of body odor - smells that reminded me of all the literature i came across about French people not showering enough and not knowing about a thing called anti-perspirant. It hit me like a ton of camembert cheese. Chess and i were listening to records from a British seller with a huge collection of records bought in the U.S, brought back to Europe - listened to by an American girl in Paris - and that will probably end up back in their country of origin. So we were digging through a lot of disco-funk-boogie records and listening to a huge amount of songs until two French dudes came around and started looking at records while making conversation with us. The short bald one with the mud flap kinda nicely asked us to hurry up. I thought the guy wanted to check out the records underneath our record player so i offered we move to the side. No, the guy didn't care about the records, he wanted access to the RECORD-PLAYER. And his friend wanted to listen to some SEALED records on OUR record-player. Pfffff.
A few cigarettes were lit here and there. Another reminder that I was in France where there's a law against smoking in public places. Cigarettes smell good when they cover the smell of sweat.

Apr 18, 2008

Paris—candies at Käramell (Söttland)

Here's for your sweet tooth my friend Jack. No fruit carambars there but lot's of smarties, m&m's, big and small lollipops, red, pink, black, long, round, flat or thick licorice, nuts, chocolates...

15 rue des Martyrs 75009 Paris

Apr 16, 2008

Paris 15th arr.— Cave de l'os à moelle

Right across the street from the very nice restaurant L'os à moelle, is the Cave de l'os à moelle (table d'hotes et cave à vin), the sister restaurant, that offers a much more easy going, rustic and simple kind of food. It serves traditional French food, the kind you would find in people's home - the home of those who still cook, stew their meats, grate their carrots or beats, make their own blood sausage terrine and serve oeufs à la neige (floating islands) for dessert. There are a few tables and also a communal one where appetizers get passed on from one end of the table to the other. If you are new and hungry do not hesitate to ask your neighbor for the food because nobody will bring it to you! Same with the wine, you get to pick your bottle right of the shelf and the waitress will open it for you at the table. As for the main course you get to chose from a fish dish or a meat one (you serve yourself) and cheeses and desserts are on a table, buffet style. The food is nice, simple and very unpretentious.
There's also the vél'Os à Moelle, a pic-nic-bicycle rental, a bicycle with a basket full of goodies for a lunch in the park or on the banks of the Seine or else.

181 rue de Lourmel, 75015 Paris. Closed on monday.

Apr 15, 2008

Paris—student demonstration (la manif. étudiante)

Between 20000 (the police's estimate) and 40000 (the teachers'estimate) students demonstrated earlier today in Paris. Part of my street was barricaded. All the old guys who usually play bocce ball around place de la Nation had left their playground to check out the demonstration.

Apr 14, 2008

la coupole du Printemps

The department store Le Printemps has a great dome and a few very nice views of the city's rooftops and the Sacré Coeur. You can also spot the basilica walking down the Boulevard des Italiens, an unusual place from which to see it.

Speaking of Le Printemps, here's my tip: if you want to buy some Ladurée macarons without waiting in line (sometimes ridiculously long), get them at the Ladurée shop on the 1st floor of the Printemps Maison.

Surfing for class: mixing studies and passion.

The French government now allows surfing as a P.E class. High school kids can take their P.E exam at the beach. This year: Biarritz, April 8, 2008 from 8.30am to 6.30pm.

Apr 13, 2008

Paris—Musée Jacquemart-André

This was the home of two art collectors, Edouard André and Nélie Jacquemart, who spent six months out of the year traveling the world to collect art work. They had more money to spend on art than the Louvre Museum did, and their collection gathers masterpieces from Venetian painters (Bellini, Mantegna) to Florentine artists (Botticelli, Uccello) to works by Flemish and Dutch masters (Van Dyck, Rembrandt) and 18th century French painters (David, Fragonard). Their hotel particulier, built in the 19th century, has a hydraulic system that allowed some door panels to be lowered into the basement so as to widen the openings between rooms while hosting some of the most luxurious talked about parties in Paris.

when the Louvre feels too crowded or is closed you can always go check out this museum.

Apr 12, 2008

Slice of life

Errol Morris documenting mainstream America like no other.
The sound of squeaking tires. Capturing the old lady's reaction. Priceless.

Apr 11, 2008

Feeling wide and sipping wine

If it weren't for the exorbitant price of french gym memberships i would probably already be enrolled in the gym around the corner from my place. I'd be fit and the bread and butter and cheese and macarons and chocolate that i eat all the time would not show on my body. By now i would probably be reaching the 2-hour run on the treadmill and break into a sweat after a mere 30-minute exercise. Instead, i don't sweat. Things i eat start to show and my silhouette appears to be an ever expanding shape. I'd rather die fat than run in the streets of Paris. Shit from Paris stuck to my running shoes is just not something i'm willing to deal with. Not now, not tomorrow, not yesterday.
My back aches from a stupid move and i'm drinking my pain away with a kir.
Life is beautiful.

Middle-age attitude

"Don't want this in your home? Paris IS your home."

I don't think they quite get that concept yet.

Apr 10, 2008

All talk, no action

"Everything must disappear. A turd not picked up is a 183€ fine."
The reality is: everything gets smeared, nobody gets fined and everybody gets pissed.

If they'd actually apply the fine to those who soiled,
and that's a lot of money for dog shit,
we'd probably have much cleaner streets.
Ten tons of canine excrement a day, in Paris only,
that's a shit load of money the city of Paris could use.
I know of another city that could make a lot of money too: Carcassonne.

Apr 9, 2008

The abc's of recycling

The french are slowly learning how to recycle.
If they still don't get it after such an ad campaign
then i don't know how they need to be told.

Apr 7, 2008

Nicolas Sarkozy visits Queen Elizabeth II

The ultimate sin: to show signs of uneasiness in high society.

This article seems like a caricature of French criticism. I won't translate it because it would loose all it's juiciness, subtlety and meanness. But it's basically a long tirade on how the French president doesn't belong at all to the world class society and ends up looking completely out of place, and thus utterly pitiful, while visiting the Queen of England.
It's very well written. I just wish it wasn't serving such a contemptuous cause. It'd be a great passage in a novel. But as a journalist, criticizing a president for not being able to show off a certain ease in a royal environment is just feeding more material to a world too eager to indulge in gossip and trashy literature. Are you embarrassed Mr Caviglioli? Although very well written, your withering criticism of Mr Sarkozy isn't very classy (for those who might think i am defending the man, i'm not.)
There's a constant battle among your average middle class frenchman: being the middle class person that he is and yet wanting to be a part of the upper class. A struggle to be accepted in a world "above" his that will make him feel better about himself. He will flirt with high society and might even, if he gets lucky, sleep with her. He will feel better about himself for being in orbit around such a classy world until something or someone will remind him of where he comes from. A slight "faux pas" from one of his own people and he's taken out of his orbit, only to find himself floating in a vast environment of mediocrity and "middleness" reminding him of his humble roots.
And for those who read French, here it goes:

"Nicolas et Carla : roulez carrosses !
Les Sarkozy chez la reine d'Angleterre, cela vaut le détour. François Caviglioli a suivi toutes les étapes d'un voyage officiel qui ressemblait parfois à un chemin de croix.

Une visite d'Etat, ça se joue à la descente d'avion. On repère tout de suite les dominants et les dominés. Côté dominants : le duc d'Edimbourg, venu accueillir à Heathrow le couple présidentiel français, baise la main gantée de Caria. Entre eux, une complicité immédiate. Ils se jaugent. Un bref duel à coups de séduction. Ils se sourient. La caméra les isole un instant. Ils semblent seuls sur le tarmac. Ils sont du même monde. Ils ont les mêmes codes. Le pardessus du prince, coupé à Savile Row, s'harmonise avec la redingote de Caria griffée Dior et dessinée par John Galliano. Côté dominé : notre président. Il n'a pas cette aisance souveraine. Il tourne la tête dans tous les sens. Il s'oriente. Il cherche à mettre un nom sur les visages. Il est dépaysé. Son sourire est quémandeur, presque suppliant. Il est endimanché. Un petit prolo invité pour la première fois de sa vie «dans la haute». On le sent soucieux de bien faire, mais agité, anxieux. On a peur pour lui.
Ce n'est pas un voyage officiel mais un chemin de croix. Deuxième station : le dais installé devant la château de Windsor pour une petite cérémonie de bienvenue présidée par la reine. Sarko est tellement tendu qu'il sursaute et se met presque au garde-à-vous lorsqu'un officier des grenadiers hurle un commandement dans la cour d'honneur. Il n'a qu'une idée en tête. Il sait qu'il ne doit surtout pas effleurer la reine. On le lui a dit et répété. Alors il s'écarte d'elle comme si elle venait de manger un pudding avarié. Il en est presque discourtois. Pour se donner une contenance, il prend la main de Carla. La scène se transforme. Elle prend l'allure d'un mariage à la campagne, avec le marié emprunté et la reine en belle-mère un peu revêche et coiffée d'un chapeau compliqué. Mais Nicolas se souvient brusquement qu'on l'a bien mis en garde : les Britanniques ont horreur des effusions en public. Il retire sa main. Il se rabat sur Camilla Parker-Bowles, la duchesse de Cornouailles, l'épouse du prince Charles. Il lui prend le bras, il la caresse, il la pétrit. Il a trouvé un substitut royal. Une proie à sa portée. Il est repris par cette obsession tactile qui a tant indisposé Angela Merkel. C'est chez lui une manière de solliciter son admission dans la meute des puissants de ce monde. Que veut-il dire à cette duchesse en la tripotant avec cet excès d'affection ? Sans doute ceci qui ne peut s'exprimer que par des attouchements non protocolaires : «Est-ce que je te dégoûte ? Est-ce que tu tolères que je pose mes mains sur toi ? Est-ce que tu accepterais que je t'épouille ?» Nicolas Sarkozy a besoin d'un contact physique et olfactif avec ses partenaires étrangers, en préliminaire à toutes négociations. Un mode de relation animal qu'on retrouve chez les grands primates et tous les humains trop instinctifs qui n'ont pas subi le dressage des collèges anglais.
Sarkozy vit ce voyage comme un grand moment de solitude. On s'en aperçoit à l'écran lorsque la reine lui fait visiter Windsor, son château préféré, et lui dévoile ses trésors. Il se penche à côté d'elle sur un manuscrit ancien. Les yeux presque morts, le sourire figé. Il a toujours été incapable de feindre l'attention. Il est trop impatient. Trop angoissé. En plus, il est forcé de se tordre, de se contorsionner à la limite de la crampe pour ne pas commettre le sacrilège le plus impardonnable : toucher la reine. A la recherche d'un réconfort, il reprend en cachette la main de Carla. Mais elle la lui retire. On imagine une bulle : «Tiens-toi bien, il y a du monde. Et du beau monde.» On a tout d'un coup l'impression de s'être trompé. C'est elle qui est en visite chez la reine. Mais elle a commis l'erreur de venir avec son boyfriend, un brave garçon mal dégrossi, qui n'est pas de son milieu. Nicolas Sarkozy paraît plus rassuré lorsqu'il se présente devant la Chambre des Communes et la Chambre des Lords réunies au palais de Westminster pour entendre son discours historique qui doit fonder la nouvelle Entente cordiale. Il est à son affaire. Il va être face à des politiciens, une engeance qu'il connaît mieux que les altesses royales, fi sait les manoeuvrer, les séduire, leur faire la danse des sept voiles. Mais une fois sur le seuil de la galerie royale, lui, le fonceur, marque un temps d'arrêt comme un torero à l'entrée de l'arène. Il prend une profonde aspiration. Il a ce curieux tic, ce roulement d'épaules, plus courant chez les casseurs de banlieue que chez les chefs d'Etat et qui trahit le sentiment d'être toujours menacé physiquement. Il boutonne ou reboutonne son veston. Il se protège l'abdomen, le siège de toutes les vieilles peurs. On comprend alors qu'il n'entre pas dans une enceinte parlementaire, mais dans un tribunal pour y être jugé. Que vient-il chercher devant les deux Chambres du royaume ? Quelle bénédiction ou quelle absolution ? Quel est ce doute secret qui le saisit et l'immobilise avant l'heure de vérité ?
On entend hors caméra un jeune MP qui demande : « Est-ce qu'on va voir Caria ? » Un peu de patience, sir, vous allez la voir. Mme Caria Sarkozy s'assoit dans le fauteuil qui lui est réservé comme si elle avait fait ça toute sa vie. Elle écoute sagement son mari qui se démène comme un beau diable derrière son pupitre pour prouver tout l'amour qu'il porte au Royaume-Uni. Face à elle, c'est toute l'Angleterre profonde qui l'observe, la détaille avec convoitise et un soupçon de cruauté. Des visages enflammés de baronnets tout juste descendus de cheval après une chasse au renard. Des yeux avides. Il faut dire que le «Daily Mail» a publié le matin même une photo du corps nu de Caria Bruni-Tedeschi prise en 1993. Il y a quelque chose de solennel et d'égrillard à la fois dans ce mur de notables quinquagénaires corsetés par leur bonne éducation. Mme Sarkozy les tient à distance de son regard ironique et minéral. Un grand numéro muet de dompteuse, plus impressionnant que le discours de son époux.
En entrant dans le St. George's Hall, la salle à manger monumentale de Windsor, le président Sarkozy promène des regards émerveillés sur la table d'acajou longue de 60 mètres, sur l'argenterie, sur le plafond en forme de carène renversée. Il n'essaie même pas de prendre un air blasé comme les autres chefs d'Etat. Il ne boude pas son plaisir. Il a surmonté toutes les embûches qui parsemaient ce voyage. Maintenant, il vit un rêve, dans une Angleterre qui n'existe plus et qui n'a été reconstituée que pour lui. Il a l'air ébloui et reconnaissant d'un métayer venu régler ses fermages au château."

François Caviglioli
Le Nouvel Observateur

Apr 5, 2008


The East Bay has severely spoiled us. I had high expectation when i entered this newly opened pizza place in the Marais: La Briciola. I expected to be served a Pizziaolo/Dopo/Picco kinda pizza because the menu offered a wide and interesting range of pizza such as the "bianca", the kind served without tomato sauce, and accompanied with rocket (roquette) on top. The server brought us the wrong pizza. No biggie. Brought us the pizza before the antipasti. No biggie. Charged us the wrong pizza. No biggie. The wine was good. The server emptied the last of the bottle content in my glass and left it half-full. He came back to the table a few times but never with the wine. The pizza was disappointing but i'll go back and try a different one, so that if my hopes are going to be dashed it won't be based on a single pizza. The tiramisu isn't worth mentioning. The espresso was bitter and without crema on top (what else is new?) There was a couple sitting at a table with their dog, his two paws on the table. Nice. If you ever forget you're in France some things will always bring you back to reality. On the way out we saw a pizza on a table, the kind that was served with rocket on top. It didn't look anything like ours. It had much more green on it, like what we actually expected to be served. No biggie. The staff was really nice, and pretty overwhelmed. Oh, and if you want some water with your meal, ask for it first thing when you order, mention it again in the middle of your order and finish ordering by bringing it up once more. And then you might get some. Otherwise screw you. Be like a good old frenchman and eat your meal with wine. Stop complaining. Water makes one rust anyway. Capito?

So, Charlie "sacrebleu" Hallowell, i think it's time for you to travel again and come open a Pizzaiolo II in Paris, France. And if you ever decide to do something over here, bring your neighbors with you. Paris is in dear need of quality mexican food too. Doña Tomas II.

Chromatic (part VI )

Apr 4, 2008

Paris—Palais de Tokyo

The permanent collection is free at the Palais de Tokyo. Also free, the motorbike stunts in the courtyard. Atop the museum lives the Hotel Everland, until December 2008. It can be visited during the day time and rented as a hotel room for the night.
Further down the road, at the Trocadero, there's this new (about 2 years old) freeline skate sport, a cross between skateboard and roller-skate: a wheel under each foot, nothing in-between. Pretty cool.

Road blocks

It's the story of a person whose voice
keeps whispering "what's the point?".
This person never finishes
anything she starts.

Apr 3, 2008


Sometimes i speak frenglish. I don't mean to but it gets mixed up every once in a while — I guess that's what happens when you spend eleven years in the States and then move back to France with your American partner. We went to a farmer's market the other day and i unintentionally asked for a vegetable half in french - half in english that translated into something i dare anyone to ask for: i asked for "une beet"(a beet). In french that sounds like "une bite", which means DICK. I asked for a dick at the farmer's market!

Paris in the springtime

Je suis tout excitee de pouvoir enfin me balader chez moi le cul nul sans me geler les fesses, les radiateurs eteints et la fenêtre grande ouverte.
C'est le printemps, les oiseaux gazouilles, les tourterelles roucoulent et les arbres s'habillent de vert acidulé.

On our way to a record store, an older guy recitates a poem when he sees us. Three lines. Something sweet. On our way to a second record store, another older guy greets us like he's seen us before: "salut les filles!". Men. Oh, and that one on the way to the market, behind his crèpes stand who says hi to me eventhough i totally wasn't looking at him, and that other one who sold me some red peppers and asked if i wanted something else, like him. And made the call me sign when i walked away.

Apr 2, 2008

Barbès—l'Afrique à Paris

Barbès-Rochechouart. Outdoor market. One of the merchants' stand is so wide, long and large that he has a colander duct-taped to a stick to pass the change back and forth between him and his customers. Actually he uses his "arm extension" for pretty much any transaction out of arm's reach.

Apr 1, 2008

Paris—Video Art in People's apartments

En dehors des sentiers battus!

Poisson d'avril


A perfect illustration of the relationship my brother and I have had up until pretty recently.


Since our day-old craving for papaya salad did not get satiated, we decided to head back to the Thai restaurant that didn't see our faces last night. On our way there Chess points out a banner in front of the Hôpital Saint-Louis: "En grève". A strike. What else is new? All i could think of was how lucky i was (so to speak) that it wasn't on strike that 1993 October day when i arrived in the emergency room with a bleeding eye, a torn crystalline lens and a cracked orbital bone. We ended up eating at l'Ebauchoir, a nice neighborhood restaurant, because it was closer and my bro didn't feel like walking. That papaya salad/sticky rice craving is growing bigger by the hour.

Paris—Korean food

We are in the mood for some som tam (papaya salad) and kaow neow (sticky rice) at Bai Thong. We haven't even walked for 5 minutes when my brother scopes Kim & Kim, the Korean restaurant around the corner from my place; he looks at the menu posted in the window and recognizes a friend he hasn't seen in like ten years. He walks in to say hi; we are eating there. I was glad to check that place out and try something new. I keep thinking, with all the places worth trying why go back to something i've already been to, especially if it didn't completely blow me away. Well there are reasons to go back to places you like, it's called habits, rituals, comfort, met expectations, satisfaction... I enjoyed the simple yet warm and cozy atmosphere with its subdued lighting, a bunch of chimney-like lamps hanging over the tables. I think i just figured out what i dig about that place (besides the food): it's troglodyte feel to it (check out the walls, i think you'll see what i mean.)