Monday, October 31, 2011

Boo (hoo)!

The time is once more upon us for Halloween in France, that pinnacle of the anticlimactic, sandwiched in between Saint Patrick’s Day and Groundhog’s Day on the roll call of holidays that no one gives a damn about. I mean sure, there are a few (Anglo or pseudo Anglo) bars in Paris that will be having Halloween parties tonight, and I have just read that costume sales are up, but between us, Halloween still has a long way to go before it officially catches on around here. Which is a shame, really, because how can you not love candy pumpkins? Seriously? 

Hurts (my teeth) so good!

A few years ago, sensing the onset of yet another bout of expatriate Halloween blues, I came up with a Parisian alternative: champagne, macarons and a bubble bath. But this year, no can do; my place has far too many people in it. So instead, last night we decided to go for a spin though Père Lachaise cemetery in eastern Paris. In preparation for All Saints’ Day, the 110-acre cemetery was bedecked with police officers and flowers—mainly chrysanthemums, which I now realize are official tomb flowers and thus explains why they’re so, um, inexpensive. During my less abundant years I was a big, big fan of chrysanthemums: for my apartment, for my friends, as hostess gifts, housewarming gifts, birthday gifts.... I’m beginning to understand some of the reactions I got. Huh.

So, Père Lachaise. It seemed appropriate to go, even more so at day’s end. Between the uneven (creepy) cobblestone paths, fluttering autumn leaves, cackling crows and crumbling tombstones, we got a nice dose of the hibbie jibbies. I mean sort of. I’m not sure that the Headless Horseman could exactly hang out in Père Lachaise; not with all those gendarmes everywhere. Not that I’m complaining.

Sorry, Sir. Do you have a permit for that head?

I must admit to busting a few Thriller moves at one point, hoping I wouldn’t be sentenced to eternal damnation for daring to make fun in a cemetery. But despite the decidedly macabre atmosphere, frankly, visiting Jim Morrison’s final resting place for the 5th time in my life wasn’t nearly as enjoyable as, say, munching on a couple of those miniature Butterfingers would have been. My kingdom for a Hershey bar! Maybe I’m becoming jaded.

Monday, October 3, 2011

A case of the Mondays

Today is once again that much-dreaded, much-detested first day of the week: Monday. In America, it’s technically the second day of the week, but here in France, Monday comes first and Sunday comes last. Why? Because it’s a country of heathens. I’m kidding (kind of). No—there is undoubtedly a long, fascinating explanation for why the US follows the Judeo-Christian tradition of beginning the week with Sunday whereas Europe does not, but that isn’t the point of this blog. I’ll look it up later and write about it if it’s interesting enough (it probably isn’t).

But let’s get back to Monday, which we can all agree is at least the first day of the work week on both sides of the Atlantic. Personally, I find that Monday has gotten a bad rap. Why, as I’ve grown older, I’ve found that Monday actually tends to go fairly well for me: I’m rested from the weekend, so when my alarm goes off at 6:40 am, it’s not nearly as painful as it is on Friday; work usually goes well, since the mistakes and irritations of the previous week have been forgotten, plus my colleagues are mentally absent and thus unable to effectively defend themselves from my usual barrage of witty insults; and before I know it the day is over and I’m on my way home.

C’mon guys! Monday is just a question of attitude! Am I right? I said, am I right?

However, my favorite part of Monday is hands down cocktail hour: G. and I have begun a family tradition—now that we are an official (2-person) family—of leisurely sipping one cocktail each on the balcony on Monday nights, as a means to kick off the week and shake off any pesky negativity that may have followed us home from the office. I come from a long line of dynamite cocktail makers, a talent that I feel it my duty to share with my husband—which I do, every week. And every week we end up perfectly hammered because a) we’re both lightweights and b) we eat dinner at 9:30 pm like good Europeans, which means that those cocktails are the first thing to hit our stomachs since lunch. Effect guaranteed! As such, any attempts at constructive adult discussion are quickly abandoned in favor of pointing and laughing at passers by, insulting the sushi delivery guy who keeps double parking his scooter across the street, complaining about the insane noise of all those damn vehicles barreling by, and critiquing the interior design of the apartments en face. Sometimes we launch a few peanuts at unsuspecting tourists and the occasional old lady walking her dog. See? Mondays are fun!

So about those cocktails. A native southern Californian, I love margaritas. But ordering them in French bars has never felt right. One, the (small, sad) rendition I’m served often reminds me of postmodern art (i.e. it sucks); two, Mexico and France just don’t mesh well. As proof, consider the French “Mexican” restaurant. Oh, there are a few that get it done right, but they still come in a distant second to basically any hole-in-the-wall Mexican joint I’ve ever tried in SoCal. (Sorry for the taco snobbism; I’ve gotta call a spade a spade. French guacamole—fear it.) So imagine my surprise to find myself nose-to-nose with a tequila bottle calling my name from the shelves of our local grocery store a few days ago. “Hmmmm,” I responded, with typically razor-sharp acumen. In the end, I bought it, along with a bottle of Cointreau and a handful of limes because hell—I may be physically closer to Beijing than I am to Mexico City, but far be it from me to ignore a clear message from the liquor gods.

An hour later, G. and I had assumed the position and were ready to toast to international relations. I had to substitute jumbo wine glasses and fleur de sel for margarita glasses and rock salt, but who cares? Those puppies were muy bueno. And muy fuerte! Even if my Monday had been bad, that margarita would have erased any memory of it. Come to think of it, cocktail hour and its mind-altering effects may be precisely why I have the impression that Mondays are cool. I wonder if that could work for the rest of the week....