mission update

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It has been a month since my last post. I don’t know why I haven’t written. It’s not like I’ve been too busy. In fact, I have had more time on my hands than I know what to do with. I’ve spent much of it dedicating myself to something that Jean-Paul Belmondo, in my favorite line from Breathless, calls “improving Franco-American relations.” But for some reason my brain and body are unwilling to devote any mental or physical resources to more puritanically productive pursuits like writing or finding a job or studying my French verb conjugations.

Instead, I have spent far too many hours lazing about with a growing sense of distress at my inability to snap out of it. Last week I finally gave myself a strongly worded pep talk and since then I have been getting back, slowly, to responsible-person things. Today I’m forcing myself to write something here even though the words are coming slow as molasses and I circle back every five seconds to approach from a new angle.

I have been wanting to report on my progress attempting to fall in love with Paris. I’ve been pleasantly surprised to unlock some hidden depths of feeling for this city, though I can’t say I’ve fallen heads over heels yet. But I have felt the first stirrings of passion, and I’m pretty sure it has everything to do with my repeated return to the following activities: Continue reading

I’m one of those people now


This past Saturday at about 5:30pm, I got on the subway at Union Square with the intention of stopping by my apartment to do some work before heading back downtown to Murray Hill for an 8pm dinner date.

On a normal day, each commute would have taken no more than 45 minutes, leaving me with an hour to spend at home. On this particular day, train delays and reroutings conspired to keep me underground for two hours and transport me, very much without my knowledge or consent, all the way to the Bronx – but never to my actual home. At some point during my subterranean wanderings I realized I had run out of time even to run upstairs to change into a warmer coat and come back down again, so I abandoned the plan and switched to the southbound platform.

20+ miles, four subway lines, and zero actual accomplishments later (except, perhaps, exploring new frontiers of bladder control), I got off the train at Penn Station and spent ten minutes lost in a labyrinth of temporary drywall passageways. When I finally found the stairs to get above-ground, I stomped up each step like a petulant four year-old while seething, “Get me out of this city!” (Plus curses.) Walking to my friend’s house, I lowed at a flock of slow-moving women near Macy’s, “Pleaaaaassse moooooove!” and at the next crosswalk I snapped at a daydreaming pedestrian, “Watch it!” and stretched out my arms to indicate that I would shove him out of the way if he didn’t move on his own. (He did.)

I was in rare form, but instead of quickly calming down and recoiling from my behavior in horror and embarrassment, I just thought, yep, I’m way past due to take a break from New York City.

Then I arrived at my French friend’s house, where a raclette spread and the company of delightful people was waiting, and all became right with the world again. (Until it was time to take the subway back home.)

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P.S. The first two things I will acquire when once more I have a stable home are an espresso machine and a raclette maker. I’ll be sleeping on an air mattress but eating well!

[Drawing: Will Laren]

A quick visit to the Alps


I had been hankering for raclette ever since missing my chance to try it in France, so last Thursday I went to eat it in New York. Philippe found me a quirky little place that serves fondue and raclette – but only on winter nights they deem sufficiently cold – out of a dimly lit, speakeasy-like back room. Getting to it felt almost like going through the wardrobe into Narnia. Continue reading