Thursday, June 25, 2009

IT'S NINJA TIME

Off to NYC tomorrow to play a concert.
I need my bagels.
I need my pizza.
I need my English.
And I need my ninja girls.
:)

video

(film by Corey Tatarczuk)

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

WELL, HOWDY PART TWO

I am losing the battle with the tooth as it cracks off bit by bit.
Some people look cute with a gap tooth.
I'm not one of them.

video

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

WELL, HOWDY DOO!


When I was 16, I very gracefully knocked out half of my own front tooth with a tennis racket. "Swing up", he said. And swing up I did. Right into my own face nearly knocking myself out along with the tooth. Based on the sympathetic howls of laughter from my family as I stood crying with tooth now in hand, I decided at that point that comedy might be better suited for me than tennis.

Since then, every five years or so, the fake part of my tooth takes a good long look at my daily life and chooses the most inopportune time to fall out. Leaving me with a toothless grin somewhere between "hillbilly" and "6 year old". Like the time in college, sitting in the front row while nervously and stupidly flicking my front tooth with a pen. It flew out of my mouth and landed at the professor's feet which resulted in me nearly crawling across the floor and having to ask "um, excuth me, I juth need to pick up my tooth...thorry...thorry...."

THIS MORNING
Two days before I leave for NY for two weeks, I decided that three day old baguette really COULD work as toast and CRRRRRUNCH. Off with the tooth. This time, however, only MOST of it came off, instead leaving a tissue thin piece of tooth I can almost see through. Anything heavier than cream of wheat is gonna send the rest of this puppy flying.

okokokokokokokokokokok DO. NOT. PANIC. You can cry but NO PANIC.
NO PANIC.

I have yet to see a dentist here but remembered that a friend gave me the name of an American dentist a while ago. I called, my voice heavy with certainty that I would never be able to get an appointment on such short notice and would be spending the day trying to find someone who could fix this before I leave for uninsured NY. I almost fainted when the receptionist told me "sure, come in Thursday and we'll fix it". My New York dentist made me wait a WEEK the last time this happened and the final bill (WITH my insurance coverage) came to $450.

I just cannot get over the ease of my experience with the health care system here. Every time I have had to seek medical care, I get this trained pit in my stomach from being hassled by the American system for so many years. And I am young and had full health coverage! For all my friends who have NO coverage, it's just an inhuman NIGHTMARE. All the hour long phone calls I have made to insurance companies over the years...for ridiculous things like fighting over why I should not pay $300 out of pocket for a mammogram as it is preventive care and is covered. (Apparently not if you're under 35 even if it was prescribed by the doctor....and why is a mammogram $300 in the first place?) I have not had to pay off thousands of dollars in dental bills in installments over three years time. The list goes on....

I know that the health care system here in France faces issues of how it will continue to pay for all the care, but I really hope this will last. Because it feels amazing when a society takes care of its citizens. When it's seen as a right, not a privilege to receive basic health care.

Go France!

:).....smiling my toofless grin.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Fête de la Musique....aka REVOLUTION


If you are looking for a real confidence booster, stand on a chair in the middle of a Parisian street and yell through a microphone for a revolution of the artists against the neighbors.
"TAKE BACK OUR STREEEEETS!! WE ARE THE LIFE OF THE CITY!!! DOWN WITH THE NEIGHBORS!!! WE WILL NOT BE SILENCED!!!"
It works.
I promise.
Because today I feel AWESOME.

Last night I had an out of body experience as I played a loud rock gig on the streets of Paris for La Fête de la Musique, the annual day and night where it is legal to play music outside and for clubs and bars around the city to play music as loud as they want to. It's basically one big street party in some areas. I was the most nervous I have been before a show as I realized I would be playing to an entire street of drunk people so, turning to my bandmates shortly beforehand I said, "OK guys, cut all the slow songs and play the fast ones faster."

IT'S GO TIME.

I could tell it went well as the local shirtless and toothless drunkards high fived me with their 40s. I have to say, it was my favorite concert I have played here so far. I LOVE the streets of Paris and I ESPECIALLY love being amplified really loud in them. I wish Paris was like this every night.....ALIVE and LOUD. I thought the noise ordinances in New York had gotten ridiculously bad, but they are NOTHING compared to Paris. My major complaint is this....artists move to a cheap area and start a scene, the Bobos follow suit and move to the now "cool" area and then proceed to complain about the level of noise. I saw it happen in New York and it's the same, even worse here. I have been told I am singing too loud by soooo many clubs here because of the "neighbors". Maybe it is the same in every city. But enough! This is a CITY, not a morgue and no cultural scene will thrive to its fullest if it is constantly being shut down for fear of "upsetting the neighbors". If it's so horrible, then move to one of the many quiet suburbs and stop trying to squelch the life that MAKES a city.

Ahhhh.....til next year....in the meantime I will keep yelling for revolution.
On the mic.
And extra loud.
:)

p.s. Unfortunately, my camera messed up and I only have the one crappy picture of the scene last night.....maybe someone else has some shots? I saw lots of cameras around....please send if you have any! Merci!

Friday, June 19, 2009

THE RETURN OF TRACY FLICK

Thursday 6:12PM
Walking hurriedly through crowded St. Germain, my phone rings...

FB: Tu marches vers ta classe?
ME: Quoi?
FB: Tu marches vers ta classe?
ME: Quoi?!
FB: Tu vas à ta classe?
ME: Quoi?!
FB: Are you walking to your class right now?
ME: OH MY GOD, SAY IT IN FRENCH! YOU HAVE TO TALK TO ME IN FRENCH!! THIS IS EXACTLY WHY I AM TOTALLY GOING TO FAIL!!!
FB: Uh, I just did say it in French....like, three times....
ME: I CAN'T TALK ABOUT THIS RIGHT NOW! DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA HOW MUCH PRESSURE I AM UNDER???? I HAVE TO GO!! OH MY GOD, I AM LATE!!!
FB: Bon courage mon amour!
ME: Quoi?!
FB: Je t'adore!
ME: Yeah, yeah....

Click.

As the whole class stood in the hallway waiting to be called in one by one for the oral exam, I nervously clutched my bag and studied the student murals on the wall. It can't hurt to brush up.....what if one of the questions is about snakes?



Why are all the other students relaxed and smiling? And why did that guy get called first? What's the order here? How much longer am I going to have to wait? MY GOD, why everyone SO LOUD?? Some people are trying to FOCUS HERE....Jesus Christ, I can't even here my OWN thoughts given the...

"DANA."

Oh my God, it's my turn. (wildly look around for my bag that is already in my hand) ohmygodohmygodohmygod (open door, walk towards teacher's desk) ohmygodohmygod (sit down....now, take it easy...DO NOT FREAK OUT) ohmygodohmygodohmygod...

As she handed my written test to me, I saw it. 30.5 points out of 40.
I passed.
I PASSED.
And had I not blown 9 out 10 points on the oral comprehension section (quelle surprise)...that WOULD have been a 99%.

Yes, I am THAT person. THAT student you knew in grade school, freaking out all the time, SWEARING she will fail and then totally surprised when she gets an A+..."Ohhhh! You mean I got the extra credit part right TOOOOOO?" Just slap me. I would. There are some personality traits I would gladly part ways with. Exaggerated neurosis is at the top of my list.

I have to go put together my summer reading list now.

Byeeeeeee xxxxxxx

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

THE TEST

5 hours, 12 minutes before THE TEST...


GET OUT OF BED. IT IS AFTER 1PM. Why are you so retarded? Just CAAAAALM DOOOOOOOWN. It is JUST a French test. A stupid, two hour long, this means EVERYTHING TO ME French test.....So what? So what if you FAIL and have to repeat the ENTIRE five month class again? You WILL NOT fail....you studied so hard for five MONTHS, get a grip on yourself.....I'm sick. I'm really sick this time. YOU ARE NOT SICK, YOU DO THIS EVERY SINGLE TIME. I'm so dumb, I'm so dumb, I'm so dumb...STOP IT...I'm gonna fail, I'm gonna fail, I'm gonna fail....THAT IS NOT POSITIVE THINKING YOU IDIOT!....I'm gonna freak out, I'm gonna freak out, I'm gonna freak out, I am freaking out, I am freaking out, I am freaking out..GET OUT OF MY HEEEEEEAD......ok now my stomach REALLY hurts, I think I have a sinus infection......sigh...how old ARE you anyway? 12? When are you going to stop acting like a 4th grader and start taking things in stride? This is all my Mom's fault, she's nervous too and I totally inherited this from her....that's why.....my genes are messed up.....I have messed up nervous genes....how am I supposed to pass with messed up nervous genes???....my family is from Germany anyway, I was clearly meant to learn German....duh....this is totally FB's fault, if he had actually corrected me more than once a year maybe I might have LEARNED something THE RIGHT WAY instead of the TOTALLY WRONG WAY, yeah this is all HIS fault, UNBELIEVABLE.....I'm sick, I have a sinus infection and this is all my Mom and FB's fault....imperatif....shit....I didn't restudy the imperative....(heart racing) OMG, I TOTALLY FORGOT THE IMPERATIVE TENSES!!! WHAT AAAAARE THEY???? WHERE ARE MY STUDY SHEETS???? They are around here somewhere.....I cannot BELIEVE I didn't think to review the imperatives again....how could I DO this to myself????...what's the imperative of CALM THE FUCK DOWN??? Tranquilles-toi? N'inquietes...uh....toi? Or something something.....ok you are hyperventilating now. Good job. Glad your Kung Fu training has paid off, you REALLY know how to handle pressure. Real ninja material here. What would Bruce Lee do?
GET.
OUT.
OF BED.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

LES ENFANTS


I went to Lyon this past week to play some music for the best audience I have had since arriving in France. Children ages 3 to 6. The thing I love about young kids is that they don't lie and they expect to be thoroughly entertained. You can't bring your B game. If they don't like what you're doing, they make a face and put their hands over their ears and tell you to stop playing mid song. If they like it, they stand up and squeal with delight and clap their hands. It's like the Gong Show. I love it.

I went as part of a program called Have A Good Night, a really wonderful artistic endeavour set up by Jerome from Blog Up Musique. He puts together a compilation CD each year available for free download. It consists of lullabies for children from 20 or so indie bands from around the globe. The result is a really beautiful CD that I was lucky to be part of this year. As part of the program, some participating artists were asked to come to Lyon and do a day of concerts for children at a local elementary school. um....YES!

I received instructions to meet at the train station to take a 6AM train to Lyon. Ouch. The night before, my usual nerves kicked in as I realized I would be traveling alone for an entire day conducted in French. Sigh. As my confidence level in my French has been in the toilet as of late, I barely slept thinking of all the ways I could go down in flames. I double sighed as my alarm went off at 4:45AM and got up thinking, "well, here we go again.....walk it off Boulé, walk it off."

I carried my 90 pound accordion to the station and found my seat. I met the other three musicians: Isabelle and David from Pollyanna and Minnie from eliote & the ritournelles. They were super cool and after my usual language panic bitch slap (which, at 6AM is even more pronounced), I settled into another day of grasping at conversation. Here I am grasping in my sleep....



We arrived to a warm welcome and the day got easier as I ingested more and more coffee. The first group arrived and I swallowed hard, hoping I would remember the words to the French song I wrote the day before which consisted of little more than "what sound does a tiger make? uh....how about a rabbit? a dinosaur?" When in doubt, kids just want to make noise......


It was.....so.....much....FUN.

After our concerts, we were ushered to the cafeteria to eat lunch amongst the children. I was AMAZED at the difference in school lunches between the US and France. I expected a lunch line with unruly kids and meal of fried tater tots, greasy taylor ham on Wonder bread, cake and jello but instead we were served a proper three course meal by some super friendly lunch ladies. OK, I grew up on pizza thrown to you on a styrofoam plate by angry lunch ladies to be eaten in a deafeningly loud cafeteria. But THIS, this just seemed so....I don't know...civilized. Fresh salad and fresh melon followed by a meat and potato casserole. Then topped off with more fresh fruit and cheese. Children sitting quietly at tables for an entire meal......HUH?



After the last concert, we walked around Lyon for a bit and sat at a café for a beer. I smiled when I saw that hipsters are in fact, everywhere.....


Thank you musicians, Jerome and especially les enfants de Lyon for a really beautiful day and for sending my confidence level back up. I really really needed that.
:)

Thursday, June 04, 2009

DAY 527 - LE COUP DE PIED

I snapped today and I wish I could say I am sorry...but I'm not.


I live near Saint-Germain-Des-Prés. Also known to me as hell. If it's not the swarm of tourists walking at a snail's pace down a narrow two foot wide sidewalk, then it's the huge amount of flat-out douchebags who live in this area. We've been here almost a year and it is really starting to get to me. Over-dressed, over-perfumed, over-coiffed, over the top ego, over snotty, over self important douchebags. Tons. On every sidewalk and each corner. I have tried every conceivable route to and from my apartment and the metro station but there's just no avoiding them, especially in June when everyone and their mother is outside enjoying the sunshine.

There's a crosswalk near the Saint-Germain-Des-Prés metro station, right by the bus stop. I cross it every day and almost always, the cars do not make any effort to slow down or stop. I usually just wait for them to pass but today, I did not wait. I don't know why. I guess I didn't really care. I had just come from Savate class where I insisted the teacher let me practice my punches on him for an extra 30 minutes. I had my usual rolling cart in tow with me and I felt good. Annoyed. Crabby. Motivated. The norm.

I saw a car coming but I stepped into the crosswalk anyway. F that. YOU slow down. The car proceeded to miss me by a hair's breadth and as it went past, inches from running me down, I did something I always WANT to but never ACTUALLY do. I kicked the car as hard as I could and yelled "PUTAIN SALOOOOPE!", let go of my cart and flipped the driver an over the head, two arms raised in glory position double bird. I may as well have had a slow-mo 360 degree camera pan around me while the orchestra plays the theme to Rocky.
It felt THAAAAT good.

But then the car stopped and backed up.
Um.....oops.
Now, I would normally NEVER in a million years kick a car in NY and proceed to call it a fucking bitch, much less scream it at the top of my lungs in the middle of a crosswalk. But those are the only two curse words I know and.....I dunno, I'm a foreigner in France losing her mind so somehow it seemed appropriate.

I half thought about running away but there were onlookers and I didn't want to seem like the jackass trying to flee the scene with a rolling cart in tow, tripping over cobblestone roads. I mean, what would the tourists think? Really. As I got to the sidewalk, he was already backed right up to where I stood, hanging out his window and yelling his head off at me. Just as I thought....an over coiffed dude in a fancy car with stupid sunglasses and a face just BEGGING for a swirly.

My fear subsided. I don't even need to run because this jackoff is clearly never going to actually get out of his fancy car, plus he's going to be blocking traffic in about two seconds. Yell away, doucheface. Be my guest. I tried for a second to understand what he was saying but I couldn't make anything out. And as I had already exhausted the extent of my French insults, what's the point anyway?

Then it happened. The flash of light where the witty comeback just appears so clearly in the moment, instead of after the fact. Smiling, I put my hands defiantly on my hips and yelled back in English, "LOOK DUDE, I DON'T EVEN KNOW WHAT YOU'RE SAAAAAAAAYING TO ME!!! 'CAUSE I'M RUBBER AND YOU'RE GLUE AND WHATEVER YOU SAY BOUNCES OFF OF ME AND STICKS TO YOU!!!!JERK!!!" And with that, I marched off down the side-street where I congratulated myself on the creativity and randomness of my 3rd grade level comeback, hoping an American tourist may have heard and caught my prepubescent reference.

I won't be making a habit of kicking cars but I do think I will make a new habit of working in 3rd grade insults.....actually, I just really want to call someone "poopy pants". That's all.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

DAY 525 - THE GREAT PRETENDER


I am getting dumber.
I know this.
I can feel it.
My brain cells are one by one packing up somewhere far beyond my reach. I don't even speak good English anymore. My posts have been fewer, my patience has been thinner and my brain is more fried. Frieder.
Way more frieder.
I have had French class twice a week since January. Whenever people asked about my French, I used to say "Wow, it SURE is harder than I thought!" with my BUT I SURE AM GIVIN' IT A GOOD OLE' TRY! smile smile, wink wink.

Now when I am asked why I don't understand, I just say "Because I am slow and stupid. Did you know I am dumbest one in my class? Seriously. I am the stupidest one. My head is like a brick, I sit in the first desk in the front row too and I study two hours a day and I do ALL the homework and I try every day really REALLY hard. But I am just really slow and stupid."

That usually wraps up the conversation pretty fast.
I'm not even upset about it anymore.
Screw it.

In March, I passed the 15 month mark of moving to France. When it came and went with no perceptible change in my level of permanent confusion, I have to say, I got depressed. I had heard from so many different people about the magic "usually around 15 months or so, you will see a sudden difference, you'll just start to understand"...
And so, I waited.
I waited 15 long months for that magic moment to come. 15 went into 16 into 17 and now on this, my 525th day of wrestling with this language, I have to admit to myself, I feel defeated.

I'm really, almost unnaturally, good at pretending I know what is said to me. I can usually catch enough of the social cues to pretend my way right through every conversation. But it's exhausting trying to make sense out of two paragraphs having caught only CHEESE, HOUSE and HORROR. I could make about 65 different narratives out of that one, each one more implausible than the last. It's exhausting. I'm tired of the GUESS THE SUBJECT OF THE CONVERSATION! game. I fold. I can't do it anymore. I don't KNOW what the subject is, I don't KNOW why you are all laughing so hysterically, I don't KNOW why someone names PIERRE had something to do with a SANDWICH and it was HILARIOUS. I can't pretend laugh HAHAHA PIERRE SANDWICH! HAHAHAHAHA! HAHAHAHAHAH!!! PIERRE SANDWICH!!!! HAHAHAHAHAHAHHA!

A few times I have been too tired to pretend and have let the truth come out and it usually goes like this.....

YOU: GRBLEGREBLGREBLEGRBLE GRBLE GRBLE GRBLE GRBLE
ME: Yyyyyyyyeah, I have no idea what you just said. I dunno, maybe slower?
YOU: OH. OK. GRRRRRRBLE GRRRRRRRRBLE GRRRRRRRRBLE GRRRRRRRRBLE GRRRRRRRBLE!
ME: Yyyyyyeah, that actually isn't working at all either. I still got nothing on that one. Was it about a banana that caught on fire or something? No? Wait, was it you have fear of pineapples? No? OK, don't worry about it. Just move on. You don't need to tell me the 5 minute broken English version, it's cool. I probably won't understand that one either. It's seriously not worth it. Just moooove on, you can even go talk to someone else if you want too. Seriously. I'm cool with it. I get it. It's cool.

I have to run to French class right now and count down 120 more minutes, hoping last week's conversation doesn't happen again.

TEACHER: blah blah blah blah SUBSTANTIF blah blah blah
ME: (knowing I should not have asked a proactive question) Um, excuse me? What is a substantif?
TEACHER: blah blah blah blah blah
ME: (vigorous nod of the pretending head) OH RIGHT! OF COURSE! MERCI!
TEACHER: What is the word in English?
ME: (busted. purple face) Uh.....uh........uh.....
GERMAN GIRL BEHIND ME: It's called a NOUN.
CLASS: silent.

Fuck you, Germany. Thanks for throwing me under the bus. You want to paint SHIT FOR BRAINS across my forehead too while you are at it?
Nazi.

I gotta go.
I'll be back more often.

xo Dana