Friday, April 6, 2012

Another fine week in the rue du Vertbois

Time seems to be accelerating - I can't believe that today was the end of my fourth week of class already. Our new teacher, Agnes, is excellent -- much more demanding than Roderige, who seemed to underestimate our potential (this is not the royal we, it's a view shared by my classmates). The most striking aspect of Agnes's class is her beginning every day by making us listen to the morning news on the radio from 9:00 to 9:30, take notes, and summarize what we manage to retain. This was completely brain-scrambling on Monday, but by today it was already noticeably easier. By the end of the month, it should make a real difference. The class reaction was entirely predictable -- we all whined like babies the first day. And now we love it! One of the particular challenges in this exercise is getting the numbers down, whether it's the sport scores, the Bourse results, the weather forecast, or the latest polling results in the presidential race. It's hilarious to watch the expressions of my classmates as they struggle to get all the numbers right, and I'm sure my face is no different. It's a different kind of challenge than trying to explain to a Quality Control scientist how many decimal places she should include when reporting a lab result, and at this point in my life it's way more fun.

Yesterday, on our sortie pedagogique, we visited the Parc Monceau in the 17th arrondissement, after which we visited the Musee Cernuschi, known for its Asian artefacts. Along the way, I saw a new Space Invader:

The museum was guarded by these two critters -

In the description that Anne handed out before the excursion, the phrase "gidouilles pataphysiques" was used to describe them. Neither word appeared in my regular petit Larousse. But, by means of extensive researches on the interwebs, I have been able to determine that "gidouille" apparently refers to the kind of logarithmic spiral beloved by Bernoulli, among others:

"pataphysique" ... well, do I have to do all the work around here? You could look it up yourself (hint: Le Roi Ubu).

Yvonne arrives tomorrow. So, in between NCIS reruns, there is a certain amount of cleaning and laundry going on here.

Bonne weekend !!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Une journee excellente

I do like Wednesdays! In the morning, we have our improvisation class. Then today I went back to lunch at Chez Alain, where I had the tomato salad, chicken tarragon with frites, drink and coffee, all for only 16 Euros. After that, an hour at the gym. Then it was on to my private lesson with Danielle, from 18:30 to 20:00. We discussed this article:

An analysis of the presidential campaign as a contemporary recasting of the Hobbes-Rousseau worldviews. Total geekish fun to be able to have this discussion in French. Proves I learned something in the last 12 months.

Then, when I got home, two new episodes of the new Sherlock. More geekish fun. The first one (Reichenbach Falls) wasn't all that great. But the second one is "Le Chien des Baskervilles".

All in all, a very satisfactory day.

Have I mentioned how much fun I'm having here in Paris?

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Me talk pretty one day

Well, here I am, masquerading daily as a C1 (advanced) student, and yet I still have my David Sedaris moments. Just now I stepped outside to pick up some wine at the grocery store. I noticed that all the car roofs were wet, so I decided to engage in some meteorological small talk with the chef at the restaurant next door, who was sneaking a cigarette outside. Perhaps I should have thought better of it. As I launched confidently into the sentence "looks like it rained, huh?", I suddenly realized that I was missing one key component. The past participle of "pleuvoir", what the hell could it be?

So I ended up stammering, "Il a pleuré, non ?" Reasonably enough, this was met with the kind of stare of blank incomprehension you would give to an idiot who approached you and said, "it has wept, no?" . What to do? I tried gesticulating torrential rain motion, with predictable lack of success. Finally, since the right word still wouldn't come, I was reduced to pidgin: "the water, she has fallen from the sky, no ?" Puzzled acquiescence.

David Sedaris would have been proud of me.

For the record, the damned past participle of "pleuvoir" is apparently "plu". Which I would never have guessed in a gazillion years, as I have always believed (correctly, it seems) that "plu" was the past participle of "plaire" (to please).

So now the neighbors think I am nuts. Or simple-minded. Or both.

Oy vey!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Some things I worry about

I may live to regret this post. But it occurs to me that, despite the overall sense of well-being it has been my good fortune to enjoy on each of my trips to Paris to date, I am plagued with a remarkable knack of finding minor details to worry about. Actually I suspect everyone is the same way, as a species we seem to be remarkably adept at locating imaginary flies in the ointment.

Last spring, for instance, my constant fear was that I would get trapped in the remarkably claustrophobic shower in the apartment, and that they would only find my shrivelled-up, prune-like, emaciated corpse when the smell became so overpowering that the neighbors finally broke down the door. This time around, the shower is not a problem. The spiral staircase, in contrast, is so treacherous to negotiate, especially when going downstairs, that I have ongoing nightmares of making a false step and ... well, you know the rest ... discovery of emaciated corpse, with broken leg piercing my flesh after days of unaccounted absence from school.

I am, of course, aware that neither of these scenarios is realistic in any sense. The apartment here is at street level, just next to the entrance to the building, so it's a safe bet that someone would come to my aid in response to my piteous cries for help. But the knowledge that these fantasies are irrational doesn't just make them go away, you know.

Then, on a more psychological level, there was my conviction last fall that I would become addicted to (delicious) limoncello, falling prey to its seductive charms and eventually ending my stay as an SDF ("sans domicile fixte", the French for a homeless person, the word "clochard" no longer being current, apparently). This time around I have thus far managed to resist the allure of limoncello, but am in clear danger of becoming addicted to the delicious baguettes sold at the little bakery around the corner. To the point that I may swell up like a pig ready for slaughter and become stuck while trying to navigate the treacherous spiral staircase. Though at least this nightmare scenario is self-limiting, as presumably a few days sans baguettes would render me slim enough so that I could become unstuck again. Unless, of course, I managed to break a limb while thrashing to become unstuck ...

You see what I mean? I am ashamed even to be sharing this with you, so ridiculously first-world are these "problems".

Maybe I will go downstairs and snack on a tasty morsel of baguette...

Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Museum of Decorative Arts

After three weeks I can say with absolute conviction that, although French presidential campaigning may not be quite as abysmally stupid as its American counterpart, it is just as annoying. And as hard to get away from.

I spent the afternoon with Gabriella and Nancy at the Musee des Arts Decoratifs. Though the 9.50 Euro admission fee seemed steep initially, the place is enormous. And wonderful. We spent the best part of an hour in the "Jean-Louis Vuitton to Marc Jacobs" special exhibit (fun, but too packed with fashionistas, who are very rude gallery attendees, all elbows and getting in your line of vision). Then I set off in search of the Babar exhibit, but never made it, getting sidetracked time and time again by such wonders as the jewelry galleries, the Art Deco floors (two of them, with objets d'art and furniture to die for), the trompe l'oeil gallery, and so on.

At 16:00, after three hours, we staggered out into the sunlight and had lunch at a cafe in the Tuileries. Then Nancy tried to tempt me into breaking my lenten abstinence by bringing me to a place with macaroons she described in terms not suitable for a family blog. Fortunately, Satan was asleep on the job, and the place was closed. (Though I don't think my lenten resolution would have been seriously tested, as I don't really like macaroons).

It was a very pleasant afternoon. Here are just two of the pieces I coveted while in the museum (though photos were forbidden, I managed to take a few dozen anyway):