Saturday, July 29, 2006

one hundred

This is it: both my 100th post and the last words of wisdom I offer to you from abroad. I am leaving France in two days, and disconnecting my internet in a few minutes. Thus, my 101st post will be direct from the Pacific Northwest. I should mention that July 14th was also Serena's first birthday. France celebrated with fireworks and declared the day a holiday, thus post offices and government buildings were all closed. I was touched.
The year has been good, bad, great, terrible, educational, I feel like I've regressed in so many ways. Above all, I don't want to return to the States, but understand that that is the plan laid before me. I have never been one to argue with "fate." I return hopeful that the year will truly be full of "lasts." And, I get to see some people I have missed (glass half full), but will be forced to mingle with those I left trying to escape (glass half empty).
Looking back on the blog, some of the things I've experienced/written about still make me laugh, while I feel that other posts would've been much richer (and possibly much shorter) had I been willing to share a little bit more of my real identity. Dommage. I also noticed several spelling/grammar errors and am happy to say that I really just don't care enough to go back and fix them. Desolée.
Well, friends, I will be back to post on my re-entry next week, but until, thanks for reading, your comments, and support.
Á bientôt,


Harmoniously Ever After...

I received an email from a friend recently: she is the same age as I am—I’ve known her for several years, in fact. But we are in very different places. She graduated from college two years ago and while she has a steady job/career, all of her time and energy as of late have gone towards finding a husband/provider of seed. The email was a simple “this is what I am doing in my life,” “Voilà, the latest gossip from people we really couldn’t give a shit about unless they are miserable and, therefore, merit discussion,” and coming from her: “this is what I am doing to find a husband (be it dating, stalking, fraud…).” Sounds like she is doing well.
Anyway, in her e-mail, she explained she has been trying out online dating services; one she particularly “They have this test that asks every question you could ever imagine about life and sex and relationships—it’s proven to work. You also get a personality profile that tells you all this stuff about you.” She was very impressed by said test and said I should take it; “It freaked me out!”
Well, I was bored last night; I’ve packed up all of my DVDs and books, and I couldn’t find a movie online, so I went to I just wanted to take the test (I’m not really into dating services—or looking for anyone to date at the moment).
The test is thorough and, consequently, very long. It took longer than 30 minutes to complete, but at the end, their site gave me about 4 pages of small print psycho-analysis (a $40 value—yours free at, and another 4 pages telling me about my perfect man. Unfortunately, it didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know (I’m a pretty self-aware person).
Now, I just wanted to take the test, I wasn’t going to sign up for anything, nor did I want to cruise their site. I just wanted to take their test, but after you take the test, they automatically match you with other eHarmony clientele. And what do you know if I didn’t have some matches. As a non-subscriber you can view their profiles, which are also…er, um thorough, and if you would like to talk to them—or if they would like to talk to you—you have to subscribe. I just wanted to take the test. But some of my matches continue to express interest in contacting me. I am not a subscriber. Sorry.
The problem with all of these “matches” wanting to talk to me: it really freaks me out. Not because these men are on a dating service, or that I don’t know them, or that one of them is 19 and looking to get married and have a family (apparently, he doesn’t mind if I already have children). It freaks me out because I am sssssssssooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo not in that place. I don’t want to get married or have kids right now—hell; I don’t want to date anybody right now. I had a small panic attack while reading my matches’ profiles. I couldn’t help but feel very claustrophobic. I’m sure these guys are all very nice (they never would’ve had a chance if I was seriously seeking love), but if given the choice, my profile would not have been available to be compared to anyone else. eHarmony isn’t exactly; these men are looking for serious relationships. They want to open lines of communication with me and see if we really are a “match for friendship or maybe even love!” *shudder*
I know there is no pressure for me to contact any of them—I am not able to as I am not a subscriber, but there is some kind of pressure to be, at the very least, dating right now. My therapist says that I should at least go out with more men “to practice,” if you will. I told her I’d rather practice with my vibrator. She said that’s not what she meant.
The whole experience just sorta freaked me out. That’s all.
It’s a thing—a problem, I know.
So, as you can imagine, I am a little wigged as every time I’ve opened my inbox in the last 24 hours, I’ve been greeted by a new match looking to “open lines of communication with me.”
My view of dating services is a bit closed-minded (I tend to not look to favorably on them), but this whole “freaky” experience has got me thinking: I’d like to know what all of you, my adoring fans think.

UPDATE: check out cute story in comment

20 pts for film:
“I can see it all now, this is gonna be just like last summer. You fell in love with that girl at the Fotomat, you bought forty dollars worth of fuckin' film, and you never even talked to her. You don't even own a camera.”

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

you spell it S-A-N-T-A-C-L-A-U-S

Last night (Monday, July 24th, 2006), I was perusing the Library of Congress online archives for a movie to watch. There are several classic films available to download or stream for free (public domain films), and I chose Reefer Madness followed by Santa Conquers the Martians. It was made in 1964. It stars a very young Pia Zadora. It is not a classic. It was one of the saddest-- not funny in a pathetic, ironic-- things I have ever seen. You MUST watch it. If, for no other reason, than the song: a classic holiday ditty that, sadly, never really seemed to catch on.
You see, after walking around the 'cook-an-egg' HOT streets of Paris for close to 5 hours, I was ready to sit naked in front of my fan and watch something that would make me laugh. My day started by being turned away from La Villette. They are open everyday-- except Mondays (MERDE: it takes forever to get out there). So, off I went to see the Cindy Sherman at Jeu de Paume at the Tuilleries. It too is closed Mondays. FUCK. Serena. Getting. Hot. As in. Both. Angry. And. Faint. With. Chaleur.
So, I decided to head to le Grand Palais where a bunch of machines of the ancient world are on display (catapults, etc.). Instead of descending back into the bowels of hell er, um... I mean the Metro, I walked along the Seine and laughed at tourists (my new favorite sport-- that and 'Name That Tourist's Nationality').
When I got to le Grand Palais, I couldn't find the entrance or ticket booth. The facade of the building is covered in scaffolding and confusing signs with arrows pointing me in every different direction. Finally, I found the "entrance," but no one was there, and the ticket booth windows were all closed. I was there during their hours of business, the right day of the week, and I verified the dates of the exposition, but as with some things in France: it just wasn't open, and no rational reason can be provided. Dommage.
Then, I headed to the very other side of town to the Jardin de Plantes. It's a zoo, garden, and paleontology museum (dinosaur bones, wooley mammoths). But, because the RER C line wasn't running, I had to take a bus and didn't get there until after 5:30. They weren't letting anybody else in. AARRGGHH! So, back to St. Michel to catch the RER home.
A rather fruitless day.
But, OH! Santa Conquers the Martians made my evening.

Saturday, July 22, 2006



If you have stopped by a few times in the last few days (doubtful-- where have all my blog friends gone?), you will have noticed a few changes. Yep, I'm back online. I have updated my Serena Approved links, Photo Albums, I even made a few posts. And more is to come.
I leave France on the 31st of July. I won't lie: I don't want to leave. Just the thought of making the move renders me ill, and I won't even allow myself to think about the re-entry "culture shock" crisis I'm going to have.
So, to be sure, the first week or so that I'm back won't be too busy here; I will be occupied watching television and catching up on films I missed in the last year.
But, until then, count on me. I have a lot of shit to unload er, um...share with all of you.

*Too Much Information Warning: David Bowie gets it done for me in a way I cannot put into words. His androgynous hottness is equaled only by Tim Curry in The Rocky Horror Picture Show. As Gareth in Labyrinth, he was the first man to give me that same funny feeling between my legs I get on a bumpy bus ride.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Bois de Vincennes

I woke up this morning with a very sore knee. The awkward angle at which I kept my leg, ankle, and foot yesterday while driving did not agree and I could barely extend my leg today. I spent close to 30 minutes trying to walk it out, but as soon as I deemed it road worthy I headed out to the Twingo and decided to go…somewhere. Sure it’s Sunday in France, but that doesn’t mean the open road is closed. In truth, I would’ve been content just to drive all day, but I didn’t want to pay for the gas and tolls. I drove to the Bois de Vincennes. Just on the other side of the city limits, Vincennes is a big wooded park and home to the City’s zoo and botanical gardens. It is also surrounded by some very beautiful, never-in-my-life-will-I-be-able-to-afford-to-live-here homes. I took the Pte de Charenton exit and tried my best to follow signs to the zoo. Surely, if it wasn’t open, I could park the car and enjoy the park quand meme. The problem was that I couldn’t find the zoo. I found myself driving around the park not really sure where I was going, however, it was such a lovely day, I really didn’t care. The French were out in full force: joggers, cyclists, families picnicking, footballers, and kids playing with squirt guns. The two-lane park roads were full of cars looking for parking spots and vintage auto owners out for a Sunday drive. I just followed the flow of traffic; if it was easier to turn, I turned. If it was easier to go straight…
I found myself turning back towards the direction of Paris when I entered a large roundabout completely full of parked cars. ? I wasn’t really sure where to go or what to do when the people behind me started to honk their horns. And then I looked up: Le Chateau de Vincennes. Impressionant, wouldn’t you say? I navigated through the “parking lot” and headed back to the Parc Floral to leave the car.
I miss driving, and I miss driving a little car even more. My very first car was a 1989 Hyundai Excel (a two-door hatchback). I loved it. Fast and conveniently compact. I could whiz in and out of traffic, parking, etc. Before I left home, I was driving a boat that has sustained its fair share of damage (I am a good driver but when it comes to the big cars, I can’t park for shit). When I return home, my father is giving me his 2001 Lincoln towncar. A whale. A luxury whale to be sure, but a whale. Gas alone will probably bankrupt me every month, but due to family politics, selling it is not an option.
But, I digress…
I decided against taking the guided tour of the castle and church (the famous donjon—the tallest medieval donjon in existence—is, due to renovation, not open to the public), and walked around the grounds taking photos and soaking up the sun. It’s a great little castle complete with chapel, his and hers wings, giant donjon, and wall built to withstand dragons and knights of the roundtable.
Crossing to the other side of the castle grounds, I stopped to grab a sandwich and éclair, and picnic in the shade. Picnics on park benches will be missed. In the states, eating is done in your home or certain designated places: a restaurant, picnic area. You can’t just go into the mall, roll a burrito and start munching away.* In France—throughout Europe, cities are planned in such way that open-air, communal spaces are used for everything from, yes, eating to exercise, walking the dog to (in Paris) making out/grinding against a loved one. It’s not rare to find a young, beautiful American tourist sitting on a bench next to a busy commercial street enjoying her lunch. And said young, beautiful American tourist has no reason to feel at all out of place as many locals are doing the same.

Next up: le Parc floral. I really just walked around the park for a couple of hours. It’s quite large, and offers several amenities including a children’s play area, concert pavilion, several green house, restaurants, and relatively clean bathrooms. As it was Sunday afternoon, the park was full of families picnicking and enjoying the sun. The were everywhere. I felt a bit like John Candy in Summer Rental stepping over and on people as he made his way across the beach to his family. But it was fun to see a couple thousand people all in good spirits, all relaxed away from the city. Also, if you do have children, and you plan on coming to Paris, you must visit le Parc Floral for this:
This mammoth is only one of many pretty extraordinary “toys” to enjoy. They have bumper boats, mini golf, an outdoor discovery science park, etc. I was tempted to start climbing myself.
Admission to the park cost me 1€50 (student) and is open everyday.
Driving my little Twingo back to the city, I sighed and accepted the fact that I still have another month before I can drive whenever I want, and that I only have one month here in Paris.

*10 pts. for that one: film and name of character—not actor who played him

Life is a Highway

I actually really like that song. I know it’s a bit dated, I know it’s a bit trite, but it kinda kicks ass, and is—in my book—one of the all-time great road trip songs.
“Its relevancy to today’s post?” you might ask. Well, July 1st, I embarked on a journey: a road trip. I rented a car, filled it to the brim*, and drove through the picturesque Norman countryside and into Île de France.
I left Caen around 1 p.m. I didn’t immediately take the “interstate;” I wanted to make a quick stop in Lisieux to see the famed Carmelite Basilica. I had seen it from the train, sitting atop a hill, overlooking the city several times, but never made the 20-minute voyage. By car, it is more of a 40-minute trip as one travels at much slower speeds and must stop in every little hamlet and village on the way there. This is a complete pain in the ass if you are driving a manual transmission for the first time in almost 10 years.

The Basilica is…enormous. imposing. large. really large…big**. It is fairly new (built in the last century), and completely shames every other major cathedral I have ever seen. Ever. It’s big, yea—bigger than Notre Dame or Sacre Coeur in Paris, but the best thing about this church is the interior design. Every interior surface is covered in mosaic tiles. Saints, biblical scenes, heavenly beings, this church is off the hook, yo! They used bright, rich colors and the effect is…affecting.
There is very little else of interest in Lisieux. It is a pleasant French town with a population large enough to support a “mall” and McDo, but really skippable. The Basilica, however, is not. It is by far, my favorite church in Europe***.
Next, I was on the interstate, rocking out to a Scottish radio station I miraculously picked up. They were all about the upcoming UK/Portugal game, and were playing requests—including Tiffany’s I think we’re alone now!!!! I will never forget rolling all of my windows down, turning the volume all the way up and rocking out to my favorite 3rd grade song. I scared a few French cows, and received some concerned looks from other motorists.
Normandy is truly a beautiful region, and in the summertime, actually pleasant to visit. It is hot, green, and they like Americans. I really loved the drive, but I paid 16€ to put a quarter of a tank of gas in my Twingo, and another 15 on tolls. *grump*
Getting into Paris I did something I swore I’d never, ever do: I drove through Paris. I wish I could explain the rules of the road here, but I fear there aren’t any. In the city, there are no lanes, just space for one regular-sized car, or two compacts side by side, or two compacts and a scooter, or one regular-sized car, a dangerously close compact, and a scooter (sans helmet, of course). And as this is France, there are few stoplights, but several round-abouts. It appears to me that these are rather complete and total free-for-alls. At any given time, the large round-abouts in Paris (like Place d’Italie and l’Etoile) can have as many as 80 autos circling their cobble-stoned “lanes,” and not one of these cars, trucks, wagons abide by any of the same protocols as any of the others. And no one minds the speed limit. But I did it. I drove in Paris, and I lived. I am used to driving in heavy traffic—next to L.A., Seattle is the worst in the States, but I am not in the habit of driving in crazy traffic. Crazy traffic is…er, um crazy.
I got settled into my room, but without a parking permit, I was forced to leave the Twingo on the street. Unbeknownst to me, France would later win their World Cup Match against Brazil and everyone partying and watching the match on the big screens at the stadium next door would be spending the better part of three hours partying in said street. When I heard the fireworks, horns, and screams, I ran out into the street and to the car. I got in, locked the doors, and rolled the windows down. No one would be hurting my rental. No one. I had to sit, parked until all of the festivities were over with—which was a painfully long time, and spent several minutes trying to convince a guy that he and his girlfriend should not make-out on my bumper, and that no, I did not want to join them.
I will say that it was quite a show. Everyone was going completely nuts and the street—a main vein in Paris-- was shut down by the celebration. There was no traffic; the cops weren’t even trying. No fights, no vandalism (no permanent vandalism: a few over-turned trash cans), and a lot of fun.
And thus ended my first night back in the City of Lights.

*It took me about 3 hours to load the car (a Renault Twingo). I had pretty good visibility, but couldn’t move my seat or open the passenger door or hatch. Its tiny wheels earned their mileage that day.
**all the same thing, but different because of the spelling
***I am close to sure that is a
Carmelite church. I could be wrong. I am also close to sure that Liseux does have the French equivalent to a mall, but folks, Serena-abroad is a non-profit blog and thus, has little in the way of resources to commit to fact checking. That said, we gladly accept your generous donations in the form of clicking on the ads at the right of your screen.