Archive for 39

New York,

Posted in New York with tags on October 7, 2013 by ana

On nights when jazz wafts out of one apartment, up the street, and in through my bedroom window you make me feel like I’m living in a movie. I like that about you.

PS: On those nights I feel like I’m 23 again (in the best of ways) and forget that you have lots of ugly new buildings and chain stores. On those nights I may even forgive that some of your neighborhoods are now barely recognizable (in not quite the best of ways.)

Love, labor, lost

Posted in New York with tags , , , on September 17, 2013 by ana

It’s been a long time since I sat down to write. I stopped writing because I started to feel like the posts I was writing were getting repetitive but also because I decided to move to New York, and I wasn’t sure how I felt about writing that down. When I realized I had to move it felt like if I wrote it I had somehow given up on Paris. So I didn’t write at all and now so many things have happened that is hard to know where to begin. So here is where I left off. During my last two months in Paris I

– finished my five weeks of pastry school.

– had a fling with a boy from LA visiting Paris. We went dancing, ate palmiers from different bakeries in the Marais for breakfast, kissed in the middle of the street late at night, and had an oyster bacchanalia.

– moved, again.

-spent a quiet, magical christmas eve with my mom.

-felt sad to be alone on New Year’s but danced until five in the morning at Rosa Boneheur with some fabulous frenchy friends.

-walked myself home in the rain from Parc Butte Chaumont to Chatelet at five in the morning on New Year’s day.

-spent afternoons in Montmarte with my friend Joey going for arepas or to the movies after buying candy from a chubby french lady who wore her hair in two braids.

-went to San Sebastian with my friend Kelly. Where I made dessert for my friends supper club and ate so much delicious food that I still think about.

-had a magical night at the Louvre watching the Marina Abramovic documentary.

-had the most perfect going away party in my friend Cleo’s insane hotel room overlooking the Tuileries with the Eiffel Tower twinkling at a distance.

I decided to move to New York as I finished my written exam for pastry school. The same voice that said I should move to Europe popped back in my head and said, what are you thinking trying to open a business in Paris there is still so much you need to learn. Grow up. Go home.

I wish I had kept up my writing because so many memories of those last month are coming back as I type this. Including how strange and comforting it felt to go to the embassy when I had to get some papers signed. How many ham and cheese galette with a bowl of cider lunches I had mourning my departure, how the sun never came out for the entire month of January and I spent 90 percent of that month completely alone walking along the seine, watching movies in my apartment, and trekking to Monoprix.

I miss Paris. I think about it almost every other day. I miss the rhythm, my friends, the supermarket. I was never a girl who dreamed of going to Paris. I was just a girl who wanted to live in Europe and in the end Paris completely stole my heart. Sometimes I can’t believe I did it. It seems like a dream. Like a movie of someone else’s life. Others I can’t believe I didn’t try harder to stay.

But as soon as I arrived in NY it felt like the right decision was made. NY welcomed me with the open arms of an old friend. She said, welcome back, pull up a chair, stay a while, stay forever perhaps.  Many times in the last seven months I wanted to write something here but didn’t. Now it feels like too many details to fill in. Within a week of being back I had a job and a great apartment. What ensued since has been intense, endurance building, at times extremely lovely and rewarding, and at others sad and maddening.

There was a boy and for a brief second I thought- wow! But in the end he had many pieces but not all the right ones. It was amateur hour on my part. I got burned. I felt foolish. And all of it by my own hand. Dealing with that part and looking at myself in both an introspective and forgiving way has proven to be a hard task.  Specially because I feel lonely and it vexes me.
I’m not sure how to make peace with the feeling and with how my choices have deposited me in them. I have chosen a career that gives me a weird schedule. I have moved many times leaving behind communities I loved and built. I can only be me but what am I doing right and what am I doing wrong. The only word I can think of that perfectly describe how I feel is abysmal. Not because I feel extremely bad. I feel simply bad but it carries a tunnel like feel to it.
Is it all the changes and transitions that have ocurred in the last two years that leave me feeling unstable? Is it my looming birthday?  My biological clock? The simple desire to share my life with someone?  This part of my life is driving me bananas in a way it never did when I was younger. And I know I have to reseign myself to it but it is incredibly hard. I felt like this around my last birthday too- a weepy, needy puddle. I have never been that girl but I feel such deep frustration at life not giving me what I think I need and it feels helpless.

One of the biggest lessons as of late has been that things are not a choice that once made just happens. Patience, discipline, commitment these are not words that once chosen one suddenly embodies. I don’t know why I always thought that and why I never believed myself capable of them. These words, these choices, along with many others occur as a constant dialogue. We don’t wake up everyday feeling these feelings but rather, often but not always, need to go looking for them within us. Sometimes they become second nature and sometimes we need to find stronger, clearer definitions of them.

I have worked harder these last months than I ever have in my life. I have never been poorer. And I have come to the realization that it makes sense (somewhat) that people in kitchens make so little. It’s a test of endurance and love.
Right now, as I write this, I feel such deep sadness and loneliness. Maybe it’s because I can’t stop thinking of my sister who is in rehab, and I feel such sorrow, confusion, anger, and despair that I can barely talk about it. Or maybe it’s because I started a new job, and like any new job, it’s not exactly how I envisioned and I hoped it would be.
Right now, and for the last few weeks, there is a darkness that I can not seem to shake. I’m tired of these moments but know there is nothing to do but live them. I think this is a test of surrender. To just have faith, to will myself to have faith, that I will fall in love again, that I will find a life and community in NY, that I won’t always be broke or feel lost.  I am longing to weather these storms and feel a sense of triumph and accomplishment but all I can do right now is put my head down and work.

I heart Cary Tennis.

Posted in paris with tags , , , on January 9, 2013 by ana

Cleaning my computer I came across one of his columns saved many, many years ago. Given the decisions (going to New York) and the changes (a fresh new set of uncertainties) ahead it seemed apropos to post it below.

Dear Pond Jumper, 

Isn’t it strange how you can fly somewhere and suddenly that’s where you live? We just end up places. It’s the modern condition. I don’t think we’ve adjusted yet, as a species — the way we’re wired, that is. Yes, there are bureaus and agencies to administer the shifting accounts of nationality and wealth, of telephone number and e-mail address; yes, the you@your.e-mail.abode is a borderless fiction of zero gravity that moves with you nearly at the speed of light. But what we used to call a person — not so much the body itself, which can move in and out of its cultural crosshairs, but the location of the being defined by intersecting lines of family, history, soil, trade, the sets, unions and subsets of attributes and proclivities, the smells you smelled as a child and the smells your grandfather smelled as a child, all that: It was thus for so long a given that maybe we didn’t even think to place a high enough price on the geographic and temporal circumstances that define who we are, and then our easy, automatic sense of rootedness, of connection, of belonging, slipped away so quietly and so fast we couldn’t quite remember what it was supposed to feel like. And now we move to Paris and what we say about the view is, it’s the view that you saw in that movie. 

I’m always getting the question wrong. I wish that were part of my charm. Maybe if I were French, it might be part of my charm. But I’m American and I’m afraid my obliqueness comes across like a failure of manhood, something maybe they have a pill for in the drugstore. Besides, you’re not looking for some faux-Gallic take on things, are you? You’re looking for good-old fashioned American advice. 

Well, OK. How do you organize your identity now that you’re in exile? The best way, it seems to me, is by defining a purpose and a duration for the accomplishment of that purpose. Why are you in Paris? What do you mean to accomplish there? Is it only to have lived there? Is it only to smell the bread every day, to eat the food, hear the music of the language, feel the exquisite lightness of an ancient civilization and emulate it, absorb it, take it in like a culture vitamin? So how long, would you say, would that take? A year? Two years? Five? Put a time on it and then say, “This is what I am doing in Paris.” 

You need to construct a narrative. You need to be able to say something like, “I am living in Paris with my boyfriend but I only plan to stay here three years, and I will visit my family every year for two weeks.” Or you could say, “I am living in Paris because I prefer the pain of France to the pain of America, especially the delicate little pastries.” 

There are various reasons to be someplace. They don’t all have to be well-thought-out. You could say, “I like the air in Paris and for that reason I intend to remain, at least until the air in America improves.” Or you could say, “I am only here for an adventure; my home is in America, where my family and friends are, and where I grew up, and I intend to return there before the decade is out.” 

Do you see what I mean? You need a mission statement, as it were, so you can explain yourself to yourself and to others. Here are some other possibilities: “I am enjoying Paris, but since I cannot work here, I do not plan to stay indefinitely.” Or, “I am going to return to America for an education in international relations, after which I hope to return to Paris as a special attaché to the diplomatic corps.” Or, “I plan to stay here and study, raise a family, marry my boyfriend, and become a French citizen.” 

I came to San Francisco on a whim and stayed for the air and the beer. 

Perhaps Paris is for you like one of those things one must do before dying. If so, when you have done it, you will have to figure out what to do next. That can be a tough one if doing the next thing involves leaving the boyfriend. But that’s the way life goes. (That sounds at least a little French, doesn’t it?)

 

Covered in butter with a light dusting of flour

Posted in baking, paris with tags on December 11, 2012 by ana

My French is now a at a first, perhaps second, grade level. A very solid step forward from my kindergarten French. Everything is still in a time delay. It takes me 5 or 6 seconds to understand what someone has said but I’m no longer translating word for word what I hear. I actually understand. This is huge, satisfying, and down right exciting. I still feel shy at times about speaking but each day less and less.

School started two weeks ago. They were not kidding when they called it basic intensive pastry. I’m in school between nine to thirteen hours a day six days a week. I love the intensity in the same way that I loved being a busy waitress. You have to stay present but with your peripheral vision in the next step or two ahead. You can’t think about the past except for, again, peripherally keeping track of time. As in, I  put my cake in the oven twenty minutes ago. Any further thinking about events past will only trip you up. If you messed up your tart dough (as I am known to do) or a table you waited on was rude or annoyed at you. You can not dwell on it too much, you can only remedy it and move forward.

When I’m at school I like to imagine Julia Childs there even though I’m pretty sure the Cordon Bleu she went to was in a different area and building. I like to think her spirit and that of the fictional Sabrina roam the halls, much like Wim Wender’s angels roamed the library in Berlin, and watch over me. There is something very stodgy about the school and all the recipes we are learning, cakes made with flavorless candied fruit, tarts filled with too much cream and tinned pears but it’s a base and I’m learning. I’m learning that I have so much to learn, and in making yet another variation of a pastry filled with almonds and raisins or syrupy cherries I am tightening a lot of loose screw in my skills. It’s not the filing but the container, and thus my pate sucre and my laminated doughs are becoming truly mine. There is something about the blandness of the sweets that is making me explode with ideas. For so long I didn’t know who I was. I often felt like dormant, errant potential, and now it no longer feels that way.

Some days I think I want to do another chunk of time there and others I want to step out and learn another way. I’m torn about signing up for the next level. It’ so expensive. A big decision is coming up for me. If I don’t do the next course chances are I won’t be able to stay in France for the time being.  I have been putting off thinking about my visa. I told myself I would wait until January but January is here. Before I know it I will need to figure out what is most important. I always wanted to live in Europe. Now that I am here I feel it suits me but, BUT I have some very big decisions ahead of me. All of them are good and exciting and all of them involve giving something up to get something.

I don’t know where I am going or how I am getting there but I feel a sureness in my steps that I have never felt before.  I feel that things have unfolded exactly as they needed to. This is a very recent thing, this feeling of confidence in the face of the unknown. I keep thinking of this scene in The Golden Child. My brother and I used to watch that movie all the time when we were growing up. In this scene Eddie Murphy has to step into the abyss and if it turned out that he was indeed the chosen one in the void a path will appear. Right now things feel that way. I have no idea where I am going but as I keep following the direction that I feel I am meant to the path is appearing. Out of the not knowing a clarity is emerging. This may sound ridiculous but I feel now, at 39, that I have finally grown up.

 

 

 

Land ho!

Posted in paris with tags , , on November 19, 2012 by ana

For a long time I felt like I had cast myself off from the shore in a small boat and was drifting at sea. In Spanish there is saying- hay que dar le tiempo al tiempo, which translates to you have to give time time. When my relationship was just starting to fall apart Elle said to me, you have to wait until the tornado passes and see where the pieces land. Then you can start from there. I feel like I have been walking in the rubble for a long time. At times I found things that delighted me, small treasures among the debris, and others I saw only destruction.

How long does it take to get over someone? Who knows. I’ve known people who cling to relationships that lasted a year, and I’ve seen people walk away from nine year relationships relatively unscathed. My friend Bree says fully getting over a relationship takes half the time you were in it, and I always thought you had to live each season and holiday spent together apart. Whatever it is everyone has their own timing. It can’t be rushed. You just wake up one day and feel different or maybe, like me, you just feel like yourself again.

There have been so many lovely, fun, downright magical moments these past two years that to say I have been depressed almost feels like an insult to them. I couldn’t have been depressed all the time. Yet, there was often a layer of sadness under everything. It’s still lingers but more as a memory than anything else. More as a feeling of whoa, what did I just emerge from!

All this time I have thought I am one lucky girl to be in Paris but I didn’t exactly feel it-until now. These days I sit in my French class, look out the window and feel ecstatic to be here. Paris is just so pretty. The ornate balconies and windows of the buildings across the street from my classroom literally make my heart sings. I walk around truly, finally, feeling that I am here.

In observing the city I find myself thinking a lot about acting. Specially, when I am on the  metro. Watching people’s gestures, postures, and expressions brings me back to acting class over and over. Both to what I loved about it and the places where I held myself back. It is so interesting to explore different mediums but some just aren’t quite the right fit even if they fascinate us. Those classes, Los Angeles, they feel distant but ever so present. There was so much that was idyllic.

In the past weeks I’ve started to see that in part I left because of heartache. Even if the main reasons for moving where my vagabond spirit, my desire to live abroad, and a strong gut feeling that moving to Europe would be very good for me. I also just needed a clean break.

And it is finally, truly, starting to feel like new beginnings. The future feels like it is rushing forward even if I have no idea what is going to happen. It feels like everything is coming together somehow and in the right way. In French class the other day, as part of an exercise someone asked `a quel âge devient-on  un adulte?, and I thought 39.

I start school tomorrow, not classes, actual school with an orientation, a proper first day, and exams. I am excited. I feel confident and inspired, grounded and expansive, and it is a feeling that spills into everything. It is going to be crazy hard, a pastry bootcamp. Three months of school condensed into five weeks. I hope it is everything I want it to be. Maybe it won’t be as I imagine but it feels like the best next step.