Wednesday, April 18, 2007

A Priceless, Un-Charmed Life

I wish I could say that I had a really exciting and educational issue to share with everyone here today, but -- well, heck, I guess that's not what my blog is all about anyway... No use putting any unneeded stress or pressure on myself, setting up my own expectations with regard to what I write here. Because I've never claimed to be a talented writer or even someone who could express herself particularly well, aside from having the capacity to be pretty self-deprecating and tongue-in-cheeck from time to time, when push comes to shove (and I think I owe that to my brother and his great sense of humor -- thanks, buddy!). Although that tends to come across better in person than in my writing -- maybe certain other blog-sistahs out there who have made my actual aquaintance could attest to this one for me... I can be a funny gal if you give me a chance! Really, I can! I just don't know how to convey that in writing.

I think I've been spending a lot of time reading so many other gifted bloggers out there, really admiring their ways with words and images, and their simple yet evocative expressions, their fonts of resourceful information, and this has sort of made me feel a little inadequate. Of course, to be honest, that's nothing new for me... Although I know I'm not completely inept, I'm not particularly good at anything, aside from speaking some decent French. And how far does that really get one, huh? Across the ocean and into another country, yeah; loving the people and the culture there, sure -- but I need to join that skill with something else worthwhile, otherwise it's not gonna get me much anywhere... And I've definitely got to stop comparing myself and pretty much setting up my own roadblocks to personal progress.

Anyhoo, I just felt the need -- or more appropriately the desire -- to share a few tidbits about my own little life here in France in recent days, if only to give a glimpse into the ordinariness of my own existence and to share how very closely it really resembles many others' around the world -- whether in North America, other parts of Western Europe, or even Asia... As much as I do love living in France -- and I can't even exactly express why that is; I just somehow feel at home here (I've often joked that it's because I lived here in a former lifetime, hung out with Chopin and his entourage of great artist/musician friends, but that's another story for another time) -- there is no real "romance" in my daily existence, and I'm far from living a charmed life. Then again, I wouldn't trade what I currently have in the way of friendships, interests, and love for anything at the moment -- there may be many aspects of my life that need some work, but one thing is for sure, and that is that my life is not lacking in "personal" richness, if ya see what I mean. Nor is it lacking in upside-down bumps in the road, for that matter. No, it's hardly boring.

Last night I joined my boyfriend, his father, his youngest sister and her little boy for dinner in an impossibly ordinary bistro/brasserie in the 15th arrondissement of Paris, supposedly specializing in seafood. Except their fixed-price menu only included one seafood selection, and the waiter appeared to be out of those little wipies you use to clean your fingers after eating oysters, shrimp, other crustaceans, etc... Ah, that's right, les rince-doigts. [How can a seafood restaurant run out of those things, pray tell?! And at the same time not refill the soap in their bathroom soap dispensers?!]

In any case, the whole evening was pretty much unplanned and fairly improvised, mainly due to the fact that his sister's visit coincided with his father's stop through town, and it just made sense that we all get together and spend a nice evening out. Ergo, the randomly chosen restaurant. Which, again, was beside the point, because we were just there to spend time together. So I'm not going to critique the exquisitely boring cuisine, because again, it's of no particular interest... The best parts of the evening basically came in the form of my boyfriend's 3-year-old nephew, who God bless him, was exhausted, along with his mother, from a long train ride in to the capital from Besançon, a town four hours or so southeast of Paris. He looked around him saucer-eyed at all the people and things he was not used to seeing, freshly picked from the countryside. (My boy said that in the métro on his way to the restaurant he said hello to everyone in the hallways...) He made it patiently through an interminably long meal, munching away at all sorts of things the whole time. He's not one of those picky types; here's a three-year-old who likes to pretty much try anything, and who his grandfather fondly refers to (to his mother's chagrin) as Bennie-bouffe-tout, which quite literally means "the boy who'll gobble up anything."

Before our orders were even taken, little Bennie had nibbled on some bread with some strangely bitter olive spread (not exactly tapenade) on it that I couldn't even get my tastebuds around. And after making his way through his own plate of grilled salmon (no steak haché for this little 'un!), his fork crept onto my plate of steak tartare, curiously fumbling around for a mouthful of potatoes. He did say that the tartare meat was a bit spicy ("ça pique!"), but only after I commented to his mother that he didn't seem to mind the stinging aftertaste. We shared some potatoes together at that point, as I cut him some manageable slices and slid them onto his plate... I actually had to stop sharing food with him, because he would have willingly eaten pretty much everything in sight! Needless to say, when dessert time rolled around, he called out to the waiter, "Messeur, du gateau sh'il-vous-plaît,"* and he gratefully munched on several bites before finally calling it quits. He could have eaten me under the table -- and that's saying something! Thank goodness he helped me with my potatoes...

But the highlight of the evening, for me anyway, was when I tried to teach Bennie what "elegant" meant -- how he should try to be polite and dignified in a restaurant setting, and not call out or make too much noise while waiting for his food... (and there was a lot of waiting going on). He turned to me and tried to repeat "elegant" (which is exactly the same word in French as in English, just pronounced differently) with his little nose all scrunched up, and then he looked up at his mom and said, "Maman, chuis un petit garçon éléphant."**

* = "Sir, some cake please!"

** = "Mommy, I'm a little boy elephant."

P.S. ~ Whenever Bennie comes to visit, upon arriving he immediately insists on my singing his "favorite" song -- which he discovered last summer when we were on holiday together -- "Old MacDonald had a farm..." And he nods up and down, fascinated, while I go through the whole rendition, including authentic pig and cow sounds. And right as I finish the final verse, it's "encore!" and I have to start all over again. One of these days I'm gonna have to teach him some REAL English... I even had to sing him this song while waiting for dessert last night. (Try to picture that one!)


Jennifer said...

I, for one, LOVE reading your blog, despite what you say about not having much to say or how to put it into words. It's excellent, and I'm glad to have met another blog buddy I can swap French frustrations with! ;)

scribbit said...

Oh you're too hard on yourself! I've enjoyed your blog and live a little vicariously through you and your experiences.

I think that's what's fun about blogging, you can find all sorts of unique experiences out there and I've enjoyed yours--for what my little vote counts :)

jchevais said...

You are way too hard on yourself and as someone who has drunk wine and chatted with you in person, I can say that you are a DARLING AND CHARMING AND VERY VERY VERY FUNNY WOMAN.

I feel lucky to have you as a friend.

Thank goodness for the blogging world.

P.S. Bennie sounds adorable. I can just picture you singing and making authentic barnyard sounds!

Emily said...

I see blogs as blank canvases for the authors do with them as they may.

You're a great writer and I've enjoyed reading about your adventures and experiences in France. :)

Antipodeesse said...

Dear Bloomie,

Your writing is VERY entertaining and humourous ... humoros? ... humorous.. .funny!

For God's sake, don't all all edumacational on us though!

Poppy Fields said...

The great thing about blogs is you can write whatever you want, and you write just fine.

My children are elephants, but the unelegant variety :)

The Late Bloomer said...

Hey, just for the record, I promise I was not fishing for any kind of compliments here...! Maybe in a way I was hoping for some small reassurance of my existence (aren't we all?) but I honestly just wanted to share a little of what I've been thinking lately.

But thanks so much for letting me know that I'm not completely lame, at least not all the time! Ha ha...

Oh, and Antipo, you're probably right -- I didn't mean to come across as trying to be edumucational or anything... I just thought I should include an idea of what the French child-talk meant for those non-French speakers out there. (I usually don't even understand French children myself, so I wanted to be sure to get the idea across...) But perhaps it was pretty obvious and the explanations were unnecessary. Best if they speak for themselves, huh? Sorry if I overdid it!

sfgirlinparis said...

you know, the characteristics of your blog that you question are what others DO like: an insight on your perspectives and life. writing about baby, for instance and posting umpteen photos...BORING you would think. but some dig it right along with you (and others don't, but I do it for me and my records and sanity). keep writing b/c we're reading.

little fugitive said...

Am I too late to weigh in and say how much I enjoy your blog? Maybe for the reasons you're hard on yourself - it's not glamorous France but day to day life, including moldy apartments, crap restaurants (yes, there are plenty here!) and nagging doubts. And your style is straightforward and personal, while being entertaining. So go on writing!

avec amy said...

I really enjoy your blog because I can relate to what you're writing. It's not just what you're saying, but how you're saying it - naturally and honestly! That is the beauty of your writing. I loved your entry "Wrong" because I often feel that same way! Also, with regard to getting "edumacational" -as many have pointed out, this is your blog and you should express yourself as you want. I like the translations, further many people who have no knowledge of French might be reading your blog and it's helpful for them.

Linda said...

Loved your story about the little boy. I enjoy being around little French children. They are usually very well behaved.
My day to day life in France isn't much to write about. Mostly I have to clean the house, cook and pull weeds but, still, I love it.