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Thanksgiving in Paris

Nov 30, 2010

Thanksgiving is my most favorite holiday, probably because I never know where I’ll be or who I’ll be with.  Last year I caught the dreaded swine flu and couldn’t travel home as planned, and a friend’s family took me in.  I had so much fun that this year I went back.  Of course I do try to be with my own family on Thanksgiving, but when that doesn’t work out, the unexpected makes the holiday quite worthwhile.
Every year around this time I can’t help but remember Thanksgiving 2002.  I was 21 and my parents were of the mind that I should travel every chance I got (why oh why didn’t I stay in school and my parents’ house forever?).  A friend happened to be studying in Paris that year, so I bought an Nikon 35mm SLR, 10 rolls of black & white film, and forewent fall/winter shopping to help fund my trip (but OF COURSE I made up for my lack of new clothes there). 
My friend had been placed with a mean old woman, so mid-semester she asked to be moved.  The available family was, um, alternative but really, really great.  I think their names were Jacques and Laurent, and on a trip to South Africa a few years before they found a new addition to the, er, family and brought him home with them.  But because they were gay yuppies, they had a fantastic flat with three bedrooms and even a washer and dryer, unheard of in the city.  Laurent even drove me to the airport on my way back home. 
Don’t worry -- even though my place to stay was cushy, I had plenty of non-American experiences on a 4-day trip to Barcelona during the visit, complete with hostel, kidnapping (taken to a pub against our will), and a man who lived in a trashcan pulling on my friend’s hair on a bus. 
But the most memorable part was Thanksgiving Day.  Obviously Parisians don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, but the American students were determined to do it right.  My friend got us an invite to one of her classmate’s flats, an old building with gorgeous French details everywhere.  We were on the hook for a veggie, so I suggested making sweet potato casserole.   Apparently Parisians don’t eat sweet potatoes.  Or marshmallows.  We had to go to a store called “Thanksgiving” (how sad is that) to find either.  We ended up buying four sweet potatoes, a jar of Marshmallow Crème, and a package of brown sugar for around €30, which I think at the time was between $40 and $50.  Between $40 and $50 for a small square Pyrex dish of sweet potatoes with Marshmallow Crème.  Yah.
Worse than ours was the turkey, which the host provided.  He ordered it four months prior, because that’s another thing Parisians don’t eat.  When we arrived a couple of hours before dinner, the turkey was still in the oven.  Someone had set out lox and baguettes, so we munched on that and drank wine while we waited.  After four hours of this we realized we still hadn’t eaten the real food, but the host was waiting for the thermometer to pop out of the turkey.  At 9:30 someone stuck a pie into the oven and asked if she could turn it on to heat up her dessert.
We all stopped talking.  The oven. Wasn’t. On.  So we poured more wine and piled our plates high with vegetables then ended up at an Indian restaurant.
And I went to bed in the cushy Parisian flat with a cornucopia of who knows what in my belly.  A truly happy Thanksgiving!

Skinny Parisians who don't eat yummy Thanksgiving food.

Rally to Restore Sanity

Nov 17, 2010

Sooooooo I wanted to tell you all about the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Keep Fear Alive, but um, it's kind of old news now.  Whoops.

Work suddenly got crazy hectic because I got pulled onto a huge account, and if you follow me on Twitter you might have a clue what I'm up to.  Just know it's really, really cool and if it weren't I'd be super annoyed that my personal life is suffering because of the long hours, missed lunches, and hair-on-fire, moment-by-moment stress of it all.  But don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining in the least, and here's why...

(I have to begin with mentioning a few things that may seem unrelated, but stay with me and I promise I'll tie all my thoughts together.) 

First, if you are friends with me on Facebook you might notice that my political views are as follows: "I know I should have some since I live in DC..."  Every other Monday night I host a dinner with friends at my apartment, and about half of them work on the Hill.  When the conversation turns political I usually pop out of my seat, collect dishes, and clean the kitchen.  That's how much I despise such discussions.

Second, I've wanted to visit the White House since I moved here, but lately it's become less of a desire and more of a goal.  This could be in part due to "National Treasure: Book of Secrets" finally making its way to the top of my Netflix queue (Does the President's desk really pop open like that? I must know!!!).  But I'm not going to Salahi my way in there, I'm going to get a proper invitation.  Oh yes, I am.

Third, I've been seeing Humanitarian everywhere lately.  Since he no longer lives here I'm pretty sure I haven't actually seen him at all, but I keep thinking I do.This evening it was irking me -- why is he on my brain?  It took me about 20 seconds of analysis to put it together: "Sarah Palin's Alaska" debuted this week on TLC, and Humanitarian used to work for Ted Stevens, former Alaskan senator.  Duh!

These three points are curious because 1) I didn't sprint to the kitchen last night when the lame duck Congress was mentioned; 2) Now I actually have a couple of potential avenues to get a White House invite; and 3) I know who Ted Stevens is.  Whaaaa...?

Also, thanks to Megan ("I found a husband for you. He's probably married, but what-ev."), I have a crush on this guy (I'm working on a way to actually meet him).

So as neutral as I'd like to stay, this politics stuff is rubbing off on me.  I'm still trying to figure out just where I stand in the political arena, but the rally inspired me to consider it more seriously.  I don't care what people say about the rally having no point and the signs being the best part.  I disagree.  The special guest lineup was incredible, and I was entertained every second by the speakers, singers, and the crowd (of 200,000+, REALLY glad I rode my new Pretty Schwinn and didn't attempt Metro.) 

However, what stayed with me days after the rally was the keynote speech by Jon Stewart.  A couple of things he said made a lot of sense to me:

"If we amplify everything, we hear nothing."
"...the exhausting effort it takes to hate..."
"...[those] who see no one's humanity but their own."

Okay so I'm not great at shorthand, but I wrote down what I could on the back of a Taco Bell receipt, and even though they're not in context, I think you get the point. 

There's a lot of sensationalism out there -- did you know that Summer 2001, when all those shark attacks were on the news, shark attacks were actually down?  The next summer, when we were at war, I don't remember hearing about one shark attack.  On the other hand, when swine flu was declared a pandemic I ignored the hype and ended up getting it then relapsing and getting it again.  (Have you gotten your flu shot this year?  I HAVE!)

The other points resonated with me because, while we have freedom of speech here in the United States, too often we abuse that right and vocalize our disdain for one another.  Yet it's our diversity that makes us strong, yes?  Despite our differences, we are working together to move forward, out of a recession, through a war, and toward a more reasonable tomorrow with less debt and more common sense. 

All of this epiphany-ness makes me proud and honored to do my job, and more importantly to be an American.

And now, for your viewing pleasure:

I love you Antoine Dotson!

Me with my cuz Stacie and her mom's friend (mom is taking the picture), all who flew down from Michigan

And finally:

Wait, what? Is that a shameless plug so I can win some free chocolate?  Why yes, it is.  (Go check them out on Facebook, NOW!)  And I'm proud to say that I eat SO much chocolate covered bacon from Co Co. Sala that I am the Foursquare mayor, going on six months now. So maybe I am political after all.

Moving Disaster 2010

Nov 1, 2010

It's been almost a month since I moved, and it's taken me that long to work up the energy to write this post. 

Casualties were few, no friends were lost, and I only broke four nails.  But if I have to move again in a year I might lose my mind.

During a relatively short span of time in my childhood my family moved four times.  Each time was a fun adventure -- my older sister had moved out so I got to pick the best room, my dad would always build me a new swing in the backyard, my mom would take out her sewing machine and make me a new bedspread and curtains, and our new neighbors always came over with some sort of baked good.  While my parents did the heavy lifting I'd take off on my bike and explore the neighborhood.  So much fun!

In college I suckered my male friends (and I had A LOT of them living right by Georgia Tech) to move me, from home to a house with eight girls, back to my parents' house because that was horrible, out of my parents' house because they kicked me out, into an apartment with an older lady and that didn't work out very well, back to my parents' house temporarily and under their rules, then to another apartment, and finally back to my parents' house to dump my stuff before I shipped off to California for a new adventure.  What great friends I had!

Then I moved to DC (well, first stop was Old Town).  My parents moved me, bless their hearts.  We all ended up fighting and I got one of the worst migraines of my life and that's really all I remember.  This was Moving Disaster 2007.

Two years later Margaret and I moved into the District.  We had friends help us, and honestly it ended up being almost as expensive as hiring people due to renting the truck, buying packing supplies, and feeding six people a nice dinner.  Plus Margaret and I weren't on speaking terms for about a week.  Moving Disaster 2009.

So when we moved this time I insisted we hire someone.  Craigslist is reliable, right?  For finding a humidifier, yes.  Looking for a karaoke machine?  No problem.  Want to sell your car?  Sketchy but workable.  But movers named Rick...that's another story.

I decided not to pack my stuff because I'll never unpack it and packing is such a colossal pain in my neck, and I was just moving upstairs so what's the point?  Instead I had a wonderful system worked out in my head -- I'd fill laundry baskets and plastic bins with my junk and dump it in my miniature closet then make another load and dump that on top of the pile until I moved all the junk.  Then a year later, after I'd bought all new stuff because I was too lazy to sort through all the stuff I already own but was in utter disarray, I'd donate it all to Goodwill.  Kind to the environment and humanity.  Genius!

Margaret took the traditional route and used boxes since she was putting her stuff in storage.  Her parents were visiting so we needed to be all finished by 1 p.m.  The movers were set to show up at 11 a.m., so it would be a piece of cake.  I began making trips and Margaret finished packing and started cleaning.   But at 11 the movers did not show.

"I don't get it, I confirmed with Rick yesterday," Margaret lamented after calling Rick for the 10th time.  No call back.  No email.  No show.  No man muscles to move the heavy stuff. 

Margaret and I sat down on the sofa and began brainstorming.

"Well," Margaret said hopefully, "my brother-in-law just moved to Virginia, maybe he can help?"  She called him, but he was working.  However, he said a friend owed him a favor and he would have him drive over from Fairfax to help us.  Okay, awkward but we'll take what we can get.

However, one pair of man muscles can't do it all.  Where are computer engineer majors when you need them?!

Then I remembered, the night before a very muscly guy in my building chatted with me in the elevator and asked if I needed any help moving.  OF COURSE he was just being nice.  Yes I am aware of this, thanks.  I was desperate!  So I stalked him on Facebook, ripped off his phone number, and called him.  Oh yes, I did.  (And I thought having someone steal my bike after seeing my vacation status on Twitter was bad.) 

"Hi, um, I am mortified that I'm calling you," I told him when he picked up.  "I found your number on Facebook, so I'm also mortified that I'm stalking you."  Then I explained what happened, and he came over soon after.  And yes I know what you're thinking, but he has a girlfriend and she's very skinny and blonde, kind of the opposite of me.

So the two guys neither Margaret nor I really knew moved all my furniture upstairs and all of Margaret's boxes and furniture into storage across the street.  (Well, that's somewhat of another story.  Margaret had trouble finding a truck to rent and by the time she got one the storage facility was about to close, and she only got half of her stuff into the facility, so they had to move a load back into our apartment.)

As we carried on into the evening, the front desk called and asked for their hand truck back.  We'd borrowed it but had it all day. I didn't know how we'd finish without it, but on the way back upstairs I chatted with another resident on the elevator and she offered up her personal hand truck.  AND our building's management gave us an extra day to move and clean.  Am I the only one getting chills here?  I'm gonna tell you what, this was an awful experience, but it renewed my faith and appreciation for humankind. 

And I must give mad props to Margaret's poor parents who came for a visit but ended up moving us and cleaning our apartment afterwards.  Then my mother decided to jump in her car and come set up my apartment for me.  Every day I came home to a hot meal and things organized until all of that horrendous, daunting closet pile was neatly put away. 

In the end our parents are still the pros.  But I ask, how many stinkin' times must one move to reach that status?  I don't know if I can do this again!