Mexico Lindo y Querido

Sometimes it takes miles of distance to fall in love again. A song, a color, a smell, can spark the nostalgia that grows into a love you realize you’ve been burying inside you. It only took me six years away from my home on the Mexican border to realize how overwhelmingly beautiful and romantic Spanish can be.

I am in the midst of a busy New York cafe. The lyrics “acuerdate de Acapulco” ring in my ears. The acoustic guitar plays and suddenly, I can feel the warmth, not of the beachy climate, but of a warm welcome from the locals, their chocolate eyes grow smaller with each crooked smile, their wrinkles reflect the rural lifestyles of long hours in the sun and the wisdom of time and hardships.

The warmth of mariachis approaching the table. A man requests a song dedicated to his bride. A breath and then the acoustics begin, each mariachi springing emotions onto the humid air with a passionate vibrato, hoping for someone to catch them and sympathize. The man joins the melody, and the beautiful secrets between the couple linger in the air, opening a window for their children to catch a glimpse of love. “Contigo aprendí, que puede ser un beso mas grande y más profundo…”

The warmth of family at the dinner table the day before a big wedding. Tequila and cigars, vibrant laughs, and innocent bantering. The children quickly learning to speak at the top of their lungs to be heard, such a harmonious chaos that will always play so fondly in their memories.

The warmth of the reds, the blues, the pinks, and greens that aren’t meant for houses but somehow decore the streets of Guanajuato with such impeccable taste, the taste of a culture. The same colors and tastes you find in the loud traditions of Mexican food; enchiladas, chiles en nogada, mole, ceviche.

The warmth of a sea of green found at a bar while the nation supports its biggest pride. Faces watch the screen tentatively, but everyone is loud, always very loud. “Aaaaaaaaa PUTO,” everyone yells in unison as the goalie of the opposing team kicks the ball. A sea of micheladas and shots follow the game to drown everyone’s sorrows after Mexico loses: “no era penal.”

Following the trail of acoustics in the New York cafe, my mind wanders into the warmth of Acapulco. Crashing waves dance with the soundtrack of my nostalgia. With such memories of warmth in the bitter East Coast winter, I can’t help but fall in love again. Mi Mexico lindo y querido.

An Unexpected Friendship

I woke up to a beautiful view, a terrible headache and anxiety laying beside me like a one night stand. The headache was a result of the numerous old fashions from the previous night, but how had anxiety crawled into bed with me was still a mystery. I didn’t recall spending the evening with her the night before, then again, it was all still a blur.

The only problem was, anxiety is definitely not a one night stand, but rather, a love hate relationship that will never permanently swing any direction. Like the ocean waves, anxiety is persistently there. Sometimes she drowns me, but sometimes I ride her.

The hate part in our relationship surfaces in our petty arguments that pile like stacks and then tumble down once they’ve reached their peak. I’ve learned to deal, but it’s not always easy when she won’t give me space. Fortunately, anxiety is illiterate and so I vent to you, white blank page.  

It’s never enough to simply BE when anxiety is with me. She always wants me to DO. She’s not particular about what it is I do, as long as it’s something. She hates the word nothing and much rather prefers something, even if that something turns into nothing.

Anxiety lives by the motto “You can sleep when you die,” respectably cliche and responsible for the permanent purple circles around my eyes. She grows angry and restless when I sleep in. Like any good friend I try to be considerate of her and wake up early, even on weekends. Sometimes sleep knocks her dead for a while and then I have a peaceful morning. It’s quite rude of sleep to do that, but I’m grateful when it happens.

I used to be good at living in the present. I still am. It’s just the in between moments when I’m spending quality time with anxiety that inhibit me from spending time with present. She’s particularly affectionate on the subway when I’m trying to get lost in a book, squeezing me so tight my shoulders become tense and the knots in my back grow tighter. I don’t want to be rude, but sometimes I have to draw the line; “Anxiety, I appreciate the love, but I need to breathe. People need to breathe or else they die” and she loosens her grip. She’s very reasonable. You just have to take the time to reason.

Some people don’t like anxiety. I didn’t either until we became friends. I had coffee with her one day and found she’s rather insightful and has very interesting things to say. It’s hard to listen sometimes, but I make an effort.

The love part our relationship comes when she whispers in my ear and her words flow onto a white blank page. It’s a quite unexpected friendship, but those are the most rewarding.

A TriBeCa Afternoon

As artists are deep in their third hour of sleep, having just turned out their last cigarette of the night, I walk past construction workers already on their second breakfast on my way to have my first cup of coffee before work. The workers sit on a stoop, passing judgment on the white collared New Yorker on his and her stride to the daily 9-5 grind. I am no exception in the TriBeCa crowd.

I only have three more hours to go in the day when I’m asked to run an errand. Walking along Church Street, south of Canal, I notice different players in the game.  The “important” players; the genius minds and brilliant creators have come out to play. I become keenly aware that I have very little probability of being a Hemingway or a Frida as I am not a heavy drinker, but more importantly, I am a morning person.

I make a stop at my usual Café Colombe and find it quite foreign from the place I had been to that morning. Cuffed pants, thick-soled oxfords, and sharp angled zippered sweaters, all in different shades of gray and black inhabit the cafe. Gallery curators and artists, screenwriters and producers, designers and investors sit across from each other, contriving the next New York success (and Paris and London successes by default). The occasional financiers betrayed by their perfectly tailored suits, sit on the side lines, humbled by their lack of creativity, excited to be part of creation, and ideating a way to profit from beauty as they profit from everything else in life, an artistry all in itself with a six or seven figured painting their work of art.

I observe and wonder, if I cross my leg in just the right angle and squint my eyes as I look up into the abyss of the exposed brick wall of a café then maybe, just maybe, I will have a prodigious moment of my own. I mustn't forget the six-dollar double espresso (preferably black). I make a mental not to try this the next morning.

At 3pm, kids in TriBeCa are out on scheduled play dates with the their parents, nannies on the sidelines, of course, for much needed moral support. I become hyper aware of just how last season my clothes are when I walk past these 5 year old toddlers and realize they’re trendier than 24-year-old me. They even have the lackadaisically messy hair down to perfection. Fortunately, I regain some of my adult dignity when these same kids start throwing a tantrum, as little kids do. His mother, probably the head designer of “Rag & Bone” or lucrative job of the sort, helplessly tries to tame the child, yelling in some Scandinavian language. She finally looks to her nannie to be saved.

I arrive at my destination with a smile. My love for this neighborhood had grown a bit deeper; a microcosm of life’s disparities is painted in every hour of the day. There is no malice on these streets, just people going about their lives however fair or unfair those lives may be.

My afternoon stroll comes to an end and so I crawl into the computer window that is my own 9-5 life.

Thoughts of a Hopeless Romantic

Today I will be a hopelessly romantic teenage girl. A warning that excuses me from being judged by you or anyone who may come across this short recount.

I met a boy no more than three days ago. He displayed enough qualities for my imagination to paint him into the perfect man (that is in spite of minor flaws like not being foreign or fluent in French). Naturally, he took absolutely no interest in me. I was just a silly girl to him.

We exchanged a few words about a speakeasy cafe we both live close to. Neither of us had been, but knew of it. I expressed my love for latte art and how the moment when you first see the barista’s design as he places the steaming latte over the counter is the only reason to ever pay so much for coffee. He laughed, but I haven’t decided if it was a genuine laugh or a courteous one. The perfect man is always courteous.

It’s Saturday morning and I’ve come to this cafe in hope that our conversation or maybe the forces of destiny will have inspired him to come here and run into me. Then our love story will play out as it did in the last few chapters of my dreams this morning, the kind of dreams you choose to have.

There is no sign of this boy, which makes me the silly girl he thought me out to be. How I wish I could just give up hope on these fairy tales.

P.S. - The latte art here is terrible. Go figure.

 

The Post-Grad Doldrums

It's day 30 post college graduation and I'm still at step 1 or maybe even -1. During the toasts, cheers, and pictures in that huge toga-looking gown and little piece of paper saying I'm smart enough to go out into the "real world," I felt like I had a direction. The last semester had been like a break through. I had a crisp vision of what I wanted to do (or so I thought). It was a time of drinking, celebrating with friends, and everyone being oh so proud of me.

A month later people keep congratulating me and I keep asking myself why. I've come to realize I just finished a four-year long play date. Sure, I had sleepless nights of stress and barely even had time to sit for a decent meal in college, but no action, disaster, or success was really consequential in this little bubble.

Now, I'm in the "real world" and my driving compass which consisted of assignments to turn in, jobs to get done, and meetings to attend has been taken from me. While my day used to begin nearly before sunrise and end in exhaustion after midnight, my life has slowed down to sitting at home in front of the computer languidly trying to apply for jobs. I feel like I'm on a treadmill, running and crossing things off my checklist, but getting nowhere. I'm not complaining and I don't feel sorry for myself, but rather I'm still in shock. No one prepared me for these "post-grad doldrums"; I've always had a direction to run in.

After a few highs and lows these past few days, the skies parted and the heavens spoke to me and said it would all be okay and that I would find a job tomorrow. Just kidding, I just told myself to snap out of it and stop being melodramatic. Sure, I don't have a job yet and I'm not doing what a college grad is "supposed" to be doing, but what is anyone supposed to be doing anyway? If life had a recipe, no wait, it doesn't. I'm confident the job will come soon enough and I may be in a new city with a new job in a month or two months or maybe even a year. All I can do now is do my best and enjoy the here and now, cliche, I know, but often times we are so caught up in what is supposed to be and not what is. All I can do now is check the last thing on my list for the day, jump off the treadmill and go have a margarita. 

 

The Parisian Street Menu

You're getting ready to explore the streets of Paris. You look outside your window and see an endless sea of grey rooftops concealing all sorts of wonders with monuments sticking out here and there. You have your "Paris Pratique" (aka: a street by street map aka: my bible in Paris), you have your wallet zipped into the side pocket of the side pocket of your zipped bag (don't want your day to become an Indiana Jones Adventure and have to chase your wallet down Montmartre), and a sweater and a coat (layers, layers, layers is the rule). You drop your keys in your bag as well as a nice juicy apple since you're going to be out all day.

Arrete! Stop right there! Surviving the streets of Paris 101: you're allowed to eat on the street, but there's a very specific menu you can choose from believe it or not, and apples are not included! Unless you have a killer outfit and don't mind people staring at you as you walk down the street and take a bite out of your apple then take my advice and step away from the apple. I repeat, step away from the apple. Spare yourself the awkwardness and spend a euro or two on the right kind of snack. 

And what exactly does this street menu include? Let's start with the cheapest item: the baguette. A long crusty bread stick that the French are so well known for. Yes, you can get a whole 26 inch-long piece of amazing bread for less than a euro (or should I say 60 cm. since we're talking about French food). 

Snack #2: This snack is a large category that basically includes different variations of, what other than, bread. There's pain au chocolat (bread and chocolate), profiterole (another variation of bread and chocolate), croissant au beurre (bread and butter -I suspect Julia Child's favorite), croissant au amande (my favorite), and if you want something a little bit more filling you can choose a fougasse (bread and youro choice of cheese, olives, pepperoni etc.)

Proper street food #3: If you've had bread for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for the past three days and are slightly tired of eating straight out of the oven bread, which is possible, then have no fear! You can always get a baguette sandwich! Gyros, falafels, and kabobs are also acceptable, but they can get a little messy and then you risk getting a few wide-eyed stares. 

And the final item on the menu is, of course, a crepe. The crepe complete is perfect for a full meal if you need something more than a snack. It includes ham, cheese, and an egg. You can get all of this for only 3 euros! Ding, ding, ding! However, you'll have to go the Motte-Picquet metro stop, the cheapest crepe complete I've found so far. If you don't mind paying a little more for the best street crepes, then I suggest going to Les Meilleures Crepes de Paris at the Grand Boulevards metro stop. The name is not an overstatement. Tip: if you decide to go there, I suggest you skip breakfast, lunch, and any other snacks in between because these crepes are pretty damn filling. 

Now that you're equipped with the right knowledge to eat on the streets of Paris, go forth and eat great things! If you decide to ignore this menu then it's at your own risk. You've been warned. Choose to eat an apple and you might not suffer Snow White's circumstances, but you might get a few appalled looks from very proper French people as well as a sarcastic "Bon appetit, Mademoiselle" or a "Vous avez bien mange?" 

I had to learn this lesson the hard way. I just wish they would have published some kind of "street menu" in the restaurants section of Paris guide books. At least now you know.

Then again, if you're only touring Paris for a few days, then you won't be thinking about eating apples. At least I hope not. You're in Paris!!! Bring on the carbs!

P.S. - After very precise experimentation and attempts of not taking my own advice, I have come to the conclusion that the reason why French do not eat apples on the go is because it's nearly impossible to gracefully say Bonjour! after taking a bite of your apple - the average French says Bonjour! approximately 237 times a day. 

 

Reasons to Love the Metro

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The Line 2 metro stop BLANCHE train stops in front of me. It's 8:30 a.m. and I need to get to school. The doors open and people nearly spill out, or at least they should, but unfortunately they don't. There is absolutely no room to get on the train and everyone is squeezed tightly together. They're all waiting for the next stop, PLACE DE CLICHY. If only I would have left my house at 8:10 and walked to that stop instead.

If I'm lucky one person will need to squeeze out, but no. Everyone holds their positions like soldiers ready for battle. Ready to elbow anyone if necessary. I could just wait for the next metro that's coming within the next two minutes. Whether I wait or manage to get on I'll have someone's hair, hat, or better yet face straight up in MY face.

Yes, this sounds like a nightmare that Parisians have to live through everyday. And yet, do I hate riding the metro?

NO.

On the contrary, I've found that the metro can be one of the highlights of my day. Hard to believe, but true.

There are three main reasons why I speak the truth.

1. Current events: political, international, social, take your pick.

You can choose between the Direct Matin, 20 Minutes, or my personal favorite, the Metro. For those of you non Parisians, these are all free newspapers passed out at the entrance of metro stations in the mornings. They're short, concise, covering all the most important events of the previous day from Adele winning 6 music awards to the crisis in Greece. I find that in Boston I don't have enough time to sit and read the newspaper. And unless I become a multitasking professional, I don't think I'll ever be able to read the newspaper and walk to class simultaneously (Children, please do not try this at home - much less in a city like Paris or New York).

Having to ride the metro gives me some time in the day to find out what's going on in the world. I you don't really care about the world, then just think how the news can save you at an interview, on a date, or when speaking to a pompous French person. Even if someone's hair is in your face, you can always stick a newspaper inbetween and READ. (Do you think maybe that's why Parisians know so much?)

2. The perfect anthropology lab

Reading the newspaper isn't all I do on the metro. Think about what a metro truly is - people of different ages, races, cultures, and personalities all shoved into an aluminum box. People's true personalities and beliefs rise to the surface when you take them out of their comfort zone. And let me tell you, no matter how long you've been riding the metro, whether it be 20 days or 20 years, you will never get comfortable with being shoved into a can like a sardine. Therefore, the metro makes a perfect environment for anthropological research. (More on my anthropology conclusions coming soon).

So I sit on the metro on my way home and I see, no I observe, the different kinds of people that make up Paris. I get to see and feel other human's compassion, apathy, happiness, sadness, racism, drama, and best of all, stupidity. I see how they interact when their with friends or when a sketchy homeless guy is getting to close to them. I get to see how the old are nostalgic about the Paris they new and how the young embrace the fast paced city. How Parisians may not be morning people, but never hesitate to laugh extremely loud after having a few glasses of wine at a cafe.

And so, I have learned more things about Parisians on the metro than actually talking to them. Sometimes it's better to close your mouth, stop all the questions and simply open your eyes and ears. I find that's the way to read between the lines that may or may not be visible to a society, but but that it choose not to speak of.

3. A time to be and a time to think. 

I'm pretty sure there must have been metros during the Age of Enlightenment or else their wouldn't have been great Parisians philosophers like Voltaire and Rousseau. Where else could they have come up with their great theories if not the metro?

The metro is THE place to think. Sure cafe discussions or in Voltaire's case salon discussions must have been enlightening, but there's no other place to think like the metro. You sit, you observe the people around you, and you working off of their energy, thinking up all kinds of questions and dreams. Whether it's a glimpse of the Eiffel Tower and crossing the Sene that inspire you or the many homeless people killing time on the metro, there are always existential as well as meaningless  questions to be answered.

In the Boston, don't have this time to think, to sit and observe, or to simply be left to my thoughts. You can drive or walk around a city, but you will never get these three benefits all in such a small space. Sure you may have many uncomfortable moments, but you will learn more about humanity, yourself, and the world than you can ever learn from a book or in a classroom. And as the French say, ca vaut la peine, it's worth it.

Next time you get on a metro, whether it be in New York, Chicago, London, Hong Kong or Paris, think not of it as something penible, but rather as a blessing.

 

Becoming a Parisian

It's been nearly two weeks since my arrival and I'd say I've been extremely diligent about trying to fit in. It only took me a few days to learn some of the tricks to blending in with Parisians. For instance, numbing your face when you enter the metro (especially in the mornings). You can't be happy, sad, or bitchy. It's more of a numbing expression. You may be in the metro and have a 60 year old man about an inch away from your face because everyone is packed into cart like canned sardines, but you have to keep that same robotic face if you wanna be Parisian. Also, I've learned it's not so much about what you where, but how you walk in it. A Parisian woman might be in a simple raggedy sweater with a big scarf, jeans, and don't forget the messy hair, but if she walks down the street with pursed lips and a little runway walk then she makes you think damn she's so chic! It's kind of like the cheerleader effect, but the group of girls/guys is replaced by the attitude. (See definition of cheerleader effect)

After one week of taking the metro in the mornings I thought I had it down. I had scrutinized and imitated Parisians enough to not stick out like a sore thumb (disregarding the map I carry everywhere, of course). I made sure I didn't smile on the street (I learned they think people who smile a lot are stupid), I numbed my face in the metro, and I made sure to walk with purpose. I'd even try to mumble things at the cashier so my accent wouldn't be as noticeable (usually failed). Little did I know that being a Parisian is an art form that takes years of practice before one can begin to master it. The question was, did I wanna become a Parisian? It wasn't until two days ago that it hit me, literally.

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I was doing my little confident runway trot down a road, looking at all the people having intellectual conversations as they elegantly smoke a cigarette outside cafes and suddenly WAM! The pavement was inches away from my face and all I could see was my huge red bag flying over my head. I was so embarrassed and sprung up so fast that no one noticed (not really). Smokers in neighboring cafes even turned there heads. I said the two word that never fail in French "Ca va" it's all good) and walked off, or more like fled. After passing all the cafes I started cracking up because of how rare my fall might have been for Parisians. I'm sure someone dropped some wine on their pants when I fell. A girl slipping and making a fool of herself on the street?! Why that's unfathomable in Paris! In fact, I can't even picture it in my head. My imagination can only do so much. Even if it ever did happen to a Parisian woman, I'm sure her expression wouldn't change an inch and she would make so chic it would look intentional. That's when I realized I will never master the art of being Parisian.

I still cracked up about it the next morning when I left my house. That day I smiled while on the metro, a rarity in the mornings. After reflecting on this "AHA moment slip" I came up with a few reasons why I could never be Parisian. Here's the list I came up with.

- I'm too good at getting up after tripping and falling

-  I can't eat cheese in small proportions

- My eyes will always wonder too much while I'm in the metro

- My big will always be too big and heavy, keeping me from looking chic and graceful

- I will never be able to perfect the "chic hipster I didn't even try, but I still look good" look

- I will never be able to squeeze between to cafe tables without bumping everyone around me or looking like an elephant trying to walk on a tightrope

- I will always speak too loud

- I will never be able to go through a day without keeping my cool for the entire day

- I often feel the urge to laugh too loud in public places

- I will always want to strike up random conversations with strangers

- I will never be efficient enough and make use of every inch of every wall in my house. I mean come on I'm from the US. Better yet, I'm from Texas!

- I will never be able to passionately make out with someone in a metro station. PDA is not my thing

I'm sure by the end of the semester I'll be a few feet closer to being like the French, but I will have miles to go before becoming a full breed Parisian . However, trying to be French still has countless   benefits like eating great cheese everyday.

I'm learning things about Parisians that you don't notice as a tourist. As someone in my family once said, "vive con el." Just think about the things I learn when I start going people watching!