Tuesday, August 20

I read Coco Chanel.

For some reason I can't get in the mood for homework this morning. This week's theme is "la mode" - fashion and clothing. Read a text passage by Coco Chanel yesterday and got another one of those killer handouts with about 100 new vocabulary words all about clothing. If I study hard I'll be able to ask random strangers "boxers or briefs?", and I'll be able to say "really, bermuda shorts in winter?"

Almost time to shower and get dressed for class. No need for a clock to tell me this. The garbage trucks are outside my window making a racket, every morning at 6:30. Part of the rhythm of my life here.

I know that I'm quite a strange sort of person. I love being here in Paris because, well, it's Paris. And I bitch endlessly about this impossible French class and make way too many very stupid jokes about it. But I'm really enjoying playing around with this beautiful language and getting to know it just a little bit better. It's such hard work, but also a pleasure, and it's at least half of what is making this summer so much fun for me. So that's my serious not-joking comment for the day. Rest assured that this doesn't happen often, and the bad jokes will return shortly.

Things are definitely winding down here. Completed the second of three movements in the last dictée (dictation) today. Last rédaction (essay) will be on Thursday, last examen (test) on Monday. The prof was late to class so had a chance to chat. Talked a bit with Katerina. She spent the long weekend in Normandy with her husband, visiting the same places I plan to visit. They rented a car for three days and drove around to see all the little villages, which sounds like fun. Told her that her exposé was superb, the best of the class. She has quit her job in the states and is going through the very complicated process of trying to get a job and permission to work here in Paris. I believe her husband was transferred here, but I'm not sure. Anyway, it was nice to get a chance to talk to her a bit more. There's so many interesting stories to hear from people here! Told her and Raquel about how much I'm looking forward to having the kids come, and told them a little bit about them.

And now it's off to faire du shopping. Need groceries! Thinking about a nice mid-week bottle of wine too, something to fortify me for all the homework I have to do today.

At that lecture on gastronomy, the lecturer talked about the current best chefs in France. Number one on his list was Paul Bocuse, the author of the cookbook I bought! Get ready for some good meals in Chicago this fall!

Bocuse owns one of only 25 Michelin 3 star restaurants in all of France, in Lyons. This is a very big deal. Bernard Loiseau, another great chef, had one too, La Côte d'Or in the Burgundy region. He was so celebrated that he was awarded France's highest honor, the decorations of Chevalier (Knight) de la Légion d'honneur. Then his restaurant began to go slightly downhill, and a newspaper article appeared with a rumor that he might lose his third star. Shortly afterwards he put a shotgun in his mouth and killed himself.

They're pretty serious about food here.

I'm almost to the point where I don't fumble around with my change in stores anymore. Almost, but not quite. I figure that I will master this difficult art about the time that I get on the plane to come home.

Made a big mistake and got a cheap (8€) bottle of Bordeaux at Carrefour. It's barely drinkable, not worthy of a photo here or entry in my wine journal. Yuck. I'm really getting spoiled, in a way that will not be good for the pocketbook when I get home.

This is the book that we read the passage of text from, L'Allure de Chanel by Paul Morand. Here's one paragraph to give you a feeling for the kind of French we read in class, for those very few of you who care. It's a quote from Chanel explaining the reasons for her success. I present for your approval my half-assed translation, as a way of trying to get some homework done this morning.

Pourquoi les paquebots, les salons, les grands restaurants, ne 
sont-ils jamais adaptés à leur vraie fin? Parce qu'ils sont conçus 
par des dessinateurs qui n'ont jamais vu une tempête, par des 
architectes qui n'ont jamais été dans le monde, par des décorateurs 
qui se couchent à neuf heures du soir et dînent en famille. De même, 
avant moi, les couturières se cachaient, comme des tailleurs, dans 
leur arrière-boutiques. Alors que moi je menais la vie moderne, 
j'avais les façons, de celles que j'habillais.

Translation:

Why are ocean liners, salons, and grand restaurants ill-suited for 
their true purposes? Because they are conceived by designers who have 
never seen a hurricane, by architects who have never been in high society, 
by decorators who go to bed at 9 o'clock and eat dinner at home with their
families. Before me, the designers hid, like tailors, in the back of their
shops. It was me who led the modern life, the lifestyle of the world 
where I lived.