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Bonjour! I’m Erin.
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Yearly Archives: 2016
You can see why I’m so in love with this neighborhood, right? The Rue des Martyrs winds its way up (fairly steeply) from the church of Notre Dame de Lorette to Pigalle, crossing the Boulevard de Clichy, and up to Montmartre, just east of the Abbesses metro. Which meant we weren’t too far from our beloved quartier, and so could still spend a lot of time there, too (and we did). There’s such an interesting, quiet authenticity to this neighborhood. Years ago, on the trip when Jamal & I got engaged, we stumbled up to Martyrs to a Sunday brocante where we bought old printing press letters in our initials, and it remains one of the highlights of all of our Paris trips. Staying here this time gave us a new perspective; stopping at the boulangerie on our corner after watching them bake the days’ provisions in their back kitchen window (lurker status: expert), shopping at the bio (organic) market for lentils and shallots, taking our petit dej at the same café every morning, joined by the very lovely cat who lived there.
We also did a lot of walking this trip, even though the public transit system was free the first few days we were there because of the overwhelming smog and pollution. On our second day, we walked from our apartment to the Marais for our macaron class, back to the 7eme to retrieve Jamal’s debit card (an ATM machine had eaten it the night before), over to Odéon, looped around the Jardin du Luxembourg, and finally stopping for dinner at a Tunisian couscous restaurant by Notre Dame. I collapsed into bed each night exhausted, but exhilarated, that classic Paris combination where I’ve run myself ragged but still can’t fall asleep because I don’t want to miss a single second. And if the photos above prove anything, there is a lot that happens at night. We rounded Luxembourg in a thick fog, and saw a lone gentleman in a wool coat and hat walking through the mist in the glow of a streetlamp. Jamal and I both stopped short and said, almost identically, that it was a movie poster or book cover come to life.
I know what you’re thinking: with a view like that, how did I ever leave the hotel room? (Short answer: the beckoning scents of warm pastries six floors down.) I landed in Paris before Jamal, and checked into our hotel –the hotel we booked for free using his seemingly limitless supply of points– to find they had upgraded me to their best room, the one at the very top of the building, with a king-size bed, an enormous bathroom with a rainfall shower, and, oh, A MAGNIFICENT VIEW OF THE EIFFEL TOWER. There are no words, just heart-eyes emojis.
When Jamal arrived from South Africa a few hours later, he found me in a puddle of my own drool out on the balcony, my camera in hand with my finger permanently pressed on the shutter button. No joke, I think I took roughly 150 photos of la tour the 24 hours we were in the room, capturing her in all different lights. (I slept with one eye on her, watching her sparkle at 11 and midnight, the fierce jetlag absolutely no match for her beauty.) Jamal managed to drag me out for food & a nice long walk, all the way to the Christmas market along the Champs-Élysées. It was overwhelmingly magical, and I couldn’t get over the size of it; it stretched from Concorde to Avenue Montaigne, on both sides of the wide boulevard, with hidden, smaller villages behind the main vendors. I’ve had plenty of people ask me why I would go to Paris in the winter, and the amount of Christmas cheer, the city all decked out for the holidays, is reason enough (like I need a reason).
The next day, we attended a macaron making class at La Cuisine Paris. I took the same class with my mom in March, and while I felt more confident this time around, the process is still extremely intimidating and nerve-wracking even with Jamal’s calming influence, and I’m more than happy to pay someone else, someone more skilled, $2-$3 ea. instead of making my own. (Guys there are SO MANY STEPS.) We also (sadly) checked out of the hotel and (happily!) moved to an apartment on Rue des Martyrs in the 9eme. We’d both read, “The Only Street in Paris: Life on the Rue des Martyrs” by Elaine Sciolino, former New York Times Paris bureau chief, earlier this year, and were smitten. It was a new neighborhood for us, just south of Montmartre/Pigalle, but it might be our new favorite. It felt like Montmartre the very first time we visited, with an authentic, local vibe. More photos to come, of course.
Well, it happened. Despite all of my foot-stomping and protestations, sometime around 4:30am, I left my 20s and crossed into my 30s. I could be dramatic and say I ‘felt’ it happen, but if there has been one reliable constant in my 30 years on this earth, it’s that I sleep hard (well, minus a bout of insomnia in high school and college) and I was blissfully unconscious when I was dragged over the invisible mile-marker that means I am officially a Grown Up. It’s so weird. I still sleep with a stuffed animal, how can I possibly be THIRTY? (Please don’t tell anyone I still sleep with a stuffed animal, it would ruin my Adult Street Cred.) I don’t feel 30, but then, I haven’t truly “felt” any of the ages since 17, which is where I am mentally permanently stuck. Do they let 17 year olds get married and pay bills? Is there a grown-uppier grown up I could talk to about this?
Back when I was actually 17, I used to think 30 sounded so old (I still do), and so important (it still is, to me). I used to think I’d have everything figured out in my life, which is laughable because there are still areas of my life that I need to figure out that I don’t even know about yet. Does that make sense? I don’t know what I don’t know, but I do know that, despite not “having it all together” I am very, very lucky. I have my health, I have my family, I have my incredible friends everywhere from Philadelphia to California to Paris to Capetown, and I have Jamal & Fitz.
A few months ago, I made a short list of goals I wanted to accomplish before this big day. Let’s refresh:
1. Finish my novel
2. Go to Paris
3. Find a job that makes me happy
I have not finished my novel (I know, I know) but I am so, so close. The last half of this year has been wildly productive, and I am proud of my progress despite the fact I can’t yet call it “complete.”
I did go to Paris! Spoiler: it was as incredible as ever. As promised, I have a ton of photos to share you with you, starting with the one above, which was snapped from the baller hotel room we stayed in the first night. (Can 30 year olds use the word “baller”?) The trip was a delicious dream, and I am grateful beyond words that I was able to go last week to celebrate this birthday a little early.
And as for the job, I’ve been a little mum about this over the past few months, but back at the beginning of September I started an internship in the Fine Art Department at the oldest auction house in the country. I applied for mostly selfish reasons (given that my novel is set in an auction house, I figured working in one would be the best hands-on book research, and it absolutely has been!) but very early on I realized that I had finally, finally found a job I enjoyed going to every day. It’s been a dream: I’ve gone to the New York to show two Rembrandt etchings to an expert, proofread catalogues for sales, worked on condition report photos and measurements for countless paintings and lithographs from artists like Delacroix, Miró, Warhol, Roesen, Ensor, Picasso. It has been, honestly, more rewarding than I imagined, and for more than just my novel; this is the first job I’ve ever really loved. The only downside, because no job is perfect, is that, being an internship, it is unpaid. The team I work with has been so encouraging and supportive, and just yesterday the COO of the company pulled me into a conference room to tell me she received a glowing recommendation from the department, and after the New Year, they want to offer me a more permanent, paid position. Talk about timing. Talk about great birthday presents.
Well, kiddos, I’m off to eat macarons for breakfast and write all day, with a pit-stop for French class, too. Not a bad way to turn 30, still basking in the glow of my last Parisian adventure. Happy birthday to me!
December 20, 2016 / life / dog /
I’m flying to Paris today! This is my second trip of the year, which sounds indulgent, and it would be, if I didn’t need Paris the way some people need oxygen. Is that a bad analogy? Hear me out: I have asthma, so I know the sensation of feeling like I can’t breathe, scrambling, panicky, for my inhaler so I can stop the wheezing; when I go too long between trips to Paris, the feeling is the same. Going restores my equilibrium, fills my lungs. And when you’re less than two weeks from turning
30 29 again, a trip to Paris is a necessity.
I’m flying alone, because Jamal is South Africa (of course he is), though he’ll meet me there. It felt wildly cosmopolitan to say goodbye to him last week by saying, “I’ll see you in Paris.” I’m landing on what would have been my dad’s 78th birthday, which was an unintentional but agreeable coincidence, and I can’t think of a better way to honor his day than to spend it in his favorite city. I’m staying at a hotel in the 7th arrondissement (exactly at the intersection where this photo was taken, in fact) for the first night, and then moving to an apartment on the Rue des Martyrs. Not Montmartre, I know, which is an insane deviation for us, but I think we’ll survive.
Billions of photos to come! But first, I have to take Fitz to his beloved dogsitter, then finish packing. (Just kidding, I’m entirely packed.) Au revoir mes amis!
December 8, 2016 / Travel /
Because I couldn’t bear to have my heartbroken election post at the top of the page any longer, here is a playlist of songs that have become something of a writing security blanket for me over the last three (!!!) years. My incredibly talented friend Herbie compiles a mix CD for me every year for my birthday, and I’m not ashamed to admit that’s where more than a few of these songs came from. The songs on this playlist either get me in the mood to write, help me stay in that headspace, or are so intrinsically linked to my novel from constant looping on repeat that they have formed an unofficial soundtrack (I want to live inside of that Active Child song; two of my characters already do). I listened to Buzzcut Season by Lorde multiple times a day when I lived in Paris (my neighbors must’ve hated me…), and almost wrote an entire blog post about one line of that song: “And I’ll never go home again.” I came home from Paris, but I didn’t really come home, because those weeks I spent there, writing, became my home. I don’t know, it sounded better in my head, but the song itself still does it for me. I know I threw in a bit of a curveball with that Shostakovich Ballet Suite by the Russian Philharmonic Orchestra, but I heard that song on the classical station about eight or nine years ago, and was stopped in my tracks. It is, to this day, one of the most beautiful compositions I’ve ever heard, and I’m not just saying that as a biased former-ballerina.
Happy listening, kiddos! Let me know if you end up streaming or downloading any of these & if they give you as much encouragement as they do me.
November 16, 2016 / read / watch /
It’s been four years since I last live-blogged an election, and a lot has happened since then. The “Boyfriend” in that post was upgraded to Husband (JAMAL!), and, perhaps equally as important, this election cycle drained all of the life and joy out of this country. We’ve got wine, we voted at 7am, and #WereWithHer. Let’s go!
Disclaimer: I am a pro-choice, pro-gay marriage, pro-wage equality, well-educated, liberal, Jewish, East Coast woman born from a line of other strong, liberal, independent women. I’m basically Donald Trump’s nightmare, and I could not be more proud.
7:00pm: First CNN projections, Donald Trump wins Kentucky and Indiana. Hillary takes Vermont. “Too early to call” in South Carolina, Georgia, and Virginia. Well, duh, it’s been 30 seconds since the polls closed.
7:01pm: There are two technicians at my house installing a new dishwasher. I’m hoping they finish soon, so that there are fewer witnesses to the meltdown I’m going to have this evening, regardless of the outcome. This has been a long, trying election.
7:21pm: Trump is ahead 60k votes in Florida I AM NOT GOING TO MAKE IT UNTIL THE END OF THE NIGHT.
7:25pm: Hillary takes the lead in Florida by 50k votes I AM NOT GOING TO MAKE IT UNTIL THE END OF THE NIGHT.
7:32pm Trump leads again in Florida by 20k votes I AM NOT GOING TO MAKE IT UNTIL THE END OF THE NIGHT. This is the last time I am going to mention Florida, for my own sanity, because this state is going to keep flip-flopping all night.(lol no)
7:44pm: The dishwasher guys left. We ordered a pizza. “We just need a small, right?” “WE NEED THE LARGE, JAMAL, WE ARE IN FOR THE DURATION.”
7:55pm: (Hillary is now up over 120k in Florida) (::profuse sweating::)
8:01pm: Hillary wins Illinois, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Maryland, Rhode Island, Delaware, and DC. Ah, the liberal northeast corridor. Too early to call in Pennsylvania, but I did my part!
8:12pm: Pizza’s here! Poured myself a glass of wine.
8:22pm: I think I just set a record for the fastest time I’ve ever eaten four slices of pizza. In addition to a long line of amazing, liberal women, I also come from a long line of stress eaters.
8:34pm: WHY IS IT ALWAYS FLORIDA.
8:41pm: “We don’t think Hillary Clinton is going to win Mississippi tonight.” Thanks for the much-needed laughs, CNN, but we know.
8:53pm: “I can’t wait to see how Saturday Night Live spoofs Wolf Blitzer this week.” “Assuming we still have a country after tonight.”
9:00pm: Look, I’m just being honest here, but the red states are basically a map of the places you couldn’t pay me to visit. (Looking at you, North Dakota and Nebraska.) I’m being bold by saying this, considering they haven’t called my own state of Pennsylvania, yet. I’m going to have to move if we go red.
9:02pm: Starburst minis are not as good as the original, full-size candies. These taste chalky? It hasn’t stopped me from eating them by the handful.
9:13pm: So this is actually becoming scary.
9:18pm: John King is going to punch Wolf Blitzer if he interrupts him one more time.
9:32pm: Do we have any hard alcohol in the house? I’d like to start injecting it into my eyeballs.
10:08pm: Things are looking bleak in Michigan. Eating chocolate frosting straight out of the container with a spoon, trying to bury the growing pit of dread in my stomach.
10:19pm: Where’s Anderson Cooper? If I have to sit through the apocalypse, I should at least be allowed some silver fox eye-candy.
10:42pm: I’m trying to come to terms with what’s happening and what is likely going to keep happening tonight, and for every thought I have along the lines of, “Okay, this must be what America wants. This is how people must have felt in 2012. The world went on,” my brain responds with, “SUPREME COURT NOMINEES ROE V. WADE AFFORDABLE CARE ACT NOT TREATING MUSLIMS THE WAY NAZIS TREATED JEWS” and I start to get shaky and nauseated. This isn’t like previous elections. Mitt Romney was a sensible human being who backed statewide healthcare. He was not a reality tv start who sexually assaulted (at least!) 12 women and bragged about it.
11:00pm: Thinking about making some tea but & also about the futility of life and existing and drinking or eating anything ever again.
11:01pm: Idaho? YOU DA HO. (Help me.)
11:19pm: Stating the (APPARENTLY NOT-SO) obvious: Trump is dumb. Really, really dumb. Like, incoherent-to-the-point-of-a-4th-grade-reading-level if he’s not reciting from a teleprompter, the same way we knew Bush Jr. to be dumb. But Pence is terrifying, calculating, cold. The man signed bills in Indiana that would’ve thrown gay people in jail for even applying for a marriage license, and would’ve made women pay for funeral services for their aborted fetuses. HE scares me. Trump is inept, just a greedy billionaire who thinks he should get everything he wants. But just as with Cheney, Pence pulling the puppet strings is…something I don’t even want to fathom.
11:40pm: Friendly reminder, Trump is scheduled to testify in court in 20 days for his Trump University fraud case, and has a status conference in front of a judge in December, for allegedly raping a 13 year old girl.
11:53pm: Are we still going to be allowed to read books? Buy books? Travel abroad? I keep envisioning 1984.
12:06am: Trump just pulled ahead in Pennsylvania. My eyes are blurring but I can’t go to sleep. Too much packing and fleeing in the night to do.
12:26pm: “We’re all dancing on this cliff together.” No, CNN, I’m not dancing, I’m convulsing with terror.
12:42pm: I’m numb.
1:00am: I’ve now reached the stage of grief where I become petty and am irrationally angry at Jamal and literally every other democrat I know for being so cavalier and brushing off the seriousness Trump’s campaign posed from day one. “Ha! He can’t win.” :gestures broadly at Electoral College map:
1:01am: Just as we read about WWII Germany and the lead-up to Hitler’s reign, future generations will read about this time in our country’s history and wonder how we got it all so wrong. “Who voted for Hitler?” It didn’t start with gas chambers. It started with inciting rhetoric blaming a religion, a minority, and seizing power by pandering to the fears of the low-educated.
6:48am: I forced myself to go to sleep at 1:30, after Clinton’s path to victory all-but disappeared with Wisconsin and Michigan. I wish I could say something dramatic like, “I cried myself to sleep,” but honestly I was too numb, too in shock. I slept fitfully, and woke to the news. I don’t know what to say, besides I am terrified for my future and the world, as a Jewish woman, who is an ally to my LGBTQ, black, and Muslim friends. I keep trying to tell myself that we “survived” the Bush administration, and while our economy was decimated and we invaded two countries and spawned ISIS, we were rewarded with Obama. Our shining hope. The only, only upside to the knowledge that more than half of this country is made up of fearful, hateful white assholes, is that we get to find our next Obama. Hopefully in four years, rather than eight.
8:00am: I haven’t cried yet, but I’m sure I will at some point. Instead, I sat down at my desk this morning with a renewed sense of purpose, of passion, of strength, to write the shit out of my novel. Because nothing will light a fire under a writer’s ass like the thought that in a few short months books and free thought will be banned just like gay marriage and a woman’s right to decide what happens to her body. This is not my president, and until he inevitably bans the internet and installs Orwellian monitor screens in every home, I will write write write.
November 9, 2016 / life / dog /
I’ve been mentally compiling this post for months; every time I go to Barnes & Noble I’m greeted/assaulted by yet another novel on the “New Fiction” table about someone’s wife. The wife of someone with a notable profession or occupation or designation. This is a somewhat strange trend in women’s literature that’s appeared in the last few years that, if the covers above are any indication, has gotten way, way out of hand. (I searched “wife” on B&N’s website and this wasn’t even all the results from the first few pages.) There seems to be no end to the interpretations: there’s the wife of a ringmaster, the wife of a tea planter, the wife of a tiger (um?), the wife of a traitor, the wife of a widower (wait…), even the wife of a Nazi officer. There’s the 19th wife (I haven’t read it but I’m guessing/hoping it’s about a polygamist family), the silent wife, the secret wife, and a wife who is ~unseemly~. There’s a wife in Paris and a wife in California. There’s even the absolutely confounding “My Husband’s Wife.” (Your husband’s wife IS YOU.) So many wives! So many novels about women, women ostensibly interesting enough to string a whole book around. And yet! This sub-genre of women’s lit has relegated these interesting, novel-worthy women to secondary characters in their own stories. Women, even when they are the protagonists, are only defined by their relationship to men.
Oh, the rage.
To be fair, I’ve only read “The Paris Wife,” (because of course I have) and I fell in love with McLain’s interpretation of Hemingway’s first, long-suffering wife, Hadley. Do I get why it was titled “The Paris Wife”? Sure. Could it have easily been titled something else entirely, something befitting the struggles of the main character, her resilience in the face of infidelity, her selflessness and goodness? Yes! But nah, she was married to Hemingway right when they first moved to Paris, so naturally her story became, “The Paris Wife.” She was just his wife, after all. Merely an extension of her husband. Except she wasn’t! She was strong-willed and independent and the title on the cover was so unbefitting for the character inside the pages.
I have the same reaction when I see other women’s social media profiles that start “Wife, mama,” and list a thousand other descriptions based solely on their relationship to other people before listing anything about themselves as an individual human being. I’m my own fully-formed person who isn’t defined by her husband, and I would never expect Jamal to say he’s “a husband” first when meeting new people. I have never described myself as a wife first. And that isn’t a deliberate, feminist choice, or a slight to Jamal. I speak French, I’m working on a novel, I drink an obscene amount of tea, I can pick things up with my toes, I slept with a nightlight until I was in my early 20s, I listen exclusively to classical music on the radio, and I have a membership to the Louvre. I’m a writer who happens to have a husband, I am not a wife who writes occasionally. If you boiled my existence down to my identity as Jamal’s spouse, I would become “The Senior Vice President of Solutions Architecture’s Wife,” which says absolutely nothing about me and everything about him. I think that’s what is so infuriating about all of these titles, especially because the books go on to say everything about the women. Maybe publishers don’t think people (read: men) would buy them otherwise?
I saw a tweet recently, in response to the hideous comments about glorified-sexual-assault made by one of the candidates for president, that fit this post perfectly. Lots of men came out to express how disgusted they were by the comments…not as human beings with morals, but rather as husbands and as fathers of daughters. Because if you can’t even title a novel about a women with deference to the actual woman, why wouldn’t men only think about women in relation to themselves? The tweet read: “Fun fact: in addition to being wives and daughters and mothers and sisters and grandmas and aunties, women are also people.” A novel concept (pun very much intended).
October 18, 2016 / read / watch /
On the last day of September Jamal and I drove to upstate New York for a friend’s wedding. I’d long dreamt of spending a picturesque fall weekend in the Finger Lakes region, and his friend’s nuptials seemed like the perfect opportunity to don some flannel and visit a few wineries and see the leaves change color. The weather had another thing in mind; it rained the entire time we were there, even through the (beautiful) outdoor ceremony and throughout the (blessedly tented) reception, stopping only the following morning as we loaded up on breakfast before beginning our six hour drive home (four hours to Jamal’s parents to pick up Fitz, and two hours back to Philadelphia). But you guys know me and my predilection for rain and cloudy days, so I wasn’t bothered by a little inclement weather. If anything, it made Watkins Glen, the tiny town nestled at the southern tip of Seneca Lake, and the surrounding areas, more atmospheric, more lovely, somehow. Aside from the ceremony portion of the wedding on Saturday evening, where we were more focused on the touching vows the bride & groom wrote for each other than on the drizzle, and the short walks to & from our rental car into each of the five (five!) wineries we visited and had tastings, the rain didn’t really even affect us. Give me fog and mist any day.
The weekend was all too brief, but whet our palettes for another trip upstate in the future. We brought back eight bottles of wine. The region is known for sweet white varietals –“grapey,” they call them– and our bar is now fully stocked, including a kit to make mulled wine when the temps dip a little lower. It was a gorgeous weekend getaway, the best part of which was that Jamal didn’t check his work email once. Not once! A rarity, but a welcome, and much-needed, treat.
I found these candles by Maison La Bougie over at Le Bon Marché and my eyes just about popped out of my head. If I were ever to think up the “perfect” candle, ones that smell like a day spent in Paris –starting with the view of La Tour from your bedroom window and cold morning air, breakfast of coffee and croissants at Café de Flore, and an afternoon reading at the Bibliothèque National, inhaling old pages and leather spines– would’ve been what I came up with. And that’s exactly what these are! If I had to pick a favorite, it would have to be Café de Flore. But truthfully I’d take any of them, and would sniff them longingly when Paris felt too far away. It doesn’t hurt that the packaging and branding is beyond gorgeous.
This edition of four candles, along with tons of other goodies, is available through a special collection of Paris-themed items in exclusive collaborations with Paris-based designers for sale at LBM until October 15th. There are sweatshirts with the names of different neighborhoods embroidered on them, Repetto ballet flats with the map of the city on them, pins in the shape of a baguette and a wheel of Camembert, just to name a few of the delightful objets for sale. Here’s wishing I could beam myself to Paris before this pop-up ends!
September 27, 2016 / home design /