Ask Me Anything

Rue Cardinale

Even though I’ve had this blog for nearly four years now (!!), we’re all aware that, except on rare occasions, blog posts aren’t always representative of the lives we lead offline. I constantly debate whether or not to post more personal things, or whether to keep things light and fluffy. I strive to be as authentic as possible either way; you all know I’m obsessed with cheese, Paris, and lose my shit over the silliest Youtube videos. But what if you’re relatively new around here, or I’ve been unintentionally vague about something? (for example: why haven’t I mentioned Gary Oldman in a few months?)

I’ve always wanted to do a question & answer session, like those Reddit AMAs with celebrities. I’m not deluded enough to think people are clamoring to ask me their most burning questions –or that I’m even interesting enough to warrant curiosity outside of what I talk about on this blog– but I thought it might be fun to try anyway. So! You ask, I answer. What’s my favorite movie? Desert island book? Why haven’t I mentioned Gary Oldman in a few months? Super personal questions like bra size or annual salary (both embarrassingly small) or on subjects out of my depth (basically anything with math or, like, quantum physics) won’t be answered, but otherwise you can ask me anything you’ve been curious about. Favorite word? Scariest childhood memory? How did Jamal and I meet? Just how vain do I think I am to host one of these? The floor is yours!

I’ll keep this post pinned to the top of my blog for the next week and will answer your comments here or in a separate post, if the question is really good or warrants a more in-depth response. Anonymous posting is okay! I can’t wait to see what you come up with.

Check out the FAQ before asking your question, as I might have already addressed it there!

A Cautionary Tale

Rue Barbet de Jouy

Remember this post, in which I made light of the fact that my license had expired all the way back in December, and how adorably insistent I was that it wasn’t a big deal? A refresher: I can’t tell you the last time I operated a motor vehicle. Years, at least two. And when my license expired I found it a nuisance to deal with; the DMV is notoriously the last place anyone ever wants to spend any time, and the $30 renewal fee felt excessive for something I never used. I had my upcoming sojourn to Paris taking up most of my attention (and finances) at the time, so I suppose I can be forgiven for not making my license a priority. My passport, on the other hand, I renewed a full seven months before it expired. I figured I’d take care of renewing my right to drive like a grandma when I got back.

And then I came back in July, and it was full-on wedding crunch time. And then there was the wedding, and then the honeymoon, and I’d become so used to using my passport as ID at bars that the need to renew my license developed even less of a sense of urgency. Until about two weeks ago, when Jamal asked me, “Won’t you have to retake the driving test at some point?”

“No,” I scoffed. “They only make the elderly retake it.”

“Are you sure? It’s been about 10 months now.”

Ten months? Oh my god, it had been! If you ever need proof that time doesn’t so much pass as disappears, try putting off renewing your license. Then I had a brief mental review of the previous ten months, which, had this been a movie, would have involved lots of dreamy music and slow motion scenes in Paris and Greece, punctuated with the occasional anxiety of my expired license.

Still, I thought. I’ll be fine.

But then I googled. And you’d think I would’ve learned my lesson now about googling answers to things you really don’t want to know the answers to (“My dog just ate a box of matches, will he die?”), but no. And it turns out that in the state of Pennsylvania, if you let your license lapse for more than six months, you need to retake the driving exam.

I’m not wonderful at math, but even I realized that 10 months was a whole four months longer than six months. Six months would have been June, and this being November, I realized I was, as the saying goes, up shit’s creek without a paddle. Not that I could’ve paddled anyway, because my canoe license is expired, too!

What exactly does the license exam entail? Well, first, I’d need a signed physical from a doctor, certifying I’m in good enough health to drive a car. The I’d need to take a road knowledge test at the DMV in order to obtain a learner’s permit. Then I’d need to schedule (and pay for!) a road test. I did all of this when I was newly 20 and for some reason decided learning to drive was a worthy pursuit. Spoiler: it’s no fun, and I wasn’t about to voluntarily put myself through it again.

Panic. Sweating. Stifled laughter from my friend Herbie, who swore he wasn’t laughing at me just at my predicament. There was no way in hell I was applying for a learner’s permit again at almost-28. If it truly came down to it, I thought, I’d say eff it and just get a state ID card and never drive again. It wouldn’t be that much of a difference from my current life, only I wouldn’t have to carry around my passport as a valid form of ID.

Just to be sure/beg for mercy, I called the state DMV office, and a kindly lady confirmed that yes, in the state of PA, you can choose to not drive with a valid license for at least two years, but if you let that license lapse for six months and one day, you need to re-do the entire driving test process from the beginning. Merde.

“But wait,” she said. I heard clicking and typing in the background. “Hmm. That’s interesting! It looks like the system isn’t prompting a retake in your particular case.” WHAT? “Normally, it wouldn’t let you renew your license, but I’m not getting that error on yours.” Finally, the prevailing incompetence of the DMV actually worked in my favor!

You could call it divine intervention or luck, but my sweet friends, I was spared the embarrassment of getting a whole new license at this age. I was able to renew online without issue, and I have to go to the DMV this afternoon and have a new photo taken. No doctor’s physical or horrible road test required. The downside is that, because I updated my address less than 30 days before an election, I still had to go back to my mom’s neighborhood to vote last week. A small price to pay to avoid the inevitable failure that would have met my attempt at passing a road test under the strict DMV requirements.

Did I learn my lesson? Enh. Ask me in another three years.

French Class

The Louvre

I started French class again last night, because as my friend Herbie said, with four days to go to the wedding why not pick up an extracurricular? I’m in section 204, which feels worlds away from where I started almost two years ago in 103; being surrounded exclusively by the language on a daily basis for eight weeks this spring didn’t hurt, either. My comprehension in hearing it and confidence in speaking are leaps and bounds above where I expected them to be, and I’m really proud of myself. Two years ago I decided I wanted to become fluent in French, and I’m on my way there.

Last night as we were waiting for Rachel, our teacher, to arrive, an older gentleman in his late 60s, new to the class, and I struck up conversation. “Je m’appelle John,” he said. Oh, I thought, That’s nice. He has the same name as my dad. “Je suis architecte.” Well that’s a coincidence, he even has the same occupation as my dad.

I told John as much, more preoccupied with the fact that I was rattling off in French without having to stop and think of the words than anything else.

“Vous avez le même prénom et profession de mon père,” I said.

“What was your father’s last name?” John asked.

I told him, and his face froze. He repeated it, searching, I thought, his recollection for any sort of chance encounters with a fellow Philadelphia architect over the course of their careers. Philadelphia is an extremely small world, one that shrinks even smaller when you add in a specific niche profession. It’s likely their paths had crossed.

“John Godfrey?” he repeated again, this time with a rise of disbelief in his voice.

It turns out, this new student in my French class, this sweet white-haired architect named John not only knew my father, but had been very good friends with my father in the 70s.

Suddenly all my French vocabulary failed me.

He asked about my brother Eric, who was just a kid back then, he asked about my brother’s wonderfully kind mother Eileen –a woman so gentle and generous it defies logic, so kind that this relative stranger in my French class had to tell me how he remembered her as being incredibly nice, and this was 40 years ago. French Class John knew my father. He knew my father’s sculpture at the firehouse on Market Street, they knew all the same old architects, they lived on the same tiny street in Queen Village. He knew my dad’s old Saab, and he told me how it had taken oil and gas in the same tank to run.

“We were like this,” he said, making the universal symbol for close, twisting his first two fingers together.

Suddenly all my English vocabulary failed me, as well.

I called my brother immediately after class on the walk home, and his reaction was just like French Class John’s had been. My brother told me how one night, when he was eight, his parents and John and his wife had gone out to dinner, leaving Eric alone at French Class John’s apartment near Rittenhouse Square. But it was okay, he said, because they had a small color television, and he was glued to it all night.

My daddy. He never really leaves me.

Something Old

Daddy's Watch

Daddy's Watch

No, not wedding related, though I am getting married in 10 days (10 days!). No, this is a long overdue fix I finally attended to. When my dad died eight years ago, among the things I took with me from his apartment (a favorite sweater, a reading lamp, his old drafting table) before putting the rest in storage, was this watch. I don’t remember seeing him wear it –he had a pocket watch (repeat: a pocket watch) for much of my life– but I loved it immediately. There is a dial for the day of the week, one for the date of the month. The battery was dead, probably had been for years before I found it, and the leather strap was dry and brittle. None of that mattered. I wore it every day for years, even though it never told time. (The old adage about even broken clocks being right twice a day is applicable.) I wore it with the face on the underside of my wrist, wanting to feel it against my pulse. It never occurred to me in all those years to get the battery replaced; I wasn’t wearing it to tell time, I was wearing it because it was my dad’s.

Until this past weekend, when, upon realizing another of my watches had died, and so had Jamal’s, there seemed to be no better time to take all three in for repair. What had taken me so long? The whole affair took less than ten minutes, at one of those ubiquitous, unremarkable jewelry shops, where they buzz you in at the front door. A new battery and a new leather strap, and a new life given to an old watch.

I turned the watch over in my hands when we got outside, sort of like I was seeing it for the first time. And in the most fittingly obvious coincidence, guess where the strap was manufactured?

Go on, guess.

Paris. Of course, Paris.

My Dad in Paris

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I made mention in this post about the ways in which my dad, unsurprisingly, showed up around Paris while I was there. His love of the city (and all things French) was something we had very much in common –along with turtlenecks, neutral colored clothing, quiet time, and stinky cheese. Finding photos from his trip in the 90s was one of the greatest joys of my life to date; reliving the city through his eyes was the next best thing to getting to go there with him one day, something that we never got to share and will forever break my heart.

But he still had his ways of letting me know he was there with me on this trip. Here are stories behind just two: Read more

Friday Five

I know there’s an old rule in writing that you’re never supposed to lead with the weather, but can we talk about how glorious the weather has been this week? Mid 60s, blue skies, just the right amount of wind. Spring has certainly, finally, sprung, and while it’s supposed to rain all day today, my mood is irreversibly buoyed by having been able to wear ballet flats to work this week without catching frostbite, thus displaying my blindingly pale cankles for the first time in months. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still winter’s biggest champion, but it’s hard not to love spring weather.

Herewith, my top five things this week:

1. The answer Gary Oldman gave to the question, “What is your guilty pleasure?” 

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And the beautiful soul who made it into a gif (his face!).

2. The new blog layout I’ve been working on:

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But you’ll have to wait until Monday to see it! Such a tease, I know. It will be worth the wait.

3. This well-timed, eerily accurate fortune cookie fortune:

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I had dinner with my brother, sister-in-law, and nieces over the weekend, and I opened my fortune cookie to this little gem. I generally don’t give much weight to fortunes, and I wouldn’t necessarily consider going to Paris to write a novel “exotic,” but this one was too perfect not to share.

4. This wonderfully weird Google Earth screencap:

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YOU RAN HIM OVER. This was taken in Parc Monceau, just like this bizarre one, convincing me whoever was in charge of the camera that day must have been high.

5. The new “No Work After 6pm” rule French unions just enacted:

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Not only do the French enjoy a 35 hour work week, 6+ weeks of paid vacation per year, and, you know, life in France in general, French unions this week “signed a new, legally binding labour agreement that will require staff to switch off their phones after 6pm.” No work emails, no work texts, no work after 6pm. The unions believe there should be as little intrusion to the private lives of workers as possible, which means that “companies must ensure that their employees come under no pressure” to work after you leave the office. Considering I live with someone that takes work calls at 11 at night and 7 in the morning, this is a rule I’d love to adopt here. (Thanks to my friend Audrey for sending me this story!)

What are you up to this weekend, kiddos? I will be packing, and I’m so excited about it. I already did a test run a few months ago, true story, to make sure I could bring everything, cross-referencing the piles of folded clothes with one of the 345694262413 lists I’ve made. This time I’m making it official by bringing out the suitcases. 19 days!

I’m Moving to Paris!

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You read that right, though maybe I’m overstating the “move” aspect, as it implies permanency. I will be spending two months (eight weeks! 61 days!) in Paris! PARIS! I leave April 30th (hence the countdown!) and fly home June 30th. I’ve been bursting at the seams wanting to tell you guys, the excitement has been just overwhelming. I might have slipped and told a few of you last year, but who knows if you believed me because when am I not threatening to move to Paris? This time it’s real. This is not a drill.

I’m sure you have a ton of questions, so let me see if I can head them off:

Read more

I’ve Got a Secret

I’ve made reference several times now about this year having big things in store for me, and while I hate to be even more intentionally vague than I’ve been already, well, I’m going to (but only for a little while longer!). If you follow me on Twitter (are you following me on Twitter? I promise I don’t post about Ace of Base too frequently) you might have noticed a strange occurrence over the past few months:

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Oooh, how mysterious!

Good news: I promise to reveal everything this Friday, and those cryptic tweets will be explained when I do. In the meantime, assuming you want to play along, I’d love to hear your guesses: What am I counting down to? Am I eloping with Gary Oldman? Opening a Philadelphia franchise of Ladurée? Revealing a publishing contract? Go wild with conjecture, kiddos.

PS. Those of you that know already, don’t spoil it for everyone else (Mom)!

PPS. No, this isn’t a belated April Fool’s joke.

PPPS. No, I’m not pregnant.

New Macbook

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Everyone say hello to the newest addition to the like / want / need family! I have named her Wanda, after “A Fish Called Wanda,” because it was the the movie I watched as I was setting her up, installing programs, and transferring all of my files and photos off my external hard drive. A Macbook called Wanda, if you will. Have you seen that movie? It’s one of my all time favorites, and I almost dropped Macbook Wanda off my lap from laughing so hard at the tv, oops.

I traded in my white Macbook to a local Apple dealer and, combined with my government employee discount, walked out of the door with a brand new Macbook Pro for under $700. I probably could have used my old Macbook for another year or so without an issue, but it was starting to act slow when I worked in Photoshop or had too many tabs open online (story of my life). Better to trade it in while it still had some value, right? Weirdly, the iMac i bought in 2008 still runs like a champion, and while I thought about trading that one in too towards the cost of Wanda, my anxiety got the better of me and I figured it was better to have a backup computer in the house (it’s where I do most of my writing anyway) in addition to my external hard drive (and the cloud drive where I back my writing progress up — I have a triple redundancy system going; if I were ever to lose this novel I would drop dead).

Hooray technology!

Love You, Fitzy

Daylight Savings Time has been really rough around here. Waking up when it’s still dark outside wouldn’t really bother me (I’m part vampire, after all) but I’ve been stuck in full-day meetings this week that all have ungodly early start times, meaning I’m up and out the door well before 7am — practically the middle of the night. I watched the sunrise from the bus yesterday before proceeding to sit in a windowless conference room for nine hours (that last part is not Daylight Savings’ fault, but I figured I’d get all my complaints out of the way). Fitz doesn’t even stir when my alarm goes off, but I can feel him grumbling at me in his head. Dude loves his sleep. Once, I turned the bedroom light on after coming back in from the bathroom, and he actually squeezed his eyes shut and buried his head under his pillow, I kid you not.

The only upside to this whole time-change situation has been the afternoon sunlight we’ve been getting. I know I grouse every year about setting the clocks forward or back (and I’m still not confident I have a firm grasp on the entire enterprise; WHERE DOES THE HOUR GO?), but man, coming home at 5pm and getting to open a window and have an impromptu photoshoot with your dog? Don’t mind if I do!

(The only editing I did to these was resizing)

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The house is usually a black hole with no natural sunlight, and the only time I get to enjoy daylight hours are on the weekends. Well, not anymore! Okay, Daylight Savings, you win this one. From these photos, one might assume that Fitz enjoys or even tolerates having his picture taken. Before you go too far operating under that assumption:

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The SASS. Clearly he is my dog.