What The Hell Am I Doing?Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Moving To France
Before I left for Paris, people asked me what I planned doing while I was here. I usually told them, “Nothing,” and then dreamed of sketching nudes by the Eiffel Tower while being fed bon bons by a mime. (Admittedly, I really didn’t know what to expect upon arrival here.)
Now that I am here, I am starting to struggle with an updated answer to that question. (The authorities here have taken a rather hard line against my insistence that it is perfectly acceptable to draw nude pictures of yourself in public. They have informed me that the long lines of tourists standing in line at the Eiffel Tower are not as enamored with my body as I am. Losers. Wait ’til they get to the Louvre and find out that Mona Lisa looks like a pudgy teen age boy with a lazy eye.)
Life here is not all bon bons and mimes and I am starting to wonder what I want out of the experience. Stay at home parenting will consume all of your time, if you let it. There will always be bills to pay, kitchens to stock, kids to micromanage, laundry to do, neighbors to murder, plans to make, and floors to clean. Is that what I want to spend my time here doing? If not this stuff, then what?
It is a question that stay at home parents ask themselves every day. With the exception of those bizarre people who enjoy the exhilaration of a well ironed shirt or a plate cleaned so well you could eat off it, there will always be tension between the selfless provision of care for the family and the selfish desire for personal gratification. Usually, the conflict is resolved in favor of the family, with provisions made for large quantities of alcohol at a later time.
This tension is magnified here for me. I have never been to the Louvre or most of the other museums here. I know very little about art, or history and absolutely nothing about art history. (Sadly, the entirety of my knowledge in this area comes from the Da Vinci Code, and I read it so long ago that even this knowledge is fuzzy by now. Was Mona Lisa smiling because she gave Jesus a hickie?) I would like to crawl out of this fog of ignorance, and Paris is a pretty great place to do it.
Oh, wait. We are out of milk. Looks like the Louvre’ll have to wait.
The same holds for food, a passion of mine. You can take cooking classes here, chase down the best pastry you’ve had in your entire life, sift through an open air market that has chicken feet, cock’s combs and everything in between, or just sit a cafe and watch the world go by. You cannot, however, do any of that if you spend the entire morning trying to resolve printer conflicts for documents you need to get your permanent residence card. (The paper here is a different size. The fucking paper!)
No matter what your poison is, Paris has attractions that will make you forget all about how your refrigerator smells. Music, architecture, literature, churches, and the list goes on an on. There is so much to do that you can freeze up on the universe of opportunities out there.
So what do you do? Where is the happy balance? How can I mix in stuff that I like with the stuff that needs to happen to avoid a divorce? The long answer is that I have no idea. OK, that was pretty brief. Let’s make that the short answer. I guess the long answer is that I set some small goals for stuff that I would like to do. Here are the goals:
First, I am going to stop whining about my “problems.” I live in Paris and someone (named Amy!) is paying my bills. Recently at dinner, we ordered eggs mayonnaise. Guess what was in it? Eggs. With mayonnaise on top! I love this fucking town! I am gonna quit my bellyaching and starting doing things to really make my belly ache. (Like eating eggs mayonnaise morning, noon and night!)
Second, I am going to do something every week that is a complete departure from who I normally am. I will go to a museum/library/house of worship and … wait for it, LEARN SOMETHING! I’m not gonna take any cheapies either, like eating my ham sandwich with dijon and claiming a mountain of personal growth. Nope, I will look for interesting sounding things to do here and then go do them, even if it means that house stays messy one day. My litmus test will be whether it sounds awful. If I read about something and say to myself, “That sounds awful,” I will make myself go. Personal growth is not free from pain. In fact, the two usually go hand in hand.
Last, I bought a book and I am gonna use it. The book is called Larousse Gastronomique. It was written in 1938 and no one bothered to translate it to English until 1961, undoubtedly because of a belief that Americans were idiots. It is not so much a technical manual on how to cook food but more an encyclopedia of food and some rough suggestions on how to make it. Case in point, the entry for cake starts with the etymology of the word for cake, “Gateau,” a history of the French cultural significance of cakes, (they used to throw confections on the heads of worshippers from the roof of the Notre Dame) and then lists page after page of cake variations. So far my favorite is punch cake: fill a charlotte mould with savoy sponge cake mixture. Cook this cake in the oven. Turn it out and leave it to stale for two days.
We are going to eat a lot of shitty food! At least we will learn some stuff along the way. To me, that sounds a lot better than making sure the clothes are dry, the tired old chicken dinner is served and the dishes are done after. Well, maybe. Talk to me in a month.