(the misadventures of an expatriate corporate dropout)

Friday, December 26, 2008

california, here I go ...

wrapping up the California portion of my trip, had a nice finish yesterday with a Christmas dinner at Laura & Mike's. We've kindly been included in the family circle for the past few years, which has been especially nice since we opened Mignonne. We've found ourselves without the energy for Christmas cooking and such ... and these two are wonderful hosts, chefs, friends.

Laura is the daughter of my longtime friend Christie ... so our (Christie and I) kids all know each other and are friends as well. It works out great!

We had a very impressive standing rib roast, cooked to perfection, with yorkshire puddings and potatoes and green beans. Bottles of champagne, and wine, and eau de poire were consumed. For appetizers, Johnelle prepared albondigas from scratch and there was a date pudding with caramel sauce and vanilla ice cream for dessert.

We were all sated. hiccup.

Now we will be driving northward to Eugene for a stopover with family tonight and then on to the coast by Saturday night.

As long as mother nature cooperates!

So, no profundities or witticisms appear to be forthcoming at the moment. I'm really a bit tired and feeling like somewhat of a hobo. About all I can muster is this rather dry travel update.

so there you have it.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

happy kwanzaa baby jesus.

so the final countdown of madness and mayhem will bring us soon to the big day ... the day where fevered consumerism peaks in a mad and merry outburst of shredded wrap, burst bubbles, tipsy tippling and gastronomic excess. Interspersed with pigskin battles and familial meltdowns.

or not!

me and mine will be sharing dinner with friends. somehow in all the flying back and forth to France, preparing Mignonne for the holiday season, sleeping on couches and other general distractions ... Santa's shenanigans got lost in the shuffle and kerfuffle.

whatever your big day consists of, may it bring you at least a smattering of what your inner visions longed for!

and if santa baby shimmied down your chimney with something extraordinary, drop me a comment so I can be envious from afar!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

mon devoir.

I've gotten a late start on my programme de noel.

My assignment is to read a small book, subject: the 2CV, and summarize, in French, each chaptre.

being a slim little gem, I thought ... piece of cake.


last night a dj saved my life ... well okay, my trip. sorta.

I got a night out in the city where hearts are left high on hills and cable cars run halfway to the stars ... it was quite a treat.

I figured I'd better have at least one post about an experience I liked ...

Cocktails with one of my mostest bestest and dearest friends ... followed by more drinks and some of the hottest dj music I've heard and bounced my money-maker to in ages! we slurped some delicious "poire" concoction that tasted like more and so I did! and did! and DID!

we closed the place up at 2am on a Monday night!!!

and then, someBODY (hmmm) got a bright idea to segue to a kiddie park and take a twirl down the slide in high heels and landed ker-PLUNK ... right where the magic happens ... and I've been kinda limping along for a few days with a shiner on my tailbone. good times, good times!

good thing no inspections are in order cos man, I'd have some 'splainin to do!

I do loves to dance folks, and mister man was spinning the old school mixed with today like nobody's business.

Monday, December 22, 2008

the times they are a changin'

In addition to visiting my family and friends, the main reason I returned to the states was to help out in our shop during the holiday season.

which seems to have gone strangely missing.

things have been generally okay in our tiny boutique. Slower than last year, granted, but given what I've seen and heard about here ... it could be worse.

Customers, when they do appear, many times spend a half hour or more browsing and then depart with a thanks. Others share what they are seeing out and about this season. A couple yesterday arrived after their fancy brunch in the city. It was at a large hotel in San Francisco, in the best restaurant. They told me 2 tables were occupied in the entire restaurant. This on the Sunday before Christmas, a week-end normally packed everywhere during prior holidays. They had been to the SF Galleria mall and described it as a ghost town.

When I arrived here in Portland, my friend and I visited a large mall in search of some stuff for French friends. Granted, this was still a few weeks before Christmas ... but it was startlingly quiet.

On the other hand, last night I hit a small outdoor shopping area in search of the Apple store ... very popular in these parts and it was fairly bustling.

Most people I speak to are at least uneasy. many are scared of what 2009 will bring in terms of the economy, etc. And yet, I know of many new businesses being launched next year (small bars, restaurants, boutiques, etc.).

Personally, I hope the world's consumers turn away from corporations and big box money-makers and turn back to their smaller, local providers in the community. After all, it appears our friendly government will bail out the big guys.

Its the little guys that need your help. and optimism. and support. If everyone just shuts down, it will be much worse. I say take your budgeted disposable income to your local business owners. with a smile and nod of encouragement. 2010 will come that much more quickly and with a positive bent.

Friday, December 19, 2008

welcome back. here's your hat, what's your hurry?

this morning I awoke, looking forward to a lunch with some former colleagues and friends in San Francisco. I took my time getting ready, it is always a treat to venture into a city with some style, which San Francisco definitely is.

I made my toilette and went to my car. I'm staying with my daughter in Oakland and have been doing street parking. I can see my car from her flat.

I got in the car and noticed some papers on the floor in front of the passenger seat. I groused to myself a bit about which kid that had borrowed the car had left stuff on the floor. Suddenly I felt a bit of a draft. "Don't tell me they left the window down too?!", I thought and absent-mindedly pushed the automatic button to close it. I heard some gritty grindy noise and looked over my shoulder to see that no ... no kid of mine had done anything to my car. Instead, some lovely citizen had vandalized my car and there was a pile of shattered glass on the seat, the floor, etc.

So much for lunch. my day. etcetera. Flurry of calls to and from insurance agents. auditors. glass repairers. walked to buy something to seal up the window.

Sat here fuming for the afternoon.

Fucking hell. get me outta here.

Monday, December 15, 2008

i can't believe i'm saying this, but maybe bigger isn't always better ...

a couple of observations regarding these united states of .... since I've been here

as I exited the people loader / unloader and entered Washington Dulles, I was assaulted by the sounds of barking masses. That's right, hordes of big people pushing and scurrying while barking into some sort of device.

if they weren't elbowing their way around, they were sat, overflowing the chair, yakking into sometimes unseen gadgets strapped to their ears. Or they were staring transfixed into some handheld device, heads bobbing to the beat of music plugged into their ears.

I can also report that these large humans certainly couldn't credit their girth to the ample servings received while in transit on aircraft between said airports. since one is served doll food.

perhaps American cars are bigger because the people seem to be as well? hmmmm. dunno. Other things that are bigger. EVERYTHING! lol! Okay, I have spent hours and hours now at BricoDepot in France. Which is considered a BIG store. BricoDepot would fit in the paint and tools section of the Oakland Home Depot. I mean, the Oakland Home Depot is at least six to eight times larger. It is VAST! I wandered around while getting a key made (only $1.47 per key by the way! HELLO Brico Depot!!! but I digress) and as I was wandering I didn't discover any products or sections not on offer at BricoDepot. Just that there must be five times as much in each aisle. What is the necessity of all of these consumables?

I was reminded of the circle I dosie-dohhed out of not long ago. The one where we all strive to make more money to buy more things to put in bigger houses that cost more money that we work more hours to get more money so we can buy more things to put in ... well you get it.

regarding this device fixation. I said to a friend, 'please don't tell me I was like that ...'. She stared at me a bit ruefully and tried to tiptoe around my question, telling me ... 'well, sometimes you would look at the phone and see who it was and not answer it ... but your phone was always ringing and if it wasn't ringing you were looking at it to check stuff'.

are people really that incapable of conducting their lives without technological assistance? or connection?

it has really gone over the top. couples sit in restaurants and talk on the phone to others. or send and read emails with their PDAs, rarely exchanging a word with their dining partners. People are out shopping, shouting into cell phones as they check-out, nary a word to the person working to acknowledge the transaction. Individual diners sit and talk into cell phones, many times hidden little bits on their ears and covered up with hair, which is equally confusing!

If the above isn't bad enough ... it is all done Loudly! Very, very loudly! While in France, I've jokingly told folks that Americans are like the labradors of the world.

You know ... kind of big and bouncy and 'here I am, look at me, be my friend' sorts ... tails wagging and big grins on the face.

But I can also tell you ... comparatively speaking ... Americans are LOUD. And frankly, it is annoying.

Americans don't just talk loudly on the phone (which of course they do and in the most inappropriate situations). They talk loudly to each other. In restaurants. At theaters. In the bank. Didn't anyone ever teach these people about using their 'small' voices? Because just like bigger cars, roads, malls, platters of mass produced 'cuisine', bigger voices seem to be all the rage.

I haven't decided if it is the labrador factor. OR if there is a desire to be the center of attention. If they think they and what they have to say are that much more important and must be shared in elevated tones.

I'm on sensory overload.

Friday, December 12, 2008

i don't know how

I am going to last 3 more weeks.

I've only been here one week and I am squirming ... I feel completely cut off from my new life and completely foreign to my old life.

We had our 3rd annual Holiday Reception at the shop last night and it was well attended and successful. It felt like the climax to my visit and now ... I want to go HOME. I wish Christmas was next week so I could be preparing for some quality time with my little family and then moving on my way.

Nothing else holds much appeal here, I'm afraid.

One thing is certain, I'm changing my return flight plans. and soon.

Monday, December 8, 2008

updates from the road

well, it has been a busy few days. I've managed to pack in all of the following:

1. Huevos rancheros at a local mexican restaurant! yum!
2. Art show at Portland's First Thursday
3. Dinner at Paley's in Portland (delish, and I was informed it was voted one of top 25 restaurants in the U.S. so go me!)
4. Vintage thrift shopping with Kathleen, lunch and a mad shopping spree in search of turtleneck sweaters...
5. Checked out "A Christmas Tale" with Catherine Deneuve. One word - deep! American tales of dysfunctional family holidays got nuthin' on this!
6. Escorted to the beach by good friend Tom to retrieve my car and check on my place. it is still as cute and quaint as ever...decisions, decisions...
7. A wonderful brunch with lots of ex-colleagues, also hosted by good friend Tom (on Sunday)
8. Hit up Sephora to buy a couple of unlocatable-in-France items...
9. Cooked dinner for five last night ... duck!

and today I am driving to California ...

I still miss Brantôme ... thankfully I've received texts from JY and dogsitter that confirm the boys are hanging in there, so that's a relief.

counting the days till I go home... will post more soon! got some 'expat returns to land of origin' cultural observations brewing in the noggin'!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

the sparrow has landed...

well, that may be a bit presumptuous ... but as I am inspired by the sparrow ...

yesterday I received my 3:00 a.m. wake-up call from monsieur JY and when he arrived, singing, at 3:30 I didn't know whether to choke him or hug him!

in any event, I abandoned mes petits chiens amid much last minute chaos (mad search for fr checkbook, alas non) and we departed. in gale force rains and wind. and pitch black. and Rag Mama Rag cranked up on the disc player.

with help from friends, I discovered a direct TGV from Angouleme to Roissy/Charles De Gaulle Aeroport in Paris. In fact there are several throughout the day. For those who'd like such information for my area, there is also a daily 7:00 a.m. train to Roissy/Charles De Gaulle Aeroport from Limoges. The train arrives in Terminal 2. There is a simple to find-and-take shuttle train from Terminal Two to Terminal One, should you need it (and if you are flying United Airlines to the states, you will). Use the above link to SNCF and be sure to type in Roissy as your destination. also fyi, the train ride is about 3 hours.

We arrived around 5:15 a.m. to a deserted station ... no open cafés or such. JY benefited from the coffee machine and I produced a 'nut bar' from my bag to complete his petit dejeuner! We loitered and laughed and did our little dance (as always) until finally he decided to collect my bags from the car. For a while there, I didn't know who would win out, JY or the winds ... he took it all in stride like the personal super-hero he is.

After he left, I found my way to the platform and boarded. I brought one bag of clothing and one empty suitcase ... my backpack with laptop and my traveling bag with complete with nouvelle vie sentiments!

When I checked-in, the United rep asked if I would prefer to streamline my itinerary (because I made last minute changes to my flight which used frequent-flyer miles, I had 2 stops before Portland) and I said absolutely. Unfortunately, she couldn't find an open seat so I left girding my loins for a very long day. On top of it all, I had lost my business class seating due to my changes and was facing all of these 'legs' with no leg room! (economy seating). So I wasted miles on better seating that I ultimately didn't experience.

Well, the first leg I was in Econ Plus, 2 seats to myself (on the plus side) and the food was shit ... absolute shit ... (on the downside). Lean Cuisine deserves a Michelin star compared to what I was served. And when did they eliminate free drinks from international flights? I paid $6 for the shittiest bottle of cloyingly sweet Chardonnay I've ever tasted.


When I landed at Washington Dulles, I had happy(er) news. Somehow that darling woman at Paris/CDG worked magic on my itinerary and instead of flying next to San Francisco and on to Portland and arriving at 12:17 a.m. ... I was confirmed for direct to Portland, arriving at 8:00 p.m.ish!! yay for me!

Within 15 minutes of this news, my flight was delayed an hour! *lmao* And then the juvenile couple with screaming baby twins from hell arrived in the waiting area .... and, upon boarding, imagine my glee at finding said couple seated in front of me. So, first I spent $9 (5 and 1/2 hour flights smack at dinner time no longer rate so much as a pretzel bag ... ) on a further piece of shit salad consisting of limp lettuce, diced cheese product, bacon 'bits'-read fako baco, and mush diced tomatoes .. and then I spent 5 hours sleeping fitfully whilst said couple passed the alternately screaming infants like batons at a marathon. Not once was a bottle or pacifier spied ... nor was a willing breast exposed for the sake of nearby passengers. We were all fit to be tied.

sigh. But I DID land at 9:00p.m.ish, was actually greeted at the airport for the first time in my life by my dear friend Kathleen who took me straight to her amazing beautiful old home in Portland and ensconced me in my own private and well-appointed bedroom and my own bath assigned to me ... the bed is a dreamlike cocoon of memory foam and down duvets ... the bath is stocked with luxurious personal comfort goodies. Unfortunately, only one bag arrived with me but the travel gods remained somewhat merciful and the one that arrived DID have my clothing ...

And so, 27 hours later, I put myself to bed. slept like an angel. awoke to the scent of freshly-brewed coffee. I'm now lounging and writing and wondering how long I can take it (the states) before I can finally return home.

because yes. not 24 hours here and I know that France is now home.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

while I'm in the states checklist ...

lolling about this morning, I had this stellar notion to compile a list of stateside wants and to do's. time will tell if this was a blogworthy enterprise.

Here they are in no particular order.

1. Eat some Tamarindo mexican ... preferably a few times including brunch and sangria.

2. Eat some Cactus mexican ... preferably including breakfast and mexican coffee.

3. Eat a few breakfasts that include eggs and bacon and homefries and strong coffee.

4. Visit my Orygun peeps.

5. Walk on the sands of the beach in Seaside, Orygun ...

6. Hug and kiss my offspring.

7. Visit my Oaktown (and surrounds) peeps.

8. Have a night on the town with some of my peeps...maybe include a few shakes of my moneymaker.

9. Pick up stateside shopping list items for me and France-living friends .... (requests accepted).

10. Fill the empty suitcase I am bringing with agonized-over items now in storage...

(takes stock of list ... hmmm... a little heavy on the eating quotient...note to self, revise list)

Any suggestions from my studio audience?