Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
In my boring, every-day life (the part of life in which we have to work in order to earn an income and in which many of us are doing something that we're not entirely passionate about), I am a translator and proofreader. I randomly got into this through my previous, short-lived, but semi-successful, acting career (oh, who am I kidding, I should have stopped the descriptives after short-lived). Because I did voices for a few video games, I ended up with a connection to a video game company, which hired me to do a translation or two and presto... five years later, I'm a translator, specializing in video games for the US and UK markets.
I'm perfectly happy with this line of work. It gives me the freedom to work from home, allows me to have free time, with brief busy spurts, and basically gives me enough work to get by. In this case, it's definitely quality time winning out over massive amounts of cashola, but I'm ok with that... generally. Recently, I've had a very busy rush, which has led to the current near-dry spell (definitely worrisome). Worse than the dry spell, though, is the fact that I haven't been paid by my biggest clients in over three months. I've already mentioned this in a previous post (The Horror, The Horror), so you'll understand why the issue has single-handedly outdone itself.
It's a testament to how well I'm doing overall in my life that this lack of money hasn't destroyed me utterly. Le Husband and I have gotten by (with the help of credit cards) on his meagre artist's earnings and I have managed to not think about it every minute of every day, which is no small feat, considering what a worrier I tend to be. It occurred to me very early on that, other than the obvious (phone calls, emails), there was very little that I could do from all the way over here in the US of A and that it was not worth freaking out over. How easy it is, n'est-pas, to melt into a messy, dribbling pile of self-pitying tears rather than face the bothersome thing and move on?
All of this was well and good, of course, until the day on which payment had been promised and repromised (yesterday) came and went... without payment. Add to that this past weekend's cold snap with no heat in our home and you get... well, a morning of messy, dribbling, self-pitying... you get the picture!
I'm not a control freak (although I can easily become one if the situation warrants it... say, Christmas caroling with my friends in high school, trying to keep them from getting run over or cleaning house with Le Husband, whose standards are, in my opinion, sub-par), but I like to have a firm handle on what happens to me. Barring a random car accident or other inevitable bump with fate, I like to think that I'm the Mistress Of My Own Destiny. But, this morning, it became very apparent that, not only do others control our lives, but those others are sometimes the little guys; the power-hungry accountants who would rather put an invoice through the shredder in their last week with a company than deal with it themselves... or the bored utilities worker who prefers to tell clients that the morning's scheduled appointment will actually be in the afternoon, just to make their own lives easier.
I've been on both sides of these equations. I worked for a big French company, where the measly little accountants did their best to make themselves feel better by controlling others, including clients, suppliers, co-workers and anyone else who had the misfortune of requiring their services. But, in that situation, I was able to at least go see them and flirt, cajole, needle, harass, anything to get them to make payments for me. After making a couple irate phone calls this morning, I was able to get a positive response from the gas company and am happy to say that the heat is on. In that case, I was the client and, in the US at least, the client is king. But my phone call to the new accountant in charge of paying my invoices with the video game company (the shredder-fiend has left the company leaving, I understand, many disgruntled people in his wake) ended on a slightly more bitter note: I'm being put off another week.
Oh well, at least I've lost some weight!
Thursday, October 16, 2008
Instead of facts and opinions being shared and argued in a "may the better man win" sort of way, we seem to be stuck with lies, machinations, manipulation, propaganda and general media hocus-pocus. How can this media we have just sit back and judge a presidential debate's merits (very few of which I have spotted), "Well, John McCain clearly dominated the first half... etc.", when every second word is complete crap!?
Out of sheer irritation this morning, along with a heavy dose of anxiety, I've decided to hunt out the truth-sayers. Here's a great page, which offers some examples of the usual spin being taken way too far: http://www.mccainpedia.org/index.php/Count_the_Lies.
I'm happy to know that at least a couple mainstream journalists are bringing up this problem. It's too bad all those McCain voters don't seem to be reading the right articles. I think that Joe Klein sums it up perfectly in his Time.com article when he says that "The McCain camp has decided that its candidate can't win honorably, on the issues, so it has resorted to transparent and phony diversions." (http://www.time.com/time/politics/article/0,8599,1842030,00.html)
Unfortunately, if even his own party doesn't think he can win on the issues alone, shouldn't some of them have the integrity to keep the man from getting into office? Does no one out there care that our country is in a shambles, dragging the rest of the world down with it, and that this man may very well make it much worse? Not to mention his running mate who, ironically, could very well become the first female president, but is not even being endorsed by the National Organization for Women! I shudder to think what could happen in the next four years if people don't make the effort to look past the words and images being thrown at them. It's time for Americans to take a little initiative and start educating themselves... for once.
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Phew! Glad they're gone!
Does anyone else get VERY excited about getting out the winter boots? the woolly tights? the sweaters (jumpers, if you will) and the layering shirts? fishnets and sexy high-heels? Cozy skirts, sweater dresses, thick trousers, with all the accessories to match? My guest room (or "Abby's Room" as it's often called, although the cat prefers "Percy's Room") has been the scene of a particularly frenzied two weeks of clothing sorting, trying-on and general reveling over. This, of course, resulted in our guest room being uninhabitable by anyone (except Percy, who loves to shed his white fur on black clothing through hours of endless lounging). I apologize to those who may have needed a place to stay in the interim, but I am way too far into my favorite clothing season to pay attention to what anyone else may need.
I've finally put the clothing away, happily stowing the garments in the two closets and two dressers they now fill (that doesn't include the summer clothes stored in the attic, all folded and ready to pop out amid my gleeful cries of surprise in April). I do love the lighter dresses and their easy, more revealing cuts and fabrics, but nothing pleases me so much as a cozy winter outfit. The autumn is, by far, the most exciting fashion season, in my opinion, and it's only in the autumn that I realize how fashion-conscious, or fashion-centric, I've become. I love style, I love looking good and helping others do the same. I love clopping down a crowded street at a fast pace in a gorgeous pair of knee-high boots and a fitted jacket, seeing my breath in front of me, perhaps kicking a dead leaf or two and looking at what the other women are wearing this year. I love being in, but adore keeping my own style.
I go to my closet and run a hand over the pieces in there. Sweaters, wool, maybe some thick cotton. I get to the dresses and feel that sweater dress I hunted down late last year, just before moving from Paris: brown, with a big round neck and an A-line flair, ending just above the knees. Perfectly form-fitting, yet loose enough to avoid any unsightly bulges. I remember last year's intense hunt at Place d'Italie with Miss C., trying so hard to find her the perfect sweater dress, feeling so excited about it. I watched her try them on, one dress after another and envied her. That day, I found a pair of electric blue elbow-length gloves that I adored, but couldn't afford. Two months later, when I finally had enough money in the bank, I bought the last pair in all of Paris, two sizes too big. Those have since gone to my mother, whose hands look like they were made for them (no, not the other way around!!). But even that brings me immense pleasure. Seeing a purchase of mine look good on someone else. Seeing my mother's eyes brighten as she tries on my bright red dress in preparation for a wedding, flattering her perfectly and sparkling beautifully; all these things bring me pleasure.
Seeing Miss C. in the dress she finally ended up getting (not that day, I'm afraid), looking so cozy and happy simply by putting on an article of clothing, makes me understand that there's more to it than covering up, than being warm through the cold months. I remember that her inspiration to buy a dress had come when she had seen her friend wearing an oversized, thick warm, elegantly casual sweater and I remember her envy. I know it, because every year, my longest-term friend in the world gives me the exact same envy: her long dark hair falling in a sheet over her structured creamy winter coat. Her little white beret, pulled onto her head, jauntily, teasing, daring the sky to release some rare Paris snow. It's not jealousy of her good looks, although she is beautiful. It's nothing so base as that.
When I see someone thus fashionably wrapped up, I envy their comfort and their beauty, yes, but above all, I feel their coziness, the safe, warm, sitting-in-front-of-the-fire aura that they emit. I see the smoke rising from the chimney and the snow newly fallen, or the crisp, clean smell of leaves, red and yellow and orange on the ground as I kick them with my brown knee-high leather boots, freshly awakened from their yearly hibernation.
Monday, October 13, 2008
A Tale of Two Countries (or Clare, I miss you... and Maz, Dave, Paul, Shep, Trix, Hess, Vanessa, Becks, Neil, Madge, Meg, Marie, etc...)
Now, I tend to think of myself as a very pragmatic, honest and open, down-to-Earth person, but I forget about all the tears that I shed, whatever the emotion behind them. Today, they're entirely sentimental, as they generally tend to be, and they are the true representation of my two lives.
Part of the beauty of my world, I think, is and always has been the duality of it. There's certainly the "grass is greener" trap, always making me wish I were in the other country, and I put a lot of weight on that when it comes to my emotions and my immediate responses. But there is also the fact that I am French-American, by birth and, therefore, by nature, my whole is made up of two very distinct parts. I have been struggling, over the years to decide who or what I really am. Half of me wants to nest, have a family, build something solid, grow roots, and the other half doesn't ever want to settle. The other half wants the best of both worlds, quite literally.
I'm not an expat. I'm not American at heart, laughing at the silly French in a removed kind of way, or charmed by their sneers. Nor am I French, automatically falling into the assumption that all Americans are uneducated, loud and brash. Growing up in the US, I always felt French, imagining it as a little flair that added something special to who I was. When I spent my summers or a year in France, I felt at home and, in more recent years, kept my accent so that I would never sink in to complete anonymity.
My mother has always struggled, as a French woman in America. Today, she is, in some ways, almost more American than French. Since she moved to the US, over 34 years ago, she has always been an expat, with very few true ties to her old life. She has always wanted to go back to France, but both she and the country (not to mention the people) have changed. She has always had to choose, leaving parts of her behind, little bits that I imagine as a disappearing Hansel and Gretel trail strewn across Virginia and the Atlantic, leading to the apartment in Paris that she lived in before having me and that I recently occupied for seven years.
I feel lucky that I haven't had to choose and I realize more and more that I don't want to. I now miss the life in France that I had grown tired of. I can't believe that I could be tired of walking in Paris. I would sometimes walk for hours alone, drinking in the details, the people, the atmosphere. I even remember fondly the horrible strike week, when I was walking three hours a day to get to and from the job I had no desire to go to. Those walks are actually one of my fondest memories, even though at the time, it was the most onerous of duties, exhausting and physically painfully. I miss my tiny apartment with no closet space and my miniscule kitchen, in which I made the tastiest food, that I fear I shall never equal.
Of course what I miss the most about it is the friends, the people, the shared stories and the true closeness we had. I miss all the moments, sober and drunk, day or night, in Paris or elsewhere. I miss daily phone calls to discuss what we've eaten and I miss knowing that at least one of them will be there for me at any given time. I miss taking over the pub, making it ours and, by doing so, making every client's night more fun. I miss the dancing, the little choreographies, imitating a train's movement, I miss crying on a friend's shoulder in the corner of the same bar after a delayed reaction to my separation from my first husband.
I just found out that the pub, the epicenter of my friendships, loves and life for several years, has changed hands and the owners (who I also consider to be friends) have moved on. Suddenly, after so many friends have left Paris over the past year or so, heading back to their various countries and dreams, the pub's changing hands seems like the final straw. I'm sure we can still go there, if we have a reunion. We can still take it over, we can still dance. There will most likely be laughter, tears and undoubtedly too much booze, but my life of the last seven years seems that bit farther away. The changes are now permanent and, much as I'd like to get back the exact feel, I think it might be gone forever. It's not a tragedy, I suppose, just life moving on. But I miss it, I miss them and I dream about them every single night.
Sunday, October 5, 2008
Twas a bright, sunny, late summer day, with just the slightest crispness in the air to let us know the cold months are on their way. I was contentedly typing away, translating, Le Husband happily model-building in the dining room, when suddenly, a young Norman Rockwell painting-come-to-life knocks on our door. I noted his boy scout uniform with glee and bounded outside to greet him. He was selling (of all the possible horrors) caramel popcorn... Of course, I had to order some. What if I said no and he never came back? What if the most innocent of America's youth went out like a light, because no one believed in them anymore? What if I didn't buy any and then he decided not to come back on Halloween? and worst of all... what if my own unborn children never know the silly, spooky, fun, exciting, mysterious, brisk joy of an evening of trick-or-treating? Not to mention the lead up to it (which in my family, was almost the best part - the aftermath being more of a sickening, candy-hiding, jealous and gluttonous experience), during which my parents managed to put together intelligent, creative costumes, that outshown even the store-bought ones the "luckier" kids had.
I'll never forget the year I went as Joan of Ark and my brothers were some kind of medieval knights. My father dropped by the local Baskin Robbins one day after work and was given several of those large empty ice cream containers, which he then carved and spray-painted into helmets. Our tunics were hand-sewn by my mother and the under-layer of chain mail was spray-painted thermal long-johns. I don't think Falls Church had ever seen such creativity and excitement over a Halloween costume as my little family exhibited that year. When so much effort goes into it, it becomes more than just a hunt for candy. It's a family festival, bringing everyone together.
Looking back at those photos today and thinking about that young boy scout, I feel delight and hope for our future. I look past the bleakness I see every day in the world, those moments that make me think I might not really want to add my genes to the mix of future generations, and I imagine my children living in a better world. My hope is unrealistic, idealistic and bittersweet, but it's hope and, sometimes, that's enough.
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
So, are any of you ladies out there feeling the blues? I don't know what it is, or why it's attacking right now, but I have definitely fallen prey to a heavy dose of the Downs. I keep thinking that it must be hormonal and, until now, was convinced that it was just me, but I've just realized that it's EVERYWHERE!!! Walking through the grocery store today was a lump-in-my-throat reel, working is a chore, made all the more difficult by the tears blurring my vision and woe is Le Husband if he decides not to do his dishes immediately. The worst part, beyond the overwhelming bursts of emotion, is the self-doubt.
Anyone who's met me is aware that, even when I'm not sure, I stand by whatever it is I might be spouting, but recently... well... um... do you... I mean, could I... I was thinking... but I'm... You get my drift? So, I've been thinking about this fear of change, insecurity and general listlessness and wondering, is autumn the emotional opposite of Spring? Because Spring brings with it lightness, joy and a certainty that things are looking up. Does this happen to us every year, and then we forget? I don't remember last year being this bad, but then I don't really remember last fall at all.
Then, I thought that perhaps it's about change and insecurity. I miss parts of my old life, but I'm not ready to throw in the towel on Charlottesville yet, so I remain here, wobbly and definitely mid-change. The same goes for a friend of mine who just moved back to Virginia from New York City. Like I did, she's spending the first couple months at her parents' place, while adjusting to country life. Not the easiest of changes to undergo, and her recent emotional state seems remarkably close to my own.
And then, we can't ignore perhaps the most important change of the decade... the presidential election. That's a change that's been begging to happen for the past eight years, but it's also a change that could lead to, in my opinion, absolute horror. I'm trying to be positive about it, but... oh, who am I kidding? That's a change that could send me straight back to Paris. And it's certainly something to cry about.