Tag Archives: France

The planets are in alignment. Literally.

28 Feb

I did not take this photo. Some awesome photographer from Reuters did. I'm borrowing it to illustrate my story. Is that technically copyright infringement? I sure hope not.

Leaving yoga last night, I happened to look up and see the moon. Well, the moon (a sliver) and two very bright stars underneath it. My memory jogged to a Facebook post I’d read the night before, in which a friend had urged everyone to head outside and check out Venus and Jupiter, just under the moon.

I looked around and realized that what I was seeing was MUCH brighter than anything else in the sky, and I knew I was looking at planets. With my naked eyes. I became inexplicably excited and couldn’t take my eyes off them, except when passing other pedestrians. And I realized: apparently I’m the only person who finds planets to be a kinda big deal, because everyone else was shuffling along, talking on cell phones, not looking up.

I wanted to stop strangers and say, “Look up! Check it out! Those are PLANETS.” And I considered doing it – I assessed every person I walked past, trying to find someone I could share this marvel with. But that’s when I figured something out: when you’re walking alone, after dark, and you approach strangers, they’re going to think you’re either a) A criminal, or B) Crazy.

I couldn’t decide if the yoga mat over my shoulder helped or hurt my cause. On one hand, it showed that I wasn’t homeless (unless it was actually a bed roll), but on the other, it could mean that I was some kind of crazy Earth Mother who liked stars AND astrology.

This mild self-awareness prompted me to exercise some restraint and NOT approach strangers. However, if they’d studied me closely, they would’ve seen my eyes dancing from their faces up to the moon and back, much like a dog trying to hint that he’s ready for you to fill up his bowl. No one looked up. Their loss.

Unable to contain my enthusiasm, I called Alan and my sister and encouraged them to head outside, and sent my friend Betsy a text. I needed to share this with someone. I mean, it’s not every day that the planets are aligned so you can see them on a casual walk.

You know what else doesn’t happen everyday? Spotting the person who hit you with her vehicle. That’s right.

Walking down T Street, I was just about to cross the opening to an alley, when a Prius turned to enter. I hesitated for a moment before crossing its path (it was a Prius after all – and the same color as the one that hit me, at that!) and in that moment, I looked up at the driver. It was Tina. The woman whose face I had seen vividly through that same windshield once before.

Not sure how I recognized it.

I suppose it shouldn’t surprise me to bump into her (no pun intended) since she lives two blocks from me. But I did just celebrate my one year crashiversary (Feb 13!)  by observing that I hadn’t seen her since that night in the ER. Guess I celebrated too soon.

Ironically, for the first time since I’d set eyes on the moon, with the one person who stood a chance of recognizing me, I didn’t feel compelled to stop her and ask her to look up. Instead I just tucked my chin down and hustled past, glad for the anonymity.

Nestled back in my home, I googled “Venus, Jupiter, Moon” to make sure that what I’d seen were actually planets. (Yep!) But then I found this article that informed me I’d missed the real bonanza last May, when Mercury, Venus, Jupiter and Mars were visible to the naked eye, with Uranus and Neptune visible with binoculars.

WHAT?! I missed the chance to see SIX planets at once with nothing more than opera glasses? Where was I when this happened, and why didn’t anyone drag me outside? Also? Maybe this explains why no one mirrored my amazement last night. They probably all had seen six planets last year and would’ve been like, “Yawn. Big deal…” if I’d stopped to point out Venus and Jupiter.

It would’ve been kind of like that time in France when a couple stopped me and asked for directions and – because I couldn’t actually understand their question, I thought they were gesturing at a building that had caught fire the week before, so I’d excitedly responded to their simple inquiry with: “See that? It burn! It BURN! Burn big! Go bye!” Their eyes had grown large and they started backing away from me as if I were about to light them on fire.

So anyway. I guess there are three morals to this story: First, trying to engage strangers on the street is a recipe for looking crazy. Second, when the planets are in alignment, expect the unexpected. Third, if ever you don’t understand what someone has asked you, err on the side of giving them directions to a supermarket. At least you will have communicated something non-threatening and potentially helpful.

The good news? The planets will be visible for a few more weeks, so you haven’t missed your chance to see them. I just ask that if you DO see them and want to share the joy with a stranger, you point to the moon and tell someone how to get to FoodLion.

I only parlez-français when it comes to champignons.

2 Nov

Our Learning Services team supports our offices around the world. I tell you this to explain why I was dialing Paris at 10am.

I thought I was calling someone who expected my call. We had a meeting invitation on our calendars, and I’d checked our corporate directory to ensure I had her direct line. But somehow, between trying to remember the international exchange code and entering her number, I managed to enter the general office number.

So I was surprised when she answered with a flowing sentence of French, beginning with the only word I understood: Bonjour. I responded with a Bonjour of my own, before switching to English in a “let’s drop this joke” kind of tone and said, “Hey! It’s Alison. Are you ready for me?”

Silence on the other end. Then, “Bonjour? Repetez, s’il vous plait…”

Which is when I realized it was NOT the person I was trying to reach. So, digging deep into my dusty mental reference drawer, I called upon the French I’d learned eight years ago when I briefly lived in France.

I strung together a sentence which – roughly translated – was intended to communicate the following: “Hi. My apologies. I speak little French. I am American. I am searching for Perrine. Is she there?”

The woman on the other end exclaimed like she finally understood me; then I was put on hold. After a brief delay, another woman answered. “Bonjour?”

Cautiously, I answered. “Perrine?”

Apparently not, because her response was a long sentence which left me stumped.

In my defense, even at the height of my French comprehension, I heavily relied on visual cues. The phone was always my enemy. Taking a deep breath, I had flashbacks of two other French phone calls from my past.

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I think I might explode.

8 Mar

Whoa. I finally got around to cutting the fresh bacon slab I ordered from Arganica last week.

(For those of you in the DC area, an Arganica membership is worth it just to get this meat; if you live in Pennsylvania, then you can just walk your sweet ass over to Schmidt’s – assuming you can find Steelton, PA – and pick up a slab.)

And yes, you heard me correctly: the bacon arrived fresh in a slab, meaning it was uncut. That’s why it’s extra fun and super special.

Tonight I hacked the pound into “lardons” (see THIS for an explanation if – like my sister – you think a lardon is a hard-on caused by bacon), and decided to fry up a few to make a Salade Paysanne for dinner. I haven’t had a true Salade Paysanne since I lived in France, but tonight’s meal brought it all back. If only I’d had a glass of Cotes du Rhone to go with it, my memory would be complete.

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Somehow, this goes from bargains to bacon with a little French thrown in for kicks.

2 Mar

I’m not a shopaholic by traditional standards. Anyone who has seen my wardrobe will gladly vouch for that.

But I *am* a bargain hunter, so the whole online coupon thing has turned into something of an addiction for me. I subscribe to Groupon, LivingSocial, Homerun and Greenbacks. I’ve bought at least one deal through each of those sites, and multiple deals from multiple cities for Groupon and Living Social.

If you’re not familiar with them, the premise is this: you spend a certain amount of money to get a specific deal (generally twice the value of what you’ve spent). You’re essentially pre-paying to get yourself a 50% discount. The catch is that you have to use your deal before it expires (generally 6-12 months) or the vendor gets your money and you get nothing.

In addition to trying over a dozen restaurants this way, I’ve also purchased:

  • A store credit at French boutique
  • An intro pottery class
  • A helicopter tour of Chicago
  • An Executive Suite at the Wyndham Chicago
  • Yoga classes
  • Massages
  • Amazon gift cards
  • A credit at a wine shop
  • Cupcakes

I’ve tried so many yoga studios in DC this way, I could probably write an educated article reviewing them for Yoga Journal.

Anyway, the deal that has me WILDLY excited (to the point that it’s why I even started this post) is a six month membership to Arganica. Argani-wha?

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