Friday, March 27, 2009

Why home is where your roommates are

There's something I've been walking carefully around for the last few months here at the Diary of Why, something I have avoided all mention of, and for the sole reason that I chose to remain as long as possible in complete and utter denial. Blindfold over my eyes, fingers firmly planted in my ears, la la la, nothing's gonna change my world. But there comes a point when one has to face reality, and my reality is that in approximately eight short days, Casa di Patrice, Fred, and Rachel will cease to exist. Well, I suppose it will continue to exist, but in an altered (and much inferior form) known instead as Casa di Patrice and Fred. I'm moving.

[insert mushroom cloud of devastation]

I suppose in your world this is perhaps not an end-of-the-world type scenario, but in my world, where I know approximately 2.5 people, two of which are my roommates, and in which my life consists mostly of shuttling back and forth between my school bubble and my home bubble, this is a fairly traumatic turn of events, and one which leaves me prone to shortness of breath and feelings of impending doom in the middle of the night. (Another side effect seems to be an increased tendency towards ridiculously long and drama-filled run-on sentences. I think I need a comma intervention). The obvious question that I suppose comes to mind is, if I'm so upset about it, then why am I moving? Well, that's a good question, Internet, and the answer is really pretty boring. Here, let me tell it to you.

Basically, Patrice told me months ago that we would all have to move out in mid-April. He didn't really elaborate, and only said he had "des soucis avec le propriétaire," or "concerns with the landlord." Using my rocket scientist powers of deduction, I came to the conclusion that, brief bouts of productivity aside, Patrice being unemployed pretty much the entire time I've known him equals a Patrice who is probably not paying rent to the landlord. And as the long arm of the law here is sluggish in matters of real estate, and pretty much skips the winter months altogether, an eviction date was scheduled for the 15th of April. But back in December when he told me this (although omitting all the important details), I put it out of my mind, and hoped that by the time April rolled around the situation would have somehow righted itself, and that Patrice would manage to kick his solitaire habit, find himself a job, and maybe go crawling back to the landlord with a dozen roses and several months worth of back rent money. By the time March rolled around, though, with no apparent change in the situation, I started to worry. And, not to be all egocentric, because I know I'm not the only one in this house, but this couldn't have happened at a worse time for me. My teaching assistant contract ends April 30. I promised I would stay with the baby-sitting job (from hell) until the end of June. So I needed to find a new place, with roommates (because I can't afford anything else) for three months, tops. The caveats being that it had to be furnished, it had to be close enough to Paris, close enough to school (even though I would only be there for two more weeks), with no lease, and it had to be 350
€ or less a month, and even that would be pushing it. Fred and I did entertain the thought of looking for a place together (leaving Patrice out of our plans for perhaps obvious reasons), but ultimately it seemed that he felt no particular urgency about the situation, and we made little progress. I, however, was feeling more and more urgent as April approached, and not having the luxury of friends and acquaintances here to fall back, if necessary, I started looking on my own.

I reviewed some postings on the internet, and started to freak out, just a little. Holy shit this shit is expensive, I thought. Plus, no one's going to want to go through the hassle of a roommate search for someone who's only going to stick around for three months. I left e-mails and phone calls that weren't returned. I went to see a place that was 100
€ more a month than I'm paying right now. It was far from the train station, and involved a long bus ride. I followed the propriétaire up a staircase that was so steep it was practically a ladder. She knocked on a door and went in, saying, "Oh, you're here!" to the girl inside. She led me through the girl's bedroom to another room, the room for rent. "Oh, it's no problem," she replied to my questioning. "She's very nice, and you just knock first, and she works a lot, anyway." The shared shower was in the other girl's bedroom. No wall separating it, but simply a frosted glass stall conspicuously out of place in the corner of the tiny bedroom. "Well, you have to work out a schedule, obviously," the landlady said. I thanked her for her time, and started to worry a lot.

I called a guy who was offering what seemed to be the perfect situation. A big room in a big house for 100
€ a month in rent in exchange for housecleaning: dishes, laundry, bathrooms, etc. I pretty much do that now for free, I thought, and so I called one Friday evening at about 7:00. A drunk guy answered, or at least I hope he was drunk, because otherwise he was completely insane. I was ensnared for fifteen minutes, unable to break free from the most uncomfortable phone conversation I have ever had, full of nonsense and blatantly racist statements and passing the phone back and forth to a friend who invited me to come over and take a look at the place that night. My hopes of having reached a wrong number diminished; nope, it was him, alright. Not wishing to provoke the perhaps mentally unstable drunk guy, who, after all, now had my phone number, I carefully said that I would call him back the next day, and then hung up, defeated. A few days later I received a reply to the e-mail I had sent prior to talking to him: "Give me your phone number ASAP so I can call you," it said.

"I'm pretty sure we already spoke," I replied. "You don't remember? Thanks, but I'm no longer interested."

I responded to another posting and reached a deeply suspicious and somewhat abrasive man who grilled me on my nationality, job, and family situation, and treated all my answers with disdain. Do you speak French? he asked nastily when I asked him to repeat himself, as the connection was bad. I attempted to set up a visit for the next day, but he refused to give me any details as to time or location. "Just call me tomorrow," he said. "Alright," I agreed. "And your name is...?"

"You just call me at this number, alright? I mean, we don't discuss things like that before we meet! I don't just give out details..."

"Yeah, okthanksbye," I replied, my stomach sinking. I pulled the phone away from my ear, but a tinny voice kept talking. When I put it back to my ear, he was still going with his indignant tirade.

"Rightbye," I said again as I hung up and marked another X through my list. I began to lose hope.

Finally I found something that seemed promising. A two-bedroom, shared with only one other girl, a medical student. Furnished bedroom, seperate bathroom, a living room, a kitchen. Though I only talked to the girl for about thirty seconds or so, she seemed nice enough. I went upstairs to iron out the details with the landlord. Apparently landlords do all the interviewing in these types of situations here, and the inhabitants have no say in who their roommate will be? It seems weird. But I wasn't necessarily in a position to be picky. "I'll take it," I said. I came back the following week to pay a deposit of one month's rent that very nearly depleted my bank account. "I'll move in the first weekend in April," I told him. Though I knew I had until April 15 in my current place, I also knew that on April 15 I would be mid-way through an eleven day tour of France and Italy, acting as fearless leader to 26 high school students and their assorted teachers and chaperones. (Help). Not wanting to come back from my trip and find all the locks had changed, I decided that the only thing that made sense was to move out and get settled in to my new place before the vacation. So here I am, T minus 8 days and counting until moving day, feeling the fingers of panic slowly wrapping themselves around my throat.

I saw Fred last night for the first time in over a week. Apparently in the roughly ten minutes or so per week of face time I have with him, I had neglected to tell him of my updated plans. Sitting on my bed, he played with the stuffed panther he once bought for me, holding it up to my face for a kiss. "So have you made any progress in finding a place?" I asked him, giving the stuffed animal a peck on the nose. Little Fred, I call him, because at one time I thought it would be funny.

"Nah," he said. "We're allowed to stay until the end of April now," he said, his tone of voice indicating that it might as well be the end of the summer, or the end of the year. Plenty of time, he seemed to be saying.

"Well I'm still moving out at the beginning of April," I replied.

"What?" he said, surprised. "When?" I tapped my calendar. "What, next week?" he said, seeming genuinely shocked. "Rachel, no!"

"What do you mean, no?" I said. "I didn't know we had until the end of April when I was looking, and anyway, I already paid a deposit."

"So you ask for it back!" he said indignantly.

"What, so I can start over again looking for another place in a couple weeks? Right."

"But you don't even know if you're staying after the end of April," he said.

"I'm staying until the end of June," I said.


"I already paid the deposit, Fred. It's done." And then he left my room in a semblance of a huff, although how much of it was a put-on, and how much was real, even I, with my rocket scientist powers of deduction, wasn't able to figure out.

So here I am, counting down the rest of my days in this big, messy, comfortable, bachelor pad of a house with my roommates, whom I have developed quite a fondness for over the last six months. I hate when things have to change. And the thought of Patrice and Fred continuing to live here after I'm gone makes my heart hurt, a little. But that's life, right? Making decisions you'd rather not, facing the unknown. Saying goodbye.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Why I don't even know what to make of this

In the latest of a long string of bad ideas, Guy From the Internet I Still Haven't Met says, "I just got a new job! I will be there from 9:00 to 18:30 every day, and I start Monday. Here is the address. Stop by and say hi sometime, if you'd like!"

Um, yes, perhaps I will. And maybe I will go for un footing first, so I can impress all his new coworkers with my glistening, red-faced charm and my droopy sweatpants. "How did you two meet?" they'll ask. And then we'll stand around reminiscing fondly about our first meeting, five minutes ago. "I still remember what I was doing when I first saw you," he'll say. "I was sitting right here, in this chair, and then you came in, and you said, hi."

"Actually, we met on the Internet," he'll add, because who doesn't want their new coworkers to know all the intimate details of their personal life?

Maybe his "friend" will come with her baby, and we can all sit around and talk together! Won't that be fun. Seriously, this guy is full of so many good ideas I can't stand it.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Why sex is like a Dorito

I rolled into the house last night well after my bedtime, kicked off my boots, and flopped on the couch with a dramatic sigh. Fred briefly looked up from his video game-playing. "Where were you?" he asked.

"Dinner," I said.

"With Hervé?" he asked.

"With people. Hervé was there."

(The teacher in question, and on-again, off-again object of my affection, is named Harvey. Ok, yeah, Hervé in French, but in English it's Harvey. This has not yet ceased to be amusing to me).

"Has he kissed you yet?" he asked.

"Still no," I said. In French, loosely translated, it kind of sounds like I said forever not. And honestly, that's kind of how it feels. "And you know, on Saturday night I was at his apartment for the second time, we were hanging out on his couch, and still nothing."

"Maybe he's gay?" he suggested.

"No, he's not," I said. "But it's funny you mention it. We saw the movie Milk, and he told me his brother is gay, but he also specifically said that he's not."

"Yeah, he's probably gay," Fred said. "You know it runs in families."

"No, he's not," I said. "He looks at me this way, sometimes...Plus he's mentioned his ex-girlfriend. No, he's not gay. I think what it must be...I guess I'm just unkissable!" I buried my head dramatically in my hands.

"No, you're not unkissable," Fred murmured. I peeked through my fingers. He was still staring straight ahead, his thumbs working the tiny players running across the screen.

"Yup," I confirmed. "Unkissable."

"Rachel, stop. You're not unkissable."

"Well there's only two options," I said. "Either I'm unkissable or he's gay. Neither option is good!"

"No, there's the third option," said Fred.

"What's that?"

"He's really shy."

"Yeah, that's what I was thinking, too," I sighed. "But honestly...I'm a woman! I have needs!"

"Yeah?" Fred said, this time looking up from his game.

"Yeah!" I said. "I have...cuddle needs!"

"Aww, you want a cuddle?" Fred asked. "Come here..." And he put his controller down to offer me a hug. I gladly accepted, and if I clung a bit too long, at least I refrained from latching onto his face in the manner of a desperate and hungry eel. Because not jumping on top of innocent, video game-playing boys in their own living room is what a good roommate does, of course. No matter how unkissed she may be.

So, obviously kissing has been on my mind, as of late. And, as Rhett Butler once said to Scarlett O'Hara, I firmly believe that I, too, need to be kissed, and often. And by someone who knows how! Looking back, it has been over two months since the last time I was kissed. And the last time I was kissed well, I mean the last time I was really, really kissed...god, it's coming up on two years now. It's funny, the things I miss. Kissing, cuddling. Someone to sleep next to at night. Sex, on the other hand...Sex is one of those things that the longer I go without, the easier it gets. It's like I'm training for the Abstinence Olympics, and frankly, I'm kicking ass. It's like...I can't remember the last time I ate a Dorito, right? And I know that at one point in time I ate and enjoyed Doritos. But I haven't had one in I don't know how long, and at the moment, I can't say that I miss them. But, if someone were to offer me a Dorito right now, I'd probably eat it. And I would probably enjoy it. And then, because you can't eat just one, I would probably eat another. And then another. And then pretty soon I'd remember why it was that I loved Doritos so much in the first place. God, Doritos are amazing! I would say to myself. I can't believe I went so long without one! Doritos and I shall never be parted again! And then Doritos and I would live happily ever after, or as long as my Dorito supplier decided to stick around. At the moment, I happen to be in between Dorito suppliers, and so I'm content to nibble on other snack foods. But lord help me if I get a taste of that spicy orange powder. Once you get a taste for Doritos, there's no going back.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Why an iguana is not at all like Tommy Lee Jones

The results from my two truths and one lie contest are in, and the only people to get all five correct were Talia and Jamie (on her second try, which I'm not sure exactly counts, Jamie). As I said before, what is interesting about this game are the things people choose to reveal about themselves as true. But what I am also finding out is that it is equally interesting to see what others choose to believe is true about you. For example, an iguana? An iguana? Really? Some of my closest friends would rather believe that I had a reptile as a pet than admit to the rugged, craggy charm of a certain Tommy Lee Jones. And now, a bit of a visual demonstration becomes necessary.


Tommy Lee Jones:
Hello, lover

I will eat your face off
Tommy Lee Jones:
I love a man in black
Don't turn out the lights
Tommy Lee Jones:
Let me smooth your furrowed brow

Ok, so now I think we've established that Tommy Lee Jones is clearly more awesome than an iguana. So, yes, I've been a Tommy Lee Jones fan for a long time now. I loved him as the strong but silent type, when he played the tough-as-nails Woodrow Call in Lonesome Dove (which remains one of my favorite mini-series of all time). And who didn't love him and his no nonsense, alien butt kicking attitude in Men in Black? But I think it was while watching the uber-depressing Heaven and Earth that I first thought...Hello, hotness.

In fact, one of the best birthday presents I ever received was a photo of me and TLJ. You see, my dad used to own a photo store, remember photo stores, right? You would bring in your roll of film to be developed, and then an hour later you would come back and pick up your 24 prints? My dad jumped into the troubled sea of negatives and film canisters just in time to watch the photo developing industry crumble around him, what with the advent of digital cameras and all, but that is perhaps a story for another day...In any case, he had one of his friends helping him out with the business, and it was this friend who bestowed upon me this most treasured of gifts. Apparently one day I had brought in a roll of film to be developed, which included some shots of me and my then boyfriend in France. (This was before I found out he had been diddling his not-so-much-ex girlfriend for the entire duration of our relationship. Whatever. Bygones). And so this friend of my dad, he secretly made a copy of the photo and carefully photoshopped over the boyfriend's face (which is for the best, really) with a young and hot Tommy L. J. He framed the whole shebang and gave it to me on my 23rd birthday, in the presence of the then-boyfriend, who was perhaps not so pleased to have been photoshopped completely out of the picture. I, however, was pleased as punch, and did that whole laughing/crying thing, that is how much I loved it. Because, me and Tommy Lee Jones 4-ever, squee!! I am so sad that I don't have access to that picture today, because I'd love to show it to you. But with the magic of digital photography, I am able to fabricate an inexact replica of that photoshopped photo, and it looks a little something like this...
(Sorry, Tal).
Rachel and Tommy Lee Jones 4-ever. Squee!!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Why I want you to lie to me

I've been playing Two Truths and a Lie with my kids at school. Do you know this game? You tell three things about yourself, two of which are true and one of which is a lie. (Which I'm sure you probably figured out two sentences ago, but I like to be thorough). Then everyone tries to figure out which of the things is the lie. The one I use with my students goes:

a) I used to have a dog named Oscar.
b) I spent my last birthday in Iceland.
c) I got my first cell phone when I was 22.

Oscar! Rest in peace, buddy.
And as unlikely a birthday destination as Iceland is, my students never, ever get this one right, because in their minds, to have spent twenty-two years without ever once sending a text message is so unthinkable that it cannot possibly be true. And then I tell them that seven years ago cell phones weren't as common as they are now, and then I feel old. And even though this exercise brands me as both old and lame to today's youth, for some reason I continue to use this example, perhaps because I enjoy seeing the shocked expressions on their faces. Maybe next time I'll tell them about how I remember a time when there was no e-mail. Although it has since been brought to my attention that apparently no one e-mails anymore. Were you aware of this? That no one under the age of 20 e-mails anymore? So I guess I'll have to tell them instead about the time before there was MSN Messenger. The horror.

Not only does this game function as a fun and easy lesson plan, but it kept a couple of my colleagues and me thoroughly entertained during our hour-long evening commute. The fascinating thing about playing this game, I've found, is in discovering not what people choose to lie about, but in what they choose to reveal as true. Someone never sees his father. A black girl says she has white sisters. So-and-so hates such-and-such a teacher. An overweight colleague reveals his actual weight. Another colleague says when he was younger he once fainted after being startled by a loudly barking dog. A seventeen-year-old girl says she is engaged. It's almost an act of defiance, a gauntlet thrown. Go ahead, they seem to be saying. Tell me I'm lying. But for the most part, we don't. We walk carefully around the sticky issues, going for the easy answers. You hate chocolate; that's the lie, right? Has to be.

So give it a try the next time you're at a party, or seeing your shrink. Because it kind of works on both levels, doesn't it? For practice, here are some of mine. Let's see how well you know me! Leave your answers in the comments, if you want to play along. And leave two truths and one lie of your own, if you'd like, and we can see how well I know my readers! Or I'll just guess blindly. Either way can be fun.

So here we go, ten truths and five lies about me. Good luck!

1. a) I have a tattoo.
b) I once had a bad experience with some llamas.
c) I love artichokes.

2. When I was little I...
a) hated pancakes.
b) was scared of the tooth fairy.
c) wanted to be a teacher when I grew up.

3. I used to...
a) fence.
b) play ping-pong in a club.
c) do ballet.

a) My sister works in a bar.
b) I love anchovies.
c) I am a Taurus.

5. a) I've been to Yellowstone Park.
b) When I was little I had an iguana as a pet.
c) I think Tommy Lee Jones is hella sexy.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Why I don't do diapers

I've written before about my love/hate relationship with On the one hand, it is free, and I do like free. But on the other hand it has provided me with more horror story dates than I would care to remember. Unfortunately, as much as I might like to permanently erase certain first date disasters from my memory, blogging about them pretty much ensures that they will be memorialized for all time. After all, who could forget the time I went out with the guy whose Niles-Crane-in-a-sauna impression was so spot-on (albeit completely unintentional) that I could barely refrain from asking him what Kelsey Grammar is like in real life (and also handing him a towel). Or how about the time I went on a date with the actual, real-life reincarnation of that oafishly despicable villain, Gaston from Beauty and the Beast? Not to mention all the guys whose bumbling attempts at first contact effectively guaranteed that not only would they never have a shot at a date with me, but their ill-advised and misconstrued attempts at seduction would be mocked pitilessly and publicly. In other words, there is a lot to fear from Okcupid, and so far, almost exactly a year and a half later, not that much to gain. And yet, I still find myself clicking back there daily, checking for new e-mails and fresh blood. Yes, Okcupid, in the immortal words of Lou Reed, you just keeeeep me haaaaaaanging on.... (And wow, was that not at all what I was expecting to find when I looked up that song. I still can't decide if that video is totally amazing, or reminiscent of an especially awkward SNL sketch called Duets That Should Probably Never Have Happened. Also, what is going on with Pavarotti's eyebrows there? Are they glued on?)

Anyway, because I just can't shrug off Okcupid's uncomfortable and somewhat icky embrace, I logged in to my account once again today, and found this message:

Robots, eh? Well, why not? Everyone knows robots are experts in affairs of the heart. I mean, if robots can vacuum our floors and perform surgery, than they should definitely be able to sort through a list of my likes and dislikes and match me up with a compatible suitor, right? Man, I am so excited to see who the robot thinks I should be with. This is like dating in the future or something. I feel like Judy Jetson!

Ok, robot, let's see him, let's see my knight in shining...


Oh god. That's burned onto my retinas.

Screw you, robot matchmaker. Screw you.

Okcupid...more than I wish that two gay cowboys had never spawned this phrase (and I wish that a lot)...but yes, even more than that, Okcupid, I wish I could quit you.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Why it suddenly becomes obvious that I never had a boyfriend in high school

In high school I was smart, or I guess I was. Anyway, people seemed to think I was, which is I guess what happens when you're somewhat shy and play in the school band and do your homework on a fairly consistent basis. (In high school there are other names for these kinds of people, but we'll just stick with smart for now, thanks). The only person I never managed to fool was my algebra and calculus teacher, Mrs. Higgins, who basically told me I was a hopeless case, but that's another story. So, smart I had down, but cool was something else. Though I spent four years doing my best to cultivate an air of aloofness, I never did attain the hallowed title of cool, and instead had to make do with other adjectives like "nice," "quiet," or on a particularly good day, "funny." So imagine my surprise and delight when I clicked on over to my friend Gavin's blog and realized he had highlighted this blog as the first in his weekly series entitled Smart and Cool Friends. And if my eyes were watering by the time I got to the fourth paragraph, well, I'm sure there must have been a piece of dust or something in them (because getting all teary over this would be so uncool). You have to understand that Gavin is one of the most all-around talented people I know, and has artistic and musical abilities coming out of his ears. Plus, apparently he wrote an entire novel in a month or something, so coming from him, this is high praise, indeed.

And it is true, as he says, that we've known each other since high school, or roughly a million years. And, I wasn't going to do this, honestly, but the situation just seemed to call for it...

And this is probably not at all kosher since Gavin totally didn't give me permission to post this, and look at me going all renegade and posting unauthorized photos. Watch out folks, I'm drunk on my own coolness! (A word to the wise: never compliment me again).

So, this is Gavin and I at our junior Prom in 1997, and wow, I do not think there's a way to make two seventeen-year-olds any more uncomfortable than to make them hold this exact pose for 45 seconds to what feels like an eternity, just take the damn picture already, gah! And while Gavin pulls it off with grace and aplomb, I look like I might make a break for it if someone so much as coughs too loudly. Luckily no one did, and if memory serves me correctly we went on to pass a very pleasant night hanging out with friends and swaying to stiff-armed slow dances while maintaining a person-wide distance between us. Ahhh, high school. What I like about this picture is that while we both have better hair now, otherwise I think we pretty much look exactly the same. Aging be damned! It's just like it says on our souvenir champagne alcohol-free punch glasses- we really will stay forever young!

Thanks for joining me on this trip down high school memory lane, everyone. Now head on over to Gavin's blog and tell him that you like his beard, already. (Seriously, I don't care what your grandma says, Gavin. Beards rock!)