Friday, April 03, 2009

Back in the Saddle

I haven't written in months.

At first I thought it was from the old theory that there's no better way to rob the joy out of what you love doing than... doing it for a living. After all, I'm primarily a writer now, and I spend all day looking at words. Either my own half-formed ones, or those of others - trying to find inspiration. If I'm focused on spinning words into digestible (or, rather, marketable) fluff for the tech masses, I probably don't want to come home and stare at my notebook or blinking cursor.

But then I realized, no, that's not the case. I still spend plenty of time writing invective against right-wing blowhards and musing about music and food on various social media sites. And more and more often in French!

In fact, come to think of it, I've been writing plenty. Just not here. Because back in 2005, I set this up to write about my travels. And since moving to Paris a year ago, I haven't really been traveling. One year in a continent where different languages, cultures, and food and drink are within a couple of hours by train or plane... and I've only been to Italy and England. Oh, and Montpellier, which might as well be another country.

To be honest, it's been a bit frustrating. One of the draws of moving here was this ability to go in any direction and wind up practicing my Spanish or German or Dutch or... you get the picture. But the reality is, despite having a lot of expenses covered and some cash saved up, moving overseas has hit the pocketbook hard. We moved a good amount of stuff, but once we finally found an apartment, had to buy even more. Also, things are just generally more expensive here. Books. Clothes. Dinners out. Drinks. A show at a small club. Then there's the pesky fact that we're now a couple on a single income.

The quality of life is high in Paris. Unfortunately, so is the cost.

I have, however, found a way around it all. And it's not in any Europe-On-a-Shoestring or Paris-pas-Cher guidebook. Nope. It's about something you can't find on a bookshelf or any web site. It's called... mojo.

That's right, baby, I've got my mojo back. Those who've known me for a long time know that I'm a fucking winner. As in, I have this uncanny knack for winning contests. It's not skill. It's not timing. I just win stuff. And there is a lot of shit to win in Paris.

A few weeks ago, I got a call on my mobile while I was at work. "Is this Omid?" asked the woman's voice on the other end. "If you're free on the 17th of March, you've won two tickets for the Tina Turner concert at Bercy."

Now, I wouldn't be picked out of the crowd as a big Tina Turner fan. I know her catalogue, I respect her as an artist, and no self-respecting Child of the 80's would deny having bopped his/her feathered head to her music as a youngin'. And hell, I actually was interested when I saw the poster advertising the show... Until I saw the €136 pricetag on the tickets. That's PER ticket. Convert that to dollars, and we're talking Madonna or Barbra Streisand-like extortion.

But for free? Hell yes!

So there we were, a poor-ass, single-income couple of unsophisticated 'Merkins, sitting amongst Parisian celebrities in what must've been the VIP area, with the hoi polloi occasionally coming up to snap pictures of the stars I couldn't even begin to recognize. Ok, I think one guy hosts a TV show, and another one was a French rock star, but honestly, I simply haven't assimilated enough to know. Then Tina came out, shimmying around the stage and belting out hit after hit. Call me an old bastard, but I fully enjoyed it. The old songs; the costume changes; the Mad Max set; the ridiculous Goldeneye set; explosions; the intermission where, out by the bar and toilets, I saw the largest gathering of middle-aged gay men since my old co-worker's Tony Awards party. All just three metro stops away... and after the quick ride home, Alannah and I said to each other, "We've got to win more contests."

And so we did. Last week, Alannah got an email from the folks at the recently opened Forum des Images saying that she'd won an invitation to the "Toi & Moi" party. Come as a pair, dressed as your favorite movie couple, be photographed red carpet-style, blah, blah, win prizes, blah, blah, chocolates to snack on, blah, blah, open bar. Open bar? Why didn't they say that earlier?

And thus we went, dressed up as Vincent Vega and Mia Wallace from Pulp Fiction. Not super creative, but I have long hair and John Travolta's paunch, and getting the necessary hair dye, fake pistol, and bola tie fit our miniscule budget.

Yes, I know they weren't a couple, but there was plenty of sexual tension, OK? Besides, a lot of other couples came as completely incongruent stuff - like Darth Vader and Catwoman. Or Wayne and Garth. (Last I checked, neither of those pairs were havin' relations...)

Through the course of the night, we consumed well over a bottle's worth of whiskey each. Which broke down Alannah's language barrier a bit, since she pretty much wound up talking to everyone, despite her minimal French. And making out with the hot bartender. (Girl bartender, that is.)

And she's not one to do that type of thing. [Mental note: Buy more whiskey.]

Alannah claims that the bartender was the aggressor, but the pics tell me otherwise. (Sorry, she hasn't posted them to Flickr yet.) While I wasn't up to quite the same shenanigans, my Vincent did find his Jules. And no, we did not play tonsil hockey.

We were well beyond crusty the day after. But I survived my day at work. And Alannah survived her evening of training for the organization she's volunteering with. I work. She volunteers, works on her French, and makes friends with all the local merchants so we're always in fresh produce and fish and meat. And together, we win.

This evening, after work, I swung by the Lazy Dog Gallery to pick up a new special-edition Swatch designed by rapper/artist Grems. Along with it, a nice print of his work for this project, as well as a couple of wristbands for the launch party/concert at La Scène Bastille. It'd be a bit gauche to discuss the retail value of this package, but let's just say I can not afford it. But that's ok, because I won it in a contest yesterday.

To celebrate our great luck (as if that's necessary), we stopped by our favorite wine bar for un verre ou deux... then brought home 10 litres of the stuff so we can have some with the fantastically fresh food Alannah had picked up at the local open-air markets earlier in the day.

We have no need to buy bottles of wine regularly anymore. We do it old school, filling up two 5L jugs of small-producer wine straight from the cask at the beginning of the month.

We've made friends with our next-door neighbor, everyone at the bar downstairs, and the guy who owns the boutique next door.

I've traded in taking the metro for riding the bus to/from work. It's a bit slower, but it's less crowded, more reliable, and I can get more reading done without the interruption of changing stations.

And I've just booked a pair of train tickets for a short break in Luxembourg.

I think it's safe to say I've found my groove.


  1. clap clap clap!!


    also, you're looking quite dapper as the john travolta guy! And the lady is a regular uma!!!!

  2. does appear that paris is a city of luck this spring for everyone i know there!

    though, word to the wise: best to say you're 'murricans, because a merkin is something else.

  3. this is so funny on so many levels.

    -the costumes. awesome.
    -Alannah making out with the bartender. more awesome.
    -the cost of living. not so awesome. i agree on the quality of life, but sadly i also have hardly traveled. but this summer will be different. (then again i'm a single guy with a single income so i may have it easier)

    i'm trying to find a weekend to come back and hang out with you guys.

  4. Sweet!! Knew it would happen eventually. :)